Saturday, January 25, 2014

It Turns Out That Raffling Off An Assault Rifle Is A Great Way To Demonstrate How Out Of Touch You Are

(UPDATED -- see below)

If you wish to appeal to the most hardline conservative gun lovers, one surefire way is to use assault rifles.  Nothing gets their blood boiling more than remembering the Federal Assault Weapons Ban which banned sale of new assault weapons in the 90's, and it continues to be a goal of gun violence prevention advocates, such as myself, to reinstate the ban.  To these gun lovers, nothing says "freedom" more than firing up to 600 rounds per minute with an AR-15 (yes, that's with a semi-auto form with only minor modification, or simply by using "bump fire" shooting).  Owning one of these babies isn't about hunting or defense, it's about the tactical coolness factor of owning one, and as a political statement ... or committing mass shootings (over half of all mass shootings used semi-auto assault rifles or high-capacity ammo magazines, in fact, which would have been banned by the Federal Assault Weapons Ban).

Last week, the GOP party of Multnomah County, Oregon, took full advantage of this and announced a special fundraiser.  At $10 a ticket, they offered a chance to win your very own AR-15.  This is the third time they've done this in less than a year!  This one is to have the winner announced on February 15 at a Lincoln Day dinner, with the guest speaker being the father of Senator Ted Cruz of Texas (another ultra-conservative GOP hardliner).

Multnomah County GOP Chairman Jeff Reynolds said, “We are here to reaffirm our strong defense of the Second Amendment and the right to personal protection. The Bill of Rights is inviolable, despite what the gun-grabbers in Salem might try.”

Reynolds went on to say, “We’ve recently caught wind that the Democrats in Salem, led once again by Ginny Burdick, will attempt to take away our personal right to bear arms. The Multnomah County Republican Party remains steadfast in its dedication to defeating such efforts.”  ....

"... One right you just don't try to take away is the right of an Oregonian to own guns."

And how are "the Democrats in Salem" trying to "take away our personal right to bear arms" exactly?  By submitting a bill for background checks for all gun sales and transfers.  To these gun hardliners, requiring a buyer to take a 5-minute background check to make sure the gun isn't being sold to a felon is simply too much to ask, and in their minds equates to taking away all of their guns entirely!  Paranoia like that isn't going to do their party any good, I'm afraid. 

After all, according to a poll conducted for the Oregonian newspaper of Portland last year, 81% of Oregonians supported universal background checks, while only 16% opposed it.  Another poll, conducted for KATU news of Portland around the same time, found an even larger divide, with 90% support for universal background checks, and only 7% opposing.  Wow!  With results like that, one has to wonder who the Multnomah GOP is representing.  Is it really only 7-16% of Oregonians?

Around 2000 prohibited people, mostly felons, each year try to buy guns from gun dealers in Oregon and fail a background check.  Currently they can turn around and buy one in a private sale, no background check needed.  The Multnomah County GOP is just fine with that.

But, hey, why stop there?  Why not kick it up a notch with their raffle announcement ...

Here's the real kicker.  The GOP announcement says  that they are holding the rally to "celebrate the legacy of two great Republicans," Martin Luther King, Jr., and Abraham Lincoln!

When I read that, I literally burst out laughing.  I simply couldn't control myself.  Not only was King NOT a Republican, but he was a man who literally gave his life for peace and non-violence.  And, as with Lincoln, he was shot to death!  I can't imagine someone who is LESS a poster boy for gun-loving Republican ultra-conservatives!  Who will they pick for their next honoree?  Ghandi?  And as for Lincoln, a noted Lincoln historian says that the President wouldn't even recognize his party today.

[The odd note here is that King did apply for a conceal carry permit (and was turned down because he was black), and he did briefly own a gun in his home, for protection.  But he realized fairly quickly that not only was having a gun in the home a danger for his children, but it went against his principles of peace and non-violence.  He then discarded his gun and forbid his bodyguards from carrying them too.  Read the truth about this in this article by Salon.]

This obscene assertion by the Multnomah County GOP immediately drew calls of dishonor from the nation.  Reverend Chuck Currie stated it best, in his article at Huffington Post:

Multnomah County includes the city of Portland. Republicans don't win in the City of Roses. Democrats control every statewide elected office, including the two U.S. Senate seats, in Oregon. Gut wrenching stunts like this might be part of the reason. ....
You do not honor men killed by gun violence by putting more guns on the street. Instead you work to reduce gun violence and work to bring reconciliation to a fractured nation.
Reconciliation of the American community was a foundational goal sought by both Lincoln and King.
Nor do you lie about who they were or what they stood for. ...

Well, this lie, and the outrage it created, backfired on the GOP.  Not only are they now a laughing stock, but they have been denied the venue they had booked for the raffle dinner, where the winner was to be announced.  The Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in northeast Portland withdrew its support and said it would no longer host the GOP for the event.  

