Friday, July 20, 2012

Thank the NRA

Ho-hum, just another massacre, this time in Aurora, Colorado, 12 dead, 50 or more shot and injured. The NRA will disclaim any responsibility whatsoever, after all, “Guns don’t kill people, people do.” There will be new claims by at least some politicians, mostly Mayors and Governors, for stronger gun laws, but nothing much will happen. After all, the NRA is the strongest lobby in Washington, D.C. and few dare to stand up against them, they might actually lose office for attempting to do the right thing and pass some legislation that actually makes sense of gun control.

The NRA, I believe, started a long, long time ago, in response to the finding that American troops could not shoot straight. After investigating various European programs with respect to this problem a program was began here at home to improve shooting skills. This was a perfectly respectable thing to have done. Subsequently the NRA has acted as a protector of the rights of hunters and sportsmen to own and use firearms, also a perfectly respectable thing to do. More basically, they have been champions of the 2nd Amendment, the right to own and bear arms, again a perfectly respectable goal. But somewhere along the way the respectability of the organization has vanished, or at least been masked by activities far from the original or basic intentions.

So thanks to the power of the NRA lobby we now have laws that encourage or allow individuals to own assault rifles, completely useless for any purpose other than killing other human beings. Individuals can now have oversize clips for their handguns allowing them to shoot far more rounds than necessary out of weapons that again have no useful purpose other than killing other people. And we can now not only carry concealed weapons, we can carry them everywhere including churches, schools, theatres, and bars, ostensibly for personal protection or the protection of others such as school children or whatever. One might wonder where these eager protectors of us with their concealed glocks and Berettas were when this latest gunmen entered the theatre and blasted away blissfully at anyone and everyone.

Many of the things the NRA has successfully lobbied for or against are little more than absurd. No individual, for example, needs an assault rifle. They cannot be used for hunting, are certainly not necessary for home defense, and do nothing but allow deranged individuals to kill many more people than they could otherwise manage. Of course the more ardent (and dim-witted) in support for assault rifles will tell you they are to protect us from our own government. Yeah, really, as if that would ever happen so they would protect us from the full force of the U.S. military. This is nothing but paranoid nonsense. Similarly, no one needs a clip for their handgun that allows them to shoot more than the regulation six to nine rounds. Home invaders do not come equipped with weapons for sustained hostilities. And why should anyone need to go armed into a school or church, or even worse, a bar? Some of these gun nuts think everyone should be required to be armed at all times. This is, of course, basically insane. But not, I guess, if you believe that President Obama is going to take your guns away, and you know he is because so far he has not done so.

I don’t personally have any objection to gun ownership. Hunters should certainly be allowed to own ordinary rifles and shotguns. I don’t have any objection even to the ownership of handguns for home protection although I can understand why handguns can be a serious problem in some urban settings where gangs are common. Beyond that I see no reason for assault weapons, enhanced clips, silencers, 50 caliber weapons, fully automatic weapons, and the right to concealed carry for people going to church or out for a drink.

I find the idea that President Obama or anyone else is going to take away guns totally unrealistic. Given the millions of guns that exist in the U.S, I would say it is too late for that, and even trying to control them beyond certain limits is completely impractical. Most gun owners would not turn in their guns if ordered to do so. Guns of all kinds are readily available in most states. In fact there are even laughable laws in some states that prohibit individuals from buying more than one gun a month. I guess you just can’t have too many guns. Guns are bought and sold at guns shows with no restrictions on who can buy and sell them, and, more importantly, but rarely mentioned, is the fact that guns are advertised, bought and sold in newspapers and magazines. As far as I know (at least in Idaho) all one needs to buy or sell a gun from another individual is a sales receipt or some other record of the transaction. I do not believe that at this point in time it is even possible to control this kind of commerce.

What is both practical and possible, however, are restrictions on the sale of assault weapons (that we had for a time), fully automatic weapons, sawed-off shotguns, silencers, enhanced clips, Saturday night specials, and other such obviously unnecessary arms with no purpose other than killing other humans. Even handguns I find questionable, although there is a point in arguing for home protection.

The NRA was at one time a respectable organization. In the hands of some like Wayne LaPierre and other lunatics it has degenerated into a hotbed of insanity, promoting laws that have no purpose other than keeping the organization in business. I think Carleton Heston’s famous performance about prying guns from his cold, dead hands is probably the most ridiculous, overdramatic, stupid performance by an actor in the history of show biz.

No society that feeds its children on tales of successful violence can expect them not to believe that violence in the end is rewarded.

Margaret Mead

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