FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

The Next Stage of Gun Control

Yes, civil discourse can be uncivil.  But don’t let internet trolls and television zealots stop you from participating in this vital discussion.

-Terri Francis, CNN Wire, Jan 17, 2013

This is a war waged at high intensity, a vicious tonic of propaganda, fear and suspicion.  It should not be, but the battle over guns in the U.S. has taken various turns in recent weeks.  President Obama is promising to be firmer this time.  Commentators are weighing in from as far as Australia on how the next chapter on gun control will be written.  In addition to moving on assault weapons, the Vice President Joe Biden has suggested a stricter regime of background checks at stores and gun shows, and the outlawing of capacity magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.

Australia’s former Prime Minister John Howard, a long-time, dyed-in-wool conservative, gave himself time to pen a piece for the New York Times (Jan 16) on how a state filled with guns and gun enthusiasts might remove such weapons.  In April 1996, Martin Bryant mowed down 35 people in the quiet state of Tasmania with a semiautomatic SKS assault weapon.  Howard’s reaction was to introduce legislation, with the help of state legislatures, banning and confiscating assault weapons through a buy-back scheme funded by a one-off tax on Australian citizens.  Rural constituents fumed, but complied.

For Howard, there was no other way.  No massacre of that sort has been perpetrated since. Gun suicides have dramatically fallen. (This has not re-dressed the high suicide rate by other means.)

Given that he was not of the “nanny” state, “leftist” persuasion, he might be worth listening to from the conservative fold, but his views are unlikely to find their way onto the website of the NRA, which is a humming gun fantasy on steroids and vast cash payments.

The NRA website is an idealogue’s dream portal, a phantasmagoria of shifting images that would have made the propagandists of the Inquisition swell with pride.   As Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) explained on CNN’s State of the Union interview (Jan 15), this is the NRA, not of gun owners, but gun manufacturers.

The shifting images on the main website alternate as relevant news headlines run across the bottom of the screen.  It is also a site that seemingly screeches at you with the message of war, actual and metaphorical.  Traitors are found, apocalypse is nigh.  Such statements are easy to make in an environment where almost 300 million guns can be found.  “Anti-gun politicians are wasting no time,” goes one message, in disarming the U.S.  We read that heavy assault weapons are perfectly suited for civilians – you just need the right one for your needs. Statements from the new and initiated members after the Sandy Hook killings are recorded.

One such newly proselytised recruit is the “Tea Party favourite” Wayne Allyn Root.  They might have settled for a less conspicuous member of the fringe, but he will do.  The propaganda boxes to be ticked here to counter various assumptions: Is this man a dangerous clown, an insufferable hick, a person more familiar with his animals than people and otherwise inadequate from bed room to kitchen?  No – from the start, he claims he is Mr. Regular, “not your typical NRA member.”  The bombshell – “I’m Jewish, Ivy League (Columbia University, class of ’83, President Obama’s classmate), and have been a member of the mainstream media”.

So he could not, historically at least, join a club courtesy of waspish prejudice – but at least he could own a device for maiming and massacring by the grace of constitutional protection.

Root’s mental cosmos is confused but not indecipherable.  Why ban guns in places where massacres take place in areas of strictest gun control? (One would think the answer lies in that question – a massacre can’t, by definition, take place where control is “strict”.) “It only disarms the honest, law-abiding citizens, who are left helpless and defenceless.”  Root reveals the true journalist’s skill to obfuscate and delude – a law is not in of itself control, and it can hardly be said to be “strict” in the absence of compliance.  Members of Congress shirk their obligations to protect the public in the name of constitutional freedoms and local legislatures look the other way.  But no matter – those who get guns, in any case, are the lucky “criminals” who unleash hell’s message against the unarmed.

The NRA message is continuous and furious.  Anti-gun agendas are being pursued instead of a reporting of the facts; “I am the man who keeps you free; we, the people, deserve better than you,” comes a statement from a marine to Senator Dianne Feinstein.  Again, there is a persistent, and dangerous assumption that the battlefield is total – it includes the far flung deserts of Afghanistan, and the American family home.

