Friday, January 18, 2013

The Lack of Civility in the Gun Control Debate

“NRA” is a four letter word to gun control advocates.

The Supreme Court in the famous defamation case of New York Times v. Sullivan recognized the “profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open, and that it may include vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials.”

That is certainly the case today with the debate over gun control in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy perpetrated by a crazed nutjob. The debate has long since past the stage of civility.

It actually began with the murder suicide of the Kansas City football player Jovan Belcher. Bob Costa at halftime of the Sunday Night Football Game read from an anti-gun column from Jason Whitlock wherein Whitlock referred to the NRA as the new KKK.

Then came Sandy Hook.

The Westchester Journal News, a Gannett publication, published and posted online the names and addresses of New York gun permit holders in Putnam, Rockland, and Westchester counties. Included in the postings were not just private figures, but also law enforcement officials, which put in danger their lives and those of their family members.

The outrage and “kickback” reflected itself in several ways. The paper ironically hired armed security guards to protect itself. It finally removed the postings earlier today, but the damage was done.

The new New York gun control statute enacted in response to Sandy Hook exempted gun permits from the state’s freedom of information act. The names and addresses are now confidential.

The Des Moines Register published a column by David Kaul. He proposed the government declare the NRA a terrorist organization and make membership illegal.

He recommended that the mere ownership of assault weapons be made a felony punished by the death penalty. I thought liberals were opposed to capital punishment.

He further wrote that “If some people refused to give up their guns, that ‘prying the guns from their cold, dead hands’ thing works for me.”

He saved the best for the Republican leaders: “Then I would tie Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, our esteemed Republican leaders, to the back of a Chevy pickup truck and drag them around a parking lot until they saw the light of gun control.”

That is uninhibited, robust, and wide open.

The violence in Hollywood movies and TV shows, and in video games, can create a culture of violence. A video game, posted on-line Monday on Encyclopedia Dramatica, is titled the anti-NRA “Bullet to the Head of the NRA.” The video game allows the player to draw a bead on the head of Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s director.

Liberals and the media were outraged two years ago in the 2010 midterm elections when Sarah Palin published a list of 20 Democratic Congressional districts with cross hair images. One of the Districts was tragically that of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. The idea of placing a bulls  eye on a Congressional district was started by Bob Beckel, a prominent Democratic strategist.

Still no media outcry against the vehemence of gun control advocates.

To the contrary, CBS’s Bob Schieffer joined the Rage Against the Gun: “Surely, finding Usama Bin Laden; surely, passing civil rights legislation, as Lyndon Johnson was able to do, and before that, defeating the Nazis, was a much more formidable task than taking on the gun lobby.”

The targeting of the NRA misses the mark. Many Democratic Senators and Representatives are scared of voting for gun control. They know that Vice President Gore lost the 2000 election not because of Florida, but because he could not carry either Tennessee or West Virginia. He lost Tennessee, his home state, because he favored gun control. He lost West Virginia because of his views on gun control and coal. Senator John Kerry in 2004 wanted to ensure voters knew he was against gun control be having a photo published of him hunting. He looked like Elmer Fudd.

Gun control is popular in blue states, but not red states. In addition, even in blue states, those in favor of guns tend to be single issue voters. Little political traction is gained by supporting gun control.

The extremism was shown earlier today by an ad sponsored by The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence against Georgia Democratic Congressman John Barrow. He ran an ad during 2012 showing his family guns. His ad was edited to show him saying “I’m John Barrow, and long before I was born, my grandfather used this little Smith and Wesson here.” The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence clipped out the critical ending to the sentence “TO HELP STOP A LYNCHING.”

Joyce Carol Oates tweeted new gun control legislation might be forthcoming "if sizable numbers of NRA members become gun-victims themselves."

Marg Helgenberger, formerly of CSI, tweeted back "One can only hope." 

Further outrage greeted an NRA ad earlier this week. The NRA’s ad pointed out the President’s daughters have armed security at their school, but the President has not supported armed security at all schools. The basis of the attacks on the NRA ad is that the President’s children should traditionally be off-limits. Note carefully though that the ad did not attack the two daughters, but the President’s position, calling him an “elitist hypocrite.” The degree of outrage indicates the NRA ad is effective. President Obama used four children as props in his press conference, trying to make gun control a new Children's Crusade.

Note also though that the media showed little restraint in reporting on the activities of President George W. Bush’s daughters, but joined in the trashing of Governor Palin’s family during the 2008 Presidential Election.

Hypocrisy and lack of civility abound in this debate about gun control.

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