Nel's New Day

June 14, 2013

Six Months since Newtown Massacre

Twenty-eight people died of gun violence because of one armed young man only six months ago today. The flurry of attempts to reduce further gun violence in the United States gave some people hope that it would happen, but NRA knew that interest would fade if they stood their ground. Yet the people in Newtown (CT) where 20 children and six educators were gunned down in that massacre haven’t quit. Today they held a remembrance that included reading the names of the more than 5,000 people in the country killed with guns which is expected to take 12 hours.

Mayors against Illegal Guns has launched a bus tour through 25 states during the next 100 days to build support for expanded background checks for gun buyers, the legislation that failed in the Senate two months ago. Relatives of victims have gone to Washington, D.C. to lobby for gun control legislation although some of the legislators refuse to meet with them.

NRA has Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) in their sights with an ad campaign telling people to phone his office and tell him “to honor his commitment to the 2nd Amendment.”

The gun organization has a strong supporter in convicted felon Gary W. Bornman who wrote from a federal super-maximum security prison in Colorado to his Connecticut hometown newspaper, The Hartford Courant  expressing his gratitude to the pro-gun lawmakers and NRA for giving him the ability to easily get guns when he’s released. As he pointed out in the letter, without the NRA and these legislators he could not easily buy weapons before he reaches Connecticut with its restrictive laws so that he can “resume my criminal activities.” He finishes the letter:

“And so, a heartfelt thank you to the NRA and all those members of Congress voting with them. I, along with tens of thousands of other criminals, couldn’t do what we do without you.”

This isn’t the first time that Bornman has written letters to the public. In a 1999 letter to the LA Times, he wrote:

“In little more than 14 months, in all probability I’ll commit murder, perhaps even mass murder. That’s when I’m due to be released from federal prison where I’m serving a seven-year sentence for bank robbery.”

Bornman’s public defender, Gary Weinberger, thinks that his client is not really that dangerous.

When Bornman is released from the Colorado prison, he can drop into adjacent Nevada, where the state legislature just passed a bill to close the gun-show loophole by requiring background checks on gun purchases, including private transactions. They followed the wishes of 86 percent of people in Nevada. Bornman could get a gun in Nevada, however, because Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) vetoed the bill, claiming it would do “little to prevent criminals from unlawfully obtaining firearms.” Another provision of the vetoed bill would require Nevada courts to submit information about mentally ill legal defendants to a national clearinghouse for all new gun purchases within five business days after the finding.

Some gun enthusiasts claiming that the Second Amendment gives everyone the right to own guns and ammunition are trying to stop the U.S. government from having them. Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC), chair of the House Homeland Security oversight subcommittee, is confused about why IRS law enforcement agents would train with AR-15 rifles. He said, “It’s been bugging me for weeks now, why IRS agents are training with a semi-automatic rifle AR-15, which has stand-off capability. Are Americans that much of a target that you need that kind of capability?” These are exactly my sentiments for the ordinary U.S. citizen.

The tax agency’s explanation:

“As law enforcement officials, IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agents are equipped similarly to other federal, state and local law enforcement organizations. Special Agents receive training on the appropriate and safe use of assigned weapons. IRS Criminal Investigation has internal controls and oversight in place to ensure all law enforcement tools, including weapons are used appropriately.”

Fighting potentially violent criminals has been part of IRS agents’ job for 90 years; their jurisdiction includes “tax, money laundering and Bank Secrecy Act laws.”  The IRS guidelines for training its agents on semi-automatic rifles occurred in 2003 under George W. Bush’s watch.

Since the Newtown massacre, the House has passed one piece of gun control legislation.  By a vote of 234-192, the House voted last week to stop DHS from buying any more ammunition until they submit reports on the need for this to Congress. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) has proposed a similar measure in Congress’s other chamber.

During the past six months, gun violence has killed an average of 28 people each day, more than the number of U.S. military members killed during the Iraq War. In the last 30 years, 62 mass shootings occurred in thirty different states, making an average of two each year. Twenty-five of them happened since 2006—seven of them last year with 140 victims. Mother Jones has tracked these on an interactive map.

During the past four years, the U.S. averaged over one mass shooting per month. In the last six months, there have been at least 14 mass shootings—over two each month. An interactive map of the nation, pinpointing these shootings, is available here.

An analysis of the 62 mass shootings shows the following:

Weapons: The killers possessed 143 weapons, more than three quarters obtained legally, including dozens of assault weapons and semi-automatic handguns with high-capacity magazines.

Locations:  More than half of the cases involved school or workplace shootings (12 and 20, respectively); the other 30 cases took place in locations such as shopping malls, restaurants, and religious and government buildings.

Killers: Forty four were white males; only one was a woman. The average age of the killers was 35, with the youngest 11 years old. A majority had demonstrated being mentally troubled before they killed.

Not once was the killing stopped by a civilian using a gun. In other recent rampages, civilians who tried to intervene not only failed but also were seriously wounded or killed. Even the police don’t have a good record: New York City police officers trained in counterterrorism wounded nine innocent bystanders when confronting a gunman at the Empire State Building.

Without registration, no one knows exactly how many guns are in private hands, but estimates indicate about 200 million privately-owned guns in 1995, a number that has increased 50 percent in the past 18 years to 300 million. During the same time, the U.S. population grew by only 20 percent. Yet fewer households have guns: 40 percent of them had weapons in the past decade compared to 50 percent in the 1980s.

During the last four years, the NRA and its political allies have pushed through 99 laws in 37 states making guns easier to own, carry, and conceal from the government. Eight states permit guns in bars, even when the carrier is intoxicated. Five states allow concealed weapons on college campuses. Kansas permit holders can carry concealed weapons inside K-12 schools, and Louisiana permits guns in houses of worship. Eighty percent of states now recognize handgun permits from at least some other states.

At least one educator is making a different in the gun control issue. Believing that children who play with toy guns become desensitized, making it easier for them to use real guns later, Strobridge Elementary School (CA) Principal Charles Hill organized a toy gun exchange. Gun rights enthusiasts claim that toy guns are painted in “bright colors,” making it impossible for them to be mistaken for a real gun, but “real guns” are also painted in such colors as bright pink and blue. About 75 children traded their guns for books and a chance on four bicycles.

Until 1996, Australia had the same lax attitude toward gun ownership that the United States does. After 35 people were killed in a massacre on April 28 of that year, Australia passed restrictive gun controls, requiring a “genuine reason” for permits and prohibiting gun ownership for convicted felons and those with mental illness. The rate of homicides involving firearms per 100,000 population in 2009 was 0.1 in Australia, as compared with 3.3 in the United States.The rate of unintentional deaths involving firearms in 2001 was 0.09, compared with 0.27 in the United States. Only Latin America has a higher death rate from guns than the United States.

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