Monday January 14, 2013

Alden Graves

When weighing your choices and making an informed decision is difficult, it can help to just take a look at the people who are advocating for one side or the other. Let them make up your mind for you.

There is probably no more volatile issue facing the American people today than the need for gun control in the country. For decades we have listened, while thousands of people have died, to the litany of excuses offered like stale bread to the public after the latest mass killing rocked the nation. We have been touched by our elected leaders emotional responses to them.

And then tomorrow comes and absolutely nothing has been done to take even the tiniest step towards preventing the next Columbine or the next Aurora. The country that put a man on the moon comforts itself with the placebo that gun control is just too difficult a problem to tackle.

"It isn’t guns, it’s people" remains the most popular refrain. It is way past the time when those who sincerely regard an attempt to control assault weapons as a threat to their right to be armed admitted that the phrase should be amended to read, "It isn’t guns, it’s people with access to weapons that have no place in a civilized society."

Much has been made since Newtown of the need to address the problem of mental illness in America. No one is arguing about that fact. But the same party that is so vocal in its defense of gun owners’ rights to arm themselves for the prospect of impending Armageddon, visibly pales at the thought of spending another dime on social programs that might offer treatment to potentially dangerous individuals. There seems to be a basic contradiction in the logic here.

The entertainment industry also has to bear a considerable responsibility for the numbness that seems to have settled over the country as far as overt violence is concerned. In a display of deep introspection while touting his latest R-rated foray into mayhem, Arnold Schwarzenegger said that he didn’t think there is any connection between the pretend gore that the movies serve up so vividly and the horrific reality of Sandy Hook. Small wonder that California was in worse shape than his marriage when Schwarzenegger left office in 2011, but then "impressionable" may not be a word in his colorfully colloquial vocabulary.

There have been some hopeful indications since the massacre at the Connecticut elementary school on December 14, 2012, that the government isn’t going to offer the usual sympathetic platitudes to a grieving nation and then resume its posture of cowering before the supposed might of the NRA. Vice President Joe Biden has stated that the president may be receptive to the use of executive action to begin the process of formulating some foundations for responsible gun control given the almost-certain prospect of the intransigence of a congress too enthralled with the open wallets of gun interests.

We have a dangerous tendency in this country to regard the NRA, whether we agree with the organization’s goals or not, as the primary guardian of a right guaranteed in the Constitution. That is simply the light in which the NRA likes to be seen. It is, in actuality, a fierce lobbying organization for a $12.5 billion a year industry, with all the attendant clout of any entity that can boast an attachment to that kind of money.

Wayne LaPierre is not protecting someone’s right to go deer hunting or to feel more secure in their own home, he is protecting arms merchants from being denied a market for very lucrative products that coincidentally result in mass murder in the United States with the regularity of a Swiss watch.

What other reason could there possibly be for any responsible organization to oppose even the most rudimentary checks upon a person’s background before allowing that person to acquire a deadly firearm? What other reason could there be for opposing a system that could trace the history of a gun used in the commission of a crime? What other reason could there be for defending the infusion of weapons that don’t stop a target as much as shred it?

Mr. LaPierre, after his public relations disaster following the Sandy Hook shootings (Solution: More guns in schools), emerged from a meeting with the vice-president with the hang dog look of a man who has just been informed that the party’s over. Assuming his best weary martyr posture, he predictably bemoaned the government’s assault on the Second Amendment, as if the integrity of a document written when settlers were under the constant threat of Indian attacks was worth the occasional expenditure of the lives of 20 of our children.

Piers Morgan, a British-born journalist who has a talk show on CNN, has come under fire from gun proponents because he had the colossal nerve to say that America has a big problem with firearms and he wasn’t even born here! A petition has been circulated demanding that he be deported for his radical - not to mention disrespectful - opinion. I guess the amendments to the Constitution must have been written in ascending order of importance. The precepts of the Second trump those of the First.

Mr. Morgan invited the instigator of the petition, a right wing radio host from Texas (big surprise there) named Alex Jones, to discuss the issue with him on his television program. It is difficult to decide, watching Mr. Jones rant and foam at the mouth, if you are just watching a performance. Surely, no one outside the confines of a padded room could have such a jaded, twisted view of the world.

I suspect, however, that it isn’t an act and Jones, in ten seconds, provides a better argument for stricter gun control than a thousand words could ever offer. He thought he had won the debate when all he accomplished was to make it crystal clear that incoherent extremism is always its own worst argument.

Alden Graves is a Banner columnist and reviewer.