September 19, 2013



In the aftermath of another mass shooting here in the US, “discussion” of our woefully inadequate gun safety laws is again front and center. Of course, with our short attention span and 2nd Amendment zealots always at the ready to do the bidding of the NRA, you can expect two things: nothing will change and the next headline grabbing slaughter is probably just around the bend.

I don’t mean to sound hopeless or morbid but, let’s face it, gun loving extremists have the upper hand. We can pretend that the majority of gun owners, by and large a rational and law-abiding lot, are in the driver’s seat but anyone paying attention knows that isn’t our reality. In fact, in many states, a semi-automatic weapon is held in higher regard than the rights of a potential innocent victim. Want proof? Check out these three laws currently on the books in at least four states. They are just the tip of the gun nut iceberg.

The Governor of Louisiana is a tool named Bobby Jindal. Aside from the fact that he resembles a russet potato on a stick, the guy never met an NRA-backed idea he didn’t love. How else to explain his loud and proud support for Amendment 2, a significant change to the State Constitution that passed with support from more than 70% of  voters who showed up at the polls in 2012.

Basically, Amendment 2 made gun ownership a fundamental right in the state. Not only did it cover ownership of firearms but also transportation, carrying, transfer and general use. Even more onerous, it made imposing any firearm-related restrictions on individuals an action that was subject to the highest standard of review by Louisiana courts. 

Never mind that Louisiana is one of the poorest and least educated states in the Union. Forget about the fact that it has the highest murder rate in the nation and is the only state with a double digit stat in the “murders per 100,000 citizens” column. Who cares that opponents of the amendment red flagged it for potential abuse. Jindal, always the reliable NRA bitch boy, kept waving his pom poms of support right through it’s passage.

So how could a law like this end up coming back to haunt an already crime-ridden state? The most jaw dropping example comes from the hallowed halls of justice presided over by New Orleans Criminal District Court Judge Darryl Derbigney. In March, he sided with lawyers representing a group of felons with priors and threw out weapons charges that were lodged against them. His reasoning? Apparently, post Amendment 2,  the fundamental right of gun ownership also applies to those with criminal records. Among other things, his ruling meant a convicted felon that was caught with two semi-automatic weapons (one of them an AK-47) was allowed to walk free.

How did Governor Potato Head respond? In June he signed into law six more NRA-backed bills designed to “strengthen 2nd Amendment protections.” Louisiana is indeed the “Sportsman’s Paradise,” especially if you’re a gun-toting criminal and humans are your big game of choice.

North Carolina might be “First In Flight” but the state is now in serious contention for the title “First In Crazy” on more than one front. Firmly in the grip of GOP control, the Tar Heel state has become a petri dish of sorts where all kinds of extreme Right Wing ideas get a vigorous tire kick before being rolled out to other Red States.

The summer of 2013 was an especially productive one for conservative wing nuts in the state, with goof ball governor Pat McCrory leading the charge. North Carolina legislators passed some of the most restrictive and onerous voter ID laws in the country, with proponents wearing accusations of voter suppression as a badge of honor. McCrory also signed a restrictive anti-abortion bill in July and just hired an anti-abortion activist as a senior policy advisor to the state Department of Health and Human Services.

But wait, there’s more! Effective this month, a new law prevents any state law enforcement agency from destroying weapons that they receive during voluntary gun buyback programs. Now, if the weapon isn’t broken and has a viable serial number, police in North Carolina must keep, donate or sell the guns to licensed dealers. The legislation was backed by the NRA with the stated goal of stripping away discretion from judges and police by curtailing their ability to melt down buyback weapons. By neutering law enforcement agencies, buyback programs can no longer be looked upon as a guaranteed way of getting weapons of the streets.

This asinine law comes on the heels of similar legislation that recently went live in Arizona, courtesy of bat-crap-crazy Governor Jan Brewer. Brewer and McCrory have a lot in common, including some of the lowest approval ratings in the country among state governors (Brewer is in the low 30% range and McCrory hovers just above those pitiful numbers). Still, the Dumb-namic Duo keeps on truckin’ and doing as much damage as they possibly can until voters in both states wake up and kick their sorry asses to the curb.

Of course, I’ve saved the “best” for last. Remember that song “Iowa Stubborn” from THE MUSIC MAN? Well, if one was to do a modern re-write, “Iowa Stupid” would be a perfect title. Why? In Iowa not only can a legally blind person buy a gun, they can also carry it in public thanks to changes in firearm ownership laws that hit the state books in 2011. The updated law also prohibits local law enforcement officials from denying a gun permit to a citizen if they feel the individual is too visually impaired to handle a weapon. After all, what do police and sheriffs know about firearms?

Now, before you get your panties in a twist and accuse me of being mean to visually impaired folks, CLICK HERE and watch the video of Michael Barber and his wife buying a gun. Barber is blind. He and his wife look like lovely people but when he says “I can hear where people are…so I just point and shoot” all I can think of is how I don’t want to in the mall, park or food court when Barber decides he needs to defend himself.

I have no objections to laws that allow visually impaired citizens to buy and use firearms in controlled circumstances (like a shooting range) and with a required sighted companion or instructor. The new firearm ownership and carry laws in Iowa have no such restrictions and have already resulted in citizens being granted handgun permits despite the fact that they are so blind they are not permitted to drive.

There’s been more than a little noise made about the Iowa “blind people with guns” conundrum and it has made headlines across the country and around the world. Naturally, a number of legislators in the state are calling for changes to the law that would impose reasonable restrictions specific to the visually impaired. What does Governor Terry Branstad plan to do to address the hue and cry? Not a damn thing.