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Thursday, January 31, 2013

For the NRA, a Possible Perfect Storm of Bad PR

Yesterday was not a triumph in PR for advocates of zero restrictions on firearms. While NRA boss Waynne LaPierre and other blood lobby types were getting their rhetorical asses handed to them in a Senate hearing on gun violence, gun violence erupted across the land. In Chicago, a 15 year-old girl who performed at the president's inaugural was shot and killed, apparently an innocent bystander in the attempted murder of another. In Phoenix, a man went on an office rampage, injuring two and killing one. And in Alabama, a hostage situation was continuing, as a rightwing anti-government extremist took a 5 year-old autistic boy hostage -- you read that right -- after killing a school bus driver.

While the NRA tools in Washington could find plenty of examples of people using guns to protect themselves, they couldn't manage to come up with any examples which were actually on-topic. The issues being discussed were assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, and expanded background checks. In no example the gun nuts offered did any of these figure into a gun owner's defense of their families. And, contrary to the panic you see among rightwing bloggers and pundits, no one's talking about taking anyone's guns away. The debate is whether to stop the sale of certain items and whether to make background checks actually mean something by requiring them with every gun purchase, whether it's in a sporting goods store, a gun show, or a want ad in the Shopper Stopper. So, in a very logical sense, the anti-regulation folks were unable to offer any real world examples to back up their positions. They did a lot of talking, but managed no defense.

Meanwhile, one of the crimes ongoing yesterday may have been a great example of all three of the issues being discussed: assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, and meaningful background checks. In the case of the hostage situation, it's reported that the bus driver was shot four times with a 9mm pistol. The most popular 9mm in America is a Glock 17. And the Glock 17 was covered under the assault weapons ban of 1994.



In 1991, the first Glock shooting spree took place in Texas. Twenty people were killed. Hours after the shooting, members of Congress were debating whether guns like the Glock should be restricted.

"It took awhile, but by 1994, a bill was passed — this is what we remember as the Assault Weapons Bill — and was signed into law by President Clinton," says Barrett. "It had a variety of restrictions. One of them was limiting the pistol magazine capacity to 10 rounds."

Unfortunately, congress in their stupidity grandfathered in guns that were manufactured before the ban took effect. Glock built a bazillion 17s and flooded the market with them, cashing in on wingnut fears that being without a weapon fitting the very narrow definition of an assault weapon was the same as being disarmed. It's a mistake that should not be repeated.

If it turns out that hostage-taker Jimmy Lee Dykes did use a Glock to kill the bus driver, then that means that while NRA stooges were in Washington, failing to come up with a single instance that a person used an assault weapon for defense, a lunatic in Alabama was using an assault weapon to commit a shocking and bloody crime.

Further, if Dykes had lived anywhere but Alabama, his previous run-ins with the law might very well have prevented him from buying a gun. "It was not immediately clear what prompted Dykes to storm the bus, but his motives appear to be related to a menacing charge in December," reports the Southern Poverty Law Center. "That month, Dykes pointed a gun at his neighbor, James Edward Davis Dr., who told the Dothan Eagle that Dykes accused him of driving on his yard. Dykes was scheduled to have a bench trial today on the charge, and an unidentified girl who Dykes released from the bus told reporters that Dykes was referring to his upcoming case." Dykes is also reportedly mentally unstable and suffering from PTSD. Even if he already had the gun, it seems obvious that he shouldn't be allowed to buy ammo.

So, while gun freaks in Washington could not come up with a single example of someone using an assault weapon or high-capacity magazine to defend themselves -- nor could they come up with any example of a background check preventing anyone's self-defense -- a perfect storm of a crime involving all three of those issues may very well have been playing out on news broadcasts around the country.

Once again, we see that reality has a liberal bias.


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