Nel's New Day

January 12, 2013

A Letter about Gun Control to Rep. Kurt Schrader

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:29 PM
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schraderThis past week Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR) cited the two usual myths of providing safety for people in the United States through gun control: (1) there are already unenforced laws on the books that would take care of the problems; and (2) “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” I take particular offense at his ill-conceived statements because he is the representative from my Congressional district and purports to be a Democrat.

Here is my response to Rep. Schrader:

After Vice-President Joe Biden met with a number of groups from pro-control victims and public health officials to the NRA, he released these seven points for reform that will be presented to President Obama next Tuesday. It is to be noted that none of these are existing laws and therefore cannot be enforced.

  • Close the so-called gun show loophole. Congress passed a law in 1986 that allows people to buy firearms at any of the thousands of gun shows without licensing, background checks, waiting periods, and reporting sales to authorities. Today, 40 percent of gun sales annually across the county occur at gun shows, and by some estimates 80 percent of weapons used in crimes are bought at gun shows.
  • Require universal background checks for gun buyers.
  • Improve background check database. The second and third points are connected. Although Congress has passed various laws to bar felons, the mentally ill, and drug addicts from owning guns and instituted a federal system of background checks and a five-day waiting period, three-quarters of the states refuse to share information about felons and the mentally ill with federal authorities. In 1997, the Supreme Court ruled that states did not have to comply with the reporting requirement. Even after a 2007 law creating federally administered grants for states to send information to the Justice Department, only a dozen states account for most of the data six years later. Nineteen states have each submitted less than 100 mental health records to the FBI database, and another 19 states have policies allowing someone who has been found to be mentally ill in court to get a gun.
  • Limit high-capacity bullet magazines.  In 1934, when Congress passed the first federal gun-control law, they severely taxed machine guns because gangsters used these for the worst mass killings at that time. Modern semi-automatic weapons fed by high-capacity bullet clips are as deadly as machine guns.
  • Allow federal research on gun violence.
  • Remove gag orders on federal agencies that collect gun data. Like the background check hurdles, these two proposals are intertwined. Starting in 1996, the NRA lobbied Republicans in Congress to restrict key federal agencies’ ability to conduct research on gun-related violence. Not car accidents, just gun-related violence. In 2003 Congress barred the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives from sharing data in its records that traced gun sales. The result is no information on what kind of weapons are used to kill most people, how many weapons are trafficked, does gang warfare use firearms, are guns used in crimes legally purchased—none of that information is available because of the 2003 law.
  • Target purveyors of violence as a cultural norm. For decades the NRA has been encouraging people to fight government with armed insurrection, an attitude particularly notable since the most recent shooting. Two years ago Sharron Angle, Nevada’s candidate for U.S. Senate, used the Second Amendment as a talking point for retribution if people didn’t like government’s actions. Media accounts showed that former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ shooter in Arizona was obsessed by this Constitutional “by-any-means-necessary” fantasy. Trained Marine veteran Joshua Boston claimed that he would not obey a law to register his guns because he might have to fight “against a government that had overstepped its boundaries.”

One more excellent idea, again that the NRA opposes, is the requirement for “smart guns” that can be shot only by their owners. One alternative is a fingerprint key on the trigger, and another is a magnetic ring. The trigger has a magnetic block that doesn’t allow it to be pulled back unless the shooter is wearing the matching ring for the gun. That system usually has an override function as well; once the ring is ready to fire (wearing the right ring) you can disable the ring function, allowing anyone to fire.

The New Jersey Institute of Technology is also working on a Dynamic Grip Recognition technology, which would track the owner’s hand size, strength and grip style. This system has a 90% recognition rate or higher. New Jersey already has a law that future handguns be “smart guns,” but all the states need to require this for effectiveness.

Although laws are currently being enforced, they are weak, and SCOTUS has said that states are not required to comply with federal mandates. Federal law and the laws of most states allow anyone who can pass a Brady Act record check to walk into a gun store and leave with as many guns as they can pay for. The guns are not registered, and purchasers don’t need a license. Because the Brady Act covers only federally licensed firearms dealers, purchasers who are not licensed dealers can legally resell or transfer ownership without doing a record check and without reporting or registering the change of ownership.

Some states limit aspects of this essentially open market. A Pennsylvania law channels resales through licensed dealers, but provisions inserted at the NRA’s behest make the law nearly impossible to enforce. Because owners don’t have to register guns or report transfers of ownership or thefts, law enforcement cannot identify who owns a particular gun. Federally licensed firearms dealers must report large-quantity sales to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (AFT), but authorities can do nothing unless they monitor the purchasers and catch them doing something illegal, which requires an inordinate expenditure of time and resources.

