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“A Predictable Ugly Side”: When The NRA Comes To Town

The National Rifle Association wrapped up its annual convention over the weekend, and much of the gathering went as expected. The NRA presented its familiar faces (Wayne LaPierre), its familiar villains (President Obama, Michael Bloomberg), it’s friends who are struggling to remain relevant (Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin), and a whole bunch of Republicans who are likely to run for president (Santorum, Perry, Walker, and Jindal).

Of course, it also presented a sadly predictable ugly side. One vendor at the convention, for example, sold “life-sized” torsos made to look like the president, which “bleed when you shoot them.” Asked if the Obama likeness was intentional, the vendor told BuzzFeed, “Let’s just say I gave my Republican father one for Christmas.”

Looking ahead, one of the more notable developments for the organization is the election of James Porter, an Alabama attorney, as the group’s new president. LaPierre may be the public face and CEO of the right-wing group, but David Keene, the former chairman of the American Conservative Union, has served as NRA president.

And Porter will make Keene look moderate by comparison.

As shown by his “culture war” comment Friday and others in his past, Porter’s style is likely to be one that fans the flames of an emotionally combustible debate.

Porter has called President Barack Obama a “fake president,” Attorney General Eric Holder “rabidly un-American” and the U.S. Civil War the “War of Northern Aggression.” On Friday, he repeated his call for training every U.S. citizen in the use of standard military firearms, to allow them to defend themselves against tyranny.

That last point is of particular interest. Our friends at “All In with Chris Hayes” aired a Porter clip on Friday’s show that stood out for me: “Our most greatest [sic] charges that we can have today is to train the civilian in the use of the standard military firearm, so when they have to fight for their country, they are ready do it. Also, when they are ready to fight tyranny, they are ready to do it. Also, when they are ready to fight tyranny, they have the wherewithal and weapons to do it.”

Porter hasn’t specified who, exactly, the tyrants might be, but it sounds as if he wants American civilians to be trained to use military weapons in case they need to commit acts of violence against the United States.

Say hello to the new president of the NRA.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 6, 2013

May 8, 2013 Posted by | National Rifle Association | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The NRA’s Tone-Deaf Rhetoric”: Powerful But Not Omnipotent, The NRA Is Seriously Overplaying Its Hand

The moment that most deserves to be remembered from Sunday’s thrilling Super Bowl came before the game, when Jennifer Hudson joined students from Sandy Hook Elementary School in singing “America the Beautiful.” It was a heart-rending elegy for the fallen — and a stirring call to action.

The brave students, in khakis and white polo shirts, survived the unspeakable massacre in Newtown, Conn., that left 20 of their schoolmates dead, riddled with bullets from an assault rifle fired by a madman. Hudson, the acclaimed recording artist and Oscar-winning actress, lost her mother, brother and nephew to Chicago’s endemic gun violence in 2008 when a troubled relative went on a murderous rampage; she had to identify all three bodies at the morgue.

The performance brought tears to the eyes of some of the players — and, surely, many television viewers. It was a reminder that life goes on but also that we must not lose sight of unfinished business: reducing the awful toll that barely regulated, insufficiently monitored commerce in powerful weapons takes on innocent victims, day after day after day.

Despite the best efforts of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and like-minded groups to make sure this business remains unfinished, reducing gun violence remains stubbornly high on the nation’s agenda.

This is partly due to the ravings of Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s executive vice president and spokesman, who almost single-handedly, or single-mouthedly, is making the pro-gun argument sound even crazier and more irresponsible than it is. And that’s saying something.

This weekend, LaPierre treated viewers of “Fox News Sunday” to some of his lunacy. Anchor Chris Wallace gave him the opportunity to disavow the NRA’s shameful ad accusing President Obama of hypocrisy for supporting gun control while his own family is protected by armed Secret Service agents. LaPierre stuck to his guns, such as they were.

The president’s daughters “face a threat that most children do not face,” Wallace pointed out.

