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Trigger warning

Our gun problem isn't going away

I have been writing this column for more than 10 years—first for TulsaPeople and now for The Tulsa Voice—which has resulted in more than 200 pieces on topics ranging from prostatectomies, to escorting patients through abortion clinic parking lots, to a trip to Iceland (twice), to roughly eight columns dedicated to guns in Oklahoma and America.

I am, more often than not, flummoxed about how the conversation around firearms has been hijacked by gun-toting blowhards who like intimidating people in parks, astonished at unlicensed plumbers who wax poetically about the constitutional boundaries of the Second Amendment, furious about how indurate spokespeople from gun lobbies go after families of the dead, and overwhelmed by the sheer number of guns in America.

There are more than 393 million civilian-owned firearms in the United States, or enough for every man, woman and child to own one and still have 67 million guns left over. (Washington Post)

From the soullessness of the National Rifle Association, to the preening of gun fetishists strapped with automatic weapons to buy a package of Double Stuffed Oreos; to the cravenness of manufacturers who believe bullet-proof backpacks will save our children; to the protestations of bought legislators who suggest arming high school chemistry teachers as the best defense against mass shooters; to the debunked (how many times already?) notion that a nation’s safety is contingent on its level of gun ownership—there is no issue that hovers over America with quite the pall.

So why a ninth column on the subject?

Because, when it comes to guns in America, something is happening to the gravitational pull.

Let’s start with the dark bulge of the mothership, the NRA.

When it comes to muzzling politicians on gun control and stymying regulations in Congress, the public often credits the group with near-omnipotence. It’s an easy argument to make when lawmakers offer ‘thoughts and prayers’ in the wake of gun violence but shy away from legislative action. They also tend to have a pecuniary interest in protecting the NRA’s aims. (Newsweek)

Liberal sentiments had to be drowned.

Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose. (The Atlantic)

I lied. That’s not a liberal sentiment—it’s from former associate justice of the Supreme Court, the late and very conservative Antonin Scalia.

The extent to which the lies of the NRA have metastasized into our lives and gummed up all sanity about legislation is easy to see. Since the massacre at Sandy Hook, more than 100 pieces of gun legislation have failed in Congress. Not one reform has passed.

Don’t worry, though. There’s always this.

Keep you and your family safe where you study, work, travel, and play with a Bulletproof Backpack or Backpack Armor. (bulletproofzone.com)

Lately, though, the NRA appears to be imploding. Oliver North resigned as its president after he threatened to release embarrassing and perhaps criminal information on chief executive Wayne LaPierre (and it’s hard to imagine two guys who deserve each other more); the NRA sued its own advertising agency, Oklahoma’s own Ackerman McQueen, for financial shenanigans, which motivated the agency to countersue the NRA for having its reputation smeared (the schadenfreude is truly delicious); the agency’s television station, NRA TV, was shut down; and Dana Loesch, whose despicableness is in a league of its own—she put KKK hoods on Thomas & Friends cartoon figures and called gun safety advocates “tragedy dry humping whores”—was fired.

It got so bad LaPierre needed a new place to live.

The chief executive of the National Rifle Association sought to have the nonprofit organization buy him a luxury mansion last year after a mass shooting at a Florida high school, selecting a French country-style estate in a gated Dallas-area golf club, according to
multiple people familiar with the discussions.
(The New York Times)

And if that all weren’t enough—and it was—there was this:

The National Rifle Association acted as a ‘foreign asset’ for Russia in the period leading up to the 2016 election, according to a new investigation unveiled Friday by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. Drawing on contemporaneous emails and private interviews, an 18-month probe by the Senate Finance Committee’s Democratic staff found that the NRA underwrote political access for Russian nationals Maria Butina and Alexander Torshin more than previously known — even though the two had declared their ties to the Kremlin. (NPR)

Remember that next time you pass the organization’s American flag-adorned booth at the State Fair or gun show.

Then on Nov. 12, this happened:

The Supreme Court cleared the way on Tuesday for relatives of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims to sue the Remington Arms Company, the maker of the rifle used in the massacre. (New York Times)

Let us now head to Idabel, Oklahoma:

On the evening of the Kentucky fundraiser, another Friends of NRA chapter was holding a fundraising event — this one featuring real guns — at Kiamichi Technology Center, a vocational-technical campus in Idabel, Okla. The school has hosted the event for 20 years without any apparent controversy, according to attendees and organizers. But when contacted by The Post, school officials said Friends of NRA had not obtained the required permission to display actual firearms. (Washington Post)

According to an NRA video, accompanying the fundraiser, the Grand Poobah may even show up at your home.

‘You never know who may show up that night — even Wayne LaPierre may come walking through the doors to greet attendees,’ the narrator says, referring to the chief executive of the NRA.

Keep in mind, the Friends of the NRA are not using these fundraisers to help schools—imagine a bake sale with Glocks—but to raise money for, wait for it, the NRA.

That money is the leading source of cash for the NRA Foundation, a charity that supports the shooting sports. … The events combine the efforts of what organizers say are 13,000 volunteers with the NRA’s multimillion-dollar marketing machine. They are family-focused by design, helping to cultivate the next generation of gun owners and NRA members.

You cultivate crops, not human beings, but no need to worry, for no gun was actually harmed in the making of the fundraiser.

This time organizers showed only pictures, bowing to objections from parents who pointed to a shooting at another western Kentucky high school last year that left two students dead and more than a dozen wounded. (Washington Post)

It’s not just schools. This happened a few years back:

The Bixby Cubs, a baseball team for boys 11 and under, is selling raffle tickets to win an AR-15 rifle as part of a fundraiser. (Tulsa World)

This past Nov. 1 in Oklahoma, House Bill 2957 went into effect, which made it easier for state residents 21 and older to carry concealed or unconcealed firearms. The background check to a get a cellphone in the state is more comprehensive. This, by the way, was one of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s first acts after being sworn into office, because apparently there was nothing else in the state more pressing at the time than making sure one of those aforementioned Oreo-desiring-AR-15-carrying Oklahomans would no longer be inconvenienced when walking down the cookie aisle.

So where does all this leave us?

On one hand, you have the pre-eminent national gun organization in the country unraveling, showing itself to be even more of a rapacious canker sore than we imagined, a Supreme Court willing to hold gun manufacturers as liable for their actions in selling weapons as we hold bartenders for theirs in serving too many shots of Jameson Whiskey, and the fact that 89 percent of Americans favor some kind of gun legislation (the U.S. has a higher rate of violent gun death than Afghanistan and Iraq). On the other, you have local communities across the nation more than willing to come to the financial aid of the NRA in its time of need, and politicians, including those from Oklahoma, continuing to act like Pavlov’s salivating dogs every time the association and/or its apologists ring the bell. The “head” of guns in America may be slowly withering, but the body is still alive, well, boisterous, and armed.

No matter many times the argument gets rehashed, how many times you wring your hands, how many times you see photos of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Pulse Nightclub, the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas, Sandy Hook Elementary School, and Santa Clarita—nor how many times you write about it—it’s never enough to keep up.

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