by Max Brantley
The reaction to President Obama's call for a range of reactions to gun violence has been about as thoughtful from the gun nut side as I figured. To Arkansas Republicans, any effort to protect the safety of citizens is an attack on the Second Amendment, though even the current Republican gun majority on the Supreme Court has clearly sanctioned a variety of regulatory tools. The Guns Over People Party, Chris Matthews called the GOP last night.
The gun nuts, before they are done, will round up dozens of sponsors in support of a kneejerk resolution introduced yesterday in the Arkansas legislature in support of the Second Amendment, a meaningless time-waster if there ever was one. If only the 1st Amendment would fare so well.
A special shoutout to radical Republican Sen. Missy Irvin, the Kochs' major mouthpiece in the Senate, who proudly posted her 12-year-old son's letter to President Obama on Twitter last night. He wrote:
I live in Mtn View, AR & here, unlike Washington DC, we all have guns.
I was surprised to learn Tyson chicken apparently hadn't made it to Mountain View grocery stores in any life-sustaining quantity. Or those tubes of pulped up pink beef parts. Wrote the senator's son:
We use guns to put food on the table here and we all rely on guns. Without guns our whole town will go hungry!
Have they banned fishing in the White River?
PS: Nice manners Sen. Irvin teaches at her place. A 12-year-old opens a letter to the president of the United States, "Dear Barack"? Could have been worse. Could have opened with racial epithet, as some Arkies would prefer.
Also: No self-respecting Arkansas legislator would ever take guidance from a foreign country, I know, but they still might be interested in a NY Times op-ed by the right-wing leader of Australia who pushed tough gun control measures there after a murderous semi-automatic rifle slaughter in Tasmania.
Because Australia is a federation of states, the national government has no control over gun ownership, sale or use, beyond controlling imports. Given our decentralized system of government, I could reduce the number of dangerous firearms only by persuading the states to enact uniform laws totally prohibiting the ownership, possession and sale of all automatic and semiautomatic weapons while the national government banned the importation of such weapons.
To make this plan work, there had to be a federally financed gun buyback scheme. Ultimately, the cost of the buyback was met by a special one-off tax imposed on all Australians. This required new legislation and was widely accepted across the political spectrum. Almost 700,000 guns were bought back and destroyed — the equivalent of 40 million guns in the United States.
Yes, there was massive resistance from rural states.
For a time, it seemed that certain states might refuse to enact the ban. But I made clear that my government was willing to hold a nationwide referendum to alter the Australian Constitution and give the federal government constitutional power over guns. Such a referendum would have been expensive and divisive, but it would have passed. And all state governments knew this.
In the end, we won the battle to change gun laws because there was majority support across Australia for banning certain weapons. And today, there is a wide consensus that our 1996 reforms not only reduced the gun-related homicide rate, but also the suicide rate. The Australian Institute of Criminology found that gun-related murders and suicides fell sharply after 1996. The American Journal of Law and Economics found that our gun buyback scheme cut firearm suicides by 74 percent. In the 18 years before the 1996 reforms, Australia suffered 13 gun massacres — each with more than four victims — causing a total of 102 deaths. There has not been a single massacre in that category since 1996.
Few Australians would deny that their country is safer today as a consequence of gun control.
Nate Bell would. And many of his Arkansas legislative cohorts.