A Flea in the Fur of the Beast

“Death, fire, and burglary make all men equals.” —Dickens

Tag: nra

A Consensus Is Building On Fighting The NRA

by evanmcmurry


Profit is what gives the NRA its real power; it lobbies less for the rights of its membership than for the right of weapons manufacturers to make a pile…You want to eliminate the guns? Take the profit out of them. Take the fight to the people who make the weapons, not to the people who sell them or the people who buy the politicians so that selling them will be easier. Take the fight to the huge media conglomerates that profit from what you perceive to be dehumanizing media spectaculars. Make guns — or bullets, as Chris Rock once argued — so expensive that people simply stop buying them. Haul the CEOs of the gun companies in front of Congress and the odd grand jury. Make the game not worth quite so much of the candle.

We have bought with our entire national soul the notion that the sale of anything legal in this country exists in a morality-free zone that protects the product from the consequences of its use. But that formulation broke down on tobacco. It can break down on guns.


Cerberus’ investors are indirect owners of Bushmaster, the company that made the weapon that brought evil to Newtown, Conn. It is time to determine pension fund by pension fund who has invested in Cerberus and bring pressure on those investors either to get out of Cerberus or have Cerberus change the way it runs the gun industry. If a major union pension fund or university endowment has an investment with Cerberus, it surely doesn’t want to be tarred as a passive owner of the company that sells semi-automatic weapons with no background checks or concern for the use of the weapons. Those investors have enormous leverage over the Cerberus. And all those investors collectively, if they spoke with one voice to the management team at Cerberus, could wield vast power. Ownership has both responsibility and power. It is time for every comptroller and pension fund manager with an investment in Cerberus to use that power.

And it is time for those of us on the “outside” to find out who those investors are, so that we can prod them to act. Every student at a university should ask the university if it is invested in Cerberus. Every member of a union should ask their pension-fund managers if they are invested. Information is the key first step. From there, action will quickly follow.

If this guy is right—and it would be the first time in ESPN history that one of their mouth machines was—then the gun industry cares more about the “industry” part of that name than the “gun” part. Perhaps those of us who have been focused on gun control really have been looking at it the wrong way. It’s not a legislative issue; it’s a profit issue. Coupled with meaningful legislation (ban on assault rifles, closing the gun show loophole, restricting large magazine sales), financial pressure might make a difference.

UPDATE (11:45 am): Looks like Cerberus is way ahead of all of you:

An investment firm that owns several major firearms manufacturers, including the company that produces the assault rifle used in last week’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, announced this morning that it intends to put its entire firearms portfolio up for sale.

“It is apparent that the Sandy Hook tragedy was a watershed event that has raised the national debate on gun control to an unprecedented level,” Cerberus Capital Management said in its statement. “It is not our role to take positions, or attempt to shape or influence the gun control policy debate… There are, however, actions that we as a firm can take. Accordingly, we have determined to immediately engage in a formal process to sell our investment in Freedom Group.”

[…] According to Fortune’s Dan Primack, Cerberus’ sale of Freedom Group is “not a financial decision,” as the holding company’s value is “artificially low,” and a buyer will be hard to find.

However, it is worth noting that the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, one of Cerberus’ largest investors, said yesterday that it would review its indirect investment in Freedom Group in light of the Newtown tragedy.

There’s some strategery in there I’m not seeing, but still, it’s a start. Also, WTF, teachers retirement system?

There Are Now More Mass Shootings Than The Media Can Focus On

by evanmcmurry

It is either a) chance or b) the inevitable result of a society with absolutely dysfunctional relationship to guns that the occurrence of one mass shooting is drawing media attention away from the processing of a prior mass shooting, which, until Sunday afternoon, had been the mass shooting story of the day. (We have those now!) What are the odds that both mass shooting stories would hit in the same 12-hour period? Answer: increasingly great. The last mass shooting was two weeks ago in Aurora, CO; since then, two different attempts have been foiled; the mass shooting previous to Aurora occurred only three days before; that one didn’t even get coverage, as no one was killed, though more than a dozen were injured.

