A daffodil for the gun lobby
April 30, 2003
Spring is here, and I really wanted to write about daffodils.
Not only is spring wonderful, but daffodils are beautiful; and people don’t usually call a person unkind names when writing about them. Perhaps when controversial subjects are raised, people become uncomfortable, even fearful. And when a woman raises them, the discomfort level rises dramatically for some.
However, in a very dangerous and fast-changing world, it may be time to listen respectfully to people of both genders. The gender that has predominated for centuries has, after all, been largely responsible for a lot of wars, bloodshed and mayhem.
Of late, many columns and letters to the editor have become more thoughtful. We have been challenged to think a little more, to possibly reexamine long-held beliefs. Many of these have been written by women. Responses have been mostly civil and intelligent with disagreements expressed in a respectful manner, focused on the issues themselves. Those who choose a lower level of disagreement, with name calling and personal attacks, are smaller in number and to be pitied.
As mentioned, daffodils were the hoped-for subject of this column. Unfortunately, they will have to wait. An issue of serious consequence has come to the floor of the U.S. Senate. This is S. 659, a bill which passed overwhelmingly in the House of Representatives, lobbied for and bought by gun manufacturers and the National Rifle Association. It is the “Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.”
“The gun lobby (with monies provided by gun manufacturers) is determined to achieve in the U.S. Congress what it cannot achieve in the courts; protection from legal accountability for the gun industry. This lobby is a special interest group that brings deadly consequences. It seeks special protection for gun makers/dealers that would bear no liability for the end use of their inherently dead products” (to paraphrase Dennis Henigan, director, Legal Action Project, The Brady Center).
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“When the courts are permitted to judge the gun industry by the same standards that apply to all other industries, reckless gun manufacturers and dealers are held accountable by judges and juries, and justice is usually done for gun violence victims. So, the gun lobby prefers to buy its influence in Congress, doing an ‘end run’ around the courts and denying victims and their families their day in court” (paraphrase Dennis Henigan).
If the gun industry were more careful with the lethal products they produce, one might be more inclined to protect them from legal liability for their misuse. However, the industry has consistently refused to make guns safer and to take steps to prevent the supply of guns by licensed dealers to the illegal market. Two examples: 1. Even through internal safety locks could have been installed in guns decades ago, gun makers began to use them only after they were sued. 2. When Chicago-area gun dealers were caught on videotape making “straw sales” to intermediaries for illegal buyers, only one gun maker — Smith and Wesson — stopped supplying those dealers. (A former lobbyist and lawyer for the NRA, Robert Ricker, has “blown the whistle,” revealing that the gun industry has repeatedly ignored sales of weapons to criminals by corrupt dealers. (Tune in on Sunday, May 4, to the CBS news magazine 60 Minutes for a shocking insider look at the irresponsible and reckless behavior of gun makers/dealers from Robert Ricker and Denis Henigan).
As the gun lobby pushes its agenda in Congress, it relies on blind support for the Second Amendment myth that there is “an unlimited personal right to bear arms.” Emerson v. United States (4th Circuit Court, 2001) and Attorney General John Ashcroft have claimed such a right. However, in at least eight federal appellate court decisions since Emerson, that Second Amendment misinterpretation has been soundly rejected (case citations available upon request). In fact, no court outside the Fifth Circuit has embraced the misinterpretation found in Emerson and promoted by Ashcroft. Rather, the prevailing view has been reaffirmed, that the Second Amendment applies only to gun possession and use related to militia activities.
Some folks really like the Second Amendment myth, and don’t want to be confused with the facts. The gun industry’s “bottom line” flourishes on a pervasive belief in the myth. However, S. 659, which gives unprecedented legal protection to this industry, must be defeated in the Senate. Victims of gun violence must be guaranteed their day in court, not sacrificed to the special interest gun lobby whose idol is profit and whose motto is myth.
Please urge Senators Ensign and Reid to vote against S. 659 this week. And please watch CBS’ 60 Minutes on Sunday, May 4 to learn the shocking facts about the gun industry.
Susan Paslov is a retired attorney who teaches English as a Second Language.