James Clay Fuller

Things We're Not Supposed to Say

Friday, April 24, 2009

Guns: Pimping for a dirty business

You have to give America's increasingly extreme political right great credit in one area.

Its propagandists, the ones it has right now, are the best at flaying facts and selling disinformation since things went belly up for Joseph Goebbels 1945.

The best of the best –- or, from a moral standpoint, worst of the worst -– are those who directly serve the makers and peddlers of military-style guns and other people-killing devices, the profiteering promoters of murder on a massive scale. In that, too, they have much in common with Dr. Goebbels.

They get great help from our cowardly politicians -– which is to say almost all of our politicians -– and from an equally cowardly press and a whole bunch of ignorant suckers among the American public, but that is largely a testament to their skill.

In late March, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went farther than is usual for a U.S. official in admitting that our country bears substantial responsibility for the growing power and brutality of Mexico's drug cartels. Specifically, she admitted the obvious fact that demand for drugs in this country fuels the growth of the mobs and the less-known fact that the drug gangs get the bulk of their weaponry from suppliers in the United States.

The second piece of information, on weapons, was confirmed by Janet Napolitano, secretary of Homeland Defense.

Clinton's statement may have taken what passes for courage in American politics, unpleasant truths being widely regarded as untouchable. Few facts could more clearly demonstrate the political power our elected officials have granted those who produce and promote violence for profit.

Although there was little or no coverage in the establishment media, a couple of other people in the new Obama administration already had made such acknowledgments. The gun racket had anticipated Clinton's admission.

Fox Propaganda, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and various other screaming sociopaths were ready, of course, but their rants were predictable and dull. Everybody who can walk and chew gum had to have known in advance what they would say: Weak-kneed liberals apologizing to criminals, what we need is armed troops standing three feet apart along the entire border, it's all the fault of them furriners, and look-out-folks-they're-gonna-take-your-guns-away.

When it comes to carrying water for the murder businesses, those people are useful, but minor players. The gun nuts go elsewhere for the authoritative word on what they should think.

Their secret decoder rings are set for the National Rifle Association and dozens upon dozens of Web sites and blogs narrowly aimed at the kind of suckers who have bought into the fictions about impending gun confiscation and the need to be prepared for a socialist or fascist coup.

(Beck, for one, doesn't seem to know the difference between socialist and fascist, and it's a good bet that a high percentage of those who take him seriously are equally in the dark on that point and many other points of fact.)

So I looked in on several of the aluminum hat gun nutter sites, the ones that carry articles, and sometimes ads, about what body armor to buy and where to buy it, and rant after rant about the dire threat of a dictatorship of the left. The official position of the death peddlers became obvious within half an hour. The “talking points” had to have been distributed before Clinton's statement got it's brief flurry of coverage.

In a nutshell here they are, without most of the boilerplate rhetoric about “Mainstream Media's huge disinformation campaign to demonize the American gun owner,” etc., etc., ad nauseum:

-- The attempt to slow the flow of weapons to Mexican criminals will, as Michael Gaddy of LewRockwell.com assured his readers, morph into 'the war on guns'” planned by President Obama. (Fact: Obama has always taken a “moderate” -- that is, rather weak -- stance on guns and gun control.)

-- Obama administration people are pushing the idea that the weapons going into Mexico are coming from America's private gun owners. (Fact: No such claim has even been implied, let alone stated. Absolutely nobody, other than the wing nuts, is talking about individual American gun owners shipping their weapons to Mexico.)

-- And -– booga booga booga -– the real supplier of weapons to the drug gangs is the U.S. government, using the Mexican government as a middle man. (Too absurd for any rational person, but readily believed in the gun worshippers subculture. Government conspiracy, doncha know.)

In the hands of Gaddy, who describes himself as an army veteran of Vietnam, Grenada and Beirut, that translates to, “Our corrupt government, cooperating with Mexico's equally corrupt government, has embarked on a campaign to deprive American citizens of the means to defend ourselves from tyranny, screening their own involvement in arming violent criminal drug cartels.”

