by Jeremy Leaming
Although gun enthusiasts for the most part refused to show up on this weekend’s major news broadcasts’ coverage of the mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., their delusional and usual arguments in favor of a land strewn with assault weapons are, for better or worse, being heard.
Former Ark. Gov. Mick Huckabee blamed the horrific tragedy on a lack of Christianity in the public schools. Huckabee is either woefully misinformed or intentionally spreading misinformation. For decades the religious right has spewed this garbage. But two Supreme Court cases from the 1960s did not ban religion from the public schools. Those opinions barred state school officials from mandating that students engage in religious practices, such as requiring students to recite a Christian prayer every day and leading Bible studies. Those cases said it is not the place of state officials to require students to participate in religious activities during school hours -- indeed the high court found organized religion in the public schools violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment. Public school students can take their religious texts to school; can pray before tests or meals or during religious clubs that they can form as long as public school officials are not sponsoring or advising the clubs.
Huckabee is aping TV evangelist Pat Robertson, as well as the late Jerry Falwell. All three have little respect the First Amendment and a lot of interest in riling the religious right.
Beyond the buffoonish, you also had the more noxious and over-the-top claim that the answer to this violence is, well of course, more guns. USA Today saw fit to print a missive from Gun Owners of America Executive Director Larry Pratt, which blamed gun control laws for what occurred in Newtown. The nation’s weak gun control laws are to blame, and “blood is on the hands of members of Congress and the Connecticut legislators who voted to ban guns from all schools in Connecticut (and most other states). They are the ones who made it illegal to defend oneself with a gun in a school when that is the only effective way or resisting a gunman.”
One of Congress’s more obnoxious characters, the knuckle-dragging Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), also said the school principal who died while trying to tackle the deranged shooter, should have had gun on her. The Hill’s Alexander Bolton reported that Rep. Gohmert said “I wish to God she had had an M-4 in her office, locked up so when she heard gunfire, she pulls it out and she didn’t have to lunge heroically with nothing in her hands and takes him out and takes his head off before he can kill those precious kids.”
Former Education Secretary William Bennett chimed in telling NBC, “I’m not so sure I wouldn’t want one person in a school armed, ready for this kind of thing.”
These are the type of people who have for too long controlled the debate over the nation’s obsession with guns. They are loud, self-righteous and wrong. Supporters of gun control need to push back, and push back hard. Yes there is, according to the Supreme Court, an individual right to “keep and bear arms.” But no individual right is absolute. There is as the high court noted in D.C. v. Heller a place for gun control measures. The Second Amendment, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in the Heller majority, does not “protect the right of citizens to carry arms for any sort of confrontation, just as we do not read the First Amendment to protect the right of citizens to speak for any purpose.”
Instead of being rolled by gun enthusiasts, advocates for sensible gun control need to get back in the game, The New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow noted in his weekend piece. Blow also called for the ban on assault weapons, like the AR-15, to be reinstated. “Military-style guns belong in the hands of military personnel, and maybe police officers, but not in the hands of civilians.”
Andrew Sullivan’s quote of the day, pulled from a Times piece on the Newtown tragedy, is far more sensible than anything we’ve heard so far from loud and loopy gun enthusiasts.
“Something needs to be done, these are not normal guns that people need. These are guns for an arsenal and you get lunatics like this guy who goes into a school fully armed and protected to take return fire. We live in a town, not in a war,” said Joel T. Faxon, a member of Newtown’s police commission.
[image via Wikimedia Commons]