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Ian Reifowitz Headshot

Background Checks: A Week Later and I'm Still Angry

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The right wing can boggle the mind. We have one party in thrall to people who reject doing anything serious about a problem -- climate change -- that we can measure and whose impact we can already see. At the same time, the right wing opposes the will of 90 percent of Americans by blocking expanded background checks on firearms purchases. Why? Because they fear something will happen -- the creation of a national gun registry -- that the law already expressly forbids. Furthermore, the bill they blocked mandated a fifteen-year sentence for doing so.

Last week the gun lobby overcame the expressed wishes of the American people. Poll after poll shows that about nine-tenths of us want people to go through a background check before buying a gun. Politico ran the following headline: "Background Checks Outpoll Mother Teresa." She got 83 percent support. Only Jesus Christ and Abraham Lincoln broke 90 percent. Good company for universal background checks, but not good enough apparently.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) -- a darling of the hard right -- even admitted that the background check bill he opposed does not "on its face... create a national gun registry." On its face? Never mind. Instead, Cruz opined that if this bill passed, a registry would end up being "the next step in the process." Amazingly, the registry itself is not even the real fear, it's that the government would use that registry to identify gun owners, confiscate their weapons, and impose tyranny on a disarmed population.

Is that really what they think? Well, Larry Pratt of Gun Owners of America -- described as an "influential force" in the current gun debate -- recently claimed that President Obama wants to "have a civilian force equal in strength to the military." Pratt also spoke of the possibility that Obama will send folks "door to door" to "confiscate guns" in order to draw gun owners into a "violent confrontation." People on the right have convinced themselves this will happen.

Then there's climate change. Virtually all scientists agree that it's real. We see temperatures going up, Arctic ice melting, and sea levels rising. This will change our lives. More extreme weather events appear to be connected to climate change. Pulitzer-prize winning columnist Eugene Robinson noted that between Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina we've had two once-in-a-century storms in less than a decade. Just ask the residents of Breezy Point.

Yet Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) calls climate change "The Greatest Hoax." You can see a bunch more Republican "hoaxers" in this video put together by the White House.

As for the "science," Carbon Brief found that nine of the 10 most active authors of papers expressing doubt about climate change "have links to organizations funded by ExxonMobil." Greenpeace discovered that the Koch Brothers -- fossil fuel billionaires -- spent almost $50 million just from 1997 to 2008 funding the "Climate Denial Machine." ExxonMobil kicked in another $25 million during those years.

So, what do we make of the right's policies on these two issues? How can we explain that they move heaven and earth to prevent something that is already illegal and which is little more than the product of some people's paranoid fantasies, yet refuse to take action on a matter than science says is real and which could put our way of life at risk?

Simple. In both cases, just follow the trail of campaign donations. The fossil fuel industry doesn't want climate change legislation, so right-wing politicians scream "hoax." The gun and ammo industry doesn't want expanded background checks, so right-wing politicians scream "tyranny." They won't act to stop something that's already happening, yet they will act to prevent something that's already illegal. I doubt they are truly crazy, just crazy like a fox who's getting paid.