(One could assume from Gaddy's fantasy that Barack Obama is not only a secret Muslim and a citizen of some other country but also a secret employee of the drug cartels, specializing in armament.)

-- But the main story, put forth by one Ralph Weller of Gun News Daily, who claims to know all this because he “lived and worked in Mexico in a border town for about five years,” is that all of the assault rifles, machine pistols, hand grenades and other murder tools in the hands of Mexico's drug pushers are from “Europe, China, Russia and South America” or “they came from illegal arms manufacturers in India or Pakistan.” Take your pick, apparently; the two theories about source are presented separately within the same essay.

For added spice, Weller's piece charges that, rather than weapons going from the United States to Mexico, the opposite is true, that “illegal full-auto weapons and grenades” are flowing along with drugs from Mexico to this country. That creative claim appears to be unique to Weller at this point.

Weller's article, which carries no attribution for any statement and not a single checkable fact, has been picked up by more than a dozen other right-wing and/or gun nutter Web sites that I saw. I'd be very surprised if there aren't many more I didn't see. Those I got into all presented it as absolute proof that arms are not going to Mexico from this country and that the claim is just groundwork for a government attempt to seize Americans' god-given guns.

I tried to find reliable information on Weller's identity and background, but biographical information, other than a brief paragraph he apparently wrote, doesn't seem to be available. There was another Ralph Weller, a ranking executive of Otis Elevator Co., but he died in 1995, and I could find no link between him and the above-quoted water boy for the gun peddlers.

Most of the gun-nut sites push the idea that President Obama is a very busy man, hatching a great plot to take all guns away from all American civilians.

In truth, Obama is very timid about taking on the gun nuts. If you check his positions and statements going back to his days in the Illinois Legislature, it becomes clear that he's never called for a ban on guns, never even hinted he wants handguns made illegal. He has –- take a deep breath now -– suggested that handguns should be registered and that assault weapons and armor-piercing ammunition should be permanently banned.

Obama, to the horror of the gun nuts, also has suggested (nothing more) that we should return to a prohibition against carrying concealed weapons and the closing of a loophole that allows private sale (including at gun shows) of all kinds of weapons and ammunition without any record or registration of the weapons and buyers.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, the NRA, which speaks from Olympus in the minds of those who dwell in the gun-nut world, created a wholly fictional claim that Obama had a “ten-point plan” to alter the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The NRA said Obama will “ban the manufacture, sale and possession of handguns” and also “ban the use of firearms for home self defense.”

The aluminum hat crowd believes that with greater certainty than it believes the sun rises in the east.


When Ralphy, the young hero of a wonderful movie titled “A Christmas Story,” got his first, greatly anticipated message from Little Orphan Annie after he at long last received his secret decoder ring, he was outraged, and threw the ring away.

The message: “Don't forget to drink your Ovaltine.”

It's a great pity the wing nuts and gun freaks, not to mention members of Congress, don't have the same ability to recognize and reject business-sponsored crapola.


Lest anyone mistake me: I grew up with firearms.

My father lived for fishing and, especially, hunting. It was his great passion. But he lost a leg to a careless fool of a hunter when he was 18, and his “good foot” carried a piece of a bullet lodged there thanks to the idiocy of yet another careless hunter. Neither of the people who shot him were in his hunting party at the time of the incidents. He would not tolerate the slightest carelessness with a gun of any type, and twice that I can recall, he chased people from the field on the sheer strength of his anger -– no physical threats made or implied.

I owned both a rifle and a .410 shotgun by the time I was 11. I gave up hunting in my late teens almost entirely because of the dangerous behavior of other hunters. I continued to target shoot now and then for many years. I have nothing against well-behaved hunters, certainly nothing against people who use guns for target shooting, skeet and other non-lethal sport. If it were convenient, I might be one of them.

