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How to get a politician’s attention on gun control

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James Hohmann writes in the Washington Post:

THE BIG IDEA: When the National Rifle Association endorsed Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) for a ninth term last fall, the group noted that he’s consistently maintained an “A” rating and has been “solidly pro-gun.” Literature sent to members emphasized Turner’s opposition to expanding background checks and banning assault weapons, as well as his past vote to immunize gun manufacturers from liability and to force all states, regardless of their own laws, to recognize concealed carry permits issued anywhere else.

In the wee hours of Sunday morning, Turner’s daughter and a family friend had just entered the Tumbleweed Connection bar in Dayton when a gunman opened fire across the street.Nine people were killed, and 27 were injured. The congressman’s daughter ran home, as he prayed for her and the community.

On Tuesday afternoon, Turner announced that he’s had a change of heart on gun control. He said he would vote for an assault weapons ban, limits on the size of gun magazines and for a federal “red flag” law that would make it easier to “quickly identify people who are dangerous” so their firearms can be taken away.

“The carnage these military style weapons are able to produce when available to the wrong people is intolerable,” Turner said in a statement. “I understand not every shooting can be prevented or stopped from these measures, but I do believe these steps are essential. … This tragedy must become a catalyst for a broader national conversation about what we can do to stop these mass shootings.”

Why didn’t Turner think it was a “catalyst” for change when other people’s children had to run for their lives in cities that weren’t in his congressional district? It’s been 20 years since Columbine, with increasingly frequent and deadly mass shootings in places like Orlando, Las Vegas, Blacksburg, Va., Newtown, Conn., and Charleston, S.C.

A spokeswoman said Turner was not available for an interview and declined to answer follow-up questions from Colby Itkowitz, including whether the congressman regrets his votes in February against two bills that would strengthen background checks.

— Turner is not alone: He joins a sizable group of conservatives who were outspoken opponents of gun control until the issue hit close to home. Only then did they stand up to the powerful gun lobby. Consider these three examples:

Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.) received the NRA’s support and contributions when he got elected to Congress in 2016. A little over a year after he took office, one of the congressman’s personal friends was among the 17 people massacred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, where he had formerly lived. Aaron Feis was the assistant football coach, and he died while heroically ushering students to safety. Mast has said he decided during Feis’s funeral to call for a ban on “assault or tactical” firearms and for requiring background checks on all gun purchases, including online and private sales.

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R) also had an A-rating from the NRA. As a candidate for that office in 2016, he campaigned against background checks on private gun sales, talked about the safe full of guns he kept in his home and touted his votes against new gun laws in the state legislature. Then, two days after the Parkland shooting, police in Fair Haven, Vt., arrested a teenager for allegedly plotting to shoot up Fair Haven Union High School.

Authorities had been tipped off about a threatening Facebook message. When police searched his car, they found a shotgun, 17 rounds of ammunition and four books about school shootings. They also found a diary entitled, “The Journal of an Active Shooter,” according to court documents. In an interview, the young man allegedly told police that he wanted to “exceed the body count from the Virginia Tech shooting,” which had left 32 dead, “and that he had chosen his ammunition accordingly.”

“As I processed this information, I was shocked,” Scott explained in April 2018. “Just 24 hours before — even in the aftermath of Parkland — I thought, as the safest state in the nation, Vermont was immune to this type of violence. … Sitting there, I realized, only by the grace of God did we avert a horrific outcome.”

That caused the lifelong gun owner to “do some soul searching” and, just two months later, sign into law a trio of bills that banned the possession and sale of magazines holding more than 10 rounds for a long gun and 15 for a handgun. To ensure background checks on private gun sales, Scott also required that nearly all guns be bought and sold through a licensed firearm dealer, and he increased the minimum age to purchase weapons.

“I was wrong. And that’s not always easy to admit,” he said at the signing ceremony, as opponents of gun control chanted “Traitor!” and “BS!” while carrying signs that blared “Not My Governor” outside the State House.

The most famous example is Ronald Reagan. On the 10th anniversary of being shot, the former president wrote an op-ed endorsing the Brady Bill. The legislation was named for his White House press secretary, James Brady, who was wounded in the assassination attempt. Reagan pushed back on the NRA’s arguments against background checks. “This level of violence must be stopped,” the former president wrote in the New York Times. Nancy Reagan, who had been deeply traumatized by seeing her husband in the hospital and remained good friends with Brady’s wife Sarah, played a starring rolein her husband’s evolution.

Then, in 1994, Reagan teamed up with his old rival Gerald Ford — who had been lucky to avoid getting shot during two assassination attempts during his presidency — to endorse the assault weapons ban. “While we recognize that assault-weapon legislation will not stop all assault-weapon crime, statistics prove that we can dry up the supply of these guns, making them less accessible to criminals,” Reagan and Ford, along with Jimmy Carter, wrote in an op-ed for the Boston Globe. The bill passed the House by two votes, and multiple lawmakers cited personal lobbying from Reagan to explain why they had changed their earlier positions.

