Playing Deadly Games with ‘Gun Rights’

Pro-gun extremists routinely edit out of the Second Amendment its stated purpose of having “a well-regulated militia” maintain state “security.” The tampering lets them pretend the Founders would be okay with slaughters like the Newtown massacre, as Bill Moyers and Michael Winship reflect.

By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship

The grim anniversary of the Newtown, Connecticut, killings, with 28 dead,  reminded us of that moment back in 2000 when Charlton Heston made his defiant boast at the NRA convention that gun control advocates would have to pry his rifle from his “cold, dead hands.”

You would have thought he had returned to that fantasy world of Hollywood where, in a previous incarnation, he portrayed those famous Indian killers Andrew Jackson and Buffalo Bill Cody, whose Wild West, as Cody marketed it, still courses through the bloodstream of American mythology.

Noah Pozner, 6, one of 20 children murdered on Dec. 14, 2012, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

Noah Pozner, 6, one of 20 children murdered on Dec. 14, 2012, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

For sure, Heston  wasn’t channeling his most famous role, as Moses in The Ten Commandments, striding down from Mount Sinai with a stone tablet on which had been chiseled  God’s blueprint for a civilized society, including, “Thou Shalt Not Kill!”

But the Good Lord seems not to have anticipated the National Rifle Association, its delegates lustily cheering Heston as his demagoguery brought them to their feet. Started after the Civil War by two former officers of the Union army who were disconsolate that their troops had shown such poor marksmanship in battle, its purpose was to “promote and encourage rifle shooting on a scientific basis.”

Now, its conscience as cold and dead as Charlton Heston’s grip on his gun, the NRA has become the armed bully of American politics, the enabler of the “gunfighter nation,” as cultural historian Richard Slotkin calls it, whose exceptionalism of which so many patriots fervently boast, includes a high tolerance for the slaughter of the innocent.

There has been a lot of killing in America since Newtown a year ago, perhaps more than 30,000 gun deaths since that fatal day. And gun purchases are way up. The biggest publicly traded firearms manufacture in the United States, Sturm Ruger, had more than half a billion dollars in sales for the first nine months of this year, 45 percent higher than two years ago, with a 67 percent profit rise over the same period.

Bloomberg Businessweek reports that for the first 11 months of 2013, FBI background checks for gun purchases rose to more than 19 million, up from less than 9 million in 2005: “Not every background check leads to a firearms sale, but the direction of the statistics is compellingly clear.”

Mother Jones has counted 194 children shot to death since Newtown a year ago; probably more by the time you read this. Average age: 6. The magazine’s Mark Follman writes that after Newtown, “The National Rifle Association and its allies argued that arming more adults is the solution to protecting children, be it from deranged mass shooters or from home invaders.”

But what Mother Jones discovered is a “stark rejoinder to that view” — 127 of the children died in their own homes and dozens more in the homes of family, friends and neighbors, not strangers. Seventy-two pulled the trigger themselves or where shot by another youngster (only four adults have been found liable in those cases). At least 52 of the deaths involved a child handling a gun left unsecured.

Texas leads the country in the number of young ones killed by guns. While 11 states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws making it tougher to own guns since Newtown, Texas passed ten new laws against sane restrictions on guns.

Which is partly why last month, four women had lunch at a restaurant in Arlington, Texas, just outside Dallas. It was a planning meeting for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a group started after the Newtown slayings that describes itself as “the Mothers Against Drunk Driving of Gun Reform.”

The founder of Moms Demand Action told a reporter, “We’re not anti-gun. We’re not against the Second Amendment. We just believe in common sense to end the growing epidemic of gun violence in America.”

Nevertheless, as the four women ate and talked, about 40 members of a pro-gun group called Open Carry Texas champions of guns anywhere and everywhere: church, school, shopping mall  gathered outside the restaurant, many of them with their firearms. They said they were there not to intimidate but to make a point.  Sure, as if real men need guns to make a point.

“Thou Shalt Not Kill,” but if you do, hide behind the Second Amendment made holier and more sacrosanct by the NRA than God’s own commandment.

Bill Moyers is managing editor and Michael Winship, senior writing fellow at the policy and advocacy group Demos, is senior writer of the weekly public affairs program, Moyers & Company, airing on public television. Check local airtimes or comment at

6 comments for “Playing Deadly Games with ‘Gun Rights’

  1. John C
    December 18, 2013 at 17:27

    Thanks, Eddie…you beat me to it. The gun nut comments read like typical trolls.

    The irony is I don’t fear those gun nuts nearly as much as I fear the gun nuts wearing a badge.

  2. Eddie
    December 17, 2013 at 22:02

    Always depressing to read the hollow justifications & twisted rationales that the gun-nuts come up with to indulge their sick passions in these comments. It’s sadly reminiscent of creationists discussing evolution, ‘truthers’ commenting on 9/11, ‘deniers’ criticizing climate change, etc. But, if nothing else, these crazy viewpoints DO help to explain WHY this world is so effed-up.

  3. Phillip
    December 17, 2013 at 21:53

    Another article pushing an anti-civil liberties agenda and spouting demagogic terms like calling the NRA an “armed bully”. The NRA is a group of millions of Americans who value their freedoms. Americans like me who cannot fathom how idiots like the authors of this article, and Consortium news, want to blame an inanimate object for the acts of criminals and lunatics. Since Newtown, how many children have been killed in auto collisions where a driver was at fault? How many articles have these authors written about banning automobiles (Illogical) or even punishing drivers (logical) who were at fault? Misguided morons.

  4. Missy
    December 17, 2013 at 15:04

    Of the 50 states in this country 47 have language in the state constitution that specifically defines the right to keep and bear arms as being for personal defense by the anti gun nuts want we the people to ignore this fact. My right to keep and bear arms is not subject to due process of law on the laws regulating this fundamental right are what are subject to due process. Nearly every one of the mass murders in recent years except for Lanza purchased their guns legally and more importantly committed their heinous crimes in gun free zones. The anti gun crowd is not interested in the safety of our children they are only interested in disarming the American people. This about it, the only reason the most recent shooting in Colorado ended without more carnage is because the shooter took is own life. Only an armed police officer, security guard or teacher on the scene could have stooped him had he not taken his own life before they got to him. He walked right into the school and broke every law on the the books so enacting more laws would obviously not have deterred him.

  5. December 17, 2013 at 14:33

    Well so much for respecting the constitution and my rights. The Supreme court of the land in the Heller decession did indeed determine that the right to keep and bear arms is an individual and not collective right. Further more no other amendment contains the words “shall not be infringed” what part of that is not clear? your article contains the usually have truths that you accuse others of. Of the 30,000 firearms deaths you refer to how many were law enforcement? Self defense? murder? Suicide? you imply they were all foul play but we know that is not the case. Far be it to mention that the violent crime rate in the U.S. is at its lowest point since 1964 according to the F.B.I. And yes more that 20 million new forearms will be sold this year. That is millions upon millions of Americans exercising the rights that you want to take away. Shame on You!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. raymond
    December 17, 2013 at 13:12

    Every State Has A well Regulated militia, It is called the National Guard!

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