View From The Middle
By Charles Rogers
I'm beginning to like Congressman Charles Rangel. The gravely-voiced, outspoken Democratic head of the House Ways & Means Committee was on a few talk shows recently and, as he had not done in the past, impressed me - not with his generally liberal policies, which we've all been used to since 1970 - but with what appeared to be his downright sincerity and truthfulness. Besides finding out that the 77-year-old was a hero in the Korean Conflict in 1952 who received the Purple Heart and Silver Star, and, although others came back from the wars and just drifted, he worked his way through college, graduated from NYU and then received his law degree from St. John's University..
Talk about telling it like it is!
The topic of discussions last week between Rangel and others, in light of the horrible shooting carnage at Virginia Tech on April 16, was guns and gun control and will the shootings lead to more political action regarding it. Of course, topped off with the question of whether there will indeed be a call to repeal the Second Amendment.
Gun control - or the lack of it - has been one of my advocacies for years. I don't mind trying to drive the point home as much as possible, even if I sound like Mayor Bloomberg in the process. But I want to be realistic too. As the Second Amendment says, guns have a purpose in the correct hands, like the militia - which every citizen is not.
Imagine what a "Dodge City" we'd have if everyone who wanted a gun had a gun. There would constantly be a Kirk Douglas lying dead on every street corner every day. Hell, we've got enough trouble dealing with illegal guns!
Anyway, Rangel was giving a speech after the massacre, just as everyone was, especially those outspoken politicos with clout, and he specified that the college shooting won't change votes in Congress on the gun issue. Not citing the National Rifle Association (NRA) by name, he intimated that gun rights advocates throughout the country are too influential to allow current gun laws to be constricted.
"It's a regional thing; a cultural thing," he kept repeating, and noted that even in areas where 85 percent of the population supports restrictions on gun laws and the sale of guns, the 15 percent who do not are "extremely" active.
"It's a cult," he said. And quoting the actor Charlton Heston, former president and spokesman for the NRA, who was addressing a crowd of the group's members at a gun convention, he added, "Don't take my gun from my cold dead hands."
Unfortunately, the now-Democratic Congress seems to have dismissed the subject since just after the shock of the Virginia Tech tragedy set in (not that a Republican Congress wouldn't do the same thing). They've, somehow, tried to skirt even a mention of the NRA, much less advocating any thoughts about repealing parts of the Second Amendment.
Of course they wouldn't dare mention it. First, it would go against the most influential and most powerful supporter of ALL lobbyists in American government. We must not forget that guns are bought and possessed...and used...by residents of vast numbers of states. To own a gun is practically a way of life, and for someone to even suggest that right be taken away, even though the restriction is for a mild background check, is, well, political suicide.
The people who live in those states may or may not have permits, but they hunt as a sport, for the most part. The NRA knows that - and they have the best grass roots organizations in every state, city and small town where to be without a gun is to be without dignity. They have forced their will on those gun-buying advocates like the greatest salesmen and saleswomen in the world. We should be so lucky as to have these people getting citizens to come out for a general election. You can be sure that, when a gun-control advocate is up for office, the NRA will get the vote out and the candidate will most likely be defeated. Some say that Vice President Al Gore might have won the 2000 election hands-down if it hadn't been for his stance on the NRA and the organization's grip on the House and Senate.
And now we have the debate again, with the likes of Charles Rangel - in essence - telling us and his fellow legislators, with a smile, "It won't do you any good. The NRA is too powerful. Be practical and don't shoot the hand that feeds you."
And Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi did just that. When asked about gun control, she said (paraphrased), "My heart goes out to the families and children affected at Virginia Tech."
(Does that make any sense?)
And that's all she said. No opinion. No suggestion. Draw attention to another aspect and maybe the part that is a sore point will go away.
This is called skirting the issue. I don't think she has mentioned the debate since that time, but what does her absolute, blatant evasion tell us?
Thanks for being honest, Congressman Rangel, and telling it like it is.