Nearly a year after Sandy Hook, guns are on a roll
It's quite the trophy shot -- moms and dads and guns and Hooters, all huddled around the Stars and Stripes with children at their feet.
What are they so happy about? Well, this was the triumphal (and, evidently, well-endowed) aftermath of a weekend confrontation in Dallas, where members of the pro-gun group Open Carry Texas (OCT) staged a high-calibre howdy-do outside a meeting of the gun-safety group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America (MDA).
No shots were fired, but the numbers were telling: outside Saturday's meeting at the Blue Mesa Grill were nearly 40 armed members of OCT. Inside were four -- yup, four -- unarmed MDA members.
Two tense hours later, having made their point, the pro-gun activists retreated to chest-thump at a nearby Hooters restaurant, pictured above.
Moms Demand Action later issued a statement condemning "gun bullies," saying its members and other restaurant customers unwittingly trapped in the moment were "terrified by what appeared to be an armed ambush."
MDA, we should note, advocates not for an end to guns in America, but for common-sense solutions such as background checks and limits on assault-weapon capacity.Their aim is to reduce an average U.S. toll of nearly eight children shot and killed daily.
Late last year, in the wake of the horrific Dec. 14 slaughter of 20 schoolchildren at Connecticut's Sandy Hook Elementary, a turning point in the country's lifelong disagreement on guns seemed possible, with President Barack Obama vowing to drive relentlessly for legislative change.
But nearly a year later, Obama's momentum has ebbed to zero. Though the National Rifle Association, the country's single-largest grassroots gun lobby, was conspicuously silent in the aftermath of Sandy Hook, gun advocates quietly pointed with confidence to their secret weapon -- voter intensity.
Put simply, a clear majority of Americans, polls show, favour stronger gun-control laws. But that majority cares about other issues as well, and guns alone will not determine how they vote.
Pro-gun Americans, by contrast, are far more inclined to vote in line with their Second Amendment beliefs. One issue and one issue alone is what drives them to the polling booth.
Anyone who doubts that intensity should ponder the outcome of last Tuesday's off-year elections in Virginia, where 65 of 67 NRA-backed candidates were swept into power.
Now, with the anniversary of Sandy Hook a month away, pro-gun groups are pressing their advantage with plans to mark the moment with Guns Save Lives Day, an event designed to "honour these victims by doing everything within our power to prevent misguided gun-control laws from leaving Americans defenseless, or worse, victims. Don't be a victim. Arm yourself."
Mitch Potter is the Toronto Star's Washington Bureau Chief, his third foreign posting after previous assignments to London and Jerusalem.