If these shootings keep up, we’re gonna need a bigger media just to report on them all.

Also: As usual, the internet’s way ahead of us.

Also: gun control, anyone?

“Guns Don’t Kill People, I Do”

by evanmcmurry

Breaking, via WaPo:

Authorities have arrested a man who referred to himself as “a joker” and threatened to shoot people at his former workplace in Prince George’s County, investigators said Friday.

“I am a joker. I’m going to load my guns and blow everybody up,” the man said over the phone to a man at Pitney Bowes, according to a warrant.

[…] Police there found more than 20 rifles and handguns and 40 steel boxes of ammunition at his home, the investigators said.

The day he was arrested, he wore a T shirt that said “Guns don’t kill people. I do.”

Photo on the right shows the guns found in Mr. Joker’s house. They’re for hunting and target practice, I’m sure.

So it’s good to know that the NRA’s bumper-sticker argument against gun control is now being used as a bragging right of people who would attempt mass shootings. I would love to hear the NRA’s response to this, except they’ve somehow gotten a pass on saying anything about mass shootings; to my knowledge, the organization has yet to speak so much as a word about the Aurora, CO, shootings, including any comment on the fact that all of James Holmes’s weapons were purchased legally. So somehow the organization most responsible for people like James Holmes and our new friend having possession of automatic weapons used in mass shooting is also the organization held least responsible for the consequences. How does that work, again?

This is the second guy in a week to be arrested with an arsenal in his possession. He’s the second guy in three days to be stopped in the midst of planning a shooting following the Aurora spree. Have things maybe—maybe?—gotten to the point at which we can begin to put pressure on the NRA to explain, if they’re going to so aggressively fight any form of gun restrictions, whether they have any ideas on how to reduce gun violence, and if not, whether it might be time to reevaluate their influence in the gun debate?

The NRA is one of the most powerful lobbying groups in the country, but even their power must have limits. Take a look at the photo above. Can we please make that the limit?

Obama Calls For Gun Control, If By “Call” You Mean “Does Nothing”

by evanmcmurry

Here’s the headline:

Obama calls for more steps to curb violence, including gun control

Holy crap, he did?!?

Here’s the body:

Acknowledging sensitivity of the issue, he said he nonetheless believes that even gun owners would agree “that AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of children.” He offered no specific proposals but referred to background checks to prevent criminals and fugitives from purchasing weapons, and preventing guns from getting into the hands of the mentally unbalanced. Previous efforts to do the same have been thwarted by political opposition and the reluctance of sympathetic elected officials to take on the National Rifle Assn., among the nation’s most potent lobbying forces.

So, no, he didn’t. Back to work, everybody. (via LA Times)

Guns Don’t Kill People, Lack of Proper Mental Health Treatment Kills People

by evanmcmurry

Good side note about the gun control debate:

Second, if the world is full of loons who want to kill their fellow man and we are not allowed to take away their guns (indeed, we are required to give them every possible tool for upping the body count) then I have an alternative. Congress should pass a law that anyone in the U.S., resident or otherwise, can present himself at any hospital, religious institution, or police/fire department and request immediate inpatient psychiatric care at no cost and with legal protection against job loss for missed time. People don’t snap and become killers overnight; it is usually a long process of isolation, depression, plotting, and desensitization to violence. Why not attempt to intervene when they first have the thought, “Maybe I should kill a bunch of people in a theater” rather than letting it progress to the point that the idea is palatable, even normal? Of course this wouldn’t help everyone. There are those who would not accept mental health treatment even at no cost. However, it would stop a few people who might otherwise become violent. Seems like it might be worth the cost, no?

