This video explains it all:
Cultural change may be solution to US gun crimes
By Wang Yong | December 14, 2013, Saturday | Print Edition
Editor’s note: The following is an exclusive interview of Shanghai Daily opinion writer Wang Yong with Tom Diaz, author of The Last Gun: How Changes in the Gun Industry Are Killing Americans and What It Will Take to Stop It.
Q: The September 16 shooting carnage at the Washington Navy Yard is the latest proof of what you call “a reign of terror” by gun activists who raise the false flag of constitutional rights. Will it push the US to better regulate guns?
A: It’s wishful thinking to suppose that any single incident – no matter how horrific – will inspire significant change in gun regulation in the US. No one in their right mind likes these incidents or accepts them as normal. But, as in so many other areas, Americans are dramatically divided on what to do about it, and so we do nothing.
There are two strongly held and opposite points of view.
One side understands that the proliferation and types of guns available is the crux of the problem, not only of mass shootings but of daily “routine” shootings all over the country. Even “good” people with access to guns commit terrible crimes with them.
The other side is committed to the ideological and emotional view that the problem is “bad” people, not guns.
It so happens that these sides are in rough national political balance right now, which favors the pro-gun side because inertia makes change virtually impossible at the national level.
The hope is that, over a longer term, there will be real and widespread cultural change that will favor stricter gun control. In other words, we will reach a “tipping point” that will break the deadlock.
There is good evidence that this may be happening, as younger and more culturally, racially, and ethnically diverse communities within the US “grow into” political power. Guns do not have the same emotional and ideological appeal to these groups as they do to the old line white male population, whose grip on American politics is clearly fading.
Q: What are Obama’s chances and challenges if he really wants to make the US a safer place?
A: I have not seen and do not expect to see substantial change under President Obama. He certainly has made powerful speeches. He would clearly like to go in the correct direction.
That said, however, two factors work against administration-driven change.
One is the reluctance of the political “experts” in the Democratic party to take on tough gun control legislation.
The influence of this view reaches to the highest levels in Congress and the White House, and includes those who might otherwise be thought to be “progressive” or “liberal.”
It’s safer to keep one’s head down. Mere politics prevents bold action, and ultimately empowers the National Rifle Association and the gun industry it represents.
The other is the stark national political division that I referred to earlier.
The president has only so much “political capital” to spend, as the recent budget and debt limit confrontation showed.
It took an enormously disciplined and steel-nerved will to face down those who had locked down the government.
Yes, the president (and for that matter, the Democratic leaders in Congress) could in theory decide to make gun control an all-or-nothing fight.
But given everything that needs to be done just to keep the US functioning, I doubt that this fight will be engaged.
Q: Do you campaign for an outright ban on individual gun rights, or for better regulated individual gun rights?
A: The facts of gun violence dictate certain answers. If we really want to reduce gun violence of all types, we must limit access to guns. So, yes, I favor strong restrictions on access to and possession of certain types of guns: high-capacity semiautomatic pistols, semiautomatic assault weapons, and very high caliber (armor-piercing) sniper rifles.
Unfortunately, the “gun control movement” in the US has bought into the idea of pursuing much more limited goals.
This is because, to a large extent, the Democratic political establishment does not want an abrasive fight. The phrase “gun safety” has come into political favor and “gun control” has lost favor.
There is nothing “wrong” with most of the incremental change being pursued. Better background checks, trigger locks, and other hardware changes all would have some small effect on gun death and injury. The facts, however, are quite clear.
The preponderance of the hurricane of gun violence in the United States comes from so-called “legal” guns and is committed by people who won’t be deterred by gadgets like trigger locks.
In my view, the diversion of energy to these palliatives is a serious mistake.
The proliferation of assault weapons in the US could have been cut short as late as 1994 if the Congress and then-President Bill Clinton had acted forcefully and intelligently. Instead, they compromised on a weak law that has since expired. Now we see the results at elementary schools, movie theaters and other public places.
Q: You write: “Every year, more Americans are killed by guns in the United States than people of all nationalities are killed worldwide by terrorist attacks.” As terrorist attacks are threats to human rights, would you also call gun crimes an abuse of human rights, especially in the case of racial hatred toward non-white immigrants?
