Nel's New Day

June 14, 2016

Toxic Masculinity Leads to Killings from Guns

Filed under: Guns — trp2011 @ 10:50 PM
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We could never get to the moon. We could not possibly do away with (fill in the name of a disease). We could never build highways across the United States. Planes will never fly. These are some of the statements proved false during the past century. Why, then, do we think that we can’t do away with gun violence? The reason comes from the disease of toxic masculinity controlling gun laws.

Guns are “manly.” Yes, the killer in the recent Orlando shooting suffered from internalized homophobia and he may have tried to blame his action on his religion. But he also loved his guns, having two different concealed carry licenses. The FBI investigated him in 2013 after he made threats to a coworker, and before that he physically abused his wife. He was so controlling that her father had to rescue her. His job at the private security firm, G4S, allowed him to be controlling and dominant. The company is known to be abusive to immigrants, children, and other inmates.

Mention toxic masculinity, and some men whine about feminists condemning all men. Amanda Marcotte explains that the term “toxic” changes the definition of masculinity. She writes:

“It’s a manhood that views women and LGBT people as inferior, sees sex as an act not of affection but domination, and which valorizes violence as the way to prove one’s self to the world.”

Conservatives push disasters like the Orlando shooting as done by either a crazy person or a “radicalized” Muslim. They ignore the self-appointed heavily-armed militia that took over public land in Oregon  and the head of a self-appointed Arizona border patrol who molested five- and six-year-old girls as well as the men who attack and kill people at abortion clinics.

Men suffering from toxic masculinity are terrified of appearing tender or soft—being less than “manly.” The far-right white conservatives, concerned that they might be emasculated by a lack of racist beliefs, developed the term “cuckservative” for anyone who thinks that non-white, non-heterosexual people have the right to live in the United States. “Manly” men aren’t worried about Muslims killing people in the United States; they worry about them—and all other people not in their “manly” group of forming the majority of the population.

Toxic masculinity ends up with a man killing his family because it’s the only way he can control them, to show that he has power over them. And thanks to legislatures controlled by the “manly” men, they have the military weapons to carry out the murders. They argue that they need guns to “protect” themselves, but the “manly” George Zimmerman didn’t need his gun for protection. He stalked Trayvon Martin despite the police telling him not to do it and executed a 17-year-old boy. That’s toxic masculinity.

Just one or two guns for defense isn’t enough. They stockpile more and more of them, taking pride in how much control they give them. And toxic masculinity demands that the guns be capable of shooting 100 or more people. “Manly” men develop an attachment to their guns. They sit and stroke them–and sometimes shoot themselves in the process. Any imagined threat that they can’t buy as many as they want sends them into hysterics. Just thinking about LGBT people sends these “manly” men into more fear and hysteria because they compare non-heterosexual people to be feminine.

The more fear that “manly” men experience, the more they threaten others—sometimes carrying out their threats. Donald Trump is an example of toxic masculinity, shouting for “toughness” and calling for his supporters to beat up protesters. His only strategies are to bomb the enemy—whoever they are—and keep people who don’t look like him out of the country. And to make sure that everyone has enough guns to keep killing innocent people.

The “manly” gun-lovers complain about the gay bar in Orlando being a “gun-free” zone because Florida law doesn’t allow guns in bars. An off-duty police officer hired as armed security at Pulse tried to stop the killer but failed to succeed against the military weapon that the killer brought with him. There was “a good guy with a gun,” that miracle that gun-lovers call for, and the “solution” failed.

“Manly” men say that mass shootings are not that common so there should be unlimited ownership of guns. They’re wrong, and between 2009 and 2012, 40 percent of mass shootings started with a shooter targeting his girlfriend, wife, or ex-wife. Just last year almost one-third of mass shooting deaths was related in some way to domestic violence. The majority of mass shootings in this country take place inside the home where men target the women and children in their intimate life.

Male entitlement makes “manly” men think that violence and coercion are part of romantic relationships. If abusive men were blocked from obtaining guns, the number of killings could shrink. The Orlando killer abused his wife and threatened co-workers–and still got concealed carry permits.

Other shootings from “toxic masculinity”:

Mainak Sarkar killed a professor at UCLA earlier this month. Before his trip to California where he also planned to kill another professor, he climbed through a window to kill his estranged wife in Minnesota.

