Here we go again. Two more mass shootings, one in El Paso and one in Dayton, and we’re hearing some predictable rhetoric – this time with a Democratic presidential nomination on the line.
Mayor Pete Buttigieg says the problem is with white nationalists and the National Rifle Association, as if 6 million NRA members are white supremacists. Former Vice President Joe Biden says we can defeat the NRA, as if bringing lobbyists to their knees will make gun violence go away.
Other candidates are saying that President Trump, with his many divisive comments, is somehow inspiring these lunatics to open fire inside shopping malls and outside of night clubs.
From the NRA’s side, where many folks don’t trust government to do much of anything – let alone protect their homes and property – there’s a fear factor that comes into play. They want to keep those liberal politicians from dismantling the Second Amendment and taking away their guns.
So, with emotions at the boiling point from both ends, forget about having any meaningful discussion about gun control. Some of those who are not members of the NRA, or raging liberals, are begging for “common sense” gun laws, or at least some kind of feel-good bill from Congress. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to legislate against crazy, or actions that defy common sense.
Take away guns all together, and you still could have lunatics running through shopping malls with knives. They may not wipe out 20 people, but they still could kill at least four or five people before taking a bullet to the head. Then, there’s always a possibility of some idiot driving a car 80 miles per hour and smashing into a crowd of people. Crazy people want attention, and there are many ways to get it.
But for now, the conversation isn’t about knives and cars – it’s about guns. And there’s not a healthy environment for addressing the problem. Gun-control advocates will say that Republicans have been bought and paid for by the NRA, and there’s some truth behind that thinking. But there’s plenty of buying power from the other side, which benefits Democrats who want sweeping gun control. And make no mistake about it, Democrats are going after gun-control money as if they are panning for gold.
“There’s a rush of desperation on the part of the Democratic candidates, trying to find something they can sell to a majority of the American people,” said former Idaho Republican Sen. Larry Craig, a longtime national board member of the NRA. “They fundamentally have lost the principles of what made them the majority party for many years. It’s not surprising that they grab onto guns as an issue, because they are in the business of fighting for causes and putting together coalitions. It’s easy for them to attach blame – it’s the NRA’s fault, or President Trump’s fault – and that’s their excuse for not bringing a dialogue to the table.”
There’s plenty of finger-pointing from the other side as well. Trump has taken a few swipes at the media, and Craig thinks they are well aimed.
“If we’re going to talk about Second Amendment limitations, in all fairness, maybe we should talk about First Amendment limitations,” Craig said. “Of course, we’re not going to go there. But should the media take responsibility of helping create the environment that leads to these actions? The media, in my opinion, is blaming politics for the problem, and one in particular.”
Even with the hostilities, Craig says the NRA is willing to talk. Understand that the NRA would be no easy customer at the negotiating table. That organization, and Craig included, will stand up for Second Amendment rights. But the NRA over the years has supported background checks. Perhaps, if there was reasonable discussion, the NRA could bend some on expanded background checks, or regulating magazine sizes – without trampling on the Second Amendment.
“We believe that responsible law-abiding citizens ought to have the right to own guns; those who have criminal backgrounds, or a history of mental problems should not,” Craig said.
Can’t disagree with that.
But don’t hold your breath for voices of reason to come to the rescue here. At the end of this latest firestorm, we can expect business as usual. Nothing substantial will get done and the talk will go away until the next mass shooting.
Chuck Malloy, a long-time Idaho journalist, is a columnist with Idaho Politics Weekly. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org