A: I have no doubt that some of our domestic gun violence is driven by fear, anger and hatred that has its roots in some of the racial and ethnic theories that have stained our history. It certainly fuels the desire to own military-style guns.
However, one must be cautious and specific in how one articulates the case for calling gun violence a case of human rights abuse. To me, the key is the extent to which the government per se is complicit in the abuse, and I see little of that in our domestic problem.
The three greatest examples of human rights abuse within the United States that I would cite all involved overt government complicity: the genocide of the Native Americans, the institution of slavery and so-called “Jim Crow” laws that followed its formal end, and explicitly racist national laws, such as the Chinese Exclusion Act and subsequent “quota” restrictions on immigration.
So far as domestic gun violence goes, governments in the United States can be faulted for passivity politically, but I can’t think of a case in which the government has overt responsibility for or encourages the violence. There is, however, a different case to be made for the gun violence that occurs in other countries because of our government’s lax controls on the export and smuggling of guns.
The citizens of Mexico, Canada and other countries all over the world have suffered because of these weak export and law enforcement policies and practices.
There are many things that the federal government in particular could have done and can do today to effectively prevent much of this traffic, but chooses not to do for pragmatic reasons. That is complicity.
Guns from the United States not only take lives and injure innocent people, they have provided infrastructures through which criminal and other non-government organizations can confront legitimate governments and deprive ordinary people of the free exercise of their human rights.
Frankly, it amazes me that none of these affected governments has made an aggressive case in international courts or elsewhere based on the theory that the United States is directly complicit in these abuses. Every now and then someone talks about it, but no one really does anything.
Q: You call for the creation of a comprehensive reporting system regarding gun crimes. Has there been progress to that effect since the publication of your book?
]A: I favor not only a comprehensive data system about gun “crimes,” but also about gun violence of all sorts, which would include suicides and incidents of “road rage” and “domestic violence,” which many people think is somehow different from cases in which someone sets out to use a gun to commit another crime and kills or injures a victim.
Only a little progress has been made, largely at the direction of the president. The NRA and the gun industry have a vested interest in preventing such information from being gathered, much less made public.
Ignorance, for them, is power.
In the late 19th and early 20th century, the so-called “Great Powers” of the world–Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and a few other wannabes–competed to stake out their colonies in Africa. The elbow-throwing, often violent competition became known as “The Scramble for Africa.”
The same powers had also competed for other colonies, including India and China.
The purpose of these colonies was simple–exploitation. The Great Powers ripped off natural resources and valuable commodities from the colonies. In return they forced their colonial subjects to buy goods from the imperial homeland or other colonies.
The British, for example, saw great potential in selling opium to the huge population of China. When the Chinese attempted to ban the flow of this drug, the British simply went to war (twice) and forced the defeated Chinese to take their opium.
The British and some other imperial powers (including the United States) preferred to rule “indirectly.” This means they set up systems of “native” stooges and front men to “administer” their own country on behalf of their conquerors.
A great Scramble for America has been going on in the world’s gun markets for some time. Foreign gun-makers have succeeded in carving out markets in the United States that they could never enjoy in their own countries, almost all of which have sensibly strict gun laws. America has become the last great colony in the world of guns.
Just like the Great Powers, the gun imperialists have their local boot-lickers: the National Rifle Association, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, and of course, Congress and the hive of lobbyists that buzz around it.
Just as the British succeeded in mass addiction of the Chinese to opium, the gun industry has pretty much succeeded in addicting a sizable number of Americans to guns. And like drug addicts, gun buyers need a stronger “kick” after a while. The gun industry has obliged by designing and selling increasingly lethal firearms. These include assault weapons and high-capacity semiautomatic pistols.
Just as in other colonies, our indirect rule administrators are only rarely touched by the pestilence they fawningly help spread. It’s good for you, they say.
Here’s a short video on point.
Wayne LaPierre, the Grand National Orifice of the National Rifle Association, infamously said in one of his emissions of verbal flatulence that “the guys with the guns make the rules.”
Anyone who dares to speak out on the American gun crisis has learned recently that the rules of the guys with the guns are cowardly threats. LaPierre and others of his ilk have sought to mobilize fear and anger in the United States. They want to get their pathetic troops out of their masturbatory fantasies in their grandmothers’ basements and onto the street, armed and ready to kill like so many jack-booted thugs. They want to murder the First Amendment and anyone who exercises their rights under that Amendment to express an opinion with which they disagree.
