Wednesday, July 11, 2018
No gun-use restriction of any sort is going to be approved by this Arkansas General Assembly.
The only form of firearm proliferation that will be denied by this Legislature is guns at collegiate sports contests, and then only on the demand of the Southeastern Conference and at the personal behest of the Republican governor daring to cross, just once, the National Rifle Association.
Our Republican legislators — well, yours, not mine — are, alas, weak. They tremble before the gun lobby. They are afraid of the voters, who might accept a few sensibly restrictive gun laws by their own independent judgment — until, that is, the NRA sent bad legislative report cards into their mailboxes.
A Republican legislator might get a B-minus, a failing grade, if he or she … well, let’s see … indicated that maybe schoolteachers shouldn’t carry guns in classrooms or agreed to let women in their Moms Demand Action red T-shirts, and who dare to worry about their kids’ safety, speak at a legislative committee meeting.
That was a regrettable, even shameful, occurrence Monday at a hearing on school safety and guns conducted by the legislative Joint Performance Review Committee.
The shame was the absence of courtesy and open, accountable and democratic public debate. It stemmed from pettiness, rudeness and arrogance — legislative pettiness and rudeness and arrogance, to be specific.
It also may have resulted to some extent from misunderstanding.
What happened was that the Joint Performance Review Committee provided a speaker-signup sheet for its meeting on school safety and gun issues. Then it ignored the signups from people it didn’t like.
It permitted testimony only from previously scheduled pro-gun witnesses who testified dubiously that arming teachers would deter school shootings more than having resource officers on site, and that background checks would have stopped no recent mass shooting (though that’s incorrect at least in the Dylann Roof case).
The permitted testimony included that of a national gun-galore advocate, Dr. John Lott, whose pro-gun research findings are vigorously contested by Moms Demand Action. Lott is widely reported to have gone online masquerading as a Mary Rosh to praise himself and his work, even assert as Mary Rosh to have been a student of himself, and never to have experienced a more marvelous instructor than himself.
That is what passes for right-wing expertise and credibility in the era of Donald Trump, who once exercised his crush on himself to disguise himself and call a reporter to brag on himself.
Then, after several Moms Demand Action members had sat through three hours of testimony for which they had ready rebuttal, Sen. Missy Irvin of Mountain View, a co-chairman, declared the meeting over. She said the meeting had been scheduled only for fact-finding and that the other side could comment at a future session after the committee had set a “plan of action” based on its fact-finding.
In other words, the Joint Performance Review Committee declared that it would chart its future course based only on the debatable testimony it had heard from only one side. It provided that the other side would be indulged for its futile whining only after the committee had considered exclusively the side with which it agreed.
It seems to me — but I’m old and inflicted with minority views — that Arkansas mothers ought to count at least as much to Arkansas elected representatives as a national gun-lobby shill.
It seems to me — but I’m old and inflicted with minority views — that now-abandoned Arkansas views of courtesy would have required that a couple of the moms who had signed up to speak get permitted to come forward and say a few politely indulged words representing politely ignored views, considering how long and patiently they had waited.
Irvin has responded to me at length to defend herself, her committee and the process she says is being followed. Everyone will be heard in time, she promises. She didn’t know a speaker signup sheet had been put out by the staff, she said. She had intended all along, and had previously been planning, for another session devoted to Moms Demand Action and other interested parties, she said. State Sen. Will Bond, a Democrat, confirmed to me that Irvin had been working with him on a later hearing covering gun-restrictive ideas.
I appreciate that. I can’t appreciate, though, that she and the committee didn’t see the value in veering from their purposefully one-sided agenda of Monday to accommodate passionate citizens in the audience who had signed a list to be heard.
Irvin argued that courtesy was best served by letting one side get heard without being contested, while the other side could be heard later, presumably also without being contested.
She said debate best takes place after a bill has been proposed. But I find that another way of saying the Legislature wants to write a bill excluding Moms Demand Action and let the gun-restriction movement complain only in futile opposition, not have input during the bill-writing process.
Maybe we should do our presidential debates that way. I can hear the network promotion now: Donald Trump’s presidential debate will be Monday. His Democratic opponent’s debate will be the day after the election.
Irvin also gave me the usual refrain that conflict sells newspapers and that she and the committee are only trying to protect kids, yet media people won’t emphasize that.
It’s always the media, isn’t it?
I replied to Irvin that the publisher could thank me later if advocating legislative courtesy to concerned Arkansas mothers sold a few newspapers.
John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers’ Hall of Fame. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.
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