A Sea Change in the Firearms Debate (Guest Voice)

Steve Sack, The Minneapolis Star Tribune

A Sea Change in the Firearms Debate
by Tina Dupuy

In August 1925, The New York Times estimated 50,000 — 60,000 members of the Ku Klux Klan marched in a parade in our nation’s capital. It was a huge public display of the once-secret group. H.L. Mencken called it “a full mile of Klansmen and their ladies.” The man sitting in the White House, Calvin Coolidge, was a member of the Klan. The president before him, Warren Harding, was also a noted Klansman. The fraternity preaching pure “100 percent Americanism” (anti-Semitic, anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant, anti-non-white) boasted of five million members — nearly 15 percent of the population in the 1920s. They were in positions of power. They were everywhere. And here they were marching for hours around the National Mall.

If you asked an American living at that time what they thought about the Klan, they would have thought of it as “the way things were.” Having a clandestine Klan standing strong for the interests of Anglo-Saxons and terrorizing minorities was a normal part of living in Jim Crow America, and why would something that widespread ever be any different?

Today the Klan has maybe 5,000 members according to their own reporting, and they’re considered a hate group. They’re fringe on a very mainstream day.

The point is: Things change. Goliaths fall. It happens.

We think of people in the past as having foresight to the future. This way we can, with authority, say what the Founding Fathers would have thought about things like traffic lights. But people living through history (also known as the present) often have a status quo bias. What’s going on right now is it. This is how it is.

And this is how we’ve viewed the death grip of the NRA on our politics. “Members of Congress have ranked the NRA as the most powerful lobbying organization in the country several years in a row,” brags the NRA’s Wikipedia page citing a 1999 Fortune article. And because whatever gets repeated enough in the Beltway becomes common wisdom: You can’t do anything about the flood of guns on our streets because the NRA is the most powerful lobby in America — ever!

Any talk about gun control has been a nonstarter. Remember Bob Costas in the beginning of December talking about guns during Sunday football in the wake of an NFL player’s murder/suicide? He was raked over the coals. It was inappropriate! How dare he soil the sanctity of sports night with his dirty pinko agenda!

Then a week later there was Sandy Hook. Twenty first-graders were slaughtered by a gun enthusiast’s arsenal (who was also killed by the same means). The usual voices denouncing any cries for action on gun safety were quickly drowned out by a steady hum of Americans who are tired of weapon manufacturers dominating the debate.

On January 9, the two year anniversary of the Gabrielle Giffords shooting, the Tucson Police Department held a gun buyback program. Arizona has some of the most liberal gun laws in the nation. It also (as par for the course) ranks among the highest gun deaths per capita. The NRA said destroying those 206 guns turned in was illegal and threatened to sue to stop it. They said the police department would have to sell those firearms according to what they interpreted as the law. The National Rifle Association opposes just the voluntary act of getting guns off the street?

This is not a group championing individual freedom. This is weapon fetishization.

The NRA wants the Tucson PD to effectively sell guns to the public.

President Obama who, contrary to Internet message boards, has expanded gun rights while in office, came out with an comprehensive reform package including: ending the suspension of gun violence research; universal background checks; a ban on high capacity magazines; and appointing a full-time permanent director to the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). All things the majority of Americans agree with.

The president also incorporated what the NRA called their “meaningful contribution” which was looking at violent video games (some of which are produced by the NRA), armed guards in schools and looking at the mentally ill as potential spree killers.

But the NRA doesn’t want to work with the president. They denounced the announcement before hearing it. The NRA wants to advocate for the absolute unchecked rights of gun manufacturers as they march over to the fringe.

Goliaths fall.

© Copyright 2013 TinaDupuy.com, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. Tina Dupuy is an award-winning writer and the editor-in-chief of TheContributor.com. Tina can be reached at [email protected]

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  • cjjack

    A very timely article, considering that tomorrow we celebrate two things which neither Klan members nor non-Klan members could have imagined back in 1925:

    The second term inauguration of an African-American President.

    And the national holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King.

    How did we get here? How is it that while Klan members can’t even get on the Jerry Springer show like they used to, a Black man will be sworn in again to the highest office in the land, in the shadow of a monument to another Black man?

    The answer, at least in light of the apocalyptic language coming from the likes of the NRA, must be “without firing a shot.” What the gun fetishists need to be reminded of is the fact that Dr. King did not march on Selma and demand civil rights at the point of a gun. When he was arrested (multiple times) for civil disobedience, he didn’t fight the police with his 2nd Amendment-protected guns. In fact he didn’t fight at all.

    The greatest transformation in the last century of our society did not come as a result of intrepid militias gunning for the feds. It wasn’t the presence of sidearms or rifles slung over the shoulders of the Freedom Riders that won the day.

    There were casualties in the struggle, of course. Yet the response to that violence was not more violence. Dr. King did not call upon civil rights activists to arm themselves in order to wrestle freedom from the government. No, he kept doing what he’d been doing…organizing…marching…speaking. And though he was taken down by violence, his non-violent approach succeeded.

    The rights of millions of Americans, previously denied, were won not through intimidation or the threat of armed revolution, but through peaceful non-violent means.

    The gun fetishists would do well to note that there is no monument to an NRA President anywhere near the National Mall, but that there is one to a peaceful man that will be gazing upon his accomplishments tomorrow.