This post is about an example. It’s only one example out of many one could cite.
Last April I happened to appear for a few minutes in an excellent hour-long CNBC documentary titled
“America’s Gun: the Rise of the AR-15.” Here is a relevant clip from the documentary, which I highly recommend as having fully and fairly represented all of the many facets of this complex and troubling phenomenon.
I recently got a reply to the question I raised. It was posted as a comment on this blog.
Here is that reply:
In a nutshell, one “G. Wright” answers that it is I that he (or she) — or in his (or her) squishily evasive convention “they” — would like to kill.
It turns out that I, Tom Diaz, am the very face of oppressive government. I haven’t been elected to any office. I don’t run a powerful lobby for the gun industry, like the NRA. I am nothing more than a citizen expressing my educated point of view, as is my right to do under the Constitution of the United States.
Okay, if I am truly that powerful, I decree that the United States government take the cost of one (just one) nuclear submarine out of the Pentagon’s budget and spend it instead on building a decent education infrastructure in every town, city, hamlet, and school district on America. Call me the “Education Face.”
As a rule, I do not allow trash like G. Wright’s emission into the comments section of my blog. I used to let all comments in. But I realized that I was often just underwriting ignorance, the bleating know-nothingness of the Great Pestilential Stupidity that has infected America.
However, given the obvious passion of “G. Wright,” I decided to make an exception. I emailed G. Wright and invited him to provide his name and a brief biography. I figured that if he felt so passionately about his “rights” and the commandments of his “God,” he would be proud to attach his name to his opinion.
I’ll be honest.
I was not the least bit surprised when it turned out that “G. Wright” is a coward, a snake in the grass, a weak and no doubt mentally unbalanced person who emerges from the night, spray-paints the world with his simplistic and ill-informed hatred, and leaves a fake email address as his calling card.
Here is the email I sent to him and the “bounced back” response I got:
Yep, “failed delivery” to email@example.com.
As it happens, I know exactly who G. Wright is. The following video describes him in some detail, and includes my response to his cowardly threat.
Let’s be clear about one thing. G. Wright’s threat is not about me. It’s about you, and you, and you. It’s about whoever has an opinion that people like Wayne LaPierre, G. Wright, and other “guys with the guns” don’t like and don’t want this country to hear.
Shame on them. They are no different from and no better than the masked terrorists of al Qaeda, Hezbollah, or the Ku Klux Klan.
Shame on us if we let them get away with their terrorist campaign.
They don’t make em like me no more; Matta fact they never made it like me before
Phone home, Weezy; Phone home, Weezy
Lil’ Wayne – Phone Home
Gosh, The Washington Post’s exercise on the import of the M1 Garand sounds pretty scary!
Why should I–who carry a certified NRA “Gun-Grabber” certificate–care?
Because shadow-lantern-projection hyperbole obscures real issues and feeds the beast of the gun lobby. Anyone who truly understands the M1 Garand rifle has the right to laugh at some of the fright wig stuff written and said about it.
Bad facts–or mere assertion of bad facts–do not make good policy.
The main thrust of the Washington Post piece may be fairly summed up as follows: “Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s mouthpiece, may have profited from a little side deal with a gun importing front. (Or maybe not.) That deal, combined with LaPierre’s lobbying, opened the gates to a flood of military weapons through a dangerous new loophole for “curios and relics.” The M1 rifle is one of those curios and relics and its import puts the world at mortal peril.”
LaPierre himself seems to have emerged from this piece of reporting relatively unscathed. The practice of making a personal profit in Washington from side deals is, of course, unheard of in the Metropole of the American Empire. Well, okay, maybe unheard of if you don’t count the Members of Congress whose wealth balloons over their tenures (from the steady acquisition of inside information and fawning deal-making courtiers), the navel-gazing think tank “fellows” who charge hefty fees for “appearances,” the Presidents of the United States and their spouses who write best-selling books while they are oh-so marketable, the ex-Presidents, Senators, and Other High Potentates who cash in with six-figure speechifying fees, and the new media personalities who get their fingers in every pie in town, sometimes with a (gasp!) financial or ethical conflict.
