The only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is Barry Manilow with a microphone.
Back in September, in an effort to prove...we're not exactly sure what, the National Rifle Association published a list of some several-hundred non-profits, celebrities, companies, and news organizations that "have lent monetary, grassroots or some other type of direct support to anti-gun organizations." Daily Kos, which drew attention to the list Friday morning, calls it "nuts," which is certainly one way of looking at it.
The NRA doesn't offer any explanation of its selection process, or why they think it's a compelling argument to call attention to the fact that the Civil Rights organization founded by Martin Luther King Jr. opposes what the NRA does. But maybe they're on to something.
Here are 12 of the most terrifying people and groups on the NRA's list:
Carrie Fisher. Daughter of a Jedi.
Henry Winkler. Literally jumped a shark one time.
Mennonite Central Committee. You know who else had a central committee?
Barry Manilow. Is Barry Manilow.
The Temptations. Deliver us from them.
Motorcycle Cruiser Magazine. Basically what it sounds like.
Central Conference of American Rabbis. Ditto.
Mary Lou Retton. Her medal may be gold, but her bullets are lead.
Tara Lipinski. Actually wears knives on the bottom of her shoes.
Boys II Men. [sic]
Bob Barker. QED:
Southern Christian Leadership Conference. We don't actually have a joke here. How can you put the SCLC on your enemies list?
Gary Marbut has a dream: a single shot, bolt-action, made-in-Missoula, .22 caliber rifle called the Montana Buckaroo. For the time being, the Buckaroo, adapted from an expired 1899 patent and intended for use by small children, exists only on paper. "Our attorneys have insisted that I NOT complete EVEN ONE Buckaroo," Marbut told me in an email on Monday.
That's because Marbut's real target isn't the 5- to 10-year-old demographic*—it's the United States Supreme Court. His goal is to effectively nullify decades of federal gun law, and he thinks he's found a trick no one else has tried. In 2009, Marbut pushed a law through the Montana Legislature asserting the state's partial immunity from federal gun regulations, and then sued the Department of Justice for the right to follow through. Under his scheme, the federal government would be helpless to regulate firearm production or distribution—so long as the guns in question never cross state lines.
Lawmakers in 34 states have introduced copycat versions of Marbut's Firearms Freedom Act, six of them in the five weeks since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. All told, nine state attorneys general have signed onto an amicus brief supporting him; eight governors have signed it into law. The National Rifle Association supports Marbut's law; so does the Cato Institute.
A gun safety instructor who manufactures shooting targets for use by police departments, Marbut moonlights as an unpaid lobbyist in Helena—an incredibly successful unpaid lobbyist. As president of the Montana Shooting Sports Association, he has personally written 58 pieces of legislation that have been signed into law dating back to 1987, ranging from a measure removing wolves from the state's protected species list to a law guaranteeing the "immunity of certain firearms safety instructors" from liability. But the Montana Firearms Freedom Act is by far his most ambitious project.
Marbut's basic argument is that the federal government cannot regulate firearms manufactured and retained in a single state, because there is no "interstate" commerce involved. Therefore, under the 10th Amendment, only Montana—not Washington, DC—has the power to regulate these guns. (His argument doesn't hold for sales across state lines.) That in itself is extraordinarily literal, and—as Marbut readily acknowledges, quite radical; even Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia thinks the federal government can regulate the plants you grow in your backyard.
Article I of the Constitution gives Congress the power to "regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes"—a clause that has been used by the federal government over the last century as a means to regulate everything from medical marijuana to health insurance to, yes, guns. To win his case, Marbut has to convince the courts to ignore all that.
Shortly after his law passed in 2009, Marbut informed the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives of his desire to begin manufacturing the Montana Buckaroo. After the ATF told him he couldn't move forward without a federal license, he filed suit against Attorney General Eric Holder, arguing that the ATF was breaking the law by preventing him from making the Buckaroo. He lost in district court, but immediately appealed.
The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, joined by a coalition of law enforcement groups, argued against Marbut's law on appeal, calling it a "dangerous threat to public safety and national security." If the law held, they contended, it would allow Montanans to skirt the federal background check system, thereby making it easier for prohibited persons to obtain firearms. It would also allow in-state manufacturers to make and sell armor-piecing bullets, because Montana doesn't have a law of its own prohibiting them.
The odds of a court coming over to Marbut's side are daunting, for sure. Although he was heartened by Chief Justice John Roberts' narrow reading of the Commerce Clause in validating the Affordable Care Act (for which Marbut submitted his own amicus brief), he concedes that upholding his law would entail a reversal of eight decades of established precedent.
In January, as state legislatures pushed ahead on Marbut-like draft legislation, Marbut got some good news: The 9th Circuit will hear oral arguments on his appeal in March. He doesn't think the appeals court will accept his argument, but it doesn't matter. It brings him one step closer to his ultimate goal—the Supreme Court.
In the meantime, he's fast at work on a pair of new projects—two bills that would prohibit state and local law enforcement officials from enforcing any new executive orders on guns, and legislation to ban federal officers from seizing guns in Montana without permission from a county sheriff. He also recently developed a type of nonlethal "pillow" ammunition (comprised of bean-bags filled with lead shot) that he says is ideal for fighting off bears. But after a wildlife biologist inquired about purchasing the pillow ammo, Marbut turned him down. "I said, 'No, I can't because I don't have a federal license for making and selling ammunition,'" he recalls.
There's nothing legally preventing him from obtaining such a license. It's just a matter of principle.
*Correction: This article originally suggested the Montana Buckaroo might be used for skeet-shooting. It is exceedingly difficult to shoot skeet with a rifle; the weapon of choice is a shotgun.
