How the NRA exalts the 2nd Amendment, and defiles the rest

February 15, 2013

[The latest in my ongoing efforts to cross-post my Daily Kos rants here…this one runs long! More’s the pity.]

Among the typical pro-gun arguments I see here on Daily Kos, and in the media, is that gun control advocates don’t respect the entire Bill of Rights. By which they mean the 2nd Amendment is insufficiently respected. As recently as Wayne LaPierre’s slam on the President’s inaugural address, Wayne exclaimed of his side that “We believe in our Bill of Rights.”

But the truth is, none of the first ten amendments matter to the NRA so much as the 2nd Amendment, and in fact their efforts trample on the rest of the Bill of Rights. This is why federal agencies like the CDC have been muzzled, and their efforts to curb gun violence through research have been eliminated.

Even doctors are coming under fire from the NRA for daring to speak to their patients about gun safety, to the point that an article in the latest issue of JAMA, titled “Silencing the Science on Gun Research,” addresses it specifically. The notion that gun enthusiasts respect the entire Bill of Rights, and that gun control advocates don’t, is a myth in need of busting.


The JAMA article mentions a story I’ve heard before. In 1996, the NRA’s agents in Congress tried to do away with the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the CDC. When they failed at this, they chose instead to defund the CDC to the tune of $2.6 million, or the exact amount the CDC had spent on research into firearm injury. And when this funding was later restored, the pro-gun advocates inflicted the most insidious damage on the CDC, and on federal agencies in general.

To ensure that the CDC and its grantees got the message, the following language was added to the final appropriation: “none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.”4Precisely what was or was not permitted under the clause was unclear. But no federal employee was willing to risk his or her career or the agency’s funding to find out. Extramural support for firearm injury prevention research quickly dried up. Even today, 17 years after this legislative action, the CDC’s website lacks specific links to information about preventing firearm-related violence.

No federal employee. And how could they? Even if an individual is willing to risk to their own career, what about everyone else they work with? Much less the entire agency they work for? We suffer to this day from the repression of scientific research, all for the sake of guns. And it didn’t stop there. According to the JAMA article, this research suppression effort was later extended to all the agencies under the Department of Health and Human Services, including the NIH. This was done through this bill from 2011, the Consolidated Appropriations Act for 2012, and yes, Obama signed it in December of 2011. No doubt one of those kick-the-can, must-have budget bills the do-nothing Republican House specializes in. The NRA gloated of this victory and its NRA-backed provisions designed to put a stop to scientific research studying gun violence.

One of the protections expanded and strengthened can be found in Sec. 218 of the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education (Labor-H) division of the bill.  This section prevents the National Institutes of Health (NIH) from using taxpayer dollars to promulgate junk science designed to paint legal gun ownership as a public health hazard.  Since 2002, the NIH has spent nearly $5 million on this “research” even though their counterparts at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have been prevented from funding similar studies since being blocked in 1996 by a NRA-backed provision.

At this point, it’s clear that the NRA is proud of its success in silencing the voices of scientists trying to study gun violence in search of ways to reduce it. And if pride goes before a fall, it’s high time for a fall.The JAMA article also cites the epidemic of suicide occurring in the military, where commanders are unable to speak to service members about their guns, thanks to more suppressive legislation bought and paid for by the NRA, a problem I’ve written about before.

And yet, to consider only the influence the NRA has had on the federal government would seriously underestimate their efforts. They’ve been busy at the state level, too. Like suppressing gun registration files in Washington state, after they were used to study the risk of homicide or suicide. And in Florida, where, as I mentioned above, governor Rick Scott & crew are trying to muzzle doctors:

In 2011, Florida’s legislature passed and Governor Scott signed HB 155, which subjects the state’s health care practitioners to possible sanctions, including loss of license, if they discuss or record information about firearm safety that a medical board later determines was not “relevant” or was “unnecessarily harassing.” A US district judge has since issued a preliminary injunction to block enforcement of this law, but the matter is still in litigation. Similar bills have been proposed in 7 other states.

I realize that I’m going to start sounding like a broken record here, but the NRA’s fingerprints are all over this bill too, natch.

The law was written after a July 2010 incident, when a 26-year-old Ocala woman with four children refused to tell her pediatrician if she had guns in her home and the physician then gave her 30 days to find a new doctor. National Rifle Association lobbyists pushed hard for the bill’s passage.

The JAMA article points out that this law is being challenged in the courts, and NRA attorneys are hard at work defending it, of course. Although this piece of…legislation…threatens doctors in Florida with $10,000 fines and the loss of their license, supposedly “it is not a prohibition on speech.” All I can say is, they must be paid pretty well to look a judge in the eye and tell them that when a doctor cannot speak to a patient about something, that it’s not a prohibition on speech. The English language ceases to have meaning around these gun enthusiasts.

But the point is simple. None of our other rights matter. Supposedly we require the 2nd Amendment to protect them, but in reality they can all get thrown under the bus. Look at the NRA’s proposals in the wake of the mass shooting in Newtown.

On the first one – the contention that gun control advocates don’t show the entire Bill of Rights the respect it deserves – I would point to the NRA’s own proposed responses to the Newtown tragedy. They include concerns about violent media, stepped-up security measures at schools and increased background checks. Those steps could have implications for the First Amendment, the Fourth Amendment and the Fifth Amendment.

Is the pattern in any way unclear? The entire Bill of Rights can get fucked — just don’t touch the guns!

Keep in mind, while most of these examples concern the First Amendment, it’s not as if that is ambiguous about the freedom it spells out.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

And yet somehow, there are occasional restrictions on this right to speak that don’t result in its utter destruction. Certainly the NRA makes no bones about going after the 1st Amendment at the first sign of any potential conflict with the 2nd. But we’re expected to believe that any restrictions on the 2nd Amendment will lead inexorably to catastrophe. This is simply not so. Laws restricting firearms have existed for decades without resulting in mass confiscation or genocide. And we should suffer no fear of applying the NRA’s logic about the rest of the Bill of Rights to their precious 2nd Amendment.

At the risk of linking to the NRA Store, I found the perfect illustration of the NRA’s concern for the Bill of Rights in a product that they used to sell: a ‘Guardian of Freedom’ plaque.

Let the walls of your home or office make a statement about your values. Our NRA Guardian of Freedom Plaque features the Second Amendment etched on glass and suspended above the Bill of Rights.

Looking at the plaque, there is some washed-out script (the Bill of Rights presumably) over which the 2nd Amendment is proudly displayed. The rest of them are superfluous, a vehicle for delivery of what the NRA proclaims is our “First Freedom.”

In order of importance, the first amendment. It is America’s First Freedom, the one right that protects all of the others. Among freedom of speech, of the press, of religion, of assembly, of redress of grievances, it is the first among equals. It alone offers the absolute capacity to live without fear. The right to keep and bear arms is the one right that allows “rights” to exist at all.

It’s interesting that Charlton Heston would mention being able to “live without fear” only thanks to the 2nd Amendment. I thought all the obsession with guns wasn’t about fear. Well, I guess you learn something new every day…that is, unless the NRA decides you shouldn’t.Anyway, the cited article from JAMA is worth reading, and perhaps shorter than this rant, too.  🙂  Even better, it’s not the only piece about gun violence that appears in the latest issue. I hope to take up the ideas in the next article tomorrow, if someone else doesn’t get to it first.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: