'Dark messages' on guns

Nelson, Ga., is a small town that made a big symbolic gesture this week when it voted to require all of its citizens to own guns. Lawmakers say they wont actively enforce the ruling but that doesnt make it meaningless. For one thing, as E. J. Dionne Jr. points out in a column now posted on our website, it sends us a dark message: Guns matter more than freedom. The right not to bear arms can be infringed freely.For another, its emblematic of a larger trend on guns since Newtown: More states have eased access to and restrictions on deadly firearms than have strengthened them, as the Wall Street Journal tallies it. So for every New York, Colorado, and Connecticut (which today enacted wide-ranging new rules, including background checks on all weapons purchases), theres an Arkansas, or Idaho, or Kansas, or Kentucky, or Maine, or South Dakotastates that have, respectively:

  • made it explicitly OK to bring guns to church
  • barred local governments from regulating the carrying of concealed weapons
  • implemented automatic concealed-weapon permit reciprocity with all other states
  • removed residency requirements for concealed-carry permits
  • placed a moratorium on public access to records of concealed-weapon permits
  • stipulated the right of anyone with a concealed-carry permit to carry a concealed pistol while operating, or riding on, a snowmobile

Thats only a partial list.Meanwhile, a number of conservative senators (Democrat and Republican) are picking up the NRAs line that this weeks United Nations vote to regulate global arms sales threatens U.S. sovereignty and will infringe on Americans Second Amendment rights. How that would be so is unclear, since the explicit aim of the UN treaty is to stem the flow of weapons to regimes with records of human rights abusescountries like Iran, North Korea, and Syria, which happened to be the only three nations to vote against it. The United States joined one-hundred-and-fifty-three other nations to support it, but the Senate is pretty much certain to vote against ratification, with thirty-four senators already having pledged their opposition (in a signed resolution, as these things go). One of them is Texas Senator John Cornyn, who has said that law-abiding citizens in the market for an imported shotgun, pistol, or rifle ought to be very concerned by any future development of the treaty.Really, Cornyn shouldnt be so alarmist. The U.S. appetite for imported guns is just too bigand too profitable. Mother Jones is running these charts to illustrate how gun makers in Austria, Brazil, Croatia, Germany, and Italy are flooding America with gunsand getting rich doing it. Moreover, theyre plowing some of those riches back toward the group so many lawmakers are in thrall to: The NRA. In fact, as Mother Jones notes, the largest share of gun-maker donations by far comes not from American companies but from overseas manufacturerslike Glock, which gave the NRA $115,000 in 2012, and Beretta, which has lavished millions over a period of several years, all to fight restrictions that don't even come close to matching those of the countries in which they're based.Which brings things back to Dionne:

The gun lobby seems to want the rest of the world to look upon the United States of America as a nation so crazed about guns that its supine Congress will always collapse before the National Rifle Association.

A small price to pay for thwarting an agreement that took seven years to negotiate and reflects growing international sentiment that the multibillion-dollar weapons trade needs to be held to a moral standard.

Dominic Preziosi is Commonweal’s editor. Follow him on Twitter.

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