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I spent several years in the 90s working on gun control. Almost made it a profession. Along the way, I had some successes and learned a lot: for example, the campaign (unsuccessful) to fend off the Connecticut assault weapons ban was coordinated from Dade County, Florida--at the time the main U.S. entry point for cocaine. The gun lobby is the professional criminals' lobby--and they carry the amateurs like the Aurora killer along with them.

For decades--from the 1880s through the 1940s--Congress failed to pass a bill against lynching. Lynching is plain and simple murder. It set law and order at naught and brutalized and debased an entire region, the American South. It should hardly be necessary to outlaw murder, but the extrajudicial murder of black people had the sanction of society--or rather, the sanction of those who were prepared to use lethal violence.

Thus it was not just "politics" that prevented passage of an anti-lynching law. It's never just politics when lethal violence and the threat of violence is employed.

More after the jump.

My wife asked me at dinner last night: "Why is the NRA so powerful?" It's not just because they have sophisticated quick-response member outreach and a powerful media presence. It's also that they  represent extreme people with guns. I recounted to Joanne a conversation I had with a Waterbury legislator whom I lobbied for the assault weapons ban.  He sympathized with my issue, he allowed. But then he told me about being accosted in a bar by a constituent who was frothing-at-the-mouth angry at him about something, and emphasized that he had a gun. Although the representative didn't put it quite this way, he was so scared he nearly peed his pants. Some guys will threaten a politician with a ballot; others with a bullet. Who's scarier?

Historians and social scientists argue that one of the principal markers of the advancement of civilization is that the government maintains a monopoly on deadly force. Thanks to the gun lobby, this is no longer so in the United States--explicitly so in the numerous states with "stand-your-ground" laws.   In a country where you can legally kill if you feel threatened, government becomes de facto the man with a gun. Effectively, we live in a vigilanarchy: rule by--or rather anarchy by--vigilantes.

Sixteen years ago, Congress passed a ban on the private ownership of semiautomatic weapons; now, there is not even a hint of a debate about restricting high-capacity magazines, which turn every shooter into a potential mass murderer. You cannot simultaneously believe in the supremacy of government and the right of private individuals to own 100-round magazines. And to their credit, most hard-core gun rights activists are fairly up-front about their contempt for government.

Just because they have a contempt for government, however, doesn't mean they don't want to control it. It is highly significant that the NRA made last week's failed Senate vote on disclosure of campaign contributors a litmus test. Why is a vote for transparency in campaign money a vote against the gun lobby?

Work on that.

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Comment Preferences

  •  If one thing is for certain... (8+ / 0-)

    it's that a reasoned, thoughtful discussion on violence and gun legislation in the United States is all but impossible, thanks to the intractability and frothy rhetoric of one side.  

  •  I'd be interested in your definition of (0+ / 0-)

    "hard-core gun rights activists."  

    I don't believe that "contempt for government" automatically follows pro-2nd amendment.

    Republicans: if they only had a heart.

    by leu2500 on Sat Jul 21, 2012 at 07:58:45 PM PDT

    •  I think "pro 2nd amendment" is just sophistry (8+ / 0-)

      "Pro 2nd amendment" is a lot like "pro state's rights."  It is a convenient slogan to get what you want.  Basically it is the fig leaf for the gun industry.

      At its root,  the NRA is a gun industry lobby.  It has its useful supporters, but the money and organization is the gun industry.  The second amendment was a handy hook, so that the gun industry could sound mainstream and All American.

      As for the army of supporters, a lot of them have an anti US government sentiment.  It is one of the collection of beliefs that are common to the far right "thinkers."  
      More to the point, the people who buy in to the gun industry line, tend to maintain a fetish/fantasy, that guns will be needed to overthrow the government when the time comes and that that "reality" was the reason for the second amendment.  Given these expressed beliefs from the pro gun contingent in our society, I think it is fairly clear that the the "contempt for government" crowd is "pro-second amendment."  I.e. the people who hate the US government for its "liberal" policies also follow the gun industry line.  But I haven't seen the polling.  

  •  cwhig - The Assault Weapons Ban (0+ / 0-)

    did not outlaw semiautomatic weapons. It outlawed some specific semiautomatic weapons with certain cosmetic features. The law was a farce and that is why is was allowed to sunset.  

