Nel's New Day

June 10, 2016

9th Circuit Court Upholds Gun Safety Law, Opposes NRA

Gun safety advocates won a big victory yesterday when the entire 9th Circuit Court of Appeals suspended a three-judge panel of the same court in a decision that the 2nd Amendment does not guarantee the right to carry concealed weapons in public places. This 7-4 decision covering nine states upholds a California law  requiring concealed carry applicants to demonstrate “good cause” for carrying a weapon. The ruling was narrow: it does not state that concealed weapons are unconstitutional and makes no ruling about openly carrying weapons in public. California also bans open carry in public. Gun owners who brought the lawsuit after being denied permits in Yolo and San Diego counties have not said whether they would appeal to the Supreme Court.

The opinion stated:

“The right of a member of the general public to carry a concealed firearm in public is not, and never has been, protected by the Second Amendment. Therefore, because the Second Amendment does not protect in any degree the right to carry concealed firearms in public, any prohibition or restriction a state may choose to impose on concealed carry — including a requirement of ‘good cause,’ however defined — is necessarily allowed by the Amendment. There may or may not be a Second Amendment right for a member of the general public to carry a firearm openly in public, but the Supreme Court has not answered that question.”

The court ruled that the states are to decide on any restrictions regarding concealed weapons.  The complete ruling is here. Kamala Harris, state attorney general and candidate for U.S. Senate, said the ruling “ensures that local law enforcement leaders have the tools they need to protect public safety by determining who can carry loaded, concealed weapons in our communities.”

The high court ruled in 2008 (District of Columbia v. Heller) that people can have guns in their homes but noted in the opinion that gun ownership is not absolute. Justice Antonin Scalia, who authored Heller and voted in the majority, cited restrictions on concealed weapons as an example.

The 9th Circuit Court decision joined other federal appeals courts that rule for state and local governments to put restrictions on granting concealed-carry licenses. Three other federal appeals courts upheld California-like restrictions in New York, Maryland, and New Jersey, and another one struck down Illinois’ complete ban on carrying concealed weapons. The decision in Peruta v. San Diego is the last word on the subject unless the Supreme Court takes the case. It does not normally take cases unless lower courts are split on the issue. The court could take it anyway but probably not without a ninth justice.

No matter how hard some people wish, the 2nd Amendment right to “bear arms,” like almost all other rights, is not unlimited. Throughout the first two centuries of the U.S. Constitution, courts determined that keeping and carry guns was not an unobstructed right. Before the Revolution, the 1689 English Bill of Rights, “protected the rights of Protestants to have arms”—but “flatly prohibited” concealed carry. The majority of 19th-century courts determined that prohibitions on concealed carry were lawful, and the number of states banning open carry increased after the Civil War. In 1897, the Supreme Court of the United States even asserted that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms is not infringed by laws prohibiting the carrying of concealed weapons.” Even the most recent Supreme Court cases don’t guarantee a right to carry a gun for self-defense outside the home.

Not until 1977, when extremists took over the NRA, did the so-called “right to bear arms” become more and more unregulated. As the NRA focus shifted from hunting to unlimited gun ownership and carrying, law review articles were written supporting the current radical perspective—over 27 between 1970 and 1989. More than half these articles were written by a few lawyers employed by the NRA and other pro-gun groups. At the same time, the number of conservative justices in federal courts burgeoned.

When Republicans took control of the U.S. Senate in 1981 for the first time in 24 years, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) claimed to have found proof that the 2nd Amendment is unlimited. The NRA showed more power to elect presidents, and John Ashcroft, George W. Bush’s attorney general, finished the revisionist history about limited gun rights by reversing the Justice Department’s stance. But in time, the NRA’s power to elect presidents began to shift executive branch policies, too. In 2000, gun activists strongly backed Governor George W. Bush of Texas. After the election, Bush’s new attorney general, John Ashcroft, reversed the Justice Department’s stance.

Although the 9th Circuit covers nine western states, only California and Hawaii are affected by the ruling. The other seven, including Oregon, do not require permit applicants to cite a “good cause.” Anyone in those states with a clean record and no history of mental illness can get a permit.

Scalia, a justice pushing unrestricted gun ownership and carrying, departed from his professed belief in “originalism,” a position that the words of the constitution are sacred, to following the new political and social movement.

At the same time that the NRA demands no restrictions on purchasing, owning, and carrying guns, the organization is incensed about the possibility of felons voting in Virginia. Wayne LaPierre, NRA’s executive VP, commented:

“Tentacles of the Clinton machine are out registering those felons right now. They’re releasing them, and then they’re registering them. Heck, when they sign their release papers, they might as well at the prison door … give ‘em a Hillary Clinton bumper sticker.”

While bitterly complaining about giving the vote to ex-felons, the NRA has put great effort into giving these same “violent rapists and murderers,” as they call them, the “constitutional right” to own and possess guns. Much of the support for the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986 came from the NRA and undid many provisions in the 1968 Gun Control Act, passed shortly after Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King were shot dead.

One provision in the law allowed felons convicted of gun crimes and other violent offenses to petition to have their gun rights restored. Many of these ex-felons permitted to own firearms were again arrested for committing other violent crimes. The only successful part of the law, defunded in 1992, was an amendment forbidding the sale of machine guns to civilians.

In arguing for the “Protection Act,” NRA representative Richard Gardiner said:

“There’s no reason why a person who has demonstrated they are now a good citizen should be deprived of their right to own a firearm. We ought to recognize that some people can change.”

What the NRA didn’t address in its complaint about Virginia is that 80 percent of the states already give voting rights to ex-felons after they have completed their sentence and other responsibilities connected to the crimes for which they were convicted. Two of the states even allow felons to vote while they are in prison.

As the NRA complains about California gun safety laws, it doesn’t oppose gun bans at the upcoming GOP convention in Cleveland. Ohio is an open carry state, but the arena doesn’t allow firearms inside. An open carry group wanted Ohio Gov. John Kasich to override the gun-free loophole in state law; Cleveland is known as one of the most dangerous cities in the world. There was no uproar when he didn’t. No guns were allowed at the 2012 GOP convention either, despite Florida law that prevents cities “from acting to limit guns.”

Donald Trump claims that he’s a strong 2nd Amendment supporter, but many of his hotels and golf courses ban guns. A Trump Organization official denied any restrictions on Trump facilities, but security and staff disagree. Florida’s Jupiter, Mar-a-Lago, Trump International Golf Club, and Trump National Doral all prevent guns on the property. Trump International Hotel Las Vegas refused to comment, and Trump Winery said it allowed people to carry guns on the premises—if they weren’t drinking. Both Trump International Hotel Waikiki Beach Walk in Honolulu and Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago have “gun-free zone” policies.

Maybe it’s time for far more places to follow Donald Trump’s lead. The 9th Circuit Court ruling is a starting place.

May 7, 2016

Help Moms on Mother’s Day

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. On this one day a year, mothers are given corsages, given breakfast in bed, and taken out to dinner and then ignored on the other 364 days.  If you really care about mothers, here are some ways to help them:

Access to quality, affordable childcare: From 2000 to 2012, child care costs for a typical middle class family grew by 30 percent, and child care costs more than media rent in all 50 states. In 31 states and DC, child care costs more than college. The High Quality Child Care Tax Credit would help low-income and middle class families afford quality child care.

Equal pay for equal work: Mothers are the primary, sole, or co-breadwinners in nearly two-thirds of families but earn less than men. Latinas and black women suffer the sharpest pay disparities. Congressional conservatives continue to fight action to uncover discriminatory pay practices, create greater pay transparency, and ensure that the law works fairly for everyone. Tell them to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Paid sick days: Almost 40 million U.S. employees, or about 40 percent of the nation’s private-sector workforce, lack access to paid sick days. Low-income workers, the ones least likely to have paid sick days, suffer the greatest when forced to take unpaid time off to recover from an illness or care for a sick family member.

Paid family leave: Almost all U.S. workers are forced to choose between staying on the job or dealing with serious personal or family illness. This nation is the only developed country that doesn’t guarantee workers any paid time off, and only 12 percent of private sector workers have access to paid family leave through their employers.

Women’s access to affordable health care and contraception: About 61 percent of abortions are obtained by women who are already mothers, frequently because of the constantly worsening economy in the United States. Many other women have little access to any quality health care, largely because Republican states have refused to accept government funding for Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of Texas’ banning all except nine women’s clinics for its 5,400,000+ women of reproductive age, more restrictive measures limiting reproductive care for more millions of women will be passed through the U.S. Comprehensive health care must include supports to help women plan when to start, and grow, their families.

Helping mothers—and that means helping all women—would greatly improve the economy.

