Writings and observations

rainey BARRETT


In a public display best called “neanderthal,” and “outrageous,” the NRA has stepped all over its own feet in the worst case of self-inflicted public relations injuries I’ve ever witnessed. It chose the wrong place to debut its latest “independent” gun safety B.S. and it did so with two dozen armed “body guards” for protection. From there, it went straight downhill.

The chosen site was the National Press Club in Washington D.C. I used to be a member and can assure you it’s one of the safest – and also most boring – places in D.C. For nearly 100 years, presidents, kings, prime ministers, celebrities and wannabee celebrities have used its podium to make statements profound and ridiculous. The NRA set a new low for ridiculous.
The occasion was to announce an “independent” committee’s findings and recommendations the NRA would “adopt” on gun safety. The committee was far from independent and the “findings” could have been published before its first meeting.

Chaired by former Congressman Asa Hutchinson (R-AR) the NRA tried to use his credibility as its own. In other words, the NRA bought and paid for that “credibility.” Hutchinson admits he was “hired” but won’t reveal his price. He picked his own “committee” which also was bought and paid for by the NRA. Again, Hutchinson won’t talk dollars. But there was nothing “independent” or “citizen volunteer” about it. No one connected to schools of any sort.

While the back-story of this NRA-front group was bad enough, the worst was how the NRA chose to publish the “findings.” Used to coming in the front door of the Press Club unfettered, reporters and crews were stopped by armed guards who conducted body and equipment searches. NRA guards. Some in private security uniforms; some not. But nearly two dozen of them and all “packing.” Reporters who would not submit were barred.
During Hutchinson’s presentation, he was flanked by armed guards. Others mixed with about 60 reporters and crews – shoulder and hip holsters bulging. When Hutchinson was finished, they circled him like the Secret Service and the proceedings were over. No more questions. No follow–ups. Hutchinson was hustled out. To “safety.”

To anyone reading this who feels this is just a case of the media getting its nose out of joint, go back and read it again. And again. And again. Until the weight of this demonstration of the perverse use of power sinks in.

As a duly chartered organization, the NRA has a right to its own views. However destructive and grotesque those views may be. It has a right to be heard. It has a right to work honestly for its own ends.

But, having said that, the NRA does NOT have a right to attempt intimidation of the public and a free press. The NRA does NOT have a right to pursue divine attachment to the 2nd amendment to the Constitution at the expense of the 1st. The NRA does NOT have a right to falsify credibility by hiring a former member of Congress without disclosure and “renting” the credibility it lost many years ago. The NRA does NOT have a right to pay hard cash for “outside” policy development, then hold out the sham work of paid “volunteers” to be “independent” findings. The issues at stake – the lives at stake – are too important for institutionalized intimidation and deceit.

All of this – ALL of this – is especially maddening because no one – NO ONE – has said a word about taking away firearms – licensing firearms – registering firearms – or threatening responsible gun ownership in any way. ANY way! The outrageous response of the NRA leadership is completely uncalled for and the spectacle it has made with lies and damned lies is contemptible. The NRA has perverted honest efforts of Americans to live their lives unthreatened by homicidal people who need to be identified and stopped before new outbreaks of the recent slaughters we’ve endured.

Consider: nine of 10 Americans say background checks for purchasers of guns should be the law – more than six of 10 NRA members agreeing. More than seven in 10 of us – including the International Association of Chief’s of Police – say no civilian should be allowed to buy an automatic or semi-automatic weapon. More than seven of 10 want high capacity gun clips banned.

These are not “threats” to legitimate gun ownership. These are not ways to confiscate legitimate firearms. These are not steps to take away rights of citizenship. Nor to impede the exercise of gun ownership by any competent individual. These ARE steps responsible Americans – gun owners or not – must achieve to restore a higher level of safety in our communities than we now experience. These ARE honest, common sense, legitimate efforts to honor the 2nd amendment rights of some without restricting access of the rest of us to all the other rights of the Constitution under which we all live.

If Asa Hutchinson wants to sell his credibility and reputation to the NRA, so be it. If the “volunteers” who identified themselves with illegitimate NRA participation did so for a few pieces of coin, that’s their business. If the NRA is so morally bankrupt it needs to hire otherwise “respectable” people to hide behind, it can certainly do so.

But the rest of us need to know that all of these things happened last week. We need to be aware of the lengths the NRA will go to – or the subterranean levels it will stoop to – to hide its own blackened reputation behind bought-and-paid-for “credibility.” We need to know the NRA itself is now using guns in the hands of contracted armed bodyguards in public appearances.

To protect itself from whom? You? Me?


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idaho RANDY
The Idaho

As this year’s Idaho legislative session cranked up in January, many observers noted two significant changes in it: An unusually large number of freshmen, and a new House speaker who, for the first time in decades, had ousted an incumbent who would still be in the chamber in the session ahead.

There was some suggestion that these things might be a big deal in the course of this year’s session: New people, a new way of doing or looking at things.

That legislature adjourned just before noon on Thursday, a mid-length session. Now, looking in the rear view mirror, looking at the large picture, it seems reasonable to say: Eh, not so much.

That doesn’t mean the commentary from a season ago was totally off base. In the Idaho Legislature, very little of real substance has changed in two decades, even while some (not all) of the names have, so people understandably get excited about anything new that does happen.

And it’s not that the new freshman crowd and the new Speaker Scott Bedke have made no difference. Both certainly mattered in what may be the keynote event of the session, the passage of a health insurance exchange bill. A group of 16 freshmen may have provided the legislative lubricant to ease it through to a narrow win in the House, and Bedke may have made possible progress on the bill, period; it had died a year earlier under his predecessor, Lawerence Denney.

Bedke’s administration of the House was widely touted as smoother, more efficient and less controversy-prone than Denney’s. (There even seemed to be somewhat fewer “quotable quotes,” the kind that go viral nationwide, than in the last few sessions.) The Legislature’s “climate” – emotional and temperamental – was said to have improved. People inside the building tend to notice and appreciate that sort of thing a lot more than people outside it.

Some of the newcomer legislators did seem to have a better feel for operating in a legislative environment than some of their seniors, taking the relatively sophisticated step of forming their own voting group on the subject of the health insurance exchange. And Denney seemed to have more sense of responding to outside concerns, as he took steps on ethics (limited as they were).

But looking at the broader range of issues and ideas, and money handled, during the session, you have to conclude that this year’s legislature didn’t act a lot differently than the legislature of 2011. Or 2009. Et cetera.

Last session probably would have been happy to repeal the personal property tax much as this one did – might have jumped at it with fewer reservations than this session. It would have been comparably tight with the budget bucks. This session was actually somewhat less open to the public, overall, if you consider as a significant decision the end to the one-year effort in opening the legislature’s budget committee, the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, to public hearing and comment.

These were very much the same kind of legislators, with very much the same outlook on the world, as have been there for two decades. It did not change, much. Nor will it next session. Nor, most likely, assuming no stunning earthquake in Idaho’s political culture, in the term beyond that.

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Idaho Idaho column