Sunday, December 06, 2015

How GOP Presidential Hopefuls Demonstrate Their Fealty To The NRA And Other Merchants Of Death


Yesterday the Washington Post's Philip Rucker and Sean Sullivan looked at the responses of the GOP presidential hopefuls to the recent terrorism/gun massacres (and we'll get to that in a moment). The 4 senators-- Rubio, Cruz, Graham and Paul-- all had votes on massacre-related issues this week, starting with Dianne Feinstein's amendment "to increase public safety by permitting the Attorney General to deny the transfer of firearms or the issuance of firearms and explosives licenses to known or suspected dangerous terrorists," which failed 45-54, all 4 of the Senators-who-would-be-president voting with the NRA and the terrorists to permit suspected terrorists to keep buying guns. Next was Joe Manchin's amendment "to protect Second Amendment rights, ensure that all individuals who should be prohibited from buying a firearm are listed in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, and provide a responsible and consistent background check process." That failed as well 48-50, again with the 4 presidential hopefuls voting the NRA/ISIS line. One of the NRA-Republicans, Rand Paul introduced a bill to override the local voters in Washington DC who had decided to institute sane gun safety regulations. His NRA amendment failed 54-45 but the 4 silly senators who see themselves in the Oval Office behind the big desk all voted for it, naturally.

The NRA and other gun manufacturers' lobbyists have been extremely helpful to Senate Republicans, not just giving them cash but also running "independent" advertising campaigns on their behalf. For example, when Ted Cruz ran for his Senate seat in 2012 the NRA spent $65,300 on his behalf. They also contribute to their candidates and to other PACs that spend on behalf of their candidates. These are the amounts contributed by the NRA and other gun rights groups directly to the campaigns of the Members of Congress (and in Fiorina's case ran-and-lost) who are running for president now:
Ted Cruz- $125,000
Rick Santorum- $112,552
Lindsey Graham- $90,866
Marco Rubio- $84,189
Rand Paul- $73,768
Carly Fiorina- $38,300
John Kasich- $11,700
Hillary Clinton- $10,100
Bobby Jindal- $6,000
Bernie Sanders- $250

Now, back to Rucker and Sullivan at The Post. They started with a description of Ted Cruz's NRA-celebration of the deaths of the 14 victims from San Bernardino at a gun range in Johnston, Iowa the day after the GOP/NRA-sanctioned mass murder. The Texas neo-fascist crackpot thundered at his followers and, the assembled press, the old NRA line that "You don’t stop bad guys by taking away our guns. You stop bad guys by using our guns" and vowing that if he gets into the White House, any "lunatic" or "jihadist" who attempts to harm innocent Americans will "encounter the business end of firearms."
Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, called the Republican field’s eagerness to campaign at shooting ranges and other firearms facilities “shameful” and “disturbing.”

Gross said the candidates “are all just trying to outdo each other to try and demonstrate that this is a debate over constitutional rights rather than what it is, which is a debate over what we can do to keep guns out of the hands of people that shouldn’t have them.”

Most of the 14 GOP presidential aspirants agree on gun policy-- they oppose further restrictions, such as universal background checks for purchases or banning assault weapons. The near-unanimity on the issues means that candidates are trying to differentiate themselves with imagery and optics, attempting to appeal to the GOP’s most intense gun-rights supporters.

“In the Republican coalition, Second Amendment folks are a high-propensity group,” GOP strategist Rick Wilson said. “They will come out to vote. They will walk through icy rain. They will walk through blazing heat.”

...At Friday’s event, Cruz sought to portray himself as the presidential field’s toughest defender of gun rights. He announced a national Second Amendment coalition, which includes more than 24,000 people. One of the coalition’s leaders, Sgt. Patrick Perkins, who is a co-founder of the veterans group Heroes Hunting, had a handgun in his waist holster as he introduced Cruz. On the side of the room hung a poster explaining, “What happens when the trigger is pressed?”

Cruz spoke briefly about the San Bernardino shooting, saying it was the product of “the evil of radical Islamic terrorism.” He warned of the dangers of “disarming the citizenry.” The Second Amendment, he said, not only grants people the right to keep and bear arms to protect their families, homes and lives but also is a “fundamental check on government.”

...Cruz is hardly the only candidate who plays up his affinity for firearms. Some others, such as Sen. Lindsey O. Graham of South Carolina, grew up in rural cultures and have been building their gun collections since childhood. Graham rose before dawn one Saturday in June to shoot skeet with about two dozen donors in Utah.

Before a televised debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in September, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) stopped at a nearby gun range and shot at a stack of boxes labeled “IRS Tax Code” with an AR-15 assault rifle. As Paul coolly fired at his target, his instructor praised his aim after each loud, booming shot.

“Right in it,” the man told him. “Perfect.”

The Facebook pages of former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum feature videos of them at gun ranges in key early voting states.

One shows Huckabee in orange earmuffs and protective glasses firing five shots in 10 seconds at an Iowa range. Afterward, he inspects where his shots hit his target, which was a silhouette of a human torso.

In another, Santorum shoots an AK-47 assault rifle at a South Carolina range.

“That’s pretty intense!” he says.

Other candidates with more city-slicker backgrounds, such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Florida governor Jeb Bush, have shied away from such blatant gun worship. Christie and Bush do not own guns, a Washington Post review of the Republican field conducted earlier this year found. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) owns a handgun, but he has not held any campaign events at shooting ranges this year.
This plays out badly in the real world too. In June, the New Jersey legislature overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan law that would make it more difficult for people with mental health records to buy guns in that state. Christie, playing Iowa caucus politics, vetoed it in August. And on Thursday, he was able to appeal to enough Republicans in the Assembly to block an override. (In the state Senate, there were enough Republicans to tell Christie to take a walk and the override was passed-- but it needed both houses to become law.) The rotund governor better hope there are no mass shootings in his state by someone with a history of mental illness between now and the election!

Kasich appeared on CNN's State of the Union this morning and became the first from the crazy car to break with the NRA on allowing terrorist suspects to buy guns legally. "Well, on the no-fly list, we probably could keep them from getting guns and ought to ban them... Of course it makes common sense to say that if you’re on a terror watchlist that you shouldn’t be able to go out and get a gun, although you will be able to get it illegally, but what we have to deal with is the fact that we don’t want to tip somebody off that they’re under review and that we could be gathering critical information to disrupt the plot." The rest of the Deep Bench insist on the right of suspected terrorists-- especially right-wing terrorists who commit almost all the terrorism in America (who Rubio referred to as "everyday Americans" this morning on the same show)-- to buy military style weapons legally. Seems like a crazy position, even for a Republican, no?

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