|In some states, it is allowed to carry concealed weapons in grocery stores and parks, but the NRA is pushing a bill to allow people with concealed weapons to enter bars [GALLO/GETTY]
If you are looking for the literal embodiment of dysfunction in US political culture and the institutions that serve it, look no further than the National Rifle Association (NRA), and the deadly and divisive role it plays in shaping the political agenda. Specifically, the radically and reliably dishonest, dangerous and deranged legislation they foist upon the American people day in and day out through their purchase of most Republican and many Blue-Dog Democratic officeholders.
Let's try an exercise. Pretend, for a moment that there's an alien - no, not the kind Mitt Romney employs or wakes Pat Buchanan up in the middle of the night in cold sweats muttering about the birth of a nation. But one from a faraway planet unfamiliar with the United States and the enforcers of its gun culture, with the "manufactured doubt" they employ to keep their dreams of a more Somalia-like America alive.
The kind of alien that phones home or is accompanied by electronic chimes upon its arrival stateside.
Had this alien arrived on this planet six months ago and paid attention to reports about guns in the news since, he/she/it would've been consistently confronted with a literal clown-car cast of cartoon characters who are responsible for deciding and passing what amounts to our gun policies. We're talking here about people who shouldn't be allowed to make their own beds, much less public policy.
But our alien friend would watch these hucksters on TV, telling us to ignore the fact that states with lower gun ownership on the whole are much safer, and those with the highest gun ownership rates and weakest laws - Alaska, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and Wyoming, have the highest gun-death rates.
Common sense, yes - but also statistically proven by a recent Violence Policy Center study. Still, the NRA asks you whether you should believe your own lying eyes or their paid liars - such as "academic" John Lott, who was caught fabricating numbers and busted pretended to be a woman online - who praised none other than John Lott for being awesome and just dreamy.
'Gun rights' movement
|Many see the right to own a weapon as a civil right [GALLO/GETTY]
Of course, Lott is far from the only discredited shill among the group, and our alien would encounter a collection of misanthropes and miscreants seldom seen outside a Scorcese flick, when interacting with the leaders of the "gun rights" community. I won't bother going through every Tom, Dick and Dirty Harry who plans to murder police officers, judges, veterans and other US citizens and shows up on NRA message boards, that would take the next week and one could say I was doing what they always do - implying guilt by association.
So let's continue to discuss the leaders of the retrograde, paranoid so-called "gun rights" movement - and immediately dispense with the usual "Second Amendment" sideshow, as Supreme Court Justice Scalia has allowed that even as owning a gun is an individual right, gun purchases by criminals and concealed carry can be regulated by the government and be consistent with the Constitution.
Now back to our favorite gun-rights leadership.
First, you can watch a YouTube clip of Waldo-impersonating NRA honcho, Wayne LaPierre, getting up and making a speech to conservatives in Florida, where he warned them he had proof that President Obama was going to take their guns away, if re-elected.
The proof: Obama hasn't yet taken anyone's guns away. Yes, he said that.
But what that doesn't tell you - and simply can't - is how Obama's private meeting with the Masons, utilising the Da Vinci Code, while visiting concentration camps created by FEMA, allowed him just the opportunity he needed to put guns on double-secret probation. Or something like that.
Does that sound a little Lohan Family Christmas to you?
Well then how about LaPierre's UN conspiracy theory, that involves Hillary Clinton, Iran, North Korea and likely the cast of Slumdog Millionaire - all in a plot to disarm Americans through a UN Small Arms Treaty meant to keep guns away from terrorists. Terrorists do presumably pay in cash too, and LaPierre needs someone to keep him staying at hotels where they leave the little chocolate mint on his pillow.
Perhaps all of this would be completely laughable, if a criminal who said he was afraid "Obama was going to take his guns away" hadn't gunned down three policemen in cold blood in Pittsburgh, not too long after the president's election. I could go on with numerous stories such as this, but you get the point.
Relaxing the laws
However, this federal government LaPierre's NRA claims to fear, loathe, hate and despise suddenly becomes their BFFs, when it can be used as a vehicle to undercut gun-safety regulations passed by states regarding access to concealed carry permits. You see, certain states - about a dozen or so - think it's a swell idea to allow people to get concealed carry permits even if they have a record of domestic abuse, misdemeanour assault with a firearm, known drunkenness and a lack of any training with a gun whatsoever.
Other states, as in most, have decided some of these are disqualifying factors - crazy, right? So the NRA has trotted out a bill that would make all states that have issued at least one concealed carry permit respect concealed carry permits issued in any other state that allows them (49 do), no matter if their requirements for keeping criminals unarmed are much more stringent.
This might be why Republican former Representative Tom Davis labelled this legislation, back when it was introduced in the Senate as the Thune Amendment in 2009, as "[Senator] John Thune's pro-criminal gun amendment".
Of course it also goes against everything Republicans claim to cherish: State's rights, stopping federal overreach and so forth. But then again - when has consistency been a conservative strong point (see Larry Craig and tap dancing or Rick Perry, stimulus, and closing budget loopholes in Texas - or a million other examples)?
Finally, because carrying concealed weapons in grocery stores and parks just wasn't enough, the NRA decided to start pushing bills to allow concealed weapons in bars - which makes sense because nothing I can think of goes better together than six shots of Jack and a loaded Glock. Of course, "technically", only non-drinking customers are allowed to take their guns into bars.
Somehow, however, this doesn't seem to explain how the sponsor of this ultimately successful bill in Tennessee, Representative Curry Todd, was pulled over in Nashville driving drunk with a loaded gun in his car. In fact, police at the scene claimed he was "almost falling over at times". I mean, didn't he read his own legislation?
Meanwhile, over the past six months, three Republican state representatives in Ohio who thought concealed guns near booze to be smart policy (the legislation also passed in Ohio) also thought non-concealed drunkenness and driving to be a a swell idea.
Yes, these are definitely the people you want making decisions when it comes to deadly weapons.
So whether it is the conspiracy nuts, dishonest hypocrites or drunk drivers, this is who is charged with making decisions about who can have a gun these days.
Upon hearing LaPierre's conspiracies, MSNBC personality Chris Matthews astutely said, "the language, 'lie', 'conspiracy' ... I mean, this is civil war talk about a president of the United States".
Welcome to the lucidity of today's gun-toting right in America.
Cliff Schecter is the President of Libertas, LLC, a progressive public relations firm, the author of the 2008 bestseller The Real McCain, and a regular contributor to The Huffington Post.
Follow Cliff Schecter On Twitter: @Cliffschecter
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.