Thursday, January 31, 2013

Left Side of the Aisle #93 - Part 6

Guns: Claiming gun control advocates need to "listen more"

We're going to spend the rest of our time this week talking about guns. As I've told you, I expect that some part of the show will be about guns for another couple of weeks.

I started this two weeks ago, right before Obama announced his proposals on gun control. In fact, it was the very day but before the actual announcement, so I didn't know just what they'd be. But what I did was express my frustration and anger over the fact that advocates for controls, the opponents of unregulated access to murderous weapons, were already throwing in the towel, were already saying "well, maybe we'll get a little something but this and that and the other, they won't pass." They were engaging in what I call pre-emptive capitulation, giving up before the battle even began.

So, last week, I was pleasantly surprised when Obama came out with his proposals. They're hardly radical, but they were pretty broad-reaching; they did address several parts of the issue instead of just one or two.

But now it's this week. And what do we have? We have The Great Mr. O telling advocates for intelligent policy that it's up to us to "bridge the cultural gaps" between urban and rural people and how "advocates of gun control have to do a little more listening than they do sometimes."

In other words, it's time for another "national conversation." We, we who believe that the answer to gun violence is not more gun violence, who believe that the answer to too many guns is not more guns, we have to listen more.

For years - for decades now - almost the entire public conversation, if I can call it that, on guns has consisted of the right wing screeching about how guns equal freedom and how gun control - any gun control - equals confiscation and tyranny along with their constant mewling how gun-loving "patriots," there being apparently no other kind, are under constant attack, with the whoop-whoop of the black helicopters heard vaguely in the background.

But we have to listen more.

Just in the past couple of weeks we have had a viral video of an ex-Marine - excuse me, "veteran"; you're "never an ex-Marine" - a former Marine who referred to Sen. Diane Feinstein's proposal to reinstate the ban on assault rifles by saying he would not allow "some woman" tell him he can't have his toys.

We had Tim Donnelly, a member of the California Assembly, declare his belief that guns are "essential to living the way God intended."

We had Jesse Benton, campaign manager for Sen. Mitch Fishface McConnell, sending out a fund appeal on McConnell's behalf with the salutation "Dear Patriot" and declaring "You and I are literally surrounded" by "the gun-grabbers" who "are about to launch an all-out-assault on the Second Amendment. On your rights. On your freedom."

But we have to listen more.

We have had Marion Hammer, a former president of the Nutzoid Rabbit-brains of America, otherwise known as the NRA, say gun control is the same - and he meant the same - as racism, restricting guns by their appearance and he actually said by their color.

Speaking of the NRA, we had it declaring in a fundraising email that Obama had "pledged to raise $20 million to ram his gun ban agenda through Congress" as part of "an all-out crusade" to "ban your guns and abolish every last sacred right you have under the Second Amendment ... until they reduce your freedom to ashes."

BTW, there is no evidence of such a pledge and when the NRA was questioned about it, it could provide no evidence.

But we have to listen more.

We have had - shades of the 1850s - legislative efforts in Mississippi to declare the state can simply ignore any federal gun laws - or, in fact, any other federal laws - the state doesn't want to follow. We have seen legislative efforts in Texas and Wyoming to make it a felony to enforce any federal ban on assault weapons or high-capacity gun magazines in the state. The Wyoming bill could actually pass the state legislature.

But we have to listen more.

We had Neil Heslin, just this week, we had Neil Heslin, the father of a 6-year-old boy killed in the Sandy Hook massacre, heckled by dozens of gun nuts as he testified about his child before a state panel in Connecticut.

We had this guy James Yeager, the CEO of a Tennessee company called Tactical Response that claims to specialize in weapons and tactical training, posting a video in which he quite literally and in so many words threatens to "start killing people" if "it" - that is, gun control - "goes one inch further." What further? What is he talking about? "Further" means its already happening, like there have been increasing controls. What, is he all ticked off that he can't have his own personal bazooka and rocket launcher? But oh no, he said one inch further, if there are any moves to gun control it would "spark a civil war" and he would "be glad to fire the first shot."

And we had this: This is the front page of the Drudge Report on January 9. If you haven't heard of it, the Drudge report is this collection of right wing scandal-mongering. It made a name for itself when it got some scoop or another during the Monica Lewinsky business, as the result of which the right wing media - Fox, Hannity, Limbaugh, that crew - started using and promoting it and disgustingly, the mainstream media, scared of losing another scoop, started to let the Drudge Report drive their decisions about what to cover and how. That last part, happily, has faded, but it's still around, still a source for the right wing, still presenting us with things like this. In case you can't make it out, the headline is "White House Threatens 'Executive Orders' On Guns" and it's illustrated with pictures of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin.

