As James Holmes, the apparently methodical mass murderer in Colorado, appeared before a judge today, I thought about how methodical too does our justice system attempt to be, as it seeks to cross all t’s and dot all i’s in the administration of justice.
But such excruciating methodology is also a characteristic of the National Rifle Association, which through its command of the Republican Party has essentially and systematically murdered any meaningful political debate in America regarding common-sense gun control laws.
As an example, I present a couple of excerpts from Fox “News” Sunday‘s program, which featured two senators, Diane Feinstein the California Democrat and Ron Johnson the Wisconsin Republican:
WALLACE: Senator Feinstein, let’s go with the big picture. Another case of someone slaughtering innocent people on a college campus, in a restaurant, now, in a movie theater. What are your thoughts?
FEINSTEIN: My thoughts are these — pure and simple — weapons of war don’t belong on the streets. This is a powerful weapon. He had a hundred round drum. This is a man who planned it, who went in and his purpose was to kill as many people as he could in a sold out theater.
I think — you know, we’ve got to sit down and really come to grips with what is sold to the average citizen in America. I have no problem with people being licensed and buying a firearm. But these are weapons that you are only going to be using to kill people in close combat. That’s the purpose of that weapon.
You can put a hellfire switch on it. You can fire semi-automatic very rapidly. This drum was huge. He had a hundred bullets in it, and he went out to kill a lot of people. I think that these weapons ought to be stopped. I think the sale and transfer. That’s what my bill did for 10 years and since my bill expired. What happened was, there have been —
WALLACE: The assault weapons ban.
FEINSTEIN: The assault weapons ban. There have been 452 instances, 650 people have been shot, 300 have died of those 650. And it’s unnecessary.
Now, who could object to that sensible position? Assault rifles are “weapons of war” and they certainly don’t “belong on the streets.” Yet there is an objection to such common sense, by a man who sits in the United States Senate and who represents most right-wing political thinking on the issue:
WALLACE: Let me bring in Senator Johnson.
The Supreme Court has spoken. The Constitution means when it says — when it says that Americans have a right to bear arms.
But let’s look at this case. Does the suspect James Holmes — does he have a constitutional right to buy an AR-15 assault rifle, along with a magazine that holds a hundred rounds that makes it so easy to commit this kind of slaughter?
JOHNSON: First of all, Chris, this is a horrible tragedy and our thoughts and prayers go out to all the victims and the community of aurora.
The fact of the matter is, though, he’s sick and demented, you know, evil individual. And, unfortunately, I don’t think society can keep sick and demented individuals from obtaining any type of weapon to kill people. I mean, somebody who wants to purposely harm another individual is going to find a method of doing it.
Case in point, if you wanted to kill people in that theater what was the first he did? He walked in the doors and he threw some incendiary devices. He could have made some other explosives.
This isn’t an issue about guns. This is just really an issue about sick, demented individuals. And it’s a tragedy and I don’t think there is a solution here in Washington to solve this problem.
Get that? We simply can’t stop “sick and demented individuals” from getting their hands on “any type of weapon to kill people.” Those evil people will “find a method of doing it.” In this case, Senator Johnson said the killer could have “made some other explosives” to do what he wanted to do.
Except—except—he didn’t do that. You know why? Because it was too easy to get his hands on an assault weapon, thanks to people like Senator Johnson. Sure, there are other ways to kill lots of people. I suppose, for instance, the killer could have driven a large truck through the theater. But that would have been much messier for him than picking up an assault rifle with a large magazine and lots of ammo and shooting people, including a six-year-old girl.
For Senator Johnson there is apparently no limitation—and we are only talking about limits—he could endorse, when it comes to gun rights. When asked about banning the big clips that go with the semi-automatic weapons, he said:
JOHNSON: I mean, for example, the left used the term assault rifles. They’re really talking about semi-automatic weapons that really are use in hunting. That’s what happens in Wisconsin. These are rifles that people use in hunting.
And just the fact of the matter is, is that this really is not an issue of guns. Again, we are talking about sick people doing things that you simply can’t prevent.
It’s really an issue of freedom. I swore an oath to defend the Constitution. And part of that Constitution is the Second Amendment that guarantees the right to bear arms. These types of laws infringe upon that right and I just — I don’t agree with them.
WALLACE: Let me ask you, we’re not talking about hand guns. Does something that would limit magazines and carry 100 rounds, would that infringe on the constitutional right?
JOHNSON: I believe so. People will talk about unusually lethal weapons. I mean, that could be potentially a discussion you can have.
But the fact of the matter is, there are magazines, 30-round magazines that are just common all over the place, and you simply can’t keep these weapons out of the hands of sick, demented individuals that want to do harm.
WALLACE: Let me —
JOHNSON: And when you try and do it, you restrict our freedoms.
I don’t know what kind of guy Senator Johnson is. I’m sure he loves Jesus and Wisconsin and America and the Tea Party. But his narrow mind is under the influence of an extremist interpretation of our Second Amendment, an interpretation he would surely reject if applied to any other provision in our Constitution.
And he is supported by an organization, the NRA, that at least helped mass murder the political fortunes of Democrats, who dared in 1994 to ban assault weapons like the one used in Colorado to kill movie fans. As the San Francisco Chronicle reported, Bill Clinton argued in his autobiography that the NRA was instrumental in the Democrats’ worst loss in a congressional election since WWII ended:
Those who warned him “were right, and I was wrong,” Clinton wrote. “The price for a safer America would be heavy casualties among its defenders.”
That ban expired under Republican leadership in 2004—they wouldn’t even allow it to come up for a vote—and most Democrats, afraid that what Clinton wrote was true, have been scared to touch the issue since. It is a political form of post traumatic stress disorder, unfortunately affecting even President Obama.
But Senator Ron Johnson has himself a disorder to deal with. He thinks that making assault rifles and large magazines available to disturbed people like the killer in Colorado makes us freer as a people:
WALLACE: I’m going to give you the final word, Senator Johnson. Are these massacres horrible as they are and people here in Washington are looking for solutions, are they just a fact of life and death in America?
JOHNSON: Well, I hate to say it, but they probably are. Listen, I understand Senator Feinstein has seen gun violence up close and personal. I don’t doubt her sincerity for a moment.
But I also, I really would hate to see a tragedy like this used to promote a political agenda to reduce American’s freedoms. Enough have been taken away and we don’t want to lose anymore.
Not only has the NRA helped massacre the fortunes of Democrats on the gun issue, it has butchered the consciences of Republicans too.