    "let's talk about that"

    by VClib on Sat Jul 21, 2012 at 07:58:51 PM PDT

    •  All they could get at the time.... and the plan (0+ / 0-)

      all along was to hamstring any real efforts and then to take away the feeble attempt now held up as "pointless so why have it "... Much like ACA today... have the law compromised and then claim it is not doing any good... of course with the semi-automatic ban in place... there could be the pretense of a real control measure while using it as propaganda in NRA supporter circles with the usual thin end of the wedge.. "This is the first step"... in the gummint plot to take away your guns thinking... And to forestall any followup legislation that would actually limit high firepower weapons properly and permanently.

      The health insurance bill has a similar dynamic... half measures that do help but need more... attacked tooth and nail and of course with the added twist that the most important features will not kick in until 2014... and meanwhile the rabid low information foes do not realize that it has only some initial effects while they can be fooled into thinking it does no good and is somehow harmful.

      If a second step more comprehensive Automatic and assault rifle ban had happened we would be living in a much more peaceful society....besides less well armed drug gangs and fringe right wing militias and not giving would be mass shooters quite the capacity they now have but also Mexico would have quite the drug war body count either... Selling easily converted weapons with legal access to conversion parts and kits along with sales of legal un-tracked large magazines does not prove that there should be no restraints placed on these weapons and associated accessories... it proves that a weak and pointless law only prevents passage of a better one that works and also paves the way for the eventual removal  or sun-setting of the half-hearted first attempt and make any more attempts at control impossible for a generation or two.

      Think of it as sort of a dud Trojan horse... badly made on purpose as influenced by the Trojans  for the Greeks to prevent any chance of the Greeks being able to come up with a better one one as a followup the way it should have been in the first place.. Why? invalidate the whole idea ultimately and have the first one destroyed "since it does not work"....

      Pogo & Murphy's Law, every time. Also "Trust but verify" - St. Ronnie (hah...)

      by IreGyre on Sun Jul 22, 2012 at 03:36:09 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Good diary. (5+ / 0-)
    It's also that they  represent extreme people with guns.
    It won't be easy but we will win. I don''t think it will require "banning guns", but it will require inculcating a different attitude of responsibility and a willingness to consider some common sense regulations.

    You can't make this stuff up.

    by David54 on Sat Jul 21, 2012 at 08:02:29 PM PDT

  •  Oh great. (0+ / 0-)

    An anonymous municipal official tells a story to an anonymous gun control lobbyist about an unnamed assailant in the bar.

    Therefore, the NRA isn't politically powerful because its championing an increasingly popular position.  It's winning because it's a protection racket.

    Not the lowest of the low when it comes to the sort of tired conspiracy-mongering from your side.  Not even lower than the Trilateral nonsense of the most right wing on my side.  But definitely gutter material.

  •  Supremacy of the government? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I certainly believe lawful and just authority by the consent of the governed is a good thing, but I certainly don't believe in some principle of government supremacy.

    I also think private ownership of 100 round magazines is immaterial to wherever you personally place government on the totem pole.  The suggestion that there is some relationship, however, does indicate a degree of thoughtlessness not suited for seriously discussing matters of public safety.

  •  If guns make America safer... (11+ / 0-)

    ...then why is an American on average...

    - Twice as likely to die from gun violence as a Canadian?
    - Three times as likely to die from gun violence as an Australian?
    - Four time more likely to die from gun violence as a New Zealander?
    - Ten times more likely to die from gun violance than people in the Republic of Ireland?
    - TWENTY, yes, twenty times more likely to die from gun violence as a Brit?

    And countries that are even more awash with guns than the USA have higher rates of gun deaths: e.g. South Africa, Mexico, Brazil, Columbia.

    The USA has a choice about which direction it would rather head: Australia, NZ, UK -- or Columbia, Mexico, Brazil and South Africa!!

    (Figures here: )

    You can always rely on a conservative to come up with the right answer...25 years after everybody else.

    by Mercurius on Sat Jul 21, 2012 at 08:31:10 PM PDT

    •  All true but they have stats to "disprove" (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      or at least distract from these basic bottom line facts...

      And will point to handy studies that fiddle the sample and cherry pick whatever is needed to come up with the conclusions they like... that somehow the more guns there are the fewer gun related deaths there are... and give gun ownership credit for large generational crime rate shifts etc.

