Nel's New Day

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had ordered permission for people on the terrorist no-fly list to purchase guns after 9/11, and the order has not been repealed in the past 14 years, despite cries to stop foreign terrorists from killing.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.

July 30, 2014

Close Loopholes in Abusers’ Gun Ownership

The first-ever hearing on the connection between gun policy and domestic violence in the Senate Judiciary Committee occurred today as members of a witness panel discussed ways to close the loopholes in current federal law. Passing additional legislation in the Violence against Women Act (VAWA) to protect women from gun violence was also a topic.

elvin-danielOne of those testifying in favor of a comprehensive background check for all who purchase guns was Elvin Daniel, a member of the National Rifle Association. His sister was shot and killed by her estranged husband in 2012. At the hearing, he said he is “convinced” that her killer deliberately bought a gun from an unlicensed firearms dealer.

As shootings rampage across the country, Congress has remained at a standstill. After the December 2012 massacre inside Sandy Hook Elementary School. Some states have passed new reform measures that tighten gun restrictions, while others have enacted laws that weaken regulations.

Gabby Giffords, a former representative whose Congressional career was stopped by a shooting in 2011, has  launched a leadership network to educate state and federal lawmakers on the need for solutions that protect women from gun violence. The group plans a major advocacy push this year near the 20th anniversary of VAWA on Sept. 13.

There are those who won’t believe that guns are a serious problem for women. Elizabeth Hovde, conservative columnist for The Oregonian, wrote, “It’s rare that we are victims because we are women.” In glossing over any discrimination against women, including her representation of the Hobby Lobby case, she determined that women just like men, that bad things happen to all people. Hovde said that the California mass murdered Elliott Rodger was not targeting women, but his statement shows a different picture: “If I can’t have them, no one will.”

A recent study, “Women under the Gun,” shows how lax gun laws, both federal and state, allow women to be murdered at an alarming rate—6,410 from 2001 to 2012–more deaths than from the Iraq and Afghan wars combined. Women’s experiences of violence in this country are unique from those of men: Women knew their attackers in 65 percent of the cases, compared to the 35 percent of murders in which men knew their assailants. About 48 women are shot to death by intimate partners each month.

Two states passed bills in May to stop people convicted of domestic violence from owning or buying firearms. Minnesota’s bill expands handgun restrictions for convicted abusers to rifles and shotguns. It also includes restrictions for temporary restraining orders. Louisiana has passed a similar bill. With earlier laws from Wisconsin and Washington, the success rate covers four states. In Minnesota the bill got the vote of a GOP representative who regularly carries a gun, and Washington’s bill passed unanimously. Information about all state laws to protect women from fatal gun violence is available here.

A 2010 study, published in the journal Injury Prevention, showed that such laws have reduced intimate partner homicides by 19 percent. The victims in all five incidents leading up to the law were all women who had obtained protective orders within the month in which they were killed. More than 30 people subject to active restraining orders were convicted of assaults involving guns in a three-year period.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) are trying to close loopholes through their proposed Protecting Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act. Federal law defines domestic as people who have lived together, had a child together, or been married. Only ten states cover “dating partners” who are responsible for over half the murders of women in domestic violence.  In an unusual defense of same-sex relationships, the NRA argued against such a law because it might work against “partners of the same sex.”

The proposed bill also prevents convicted misdemeanor stalkers from obtaining weapons, which the NRA also opposes. Its position is that stalking behaviors “do not necessarily include violent or even threatening behavior.” One in five convicted stalkers use weapons to threaten or harm their victims and nine out of 10 attempted murders of women involve at least one case of stalking before the incident. Another provision of the bill would expand the definition of “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” to include the threat of violence.

states where stalkers can buy guns

Weak enforcement of laws sometimes comes from the failure of prosecutors to demand that those banned from owning firearms surrender their guns. States also don’t fully comply with reporting those banned from gun ownership. Laws are also weak in many states. About 40 percent of all gun sales are done privately because many states do not require universal background checks for these sales. In states that require background checks for all handgun sales, however, nearly 40 percent fewer women are killed by their intimate partners than in other states.

Although the NRA is completely opposed to saving women’s lives through closing the gun purchasing loopholes, the vast majority of women—81 percent—support extending the definition of “abusers” to include stalkers and dating partners. Overwhelming support for such a measure exists among 77 percent of both Republican and independent women.