On another note, don’t give guns to moms on Mother’s Day. Some men think that giving the women in their lives firearms will make them safer, but many of those misguided men then use the same guns to shoot and kill women in their lives. More than 1,600 women were killed by men in 2013, most of them by guns. The vast majority–94 percent–of female murder victims are killed by someone they knew and with a handgun. The laxer the gun laws in a state, the higher the rate of women shot and killed by men. http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/10/22/south-carolina-gun-rights-domestic-violence.html    In South Carolina, ranked as the deadliest in the U.S. for women killed (mostly with guns) by men, state lawmaker and victim advocate Gilda Cobb-Hunter has found it easier to get court-ordered protections for family pets than to take guns away from domestic abusers. Keep mothers alive by legislating strict laws against domestic abusers owning guns.

Protect small children from killing themselves, siblings, or adults—including their mothers—with guns. Toddlers shot at least 23 people in the United States during the first four months of 2016 by toddlers. There may be more, but conservatives have blocked the government from making an accurate count of deaths by firearms—probably lawmakers don’t want to know the exact number. That number is up over 25 percent from last year’s “head count” of toddler-caused gun shootings during the same time period last year. In 18 cases, children accidentally shot themselves, and half of them died. Four of these deaths were within one week.

Map-of-Toddler-Shootings

The map above shows the states where these deaths have occurred. More shootings by toddlers have happened in Georgia since 2015 than the other states with Texas and Missouri tying for second place. Florida and Michigan are fourth. Population doesn’t appear to be a factor because California and New York, the second and third highest population states in the country, had three shootings between them. Illinois hasn’t seen one since 2015. A comment on the Washington Post article about toddler shooting: it’s only 23 kids.

cell phone gunThe number of shootings by toddlers may grow in the future because gun makers are making deadly weapons look like innocent toys. Gun manufacturers are designing brightly-colored guns, Glock pistols, that look like the Nintendo Zapper used to blast virtual ducks and targets. Beyond that is the new gun that looks like a cellphone—same size and shape. This one is a .380 derringer that holds two bullets.

The NRA insists that its Eddie Eagle program, educating children about guns, makes children so safe that the nation doesn’t need gun safety laws to protect children. Other parents are so satisfied with their parenting skills that their children would never be unsafe around firearms. The Charlotte (NC) Fox46 tested these theories by leaving unsupervised children ages 6-8 alone in a playroom with toys, games, and a realistic-looking BB gun. Before Mecklenburg County Sheriff Irwin Carmichael left the room he said, “So if you find a gun do you touch it? No. No, what should you do? Tell and adult…go tell an adult.”

Some of the seven parents were positive that their children would leave the gun alone; others said that they’d never talked to the children about gun safety. Within 60 seconds, a toddler discovered the gun, and a few minutes later half the children were firing the gun at each other. The video of this experiment is available here.

For mothers on Mother’s Day, follow strict rules about gun safety. One of the mothers was shot by a gun that her boyfriend left under a seat in the car. Make sure the car is gun-free before driving a child in it. Another mother was shot last year when her toddler got a gun out of a purse while they were shopping. (Unless you think that 23 shootings by toddlers in four months isn’t important.)

Brennan WeikelIn mid-April, Brennan Weikel’s stepfather took him out in the middle of the night for a hog-hunting trip just five days after the 17-year-old had finished his school gun safety course giving him the legal right to hunt. Weikel won’t be fulfilling his dream of playing football in college after accidentally shooting himself in the head with his rifle. The killing will be classified as “accidental,” but one Texas mother (below) won’t be celebrating Mother’s Day with her high school son.

Brennan Weikel's mother

Near this killing, other mothers no longer have their sons because of the fatal shootings of a nine-year-old by his grandfather last year and the shooting of a teenager by his best friend in 2013 who received five years probation after pleading guilty to criminally negligent homicide.

Sometimes parents shoot their toddlers. A two-year-old is lucky to be alive after he “startled” his mother in St. Louis. In Philadelphia, a four-year-old girl isn’t as fortunate, after her father was playing with his gun and “accidentally” shot the girl in the head. She died at their home. The father later confessed after first hitting another of his children, a five-year-old, in the face with his closed fist and wiped blood onto her shirt to make it appear that she had killed her sister.

Many state laws allow guns in bars, airports, daycare centers, churches, classrooms—everywhere except where the legislators are making these laws. One group opposing the laxity of gun ownership is law enforcement. Local police are objecting to these measures in over a dozen states where they had previously not complained. Their position is that the new laws put officers in greater danger and keep them from effective doing their jobs.

A big problem is that in some states, including West Virginia and Idaho, people can carry concealed handguns without permits or training—or even a background check. Texans can open carry handguns, and Oklahoma is considering the same permission. Police departments are now asking for people with violent histories be blocked from buying guns because they are more likely to have problems with the police. Law enforcement also says that new exceptions to gun regulations impede investigations by taking away the option of probable cause to conduct searches after the discovery of an unpermitted firearm.

Georgia’s Gov. Nathan Deal may have started to recognize the problem of unfettered gun carrying: he vetoed legislation that would have allowed college students to carry concealed guns onto campuses because it won’t “increase safety of students on college campuses,” according to Deal. The law would have permitted loaded guns anywhere on college campuses—fraternities, dormitories, etc. http://www.vox.com/2016/4/29/11530874/georgia-campus-carry-guns   Texas does have this law despite evidence that the law puts people at harm. More mothers without that corsage in the future.

February 2, 2016

Good News Despite Iowa Caucus

The Iowa caucus yesterday was a disaster for country that claims to be a democracy. Want to vote for a presidential candidate? Go to a corner and get counted. Want to decide on a delegate? Toss a coin. Want to have somebody run a caucus? Pick somebody who just showed up to vote and is clueless about structure and responsibilities?  Then there’s the winner. Marco Rubio came out first to declare himself a victor because he got third place for the Republicans—something accurately predicted by polls.

Then there’s the super PAC called Black Americans for a Better Future. Every donor is white. Of the $417,250 received in donations, $400,000 came from Robert Mercer, hedge-fund sugar daddy for Ted Cruz. The sole beneficiary of the super PAC is Raynard Jackson, a GOP black political consultant based in Washington, D.C. The money is  for events encouraging blacks to join the Republican party.

While the Iowa caucus controlled media content, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) admitted that he and Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), current chair of the Benghazi investigation, created the attack on Hillary Clinton to keep a Democrat from being elected president. They hope that the committee’s persecution and pushing Clinton’s emails can cause her to lose to “a devout socialist who wants to nationalize almost everything in America,” according to Issa. That can be the rationale for concentrating on her emails and overlooking other high-profile leaders  who use private servers for their government emails.

While House members constantly attack Clinton and repeal health care, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) protects his party members by doing nothing for the next nine months. No decision about ISIS, no criminal justice reform legislation, and probably no trade deals. Sens. Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Rob Portman (R-OH) claim that the Senate doesn’t even need to pass a budget, despite the GOP complaints about the Dems in the same position. McConnell plans to string out the 12 annual appropriation bills to appear that he’s doing something.  Of the 34 seats up for re-election in the Senate, 24 are held by Republicans including Johnson and Portman. Losing five of those seats turns the majority in the Senate back to the Democrats.

People of the United States did experience a victory last Friday. For a few months, the United States won’t be giving out any new permits to frack for oil or gas off the California coast in the Santa Barbara Channel off Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, where Exxon Mobil and other oil companies operate platforms. The settlement from the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles also requires the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement to analyze the environmental dangers of offshore fracking and acidization under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). After the deadline of May 28, 2016, the public has at least 30 days to review and comment on the assessment.

Over 200 cases of fracking in state and federal waters off California have rubber-stamped permits from federal regulators, and the oil industry dumps over 9 billion gallons of wastewater into the ocean off the California coast every year. At least ten fracking chemicals routinely used offshore kills marine life, including otters and fish. Some of the many fish species that could be harmed by fracking pollution include white seabass, sand and kelp (calico) bass, lingcod, sheephead, ocean whitefish, yellowtail, bonito, barracuda, yellowfin tuna, sculpin, yellow croaker, barred surfperch and dozens of species of rockfish.

The settlement could affect oversight of all federally permitted offshore fracking, including that in the Gulf of Mexico which has never had any environmental review. The Marine Life Protection Act of 1999 could protect these species, but it has never been fully implemented and enforced, with no protection for ocean pollution, fracking, oil drilling, oil spills, military testing, corporate aquaculture, and all human impacts other than sustainable fishing and gathering.

A state panel to determine so-called “marine protected areas” in Southern California between 2009 and 2012 was led by a oil industry lobbyist. Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the President of the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), chaired the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force as her industry fracked the waters with little or no government oversight. State officials promised to review the “marine protected areas” every five years but changed to 10-year reviews.

Conservatives angry about protecting the ocean are also going to be furious about Facebook’s announcement that it will ban users from selling guns on both its main site and its photo-sharing site Instagram. Licensed gun dealers can still post with the requirement that they do not conduct purchases on the site, but it applies to the private gun sales not requiring background checks in most states.

Facebook rules cover gun parts and ammunition as well as guns. Federal laws don’t cover guns if they are 80 percent or less complete, like an “unfinished lower receiver.” In this way, people can buy “incomplete” guns without serial numbers or background checks, and people can buy these parts and put them together for an untraceable gun. Some websites even sell the machines to complete receivers with the promise that buyers can build unserialized firearms legally in your own home. The federal government can’t block this, but Facebook can decide what it doesn’t want to sell—such as marijuana, pharmaceuticals, or other potentially illegal objects.

With one debate before next Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary, media will be consumed by presidential candidates. At least that state uses real ballots. Both parties debate next week—Dems on February 11 and GOP on February 13—before decisions on a Democratic candidate in Nevada and the GOP candidate in South Carolina on February 20. The two parties can’t even vote on the same day in those states: Democrats wait another week to vote in South Carolina and the GOP won’t caucus in Nevada until February 23. Four weeks from today is Super Tuesday with a solid dozen states. Maybe that will produce a decision—or not.

Martin O’Malley on the Democratic side and Mike Huckabee on the GOP side have both dropped out. Huckabee, who won the Iowa caucus in 2008, said, “The voters are sick of me.” In the 2012 Iowa caucus, the first winner was Mitt Romney. After Iowa GOP decided they made a mistake, they selected Rick Santorum and then went on to declare Ron Paul the real winner. The next dropout may be John Kasich who said that he’ll be gone if he doesn’t do well in New Hampshire. No one knows what Donald Trump will decide.

Ted Cruz’s campaign has outdone Trump’s outrageousness by spreading the news during the Iowa caucus that Ben Carson was planning to drop out of the race. Later Cruz apologized, calling it a “mistake” but said that it was “fair game” to update his “grassroot leaders” that “Dr. Carson was not carrying on to New Hampshire and South Carolina.” Twenty minutes after the caucuses began in Iowa, Rep. Steve King (R-IA), the Cruz campaign’s national co-chair, tweeted, “Carson looks like he is out. Iowans need to know before they vote. Most will go to Cruz, I hope.”

Cruz had already gained the ire of Iowa’s secretary of state after Cruz sent mailers that misrepresented state election law. A warning of a “voting violation” in capital letters at the top of the page was followed by that statement that people were receiving notice “because of low expected voter turnout in your area.” The flier continued, “Your individual voting history as well as your neighbors’ are public record. Their scores are published below, and many of them will see your score as well. CAUCUS ON MONDAY TO IMPROVE YOUR SCORE and please encourage your neighbors to caucus as well. A follow-up notice may be issued following Monday’s caucuses.” After that were a list of names, letter grades, and percentage scores.

sandersclintondebate

The highlight of my week will be the Democratic debate on MSNBC Thursday, February 4–if it happens. Moderator Rachel Maddow will moderate, and Fox can watch to see how debates should be run. It’s still up in the air because Bernie Sanders first said he wanted the debate, but now he says he won’t debate unless Hillary Clinton agrees to his conditions on future debates.

And the joke that the U.S. calls democracy continues.

 

January 3, 2016

Media Coddles White Lawbreakers in Oregon

Two central Oregon ranchers, father and son, were convicted of arson on public land in 2012 in an attempt to cover up an illegal deer slaughter on federal land in 2001. U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan Dwight ruled that Hammond, 73, spend three months in prison, and his son, 46-year-old Stephen, be incarcerated for a year. Under Amanda Marshall, then U.S. attorney for Oregon, a successful government appeal under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 changed the minimum sentence to five years, and the Hammonds are due to report back to prison tomorrow. At the trial, witnesses, including a relative of Hammonds, had testified that Steven Hammond handed out “Strike Anywhere” matches with instructions that they be lit and dropped on the ground because they were going to “light up the whole country on fire.” The government spent $600,000 fighting the fires.

watch towerEnter heavily armed gun-toting men this past November, including at three sons of Cliven Bundy, who had gathered around the Nevada rancher and aimed their guns at federal officials last year because they thought that Bundy shouldn’t have to pay his debt to the U.S. government for grazing his cattle on public land. After parading around the small town of Burns, they took over the federal building at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, created 30 miles southeast of Burns by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908 from unclaimed government lands. The occupiers declare that they will occupy the facility for “years” and are calling on “patriots” to join them and bring their guns. [Refuge watch tower above]

The men’t goal is not to protect the Hammonds but force the federal government to give the land to local ranchers, miners, and loggers. The land in question was once part of a Northern Paiute reservation established by President Ulysses S. Grant, but whites used violence to force the Paiutes off the reservation in the late 19th century.

ammon bundyClosed for the holiday weekend, the building is now being monitored by federal officials, and Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward warned people to avoid the area. The Bundys claimed that about 150 people were in the building, but witnesses report between 12 and 15 are there. Ammon Bundy (right) said, “We are not hurting anybody or damaging any property. We would expect that they understand that we have given them no reason to use lethal force upon us or any other force.” Cliven Bundy said, “If the Hammonds wouldn’t stand …, the people had to do something.”

Several GOP presidential candidates support the Bundys’ actions. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) calls for private ownership of federal land, and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) agrees with Paul and blames President Obama for his “assault” on “liberty.” Ben Carson calls the Bundy group “pretty outstanding people” before he rambles on into “freedom.” Donald Trump said, “I like him, I like his spirit, his spunk and the people that are so loyal…I respect him.” Mike Huckabee is another strong Bundy supporter.

The Hammonds are willing to go back to prison,  and many Burns’ residents, who have posted signs with “Militia go home,” are unhappy with the out-of-towners wandering the town while openly carrying guns. Rancher Melodi Molp said that the Bundys “are way more aggressive than what we want to do,” and Candy Tiller said, “I’m worried that there’s a trigger-happy idiot out there.”  She added, “This is crazy. This does not fit. These people need to go away.” Chris Briels, Burns fire chief for 24 years, said that the militia “seems like a bunch of people ready to shoot.  I don’t want that in my county.” Rancher Gary Marshall wants the Bundys to let the community “think and decide for ourselves” and said that 50 percent of the employed people in the county of about 7,000 people work for the government. “A lot of the people who work at the BLM are of families of the community,” said Marshall. “It’s not in any way a ‘them against us’ kind of a scenario here.”

Federal employees report they have been followed around town and to their homes. Three men, one of them with a gun strapped to his hip, and a woman went up to the county sheriff’s parents at an American Legion yard sale. When they criticized the sheriff, his 74-year-old mother, accompanied by the sheriff’s 78-year-old father, said that she didn’t need their protection from the government. Later the men went to the sheriff to say that she had threatened them.

After Sheriff Ward told “militia” organizers that he would not give sanctuary to the Hammonds, he received death threats from people in other states who called him an “enemy of the people.” He said, “What we’ve been threatened with here is civil unrest and the insinuations of armed rebellion.” According to Ward, the groups has come to town under false pretenses: instead of supporting local ranchers, they want to overthrow the government.

Mainstream media expresses little concern about a group of armed men taking over a federal building, depicting the event as a “peaceful protest.” Fox’s early report overlooked the danger of men in camo outfits with long guns who are frightening Harney County’s residents. Ryan Bundy tweeted that the self-appointed “militia” are “willing to kill and be killed if necessary.” Ammon Bundy said, “We’re planning on staying here for years, absolutely. This is not a decision we’ve made at the last minute.” One member of the group, Jon Ritzheimer, posted a goodbye video to his family on YouTube today and said “I want to die a free man.” For safety purposes, Harney County schools will be closed this week.

ABC didn’t bother to investigate the explosive situation: the network merely copied Fox news with the headline, “Peaceful Protest Followed by Oregon Wildlife Refuge Action.” NBC’s headline calls the armed men “Rancher’s Rights Protesters.”

The state’s largest newspaper, The Oregonian, used its conservative bent to whitewash past events concerning the Hammonds although a few facts can be cleaned from this article.

  • In 1994, Dwight Hammond was arrested, but not prosecuted, in his dispute regarding water access with the refuge managers when he tried to stop a fence to keep out his cattle.
  • In 1999, Steven Hammond fired shots at hunters on federal land but claimed he was shooting at rabbits. He objected to “authorized commercial hunting of wildlife that temporarily wandered onto barren public land from private land lush with forage” but was convicted of interfering with use of public land.
  • In 2001 the Hammonds claimed that they lit the 2001 fire to take out invasive juniper and didn’t see any reason to put the fire out when it reached public land. They were convicted of arson because of poaching.
  • In 2006, the Hammonds list another fire to keep a lightning-caused fire from burning only the Hammonds’ ranch in spite of a countywide burn ban and endangering firefighters camped nearby.
  • In 2007, the Hammonds were investigated for child abuse. Stephen Hammond, upset because a 16-year-old boy living with them carved initials in his chest with a paperclip, used coarse sand paper to sand them off. Hammond’s mother, Susan told the teen to clean up and “not to have a pity party.” Her husband, Dwight, said it was “decided by the family” to sand off the initials.

