The recent news has been filled with anything but acceptable behavior by gun nuts. A Montana man sets a trap for burglars and executes a teenage intruder. A Virginia man strapping on a holster shoots himself in the penis. So-called open-carry activists keep walking into Texas malls and restaurant chains with assault rifles. And federal airport screeners say 2014 will set a record for travelers forgetting they are carrying guns.
In response, millions of women protested the misogynist rampage near Santa Barbara that killed six, placing violence against women in the national spotlight. In 2014, five states passed laws limiting domestic abusers’ access to guns, and several bills allowing guns on school grounds were blocked. Longtime gun defenders know that the ghastly statistics on gun violence against women is a powerful avenue for control advocates, yet they can’t stop their side’s fanatics from taunting the public with assault rifles.
These are some of the dots to be connected in the national landscape over gun violence, gun control efforts and pro-gun extremism. In some respects, gun nuts are losing ground in the battle for public opinion because of their provocations—such as carrying assault rifles into the baby section of Target stores. But even as new groups like Moms Demand Action are helping to pass new controls and blocking pro-gun laws, decades of NRA electioneering has made the states, not Congress, the frontline for real reform.
What follows are nine points showing the craziness and changing factors over guns.
1. Women, Not Students, Are The Target Of Most Mass Gun Murder. There have been 74 shootings at schools across the U.S. since the Sandy Hook massacre in December 2012, according to Everytown For Gun Safety—which, astoundingly, the pro-gun side claims is an inflated figure. As headline-grabbing as school shootings are, the under-reported daily target and toll from gun violence involves women. More American women have been murdered by their intimate partners using guns since 2001 (6,410) than U.S. troops have been killed in combat (5,315) in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the Center for American Progress reports. Guns are involved in at least 34 percent of all murders of women commited by their partners, an average of five a day, CAP found from crime statistics.
2. States With The Laxest Gun Laws Have The Most Violence. America has so many guns that not a week goes by without something stupid or deadly occurring. It’s easy to smirk at the Virginia man who shot his penis while strapping on a holster. It’s more serious as federal airport screeners report that states with the fewest gun controls see the most people “forgetting” they’re carrying a gun as try to board planes. It gets deadly when a gun owner takes the law into his own hands and sets up an ambush in his home killing the young intruder—as happened in Montana. Study after study finds that states with the laxest gun laws have the most gun-related violence—including murder.
3. Absurdly, Gun Nuts Say They Are Threatened. There is no better illustration of the selfish, irresponsible and anti-democratic nature of the pro-gun side than to look at what their extremists are doing as most people are repulsed by the rash of school shootings. In Texas, the open-carry movement has seen dozens of young men and a few women march into restaurants and chain stores catering to women—like Target—toting military-style rifles. These jerks claim they are asserting their Second Amendment rights and freedoms. Their antics have prompted people to panic, leave and call in the police. These incidents have disgusted longtime NRA defenders, such as BearingArms.com editor Bob Owens, who wrote, “If someone has an idea of how to break through to them that they are not only hurting their alleged cause but gun owners as well, I’d love to hear your advice.”
4. Gun Nuts Admit They Cannot Control Gun Nuts. To be fair, many readers commenting on Owens’ latest open-carry column agree that these fanatics have crossed a line. But some of them are so out-of-touch with their sides’ extremists that they think they are secretly being paid by gun control groups to act. “They are probably being paid by [ex-New York mayor Michael] Bloomberg,” wrote one pro-gun commenter. But it would be a mistake to think that these homegrown terrorists—as Hillary Clinton just called them in a speech—are outliers on the pro-gun side. When a low-level NRA staffer recently wrote a memo criticizing them, top NRA brass quickly apologized to the Texas activists. What the NRA considers acceptable is anything but.
