Second Amendment Trumps All Other Constitutional Rights…Again

I want to preface this post by admitting that the attempt to articulate a deep, impotent sadness over the country’s bizarre and dangerous permissiveness of mass casualty gun violence will pale in comparison to the genius of Esquire’s Charles Pierce. Both of these pieces are worth a full read, but the titles alone suggest the feelings of many exhausted warriors in the battle to secure a right to life above the right to unload magazine clips on one’s fellow Americans:

Nothing Really Changed on That Ballfield Yesterday

When White People Realize American Politics Are Violent

In the former post, Pierce writes:

“If Sandy Hook wasn’t enough, Simpson Field is not likely to be, either. Until there’s no profit in hatred, until civility proves to be a ratings juggernaut, nothing will change. Until the instruments of mass killing are regulated as stringently as we regulate automobiles, nothing will change. Until we have as serious a conversation about the actual misuse of the Second Amendment as we are currently having about the alleged misuse of the First, nothing will change.”

In the second musing, Pierce says of Thursday night’s Congressional Baseball Game telecast on C-SPAN:

“The broadcast crew, from a Washington radio station, kept up the patter and there was a lot of talk about unity and civility, because that was the order of the day. And I continued to wonder where it was that all these people grew up.”

I have a close friend, Beth, who introduced me to the concept of losing one’s bones several years ago. You know that condition when a situation is so frustrating and hopeless, there’s just nowhere to put your feelings? So metaphorically, and oftentimes physically, the body cannot remain upright and hold its shape. The skeleton and soul collapse in on themselves, landing a person in a fetal crouch – without the reassuring comfort.

Many of us have lost our bones this week, simultaneously grappling with cognitive-dissonance inducing gratefulness that we still have cartilage left to shed. 51 year-old House Majority Whip Steve Scalise will survive his injuries with luck and quality medical care (a luxury available to members of Congress that Republican policy puts out of most Americans’ reach), but Wayne Chan ‘s life is over.

Who is Wayne Chan, you ask? A 56 year-old man murdered in a mass casualty event on the same day that Scalise was shot on an Alexandria, Virginia ballfield. Chan was an employee of a UPS facility in San Francisco, killed along with 50 year-old Bensen Louie and Michael Lefiti, 46. The names of these men deserve as much press as Scalise, not the least because none of them publicly carried water for the National Rifle Association. Earlier this week, New York Daily News writers Meera Jagannathan and Leonard Greene observed:

“In May 2015, he introduced the Firearms Interstate Commerce Reform Act, legislation that aimed to modify the criminal code to relax restrictions on cross-state gun sales — or, as he put it, eliminate ‘archaic red tape burdening gun owners who legally purchase firearms across the nation…’

‘The NRA thanks Rep. Scalise for his leadership in this important effort,’ the gun group said in a statement.”

Whenever the NRA expresses gratitude to loyal ambassadors of Second Amendment regulatory annihilation, you can be sure dead people will follow. All in the name of freedom (profits). In 2016, gun sales broke an 18-year record, with 28 million firearms purchased. That number does not encompass weapons acquired through theft or other illegal means. Although the list of verboten procurement methods grows ever smaller owning to the NRA’s wildly successful lobbying efforts.

It may be tempting to indulge the fantasy of chastened Republican (and Democrats) lawmakers currently in the pocket of Wayne LaPierre, undergoing a spiritual awakening in light of Scalise’s critical condition. But as another close friend of mine likes to advise with regard to magical thinking, “Wish in one hand, shit in the other. See which one gets full first.”

The false narrative doggedly peddled by LaPierre and his ilk remains unchanged in the wake of this week’s events – the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy packing equal or greater heat. Evidence to the contrary be damned. Alabama Congressmen Mo Brooks, just hours removed from nearly meeting his Maker in Alexandria, said this to CNN:

“It’s never easy to take when you see people around you getting shot and you don’t have a weapon yourself so you are not in a position where you can help defend.”

There it is. The usual cynicism, impervious to reality. The answer is ALWAYS more guns.


Boehner Attempts to Leverage Newtown Tragedy Distraction in Fiscal Cliff Negotiations (December 18, 2012)

Nancy Pelosi

The terrible events surrounding last week’s semi-automatic killing spree at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newton, Connecticut stopped the nation in its tracks. Quite understandably, we took a collective pause to consider the implications of a disturbed man, armed to the teeth, who could just walk into a primary school and kill small children and staff with abandon. The circumstances are saturated with a heightened sense of pathos given the time of year. The holiday season is a multi-cultural, multi-faith time of family and celebration and last week’s news did not ask much of us in the way of empathy. Who can imagine walking in the shoes of those who lost a child or family member in this tragedy? How isolating and painful must it feel for those burying a loved one against a backdrop of communal food preparation, ritualistic gift procurement and the repetition of well-loved Christmas Carols? There are few of any political stripe who can’t locate common ground in grieving for these devastated souls.

At a time when we are reminded anew of the frailty of human life and  the technical advances in modern weaponry that render it ever easier to claim, perspective should be relatively easy to locate. Petty partisan squabbles ought to take a backseat to the the recognition that something is deeply broken within the American system. Children of any socioeconomic class should be able to go to school without encountering a madman carrying guns. We need to take a new look at what the Second Amendment actually protects. Does a right to bear arms revoke the right to set limits on how that liberty is exercised?

And somehow Sandy Hook has cast Republican recalcitrance in the face of the looming fiscal cliff in the base light in which it deserves to be viewed. While perusing the New York Times this morning, I encountered a post on the paper’s “Debt Reckoning” blog by writer Jonathan Weisman. In the piece, entitled “Boehner Intends to Pursue a ‘Plan B’ on Taxes,” Weisman writes:

“House Speaker John A. Boehner, playing hard ball only days before the nation heads into a fiscal crisis, will tell fellow House Republicans that he will move forward with his own tax plan in the coming days to increase tax rates only on income over $1 million, then shift the fight on spending cuts to early next year when the nation runs into its borrowing limit.”

The timing for this sort of pathetic gerrymandering could hardly look worse. Does this group care about its current and future reputation whatsoever? The GOP has become almost synonymous with tone-deaf, small picture thinking. Our President displayed the calming, sober leadership we have come to expect from him. He emotionally addressed the tragedy while traveling to Newton to offer direct comfort to the community. Boehner and Company continue to look for a lifeline for a drowning, unpopular platform; one  that protects the wealth of the very few, even as they scream about the immorality of deficits.

It seems as if the deficit is being used as a bargaining ploy by the Republicans. This ploy is being used against a president who is being distracted by the growing crisis of mass public executions. Something that is largely stoked by the continuous rollback of firearm regulations from an NRA-loving Republican party. While Obama’s attention is focused elsewhere, let’s paint a fake portrait of compromise  then should the President hold his ground, tar him with accusations of misplaced priorities.

The White House should not let this happen. For over 12 years now, Republican positions have been responsible for; one fiscal, foreign policy, domestic agenda, middle class welfare catastrophe one after another. Then while Obama is busy cleaning up assorted messes, they try to make a new one unchallenged. It’s pathological.