According to a new poll, conservative whites are angrier than the rest of the population in the United States because they feel more oppressed than any other group, often from their feelings about having a black president. Three-fourths of Republicans get angry every day about current events, and at least one-third of white people—over three-fourths of the people in the United States—own guns. Exploited by conservative politicians and media, these expressions of fear become increasingly toxic, resulting in the acquisition of increasing gun ownership by people who plan to take over the government. Combining this anger with guns results in increased gun violence.

Meet the Press host Chuck Todd did his usual avoidance of conservative views regarding the latest “militia” standoff. He didn’t asked interview guest Paul anything about the situation, and he nodded sagely while hard-right panelists Washington Post columnists Jennifer Rubin and Sara Fagen, the latter a former political director for George W. Bush’s administration, blamed a weak president and bad foreign policy for all the anger.

Tonight, CBS Evening News segment showed a benign view of the ranchers who determined that they could take public land by force through arson and other acts of violence, one man who abused a teenager, and a group of heavily armed men who charmingly said that they meant no harm as long as the law gave them whatever they wanted. The “militia” wants publicity, and they’re getting plenty of it, much of it positive  Angry armed white men are determined to overthrow the government, undermine the courts, and receive positive media attention for their actions, and the media media is obliging them–because they are white.

December 19, 2015

Gun Myths Promote Killing Innocent People

Filed under: Guns — trp2011 @ 8:13 PM
Tags: , , , ,

Former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ), a survivor of the lax gun laws in the United States, spoke on December 14, 2015, the third anniversary of the mass shooting that killed 20 children and eight adults, about the lack of gun safety laws:

“Congress will do exactly what its members have done every week since those 20 kindergartners and first-graders were murdered in their classrooms: nothing at all. That’s cowardice, an embrace of the shameful status quo we’ve grown to expect from a Congress in the gun lobby’s grip. Many of my former colleagues are in the cold clutches of pessimism and its key ingredient: fear.”

The second reason for refusal to face gun violence is ignorance and allegiance to distorted reality about guns. Many people opposed to gun safety laws don’t believe the following information:

Feeling safer is not the same as being safer. Two-thirds of gun owners say they feel safer because they have a gun in their home, but they aren’t. Having a gun in the home increases the chances of gun-related violence there: suicides, accidental shootings, domestic disagreements, and home invaders’ taking the guns. Of the 11,000 homicides in 2012, only 269—three-fourths with handguns—were justifiable, meaning self-defense. Each of these justifiable homicides was matched with 78 gun homicides, and two accidental gun deaths. A detailed report, “Firearms Training and Self-Defense,” shows that few criminals are shot in homes. Guns in homes are typically used to intimidate people they know in the home, including spouses, other family members, and people invited into the home.

The presence of guns in the home leads to violence. Too many unstable people own guns because 22 million people in the nation—8.9 percent of the adult population—have impulsive anger issues and easy access to guns. Few of these people are subject to current mental-health care restrictions, and 3.7 million of the 22 million carry their guns in public. Research shows that the more guns people have, the more likely they are to carry them in public and have a history of anger issues. Then sudden fear responses cause serious injury or death.

“Good people” with guns will not always defeat “bad people” with guns. Researchers studying the NRA belief in the contrary found the “good guns with guns” myth to be a dangerous vigilante fantasy. Most people with guns aren’t trained to be effective law officers. They don’t know how to confront unstable people; they don’t have the physical stamina to be in a potential life-or-death fight; and they don’t possess the self-control to stop themselves from firing indiscriminately. The result is injuries or death to themselves, bystanders, or both. The report stated:

“The lack of quality initial training and repeat training over time is potentially a disaster waiting to happen.”

More guns lead to more crime and violence. Research by a team of Stanford University and Johns Hopkins University researchers found in 2014:

“Our analysis of the year-by-year impact of RTC [right to carry] laws also suggests that RTC laws increase aggravated assaults. Our analysis of admittedly imperfect gun aggravated assaults provides suggestive evidence that RTC laws may be associated with large increases in this crime, perhaps increasing such gun assaults by almost 33 percent.”

The study also found “evidence that RTC laws increase rape and robbery.”

The deadliest weapons are very profitable.  Gun manufacturers and the NRA fan the fears of terrorism and government takeover because they make money from selling firearms—especially sem-automatic weapons that use more ammunition. Bullets accounted for almost one-third the profits–$4.6 billion sales in 2013 compared to 26 percent in 2008.

The gun culture promoted by the NRA and gun manufactures kills children.  The presence of a gun makes children less safe, programs such as Eddie Eagle are insufficient, and use of gun safes and smart guns could reduce the death toll. The presence of guns also directly increases the risk of youth homicide and suicide. Children between 5 and 14 in the U.S. are 17 times more likely to be murdered by firearms than children in other industrialized nations. In the developed world, 87 percent of children younger than 14 killed by firearms live in the United States. In the U.S., more children and teenagers died from gunfire in 2010—a single year—than U.S. troops in Afghanistan since 2001. Yet to people who oppose gun safety laws, mass shootings of children are horrific while “accidental” killings of children in the home—sometime by other young children—are sad but business as usual.

Children from states where firearms are prevalent suffer from significantly higher rates of homicide, even after accounting for poverty, education, and urbanization. For example, most of firearm deaths in North Carolina youth were caused by legally purchased handguns. Easy access to firearms doubles the risk of homicide and triples the risk for suicide among all household members. Family violence is also much more likely to be lethal in homes where a firearm is present, placing children especially in danger. Murder-suicides are another major risk to children and are most likely to be committed with a gun.

These deaths are not offset by defensive gun use. For every time a gun is used legally in self-defense at home, there are “four unintentional shootings, seven criminal assaults or homicides, and 11 attempted or completed suicides.” A study of adolescents in California found that there were 13 times as many threatening as self-defensive uses of guns. Many of the defensive encounters came from confrontations that became hostile because of the presence of a firearm.

Children living in states with higher levels of firearm availability also suffer from significantly higher rates of unintentional gun deaths. The vast majority of these shootings involve either family or friends. Accidental killings are significantly underreported in the official data, often being classified as homicides or suicides rather than accidents. Several states have twice as many accidental gun deaths than the official record indicated.

Many gun owners are unaware that children have handled their guns; therefore the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly advocates not having a gun in the home for safety. The NRA ignores this evidence and continues to push laws forbidding pediatricians from talking to parents about guns and safety measures. If people insist on having guns in homes with children, laws holding gun owners responsible for the safe storage of firearms reduced unintentional shooting deaths among children by 23 percent. States where gun owners are more likely to store loaded guns, especially if they are not locked up, have a much larger share of intentional firearm deaths.

Smart guns, which can be fired only by the owner, drastically reduces the risk of accidental shootings and teenage suicides. Extreme gun advocates have fought against their sales, going as far as sending death threats for offering smart guns. A campaign spreading lies about the failure rates of smart guns has stopped the use of this effective technology that could prevent deaths. Toy guns have regulations to reduce the risk of fatal accidents, but real guns have zero federal safety standards regulating their designs.

The NRA and extreme gun advocates perpetuate a culture of fear and violence, teaching children that guns are a solution. Bullied students are bringing thousands of guns to schools, and the number of school shootings has drastically increased since Sandy Hook. Exposure to firearm violence doubles the risk that an adolescent will then in turn commit violent acts over the next two years.

Conservatives have used the mass shooting in San Bernardino to avoid the serious problem of gun violence. After every mass shooting in the U.S. by a white man following the Christian religion, conservatives leap onto the “let’s not politicize the event,” “mental illness,” “lone wolf” memes. When two Muslims go out on their own to kill people—quite successfully because guns are easy to obtain—conservatives cry out for higher media surveilling, closing down the internet, building walls around the country, and stopping all Muslims at the border from entering the nation. A man kills three people in Colorado in the name of Christianity, and he’s simply deranged. A married couple kill 14 people in the name of Islam, and they are the devil incarnate.

Extremist people in the United States are so obsessed with their guns that they will do anything to keep them. As Larry Wilmore said in his segment about this lunacy, “See something, shoot something.” That’s what every obsessive gun owner believes no matter how many people are killed—as long as the shooter isn’t a Muslim.