But the oddest implication left hanging in the air by this piece is that the M1 Garand is an assault rifle or some kind of precursor assault rifle.
Josh Sugarmann of the Washington-based Violence Policy Center says the 200,000 rifles imported by Blue Sky were “basically the first of the military weapons marketed to the civilian population. If you were going to draw an ‘assault weapons timeline,’ it would start with the M-1 and eventually end up where we are today.”
By 2012, nearly 1 million of what gun advocates call “modern sporting rifles” were coming into the U.S. market from foreign and domestic sources in a single year.
Tom Hamburger and Sari Horwitz, “NRA lobbyist, arms dealer played key role in growth of civilian market for military-style guns,” The Washington Post, May 3, 2013.
Or, if not that, well, at least that the import of the M1 Garand, this horrible “military weapon,” marks the start of the “assault weapons timeline.”
Or, at the very, very least, the M1 Garand is a “bad” gun. Allowing it into the country is bad policy, something on the order of importing portable mini-nukes or missiles full of sarin gas.
Time to take a deep breath about the M1 Garand, folks.
These three propositions are demonstrably not true. There are indeed problematic guns that fall under the complicated curios and relics rule, which essentially sanitizes many (but by no means all) guns that are at least 50 years old. But the M1 is not one of those problematic guns.
Let me disclose a conflict of interest here. As a young and foolish man in uniform, I was intimate with the M1 in … well … an almost Biblical sense. Yes, I slept with an M1 Garand every night for, as I recall, about one week. That was the interval between one close rifle inspection–during which it was determined that I had cut corners and kept my rifle in “dry” condition (i.e., without oil, it seemed like a good idea at the time)–and the next. Worst than that, I’ve actually stripped an M1 down. All the way, baby. And more than once. I even just narrowly escaped “M1 thumb” a few times.
So, I guess I am a bit handicapped by actually knowing what the hell I am writing about here.
OK, people. Listen up. I am only going to write this once.
The M1 Garand is not by any stretch of fevered imagination an “assault rifle.” It is, in fact, a classic example of precisely the kind of “main battle rifle” that assault weapons were designed to replace. If you were going to draw a timeline of the demise of big, cumbersome, awkward military rifles, it would start with the M1 Garand in about 1944, when the Nazi army fielded the first true assault rifle, the STG-44.
The truth is that the M1 Garand is really no scarier, no more lethal, no worse than many popular semiautomatic hunting rifles sold today.
The M1 Garand is a semiautomatic rifle. It is fed by means of an 8-round clip. (Note: The M1 Garand is not the M1 Carbine, which is an entirely different gun, with entirely different features, and is quite properly excluded from import.)
That’s eight rounds. Not 20 rounds. Not 60 rounds. Not even the 10 rounds of the “high capacity magazine” that was banned (sort of) by the puny political fiction of the 1994 federal “Assault Weapons Ban.” In fact, the M1′s design is such that it can only accept an 8-round clip! And, yes, this is one time when the word “clip” (as opposed to “magazine”) correctly describes the ammunition feeding device.
So, what is an “assault rifle” and why isn’t the M1 one of them?
Well, Kristen Rand, of the Washington-based Violence Policy Center, quite correctly defined assault rifles in her statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 27, 2013 supporting Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s proposed assault weapons legislation.
Ms. Rand described assault rifles as weapons that “have incorporated into their design specific features that enable shooters to spray (‘hose down’) a large number of bullets over a broad killing zone, without having to aim at each individual target.” Wow, that is really good writing!
The specific design features, according to Ms. Rand’s perceptive statement, are:
It’s hard to find a better or more succinct statement of what makes an assault rifle an assault rifle!
The M1 has zero of these features. None. Zippo.
Unlike the AK-47 and the AR-15–which are assault rifles–the shooter cannot just pop in a 10, 20, 40, 60 round magazine, or 100 round drum. Loading the clip into an M1 is by comparison a cumbersome and slow process. The clip–into which eight rounds have been previously loaded by hand–has to be pushed down into the receiver. This requires more manual dexterity than simply shoving a high-capacity magazine up into a receiver, because once the M1 insertion is fully accomplished and pressure released, the M1′s bolt flies forward. It can give the inept shooter a vicious whack on the thumb if he (or she) hasn’t gotten it smartly out of the way. Hence, the phrase “M1 thumb.”
