Jay Am­brose: How Trump’s stance against gun con­trol con­trols guns

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In the wake of the hor­ri­ble, un­be­liev­ably sad and in­sane shoot­ing mas­sacre of 59 peo­ple in Las Ve­gas, on top of more than 500 wounded, it’s time to blame hu­man evil on guns again. The mis­led, un­in­formed and, in some cases, ide­o­log­i­cally twisted, don’t get it that the ev­i­dence of gun laws do­ing any good is leaky at best and that it’s an­tics like theirs that boost sales. A calm, cool re­luc­tance, mean­while, re­duces them.

Here’s a demon­stra­tion of that propo­si­tion — the record-set­ting pur­chases of guns dur­ing the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion and the drop dur­ing Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s time in the Oval Of­fice. If you want stud­ies and num­bers, you will get them, start­ing with a study by the New York Times, hardly a fan of gun pos­ses­sion.

It con­cluded that “fear of gun­buy­ing re­stric­tions has been the main driver of spikes in gun sales, far sur­pass­ing the ef­fects of mass shoot­ings and ter­ror­ist at­tacks alone.” The anal­y­sis, a story said, was based on fed­eral data show­ing how Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s var­ied calls for sti­fling sales were spring­boards for en­cour­ag­ing them.

“Pres­i­dent Obama was the best gun sales­man the world has ever seen,” a gun shop owner is quoted as say­ing in an­other news out­let, the Daily Mail. A story noted that a ris­ing 10-year mar­ket up to 2015 had led to three times as many gun man­u­fac­tur­ers as there had been. Still an­other me­dia source has cited a gun and am­mu­ni­tion trade as­so­ci­a­tion as be­ing oh, so thank­ful to Obama for in­creas­ing gun jobs from 166,000 to 288,000 from 2008 to 2015 and in­come from $19.1 bil­lion to $49.3 bil­lion.

A great fear, of course, has been a con­fis­ca­tory ban on at least some guns, and, given how both Obama and erst­while pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Hil­lary Clin­ton have praised Aus­tralia’s gun laws, that’s more than a con­spir­acy the­ory. In Aus­tralia, the gov­ern­ment banned semi-au­to­matic ri­fles and shot­guns and then gave peo­ple a year to sell any they al­ready had to the gov­ern­ment be­fore they be­came crim­i­nals for own­ing them.

Clin­ton, in her 2016 cam­paign, helped in­sti­gate fur­ther gun pur­chases through such tac­tics as want­ing to over­turn a Supreme Court de­ci­sion that she thought scut­tled a Wash­ing­ton, D.C., law that peo­ple should lock up hand­guns that could lead to tod­dler deaths. The D.C. law ac­tu­ally banned own­er­ship of all hand­guns. Right now she wants to ban si­lencers be­cause they could lead to more mass shoot­ings when they only si­lence enough to save the ears of shoot­ers.

Trump is a Sec­ond Amend­ment champ, and, the day af­ter he won the elec­tion, gun sales started a down­ward trot. This past July, even with price dis­counts all over the place, fed­eral gun checks were re­port­edly down 25 per­cent from what they had been in 2016. As CNN has said, gun stores are won­der­ing what in the world to do with their in­ven­tory, but there are fiercely an­gry politi­cians, pun­dits and oth­ers run­ning to the res­cue with their cries for sweep­ing gun mea­sures that Re­pub­li­cans have thwarted.

One of the most vit­ri­olic of these crit­ics was a CBS le­gal ex­ec­u­tive quickly fired af­ter speak­ing out on Face­book. She said she was not sym­pa­thetic with the vic­tims of one of the worst mass shoot­ings in his­tory be­cause those at this coun­try mu­sic fes­ti­val in Las Ve­gas were likely Repub­li­can “gun tot­ers” who pre­vent good laws. What we know is that a great many were he­roes help­ing to save lives, and what she did not un­der­stand is the con­clu­sion of a 2013 fed­eral study that gun own­er­ship makes ci­ti­zens safer and that it’s un­cer­tain whether gun laws re­duce vi­o­lence.

A small enough law that might make sense would ban a de­vice that en­abled the killer to make a semi­au­to­matic ri­fle shoot as rapidly as an au­to­matic that is al­ready prac­ti­cally il­le­gal. But the uni­fy­ing speech Trump made af­ter the at­tack did far more for the Amer­i­can good than di­vi­sive cries for fu­tile mea­sures, and his stance against more gun con­trol has done more to con­trol guns.