December 14, 2015

GOP Killing People with Inaction

Filed under: Guns — trp2011 @ 8:43 PM
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“Liberty isn’t just about having any gun you want, any time you want it. Liberty has got to also be about the right to be free from indiscriminate violence.”

This statement is part of the first speech that Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) made on that chamber’s floor in April 2013. Three years ago today, Murphy was a newly-elected U.S. senator. Three years today, a young man killed his mother and then went to Sandy Hook Elementary School where he killed 26 more people—20 of them children—before he killed himself. The last thing he did was to kill himself. During that three years, one child has died from gun violence every other day.

Almost 20 years ago, a local scoutmaster in a small Scottish school killed 16 children and their teacher before killing himself. The government took swift action to stop more mass shootings. Since then, there has been one “mass shooting” in which a man killed 12 people in various locations. Since 1996, the UK has had no school shootings; the U.S. has had 142 school shootings in the three years since Sandy Hook.

homicide rate chart

Satirist Andy Borowitz wrote:

“In what has become a tradition in the nation’s capital, the United States Congress on Monday notched the third anniversary of doing nothing in the aftermath of the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

“As on the first and second anniversaries of the tragedy, lawmakers took up no new measures to prevent future mass shootings in the United States, and instead chose to mark Newtown’s third anniversary with a day of inaction. In that respect, the third anniversary of Newtown resembles the thousand-plus days that came before it, during which Congress took no action on guns except to periodically vote down expanded background checks.”

Earlier this month, the NRA ordered the GOP senators to vote against an amendment to keep people on the no-fly list from buying guns. According to the FBI, 2,233 background checks for purchasing guns or explosives resulted in 190 denials. Attorney General John Ashcroft had ordered permission for people on the terrorist no-fly list to purchase guns after 9/11, and the order has not been repealed in the past 14 years, despite cries to stop foreign terrorists from killing.

The NRA ordered GOP senators to vote against closing loopholes in the federal background checks allowing unlicensed dealers to sell huge numbers of guns in private sales with no checks. An Al Qaeda video encourages jihadists to exploit these lax laws to attack people in the United States. The GOP senators voted according to the NRA orders, and suspected terrorists may buy as many guns as they wish.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) voted against the bills because people on the no-fly list might not be terrorists. That situation can be fixed; selling guns to terrorists can’t without a congressional vote.

Even with guns leaking over from states with more lax gun laws, states with background checks for all handgun sales have 52 percent fewer mass shootings than other states. There are “63 percent fewer mass shootings committed by people prohibited from possessing firearms in states that require background checks for all handgun sales than in those that do not,“ according to a study. In states with these background checks, 48 percent fewer law enforcement officers are killed with handguns.

fewer mass shootings

Another “nothing” action from the GOP is their refusal to re-fund research on gun violence. Almost two decades ago, former Rep. Jay Dickey (R-AR) introduced the NRA-authored legislation to ban the Centers for Disease Control from studying gun violence and ways to prevent it. Since then, the United States has seen about 2 million dead and injured people from gun violence. The year before the massacres at Sandy Hook and Aurora (CO), Congress extended the ban to the National Institutes of Health to keep it from researching a serious health issue.

Dickey now regrets what he did, calling it one of the biggest mistakes of his political office that ended in 2000:

“Research could have been continued on gun violence without infringing on the rights of gun owners, in the same fashion that the highway industry continued its research without eliminating the automobile.”

A coalition of over 2,000 physicians recently called on Congress to lift its ban on research, and nine medical associations urged Congress to overturn the Dickey Amendment. Dr. Alice Chen, executive director of Doctors for America, said, “Gun violence is a public health problem that kills 90 Americans a day.” Last month dozens of House Democrats called for renewal of federal research on gun violence, writing:

“We dedicate $240 million a year on traffic safety research, more than $233 million a year on food safety, and $331 million a year on the effects of tobacco, but almost nothing on firearms that kill 33,000 Americans annually.”

Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) has submitted a bill called the Gun Violence Research Act with the express purpose of “helping identify and treat those prone to committing mass shootings.” President Obama asked for $10 million for this research in each of his last two budgets. Both times, the GOP eliminated the request. The GOP Congress is also refusing to fund any research about gun violence that costs the United States a staggering $229 billion every year.

The GOP is actually taking some action regarding gun laws. Republicans have started a process to send more guns into Washington, DC, the only city that Congress completely controls. After the mass shootings in San Bernardino, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) sped up a bill to repeal gun restrictions in the nation’s capital by skipping over the committee process. Gun violence has increased in the city because lax gun laws in the state of Virginia allow a glut of guns in DC.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has introduced a bill to repeal Washington’s ban on semiautomatic guns, remove criminal penalties for unregistered firearms, repeal a gun-offender registry, revoke the federal ban on interstate handgun transfers, restore the right of self-defense in the home, and require D.C. to issue and honor concealed carry firearms permits for residents and non-residents. In addition, he wants guns allowed in “public, non-sensitive areas of federal property”—in the nation’s capital. Earlier this year, Rubio raised his NRA rating from a B+ to an A with a similar bill.

Concealed carry of guns is allowed in bars in 16 states, in churches in 25 states, and schools in 28 states. States have prohibited authorities from seizing guns during emergencies, moved to ban the use of taxpayer funding for government gun buyback programs, and banned the destruction of firearms seized by law enforcement. Some states have pre-empted local governments’ ability to pass stricter firearms laws. The year following Sandy Hook, 26 states passed 63 laws allowing people to more easily carry guns in public.  For example:

  • Kansas: Gun owners don’t need a licensed for carrying concealed weapons.
  • Texas: Permits will allow open carry in holsters and concealed weapons in college classrooms.
  • Arkansas: People can carry guns into polling places.
  • Georgia: People can carry guns in bars and churches. 
  • Wisconsin: People no longer have a 48-hour waiting period to buy guns.

Every widely-publicized mass shooting brings GOP members to their knees. They pray for the victims and survivors while following the NRA directives. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) wrote:

“Your ‘thoughts’ should be about steps to take to stop this carnage. Your ‘prayers’ should be for forgiveness if you do nothing–again.”

As NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said about guns, “I have no faith in the Congress of the United States.” The GOP goes farther than doing nothing: they kill people by their lack of action in a crisis of gun violence and proliferation of even more lax gun laws.

December 11, 2015

Gun Violence, Good for the Weapons Industry

Killings are great for the bottom line of weapons manufacturers, and representatives from major defense contractors made that clear this week at a conference in West Palm Beach. Lockheed Martin Executive Vice President Bruce Tanner praised the “indirect” benefits from a war in Syria, and part of his speech was widely shared on the Internet. According to Tanner, Middle East strife and conflict in Syria and Turkey will cause “an intangible lift because of the dynamics of that environment and our products in theater.” Wilson Jones, the president of the defense manufacturer Oshkosh, concurred about increased sales, and  Raytheon Chief Executive Tom Kennedy talked about the “significant uptick.” Another speaker at the conference predicted that ISIS’s active armed profile would lead to more marketing opportunities for US defense firms.

Another reason that contractors celebrated was the $607 billion budget from Congress for the Department of Defense. “Our programs are well supported [in the budget]. We think we did fare very well,” Tanner concluded. Very well, indeed, as did stock holders with weapons manufacturers.

U.S. dealers also profit from terrorism by selling weapons to the terrorists. For example, a M29 semi-automatic pistol has been traced to the Florida gun dealer Century Arms. They bought it from Zastava Arms, a Serbian arms manufacturer, that imports heavy weapons to U.S. dealers. Loopholes in U.S. lax gun laws allow gun dealers to import high-powered rifles “stripped of their military features” so that they can be sold as “sporting rifles.”  After arriving in the U.S., rifles can be modified back into assault rifles. Having restored the full killing power of the guns, dealers distribute them to civilians.

Century Arms is a primary importer of the WASR-10, a Romanian modified version of the AK-47 bought legally and smuggled into Mexico where drug cartels use them to spread terror and death. The dealer’s history goes back to its implication in the 1980s Iran Contra scandal when they “supplied rockets, grenades and other weapons to Nicaraguan rebels.”

With 31 percent of global arms exports from 2010 to 2014, the United States is number one in exporting hundreds of billions of dollars worth of military weaponry and equipment. At home, gun sales surged after the San Bernardino as NRA followers repeated the myth of a “good guy with a gun.” NRA collects money for each and every gun sold in the United States, and gun sales are breaking records. Gun production has more than doubled since President Obama was first elected as gun manufacturers and dealers kept spreading the falsehood that he would take away the guns.

Sales from just one company, Smith & Wesson, rose 15.2% to $124.9 million in the past three months and were up 32.1 percent since the same time period last year. Net income was $14.2 million, almost three times the $5.2 million that the company made during the same time period last year. The company’s stock climbed 125 percent in the past 12 months despite an ongoing SEC investigation into the company’s alleged corruption practices.