In fact, the five-round box magazine of a modern semiautomatic hunting rifle like the Remington Model 750 can be more easily and more quickly inserted into the rifle than the clips of the M1. Bonus: no chance of M1 thumb.
No, the M1 is simply not an assault rifle by anyone’s definition. Its eight rounds are scarcely more than a semiautomatic hunting rifle’s, and it cannot be reloaded as quickly and easily as the AK-47 and AR-15 (and others) can be.
Nubbin’s question: Well, but, gosh, sir, doesn’t the M1 fire some of kind of really dangerous high-powered military ammunition? I mean (smirk) nobody would really want to shoot a deer with this thing, right?
Sarcastic Answer: What are you smoking, son?
The M1 fires basically the same round that millions of hunting rifles fire–the venerable .30-06 Springfield, which has been around for over 100 years.
The M1 was not the “first of the military weapons marketed to the civilian population.” In fact, it was one of the last to be directly marketed to civilians from surplus stocks. The fact is that millions of surplus military rifles were imported into the United States in the years following World War II. The flow was cut off by the Gun Control Act of 1968 not because the M1, or any of equivalent rifles, were particularly deadly, but because the domestic gun industry was being hurt by competition from these relatively cheap imports. It persuaded Congress to stop them. The changes in the law in the mid-1980s were simply a reconquest, a victory of gun importers over domestic producers.
Military rifles have been part of the American sporting scene since the Revolution. The M1 Garand was no different. What has changed the situation dramatically and dangerously since the 1980s is the import and manufacture of the high-capacity magazines and the semiautomatic assault weapons for which they are designed. As explained above, the M1 Garand in no such creature by any definition.
Let’s examine a little relevant history here. I would say with all due modesty that the second-best book about the American gun industry and attempts at its regulation is Robert Sherrill’s 1973 masterpiece, The Saturday Night Special. Sherrill documented and cut through the preening hypocrisy of his era (very similar to ours) with scathing documentation. Here’s what he wrote about the history of the import of military weapons into the United States:
It’s estimated that between 1959—about the time the New England manufacturers really began to get their anti-import propaganda going—and 1963, 7 million foreign weapons, mostly military surplus, were imported into the United States.
Robert Sherrill, The Saturday Night Special (New York: Charterhouse, 1973), p. 88.
Do the math and a timeline to figure out when military weapons were first marketed to civilians in large numbers.
Sherrill also cuts through the hypocrisy and cant surrounding the ban on foreign guns that was put into place by the Gun Control Act of 1968. (It is worth reading just to get perspective on how little things have changed: then and now the gun industry had great influence in Congress, and then and now many gun control nubbins really don’t know jack about guns. They just plain don’t like any of them.) For example, in 1958, then Senator John F. Kennedy offered a bill to restrict the import of military firearms:
…but he did so candidly, admitting that the bill he introduced to ban the importation of military arms was meant to keep the cash registers jingling in his home state…The imports, he said, “have helped spoil the domestic market,” and his bill was “of particular importance to five arms manufacturers in Massachusetts,” which was as close as any politician will come to telling the truth: the legislation was written by the interested parties.
Robert Sherrill, The Saturday Night Special (New York: Charterhouse, 1973), p. 91.
Kennedy’s legislation went nowhere. Among the millions of surplus military guns imported in the post-war era were about 125,000 Carcano M91 Italian army rifles. Kennedy’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, bought one of these by mail order from Klein’s Sporting Goods in Chicago. (“‘Cursed Gun’–The Track of C2766,” LIFE Magazine, August 27, 1965, p. 63.) “Within the context of the marketplace, Kennedy’s assassination came to the assistance of [Sen. Thomas J.] Dodd and the New England gun manufacturers.” (Robert Sherrill, The Saturday Night Special (New York: Charterhouse, 1973), p. 165.)
The rest is history. Foreign guns–and guns manufactured in the United States for use by foreign armies, like the M1s Wayne LaPierre either did or did not have a hand in getting into the US–were to a large extent shut out of the U.S. domestic civilian market until the 1980s.
