Saturday, May 28, 2022

From the Archives, 2004: Republicans end the assault weapons ban and the usual suspects are there!

By Spy Archivist Aula Minerva
with Texas Correspondent Gus McCrae

As predicted in last week's Spy (see below) the horror of the Buffalo supermarket assault weapon massacre was wiped off the front pages and A blocks by the carnage at the Uvalde elementary school in the heart of America's gun country, Texas.

Before the next massacre by assault rifle, we thought we'd drill down into the cause of this plague.

It's so simple: Republicans.

Thus we were surprised when a number of the usual Republican suspects were heard to express how shocked, shocked they were by the most recent massacres.  They also bemoaned the mysterious inability of our society to come up with effective solutions to the agony of massacre by assault weapon, like not selling assault weapons to any 18-year-old with his daddy's Visa.

Here are a few examples of Republicans decrying the unbearable events of Buffalo and Uvalde:

Nicolle Wallace, MSNBC:


And Republican pollster and fixer Frank Luntz:

And what does David “Axis of Evil” Frum think about the anguish caused by teenagers wielding assault weapons powerful enough to rip bodies apart? 

Let's just ingest one more dose of Republican shock and horror over assault weapons massacres. Here's Steve “Vote Palin for VP” Schmidt: 

Disgraceful is the word for it. More specifically, why are assault weapons with their 30-round magazines and body-shredding power readily available to any untrained nitwit? 

There was a time in this country when the sale of assault weapons was generally outlawed. That ban expired in 2004, when Republican President George W. Bush and a Republican Congress let it expire, as explained by The New York Times:

WASHINGTON, Sept. 8 - Despite widespread popular support, the federal law banning the sale of 19 kinds of semiautomatic assault weapons is almost certain to expire on Monday,...

While President Bush has expressed support for legislation extending the ban,..he has not pressured lawmakers to act, leading critics to accuse him of trying to have it both ways.

Efforts to renew the ban, which polls show is supported by at least two-thirds of Americans, have faltered this year on Capitol Hill....while Republican leaders have opposed the ban.

"I think the will of the American people is consistent with letting it expire, so it will expire," Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the majority leader, said on Wednesday.

The House majority leader, Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, dismissed the ban as "a feel-good piece of legislation" and said flatly that it would expire Monday, even if Mr. Bush made an effort to renew it.

"If the president asked me, it would still be no," Mr. DeLay said. "He knows, because we don't have the votes to pass the assault weapons ban. It will expire Monday, and that's that."

Democrats decried the influence of the rifle association and said the ban could be renewed if the president wanted it to.


Senator Bill Frist?  Is he the same guy who said this week:



Actually, the time to act was 2004, when Frist could have pushed through an assault weapons ban that could have saved countless young lives in Uvalde, Sandy Hook, Parkland, and other places from dying in agony.  But like the surgeon that he was, he's excised his own past.  

That bit of amnesia led us to wonder what Nicolle, Dave, Frank, and Steve were doing back then. Let's find out!

On September 8, 2004, the Bush campaign's press secretary was – wait for it: Nicolle Wallace, then doing business as Nicolle Devenish:

Schmidt's appointment is part of a reshuffling of the White House communications operation as Bush gears up to sell major initiatives to a skeptical Congress and public. In a series of changes likely to be announced this week, communications director Dan Bartlett and chief speechwriter Michael Gerson will be given loftier titles and wider responsibilities. Bartlett will be succeeded by Nicolle Devenish, who was communications director for the Bush-Cheney campaign and formerly headed the White House Office of Media Affairs, which serves regional and specialty organizations.

Bartlett is likely to become counselor....Devenish will be his principal deputy 

Schmidt?  Who's Schmidt? Is it the same Schmidt who now tells us we need first magnitude social reform, whatever that means?  Reader, you know this one: of course it is.  Here's the Washington Post report of June 15, 2004: “ "The economy is firing on all cylinders," said Steve Schmidt, a Bush campaign spokesman.” And as soon as the President he advised did nothing and let the assault weapons ban expire, mass shooters started firing on all cylinders, not to mention schoolchildren, shoppers, churchgoers, and others.

Guess who made America safe for assault weapons?

And that Frank Luntz fella?  Surely he wouldn't be the guy who remorselessly shopped talking points and catch phrases for Republicans who saw nothing wrong with assault weapons for sale next to the six-packs and Slim Jims?  What was he doing back in 2004?

With voter anxieties about Iraq shadowing this year's campaign, pollster Frank Luntz has some advice for fellow Republicans: Mind your language.

Luntz...says minor changes in language used by politicians can lead to major differences in voter perceptions -- turning a potential liability into an asset.

Among his suggested talking points,... It's not the war in Iraq -- it's the war on terror. "

Hell, if he could spin the Iraq debacle, surely he had no problem defending Republicans who brought shock and awe into the classroom with legal assault weapons, which, to be fair, have caused far less carnage than Bush's pointless Iraq War.

And David Frum?  A man who now speaks so eloquently about the need to regulate lethal weapons could have been no part of the Administration that let the worst of them be sold like corny dogs at the Texas State Fair.  Indeed, by September 2004, Frum had left his gig as a speechwriter for George W. Bush and taken up a no-heavy-lifting gig as a writer for that well known advocate of safe and sensible gun regulation, the National Review.

The captious may ask what is our point.  After all, if Wallace, Frum, Schmidt, Frist, and Luntz have now seen the light and speak well of a ban on assault weapons, isn't that a good thing?

It's better, to be sure.  But their advocacy elides the central political point, which is there is but one reason why would-be mass murderers can celebrate their 18th birthday with a shiny new assault rifle capable of shredding 40 children a minute.  That reason is Republicans.

Not using the R-word in your sententious bleats about gun violence helps your fellow Republicans avoid responsibility for their cruel and immoral refusal to adopt gun safety laws.  It also obscures the solution.

If these apostate Republicans really want to solve the problem that they helped to create by their own deeds and words, then they should devote their energies to making the case that Republicans are to blame for dead children and shoppers with the same snap and verve that they used to rebrand the Iraq War.

Imagine the possibilities if, for example, David Frum were to call out the NRA, elected Republicans, and white racist militias as the atrocious joint venturers they are.  If only there was a pithy way to describe three apexes of America's gun violence tragedy.  How about “the Equilateral Triangle of Evil”? 

If David, Nicolle, Frank, Bill, or Steve has any better ideas, our comment page is wide open. 

CORRECTION, MAY 29 – It turns out the killer didn't need his daddy's Visa card to buy his weapons of mass destruction. The company offers instant financing to buyers:

The Spy regrets the error, unlike the company that supplied the tools of mass murder, which regrets nothing.

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