In response to this travesty, the New York Times published its December 5 editorial, “The Gun Epidemic,” on the front page above the fold for the first time since 1920. That editorial denounced the “cowardice and imbecility” of Warren Harding’s nomination. From the NYT editorial:

“It is a moral outrage and a national disgrace that civilians can legally purchase weapons designed specifically to kill people with brutal speed and efficiency. These are weapons of war, barely modified and deliberately marketed as tools of macho vigilantism and even insurrection. America’s elected leaders offer prayers for gun victims and then, callously and without fear of consequence, reject the most basic restrictions on weapons of mass killing, as they did on Thursday.”

Another NYT editorial this week attacked the gun industry’s “war profiteering”:

“Across recent decades, gun manufacturers, facing a decline in general gun ownership as demographics shifted and sports hunting faded, have cynically created a domestic market for barely altered rifles and pistols developed for the military. These are weapons designed for the rapid spray-shooting of multiple enemy soldiers in wartime, not homeland civilians living in peace.”

The term “military grade” is one that the NRA and gun “enthusiasts” criticize as a meaningless statement about guns meant for warfare. They try to use descriptions of stocks and barrel length to claim ignorance on the part of gun control advocates. Yet the gun industry itself markets these firearms as weapons of war.

“’As Close as You Can Get Without Enlisting,’ reads one tag line under a photo of a poised shooter aiming the civilian version of a military rifle. An ad for a semiautomatic shotgun promises security whether in ‘Iraq, Afghanistan, Your Livingroom.’ An ad for an armor-piercing handgun shows an embattled infantryman above the line: ‘Built For Them … Built For You.’”

New York Times bulletsPeople concerned about the lax U.S. gun laws question why civilians need to own guns “designed to pierce concrete bunkers and armored personnel carriers.” The guns flooding the U.S. are most useful for mass shootings. Not since the tobacco industry lied about the lethal effects of its product have corporations sold a product with the complete understanding of how many deaths would result from their product. The only answer to the necessity for “military grade” gun ownership is always “freedom” and “protection from tyranny,” but a more credible response would be the feeling of control over lesser individuals.

Showing the level of maturity in someone who most likely calls himself a “responsible gun owner,” Erick Erickson, conservative talk radio host and editor of RedState.com, shot holes in a copy of the New York Times. He also invited others to post photos of bullet holes in the editorial. Is it possible that he believes he can destroy an idea by shooting the paper that it’s printed on?

Making profits from gun violence has extended into the schools. These items for sale show the gun culture in a country that has almost no gun restrictions:blankets

  • Bulletproof blankets: The “Bodyguard™ blanket for school shooting is made of materials used by U.S. soldiers in battle.
  • backpacks
  • Bulletproof backpacks: Armored backpacks rose in sales after the massacre at Sandy Hook, and the number of manufactures has expanded since then.
  • Bulletproof classroom whiteboards: Schools are increasingly spending money on whiteboards that might give people hope.
  • Bulletproof clothing: Parents asked for “ballistic protection” because they are afraid of sending their children to school. The manufacturer is in Colombia but markets for the American market.
  • School shooting smartphone apps: This “panic button in the hands of every teacher and staff” alerts participating schools within a five-mile radius as well as “all participating law enforcement officers, on and off duty, who are in close proximity.”
  • Bulletproof baseball caps: Manufactures claim that the impact from a variety of calibers is “twice that of being hit in helmet with a hockey puck.”
  • School shooting-focused books: Goodreads lists 51 novels about school shootings, and nonfiction books include how-to guides.

For the parents, a bedside gun holster and a bulletproof Bible. (We might ask how safe any of these devices are–especially the “bedside gun holster.”)

bedside holster

No, this isn’t a parody, and no additional guns, including those in schools, won’t help. Only 3 percent of active shooter events were stopped by a civilian with a gun, according to a FBI analysis of these events between 2000 and 2013; unarmed civilians stopped over four times as many, about 13 percent. The higher the household gun ownership, the greater the number of homicides, according to studies. All weapons manufacturers and dealers are creating are more deaths.

December 5, 2015

‘Seasonal’ Facts about Guns in the U.S.

‘Tis the season for more mass shootings although they seem to fit into every season. Although conservatives cut off funding for tracking gun violence several years ago, Mass Tracker is watching the prevalence of mass shootings, defined as a single shooting which kills or injures four or more people, including the assailant.

The killing spree in San Bernardino was the 353th mass shooting in 2015 on the 336th day of the year. At least 20 days of 2015 had four or more mass shootings in a single day.

shooting calendar

Sixty-two of these 353 shootings were at schools, bringing the total to 161 in the three years since the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre on December 14, 2012.

Overall, 12,223 people have been killed in gun “incidents”—not counting suicides and “accidental shootings”–this year in the U.S. Another 24,722 people have been deliberately injured by guns.

The number of per capita gun murders in the US in 2012–the most recent year for comparable statistics–was almost 30 times that in the UK, at 2.9 per 100,000 compared with just 0.1. Of all the murders in the US in 2012, 60% were by firearm compared with 31% in Canada, 18.2% in Australia, and just 10% in the UK.

More people died from gunfire in the U.S. since 1968 than in all the wars fought by the U.S. The 1,516,863 gun-related deaths in that time period are nine percent more than the 1,396,733 million U.S. deaths in every conflict between the Revolutionary War and the Iraq war.

The number of deaths in mass shootings is up from last year, currently 447 people compared to the 383 people who died from gun violence in 2014. The number of injured has also gone up from 1,239 to 1,292—and the year isn’t over yet.

This year saw fewer days between mass shootings that killed at least four people. On average these occurred every 200 days between 1982 and 2011, increasing to 64 days.

At least half of the 12 deadliest shootings in the U.S. happened in the last eight years.

Five percent of the global population lives in the United States, but 31 percent of the world’s mass shootings occurs in this nation.

The U.S. has 4.4% of the world’s population, but 42% of civilian-owned guns.

States with stricter gun control laws have fewer deaths from gun-related violence, and areas with more guns have more homicides. States with the lowest death rates from firearms–Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, and Hawaii—are the same states with the most restrictive laws. Death rate of 2.6 per 100,000 residents in Massachusetts is almost eight times less than the death rate from gun violence in Alaska. Other states without gun restrictions—Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, and Wyoming—also have the highest number of gun deaths.

The United States spends more than a trillion dollars per year defending itself against terrorism which killed an average of 31 people a year between 2002 and 2011. During the same time, an average of 11,385 people died in the U.S. from gun “incidents” not related to suicides and “accidents.”

Australia took steps almost two decades ago to stem gun violence and now takes notice of the growing problem in the United States. Tim Fischer, former prime minister, is calling for travel warnings to the United States because of the increasing gun violence in the U.S. Australia’s firearm mortality rate is one per 100,000, ten times less that the U.S. statistic of 10 per 100,000.

A 1996 mass shooting in Australia that killed 35 people turned around the country’s gun legislation. The conservative-run government ran a mandatory buyback of 700,000 newly illegal guns and passed other laws controlling the purchase and ownership of guns and ammunition. People are prohibited from private sales, and each gun must be registered to its owner for a “genuine reason.” Self-defense is not one of those reasons. A person can be refused a license because of “reliable evidence of a mental or physical condition which would render the applicant unsuitable for owning, possessing or using a firearm.”  Gun license applicants are required to take a safety course before owning a gun. New measures banned the sale and possession of all automatic and semiautomatic rifles and pump shotguns as well as making storage and inspection requirements. Laws created a 28-day waiting period gun purchases and a national gun registry.

Results of change in legislation:

  • Intentional gun deaths dropped by half in the first decade while the population increased by 14 percent.
  • During the following 11 years, gun related homicides dropped 59 percent with no increase in any other homicide related deaths.
  • In 2013, the 200 gun-related deaths, a rate of .87 per 100,000 people, was almost one-third of the 2.71 deaths per 100,000 residents in 1996 before the laws took effect.
  • Suicides fell 65 percent.
  • In the homicide rate of 1.1 per 100,000 in 2012, only ten percent involved a gun—below 50 victims annually during the past decade. Adjusting by population, that would mean about 750 victims in the U.S. instead of the existing 12,223 thus far this year. The U.S. rate of homicides is about four times that of Australia at 4.5 per 100,000.
  • Robberies occur at half the rate of the U.S. (58 compared to our country’s 113.1 per 100,000 in 2012). There has been no increase in home invasion.

Before the new legislation, Australia had 11 mass shootings killing at least five people each in the prior ten years; since the laws were enacted, Australia has had not one mass shooting like those.

People opposing gun restrictions in the U.S. take pride in their rugged individualism. This philosophy, however, is very similar to the Australian culture that also expounds “freedom and liberty.” The conservative man behind the shift in gun laws, then Prime Minister John Howard, was a good friend of George W. Bush, but he spoke up after the mass shooting in Aurora (CO) which left 12 dead and 70 injured:

“The Second Amendment, crafted in the immediate post-revolutionary years, is more than 200 years old and was designed to protect the right of local communities to raise and maintain militia for use against external threats (including the newly formed national government!). It bears no relationship at all to the circumstances of everyday life in America today. Yet there is a near religious fervour about protecting the right of Americans to have their guns—and plenty of them. It remains to be seen … how much carnage a society is willing to take.”

Even President Ronald Reagan supported gun restrictions.

After a mass shooting in the UK killing 18 people, including 16 children, a conservative party member decided that they must “take this as a warning that we are becoming like America and act before it is too late.” Gun-related offenses had surged in the early 2000s, but new laws began seven years of successive drops in gun crimes.

People need guns to be safe, cry the NRA supporters. The victim did not use a gun for defense in 99.2% of violent crimes in a country with 357 million guns in civilian hands, a 50-percent increase in the past two decades. And that’s just a guess because the government is not allowed to keep records.

An Atlanta study of 198 cases of unwanted entry into occupied single-family dwellings found that the invader was twice as likely to obtain the victim’s gun than to have the victim use a firearm in self-defense.

Conservatives claim that they want to control killings by reforming mental illness. In Germany, people under 25 who want to buy a gun must pass a psychiatric evaluation. Conservatives claim that it’s too easy for criminals to get guns—and they are right because many criminals purchase guns. In Italy, people wanting to possess a gun must pass a background check considering both criminal and mental health records. Conservatives reject these laws.

Australia was may have been successful in reducing gun violence not only because of the change in the laws but also because of a shift in culture. When the people acted on their shock of the Port Arthur massacre, they removed the ready availability of guns, and mentally troubled people were not constantly told that guns are the best way to address any grievances, whether against other people, organizations, or the government.

The U.S. culture rewards the man who killed people at Planned Parenthood because of the constant attention to false videos. Even so-called Muslim terrorists are following the U.S. culture that keeps guns in order to overturn the U.S. government. If Christians believe this, why shouldn’t Muslims? People–mostly males and mostly white–parade their guns, not for safety but as a demonstration that their “freedom” is far more important than human lives.

Research shows that gun restrictions save lives. The Constitution places limits on all rights when they threaten others—religion doesn’t allow human sacrifice, and free speech doesn’t permit incitement, conspiracy, and libel. The Supreme Court has declared that government can put reasonable restrictions on gun ownership. In all other areas, people in the U.S. are willing to exchange “pure” freedom for safety; guy ownership should be no different.

July 17, 2015

Time to Protect People from Gun Violence

A couple of articles about guns caught my eye in yesterday morning’s newspaper. One was about a proposed sales tax on guns and ammunition in Seattle to pay for the costs of gun violence and research its prevention. The sales tax would follow one in Cook County (IL), and Seattle would be the second major U.S. city to help offset costs—more than $12 million paid by taxpayers for treating 253 gunshot victims at Harborview Medical Center in 2014.

The second article was about Texas gun owners afraid of Jade Helm 15, a routine military two-month exercise that started Wednesday in seven states with about 1,200 people from Texas to California. To extremists, however, it’s a ploy by the U.S. to take over Texas, one of the “united states.” (Personally, I don’t understand why they would think the U.S. wants Texas.) The New York Times reported an interview with a woman who owns a hair salon in Christoval (TX). About the “conspiracy-theory-type people,” she said, “All they’re worried about is their beer and their guns.” That may describe most of the extremists down there.

The state governor, Greg Abbott, ordered the Texas Guard to “monitor” the exercises after Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) checked on a possible takeover with Pentagon officials and a three-star Air Force general. As recently as mid-May, one-third of the Republicans believed that “the government is trying to take over Texas.” Abbott’s Texas Guard has help from Counter Jade Helm Operation, civilian watchdogs who plan to observe and report military activity every day as they search for suspicious activity. The director tried to explain that “we are not the radical extreme groups.”  I would still check them out to see if they’re wearing tin-foil hats.When the exercises peacefully end in September, conservatives will pat themselves on the back for having prevented President Obama’s dastardly martial law.

The big story about guns yesterday, however, was the murder of four Marines at two military facilities, a recruitment center and a Naval and Marine reserve center, in and near Chattanooga (TN) followed by the death of the shooter.  The right-wing bloggers are in full glory about the tragedy, blaming it on the facilities being designated as “gun free zone” and the shooter being an immigrant to the United States. Nothing was said on right-wing blogs, however, about yesterday’s news that a Colorado jury found James E. Holmes guilty of 165 counts of murder and attempted murder for the mass shooting in an Aurora movie theater almost exactly three years ago. Born in the United States, Holmes was a graduate student at the University of Colorado.

Killing the children in Newtown (CT) seems acceptable to many people in the United States—especially conservative members of Congress—and the deaths of nine people in a Charleston (SC) church inflamed a debate about the Confederate flag which the right-wing supports. The question is whether people will be upset enough about the death of four Marines to allow the “politicization” of change in gun laws.

The editorial board of the conservative USA Today stated, “The guilty verdicts in the James Holmes murder trial and a Tennessee shooting re-enforce the need to tighten gun laws in order to keep deadly weapons out of the hands of those who pose a danger to society.” It pointed out that the number of mass shootings is almost tripling, and laws need to do something about this increase. Without any congressional action, President Obama could tighten gun sense protection through executive orders:

Help prosecutors go after black-market gun sellers: Although it is a federal crime to “engage in the business” of selling firearms without a license, the definition is too fuzzy to shut down most unlicensed dealers who flood the black market with guns that go to criminals. Only 18 states, recently including Oregon, require private sellers to run background checks on handgun sales.

Require the FBI to inform local law enforcement when someone fails a background check: Telling local law enforcement about people trying to buy guns who aren’t allowed to do so could raise red flags about potential crimes. For example, a man trying to buy a gun after a woman takes out a restraining order against him is committing a crime. Passing along that information could save the woman’s life.

Penalize states that fail to report to NICS in a timely manner: Many states are “irresponsibly slow” in reporting people barred from buying guns to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Withholding grant funds to states failing to report in a timely fashion could encourage a faster response.

Differentiate between private gun sales and licensed dealer sales: The FBI does not ask whether a sale is private or through a licensed dealer when a seller calls NICS for a background check. Better information would determine the success of stopping sales to people not allowed to buy guns from private individuals.

Prohibit dealers who lose their licenses from selling off stock through private sales: In 2006, DOJ allowed gun dealers who lose their licenses for violating gun sale regulations to sell their stock privately without background checks. A revision of the rule requiring the leftover inventory to be sold to another licensed dealer would remove the advantage of people who have already proved that they have acted illegally and irresponsibly. For example, a Baltimore dealer with more than 900 infractions of federal regulations was allowed to sell the remaining 700 guns with no background checks.

A study from Harvard University has shown the importance of these changes—and even more stringent gun sense laws. More guns equal more crime, including more firearm robberies, firearm assaults, and homicides by firearms. The rate of all homicides is two times higher in states with the highest number of gun owners. The new study compliments a 2013 study that increased gun ownership corresponds to an overall increased rate of non stranger homicides. A 2014 Boston University study shows that the overall homicide rate increases 0.7 percent for every one percent increase in gun ownership.

States with the highest numbers of gun owners had 6.8 times more firearm assaults than states with the lowest numbers of gun owners. Firearm homicides were 2.8 times higher. Additionally, the rate of firearm robberies was found to increase, point by point, in correlation to an increase in gun ownership. The theory that people are safer by buying more guns is wrong. Increased gun ownership preceded the increased crime rate, indicating that increased gun ownership leads to more crime.

The new study is one of many that show a correlation in recent years between increased gun ownership and increased crime rates. Last year a Stanford University study revealed that relaxed gun laws led to an increase in crime, instead of a decrease, in spite of NRA predictions that the opposite would happen. NRA focuses on just one study, conducted before the organization succeeded in deregulating firearms in large parts o the United States and at the same time that the NRA convinced Congress to cut off any funding for more research on the impact of these lax gun laws. The study negates the theory expressed on a right-wing blog that “the U.S. is just experiencing a run of phenomenal bad luck.”

On a day-to-day basis, people with guns in the United States are the greatest threat to other people in the U.S.—greater than Russia, China, North Korea, and ISIS, the threats listed by General Joseph Dunford, President Obama’s nominee to be the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.Every day 30+ people are murdered with guns in the United States. The five youth killed each day by gun violence is 11 times more than any other “high income” nation. The 33,636 killed by gun violence in this country in 2013 is more than the number killed by terrorists in the last 14 years, including 9/11. Only 48 have been killed since then by terrorism. Of these deaths from gun violence, about 20,000 are from suicide—fatal 85 percent of the time in contrast to the 3-percent fatality rate from pills.

Republicans reluctant to link themselves with gun sense laws include the presidential candidates. For example, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has failed to say whether he will to sign a bill, passed three weeks ago, to reduce gun possession by domestic abusers. After the woman’s death that moved the bill out of committee, Christie created a commission the night before he announced his campaign for president to determine if any state gun laws “infringe on New Jerseyans’ constitutional rights” and require modification. Gun groups oppose laws that bar suspected domestic abusers, abusers under protective orders, or convicted stalkers from owning guns. The proposed law would attempt to ensure that the subject of a restraining order actually surrenders his or her guns.

Republicans responded to the woman’s death with a bill to expedite the gun permitting process for victims of domestic abuse. A California shows that the percentage of women who purchased a handgun before being killed jumped to 45 percent from the 20 percent of women shot to death by an intimate partner.Christie supported the state’s tough gun laws until he considered a run for president when he vetoed the .50 caliber rifle ban in 2013.

The United States has a special department to protect people from terrorism but no department to protect people from gun violence. It’s time for an agency to coordinate efforts to keep the people within the United States safe from the clear and present danger from guns.

April 9, 2015

The One Place Where the NRA Bans Guns

Filed under: Guns — trp2011 @ 8:35 PM
Tags: , , ,

Just when it appeared that the NRA thought no place was off limits to guns, the ammosexuals have one location off limits to guns. The NRA wants guns in churches, elementary schools, bars, libraries, state capitols—you name it, they want it. Where doesn’t Wayne LaPierre’s bunch want guns? The 144th NRA convention!

Located in Nashville (TN) this coming weekend, the annual meeting is expected to have 70,000 people and nine acres—count them, nine acres!—of guns exhibited by 555 people showing off Smith & Wessons, Berettas, Remingtons, etc. The NRA leadership understands how crazy their constituents are: they ordered that exhibitors remove the firing pins from all their guns in these nine acres. But whatever happened to the idea that guns are vital for safety? Somebody could show up on the nine acres with an operational gun and take out all those people standing next to guns with no firing pins.

The same people who fight every background check in the nation directed guns sold during the convention to be picked up at a Federal Firearms License dealer, probably near the buyer’s home. Sales—ready for this?—require a legal identification. This from the group terrified that any background check or identification for gun sales will result in a federal list of gun owners. Whatever happened to the idea that guns are vital for safety? Who will stop the bad guy? And with all those guns being tossed around, how can security identify the “bad guy”?

The NRA is banning guns at its concert to protect country music artist Alan Jackson and comedian Jeff Foxworthy. The rest of the people are expendable, including most of the GOP wannabe presidential candidates: Bobby Jindal, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Mike Pence (who will wish in vain after the Indiana fiasco), Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, Lindsey Graham, Sarah Palin, and Donald Trump.  Only Chris Christie and already-declared Rand Paul won’t be there because, as the NRA explained, they couldn’t invite everyone. A disaster could eliminate 85 percent of the 2016 GOP presidential field.

Excited about 70,000 people with guns—some of them without firing pins—descending on their fair city with lots of money, Tennessee legislators decided to pass some laws as a payback. One attempted gift was to repeal a 2009 state law allowing local officials to ban guns in parks. (State legislatures that demand states’ rights always want the rights to stay at the state level and not let municipalities benefit from the philosophy of local rule.) The bill did allow local parks to leave up their “no guns allowed” signs. Gun toters could carry guns—with or without pins—into parks while the signs banning guns there could stay. State Rep. Mike Harrison (R) thought the measure would be hospitable to people who come to Nashville for the NRA convention this week.

The bill hit a bad snag in the state senate after Sen. Jeff Yarbro (D) introduced an amendment permitting guns to be legally carried in the state capitol. The Senate passed the measure with that amendment, but the House rejected it, tossing the bill with the amendment back into the Senate. It’s a serious case of “not in my backyard” syndrome. The legislature wanted to have the bill operational as a law for the upcoming weekend, but Gov. Bill Haslam (R) may not rush to sign it even if it gets passed: he wasn’t invited to speak at the NRA convention.

Not everyone is bending over backward for the NRA convention. Haslam also told eight highway patrol officers that they couldn’t provide security for the event in their off hours because the use of their patrol cars would cost too much. Off-duty Nashville officers are getting paid about $200,000 for the security.

Haslam did sign a bill allowing workers to sue employers if they are fired for storing guns in cars parked on company lots, despite their employers’ wishes. The Tennessee Chamber of Commerce had opposed the bill.

ramboAmmosexuals have taken to openly carrying military-style firearms near schools, causing terror within the school and excessive expenditures in calling the police to see if this is a “bad guy.” Leonard Embody, known as the “Radnor Lake Rambo,” prone to passing his personal message about the Second Amendment, upset his community when he walked around with AR-15’s and swords. State officials showed a modicum of sanity in 2013 when they revoked his carry permit and deemed him a “material likelihood of risk of harm to the public.” (He did keep his Federal Firearms License, allowing him to sell fully automatic weapons; he just can’t carry real guns.)

In an attempt to solve the problem but keep the NRA happy, the legislature passed a law banning “an explosive weapon, permanently disabled firearm, hoax device, imitation firearm, machete, or sword” within 150 feet of a school.  State House GOP spokesman Cade Cothren assured people that real guns don’t fall under the definition of “explosive weapon.” He also claimed that the schools were protected by the federal “Guns Free School Zones” act, making it illegal for anyone who doesn’t have a permit from taking a gun within 1,000 feet of a school. People with permits, however have no restriction on how close they can get to schools with firearms. Harrison said that the law will stop the Embody’s demonstrations. It just doesn’t stop people carrying real guns near schools.

The people who will attend the gun-free concert and shop for guns with no firing pins as mandated by the NRA are the same people who believe that the Second Amendment allows open carry everywhere. That includes restaurants and outside schools where they terrify people. They’re the same people who protest and threaten boycotts when they’re asked to leave their AR-15’s in their vehicles.

gun open carry The NRA has banned guns at its earlier conventions. Last year in Indianapolis, they couldn’t carry in Lucas Oil Stadium, and Charlotte (NC) restricted concealed carry at the entire 2010 convention. NRA member Dan Utz, who says that he tries to never go anyplace where he can’t carry his gun now says that he may have to break his rule. He did grumble, however:

“I paid for the tickets and they’re non-refundable, so I will probably go. Had I known before, I can’t say for sure that I wouldn’t have, but I would have strongly considered not [going].”

Utz is most likely not staying at the Courtyard Marriott or Sheraton; both Nashville hotels ban guns, even with permits.

Here are some other places displaying gun sense:

  • Washington: Last November, state voters approved an expanded background checks initiative, and the legislature passed another measure to begin protecting women from domestic violence.
  • Oregon: Senate Bill 941, requiring expanded background checks among gun buyers, passed a Senate committee and moved to the floor for a vote.
  • Arizona: Four dangerous, NRA-backed billed died in the Arizona state legislature. Among them was one bill that would have let people carry concealed, loaded guns into government buildings and public sporting events, and another one which would have unconstitutionally nullified federal gun laws as they apply to Arizona.
  • Iowa: The Iowa Senate rejected an omnibus gun bill weakening the gun permitting process and eliminating background checks on private handgun sales.
  • Virginia: Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe vetoed three gun bills, including two that would make it easier for individuals to carry concealed weapons in public.
  • West Virginia: Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin vetoed a bill eliminating the permit requirement for concealed carry and any mandated gun safety training courses.
  • Montana: Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock bills that would allow almost any adult to carry a concealed weapon in Montana without a permit and that would stop Montana officials from enforcing federal laws on gun magazine ownership.
  • North Dakota: The state defeated a House measure that would allow concealed-carry permit holders to take guns to schools.
  • Michigan: Ann Arbor Public Schools has pledged to ban all guns from school property, even if the action prompts a lawsuit by open carry advocates.

Six states enacted new laws to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers in 2014, and another dozen states are considering similar legislation this year.

Customers at a new “gun store” on the Lower East Side of New York City are changing their minds about buying guns. As they shop, clerks tell them about all the people that the type of firearm has killed—a nine-month-old killed by his five-year-old brother, the 20 children at Sandy Hook killed by Adam Lanza, a gun instructor killed by his nine-year-old student, 12 people in an Aurora (CO) theater killed by James Holmes, etc. One woman said, “My opinion has definitely changed. I don’t feel safe with a gun.”

If the NRA doesn’t want guns at its convention and the legislature doesn’t want guns in their chambers, it’s probably a good idea for everyone else.

 

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