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“Soft On Crime”: The NRA And Republicans Protecting The “Second Amendment Rights” Of Thugs And Terrorists

What can Americans learn from the bitter debate over the gun reform bill? Perhaps the most obvious lesson is that the leadership of the National Rifle Association, the Gun Owners of America, and their tame Republican politicians have all earned an epithet of derision they used to hurl regularly at liberals.

Yes, the gun lobby and its legislative servants are “soft on crime” — although they routinely pretend to be tough on criminals.

During the Clinton presidency, NRA president-for-life Wayne LaPierre raised vast amounts of money with direct-mail campaigns against both Bill and Hillary Clinton for supposedly coddling criminals. Dubbed “Crimestrike,” the NRA crusade pushed prison construction, mandatory minimum sentencing, and sundry other panaceas designed to position the NRA as the bane of muggers, rapists, and murderers. Those themes echoed traditional Republican propaganda messages dating back to the Nixon era, when the presidential crook himself often derided judicial concerns about civil liberties and promised to restore “law and order.” (When Nixon henchmen like the late Chuck Colson went to prison themselves, they often emerged as prison reformers and civil libertarians, of course.)

But in the aftermath of the Newtown massacre, with the NRA angrily opposing any measure designed to hinder criminals from acquiring firearms, the public is learning who is really soft on crime.

Police officials across the country want universal background checks, magazine limits, and stronger enforcement against illegal weapons sales, but the NRA and its Republican allies insist that such changes will penalize legitimate gun owners. Or they complain that criminals mainly obtain weapons by stealing them, so restrictions on sales won’t make any difference.

Even a cursory examination of the facts demonstrates those claims are false. Gun trafficking experts at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms have long known that less than 15 percent of all crime guns are stolen from their original owners. Much more common sources of guns used by criminals are so-called “straw purchases,” where a person with a clean record buys a gun on behalf of a criminal, and corrupt purchases, where a licensed gun dealer knowingly sells to a criminal. Bipartisan gun legislation now before the Senate would crack down on these sales, by increasing penalties for straw purchasers who willfully help criminals buy guns. The NRA has offered tepid support for that provision — but it is virtually meaningless without universal background checks, which the gun lobby opposes.

As Will Saletan pointed out in Slate last January, the NRA has consistently (and successfully) sought to kill the most basic efforts to keep guns away from convicted criminals and other dangerous characters — including abusive spouses under court protection orders, drug dealers, and even individuals listed on the Justice Department’s terrorist watch list.

In the wake of the Boston bombing, as the nation ponders how to bolster its security, the gun lobby’s tender concern for the Second Amendment “rights” of terrorists and thugs ought to permanently discredit them and their political servants. Instead they have achieved another bloody victory in Washington.

By: Joe Conason, The National Memo, April 18, 2013

April 18, 2013 Posted by | National Rifle Association, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Taking Aim”: On Virtually Every Measure, The N.R.A.’s Messaging Is Off

This week the president aimed high in the gun debate, and the National Rifle Association aimed low, despicably low.

On Wednesday, the president outlined a broad range of measures — including universal background checks, a ban on assault weapons, a ban on high-capacity magazine clips, as well as improved data collection and sharing about backgrounds of potential gun buyers. It was all intended to increase public safety over all and make an honest effort to prevent mass shootings and lessen the carnage in the event that there are more

The N.R.A., for its part, released on Tuesday an ad called “Elitist Hypocrite” that invoked the Obama children and their Secret Service security as evidence of a president who values his children above those of average Americans.

It was an outrageous, unnecessary and ultimately stomach-churning ploy to pit the value of some children against others while completely ignoring the longstanding and very real threats that presidents and their families face.

As the Christian Science Monitor reported in November, “Since 2007, the Secret Service has disrupted several assassination conspiracies — including some involving white nationalists — and arrested dozens of people who have made less-than-idle threats against the president.”

Most of us don’t have to worry that our children live under the constant threat of harm. Heads of state do. Feigning ignorance of that distinction for political expediency only suggests that you may not be feigning at all.

Furthermore, the president hasn’t voiced opposition to more school security. He has, however, said that he doesn’t believe that that’s the sole solution. In a recent interview on “Meet the Press,” the president said, “I am skeptical that the only answer is putting more guns in schools.”

Lastly, as the White House pointed out in an e-mail to me last month, the administration proposed money for “Secure Our Schools” policing grants, which provide funding to improve school safety, “however, Congress zeroed out the program in 2012.”

In fact, the president’s proposal as presented on Wednesday specifically states:

“We need to enhance the physical security of our schools and our ability to respond to emergencies like mass shootings, and also create safer and more nurturing school climates. Each school is different and should have the flexibility to address its most pressing needs. Some schools will want trained and armed police; others may prefer increased counseling services. Either way, each district should be able to choose what is best to protect its own students.”

And one of the president’s executive orders reads: “provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.”

