Gun violence in this country is a raging epidemic, snuffing out the lives of more than 30,000 Americans each year and leaving a bleak trail of unfathomable pain and suffering in its wake. The New York Times Editorial Board has had enough, definitively calling out Trump and the rest of the Republican Party for being servants of the gun lobby, slavish in their devotion to the NRA’s every whim to the detriment of public safety.
President Obama recently asked for “full and fair attention by this year’s presidential candidates so that all of them might rationally address genuine public concerns.” At the same time, in hopes of confronting “America’s intolerable levels of gun violence, with Congress refusing to pass hugely popular gun-safety measures,” the president issued a [modest] set of executive orders “to expand background checks for firearms and step up federal enforcement of the nation’s gun laws.” These reasonable actions were met with a vicious outpouring of conspiratorial fear-mongering from conservatives, some of whom were heartless enough to attack the president for shedding tears over murdered schoolchildren.
In what the Times board is calling “remarkable for its contrast to Mr. Obama’s defense of his own modest gun proposals,” Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump, pandering to the gun rights crowd at a Vermont rally Thursday, promised to strike down laws that bar firearms from schools:
“My first day, it gets signed, O.K.?…My first day. There’s no more gun-free zones.”
As the Times notes, Trump was not the only Republican to dash hopes for a rational conversation. The Republican outrage machine exploded with hysterics before the President had announced the details of his plan. House Speaker Paul Ryan said that “the president has never respected the right to safe and legal gun ownership that our nation has valued since its founding.” Republican presidential candidates followed suit. Abrasive also-ran Chris Christie, even prior to the president’s official announcement, “dismissed the orders as illegal calling Mr. Obama among other things, a petulant child, a king, and a dictator.”
Not to be outdone, Ted Cruz fired up the discredited NRA talking point “if only more ordinary citizens were armed, they could stop mass shootings,” and then tore into our POTUS with even more nonsense: “this is a president who for seven years has abused his constitutional authority…We don’t beat the bad guys by taking away our guns. We beat the bad guys by using our guns.”
Cruz then twisted the president’s announcement for his new executive actions into a deceitful fundraising pitch, saying “Obama wants your guns,” depicting the president in military gear. Certainly, as the Times notes:
“Mr. Obama is not currently advocating renewal or expansion of the expired assault weapons ban, which is politically understandable but still unfortunate. It’s impossible to believe that Mr. Cruz does not recognize what Mr. Obama is doing, and not doing.”
Perhaps most egregious is Trump’s wanton ignorance of the facts:
“that gun-free zones have been thoughtfully approved by numerous local governments concerned about the gun violence afflicting the nation; remarkable also for the imperiousness with which he would wipe away with the stroke of a pen safety measures enacted after 20 schoolchildren and six educators were murdered three years ago in the Sandy Hook assault-rifle massacre.”
Trump and other Republicans are the gun “industry’s supersalesmen,” doing the bidding of their behind-the-curtain puppetmasters: the NRA and gun lobby. The Republicans have long been beholden to them for their blood money. With each national tragedy from gun violence, gun manufacturers stocks soar, “growing more than 900 percent since Mr. Obama took office.”
The Times notes that “for all the exaggerated (my emphasis) political clout associated with the industry’s gun lobby, at least one party may be ready to call the Oz-like bluff of the National Rifle Association.” Fortunately, our Democratic presidential candidates do not fear the NRA and gun lobby and have, across the board, not been afraid to campaign on safer gun laws. However, as we have said many times before, despite the public’s overwhelming support for sensible gun laws, it is schitzophremic on the issue. So even as President Obama took action as our president, he wrote the other day “…I will also take every action I can as a citizen. I will not campaign for, vote for or support any candidate, even in my own party, who does not support common-sense gun reform.” Our nation has suffered far too long for us not to take any action.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.