What do you do after you've made abortion de facto illegal in your state by shutting down (almost) all of the clinics? Well, if you're the Mississippi legislature, you resurrect one of the forgotten moments of the George W. Bush presidency—attempt to push through a law criminalizing the creation of "human-animal hybrids."
Human-aniwha? Here's what the bill says:
More broadly, the bill basically parrots the failed 2011 Personhood amendment, which sought to redefine human life as beginning at fertilization. The Jackson Clarion-Ledger's Brian Eason helpfully clarifies that "the way the bill is written, it would not outlaw freak accidents in which, say, you were bitten by a radioactive spider and later developed spider-like qualities."
Before the 2012 South Carolina primary, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum told pro-lifers that he was unequivocally opposed to the idea of human-jellyfish (hellyfish) hybrids.
Pressed at Saturday's National Review Institute Summit on how best to fight back against President Obama's gun control campaign, Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli didn't blink. While he was quick to criticize the President's approach, there was "an awful lot we can do to make Virginia Techs and Sandy Hooks less likely." Then Cuccinelli—who recently declared his candidacy for governor—pivoted to mental health. "I'm as frugal a participant in government as you can find," Cuccinelli said. "But I believe government has a role in helping people who through no fault of their own" suffer from mental illness.
So what did Cuccinelli, who described himself in his remarks (and on his gubernatorial campaign website) as a leader on mental health isssues, think of President Obama's own post-Newtown proposals to improve mental health treatment? "I haven't seen them," he told me after the panel. (They're here.)
That's surprising, given his stated commitment to the issue. It's also a bummer, because—as with many of his conservative colleagues, including the NRA's Wayne LaPierre—Cuccinelli's warnings about gun-grabbing mask the fact that he broadly shares Obama's priorities on a key aspect of the gun-control package.
Mark Kelly and Wayne LaPierre agree on something. At Wednesday's much-anticipated Senate judiciary committee hearing on gun violence—featuring former astronaut Mark Kelly, Baltimore police chief John Johnson, NRA head Wayne LaPierre, and others—the fireworks, such as they were, erupted over background checks and high-capacity magazines. But on mental health, a significant element of President Barack Obama's gun control package, there appeared to be some agreement. Here's Kelly on the Tucson shooter who tried to kill his wife, Gabby Giffords: "He had never been legally adjudicated as mentally ill, and, even if he had, Arizona at the time had over 121,000 records of disqualifying mental illness it had not submitted to the background check system." And here's Wayne LaPierre: "We need to look at the full range of mental health issues, from early detection and treatment, to civil commitment laws, to privacy laws that needlessly prevent mental health records from being included in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System."
Republican Texas Sen. John Cornyn (among others) lamented the failure of state agencies to turn over mental health records to the NICBS, and suggested it might be worth examining the ease with which the outpatient mentally ill can obtain weapons. Still, it was unclear how far LaPierre would go to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill, given that he generally opposed more expansive and effective background checks.
When Gabby Giffords speaks, you should listen. The former Arizona congresswoman paused for seven seconds before reading a statement that was only 62 words. Here it is:
Chuck Grassley is okay with the CDC studying guns after all. Maybe. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) used his opening statement to challenge the president's complaint that Congress had prohibited the Centers for Disease Control from researching gun deaths. "Contrary to what you may have heard, Congress has never prohibited CDC from researching gun violence," Grassley said. "Rather, Congress prevented federal research to 'advocate or promote gun control,' which some government researchers had been doing under the guise of taxpayer supported science. Had Congress actually prohibited gun violence research, the president could not legally have directed CDC to conduct that research."
But that's not what Grassley has been saying for the last two weeks. On January 15, when President Obama announced his plans to direct the CDC to renew its research into gun violence, the senator's spokesman noted that funding restrictions enacted by Congress "effectively keeps [the CDC] from conducting any research or analysis related to gun violence." On Tuesday, Grassley took to the floor of the Senate to hammer Obama's CDC directive, arguing that "gun violence is not a disease, and lawful gun ownership is not a disease."
So is this a new position? I've reached out to Grassley's office for a response and will update if I hear back.
Lindsey Graham thinks the AR-15 will replace cops. The South Carolina GOPer—who originally planned on bringing unloaded guns to the hearing—lamented the fact that state budget cuts have forced municipalities to downsize their police departments. But according to Graham, that doesn't mean the federal government should pick up the tab or communities should shift their priorities. Instead, it means, for Graham, that the AR-15 rifle (the kind used by Newtown shooter Adam Lanza) has become a more viable alternative for self-defense. Graham also asserted that semi-automatic weapons could come in quite handy in the event that one's neighborhood is taken over by "marauding gangs" following a natural disaster. (LaPierre referred to the need to survive a "riot.") "I own an AR-15," Graham told the panel. And so should you.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives may as well not exist. In the first three hours of the hearing, the word "ATF" came up only once, even as Republican senators and key witnesses (LaPierre most frequently) griped about the failure of the federal government to enforce existing gun laws. What they didn't mention was the role they'd played in making that impossible—by curbing funding for the ATF and handicapping enforcement.
Ladies love the AR-15! The women with yellow-and-black "Stop Gun Violence Now" stickers snickered when Gayle Trotter, a senior fellow at the conservative Independent Women's Forum, reported, "Young women are speaking out as to why AR-15's are their weapons of choice!" They laughed a bit louder when Trotter asserted, "I speak on behalf of millions of American women." At a hearing where even the normally bombastic LaPierre seemed to have missed his morning coffee, Trotter's call to put more assault weapons in the hands of young mothers with babies may have been as close as the hearing came to pyrotechnics. Here's the video, via TPM: