Sometimes what’s most important in a debate isn’t the answer; it’s the question. The Senate’s recent failure to pass even the simplest type of background check yields a set of interesting questions, like:
As far back as 1999 who said that background checks were reasonable?
A) Wayne LaPierre
B) Michael Moore
C) A majority of NRA members
D) All of the above
If you guessed all of the above you would be correct. Surprisingly, support for background checks among individual members of the NRA is quite strong. Republican pollster Frank Lutz found that 87% of non-NRA gun owners, and 74% of NRA gun owners support requiring a criminal background check of anyone purchasing a gun. 80% of non-NRA gun owners and 71% of NRA gun owners support prohibiting people on the terrorist watch list from purchasing guns. But the real shock is that Wayne LaPierre, as recently as 1999, supported back ground checks calling them ‘reasonable’(Politifact). On May 27, 1999, shortly after the Columbine massacre, LaPierre testified before the House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Crime, saying:
“We think it’s reasonable to provide mandatory instant criminal background checks for every sale at every gun show. No loopholes anywhere for anyone,” he said. “That means closing the Hinckley loophole so the records of those adjudicated mentally ill are in the system. This isn’t new, or a change of position, or a concession. I’ve been on record on this point consistently, from our national meeting in Denver, to paid national ads and position papers, to news interviews and press appearances.”
In fact, for a short while after Columbine, the NRA ran national ads saying, “We think it’s reasonable to provide for instant checks at gun shows just like at gun stores and pawn shops.”
So what happened? Well that brings us to another question which may get to the heart of the matter:
Are many board members for the NRA also gun manufacturers?
A) No, the board is made up principally of hunters and sportsmen.
B) No, the board is made up of retired actors and singers/circus clowns like Charleton Heston and Ted Nugent.
C) No, the board is made up of ex-military personnel and police officers who like to practice their marksmanship in a disciplined manner.
D) Yes, the board has multiple members who are gun manufacturers—many of whom produce assault style weapons and magazines that are their bread and butter.
Alas, D is the correct answer. NRA board member Pete Brownell owns Brownells Inc., which sells a wide-range of high-capacity ammunition magazines for pistols and assault weapons, including the same capacity Glock magazine as the 33-round magazine used in the Arizona shooting that nearly killed Gabby Giffords.
Brenda Potterfield serves as vice-president of the NRA Foundation’s board of trustees and is co-owner of MidwayUSA, which sells a wide range of high-capacity ammunition magazines for pistols and assault weapons, including 33-round magazines for Glock pistols.
NRA board member Ronnie Barrett owns Barrett, which manufactures an AR-15 style assault rifle which comes with two 30-round ammunition magazines. Ronnie Barrett is best known for the invention and civilian marketing of the 50 caliber sniper rifle: a military weapon used by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan that can penetrate armor-plating from a mile away and down airliners on take-off and landing, but under federal law is sold with no greater restrictions than a standard hunting rifle. Barrett also manufacturers and sells the REC7, an AR-15 style assault rifle that comes with two 30-round magazines.
Adolphus Busch, the IV, a conservative activist and former NRA member suggests that the NRA board of directors is dominated by gun or ammunition manufacturing interests. After yesterday’s failed vote on the background check he resigned his NRA membership saying:
“…One only has to ask why the NRA reversed its original position on background checks. Was it not the NRA position to support background checks when Mr. LaPierre himself stated in 1999 that NRA saw checks as ‘reasonable’?”
“…I fail to see how the NRA can disregard the overwhelming will of its members who see background checks as reasonable…” […]
“I am simply unable to comprehend how assault weapons and large capacity magazines have a role in your vision,” he said. “The NRA I see today has undermined the values upon which it was established. Your current strategic focus clearly places priority on the needs of gun and ammunition manufacturers while disregarding the opinions of your 4 million individual members.”
“One only has to look at the makeup of the 75-member board of directors, dominated by manufacturing interests, to confirm my point. The NRA appears to have evolved into the lobby for gun and ammunition manufacturers rather than gun owners.”
The sharp turn the NRA has taken against reasonable background checks has consequences, of course, leading to our next question:
How many gun deaths have there been in the U.S. since the Newtown massacre?
A) Almost no one knows because under pressure from the NRA Congress passed a law to defund the CDC in Atlanta should it track gun fatalities or injuries.
B) The question is worded wrongly because guns never kill people. The question should be how many people killed people with guns since Newtown. And because I am far right libertarian, in the clutches of a blind ideology, I don’t care to know the answer to that question.
C) Slate magazine has been keeping a tally, and according to their figures, culled from daily news reports across the country, the correct answer is 3,513.
D) All of the above.
The correct answer is D. The CDC has been threatened with defunding should it try to provide statistics on gun fatalities and injuries. Recently, President Obama issued an executive order to get them back on track again. Answer B is correct, generally, channeling most conversation threads with rabid libertarian types, in particular those spouting the NRA’s vapid slogan. And finally, Slate magazine took up the task of actually tracking gun fatalities after Newtown and came up with the 3,513 figure. The information provided by Slate is here.
Despite all of this information, the US Senate failed to vote on a simple background check measure, leading to one of the final questions.
What is the purpose of the U.S. Senate?
A) It’s a self-sustaining oligarchy of overfed and lionized guys and (some) gals who every 6 years go through a ritual exercise in lying and debasement in order to preserve their positions.
B) It’s a place of civilized discourse initially envisioned as a safeguard against the passion of the masses (i.e., The House) and potential democratic intent.
C) It’s there to represent the will of lobbyists, corporate citizens, and individuals of sufficient wealth and status to purchase allegiance.
D) It’s an elite gentleman’s club and/or fraternity (with some token ladies and minorities allowed), that follows the same rules of discretion and secret insider knowledge. Its cabal-like quality renders all outsiders impotent and sneer worthy.
E) All of the above.
If you guessed ‘All of the above’ you would be correct. Among other factors, Reid’s ridiculous support of the ‘silent’ filibuster has rendered the Senate a useless body for doing the one thing not on that list: passing laws the vast majority of Americans support.
Now then, given this, which brave senator who filibustered yesterday’s vote is willing to talk with the parents of a child killed by gun violence and is willing to explain their principled position?
A) Rand Paul who has become so seduced by Ayn Rand’s pot boiler, “The Fountain Head”, that he accepts at face value principles like ‘altruism is evil’, or worse, that cardboard characters like Howard Roark might actually live.
B) Mitch McConnell, because he spent the day after the vote gloating over his victory and mocking the Senate’s background check efforts (another silent filibuster win!—which is not surprising as Mitch McConnell once even managed to filibuster a bill he sponsored himself).
C) Max Baucus, because cowardice is a principle, too, isn’t it?
D) None of the above.
The answer is D, because despite the relative accuracy of the other answers, the naked truth is none of these folks would have the courage to face the full fury of their victims. That’s 3,513 gun deaths just since the Newtown Massacre and rising daily. That’s more than died in 9/11.
Gabby Gifford said it best in this New York Times piece, A Senate in the Gun Lobby’s Grip:
“I am asking every reasonable American to help me tell the truth about the cowardice these senators demonstrated. I am asking for mothers to stop these lawmakers at the grocery store and tell them: You’ve lost my vote. I am asking activists to unsubscribe from these senators’ e-mail lists and to stop giving them money. I’m asking citizens to go to their offices and say: You’ve disappointed me, and there will be consequences. “
And that’s the answer to our last question: What do we do now?