Cedric Larry Ford killed three co-workers at Excel Industries in Hesston (KS) last February after he was issued a restraining order by someone he had abused. Women in past romantic relationships were afraid of Ford, and one said that he tried to strangle her.

John Russell Houser killed two people in a Lafayette (LA) movie theater last July after his family had talked about his violent behavior. His wife had gotten a temporary protective order against him in 2008.

Robert Lewis Dear killed three people at a Planned Parenthood last fall after a long history of preying on women. Dear’s wife said he pushed her out a window in 1997, and a neighbor took out a restraining order in 2002 after he made “unwanted advances.”

Syed Rizwan Farook, who killed fourteen people in San Bernardino (CA) last December, grew up in a violent home where his father abused his mother.

Elliot Rodger killed six people in Santa Barbara (CA) in a rampage because he claimed that women romantically rejected him. He perceived his virginal state as the fault of women and pledged to “slaughter every spoiled, stuck-up, blond slut I see” inside the “hottest sorority house of UCSB.”

Cho Seung-Huim killed 32 people at Virginia Tech in the second worst mass shooting in U.S. history. Two women had complained that he was stalking them, and Cho left behind a “rambling note raging against women.”

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Florida has some of the nation’s laxest gun laws in its support of NRA’s crusade of guns everywhere:

  • No waiting period except for a handgun.
  • No background check for the sale of weapons between two private parties.
  • No state permit requirement to sell guns.
  • No license requirement for gun ownership.
  • No registration for guns.
  • No regulation on the sales of assault weapons, 50 caliber rifles, or large capacity ammunition magazines.
  • No limit to the number of guns a person can buy at one time.

The state’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services issues concealed carry licenses for applicants who meet basic qualifications.

After two days of silence after the Orlando shooting, NRA broke its silence with “Gun laws don’t deter terrorists” in Rupert Murdoch’s publication USA Today. Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action misrepresented statements from the president, skipped over the common use of the AR-15 assault weapon for mass shooting, and blamed Islamic extremists. Like other conservatives, Cox accused the Obama administration’s “political correctness” for the shooting.

The NRA promotes toxic masculinity through its crusade to put multiple guns in every home:

  • Opposition to background checks;
  • Support for restoration of gun rights to convicted felons;
  • Protecting the arsenals and gun rights of domestic abusers;
  • Making it harder for courts to review—and uphold—gun laws.

As conservatives and their leader, Donald Trump, continue to push toxic masculinity, “manly” men will push their agenda through the NRA, more guns will be sold, and more people will die. If we can go to the moon, cure diseases, build highways, and fly huge plane, we can stop gun violence.

June 13, 2016

Orlando Aftermath: Lots of GOP Talk, No Action

Filed under: Guns — trp2011 @ 8:56 PM
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As the people in the United States try to cope with the killing of 49 people in an Orlando gay bar early yesterday morning, the craziness of a polarized country goes on. President Obama “has become the greatest terrorist hunter in the history of the presidency,” according the nonliberal Jeffrey Goldberg, but Donald Trump is calling for the president’s resignation “in disgrace” if the president doesn’t use the words “radical Islamic terrorism.” Conservatives fail to remember that the presidential position that “we ought to avoid the language of religion” goes back to George W. Bush’s “Counterterrorism Communication” guidelines. They’s just happy attacking all Muslims–and of course, they think that President Obama is one.

Donald Trump’s drive for attention led to his making increasingly insane comments during the past 36 hours. He started out yesterday by patting himself on the back in wanting to ban Muslims from the United States and by this morning insinuated that the president may be colluding with terrorists. “There’s something going on. It’s inconceivable,” he said in Trumpese. As Politico’s Blake Hounshell summarized, “This morning, Trump implied President Obama is a terrorist sympathizer.” Politico’s Jake Sherman added, “The Republican Party’s nominee for president seems to be saying it’s possible the POTUS is in cahoots with terrorists.”

In this case, Trump isn’t the only Republican to criticize for the belief. Within the past few weeks, GOP leaders have started falling in line behind their presumptive presidential candidate. As Michael Gerson wrote, “Since Trump now owns [Republican leaders], they now own his prejudice.”

