Tuesday, July 24, 2012

NRA fantasies and fallacies

    If the gun lobby is to be our guide, he exercised his Second Amendment rights in ways our founders intended — using arms to keep an invasive government at bay.
   His weapons did just that, until law enforcement disarmed or removed all the explosive devices James Holmes rigged up in his Aurora, Colo., apartment.
    You say the weapons in his apartment weren't guns, so what's point?
    Point: For some odd, oppressive reason, society has prohibited the weapons Holmes had wired to explode in the privacy of his apartment when police came knocking. The type of weapon you can haul to a crowded movie theater, walking up the aisles administering rapid-fire death? Not only legal, but sacred.
   A weathered textbook on my shelf gives a rundown of logical fallacies and propaganda. It cites the "slippery slope" argument. It's one the National Rifle Association has mastered. You know: If they ban one kind of mass-killing device, the next thing they'll do is ban all mass-killing devices, or even those used just to kill one person at a time — one's neighbor, or lover, or the dark-skinned stranger walking through one's gated community.
    Well, I'm coming to fully appreciate the "slippery slope" argument:
    Let's say that we hadn't the spine to battle the gun merchants and the National Rifle Association, as reasonable people played dead in the aisle for almost 20 years, indeed, even allowing policy makers to emasculate minimalist guns laws. In that vacuum, imagine that we arrived at the side of the slope where, say, a 24-year-old would be able to kill 12, wound 58, and fire over 100 rounds, most of which he bought over the Internet.
    Yes, we can only imagine — imagine that when it happens we'll have leaders who don't dare mention the weapons but who simply mourn the victims, as if they were killed by a typhoon or a fissure in the Earth's crust. Wrong place, wrong time.
     What a crock. What a cop-out.
     Consider: After six died and Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and 12 others were wounded when a man fired 31 rounds into a crowd,  Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J.,  proposed a ban on high-capacity ammunition clips. Of course, the bill went nowhere.
      Lautenberg said he would file it again in wake of the Aurora massacre, where the assailant's AK-47 carried a 100-round drum magazine.
      What possible civilian use is there for a such high-capacity device? Maybe for hunting fireflies or moonbeams? The justification for such weaponry can't be found in the founders' words but only in the minds of merchants and gun lobby. 
      You may consider that rationale wholly logical and laudable. Most Americans do not. That's what's become of this debate, though, as with so many.
      How can society's camouflage wing block what we all know to be reasonable — limiting the availability of certain weapons? Congress voted to do it in 1994 with a ban on a class of assault-style weapons. Ten years later a Republican Congress let the restrictions lapse.
      The state of gun policy today, says Bill Moyers, is that "toys are regulated with greater safety concerns than guns."
       Military-style assault weapons in anyman's hands? Nothing we can do about that. That's ridiculous.
       The problem: Most Americans are ambivalent about the extent to which firearms should be regulated. The absolutists, on the other hand, have the money, and the phone banks, and the absolute certainty.
      So, tell me, America. What is the difference between the banned death devices James Holmes rigged up at home and those he took to the movies? What would the founders say?
      Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.              

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