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Gun Lobby is Gunning For a Fight

Many right-wing websites put a conservative spin on the news, sell T-shirts and other merchandise that make fun of the president and of liberals in general, and that spout a pro-gun position.

Now, Patriot Depot, which sells “supplies for the conservative revolution,” has jumped into the gun control debate by selling bullet-shaped ice cube trays.

One of the T-shirts on sale has the slogan “Ban the Assault on Weapons.” Other items include a book called “The Manchurian President,” which purports to reveal President Obama’s ties to communists, socialists and anti-American extremists, and an “Obama Care Survival Guide.”

Just as supporters of strong gun control are rallying the troops, there are many organizations beyond the NRA that are pushing for Americans to have the right to own as many of any kind of gun they want and the freedom to buy as much of any kind of ammunition they want.

Sites such as Patriot Depot thrive on fear and panic. They sound the alarm to those who fear they are one executive order away from losing their guns.

The truth is that gun regulations are a whole mishmash of state and federal rules that are applied unevenly across the country and are unlikely to be straightened out anytime soon.

The National Rifle Association (NRA), pardon the pun, is gunning for a fight. It offered a provocative ad that accused Obama of being two-faced because his children are protected by armed Secret Service agents while he resists calls for armed officers for public schoolchildren.

Obama has called for Congress to reinstate the assault weapons ban and renew the 10-round limit on ammunition magazines. He may use executive orders to help him do what Congress is unlikely to support.

Whether that really helps change things remains to be seen.

But as cut and dry as the legislative process seems to be, even the definition of assault weapons is up for dispute. There are those who argue it includes semiautomatic rifles with detachable magazines and other “military-style” features, including pistol grips.  But others contend those weapons are commonly used by hunters and target shooters.

“The reality is there’s very little difference between any sporting firearm and a so-call assault weapon,” Steven C. Howard, a lawyer and firearms expert in Lansing, Mich., told The New York Times.

And if a fight over a definition of assault weapon isn’t enough, there is a whole tangle of rules that have tied the government’s hands for years, thanks largely to legislation basically written by the NRA and inserted into unrelated bills.

Former U.S. Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kansas) appeared on a news show cautioning against a rush to additional legislation because the federal Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms agency is responsible for enforcing the nation’s gun laws.

The Daily Show, however, pointed out some problems with that argument, not the least of which is that Tiahrt inserted language in an unrelated budget bill amendment 10 years ago that basically gutted the agency’s ability to do its job under the gun laws.

“That amendment couldn’t be worse if the NRA had written it,” host Jon Stewart teased before revealing that Tiahrt had assured supporters at the time that the NRA had “reviewed” the amendment’s language.

The ATF also is hampered because it hasn’t had a permanent director for six years. Interim director B. Todd Jones is also the U.S. Attorney for Minnesota. So even the temporary guy is moonlighting.

Even though ATF chief is not a cabinet-level position that would require Senate confirmation, former Wisconsin Sen. James Sensenbrenner inserted language in the Patriot Act in 2006 requiring the ATF chief be confirmed – something the Senate has failed to do.

So like most everything else this administration has had to face, the devil is in the details, and there will be no straight path to working out this tangled web of rules and laws.

The Patriot Depot’s ice cube tray may be a chilling idea, but the site does have one thing that anyone, regardless of his position on gun control, can buy into. There is a T-shirt with an image of three boxes. One says Democrat, another says Republican and the last one, which is checked, reads: Pissed Off.

Unlike guns and bullets, however, supplies are limited.

Jackie Jones, a journalist and journalism educator, is director of the career transformation firm Jones Coaching LLC and author of “Taking Care of the Business of You: 7 Days to Getting Your Career on Track.”



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