But as one who spent many hours of my youth in the field, I can see absolutely no legitimate civilian use for military-type semiautomatic and automatic weapons, let alone bazookas, rocket launchers and other types of iron designed specifically for the killing of human beings. The same goes for armor-piercing ammunition. I'm somewhat ambivalent on handguns. There obviously are many people who should not have them, and a considerable body of research shows that, despite NRA propaganda to the contrary, a vast majority of innocent citizens who think they can defend themselves and their homes with such weapons are deluding themselves and asking for trouble.

Guns 2: The hidden business

When Hillary Clinton declared in March that weapons are flowing from the United States to Mexico's drug cartels, you'd have thought she'd revealed that madwoman Ann Coulter is a drag queen, rather than stated a fact well known to law enforcement people and many others on both sides of the border.

(About Coulter: You didn't know? Where did you think Bill O'Reilly goes when he's not in the Fox Propaganda studio?)

There was hardly a newspaper that didn't carry the Clinton story on the front page, and, for a day or two, no television faux news station that didn't use it at least twice an hour.

In fact, the simple admission of the gun trafficking was hardly more shocking than Clinton's acknowledgment that demand from the U.S. is what put the drug mobs in business and keeps them rich.

The coverage faded quickly in establishment news outlets, however, leaving only the occasional uninformed television “reporter” or Fox flunky to ask some minor Obama administration official whether the president wants to “confiscate the guns of private citizens.”

Clinton's statement should have been the kickoff of big-time investigations of the gun-peddling business by at least a couple of news organizations. But that wasn't going to happen. The quick fade to black was as predictable as a Rush Limbaugh tirade. The gun trade is a dung pile very carefully avoided by establishment news outfits.

Just in case, though, I waited for a couple of weeks after the Clinton pronouncement to see if, just maybe, some news outlet, some small, surviving group of real journalists. would seek answers to the painfully obvious questions: Where do the weapons come from and who's selling them to Mexican killers? (A longer but still incomplete list of other necessary questions is included below.)

Hasn't happened, of course.

American newspapers and broadcast news presenters have avoided crossing gun makers and sellers since before I got into the news trade, and that's about 50 years ago. They were afraid to take on the killing business even before the National Rifle Association became almost entirely a propaganda and lobbying agency for the murder business and before it gained genuine political power through what often is delicately described as “distribution of wealth.”

No, I can't explain it. Like anyone else out here, I can only guess.

Every so often during my 30-year tenure on what was, through most of those years, a very good metropolitan daily newspaper, I pitched the idea of probing the gun manufacturing and selling rackets. More often than not, my bosses acted as though I were soundless and invisible. I got no response at all, neither aye nor nay. Once or twice, I was told -– as happened on other possible subjects occasionally -– that such an investigation would take too much work, too much time; the newspaper couldn't afford to have me or any other reporter devote that much effort to one subject.

If I pointed out that we did occasionally devote much time and work to a single story (or series of stories), the response was that afore-mentioned silence and invisibility. Although I could hear myself and see myself in mirrors, and co-workers could see and hear me, the bosses didn't seem to be aware of my presence.

Most of the time, I think the excuses were exactly what I was told, when I was told anything, but after years of periodically making the pitch, the scenes began to have an unpleasantly eerie feel.

The thing is, nobody else in this country did the obvious gun stories either.

During my career I did a number of “big” stories that my bosses were reluctant to embark upon. The stories that met with initial reluctance almost always involved unpleasant facts about some business or group of businesses – often businesses that purchased substantial amounts of advertising.

The reluctance of editors to take on such subjects was understandable. If we produced information that made some business guys sweat, the editors took much heat.

Sometimes, inevitably, reporting turns up information to show that what you thought might be something illegal or exploitive of the public or otherwise rotten actually is at least acceptable, if not benign. The work you put in on the subject is therefore “wasted,” though I never saw it that way.

