Now that a few weeks have gone by since the last mass shooting, time for the knee-jerk defensiveness to die down, as it were, I wanted to touch on an issue that I feel lies at the core of that defensiveness.
That being the idea that if assault weapons, and other military size and grade weapons and accessories are restricted, the next step would be the government taking away our hunting rifles and target pistols.
Full disclosure: I am a gun owner, several times over. This is a frequent topic of conversation among my family, notably with my uncle and youngest sister. Both have long careers in law enforcement, both have my enduring respect. And both are “card carrying members” of the National Rifle Association (NRA). I am not.
Neither believes, in principle, that people on the street (as in, criminals) should have access to body armor, or to armor-piercing rounds, or to high-capacity magazines. Those things just kill cops.
Both are absolutely convinced that any effort to legislate or control their availability will result in the ‘Democrats’ taking away all of our gun rights.
I hear their fear that the godless, faceless ”they” will take away all of our guns. It’s a real fear to them, so real that they’re willing for the bad guys to be better armed than most of the good guys. Now think about that for a second…
But it’s a fear that is not grounded in reality.
Here’s an easy to remember statistic: Number of times that our Government (including Dems, Reps, Whigs, Know-nothings) has tried to take away all of our guns… 0* (zero, zilch, nada). With an asterisk.
The asterisk is for the South during Reconstruction, which passed laws prohibiting blacks from owning, well, just about everything, pistols included. Those laws are no more, and wouldn’t stand today, even with the current makeup of the Supreme Court.
But if the government hasn’t tried to take our guns away in the past (like they did our BEER), why do people feel so strongly that they will?
Guns aren’t the problem, the NRA is the problem
I read that somewhere recently. I wish I had said it first. Full disclosure: I am a gun owner. Several times over.
The NRA was formed in 1871 in response to Union General Ambrose Burnside’s comment that Yankee soldiers only hit 1 Rebel in 1000 rounds shot.
Marksmanship classes were clearly in order, and the group was formed to address the need.
The NRA’s legislative efforts began in earnest with the National Firearms Act of 1934 and the Federal Firearms Act of 1938. The Acts initiated licensing for gun dealers and high taxes for machine guns. The NRA supported both. The 2nd Amendment, remember, was written circa 1789, and was well-known to the NRA of the 30’s, which had no problem with Congress regulating guns, nor fear that our Remingtons would be next.
The NRA has many good programs geared towards gun use and safety, especially for kids. It serves as a social community for gun sport enthusiasts, sponsoring tournaments, clinics, evaluations and seminars.
It wasn’t until the election of 1980 that the NRA started picking candidates for general election. It’s gone down hill since then, with the NRA pouring millions of dollars into campaigns to further the notion that ‘democrats’ are out to take away all of our guns.
While I don’t believe that corporations are people, I’m ok with a corporation/association having a political position. What I’m not ok with are the things that the NRA is against:
- Against waiting periods for gun purchases.
- Against background checks of any kind (felony, mental illness, terror watch list).
- Against restricting automatic weapons like were used to shoot 34 people at Columbine High.
- Against restricting 100 round drum magazines like the one used to shoot 70 people at the Batman movie in Colorado.
- Against restricting 33 round pistol clips like the one used to shoot Gabby Giffords and 19 others while standing on a corner in Arizona.
- Against restricting the military assault rifles used in each case.
- Against restricting armor-piercing ammo, which make police vests useless.
- Against restricting gun shows, which remain an effective legal black market for military grade weapons, devoid of waiting, licenses, checks, or sanity.
- Against taking the advice of prosecutors and law enforcement officers who argued against ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws written and pushed by the NRA.
- Against carry restrictions in parks, movies, schools… pretty much anywhere but the halls of Congress. (Gotta protect their investment after all!)
I’d just like to point out that none of the above are used in sport shooting or hunting anything but people.
Their rationale? If military guns can be outlawed, then it’s just a matter of time before the democrats take the rest. It’s the old ‘slippery slope’ argument.
