Lunatic of the Year

Not to offend Wayne LaPierre’s friends over at the American Psychiatric Association, but this country gets a little more psychotic every year.

It isn’t just the economy that’s headed for a cliff, so is our grasp on reality.

Consider Sarah Brady, the NRA leadership and Sen. Lindsey Graham.

Until John Hinckley came along, Sarah Brady stayed in the background as the wife of a Washington D.C. insider. Her husband, James Brady, acted as spokesman for allegedly the most powerful man in the world. (Talk about delusions.)

Brady’s husband helped communicate the policies of Ronald Reagan, who ran for president on one of the most pro-gun platforms ever. She was home with her 2-year-old son when Hinckley’s assassination attempt on Reagan left her husband paralyzed.

The shooting occurred in Washington, D.C. where a ban on handguns had been in place for six years. It did nothing to protect her husband. Nevertheless, Sarah Brady has devoted herself to promoting gun control. Her efforts appear to have had some superficial success.

The Brady Act, among other things, requires a background check. Seems reasonable to me, except that in her 2002 memoir, “A Good Fight,” Brady drops this anecdote:

She went into a Delaware gun store to buy a Remington 30-06 rifle as a gift for her now-adult son. She filled out the required paperwork, giving her name and ID. The gun store employee made much fanfare in running a background check on Sarah Brady. Finally she took possession of the gun and loaded it into her car, thinking, “It seemed so incredibly strange: Sarah Brady, of all people, packing heat.”

Later she gave the gun to her son – who escaped the required background check. Another John Hinckley (or William Spengler) could arrange the same transaction with a mom, sister or girlfriend.

At least the Brady Act lets Sarah feel like she’s doing something: She gets to go after the NRA. She is so fixated on the NRA, she almost acts as if Hinckley had nothing to do with shooting her husband. (She has expressed some concerns about crossing paths with him in Williamsburg, Va., the home of her alma mater and where Hinckley is allowed unsupervised visits.)

Every high-profile shooting turns into a referendum on the NRA. Nobody demands of gun-control advocates like Brady: How come your gun-control laws aren’t working?

More than a week after Adam Lanza killed 20 children and seven adults, the question that hovered over LaPierre’s appearance on “Meet the Press” was: Is the NRA losing its political clout?

The media and gun opponents have smelled blood. If they could go for the NRA’s jugular, they would. But pacifists can also be blinded by rage. They forget that the NRA has not thwarted all gun-control laws.

A few examples: In 1989, California approved an Assault Weapons Ban that outlawed more than 50 brands and models of firearms including rifles, pistols and shotguns. Then-Gov. George Deukmejian (a Republican) told the L.A. Times that the average citizen had no need for a “military-assault weapon.”

That same year, the Bush Administration – another Republican – declared a permanent ban on almost all foreign-made semiautomatic assault rifles.

In 1990, New Jersey followed with a ban similar to California’s, as did Connecticut, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Maryland and New York.

Also in 1990, the federal Gun Free School Zones Act was passed prohibiting anyone from knowingly possessing a firearm in a school zone. It was amended in 1995 and is still in force.

In 1994, Congress passed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which included the Federal Assault Weapons Ban.

With all these wins for gun opponents, why do they act like the NRA calls all the shots? Because the reality is that gun control victories have not stopped gun violence. The Columbine shooting, for example, occurred in 1999 when the federal Assault Weapons Ban was still in place.

Gun control advocates keep asking for more of what hasn’t worked.

Meanwhile, the NRA is digging its own hole: It isn’t just lunatics like Lanza who are dangerous to public safety; the NRA’s gun-nut image hurts law-abiding citizens who believe in self-defense.

Days after the Newtown shooting, a visit to the NRA’s Publications Website turned up this feature: “New Guns of 2013.” Among the guns profiled: the Iwi Tavor Sar Bullpup Rifle, which accepts standard AR-15/M16 magazines. And among the ads: “Buy Guns Online!! Cheaper Than Dirt Prices!