What­ever and who­ever is be­hind the so-called sonic at­tacks tar­get­ing Amer­i­cans in Ha­vana, one party — the gov­ern­ment of Cuba — is re­spon­si­ble for get­ting to the bot­tom of it. The grow­ing scandal threat­ens Cuba’s im­age, and it has all the rea­son in the world to solve the mys­tery.

The at­tacks first were re­ported in Au­gust as hav­ing tar­geted mem­bers of Amer­ica’s diplo­matic com­mu­nity. But more re­cent re­port­ing spec­i­fies that U.S. in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cers (op­er­at­ing un­der diplo­matic cover) were the first and big­gest group af­fected.

In all, at least 21 Amer­i­cans have ex­pe­ri­enced hear­ing or cog­ni­tive prob­lems be­cause of the 50 or so at­tacks, which be­gan in Novem­ber, days af­ter the U.S. pres­i­den­tial elec­tion of Don­ald Trump. They oc­curred at the vic­tims’ homes and ho­tels where they were stay­ing. Some of the vic­tims are spouses of U.S. gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees; a Cana­dian diplo­mat was also among those in­jured. Some vic­tims have re­ported hear­ing cricket-like noises be­fore symp­toms ap­peared while oth­ers re­call noth­ing out of the or­di­nary be­fore hear­ing loss or other dam­age man­i­fested it­self. In a few cases, the in­juries ap­pear to be per­ma­nent.

It is tempt­ing to view the at­tacks as sim­ply an­other plot twist in U.S.Cuban re­la­tions, which warmed un­der Pres­i­dent Barack Obama and quickly cooled again un­der Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump. How­ever, it has the look of some­thing more com­pli­cated than postCold War spy games pit­ting one old foe against an­other. Times have changed. It would be short­sighted of Cuba to at­tack U.S. per­son­nel in re­tal­i­a­tion for Trump’s hard-line stance.

The Cubans should be smart enough to un­der­stand that any mis­chief would erode re­la­tions fur­ther — and earn them the en­mity of would-be tourists, busi­ness peo­ple and other Amer­i­cans who long wanted im­proved bi­lat­eral ties. Be­yond that, at­tack­ing an­other na­tion’s diplo­mats is bad form, some­thing that wins a coun­try few friends in the in­ter­na­tional arena. More than ever these days, Cuba likes to por­tray it­self as a vic­tim of U.S. poli­cies, none more than the trade em­bargo dat­ing to 1960.

Go­ing on the of­fen­sive now seems un­likely for Cuba. Pres­i­dent Raul Cas­tro’s re­sponse also was telling. He de­nied re­spon­si­bil­ity for the at­tacks but seemed sin­cerely per­plexed by them — and in­vited U.S. of­fi­cials to send FBI agents to Ha­vana to in­ves­ti­gate. That was a big move for the old Cold War­rior.

But Cas­tro was act­ing with en­light­ened self-in­ter­est. Cuban au­thor­i­ties have as much rea­son as Wash­ing­ton does to iden­tify and pun­ish who­ever is re­spon­si­ble. “They want more open in­ter­ac­tion with the United States,” stressed Kathleen Hower, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Global Links, a Pitts­burgh-based or­ga­ni­za­tion that has sup­plied Cuba with sur­plus med­i­cal equip­ment for more than 20 years.

Amer­ica al­ready had or­dered nonessen­tial diplo­matic per­son­nel out of Cuba and warned other Amer­i­cans to stay away, say­ing their safety can­not be guar­an­teed. That will scare off some tourists no doubt, but Hower said it’s un­likely to af­fect the grow­ing num­ber of cul­tural and hu­man­i­tar­ian cross­bor­der part­ner­ships. She said she has “no qualms” about go­ing to Cuba or sug­gest­ing oth­ers do so, not­ing no or­di­nary Amer­i­cans have been hurt. She still con­sid­ers Cuba “the safest coun­try I’ve ever trav­eled to.”

An in­de­pen­dent party’s in­volve­ment in the at­tacks — a rogue na­tion such as North Korea comes to mind — seems pos­si­ble. FBI agents may do what they can to help, but Cuban au­thor­i­ties are bet­ter po­si­tioned than any­one else to in­ves­ti­gate crimes on their sov­er­eign ter­ri­tory. Cold War vet­er­ans like Cas­tro ought to know who is ca­pa­ble of such deeds and why. Dealing quickly and ef­fi­ciently with the prob­lem will do much to im­prove bi­lat­eral re­la­tions in the way Cuba de­sires.

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