Wednesday, March 17, 2010

What constitutes bigoted thought?

It always makes me laugh whenever people whose basic thought process is less than enlightened on social issues try to accuse their critics of being the real racists.

You know, the conservatives who want to believe it is progressive elements of our society that place non-white people into negative niches from which they cannot escape.

BECAUSE WHENEVER THESE conservatives try to trash their opposition, usually by accusing them of playing the “race card,” it usually comes across as bigots trying to distract people from looking too closely at their own bigotry.

That is how I view the recent actions of the Illinois State Rifle Association, which in its role of trying to advocate for changes in state law to benefit firearms owners has managed to make itself look downright absurd.

Even more ridiculous than the bill they supposedly are against.

What has the state rifle association all hot and bothered this time is a bill by state Rep. Harry Osterman, D-Chicago, that purports to be a tough-on-crime measure. It would make it a crime for any gun dealer to sell a firearm of any type to a person whom they know to be a member of a street gang.

THE PURCHASE WOULD be a criminal act, even if the so-called gang member was able to pass all the criminal background checks now mandated by federal law.

The state rifle association is trying to stick up for the gun dealers, and I can understand that. They have a cause (even if it is one that I usually oppose), and they’re exercising their right to freedom of expression.

But the rifle association has managed to cram that combat boot-clad right foot of theirs straight into their mouth with the way they tried to spin the issue. For their statement issued this week that tried to shine light on the issue was headlined, “Bill that would effectively prohibit African-Americans and Hispanics from buying guns advances in the Illinois General Assembly.”

The statement goes on to read that gun-dealers fearing prosecution under this new law would wind up refusing to sell firearms to anyone who isn’t white, then tries to say that the supporters of the change in the law are calling for actions that cause, “the calendar on race relations will be turned back 70 years.”

ACTUALLY, THE PROBLEM in our society these days is that we still have people who would think that “gang member” is somehow synonymous with someone who is Latino or black, which is this particular attack’s clear implication.

They want to lambast people who are trying to do something about the flow of firearms into the community and are willing to stir up ethnic and racial tensions to try to do so. That is the actual bigoted act. The idea that this measure (if it were to become law) somehow stirs up the tensions is as “vile” as the state rifle association claims the proposed law is.

Despite my complaint, I will agree with the overall stance that this particular measure is a flawed gesture – primarily because it is trying to appeal to the “law and order” types who usually are among the gun lobby’s biggest boosters.

I’m not going to deny that there haven’t been instances where people who are involved in street gangs somehow get their firearms through legitimate sources.

BUT IT IS these same firearms advocates who always claim that the criminals won’t pay attention to gun bans because they obtain their weapons through illegal means that ought to realize that so-called gang members (I’m not even going to get into the potential vagueness of defining what constitutes a street gang) will have their own measures – even if such a bill ever became law.

My biggest problem with this idea is the fact that it would apply even if someone somehow qualified under the Brady Law restrictions on firearms purchases – which means we’re now talking about making judgments over who should be able to have a firearm.

I wonder if the true purpose of this bill is to give a legislator a so-called accomplishment he can include on his campaign literature even though the practical effects of the bill (I doubt many licensed gun dealers would ever be prosecuted under such a measure) are nil.

But I think these firearms advocates do realize all this. They’re just looking to stir up resentment through cheap tactics such as this, and if it means injecting ethnic and racial issues into the debate, I’m sure they truly don’t care.

NOW I REALIZE that when it comes to politics and lobbying for a cause, there are times when one goes all out and hits hard and doesn’t particularly worry about who gets hurt. So if they want to use such tactics, I understand why.

I just don’t want to hear them cry and whine when sensible people call them out on their trash talk and point out that this is nothing more than a lame attempt to shift the focus in our society away from the people with real racial hang-ups.


EDITOR’S NOTES: The Illinois State Rifle Association’s image of a street gang member trying to con a firearms dealer ( into selling him a weapon by wearing a Brooks Brothers suit and speaking proper English is laughable on so many levels.

I doubt that Harry Osterman seriously is trying to stir up racial tensions, as much as he’s just trying to “look tough” ( on crime so he can get re-elected to the Illinois House of Representatives.

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