It’s hard to look at that and not hear the chorus of Cheryl Wheeler’s “Don’t Forget the Guns”:

Now don’t forget the guns you know exactly what I mean

Bring the pistols, bring the uzi and the old AR-15

We don’t look for trouble but by golly if we’re in it

It’s nice to know we’re free to blow nine hundred rounds a minute.

It’s isn’t the Adam Lanzas who will be the NRA’s undoing. It will be politicians like Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who stood in Wayne La Pierre’s corner on “Meet the Press.”

Graham has done his part to breed violence in America. Like many of the NRA’s conservative friends, Graham has long opposed abortion and publicly-funded birth control. What does abortion have to do with guns? It may be a better crime-fighting tool than tougher gun-control laws.

Yes, this is a controversial theory. But no more controversial than placing armed guards in schools (an idea that would have more merit if it came from the PTA).

Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner detail the abortion-crime drop theory in their book, “Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything.”

Levitt looked at the conventional explanations for why crime started dropping everywhere in the U.S. in the 1990s – including gun laws. They found that any criminal with a little initiative could still buy a gun easily and cheaply on the thriving black market.

“The Brady Act … has proven to be practically impotent in lowering crime,” write Levitt and Dubner.

You won’t find Graham or the NRA leadership quoting that from Chapter Four, “Where Have All the Criminals Gone?”

The Freakonomics theory is that many of the boys most likely to grow up to be criminals (sons of poor, uneducated, unmarried girls and young women) were never born after Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in 1973. Legal abortion primarily benefited these females. (Daughters of the wealthy have always had access to safe abortions).

This chapter is worth reading even if you find the theory disgusting. There have been many efforts to debunk Levitt and Dubner, and they address them.

If Sen. Graham and Sarah Brady wanted to help reduce gun violence, he would promote birth control and abortion, and she would advocate for institutionalizing or incarcerating men like Hinckley so they cannot access guns.

As it is, it wouldn’t shock me if tomorrow, John Hinckley resurrected the past.

Emboldened by, and envious of, the sympathetic coverage directed at the latest lunatics (They need help! It’s all your fault they didn’t get help!), I can imagine Hinckley taking aim once again, since we didn’t get the message the first time.

Who’s going to stop him? Sarah Brady?

– Pamela Fitzsimmons

Related:

Carpooling to the Gun Range
The NRA vs. Planned Parenthood

3 Comments

  • In the last census, 2009, a grand total of 2.5% of the homicides were committed with rifles – of all types. This is how much improvement in the murder rate we could hope for from an assault-weapons ban, presuming of course that murderers didn’t simply switch to other weapons.
    http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2012/tables/12s0310.pdf

    By my count, in 2012 all “mass shootings” accounted for less than 1% of homicides. Tragic as they are, they’re statistically insignificant.

    On December 14, 2012, twenty children died at Sandy Hook. But that day more than twenty died on the highways, with alcohol being the proximate cause for most of that pointless loss of young life. The same tragedy plays out every day on the roads, day after day. Where is the sense of proportion?

  • I don’t know how we can make people care as much about deaths caused by drunk drivers as they do about gun deaths (and some gun deaths are justifiable homicide, which is often not factored into the statistics. Neither are suicides).

    You’re right. There is no sense of proportion.

    Maybe The Journal News in Rockland County, NY could follow up their map of legal gun owners with a map of all households who keep alcohol on the premises. Having worked in the newspaper business, I would imagine most of the news staff in Rockland County would land on that map.

  • Where I live asking smeoone if they own a gun would get a “yes” about as often as asking them if they owned a car. The truth that when secnds count the police are ony minutes away is quite obviouis in rural America.I bought my first pistol a few weeks ago, primarily for home protection and to carry on walks and bicycle rides. You never know what kind of animals my pop out of the woods. Bears and mountain lions have been reported in my county. I’ve seen a bobcat on my back porch and in my front yard. Plus a wild dog or coyote is always a possibilty.As for doctors, my doctor made enough mistakes in my treatment for me to go elsewhere. Simple stuff like incorrectly running glucose test and such. We could save a lot of lives if doctors policed themselves better.I think I’ll use Trey’s response if asked. I keep my gun unloaded but the clip and gun within reach of each other.

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