Image: Andy Kopsa
Outlawing the accessories that turn semi-automatic rifles into military-grade weapons won't hurt the NRA's bottom line. It won't stop mass shootings either. A gun expert explains.
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When I return from a long reporting trip I am typically thrilled to touch down at JFK. I know I am only an immigration-and-baggage-claim obstacle course away from the stinky yet welcoming confines of a yellow cab that will take me home to my bed for a 24-hour nap. But last week was different. When I touched down at JFK (from a reporting trip to Cambodia) and I switched on my phone there it was: 17 kids murdered at a Florida school. I wanted to stay on the plane and fly straight back out again.
I have written about guns for years. I love target shooting and I even love shooting with an AR-15, the weapon of choice of most mass shooters.
I have gone to gun shows and had people offer to sell me the gun off their back—no questions asked. No background check—that gaping loophole that the NRA and politicians deny exists. I have bought over 600 rounds of ammo at a time, and stained my thumb black loading them into magazine after magazine.
I have modified an AR with a bump stock (I nailed it in three minutes—that is all three minutes from semi-to-full-auto) and shot up a bunch of watermelons, soda cans, among other things, on a range in Kentucky.
If you want to talk about bump stocks, what they can do, how easy they are to get and how utterly unimportant they are when it comes to gun control, I’m your gal.
You see, that thing that Trump is doing now, his asking Jeff Sessions to take a look at the possibility of perhaps, down the road, if he has time, to consider the possibility of banning bump stocks?
If I may borrow from the words of the Parkland, Florida, kids: I call BS.
Never forget Trump sat smiling like a rotting satsuma in the Oval Office flashing an executive order, his signature still wet, overturning Obama’s ban on selling guns to people with a history of mental health conditions.
If we focus on what the NRA/GOP/Trump are selling—the banning of the bump stocks—we miss the bigger picture.
Right now there are bills that would make silencers legal, offer $200 tax rebates to those who purchased a silencer prior to 2015, and—the NRA granddaddy of them all—the concealed-carry reciprocity bill. If passed, this law means that I can stick a gun in my belt and carry my gun all over the U.S., unimpeded by state or local laws governing gun ownership. So if I am mentally unstable in, say, Florida which has no waiting periods to speak of and arguably some of the most lax gun laws on the books, and then head to California, which has some of the strictest laws including a 10-day waiting period, California has no right to check my ability to have a weapon under their laws. Read the bill for yourself and note the co-sponsors, including the Democrats.
Do not be fooled. This is big government. It is not conservatism. The chest-thumping states-rights supporters in D.C. who would vote for this bill cannot ever claim to be supporters of the Tenth Amendment again. This is a massive federal government overreach. But, logic has no place here.
Which brings me to Trump and that display at his “listening session” in D.C, in a controlled space where he is safe and sound and away from the enraged crowd that was justifiably loud and pointed-in-your-face during the televised town hall.
Safe and sound and surrounded by survivors and family of slaughtered kids and adults, Trump pushed the NRA-supported idea of arming teachers.
This is concealed carry all over the place. If you mandate public school teachers carry guns, that is a federal overreach. That is another form of reciprocity. And it is an asinine proposal that deserves to be met with vocal opposition—like massive student walkouts.
I have called bullshit since the NRA came out and said they were willing to consider a bump-stock ban after 58 people were murdered in Las Vegas. The shooter, in that case, had modified a completely legal AR-15 with a legal bump stock.
The intractable NRA open to “compromise” may seem like progress; Trump’s non-banning order to Attorney General Jeff Sessions gives the appearance of taking “action.”
But banning bump stocks will not curb mass shootings. Let’s consider that shooter in Las Vegas for a moment. Stephen Paddock had a perfect position to kill as many people as he wanted—breaking out windows in a high-rise casino kept him out of reach of the mythical “good guy with a gun.” He shot 1,100 rounds of ammo and killed 58 people and injured 851 in the span of 10 minutes. Banning the bump stock wouldn’t have stopped him. It wouldn’t have even slowed him down.
The only reason the NRA floated the idea of banning bump stocks after Vegas was to distract from the main issue: the room full of legally purchased semi-automatic rifles (SARs) and buckets and buckets of ammo available to literally anyone who wants to go on a shooting rampage.
Wayne LaPierre’s NRA, the complicit GOP, and Trump won’t do anything that would make an actual difference. The NRA owns the GOP. The NRA owns Trump. The NRA is holding all of us hostage while paying off our leaders to keep their boot on our neck.
My tone when writing about guns has gone from “both-side-ism” to “go fuck yourselfism” in a matter of years. I tried to see this thing from both sides—I mean, hell, I love to target shoot—the exhilaration and satisfaction I feel when I fix on the bull’s-eye, exhale, relax, and pull the trigger. How could I be so critical of the laws protecting the guns I like to shoot over, say, helpless first-graders? But the fact of the matter is, there aren’t “both sides” unless you consider “pro dead kids” a side.
These people live in a world that is “us” against “them.” They can watch kids slaughtered offer thoughts and prayers and defend the Second Amendment to the death and if you don’t believe like they do you are an anti-American ‘“libtard” who hates freedom. The “other side” of the gun control argument has bald eagles flying out their ass, a Dana Loesch tattoo, and they jerk off into a MAGA towel each night after saying a prayer to end abortion. They believe somehow that those of us who want gun control are going to personally take away their guns.
The NRA uses people, gun owners who think of themselves as die-hard patriots; those who believe Alex Jones’s lie that Sandy Hook was a hoax, the Parkland kids are actors and that America was so bad they had to “make it great again.” The NRA doesn’t respect these people except when the lobby needs their vote. At least Joe the Plumber—Sarah Palin’s go-to real American—had the gall to say in 2014 what they are all thinking: “Your dead kids don’t trump my Second Amendment rights.” These are not people deserving of respect, or a thoughtful, non-curse-word-laden debate. These are the people who believe Parkland kids are “crisis actors,” people Megan McCain rightfully called out on The View as “fringe” and “lunatics.”
Which brings me back to their dear leader, Donald Trump and his GOP. Do not let the media give him any credit for speaking out against bump stocks. It is meaningless.
I want to come back to my trip to Cambodia and leave you with this for your consideration. I spent over a week with a whip-smart teenager in Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital city. I will call her Sabaday. We were riding a bus down a narrow street on our way to another spectacular pagoda and she started talking politics. U.S. politics.
She told me she and friends—boys and girls—cried when they heard the news that Trump was elected president. They wanted Hillary to win.
“I feel sorry for the American people,” she told me. I asked her why she felt sorry for us?
“Because Trump doesn’t care about his people,” she said.
Sabaday is right: Trump doesn’t care about his people and he never will.
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