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Gun Nuts at the Legislature

While the Billings Gazette charitably headlined their story “Several pro-gun proposals before the 2013 Legislature,” a more accurate title may have been “Gun Extremists Ignore the Law, Common Sense, and Student Safety to Satisfy Their NRA Bosses.” I probably won’t ever get a job writing headlines, but I think mine more accurately conveys the sentiment of the Montana Republicans who won’t be satisfied, it seems, until Montana’s schoolchildren are being armed with automatic weapons and indoctrinated to resist the federal government.

Consider their proposals: a bill to allow hunting rifles on school property, a bill to make confidential public records about concealed weapons, and a bill to nullify federal gun control measures. That’s all before you get to a proposal written by disgraced paralegals to amend the Constitution.

My favorite has to be the proposal to allow hunting rifles on school grounds. I can remember seeing rifles in the parking lot when I was in high school, but I suspect legislators pushing this bill also make their phone calls by asking the operator to directly connect to an individual. Times have changed and the danger of guns at school is far more pronounced. Maybe the publicly funded charter schools some legislators want to create will have the resources to decide if the weapons in trucks and cars are “for hunting,” but the principals I know have far more pressing issues to deal with.

The proposal to protect addresses of those with concealed weapons is even more factually-challenged. Its sponsor, Senator Terry Murphy claimed that burglaries have happened because of permit requests before acknowledging that he might have been mistaking random things he heard on the Internet for actual facts. It’s terribly reassuring to know that our legislators are continuing their proud tradition of writing gun laws based on what is misinformation at best, outright lies at the worst.

Finally, of course, we have Krayton Kerns, who wants to put on his rebel cap and resist the Union forces of oppression once more:

Another Montana bill in the works would prohibit state law enforcement from enforcing any federal ban on semi-automatic weapons and large-capacity magazines.

The whole sordid collection of idiotic gun laws from the Republican caucus is illustrative of the gun lobby’s notion of compromise: faced with a nation increasingly willing to regulate guns and ammunition in the wake of the Newtown and Aurora tragedies, they’ve positioned themselves even further to the right, to a place never envisioned by the Founders.

We do need a national and local dialogue on guns and violence in our communities. We’re just not going to be able to have it when gun extremists are moving so far from the center and reason that they can’t even see either any longer.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.


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  • From a purely political standpoint, the national Dems are destroying ANY chance that Montana will have a Dem majority some day. I can only wonder as to why? Sure these bills are kooky, but no more kooky than what some Dems have proposed in the way of gun control. ONLY the most obtuse among the Dems would even MENTION executive order and gun control in the same sentence. Hell, instead, just come out and say that you plan to take a whizz on the Second Amendment. It makes about as much sense in a purely political sense. I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, but Montana will now be officialy, effectively red forever. They should listen to Bill Clinton on this one.

    For those of us old political hands, this is painful to watch. There is NO moral point to be won in all of this. This is NOT a great moral crusade like civil rights or civil unions. There is NOTHING immoral about owning a gun. Hence, in spite of all the ridiculous purple prose, whiney psuedo-arguments from the fernbar crowd, they have NO moral high ground to defend. None! It’s simply all about making law abiding citizens into criminals, and giving government more power over individual rights. That’s all. This will not end well for the Dems.

    (Sorry, Don, I respect you very highly, but on this one we agree to disagree. I was teaching on the Hi Line when the Lege implemented the school ban policy. It was a real “Huh?” moment for us all. Hell, prior to that time, lots of kids had rifles in their gun racks. No one ever got shot. I can remember only one incident at Hardin High in which a kid brought a rifle to school. The assistant principal took the gun from him.)

    • p.s. I would MUCH prefer that the anti crowd would have been MUCH more energized when Bush slaughtered over one hundred thousand Iraquis, including many women and children. THAT had a great moral component. But this one, not. Isolated cases of evil make poor policy precedents.

