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Various handguns as seen on display inside Discount Firearms & Ammo in Las Vegas on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2018. (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent)

Turning Point Action and Students for Trump picked a tough time to argue the case against gun control. In a violent nation awash in firearms, the recent mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio can complicate the conversation. Or at least they should.

But celebrating America’s guns galore culture promises to be on the agenda when Students for Trump hits Las Vegas later this month for its 2020 presidential campaign kickoff at the Palms Hotel and Casino. As it turns out, Turning Point’s views on the subject sound remarkably similar to National Rifle Association talking points about the extreme sanctity of the Second Amendment.

Students for Trump in July was taken over by Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk, the 20-something uber-Trumper whose stated goal is to register more than one million new voters to help ensure the president’s re-election. The new look Students for Trump couldn’t have come at a better time, as one of its co-founders, former vice chairman John Lambert, last week pleaded guilty to felony conspiracy and wire fraud charges in New York in a scheme in which he posed as an attorney named Eric Pope. The fraud netted him more than $46,000 and now will provide him free room and board at government expense. It looks like his appearances on Fox Business and Fox News as a pro-Trump wunderkind are over.

Kirk’s voter registration effort as head of Students for Trump in association with Donald Trump Jr. is just beginning. With a majority of voters favoring some form of sane gun safety measures including background checks, and not everyone in love with the easy availability of military-style semi-automatic assault rifles of the kind favored by so many mass shooters, the group’s unabashed embrace of gun culture may complicate that registration effort.

It will be hard to explain away Turning Point’s 2016 booklet, “The Case Against Gun Control.” And by that the group means just about any gun control. With sections such as “Bad Governments Ban Guns,” “Gun Free Zones & Mass Shootings,” “Strict Gun Laws & High Crime,” “Girls Just Want to Have Guns,” and “Myths About Guns,” it’s a glorious tribute to the gun lobby. It waves the Stars & Stripes, warns of the dangers of a pacified USA becoming the next Communist Russia, Nazi Germany, Maoist China. It’s a slippery slope theory that places no blame for the proliferation of firearms in the country to the successful marketing of the gun industry and the corruption of Congress.

The report attempts to make the case that the United Kingdom despite its strict gun laws is a very dangerous place. Not because of firearms, but because of crimes involving knives.

But it’s funny how the conversation quickly turns from the availability of guns to their use in murder and mass slaughter. The UK’s supposed knife epidemic notwithstanding, its homicide rate in 2017 was 1.2 per 100,000 population. In the US, it’s 5.3.

The booklet is at its propagandizing best when it promotes firearms for women as a boon to safety instead of part of the gun industry’s successful “pink pistol” marketing push. As embattled NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre put in a 2016 speech, “All of America’s women, you aren’t free if you aren’t free to defend yourself.”

Women are already free to defend themselves. Many do. But they keep getting killed by abusive spouses who maintain their right to keep and bear arms despite domestic violence convictions. On average, the FBI’s Supplementary Homicide Report indicates, a woman is fatally shot by a former partner more than 500 times a year, about once every 16 hours.

Mass shootings, rampant inner city violence, and homicides against women don’t make us the most dangerous country in the world, just the most conflicted on the subject of gun safety, background checks, and the limits of the Second Amendment. If the answer to every question about gun violence in America is more guns, with almost as many firearms in circulation as citizens on the street we ought to have the problem licked pretty soon.

Trump can drop in and grin for a photo-op in El Paso and send his thoughts and prayers to violence victims across the land -- there are plenty of them -- but he’s also pledged unwavering fealty to the NRA and the gun lobby.

And that means his political youth movement is sure to remain in lock step as it continues to make the case against gun control.

 John L. Smith is an author and longtime columnist. He was born in Henderson and his family’s Nevada roots go back to 1881. His stories have appeared in Time, Readers Digest, The Daily Beast, Reuters, Ruralite and Desert Companion, among others. He also offers weekly commentary on Nevada Public Radio station KNPR. His newest book—a biography of iconic Nevada civil rights and political leader, Joe Neal—”Westside Slugger: Joe Neal’s Lifelong Fight for Social Justice” is published by University of Nevada Press and is available at Contact him at [email protected] On Twitter: @jlnevadasmith

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