The M1 was very like an attractive woman in a very short skirt with an enormous purse slung over her shoulder, who just happened to be standing on a corner in a bad neighborhood when the cops came and made a sweep to keep the politicians happy. The M1 got caught in the roundup. Its reputation has never been the same since.
“Cockroaches are a pretty good reason to call the exterminator but voters might be even more concerned if their homes were infested with members of Congress: Cockroaches 45 Congress 43″
Here are the names of two people you probably never heard of: Jim Manley and Mark Lyttle.
The worlds of these two men are a universe apart. The void between their worlds is filled with the dark matter of political influence in Washington–blood money, revolving doors, and the self-interest of career politicians. That invisible political astrophysics is what defeated the public’s desire for comprehensive background checks in the Senate last week, is defeating public health and safety measures to reduce gun violence in Washington today, and will continue to thwart the will of the vast majority of Americans for a safer country tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow.
Unless you get up, stand up, and do something about it, like the hundreds of Americans rallying today in Washington to shame the NRA’s lobbyists.
Mark Lyttle is the subject of a frightening article by William Finnegan in the current issue of The New Yorker magazine. Lyttle is an American citizen who was arrested for a misdemeanor in North Carolina. From there–in a horrendously Kafkaesque series of arrogant mistakes and flawed decisions by nameless, faceless, and demonstrably incompetent bureaucrats–Lyttle was thrown into the unrelenting machinery of the American Homeland-Security-Industrial-Complex. He was expelled from the United States and repeatedly arrested by Department of Homeland Security operatives.
Like Boston marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev, Lyttle fell through the cracks of the vastly flawed system of piously fearful pork upon which we, the taxpayers of America, have lavished at least $1.3 TRILLION since the horrible events of September 11, 2001. Trillions for “homeland security,” but not one cent for keeping children safe from gun violence!
How can this be? How can it be that the Congress of the United States can allow–indeed, encourage–waste and incompetence on such a scale for such a Byzantine structure, and yet not protect small children and the rest of us from the far greater danger of gun violence?
Enter Jim Manley, a long time aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, career Senate staffer, now turned lobbyist. Manley made the unfortunate decision to be interviewed by the brilliant John Oliver for The Daily Show on politics and guns. He fairly made an ass of himself, but in the process revealed precisely the problem. Asked what makes a politician “successful,” Manley unblinkingly answered, “Getting reelected by his or her constituents.”
Not saving lives, but getting reelected.
Manley got the classic, patented John Oliver reaction to incredibly dumb statements. As the light dawned on his smugly placid face, he began to squirm with a deer-in-the-headlights look. Gosh, if only he could have rewound the tape and started over! But see the whole revealing bit for yourself here.
So, who is this inadvertently revealing guy, Jim Manley? Here’s his official bio from QCA, the oh-so-cleverly named “public affairs” (Washington doublespeak for House of Lobbyists and Piano Players) firm for which he now works:
Jim most recently served as the senior communications advisor and spokesman for the Senate Majority Leader, where he spent six years at the nexus of communications, politics and policy for every issue facing the Senate. As a strategist, he worked with the White House and the leadership in the House of Representatives to set the Democratic tone for legislative initiatives. As the Leader’s top spokesman, he dealt extensively with the national and regional media on a daily basis to advance the Democratic agenda. He is a regarded as a top Democratic strategist in Washington and continues to serve as a trusted resource for many of the nation’s top reporters.
What neither Manley nor The Daily Show revealed about this “top Democratic strategist” and “trusted source” is that among his firm’s clients is the investment management company BlackRock. New York City’s Public Advocate, Bill de Blasio recently named BlackRock as one of the Dirty Dozen investors in the gun industry. In fact, BlackRock, with $342 million of its investors’ money invested in the killing machine business, tops de Blasio’s money manager dirty investor list.
In truth, there is nothing remarkable about Jim Manley and his pedestrian, let’s-all-go-along-to-get-reelected “strategical thinking.” He’s just another of the thousands of Capitol Hill staffers who rotate between high-paying Congressional jobs to cash in with even higher paying jobs whoring–oops, I meant “lobbying”–for one or another plutocratic or just plain evil special interest in Washington. They are only following their bosses’ example. As The New York Times‘ inimitable Gail Collins recently noted:
Members of Congress regularly glom onto high-paying jobs in the private sector, none of which involve the use of their skills in computer technology. The Center for Responsive Politics counts 373 former House and Senate members who are currently working as lobbyists.
