For Part One, click here.
When we last left off, I said I was going to explain the main reason why no meaningful gun legislation will be passed anytime soon:
4. Our Representatives Are Not Actually Representative
During all the chaos in the last few weeks, it was easy to miss the fact that Congress failed to pass what was arguably the weakest gun control bill in history, which would have essentially clarified the fact that every gun sale, public or private, should include a background check as part of the process. Most of the votes fell within traditional party lines, which isn’t really surprising, just annoying. And because of pointless Senate rules, it got a majority of the votes but failed to pass. Which isn’t really annoying, just infuriating.
The Republicans are owed much of the blame here, of course, but the Democrats had zero backbone on the issue. Before the gun bill went to the senate floor for a vote, Harry Reid, The Democratic Majority Leader who filed the bill, removed the assault weapons ban, saying that he was unable to secure enough votes for it to pass, and instead used it’s removal as a compromise to try to gain the bill favor with Republicans. It was a cowardly political move. And here’s where it gets worse: when that part of the bill was voted on separately, only 70% of the Democratic senators voted “Yes.” Fifteen Democrats voted AGAINST the assault weapons ban. Even in the age of partisan politics, the D’s couldn’t even get their own party behind a landmark issue.
How is this possible? If those poll numbers are accurate, our system is broken.
Where the hell do you go from here? I mean, let’s really evaluate how unsettling this is: A school full of children was gunned down by an assault rifle, and Congress could not even pass a severely watered down bill that would simply make it easier to keep crazy people from getting them. I stated after Sandy Hook that if child-murder wasn’t enough to get people to take real action, then nothing would likely ever get done. Looks like I was right. So take that, Mrs. Wider from First Grade, I was right about something! But sorry, again, for what happened to the class gerbil. I honestly thought he knew what a lawnmower was.
There are a couple of key reasons why this failed. For Democrats, it was all about playing politics. The Dems who voted against the bills were mostly from pro-gun states and didn’t want to seem weak. For the others, it was a failure to stand up for a slam dunk liberal issue. As Michael Moore stated on Piers Morgan soon after the vote was held, there is no way Harry Reid would have given up the fight like that if it was his grandson that was murdered at an elementary school. Ultimately, that compromise was pointless since the bill didn’t pass anyway.
For the Republicans, the problem is that they are inexplicably controlled by one of the most ridiculous organizations on the planet.
5. The NRA Shouldn’t Be As Powerful As They Are
The NRA has caused more problems for Congress than accidentally tweeted dick pics. They oppose everything and anything that even smells like gun control. Everyone is afraid of them. And this makes absolutely no sense.
Let’s start with the basics: The NRA boasts 4 million members. The USA boasts 350 million members. Even with their likely inflated member count, that’s nowhere near an influential percentage. They should have 1% of the say on gun control, not fifty. Hell, PETA has 2 million members, and you don’t hear them bitchin’ when Congress decides to regulate how much of their own shit pigs have to sleep in before they are slaughtered for bacon.
Secondly, a strong majority of NRA members actually support expanded background checks, according to multiple polls. This goes against all common knowledge of what the typical NRA member is probably like.
That’s probably because despite the rhetoric, the NRA used to be significantly more reasonable, focusing more on gun safety and less on gun insanity.
After Columbine, CEO Wayne LaPierre testified in Congress, urging them to expand background checks to all private sales, AKA THE VERY FUCKING THING THEY HAVE BEEN FIGHTING AGAINST RECENTLY. LaPierre also called for “no guns in America’s schools, period.” I’m serious. He fucking said that.
If you want to get a sense of how this transformation happened, check out this great visual history of NRA ads – starting with “rifle shooting is a mighty fine sport, be careful kids” all the way to literally using photos of goose-stepping Nazis to represent the FBI. (Of course, 4 years before those Columbine comments, LaPierre compared federal agents to Nazi storm troopers in a speech, which prompted George H.W. Bush to quit the NRA in protest, so take that as you will.)
So they are unrepresentative, hypocritical, and paranoid, and yet everyone listens to them. Why?
First, it’s the NRA that controls the gun manufacturers, not the other way around. When Smith & Wesson cuddled up to Bill Clinton in the 90′s and agreed to federal regulation, the NRA incited a boycott that nearly bankrupted the company. The gun manufacturers are afraid of retribution if they don’t follow LaPierre’s lead.
Secondly, in order to keep the money flowing, LaPierre has to keep the base happy. He received so much flack for his comments after Columbine that he had to pivot 180 degrees on the issues just to keep people from supporting even more conservative gun-rights groups. Just like with any political group, the ones who give the money are the ones who get their voices heard. I’m sure most NRA members are very reasonable people. But it’s hard to compete with the guy with 20 assault rifles who writes a check every year. Who is the NRA gonna fight for?
Of course, the NRA’s key issue – upholding the Second Amendment – shouldn’t be that controversial. After all, it’s a foundational right in our country and it’s clear as day.
6. The 2nd Amendment Is Unclear And Irrelevant
Here is the final version of the Second Amendment, ratified in 1791:
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
It makes no grammatical sense.
It’s ridiculously unclear whether or not the framers meant that each state should have it’s own militia, which would be able to bear arms, or if the militia simply included the entire population by default. But if that was the case, how would they be “well-regulated?”
Even if we assume they literally meant that everyone has a right to bear personal arms, they could not have possibly envisioned the kind of world we live in now. They had 10-foot rifles that took 2 minutes to reload one shot. We have machine guns capable of firing 1000 rounds in a second. If you take their language at face value, what’s to stop you from claiming that buying a tank on the Internet is your right as an American? Other than the Supreme Court, who agree that the right is not unlimited?
Try to imagine the mindset of the fathers at the time of this writing. They just forcibly and violently gained their independence from an oppressive government. The first thing on their list was to make sure no one fucks with them again, and thought the best way to do that was to make sure each state was armed. At the time this made sense. Today, there is pretty much a zero percent chance that anyone in the U.S. will live under a tyrannical regime that would need to be destroyed, unless Congress makes Pop-Tarts illegal or something.
We have to get over this idea that the Constitution is some kind of precious document that can never be altered in any way. We shouldn’t be afraid to edit the Constitution, because the founders themselves gave us the ability to. They were smart. They expected things to change. Refusing to admit that is the least American thing you can do.
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So, I’ve tried to present a reasonably objective look at gun control here. But where do I personally stand?
I’ve shot guns a handful of times before. In fact, I shot skeet the day I finished writing this. I know people that own guns, and most keep them safely, though I don’t personally own any or carry an NRA membership card. I truly believe that most gun owners are not crazy rednecks. Hell, Rachel Maddow shoots guns for God’s sake.
The problem is, some gun owners are crazy rednecks. It is a combination of this and the fact that a culture of gun-worship is perpetuated through all media (movies, videogames, etc) that everyone, including myself, is guilty of participating in. Everyone secretly likes guns a little bit, even just for the fantasy of it. Of course, no one thing causes gun violence (our mental health system is probably at fault too). But there are way too many gun murders every year to do nothing. I just hope I won’t eventually live in a world where I will have to explain to my kids that our cyborg neighbor has a Bazooka-mounted, 10,000-round minigun for an arm because George Washington said he could.
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For more on this, including how crazy some of the assault rifle manufacturer’s ads are, and how gun suicides are more problematic than homicides, check out David Wong and Jack O’Brien’s take over at Cracked.