The “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” argument assumes a functional apparatus for treating mental health problems; we don’t have that. But if, as some governors would have us believe, mentally unstable people will kill no matter the weapons, then shouldn’t we be focused on treating the mentally unstable people? If the NRA was serious about its own logic, this would be the next step, no? So we’ll be waiting for their proposal to fund advancements in mental health treatment as a means of reducing gun violence, which I’m sure is imminent. (h/t Gin and Tacos)

A Kinda-Plausible Scenario In Which We Could Conceivably Revive Gun Control (But Probably Not)

by evanmcmurry

Roger Ebert goes full despair over the depressing unlikelihood that a single aspect of our gun laws will change as a result of the Aurora shootings, while E.J. Dionne gives an excellent rundown of the exact ways the NRA will deflect even the most basic charges against gun ownership. Both are protesting more in sorrow than anger; neither thinks anything will be accomplished (and neither do I, frankly; what follows is less an actual theory than thinking aloud).

But! Buried way below the lede of the Dionne’s piece is this:

Sure, there are some dissenters. Many of the nation’s mayors, led by Mike Bloomberg of New York and Tom Menino of Boston, have tried to organize a push for carefully tailored laws aimed at keeping guns out of the wrong hands. But they are the exceptions. President Obama has done little to challenge the NRA, and yet it attacks him anyway.

Catch that last part? Since before even taking office, Obama has the NRA’s enemy #1. The NRA even set up a website called GunBanObama.com, which warned that Obama would be “the most anti-gun president in history.” In response, guns sales skyrocketed in the months leading up to Obama’s inauguration—by 60% in some states—despite the fact that nobody in their right mind thought Obama would go anywhere near gun control.

And he didn’t: in fact, Obama has actually loosened gun laws while in office. To deal with the cognitive dissonance that was destined to result from Obama doing the opposite of what the NRA warned everybody he would do, the organization pulled the classic cognitive dissonance move and doubled down: Obama, according to the NRA, will be in his second term what they feared from his first. NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre recently warned of a “conspiracy to ensure re-election by lulling gun owners to sleep.” Conspiracy is his word, not mine, but it’s a necessary one: the amount of statergery necessary to maintain a pro-gun first administration only to mollify enemies in order to sneak attack them in the second is worthy of parody, and has already received it. Yet, in one of the only instances in the past four years in which Romney has spoken unequivocally about something, he endorsed this nonsense:

Mitt Romney drew a warm reception from the National Rifle Assn. on Friday as he attacked President Obama for “employing every imaginable ruse and ploy” to restrict gun rights, which Romney pledged not to do if elected in November…“In a second term, he would be unrestrained by the demands of re-election,” Romney told a crowd estimated at 6,000 in the cavernous Edward Jones Dome. “As he told the Russian president last month when he thought no one else was listening, after a re-election he’ll have a lot more, quote, ‘flexibility’ to do what he wants.  I’m not exactly sure what he meant by that, but looking at his first three years, I have a very good idea.”

Long crazy short: the NRA already thinks Obama’s going to go for gun control in his second term; they’re already mobilizing their base over this theory; they’re already supporting some candidates and attacking others under this theory. The political landscape, for all intents and purposes, is currently operating under the assumption that Barack Obama will go nuts on gun restrictions in t-minus six months. Which raises the question: what exactly do Obama and the Democrats have to lose by not going after gun control?


Obama’s presided over a lot of mass shootings. Fort Hood, Tucson, Chadron, Seal Beach, now Aurora, to name just the ones off the top of my head, for a total of 42 dead and 114 wounded. That’s 1.25 major mass shootings per year of his presidency, minimum, and Aurora now counts as the biggest shooting in American history. And these are just the mega shootings, to say nothing of the thousands of gun deaths a year as a result of run-of-the-mill crime, accidents, or stupidity. The Brady Campaign’s list of mass shootings under Obama’s administration is 41 pages long. The most recent shooting listed happened in Tulsa, OK, with 17 people injured. It occurred three days ago.

Doesn’t a president who loosened gun restrictions at some point bear some responsibility for the gun deaths under his tenure?  Obama’s gotten a complete pass on gun deaths 2009-present for a variety of legitimate reasons—one being, yes, that the executive has little actual control over gun laws, which are congressional and state affairs—paramount of which is that the gun control argument is presumed so lost that nobody believes he could do anything about it if he wanted to.