      Or pin all deaths under authoritarian regimes as direct results of "banning guns"... every genocide, every mass killing or wholesale deaths (from famine or ongoing wars) simply on supposed disarming of a populace. Blissfully unaware of details like the history of a country, etc...  all due to people not owning handguns or something. Ridiculous. the right wing anarchist types do not understand that guns or not... what keeps people safe is that they live in a working democracy... with informed and involved voters and a responsive govt that listens to the voters and not corporate money. Once that is gone all the guns in the world will not "protect" a population.

      If they were mostly uneducated and mired in the past with no traditions of equality and democracy... access to guns 'n' Ammo is irrelevant and will have little to do with being a peaceful civilized society and in fact will contribute to it leaning sharply in the other direction if not being in a  semi permanent state of anarchy or one group of gun-toters installing their leader as dictator. They will be ruled by one or other faction of might makes right autocrats. Ideas, not firepower is the ultimate guarantor of ongoing liberty. Guns with the wrong ideas behind them will not lead to democracy and guns taken out of politics and public live... it just perpetuates a society of the gun.

      Pogo & Murphy's Law, every time. Also "Trust but verify" - St. Ronnie (hah...)

      by IreGyre on Sun Jul 22, 2012 at 03:50:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The government has never held (0+ / 0-)

    a monopoly on lethal force in the United States. Nothing even approaching it.

    Congress has NEVER passed a ban on semi-automatic weapons, or anything close to it.

    You have a lot of absolutely false information there sparky.

  •  This diary is so full of misinformation and (0+ / 0-)

    political cant that it is almost an advertisement for the gun lobby.

    "Sixteen years ago, Congress passed a ban on the private ownership of semiautomatic weapons"

    It is stunning that such a ridiculous falsehood would show up today in a debate on this issue.  Ignorance is bliss, apparently.  

    Where are we, now that we need us most?

    by Frank Knarf on Sat Jul 21, 2012 at 09:40:04 PM PDT

  •  Wonderful diary (4+ / 0-)

    thank you for this.  These last couple of days have been an eye opener for me with respect to the NRA or RBKA.  These groups are organized and mean.  If you agree with a diarist  for calling out one of their members as bullies for engaging in ad hominem attacks on members, they will go after you.  

    We have a nation in mourning.  Parents are burying their children - it is heartbreaking.  The NRA/RBKA group isn't  even concerned about them , they are out trolling the Daily Kos to pile on writers calling them ignorant, delusional, or liars.  

  •  So many people want an either/or solution ... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sandy on Signal

    either eliminate all guns and make them illegal,

    OR do nothing to change the status quo where so many (deadlier and deadlier as the cheaply available technologies can allow shooting more rounds faster) guns are so easily accessible to people they shouldn't be.

    I must say that either is dangerous.  Making guns illegal would certainly create a tremendous criminal enterprise just to take care of the demand that will not go away.  Just look at how well Prohibition worked and the consequences it brought.  Continuing the status quo is also madness, but it is more likely due to the grip the NRA has on most Congress-critters and state legislatures.  It is madness because it is leading to making it easier every day for people that should not put their hands on a firearm - the internet makes it so much easier that straw purchases (which still continue untouched, in states like GA and VA, to take these "legal" guns to New York/CT/MA) may soon look like a quaint idea.

    If we do not find a way to reach reasonable regulations on firearms, we will be faced with choosing between maintaining a civil society or the readily accessible firearms, we really can't have both.

    To the people that think that nothing short of outlawing all firearms and to the people that think that any regulation on firearms is an unacceptable violation of their constitutional rights there is nothing that can be suggested that will be reasonable.  For the rest of us I propose reasonable, national (it has to be federal/national because the mish mash of laws that exist is exactly what makes it impossible for any state to truly regulate firearms) regulation.

    Here are what I consider reasonable regulations (that IMHO do not violate the Second Amendment):
    1) People that want to purchase and maintain firearms must obtain training
    2) These people must pass an exam proving that they can use guns they intend to purchase safely and get a license indicating so
    3) All purchases need background checks and there is a database of who owns what gun/serial number (clearly the definition of who should not have access to a gun will be contentious, but that can be worked out)
    4) Pass the assault weapons ban permanently and outlaw any clip/magazine/semi-automatic that can be used to turn many guns into automatic weapons (for all intents and purposes).

    Now I don't see how that "infringes" on anyone's Second Amendment rights, but the gun fetishists (even the ones among us) will insist it does.

    Then they came for me - and by that time there was nobody left to speak up.

    by DefendOurConstitution on Sun Jul 22, 2012 at 05:42:07 AM PDT

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