“Tell that to people in Newtown,” LaPierre replied. He was about to continue in this vein before Wallace interrupted: “Do you really think the president’s children are the same kind of target as every school child in America? That’s ridiculous and you know it, sir.”

LaPierre then went into an absurdist rant about how “all the elites and all the powerful and privileged, the titans of industry,” have armed security and — in LaPierre’s fantasy — send their children to schools that are veritable bunkers. Wallace noted that he sent his children to the same school the Obama daughters attend, and there were no armed guards on campus.

“The idea of an elite class,” Wallace said, “it’s just nonsense, sir.”

When Obama unveiled his far-reaching proposals on gun violence, it appeared initially that the NRA was willing to compromise. NRA President David Keene seemed to indicate that the organization would accept universal background checks for gun purchases while strongly opposing proposed bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. But LaPierre declared Sunday that that the NRA will resist any new legislation.

In Senate hearings last week, LaPierre portrayed life in the United States as one long horror movie. “What people all over the country fear today is being abandoned by their government,” he said. “If a tornado hits, if a hurricane hits, if a riot occurs, that they’re going to be out there alone, and the only way they’re going to protect themselves, in the cold, in the dark, when they’re vulnerable, is with a firearm.”

He left out the zombies.

With so many members of Congress already bought and paid for, it’s understandable that the NRA would feel a measure of confidence. But I believe the pro-gun lobby is seriously overplaying its hand, and that the wind has shifted.

Former representative Gabrielle Giffords also testified at last week’s hearings; she spoke only briefly, because it is still difficult for her to form words after being shot in the head two years ago. The gunman was wielding a semiautomatic pistol with a 33-round magazine. No one can convince her that if we lived in the world the NRA would like to see — in which everyone is armed to the teeth with military-style guns and ammo — we would be safer. Nor can anyone convince the children of Newtown. Or Jennifer Hudson’s family.

The NRA is powerful but not omnipotent. Polls show that Americans favor sensible gun control; if Obama and other proponents of sanity keep the issue alive, we can achieve it. From sea to shining sea.

 

By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, February 5, 2013

February 5, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Too Few Deaths”: The Big NRA Flip-Flop On Background Checks

You know, I had premonitions of this story, thinking: Didn’t the NRA used to support universal background checks as the alternative to every gun control measure? Between deadline pressures and the fear that I was having a senior moment, I didn’t follow it up. But now, via TPM’s Evan McMorris-Santoro, we have a former NRA president acknowledging that used to be the organization’s position not that very long ago, but has “changed its mind”:

The former president of the National Rifle Association told CNN Thursday night that the group has changed its mind on universal background checks. Back in 1999, after the Columbine school shooting, the NRA actually ran ads saying “it’s reasonable to provide for instant background checks at gun shows, just like gun stores and pawn shops.”

After last month’s school massacre in Newtown, Conn., the group has sounded a different note. Universal background checks are a waste of time at best and a “federal nightmare” that would lead to confiscation at worst, NRA leaders have said recently.

On CNN, former NRA President Sandy Froman admitted that the group dramatically changed its tune on universal background checks — which gun control advocates have said are their number one post-Newtown goal — and explained the reason was that the NRA now sees expanded background checks as totally ineffective.

“Yes, the NRA has changed its position,” Froman said. “And the reason it’s changed its position is because the system doesn’t work. The (National Instant Criminal Background Check System) is not working now. We have to get that working before we can add any more checks to that system. It’s already overburdened. In Colorado, I know it takes 10 — 10 days to do an instant check.”

So why not fix the system? If the NRA’s basic position is its members are law-abiding citizens who have no reason to fear background checks, why is it a problem?

Current NRA President David Keene echoed those concerns at a meeting with reporters Thursday while explaining his group’s opposition to expanded background checks. But he also sounded a more ominous note, warning that a universal background check infrastructure was possibly a first step toward a dismantling of Second Amendment rights.