      • p.s.s. And one more point. Perhaps SOME of these guys do belong to the NRA, but I think it’s counterproductive to assume that everyone who opposes gun control is taking orders from an NRA boss. Hell, Edward Abbey was against gun control, as are many libs. I don’t belong to the NRA because of their rightwing stances. They were awful during the Clinton years. But in the past month their membership rolls have soared. People have been scared to death of all this gun control talk. They’re doing the only thing they know how to do now, support the NRA. It’s wrong to demonize such a large percentage of the population that is guilty of absolutely nothing! Hell, I have LOTS of guns, and I refuse to register them or apologize to anyone for owning them.

        We must NEVER forget that most the rightwing dictatorships around the world have been mainly successful because the left had no means to fight back. AND, they had the full backing of the U.S. Take a peek at Latin American history beginning with Guatemala in 1954.

      • Being from the Hi Line, you know that some kids live up to thirty-five miles from school.

        But here’s the problem I have with the whole thing. Shooting people is a very, very unnatural act. If you recall, during WWI MANY troops were unable to fire their weapons at the enemy. They’d shoot over their heads, or drop their bombs in the ocean. And even during WWII also. Even in times of war, it is terribly difficult to shoot another human being. Hence, the military had to alter their training methods so as to mentally destroy a soldier enough in order to make him/her a killer/murder.

        I have enough faith in my fellow man (even Craig…. I kid) to allow them to carry a gun. Sure, there will be mentally ill people who occasional kill, but we cannot punish everyone because of them.

        p.s. I hear ya on the other stuff. I too am for safe schools.

  • Larry, why is protecting the identity and personal information of licensed concealed carry people “kooky” to use your word?

      • Some Dems are riding the fence.

        In Montana, as the legislative session gets under way, a new package of pro-gun proposals is in the works and few lawmakers are standing in open opposition, although some Democrats aren’t closing the door on the idea.

        “I am paying close attention to what people are saying,” said Minority House Leader Chuck Hunter in an interview with The Associated Press at the start of the session.

        “At the political level, I have not decided what we should do,” he said.

        One of the first bills heard by the Montana Legislature would make confidential the addresses of people who hold permits for concealed weapons.

        The concern is that releasing such information would make gun owners targets of crime, a common refrain following last month’s move by the Journal News of White Plains, N.Y., to publish names and addresses of gun permit owners.

        • I always figured that if they get past my dogs, they deserve an honorable death with a shot to the head! Is that so wrong? That is, if my dogs haven’t already ripped their cojones off! And then, it’s a mercy killing. Euthanasia, something I know that you ReePubes abhor!

            • HEY, like I always say, if ya fall for ANY religion, you’ll fall for anything! Weakminded people are born at a disadvantage. It’s Darwinian, sumthin’ ELSE that I know ReePubes reject. But it’s true. I’ve always found that “ale does more than Milton can to justify God’s ways to man”! Ale, man, ales the stuff!….or a good micro brewski!

              • Oh what the hell. Let’s do the whole thing. Don won’t mind.

                A. E. Housman (1859–1936). A Shropshire Lad. 1896.

                LXII. Terence, this is stupid stuff

                ‘TERENCE, this is stupid stuff:
                You eat your victuals fast enough;
                There can’t be much amiss, ’tis clear,
                To see the rate you drink your beer.
                But oh, good Lord, the verse you make, 5
                It gives a chap the belly-ache.
                The cow, the old cow, she is dead;
                It sleeps well, the horned head:
                We poor lads, ’tis our turn now
                To hear such tunes as killed the cow. 10
                Pretty friendship ’tis to rhyme
                Your friends to death before their time
                Moping melancholy mad:
                Come, pipe a tune to dance to, lad.’

                Why, if ’tis dancing you would be, 15
                There’s brisker pipes than poetry.
                Say, for what were hop-yards meant,
                Or why was Burton built on Trent?
                Oh many a peer of England brews
                Livelier liquor than the Muse, 20
                And malt does more than Milton can
                To justify God’s ways to man.
                Ale, man, ale’s the stuff to drink
                For fellows whom it hurts to think:
                Look into the pewter pot 25
                To see the world as the world’s not.
                And faith, ’tis pleasant till ’tis past:
                The mischief is that ’twill not last.
                Oh I have been to Ludlow fair
                And left my necktie God knows where, 30
                And carried half way home, or near,
                Pints and quarts of Ludlow beer:
                Then the world seemed none so bad,
                And I myself a sterling lad;
                And down in lovely muck I’ve lain, 35
                Happy till I woke again.
                Then I saw the morning sky:
                Heigho, the tale was all a lie;
                The world, it was the old world yet,
                I was I, my things were wet, 40
                And nothing now remained to do
                But begin the game anew.

