I just got done watching all three thousand hours of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing on gun violence and as far as I can tell the hearing was convened for two purposes.
- Give Wayne LaPierre, the NRA he represents, a conservative insane woman, and the Republicans in the Senate, to prove to the world they shouldn’t be listened to in the conversation about gun control because they are fucking insane.
- For all of us to laugh at them.
Yes, the Democratic senators did their own bit of political theatrics, but for the most part it was a battle of the insane versus the reasonable. Captain Kelly, whose wife was nearly murdered in Arizona at the hands of a very mentally-ill person in 2011, is a gun owner. Both he and his wife own more than one gun, and in the course of his testimony, Kelly – who recently started a gun control advocacy group with Gabby – admitted that he’d purchased a gun from WalMart in the recent months. But he was on the panel, and he started his political action committee to be the voice of the reasonable gun owner, who very clearly the NRA does not represent anymore.
Over the course of the grueling hearing, LaPierre voiced the NRA’s objection to background checks because as he put it, “Let’s be honest. They will never be universal because criminals will never submit to them.” This line from LaPierre set up for me what was the best confrontation between legislator and witness, aside from when Trotter got fact-checked on a gun that was used in one of her examples of scared and frightened single moms needing an assault weapon to fend off attackers in their home. As it turns out, real-time fact checking isn’t just for presidential debates anymore.
But when LaPierre stated that background checks won’t work because criminals won’t submit to them, he gave Senator Dick Durbin from Illinois a chance to tee off on him. “That’s the point. The criminals will not go to purchase the guns because there’ll be a background check. It will stop them from original purchase. You missed that point completely. It is basic.” And that, ultimately is what the difference in the two sides is. One side, the side of the overwhelming number – ninety-four percent to be exact – of Americans polled that want background checks, wants to try. We simply want to try something. The thinking of the pro-gun lunatics like LaPierre and freshman Texas Senator Ted Cruz, is that since criminals break the law and get guns anyway, we should not do anything more than what we’re doing now, except “enforce” the laws better.
Why no one asked the NRA about keeping the ATF from doing just that, enforcing our gun laws, is a question for another time I suppose.
The fight has become about whether average Americans, not gun zealots and not those arguing for outright bans on every gun out there, can come together and agree to try something. And no, just saying the words “mental health” isn’t actually doing something. If you take LaPierre’s argument out to a logical conclusion, he’s arguing against not just background checks, but any law. Criminals by definition are those who break laws. If we let the possibility of someone breaking a law prevent us from writing a law, we’d have anarchy, and boy would you need a lot of guns in that scenario. I’m not suggesting that LaPierre wants America to fall into a dystopic nightmare where everyone is armed to the teeth…but I bet if you showed him the profit forecasts for that situation he’d get a big smile on his face, and an erection in his pleated trousers.
Also of note was Senator Al Franken taking the time to debunk, with the assistance of Chief Johnson, the ridiculous notion that pistol grips don’t make hunting rifles better for mass killings. The grips, as indicated by Johnson, allow the shooter to keep his hands off the extremely heated barrel, allowing for more repeated rapid firing with no chance of burning. It’s just one way to make the gun a more efficient killing machine, and instead of allowing Senator Cruz to categorize it as simply an aesthetic appointment, Franken and Johnson exposed the true reason that the grips were added to the list of banned appointments for a gun.
What’s interesting to me is that this issue is again exposing the cavernous divide between a small percentage of people who hole themselves up in their bubble of selected media outlets and news services and the rest of the American public. Gun zealots seem to think they’re in the majority, and they seem to think that all this talk of gun control is hyper-emotional babble that will dissipate once the fervor over Sandy Hook dies down. But they’re underestimating the winds of change, just as Mitt Romney and the Republicans completely misread the polls and demographics last year. Sandy Hook was a turning point, a touchstone of political conversation in this country that begins with “What the fuck are we going to do about guns?” and end ends with “background checks, high-capacity magazine and clip bans, and a renewed assault weapons ban.” The GOP, the NRA and their bitch/befuddled wizard behind the curtain LaPierre are on the losing side of history again. Something will pass through Congress. Maybe it won’t be the full bill, but something substantive will take place.
But beyond that is a rather sickening fact. During the heated exchange between Senator Durbin and LaPierre, Durbin asked LaPierre whether he thinks that the Second Amendment was written as a means to help arm citizens against the government and against law enforcement and military service men and women on the government’s payroll. LaPierre’s answer was, “Senator without any doubt, if you look at why our Founding Fathers put it there, they had lived under the tyranny of King George and they wanted to make sure these free people in this new country would never be subjugated again and have to live under tyranny.”
Wayne LaPierre tacitly agreed with the Second Amendment giving citizens the right to arm themselves against their government. Funny, but I think a few whiskey distillers in the late eighteenth century that proved they couldn’t stand up to the force of the state militias, and this was before the vast military-industrial complex was built that we have today. Maybe the farmers back then had a legitimate gripe about being asked to pay a tax when the wealthy land owners weren’t ponying up. But the fact is that the states weren’t paying their war debt and Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton was well-within the Constitutional guidelines to ask Congress to pass the tax, which they did.
But regardless of the legality or the questionable ethics involved in the whiskey tax, the answer was not then, nor is it now, to form a militia and start a violent uprising over a disagreement with your government. I hate speaking for the framers as to their motivations and thought processes, but it’s hard to envision them taking the time to create a set of laws, courts, legislators, and executives with the knowledge that if at any time someone disagreed with something the government did, they were within their rights to start an insurrection. We have sedition and treason acts in this country for a reason.
The Second Amendment is not, or rather should not be viewed as some form of protection from our own government. That’s not what I believe the point of the amendment was. In its historical context, it was a promise that should any country wish to invade the United States and occupy us, they would be met with a “citizens’ army.” They would have been more concerned with making sure no one could come in and force occupation, as had been done by the Brits, than they’d be worried about their new government of the people, by the people and for the people turning on those very same people. Were the founders optimistic like that? Who knows. But why would Americans today have any reason to fear tyranny from the government in the first place? That’s a question for another time, but the short answer is “because they’ve never experienced it.”
The bottom line is a simple one. The adults want to have a conversation about guns in this country. People like Wayne LaPierre and Senator Cruz represent the immature and irrational arguments of “criminals break laws so why try?” And, “don’t punish law-abiding citizens by regulating semi-automatic firearms.” These are arguments that don’t hold water when you realize that in Senator Feinstein’s bill there’s no mention of taking any legally owned guns from anyone, and that laws are broken all the time but that doesn’t mitigate the need for them. If they are going to insist on acting like this, they are abdicating their seat at the table, and the more sane gun owners, like Capt. Kelly and Rep. Giffords, can speak more loudly and clearly, without having to get over the noise and fear mongering of the NRA and their stooges in the Republican Party.