Saturday, February 02, 2013

Inmates running the asylum

I am not against gun ownership. I own guns. I am not against other people having guns, except the people who might point them at me. I am against guns in the hands of people who, despite being honest in every other way, might be tempted to use them in situations not requiring a firearm.

I am not a member of the National Rifle Association, which I believe is a right-wing group using fear to galvanize the unstable into believing that anarchy is waiting right outside the door, or that the government is poised to swoop in and take their guns. I am against the current policy of the National Rifle Association to use fear plus smoke and mirrors to make it seem as if President Obama has a personal agenda to disarm all honest gun owners, leaving them to the mercy of criminals or worse (shudder), the government.

Watching National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre’s testimony before Congress the other day was a good example of deflecting criticism by pointing at something else. As it has been since the tragedy at Sandy Hook, according to LaPierre, the fault lies in society for not following through on “gun laws already in effect”* (and where does the money come from to enforce laws? The taxpayers, and who wants their taxes raised?); or in allowing mentally ill people** to have firearms, rather than a multi-billion dollar industry and gun laws with loopholes big enough to drive a 155 mm self-propelled howitzer through  providing easy access to weapons.

There was also that old Second Amendment thing, which the gun lobby hauls out when cornered, as another means to deflect criticism. I don’t really believe the most ardent members of the NRA care about the Second Amendment at all, except it allows them to buy really cool guns. By throwing up the Second Amendment at every argument aimed at them it makes it easier to obscure what the NRA probably doesn’t want people to think about, that they are a lobbyist for the gun industry. They are dependent on gun makers. That includes Bushmaster, who made the weapon used in the Newtown killings. The donations from the NRA’s four million members (out of over 300 million Americans) could not possibly cover all of their lobbying, PAC donations and public relations campaigns.

The NRA didn’t always shield itself with the Second Amendment. When the organization was founded after the Civil War it was for the purposes of teaching people how to use guns for target shooting, hunting, and in case they got called to war. According to the article, “Gunsmoke, the Surprising Unknown History of the NRA”*** by Steven Rosenfeld  in Salt Lake City Weekly for January 24, 2013:
The NRA was founded in 1871 by two Yankee Civil War veterans, including an ex New York Times reporter, who felt that the war had dragged on because more urban Northerners could not shoot as well as rural Southerners. The NRA’s motto and focus was not fighting for constitutional rights to own and use guns, but ‘Firearms Safety Education, Marksmanship Training, Shooting for Recreation,’ which was displayed in its national headquarters.
As a matter of fact, as the article goes on to say, many of the gun control laws of the Twentieth Century were helped by the NRA. Lee Harvey Oswald had bought his mail-order rifle through the NRA’s own magazine, The American Rifleman,” and after that event leadership of the NRA helped draft legislation to ban such sales. Up until that time anyone could buy a gun through the U.S. mail.

But then a radical element of the NRA grabbed power in 1977, in a move that reminds me of what the tea party was able to do, displacing less conservative public officials with far-right radicals. The story is in the article, which you can see here.

It was a surprise to me to find out that in the late sixties the main group evoking the Second Amendment was the Black Panther political party. Members carried guns on the street for self-protection. The Panthers caused panicky white politicians to pass more stringent gun control laws in California, and those tighter laws helped promote a backlash amongst right-wing elements of the NRA.

 What goes around comes around! Blacks proclaiming their right to protect themselves eventually led to the NRA’s radical turnaround. And now the NRA has a liberal black President to deal with. I believe the Black Panthers were telling the world they were ready for the Ku Klux Klan or an oppressive government to come at them, and force would be met by force. It doesn’t sound much different to me than the talk that goes around in my home state of Utah, where the rumblings are that if the government comes in to take their guns, those armed patriots will be ready for them with deadly force.

What a crock. I’m not only referring to the 2013 white tea party radicals, but the 1968 Black Panther party, too. How does any group, no matter how well armed, stand up to the U.S. Army, Marines, Air Force, National Guard, not to mention the militarized police, with their SWAT teams and heavy munitions? Anyone engaging in armed combat with the U.S. government will lose.

What the NRA and its most vocal supporters need to do is tone down the rhetoric, stop hiding behind a constitutional amendment and do what poll after poll tells them the public wants. That is to reduce danger from high-powered weapons, not add more to the stockpile. With people like LaPierre unwilling to talk anything but more guns, with politicians beholden to the gun lobby for their jobs unwilling to give an inch or compromise to any meaningful extent, it frustrates the public, leading to more dissension and more problems than it is ever going to solve.


*Some gung-ho rookie Utah legislator, Brian Greene (Republican), has introduced a bill that would allow local deputies to arrest federal officers enforcing federal gun laws. Ha! I’m sure someone will remind Brian that the federal law trumps the state law when it comes to federal offenses.

**For the record, Adam Lanza, the shooter and killer of a couple of dozen people, obtained his weapons from his mother, who had bought them legally. She couldn’t be called to task for providing them because he killed her first. Also, so far as I know, he was never evaluated and found mentally ill.

***The article originated at

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