Friday, December 21, 2012

The NRA's solution to gun violence: more guns, more fear

Somehow I listened to the presentation on Friday by the NRA's Wayne LaPierre without gaq reflexes kicking in. If you want to try it yourself, here's the whole thing, courtesy of PBS Newshour, NRA's Wayne LaPierre Calls for Armed Security in Every School 12/21/2012:

LaPierre proposes armed security guards at every school as an excuse not to have any restrictions at all on the manufacture and sale of the kinds of weapons that were not so long ago banned as "assault weapons". But this week's Facebook setting don't seem to allow it.

German cartoonist Klaus Stuttmann has a drawing (12/17/2012) of what LaPierre's ideal of a public school would be, captioned "the next thing".

Also, the Christian homeschool lobby would love to have public schools looking like this to market against. I wonder how many Christian homeschooling arrangements, which sometimes include classroom-size gatherings, have armed guards present trained to take down well-trained survivalists with automatic weapons and body armor. For that matter, how many private elementary/middle/high schools have them? But the NRA sells fear, and they are pretty successful at it.

I haven't checked the figures, but I assume that there are lots of urban schools that may be near high-crime areas that have extra security coverage. Also, there's this story: Amanda Terkel, Columbine High School Had Armed Guards During Massacre In 1999 Huffington Post 12/21/2012.

Obama is endorsing the idea of an assault weapons ban, something he has nominally supported during his entire Presidency and done little or nothing to actively promote. How much we should expect from his vague calls for doing something is well illustrated by this animated cartoon from Mark Fiore, Condolencer-In-Chief 12/20/2012 (embeddeing not available).

There are a couple of things that I'm watching about Obama's position on gun violence. One is the connection he is careful to make between everyday street violence, illustrated by this screen shot from the Huffington Post homepage of .... The Huffington Post has been pushing Obama's framing in this sense in their coverage the last several days:

"We may never know all the reasons why this tragedy happened. We do know that every day since [the Newtown], more Americans have died of gun violence," Obama said on 12/19/2012:

The other is the stress he places in his presentations on security. For example:

And every parent knows there is nothing we will not do to shield our children from harm. ... That this job of keeping our children safe, and teaching them well, is something we can only do together, with the help of friends and neighbors, the help of a community, and the help of a nation. ... Can we honestly say that we’re doing enough to keep our children -- all of them -- safe from harm? ... If there is even one step we can take to save another child, or another parent, or another town, from the grief that has visited Tucson, and Aurora, and Oak Creek, and Newtown, and communities from Columbine to Blacksburg before that -- then surely we have an obligation to try. (12/16/2012)
And so I think all of us have to do some reflection on how we prioritize what we do here in Washington. And as I said on Sunday, this should be a wake-up call for all of us to say that if we are not getting right the need to keep our children safe, then nothing else matters. And it's my commitment to make sure that we do everything we can to keep our children safe. (12/19/2012)
These statements in themselves are entirely compatible with Wayne LaPierre's approach. The NRA also claims they want to keep children safe, too, by making sure they are in the presence of loaded guns every minute of their lives.

Obama earned an F rating from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence for his first year in office:

  • Brady Campaign, President Obama's First Year: Failed Leadership, Lost Lives (Jan 2010): "In a year [2009] punctuated by mass shootings, ambush killings of police, assault weapon-toting protestors, and profligate gun trafficking from U.S. gun shops that threatens the stability of Mexico, President Obama’s first-year record on gun violence prevention has been an abject failure. "
  • Michael O'Brien, Gun control group gives Obama an ‘F’ The Hill 01/19/2010: " the Brady Campaign, a leading advocacy group for stricter gun laws, said Obama actually has done little to clamp down on firearms since being elected. Instead, the president has signed into law two bills that favored gun-rights supporters."

I haven't located their ratings from later years. Maybe this time he'll do a little more on gun regulation as a way of persuading supporters of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid not to raise too much of a stink about cutting those programs and putting them on the fast track to elimination. But his chronic unwillingness to promote an alternative framing to the issues is a real problem if he's serious about even restoring the assault weapons ban. Here is an example from his 12/19/2012 press conference in which he tries to make an argument for better gun regulations within an NRA-friendly framing:

Look, like the majority of Americans, I believe that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms. This country has a strong tradition of gun ownership that’s been handed down from generation to generation. Obviously across the country there are regional differences. There are differences between how people feel in urban areas and rural areas. And the fact is the vast majority of gun owners in America are responsible -- they buy their guns legally and they use them safely, whether for hunting or sport shooting, collection or protection. ...

And here’s what we know -- that any single gun law can't solve all these problems. We’re going to have to look at mental health issues. We're going to have to look at schools. There are going to be a whole range of things that Joe's group looks at. We know that issues of gun safety will be an element of it. And what we've seen over the last 20 years, 15 years, is the sense that anything related to guns is somehow an encroachment on the Second Amendment. What we’re looking for here is a thoughtful approach that says we can preserve our Second Amendment, we can make sure that responsible gun owners are able to carry out their activities, but that we’re going to actually be serious about the safety side of this; that we're going to be serious about making sure that something like Newtown or Aurora doesn't happen again.

And there is a big chunk of space between what the Second Amendment means and having no rules at all. And that space is what Joe is going to be working on to try to identify where we can find some common ground.
So it wouldn't surprise me at all if Obama were hoping for the issue to quiet down, have Diane Feinstein's assault weapons bill die in the Senate next year with little if any help from Obama to pass it, and then announce a bipartisan compromise to put more armed guards in schools just like Wayne Pierre suggested.

The Democrats need to take on the NRA and delegitimize their framing and wreck their credibility outside the Republican alternative-reality bubble. Mark Ames in From "Operation Wetback" to Newtown: Tracing the Hick Fascism of the NRA Truthout 12/20/2012 explains the radicalization of the NRA since the 1970s. (Also at NEWSCORP 12/17/2012) Alan Berlow in Held hostage by NRA paranoia Salon 12/17/2012 describes the NRA's grim success on various fronts in derailing, even outright suppressing, honest public discussion of gun violence.

And, as Digby reminds us with particular reference to the NRA, "despite their freedom-loving libertarian, anti-government mantra, for the most part gun nuts are actually authoritarian bullies and closet totalitarians." (Free to live in a totalitarian society Hullabaloo 12/21/2012)

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