5. Americans Aren’t Standing For This—Starting With Big Business. Chains such as Starbucks, Chipotle, Chili’s, Sonic and Jack in the Box have all drawn a line against the open carry activists, saying gun-toting customers aren’t welcome. So have Costco, Toys R Us, Babies R Us, Food Lion, Whole Foods and IKEA, according to the relatively new gun-control group, MomsDemandAction.org. It has launched a campaign, #OffTarget, to push the retailer to do likewise. “Semi-automatic assault rifles don’t belong in the baby aisle—or anywhere else in Target,” its website says. “Nearly 90 percent of Target customers are women; they need to know we expect them to get gun sense.”
6. The NRA Is Facing Opposition and Losing. After the Sandy Hook school shooting in December 2012, both gun-control and gun rights groups mobilized. More than 1,500 bills on both sides were introduced in legislatures in 2013. While most went nowhere, a handful of red states, like Georgia, bought the NRA line that the answer to gun violence was more guns and looser gun laws. On the other hand, the gun control side saw some big victories, said Laura Cutilletto, senior staff attorney at the Law Center To Prevent Gun Violence. “Several states last year closed the private sale loophole. That is the biggest priority of our movement,” she said, noting that New York, Connecticut, Delaware and Colorado now join California and Rhode Island in requiring a background check for all gun sales. Three of those states and Illinois also beat the NRA and now require gun owners to report lost and stolen weapons. And four states that previously banned military assault-style weapons have tightened those laws.
7. Women-Centered Gun Control Groups Getting Results. The post-Sandy Hook landscape has seen new groups emerge, such as Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. With Congress deadlocked on gun controls, they have been very active in state legislatures. They could not stop Indiana’s bill allowing people to keep guns in their cars on school grounds, but they helped block a similar bill in Rhode Island. They stopped an Oklahoma bill that would have lowered the criminal penalty from carrying a hidden and loaded gun into a school. They also were part of a bipartisan coalition in Wisconsin that helped to pass a bill barring domestic abusers from owning or possessing guns—one of five states to do that in 2014. And, along with Mayors Against Illegal Guns, co-founded by New York City’s Michael Bloomberg and Boston’s Tom Menino, they are tracking and speaking out on what’s happening in city halls, legislatures and courts nationwide.
8. Gun Nuts React With New Big Lie And CNN Buys It. According to Everytown, which grew out of the Mayors’ group, there have been 74 school shootings since Sandy Hook. That tally threatens the NRA, as does the number of women killed by guns during domestic violence. There’s nothing new about gun nuts feeling aggrieved and fighting back. But, as the Daily Beast'sBrandy Zadrozny writes, one pro-gun writer has been waging a Twitter campaign to debunk the Everytown count. As she noted, “In what may be the most tortuous sentence ever constructed, he wrote, ‘It’s not a school shooting when someone goes and shoots a specific person on campus. It’s a shooting that happens to take place at school.” Believe it or not, CNN has followed this illogic and reported that only 15 of these rampages should be called school shootings. Not included are guns accidentally firing in school hallways, suicides by students after threats to other students, and other deeply traumatizing incidents.
9. Gun Control Groups Are Making Progress, But The Road Is Long. Before Sandy Hook, no one would have predicted that a handful of even blue states would pass laws closing the gun sale loophole, requiring lost and stolen guns be reported, and keeping guns out of the hands of domestic abusers. Moreover, few would have predicted that women-centered gun control groups would emerge and forcefully challenge and in some instances break the NRA’s spell over state legislators. Nor would many people have predicted that millions of women would join an online campaign against misogyny and gun-related domestic violence.
But despite all that progress, the biggest hurdle is one that’s been out front all along—breaking the congressional deadlock on gun control. According to Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball, there are nine U.S. House races in 2014 that are “toss-ups,” or too close to call. Six of those are in states with C or worse ratings by the Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence. And most are not in states with recent school shootings. That suggests guns aren’t going to be a top issue in those 2014 campaigns, underscoring how hard it is to convince Congress to get real about the epidemic of gun violence in America.