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The weapons used in the Newtown massacre. Source: New York Daily News
In 1994, when Congress was debating a federal assault weapons ban, then-Congressman (now Senator) Bob Menendez took to the floor of the Senate and urged its passage, pleading that "when we speak of assault weapons, let us not forget who these guns are assaulting."

President Bill Clinton signed the bill into law in September 1994. It sunsetted 10 years later on September 2004, as if there should ever be an expiration date on a reasonable, live-saving federal policy.

Screencap of NRA brochure.
From the NRA's "Peril in the 21st Century"
brochure. The NRA lives to foster
a sense of war between citizens and
their government and spends millions
to increase the number of assault rifles
and other firearms in this country.
Since then, there have been many futile efforts to revive and strengthen the ban. In the end, the National Rifle Association—or, as it fancies itself, the "No Responsibility Association"—has won out time and time again. The NRA has spent millions fighting even the most reasonable regulation of killing machines, meeting each attempt at regulation as the battle call for some black-helicopter, apocalyptic end-of-days war between citizens and their government. The NRA so believes in this paranoid fairytale that it published a graphic novel—literally—about that battle. (See the full disturbing publication here).

Far too frequently as of late, the right to bear arms has trumped the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The mass slaughter of 20 children and seven adults in Newtown is the latest tragic template of Americana: apparent mental issues + easy access to high-capacity magazines and assault rifles = massacre.

The Connecticut slaughter hits deeper than other American massacres, though. The images of schoolchildren sobbing, the stories of teachers running towards the shooter or hiding children in cabinets, the thought of carefully wrapped toys under Christmas trees that will never be opened and candlelight vigils for killed classmates. The pain is searing, the anger at everything boils over and the grief heart-hollowing. A nation mourns. Again.

(Continue reading below the fold.)

"Why?" is the question that often remains unanswered in the aftermath of such nightmares. Humans always have been and always will be capable of myriad types of brutality. Across cultures, across income brackets, and across continents, depravity slumbers, unrevealed until it's suddenly splashed across our monitors and TV screens. In China last Friday, a mentally disturbed individual went on a stabbing spree in a school and wounded 22 children. Wounded.

The capacity to commit heinous acts may be a universal human trait, but the ability to facilitate those heinous acts in the deadliest of fashions is a distinctly American feature. The United States is the only country in the world that is home to an organization that actively and successfully spends millions per year to lessen regulation of mass killing machines.

As body counts rise in slaughters like this, editorial boards and politicians alike make the typical call for a real debate on gun control.

Let there be no mistake. There has been a daily fight for gun control at the state, local and federal level. It's being fought by groups like The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, The Violence Policy Center and The Joyce Foundation. In the House and Senate, there are vocal and consistent advocates of gun violence prevention measures. Chief among them are Rep. Carolyn McCarthy [D-NY4], whose husband was killed during a shooting rampage in 1993, and Sen. Frank Lautenberg [D-NJ].

So why is it still so easy to buy high-capacity magazines and assault rifles in this country?

Here's the answer:

NRA expenditures -- all time
That's the NRA's disclosed spending. That's why this chart from Mother Jones reads the way that it does:
In the 112th Congress alone, there have been many attempts at massacre and gun violence prevention. Here's a sampling:
  • H.R. 308 and S. 32, introduced by Rep. Carolyn McCarthy [D-NY4] and Sen. Frank Lautenberg [D-NJ] respectively, were both introduced in January and aim "to prohibit the transfer or possession of large capacity ammunition feeding devices, and for other purposes." Both bills were referred to committee and died. Sen. Lautenberg's bill had 11 co-sponsors (none of them Republican) and Rep. McCarthy's bill had 111 co-sponsors (again, none of them Republican).
  • H.R. 227: Child Gun Safety and Gun Access Prevention Act of 2011 "to prevent childrens' access to firearms."
  • S. 35 / H.R. 491: Gun Show Background Check Act of 2011 "to require criminal background checks on all firearms transactions occurring at gun shows."
  • S. 1973: Gun Trafficking Prevention Act of 2012 "to prevent gun trafficking in the United States."
  • S. 436 / H.R. 1781: Fix Gun Checks Act of 2011, "to ensure that all individuals who should be prohibited from buying a firearm are listed in the national instant criminal background check system and require a background check for every firearm sale."
  • S. 3458 / H.R. 6241: Stop Online Ammunition Sales Act of 2012 "To require face to face purchases of ammunition, to require licensing of ammunition dealers, and to require reporting regarding bulk purchases of ammunition."

