Parting Shots

Statesmen and Blowhards

In 2022, Americans are in another cycle of crisis, mentally whipsawed by a despicable new double-whammy of back-to-back atrocities

By Dave Skinner

For the past several years, I’ve enjoyed regularish lunches with former Montana Secretary of State Bob Brown. We are both fascinated by, and proud of, Montana and U.S. history, in part because we had the same American history professor, the late, great Alton B. (Doc) Oviatt of Montana State.

We greatly enjoy picking each other’s brains. Our latest discussion covered the tawdry subject of dark money and how to protect our republican system from drowning in dirty cash. But we also pick at each other’s viewpoints, sometimes vehemently. One issue where we disagree is firearms.

Bob writes in the wake of back-to-back atrocities in Buffalo and Uvalde, that we should heed Mike Mansfield’s 1968 call for the “registration of all firearms;” and further, that “hand guns […] should be outlawed.”

Should that be holy writ today, 54 years later? I think not. In 1968, as Senate Majority Leader, the statesman Mansfield nonetheless followed President Johnson’s policy lead. Johnson himself had called for “national registration of all guns and the licensing of those who carry those guns. For the fact of life is that there are over 160 million guns in this country – more firearms than families.”

Fifty-some years later, discussions of banning handguns or national licensing don’t happen in public. Further, Americans now own some 300 million guns. More important, statesman Mansfield’s former job is held today by Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), a showboating blowhard whom I would trust only to run fastest toward the TV cameras.

But 1968 is relevant to 2022. We might think our post-COVID world is nuts, with seemingly everything spinning out of control. But anyone who either studies or remembers history (Bob and I do both) know good old 1968 was utter chaos, the worst year in a lousy decade that saw America’s comfortable “postwar consensus” literally blown to smithereens. 1968 was just one year in a years-long orgy of bombings, flaming riots and assassinations that began when Lee Harvey Oswald killed President John F. Kennedy in 1963. 1968 hosted Tet, the Weathermen, Yippies – but most frightening were the double-whammy assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 5, and then President Kennedy’s younger brother, Robert F. Kennedy, killed on June 5.

I was only 8 years old then, but old enough to remember how I felt … not just hurt and sad as when my grandpa A.J. died, but a new sense of moral shock, a new fear that evil might actually win over good, that things wouldn’t be OK in the end. 

So that’s my context of Mansfield’s remarks, during the height of debate over what became the Gun Control Act of 1968, GCA for short. The legislative guts of GCA had been on the agenda since the Kennedy assassination, and sure enough, after a knock-down, drag-out fight in Congress driven by crisis, barely passed to be signed into lousy law by lame duck Lyndon Johnson.

It took 18 years to fix GCA’s worst provisions.

So, in 2022, Americans are in another cycle of crisis, mentally whipsawed by a despicable new double-whammy of back-to-back atrocities, so loathsomely immoral that we all are hurt, deep in our personal moral cores. Could, and should, Congress “do something” to stop the hurt?

Well, “universal background checks,” banning black rifles, raising minimum ages, even red flag laws all might seem like “common sense,” but Congress has utterly none.

To begin with, 18-year-olds are, under the law, adults. Period. Those millions of black rifle owners are far and away upstanding, patriotic Americans. Punish someone else, preferably the guilty.

Universal background checks? Sorry, but the real intent is, flat out, creating updated paper records of guns that long ago left the gun store. Someday, with the “right” politics, these new records might, just might, become an updated, searchable database. No thanks.

Red flag laws? Perhaps … but ONLY with the best protections for the civil rights of not just mentally ill citizens, but armed citizens, too. Red-flag burdens of proof must be kept high in all cases, with ANY parties or persons putting forth unjustified, false-flag complaints subject to severe felony punishment for criminal perjury.