Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Government of, by and for gun sales

   From Associated Press:

   "The (Newtown) tragedy prompted calls for greater gun controls. But the NRA is resisting those efforts, arguing instead that schools should have armed guards for protection."

    That intriguing parsing from the AP is most telling. The National Rifle Association is a separate branch of our government, a statutory check on the elected/appointed branches.

   We have an executive branch, a legislative branch and a judicial branch. But whatever they do must be cleared by the U.S. Chamber of Carnage.

   Understand and accept the fact that the gun lobby's clout is a very American condition. Understand, also, that its leverage has little to do with self-protection, sport, or lofty claims about holding oppressive government at bay at gunpoint.

   It's about lucre.

   Rhymes with Luger.

   It's about sweet profit, which itself is owed to the most basic capitalist impulse: to possess — to own, to have, to hold, to lock, to load, to project one's self through one's household appliance, be it one's toaster, one's waffle iron, or one's AR-15.

    It's about America's competitive spirit, the age-old quest to be the first Glock on the block.

    No other human reaction could explain the fact that so many Bushmaster rifles got sold days after the weapon killed so many grade schoolers so efficiently.

    The purchasers will rationalize each purchase in the standard terms (sport, personal protection, and, of course, "gummint comin'"). But understand, this was really about one reason: possession. Gotta have it. Keeping up with the Joneses' arsenal. Very American.

   All those Americans bought all those assault weapons for the very reason we Americans have done lots of things in our history, like massacre the Sioux and Iroquois, and roll tanks into Iraq: Because we could.

     Nothing else explains shelling out $700-$900 for a weapon whose actual sporting/self-protecting/stopping-the-government-in-the-driveway functions are so limited.

         It's true that one can have a whale of a time pummeling a black firing-range silhouette with 30 continuous bursts, and 30 more. But $900 for the privilege?

     The fact that these weapons, whose only real utility is military-style assaults, could fly off the shelves at such a price tells us something: Those who would possess such things could and would pay a much higher price. Short of keeping them off the shelves, as Congress would do if the NRA weren't part of our checks and balances, we should take these gun buyers up on their desires and see how much they would pay.

    Cook County, Ill., which includes Chicago, recently implemented a $25 tax on each firearm sold in the county. Critics say the tax simply will drive gun sales out of the county. And we wouldn't want that. A sale is a sale, and all commerce is good. The Medellin Cartel agrees.

     Maybe it's wrong to drive up the price of Granny's Beretta by $25 when she must choose between self protection and this week's bottle of gin. So, as a nation let's refine Chicago's idea to see if something good can come of it. Assess a $200 federal tax on future purchases of each of the weapons prohibited by the assault weapons ban which expired in 2004. Let's face it; the ban is unlikely to come again based on NRA's expressed constitutional power of veto.

     So instead, we say that based on a background check you are welcome to these shiny metallic killing curiosities, but the price includes a whopping tax that contributes to a fund to help pay for what happens when firearms are used for non-sporting, non-self-protection purposes.

     Or, use those dollars to help balance the federal budget. Lawmakers could do that, if they cleared it with the NRA, of course.

     It was a knee-slapper to hear the NRA float its "armed guards" idea. Very funny — when teachers are laid off and school districts are at the mercy of  "less gummint" budget writers.

      However, if the gun lobby will consent to a $200 tax on the sale of each assault-style weapon that shouldn't be sold to civilians anyway, maybe we could afford even the NRA's foolish notion about keeping children safe. 

      Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lies in Colorado. Email:   

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