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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

MILWAUKEE — Public officials are very selective about when violence and death matter.

Massacres and terrorist incidents cannot be ignored, but the day-to-day toll from gun violence is often swept aside. Politicians who tout themselves as advocates of law and order don’t want to be unmasked as caring even more about their ratings from gun lobbyists.

And opponents of the most moderate gun reforms engage in a shameless game of bait-and-switch. Because measures such as background checks would not stop every murder, they’re declared useless even though they’d still save lives. Then the gun lobby turns around and opposes other measures, such as a ban on high-capacity magazines, which could prevent some of the killings that background checks might not.

The lack of coherence doesn’t bother those who are willing to tolerate all manner of violence to keep the gun business free of inconvenient restraints. Their goal is to exhaust supporters of sane gun laws and get them to give up until the next big tragedy strikes.

Mayor Tom Barrett of Milwaukee has never given up and never given in. One of the earliest members of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the group spearheaded by New York City’s Michael Bloomberg and Boston’s Tom Menino, he has made curbing urban bloodshed a personal cause.

Every year between Mother’s Day and Memorial Day, he organizes a “Cease-Fire Sabbath” that enlists clergy around the city to preach against violence. “The ministers and other clergy can reach people that I can’t,” Barrett said in an interview in his office last week. Here’s a faith-based initiative that everyone can believe in.

Barrett has paid a price for his steadfastness on guns. In his rematch last year against Republican Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin’s recall election (he lost to Walker in 2010), gun groups spent more than $800,000 to defeat him. Such sums are designed to have a chilling effect on other politicians who might take on the gun lobby. “It hasn’t chilled me,” Barrett says with a smile, “but obviously I’m not the governor.”

Since late last year, Barrett has made the case for extending background checks to online and private purchases as well as gun show sales by pulling out a large cardboard blow-up of a request sent through an online gun market on Oct. 20, 2011.

It reads in part: “Looking for a handgun that is $300 obo [or best offer]. … Looking to buy asap. … Prefer full size. Prefer .45, .40. … I constantly check my emails. … Also I’m hoping it has a high mag capacity. … I’m a serious buyer so please email me asap. Have cash now and looking to buy now. I am mobile.”

  • TheSkalawag929

    Until we get rid of the cowards and crazies in Congress and our state legislatures we can expect this to be the on going news story.

  • gert7to3

    If a couple million liberals bought NRA memberships we could vote the current (insane) leadership out. Then return the NRA to the training and firearm safety organization it once was.

    There is a lot of gun oil in the tea party brew.

    • Barbara Morgan

      Unfortunely if I understand it right, the leaders of the NRA are in charge for the rest of their life. Just like the Supreme Court, no changes unless someone retires or dies.

      • plc97477

        There are enough guns out there to take care of that. Now we just need to pray.

    • plc97477

      Yes but that means alining ourselves with them if only for a short while. I am not sure my sanity would survive.

    • RobertCHastings

      As we all know by now, the NRA is not controlled by the rank and file membership, but by their weapons manufacturer contributors.

  • Allan Richardson

    Not having been involved with the NRA, do they have chapters with meetings? Do they really elect leaders, or just get proxies from them like large corporations do?

    The trouble with gert7to3’s idea is that while building up that critical mass of liberals and waiting for an election, the NRA’s current leaders would be getting all that money from liberals, and would use the fact that their membership was increasing to exert even MORE lobbying power for their current cause!

  • howa4x

    Congress goes to the highest bidder and the republicans and some democrats have found a cash cow in the NRA as a front for the gun industry. They are trying to impose their will on the country, even though the voices of change are steadily rising. The NRA is now going to go after states that have passed tougher gun legislation. They talk about the unfettered right to own guns but fail to mention the right to life is in the preamble of the constitution. People have a right not to be shot to death just because another person has access to a gun. There is nothing in that document that says that the government cannot make reasonable regulations about private gun ownership. What needs to happen is a flurry of lawsuits against the NRA. Everyone who has lost a loved one due to their bribery of officials should sue them. In fact a class action suit would be better. Congress shielded the gun industry from lawsuits but not their front organization. Time to empty that cash cow for good.