Meet the GOP Politicians That Made America Gun Crazy
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“Guns don’t make criminals. Hard-core criminals use guns. And locking them up, the hard-core criminals up, and throwing away the key is the best gun-control law we could ever have.”
Looking back on the past three decades, it should be obvious that Reagan was profoundly and tragically wrong. Many of the most notorious mass slaughters of recent years were inflicted by “law-abiding citizens,” that is people with little or no criminal records but with unchecked mental disorders.
Their easy access to high-powered and semi-automatic weapons allowed them to murder large numbers of people before they could be stopped. To suggest that the NRA has somehow helped “secure … our domestic tranquility” is a sick joke.
But Reagan surely benefited from the staunch support of the NRA and gun owners when he swept to a landslide reelection in 1984. Those results were duly noted by Reagan’s Vice President George H.W. Bush who made opposition to gun control an important part of his 1988 campaign.
Bush’s opponent, Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, was a strong supporter of gun-control laws and Bush saw that as an opening. Bush accused Dukakis of wanting to disarm all private citizens. “That is not the American way,” declared Bush at one campaign rally. “I feel just the opposite.”
With Bush’s landslide victory in 1988 – and with the well-meaning Dukakis dismissed as a hopeless “loser” – the path was cleared for the NRA to rollback even modest gun-control laws, such as restrictions on assault rifles.
In 2010 on a 5-4 vote, right-wing justices on the U.S. Supreme Court – placed there by Reagan, Bush-41 and George W. Bush – overturned longstanding legal precedents that deemed “the right to bear arms” a collective right and transformed it instead into an individual right. That meant even local gun-control ordinances could be struck down.
In other words, Republicans – and particularly Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush – hold primary responsibility for the kinds of horrors that have claimed innocent lives in places like Newtown, Aurora, Tucson, Columbine, Virginia Tech and so many other locations whose names will long be associated with butchery.
While Kristof and fellow mainstream pundits may be right in noting that it’s time for all politicians to stand up to the NRA, they are wrong in spreading the blame equally. They should have the courage to tell the truth, that Reagan, Bush-41 and other Republicans have led the way into this national madness.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).