In the weeks following the unspeakable gun violence in Charleston, there was one public voice notably absent, namely, the NRA. As opposed to the belligerent screed from Wayne-o after Sandy Hook, this time America's "oldest civil rights organization" kept their collective mouths shut. Well, almost all of them did, and the one exception was Charlie Cotton, a Board member from Texas, who quickly posted a statement blaming Clementa Pinckney for hastening his own demise because of his opposition to guns, and then just as quickly took the post down.
Good ol' Charlie epitomizes the saying, "it's better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than open it and remove all doubt." And if you don't believe me, here's a few samples of other Cotton comments obligingly sent to me by a friend. In February, he objected to a bill that would have eliminated corporal punishment in Texas public schools with this gem: "a good paddling in school may keep me from having to put a bullet into him later." He once referred to Black-on-Black shootings as "thug on thug," and in case the readers of his blog didn't get the not-so-veiled, racist comment he added, "cops know what I really mean."
In addition to proving his stupidity on issues far and wide, Cotton has also been a driving force behind the NRA-backed gun legislation in the Lone Star State, including the recent law that legalizes "open carry" of handguns in public venues. The open-carry question has a contentious history in Texas; just last year the NRA publicly scolded a group of Texans who were parading around a fast-food outlet with AR rifles in plain sight, but the ensuing uproar on the part of open-carry activists forced the NRA to back down.
For our boy Charlie, the zeal of open-carry proponents in Texas has been a difficult fence to straddle, given the ambivalence of the NRA towards the spectacle of open-carry demonstrations on the one hand, while not wanting to piss off the open-carry fringe on the other. In 2013, when then-candidate Greg Abbott was willing to support whatever loony idea would get him a few more votes in the race for Governor, he endorsed the idea of open-carry of handguns, and ol' Charlie pulled a classic on-the-one-hand-this-but-on-the-other-hand-that, by supporting the legislation but warning Open Carry Texas and other nut-job groups that sitting in Starbucks dangling AR-15s might lead to public "panic."
Now that open carry of handguns is legal in Texas, our boy Charlie Cotton still finds himself in something of a predicament, because it's not quite clear what mainstream America thinks about turning every American city into the O.K. Corral. The NRA's post-Charleston silence is a pretty clear indication that the whole notion of gun ownership may still be up for grabs, 2nd Amendment or no 2nd Amendment. And this came home to me last night when a friend sent me ol' Charlie's latest comment about open carry on his blog, in which he claimed he was still in favor of concealed carry because letting everyone know that you own a handgun might result in you being "attacked or burglarized" if a thug who saw the gun decided to follow you home. For that matter, sitting in IHOP with an unconcealed handgun would make you an immediate target if a "6-man hi-jack team" hits the store intending to do something other than ordering waffles and grits.
Did Charles Cotton, who happens to be a licensed attorney, actually make a public statement conjuring up the image of an IHOP invasion by a "hi-jack team?" Let's not forget that Texas is where a serious internet discussion is being carried on by residents who truly believe that a Pentagon-directed military exercise called Jade Helm is actually the beginning of a federal invasion of Texas, followed by martial law and the seizure of all guns. If Charlie Cotton and the NRA have decided they need such paranoid lunatics to promote the ownership of guns, the gun-sense movement is much closer to victory than they believe.
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