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“Murderous Minds Are Here To Stay”: Altering Gun Laws Isn’t An Absolute Answer, But It’s Change Within Our Control

What made a young couple walk into a health facility and start shooting people? It wasn’t our gun laws. It wasn’t the easy ability to purchase a weapon in this country.

If such things made people killers, all Americans would be killers. In that narrow way, gun advocates who bristle at any change after the San Bernardino killings are right.

No one makes you pull a trigger.

But if you stop the argument there, you’re being naive — as naive as saying no one makes you abuse drugs, no one forces you to drink and drive, no one tells you to give your money to phony investment advisors. Yet we have laws regarding all those things.

Laws, smartly written, address the dangers facing a society. The item in question should be less important than the threat.

But our biggest gun law was written 224 years ago, and it remains mostly about that — guns, and the ownership of them. It’s not about bad behavior, murderous thoughts or anything else that guns frequently exacerbate. We have been arguing over this law, the Second Amendment, for centuries.

But we don’t touch it. Because it’s part of our Constitution. Because it’s cherished by many. And because, supporters argue, it’s not the law that makes people put on vests, drop their baby at a relative’s house, then go on a mass murder spree and die.

That’s a sick mind.

And you can’t legislate against a sick mind.

Recently, the New York Times ran its first front page editorial in nearly 100 years. It called for the end of the “gun epidemic.” Before that, the New York Daily News, in criticizing lawmakers who offered prayers for victims but no new legislation, ran the headline “GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS.”

Naturally, both papers were buried in insults, dismissed as “typical liberals,” and argued against with an avalanche of selected facts and figures that make the case for doing nothing — or for arming more Americans, not fewer. President Obama, calling for tougher gun laws, was shouted down by a well-practiced chorus of critics, who cynically noted, “How’s it working for Paris?”

But being loud and being right are two different things. It’s always easier to scream against change than to create it. Especially since what change would be 100 percent effective? If we banned every gun in the country, some criminals would still get their hands on them, or use bombs instead, etc.

But is that a reason to watch the next whacked out fundamentalist go freely into a U.S. gun shop, legally purchase guns designed for quick, multiple killings, then use them on fellow citizens to go out in a blaze of infamy?

Because you know it will happen again.

I don’t have a fast answer for this. Nor do I have the energy or stomach to argue with hate-spewing people who are so mesmerized by gun possession they won’t budge an inch. It’s pointless.

But I do take issue with those who refuse to accept that mass killings with assault weapons fall under the same category as a hunter wanting to go after ducks. Yes, we have had guns in this country since its inception, but we have not had other things: a media that sensationalizes violence on a global scale, a population that feels alienated, video entertainment that numbs you to murder and a Internet that can connect all these elements with warped minds that see death as a badge of honor.

I’m pretty sure if America in 1791 had IEDs, jihads and YouTube, our Second Amendment wouldn’t read the way it does. But we cling to words written 224 years ago in a world that changes by the blink. This fact remains: people without a previous criminal history can make their first bad deed a doozy with legally purchased American guns, and killing them once they do only speeds up what many of them hope for: a sensationalized death. This is not limited to Islamic fundamentalists. Mass shootings in Colorado Springs (three dead), Oregon (nine dead) and Charleston, S.C. (nine dead) — all in the last six months — had nothing to do with Islam.

We can leave gun laws untouched, but something else will eventually give: maybe surveillance on every home and business; metal detectors on every door frame; random interrogations, sweeping immigration reform, airborne snipers, rounding up of particular religions. All things that will make America look a lot less like America than if its people were a little less armed.

Our choice. But sick, murderous minds are here to stay. How easy we make it for them is the only thing we can control.

 

By: Mitch Albom, The National Memo, December 30, 2015

December 30, 2015 Posted by | Gun Control, Gun Violence, Gunsense, Gunshow Loopholes | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Here’s How To End The NRA’s Stranglehold On Gun Policy”: Dislodging The Current Hard-Line Leadership With A Palace Coup

Supporters of gun control often characterize the National Rifle Association as a permanent obstacle to sensible reform. Many believe that the group will do anything in its power to keep pushing firearms into a free-for-all marketplace.