— It’s understandable that personal experience shapes people’s worldviews as much as anything else. But it can be problematic. When a crack epidemic was killing young black men in urban centers in the 1980s, white lawmakers from rural areas championed tough-on-crime policies that put junkies and dealers alike behind bars for long sentences. When the opioid epidemic came to their communities and started killing their neighbors and the children of their friends, many of these same politicians demanded a more compassionate approach that focused on treatment, not incarceration. That’s not a coincidence.

— There are exceptions, of course. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) has remained a stalwart opponent of new gun laws since getting shot during a congressional baseball team practice.

— Reality check: The assault weapons ban and limits on magazine size that Turner endorsed yesterday appear dead on arrival so long as Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is majority leader. Red flag laws are more likely to get through, but even that’s not assured to get 60 votes — unless there’s a sustained push from the president.

Supporters of universal background checks for gun purchases face a daunting reality in their demand for a snap Senate roll call: They don’t have the votes; not even close,” Paul Kane reports from the Capitol. “Just two Republican senators — Patrick J. Toomey (Pa.) and Susan Collins (Maine) — are on record in support of expanding background-check laws, specifically through a bill Toomey drafted with Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.). That bill, written after the December 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, contained several concessions designed to win support from Senate Republicans, such as allowing interstate sales of handguns among gun dealers. Now, quite a few Senate Democrats view the Manchin-Toomey bill as insufficient to deal with the mass violence that has grown worse since that failed 2013 effort. They are demanding a vote on the House version of the legislation, approved in February, which drops those concessions to conservatives.”

— There are additional examples of prominent conservatives who do not hold public office embracing gun control after experiencing mass shootings. Caleb Keeter, the lead guitarist of the Josh Abbott Band, performed at the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas a few hours before a gunman killed 58 people and wounded 546 more in 2017. “I’ve been a proponent of the 2nd amendment my entire life. Until the events of last night. I cannot express how wrong I was,” Keeter wrote afterward. “We actually have members of our crew with [concealed handgun licenses] and legal firearms on the bus. They were useless.”

The Texas-based musician continued: “Writing my parents and the love of my life a goodbye last night and a living will because I felt like I wasn’t going to live through the night was enough for me to realize that this is completely and totally out of hand. … We need gun control RIGHT. NOW. My biggest regret is that I stubbornly didn’t realize it until my brothers on the road and myself were threatened by it.”

— Breaking overnight: Documents indicate that the NRA planned to purchase a luxury mansion in the Dallas area last year for the use of chief executive Wayne LaPierre. Carol D. Leonnig and Beth Reinhard scoop: “The discussions about the roughly $6 million purchase, which was not completed, are now under scrutiny by New York investigators. The transaction was slated to be made through a corporate entity that received a wire of tens of thousands of dollars from the NRA in 2018. … The New York attorney general’s office is now examining the plan for an NRA-financed mansion as part of its ongoing investigation into the gun lobby’s tax-exempt status. … One property that was considered, according to a person familiar with the plans, was a 10,000-square-foot French country estate with lakefront and golf course views. The four-bedroom, nine-bath home in a gated golf course community northwest of Dallas resembles a French chateau, with a stately boxwood-lined drive, a formal courtyard, vaulted ceilings and an antique marble fireplace. …

The discussions … in 2018 came as the NRA was in deepening financial trouble: The nonprofit was on track to run a deficit for a third year in a row, had cut back dramatically on its core mission of gun safety and legislative work and frozen its employee pension plan. … The origins of the idea to buy the mansion, its proposed purpose and the reason the deal never went through are now being fiercely disputed by the NRA and its longtime ad firm, Ackerman McQueen, which are locked in a bitter legal fight. … Ackerman McQueen said LaPierre had sought the ad firm’s assistance with the real estate transaction, a proposal it said alarmed company officials. … For their part, NRA officials said that the real estate purchase was suggested in early 2018 by Ackerman McQueen as an investment that would be managed by the ad firm’s top executives — and that it was ultimately rejected by top NRA leaders. …

Leaked documents show that the NRA paid $542,000 for private jet trips for LaPierre, including a trip to the Bahamas with his wife after the Sandy Hook shooting and an array of Italian designer suits as well as the rent for a summer intern’s apartment. The expenses were first paid by Ackerman McQueen, which then billed the NRA as part of its multimillion-dollar annual contract. … LaPierre received a salary of $1.37 million for his role as executive vice president in 2017, plus an additional $67,289 in compensation, according to the NRA’s latest tax filing.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

7 August 2019 at 11:38 am

Posted in Congress, Daily life, GOP, Guns

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