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“The Day The NRA’s Gun Dam Began To Crack”: The Ongoing Holocaust The NRA And The Republicans Are Abetting

I couldn’t believe Wednesday night that some liberals were expressing indifference or even suspicion toward the House Democrats’ sit-in. I wouldn’t say this was all that widespread, but I did see it, and it was based on the fact that one of the bills they were demanding a vote on, the one banning people on watch lists from buying guns, is problematic from a civil-libertarian point of view.

Oh please. Do these people know history happening when they see it? The sit-in was about the two bills only in the most nominal sense. It was really about dead bodies. It was about the NRA and its stranglehold on their institution. It was about saying “enough.”

I wrote earlier this week that yes, the NRA won again on those four Senate votes, but “someday, this dam will break.” Well, it’s coming a hell of a lot faster than I thought it would. No, the dam isn’t broken—yet. That will still take a fair amount of time. But after Wednesday night, it’s now possible to see a different future, one in which the NRA is not all-powerful. It’s no longer crazy to think that its back can be broken.

Sure, there are serious civil liberties concerns about government lists. Here’s what the ACLU has to say about them. If you are a man with an Arabic name in particular, the risk of being put on one of these lists because of error or confusion is not inconsiderable. That has to be addressed, and a citizen has to be able to go to the government and demonstrate wrongful harm.

But everyone agrees on all this. As I watched the coverage Wednesday, every single Democrat I saw interviewed said as much. I wish I could retrieve for you what Illinois Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky told Chris Hayes late last night, but the video wasn’t posted on his site yet as I sat down to write. She said in essence: Of course, we all agree, fix the bill, build in an appeals process for individuals to challenge being put on the list. Given. In the meantime, actual dangerous people who deserve to be on that list can go buy assault weapons and mow down innocent people. Let’s stop that first, then we’ll fine-tune the bill.

What on earth is objectionable about that? Nothing. And anyway, the bill isn’t going to pass even if Paul Ryan does allow a vote. But it would have the effect of calling the Republicans’ bluff. That is, the standard Republican criticism of the bill has been precisely this civil-libertarian critique. So if the Democrats come to them en masse to say fine, we agree with you, let’s find a way to build in a workable appeals process, and the Republicans still vote against the bill, they will stand exposed, and everyone will know that civil liberty concerns aren’t what’s driving GOP opposition. Fear of Wayne LaPierre is. We all know this already anyway, but if there is a vote and they still vote against it, we’ll have proof.

Legislating is ugly business. The choices are usually between okay and not okay, or often between bad and much worse. You take what you can get. This is why the sit-in merits support and admiration (and if you really want to be a liberal who’s on the opposite side of the great John Lewis, be my guest). This is very different from the civil rights actions of the 1950s. Then, activists had a country to persuade; they had to move the mountain of public opinion. And so activists in Birmingham settled on segregated buses as the target that would tangibly and visibly make segregation stark for white Americans outside the South. They bided their time, deliberately chose Rosa Parks as the woman to do it, and slowly won public opinion over to their side.

But here, the public doesn’t have to be persuaded. It’s 80 or 90 percent on the Democrats’ side on guns. Even most NRA members support background checks, the subject of the other bill over which the Democrats staged their action. The boulder that has to be moved—or crushed—is the Republican Congress. So it’s up to congressional Democrats to make that fight, and they have to do it with the imperfect implements at their disposal, which means particular pieces of legislation that are bound to be deficient in one way or another.

And they’re finally making that fight. It was remarkable to see lawmakers holding those pieces of paper with the names of victims from Newtown and Orlando. That wasn’t about watch lists. It was about the ongoing holocaust that the NRA and the Republicans are abetting. It was all the more remarkable for the fact that it was done in an election year, when everyone’s supposed to be double-terrified of the NRA.

So the sit-in is ending as I write, on Thursday afternoon. But one of these days, the NRA will lose a vote. Two or three more Orlandos (which is of course two or three too many) will have the nation tearing its hair out. Democrats will finally stand firm, and enough Republicans from purple districts and states will defect. The stranglehold will end. And maybe in time, after LaPierre has gone off to whatever place eternity has reserved for him, the NRA will again become what it used to be, which is an organization that promotes reasonable Second Amendment rights but stops insisting that these death machines that were never intended to be in civilian hands deserve constitutional protection.