Trump is not alone in stupidity; he has lots of company in Congress. Whether the killer has ever been on a terrorist watch list is still in question, but, thanks to the GOP, being on this list would not prevent him from legally buying a gun. Although people on the list are not legally permitted to purchase plane tickets in the U.S., they can legally purchase guns, including the assault rifle that the killer used. Last December, Republicans defeated a measure to prohibit those on the terrorist watch list from legally purchasing guns. Senate Republicans up for reelection this year—including vulnerable candidates Kelly Ayotte (NH), Ron Johnson (WI), Pat Toomey (PA), and Rob Portman (OH)—voted with the NRA to gun rights for the suspected terrorists’ gun rights.

Florida’s Marco Rubio, whose term is up and who may be running again although he promised not to do so—has strongly argued that guns had nothing to do with the killings. It was the ideology. The man who said that he hated being in the Senate and rarely showed up for votes indicated that the Orlando shooting may have inspired him to run. Hugh Hewitt urged Rubio to run, citing his “foreign policy” knowledge. That must include his opposition to opening trade with Cuba and his determination to destroy any agreement with Iran. Rubio’s foreign policy is very scary.

Terrorists are well aware that the United States is a candy store of guns for them. For at least five years, they have encouraged their followers to purchase assault-style weapons and shoot people in the United States made easy with the extremely lax gun laws in many of the nation’s states. An al Qaeda spokesperson said in that 2011 video:

 “America is absolutely awash with easily obtainable firearms. You can go down to a gun show at the local convention center and come away with a fully automatic assault rifle, without a background check, and most likely without having to show an identification card. So what are you waiting for?”

From 2002 to 2014, 85 percent of people killed by terrorists in the U.S. were killed from guns. Every terrorist attack in the U.S. last year when someone other than the perpetrator was killed involved guns. Building a bomb isn’t easy, and hijacking airplanes has become almost impossible, but accessing guns is quite simple, thanks the GOP support for terrorists purchasing guns. Yesterday, Santa Monica (CA) police stopped a white man from Indiana, who had an NRA symbol on his license plate, on his way to a gay pride parade with “assault rifles, high-capacity magazines, ammunition and chemicals used to make explosives” in his car. Nothing was said, however, about his ideology.

Always direct with its covers, the NY Daily News has one placing the blame for the Orlando shootings square on the NRA. The organization makes millions and millions of dollars from the gun manufacturing industry and then uses the money to lobby legislatures for more lax gun laws that will allow the industry to sell more and more guns. The marketing strategy is brilliant: when men aren’t buying enough guns, advertising is directed to women. When that market seems saturated, guns sales for small children are pushed. Not one person can figure out a reason why private individuals have a need to own an assault-style weapon other than to kill as many people as possible in as short of a time as possible–but the U.S. lets them buy these military weapons.

Daily News cover

Ted Cruz may be the only Republican leader who openly recognized that the killer targeted the LGBT community. His purpose in doing so, however, was to call on Democrats “to speak out against an ideology that calls for the murder of gays and lesbians.” He defined the killers as members of “ISIS and the theocracy in Iran (supported with American taxpayer dollars).” In other words, he wants the Democrats to join the Republicans in banning all Muslims—and probably other immigrants—from the United States.

Aside from the fact that the U.S. does not send “taxpayer dollars” to Iran, Cruz ignores the Christian ideology that promotes the execution of gays. At least one of these Christian leaders who wants to kill gays is Cruz’s colleague, Kevin Swanson, who spoke immediately before Cruz in Des Moines (IA) where Swanson hosted a “National Religious Liberties Conference.” Swanson did say that homosexuals should not be sentenced with a death penalty until they’ve had time to repent.

Speakers at the same conference were other Christian supporters for killing gays–Phillip G Kayser, pastor of Dominion Covenant Church in Nebraska, and Joel McDurmon, president of the Christian Reconstructionist organization American Vision. McDurmon criticized Uganda for backing off the death penalty in its anti-LGBT legislation.  Rafael Cruz, Ted’s father and a strong campaigner for Ted’s presidential candidate, is a preacher in the Dominion Church. Ted Cruz follows many of that church’s beliefs.

