Monday, October 9, 2017

The NRA's prostitution ring

The Denver Post's top headline after one of the gun lobby's very best customers killed 59 people from above read thusly: "NRA supports restriction."

Yes, the top story was what the NRA might do after all that killing.

It wasn't, "Congress admits cowardice in the face of carnage." It wasn't, "President lifts thumb to avert next slaughter."

It wasn't even, "Thoughts and prayers waft over Las Vegas."

It was, "What does the NRA think about this?"

Understand: The NRA's deigning to consider any restrictions at all on a hyper-killing device called a bump stock is headline news. It's: "China calls for safer toys." It's "Medellin Cartel urges: 'Just say no.'"

That "NRA supports (fill in the blank)" is Page 1 fodder may be the greatest indictment of our political system, next to Donald Trump's ascendancy.

The NRA is a group of hobbyists -- people with time and gun powder residue on their hands.

What a group of hobbyists says should be of no interest to anyone except to fellow hobbyists – say, if the next NRA convention opts for cold cuts over cutlets.

To make NRA an adviser for public policy on anything involving firearms is akin to the Fraternal Order of Vespa Riders dictating traffic policy.

What actual people think about gun policies – and solid majorities support stricter gun laws such as universal background checks – is immaterial.

The same applies, for instance, to environmental protection. But when the Trump administration wants advice on that matter, it turns to the special interests affected.

Recent news coverage has flagged Environmental Protection Administration director Scott Pruitt as one of the profligate offenders in the Trump administration's jetting around on taxpayers' dollars for spurious reasons.

What is more significant, though, is what the New York Times reports: that Pruitt's itinerary as EPA director reveals almost non-stop canoodling with corporations that have vested concerns in his decisions.

These include meeting with major campaign donors like coal mining behemoth Alliance Resource Partners, which is now thinking the $2 million it gave the Trump campaign was one heck of an investment.

Well, back to the NRA. Public disclosures reveal that it spent more on lobbying in the first two quarters of this year -- $3.2 million just through June -- than it did in all of last year.

You wonder where all those dollars went.

No mystery as to what those dollars have wrought. One of the first things Trump did as president was sign a Republican bill to roll back an Obama administration rule adding people deemed mentally incompetent to the national background check database.

Yes, this was Job 1 for a new president. Those gun hobbyists have clout.

Because the man who killed so many in Las Vegas passed a background check doesn't mean we should throw up our hands on the rightness of such checks for all gun purchases, including online purchases like the Aurora theater gunman used to amass his arsenal.

However, when President Obama sought to impose such a restriction after the massacre of innocents at Sandy Hook, the "thoughts and prayers" bravehearts in Congress shot it down.

No doubt the hobbyists' lobbyists helped steady the aim for the GOP.

This week conservative media are making a big production of the fact that some Democrats received campaign contributions from now-certifiably sleazy, if not criminal, movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.

This might concern us if Weinstein were, like Big Coal and the gun lobby, helping formulate public policy. He's not. It's hardly a concern at all.

We seem resolved to ignore what vested industries have done to steal our democracy.

In other news, the president of the Brazil Olympic Committee was arrested for buying votes to bring the 2016 games to Rio de Janeiro.

It's a criminal offense to buy a sports spectacle. But you'll never see gun merchants or big polluters doing a perp walk for buying our government.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

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