Oklahoma has a Tom Cotton-y senator by the name of James Lankford who appeared only mildly deer-eyed on Meet the Press on Sunday.
There he explained that AR-15s are present peacefully in his safe neighborhood, that some people use them to hunt, and that kids ought to be able to continue getting them.
Let’s correct that. He didn’t explain diddly.
He merely asserted by the NRA automaton’s rote that military-style weapons favored by persons between 18 and 21 who kill high numbers of children inside their schools in a few seconds — because the weapons are light and mobile and shoot with menacing rapidity — are not the problem. He said the shooting youths are the problem.
He favors tighter background checks so that only youths not pre-emptively known to be disturbed could buy them for mass school-shooting convenience.
The AR-15 facilitates wiping out more kids faster than would be possible with slower weapons. But that’s irrelevant, the Oklahoma senator was saying.
Two children dead from a cumbersome old shotgun or 20 from practically a military M16 — what’s the difference? That was essentially Lankford’s position.
The Oklahoman espoused this stance after the host pointed out that federal law bans handgun sales to those under 21, but not AR-15s, and asked whether we might ought to make that uniform — that is, limit the AR-15s by age as we limit handguns by age since most of the school shootings are by kids with AR-15-type guns.
The Cotton-y senator said no. He said there are more gun deaths in America from handguns than from AR-15s.
That is true. Handguns are passion’s preferred weapons in short-range, single-target domestic matters. Statistics on deaths from handguns also include suicides. Not to be insensitive to the great tragedy of despairing people taking their own lives, but it bears mentioning that a person committing suicide is doing so on his own time at close range and probably will only need to fire once.
None of that has anything to do with the fact that a 19-year-old kid can buy an AR-15 and take it into a school and execute mass numbers of children.
It is true that the Florida shooter was deeply troubled and had given out warning signs that should have been heeded, and that our background-check procedures must be tightened. It’s also true that, if Florida restricted AR-15s by age as the federal government restricts handguns by age, the disturbed young man surely would have murdered fewer. Or he would have chosen not to bother trying to kill at all.
Since Lankford did not do any real explaining, I will.
He, like so many others in our cowering political class, is beholden to the gun organizations because of their money and their mass-mailing political power back home. An A-minus grade from the NRA can get you beat in some jurisdictions — like Oklahoma.
Constituents will wonder: What’s that minus all about, anyway?
The AR-15 is a brisk seller for the gun industry. To get led by a media person’s line of reasoning on national TV into suggesting that we ought to restrict AR-15s for children at least to the extent that we restrict handguns for children … well, you may as well just not run again because you’re inviting less than an A on the next NRA report card.
And everyone knows it’s more important for a deer-eyed automaton of a guy to stay in the U.S. Senate than it is to try to make it more difficult for a kid to kill large numbers of kids at school.
There is nothing about the constitutional right to bear arms that says you can’t limit the sale of AR-15s precisely as you limit handguns. And if admitting that gets a senator from Oklahoma beaten, then surely the state has another automaton with which the gun industry could befoul Washington.
People always blame Washington without realizing Washington is nothing but the people they send there.
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.