                Therefore, since the world has still
                Much good, but much less good than ill,
                And while the sun and moon endure 45
                Luck’s a chance, but trouble’s sure,
                I’d face it as a wise man would,
                And train for ill and not for good.
                ’Tis true, the stuff I bring for sale
                Is not so brisk a brew as ale: 50
                Out of a stem that scored the hand
                I wrung it in a weary land.
                But take it: if the smack is sour,
                The better for the embittered hour;
                It should do good to heart and head 55
                When your soul is in my soul’s stead;
                And I will friend you, if I may,
                In the dark and cloudy day.

                There was a king reigned in the East:
                There, when kings will sit to feast, 60
                They get their fill before they think
                With poisoned meat and poisoned drink.
                He gathered all the springs to birth
                From the many-venomed earth;
                First a little, thence to more, 65
                He sampled all her killing store;
                And easy, smiling, seasoned sound,
                Sate the king when healths went round.
                They put arsenic in his meat
                And stared aghast to watch him eat; 70
                They poured strychnine in his cup
                And shook to see him drink it up:
                They shook, they stared as white’s their shirt:
                Them it was their poison hurt.
                —I tell the tale that I heard told. 75
                Mithridates, he died old.

                Do you like poetry, Craig?

                • You mean like Robert Service?

                  The Shooting of Dan McGrew
                  By Robert W. Service
                  A bunch of the boys were whooping it up in the Malamute saloon;
                  The kid that handles the music-box was hitting a jag-time tune;
                  Back of the bar, in a solo game, sat Dangerous Dan McGrew,
                  And watching his luck was his light-o’-love, the lady that’s known as Lou.

                  When out of the night, which was fifty below, and into the din and the glare,
                  There stumbled a miner fresh from the creeks, dog-dirty, and loaded for bear.
                  He looked like a man with a foot in the grave and scarcely the strength of a louse,
                  Yet he tilted a poke of dust on the bar, and he called for drinks for the house.
                  There was none could place the stranger’s face, though we searched ourselves for a clue;
                  But we drank his health, and the last to drink was Dangerous Dan McGrew.

                  There’s men that somehow just grip your eyes, and hold them hard like a spell;
                  And such was he, and he looked to me like a man who had lived in hell;
                  With a face most hair, and the dreary stare of a dog whose day is done,
                  As he watered the green stuff in his glass, and the drops fell one by one.
                  Then I got to figgering who he was, and wondering what he’d do,
                  And I turned my head — and there watching him was the lady that’s known as Lou.

                  His eyes went rubbering round the room, and he seemed in a kind of daze,
                  Till at last that old piano fell in the way of his wandering gaze.
                  The rag-time kid was having a drink; there was no one else on the stool,
                  So the stranger stumbles across the room, and flops down there like a fool.
                  In a buckskin shirt that was glazed with dirt he sat, and I saw him sway;
                  Then he clutched the keys with his talon hands — my God! but that man could play.

                  Were you ever out in the Great Alone, when the moon was awful clear,
                  And the icy mountains hemmed you in with a silence you most could hear;
                  With only the howl of a timber wolf, and you camped there in the cold,
                  A half-dead thing in a stark, dead world, clean mad for the muck called gold;
                  While high overhead, green, yellow and red, the North Lights swept in bars? —
                  Then you’ve a haunch what the music meant. . . hunger and night and the stars.

                  And hunger not of the belly kind, that’s banished with bacon and beans,
                  But the gnawing hunger of lonely men for a home and all that it means;
                  For a fireside far from the cares that are, four walls and a roof above;
                  But oh! so cramful of cosy joy, and crowned with a woman’s love —
                  A woman dearer than all the world, and true as Heaven is true —
                  (God! how ghastly she looks through her rouge, — the lady that’s known as Lou.)