Statistics show how often stalking leads to violent crimes and murder. One study of female murder victims in 10 cities found that three-fourths of women murdered and 85 percent of women who survived a murder attempt by a current or former intimate partner had been stalked in the previous year. There are nearly 12,000 convicted stalkers in the United States who can legally buy a gun.

sarah EngleSarah Engle is just one example of how women are targeted for killing and why the country needs restrictions on gun ownership. [ Left: Engle in an appearance with Gabby Giffords who was shot in Arizona in January 2011.]Almost six years ago, her ex-boyfriend broke into her mother’s house where he shot and killed the woman. After sexually and physically assaulting Sarah, he shot her in the face and left her for dead. Her experience highlights the way that women are the focus of killing because of gender.

Kentucky is one state where legislators are as clueless about guns and domestic violence as Elizabeth Hovde is. With the most lax gun restrictions for DV abusers in the nation and the greatest percentage of intimate-partner homicides by guns, the state has passed a law making it easier for battered women to obtain concealed-carry permits without changing laws for DV perpetrators. The victims don’t need any firearms training.

The presence of a firearm in a DV situation increases the risk of homicide by 500 percent for women, according to research from Mayors against Illegal Guns.  The Atlantic noted, “Not a single study to date has shown that the risk of any crime including burglary, robbery, home invasion, or spousal abuse against a female is decreased through gun ownership.”

Domestic abusers and stalkers should not have guns. People who engage in this behavior escalate conflict that frequently results in tragedy. The gaps in federal law need to be closed—now.

February 11, 2014

Gun Buybacks One Part of Solution

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:55 PM
Tags: , ,

Watch the NRA go ballistic. Boston Mayor Walsh plans a gun buyback in the city after a 14-year-old boy accidentally shot and killed his 9-year-old brother. Will the NRA now say that “guns don’t kill people”? Will the gun lobbying group now say that 14-year-olds kill people—accidentally, of course?

Last Friday, the teenager, unidentified because of his age, was charged with involuntary manslaughter and unlawful possession of a firearm. The police found the teen after he fled the scene, possibly in panic.  The boy was described as remorseful and frightened.

Suffolk District Attorney Daniel Conley urged action:

“Part of our investigation in the days to come will be determining how this weapon got into the hands of a 14-year-old. In the meantime, I want to make something crystal clear: if you know about an illegal firearm in this city, help us prevent another tragedy like this one. Boston Police are doing a tremendous job of taking guns off the street, but they aren’t mind readers. They need tips and information about these weapons before they’re used.”

Walsh’s plans in coordination with newly appointed police commissioner William Evans occur at the same time that Boston has had a spike in gun-related homicides. The eight killings by gun since February 2 are four times as many as in the same time period last year.

Dan Gross, President of the Brady Campaign and founder of the Center to Prevent Youth Violence, writes:

“Most simply, too many tragedies occur because guns are purchased or owned without giving proper weight to the risks of bringing guns into the home and unsafe access to those guns.

“This isn’t a gun issue. It’s a responsibility issue. Thousands of tragedies, in homes across our country could be prevented every year if parents and others had more responsible attitudes and behaviors, based on the real risks around guns in the home.

“And to address this responsibility issue, we need major public awareness and education campaigns. We need to start a new national conversation that makes responsible choices about guns part of what it means to be a responsible parent, spouse or friend.

“We need to change social norms just like we’ve seen on those other issues like drunk driving and tobacco where campaigns like, ‘Friends don’t let friends drive drunk,’ and ‘Second Hand Smoke,’ have changed dangerous and irresponsible behavior that was considered not only acceptable, but glamorous a generation ago. Just watch one episode of Mad Men and think about how far we’ve come on those issues. We believe we have the exciting potential to create the same kind of sea change around guns through the same kind of public health and safety campaigns.”

This buyback plan, as all other gun-control plans, will be attacked. Thomas Nolan, a former 27-year Boston cop who teaches criminal justice at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh, described the gun buyback as “gimmicky” because people who use weapons in violent crimes won’t surrender their weapons. The question is whether he was talking about the family of the 9-year-old dead boy.