Yet far more often than not, if I or another reporter had solid grounds for wanting to dig into something, we got a green light.

Not on the gun racket, though.

You might wonder what made me think the gun business -– manufacture and large-lot sales -– needed examination. It's the same sort of thinking that has led to countless journalistic investigations:

There are far more guns in this country and elsewhere in the world than there are legitimate users. Hunters, skeet shooters, competitive target shooters, hobby shooters, have all the guns they can use, and street gangs, drug cartels, terrorists and all sorts of ugly and evil people have many, many more guns than are required by or could be used by all of the legitimate users in the world.

Production of guns exceeds legal or legitimate purchases by multiples, though we don't really know by how much.

We need numbers. How many of what types of guns are made, how many of those can be shown to have been sold to legitimate users? Where have the rest gone? Who has them? How did they get them?

The gun business and its apologists like to talk about “stolen” guns arming the gangs and such in this country. But how many guns actually are taken in known thefts, and how does that match up with the armories of drug gangs, street gangs and all the other brutal thugs? On the face of it, it is obvious that the criminals have many more guns than have shown up on lists of stolen property. Perhaps someone needs to explain to people in the gun trade that they should lock up their inventory.

Terrorists around the world, war lords and small strongman governments, the Italian Mafia and the Russian Mafia and lord knows how many other mafias are armed to the teeth, despite prohibitions of weapons sales to those people by almost all established governments. So who is making the hundreds of thousands of weapons those large-scale thugs acquire in such numbers, and who is selling them? Do gun makers “lose” 40, 50, 80 percent of their production out the back door? Really? They have no effective security? Or, alternatively, they just “don't know” who's buying half or more of what they produce?

Show me a legitimate business of any size that doesn't know what it produces, what it sells, what it has in inventory and who its buyers are. If you know one, and they do show up from time to time, it will not be in business long. And it won't have been profitable for long, let alone for centuries.

What use to private citizens are automatic weapons, assault rifles, rocket launchers, antiaircraft rockets, body armor, armored vehicles and other killing devices obviously designed solely for the killing of human beings? Who makes those, who sells them and who are the buyers? Really, who are the buyers -– age, background, income, and psychology. (Dangerous ground, but on the face of it there are some seriously disturbed people stockpiling extremely threatening weaponry. Right here in the U.S. of A. Read the gun blogs)

Oh, yes: Who gets how much profit from such things? And which politicians get how much in “campaign contributions” from the people who make the profits?

About the gun bloggers' claim that the bloodthirsty mobs are getting their guns from illegal manufacturers in, say, Pakistan or India: Really? A bunch of little tin-shed copyists, presumably without heavy manufacturing equipment, are turning out machine guns and assault rifles and other sophisticated weapons by the millions? And they can't be located and shut down?

Those are just some of the questions that have popped into my head at various times, making me believe that some capable journalists -– there are some left, though their numbers are dwindling rapidly -– really need to look hard look at the weapons business.

Wish I could say I expect that to happen.

Guns 3: Dangerous people

This country needs to take a really good look at its semi-underground gun culture.

It probably needs two such investigations, one by some official organization, preferably under Congressional sponsorship, and one by a team, or several teams, of thorough and courageous journalists -– if such can still be found.

Both probes would have to be separate from the even more immediately needed hard looks at the business of manufacturing and selling the kinds of weapons that have as their only purpose the killing of humans. To try to combine serious investigations of the weapons business and the culture of gun nuts who, knowingly or not, front for the killing industries would be simply too big, and too likely to confuse issues.

The American gun culture harbors a lot of seriously disturbed people who, I strongly believe, are of more immediate danger to us, individually and collectively, than any group of overwrought religionists camped among the stony hills and valleys of Pakistan or Afghanistan.

