Remember the NRA’s favorite slogan? The one that goes, “Gun don’t kill people, people kill people?” Well a jury in Milwaukee decided that it was the gun, in this case a gun sold to one jerk who actually bought it for another jerk who then pulled it out and shot two Milwaukee cops back in 2009. Luckily the cops lived, even though they sustained serious injuries; the shooter’s sitting in a cage for the next eighty years or so. As for the guy who bought the gun, he got two years for participating in a ‘straw sale.’ The Brady Campaign helped the cops bring the suit.
Coincidentally, the very same day of the verdict, the Democratic Presidential candidates spent nine minutes of their first debate sparring about gun control, and I noticed that Shlump Trump didn’t mention this segment of the debate at all in the snarky comments he tweeting to his infantile fan club. The nation’s Number One Clown may “love” the 2nd Amendment, but the Milwaukee verdict tells a much different tale when it comes to how the average American thinks about guns.
I wasn’t in the courtroom so what I know about the trial is second-hand, but the charge against the gun shop, Badger Guns, was that the store was ‘negligent’ in selling the gun to someone who was buying it for someone else, and this negligence then led to the shooting of the cops. Prosecutors charged that the shop employee should have known that he was engaging in a ‘straw’ sale because the buyer kept making mistakes as he filled out the 4473, even at first stating that he was not the ‘actual’ buyer of the gun, and that no attempt was made to verify the straw buyer’s real address.
The defense claimed, on the other hand, that the gun shop was ‘set up’ because the straw buyer and the real buyer had conspired to deceive the store regarding the true identity of the person who would ultimately receive the gun. In effect, the store was duped; hence, no negligence on its part in the later shooting of the cops. This gun shop, incidentally, has been on the radar screen for a long time, having been the source of more than 500 crime guns in one year alone.
The bottom line in the Milwaukee case is that the average American jury is no longer enamored of the NRA and no more forgiving when it comes to violence caused by guns. There have just been too many shootings and too much pro-gun belligerence from the NRA and other gun-nut groups like the bunch in Texas who go marching around in public showing off their guns. Alex Yablon summed it up nicely in today’s article in The Trace: “The NRA has a group of reliable single-issue voters who can be counted on to show up to the ballot box. The thing is, they’re always there.” And it’s not as if the next mass shooting will motivate more people to join the NRA.
Gun rights voters have become this year’s favorite morality play for the Republicans who can’t win national elections unless they find a niche, social issue to motivate their base. They used to have gay marriage but that’s disappeared. They can still gin up anger over illegal immigration but new immigrants now represent too many votes. And as for abortion, Republicans have been sitting in the White House for 23 of the 42 years since Rio v. Wade in 1973 and a woman’s right to choose is still law of the land.
When it comes to social issues, the Republicans talk big and act small. And I think this is exactly what will happen going forward in the debate over guns. Because once Democratic politicians realize that the NRA can’t stop background checks at the state level or lawsuits against guys who sell guns, you’ll see gun control inexorably moving forward in state after state. Remember that 37 states already declared gay marriage lawful before the SCOTUS agreed.