A common-sense deficit about guns

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., meets with supporters, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015, in Miami.
Associated Press / Luis M. Alvarez

But for the deadly serious topic he was addressing, it would have been laughable listening to presidential contender Senator Marco Rubio’s convoluted attempt at an explanation of why he and practically the entire Republican Senate caucus voted against the common-sense gun law reform Democrats again sought to get passed right after the San Bernardino massacre.

Rubio’s mumbo-jumbo, that those measures aimed at some bare-bones tightening of laws governing firearms possession wouldn’t have averted last week’s mayhem, was of course just another lame offering on the gun issue from a gutless lawmaker. His competitor for the GOP nomination, predictably loathsome Senator Ted Cruz, reminded an audience that episodes like San Bernardino happen “only in gun-free zones,” faithfully parroting the NRA line that the country needs more, not less, guns. When Rubio, Cruz and the rest of the GOP gun lobby apologists are comfortable balking at legislation that bans persons forbidden to fly from purchasing firearms, it speaks to a state of lunacy in high places in this country that should give all of us the jitters.

So the demented pair who have been identified as perpetrators of the most recent eruption of senseless violence would have been able to legally acquire most, if not all, of the weapons used. How does this begin to justify turning a blind eye to closing loopholes that give a free pass to the census of folk, whatever its size, who should absolutely not be allowed near firearms? Or not agreeing to expanded background checks so as to include “backdoor” routes for gun purchases that aren’t now on the radar?

Most troubling is, now that the frequency of mass shootings has made it an element of social dysfunction demanding high national priority, the Republican stone wall obstructing this (limited) fix comprises individuals who apparently are unbothered by constant references now made to America’s singularly unflattering standing in the world in its gun-culture embrace. The clear message from advocates and facilitators of this madness is that how they treat with firearms proliferation elsewhere in the civilized world is of no concern to the U.S. This flaunting of American hegemony and pooh-poohing of countervailing opinion from others in the international community is a phenomenon that’s been known to make a big splash every so often.

We well remember when, with a buncj of neo-conservatives in firm grip of foreign policy direction in the George W. Bush administration and their sights unalterably set on invading Iraq, demonizing opponents of the hair-trigger hawkishness was all part of the administration’s brainwash strategy. France came in for particular ridicule. And the mighty United Nations was all but cast aside by the Bush neo-cons as the premier international forum it is intended to be. Inveterate proponents of open-ended gun use in this country are equally dismissive today of the views of foreigners aghast at an appetite in America for regression to a decidedly less civil order.

The horrific episode in California, followed by another cowardly Republican derailment of the latest gun law reform effort, moved the New York Times to billboard the continuing absurdity of Capitol Hill kowtowing to the gun industry in a manner the paper had not done in almost a century. The Times editorial board opted for a front-page editorial to characterize the inaction of lawmakers as “a moral outrage and a national disgrace.” And the paper wistfully asked: “What better time than during a presidential election to show, at long last, that our nation has retained its sense of decency?”

The odds obviously aren’t too favorable that any sense of decency, by way of a bold, principled stand by Capitol Hill against gun industry bullies, is in the cards anytime soon. Not with Republican caucuses, both in the House and Senate, that see nothing “indecent” about dancing to the NRA’s every tune. Two former Republican presidents, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, in different ways, took notably strong stands against the gun lobby, and certainly in the case of Reagan, influenced the passage of key legislation. In 1994, the Brady bill that included the assault weapons ban, received Reagan’s robust support and was passed, although it was allowed to die without fanfare and with no significant move made to expand it at its sunset 10 years later. Bush was prompted to publicly condemn the NRA in 1995 in his letter of resignation as a life member of the organization in the wake of typically incendiary NRA comment following the deadly Oklahoma City bombing.

Bully pulpit-wise, it’s an altogether different scenario in 2015. Any appeals / overtures from the sitting president are guaranteed to have zero effect, either with the NRA or its Capitol Hill toadies.

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