Legislators exploit fear to win elections, consequences be damned.
On May 12 I went to testify on Assembly Bill 126, the bill which would allow people to carry concealed weapons in our state. When I got there at 1 p.m. there were 50 or more people in front of me. After listening for three hours it became apparent that I would not be able to testify. For that reason, and because the furor for the right to carry concealed weapons in public only seems to increase with each passing day, I'm giving my testimony now.
Before I do, I should disclose that the majority of testimony was in support of concealed carry. Most speakers were men overdosed on testosterone and whose desire to carry guns in public I found creepy. They seemed motivated by fear, and I found that itself rather terrifying.
The Assembly committee members were all men and took a Neanderthal approach to the prospect and need for concealed weapons. Three minority members were trying to take a more balanced approach, but the attitude of the Republican majority was virtually indistinguishable from the National Rifle Association (NRA) members in the audience. I knew they were NRA because they had their shirts and hats plastered with the NRA initials and insignia.
If I would have had the chance to testify, I would have noted that at the height of the war in Vietnam we had 500,000 troops in the country. During this period news sources regularly noted that during many periods of the conflict there were more fatalities and injuries from gun accidents, self-inflicted wounds and fratricides than from combat with the enemy. Others giving Capitol testimony reminded us that troops are often disarmed following fire fights after returning to their camp. Knowing this made the arguments for concealed carry that are based on safety and security seem even more ludicrous. Even military officials have recognized that it is safer to disarm troops in war zones than it is to let them carry guns all the time.
The Republican majority is practicing the politics of fear, creating phony wedge issues that divide and conquer citizens in the state of Wisconsin. They are resorting to "guns, gays and god" issues that maintain the culture of fear that has been prevalent since 9/11. I noticed that in making my way in to the state Capitol many entrances were closed and the ones that were open had metal detectors we had to go through that were manned by members of the Wisconsin State Patrol. I was struck by the irony that all these measures were set up to prevent someone from carrying a gun into the Capitol for a hearing on creating a concealed weapon law.
The most terrifying aspect of this experience was the ignorance and superficiality exhibited by the Republican committee members and many of those testifying. We all should seriously ponder the overall affect of encouraging the arming of a majority of our citizens and the potential of the unintended and unanticipated consequences on everyone's safety and well being. Will the citizens of Wisconsin ever get our state Capitol back from the ignorant, fear mongering legislators? Are we permanently sentenced to being electronically monitored by the State Patrol officers that should be out patrolling our highways and dealing with legitimate criminals rather than harassing peaceful citizens who want to spend time inside their own Capitol?
What have Scott Walker and the Legislature wrought? Joseph McCarthy used the "commie scare" more than five decades ago, positing that our government was being undermined by communist sympathizers from the inside. McCarthy exaggerated the threat of communism by instilling fear and distortions into the national dialogue, resulting in an unnecessary witch hunt that harmed many innocent, patriotic American citizens. The gun lobbyists and the NRA use fear in a similar manner, distorting the interpretation of the second amendment and implying that anyone against open or concealed carry is un-American. Fear causes us to rush into bad and poorly thought out decisions.
May 29, 2011
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Bob Menamin lives in Verona and is a former Wisconsin Assembly candidate.