On the other hand, John Firman, director of research for the International Association of Chiefs of Police, supports Walsh’s actions. He said that gun buybacks are to raise community awareness for people who want to turn in unwanted guns and added that these programs are highly important for people in domestic violence situations who want to remove guns from their homes.

The argument that people won’t turn in guns has become very tired. Law enforcement campaigns to find people who aren’t wearing seatbelts and who are driving under the influence of alcohol don’t expect to totally eradicate traffic fatalities. Not every accident can be prevented, but the number of traffic fatalities is shrinking because of restrictions. The number of deaths by guns in the United States continues unabated.

Those in opposition to the gun buyback will also rant that the Second Amendment in the U.S. Constitution is the only one that should have no restrictions. Free speech is limited to protect human life, and the right to assemble has controls. In many cases, the protection against search and seizure is abridged, and other amendments have restrictions. Legally, gun ownership can have the same accountability.

After Tucson tried to destroy guns obtained through a buyback program, the NRA succeeded in persuading the state legislature to pass a law preventing any destruction of weapons obtained by state law enforcement and other government agencies. Instead, these guns that were taken off the streets must then be sold to a federal firearms licensed dealer. At this time, however, guns obtained through private buyback programs can be destroyed.

tmorej-smith-greenville-south-carolina-pink-gunIn desperation, the NRA is pushing sales to women and children because the organization benefits financially from every gun sold in the United States. The result is thousands of shootings by children as shown in the website, http://kidshootings.blogspot.com/.  Just one example is three-year old Temorej Smith who was playing with a pretty pink gun in Greenville (SC) after he and his 7-year old sister found it in the bedroom. Temorej fatally shot himself in the head.

Another blog reports many of the shootings across the United States including one by a Utah police officer. In January, Joshua Boren, 37, shot and killed his wife, Kelly; his 7-year old son, Joshua; his 5-year old daughter, Haley; and his 55-year old mother-in-law, Marie King, before he killed himself. They had just come back from Disneyland.

Most people who continue to glory in their gun ownership and promote the myth that their guns will protect them cannot be persuaded that changes must be made. They suffer from the delusion that all gun owners are responsible people and would never leave their guns lying around and available to children. They would never admit the possibility that their guns could be stolen by criminals. Thus they will continue to write their pathetic responses to the pleas for making the country safer for all. Hard-core gun owners who collect large numbers of weapons may not change their need to own these personal “toys” until they lose those important to them through shootings. Even then, they may become more embittered, convinced that more guns would have stopped the losses.

Hatred, racism, paranoia, and selfishness fuel the people who want to allow everyone in the country to own guns, the people who think that felons and the mentally imbalanced should have the right to purchase guns. These are the people who fight background checks and legal restrictions on gun ownership. Some of them are the people who plan to use their arsenals to overtake the government if they don’t like the laws that legislature passes.

In many cases their arguments come from a “fact sheet’ to fight any gun control. A person who attended a recent Ceasefire Oregon meeting commented that the six men opposing Oregon’s proposal of universal gun background checks had brought printed copies of talking points for their arguments. These are the same people who accuse the opposition of being “sheep,” merely the ignorant following the ignorant. The “fact sheet” shows where they get their ideas.

An advertisement for a book in the document begins, “Everyone lies.” This statement was a major argument those at the meeting who opposed background checks.  It’s a simple tactic because it stops all discussion.

The document begins: “There is no such thing as an assault weapon.” Again, this statement is designed to get people off the topic of background checks or other gun control.

The vast majority of the sources in the document are between one and three decades old. Most of them come from the 1990s, including the statistic on school shootings. The rationale for not having gun buybacks is dated 1997—sixteen years ago. The statement that only five children died from accidental shootings in 2001 has no relevance in 2014 when that number has occurred in fewer than two months.

In combating evidence that background checks stop suicides, the document cites the fact but not information that refutes it. Maybe the worst was comparing homicide rates in the United Kingdom between 1919 and 1986 to prove that the country doesn’t need gun control.

Documents like this one do a disservice because it lies to the readers, readers who then use these invalid statements to respond to blogs–including this one.

Randi Kreiss has written a call to action:

“If there were killers wandering America, randomly shooting kids in their classrooms, stalking our sons and daughters on their high school and college campuses—and if the government refused to help— surely we would rise up and march on Washington, demanding action. If the shameful toll of gun violence in our country is any indication, it is time to rise up, in fact way past time….

