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Michele Swenson

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Countless Lives Sacrificed to NRA Conceits

Posted: 08/09/2012 12:54 pm

At the moment of the latest largest carnage, the NRA continues to promote a domestic arms race in the form of an armed citizenry by peddling fear, and quashing any dialogue about the excesses of the gun culture as "exploitation" of massive gun crime.

Typified by some as a field-and-stream membership with a soldier-of-fortune leadership, not even their own membership fully supports the NRA's total obstructionism of any kind of gun control laws. Like 80 percent of the public who support sensible gun laws, true hunters and sportsmen are appalled at the ease with which criminals and youth can purchase guns at gun shows without undergoing background checks, as well as the swift trade in semi- and automatic weapons.

Thanks to gun lobby pressure, Colorado state background checks for gun purchases were discontinued by the legislature prior to the Columbine school shootings, and mere months before a man under a restraining order bought a gun and murdered his three daughters. In the aftermath of the Columbine shootings, restoration of limited state background checks were challenged by NRA arguments that it is unconstitutional to deprive accused felons of the right to purchase weapons before they are convicted -- raising the specter of arrestees out on bail purchasing guns to eliminate witnesses. In the face of legislative recalcitrance, a Colorado citizen ballot initiative requiring criminal background checks at gun shows passed in 2000 with 70 percent support.

Any tragedy becomes occasion for the NRA to incite fear of government confiscation of guns, a ploy to spike the sale of evermore lethal weaponry. Second only to the primary NRA conceit that everyone would be safer with the proliferation of increasingly more powerful guns, is the NRA's purposeful confusion of military assault weapons (whose only purpose is mass murder) with self-defense and "sports" or hunting guns.

Since the '80s, the NRA and the gun industry have responded to the saturated hunting and handgun markets by promoting evermore lethal firearms, while relaxing state concealed gun carry laws under the pretense of "self-defense." Lax concealed carry laws, as well as "Shoot First" laws like those in Florida, where concealed handgun permit holder George Zimmerman shot and killed unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, serve to boost gun sales. Boasted chief NRA lobbyist Tanya Metaksa to the Wall Street Journal in 1996, "The gun industry should send me a basket of fruit -- our efforts have created a new market."

The "more guns, greater safety" mantra is belied by studies reporting increased risk of firearm homicide, suicide and accidental shootings in homes with guns. The Centers for Disease Control reports the rate of firearm deaths among children under age 15 is almost 12 times higher in the United States than in 25 other industrialized countries combined. U.S. children are 16 times more likely to be murdered with a gun, 11 times more likely to commit suicide with a gun, and nine times more likely to die in a firearm accident than children in these other countries.

Stories are legion of concealed carriers accidentally dropping a gun in a public place, killing or injuring bystanders. Also sadly, kids accidentally shooting kids.

Giving guns a pass, the political right instead attribute criminality to women and minorities. Former Texas Republican Rep. Tom DeLay opposes gun control, attributing violence instead to birth control, day care, abortion and teaching evolution. Asserting that "minority" gun owners need protection against gun control's "oppressive majorities," Independence Institute fellow David Kopel argued that "gun control laws are dangerous" because they divert attention from illegitimacy as the primary cause of crime.

Masters of bait-and-switch, even as the gun lobby professes to defend guns for self-defense, hunting and sports, they promote the 'sport' of lethal military-style automatic and semi-automatic guns, including .50-caliber sniper rifles, accurate to a range of over 1-1/2 miles. One account of a deer shot with a .50-caliber gun reported nothing much left of the deer, proving the lie to its usefulness as a hunting rifle.

The NRA-affiliated Fifty Caliber Shooters' Association proclaim their mission "to advance the sporting uses" of .50 caliber weapons. Sponsors of one of nine .50 caliber annual "Fun Shoots" advertised online by FCSA in 2001, Rocky Mountain Gun Owners were warned that their 2000 'Funshoot' northeast of Denver was too close to Denver International Airport airspace ("These shows are a blast," The Denver Post, 5-13-08). The manufacturer of the Barrett .50-caliber sniper rifle has hailed military weaponry as a 'growth area' of the civilian gun market, and boasted of the weapon's ability to "wreck several million dollars' worth of jet aircraft with one or two dollars' worth of cartridge.." "Voting from the Rooftops" is the euphemism of sniper enthusiasts who promote rule of the gun over the rule of law, also invoked by some as resort to the cartridge box instead of the ballot box.

In 2005, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger banned the sale of .50 caliber rifles in the state; however, the sniper rifle remains available in 49 states, providing 18-year-olds easier legal access to .50 caliber guns than to handguns. CBS 60 Minutes reported in 2005 that .50 caliber guns and other assault weapons have continued to be shipped out of the U.S., in the guise of 'hunting rifles,' sometimes on commercial airlines. During the 1998 embassy bombing trial, agents for Osama bin Laden were revealed to have purchased at least 25 .50-caliber guns.

Even at the risk of arming terrorists, bullies with guns and money cow Washington, which has conceded the dialogue at least since the expiration of the Assault Weapons Ban in 2004. Further extending gun carry into previously gun-free areas, a wide majority in both houses supported an amendment to the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 permitting concealed gun carriers to carry firearms into National Parks and Wildlife Refuges for the first time since they were banned by the Reagan administration. Both Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall voted for the measure, and Barack Obama signed it.

In 2010 House Democrats joined Republicans in bowing to pressure from the National Rifle Association, agreeing to exempt the powerful gun lobby from disclosure of campaign and political funding sources: "... the NRA would be exempt based on its length in existence, size of membership and other factors... " read the exclusion.

The influence of NRA bullies with guns and money extends beyond Washington to the global arms trade. Opposition of the United States (the world's largest arms manufacturer), alone among United Nations members, led to the failure this summer of the first-ever global arms trade agreement, the U.N. Small Arms Treaty, with heavy pushback from the gun lobby.

NRA paranoid conspiracy theories place the United Nations at the center of third-world efforts to disarm U.S. citizens. So testified NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre at the United Nations, declaring that "gun regulation anywhere results in regulation everywhere." He called the Treaty a prescription for surrender of all firearms to the U.S. government -- "every handgun, rifle, and shotgun American citizens own."

In reality, the U.N. Small Arms Treaty only sets international standards for import/export of conventional weapons to regulate the $60 billion annual arms trade, making it harder to sell to human rights abusers or to dump guns into war zones. The Treaty leaves individual countries free to "regulate internal transfers of arms and national ownership, including through national constitutional protections on private ownership." Besides, treaties must be ratified by a two-thirds vote of the U.S. Senate.

Nevertheless, White House officials echoed the gun lobby line, citing the need to protect U.S. "Second Amendment rights." Even as the Obama administration torpedoed the arms treaty, top State Department official Andrew Shapiro, Assistant Secretary of State for Political Military Affairs, boasted that he had led efforts to greatly increase U.S. arms sales that have already topped $50 billion in 2012, on pace to increase total annual U.S. arms sales by 70 percent. The U.S. has armed dictatorships like Bahrain, while having made a $60 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia -- never mind the Arab Spring. U.S. leadership continues to be captive to the cult of gunocracy and the might-makes-right gun culture.

 
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