Wednesday, January 23, 2013

No Reality Allowed?

How could this happen? Just last night, NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre lambasted President Obama at the Weatherby International Hunting & Conservation Awards Dinner in Reno. And he didn't stop there. He also condemned anyone who dares to question the gun lobby's absolutism in wanting to turn all civilian settings into safe havens... For fully automatic military grade weapons.

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What was really appalling about last night's NRA diatribe is that it came just hours after another school shooting in Houston. And it came right in the midst of the Steven Brooks scandal. So just days after Brooks was arrested on charges of threatening his fellow legislator(s), Wayne LaPierre is singing the praises of incredibly lax regulation of firearms at the Silver Legacy?

Yet in waxing poetic on the "absolute" meaning of the Second Amendment, he neglected to mention how the courts have actually interpreted it.

Using terms better suited to a talk radio host than to the leader of the nation's largest gun lobby, LaPierre said Obama's address "makes a mockery" of the Declaration of Independence and the notion of "unalienable rights." LaPierre repeatedly addressed Obama in the speech, delivered to a black-tie crowd at the hunting awards benefit dinner. "Words have meanings, Mr. President, and those meanings are absolute," LaPierre said. "And when absolutes are abandoned for principles, the U.S. Constitution becomes a blank slate for anyone's graffitti."

LaPierre told the crowd the president "doesn't understand you. He doesn't agree with the freedoms you cherish. If the only way he can force you to give 'em up is through scorn and ridicule, he's more than willing to do it -- even as he claims the moral high ground."

LaPierre quoted former Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, a one-time Democratic congressman who served on the high court in the 1930s. "Justice Black understood the danger of self-appointed arbiters of what freedom really means, like President Obama," LaPierre said.

But Black is a problematic hero for LaPierre. In 1939, Black and fellow Supreme Court justices ruled unanimously in a landmark gun control case, United States v. Miller,that the Second Amendment does not protect blanket access for citizens to any type of firearm.

So not only was Wayne LaPierre's rant in Reno incredibly callous and tone-deaf, but it was also inaccurate in describing the legal boundaries of the Second Amendment. Even the landmark DC v. Heller 2010 US Supreme Court ruling noted that the Second Amendment allows for federal and state level gun safety safeguards.

And this is something for everyone to keep in mind as Congress debates gun safety reform. There's no guaranteed individual right to keep and bear military grade assault weapons, amass unlimited magazine clips, and/or obtaining firearms without submitting to any kind of background check. And by continuing to ignore this real public safety hazard, we may actually be undermining the foundation of our democratic system by failing to guarantee a free, fair, and safe marketplace to share public policy ideas.

This is what the NRA fails to grasp. Nevada's lawmakers don't have to fall into the same trap.

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