By Patricia Lee Sharpe
Teddy bears are sweet. Flowers are always lovely. Candlelight processions look good on TV news shows. But all of them are worthless, folks, except to give survivors and observers a quick and easy feel-good experience. In short, all these photogenic gestures are a sentimental evasion of the real responsibility, a long overdue responsibility: forcing the U.S. Congress to pass the kind of gun regulations Australia passed after a mass murder some years ago. ( FYI: hunters still have access to guns Down Under, but the murder—and suicide—rate has plunged.)
Eventually the pile of teddy bears, wilting flowers and half-burnt candles is nothing but a heap of trash waiting for a garbage truck—but not, all too often, as in Newtown, before it becomes a place of pilgrimage aka gawkers’ delight, inviting more useless sentimentality.
So here’s my wish for our collective New Year. Let’s really honor those dead children. Let’s not continue to let ourselves be brainwashed, manipulated, bamboozled, misled, distracted, lied to, sweet-talked, bribed or blackmailed by the gun-producers’ front known as the National Rifle Association.
And let's not forget the form of vote-stealing that is better known as vote-buying. Mere votes and ballots mean little when the NRA showers millions to counteract them. We must do something about this, too. It’s called organizing to defeat Representatives and Senators who let the NRA call the shots—so to speak.
This effort has to be a strong national campaign resulting in a law that holds for the whole country uniformly. Why? It’s too easy for the NRA and the arms industry to blackmail individual state legislatures into non-action. In fact, post-Newtown, the blackmail is already being applied in Connecticut. Imagine! At the first sign of popular pressure to enact strict gun laws, the state-based weapons manufacturers threatened to punish the very state in which the massacre of the innocents occurred. The pressure is on in other states and cities, too. Regulate us? Ha! How many jobs do you want to lose? How much tax base? And for sure we’ll defeat any legislator who votes for the least infringement of our right to produce as many guns as we want and sell them to anyone anytime. Is this shocking or what?
Also deployed, over the years, have been some other, all-too-effective indirect ways of preventing sensible gun control. Above all, the arms industry masquerading as the National Rife Association hides behind the Constitution, flagrantly misrepresenting it in order to keep the camouflage-providing, more naive members on board. Most everyone knows about the abuse of the archaic Second Amendment. But there are other ways of manipulating people’s imperfect understanding the Constitution.
In a recent instance, the NRA managed to corral a treaty-killing majority of senators into signifying that they would to refuse to ratify an international treaty on arms-dealing. In this case, as often, the specious argument (meaning lie) was that the treaty would impinge on U.S. sovereignty by overriding U.S. gun laws. That, in fact, can’t happen. Treaties, by law, never supercede U.S. law. But all it takes is a little fear-mongering (“They’re going to take away your guns—and your freedom!”) and the oh-so-patriotic American gun industry can continue to profit mightily (pardon the pun) by putting lethal force into the hands of terrorists, oddball militias, private armies and other swarms of thieves, murderers and rapists in every lawless area of the globe—some of whom will eventually have to be put down by U.S. troops. Not bad! The arms-dealers get to profit from both sides!
And now they’re trying the same double-dipping at home. Hey! It won’t matter that every angry crazy guy in America has a semi-automatic (or two or three) plus more handguns than he has pockets for —if everyone else is armed to the teeth, too.
Wow! These guys and their NRA front men are brilliant con artists—and the latest "helpful" proposal is one of the best yet. The government should mandate armed guards in all schools, plus all teachers and principals should be armed—and Congress should pay for it!!!! Glock-a-bye baby! The new lullaby.
I’d suggest an amendment to that bill. Any law mandating armed guards to protect against mass killings in schools or any other public venue should include the mandatory collection of a hefty tax to pay the salaries of those gun toters. The tax should also bring in enough revenue to pay for the victims’ hospital or burial costs—and, yes, it should top up the salaries of first responders. And, come to think of it, how about a provision to assuage, financially, the mental anguish on the part of survivors? So Congress, if the NRA toadies among you think that armed guards and teachers are the solution to the proliferation of slaughter in the U.S., add a big fat sales tax to the bill. Add 25% to the cost of every weapon purchased in the U.S. (and, to take care of the loophole problem, a 25% tariff on imported guns, too).
Better yet, let’s outlaw the sale of semi-automatics (all of them, now, without loopholes), then allocate federal money to mop up such privately-held weapons (at cost plus 10%, as the Aussies did) within three months or so. (So much for the gruesome gun-ghouls who went on a gun-buying binge after Newtown!) Let’s institute purchase or transfer registration that applies to everyone all the time (including freebie gifts to relatives and friends) for all weapons that remain legal. And let’s also tell the gun industry that the Pentagon won’t buy guns from companies that move off shore.
Or something like that. I’m not about to write the legislation. Senator Diane Feinstein can do it— and hopefully she’ll produce a stronger bill this time around. VP Joe Biden will support it, for sure. The big question is whether our ever-compromising president has the courage to campaign for and sign such a bill.
Meanwhile, given the great power of ridicule, we should start making fun of the NRA, its absurd scare campaigns, its weird notions of sportsmanship, its twisted notions of patriotism.
How many people should die—murdered or as suicides—so some guys can shoot a lot of clay pigeons without going through the boredom of reloading?
Is it really sport if the deer or elk hasn’t a chance to get away?
And remember this: the NRA wants us to play with teddy bears. The NRA loves votive candles. The gun industry is all in favor of flowers. What they don’t want is sane, effective gun control.