“We all know the rap of the National Rifle Association folks: Second Amendment rights are sacrosanct; guns don’t kill people; better enforcement of existing gun laws would solve the problem. This mantra is repeated ad nauseum, stonewalling any effort to pass reasonable laws that would keep guns out of the hands of felons and the mentally ill….

“For the love of our children, we need to move beyond bumper sticker thinking…. Guns do kill people when they’re in the hands of people who buy them without background checks, people who may be delusional, and people who may have a history of criminal behavior. Guns kill people when anyone with a few dollars can buy a gun illegally but easily on the streets of any American city.”

It’s time that reasonable, responsible people take the country back from the NRA and its mindless followers.

May 2, 2013

Ayotte Doesn’t Want More Laws

In the past, feminists have had discussions about whether it is against feminism to oppose women who are against feminist policy. There are some out there who think that a feminist approach is to support any woman in leadership—let’s say Sarah Palin—no matter how much they want to destroy the rights of women.

I’m one of those feminists who think that support should go to those who want to create equality between males and females. That means that I don’t support Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH). The country has been in a buzz after she was the first senator north of Virginia to vote against background checks. But that’s not my gripe today although I haven’t forgiven her vote on that issue either.

With women making 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man, some Congressional lawmakers support the an equal pay act that would try to rectify this inequality. But not Kelly Ayotte. During one of her town hall meetings during this week’s recess, she flatly stated that Congress had done enough for equal pay for the two genders. As everyone who dodges voting yes on laws, she used the tired excuse that government just needs to enforce existing laws.

A member of the audience asked Ayotte the following:

“My grandmother, who was an extremely intelligent woman, trained many, many men who then became her boss, and so on and so forth. [She] never received a pension, never, um, was really paid what she was worth. And I was disappointed that you voted against the Equal Pay Act, but maybe there was something in the bill that you thought would be detrimental to the economy or whatever. But I was curious if you could explain your philosophy about equal pay and how, maybe, you could suggest something that we could all agree upon so that women would stop making 75 cents for every dollar a man makes …”

Ayotte answered:

“We have existing laws — Title VII, um, Lilly Ledbetter, all those existing protections in place — that, I believe, enforce and provide that people doing equal jobs are, certainly in this country, should receive equal pay. So, uh, that bill, in my view, didn’t add — in fact I think it created a lot of additional burdens that would have been hard, um, to make it more difficult for job creators to create jobs… The reason that I voted against that specific bill is that, I looked at it, and there were already existing laws that need to be enforced and can be enforced and I didn’t feel like adding that layer was going to help us better get at the equal pay issue.”

Ayotte ignored the fact that the pay gap exists because lawmakers are trying to close it. It is true that the pay gap narrowed after the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but progress on the pay gap stalled in the 1990s. It’s been almost flat since then.

pay-gap-chart-e1367503787795

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was necessary because of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that removed earlier protections in connection with pay inequity. It’s different from the Paycheck Fairness Act. Ayotte didn’t address the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would definitely not “make it more difficult for job creators to create jobs,” as she suggests.

Because employers can avoid liability under the Equal Pay Act, there is a need to ensure that employers’ pay decisions have legitimate reasons to pay one employee more than another, such as “education, training, or experience,” instead of arbitrary justification. The Act also forbids employers from retaliation against employees who try to find out how their pay compares to wages that their colleagues get.

Ayotte supported employers’ rights to not have rational reasons for paying female workers less. She gave employers the right to retaliate against employees who try to find out if they are being fairly treated.

Ayotte is still struggling with justifying her vote against a background check for people buying guns. The Manchin-Toomey background check proposal would not have created a national firearms registry. It actually would have strengthened current law barring the creation of any such registry and stiffened penalties against any official who violated or tried to violate the prohibition. But Ayotte seems to know as little about the bill she voted against as she does about the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. This is the reason that she gave for voting against background checks:

“I will tell you in terms of a universal background check, as it’s been framed, I have a lot of concerns about that leading to a registry that will lead to a privacy situation for lawful firearms owners.”

New Hampshire voters are not happy with Ayotte. When a man in a town hall meeting asked her why she voted against background checks, several of the 250 people in the audience applauded.