On virtually every measure, the N.R.A.’s messaging is off.

The president’s proposals, on the other hand, are very much in step with public opinion, which has shifted toward more restrictions, according to a number of polls reported Monday.

A poll by Gallup found that dissatisfaction with America’s gun laws has “spiked” to 38 percent after the Newtown shooting and the public discussions that followed. As Gallup points out, “this is up from 25 percent who held this set of views a year ago, and is the highest since 2001.” That’s an increase by more than half in one year — reversing a trend of continuous decline.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll found that “most Americans support tough new measures to counter gun violence, including banning assault weapons and posting armed guards at every school” and that “[m]ore than half of Americans — 52 percent in the poll — say the shooting at the elementary school in Newtown, Conn., has made them more supportive of gun control.”

And a Pew Research Center poll found that most Americans now support a federal database to track gun sales, background checks for private sales and sales at gun shows, preventing the mentally ill from purchasing guns, and bans on semiautomatic weapons, assault style weapons, high-capacity ammunition clips and online ammunition sales.

But as Pew pointed out, “there is a wide gap between those who prioritize gun rights and gun control when it comes to political involvement.”

The report continued: “Nearly a quarter (23 percent) of those who say gun rights should be the priority have contributed money to an organization that takes a position on gun policy, compared with just 5 percent of those who prioritize gun control. People who favor gun rights are also about twice as likely as gun control supporters to have contacted a public official about gun policy (15 percent vs. 8 percent).”

This is where gun control advocates — those who believe that a society can be safer and more civil with fewer rather than more high-powered, high-capacity killing machines — must have their mettle tested. This is where they must take a stand, become vocal and active, and demand accountability from elected officials, not just now but also in the future.

One of the most profound lessons to emerge from the Newtown tragedy is the power of voice. Americans refused to cede the discussion to the N.R.A. and other gun interests. They refused to buckle to fear or be swayed by propaganda.

Yet too many politicians still quake at the mere mention of the N.R.A. They are more interested in protecting their jobs than protecting society.

The public must make them quake at the idea of doing nothing on this issue.

We must never forget what happened in Connecticut last month and we must never forget what happens in Washington in the coming months.

The tragedy of Newtown must herald the dawn of a new America.

By: Charles M. Blow, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, January 16, 2013

January 20, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence, Guns | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Who Are They Kidding?”: The NRA Loves Violent Movies

When Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association made his dramatic statements about the Newtown shooting, he placed the blame on some familiar suspects: not just insufficient militarization of elementary schools, but movies and video games. “Media conglomerates,” he said, “compete with one another to shock, violate, and offend every standard of civilized society by bringing an ever more toxic mix of reckless behavior and criminal cruelty into our homes.” But Matt Gertz of Media Matters discovered that the NRA is not so opposed to movies that feature people shooting each other. In fact, the NRA’s National Firearms Museum features an exhibit called “Hollywood Guns,” in which you can check out the actual guns used in some of your favorite films (go to the end of this post for a video of the NRA museum curator proudly showing off the movie guns).

You might respond that the NRA is full of crap when it points the finger at Hollywood, which of course it is. But let’s take them at their word for a moment and examine the claim. If movies featuring a lot of gunplay cause real-world violence (there’s no actual evidence that this is the case, by the way, but never mind that), then what is it exactly that the NRA believes produces this effect? Is it that the narratives of action films convince people that the most serious problems can be solved with the use of firearms? Is it that movies portray a world in which people are constantly called on to use guns, when that isn’t the case in real life? Is it that movies portray gun use not as a horror or a tragedy but as something to be enjoyed? Is it that movies fetishize guns, making them seem like not just practical tools but objects that imbue those who wield them with power and sexiness?

Because it seems pretty clear that rather than thinking those ideas are a problem, the NRA believes them to be true. Not only that, it wants everyone else to believe them, too. Do they think people are dumb enough to buy the argument that the NRA would like to see fewer guns in movies? That they’re displeased that every other movie poster features the star holding a gun, as a signal to the potential audience that this is a film with action and excitement? Give me a break.

(Video Link: http://mediamatters.org/embed/static/clips/2013/01/02/28288/nra-movies-exhibit-1 )

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, January 2, 2013

January 4, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence, Guns | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Horror Of No Future”: It Makes No Rational Sense To Bring A Child Into A World Like This One

In Newtown, families are grieving dead first-graders. On the day of the killings, while I counted the minutes until I picked up my own daughter from day care, I was haunted, for every one of those minutes, by a figure of contemporary cultural mythology, Katniss Everdeen.

Katniss, the bow-wielding Athena of The Hunger Games series, recognizes that it is actually senseless to bear children into a violent world. In the series’ dystopian world of Panem, the power of the state in destroying young people is explicit and active: children 12 and older are placed in a lottery each year—a reaping—and selected to compete to the death in a moment of national spectacle; tribunes in a futuristic, reality-show arena.

