On 14 June 2017, Steve Scalise, House Majority Whip and Louisiana Congressman, was wounded by a gunman – small businessman James Hodgkinson, 66 – who opened fire at a baseball park in Alexandria, VA where several legislators and their aides were practicing. Gun violence in America is more prevalent than in any other country in the world. However, instead of treating gun violence as a public health crisis, many politicians, including the unfortunate victim of gun violence congressman Scalise, remain steadfastly defenders of espousing the legislative agenda of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and gun manufacturers.
While Scalise and three others were the tragic victims of gun violence, the conservative lawmaker has been in the forefront of supporting initiatives for easing any restrictions on weapons, including laws on concealed guns, purchasing and carrying across state lines. Along with half of the Louisiana House delegation, Scalise voted against an Obama sponsored bill, which ultimately passed, intended to protect victim of sexual assault, domestic violence and staking. Although there must be the strongest possible condemnation for what happened to Scalise on 14 June 2017, the way to deal with it effectively is through the legislative process so that others would not be victimized as he was by a gunman clearly not of sound mind and driven by a psychology of violence prevalent in society.
The gunman in the Scalise case used a rifle, possibly a semi-automatic and fired an estimated 50 rounds. Just as the attack on Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and six other victims falling to gunfire by an allegedly mentally disturbed young man was a ‘TAXI-DRIVER’ type episode, similarly, the Scalise attack appears to be similar. Just as the Giffords case was a manifestation of raising extremism to the level of encouraging half-crazed individuals to commit political crimes, similarly, the Scalise case appears to be not much different. Politicians whose pro-2nd Amendment pro-NRA policies combined with a police-state solutions to sociopolitical problems will be seeking even more militarist-police-state approaches to societal violence rather than dressing root causes.
Scalise signed H.R.197&S.845 – January 2009
Establishes a national standard for the carrying of concealed firearms (other than a machinegun or destructive device) by non-residents. Authorizes a person who has a valid permit to carry a concealed firearm in one state and who is not prohibited from carrying a firearm under federal law to carry a concealed firearm in another state:
Source: National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act 09-HR197 on Jan 6, 2009
Teach kids Eddie Eagle GunSafe’s lifesaving message.
Scalise signed H.RES.1365 – May 2010
RESOLUTION Commending the National Rifle Association for developing the Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program and teaching 23,000,000 children its lifesaving message.
Source: Resolution Commending the National Rifle Association 10-HRs1365 on May 18, 2010
Loosening restrictions on interstate gun purchases.
Scalise sponsored Firearms Interstate Commerce Reform Act – October 2011
Congressional Summary: Amends the federal criminal code to:
- allow licensed firearms dealers to sell or deliver any firearm (currently, rifles or shotguns) to any state if the licensee meets with the purchaser and the transaction complies with the laws of the state in which the transfer is conducted and the purchaser’s state of residence; and
- eliminate the requirement that a licensee must conduct business at a gun show only in the state that is specified on the licensee’s license.
- Nothing in this Act shall prohibit the sale of a firearm or ammunition between licensed firearms dealers at any location in any state.
Proponent’s Comments (NRA-ILA, Oct. 14, 2011): This bill would remove several antiquated and unnecessary restrictions imposed on interstate firearms business since 1968:
- Virtually all interstate transfers directly between private citizens are banned; so are nearly all interstate handgun sales by licensed dealers.
- Firearms dealers may only do business at their licensed premises or (since 1986) at gun shows in their own state.
- Dealers may not even transfer firearms to one another face to face, away from their business premises.
Source: HR58/S1691 11-H0058 on Oct 12, 2011
Allow veterans to register unlicensed guns acquired abroad.
Scalise co-sponsored Veterans’ Heritage Firearms Act – March 2011
- Provides a 90-day amnesty period during which veterans and their family members can register in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record any firearm acquired before October 31, 1968, by a veteran while a member of the Armed Forces stationed outside the continental United States.
- Grants such an individual limited immunity with respect to the acquisition, possession, transportation, or alteration of such firearm before or concurrent with such registration.
- Extends such immunity to a veteran who attempts to register a qualifying firearm outside of the amnesty period if the veteran surrenders the firearm within 30 days after being notified of potential criminal liability for continued possession.
Scalise Blasts Obama’s Gun Measures
Jan 6, 2016 Issues: 2nd Amendment
Congressman Steve Scalise (R-La.) on CNN
“This (gun control restrictions and fines) is an attempt to try to bully and intimidate people from selling guns and from buying guns and goes around the laws that are already on the books. The President is not even enforcing existing law. That’s where he should focus, but frankly he’s trying to change the subject and get away from the fact that he hasn’t been able to defeat ISIS. The President is trying to impose $250,000 fines against people. Look, these are law-abiding citizens we are talking about. These aren’t criminals. The President won’t even go after people who broke existing federal law. Why doesn’t he do that? Why doesn’t he focus on his job instead of trying to usurp the role of Congress and trump the constitution and the Second Amendment that is so sacred to our nation’s founding. You have already got a system that works. In fact, what the President is talking about wouldn’t even go after some of these shootings that we all have denounced, we pray for the victims. The President tries to criticize people who pray for the victims. He just wants to talk about gun control in a broader sense. And he doesn’t stop here by the way, Jake. If you look at what he’s proposed in the past, it goes far beyond this.” “Anybody that thinks this is where the President wants to end, this is just the beginning. He has a history of wanting to take away the gun rights of law-abiding citizens, and we’re not going to stand for it.”
On 30 December 2014, Nancy Pelosi’s spokesperson Drew Hammill expressed the deep reservations of Scalise owing to the Louisiana congressman’s ties to the KKK and David Duke.
“Whip Scalise’s involvement with a group classified by the Anti-Defamation League as anti-Semitic and the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group is deeply troubling for a top Republican leader in the House. However, actions speak louder than whatever Steve Scalise said to that group in 2002. Just this year, House Republicans have refused to restore the Voting Rights Act or pass comprehensive immigration reform, and leading Republican members are now actively supporting in the federal courts efforts by another known extremist group, the American Center for Law and Justice, which is seeking to overturn the President’s immigration executive actions. Speaker Boehner’s silence on this matter is yet another example of his consistent failure to stand up to the most extreme elements of his party.”
Any form of violence is reprehensible and everyone with any moral fiber must condemn it and do whatever possible to prevent it. At the same time, one wonders if legislators like Scalise, now a victim of gun violence, whose voting record on guns and violence speaks for itself will change his position once he has fully recovered from his injuries and goes back to work. Just as gun violence increased along with efforts to ease gun restrictions after the Giffords shooting, I have no doubt that Republicans like Scalise will not deviate from the policies that are partly to blame for what happened to Scalise on 14 June 2014.
The culture of American violence with tentacles in everything from ideology and politics to profits for gun manufacturers and the NRA will become much worse as the country has lapsed toward a quasi-authoritarian state structure. There is something seriously wrong with a society’s moral compass when its major form of entertainment as well news programs has violence at its core reflecting its core values. Many scholars argue that owing to the pervasive nature of violence in the mainstream (commercial) culture, many people, including young people, are desensitized and accept violence as “normal” because it is at the core of secular Western culture. Gun violence is society that is so pervasive will invariably reach everyone from the underprivileged black kids in the inner city to the highly privileged white male conservative lawmakers that make it possible for guns to be so readily available.
Jon V. Kofas, Ph.D. – Retired university professor of history – author of ten academic books and two dozens scholarly articles. Specializing in International Political economy, Kofas has taught courses and written on US diplomatic history, and the roles of the World Bank and IMF in the world.