Another six months, another tragic shooting. The Aurora, Colorado theater shootings were the 22nd such incident since and including the 1999 Columbine shootings. In the mainstream corporate media, especially the television and cable “news” networks, we hear the cliche “our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of this tragedy.” In addition to that sentiment, now is when we should push for real solutions to America’s gun violence epidemic, such as strengthening the nation’s gun laws. Call it the “Gun Law Shock Doctrine.”
In her 2007 book The Shock Doctrine, author Naomi Klein explains how leaders, up to and including George W. Bush, imposed conservative economic plans, including Milton Friedman‘s principles of laissez-faire and privatization, upon the people of Iraq, the residents of New Orleans, and others who were literally shell-shocked from wars or other disasters. If conservatives can implement their plans after a disaster, so can we.
In the wake of the Aurora theater shootings, practitioners of a Gun Law Shock Doctrine should discuss two interconnected subjects: the National Rifle Association (NRA), and the Assault Weapons Ban. We should remind those in the media (and use media available to us to emphasize) that the NRA is an extremist group that deals in slippery slope logic via effective misuse of the word “freedom.”: the NRA essentially claims that if any weapons (such as assault rifles) are restricted, then all weapons will be subject to restriction. This NRA fear-mongering makes no sense. Legislatures draw lines every day when they make laws. For example, just because a state sets a highway speed limit of 70 miles per hour does not mean that it’s about to lower the speed limit to 60, 50, or 40, or, under the NRA’s logic, ban cars altogether. If the legislature cannot provide a rational (or in some cases, an important or compelling) basis for its action, the law won’t survive court scrutiny, or it wouldn’t get passed in the first place. And voters will have the last word at election time.
We know that the NRA has effectively whipped both Republican and Democratic lawmakers into submission. In the case of the Democrats, this is especially troubling, since the NRA overwhelmingly gives its money to Republicans and is firmly entrenched as a Republican organization. Democratic lawmakers who fail to confront the NRA are thus acting almost completely out of fear that the NRA will attack them relentlessly. We should ask these Democratic members of Congress: what is the point of having them in office, earning generous taxpayer salaries, benefits and perks, if they won’t stand up for Democratic principles and fight to keep Americans safe no matter what the opposition?
We should also press for re-enacting the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban. This law did not take away the rights of hunters, sports enthusiasts and law-abiding citizens who seek to protect themselves, their families and their homes. Instead, the Ban targeted military-style assault weapons that have one principal purpose: mass killing. If the Assault Weapons Ban was in place last week, the sale of the AR-15 assault rifle and high-capacity ammunition clip that James Holmes used to shoot 70 people in Aurora reportedly would have been prohibited.
The 1994 Assault Weapons Ban had a 10-year term, after which the Congress did not have the courage to renew it. Six years later, the Congress and President Obama somehow found the courage to extend another law that also had a 10-year expiration: the 2001 Bush tax cuts which mostly benefited the wealthy. Saving rich people money, but not willing to save American lives. That will continue to be the abysmal track record of our elected representatives unless we pressure them much more aggressively or replace them at the voting booth.