In Arizona, Sen. Jeff Flake (R) is still struggling with the response to his voting against the background check. First, he said the polls went down after his vote because of the polls were wrong, and then the next day he said that he just looked like “pond scum.” Yesterday on an interview on KJZZ radio, he switched back to blaming the polls for making him look unpopular:

“There was a famous PPP poll just a couple of days ago that — the five Republicans who voted against this, you know, supposedly our poll number have dropped dramatically. And I’ve no doubt they have because of the way the poll is structured. It said, I believe, ‘Do you believe that Jeff Flake voted against background checks?’ Now somebody who got that poll could just as easily assume that I voted to repeal current background checks. And so background checks are popular, but I believe that people recognize that universal background checks, that’s a little more difficult thing to define.”

He tried the optimistic approach when he said, “I think in the end, people understand that you’re there, you read the legislation, you try to make the situation better.”

For the record, the PPP poll asked, “Does Jeff Flake’s vote against requiring background checks make you more or less likely to support him for re-election, or does it not make a difference?” Nineteen percent of respondents answered “more likely,” 52 percent said “less likely” and 24 percent said “no difference.”

So Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) think that we don’t need to make any laws about guns because criminals won’t respect them, and Ayotte thinks that we already have enough laws to protect people in guns and fair pay. They should give their salary (equal between the males and females) back to the government and go back to their home states. They should let people who want to legislate laws stay in Washington to do that.

April 30, 2013

Background Check Votes Influence Voters

The NRA has protected conservative voters for decades, but that era may be coming to a close. Since the GOP senators voted against background checks for gun buyers, Public Policy Polling shows a serious drop for their approval ratings while recording spikes for senators that supported the bill. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) went down 16 points, and Sen. Rob Portman’s (R-OH) ratings shrank 18 points from positive to negative. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) got a 52-percent rating of “less likely to support for re-election,” and 46 percent of his constituents said the same thing about Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV). In those four states, at least 60 percent of voters support background checks.

Once considered by Mitt Romney for his vice-presidential candidate, Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) lost 15 points, and the NRA is bailing her out by paying for advertising. Almost all of the loss in support came from independent and moderate voters, vital to the candidates of the party that is also rapidly shedding voters.

Ayotte is also having trouble in her town hall meetings during the recess. In Warren (NH), Erica Lafferty, whose mother, Dawn Hochsprung, was killed in Newtown (CT), referred to an earlier meeting with Ayotte after the senator had voted against background checks when she addressed Ayotte:

“You had mentioned that day the burden on owners of gun stores that the expanded background checks would harm. I am just wondering why the burden of my mother being gunned down in the halls of her elementary school isn’t more important than that.”

Quinnipiac saw ratings for Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), a bill co-sponsor, go up a net 7 points. Ayotte’s senior colleague, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) saw her approval ratings also rise 7 points after she voted in favor of background checks.

As for the legislature, 65 percent of voters wanted the bill passed, including 45 percent of Republicans. That was a Gallup poll, known for running a lower percentage than reality, which means the number of voters wanting the bill is probably higher.

Murkowski had been one of the most popular senators in the country; her vote lost her credibility with both Democrats and Republicans.  Her junior senator, Mark Begich (D), didn’t suffer as much, but he still dropped 8 points after the vote.

flakeOn his 100th day in office, Flake has become the most unpopular senator, with a 32 percent approval rating—even below Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) who had held the title of “most unpopular sitting Senator” before the vote. In addition to going against the 70 percent of Arizona voters who want background checks, Flake sent a handwritten note to the mother of a son killed last summer at the movie theater in Aurora (CO) that he would “strengthen” background checks the week before he voted against them.  

Yesterday Flake laughed off the PPP survey, saying: “The only accurate poll they’ll do is the one the week before the election, so they can do well in terms of how they’re rated.” He might benefit from reading some editorial comments about Congress’s cowardice.

Flake did have second thoughts about his attack on the polls. Later yesterday he wrote on his Facebook page, “Nothing like waking up to a poll saying you’re the nation’s least popular senator. Given the public’s dim view of Congress in general, that probably puts me somewhere just below pond scum.” He’s probably right: pond scum has a purpose.

brewerAnother piece of pond scum came out of Arizona this week. In the hopes of getting guns off the streets, Tucson held a buy-back event and destroyed the ones that they purchased. Arizona legislators didn’t like this, so they passed a bill, passed by Gov. Jan Brewer yesterday, that requires the bought-back guns to be sold.  The lawmakers tried to make people believe that destroying the guns is a waste of taxpayer resources. Therefore Arizona has made police departments into retailers, just putting these weapons back on the street.

