President Obama has signed some twenty-three executive orders about gun regulation. Of course the heavily racist “fears” about him and his administration were running on high shortly after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Just like when you were a kid and did something you knew was wrong the NRA and its fanatical adherents were already anticipating that they were about to be taken out to the wood shed for a beating. Preemptive strikes were made in statements which pretty much all said, “Obama is gonna take our guns” with implied or, no doubt in some cases, explicit racial slurs attached.
The president has responded most admirably I think to deal with this awful chapter of history. He seemed to really feel the tears that welled up as he made his statements to the country after the attack. And he lent his warm and dignified presence mourning beside the families who lost their children and other loved ones that day.
His executive orders and his statements on gun regulation issues are exactly what we should expect of our chief executive. After such an incident an appropriate legislative response is required. We know Congress has been clearly incapable of passing much more than salary increases for themselves or further curtailing our right to privacy.
And, as with everything that this president has attempted, his gun regulation efforts are meeting with profound and paranoid resistance. Not only are we going to have a our gun “rights” restricted but it will be done by a black man. That rattles the cages of those right wingers something fierce.
Who is responsible for gun safety and regulations? Well nominally it would be the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (did they recently append “explosives” as a part of their title?). So that would be the federal government.
But those who cry so loudly for FEMA assistance when natural disaster strikes cling at times like these to libertarian ideals of self-reliance with the familiar catch phrases like “guns don’t kill people….etc.” All these people want their guns and have for years allowed for the gaping loopholes in gun shows that circumvent the existing laws on the books regulating gun ownership.
Keep in mind that these same people had no argument whatsoever with stricter gun regulation after they saw the armed black militias of the Black Panthers and the Nation of Islam. It is pretty clear that these groups, despite misdirecting rhetoric, want only white people or at least the privileged class to own guns. The NRA basically supported the Gun Control Act of 1968 which arguably made it easier to take guns away from radical organizations.
And then we have the NRA. The National Rifle Association, established in 1871 (about the same time as the Ku Klux Klan) ostensibly to improve marksmanship which was so shabby during the Civil War. They are a “non-profit” organization which, since about 1977 has shifted its focus from marksmanship to “protecting the second amendment”. (For the record the text of said amendment is: “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed”.) At least the part about owning guns. They never seem to talk about that lead phrase about the “well-regulated militia”.
In 2008 a Supreme Court case (District of Columbia v. Heller) de-emphasized the ‘militia’ clause and, for the first time, defined the “right to bear arms” specifically as an individual right. That is the right to bear arms is interpreted as not dependent on membership in a militia but rather a right unto itself. Notably this decision was handed down after the Virginia Tech Massacre of 2007 in which 32 people were killed by a lone gunman.
As horrified as people initially are after mass killings the support for gun regulation remains pretty limited with a tremendous force on the pro-gun side ready to challenge any attempt to restrict gun ownership. If you’re like me this all seems terribly illogical. And even when 20 elementary school children were killed in December, 2012 the debate raged on. Even more illogical have been the suggestion that the solution is more guns, armed guards, arming teachers, etc. I would have thought that the murder of truly innocent children would have tipped the scales in the other direction. Silly me.
Newtown boasts a census of just over 25,000 people of whom a little more than 95% are white. It is located in Fairfield County which has voted more than 50% Democratic since 2000. But gun ownership has been very much favored here. Perhaps that will change? I don’t think so.
So let’s get back to the issue of who is responsible. Nominally the ATF, the federal government is responsible for the control of firearms. However the NRA has been very high-profile and their lobbyists have spent a great deal of money ($10 million in 2008 alone)to convince law makers to reject attempts at gun regulation.
Now I think that this amount of influence should carry with it some responsibility. And, for that matter, I question the non-profit status of an organization which has that kind of money and political influence. But the NRA stands virtually unchallenged in this respect. They say that they do training and put together safety protocols, etc., etc. But the fact remains that the availability of the weapons used in the Newtown killings and just about any other mass murder you can name is arrogantly supported by this organization.
The challenges to the NRA have been largely done through arguing the pro-regulation side of cases. The NRA is challenged in debate rhetoric but I am aware of no legal action specifically against the NRA. Perhaps it is time for those directly affected by gun violence to bring suit against the NRA for their very significant role in keeping guns available and blocking regulations efforts. They support the rights of individuals but they appear to be doing nothing for society as a whole.
Perhaps an enterprising attorney or law firm would be willing to take on a suit against the NRA and gun manufacturers and sellers for their role in the deaths and injuries that have resulted from gun violence. Imagine the NRA having to spend $10 million on mental health care or school security. Or imagine the taxes we could collect if they were no longer allowed to be classified as non-profit. That would be nice. But I think that anyone who tries to bring such an action would probably get shot.