“One of the reasons we’re fearful of a system like that is because we have been and continue to be and will continue to be very opposed to any kind of national gun registry system,” Keene told reporters at a Christian Science Monitor-sponsored breakfast. “For several reasons. The historic reason of course is that is a precursor in many cases to confiscation.”

So boil off the evasions, and we’re right back to the insane idea that Barack Obama is part of, a front for, or a precursor to, a totalitarian regime, and that “patriots” need the right to keep their military-style weapons on hand in case the day arrives when it’s time to start killing cops and members of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Somebody with access to these people needs to very directly ask them their own personal indicators for when it’s time to start the blood-letting.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, February 1, 2013

February 3, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence, Guns | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A New Awareness”: How The NRA Undermined Congress’ Last Push For Gun Control

Last week, President Obama unveiled sweeping proposals on gun control, including a ban on military-style assault weapons, a reduction of ammunition magazine capacity and stiffer background checks on gun buyers.

National Rifle Association president David Keene quickly accused the Obama administration of being opportunistic. The president is “using our children to pursue an ideological anti-gun agenda,” he said.

The NRA has already begun to lobby on Capitol Hill to counter the administration’s effort.

To get a sense of what the NRA might do, it’s helpful to look at how it scored a victory during the last major federal initiative to tighten gun control.

After a Virginia Tech student killed 32 students and faculty in April 2007, the Bush administration proposed legislation that would require all states to share the names of residents involuntarily committed to mental health facilities. The information would be provided to a Federal Bureau of Investigation database.

The idea, in part, was to help gun dealers get important information about whether potential customers were mentally ill.

In order to get the support of the NRA, Congress agreed to two concessions that had long been on the agenda of gun-rights advocates — concessions that later proved to hamstring the database.

The NRA wanted the government to change the way it deemed someone “mentally defective,” excluding people, for example, who were no longer under any psychiatric supervision or monitoring. The group also pushed for a way for the mentally ill to regain gun rights if they could prove in court that they’d been rehabilitated.

The NRA found allies on both sides of the aisle to champion the concessions.

Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) reportedly pushed the provisions, ultimately with the support of the bill’s lead sponsor, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), whose husband was killed and her son wounded in a 1993 shooting on the Long Island Railroad.

The NRA agreed to support the bill, in exchange for provisions pushing states to create gun rights restoration programs.

Here’s how it worked. It would cost money for states to share their data: A state agency would have to monitor the courts, collect the names of people who had been institutionalized, and then send that information to the FBI on a regular basis.

So, to help pay for data-sharing, Congress created $375 million in annual federal grants and incentives. But to be eligible for the federal money, the states would have to set up a gun restoration program approved by the Justice Department. No gun rights restoration program, no money to help pay for sharing data.

A spokesman for Dingell’s office did not respond to calls for comment on this story. A McCarthy spokesman, Shams Tarek, said the congresswoman is now working on new legislation to “provide more incentives and stiffen penalties for states to put names in the database.”

“We definitely think there’s a lot of room for improvement,” said Tarek.

The NRA supported Dingell and McCarthy’s version of the bill, but the group won further concessions when the legislation reached the Senate.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) who once joked he’d like to bring a gun with him to the Senate floor, blocked the legislation, citing concerns about privacy and spending.

He negotiated language that, among other things, would allow a person’s application for gun rights restoration to be granted automatically if an agency didn’t respond within 365 days of the application and allowed people to have their attorney’s fees reimbursed if they were forced to go to court to restore their rights.

The final bill was sent to President Bush for his signature in January, 2008.

The NRA praised Coburn and released a statement calling the law a victory for gun owners: “After months of careful negotiation, pro-gun legislation was passed through Congress today.” (The NRA didn’t respond to calls for comment.)

In an email, a Coburn spokesman told ProPublica that the senator “does not operate as an agent of the NRA when considering legislation regarding gun rights” and pointed to a recent statement on the president’s gun proposals. (In the statement, Coburn said he supports improving the mental health database, but said overall, “we first must ensure our Constitutional rights and individual liberties.”)

