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Shut down the gun-mad gang who back Trump  

PETER FROST stays up late to watch some of the worst aspects of the gun-loving culture that is Trump’s United States

I’M A bit of an insomniac, so this week I have been watching the news from Donald Trump’s one-man show, AKA the Republican National Convention (RNC). 

Two of Trump’s stars were lawyers from St Louis, Missouri, Mark and Patricia McCloskey who sprang to fame last month when they appeared on the lawn in front of their multimillion-dollar house to threaten the Black Lives Matter march peacefully passing their home. 

The march was on its way to the nearby home of Mayor Lyda Krewson, who had infuriated activists by reading out on Facebook Live the names and addresses of people advocating reducing police powers.

The McCloskeys didn’t just shout at the demonstrators. Patricia McCloskey was wielding a hand gun and shouting: “Get off, this is private property.” Husband Mark’s language was more abusive and to back up his message he pointed one of his semi-automatic rifles at the demonstrators. 

The armed pair appeared on most TV news bulletins, newspapers and online news outlets. 

They were arrested and charged with unlawful use of a weapons — pointing their guns at the demonstrators. 

Kim Gardner, the city’s first black circuit attorney, announced: “It is illegal to wave weapons in a threatening manner at those participating in non-violent protest, and while we are fortunate this situation did not escalate into deadly force, this type of conduct is unacceptable in St Louis.

“We must protect the right to peacefully protest, and any attempt to chill it through intimidation will not be tolerated,” she added.

The McCloskeys also face assault charges.

So how did Mr Law and Order, President Trump, respond to this latest example of gun crime on US streets? 

What else? He invited the McCloskeys to be key speakers as part of the build-up for his RNC.

The couple said nice things about Trump and spoke in support of the second amendment that gives all US citizens the right to bear arms. 

Trump said: “They want to prosecute these people, it’s a disgrace.”

Trump and so many of his white middle-class supporters are encouraged in their use and carrying of guns by a huge and powerful lobby group called the National Rifle Association (NRA). 

It is the biggest single-issue membership lobbying organisation, not just in the US but in the entire world. 

It claims 5.5 million members. It is a disgrace in its aims but we have now discovered it’s also run in a disgraceful way.  

The NRA lobbies heavily against any form of gun control and argues aggressively that more guns make the country safer. It is the biggest single donor to Trump’s election funds. 

The NRA has famously invented senseless slogans such as “The only way to stop a bad man with a gun is with a good man with a gun.” Or “If you want my gun you will have to pry it from my cold, dead hand.” 

Too many spaghetti westerns, I reckon.

It defends its own heavily partisan interpretation of the second amendment to the US constitution, which it claims gives all US citizens the rights to own and carry lots of guns. Others disagree.

The NRA spends nearly £3 million per year arguing the case for uncontrolled gun ownership. 

Guns kill 40,000 US citizens every year — that is 110 every day – and that figure has been climbing steadily  since at least 1968. 

Many well-publicised mass shootings, including those in schools and colleges, have weakened some Americans’ love affair with the gun. 

New York’s Attorney General, Letitia James, is just one of those fighting back, announcing a lawsuit aimed at shutting down the NRA.

The way Attorney General James has chosen to do it is to expose massive financial mismanagement by the NRA leadership, through which she says that NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre is believed to have accumulated a personal wealth of over $10 million. 

“For these years of misconduct we are seeking an order to dissolve the NRA in its entirety,” said James. 

James has spelled out the charges, saying that four named defendants — LaPierre, Wilson Phillips, Joshua Powell and John Frazer — “instituted a culture of self-dealing, mismanagement and negligent oversight at the NRA that was illegal, oppressive and fraudulent.”

She outlined a litany of charges against the defendants, but accused LaPierre, longtime leader of the NRA, and close friend, ally and huge financial backer of President Trump, of being the central figure behind the organisation’s wrongdoings.

One example of misconduct alleged is that LaPierre visited the Bahamas by private plane more than eight times, all paid for by the NRA — at a total cost of $500,000. 

Among his other illicit spending are said to be luxury travel and beauty treatments for his second wife, Susan.

He is said to have kept his own $26,500-a-month travel consultant in Los Angeles despite the NRA having a regular travel agent, and accepted luxury yacht holidays and other gifts from companies that earned tens of millions of dollars as suppliers to the NRA.

LaPierre also allegedly gave himself a $17m pension without approval.

James says that LaPierre’s abuses needed assistance from the other three defendants, all of whom he alone appointed: former treasurer Wilson Phillips, general counsel John Frazer and former chief of staff Joshua Powell.

The corruption is so broad, James says, that only total dissolution of the organisation would solve the problem. 

She alleges that the gun lobby is so rife with corruption that it no longer has the right to call itself a non-profit charity.

James, a Democrat, has rejected the notion that the charges against the NRA were at all influenced by her own politics.

“We followed the facts and the law,” she said. “We’ve come to the conclusion that the NRA was serving as a personal piggy bank to four individual defendants.” 

Washington DC’s District Attorney, Karl A Racine, filed a separate but similar lawsuit against the NRA which was already facing congressional inquiries, investigations in many states and internal complaints from influential groups of members. 

All this is combined with a dramatic shift in public opinion on gun ownership in response to the epidemic of mass shootings.

President Trump, long-time supporter of the NRA, called the lawsuit “a very terrible thing” and suggested the organisation move to Texas “to lead a very good and beautiful life.”

The NRA is simply Trump’s biggest single financial supporter, donating $30m to his 2016 campaign. 

Experts believe that the frustrations and horrendous results of the coronavirus pandemic are leading to many more gunshot injuries and deaths across the US. 

When the figures are eventually calculated we can be sure that they will be interpreted as another argument for wider gun ownership by Trump, LaPierre and his gun-toting NRA gang — unless more sober forces have managed to have the whole shooting match thrown into the dustbin of history.

It can’t be quick enough for me. 

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