That was then. We’ve suffered a lot of shootings since 2009. There may be a bigger stomach for gun restrictions now than there was in 2009. There’s the fact that the Aurora shooter’s guns were all purchased legally, driving home that our laws really are enabling the preparations of these shooters. And, perhaps most important, there’s the fact that, unlike the Fort Hood shooting, which was largely marginalized as a intra-military event, and the Tucson shooting, which was seen, rightly or wrongly, as political act, the Aurora shooting was a populist affair: we all go to the movies, and most of us are going to see The Dark Knight Rises. The Aurora shooting, more than any others recently, is reminiscent of the Oklahoma City Bombing in its “it can happen anywhere” quality.

That quality may make the real consequences of gun violence felt more palpably across the general populace. This is no longer a school campus issue, or a military problem, or an issue of political rhetoric. Regardless of what James Holmes’s motivations turn out to be, movie theaters—a “home” of a “joyful pastime” in Christopher Nolan’s inadequate words—have been weaponized, legally, and with the full support of the NRA, whose “guns don’t kill people” argument now has to contend with the fact that James Holmes would have shot approximately 1/15 of those people without an AK-47-type firearm.

Consider also that, assuming Obama is reelected and the Democrats hold on to the Senate, early 2013 will be the furthest removed from electoral politics as one could get; if there’s a time to test the waters on gun control, that’s it. Here’s Dionne on the sub-presidential politics:

There are many reasons for this politics of timidity, not the least being a United States Senate that vastly overrepresents rural voters relative to suburban and urban voters. (The electoral college overrepresents rural voters, too.) Add to this a Republican Party that will bow low before any anti-government argument that comes along, and a Democratic Party petrified of losing more rural support — and without any confidence that advocates of tougher gun laws will cast ballots on the basis of this issue.

I don’t know well enough the specifics of gun control at the district level to tell if Dionne is simplifying this; I imagine gun politics are more complicated and influential than “a rural side issue.” It’s true that gun rights barely registers as an issue voters care about in 2012 polls, but that may be because the NRA has so effectively neutralized it as a political issue; it might also be because the economy is overwhelming. But in 2013, electoral politics will still be 1.5 years away. Yes, the NRA and plenty of money and will to remind voters in October of 2014 how a Democratic legislator voted on gun control in January 2013. But if Dionne is right, and the NRA has maxed out the marginal utility of people who vote on gun issues, the Democrats might not actually suffer very much from a vote on gun restrictions.


All of which is to say that the NRA may have overplayed its hand the past few years. The organization has potentially hit the ceiling of its electoral support; a scared gun owner can purchase multiple weapons out of fear, but he can only vote once. And since the NRA is acting as if Obama has already passed the restrictions he hasn’t even proposed, they may have given him an opening to become the exact type of gun control proponent they have spent so much time convincing people he is. If the political landscape in 2013 is one in which 100% of the NRA’s members are already 100% against Obama, he has nothing to gain in catering to them. Rather than prod Obama with reasons to continue to appease their lobby, they’ve granted him every excuse to ignore them completely.

The variable that’s left is whether the public is fed up enough with mass shootings that they’re willing to entertain some modest gun restrictions without freaking out about tyranny and the rest—in short, without being susceptible to the NRA’s yelling <paranoid>Second Amendment</paranoid> on every street corner. In this sense, Dionne’s and Ebert’s articles are good starts. The more people speak out about not only the sorrow of the tragedy but its agonizing preventability—the fact that it didn’t need to have happened if only we were slightly smarter and more cautious about firearms—the more gun control becomes a reasonable response rather than a pipe dream. If this line is repeated as much as cries of “Second Amendment” are, we might return this issue to the realm of debate.

It’s a long shot, but it’s just possible that January 2013 could see the exact intersection of public support, electoral willpower, and NRA impotence that makes the revival of gun control a reality.

Addendum: Neat, depressing fact: gun sales have grown so much under Obama’s administration that when Perry was in the lead of the GOP primary, some gun manufacturers began to fret that Mr. I Shoot Wolves While Jogging would actually be bad for business.