Congress called today for a moment of silence regarding the killings. That’s what they do best—silence in adversity. My hero for the day is Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT) who refused to participate in today’s moment of silence and walked off the House floor after calling them “obnoxious expressions of smug incompetence.”

In an interview with Slate, Himes said:

“’Thoughts and prayers’ are three words that cost you nothing. I’m sick of it. Show some courage. There’s an array of pathetic arguments with the ideologues you hear, that we can’t ever end gun violence. That’s true. We’re not going to end polio or cancer, either, but we can take some huge strides.”

After Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) held the pro forma moment of silence, Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) tried to ask the Speaker when he would consider bills curbing gun use. Before he finished, Ryan ruled his question out of order and directed the House to move to the next vote. Democrats responded by shouting, “Where’s the bill?” Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told reporters Democrats have “had enough” of moments of silence after mass shootings when Congress does not act to tighten gun laws.

People talk and write a great deal about the killer being “radicalized.” This may be true. But what is the term for Christians who kill? Will we ever talk about Christians who want to kill innocent people being “radicalized”? If Christians kill innocent people, can we call it “domestic terrorism”? Or “radical Christian terrorism”? And will there ever be enough brave people to stand up and say that the killings couldn’t happen without guns?

June 12, 2016

LGBT Hate Crime in Orlando Kills At Least 50, Injures More Than Another 50

Over 100 people were shot and at least 50 of them are dead in a mass shooting early this morning at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando (FLA), a popular gay bar. Omar Mateen, the man responsible for the largest mass shooting in the United States, was killed after three hours when a SWAT team swarmed into the bar. Mateen was armed with ammunition, a handgun, and an AR-15-type assault-style rifle, the civilian variant of the military M-16 rifle, according to Orlando Police Chief John Mina. The firearms were legally purchased, and the killer had active security officer and firearm licenses. His family said he worked as a private security officer.

Mateen’s father said that “this had nothing to do with religion,” but his son became very angry when he saw two men kissing in Miami. The man’s ex-wife said that he was unstable and had violent tendencies. She said that he was abusive and beat her repeatedly during their marriage. He had given her no indications that he was devoted to radical Islam.

Stuart Milk, nephew of Harvey Milk and co-founder of the Harvey Milk Foundation, issued this statement in response:

“Last night, the worst domestic terror attack since 911 has tragically hit American LGBT families head on—children, moms, dads, neighbors, friends—lives that are changed forever. In the days ahead we will come to know the latest victims of hatred—mostly young men and women who were simply out for a night of dancing and enjoyment of our community during LGBT Pride month. These victims of a hate crime targeting an LGBT club had their futures stolen, had their dreams stolen, their potential contributions stolen from us all.

“The LGBT Orlando community and our allies in Central Florida are both strong and unified. We send a world of love and prayers to all who are grieving today and to all who will begin the hard journey to recover from untold wounds, both physical and emotional. But our love and prayers are simply not enough. Hate and separation continue to bring forth too much grief, too many stolen lives across the whole world.

“As we reach out to comfort the Orlando families, and as we support the courage for the injured to heal, may we also have the strength to address and deal with the roots of hatred and separation that target any minority community with violence, anywhere in the world. May we find a way forward to make this act of horrendous violence a commitment to come together and so honor the memories of those who were killed today.”

Color of Change Executive Director Rashad Robinson stated:

“Spaces like Pulse aren’t just bars and clubs. They are a lifeline to many LGBTQ people —a place to be free and open. Falling almost exactly one year after the shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, this tragedy is a reminder of all the ways that hate, intolerance and violence show up. As we seek to make sense of this tragedy and so many others, we do so focused on building a culture of inclusion, respect, liberation and love.”

Barbara Poma, co-owner of Pulse, founded the club to honor her brother who died of AIDS in 1991 and to support the LGBT community. She and her business partner, Ron Legler, survived the shooting. The night before this horrific killing, a St. Petersburg man shot and killed 22-year-old Christina Gimmie, while she was signing autographs after her show at The Plaza Live theater. She had won third place on NBC’s The Voice on Season 6.

President Obama called this “an act of terror and an act of hate.” He said:

“This is an especially heartbreaking day for all of our friends, our fellow Americans, who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. The shooter targeted a night club where people came together to be with friends, to dance and to sing, and to live. The place where they were attacked is more than a night club, it is a place of solidarity and empowerment, where people have come together to raise awareness, to speak their minds, and to advocate for their civil rights. So this is a sobering reminder that attacks on any American, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation, is an attack on all of us, and on the fundamental values of equality and dignity that define us as a country.”

