It was almost exactly a year ago at this time that a "controversial" report was released by the Department of Homeland Security. This finding, labeled "Right-wing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment," explained that the lunatic fringe might use the recession and ascension of the first African-American president to recruit members and then plan violent attacks on the homeland.
Although this effort was initiated under the administration of George W. Bush, the usual bed-wetters on the Right--especially a large Oxycontin-laced, self-indulgent buffoon with the ever-appropriate name Rush--whined and hissed about how it was a political jihad.
Here we are a year later, and it is starting to feel very 1995 out there right now. While the Obama Administration and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle genuflect before the NRA, we are not only doing not nearly enough to keep high-power weaponry out of the hands of, for lack of a better word, "evil-doers," but the NRA is leading state legislatures around by the nose in attempts to actually weaken gun laws we do have on the books. As it was aptly put in in an editorial in the Charleston, WV Gazette:
Almost any criminal, psycho, drunk, wife-basher, drug addict or other prohibited person can buy a pistol illegally at a gun show - no questions asked. Test after test has found that many gun show dealers, licensed or unlicensed, sell deadly weapons to practically anyone with money, evading federal laws that forbid sales to the unfit.
In fact, once the practices of these gun shows were exposed by undercover investigations, such as those planned by Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York and his organization, Mayors Against Illegal Guns (Disclosure: I consult for MAIG; I am speaking for me, and only me, in this piece, however), the response was not to make it harder for criminals, terrorists and the mentally unstable to get guns at gun shows. It was to try and pass legislation to make such investigations illegal. Brilliant plan! Sweep it under the rug, and it is sure to go away.
It is no matter that, as my friend Brian Rothenberg, Executive Director of Progress Ohio, has said, it is easier to get a gun at a gun show than cold medicine. Or that the recent shooting at the Pentagon, by an anti-government radical and mentally disturbed man named John Patrick Bedell, was able to occur because even after the state of California deemed him mentally unfit to have buy a gun, he just went to Nevada and bought em through the infamous gun show loophole.
No background check. No questions asked. And then off to shoot innocent people at the Pentagon.
But if you think this is bad, it is only going to get worse. Tea Partiers are showing up to rallies brandishing signs with Brownings and the obvious implication. You know, the gun founded by the guy who the state of Utah would like to honor instead of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Michelle Bachmann and the rest of the itsy-bitsy IQ brigade now like to put targets on legislators, encourage their supporters to "reload," and are using other violence-infused imagery. Meanwhile, Christian Militia groups are putting together videos worthy of Al Qaeda while planning to murder Michigan police officers with guns and IEDS.
Seriously, stop and watch this spooky video for a second (they even got the German music right!).
What has been the response to the crescendo of incidents like these over the past few months? The Obama Administration is missing in action. Meanwhile, Republican legislators, like Senator Tom Coburn, are actively trying to put guns in the hands of the mentally unbalanced. That's right, Coburn tried to attach an amendment to the health care bill to restore gun rights to veterans declared "mentally incompetent." Seriously, does the man, and the 45 who voted with him, remember Ft. Hood?
The service and sacrifice of veterans must be honored and those who fight for their country must be respected as the courageous individuals that they are. But that doesn't mean giving those vets who have taken a different path, who have committed crimes, terrorist acts or are mentally unbalanced, easy access to weapons that kill. Timothy McVeigh was a veteran. Lee Harvey Oswald was a veteran. Charles Whitman was a veteran. And guess what? The report issued by Homeland Security specifically spoke of veterans, who might have certain skills and be suffering from PTSD and other ailments, being sought out for recruitment into these right-wing groups. The suicide rate among veterans is skyrocketing too, so perhaps guns aren't the answer.
In fact, maybe if the Right loved veterans as much as they love soldiers (or millionaire estates) we would have fewer of these problems. But that is for another piece.
Thankfully, Coburn's idiotic measure failed, the second time the NRA has lost on the floor of the Senate after 5 years of only knowing victory. So there is the bright side of this. While we have a long way to go to get to common sense, perhaps we're slowly getting there. Now we need the Obama Administration to get in the fight, as well as Congress. And we all need to be vigilant in this effort.
As some in the comments will, I am sure, remind me, criminals and terrorists will still get their hands on guns. Agreed. But should we be helping them? I mean, rapists don't stop committing rape because we made it illegal, but by making it illegal, it at least makes it harder for them to both do it and get away with it. Shouldn't we apply the same effort to keeping weapons that kill out of the hands of those who intend to, or don't effectively know what they're doing? Common sense folks.
Speaking of that, it is amazing how every time a Democrat is elected President Republicans seem to lose theirs en masse. Remember Bush's big speeches about defeating the terrorists. Well, now the law & order crowd on the Republican Right suddenly loves themselves some criminals and terrorists. They want to do all they can to arm them. Isn't it wonderful for the rest of us?
Which brings me back to where I began. It is starting to feel very 1995 out there. We must do all we can to hold our politicians to account, to do what they can to stop the madness. Starting with (but not ending with) closing the gun-show loophole. Because we all remember how 1995 ended up.