Sharpening our wits on the grindstone of Life: February 2011 .comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Sharpening our wits on the grindstone of Life

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Politics of Fear: 2nd Amendment Edition

According to Tea Party fave Senator Rand Paul, President Obama just banned a million American rifles. Although I couldn't find anything in recent news regarding this issue, I did find references to it dating back to September 2010, raising my suspicion that there might be some twisting of the facts here (such as "just" meaning "within the past year") to support an ulterior motive. And I was right.

Senator Paul's call to sign a petition (and of course make a donation) is a bit lengthy, so I'll just touch on a few of the twisted, or completely fabricated, "facts".

First of all, it's not a ban. The rifles in question are the M-1 Garand and the M-1 Carbine rifles loaned to South Korea in the 1960s after we pulled out of the Korean War as part of our Military Assistance Program (MAP) due to increased aggression and infiltration by North Korea. The U.S. State Department blocked the sale of the weapons by South Korea last year, as it has for the past five years, because the weapons do not belong to South Korea. They belong to us. By rights, the weapons should be returned to the U.S. Army, and then sent on to the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) for inspection, grading, and eventual sale to collectors and American shooting clubs.

From the fourth line in Paul's appeal: "In a move unprecedented in American history, the Obama Administration secretly banned the re-importation of nearly one million American made M1 Garand and Carbine rifles." Besides not being "unprecedented" (The Clinton administration blocked sales of M1s and other antiquated military weapons from the Philippines, Turkey, and Pakistan.), the so-called "ban" was not done in secret; Fox News reported on it in September 2010.

Senator Paul refers to President Obama’s "deep seated hatred for gun rights", although reality seems to indicate otherwise. In 2009, President Obama signed two bills that allowed concealed weapons in national parks and permitted passengers with guns on Amtrak trains, and I have yet to see reports of any anti-gun legislation that he has either signed or vowed to sign. Last year the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence graded Obama an "F" on gun control.

HR 2159, which Senator Paul refers to as The Disarming American Citizens Act (as opposed to the actual title of Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act) was a non-starter and never made it out of committee, yet Paul wants you to fear it (and send money).

"In fact, on top of banning American citizens from owning these historic firearms, Obama’s State Department is arranging for the destruction of nearly one million of them -- ironically, at a time of ballooning federal deficits."

First, no one is banned from owning these historic firearms. You can buy an authentic, historical M-1 today at the Civilian Marksmanship Program, which is where the weapons in question would end up if they were imported. Second, there are no indications that the U.S. plans to destroy them, and third, is a time of "ballooning federal deficits" the time to spend our tax dollars to inventory, catalog, grade, and ship these weapons from South Korea just to sit in a warehouse waiting to be sold? Most of the people who are screaming loudest wouldn't be either willing or able to shell out $850 - $1,000 for an historic collectible.

Don't get me wrong. The M-1 is a beautiful weapon. The U.S. Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon uses them in their precision exhibition drills, as does the U.S. Air Force Academy Cadet Honor Guard. I wouldn't mind owning one myself, although I couldn't justify shelling out up to $1,000 for one (personal responsibility, living within my budget, and all that).

My point is that Senator Paul is creating a tempest in a teapot in order to stir up fear among his base and persuade them to send money to an organization whose purpose is to stir up more fear.

I realize Senator Paul is new at his job, but that's all the more reason he should focus on the job he was elected for - creating jobs and fixing the economy - and lay off the fearmongering, at least until he starts running for re-election.