Time to Stand Up to the Gun Nuts
The week Wisconsin's new concealed carry law passed, "no guns allowed" signs started going up all over town.
I'll never forget the first morning I saw the picture of a gun with a line through it posted on the front door of my daughter's day care center.
Seeing those signs in the windows of restaurants, offices, and the toy store across the street from the Capitol was a shock. But the more of them I saw, the more they seemed to mark little islands of sanity in a society that has been taken over by the gun nuts.
The week after the movie theater massacre in Colorado, I was on Wisconsin Public Radio with a conservative who suggested that people should boycott businesses that post no-guns signs.
Not only did he reject the idea that we should consider limiting access to assault weapons and magazines that fire hundreds of rounds of ammunition at a time, he insisted that public opinion is on the side of letting people carry military-style guns wherever they go.
Like other Republicans, including Wisconsin's attorney general J.B. Van Hollen, he suggested that the real problem in Colorado was that there weren't more people carrying guns into the movie theater, so they could shoot back.
This extreme, dystopian view of the world would be laughable if it were not, increasingly, the way we now live.
Ever since 1994, when the NRA successfully targeted Democrats in swing districts who had the temerity to support the Brady Bill and President Clinton's assault weapons ban, there has been virtually no resistance to the gun lobby.
Both parties consider it far too dangerous to stand up to the NRA.
Thus we heard President Obama give lip service, after Colorado, to the idea that automatic weapons belong in the hands of soldiers, not on the streets. But the White House has no plans to revive the assault weapons ban or impose any other limits on weapons or ammunition.
The NRA, meanwhile, is pressing ahead. On Saturday, July 28 there was an NRA-sponsored shooting event for members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in Salt Lake City, Utah. ALEC is the group responsible for creating and promoting Stand Your Ground and other pro-gun laws in state legislatures around the country.
Just recently, it looked like bad publicity was going to help sever ALEC's cozy relationship with the gun lobby. After Trayvon Martin's tragic death in Florida, thanks to ALEC’s Stand Your Ground law, more than 20 corporations dropped out of ALEC and the group announced that it would no longer work with the NRA.
But, as Lisa Graves of the Center for Media and Democracy, the nation's foremost ALEC watchdog, reports, the NRA is still holding its annual ALEC shoot-out. And the group still appears to be helping come up with new ways to get more dangerous weapons into the hands of more people.
The latest target: gangster-era laws prohibiting the sale and use of machine guns.
At an ALEC meeting last December, Graves reports, the NRA got ALEC's crime task force to approve a modified "model" bill that would ban cities from barring the sale of "machine guns," expressly.
Imagine cities like Madison, (which still doesn’t allow guns on city buses, in schools, or other city property—and where you can buy one of those no-guns-allowed signs for $5 at the city clerk's office) were prohibited from preventing drunks on State Street from carrying machine guns?
NRA dittoheads, like my conservative friend on Wisconsin Public Radio, insist that gun control laws don't increase public safety. A crazy person like the Colorado shooter would simply have found another means of killing lots of people in the movie theater that night, he told me. But any police officer who has worked the night shift on a college campus can tell you how wrong that is. People who are inclined to do violence use the means that come to hand, and if those means are weapons of mass destruction, we are in for a very scary time.
When a crazy gunman fired off thirty rounds near a Safeway in Arizona, shooting Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and seventeen other people, including a nine year old girl, the gunman’s automatic rifle jammed, allowing a Giffords staffer to tackle him and stop the violence.
Yet Congress has refused to get behind a simple piece of legislation that would make it illegal to purchase gun magazines that fire off more than ten rounds at a time. The Colorado shooter ordered 6,000 rounds on the Internet, perfectly legally, with no background check.
The obvious beneficiaries of our insanely liberal gun laws are weapons dealers. So it is no surprise the Browning Arms Company was a cosponsor with the NRA of the ALEC shooting event last Saturday. Browning's most famous product is the Browning Automatic Rifle, a military machine gun.
No doubt we’ll hear more about how we’d all be safer if we could tote our own machine guns. But people with common sense know better.
Years ago, just before we started sending our little girls started to Red Caboose Day Care Center in Madison, a crazy man ran in with a big knife. The Red Caboose staff responded heroically, confronting the man and protecting the children until police arrived. A police officer shot the man, but not before our teacher Gary in the Elephant Room was badly slashed, ending up in the hospital. You cannot convince me that the situation would have ended as it did--with no children hurt and no one dead except the attacker--if , instead of a knife, the attacker had been carrying a machine gun.
Follow Ruth Conniff @rconniff on Twitter
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