National Rifle Association officials made a great point at their Texas convention over the weekend. It was a point, however, that was entirely irrelevant to the politics of guns.
Their point was that residents of Watertown, Mass., no doubt wished they had guns in their home when they heard the Boston bombers were on the loose. Many, in fact, did have guns. Except for convicted felons and those adjudicated as mentally ill, all of them could have had guns.
While Massachusetts has more restrictive gun laws than many states, residents could have had handguns or shotguns. They could have had many types of semi-automatic guns, although only with a 10-round clip.
If they don’t have guns in their homes, it’s because they don’t want them.
If President Barack Obama or any member of Congress has a secret desire to ban all guns, as NRA officials suggested to the 70,000 conventioneers, it’s futile.
A Democrat-controlled Senate could not pass the narrowest of gun bills last month, despite the shadow of a massacre that left 20 elementary school children dead. The Republican-controlled House is far less likely than the Senate to pass gun legislation. And even if both chambers passed such legislation, it would still have to get the nod from a U.S. Supreme Court that has been vigilant in enforcing the Second Amendment.
NRA’s opposition to expanded background checks feeds on irrational anti-government fears. The talking point is that the database for the background checks will be used as a registry so federal agents can go door-to-door, confiscating guns.
The same confidential database, however, has been in effect since 1998. While it has blocked 700,000 felons and mentally ill people from buying guns and processed 100 million background checks, it has not been used for any other purpose.
Because sponsors were sensitive to NRA-promoted fears, the background-check bill defeated last month included numerous provisions outlawing any such use of the database. All the bill did was expand the background checks to include some of the numerous gun sales that the existing law does not cover.
What should frighten all Americans — those who own guns and those who don’t, conservatives as well as liberals — is the underlying message at the NRA convention.
Numerous speakers attacked Obama — twice elected by a popular majority — as a tyrannical despot intent on depriving Americans of their rights. The new NRA president from Birmingham was explicit in a recent speech.
The NRA’s greatest charge today, said Jim Porter, is to train civilians in the use of military firearms. Why? So that “when they are ready to fight tyranny, they are ready do it. Also, when they are ready to fight tyranny, they have the wherewithal and weapons to do it.”
Welcome to the new NRA.