NRA’s blood money 

As bad as it was, it could have been a lot worse. We’re talking about last week’s shootings at Hart Plaza in downtown Detroit during the big fireworks display. Considering the PR damage done to a city struggling mightily to convince the world that we are not Baghdad West (we’re sure reps from the NFL, here to make certain Motown can handle the 2006 Super Bowl, were duly impressed), you might ask how it could have been much worse? Well, the gunman who wounded nine people when he emptied a 9 mm pistol could have been carrying an Uzi or some other assault weapon. Although far from ideal, a federal ban on 19 such weapons — which can have clips that contain 10, 20, 30 or more bullets — is credited with helping to keep these guns off the streets.

Passed a decade ago, that ban is set to expire at midnight on Sept. 13. Democrats are trying to renew the legislation. But, thanks to those fun-loving patriots at the National Rifle Association, efforts to retain the ban appear to have little chance of success. Fingers are also pointing to President George Bush, who promised during the 2000 campaign to support the ban. He still promises that support, but his fellow Republicans, who hold a majority in both houses of Congress, are dead set on seeing the ban expire, and the big boss is doing zero arm-twisting in an attempt to change minds.

It’s not hard to figure out why. Killing the ban is a top priority for the NRA, a group that spent $17 million in the 2000 election, with much of that cash spent in support of Bush. No less a political observer than former President Bill Clinton says the NRA is a big reason Al Gore lost to Bush last time out.

“I believe Al lost Arkansas because of the National Rifle Association … and maybe Missouri, and maybe Tennessee, and maybe New Hampshire (in addition to the Nader vote) … I don’t think the NRA got near as much credit as they deserve for Bush’s election. They hurt us bad,” Clinton recently told Salon magazine.

With the NRA poised to spend another $17 million for the 2004 election, it is easy to understand why the Bushman is sitting on his hands when it comes to pushing for renewal of the ban. And if that cold cash comes splattered with a little blood, well, in the words of John Mellencamp, “Ain’t that America?”

As Michael Barnes, president of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, told the Boston Globe: “The Bush administration has said one thing and it is doing the exact opposite. The president indicated that this is something he supports, but he is clearly allowing it to go away. And it is tragic. Lives will be lost.”

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