Just seek out their publications and Web sites and read what they say, especially in comments posted with articles about supposed government plots to ban guns, or keep ammunition off the market, or the attempts they are absolutely certain “Barack Hussein” -- a frequent usage -- is going to make to ban all firearms in this country. You'll find a lot of calls for armed revolution and reminders that if anyone crosses them, “we have guns.”

“Maybe it's time to revolt and rid this union of socialists and communists, peacefully if possible but with force when all else fails,” said “Kevin, a Gun Owner” on “KeepAndBearArms.com. He also suggested that House Speaker Pelosi “is an outright idiot, she should be tarred and feathered and sent packing on a rail.”

On the same site, someone identified only as Tim quoted J.Edgar Hoover at length, warning of “a defiant, and lawless communist party, which is fanatically dedicated to the Marxist cause of world enslavement and destruction of the foundations of our Republic.”

In fact, the belief in an international communist conspiracy to take over the United States, abetted by Jews and civil rights organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union, is alive and well in the world of gun nuts.

The rants quoted above are among the more civil I saw. Some sites are little more than collections of obscene, hate-filled ravings against practically everyone who can in any way be called “liberal,” with special attention these days for Barack Obama. The president frequently is characterized as an agent of Islam, plotting to destroy the united States. I'm none too delicate about “bad” language, as regular readers know, but I would not quote here much of what I've read recently on the gun-nut Web sites.

There are a whole lot of potential Timothy McVeighs out there, folks, and since November 2008 election they seem to have shaken loose all the bolts that held them, however tenuously, to the floor of reality.

We need reporters to start digging and to report back to the public on who those people are and what they're really about -– and what they're about is not simple support for “Second Amendment rights,” despite the propaganda put out for general consumption.

What most people know of the gun culture, of course, is the National Rifle Association, which generally is seen as a benign supporter of hunters and sport shooters and from a liberal point of view, a somewhat over-zealous defender of “Second Amendment rights.”

A bit of nosing through books and current information on the Web suggests strongly to me –- supporting an impression I've had since I was a kid who did a lot of shooting and hunting -– that the NRA is a well-structured front for the gun makers and peddlers. Not the “defense industry,” but the people who provide the millions of weapons that magically find their way into the hands of huge criminal organizations, terrorist organizations, drug cartels and various other violently criminal mobs.

It is a machine for the production of brilliant propaganda, obfuscations, lies and double talk, and perhaps the biggest and most successful organizer of ignorant, paranoid suckers since the Third Reich died in a bunker.

Sporting guns and pheasant hunting ain't in it folks, and though many of the NRA's less involved members and adherents think of it as a support organization for sportsmen, it hasn't made a very serious effort to operate on that front for quite awhile now.

Oh, it still supports gun-safety programs for youth and such things, but those pretty much run themselves with volunteers, and don't seem to occupy much of the attention of the organization's paid operatives.

Also, it's simple fact that only the most paranoid of gun nuts think there is even the remotest possibility that any politicians in this country are out to take away hunters' shotguns and rifles. We all know that is never going to happen, and the vast majority of us would object powerfully if anyone tried.

Nope. What the NRA is about -– listen to any of its officers' speeches, catch interviews with them on TV, read any of their numerous articles –- is defending the “right” to purchase man-killing weapons and their ammunition. AK47s and bullets designed to tear up the insides of a living being hit by them, are not useful in the world of skeet shooting or hunting, folks. They're not much use, either, to a competitive shooter. Skiers don't carry fully automatic guns on their backs in the biathlon.

NRA officials dance delicately around the purpose of advanced human-killing weaponry. They generally turn the inevitably timid questioning of reporters on that subject to DEFENDING THE SECOND AMENDMENT. (Yeah, that's generally spoken in the verbal equivalent of capital letters.)

We have a RIGHT to “bear arms,” doncha see, and what might be done with them is something we shouldn't really discuss.

