Congressman and gubernatorial candidate Tim Walz is now in favor banning assault rifles in Minnesota. Thank god for small favors. But what’s more interesting, IMHO, is how much Walz, a Democrat, is the exception that proves the rule. Namely, the fact that the United States’ completely out of control gun problem is a Republican/conservative-driven and sustained phenomenon.
Poll after poll over the years shows that the issue of gun ownership — i.e. the exercise of your “precious Second Amendment rights” allegedly to “protect your family” — is not just far, far more galvanizing among those who vote Republican but is the single issue they are the most passionate about. And it ain’t even close. Credible polling puts the gap between those who vote Republican and those who vote Democratic at 50%, far exceeding the separation between conservatives and liberals over abortion or immigration or any other so-called hot-button issue.
Put more bluntly, the right to own and even stockpile guns and ammunition without any significant regulation or supervision, is the most important issue to the “average Republican voter”, meaning those who reliably show up at the polls and vote … which is another way of saying primarily exurban/rural white males.
Like a lot of people, I’m pretty much out of gas when it comes to venting about the near weekly mass slaughters in this great cauldron of freedom we call the USA. Maybe the emotion the kids are bringing to the issue after the Parkland, Florida massacre will do something. Maybe it will drive enough young people and suburban women to the polls in November to begin making a difference. Maybe (and this is bigger) court rulings against Republican gerrymandering will rebalance the map and loosen the stranglehold single-issue/gun-focused voters have over the GOP.
But as an amateur student of history, color me intensely skeptical. Even with the high likelihood of several more of these slaughters going down before November, the connection of guns to the male ego is so deep and intense you can feel the herd of single-issue gun zealots gathering for their stampede the polling booths against anyone who threatens their ability … “to protect their family.”
The Strib recently ran an editorial arguing for more research into gun violence in the USA, noting how even the mere study of gun killings has been banned by NRA-driven legislation. (Typically, the Strib avoided the elephant-in-the-room Republican unanimity on pro-gun votes). Then a few days ago it ran a syndicated piece by Steve Chapman of the Chicago Tribune whose argument was that there is no way to stop this insanity, it’s all too deeply baked into American culture.
He’s certainly right in terms of a legislative fix this November, or in 2020 or even in the next 10 years. But, given the cumulative effect of a half generation’s worth of elections we might make the turn to something like sanity.
Where 33,000 gun killings a year — almost 100 a day — is regarded as as close to a definition of terrorism as the next Arab loser renting a truck and running down bicyclists in in Manhattan. (Two-thirds of those gun deaths are suicides.)
Where there is general acknowledgement of how dramatically the crime rate has been dropping for years across the country …
… and how far into the realm of fantasy it is that the average American needs “stopping power” for that mythical gang of thugs [invariably black or muslim] coming through the their front door.
I believe I’ve ranted about this before, but the path to bringing American gun violence down to levels of truly civilized and safe democracies is not by demanding “bans” — Constitutional problems) but by simply exposing the gun industry (and let’s get real here, the NRA is simply a lobbying front for gun manufacturers not Uncle Steve the duck hunter) to the free market of insurance and litigation like everything else in this country.
The 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (a 65-31 Senate vote with 14 Democrats chipping in) essentially set up a force field of legal immunity for the gun industry, something not even Big Pharma or GM has been able to pull off. Were that Act, and other by-laws attached to appropriations bills, etc. to be rescinded and the gun industry forced to pay the heavy cost of regularly defending itself in court we might begin the process of blunting the campaign funding by the industry/NRA.
Likewise, I see no constitutional impediment to a law requiring every individual gun purchase and each and every gun in personal possession to carry liability insurance, at rates determined by your certified State Farm or Allstate actuaries and their banks of computers. Compounded by an aggressive round of ICE-like monitoring of gun/ammo stockpilers — and remember 3% of the citizenry of the USA owns over 50% of the guns — forcing owners to prove insurance coverage for their family-protecting arsenal could also blunt the financial ability of paranoid gun fetishists (excuse me, “enthusiasts”) to amass a warehouse of firepower. Not every one of our Second Amendment executioners has the financial wherewithal of Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock. An annual insurance bill of several thousand dollars for their toys of empowerment could make a difference.
I am also a big fan of a tax (not a ban) on ammunition. I’m still waiting hear how the pathetic kid in Florida bought not just the AR-15, ($600- $1200 depending on customization) but nine other guns over the course of a year. But when he could by ammo for the rifle at barely 25 cents a round you can see where there’s room for, well, let’s just call it “revenue enhancement”. At a tax of $1 a casing — to cover the “reloaders” among us — the likelihood of a lunatic like the Colorado movie theater killer or Nikolas Cruz in Florida storing up a few thousand rounds might diminish a bit.
Given all this in 10-15-20 years we might be able to drive our annual gun slaughter down to only 20,000 or so a year.