And when that time comes, historians will point to June 22, 2106 as the day the dam started to crack. I’m clear about which side I’m on.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, June 24, 2016

June 25, 2016 Posted by | Gun Deaths, House Democrats Sit-In, National Rifle Association | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“NRA Corpses Pile Up”: The NRA’s Day Of Reckoning Will Come, And Maybe Sooner Than We All Think

Can the National Rifle Association ever be defeated?

I can’t blame you if you’re thinking “no.” It won again this week, as everyone knew it would. But someday, this dam will break.

I admit that these last few days give us little basis for hope, but I do think Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy’s filibuster had some impact in forcing a vote, albeit an unsuccessful one. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell controls the calendar, decides what gets to the floor. He didn’t have to schedule these votes. Granted, his real motivation was undoubtedly to give that small number of Republican incumbents from purple or blue states a chance to cast a reasonable-seeming vote on guns.

But public pressure exists, and polling is through the roof on support for banning the purchase of guns by people on terror-watch and no-fly lists. Murphy’s stand galvanized gun-control forces.

After the Newtown shooting in December of 2012, it took five months for the Senate to hold a vote. This time it took a week. That may not seem like much, especially given that both efforts came to the same bleak end, but this is progress of a sort. These things take a long time.

It was mildly encouraging, too, to see some red-state Democrats vote for gun legislation sponsored by Dianne Feinstein. To NRA hard-liners, she is Satan. There are four red-state Democrats who risk political suicide if they’re not careful on guns: Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and Jon Tester of Montana. All but Heitkamp voted for Feinstein’s amendment to prevent gun purchases by anyone who’s been on a terror watch list for the last five years.

It should be noted that only Donnelly voted for the other Democratic measure, introduced by Murphy and Chuck Schumer, which sought to close the gun-show loophole. And all four of these Democrats opposed a weak amendment from Republican Chuck Grassley.

But ultimately, yes, the votes were election-year theater. Here’s how ridiculous the whole thing is. Maine Republican Susan Collins has this “compromise” bill that would ban purchases of guns by people on the no-fly list. That’s to get Democratic support. Then it allows people to appeal such a decision, which is supposed to lure Republicans, who’ve said they don’t like the ban because some people have been incorrectly put on those lists.

You might think that that would mean that enough senators from both parties could vote yes. But as of Tuesday afternoon, a Senate source explained to me, no other Republican had yet signed on to Collins’s bill. A small number presumably would—Mark Kirk of Illinois, who’s facing a tough reelection fight in a very blue state, maybe a few others. But Collins would need 15 or 16 Republicans to back her to get the 60 votes needed to end cloture. That’s as close to impossible as anything can be.

Now it gets even more baroque: Despite this lack of Republican enthusiasm, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell may well give Collins a vote anyway. McConnell, of course, has no personal interest in compromise on this issue. He’s NRA all the way.

However, he probably wants a vote for the sake of Kirk, New Hampshire’s Kelly Ayotte, Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey, Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson—that is, all the Republicans up for reelection in blue states. It’ll look nice to voters back home that they cast a bipartisan gun vote.

But of course Democratic leader Harry Reid knows this, and so he might respond to such a move by McConnell by encouraging his caucus to vote against the Collins measure, thereby denying Kirk and the rest the desired bipartisan cover. Capische?

So the bill that is an actual compromise, the one bill on which both sides might actually have been able to agree, at least in theory, is the very bill that might lose by something like 95-5.

It’s not just ridiculous. It’s immoral. How high do the carcasses need to pile?

I sense we’re starting to reach the point where we’re going to learn the answer to that question. This just can’t go on forever. For starters, if Hillary Clinton maintains her lead and is elected president, one of the first things she’s going to do is put a liberal on the Supreme Court, making for a 5-4 liberal majority. Even if she settles for Merrick Garland, signs are he’d back gun control measures (the NRA already came out against him).

