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Hugh Jackson: Nevada’s NRA caucus


Time was when the Second Amendment faithful raised the “slippery slope” specter — ban, say, assault weapons, and next thing you know government would ban taking the 30-aught-six up in the hills to get your elk.

For the hunter, the chance of getting an elk permit was always a more real problem than any threat to his rifle, and the slippery slope concern was never warranted. Such unfounded alarmism is still heard, but today it sounds quaint, a relic of an age before the National Rifle Association exacted blind loyalty from American politicians.

The political class’s surrender to the NRA has been so unconditional that during the last session of the Nevada Legislature, Republicans, who identify most closely with the NRA, did not fight over which of them would take credit for passing NRA-backed bills.

Democratic lawmakers did.

Those Democrats, John Lee and John Oceguera, were involuntary relieved of their lawmaking duties in the last election.

But when the Legislature meets in February, even more aggressive NRA-backed measures will be introduced.

A freshly elected Republican Assemblywoman from Las Vegas by the name of Michele Fiore is leading the charge to not only let hungover 13th-graders take a semi-automatic 9MM pistol with a 17-round clip to History 101 at your local community college. Fiore also wants to arm K-12 teachers and administrators.

In a recent appearance on Jon Ralston’s show, Fiore made the usual NRA-style argument that (insert bad thing here) wouldn’t have happened if only (insert victim here) had been packing. But Fiore’s performance on Ralston was not limited to puerile anecdotes about better personal living through weaponry. She also demonstrated an unnerving enthusiasm for a society where everyone or nearly everyone carries a gun at all times. Keep an eye on this one. She has all the wingnut zeal of Sharron Angle, but a less pleasant demeanor. If Democrats are lucky, Fiore will become the legislative face of the Nevada GOP.

Not that there is much daylight between the shiny new extremist Fiore and the establishment Republican legislative leadership. Michael Roberson, the leader of the state Senate Republicans, echoes Fiore’s more-guns-the-better argument with a readiness that suggests he will be a faithful foot soldier in her crusade.

Roberson is fond of referencing author and right-wing activist John Lott, whose “research” shows that the more guns there are, the less crime there is. Much like a press appearance by NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre, Lott’s claim is grotesque on its face. The United States has far and away more guns per capita than the other 30 richest nations in the world, and a firearms homicide rate that is 12 times the average of those countries.

Google Lott and you’ll find lots of stuff about how his work was discredited as junk science years ago. My favorite example stems from Lott’s assertion that 98 percent of the time, armed citizens who prevented a crime with a gun merely had to brandish the weapon. Asked by peers to provide evidence supporting his finding, Lott regretfully couldn’t. His computer hard drive crashed, Lott explained, prompting critics to note that Lott had positioned himself at the vanguard of the provocative “dog ate my homework” school of research methodology.

Not that it matters. In America, gun ownership is a religion, guns are worshiped and when Fiore, Roberson or Lott contend more guns equal less crime, their argument is driven chiefly not by empirical data, but faith. Attempts at an evidence-based case for more guns are like the anti-evolutionists citing quasi-scientific studies to prove the planet is only 6,000 years old. People who believe it are going to believe it, and people who know better won’t. So why bother?

But while gun extremists’ sacred devotion to what they think the holy Founders meant in the Second Amendment is undeniably sincere, others who claim more guns is the answer to gun violence have far more practical motives.

More than half of the NRA’s funding comes not from dues paid by that hunter who hopes to get his elk, but from gun manufacturers who want to sell that hungover 13th-grader a semi-automatic 9mm and large-capacity clips. Michele Fiore warmly envisions a fully armed citizenry because she’s culturally hostile to a civic society marked by social progress and cooperative promotion of the public good. Freedom Group International, the cynically named corporation that manufactures the assault weapon used in Newtown, wants guns on campus because it’s good for business.

Cue the NRA’s proposal to place armed guards in all the schools. This must come as welcome news to Smith & Wesson investors in particular. For years, the company has been promising to increase shareholder value by capturing more of the law enforcement market. Hiring tens of thousands of police officers in schools could provide just the opportunity the company has been looking for.

Fiore, Roberson and like-minded true believers in the Nevada Legislature’s NRA caucus may or may not care what the gun industry’s motives are in promoting campus-carry legislation, paramilitary forces guarding the swing-set during recess and other measures to make Nevada and America even more awash in guns. Similarly, Fiore, Roberson & Co. probably don’t care that firearms industry executives are profoundly uninterested in what drives lawmakers to obediently sign off on the NRA’s agenda, just so long as they sign off on it.

HUGH JACKSON blogs at The Las Vegas Gleaner ( and is co-host of The Agenda on KSNV Channel 3.