EMMAUS, Pa. - The NRA came to Emmaus Tuesday night.
"Gun control doesn't work --we'll say it a thousand times," declared Suzanne Anglewicz, manager of political & legislative activities at the National Rifle Association of America.
Anglewicz said there is no evidence "whatsoever that can prove to us that gun control works. No one is going to tell us that it actually has worked because no one can point to any examples. We have the facts on our side."
About 85 people gathered in Emmaus Fire Company No. 1 to hear Anglewicz speak on gun rights.
"We are not saying there is not a problem with violent crime in America," she said. "Absolutely there is.
"The NRA believes very strongly in crime control, not gun control."
Rather than focusing on "a piece of inanimate steel that a law-abiding citizen is going to own," she said gun control advocates should be focusing on criminals and "deranged, psychotic people that clearly have mental health issues" and are using guns "incorrectly, illegally and in terrible situations."
"Any time a deranged madman gets hold of a firearm, it always seems that afterward there were 500 red flags that everybody knew about, but nothing was done." To find real solutions, Anglewicz said, any dialogue about reducing violent crime has to start with mental health.
Anglewicz described the NRA is a single-issue organization: protecting the constitutional Second Amendment right of people to keep and bear arms.
She also said it is non-partisan.
"The ‘R' stands for ‘Rifle," nothing else. We work really well on both sides of the aisle [in Congress] -- sometimes better on one side than the other."
She said NRA has more than 4.5 million members, plus 30 million to 40 million supporters. She claimed the organization's dues-paying membership is increasing.
She also said NRA has only five federal lobbyists -- "not armies of lobbyists. Our power truly comes from our educated members."
Anglewicz said 100 million gun owners are in the United States. They own about 400 million guns and are acquiring many more every year.
"There are more guns in our country today than at any point in our nation's history."
One of the myths, she said, is "there are too many guns-- if there's going to be more guns, there's going to be more crime.
"In reality, there are more guns in this country and less crime. You can't tell me more guns equal more crime. The facts don't tell you that."
The NRA spokeswoman cited FBI statistics that show violent crime peaked in 1991, but declined 49 percent in the next 10 years – to a 41-year-low. She added the murder rate declined by 52 percent – to a 48-year-low.
Anglewicz said Israel and Japan have very strict gun laws and very low rates of violent crime, but Switzerland has very little gun control and also has very low crime. She added Brazil also has very strict gun control "but the murder rates are off the chart."
"You can't compare the United States to other countries. We make up the largest portion of civilian gun ownership in the world."
"Emotions are high and emotions have overtaken some of the facts," said Anglewicz.
She said Washington, D.C, should be the crown jewel of safety because it has very strict gun laws – "in 1976 they decided that nobody in Washington, D.C., should have a handgun."
Rifles and shotguns had to unloaded, disassembled or locked, with ammunition stored away from the guns. Rather than becoming the safest place in the United States, she said the murder and violent crime rates in the nation's capital city went up "hundreds of percents literally overnight. From 1976 on, Washington was the murder capital, "rivaling places like Camden, N.J., and Detroit, Mich."
Not until late in the program did anyone directly mention the December slaughter of 20 children and six adults in Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. – which re-ignited the national gun control debate.
Regarding preventing future school tragedies, Anglewicz said the NRA is best situated to train paid professional staff that would be hired by schools "if needed."
She added the NRA "absolutely" is not suggesting everyone should have armed teachers or guns in schools. But it is developing a school shield program, where schools can do self-assessments to help prevent such tragedies.
Stressing people need to be educated about facts and terminology no matter where they stand on the gun rights/gun control issue, Anglewicz got a laugh when she said she saw a protestor with a sign stating: "Stop high-velocity magazines."
She said "'assault weapon' is a made-up buzz term" used by the media. "There is no such thing as an assault weapon. But it sounds pretty scary."
She said the United States had a ban on assault weapons for 10 years, but that ban had little or no impact on violent crimes, because those weren't the types of guns being used in those crimes.
And gun registration "makes absolutely no sense. It isn't going to do a single thing to stop crime." She said law-abiding citizens will register their guns, but crack heads and gang bangers won't.
She reported Canada spent billions of dollars to create a nationwide gun registry, but about six months ago the head of the Canadian Royal Mounted Police publicly admitted that registry had not helped solve a single murder in the entire country.
Warned Anglewicz: "The next step after registration is confiscation."
Introduced as an avid hunter and shooter, a lifetime NRA member and an NRA employee since 2005, Anglewicz took questions from the audience for 40 minutes.
"We have never had an easy go with the media and I don't suspect that we will," she said in response to one comment. "Even though we know we're invited to a media show that's pretty much a set-up, our guys are going and they're talking, because education is key."
Many people attending the program seemed pro-NRA. Some wore NRA hats and two men in civilian attire were carrying holstered pistols attached to their belts.
The audience applauded when Anglewicz announced that U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid decided he was dropping a proposed ban on what CNN called "semi-automatic firearms modeled after military assault weapons."
She said an attempt is being made in Congress to ban guns holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition. She said standard-capacity magazines are being called high-capacity magazines, which makes them sound more deadly. She said magazines that hold 10 to 30 rounds are standard from manufacturers.
She also was applauded when she said: "Why should the government dictate how many (rounds) you need? They don't know what type of self defense situation you're going to be in."
At least one Lehigh County commissioner (Michael Schware) was in the audience, as were two members of the East Penn School Board (Michael Policano and Julian Stolz).
The 90-minute program was sponsored by the Concerned East Penn Taxpayers Association –CEPTA.
CEPTA tried without success to get an organization that supports more gun control to participate by debating the NRA, to provide both sides on the issue.
Moderator Giovanni Landi apologized for not being able to present a speaker for the other side of this "very important discussion."
Landi said they tried several times to get representatives from Cease Fire PA, the Brady Campaign, Mayors Against Illegal Guns and a local mayor who signed the Mayors Against Illegal Guns petition. "We were declined. A lot of our requests weren't even answered."
Stolz was applauded when he announced he is running against Emmaus Mayor Winfield Iobst, because Iobst signed that Mayors Against Illegal Guns petition. Stolz said he will take himself out of the race if Iobst removes himself from that list.
"Mayors Against Illegal Guns is anything but," said Anglewicz. She said 79 mayors have resigned from that organization when they found out it was not about getting illegal guns off the streets.
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