People actually oppose NRA’s positions of no licensing, no registering, no background checks. An example is Wisconsin where almost two-thirds of the voters oppose the legislators in their determination to pass a law allowing people to carry concealed weapons in public places. Even gun owners want gun control: 82 percent support requiring a criminal background check of anyone purchasing a gun.

Rep. Schrader, I realize that the NRA gave a higher contribution to your campaign than to the one GOP representative in the state, but I ask you to look at Vice President Biden’s points and seriously consider them. In response to your comments, (1) laws have to exist for them to be enforced; and (2) if people have to have guns in order to kill other people. Those who voted for you want to feel safe, and that doesn’t mean keeping an armed guard on every school, business, mall, street, mall, etc. It means legal management of weapons.

Please support your constituents instead of the conservative GOP who wants to continue the Russian roulette of our lives. If you can’t, then I would suggest that you change your affiliation to Republican, because that is what your policies currently reflect.

January 8, 2013

Gun Deaths – The Loss of Life and Happiness, Part 2

“Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The NRA would deprive you of the first and third, by redefining the second.”—Douglas Anthony Cooper

Four women were found killed in a Tulsa (OK) apartment yesterday. That makes at least 165 gun deaths in the first seven days of 2013, averaging approximately one per hour.

Today is the second anniversary of the mass shooting in Tucson (AZ) when six people, including U.S. District Judge John Roll, were killed and another 13, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, were wounded. At that time the NRA said that this tragedy should not be politicized. They just merely want to continue their control over the people in the United States.

Today Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, announced the launch of a new gun safety group, Americans for Responsible Solutions, and called on Congress to finally take action that they have failed to do, despite 11 mass shootings and over 60,000 other gun deaths in the last two years. In their op-ed for USA Today, Giffords and Kelly point out that people in the United States are less, not more, safe because of this inaction. On Morning Joe, Ret. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, former top commander in Afghanistan, called for a ban on assault weapons, saying, “I personally don’t think there’s any need for that kind of weaponry on the streets and particularly around the schools in America.”

After each mass shootings, at least the ones large enough to draw media notice, people come up with solutions. Last Friday I wrote about some of the insane ones, including arming teachers to protect students. Since then, Stephen Davis, a popular math and science teacher in a Bennington (VT) high school teacher was taken to a psychiatric hospital after he posted criticisms of the administrators and union on the Internet, including the statement that he had “plans for retribution.” When police came to check into the situation, they found him with a Bushmaster rifle, two high-capacity clips, and about 500 rounds of ammunition.  This is someone who the NRA might arm to protect the children at school because he has experience with the weapon.

There are, however, reasonable solutions for reducing gun deaths in the United States.

It should be noted that the NRA opposes all them.

  • Keep people on the terrorist watch list from legally acquiring guns. In 2010 alone, at least 247 people suspected of involvement with terrorism bought guns legally.
  • Require background checks on every gun sale. Because federal law does not mandate these checks for “private” gun sales at places like gun shows, 40 percent of all legal gun sales lack any checks on the purchasers. Eighty percent of gun crimes involve guns purchased in this fashion. If the GOP wants photo ID for voting, they shouldn’t mind background checks for gun purchases.
  • Keep warlords from getting arms on the international market. A small step toward this action, the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty aims at keeping guns out of the hands of murderous insurgents and terrorists while having no restrictions on domestic gun markets.
  • Allow the public to access information about where guns are. Despite opposition from federal and local law enforcement, the Tiahrt Amendments prevent the public, journalists, academic researchers, some police officers, and people suing the gun industry from knowing what is on a federal database.
  • Keep guns out of bars. This should be a no-brainer: guns and alcohol don’t mix well. Only five states prevent concealed weapons in places that serve alcohol.

The NRA even supports forcing all business owners to allow guns on their property. The more guns, the more shootings, especially when people don’t know how to use them.

Following are others that would make mass shootings more difficult:

  • Restore the Assault Weapons Ban. This ban on manufacturers prevented the category of weapons not designed for recreational use.
  • Ban High-capacity Magazines. Because the shooter in the Aurora theater had a clip with 100 rounds of ammunition, he would kill or injure 71 people in the 90 seconds before police arrived.
  • Regulate Sniper Rifles. The .50 caliber bullet developed for the Browning Automatic Rifle for anti-aircraft and anti-tank use has no civilian use. The National Firearms Act of 1934 bans bullets over .50, but the .50 caliber bullet, actually .51 in diameter, can be squeezed by the rifle barrel to technically fit the law.
  • Tax and/or Regulate Cartridges. Because these have varying amounts and kinds of propellant, a regulation could prevent the highest performing propellant in the biggest cartridges. An option would be to tax cartridges with higher performing propellant at a higher rate.