But there may be a way to short-circuit the NRA’s grasp on Congress: It involves dislodging the current hard-line leadership with a palace coup — a reverse-replay of the same tactic that brought the guns-above-all wing of the organization into power less than 40 years ago.

The NRA has historically been a far more benign organization, mostly concerned with sport hunting, safety and marksmanship contests. In fact, it had been co-founded immediately after the Civil War by a reporter from the New York Times, ex-Union Army lieutenant colonel William Conant Church, who had been worried about the poor aim of the troops under his command.

In 1934 the NRA’s president testified before Congress: “I do not believe in the general promiscuous toting of guns. I think it should be sharply restricted and only under licenses.” As historian Adam Winkler has noted, the group almost never discussed the Second Amendment in any of its official literature, let alone in its currently strident terms. After the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963, the group even favored the end of mail-order rifle sales.

But anxiety about urban crime in the 1970s, combined with gun restrictions enacted out of alarm at the Black Power movement, convinced a subsection of the NRA to make a radical shift in focus. They arrived at the annual meeting on May 21, 1977, at the Cincinnati Convention Center wearing orange hunting caps and, in a parliamentary procedural duel lasting  until 4 a.m., ousted the gun-conservative “Old Guard” from the board.

The insurgents scrapped a plan to move the NRA headquarters from Washington to Colorado Springs, and later built a fortress office in Fairfax, Va. A new executive vice president named Harlon Carter, a Texan with an intolerance for dissent, summed up the new philosophy: “We can win it on a simple concept — no compromise. No gun legislation.” The following year, an ambitious young lobbyist named Wayne LaPierre came on board and made intimidation a business strategy. Today he is executive vice president.

The NRA loves to use the phrase “responsible gun owners” to distinguish their membership from criminals, and indeed, polls from the Pew Research Center show that 74 percent of the membership supports universal background checks. The power of the hard-liners is only reinforced by those members passionate enough to actually show up to NRA conventions and vote in its customarily pro-forma elections.

What’s needed now is for this level-headed majority lurking within the NRA to take over the 76-member board by political force — an exact reversal of what happened to the NRA in Cincinnati.

Any NRA member may put himself or herself forward on the ballot by gathering 250 signatures on a petition. The four-decade reign of darkness that has cost hundreds of thousands of American lives could be put to an end on May 21, 2016, at the next convention in Louisville, Ky.

The leadership is aware that such a move is possible and has acted to squelch challenges through its nominating committee, which endorses its preferred candidates for the board. But an informed rump caucus can still put its candidates forward to a floor vote. All it would take is enough moderates who have grown disgusted with the current regime to make the trip to Kentucky. The annual membership meeting tends to be attended by very few of the actual members, and — even if a coup fails — a vigorous discussion might force some concessions and give hope to those who see the NRA as unbreakable.

There’s another reason for a royal Restoration beyond saving lives, and it has to do with the preservation of the NRA as a legitimate body. Its current path is both reckless and unsustainable. It supports policies that benefit criminals. It gives all gun owners a disreputable name and lumps them in with the zealots.

Should an internal coup be successful, there would, of course, be an immediate regrouping. It’s entirely possible that extremists would form a brand-new organization dedicated to the same bullying tactics or would join already-existing fringe groups. But it would also disrupt the gun rights bloc, which has for too long covered up a long-simmering ideological divide between those who recognize the need for sane regulations and safety precautions and those who cry apocalypse at the slightest twinge of government movement.

Honor and prudence must be restored to gun ownership in the United States before the private ownership of firearms becomes even more disreputable. Instead of continuing its deadly obstructionism, the NRA can purge itself of its Gucci-clad fanatics and practice some genuine leadership.

 

By: Tom Zoellner, Opinion Page, In Theory, The Washington Post, December 11, 2015

December 12, 2015 Posted by | Gun Control, Guns, Gunsense, National Rifle Association, Wayne LaPierre | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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