By Brigitte L. Nacos
For a moment or two after the mass shooting in Newtown before Christmas I thought that this was a real opportunity to counter the glut of assault weapons in the hands of millions of Americans. Who in heaven would not support reasonable regulations in a nation with far more handguns and far more shooting victims than any other comparable democracy?
I wasn’t naïve enough to think that the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the gun industry that fills the NRA’s coffers would change their tune. But in the face of 20 little boys and girls mowed down by a lone gunman in a short shooting spree I hoped for some leaders in the ranks of the Republican Party to ignore the pressures and threats from the gun lobby and its fanatical followers in the militia and Tea Party movements.
It is now clear that I was wrong. Very wrong.
Yesterday, after President Obama introduced his comprehensive but altogether modest gun regulation proposals, the chairman of the National Republican Committee (NRC) Reince Priebus issued a statement that called the president’s initiative “an executive power grab” and criticized that Obama “paid lip service to our fundamental constitutional rights, but took actions that disregard the 2nd Amendment and the legislative process.”
As head of the NRC Priebus speaks for the GOP. He is the closest to what one would consider the Republican Party’s current leader. And what his comments boil down to is a sanitized version of what the paranoid wingnuts post on their web sites.
There has not been one Republican in the Congress who has refuted Priebus or those colleagues in their midst whose hate speech endears them to the gun rights fanatics. Not even in the face of those who talk about Obama’s impeachment; and not even in response to those who allude to a new revolutionary or civil war—the very nonsense dominant in far-right cyberspace communications.
This is what Tea Party darling and 2016 GOP presidential hopeful Rand Paul said even before Obama had introduced his gun regulation plan:
"I'm against having a king. I think having a monarch is what we fought the American Revolution over and someone who wants to bypass the Constitution, bypass Congress--that's someone who wants to act like a king or a monarch. I've been opposed to executive orders, even with Republican presidents. But one that wants to infringe on the Second Amendment, we will fight tooth and nail.”
Tooth and nail? Sounds like the call to arms in the virtual echo chamber of the militia and Tea Party milieu.
And no one in the GOP has publicly condemned or distanced himself or herself from the irresponsible talking points of Senator Paul and like-minded Republicans.
Merely one Republican, one single member of the Congress, Representative Peter King of Long Island had the courage to say that he would support a reform package “featuring assault weapons ban and other limits on guns.” But, he, too, refrained from criticizing his GOP colleagues.
In the current battle for and against gun control, the traditional mass media—newspapers, radio, and television play an important role. Understandably, this life and death issue ranks high on the news agenda.
Regrettably, though, the U.S. media’s striving for objectivity is deeply flawed in that it neglects that there are moral imperatives, that there positions for and against the public good. Being objective and even-handed means in the current gun control debate that news sources for and against reforms are reported on, invited to state their positions, and treated all alike.
Indeed, the more outrageous the statements, the more shocking the threats, the more likely it is to be rewarded with airtime and column inches.
That’s how NRA leaders and their mouth pieces in federal, state and local governments rack up so much coverage for repeating the same unreasonable arguments again and again. Most of the time without facing tough questioning by the media.
I am tired of even the most reasonable people in the public square to assure that they support the Second Amendment and the constitutional right to own guns.
It is nonsense. The Second Amendment never meant what the gun lobby and its followers claim.
When the Bill of Rights was adopted by the first congress, there was no standing army, there was no police. It was perfectly right in those times to have militias in case of armed threats from without or within; it was perfectly right to allow citizens to possess and bear arms in case the militia was activated.
Those who framed the Bill of Rights had no idea that one all jurisdictions would have police, that there would be a formidable military force and national guards. They had no idea of assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips.
Forget about bowing to the Second Amendment and the legacy of the Founding Fathers. It is a myth. It’s the gun lobby’s and the gun crazies’ fig leaf.