One blog discussed reversing the culture of violence in the United States and provided these four ideas:

  • Change Gun Culture. Decades ago, smokers, supported by wealthy tobacco corporations ruled the country. You couldn’t go anyplace with choking on second-hand smoke and having your clothes smell like an ashtray. If we can stand up to the tobacco industry, we can do the same with gun manufacturers.  At this time, owning guns is “cool”; a rebranding campaign can change this. After NFL player Jovan Belcher killed himself at his stadium, seven other players turned in their guns to team security personnel with at least one player surrendering multiple guns. Celebrities, athletes, and other influential people can refuse to bow down before the NRA.
  • Give People Incentives to Give Up Guns. Buy guns back or award tax and tuition credits for turning them in. Give bonuses for semi-automatic assault rifles with large magazines. L.A. [find info] People kill other people with guns that they buy or steal from others. Stop them from having guns to steal. Children also die from guns in their home or in their friends’ homes.
  • Make It Harder for People to Get Guns. Safety on planes means extensive screening at airports; safety from terrorists means that your email can be read without your permission. Since 2001, people in the United States have gone to great lengths to feel safe—except with gun ownership. Longer waiting periods, greater taxation, and ideas listed above will make it more difficult to own arsenals.
  • Hold Gun Makers Accountable. Tobacco corporations are now sometimes held liable to the deaths that their products cause. Making gun manufacturers liable for damages might put economic pressure on the gun industry to act more responsibly. At this time, 32 states grant the gun industry immunity from lawsuits, and Congress is considering the same thing. Stop legislators from doing this. Gun makers should be required to fund gun-control efforts, such as paying for public service announcements and free treatment services for mental illness and anger-management.

Gun-lovers always claim that it is their constitutional right to own as many and as powerful guns as they want without registering them and with no training. Gun-lovers would rather people die than restrict guns so that criminals do not have access to them.

An example of the culture of violence in the United States comes from Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) in the aftermath of the killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School: Put automatic weapons in the hands of all the first grade teachers, he says, so they can “. . . take[s] his [the gunman’s] head off before he can kill those precious kids.” Gohmert’s fantasy of murderous violence is the same as that of the Sandy Hook shooter.

The solution for gun ownership should be the same as for people who own motor vehicles: register them, test the drivers, make laws to control their use, and require liability insurance for all owners. It’s simple. People opposing gun-control laws claim that they feel safer without them. Why should that 47 percent feel safer than the rest of us?

January 1, 2013

Make a Difference

“To do nothing in the face of continuous assaults on our children is to be complicit in these assaults. There may not be a single-cure-all for the violence in our nation; however, we must start the process and begin the deeper and longer conversations that need to take place. Politics be damned. It’s time for Congress to act.”—Rep. John Larson (D-CT)

On December 14, 2012, most of the people in the United States went into shock after a young man killed his mother, himself, six adult educators, and 20 children—ages six and seven—at an elementary school in a somewhat affluent area just 60 miles from New York City. The tragedy led to declarations of making sure that this never happens again with the hardcore gun owners determined to protect their arsenals until their dying breaths.

We have many disastrous events like this every year, each one followed by the NRA declaring that “this is not the day” to discuss gun control efforts and accusing anyone who wants changes of protecting people from gun deaths of “politicizing” the situation. Sadly, the so-called “fiscal cliff” has taken over the media while the GOP stalls in any attempt to solve the problem. Last night, the Senate passed a bipartisan bill of 89-8, but the House puts off any decision. They keep saying it’s closer but making no decision which keeps them from having to deal with any other problems in the United States.

The death of 28 people is jarring, but the public has ignored the fact that at least 372 people have died from gun deaths since December 14. I say “at least” because the U.S. has no formal way to report these numbers. The last time that statistics for the gun deaths in the country was 2009.

Last summer, the anonymous creator of the Twitter feed @GunDeaths starting trying to compile statistics on gun deaths by tweeting every reported death that he found . Inspired by the Aurora (CO) shootings and wanting to call daily attention to the toll that guns take, he is now partnering with Slate who provides an interactive feature, “Gun Deaths in America Since Newtown.” Clicking on this website allows you to put a name, age, place of death, and age of each person.