Calls have gone out for blood donors, but men who have had sex with other men in the past year are prevented from donating, according to FDA guidelines. This policy is greatly softened since the first policy banning gay donors was adopted in 1983, but Orlando clinics are still following the 23-year-old protocols. Current tests can sense antibodies that develop within two weeks of infection, reducing the risk of receiving HIV to about 1 in 2 million, but rules for donating blood ignore this science. Other high-risk populations such as illegal drug users and prostitutes have no limits in donating blood.

In its typical hate-filled rhetoric, Fox network hosts blamed President Obama because he had made the country less safe. Donald Trump tweeted, “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism.” Immediately after blaming “the immigrants” for the massacre, Trump said, “I am going to be a President for all Americans.” (Mateen was a U.S. citizen.) Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick posted Galatians 6:7 on Twitter: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” Other Republicans who voted for unlimited ownership of guns and against LGBT rights are sending the customary “thoughts and prayers” to the victims.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said, “Anyone who attacks our LGBT community will be gone after with the fullest extent of the law.” In Florida, that usually means the law is only for straight white men. If Mateen were still alive, he might be able to use the defense that LGBT people threaten him.

The report that Mateen pledged allegiance to ISIS has received more attention than the fact that this tragedy is a hate crime. If one self-identified Muslim kills, it’s an act that conservatives call radical Islamic terrorism so that they can push their narrow, bigoted agenda. If one self-identified Christian kills, as in the murder of three people at a Colorado abortion clinic, they think that it has nothing to do with Christianity. To conservatives, it is the act of a mentally unbalanced person. Nowhere has the mainstream media published the fact that people in the United States are much more likely to be killed by right-wing extremists, many of them self-identified Christians, than by Muslims.

Some Christian leaders call for killing all “homosexuals”; three GOP presidential candidates attended a conference this past year where the leader called for these “executions.” A Christian lawyer in California has proposed killing LGBT people with bullets to the head. More than that, he proposes that citizens should not have to face any charges if they LGBT people.  Franklin Graham, Billy Graham’s son, calls gay Christians “the enemy.” As hate crime rates against all other segments of the population go down, hate crimes against LGBT people increase. And until this morning, these crimes were not by Muslims.

Conservative leaders, such as Ted Cruz, call for an end to “political correctness” and the restriction of “immigrants.” They are enraged because the 9th Circuit Court has ruled in favor of the California law banning concealed weapons outside the home and the 2nd Circuit Court ruled in favor of a Connecticut law that bans assault-type weapons and large magazines of weapons. Blame ISIS, they cry, while ignoring the two other largest gun massacres, one in Newton (CT) where 29 people were left dead and the other at Virginia Tech University that left 33 dead.

This Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court may hear an appeal to the decision from the 2nd Circuit Court about whether to hear Shew v. Malloy or put off that determination for another week or two. The 2nd Circuit Court had upheld a law that bans assault-type weapons and large ammunition magazines. In his decision that the Connecticut law does not violate the constitution’s Second Amendment, U.S. Circuit Judge José A. Cabranes wrote:

“New York and Connecticut have adequately established a substantial relationship between the prohibition of both semiautomatic assault weapons and large capacity magazines and the important — indeed compelling — state interest in controlling crime.”

I want two things. The next time a self-identified Christian kills someone, I want it announced that a Christian performed the crime. And I want controls on gun ownership. And yes, I’m not going to get either wish.

[Update: Florida Gov. Rick Snyder has refused to recognize that killing and injuring over 100 people in a gay bar is a hate crime.

Statement from Terry O’Neill, NOW president:

We cannot say that we live in a free society when LGBTQIA people have to always wonder if horrific violence is just around the corner, or creeping up in the rearview mirror. Hate crimes against this community haven’t disappeared just because courts, political leaders and businesses now support expanded rights. We must remain vigilant against the threat of violence, but we must also speak out against a climate of bigotry and hatred that rejects or devalues LGBTQIA rights.

 

 

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
Tags: , , , , , ,

“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.

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