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Columns
Parker: Something is deadly wrong in this country

WASHINGTON

Oh, for God’s sake.

What else can one say about the week after Florida’s high school massacre? Funerals for the 17 students and faculty were barely begun before rhetoric on the right descended into indecency.

Much of it came from the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, a gathering of the extreme right who snack on brimstone. Speaking to the mostly young crowd, politicians and officials from the National Rifle Association went ballistic over recent talk of gun control. Low points included characterizing the media as loving mass shootings and as wanting to advance its socialist agenda.

Is this really the best we can do? I ask this not as a member of the media but as someone who: grew up with guns; lives in a house with guns; knows how to shoot and is good at it; doesn’t object to hunting for food; has friends in the NRA. My father, a lawyer, once told me in confidence that the only law he would never obey was to register his guns. (Because then “they” can collect them.)

I’ve weathered my share of gun spookiness, in other words, with the result that I’m neither anti-gun, nor a socialist. I do not, however, feel the need to pose in pictures wearing a tight-fitting dress and heels, while holding my very own AR-15, as NRA spokesvixen Dana Loesch does on the cover of her book. I’m not absolutely sure, but this increasingly common pose among young-ish female conservatives seems aimed at sexualizing guns, or metaphorizing weapons to within an inch of their lives.

A few highlights from the lectern:

Loesch, who gained prominence as a “conservative” radio host, projected a she-devil in Prada when she pointed to members of the media and said, “Many in legacy media love mass shootings. You guys love it. I’m not saying that you love the tragedy, but I am saying that you love the ratings. Crying white mothers are ratings gold to you and many of the legacy media in the back.”

I once managed to cross the storm-tossed Strait of Gibraltar with my stomach intact, but this vile idiocy is too much.

Crying white mothers? Loesch explained that black mothers are crying every day and “you don’t see town halls for them,” she said. Obviously, Loesch was making oblique reference to Chicago—a pro-gun talking point that finds its way to my email folder every day. The point: Chicago’s gun deaths by handgun far outnumber the totals by AR-15 or other semi-automatic weapons. Different story, often covered. What’s true is that school shootings seem to be the domain of white boys focused on killing their mostly white peers.

To segregate grieving parents by race, essentially mocking the mothers we’ve witnessed of late, is disgusting. To applaud such distortionist propaganda should be beneath any serious adult concerned enough with these mass assaults to consider sensible alternatives to doing nothing.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tex., a human bellows (useful at campfires), criticized CNN’s townhall as an “infomercial,” and said calls for new restrictions were “tiresome.” As are so many people these days. “Every time you see a horrific crime, people in the media and Democratic politicians immediately try to leap on it to advance their agenda,” which is to “[strip] the Second Amendment rights away from law-abiding citizens.”

No, actually, the media follow news. A school massacre qualifies. And, yes, people want to know more as a way of seeking solutions. But hating media is how many Republicans pass the buck. Their accusations are a distraction, the roots of which can be traced to evil. You can’t talk about freedom while also making an argument for gutting the First Amendment.

Longtime NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre cited the Democrats’ “socialist” agenda and, without irony, said, “as usual, the opportunists wasted not one second to exploit tragedy for political gain.” Check.

Therein lies the problem in any debate these days. We’re either on the slippery slope to serfdom or everybody gets an AR-15. Surely there is sane ground in between such extremes. LaPierre may have many valid points, but when he, Loesch and others speak in tongues of hyperbole and conspiratorial incantations, they are not to be taken seriously.

When the final showdown is between the NRA and children who have just buried their friends, brothers, sisters, teachers and coach, something is deadly wrong in this country. Out of respect for the dead, wounded and grieving, the adults need to stop acting like children.


Other_views
Guest Views: The dirty little deals that would foul the environment

Here’s a warning to the Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, and other environmentally inclined Senate Democrats, like Sheldon Whitehouse and Ed Markey: A legislative minefield lies dead ahead, pocked with destructive amendments of Republican origin hostile to clean air, clean water, endangered species and fragile landscapes. And here’s a plea: Stop these measures from becoming law.

Following its approval of the big budget deal on Feb. 9, Congress began writing the dozen appropriations bills that direct federal dollars to specific agencies. These bills are likely to be incorporated in one giant omnibus spending measure to be negotiated over the next few weeks by House and Senate leaders in advance of the March 23 expiration of the continuing budget resolution that has kept the government going.

Given its urgency, the bill is fertile ground for the kind of mischief the Republicans in particular have been notorious for over the years—loading up must-pass bills like this one with provisions, known as riders, that in most cases could not survive on their own and thus need protective cover. In years past, such riders were usually inserted at the last minute on the House or Senate floor. Here they are in plain sight, having been approved in earlier votes or endorsed by powerful committee chairmen or chairwomen who will do their level best to make sure they are included in the final bill. Mr. Schumer can prevent that from happening. The Democrats are effectively 49 in number, the Republicans 51. By holding his party together, he can deny the Republicans the 60 votes they need to overcome a filibuster—ensuring a clean bill, and a cleaner environment.

Public interest groups have counted nearly 90 of these riders, but here are several of the worst:

Clean water: In 2015, the Obama administration adopted a landmark rule intended to clarify and broaden protections for smaller streams and wetlands vital to the country’s drinking water and wildlife. Developers and big farmers complained to Scott Pruitt, the industry-friendly head of the Environmental Protection Agency, who has begun the lengthy process of replacing the rule with something more favorable to commercial interests. That’s not fast enough for the leaders of three separate appropriations panels pushing nearly identical riders that would kill the rule right away, without consulting the public or conducting the scientific analysis required by law.

Methane emissions: As part of its larger strategy to combat climate change, the Obama administration approved two rules to minimize emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. The EPA would regulate emissions from new oil and gas wells; the Interior Department would require oil and gas companies to control venting and flaring from existing wells on public lands. Efforts to delay (and ultimately rewrite) both rules have been thwarted by the courts. Here again, Congress comes to the rescue with two riders (both approved in earlier House floor votes) that would kill both rules.

Alaska wild lands: Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska and chairwoman of the Senate interior and environment appropriations subcommittee, managed to sneak a hugely controversial amendment into last year’s big tax bill opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil drilling. Her amendment would never have passed as a stand-alone measure. Now she wants more. One amendment she seeks would weaken protections against the clear-cutting of old growth trees in the Tongass National Forest. Another would exempt forests throughout Alaska from one of the most significant forest conservation measures of the last century, the Clinton-era “roadless rule” forbidding road building and, by extension, logging, mining and other commercial activity on roughly 50 million acres of wild national forests.

—The New York Times


Letters
Your Views: People do the killing. Only the projectile changes

If I had seven to eight beers and that many shots, got into my GMC truck and while driving home, ran over and killed your kid, would you tell GM to stop making trucks or the brewery to stop making beer? How about if I were high on drugs and T-boned your daughter's car, killing her? Would you tell the drug company to stop making medication?

Use the same rule of thumb when dealing with firearms. It's the human factor that did the killing, only the projectile was changed. Have the schools take down those signs, "Gun-free zone." Every shooter knows that no guns in a school means 20 minutes of free shooting.

CARL LIPETRI

Clinton