That could lead to an overturning of District of Columbia v. Heller, which vastly expanded individual gun-ownership rights. Given enough time, and maybe an Anthony Kennedy or a Clarence Thomas retirement and thus a 6-3 liberal majority, it could lead to still bigger changes in gun-law jurisprudence.

That would lead a defensive NRA to try to tighten its grip on Congress even more. And that will probably work, for a time. But it will embolden the anti-NRA forces too. Momentum will then be on their side.

And the mass killings will continue, and the bodies will pile up, and public outrage will grow. And one of these days, there’ll be a tragedy that will make everyone, even the number of Republicans who’d be needed to break a filibuster, say “enough.” It would have to be just the right kind of thing, click all the demographic boxes just right—a white man who bought an assault weapon with no background check and went on a rampage and killed many white people in a heavily Republican part of the country. I’m not wishing this on anyone, but then, I don’t need to. As we continue to do nothing, the odds increase daily that it will happen.

Things look awful until, one day, they suddenly don’t. The day Rosa Parks sat down on that bus, I bet not that many people would have predicted that a president would sign a civil rights bill just nine years later. The evil that is the NRA is so thoroughgoing and so repulsive to most Americans that it just can’t last forever. Newtown and Orlando energized millions of people. The LGBT community, I gather, is going to embrace gun-control as an issue. They’re organized, and they have money and clout. The old saying that pro-gun people vote on that issue while anti-gun people don’t isn’t as true as it once was.

So be angry about what happened. But Wayne LaPierre’s day will come, and maybe sooner than we think. And what a day it will be.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, June 22, 2016

June 23, 2016 Posted by | Chris Murphy, Gun Control, National Rifle Association, Senate Republicans | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“For Trump, Presidential Means Being Polite”: Why Donald Trump’s Idea Of ‘Presidential’ Is Both Curious And Disturbing

Just as St. Augustine asked the Lord to grant him chastity, just not yet, Donald Trump is ready to be “presidential,” just not yet. Whenever he brings up the idea of presidential-ness, Trump always says that a personality transformation is on its way, but will have to be delayed while some more pressing campaign matters are attended to. Like so much about Trump, his conception of what it means to be presidential is both curious and disturbing.

As near as one can surmise, for Trump, to be presidential means to be polite. When he’s criticizing his opponents, he isn’t being presidential. So he says that when his daughter Ivanka begged him to be more presidential, he replied that he had to knock off the other Republican candidates first. “Let me be unpresidential just for a little while longer, and maybe I’ll be a little bit unpresidential as I beat Hillary.” He’ll often add, “At some point, I’m going to be so presidential that you people will be so bored.”

But he promises that at the right time, he will bring the presidential-ness, and bring it hard. “If I want to be, I can be more presidential than anybody. You know, when I have 16 people coming at me from 16 different angles, you don’t want to be so presidential. You have to win, you have to beat them back, right?” But he will be “more presidential than anybody other than the great Abe Lincoln. He was very presidential, right?”

Well, yes. But Lincoln was happy to make his disagreements with other people clear; his presidential qualities did not consist in turning the other cheek. So what does “presidential” mean to the rest of us? At the simplest level it suggests a combination of dignity and command, someone who holds enormous power and demonstrates him or herself worthy of it. But for most people, “presidential” is less about behavior than about identity: A person doesn’t act presidential, a person is presidential.

And until recently, that meant a certain kind of person: a tall, handsome white man, in late middle age, but aging well, strong of jaw and grey of temple, with a firm handshake and a steely gaze. Basically, Mitt Romney. Which is why back when he ran for president, so many people said Romney looked “straight out of Central Casting.”

But it may be more accurate to say that Mitt Romney is what used to be considered “presidential.” In 2016, that’s no longer the case, though it was just a short time ago. When the film Deep Impact was released in 1998, the fact that Morgan Freeman — a black man! — portrayed the president of the United States was seen as somewhere between notable and shocking. Since then, however, Hollywood has given us a whole spate of non-Romneyesque presidents of varying ethnicities and genders. Even 24, in many ways the prototypical right-wing drama of the George W. Bush era, had not one but two black men serve as president, followed by a woman.