In the very first chapter of the very first book, Katniss and her friend Gale contemplate the dawning of another year’s reaping. “I never want to have kids,” Katniss says. “I might. If I didn’t live here,” says Gale. Katniss, irritated, replies, “But you do.”

Yes, we do. We do live here. We live in an America with a high rate of gun violence. We live in a world where children die every day, from guns, from domestic violence, from car accidents, from wars (including bombs we have dropped), from starvation, from disease.

But Newtown, like Columbine and so many other school shootings before it, moves and horrifies us nationally because of so many images, most of them religious. Students fleeing from their school building. The meeting of the quotidian classroom and weapons that belong on a battlefield. Two children before wintery woods in a New York Times photo, clutching each other like Hansel and Gretel in the forest. Grieving parents, who I pray, this time, will be spared the spotlight. Beautifully lit candlelight vigils. Stories of bravery among teachers and staff. Our tearful parent-in-chief.

Like the Roman arenas that inspired The Hunger Games, the coverage of these tragedies is all about spectacle, our voracious need, even in mourning, to witness the horror vicariously from the comfort of our own bread-filled homes.

We have always been morbidly captivated by dead and threatened children. Abraham is “father of faith” because of his willingness to bind and nearly sacrifice Isaac, to take part in what Kierkegaard calls “the teleological suspension of the ethical.” Suspension barely covers it. Jephthah, a military chieftan in the book of Judges, keeps a vow with God and sacrifices his daughter. No angel stays his hand.

We remember child martyrs in the crusades, young Holocaust victims like Anne Frank, the deaths of Emmett Till and four little girls in Birmingham, Alabama. The children of the day care center in Oklahoma City. Our enduring image from that dark day is a fireman, soaked in blood, carrying a baby on the cover of the magazines. Youth move us because they bring to the light the existential horror of no future.

Katniss is right. It makes no rational sense to bring a child into a world like this one. Her words will be prophetic, as her state destroys children under more than one regime. Ours does not kill them quite so explicitly. But our passive failure to act against violence is an unholy unsacrifice all the same. There is no divine gift exchange here, no ritual logic, and no meaning.

“Who would do this to our poor little babies?” asked a teacher at Sandy Hook. What would Katniss do? In the end, she does have children, saturated with terror the whole way. Before that, though, she ends the game. She fires her arrows at the perpetrators of the endless cycle of violence. Many, many years later, she has children.

They play upon the meadow that covers a mass grave.

December 18, 2012 Posted by | Guns | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“With The Blessings Of Congress”: The NRA Is The Enabler Of Mass Murderers

New York Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler called for a “war” on the National Rifle Association in light of the mass shooting in Connecticut today in an interview with Salon, saying the gun lobby group is the “enabler of mass murderers.”

Nadler, a rare fierce advocate of gun control on Capitol Hill, said the shooting should be a wake-up call to our “crazy attitude to guns” and the power of the gun lobby. He noted that other modern industrialized countries like the U.K., Sweden and Germany witness fewer than 50 gun homicides every year, compared to the roughly 10,000 people killed here. The difference, he said, is that they have “rational gun control regimes,” while we can barely even discuss gun control thanks to the power of the gun lobby.

“Al-Qaida killed 3,000 people in the World Trade Center in 2001. The United States went to war because of that. Because of the NRA, we’ve lost 10,000 people last year unnecessarily. It’s time we went to war,” he said. “And you have to say the National Rifle Association is the enabler of mass murderers. And we’ve got to stomp on them instead of kowtowing to them.”

Nadler said he was cautiously hopeful about President Obama’s statement this afternoon that, “We’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.”

“I presume he meant that he will take a leadership role in supporting reasonable gun control measures. I hope that’s the case,” Nadler said. “I can’t think of any other meaning … Either it’s empty rhetoric, or it means he’s going to support strong gun control legislation.”

Nadler, who put out a statement today saying “NOW” is the time to talk about gun control, said Americans should demand that their member of Congress “declare themselves” on these issues. He mentioned modest gun control reforms, such as a ban on assault weapons like the one used in the shooting today; a ban on high-capacity magazines that hold dozens of rounds; and microstamping bullets to help police identify homicide suspects.

Most members are scared to get on board, he acknowledged. “The usual suspects introduce the usual legislation. They get a number of co-sponsors and most people stay away from it because of the politics,” he sighed.

“It only takes political courage because the NRA makes people toe the line against the majority view of the country. It’s time the majority stood up and said enough already. And the majority should have a motive because any of us could be a victim tomorrow,” he said. Indeed, Americans strongly support a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and slightly favor stricter gun laws.

“I would hope that these more frequent mass murders would change that politics,” he added. “This is so heartbreaking, and so terrible that this kind of thing happens. And happens routinely now. I think the next time it happens it isn’t even going to be as a big a headline as it used to be. It’s becoming routine.”

 

By: Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, December 14, 2012

December 15, 2012 Posted by | Guns | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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