One of these 372 tragedies happened three days after Christmas in North Carolina. A man shot his 12-year-old nephew in a hunting accident when the uncle tried to reload his 12-gauge shotgun and accidentally discharged it, fatally wounding James Lee Parker in the chest. James’ great-uncle, who was not present at the death, told television news, “[James] loved to hunt and he died that way. I believe that’s the way he would want to go if he was going to go. I guess God had plans for him and he’s up in heaven now.”

In Bennettville (SC) an 8-year-old boy was accidentally killed by a “family member” when he was visiting his father. Ten-year-old Alfreddie Gipson died on Christmas Day after he and his 12-year-old brother found a gun in a bedroom of their North Memphis (TN) home on Christmas Day.

In Logan County (OK) 3-year-old Ryder Rozier found a gun while he was visiting his uncle, an Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper, and died after shooting himself in the head. This happened the day after the shootings at the Connecticut elementary school.

Gun lovers who fight any kind of gun control claim that only criminals cause gun deaths. What about 8-year-old Christopher Bizilj who fatally shot himself in the head while his father was watching him learn to shoot a 9-mm Micro Uzi machine gun in 2008. His father, the medical director of a hospital emergency department, said that his son “was comfortable with guns” and that they “avoided” larger machine guns.

The advertising for a two-day event at the Westfield Sportsman’s Club stated that the $5 entry fee was waived for children under age 16 and there was “no age limit or licenses required to shoot machine guns.” If the child had parental consent and a licensed instructor, there was no minimum age for firing machine guns. And spare me the argument that this doesn’t happen very often. We don’t know.

I will write more to write about gun control—idiotic reasons and solutions from NRA leaders, denials from the public, etc. To finish today, however, I wanted to publish an email that I received one week ago from my friend Taylor in Portland (OR):

“Today I became a member of Ceasefire Oregon, a grassroots organization founded in 1994. It is dedicated to enacting laws in Oregon that will ensure the safe and responsible use of firearms through both its advocacy efforts and educational programs. Serendipitously, Ceasefire Oregon volunteers had meetings scheduled with Oregon state legislators on December 14th seeking sponsors for a bill to ban the sale of military-style assault weapons. Fifteen legislators signed on immediately. The organization will be meeting with these and other legislators to craft the bill for the 2013 legislative session. Senator Ginny Burdick, a leader in the fight against assault weapons, has already prepared legislation to ban the over-sized ammunition magazines that make these weapons so dangerous and deadly.

“The execution of 26 children and staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School on the 14th has been a wake-up call for me as it has been for countless others. The call to action by Connecticut’s own U.S. Representative, John Larson, was the second event that got my attention that dreadful day. He said, “To do nothing in the face of continuous assaults on our children is to be complicit in those assaults.” He went on to say, “There may not be a single cure-all for the violence in our nation, however we must start the process and begin the deeper and longer conversations that need to take place.  Politics be damned . . . It’s time for members of Congress to act . . . .” This guy truly got my attention! And it’s time to heed the call.

“If you are not familiar with or are not already a member of Ceasefire Oregon, I’m asking you to look at its website: http://www.ceasefireoregon.org. I think you’ll agree that its mission is definitely a step in the right direction. Of course, if I had my druthers, I would eliminate ALL guns from our land, but unfortunately such a single-remedy approach is a tad unrealistic. However, we can at least get started with a ban on all “weapons of war,” high-capacity clips, watch list loopholes, and mandatory background checks for ALL gun sales! Let’s help to continue the good work of organizations like Ceasefire Oregon. I’m angry, I’m sad, and I’m ready to pitch in. Please join me in seeking this or your own way to advocate for a return to sanity.”

This is the time of the year that many people make resolutions—lose weight, get a better job, etc. My resolution for the year is to make a difference in the world. It’s easier than you might think. Find a group to join that has similar values and get others to join. Change comes one heart at a time, and everyone can do it.

December 15, 2012

I’m Angry

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:47 PM
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For the past 24 hours the media has talked about how sad the shooting in Connecticut yesterday was, how upset people are, how we should pray for those who have lost children, what kind of person would commit such a travesty, why such a smart young man would do this, how mass murderers can be identified before they commit their crimes, what can be done to make schools more safe, etc., etc., etc.

Conservatives think that more guns are the answer. Geraldo Rivera said, “I want an armed cop at every school.” Conservatives think that better diagnosing of mental disorders will help. The religious fundamentalists want to bring back their god by denying everyone all freedom.