Former Congressman Steve Buyer (what a deliciously appropriate name, and no wonder he pronounces it as if it were spelled “boy-er”!), for example, went to work flacking for the tobacco industry, the only other industry in town that even comes close to the murderous, blood-soaked, unconscionable greed of the gun industry and its lackey, the NRA.
The NRA, of course, has been throwing its money around Washington with an abandoned passion since the Moloch’s slaughter of precious, innocent, beautiful children at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Not that the NRA and the gun industry need that much help with brilliant “strategists” like Jim Manley and the Third Way’s Jim Kessler advocating preemptive surrender on the gun control front. Still, every little bit helps when your business is death machines in a society of people who mostly want to live.
Among the hired guns the NRA has bought with the gun industry’s blood money is Michael E. Williams, a director in the firm of Greenberg, Taurig, another House of Piano Players in the Washington lobbying game. If Williams’ name sounds familiar, perhaps it’s because he was reported to be linked to convicted felon Jack Abramoff’s “Dream Team” of hucksters and specialists in the subornation of Congress. Here’s Williams’ official bio, which brags conspicuously about his skill at “derailing” gun control legislation, meaning the will of the American people:
Michael Williams focuses his practice on coalition building and integrating legislative, regulatory, grass tops, grass roots and public relations strategies on behalf of his clients to affect positive legislative and regulatory outcomes. Michael’s 25 years of experience on Capitol Hill has allowed him to develop a deep understanding of the interaction of policy issues and politics, as well as a wide-ranging bipartisan network of contacts within all areas of the federal government including Members of Congress, Congressional staff, the Administration and various governmental agencies.
Michael is a member of the Greenberg Political Contribution Committee which reviews and approves contributions and political activities of the Greenberg Traurig Political Action Committee. He also serves as a government affairs team representative to the Greenberg Traurig Commitment to Excellence Committee (CTE). The CTE works to ensure that the firm preserves and enhances the core values crucial to our brand: integrity, quality, service and accountability.
Prior to joining the firm in 2001, Michael Williams was a Senior Lobbyist for the National Rifle Association (NRA), the number one rated Association lobbyist team for 2001, according to Fortune magazine. For more than 11 years, as a Federal liaison for the NRA, he promoted legislative and political objectives on Capitol Hill. Michael was one of the major architects of the NRA legislative strategy to derail the 1997-1998 Clinton Gun Control legislation.
These inside ball, dark-of-the-moon, smoke-filled room operators are the mere tip of a rotting mound of corrupt influence in Washington. For more information, go here.
These people have no shame. And, by the way, there should be no place to hide for those who hire them. All of their clients are gun violence enablers, linked to the NRA and the gun industry in a frothing chain of blood money.
But who lobbies for the children of Newtown and the rest of us?
Big, huge A+ for the President Obama and Vice-President Biden for their strong start out of the blocks today on a comprehensive gun control package.
Confident, tough, and smart. Sure, you can natter about what might have been in or out, but this is laying down a super package.
President Obama nailed it: this is not going to happen unless the American people demand it.
Start demanding! Don’t let the midgets on the Hill kill it.
The Ten Ways
Vice-President Joe Biden will within days flash his beautiful teeth (only his orthodontist knows for sure what his barber already knows) and deliver the conclusions of the ponderous machinery of his task force (or whatever it’s officially called).
One would like nothing so much as a powerful legislative drone strike against the NRA and the industry it represents as the opening round in a long and relentless war against gun violence. But the NRA is not crouched in the dust behind a hill in Yemen. What we are most likely to see is a frizzante of accommodation, an artfully-contrived punch, served up as the gun control nobility whirl about in the kind of grande valse brillante that passes for action today in Washington, DC.
Here are ten signs—among many that one could state—to watch, in order to know at the end of the day whether you have been sold out once again by the political nobility of gun control.
For an analysis of the deeper questions and politics of gun control, see the companion post here http://tomdiazgunsandgangs.com/2013/01/14/the-road-from-serfdom-the-politics-of-gun-control/.