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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

A few days ago, the NRA inadvertently said something reasonable.

This, in response to a series of protests in Texas. It seems advocates of the right to carry firearms openly have taken to showing up en masse at public places — coffee shops, museums, restaurants, etc. — toting shotguns and assault rifles. So say you’re snapping photos at Dealey Plaza, and up sidles some guy with an AK slung over his shoulder.

That sudden dryness of mouth and tightness of sphincter you feel is not reassurance.

“This is terrifying,” a visitor from Washington state told the Dallas Morning News. “We have guns in our house, but we don’t walk around with them. … This is shocking.”

The NRA seemed to agree. In an unsigned online editorial, it stated the obvious, calling the practice of bringing long guns into public places “dubious,” “scary” and “downright weird.”

Days later, having come, well … under fire, from Texas gun groups, the NRA was in retreat, apologizing and blaming this rare lapse of lucidity on a staff member who apparently failed to drink his full allotment of Kool-Aid. The organization assured its followers that it still supports the right of all people to bring all guns into all places.

One gets the sense, when people argue for these “guns everywhere” policies, that they see themselves as restoring some frontier spirit lost in the passage of centuries. A few weeks back, former senator Rick Santorum contended on Face the Nation that “gun crimes were not very prevalent” in the Old West because everyone was armed.

But they weren’t. In his book, Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America, UCLA professor of constitutional law Adam Winkler reveals that gun control in the Old West was actually quite strict. In Dodge City, you were required to turn in your guns when you got to town. The iconic Gunfight at the OK Corral was ignited when Wyatt and Virgil Earp tried to enforce a similar ordinance in Tombstone, Ariz. So the idea that everyone in the Old West was packing is a relic of TV and movie westerns, but it is not history.

And while the modern gun rights movement is usually regarded as a conservative construction, Winkler writes that it was actually born of liberal extremism. It seems that in 1967, a heavily armed group of Black Panthers showed up and walked brazenly into the California statehouse — there were no metal detectors — as a group of children were readying for a picnic with the new governor, Ronald Reagan.

The Panthers saw this as an exercise of their constitutional rights. Reagan and other conservative Republicans saw it as a threat and crafted laws to stop it from happening again. The future president said, “There’s no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons.”

The point being that what conservatives seem to regard as a mission of restoration isn’t. This idea that everyone in Chipotle’s should be armed is neither some holdover from the Old West nor some time-honored value inextricable from conservatism. No, it is wholly new. And wholly mad.

While some gun rights advocates must know this, they can’t say it in a movement where any deviation from orthodoxy is regarded as heresy. We saw that a few months ago when Guns & Ammo magazine disappeared a columnist who wrote that gun owners should accept some form of regulation. We see it again with this NRA staffer who has been disavowed and presumably sent off to be re-educated.

This self-reinforcing groupthink stifles any meaningful debate on America’s gun problem and speaks volumes about the mind of the gun rights movement. It will fight for you to take an AK into McDonald’s.

But you are not allowed to question whether you should.

(Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132. Readers may contact him via email at lpitts@miamiherald.com.)

AFP Photo/Karen Bleier

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Sen. David Perdue

Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) pulled out of his final debate against Democrat Jon Ossoff on Thursday —because he'd rather attend a Donald Trump campaign rally.

The Nov. 1 Senate debate was planned months ago, but Perdue's campaign said he could not participate as promised because he has been too busy doing his job.

"Senator Perdue will not be participating in the WSB-TV debate but will instead join the 45th president, Donald J. Trump, for a huge Get-Out-The-Vote rally in Northwest Georgia. For 8 of the last 14 days of this campaign, Senator Perdue went back to Washington to work for much needed COVID relief," his spokesperson John Burke said in a statement, referencing a failed attempt by Senate Republicans to pass Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-KY) "skinny" $500 billion proposal.

"To make up for the lost time, Senator Perdue has over 20 campaign stops planned for the closing days of this race, and he is excited to welcome and join President Trump in Georgia before November 3rd to campaign for both of their re-election efforts," Burke added.

WSB-TV noted on Thursday that it offered Perdue's campaign other time slots to accommodate the Trump rally, but the overture was rebuffed.

Ossoff's campaign blasted Perdue's "cowardly withdrawal," saying in a statement that the move "says it all: David Perdue feels entitled to his office, and he'll do anything to avoid accountability for his blatant corruption and his total failure during this unprecedented health crisis."

The incumbent's decision to break his promise to debate came one day after a video of Jon Ossoff criticizing Perdue's anti-Obamacare record at a Wednesday debate went viral. As of Friday morning, a 72-second clip of Ossoff has been viewed more than 12 million times.

Perdue responded to that attack by making the odd claim that he repeatedly voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act — which would take insurance away from hundreds of thousands of his constituents — because he believed doing so would cover more people.

"I voted against the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, because it was taking insurance away from millions of Georgians. Today almost 18 percent of Georgians don't have any health insurance because of the Affordable Care Act," he falsely claimed.

This is not the first time Perdue has put Trump ahead of the interests of Georgians. According to FiveThirtyEight, he has voted with Trump about 95 percent of the time, including backing his right-wing Supreme Court nominees, his tax cuts for large corporations and the very wealthy, and his repeated attempts to take money from military families to pay for a massive Southern border wall.

Medical experts and data analyses have suggested Trump's rallies have been super-spreader events for the coronavirus. Trump has refused to adhere to social distancing rules or to require mask usage at the events and the mass gatherings have frequently been immediately followed by case spikes in the communities where he holds them.

One poll this week found that voters across the country said they are less likely to vote for Trump because of his "large, in-person campaign rallies where wearing a mask is not required of attendees."

The race between Ossoff and Perdue is considered a "toss-up" by election experts, and polls show it as virtual tied.

If no candidate gets a majority on Tuesday, the top two finishers will face off in a January runoff.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.