Top Bush Administration lawyer explains politics of gun tyranny

This is for our esteemed BMGers who appeared to have difficulty grappling with the political implications of my post this morning “Nate Silver explains politics of gun tyranny,” and voiced their concerns in the comments.

Richard Painter is a professor of law at the University of Minnesota and was the chief White House ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush from 2005 to 2007. In other words, a former top Republican White House official speaks. NYT Op-Ed:

But the last election showed the costs to Republicans of succumbing to the N.R.A. and to other groups with extremist views on issues like homosexuality and stem cell research. The fringe groups, drenched with money and the “free speech” that comes with it, have stood firm, and become even more radical, as the population as a whole — including many traditional Republican voters — has moved in the opposite direction.

Gun violence in particular frightens voters in middle- and upper-income suburbs across the country, places like my hometown, Edina, Minn. These areas, once Republican strongholds, still have many voters who are sympathetic to the economic platform of the Republican Party but are increasingly worried about their own safety in a country with millions of unregistered and unregulated guns. Some suburban voters may keep a hunting rifle locked away in a safe place, but few want people bringing semiautomatic weapons into their neighborhoods. They also believe that insane people should not have access to guns.

A few clicks on the N.R.A. Web site lead you to the type of weapons the group wants to protect from regulation. Many are not needed for hunting pheasants or deer. They are used for hunting people. They have firepower unimaginable to the founding fathers who drafted the Second Amendment, firepower that could wipe out an entire kindergarten classroom in a few minutes, as we saw so tragically last week.

This is not the vision of sportsmanship that soccer moms and dads want or will vote for, and they will turn against Republicans because of it. Who worries about the inheritance tax when gun violence may kill off one’s heirs in the second grade?

Military grade weapons technology like that used to slaughter 20 first graders and their teachers one week ago — semi-automatic rifles and pistols, high capacity magazines, and special ammunition, weaponry “for hunting people,” as Painter accurately characterizes it — has to be banned for private ownership, just like hand grenades, machine guns, and mortars. Yvonne Abraham and the 99 percent of Americans who are not members of the NRA — let alone the nation’s children — should not have to live under their tyranny.

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5 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. My boss is one of them

    She used to live in Edina but now lives in St. Elmo, she is a former CEO and business consultant who leans right on some economic issues, but she just can’t stand Republicans due to the concealed carry law, choice and gay rights. A registered independent who voted for Ventura and Arne Carlson but bankrolled Bachmans opponents and the opposition to the anti-marriage equality amendment. And they will continue to lose voters just like her due to their extremism.

  2. That is interesting and suggests a strategy

    For many years now, since the NRA metastasized from an organization dedicated to teaching safety to a political lobby, it has been immensely succesful at forming a single unified bloc out from three very different groups: (i) the “sportsmen” (hunters and target shooters); (ii) those interested in self-defense; and (iii) the crazy gun nuts, who want the biggest cailber, the highest rate of fire, and the biggest magazines. They have been able to use the numbers in group (i) and (ii) to support the agenda of group (iii).

    It is my opinion that the NRA has been able to accomplish this because the liberal side, from which most gun control proposals spring, doesn’t recognize that their hostility to groups (i) on various other matters tends do the NRA’s job for it. Proposals to shorten the hunting seasons. Jacking up the license prices. Proposals to ban baiting. Proposals to ban traps. Proposals to ban bow hunting. Proposals to ban hunting in this or that state park or forest land, because a moron decided to take Fido for a walk in the woods in the middle of deer season, while wearing brown. Every time, out come the people– the same people advocating for reasonable gun control– to make speeches about how hunting is no longer necessary for sustenance and is therefore barabaric, etc.

    Group (ii) might be harder to discern from (iii), but a good start might be to cease the practice of considering anyone who owns a handgun to be a “gun nut” who might as well own a basement full of machine guns.

    So, into the arms of the NRA they went, and there they remain. Along with a number of their non-hunting neighbors, who enjoy the little bit of venison that their neighbor Larry gives them every fall.

    In order for any reasonable control on the quasi-military “assault” type weapon– that is, those with the big magazines– then this unified bloc has to be broken. A wedge must be devised to split of the true “gun nuts” and marginalize them, without tossing the others in just for the sake of good rhetoric. Otherwise, legislative success in the wake of this massacre– if any can actually be acheived– will be fleeting once the headlines move on.

    • Awful analysis

      Are you a member of the NRA? Belong to a gun club? Are you a hunter? Are you interested in high-powered .50-caliber long-range shooting? Do you have an ATF Class 3 license? Shoot skeet or trap?

      I’m guessing none of the above.

      Your 3 classifications of gun owner/NRA membership is an cartoon caricature, especially “crazy gun nuts.” I suspect NRA members are more varied than any organization to which you belong. 2nd Amendment Sisters? Pink Pistols?

      Gun ownership is not a pre-condition of NRA membership. I know one fellow who owns a single, antique 18th century musket, exempt from gun laws, and doesn’t want anything else. He belongs because he believes 2nd amendment rights are under attack.

      I know another NRA member who owns 50 or more handguns. Why? He collects them …this rare edition, that commemorative model, etc. Gun nut? Some folks collect Hummels, others HO trains.

      The three hypothetical groups you list aren’t mutually exclusive. Lots of hunters want and probably own a variety of semiautomatic rifles and shotguns. But they’re just as likely to own weapons specifically designed for self-defense.

      And your comment that it’s “crazy gun nuts”…who “want the biggest caliber, the highest rate of fire, and the biggest magazines” is simply a display of ignorance, especially “the highest rate of fire” which describes an automatic weapon; possession of these without a federal license has been illegal since 1934.

      Machine guns aside, there are many target shooting sports, some proposed as Olympic events, which necessitate high capacity magazines in rifles, shotguns, and handguns. “Crazy gun nuts”?

      Maybe you should research who belongs to the NRA before making silly assertions about its membership. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is a member. “Gun nut?”

      • ahem...

        I know another NRA member who owns 50 or more handguns. Why? He collects them …this rare edition, that commemorative model, etc. Gun nut? Some folks collect Hummels, others HO trains.

        Was I an amateur microbiologist I might wish to collect Ebola, E. Coli, Anthrax, etc.. Should I be allowed to simply because somebody else collects Hummel figurines?

        Should a herpatologist be allowed to create a menagerie of poisonous snakes simply because others can collect HO trains?

        Amateur chemists: should they have the home lab able to create either methamphetamine or

        Apparently there is a line that neither HO gauge or Hummel figurines ever cross: the total amount of all the people ever killed, or even injured, using HO gauge trains or Hummel figurines exactly as their manufacture intended surely can be counted on one finger…

    • Democrats can help this strategy

      The Democratic Party should come out in support of sensible weapons for hunting and self-defense. Take away any excuse the (i) group has for joining with Republicans. I doubt that Democrats would lose many supporters over this, because there are very few people who fervently want to ban all guns in this country, despite what the NRA says.

      How about forming a competitor to the NRA, something that is far more responsible and less apocalyptic? Let the NRA become the organization that advocates for your right to overthrow the government – they won’t last very long with that mission.

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