On June 12, a man walked into the Pulse bar in Orlando, Florida and opened fire on patrons who were there just to enjoy life. Some were members of the LGBTQ community and some were not. Yet what they all had in common was an expectation that they would wake up late Sunday morning and get on with their lives. .
We know how this story ended, just as we know how it ended in San Bernardino, and in Sandy Hook, and in a theater in Aurora and at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs.
Colorado is all too familiar with mass shootings. The mere mention of the word Columbine — our state flower — triggers horrific memories of two boys gunning down classmates who, twenty four hours earlier, had eaten in the cafeteria where bodies lay, contorted, beside overturned lunch tables and chairs.
All of the nation mourned with us after Columbine, and then again after Aurora, and then again after Colorado Springs. And all of Colorado grieved with the parents of Noah & Dylan and the families of the 20 other first graders from Connecticut.
This ritual of mass gun slaughter is carried out more times than any of us care to remember. And yet, we continue do nothing to stem the tide of guns in the U.S.
Three years ago, two Colorado lawmakers were ousted from the legislature for having the temerity to challenge the NRA and Colorado gun owners. It was as if the wrath of Cain fell upon them.
Two days ago, Sen. Cory Gardner voted no on a bill that would have removed guns from the hands of folks on the terrorist watch list. That’s right: He actually opposed a bill that would have blocked suspected terrorists from buying a Glock 9 mm, an AR-15 or the Sig Sauer semiautomatic used in the Orlando massacre.
What would lead a senator from a state so pocked by the bullets of mass shooters to refuse to support closing loopholes on gun checks and gun sales to suspected terrorists?
Gardner has received, directly or indirectly, more than $3.9 million from the NRA over the course of his career. He is one of the leading Republican beneficiaries of the mega gun lobby. He is owned — lock, stock and barrel — by the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre.
In an era of multi-million dollar campaign contributions, Gardner’s history of voting against bills that would have put a few more teeth in gun regulation isn’t surprising.
Gardner and the gun lobby in Colorado believe the Second Amendment functions as no other amendment within the Bill of Rights. They hold the mistaken belief that any regulation is tantamount to obliteration of the right.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Unless Gardner was asleep in his constitutional law class, he knows this full well.
No right is absolute. Not one.
The right to free speech has its limits as to time, place and manner — thus the famous admonition, “You cannot yell fire in a crowded theater.” What’s more, we have libel and defamation laws that curb unfettered expression.
Even freedom of religion can hit a wall, even if that wall is cracking in state legislatures like Mississippi and North Carolina, two states that passed anti-LGBTQ legislation following the 2015 U S Supreme Court same-sex marriage decision.
There are plenty of state and federal court cases that hold parents both criminally and civilly liable for death or injury of children because parents substituted medical attention with prayer.
So why do Corey Gardner, his deep-pocketed benefactors at the NRA and their acolytes think the Second Amendment trumps the most fundamental of rights-life and bodily integrity?
Because there’s a payoff for each part of this triangle of death. Gardner gets the money, the NRA gets the power and the acolytes get the guns, whether for shooting skeet or shooting to kill.
It’s true what they say: Political whoring has its price. That adage has particular currency for Colorado’s junior senator.
As long as Cory Gardner continues to serve as the NRA’s bitch, all of us — whether in night clubs, movie theaters, medical clinics or school cafeterias — will continue to be victims of the NRA gun lobby and the politicians who support and empower them.
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