Member Blogs > ten pound island book companyLabor in Vain

  • Mon, 01 Sep 2014 02:09:57    Permalink
    Here's how the mind wanders on a Labor Day weekend...

    While leafing through a 19thcentury manuscript on naval ordnance I became captivated by two superbly rendered pages of ink drawings illustrating the “Parts of a Rifle.” This got me to thinking about what guns were like two hundred years ago and then, of course, what they are like now, and all the trouble we're having, socially and politically, trying to figure out what to do about them.
    Everyone has something to say about the matter, and that's part of the problem. We are passionate, polarized, and utterly paralyzed when it comes to actually DOING anything legislatively about the 86 gun deaths that happen every day.
    According to the Open Secretswebsite, the NRA spent nearly $3.5 million in 2013 in its effort to influence Congress on gun issues - $1.9 directly for lobbying, and $2.4 million on something called "outside spending." In April of that year, as you may recall, the Senate failed to round up the necessary votes to pass a mild gun control measure that 90% of Americans are supposed to have supported.
    There are 535 members of Congress. Assuming that the 200 liberals who scored C, D, or F on the NRA report card aren't worth wasting any lobbying money on, that leaves about 335 pols in line for the NRA's $3.5 million.

    Which works out to a little more than $10,000 per Congressperson... probably more like $8000 after expenses and leakage.

    These politicians need to raise somewhere between $2500 and $14,000 per day to finance their campaigns. Could a measly $8000 possibly have persuaded any of them to vote against the gun bill last April?
    On a broader scale the Washington Post reports that the NRA spent $25 million in 2012 on what it refers to as “positive advocacy” - support of gun friendly candidates, and “negative advocacy” – the biggest target that year being Barack Obama, on whom they lavished $15 million worth of negativity. This sounds like a lot of money until you consider that $25 million would buy the NRA an hour or two of national prime time television advertising per year. To look at it another way, President Obama is said to have spent $700 million publicizing his health care program... for all the good that did him.
    It's not the NRA's lobbying power that accounts for the persistence of guns and gun violence in our society. Nor is money the deciding factor in the ongoing failure of Congress to do anything meaningful in the wake of Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora, and Sandy Hook, etc., ad nauseam.

    Our politicians aren't doing anything about gun violence because We the People do not want them to do anything about gun violence... not really.
    Sure, we'll say the right things when the pollsters come around; we'll flood Newtown with teddy bears, sign email petitions, and forward heartrending gun murder images and stories on Facebook. But as a nation, our core attitudes about guns are so deeply embedded that effecting meaningful legislation will be require – and cause - serious social upheaval. More like Civil Rights than the Bottle Bill.
    Change will only come about when We the People do all the things it takes to bring about major social change - picketing a Senator's office for example, or attending and speaking out at a hearing, or even writing a letter on real paper and attempting to hand deliver it.
    So rock on, Gabby Gifford and Mayor Bloomberg. We need you to keep doing what you're doing. But you will labor in vain until We the People get off our behinds.
    And I'm afraid that's not going to happen any time soon, because deep down, we're satisfied with things just the way they are.
    Manuscript. Naval Ordnance, circa 1860.4to. 65 leaves of manuscript. 15 pages of b/w illustrations, 13 pages of watercolor illustrations. Primarily concerned with cannons, carronades, mortars, rifle-muskets, and Congreve rockets, featuring detailed instructions for fabrication and use, accompanied by beautifully rendered illustrations of - cannons, carronades, and their carriages, parts of a rifle, steps in making flannel cartridge bags and making and filling rifle cartridges, detonators, and rockets and all their components. Also, canister shot, grape shot, gun platforms, and mortars. These pages are followed by a series of "Gunnery Problems," ricochet tables, instructions for fitting night sights, for fabrication of and specifications for shells of various kinds, sixteen pages of a "Viva Voce Examination" - an oral question and answer catechism on gunnery and, finally, an illustrated treatise on "A Method of Floating Guns Ashore by Means of Water Tanks." The illustrations, especially those in watercolor and ink wash are beautifully rendered. The section on fabricating Congreve rockets is particularly detailed, occupying thirty pages of the manuscript and containing some of the most delicate and visually pleasing color illustrations in the book. The dating of this manuscript is based on one of the drawings of "Parts of a Rifle" which bears the marking, "1858 Enfield." The rifles pictured are typical of the rifle-muskets of that period. Bound in half leather over marbled boards. Backstrip chipped. Sewing broken but text and illustrations in an excellent state of preservation. This manuscript is of artistic value as well as historical importance. Housed in blue cloth clamshell box with leather label. $12,500 

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