Almost no one mentions the real elephant in the room, the 300 million guns in the country. Anyone who refers to this is accused of “politicizing” the situation–as if it weren’t political already.

Groups like the NRA are running the country. We have allowed them to become so powerful that we won’t fight back. They spread their lies that violence will stop more violence. As Shakespeare wrote, “Murder begets murder.” This is what we will have until we look at the solution of gun control.

No amount of looking for mentally ill people and handing out more guns will solve the escalating numbers of gun-related deaths in the United States. I’m angry because within a few days, the children will be buried and the politicians will be back to business as usual, controlled by NRA lobbyists.

I’m taking a few days off the blog to regain my perspective; hopefully I’ll be back by the end of next week.

 

 

 

 

December 14, 2012

Today Is the Day to Begin Gun Control

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:05 PM
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A few months ago, 12 people died when one man took several weapons, including an AR-15 assault rifle, into a movie theater and fired off 50 shots a minute. The AR-15 is Rep. Michele Bachmann’s (R-MN) favorite gun “because you can be so accurate with it.” A few days ago, three people died in a popular Portland (OR) shopping mall when a man shot into the crowd with an AR-15.

Earlier this week, a federal appeals court struck down Illinois’ ban on carrying concealed firearms in public. Illinois is 43rd out of 50 states in the number of gun deaths per capita, fewer than half the rate as in Mississippi. Yesterday the Republican-controlled Michigan legislature passed a bill that would allow people to bring guns into schools.

Today, at least 28 people, most of them children in an elementary school, died in Newton (CT), just 60 miles northeast of New York City, when a man opened fire on them.

Politicians join the rest of the country in mourning these disasters. Flags are  lowered. There is an outcry for a few days. Soon, however, conservatives in Congress and state legislatures will go back to business as usual, working to move money to the wealthiest and make the United States less safe for people while most of the Democrats trying to prevent his. Stalemate.

I have questions. And spare me the mantra that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” Once again, I say, “People who don’t have guns can’t shoot people.”

Why do we allow such websites as KSL.com, owned and operated by the Mormons, to sell firearms, no questions asked?

Why do we think that the Founding Fathers meant people to have arsenals of assault weapons in the 21st century? The Second Amendment cites “a well-regulated militia.” We’re not fighting the British any more, yet people can own an unlimited number of weapons only because of a grammatical misunderstanding.

Why isn’t there a hue and cry to support Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) in her work on legislation to ban assault weapons?

Why doesn’t the public hold responsible the Congressional elected officials who are beholden to assault weapons manufacturers and the NRA from their donations?

When will the media concentrate on how these killings can be stopped instead of analyzing what kinds of people commit these crimes?

Why do people always fight any gun control with the excuse that they need their guns to hunt for food? Do they use automatic assault weapons for hunting? (That’s a rhetorical question. Of course, they don’t.)

Why aren’t there more class-action lawsuits against the people responsible for the proliferation of high-powered weaponry in our society? Lax gun laws and inadequate security checks in Mississippi, West Virginia and Kentucky and 7 other states mean that they supplied nearly half the 43,000 guns traced to crime scenes in other states in just one year.

Why do we glorify gun ownership? Firearms are used in 300,000 crimes a year in the United States.

Why do people keep saying stupid things?

After Aurora, Mike Huckabee said, “We don’t have a crime problem or a gun problem – or even a violence problem. What we have is a sin problem.” Today, his script read the same, that there is violence in schools because “we have systematically removed God from our schools.”

Bryan Fischer said that God could have protected the victims of this massacre, but didn’t because “God is not going to go where he is not wanted.”

People in the United States have a love for killing. In 2010, 31,513 people died in the United States from guns; another 200,000 were injured. The United States is responsible for over 80 percent of all the gun deaths in the 23 richest countries combined. The movies and video games in Japan are more violent than ours, yet fewer than an average of 20 people a year are killed there with guns. In 2006 the number was two. Great Britain has fewer than an average of 40 gun murders a year.

Canada’s culture is similar to ours, but that country averages fewer than 200 deaths. Switzerland has the third-highest number of guns per capita on earth but a low murder rate. Three-quarters of the states execute criminals, but the states with no death penalty have lower murder rates.

On the morning of 9/11/01, 2,996 people died. Every year, ten times that number of people die of gun-related deaths. Although the death of 2,996 people caused the United States to declare preemptive war on two countries, wars that resulted in additional hundreds of thousands of people dying, nothing has been done about the 300,000+ people who died from guns during the past decade.

Gun-related deaths are more likely in states with a high percentage of working class jobs, rates of high school students carrying weapons on school property, and a majority vote for John McCain.