                  Then on a sudden the music changed, so soft that you scarce could hear;
                  But you felt that your life had been looted clean of all that it once held dear;
                  That someone had stolen the woman you loved; that her love was a devil’s lie;
                  That your guts were gone, and the best for you was to crawl away and die.
                  ‘Twas the crowning cry of a heart’s despair, and it thrilled you through and through —
                  “I guess I’ll make it a spread misere”, said Dangerous Dan McGrew.

                  The music almost died away … then it burst like a pent-up flood;
                  And it seemed to say, “Repay, repay,” and my eyes were blind with blood.
                  The thought came back of an ancient wrong, and it stung like a frozen lash,
                  And the lust awoke to kill, to kill … then the music stopped with a crash,
                  And the stranger turned, and his eyes they burned in a most peculiar way;
                  In a buckskin shirt that was glazed with dirt he sat, and I saw him sway;
                  Then his lips went in in a kind of grin, and he spoke, and his voice was calm,
                  And “Boys,” says he, “you don’t know me, and none of you care a damn;
                  But I want to state, and my words are straight, and I’ll bet my poke they’re true,
                  That one of you is a hound of hell. . .and that one is Dan McGrew.”

                  Then I ducked my head, and the lights went out, and two guns blazed in the dark,
                  And a woman screamed, and the lights went up, and two men lay stiff and stark.
                  Pitched on his head, and pumped full of lead, was Dangerous Dan McGrew,
                  While the man from the creeks lay clutched to the breast of the lady that’s known as Lou.

                  These are the simple facts of the case, and I guess I ought to know.
                  They say that the stranger was crazed with “hooch,” and I’m not denying it’s so.
                  I’m not so wise as the lawyer guys, but strictly between us two —
                  The woman that kissed him and — pinched his poke — was the lady that’s known as Lou.

  • Another mass shooting, this time in New Mexico. A kid used an AR15. But hey, I guess that’s the price of freedom. Right Larry?

    Unless sensible gun control is enacted, these events will become even more commonplace.

  • I agree with John Adams, on the subject of gun ownership. Many of today’s gun-nuts actually favor “a dissolution of the government.” Whay Adams saw as an evil they see as a good.

    To suppose arms in the hands of citizens, to be used at individual discretion, except in private self-defense, or by partial orders of towns, countries or districts of a state, is to demolish every constitution, and lay the laws prostrate, so that liberty can be enjoyed by no man; it is a dissolution of the government. The fundamental law of the militia is, that it be created, directed and commanded by the laws, and ever for the support of the laws.
    —John Adams, A Defence of the Constitutions of the United States 475 (1787-1788)

        • True, but I would argue that we DO have historical precedent and a unique American relationship to both guns and freedom that cannot be denied. Americans are not the type of people to willingly submit to gun legislation that they find to be unreasonable. Sure, the libs love to think that they have the moral high ground on this one, but as I’ve mentioned already, there IS no moral high ground to be had. Law abiding gun owners have done nothing wrong. Therefore, they rightly get outraged when they become criminals by fiat overnight. They should NOT be punished arbitrarily. And lets face it, they WOULD be criminals if they refuse to comply. I would argue that legal, law abiding gun owner are responsible for very, very few deaths. The number is miniscule. So, why are they to be punished? NO gun law will prevent he isolated incidents of evil that we’ve witnessed. As a teacher you should be the first to know that collective punishment is one of the worst things a teacher can do. And that is exactly what’s happening here. Not good.

          And honest fear of government overreach is healthy and merited for sure.

        • Actually, Pogie, it might be depending on how you define “reasonable”, or more to the point, how the SCOTUS defines it. Heller v. DC pretty well established that one has a reasonable expectation that they can own a firearm, regardless of local or national restriction. The ruling also held that that ownership allows a reasonable expect ion of freedom from the legal question of motives. The SCOTUS has also ruled, multiple times, that the State can regulate sale, commerce and transfer of any item that can be ruled as a threat to the individual or the state itself. No ruling I can find establishes that required registration of already legally owned firearms is or is not Constitutional. Cuomo is pushing that one.

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