Republicans on Guns: Profiles in Cowardice

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Somebody should write a sequel to Profiles in Courage and call it Profiles in Cowardice.

I’d fill the first chapter with members of Congress who are lackeys for the gun lobby – lawmakers who line their pockets with lucre from the NRA and other pro-gun groups and reward their grubstakers by keeping gun control laws off the books.

Almost all the politicians who enjoy gun lobby largesse—and vote accordingly—are Republicans.

The GOP pledges allegiance to the NRA as the top gun group. Right on cue, the party bigwigs are crooning the NRA tune in the wake of the Florida schoolhouse shooting that left 17 people dead and 14 more wounded.

The slain include 14 students, a teacher, a football coach, and the school athletic director, according to CNN.

The standard Republican response

In Washington, the Republican brass is trotting out its stock post-school-slaughter attack line against the Democrats: The opposition is “politicizing” yet another tragedy.

House Speaker Paul Ryan is especially sizzling with self-righteousness. How dare the Democrats talk about gun control and “roll the conversation into taking away a law-abiding citizen’s rights,” he harrumphed.

Never mind that that bullet-spraying teen permanently abridged the rights of 17 innocent Floridians. His weapon was an AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle, a civilian first cousin to the military’s M-16.

Not surprisingly, the Trumpian-NRA-pro-gun extremists are in full cry nationwide. We’ve seen this rodeo, too. They bray that the Democrats want to abolish the Second Amendment, and yip that that any gun control will inevitably lead down that “slippery slope” to complete gun confiscation.


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The U.S. is drowning in guns

Meanwhile, as the country again focuses on the horror of a school shooting, Vox’s German Lopez points out that by a wide margin, the U.S. leads the rest of the developed world in gun homicides.

“The US is far and away the most violent — in large part due to the easy access many Americans have to firearms,” he wrote.

There are six times as many gun murders in the U.S. as in Canada, and almost 16 times as many as in Germany. “Why?” Lopez asked. “Extensive reviews of the research by the Harvard School of Public Health’s Injury Control Research Center suggest the answer is pretty simple: The US is an outlier on gun violence because it has way more guns than other developed nations.”

Americans comprise 4.4 percent of the world’s population and possess nearly half of all civilian-owned guns, according to Lopez.

Related story: Bevin’s wrong – it really is the guns

The NRA owns the GOP

Even while a majority of U.S. citizens want comnon-sense gun laws passed, the NRA and the other gun groups keep paying Republicans handsomely to block even small potatoes gun control legislation, thereby ensuring the prosperity of the gun lobby’s big-time bankrollers: gun manufacturers.

In the 1930s, anti-war groups condemned World War I armaments makers and sellers as “merchants of death.” I’d like to see the label resurrected and stuck on the gun companies, the gun lobby, and their lickspittles in Congress.

Among House Republicans, Paul Ryan laps the most milk from the gun lobby cash cow: nearly $172,000 for his reelection campaign in 2016, according to OpenSecrets.org.

In 2016, gun groups ponied up plenty for a quintet of Kentucky Republicans: Sen. Rand Paul ($143,690) and Congressmen James Comer ($5,700), Andy Barr ($2,750) Hal Rogers ($7,400) and Brett Guthrie ($3,000), OpenSecrets revealed.

Related story: How much gun lobby money our electeds took in

Ninety-nine percent of NRA cash went to House and Senate Republicans, OpenSecrets reported.

And the NRA spent $14.5 million on GOP ads in 2016, including $11.4 million lavished on Trump, according to Quartz.

Meanwhile, the whole world keeps watching and wondering. How can the national government of the richest and most powerful country on earth do nothing to stop a pandemic of gun murders, many of them committed with powerful firearms that would be restricted to law officers and armed forces in other nations?

And after yet another schoolhouse massacre, the party that controls all three branches of that government predictably offers nothing but more calls to prayer and more hollow nostrums about gun owners’ “rights.”

“Mr. President, why does this keep happening to America? Will you do something about guns?” a CNN reporter shouted at Trump as he retreated from a White House podium where he made a statement about the shooting. He did not answer the reporter.

After he visited the victims in the hospital in Florida, reporters asked him if the country needed new gun laws. Again, he walked off without answering, The Huffington Post reported.

The president is a proven serial liar, pathological or otherwise. But he told the truth twice.  “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters,” he said at a January, 2016, rally in Iowa. “You came through for me, and I am going to come through for you,” he promised the NRA convention last April.

The Republican reaction to the Florida tragedy is more proof—as if proof were needed—that the gun lobby is getting a big bang for their buck with the Republicans who run the whole show – in the capital of the country that leads the league in both gun-toting and gun homicides by a country mile.

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Berry Craig
Berry Craig of Mayfield is a professor emeritus of history at West Kentucky Community College in Paducah and an author of five books on the Civil War in Kentucky. The last one, published by the University Press of Kentucky, is Kentucky’s Rebel Press: Pro-Confederate Media in the Civil War. His critically-acclaimed Kentucky Confederates: Secession, Civil War, and the Jackson Purchase, also from the University Press, has been reprinted in paperback.