Quick fact: The NRA often trumpets the fact that it was founded in 1871. What it is less noisy about is the other salient fact about its beginnings: It was from its first day focused on supporting the ownership of military weapons by those whom we might now characterize as right-wing and anti-government. The organizers and officers of the organization through its early years were downright disdainful of “sportsmen,” historians say. Guns were for support of a certain way of life.

Some people connect the early organization with the Ku Klux Klan, but, to date, I haven't seen any evidence to that effect.

What is a demonstrable fact is that the NRA regularly puts out the most blatant lies imaginable to stir up its members and other gun nuts and make them and the wider public believe that good, honest folk are in danger of having their guns taken away. Any suggestion of regulating the manufacture and sale of any kind of weapon is taken as such a threat.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, the NRA blatantly lied about Barack Obama in its publications, in advertising and in every media it uses. The organization claimed that the then-candidate had a “10-point plan” to strip Americans of their guns. The claim was entirely fiction. Obama always has taken a very soft approach to gun control, suggesting only registration of handguns and restrictions on the sale of military style automatic weapons. He doesn't go anywhere near far enough for most liberals.

It's safe to say that most NRA members, and many others, still believe that Obama is a would-be confiscator of guns.

But the NRA is far too soft for the real gun nuts. They often rail on the Web sites of other gun organizations about the NRA's willingness to occasionally, and very slightly, compromise with Congress when it comes up with some toothless plan to keep heavy weapons out of the hands of the blatant madmen.

(I just read an on-line debate on whether people who have been diagnosed with severe mental illness should be prevented from obtaining weapons. The pros and cons seemed fairly evenly divided. Some writers thought “rights” come first, some allowed that maybe certain kinds of diagnoses should preclude gun ownership – although in such cases, the people in question should be locked up anyway.)

The thing is, the Second Amendment debate is phony.

What most of the country believes now – that there is an honest question of whether that amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees individuals the right to own whatever weapons they choose to have – is false.

That even most people who hope for some gun control believe it is an open question is the NRA's greatest success -– a triumph of false propaganda, a tribute to Joseph Goebbels assertion that some lies are too big not to be believed by an ignorant public.

Go to http://www.fair.org and look for a September/October 1996 article by Howard Friel, headlined “How the NRA Rewrote the Constitution.” You may have to go to an archives or advanced search page to find the article.

What it says, clearly and with considerable grounding, is that courts, including appeals courts, in this country have issued what the writer designates “an unbroken chain” of decisions over (then) six decades ruling that the Second Amendment does not confer an individual right to possess firearms. That “well regulated militia” mentioned in the amendment means exactly what it appears to mean.

The U.S. Supreme Court has never directly addressed individual gun ownership, at least not until the recent decision of the Bush court to strike down Washington, D.C.'s strong gun control law. But that decision, declaring the Washington regulations “over broad,” avoided the central issue of what the Second Amendment really means. It left room for substantial restrictions on gun possession and use.

With a substantial number of Bush appointees on the bench now -– some of them, such as torture promoter Jay Bybee, with worse than doubtful qualifications -– the legal battle may get rougher before long.

In the meantime, you will observe that our captive establishment news media inevitably behave as though the NRA interpretation of the law -– a false interpretation -– is correct or at least probably correct. They never, and I do mean never, mention the long history of judicial decisions declaring that there is no individual right to weapons.

But, a reminder: Very few Americans, and no politicians I know of, want to take anyone's sporting guns away. As for some of the psychotic paranoids whose writings I've been reading on the gun sites: we have to talk about strongly controlling the kinds of heavy-duty military weapons they favor.

Ken Poplawski, who killed three Pittsburgh policemen April 4 with an AK-47, was a guy very like those who spew hate daily on numerous gun-lover Web sites. As noted in Salon.com on April 7, he “believed that the United States was controlled by a secret Jewish cabal that had a master plan to abrogate freedom of speech and use the U.S. military to police Americans.”

I saw that very proposition mentioned five or six times on gun-lover sites the day I wrote this essay.