Jim Jenkins

Politicians must stand up to NRA - Jenkins

National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre has led efforts to block stronger gun laws. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre has led efforts to block stronger gun laws. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey) AP

You can see the weariness on the faces of the few senators and U.S. House members who have dared in the past to speak of gun control. And no wonder. Following the worse mass shooting in the history of the United States — 50 people dead, including the murderer, who wounded 53 more in an Orlando nightclub — it’s as if even the once-bold advocates of stronger gun control laws just don’t want to repeat their perfectly sane arguments for such laws, because they could recite verbatim the responses they’d get:

“The laws are strong enough.”

“Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.”

“We must protect the Second Amendment.”

“If more people were armed, this wouldn’t happen.”

Some of those Democrats in Congress will come forward now, of course, but they already know how the story will end. They’ll try to strengthen laws on background checks, maybe talk about more registration. Their proposal will be reasonable, trying to prevent the sale of assault rifles to people such as Omar Marteen, the young man who went utterly crazy in that nightclub for reasons still unfolding. They might even try to ban the sale of assault guns, as there was a ban of sorts in effect — Republicans allowed it to expire — between 1994 and 2004.

But of course, the National Rifle Association will muster its financial might and intimidate any lawmaker currently in its pocket who dares to wander toward reason. And that lawmaker and lots of others will cower and return to the NRA’s embrace. If there are some who dare to break with the gun lobby, the NRA will spend whatever it takes to drive the infidel from office.

The Democrats and like-minded Republicans ought to try anyway, of course. But if action falls short after 20 children die in a gun massacre by another madman in Newtown, Conn., in a school for God’s sake, then this story is going to end just like that one did. Lots of talking, lots of pleas for reason, but virtually no action toward more responsible gun control.

So what about those four predictable responses? The laws are strong enough? If they are, why do these things keep happening. Guns don’t kill people, people kill people? People with guns kill people. The Second Amendment? It was created in a time of militias and wilderness and a time of sparse population when people needed to protect their families — assault rifles weren’t part of the culture. If more people are armed, this wouldn’t happen. Just what we need. More guns, more accidents involving children and innocent bystanders.

Republicans don’t like this, because this is the guy credited with being the father of “modern conservatism,” but that’s a good reason to invoke the long-ago comments on automatic weapons from one Sen. Barry Goldwater, of Arizona: “I’m completely opposed to selling automatic rifles. I don’t see any reason why they ever made semi-automatics. I’ve been a member of the NRA, I collect, make and shoot guns. I’ve never used an automatic or semiautomatic for hunting. There’s no need to. If any S.O.B. can’t hit a deer with one shot, then he ought to quit shooting.”

So now we wait. Which politicians — we’ll take a senator, a House member, a governor, even a city council member — will stand up this time and face yet another assault from the gun lobby? Some will. Oh, yes, some will. And the people will respond as they have in the past in poll after poll after poll, with overwhelming support for stronger gun laws.

But after fighting the good fight, our politicians will go down, of course. And the battle will end the same way it always does. Then, it will just be a matter of time until the next American nightmare.

Jenkins: 919-829-4513 or jjenkins@newsobserver.com