Shortly after the Baton Rouge police shootings, Donald Trump tweeted: “How many law enforcement and people have to die because of lack of leadership in our country. We demand law and order.”
Baton Rouge is about a lot of things. But Trump’s latest branding initiative — “leadership on law and order” — isn’t among them.
Facts Should Matter
On July 17, Baton Rouge police officers responded to a call about a man carrying a gun. When they arrived, he used an AR-15 style semi-automatic weapon to kill three of them and injure three others. Earlier this month, a sniper killed five Dallas police officers and wounded seven more. In addition to his rifle, the shooter was armed with a pistol; he had a small arsenal in his home. Four weeks earlier, a lone killer used a semi-automatic rifle to end the lives of 49 people and wound another 53 as they partied in an Orlando nightclub.
One place to begin a meaningful discussion of these episodes — and an unfortunate number of others — might be the weapons of such mass destruction. Louisiana, Texas, and Florida permit the private ownership of assault weapons. When the NRA defends those firearms as essential to the sport of hunting, I’m reminded of my father’s line:
“If you want to call it a sport, make it a fair fight,” he would say. “Either arm the deer, or require the hunter to chase Bambi down and kill him with his bare hands.”
Lobbying Against Research To Find The Truth
Texas and Louisiana have open carry laws. Wear your gun with pride. Just hope that if you pull it out of the holster, you won’t hurt yourself or someone close to you. That’s no joke. The frequency of self-inflicted wounds and accidental shootings is one reason that the NRA has quietly blocked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from researching gun violence since 1996.
The last CDC-funded study on the subject appeared in the October 1993 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. It concluded: “Rather than confer protection, guns kept in the home are associated with an increase in the risk of homicide by a family member of intimate acquaintance.”
The study noted: “Previous case-control research has demonstrated a strong associate between the ownership of firearms and suicide in the home. Also, unintentional shooting deaths can occur when children play with firearms they have found at home. In the light of these observations and our present findings, people should be strongly discouraged from keeping guns in their homes.”
Hello, NRA lobby; goodbye, CDC funds for research on gun violence — for 20 years! But facts are still facts. In 2010, almost 60 percent of all gun deaths were suicides. More than 600 deaths resulted from gun accidents. Eight percent of the lethal accidental shooters were under the age of six.
Shooting From The Hip
After the Orlando shootings, Trump told a radio interviewer, “It’s too bad that some of the young people that were killed over the weekend didn’t have guns attached to their hip, frankly, where bullets could have flown in the opposite direction…It would have been a much different deal… Had people been able to fire back it would have been a much different outcome.”
On Saturday, he reiterated the point at a rally in Las Vegas: “If there were a couple of folks — man, woman — had a gun strapped right here,” or a gun strapped very nicely to the ankle, this no good sick, sick, perverted, horrible terrorist — terrorist –was in there starting the shooting, one of those people would’ve had the bullets going the other way, folks, it would have been a whole different story.”
Even the NRA’s public face, Wayne LaPierre, was uncomfortable with that line of Trumpisms: “I don’t think you should have firearms where people are drinking,” he told a CBS “Face the Nation” interviewer the next day.
Less than 24 hours later, Trump reversed himself and lined up with LaPierre: “When I said that if, within the Orlando club, you had some people with guns, I was obviously talking about additional guards or employees.”
To appease the NRA, Trump also backed away from his “no fly-no buy” position that people on the terror watch list should not be able to buy guns.
The Police Get It
Trump uses Orlando, Dallas, and Baton Rouge to reinforce the NRA’s position on guns. But it’s an awkward fit. After the Sandy Hook shootings in 2012, the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the Major City Chiefs pushed for tougher gun control laws, including an assault weapons ban. In the wake of the Dallas and Baton Rouge shootings, the president of the Cleveland Police Partolmen’s Association asked Ohio Governor John Kasich to suspend open carry laws for the area near the Republican party’s nominating convention.
According to his website, Trump opposes anything that would interfere with the right to bear arms, including “semi-automatic rifles and standard magazines that are owned by tens of millions of Americans. Law-abiding people should be allowed to own the firearm of their choice. The government has no business dictating what types of firearms good, honest people are allowed to own.”
When Trump pontificates about the need for “leadership” to establish “law and order,” what does he mean? Whatever the NRA wants. True leadership would take him away from pandering to Wayne LaPierre and toward protecting the police officers about whom he claims to care so deeply.