Bob Schwartz

Tag: National Rifle Association

Oregon College Shooting: Republican Debate to Move to Umpqua Community College

How many shot dead today in Roseburg, Oregon? How many more injured?

We will soon have an exact body count. But while we wait for the numbers, here’s another big question: What is wrong with us?

I now hear that certain Second Amendment-loving, NRA-fearing presidential candidates are tweeting messages of sympathy for the community and for the families of those affected.

So here’s the next questions: Are you kidding me?

The answer is not better mental health oversight, treatment and identification, although that would be nice. The answer is not more guns, guns for everyone, so that the supposedly mentally ill shooters will rationally think twice about being gunned down themselves by a teacher or other student.

The answer is as few guns as we can manage to get along with, day after day. Which should be a lot fewer than we have, according to practically every other civilized country in the world. (Of course, those are ordinary countries, as opposed to exceptional America. Exceptionally absurd numbers of mass shootings, that is.)

The answer is to moderate a gun culture that is out of control. One way to do that is to…reduce the number of guns. Anyone who thinks that the current number of guns is a good idea, or that even more guns would be better, because that is what our Constitutional fathers wanted, is not mentally ill. They are historically, politically, and morally ill.

I am not going to cast too broad a net by suggesting that all the current Republican presidential candidates are strong and unconditional supporters of the NRA. But I think that may be true. In that case, I suggest that instead of holding the next Republican debate at the University of Colorado, they move it to Umpqua Community College. There they will be free to peddle all their NRA talking points nonsense to an audience filled with hundreds, thousands of people who understand all too well what the Second Amendment really and tragically means.

Arm Postal Workers

United States Postal Service
It seems that the National Rifle Association and an incongruously growing number of fearful politicians are currently lining up behind a proposal to train and arm teachers to fight the threat of gun violence. In the view of some, this makes more sense than requiring universal background checks and limiting assault weapons and oversized ammunition magazines.

The scenario is that when psychopaths like Adam Lanza try to force their way into Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Connecticut, they will be shocked and awed to find themselves facing a militia of teachers, a special forces unit capable of both taking out terrorists and teaching reading to six-year-olds.

Good plan. But it doesn’t go far enough.

It is time to arm postal workers.

We know, to begin, that postal workers have faced their own sort of psychopathic terror over the years. Not often, and certainly not often enough to have earned the undeserved meme “going postal.” But on the principle that you can never have too many guns in the hands of good guys and gals, it would be a welcome preventative.

On top of that, postal workers walking their delivery routes regularly navigate the mean streets of America, just as our police do. Why not, then, train, arm and deputize these postal workers as sworn peace officers? This has many benefits: the streets will be safer, and the Postal Service will be playing a vital role—a role that should fend off any questions about their budgetary problems, especially with changes in the use of mail.

Part of being a good American is coming up with good ideas to keep our country safe—especially ideas that increase the number of guns and gun owners. Saving the Postal Service is just a bonus. You’re welcome, NRA.

Another Reason We Need Assault Weapons

Attack of the 50 Foot Woman
The 1950s were the reel golden age of science fiction movies. Consider the shots above from Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958). It is the story of a rich socialite turned into a giant woman by a giant alien. She seeks revenge on her cheating husband, something made easier by the fact that she is…50 feet tall. (She is also pretty sexy, wrapped in what looks like a few very big sheets, needed because her designer socialite clothes did not grow.)

The sheriff discovers that a pistol is no match for the giant alien, and as you can see, her husband learns that his pistol is useless against her. (She is ultimately stopped when the sheriff shoots an electric transmission tower she is standing next to.) This is an old story and a lesson we should have learned by now: pistols are not effective against aliens, monsters, people turned into monsters, etc.

Assault rifles may do no better, but at least they might give you a fighting chance and a little extra time to escape. The NRA, for some reason, has failed to make this argument. But it is both appealing and rational. The chances of the government turning against all its citizens may be small, but it could happen, and the NRA believes it and promotes the possibility. The chances of alien invasion, experiments gone rogue, the sudden appearance of strange new enemies may be small, but it could happen too.

In that case, would you rather be carrying a pistol, rifle, or shotgun, or do you want some serious firepower? You know the answer.

NASCAR Follows NRA Off the Roof

NRA 300
The National Rifle Association jumped off the public relations roof in the wake of Newtown and the legislative attempts to curb gun violence.

Which is fine. The First Amendment guarantees the right of individuals or groups to jump off any rhetorical roof, so long as no one is harmed (except maybe for the jumper). There is money to be made and power to be gained by taking extreme or contrarian positions, sometimes the louder and more insistent the better.

But as your parents advised you—though you may have willfully ignored the advice—just because Johnny jumps off the roof doesn’t mean you should do the same.

As recently as last September, the NRA sponsored a NASCAR race, the NRA American Warrior 300 in Atlanta.

Today it was announced that the NRA will be sponsoring a NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway this April, to be called the NRA 500.

Something happened between September and April: Newtown, Sandy Hook, twenty children slaughtered.

The NRA believes that if anything happened, it only makes it more important than ever to pretend that nothing happened, or to pretend that whatever happened can’t be prevented by any proposed measures, or to pretend that what happened is being unfairly used to threaten their existence and the Second Amendment. The NRA believes it has the support of millions, and that its obstruction is massively appreciated, all national polls to the contrary. It believes that even if it is jumping off some roof, there is a safety net to catch it.

NASCAR may believe that it will be caught by that same safety net, since many NASCAR fans are also gun owners, if not NRA members. NASCAR may feel it is caught between a rock and a hard place: damned if they continue to work with the NRA, damned if they don’t. Of course, even many NRA members are skeptical, some embarrassed, by the NRA’s current extremism and obstruction. On top of that, the NRA PR safety net, even if it does still exist, is probably big enough for just one.