We have to remember that Brewer is the same governor who signed off on the sale of the state’s capitol building before leasing it back at a higher cost.

Stupid doesn’t stop at the state line, however. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) said that Congress should try to stop terrorists from buying guns. He said that doing this would this restriction would only reduce “the number of firearms nationwide” and undermine the rights of law-abiding Americans.

“Well, the terrorist, they are a part of, not by definition part of a criminal, because they are terrorists, but I would say the same thing is true for terrorists that is for criminals. And that is, if someone in the United States of America or any other place too the criminal element or the terrorist element they will be able to get those.”

Two important pieces of Inhofe’s argument: there is no reason to make laws because criminals won’t follow them, and terrorists aren’t criminals. That’s why al-Qaeda likes the United States. As spokesman Adam Yahiye Gadahn said in 2011:

“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?”

If Inhofe truly believes that there is no use in making laws, the “lawmaker” is committing fraud by collecting his salary.

The same year, 2011, the GOP on the House Judiciary Committee, lobbied by the NRA, voted down an amendment to prevent people on the federal terrorist watch list from buying guns, even though a Government Accountability Office had found that suspected terrorists bought firearms and explosives from licensed dealers 1,300 times since 2004. Without this law, the older brother suspected of the Boston marathon bombing could have legally purchased up to 50 pounds of gunpowder and any number of guns legally just by going to a state adjacent to Massachussetts.

Peter Loewy, a retired Navy air traffic controller, self-identified marksman, and member of such organizations as the NRA and the U.S. Concealed Carry Association, wrote about how to solve the gun purchase problem by using “available technology and a grass-roots movement.”

Referencing the chips found in most electronics today—cell phones, cameras, thumb drives, newer cars, etc.—he recommended putting these in all guns. As he wrote, this technology is inexpensive and common, even appearing in many animals.

“Such chips could be affixed to the frame of every firearm and could include the name of the manufacturer, the date of manufacture, the serial number, the caliber and any other pertinent data. When the manufacturer sells the firearm, information about the sale would be written to the chip, as would the information about all subsequent sales. Firearms already in circulation could be allowed a reasonable time in which to have a chip installed. At the time of installation, information about the current legal owner of the firearm could be written to the chip along with firearm identification information.

“This would accomplish two things. First, the ownership history of any firearm in the possession of law enforcement could be quickly and easily obtained and compliance with legal requirements verified. Second, we would avoid the creation of a central database that would constitute gun and gun owner registration — the shoals upon which proposed legislation has foundered in the past.”

He continued by citing the benefits of such a plan. Because gun owners might take greater care in storing their weapons, fewer criminals and children would find these accessible. Society would be safer, and the Second Amendment wouldn’t be violated.

Can you hear that noise? It’s the sound of NRA and gun manufacturers screaming!

April 26, 2013

The First Nine Constitutional Amendments, An Easy Lesson

Until the rants of the Tea Party started to take over the media, the U.S. Constitution was looked upon as an important part of our heritage that courts used to determine whether laws fit into the overview of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the Declaration of Independence. Less than five years ago, people like Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) declared that everything the liberals do is unconstitutional, and three years ago, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) required that the entire constitution be read at the beginning of the 112th Congressional session so that all the bills would conform with the Constitution.

Representatives tried to read aloud with varying success–only a few glitches such as leaving out the piece blacks being only three-fifths of a person and skipping part of it because a couple of pages got stuck together. That part guaranteed “to every state in this union a republican form of government.”

They also left out the part written by the infallible Founding Fathers about runaway slaves, that if they escaped to a free state, the Constitution required that they not be freed but rather “delivered up” to their owners. Notable, too, was the omission of how the electoral college works, perhaps because the conservatives plan to get rid of it so that they can elect a GOP president.

Now Jon Stewart has brought to life the first nine amendments to the U.S. Constitution through playing clips of Fox pundits on The Daily Show, pontificating about the recent Boston bombing.

