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Thursday, June 16, 2016

Guns are selling like hotcakes

by digby

I wrote about guns again for Salon this morning:

Back in 2000, Donald Trump published a book called “The America We Deserve” in which he endorsed the assault weapons ban and pointedly called out the GOP on the gun issue writing, “The Republicans walk the NRA line and refuse even limited restrictions.” After Sandy Hook in 2012, Trump tweeted “President Obama spoke for me and every American in his remarks in #Newtown Connecticut,” Those remarks included an emotional call for gun safety regulations. But since Trump announced his run for president, he’s been NRA all the way, with all that that implies.

He has fetishized guns daily on the stump, often pantomiming a quick draw and a sniper shot, insisting that the problem with gun violence is a simple matter of not enough people having enough guns. He says he is against all firearm or ammunition bans, including bans on assault rifles and proposes that concealed-carry permits be recognized in all 50 states. His answer to school shootings is to end the practice og gun-free zones anywhere. His full-throated support for the second amendment is one of center pieces of his rallies, and it’s always greeted with ecstatic cheering.

Last month, he was the recipient of the NRA endorsement where he appeared at their lavish convention and was greeted as a conquering hero. He gave one of his patented rambling rants showing that he hadn’t given the speech even five minutes of thought before delivering it. It came down to this:

Hillary’s pledge to issue new anti-gun executive orders. You know that. This is the behavior, you could say, of a dictator. This is the behavior of somebody frankly I think that doesn’t know what she’s doing. She’s not equipped to be president in so many different ways. But this is the thinking of a person that is not equipped to be the president of the United States. Believe me. She doesn’t understand it. Bad judgment.

The Second Amendment is on the ballot in November. The only way to save our Second Amendment is to vote for a person that you all know named Donald Trump. Okay? I will tell you.

I will never let you down. I will protect our Second Amendment. I will protect our country. Our military will be strong. Our border will be enforced.

The crowd went wild. It was a good thing the NRA had declared the auditorium in which he spoke to be a gun free zone or there is every chance some of these gun zealots would have exuberantly fired into the air like drunken cowboys.

One would have thought that NRA members, of all people, would be a little bit suspicious of Trump considering his past squishiness. But research into gun ownership may explain why he is so popular with this crowd despite all the cultural signals that would otherwise raise suspicions. This Washington Post article from a couple of months back explains that NRA gun culture is largely based on racial identity. And that’s what Trump is all about:

Filindra and Kaplan say their research does not imply that all white gun owners are racist, nor that all support for gun control carries racial baggage. But for a certain subset of white gun-rights supporters, particularly those who are inclined to hold certain prejudicial beliefs, messages about individualism and liberty and rights are understood in a very specific way. 
In the mind of this type of gun owner, "I am showing my white nationalist pride in a sort of generic way through gun ownership," Filindra posits. "This is my way of expressing my 'more-equal-than-others' status in a society where egalitarianism is the norm. I can’t say that some people are better and some are worse in terms of racial groups. But I can show it symbolically. I can show I'm a better citizen."
There are other studies going back decades which come to similar conclusions. For a certain minority of gun rights activists --- let’s call them Trump voters --- race is the motivating factor in their single-minded zeal. This second amendment fetish is a dog whistle. One can certainly see why they would look at this man as a leader of their cause despite his clear lack of gun zealot credibility.

In the wake of the Orlando massacre, Trump has behaved like a cretinous thug showing no empathy, no grace, no intelligence and no restraint in his comments. But he did seem to momentarily forget to dance with the gun nuts who endorsed him and on Wednesday morning betrayed his new NRA fanboys with a tweet:

The NRA calmly issued a statement:

We are happy to meet with Donald Trump. The NRA's position on this issue has not changed.
They went on to explain that they are against terrorists having guns and back the bogus, useless completely phony bill being pressed by Texas Senator John Cornyn which would simply impose a three day delay for anyone on the watch list and require the government to go to court to prove the person was actually a terrorist during that period. (If only these Republicans had the same concern for real civil liberties instead of this single obsession with the founders alleged belief that we are endowed by our Creator with the right to bear the Sig Sauer MCX semi-automatic rifle, also known as the “Black Mamba.”)

It is unknown if Trump wanted something different when he called the meeting but it’s doubtful he has any clue about any of this. The best guess is that the NRA will sell him some bilge about the Cornyn bill and he’ll be good to go.

At this writing the Democrats in the Senate, led by Chris Murphy of Connecticut have been filibustering for hours, talking non-stop to force the Republicans to act on legislation that would deny suspected terrorists from purchasing firearms and require universal background checks. There is talk of some sort of compromise forged between Cornyn and California Senator Dianne Feinstein but the talks had gone nowhere as of last night, with Cornyn reportedly unable to move off of the NRA script.

This is a dramatic response. There has never before been a filibuster over gun control. But we’ve had dramatic moments before in the wake of these gun massacres and the people with common sense inevitably hit that brick wall known as the NRA. They are so powerful, and the gun culture in this country is so ingrained, that we often end up making the situation even worse.

A typical headline after a mass shooting looks like this:
NC gun sales rise in wake of Orlando killings 
June is normally a slow month for gun sales in Charlotte. It was different Tuesday, when Hyatt Guns was filled with customers fearing further gun control in the wake of killings in Orlando.
It happens every time. And there is even more bad news. The New York Times had this depressing report this week:

Lots of gun laws are proposed in the aftermath of an attack, new research shows. But in terms of what actually is enacted, the results aren’t what you might expect.
In states where a mass shooting happened, 15 percent more gun-related bills were introduced in state legislatures, three Harvard Business School professors found in a working paper published last month. But in states with legislatures that were led by Democrats or divided between the parties, a mass shooting wasn’t followed by any statistically significant increase in gun laws enacted.
It was different in states with Republican-controlled legislatures. After a mass shooting, the number of laws passed to loosen gun restrictions rose by 75 percent. In other words, in places where mass shootings lead to any legislative changes at all, it tends to be in the direction of guns becoming more easily available, like lowering the minimum age to buy a handgun to 18 from 21 or eliminating a waiting period for a gun purchase.

So, common sense gun reforms are not enacted even in the wake of horrifying gun violence but looser gun laws are. No wonder the NRA is so smug every time we have one of the mass killings. They profit from them.

It’s always possible that the tide will turn and maybe Orlando is the beginning of a new era. One would have thought it wouldn’t take more than a mentally ill young man mowing down rooms full of tiny first graders but it didn’t make a difference. And you’ll have to forgive me if I’m cynical about the idea that these Republicans will change their minds because 49 mostly LGBT Latinos were killed. That’s just not a constituency likely to pry them away from their fealty to the NRA.

But it has to happen at some point. It’s impossible to believe that America can continue to accept that there is nothing to be done about the carnage we endure month after bloody month. A good place to start might be the total repudiation of the Republican Party which is single-handedly enabling it through their fealty to the pernicious NRA. Perhaps the inevitable Trump implosion will help that along in which case, for the first time, he will have done his country a true service and saved lives with his talent for spectacular failure.