Hollywood, of course, is always trying to cram its liberal values down the throats of good old-fashioned heartland Americans. But Barack Obama may have changed forever what we think of when we think of someone being presidential. The default face of a president may still be that of a white man, but the idea is no longer exclusively and necessarily white and male. And now it’s entirely possible, perhaps likely, that the nation’s first black president will be followed by the nation’s first woman president.

That thought makes some people very displeased; as the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre said last year when considering Clinton’s run for the White House, “I have to tell you, eight years of one demographically significant president is enough.” And many of them happen to be the people Donald Trump is appealing most directly to: those who feel that in a changing country, they’ve lost something as others have gained. With women and African-Americans and Latinos and Asian-Americans all demanding respect and consideration, with popular culture embracing polyglot sounds and challenging ideas, they feel diminished, ignored, passed by, and passed over. They want their country back, and Trump promises to give it to them.

There are many qualities we might associate with being presidential, like maturity, intelligence, thoughtfulness, or compassion. But Donald Trump obviously isn’t thinking of that when he talks about being presidential; he seems to think it just means not making up schoolyard nicknames for people or talking about the size of your hands. He may not realize it, but just by being a 69-year-old rich white guy, in the eyes of his supporters he’s as presidential as could be. But in 2016, people who see that as the beginning and end of being presidential are probably in the minority. Just like people who support Donald Trump.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, April 29, 2016

April 30, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Presidential Candidates, Trump Supporters | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Symbiotic Relationship”: How The NRA And Gun Manufacturers Work Together To Scam Gun Owners

If you took gun advocates at their word, you might think they’re enormously displeased when President Obama discusses measures like the expansion (or if you like, clarification) of the background check system that he announced on Tuesday. But the truth is this: When Obama talks about guns, the National Rifle Association couldn’t be happier. When Republican politicians decry Obama’s moves as a dire threat to Second Amendment rights (“Obama wants your guns” declares a web page the Ted Cruz campaign set up in response, portraying the president as some kind of quasi-fascist commando presumably about to kick down your door), they smile in satisfaction. That’s because the NRA and the gun manufacturers are in a symbiotic relationship, where they both benefit whenever guns become a political issue.

For the NRA, it’s about members and money. For the gun manufacturers, it’s about sales and protection from legal liability. And as long as gun owners are kept agitated, angry, and afraid, they both win.

Here’s how it works. There’s a mass shooting, then President Obama suggests we really need to do something about gun violence. Maybe he has a specific proposal as he did this week, or maybe he doesn’t. But the details don’t matter. Immediately, the NRA condemns him and other Democrats, then shouts, “They’re coming for your guns!” to its members, and all gun owners. A healthy chunk of those gun owners respond by rushing down to the gun store to buy more guns, lest they miss their chance before Obama comes to take them away. The threat always turns out to be imaginary; more background checks wouldn’t stop anyone legally authorized to buy a gun from doing so, let alone take away guns people already own. But no one seems to notice that the NRA is the boy who cried “wolf” again and again. Within a month or two, the cycle will repeat itself.

The NRA gets tens of millions of dollars from gun manufacturers, through a variety of channels, not just checks but advertising in NRA publications and special promotions the manufacturers run. For instance, every time someone buys a Ruger, the company donates $2 to the NRA. Buy one from Taurus, and they’ll pay for a year’s membership in the NRA.

And even though the relationship isn’t always perfectly friendly — the NRA has organized boycotts of manufacturers it felt weren’t towing the properly extreme line on regulations — with the NRA’s help, there’s never been a better time to be in the gun business. Gun sales are booming, and 2015 was the best year yet. We can use FBI background checks as a proxy for sales (even though many sales don’t require a background check), and last year, the agency performed a record 23 million checks. That has more than doubled just since 2007, which was by sheer coincidence the year before Barack Obama got elected.

What’s particularly remarkable about this increase in gun sales is that it comes at a time when gun ownership is on a long, steady decline. With fewer Americans living in rural areas and hunting no longer as popular a recreational activity as it once was, far fewer Americans own guns today than a generation or two ago. According to data from the General Social Survey, in 1977, 50 percent of Americans said there was a gun in their home; by 2014 the number had declined to 31 percent. That’s still a lot, of course, but given the demographics of gun ownership — among other things, members of fast-growing minority groups like Hispanics are far less likely to own guns — the downward trend will probably continue.

