Column: NRA buys Congress, lock, stock and barrel

Published March 14, 2013

Members of Congress always are eager to note that while they are more awash in special interest money than a two-bit gin joint chippie working a drug lord convention, they remain impervious to selling their votes under the pernicious influence of cash.

How comforting. But that still doesn't mean Beltway backslappers can't make themselves available for a long-term slime share.

It's possible that in the wake of all the funeral processions following the mass shootings in Newtown, Conn., Aurora, Colo., and Tucson, Ariz., you might think the U.S. Congress would conclude it was a good time to ponder sensible gun control legislation, such as closing the onerous gun show loophole, eliminating high-capacity magazines and perhaps even ridding ourselves of that grotesque symbol of so much carnage — the assault rifle.

The numbers would seem to favor some commonsense gun control. Recent polling indicates 54 percent of the American people favor tightening gun laws.

But those figures, as well as at least 2,657 shooting deaths since Newtown, are irrelevant. Here's the number that really matters: 255. That's the number that means the probability of getting a truly rational gun control bill passed is about the same as Carnival Cruise Lines being named vacation destination of the year.

The 255 figure represents the members of the House and Senate who are card-carrying members of the quaint-sounding Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus, which is an L.L. Bean kind of way of saying these folks are the willing handmaidens of the gun lobby. Put another way, nearly half of Congress is a pretty reliable vote to kill or water down any effort to bring a pinch of coherency to the nation's frothing gun culture.

Florida's congressional delegation is well represented in the "Sportsmen's" (cough, cough) Caucus. Republican wall trophies include representatives Vern Buchanan, Ander Crenshaw, John Mica, Jeff Miller, Rich Nugent, Bill Posey, Tom Rooney, Dennis Ross, Steve Southerland and C.W. Bill Young. Alcee Hastings is the lone Democrat.

As the New York Times recently reported, members of the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus are frequent invited guests of the progun (cue the spit take) "charitable" Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation, which appears to be little more than the social directorate of the National Rifle Association.

With a $2 million budget funded in part by the NRA, as well as gun and ammunition manufacturers, the foundation threw fancy soirees like a "Wine, Wheels and Wildlife" party in North Carolina, a "Whiskies of the World" reception on Capitol Hill, and a "Stars and Stripes Shootout" in Tampa. Good times, good times.

With all that free hooch and canapes against the backdrop of gunfire, what is the likelihood anyone on the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation gravy train will give a second of intellectually honest thought to stopping the bloodshed in our schools, our movie theaters, our strip malls?

You can't help but grudgingly admire the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation's shameless chutzpah. The group is more than pleased to happily admit that "no organization has access to so many elected officials." Translation: We have at least 255 members of Congress we can lean on to be more compliant than a Lhasa Apso rolling over for a Snausage.

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It is a nice Norman Rockwell-esque belief that when Congress deliberates an issue such as gun control, its members weigh the objective merits of a proposed law and then vote in the best interests of the public to protect the citizenry, to protect our children, from deranged crazy people.

But that is so much piffle wrapped in balderdash enshrouded in claptrap.

The painful scenes of grieving families armed only with photos of their dead children, or a stoic, forever-damaged Gabby Giffords pleading with her former colleagues to commit common sense are no match for the influence-peddlers of the NRA and the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation, who care little for the Second Amendment or protecting the rights of gun owners.

They are the forces of Big Paranoia. They sell fear. And fear sells guns. On Capitol Hill, the Big Paranoia lobby has plenty of customers to buy into their gin-flavored doom and gloom, with a side of Glock.

Since Newtown the body count continues to click ever upward and Congress dithers. After all, the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus is in session and open for business — as usual. And in the hand-wringing parallel universe of the NRA and the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation, it is always five o'clock somewhere.