All of those bills died in committee. Here are some gun-related bills that have made it passed the introduction/referred phase this Congress:

  • S. 2213 / S. 2188 /  H.R. 822: National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011 "to amend title 18, United States Code, to provide a national standard in accordance with which nonresidents of a State may carry concealed firearms in the State." Introduced by Republican Rep. Clifford “Cliff” Stearns [R-FL6]. Passed House on November 16, 2011, 272-154.
  • H.R. 4089: Sportsmen’s Heritage Act of 2012 "To protect and enhance opportunities for recreational hunting, fishing and shooting." Sponsored by Republican  Rep. Jeff Miller [R-FL1]. Passed House on April 17th, 274-146. The bill opens up previously protected lands to hunting and recreational shooting. In other words, the NRA would like to turn pristine parks into personal gun ranges.
  • S. 1249/H.R. 3065: Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Support Act "To amend the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act to facilitate the establishment of additional or expanded public target ranges in certain States." (Reported by committee in June)

Priorities, right?

Meanwhile, on the state level, the NRA has also been wildly successful. Mark Follman, Tasneem Raja, and Ben Breedlove at Mother Jones used Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence data to map out 99 laws in the past four years that the NRA has successfully pushed for. Those laws make buying, carrying and concealing weapons easier.  

There has been a fight for rational gun control in this country and we're losing it to an irrational death-mongering organization that wipes its bloody hands on the Bill of Rights then hangs the stained document on the wall with pride.

Have you ever read an NRA candidate questionnaire? It will turn your stomach. Here is what they demand of candidates and elected officials:

  • The NRA doesn't think terrorists on the U.S. terrorist watch list should be banned from purchasing and owning guns.
  • It believes that any restriction on magazine capacity violates the U.S. Constitution (so much for conservative and literal interpretation of that document).
  • It doesn't believe that licensing or registration of firearms is legal.
  • It believes .50 caliber rifles should be legal and should be able to be possessed by "law-abiding Americans" in your neighborhood.

This is a .50 caliber weapon:

Barrett M82a1 screenshot
A .50 caliber weapon sold by Barrett.
Part of the discussion on reducing gun violence of course needs to focus on the fact that, as the National Alliance for Mental Illness reports (PDF), billions have been cut in mental health funding at a time when we should be increasing investment in those types of services. But another part of the discussion also needs to acknowledge that our country is being held hostage at gunpoint by a sick organization on a spending spree, one that will never be satisfied until there's a gun in every bedroom and child-size bulletproof vests in every classroom.

Gone are the days when the NRA worked for the interests of sportsmen and gun enthusiasts. The propaganda it purveys and the bills it helps pass turn the Second Amendment into a first-rate weapon of fear, bloodshed and death.

Soon, as is typical in the aftermath of such tragedies, elected officials, grieving families and activists across the country will come together to push for rational regulation of mass killing machines. The NRA, again, will fight them every step of the way. It's time to fight back. As Rep. Jerry Nadler said Friday:

"We lose 9,000 people a year, roughly, to gun violence in this country," Nadler said. "We're at war, and we haven't recognized that. We have to go to war against the people who enable the gun violence, the people who stop us from keeping guns out of the hands of mentally unstable people, of felons, and that means the NRA leadership."
Let's have a real, national discussion about the weapons we human beings use to kill each other. Let's discuss what our forefathers meant when they enshrined the qualifier of "well-regulated" into the Second Amendment. Let's put the memory of 27 murdered above the $28 million spent by the NRA in lobbying. And let's ensure that 20 little caskets weigh heavier on the minds of policy makers than $20 million in NRA contributions.

Friday, flags were lowered to half-staff. Over the next few days, 20 tiny bodies will be lowered into a ground for their final slumber. And in the weeks after, we must rise up in their memory and in the memory of all gun violence victims. Too much blood and too many tears have been shed for anything less than our relentless action. Too many tiny caskets this time around to support the status quo.

Please sign the petition asking President Obama to help start a national conversation about gun control.

Originally posted to Georgia Logothetis on Sat Dec 15, 2012 at 05:47 PM PST.

Also republished by Repeal or Amend the Second Amendment (RASA).

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