Gun-related deaths are less likely in states with higher levels of college graduates and creative class jobs, higher levels of economic development, higher levels of happiness and well-being, and more immigrants.

Gun-related deaths are significantly lower in states with stricter gun control legislation such as banning assault weapons, requiring trigger locks, and mandating safe storage for guns.

When I think about all the people who fight a federal registration list of gun owners, I think about the same people who bitterly fight to mandate a government-issued photo ID before people can vote. I also think about the mandatory registration for both driving and owning cars. No one has said that these registrations are a “slippery slope” toward the seizure of all private vehicles by a totalitarian government.

The NRA incessantly lobbies for looser and looser gun laws, but their members don’t agree with its leadership. In over 30 states anyone can purchase a firearm from a “private seller” without any background check, including a .50 caliber sniper rifle that can take down a helicopter. Sixty-nine percent of NRA members want this loophole closed.

People on the U.S. terror watch list cannot fly commercially, but they can buy guns and explosives. Eighty-two percent of NRA members want this loophole closed.

Laws limit the ability of law enforcement to access, use, and share data so that they can enforce federal, state, and local gun laws. Sixty-nine percent of NRA members want this loophole closed.

Some cities and townships have passed laws that lost and stolen guns must be reported, but the NRA threatens to overturn these laws. Seventy-eight percent of NRA members approve of laws that mandate the reporting of lost and stolen guns.

Last August, six Sikhs were killed in their temple. A month later, a man killed five people at his former workplace after he was laid off. Politicians paid little attention to these events. The image of 20 dead children under ten years old would hopefully shock them into thinking that there is no marker identifying a mass murderer, that the deaths are caused because of easy access to firearms.

Today is the time that the people in this country should rise up and demand accountability. It might save their own lives.

October 25, 2012

A Literal War on Women

Recently a friend was telling me about his participation in a protest at The Oregonian, Oregon’s largest newspaper, because they were not reporting on any of the protests at the time. The spokesperson told them that there were so many protests that these were no longer news. Now the same response is probably being applied to the mass killings across the United States.

Last Sunday Zina Haughton’s husband, Radcliffe, went to her workplace, Azana Salon & Spa in Brookfield (WI). He killed her and two other women who worked there, Maelyn Lind and Cary L. Robuck, as well as wounding four other women. He then killed himself. Lind died when she shielded Zina Haughton’s 20-year-old daughter. There was barely a mention of this horrific event in the mainstream media.

It was the second mass shooting in Wisconsin this year. Wade Michael Page, a 40-year-old Army veteran and white supremacist, killed six people and injured three others before fatally shooting himself Aug. 5 at a Sikh temple south of Milwaukee.

The police knew that Radcliffe Haughton was a threat to his wife. They had been called to their home 20 times during the past decade but never made any arrests. During a January 2011 visit to the couple’s home in Brown Deer, officers thought they saw him with a rifle, and they set up a perimeter around the house. They told Haughton he was under arrest and ordered him to surrender, but he refused. The police left after 90 minutes without arresting him. A misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct was dismissed because Zina Haughton and the officer who could identify Radcliffe did not attend the court proceeding.

Village President Carl Krueger said, “Obviously, in retrospect we regret the lady didn’t pursue the complaint against him and we regret the ultimate result and we feel bad for the victims, but I don’t think it was something that we could have prevented unless we take up a policy of tear-gassing every house where a guy says he will not come out.” Brown Deer Police Chief Steven Rinzel said officers left the scene without making an arrest because they weren’t sure Haughton had a gun, thought he was alone in the house, and didn’t think he posed a danger. In other words, not their fault.

Three days before her killing, Zina Haughton had secured a restraining order against her husband shooting and talked in court about how she feared for her life.

Even with his extensive history of domestic abuse, Radcliffe Haughton managed to get a legal firearm in Wisconsin. NRA lobbying caused Republicans to pass a loophole for firearms purchases that allows individuals to purchase guns from a private seller without submitting to a background check. In 2010, the NRA successfully lobbied against Wisconsin legislation that would have required individuals subject to a restraining order to turn in their weapons within 48 hours or face arrest.

Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen opposes changing the law because it would be too hard to enforce. “Who is to draw the line between, ‘I sold you a firearm, I loaned you a firearm, I’ve given you a firearm, you’ve taken the firearm from me?’ ” asked Van Hollen. “Not to mention, you could try to close every presumed loophole you can, and people who want to do these things are going to find a way to do it.” He apparently thinks that the solution is to do nothing.

