FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Next Stage of Gun Control

by BINOY KAMPMARK

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

January 18, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
The Destabilizer: Trump’s Escalating Threats Against Iran
John W. Whitehead
Silence Is Betrayal: Get Up, Stand Up, Speak Up for Your Rights
Andrew Day
Of “Shitholes” and Liberals
Dave Lindorff
Rep. Gabbard Speaks Truth to Power About the Real Reason Korea Has Nukes
Barbara G. Ellis
The Workplace War: Hatpins Might Be in Style Again for Women
Binoy Kampmark
Corporate Sickness in May’s Britain
Ralph Nader
Twitter Rock Star Obama’s Silence Must Delight Trump
John G. Russell
#Loose Lips (Should) Sink … Presidencies … But Even If They Could, What Comes Next?
David Macaray
The “Mongrelization” of the White Race
Ramzy Baroud
In Words and Deeds: The Genesis of Israeli Violence
January 17, 2018
Seiji Yamada
Prevention is the Only Solution: a Hiroshima Native’s View of Nuclear Weapons
Chris Welzenbach
Force of Evil: Abraham Polonsky and Anti-Capitalist Noir
Thomas Klikauer
The Business of Bullshit
Howard Lisnoff
The Atomized and Siloed U.S. Left
Martha Rosenberg
How Big Pharma Infiltrated the Boston Museum of Science
George Wuerthner
The Collaboration Trap
David Swanson
Removing Trump Will Require New Activists
Michael McKinley
Australia and the Wars of the Alliance: United States Strategy
Binoy Kampmark
Macron in China
Cesar Chelala
The Distractor-in-Chief
Ted Rall
Why Trump is Right About Newspaper Libel Laws
Mary Serumaga
Corruption in Uganda: Minister Sam Kutesa and Company May Yet Survive Their Latest Scandal
January 16, 2018
Mark Schuller
What is a “Shithole Country” and Why is Trump So Obsessed With Haiti?
Paul Street
Notes From a “Shithole” Superpower
Louisa Willcox
Keeper of the Flame for Wilderness: Stewart “Brandy” Brandborg
Mike Whitney
Trump’s Sinister Plan to Kill the Iranian “Nukes” Deal
Franklin Lamb
Kafkaesque Impediments to Challenging Iran’s Theocracy
Norman Solomon
Why Senator Cardin is a Fitting Opponent for Chelsea Manning
Fred Gardner
GI Coffeehouses Recalled: a Compliment From General Westmoreland
Brian Terrell
Solidarity from Central Cellblock to Guantanamo
Don Fitz
Bondage Scandal: Looking Beneath the Surface
Rob Seimetz
#Resist Co-opting “Shithole”
Ted Rall
Trump Isn’t Unique
January 15, 2018
Rob Urie
Democrats and the End(s) of Politics
Paul Tritschler
Killing Floor: the Business of Animal Slaughter
Mike Garrity
In Targeting the Lynx, the Trump Administration Defies Facts, Law, and Science Once Again
Thomas Hon Wing Polin
Hong Kong Politics: a Never-Ending Farce
Uri Avnery
Bibi’s Son (Or Three Men in a Car)
Dave Lindorff
Yesterday’s ‘Shithole Countries’ Can Become Classy Places Donald, and Vice Versa
Jeff Mackler
Lesser Evil Politics in Alabama
Jonah Raskin
Typewriters Still Smoking? An Interview with Underground Press Maven John McMillan
Jose-Antonio Orosco
Trump’s Comments Recall a Racist Past in Immigration Policy
David Macaray
Everything Seems to Be Going South
Kathy Kelly
41 Hearts Beating in Guantanamo
Weekend Edition
January 12, 2018
Friday - Sunday
George Burchett
Wormwood and a Shocking Secret of War: How Errol Morris Vindicated My Father, Wilfred Burchett
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail