Trump Gives The Gun Lobby What They Deserve – Nothing.

trump5Just a few days before the election and the beginning of the end of American democracy as we know it, Fuhrer Trump announced the formation of an advisory group, or what he called a ‘campaign coalition,’ that would advise him on matters of importance to the gun industry and to all those gun owners who were depending on Der Fuhrer to protect their 2nd-Amendment rights.  The group was to be led by Donald Trump, Jr. and Chris Cox, chief lobbyist for the NRA, and its 62 co-chairs represented the true flotsam and jetsam of the gun world, including various self-appointed conservationists and outdoor types, heads of gun-rights organizations that had never been heard of before or since, a few gun makers from second-tier companies (none of the major industry players like Glock, S&W, Ruger, etc., were part of this cabal) and a number of members of the NRA Board.

The purpose of this group, as it was explained by co-chair John Boch in an interview with USA Today, is to provide “policy and legislative recommendations for the new administration through Donald Trump Jr.,” except that such activities take on a much different hue when the individual being counseled is no longer a political candidate but happens now to be President of the United States.

One of the many things that neither Trump nor his circle of advisors seem to understand is that you can’t run the Executive Branch of the Federal Government the way you run a private company because the people who elected you, and even the people who voted against you, have certain legal prerogatives to know just what the hell you are doing in their name. If an organization comes into existence for the purpose of advising the President, its structure and functions fall under the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which might require the group to have a charter, hold public meetings, maintain open records, and have procedures for public input. So far, this particular group meets none of those requirements.

But the reason that the group doesn’t yet carry out its functions in line with the Federal Advisory Act is that, in fact, the group has never actually met and nobody seems to know whether it will ever meet or do anything else which might actually represent even the slightest effort to protect gun owners and their precious, 2nd-Amendment rights. The USA Today reporter who wrote this story couldn’t actually find anyone at the White House who knew anything about the organization; requests to interview Trump Jr. were ignored, ditto requests for comments from Chris Cox.

There’s a lawyer in Texas named Ben Langlotz, who has published the complete list of co-chairs on his website, along with an effort to identify what each of these folks actually does.  Seven of the members of this gun coalition are described as ‘affiliation unknown,’ another is referred to as ‘musician, army veteran,’ another is a ‘retired police sergeant,’ and another is described as a ‘NRA volunteer.’ Of course there’s someone from the Tea Party and a gal named Theresa Vail who is described as a ‘television personality’ but is, in fact, a former Miss Kansas, now appearing on the Outdoor Channel, who was arrested in 2015 for illegally killing a grizzly bear. Her lawyer claimed it was an accident but later admitted that ‘errors of judgement occurred.’

Folks who believe that Donald Trump threatens to undo even the most benign gun regulations are probably not far from the truth. But let’s not forget that this new Administration is also showing itself to be politically inept to a degree never previously seen. So whatever plans they have for expanding the rights of Americans to go about killing themselves with their guns, there’s also a good chance that through sheer stupidity and incompetence many of those plans, like the aforementioned gun advisory group, will never see the light of day. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

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It’s Not The ‘Gun Lobby’ That Wants To End Gun Regulations – It’s The Gun Owners Themselves.

The Chicago Tribune has just published an op-ed by Fermin DeBrabender, who wrote a provocative book (Do Guns Make Us Free?) arguing that gun ownership actually reduces freedom by restricting the degree to which citizens will engage in open, political discourse when members of the audience show up toting guns.  In his Tribune piece, Professor DeBrabender makes the argument that the gun industry is facing a “market crisis” due to the collapse of demand since the election of #45 and is responding to this crisis by promoting all kinds of laws and legalisms – open carry, campus carry, permitless carry – that will “make owning and carrying a gun more common, more normal, more ingrained in our culture and everyday life.”

dealers              This is hardly a new thesis and the gun industry’s promotion of the ‘normalization’ of toting around a gun long precedes the collapse of retail sales since the replacement of anti-gun Obama and the appearance of pro-gun Trump.  But to ascribe the easing of gun restrictions to some kind of evil hand belonging to some nefarious entity known as the ‘gun lobby’ is to obscure what I believe is a necessary understanding of what gun ownership in America is really all about.

The truth is that there isn’t a gun ‘lobby’ if what we mean is the existence and activity of some kind of organized, institutionalized effort to support or promote the aims of the gun industry wherever guns are sold. Yes, the NRA has a lobbying arm known as NRA-ILA, which promotes and coordinates pro-gun legislative initiatives both in individual states as well as with the feds. There are also independent pro-gun groups in many states whose members will show up at a public hearing whenever a gun law is being discussed. And make no mistake, these groups are well-funded, they are active and they claim to be able to sway elections with their pro-gun votes.