Since the bill’s passage, two analyses have shown that National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) database has significant gaps, partly because of the way the NRA managed to tweak the legislation. Many states aren’t sharing all of their mental health records.

A July 2012 report by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, found that while the overall number of records increased exponentially since the law passed, the rise is largely due to cooperation from just 12 states.

The nonprofit group Mayors Against Illegal Guns also released a report in 2011 showing that many states have failed to fulfill their obligations to report data on the mentally ill to the federal government. While Virginia and a few others have disclosed tens of thousands of records, 23 others and the District of Columbia reported fewer than 100 records. Seventeen states reported fewer than 10 records and four submitted no data at all.

“Millions of records identifying seriously mentally ill people and drug abusers as prohibited purchasers are missing from the federal background check database because of lax reporting by state agencies,” the report said.

According to the report, the reasons for such uneven compliance vary by state. Some states don’t turn over data because their privacy laws prevent them from doing so. Some states have a different interpretation on what kind of data needs to be provided, or what, exactly, constitutes “mentally ill” or “involuntarily committed.”

Still others simply can’t afford the expense of gleaning the data from the courts, providing it to the relevant state agency and then passing it on to the federal government.

The NRA-backed language creates problems for these states.

As a New York Times investigation found, many states haven’t qualified for federal funding to share their data because they haven’t established gun rights restoration programs.

In 2012, only 12 states received federal grants, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

A Coburn spokesman pointed out that some states have had trouble setting up restoration programs because gun control advocates in those states have protested them.

While mental health data has remained sparse, some states have made it easier for the mentally ill to restore their gun rights. As the Times noted, in Virginia some people have regained rights to guns by simply writing a letter to the state. Other Virginians got their rights back just weeks or months after being hospitalized for psychiatric care.

It’s difficult to know just how many people in Virginia have had their gun rights restored because no agency is responsible for keeping track.

Despite the limitations of the mental health database, some gun control advocates still see it as better than nothing.

“The fact that so many states have been able to get so many records into the database does demonstrate a willingness on the part of certain groups to work on this issue and that’s a good sign. The others really need to step up,” said Lindsay Nichols, a staff attorney at the San Francisco-based Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

The group, then known as the Legal Community Against Violence, was one of several gun control organizations that opposed the legislation when it was first signed into law.

Nichols is optimistic that the NRA won’t succeed in commandeering the gun control debate the way the group did after Virginia Tech.

“I think there’s new awareness among the public and legislators that we need to take this issue seriously and it’s not an issue where the public is going to accept political wrangling.”

 

By: Joaquin Sapien, ProPublica, January 25, 2013

January 26, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence, Guns | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“You Can’t Make This Crap Up”: It’s Official, The NRA President Loses His Ever-Loving Mind

From the you-can’t-make-this-crap-up files, David Keene, the president of the National Rifle Association (NRA), is blaming President Obama and “the left” for death threats against him and his family and:

What this reflects are two things. One is the uncivil way in which idealogues on the left in this country go after their enemies. The second thing it shows is the reflection of the left and the President of the United States’ attempt to demonize and blame those who disagree with them for everything that he doesn’t like.

This from the group who released an ad that targeted the president’s daughters.

Oh, and about all that blaming and demonizing? Here’s what Obama said about the NRA when he announced his proposals to curb gun violence:

If you want to buy a gun — whether it’s from a licensed dealer or a private seller — you should at least have to show you are not a felon or somebody legally prohibited from buying one. This is common sense. And an overwhelming majority of Americans agree with us on the need for universal background checks — including more than 70 percent of the National Rifle Association’s members, according to one survey. So there’s no reason we can’t do this.

Yes, how dare the president blame and demonize the NRA by pointing out they’re ignoring the gun owners they claim to represent?

As for the “hundreds” of death threats Keene claims to have received? Well, there are probably police reports somewhere.

 

By: Barbara Morrill, Daily Kos, January 18, 2013

January 21, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence, National Rifle Association | , , , , | Leave a comment

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