The numbers tell the story of a transformation in gun culture, from many more people owning a gun or two (often a rifle or a shotgun) to a smaller number of owners each buying many more guns, mostly handguns. And this is just what the NRA encourages, by feeding twin climates of fear. First, the organization, particularly its chief Wayne LaPierre, regularly describes America as a kind of post-apocalyptic hellscape right out of Mad Max, where only the armed can survive. As he wrote in a 2013 article, “Hurricanes. Tornadoes. Riots. Terrorists. Gangs. Lone criminals. These are perils we are sure to face — not just maybe. It’s not paranoia to buy a gun. It’s survival.”

Second, the NRA cries that no matter what’s going on in the political world, it portends an imminent massive gun confiscation. President Obama wants more background checks? Nope, he’s really coming to take your guns. There’s an election coming up? If Democrats win, they’re going to take your guns. You shouldn’t just have a gun, you should have lots of guns, and you should buy more right now because you never know when the government are going to send their jackbooted thugs to invade your home and take them away.

What do you call the frightened, paranoid, insecure guy having a midlife crisis who prepares for the inevitable breakdown of society and shakes his fist at the president? You call him a customer. He’s the one who responds to every “urgent” appeal from the NRA to donate a few more dollars and go buy another rifle or handgun or two, while the manufacturers watch their profits rise and their stock prices soar. He’s money in the bank.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, January 7, 2016

January 8, 2016 Posted by | Background Checks, Gun Manufacturers, Gun Violence, Mass Shootings, National Rifle Association | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“These Things Happen From Time To Time”: At Least 43 Instances This Year Of Somebody Being Shot By A Toddler 3 Or Younger

I don’t want to sound like some kind of weeny liberal nag, but I’m having trouble understanding how we’re supposed to use our guns in these cases to act like the good guys who are getting the bad guys with the guns.

This week a 2-year-old in South Carolina found a gun in the back seat of the car he was riding in and accidentally shot his grandmother, who was sitting in the passenger seat. This type of thing happens from time to time: A little kid finds a gun, fires it, and hurts or kills himself or someone else. These cases rarely bubble up to the national level except when someone, like a parent, ends up dead.

But cases like this happen a lot more frequently than you might think. After spending a few hours sifting through news reports, I’ve found at least 43 instances this year of somebody being shot by a toddler 3 or younger. In 31 of those 43 cases, a toddler found a gun and shot himself or herself.

I know, I know. I’m a moron.

Because only a moron believes that a two year old can pull the trigger on a gun, right?

You might as well tell me that we put a man on the moon or that real men eat arugula.

I’m sure you’ve had enough of pantywaist protesters, but I haven’t forgotten how the NRA reacted to the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

After a weeklong silence, the National Rifle Association announced Friday that it wants to arm security officers at every school in the country. It pointed the finger at violent video games, the news media and lax law enforcement — not guns — as culprits in the recent rash of mass shootings.

“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” Wayne LaPierre, the N.R.A. vice president, said at a media event that was interrupted by protesters. One held up a banner saying, “N.R.A. Killing Our Kids.”

It’s hard to say that it’s the NRA killing our kids when it’s clearly our kids killing each other and themselves and their grandmothers. And this wouldn’t happen if we just put a good guy with a gun in the backseat of all of our cars to keep a watch on our toddlers and put a quick stop to any gang-related activity.

I’m sure you can go talk to the families who have been impacted by these tragedies and find them suffering from no regrets and no second thoughts about how safe their guns were keeping their families.

Oh, yes, I know the solution. Those stupid parents shouldn’t just leave their loaded guns lying around where any Tommy, Richie or Harry can pick them up and pop off a few quicks shots.

And girls shouldn’t have sex.

And boys shouldn’t horse around.

And say ‘no’ to drugs.

And no one gets hurt.

 

By: Martin Longman, Ten Miles Square, The Washington Monthly, October 16, 2015

October 19, 2015 Posted by | Gun Deaths, Gun Lobby, National Rifle Association | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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