As Stewart said, “Anybody can toss away the lesser known amendments. Only a true patriot can set a course straight for the First.” And Bob Beckel, a host on The Five, did exactly that when he asked that the U.S. “cut off Muslim students from coming to the country for some period of time.” That eviscerates the First Amendment protecting freedom of speech, religion, and press as well as the right to assemble and petition the government.

Eric Bolling wanted wiretapping in mosques, attacking the Fourth Amendment that prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures and sets out requirements for search warrants based on probable cause.

Fox folks were highly incensed about suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev being read his Miranda rights, claiming he should be declared an enemy combatant and “intensely interrogated.”

“In the wake of an assault on our freedom and way of life, we have quickly jettisoned the Sixth Amendment–right to a fair and speedy trial–and the Fifth Amendment’s right against self-incrimination,” Stewart said. “What’s next?” Stewart left out the violation of the Seventh Amendment that provides for the right to trial by jury in certain civil cases, according to common law.

Sean Hannity doesn’t “believe” that waterboarding is torture. “There goes the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment,” Stewart continued. “Any others?”

Actually, yes there were. Ann Coulter said, “I want to know about this wife… I don’t care if she knew about this. She ought to be in prison for wearing a hijab.”

To Coulter’s impassioned plea, Stewart responded, “And down goes the Ninth Amendment! Down goes the Ninth Amendment! Ann Coulter doesn’t just want a police state. She wants a fashion police state.” (I had to look up the Ninth Amendment: it protects rights not enumerated in the Constitution.”

Thus Stewart showed that Fox wants to ignore seven of the first nine constitutional amendments in the treatment of the 19-year-old suspected of setting off pressure cooker bombs at the Boston marathon. It seems that Fox didn’t address the forced quartering of soldiers—but that’s only in peacetime, and the government seems to have declared the United States permanently at war somewhere.

Stewart asked if there were any constitutional right that Fox wants to keep after the Boston bombing.  “Since we’re just throwing amendments away willy-nilly, what if we wanted to track the weapons that any of these America haters bought, or do a background check?” Stewart said.

Visuals juxtaposed the 3,400 deaths from terrorism in the United States during the past 30 years with the almost one million deaths from guns during the same time. That was followed by a montage of clips from Fox, extolling the virtues of bearing arms in any situation and as many as people might want.

“Yes, it turns out there’s only one amendment in our constitution’s pantheon that is exempt from statistical analysis or emotional freak-out-itude, and it is the Second. So god help us if the Muslims ever decide to form a well regulated militia.”

Stewart

The written word does not do justice to this segment of The Daily Show. You can find the video here.  Send it to everyone you know, and make it go viral!

GohmertStupidity about the Boston bombing is as rampant in Congress as on Fox. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) accused President Obama of being influenced by Muslim Brotherhood members in his administration. On a radio interview yesterday, he said, “This administration has so many Muslim Brotherhood members that have influence that they just are making wrong decisions for America.”

Gohmert didn’t think this up on his own. Almost a year ago, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) claimed Muslim Brotherhood infiltration of the government, pointing a finger at top Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin. Her false accusations led to Egyptian protests against the Secretary of State when she went there and the need for Abedin to have police protection because of threats against her life.

At that time, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) condemned Bachmann’s statements, and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) described her claims as “pretty dangerous.” Even conservative Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) defended Abedin.

Gohmert, who gets his information from extremist right-wing media media such as World Net Daily, sits on the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security.

Meanwhile the conservatives are busy creating conspiracy theories: the government staged the attack to take over the government; the First Lady is hiding a Saudi student who was the real bomber; the Fox cartoon Family Guy predicted the bombing; the marathon organizers knew about the bombing before the race; the suspects’ uncle worked with the CIA; Facebook pages memorializing the blast were created before it happened; the dead suspect was an FBI informant; he’s not actually dead; and photos of the suspects at the scene of the crime were photoshopped.

Now Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK) believe that a nationwide shortage of ammunition has resulted from the Obama administration’s stockpiling. To stop this and create more “transparency and accountability,” they introduced the Ammunition Management for More Obtainability Act, AMMO act for short. Finally, a gun control bill from the conservatives!

These two Congressmen probably got their news from fringe websites like Drudge or Alex Jones’s Infowars. Even Brietbart.com, known for its crazy stories, described the idea as “based more on panic than fact.” These are the people who keep our country from moving forward.

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