Like James Fallows, I'm a member of the Airplane Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), which has a rigid, give-no-ground policy against aviation user fees. Fallows draws a parallel to the NRA, and notes the key difference:
The merits of the user fee debate are not my point right now. (Summary of the AOPA side: non-airline aviation activity already "pays its way" through the quite hefty tax imposed on each gallon of airplane fuel, plus providing all kinds of ancillary benefits to the country. I agree about the benefits and that the American aviation scene is the envy of the world.) Rather it is to introduce a comparison between AOPA and the real NRA. This comes from my friend Garrett Gruener, a successful Bay Area entrepreneur and venture capitalist who is also a longtime pilot. In the 1990s he even took an around-the-world trip, with his wife and daughter, in their turboprop airplane. He writes:
The difference is the overwhelming focus on safety. I feel that AOPA is the FAA's partner in trying to reduce the number of fatalities in aviation, while the NRA never gets beyond "guns don't kill...".
What Gruener says about the AOPA rings true to my experience. The only thing the AOPA talks about more than user fees is safety, and the individual and system-wide changes that can reduce the accident level.
So far, more than 24 hours after the killings in Newtown, Conn., the NRA hasn't said a peep about it.