From an article that also quoted Reverend Currie:

Chuck Currie, a United Church of Christ minister and longtime political activist, said he was among those urging Holy Trinity not to allow its facilities to be used for the Republican event.
"You don't honor a minister who preached non-violence by auctioning off the same kind of weapon used in the mass killings of children" at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., said Currie, who wrote a column on the subject for the Huffington Post.

In the wake of all this negative publicity, Multnomah Republican Chairman Jeff Reynolds backtracked and issued an "apology."  Okay, it wasn't really an apology.  In fact, even though it used the words "we apologize," it was anything but.  The only thing they apologized for was that "those who disagree with us politically" were "hurt by the message being marred by insufficient wording and/or cynical misinterpretations."  It went on to give some token acknowledgements to the legacy of Dr. King, then launched into a diatribe about how the "freedom to defend our lives under the Second Amendment" (among other perceived injustices) are "under attack."

Then, just as bad and their initial blunder, they then stated, "The great political issue today is whether or not the American people of all creeds and races will live free or live as slaves - slaves to their own overreaching government."  As if the "slavery" of any of today's political issues were in any way comparable to hundreds of years of real slavery and oppression that King and Lincoln fought to end!

It's just another example of how the GOP has failed to change.  Sticking to the same old hard-line agenda, and shifting even more to the right, no less, only illustrates how tone-deaf the Multnomah GOP has become, particularly on the issue of gun rights.

Last year, in their attempts to derail the conversation on the gun issue and intimidate those who they view as opponents, some pro-gun absolutists stalked a state legislator, Ginny Burdick, and even videotaped her as she worked around her house, posting it on the web.  Lo and behold, it was the same GOP party chairman, Jeff Reynolds, who openly defended the stalkers, saying that the person who took the video was "a friend" of his.

Starting to see a trend?  Is this really the sort of leadership that Oregon Republicans want? 

It's time Oregonians turn their back on pro-gun absolutists like the Mulnomah County GOP and back common sense legislation, such as universal background checks, and put our communities on a new trajectory away from gun violence.

UPDATE (1/26/14):  By the way, raffling off AR-15 assault rifles is becoming a trend by hardline GOP conservatives.  Consider, for instance, this announcement by an extreme pro-gun South Carolina GOP candidate:
Bright, who is competing along with three other Republicans to unseat Sen. Lindsey Graham in the primary, announced the raffle in an email on Thursday, touting it as a show of his support for the Second Amendment.
“I know the anti-gun media may hate it,” Bright says in the email. “I know the political talking heads may sneer as they continue blaming guns and law-abiding gun owners for the acts of thugs and madmen. But I am THE pro-gun, pro-Constitution candidate in this race for the U.S. Senate — and I can’t think of a better way to get that word out than by giving away a brand new AR-15.”
Here's one GOP candidate from Georgia who is doing the same:
Broun, perhaps seeking to distinguish himself in a crowded Republican primary field, sent an email to supporters Friday offering up a free gun to push back against "the Democrats and liberal media" who "would love to take away our guns and mandate every aspect of our lives," according to the paper.
"As one of the most conservative members of Congress, and a staunch supporter of the 2nd Amendment, I am constantly under attack for my values and beliefs," the email read. "Today I'm fighting back. How would you like to start off 2014 with a brand new AR-15 for free?"
Here's one from December, by the Republican Party of Arizona:
Raymond Jones, chairman of the Legislative District 26 Republicans, told Phoenix television station KTVK he was unaware the first anniversary of the shooting is Saturday and said he "might have considered another weapon" if he had known.
Sure he was...  They even joked about the poor timing of it, but others weren't amused. Another sign of the tone-deaf nature of these gun hardliners.  From another article:

"We don't do raffles hardly at all,  mainly for Christmas and for shock value," joked Craig Ray. ....
But the timing of the raffle has some scratching their heads, because it was held days before the anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre.

"To raffle off an AR15, a military-style assault rifle, the same rifle used to murder those children almost a year ago, is completely inappropriate," said District 26 Democratic committee chairman Randy Keating in response. His group is collecting money for a group called Arizonans for gun safety.

"No one's denying it's their right to do this," said Keating. "We all have rights to do things that are incredibly poor taste."
And here's a raffle from last October, by the Republican Party of Rhode Island:
The state party is in lock step with the National Rifle Association, which will run its own online “banned guns” raffle later this month, offering a dozen assault rifles that the association triumphantly notes Congress failed to ban after the Newtown schoolhouse massacre. 
Here's one by a Texas Republican congressman from last May:
The debate in Congress over gun laws continues to wage, but Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Tex., isn't letting it hinder his pro-gun advocacy: Wednesday night he announced he's raffling off an assault rifle on his campaign website.

"Want to win a FREE AR-15? Congressman Steve Stockman is giving one away!" reads a message on his campaign's Twitter feed. "Grab this gun before Obama does!"
The list goes on.  A quick Google search shows others.  Sad that they would consider raffling off a highly-lethal weapon as a means of getting quick money.  Says a lot about their priorities, doesn't it?