That's what we hear, that's what's being said, that's what we're being told.

But now we're told that the real problem is that we are the ones who haven't reached out, we are the ones who haven't sought to understand, we haven't listened enough.

Bull. We have done nothing but listen for years now.

But I want to tell you, Mr. President, I know about that rural-urban divide. I do. I still remember reading an insightful comment some years ago - I'm not sure of the source; it might have been William Raspberry, but don't hold me to that - but the comment was that one of the reasons gun control was such a divisive issue is that for urban dwellers, the concept "guns" means violent crime, but for more rural folk, the concept "guns" often means hunting, target shooting, and pest control.

Here's something else, though, just to show how far things have moved and how much "listening" advocates of sanity have been forced to do: That quote came from the early 1980s - a time when there actually was serious talk about banning handguns and the term "Saturday Night Special" was a well-known pejorative phrase. The National Coalition to Ban Handguns - I was a member - wanted handgun possession to be limited to people like police and specially-trained security guards and some others who had an actual need for them. How much has the "conversation" shifted since then? Not only is the idea of banning handguns so far off the table as to seem weird, the Coalition has not only given up on the idea, it's even given up on the name: It's now the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.

But getting back to that cultural divide, quite bluntly it will not be solved by our "listening more." We already know about it. We've already heard about it. We've already heard all about the family traditions and the male-bonding hunting outings and the rest. We already know how hunting, target shooting, skeet shooting - or, by it's more proper, generalized name, clay pigeon shooting - is part of life for a significant part of rural America; indeed, we know how for some folks the success of their fall hunting determines how well they will survive the winter. We know about that.

So frankly, if that divide is to overcome, it will require the other side to do more of the listening. It will require those rural folk to hear about, to know about, to feel some connection to, some feeling for, the carnage, the daily carnage, that guns bring to cities large and small across the country. It will require them to listen long enough to understand - and then answer - our questions about why their "family traditions" around hunting require a semi-automatic assault rifle with a 100-round magazine. Why "pest control" requires massive firepower instead of an old-fashioned single-action .22 rifle. Why "target shooting" has to be done with a Glock instead of, say, a pellet gun.

More importantly, it will require those rural folks to stop letting the paranoids like the NRA, like James Yeager, like Tim Donnelly, and the bozos like Fishface McConnell, speak for them.

Most importantly, it will require them to admit, contrary to what the liars and misinformers tell them, that they are the minority here. That they are on the short side of public opinion. Multiple polls tell the same story, and all of this is current, these are all from this month:

A Washington Post/ABC News poll showed 58% of respondents supporting a ban on assault rifles. Fully 88% favored requiring background checks for purchases at gun shows and 76% favored background checks for buying ammunition.

A CBS News poll showed that 57% support stronger gun laws. That's an 18-point increase since last April. A USA Today/Gallup poll showed 58% supporting stronger laws, 15 percentage points above October 2011.

A CNN/ORC poll recorded 62% of Americans supporting a ban on assault weapons and a whopping 95% of all Americans thinking that everyone who buys a gun should have to undergo a background check.

A survey by the Pew Center on People and the Press from mid-January found 85% of Americans favoring making all guns sales subject to background checks. Two-thirds of Americans favor a federal database to track gun sales. Clear majorities favor banning assault-style weapons, high-capacity ammunition clips, and the sale of ammunition online. And by nearly 3-2, Americans oppose the idea of arming teachers and school officials. On what may be the ultimate question, when asked directly which is more important, controlling gun ownership or protecting gun rights, a majority - a small majority, but still a majority - went for the first.

The fact is, we are the majority. And it's time we started acting like it.

So frankly, I'm tired of listening. I'm tired of the silence from this side of the argument. More than that, I'm tired of contributing my share to that silence. I'm tired of liberal guilt, that notion that any time there is a social conflict it's because the left has not tried hard enough for accommodation, because the left has not offered enough compromise, because we haven't been understanding enough, because we haven't "listened enough." I have no interest in that and I have no time for that and I won't be distracted by that.

Especially not when there are still glimmers of sanity to be found:

James Yeager, the bozo who threatened to "start killing people" if gun control goes "one inch further," and who, by the way, falsely claimed to be a state-"Certified Firearms Instructor," has had his gun permit suspended by the state of Tennessee because of a, quoting, "material likelihood of risk of harm to the public."

Sometimes poetic justice is the only kind you get - but it is still some sort of justice.


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