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The Loving Arms of Arms Lovers

DAVID LAZARUS / San Francisco Chronicle 5feb2006

 

I have joined the NRA.

Some well-meaning reader has paid $35 to buy me a one-year membership in the National Rifle Association, no doubt as a remedy for all the misguided, pro-consumer sentiment that's come to characterize this column.

source of images

(The NRA won't say who bought me the membership, but I'm pretty sure it's one of you because The Chronicle was given as my home address.)

So now I can proudly say my name is attached to safeguarding an industry with about $2 billion in annual sales and 150,000 employees, according to the Professional Gun Retailers Association.

That means I enjoy a connection to the main product of this industry (guns) and to what researchers say is this product's undeniable economic impact on the United States a price tag of at least $100 billion annually in medical, legal and judicial costs.

At last, I can boast that I'm part of efforts to protect people's access to a product that the federal government says is responsible for more than 30,000 deaths each year, including murders, suicides and accidents.

Yes, my name is now associated with a commercial good that's responsible for the killing of at least eight children and teenagers every single day (a record of product efficacy, as far as young people go, that not even the tobacco industry can touch).

Best of all, I can enjoy the full power and prestige of being one of 4 million members of what lawmakers surveyed by National Journal call the most powerful lobbying organization in Washington.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the NRA has contributed more than $15 million to political interests (mostly Republican) since 1990. It reportedly spends millions more annually on so-called issue ads and other forms of propaganda.

That investment paid off for the NRA last year when President Bush signed into law a bill protecting companies that make and sell guns from civil-liability lawsuits, including companies that negligently sell guns to criminals.

Wayne LaPierre, the NRA's executive vice president, called Congress' passage of the legislation "a historic day for the NRA and also for the Second Amendment."

I checked. There doesn't seem to be anything in the Second Amendment about shielding negligent gun manufacturers and dealers from lawsuits.

But let's not get bogged down in details.

As a new NRA member, I received a letter from LaPierre welcoming me to the pro-gun fold. "Your support for the NRA is a very important commitment to the future of the Second Amendment," he says.

It also entitles me to apply for an NRA Platinum Edition Visa Card and to receive discounts on hotel stays, rental cars and prescription drugs.

I get a $10,000 accidental-death insurance policy for any mishaps "that occur during the use of firearms." (Not that guns kill people. People kill people. Providing they have a gun handy, that is.)

On top of that, I get $1,000 in insurance to protect my guns against theft or accidental loss, even though it's inconceivable that a legally owned firearm could possibly end up in the wrong hands.

Oh, wait here's a report from the Americans for Gun Safety Foundation showing that about 170,000 guns are stolen annually and that a study done by the Department of Justice found that 10 percent of prison inmates used a stolen gun to commit their crimes.

Well, never mind that. The NRA's Web site tells me that "the most important benefit of NRA membership ... is the defense of your Constitutional right to keep and bear arms."

That's what this is all about me.

That's the NRA way.

Hold it: I reported recently on Bank of America's fumbled attempt to communicate to customers a new policy regarding "cash withdrawals from deposits" that took effect last week.

Despite misleading language and outright errors, the bank's alert on customers' statements was intended to convey that if a hold is placed on a check, BofA will have until 5 p.m. on the day the hold is to be lifted before it releases the funds in question.

Or so a bank spokeswoman explained to me, adding that all would be made clear in subsequent statements.

Well, those statements have gone out and, once again, BofA seems to have dropped the ball when it comes to clearly communicating a change in policy.

"If you receive a notice that we are holding certain funds that you deposited, your notice will indicate the date and time of day that you will be able to withdraw the funds in cash," the latest missive says.

"In some cases," it clarifies, "this will be later in the day than under Bank of America's previous policy."

Huh? What happened to that bit about waiting until 5 p.m.? Wasn't that the whole crux of the change?

Betty Riess, a BofA spokeswoman, said that as of Feb. 1, held funds are available on the day a hold is lifted by either 9 a.m. or 5 p.m. in other words, either by the opening or close of business on the day in question.

"The date and time will be on the notification people get about the hold being placed," she said.

So why not just say in customers' statements that held funds will be released by either 9 a.m. or 5 p.m.? Why be vague when there's only two possible times?

"The important thing is that people look at the hold notification," Riess answered. "That's what we want people to know."

And now, at last, you do.

David Lazarus' column appears Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Send tips or feedback to dlazarus@sfchronicle.com.

source: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/02/05/BUGG4H2FIF1.DTL&hw=lazarus+nra&sn=001&sc=1000 7feb2006

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