Maybe an NRA race this April won’t be such a big deal for NASCAR. But maybe it will be. If it is, NASCAR shouldn’t expect that there will be a net to catch it. We will know in the days to come whether this is a brilliant move, just business as usual, or a thud.

If We Could See the Children of Sandy Hook

Sandy Hook School
Early in the Iraq War, President Bush tried to block taking pictures of the arrival of the coffins of fallen soldiers at Dover Air Force Base. The proposal was couched as a gesture of respect to the families, but the real point was to shield citizens from the ultimate cost of war.

There are different opinions on the impact of viewing carnage, fictional and real. Does constant exposure immunize us from taking violence seriously? Would we pursue wars so readily, or at least try to better distinguish the necessary from the chosen, if we were bombarded by those images? If we saw footage of the early days of the camps in real time, would we have allowed the Holocaust to proceed?

The images of the children killed at Sandy Hook School in Newtown are blocked from us. This choice is almost beyond argument. We have heard the reaction of those who did witness the aftermath, and even those who have participated in war said that scene was worse. We are protecting the dignity of those lives unlived and respecting the immeasurable grief of the families. Our imaginations are already enough to rend our hearts.

And so instead we have pictures of those children as they are remembered, beautiful angels, joy and potential, and we have the testimony and imploring of their parents. But somehow, this doesn’t seem to be quite enough to stop abstract arguments about the essential value of the Second Amendment, how it must continue unconditioned even by sensible restrictions that meet moral, practical and constitutional muster. First they come for my AR-15, this line goes, and next the deer and the police will be hunting me.

There is a way to end this argument, though for good reasons we will not do it. If we ever get to see the killing field at Sandy Hook, there will be little more talk of a free trade in assault weapons and big ammunition clips. There may be talk, but it will be silenced by a new and more powerful outrage. The NRA might try to keep repeating a mantra that is already falling on more deaf ears, and some of their political operatives will follow. But the vast majority of Americans will move from just saying the right thing to a pollster to demanding that the right thing be done. Now.

If we could, as we won’t, see the children.

God Does Not Like Guns

William Strutt - Peace
God does not like guns. God is also not crazy about nuclear weapons, and about all the easy to use and widely available tools of destruction in between.

This isn’t obvious. As scholars of religion and violence point out, the Old Testament is a compendium of both divine and divine-inspired and endorsed human mayhem. In the continuing battle against moral evil, which often has a religious component or context, the imperative to take up arms goes unquestioned among some, but not all. Finally, an entire eschatological theology is based on a battle that ends and transcends history as we know it, leading once and for all to the heaven on earth we have all been awaiting.

Let us pull back to the now and here, particularly last night in Newtown, Connecticut, where clergy of all faiths talked about God, if not for God.

The events in Newtown opened up a door to a new world. It was not Armageddon in an epic sense, but it was the end of the world for some, and everyone felt that. The door is a passage to the place where we leave the theology of the Second Amendment behind, where we stop listening to the priests of the National Rifle Association and their interpretations of what the founding gods meant.

This is the time to extend last night in Newtown to every congregation in America. There, leaders will explain to congregants whether God loves guns, and particularly whether God loves guns in such massive quantities and destructiveness.

The leaders can then cite Isaiah 11, and explain how “a child will lead them” is not merely some hermeneutic puzzle pointing to a messiah. Instead, it is reflected in the instruction by Jesus: “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.”

The leaders will close by acknowledging that the faithful congregants will hear and themselves espouse practical arguments that stand in the way. Leaders will then patiently explain that all faith is ultimately impractical and heedless of impossibility. God does not like guns, but as his instruments, we are bound to do the worldly work of reducing their number and universal availability. If we claim to be faithful, that is more than just a good deed. It is a divine mission. God, it appears, will be more disappointed than ever if we fail.

If Not Now When: Today Is the Day to Talk About Guns

National Rifle Association - Newtown
In the immediate hours after the Newtown, Connecticut shootings, Presidential spokesman Jay Carney was asked whether this would move the President on the issue of gun control. “Today is not the day to talk about guns,” he replied. The focus, he said, should be on the victims and their families.

A few massacres ago, around the time of the Colorado movie theatre shootings, that sounded better. The boldness of those activists wanting to instantly seize the moment and make a point about gun control seemed insensitive. There would be time enough, soon, to talk about public policy.

“Today is not the day,” doesn’t sound so good or so responsible any more. Whether or not we go for years without another incident like this, or whether, as is more likely, it is a matter of a few weeks or months, the day to talk is today.

The National Rifle Association and the related Second Amendment groups are the most powerful and successful lobby in modern America. Grover Norquist is a pretender, thinking that his threats of losing elections have changed America. As much as Americans hate taxes, many love having their guns, and the NRA has helped those Americans get them, keep them and be allowed to use them.

The NRA’s biggest, though not only, problem is that they have constitutional paranoia. They perceive even the slightest hint of regulation as the first step on a slippery slope. That paranoia has mutated and spread to politicians of almost all types. Except that those politicians aren’t pathologically afraid of guns being taken away; they are pathologically afraid of losing their jobs.

Fortunately for him, the President just got his contract renewed for four years. Even if he has something to propose that won’t get the support of his own party, let alone Republicans, even if what he proposes will have trouble passing constitutional muster, that should not stop him, if he is the man of principle we believe him to be.

The dead can’t vote, and in the case of the children killed today at Sandy Hook Elementary School, they weren’t old enough anyway. So we have to speak for them and vote for them. Today is the day. President Obama, lead us and show us what to do.