Here’s a quote from the NRA about recent efforts, in light of the Tucson and Aurora shootings, to reenact the ban on large capacity magazines that was part of the Federal Assault Weapons ban from 1994-2004:
“The magazine ban was a failed idea from the Clinton era, and will have no impact on criminal misuse of firearms, now, or in the future. It only serves to limit the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans. NRA strongly opposes this amendment. We will work with our allies to defeat this anti-freedom proposal, and will track any vote on the amendment if it is allowed under Senate rules.” (1)
In fairness, I was going to list the mass shootings that occurred during this time, as proof that the ban was a failed one. I only found one. Columbine happened, but with weapons that were obtained through the gun show loophole that the NRA insisted upon.
Nor did I find any evidence that the slippery slope of regulation led to further, more restrictive, gun laws directed at our hunting and target sports. AK-47’s were illegal for 10 years, yet no one came for my shotgun(s).
That reduces the NRA to little more than a lobby for the gun sellers, not for us users. Think Wall St. lobbyists who pay Congress for lax rules when playing with our pensions. Think Big Oil lobbyists, who successfully pay Congress to get taxpayer subsidies in the face of record profits every quarter. Think Big Pharma lobbyists, who pay to get their drug approved even though, in bringing down your cholesterol, it causes more strokes and heart attacks.
If somebody came out with ‘anthrax ammo’, is there any question that the NRA would push for it to be legal, even though just 1 shot could kill an entire auditorium full of kids? To channel Bill Murray in Stripes, “There’s something wrong with that. Something very, very wrong with that.” It makes no sense in regards to freedom, the Constitution, or even American individualism, for a group to fight to keep military grade weapons in the hands of the mentally ill, as the NRA does. How far they’ve fallen since the 1930’s.
Some Common Sense
I believe that we can control weapons of mass people destruction without jeopardizing our hunting and sporting guns. We license EVERYTHING else that hurts people… cars, trucks, bikes, food, beer, smoke, pharmaceuticals, baby chairs, bibs, boats, fishing, walking downtown, selling hot dogs or T-shirts at bike week… and yet we responsible people still have access to all of those things.
There is no (reasonable) reason why it wouldn’t be the same if assault rifles and large capacity magazines were controlled like, say, race cars. Them good ol’ boys at Daytona cain’t drive those cars home on Daytona streets after the race, but they CAN have cars that are safe to drive on Daytona streets with the rest of us . Nobody has taken our cars away from us, unless of course we’ve shown to be unsafe while driving them… which I believe they should.
Because a (card-carrying NRA) crazy used a truck full of fertilizer based explosives to blow up a building full of kids, you can’t get trucks close to airports, you can’t buy hundreds of pounds of nitrogen without raising flags, and repeat incidents have been discovered and prevented by such measures. Why are assault rifles any different?
I recently came across an opinion piece (2) that decried the fact that there are over 80 million gun owners in the US, yet only a fraction of us belong to the NRA. The author wanted all 80 million of us to join the NRA to protect our rights against… the Democrats, who are trying to take our right to hunt rabbits .
What I see… is that there are 80 million gun owners in America, the majority of which cannot support the extreme, irrational, politically motivated positions of the NRA as they apply to military grade weapons in the hands of the non military. It is clear that a healthy percentage of Americans own and use guns, that the majority of Americans support gun ownership, and polls show that the majority of Americans think that high-capacity magazines should not be available to the general population, that military grade assault weapons should not be available to the general population, and that those with a history of mental illness or felonies should not be able to purchase firearms capable of taking out an entire Applebees at rush hour. The NRA is clearly out of touch.
Because of the NRA, what we have instead of ‘when guns are outlawed only outlaws will have guns’, is more like “when military weapons of mass destruction are freely available, criminals and crazies will use them with great success in our children’s schools, against law-abiding citizens and law enforcement officers.” The only ones who win in that scenario are the people who sell the guns and ammo. Like Pushers, they don’t care who buys and uses, who lives or dies, as long as they get the sales. We the people don’t win. The 20-year-old who is struggling to find his place in the world and is able purchase multiple assault rifles, thousands of rounds of assault rifle ammo and a drum magazine to get through it all quickly… and all of it legally… he doesn’t win. The 70 people he shot, they didn’t win.
Who came out ahead? The sellers did. Why? Their lobby, the NRA. Both seemingly want to see it happen again and again and again… because, well, it’s profitable, and that’s the American way.
And there’s something very, very wrong with that. As Hoyt Axton wrote… “God damn the Pusher”.
(photo by geo)