On February 27 there was another tragic mass shooting. This time, at a high school in Chardon, Ohio, three died and two others were hurt and a sad and sick young man was taken into custody. The story was the same from Columbine to Fort Hood; Virginia Tech to Tucson. The details vary; three die or 15, the site is an Army Base, a school cafeteria, or a grocery store parking lot; the shooter is arrested or dead by his own hand; but there is a numbing sameness.
But did you notice the major glaring difference after the Chardon shootings? Here’s a hint. Columbine inspired a Michael Moore documentary about gun ownership and gun violence. After Virginia Tech there was a lot of noise about closing the “gun show loophole.” Tucson brought cries for a ban on extended magazine cartridges. After Chardon the Ohio State University student newspaper reported that “Buckeyes for Concealed Carry on Campus sent its condolences for Chardon and advocated for concealed carry laws on campus.”
Now we have the horrific shooting of 17 year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida by a self appointed neighborhood watcher who apparently chased Martin down and shot him with a 9 mm gun while “defending” himself under Florida’s stand your ground legislation. Florida’s law allows deadly force on the part of anyone who feels threatened by another without a legal requirement to avoid the confrontation, i.e. standing down, before acting in self defense. Jeb Bush signed the Florida law in 2005, reportedly under intense pressure and after large campaign donations from the National Rifle Association.
In the midst of the uproar accompanying the Martin death the current Florida governor and the legislator who wrote the Florida law have made some rather feeble statements about it needing a few changes. My guess, however, is that the laws in Florida and 22 other states will remain on the books because the NRA will not allow more than small cosmetic changes.
The NRA has spent millions to do it but has accomplished its goal. Not only is it impossible to get even the most minor and unobtrusive laws passed that will put any limit on gun ownership or use but Americans are resigned to not even trying. The NRA has fought opposition to a standstill on even such ridiculous issues as allowing concealed or open carry in churches, taverns, and school campuses. Some of these laws even override the rights of owners to ban guns from their properties.
In short, we are now held in thrall by the NRA. Sort of like we are by right wing talk radio. You know, we figure that asking for any sense in our gun laws is as futile as talking back to Rush, expecting truth from Sean or civility from either of the Michaels. If only there were a way….
Ok, you know where I am going with this. “Can’t fight City Hall” is a pathetic battle cry but was ours for far too long. Then a funny thing happened. Bank of America decided to impose a tiny little $5 per month fee and a young lady from Washington DC said she didn’t want to pay it and showed the country they didn’t have to either. Next it was Verizon, then the Komen Foundation, and finally the outrage over Rush.
Not every battle that followed the lightening attack on Bank of American was as instantly successful as Molly Katchpole’s, or made as many inroads on the outward expression of hate as the so-far productive battle to rein in Rush Limbaugh, but we are certainly making headway. Rachel Maddow reported on Wednesday night that there suddenly seems to be a lack of enthusiasm in various state legislatures for passing some of the more obnoxious measures proposed to probe women’s bodies, require their doctors to lie to them or allow their employers to fire them over their birth control choices. This is no accident; it is the direct result of women and the people who love them suddenly finding and using their voices.
So could we now take on the NRA? Maybe those of us in states with Stand Your Ground laws could actually demand they be modified so as not to legalize murder. A rational policy toward assault rifles and extended magazines was once the law, could it happen again? Since polls have shown that even some NRA members think the organization has often gone too far is it crazy to think politicians might start to hear our voices over the clink of NRA cash in their pockets?
Of course we can’t beat the NRA. Or at least it seemed that way six months ago. But since we finally got sick and tired of being held in thrall by banks, Rush Limbaugh, and women-hating politicians, maybe we can also find the courage to tell NRA to take a hike.