Friday, February 22, 2013

Left Side of the Aisle #96 - Part 6

Guns: States and individuals push back against the gun nuts

The Clown Award leads right into this week's discussion about guns, which will focus on the fact that there is pushback against the gun nuts and that they no longer are the only voices being heard.

It comes against a backdrop of yet another multiple shooting, this one in Orange County, California, where 20-year-old Ali Syed killed a woman in his home, sped off in his parents' car, and went on an hour-long rampage of carjackings and shootings that left two more people dead and two wounded, and several more targeted but unhurt, before he killed himself.

But yes, there is pushback. Both legislators and the public are starting to fight back against our modern Murder, Incorporated.

On the federal level, there is some prospect for a few touch-ups around the edges: Arizona Senator John McPainInTheButt said on Sunday that support is coalescing around a bipartisan plan whose centerpiece is an expansion of background checks on gun purchasers. However, prospects for anything more substantial, such as a renewed assault weapons ban, appear to be small. Note that in his State of the Union speech, Obama didn't say a bill to renew the assault weapons ban should be passed but that it "deserved a vote," which says pretty clearly that even getting a floor vote on the measure will be a battle.

That was predicted from the start; you may remember that several weeks ago I accused gun control advocates in and out of Congress of what I call pre-emptive capitulation, of giving up even before the battle was joined. With Harry "Macho Man" Reid, who is against - against - an assault weapons ban saying he'll only deal with legislation that has a chance of passing the House, well, do the math.

But just as it was on the state level, not the federal level, where the real attacks on sanity occurred, so it is on the state level, rather than the federal level, where the move to restore sanity is being felt the most. Out of more than 190 gun-related bills filed in statehouses the first few weeks of this year, three-fifths looked to strengthen gun regulations.

As you may have heard, New York has enacted the toughest gun control law in the nation. It has a stricter assault weapons ban, limits on high-capacity magazines, requires instant background checks for ammunition sales, and has provisions to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill who make threats.

In Maryland, Gov. Martin O'Malley has offered proposals, now before the legislature, that would include banning assault weapons, limiting the size of magazines, instituting what he called "common sense" licensing requirements, including mandatory fingerprinting, background checks, and gun safety training, and improving mental health services and school safety.

Delaware Governor Jack Markell and state Attorney General Beau Biden have announced a series of gun measures, including background checks for sales at gun shows and curbs on both high-capacity magazines and assault weapons.

Legislators in Massachusetts and Connecticut have also announced plans for stricter gun controls. In fact, such proposals are even appearing in places you would not have expected, such as Virginia and Colorado.

In fact, on Monday, the Colorado House of Representatives passed a package of gun-control measures. They were passed by a narrow margins, but they passed. The bills limit the size of ammunition magazines, require background checks on all gun purchases, including those purchased online, and allow colleges and stadiums to ban concealed firearms.

And this came after the state Senate rejected a bill that would allow teachers to carry concealed weapons on school grounds.

Governor John Hickenlooper supports most of the measures. The bills face another fight in the state Senate - but remember, not long ago the idea that they would get this far seemed unthinkable.

Even in Missouri, there is pushback against the NRA zombies. There is one bill in the state General Assembly to require that all sales or transfers of firearms be done through a licensed firearms dealer. Another would ban assault weapons and large capacity magazines. Admittedly, there isn't much chance for either bill to pass, but the fact that they exist, that the gun lovers have to respond to them rather than just push their own mad agenda forward, has meaning.

Individuals, too, the general public, they are moving. Last month, in rallies in several cities around the country, thousands of people demonstrated at Walmarts. Petitions with more than 300,000 names were delivered to Walmart headquarters, demanding the corporation live up to a promise it made years ago to stop selling assault weapons and ammunition.

And even back in DC, there is hope: Personally, in terms of public safety and reducing the daily carnage in this country, I think that what's more important than banning assault weapons is limiting the size of magazines. And while the former - banning assault rifles - is still, bizarrely, regarded as politically toxic, lawmakers seem increasingly open to a ban on high-capacity magazines - and even conservatives have to admit that a ban on large magazines is well within even this Supreme Court's expansive view of a personal right to firearms.

But this, this may be the real thing to note: There is a special election in Chicago coming up to fill the seat left open by the resignation of former Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. The party primaries are next Tuesday, February 26. It's a heavily Democratic district, and whoever wins the Democratic primary is very likely to win the seat.

So it's worth noting that just nine days before the primary, one of the leading contenders on the Democratic side, State Sen. Toi Hutchinson, dropped out of the race after being hit with an ad criticizing her for having an "A+" rating from the NRA. And instead of endorsing the person who had been thought the front-runner, former US Rep. Debbie Halvorson, who also has an "A" rating from the NRA, she endorsed ex-state Rep. Robin Kelly, who has been loudly and proudly touting her "F" rating from the Nutzoids and is the strongest challenger to Halvorson, who has been desperately trying to run away from her past support of and from the NRA.

Yes, it's Chicago and yes, Chicago has seen a lot of gun violence of late, which may have impacted the way people view things - but seriously, ask yourself, when was the last time a candidate for federal office actively ran away from the NRA?

Finally for this week, amid all the past failures and present frustrations, something else to help keep hope alive:

A big reason why the Nutzoid Rabbit-brains of America, acting on behalf of its paymasters, the gun manufacturers, is so keen on preventing a new assault weapon ban is that the industry's customer base is shrinking. Thirty years ago, about 50% of households had a gun. Now it's less than a third. Thirty years ago, about 30% of the population owned guns. Now, it's just 20%. So the only way to keep profits up is to sell more - and more expensive - guns to that shrinking number of people. I don't know how long it will take or how many will die needlessly in that time - but it does appear that time and truth are on our side.


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