No time for guns, except when marketing them
Gabby Giffords gave the opening statement at today’s Senate hearing on gun violence. It will be interesting to see whether she can help counter the revitalized campaign of inaction. Though Newtown has helped keep the issue in the foreground for much
longer than Aurora or Virginia Tech, an increasing number of legislators are trotting out the strapped-for-time excuse in explaining why they can’t think about the common-sense restrictions that most Americans favor, not right now. The latest is Senator Marco Rubio, who says the legislative docket is just too full to accommodate any debate on gun control, thus joining Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in citing the crowded calendar. Majority Leader Harry Reid had previously tipped his hand in telling reporters that an assault-weapons ban would have a hard time getting through Congress (and now has officially declined to endorse a proposal from colleague Dianne Feinstein), while Democratic senators from a number of states have also been making let’s-not-rush-into-anything noises.
It’s likely, though, that some of those same legislators will find the time to fight President Obama’s call to reinstitute funding for Centers for Disease Control research into gun violence as a public health threat, which the gun lobby has blocked for seventeen years. Mixing inaction with obstructionism is not a new form of legislative maneuvering, but for it to be so nakedly embraced on an issue that unites more Americans than it divides is more dispiriting than usual. Especially as “doing nothing” in this case really amounts to doing something—maintaining if not accelerating the pace of firearm proliferation.
The makers and marketers of weapons show no such fecklessness. A recent New York Times story details ramped-up efforts by the gun industry, working in tandem with the NRA and the National Shooting Sports Foundation (based in Newtown), to woo “junior shooters” by selling shooting as a family activity that’s “fun” and teaches life skills, and by marketing affordable military-style rifles directly to kids. Some of the recommendations come from an industry report on “recruitment and retention” that focuses on children as young as eight. Larry Fink, the editor of a magazine called Junior Shooters, is quoted as saying that all youth shooting activities are critical to the survival of the gun industry, even those “using semiautomatic firearms with magazines holding 30-100 rounds.” He explains as well that children should know how to handle a semiautomatic, since it’s not a weapon—just “a tool, not any different from a car or a baseball bat.”
Video from today’s Senate hearing here.