The loophole gave Haughton the opportunity to legally and lawfully purchase a gun without anyone’s knowledge after the court’s restraining order that required him to turn in all his firearms to the police. At the time Haughton purchased his gun, he was prohibited under federal law from purchasing one. A private seller sold him one anyway. Federal law requires that individuals “engaged in the business of selling firearms” obtain a license and conduct background checks on their customers. But the definition of what it means to be “engaged in the business” is vague and allows the private sales market.  An estimated 40 percent of gun sales are conducted by private sellers without a background check.

The NRA is on record as opposing mandatory background checks on gun purchases and has repeatedly denied that allowing private sales without a background check poses a danger to the public. At the same time Republicans are dragging their knuckles in passing a continuation of the Violence against Women Act because it supports lesbians and Native American women. In a survey of 733 domestic violence shelters across the country, nearly 80 percent have experienced an increase in requests for help this year; almost 60 percent said the abuse has become more violent than before the recession. Yet 80 percent of the shelters surveyed reported decreased government assistance which required them to end or scale back programs and services.

Half of all women murdered in this country are killed by a partner or an ex-partner while ammunition for firearms is easier to purchase than birth control pills.

And spare me the the indignant responses when I suggest that there should be restrictions to keep all people from purchasing an unlimited number of guns—ostensibly for “protection” or “hunting” or just plain “freedom.” People can’t kill without guns, the Constitution never intended that individuals should be able to possess huge arsenals, and laws cannot be enacted without knowledge of people owning guns.

Even NRA members show some sanity about gun control although the leadership out of control.

Gun Show Loophole: In over 30 states anyone can purchase a firearm from a “private seller” without any kind of background check, including a .50 caliber sniper rifle that can take down a helicopter. Sixty-nine percent of NRA members want this loophole closed.

Terror Gap: People on the U.S. terror watch list cannot fly commercially but they can buy guns and explosives. Eighty-two percent of NRA members want this loophole closed.

Tiahrt Amendments: These laws limit law enforcement’s ability to access, use, and share data to enforce federal, state, and local gun laws. Sixty-nine percent of NRA members want this loophole closed.

Reporting Lost and Stolen Guns: Some cities and townships have passed laws that lost and stolen guns must be reported, but the NRA threatens to overturn these laws. Seventy-eight percent of NRA members approve of laws that mandate the reporting of lost and stolen guns.

Sharing Records With National Instant Background Check System (NICS): After Rep. Gabby Giffords (AZ) was severely wounded with others and six people were killed, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) introduced the Fix Fun Checks Act to close the gun-show loophole and require states and federal institutions to share records of people who cannot purchase firearms because of criminal record or mental health defects. In Indiana, Ohio, Virginia, Arizona and Colorado, more than 82% of gun owners support fully funding states to share these records while 91% supported requiring federal agencies to share information on potentially dangerous persons such as the shooter in the Giffords case. NRA opposes all these methods of closing these loopholes.

The GOP won’t listen to the NRA members because it can no longer present any semblance of rationality. While they want absolutely no control over violence from guns, going so far as to allow anyone to claim self-protection after killing another person, they are equally determined to control women. The following Republican Rape Chart shows how far over the edge the GOP has gone.

July 24, 2012

GOP Vision for America

Yesterday I had breakfast with a friend who used to be a Republican, and I realized how lucky Democrats are these days. Not everyone in the party is  enamored with everything that Obama does, and the Democrat lawmakers are sometimes irritating. But the old-guard Republicans are lost.

During our discussion she said, “I’ve lost my party! I don’t tell anybody that I’m a Republican any more. I say that I’m an independent.” So I thought about the Republican vision for the United States: miserly, selfish, controlling, and violent. Conservatives are changing the United States from the “can do” to the “won’t do” beliefs.

Violence, of course, comes from the conservatives’ attitude toward gun control. It’s not just that they want everybody to have one or two guns in the house to protect themselves and use for recreational hunting. Instead, they want everyone to have as much fire power as they can afford to buy without considering that a restriction in this–or even licensing guns–might result in fewer deaths. The recently deposed head of the Arizona state senate, Russell Pearce, accuses the people in the Aurora (CO) theater of being cowards for not taking down the young man with four weapons and unlimited rounds for them at his disposal.

As for the current war in Afghanistan, the one that costs us $88.5 a year and where the country wants us to leave, the House managed to debate our situation there—for one hour. That’s all the nation’s destiny is worth to these people.