Except if you look carefully at the history of pro-gun legislation, particularly its spread since the late 1970’s when the first wave of laws liberalizing concealed-carry began to appear, you will note that, again and again, these laws have changed the legal landscape much more in states owned politically by the GOP; gee – what a surprise considering the fact that gun owners, in the main, tend to vote red.  There are still 9 states where the issuance of permits to carry a gun are dependent upon the discretionary judgement of law enforcement officials – every one of those states happens to contain a majority of residents who usually vote blue.

What Professor DeBrabender has overlooked (and I mean no criticism of his otherwise-excellent op-ed in this regard) is that much, if not most of the impetus for liberalizing or discarding gun regulations comes not from the top, so to speak, but from the bottom; i.e., the basic attitudes on the part of gun owners themselves. When the NRA refers to gun owners as ‘law-abiding’ citizens, this may be the one statement they make which is absolutely true.  Most gun owners are law-abiding because otherwise you can’t buy or even own a gun. And guns are the only consumer product which can only be sold to legally-qualified consumers, you don’t need to pass a background check to buy a car.

Every time I go into a gun shop I’m made instantly aware of the fact that just my presence in that shop carries with it the necessity that I must follow various laws. And every weekend when tens of thousands of people visit gun shows they are all equally cognizant of the fact that their legal status is a verifiable issue if they walk up to a dealer’s table to purchase a gun. The existence of 40 million legal gun owners is a much more potent force for doing away with gun regulations than any strategy employed by the ‘gun lobby,’ and talking with those gun owners about gun violence should go hand-in-hand with worrying about whether the gun industry will sell more guns.

On December 10-14 You’ll See Why The Gun Lobby Is No Match For The Cross Lobby.

I have published nearly 400 op-ed pieces on guns, which adds up to more than 240,000 words.  But until two weeks ago, when I posted a column about the November 3rd gun violence event at Washington’s National Cathedral, I hadn’t written a single word about the question of gun violence and religious faith, which the more I think about it, deserves a central place in the gun debate.

The Very Rev. Gary Hall

The Very Rev. Gary Hall

Part of my reluctance to write about guns and religion stems from the fact that I’m not particularly religious.  So I don’t instinctively think about religion or faith when I’m constructing an argument about guns or anything else.  But the good folks at the National Cathedral just sent me a notice about the Gun Violence Sabbath Weekend taking place on December 10-14, and the scope and depth of this remarkable event needs to be recognized and considered even by a non-religious sort like myself.

The event is actually designed to inject the issue of gun violence into the religious services of Christians, Jews, Islam, Hindus, Sikhs, Universalists and Buddhists – I hope I have them all.  Similar events took place in 2014 engaging more than 1,200 congregations and worship sites forming  a virtual coalition between the National Cathedral, the Newtown Foundation, Faiths United To Prevent Gun Violence and other faith-based and anti-violence groups.

I’m going to assume that if 1,000 congregations of different faiths choose to dedicate a Sabbath observance to gun violence that easily a million people could be involved in thinking about this issue over the four-day period beginning December 10th.  But it occurs to me that there’s one national organization that is somewhat conspicuous by its absence from the event, and that organization happens to be the NRA.  And the reason I say that is because the annual NRA fest, which will be held next year in Louisville, always includes a prayer breakfast which, according to the 2016 program, will present speakers “who will challenge you with stirring words of freedom and faith.” So if religious belief can be used both to invoke the Lord’s guidance for those who want to end gun violence, as well as to invoke God’s blessing over those whose devotion to their guns ultimately results in 30,000+ deaths each year,  how do we reconcile these two seemingly-contradictory views of faith?

I found an answer to that question in the sermon preached by The Very Reverend Gary Hall who will retire as Dean of the National Cathedral shortly after the December GVP event.  Reverend Hall preached this message on December 16, 2012, just two days after the Sandy Hook massacre that took the lives of 20 first-graders plus 6 adults.  After recounting his own reaction and the reactions of others to the horrifying event, Dr. Hall turned to the question that had to be answered: “What are we, as people of faith, to do?”  And to answer that question, he reminded the Congregation of their sacred duty:  “As Christians, we are obligated to heal the wounded, protect the vulnerable, and stand for peace. “

But if, as Reverend Hall went on to say, the gun lobby is no match for the cross lobby, then shouldn’t people who devote themselves to the cross also be out there talking to people who devote themselves to guns?  I’ve never attended the NRA prayer breakfast, but I’m sure the audience considers themselves to be persons of deep faith.  And don’t ask me how, don’t ask me why, but the religious ‘faith’ of those Republican Presidential candidates always seems to go hand-in-hand with their unwavering support for 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’

Don’t get me wrong.  Reverend Hall’s post-Newtown uplifting sermon was a powerful antidote to Wayne LaPierre’s fear-mongering rant which constituted the NRA’s response to Sandy Hook.  But there are plenty of people out there who still want to cling both to their religion and their guns. The faith-based coalition that will come together around the country on December 10-14 might consider ways to reach those folks as well.