The Obama administration’s response to the mass murder of 49 people in an Orlando nightclub on June 12 is depressingly predictable and woefully inadequate.
It is also almost unbelievably hypocritical.
At the same time Obama and the anti-gun crowd are attempting to callously use public outrage over the massacre to push through stricter gun control laws aimed at private citizens, the federal government is buying military grade weapons and equipment at an unprecedented rate for non-Department of Defense agencies.
A report issued earlier this month by the nonpartisan group Open the Books, whose stated mission is to encourage transparency in how taxpayer dollars are spent at all levels of government, laid bare what it refers to as “a gun show that never ends” for the feds.
Included in its report “The Militarization of America” (www.OpenTheBooks.com) are these spending gems which cover the years 2006-2014:
67 non-military federal agencies spent $1.48 billion on guns, ammunition and military-style equipment. That includes $335.1 million by administrative or general agencies with no law enforcement function.
Tops among the administrative agencies in military armaments spending is the Office of Assistance Secretary for Health (part of the Department of Health and Human Services) with $112.8 million. That includes more than $500,000 for 800,000 rounds of ammunition, of which 300,000 are .223 caliber, the same caliber used in many AR-15 style weapons. This agency’s primary mission, according to its website, is to mobilize “leadership in science and prevention for a healthier nation.”
The Department of Veterans Affairs spent $11.66 million on guns, ammo and other gear, including $200,000 for night vision equipment and $2.3 million for body armor.
The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service shelled out $4.77 million of your money on such things as .308 sniper-type rifles, night vision goggles and liquid explosives. Its primary mission is to work with other agencies to protect U.S. agricultural interests from dangerous pests and diseases.
The Bureau of Public Debt dipped into the public offers for $2.08 million for weapons, ammo and other equipment. Yet the agency’s primary purpose is to provide administrative and IT services to other federal agencies.
Even the Social Security Administration, which doles out checks to old people like me, got into the act, spending more than $381,000 on guns, ammo and other military style equipment.
There are myriad other federal agencies which have thrust their greedy little fingers into the public till for our dollars in order to better arm themselves.
These include the Food and Drug Administration, the Railroad Retirement Board, the Office of Personnel Management, the Small Business Administration, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Mint, the Department of Education, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
The only conclusion I can draw is that if there is a war among federal bureaucrats, most will be well-armed.
But there are two larger questions here. First and foremost is: Why? Why do federal agencies that are largely administrative in nature and whose workers are largely paper pushers (although most of that is now done digitally), need that much firepower and military hardware?
Conspiracy theorists might say the government is preparing for an impending revolution by the people it has governed so badly in recent years.
I’m not willing to go that far yet, but the lack of transparency on the part of the administration on these issues — an administration that at one time promised to be the most transparent in our nation’s history but has been one of the most opaque — is troubling.
The other question has multiple parts but involves the question of into just whose hands will these weapons be put?
Will anyone who has access to a weapon be given a thorough background check to ensure there is no history of criminal activity, alcohol or drug abuse or domestic abuse?
Will they be required to have formal training before being given these weapons?
Will they be required to have concealed weapons permits or will they be exempt simply because they are federal bureaucrats?
If we’re going to get serious about stopping mass shootings it doesn’t mean putting more guns in the hands of untrained and unqualified bureaucrats. But neither will the problem be solved by doing nothing.
Unfortunately, debating gun control in the aftermath of any mass shooting is not unlike debating abortion or race. Each side has hardened its position to the degree that it considers itself morally superior to the other and there is no give or take.
But there are a few things, although they are not necessarily easy or cheap, that can be done to cut down on mass shootings. Simply outlawing guns is not one of them because when guns are outlawed only the federal government will have guns.
Here are a few ideas from a gun owner and strong supporter of the Second Amendment:
More extensive background checks for buyers of any type of guns. I figure I will have my National Rifle Association membership revoked for this and incur the wrath of the “more guns the better” crowd, but so-called “instant background checks” are virtually useless when it comes to keeping guns out of the hands of people who should not have them.
Scrub the no-fly and terrorist watch lists to make them something useful instead of the jokes they are now with tens of thousands of names of people who have not done, and will not do, anything wrong.
Limit magazine capacity for all weapons to a maximum of 10 rounds. The 20-30 round magazines and 50-round drums are useful in combat, not in civilian shooting sports.
Better mental health screening, treatment and facilities. It’s easy to say that the Orlando nightclub shooter was crazy, but in this era when people are cowed by the thought of being publicly shamed for what others perceive as political incorrectness, some of his actions prior to the shooting should have flagged him as a problem some time ago.
Divest the non-DOD, non-law enforcement federal agencies of their weapons of war and de-escalate the arms race with the public. The more guns the feds have, the more the people will want to protect themselves with their own guns.
I have left radical Islam out of these suggestions because I am not entirely convinced that it is the real reason the Orlando killer did what he did. The more I hear about him the more it sounds as if he found the Islamic State to be a useful false flag to cover up his own self-loathing over his inability or refusal to come to grips with his sexuality.
What we need in the gun control debate is some common sense on both sides of the issue.
Unfortunately, that does not appear to be coming anytime soon in this country. Rational thought and action have been cast aside in favor of partisan rhetoric and poor decisions.
Just look at the two (fill in the blank with your own epithet here) we have allowed the Republicans and Democrats to offer for presidential candidates in the fall.
Ron Martz is Marine Corps veteran (1965-68), journalist and former educator. He lives in Northeast Georgia and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.