The conservatives’ craving for control has been clearly shown through the conservatives’ drive to eradicate unions, primarily for teachers, and contraception availability. Both these destroy salaries for women because teaching has been one place in the past where women can come closer to achieving economic equality. Without a decent salary, without the fair pay act which would require that women are paid the same as men for the same work, and without the chance to avoid pregnancy, women are losing the ability to stay out of poverty, where the conservatives think that they don’t deserve help. They want to control women.

Another control from the Republicans is the rash of laws mandating restrictive photo IDs for voting. Initially conservatives said the purpose was to prevent voter fraud, but by now they are admitting, as all sane people knew, that there was no fraud. Pennsylvania Republican House Leader Mike Turzai said,  “[…] Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.” Conservatives simply tried to remove as many progressive voters from participating in the election as possible.

Michigan is now a prime battleground against Republican control of municipalities and school districts by dictators appointed by the governor. The process started over a year ago with Public Act 4, signed by Gov. Rick Snyder, that extended emergency manager laws. In Michigan, an emergency manager gives all orders in the town or school district and can break contracts and fire elected officials. The first city that Snyder took over, in the name of fiscal problems, was a tiny, largely black town because a wealthy developer wanted to build a golf course on a public park along the lake.

In protest to the Michigan law, a coalition called Stand Up for Democracy submitted 226,000 signatures for a referendum to overturn the law. They needed just under 162,000, and the Bureau of Elections found 203,238 valid signatures. Another organization challenged the petitions on the basis of wrong font size. The Republicans on the Board of Canvassers succeeded in declaring all petitions invalid. Last month the state Court of Appeals ruled that the signatures should be accepted, allowing a public vote in November. That decision has been appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court which will hear the case tomorrow. Part of the debate will be how the “point” and “type” should be measured, whether by size of the printer’s block or the actual printed character. This comes from the anti-regulation party.

In its supposed craving for austerity, conservative lawmakers have one response for any action that would help the country: we can’t afford it. And they use this excuse with no justification. Health care won’t bankrupt the country as demonstrated by all the other countries with universal health care, but we can be bankrupted with escalating costs and a sick workforce with lost work days and productivity. In fact, repealing the health care act will cost the country $109 billion that the taxpayers will save if we keep the law. The World Health Organization reports that the United States spends 16 percent of its GDP, the highest portion of any country, on health care but ranks 37th out of 191 countries in performance. By contrast the United Kingdom spends 6 percent of its GDP but rates 18th in performance, almost 20 places higher than the U.S.

Social Security isn’t bankrupting the country; it just needs some tweaking the way that President Reagan did 30 years ago. And green energy isn’t too expensive; it hasn’t bankrupted Denmark. Start-up costs for anything are more expensive as the country found out with technology such as television and computers. This area combines austerity with selfishness because those huge corporations that present everyone with high utility bills, charge high gas prices, and give everyone dirty air and water don’t want to lose their customers. Republicans keep talking about all the money that the government lost in solar companies going bankrupt. Facts show companies lost less than 4 percent of the total program funding for alternative energy. Because Chinese companies got massive government subsidies, they were able to flood the U.S. market with solar equipment. Yet this is the time to continue the program because the drop in prices because of Chinese solar panels greatly reduces installation costs.

In its austerity, conservatives balk at providing sufficient education for the nation’s young people. In 2003 the US ranked 15th of 29 in reading literacy, 21st of 30 in scientific literacy, 25th of 30 in mathematics, 24th of 29 in problem solving. Conservatives claim that the United States has bad teachers as conservative lawmakers continue to starve the schools and increase the number of students in classes. The United States conservatives also want to charge high interest rates on student loans for higher education while Europe and Russia have tuition-free colleges and universities free to reduce the shortage of workers in specific fields.

In their selfishness, conservatives frequently avoid addressing a need. The farm bill expires on September 30, but House Republican leaders don’t plan to do anything about it. The bill would save $35 billion during the next 10 years, but Republicans don’t want to touch it until after the November election—an attitude that they seem to have for any legislative activity. Nothing like this has happened for at least a half century. Doing this will put the farmers suffering from the worst drought since the middle of the last century with Medicare doctors whose pay will run out, fired workers who worry about jobless benefits, and possibly millions of families whose tax breaks may expire. The Senate has already approved its farm bill so that the House needs to stop whining about the Senate not taking any action.

If the conservatives want to save the country, they need to take a hard look at the defense budget. The United States not only spends more money than any other country but also spends more than the next 14 nations combined. This nation’s military budget accounts for 41% of the total military spending in the entire world. This is the conservatives’ “dream for America.” T

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