Change can, of course, take place and it need not be of the idiotic sort. The NRA’s disproportionate power can be boxed, as long as the amoral pygmies in Congress can adjust their positions.  The Gun Control Act of 1968 and the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 are examples of this, however imperfect.  This is where the democratic impulse finds form, not in the hysterical minority of a sleek, panic-stricken collective keen on seeking apocalypse on the hill.

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

More articles by:

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

June 17, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
The Dark Side of Brexit: Britain’s Ethnic Minorities Are Facing More and More Violence
Linn Washington Jr.
Remember the Vincennes? The US’s Long History of Provoking Iran
Geoff Dutton
Where the Wild Things Were: Abbey’s Road Revisited
Nick Licata
Did a Coverup of Who Caused Flint Michigan’s Contaminated Water Continue During Its Investigation? 
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange and the Scales of Justice: Exceptions, Extraditions and Politics
John Feffer
Democracy Faces a Global Crisis
Louisa Willcox
Revamping Grizzly Bear Recovery
Stephen Cooper
“Wheel! Of! Fortune!” (A Vegas Story)
Daniel Warner
Let Us Laugh Together, On Principle
Brian Cloughley
Trump Washington Detests the Belt and Road Initiative
Weekend Edition
June 14, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Trump’s Trade Threats are Really Cold War 2.0
Bruce E. Levine
Tom Paine, Christianity, and Modern Psychiatry
Jason Hirthler
Mainstream 101: Supporting Imperialism, Suppressing Socialism
T.J. Coles
How Much Do Humans Pollute? A Breakdown of Industrial, Vehicular and Household C02 Emissions
Andrew Levine
Whither The Trump Paradox?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: In the Land of 10,000 Talkers, All With Broken Tongues
Pete Dolack
Look to U.S. Executive Suites, Not Beijing, For Why Production is Moved
Paul Street
It Can’t Happen Here: From Buzz Windrip and Doremus Jessup to Donald Trump and MSNBC
Rob Urie
Capitalism Versus Democracy
Richard Moser
The Climate Counter-Offensive: Secrecy, Deception and Disarming the Green New Deal
Naman Habtom-Desta
Up in the Air: the Fallacy of Aerial Campaigns
Ramzy Baroud
Kushner as a Colonial Administrator: Let’s Talk About the ‘Israeli Model’
Mark Hand
Residents of Toxic W.Va. Town Keep Hope Alive
John Kendall Hawkins
Alias Anything You Please: a Lifetime of Dylan
Linn Washington Jr.
Bigots in Blue: Philadelphia Police Department is a Home For Hate
David Macaray
UAW Faces Its Moment of Truth
Brian Cloughley
Trump’s Washington Detests the Belt and Road Initiative
Horace G. Campbell
Edward Seaga and the Institutionalization of Thuggery, Violence and Dehumanization in Jamaica
Graham Peebles
Zero Waste: The Global Plastics Crisis
Michael Schwalbe
Oppose Inequality, Not Cops
Ron Jacobs
Scott Noble’s History of Resistance
Olivia Alperstein
The Climate Crisis is Also a Health Emergency
David Rosen
Time to Break Up the 21st Century Tech Trusts
George Wuerthner
The Highest Use of Public Forests: Carbon Storage
Ralph Nader
It is Time to Rediscover Print Newspapers
Nick Licata
How SDS Imploded: an Inside Account
Rachel Smolker – Anne Peterman
The GE American Chestnut: Restoration of a Beloved Species or Trojan Horse for Tree Biotechnology?
Sam Pizzigati
Can Society Survive Without Empathy?
Manuel E. Yepe
China and Russia in Strategic Alliance
Patrick Walker
Green New Deal “Climate Kids” Should Hijack the Impeachment Conversation
Colin Todhunter
Encouraging Illegal Planting of Bt Brinjal in India
Robert Koehler
The Armed Bureaucracy
David Swanson
Anyone Who’d Rather Not be Shot Should Read this Book
Jonathan Power
To St. Petersburg With Love
Marc Levy
How to Tell a Joke in Combat
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail