Nel's New Day

December 28, 2018

DDT: Week 101 – Watch China’s Growing Influence in Middle East

Day Seven of Government Shutdown: Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) may think that his shutdown isn’t successful because he’s now threatening to close the U.S. southern border and stop aid to several Latin American countries without his wall. Having canceled plans for any holiday vacation to Mar-a-Lago, DDT is sitting in Washington, D.C. with nothing to do except tweet. The U.S. has already announced a collaboration with Mexico, providing $10.6 billion to slow migration from South American countries.

  • The shutdown moves toward more debacles:
  • The possible cancellation of a global weather conference with over 4,000 attendees that wastes research and contracts.
  • Closure of all Smithsonian Museums and the National Zoo on January 2.
  • “Furlough” of EPA employees.
  • Lack of payments, farm loans, and disaster assistance for farmers.
  • Suspension of FTC investigations and litigation, including those against Facebook.

Fortunately for Mar-a-Lago, taxpayers are still paying for DDT’s holiday bash, even though he didn’t attend, starting with $54,020 for tents on December 19. Individuals paid DDT’s private business $1,000 per person.

Some startling news has received almost no attention in the Western media amidst the shutdown hubbub. DDT, self-proclaimed great negotiator, planned to scare Pakistan’s military into cooperation by suspending billions of dollars of security aid to Pakistan. Instead, China is buying Pakistan-built military jets, weaponry, and other hardware, a move that can deepen the two countries’ cooperation in space that China wants to militarize. It can also encourage other countries to buy military equipment from Pakistan instead of the U.S. Only Pakistan has access to China’s satellite navigation system allowing better guidance for missiles, ships, and aircraft. The countries also plan to link a port in coastal Gwadar across 2,000 miles to western China, allowing Chinese goods to have a much shorter and less expensive shipping route and avoid territorial waters of U.S. allies in Asia. China may also militarize Gwadar and other seaports being built in places such as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Malaysia, giving China great geopolitical influence in both commerce and military action.

The first Chinese ship, the cargo ship Zhen Xing Sung, reached Gwadar’s port this week loaded with seafood. Its owner, the China Overseas Shipping Co (Cosco), has a 40-year lease of the port and will export to Central Asia and the Middle East.

DDT became so angry with former Defense Secretary James Mattis’ resignation letter—once the media explained to him what it meant—that he had his acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney immediately fire Mattis instead of allowing for a transition period until late February. Mattis’ deputy, Patrick Shanahan, is the temporary replacement until the Senate has time to confirm him. Shanahan worked for the U.S.’s most profitable defense contractors Boeing for thirty years, quitting as senior vice president of supply chain and operations to join the Pentagon. Former Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) expressed concern when Shanahan was selected as Deputy Secretary of Defense and said, “I have to have confidence that the fox is not going to be put back into the henhouse.” Shanahan promised to recuse himself from any financial interests related to Boeing.

One reason for Shanahan’s selection as Defense Secretary may be his enthusiasm about DDT’s Space Patrol control outer space, an idea that has been soundly ridiculed. DDT may find Shanahan useful because he has neither military nor foreign policy experience. Shanahan finds the position useful because Boeing has been successful in winning competitive contracts since he joined the Pentagon. The Air Force wants F-35 stealth fighters from Lockheed, but the Pentagon is requesting F-15X fighters from Boeing, thanks to Shanahan’s involvement in funding.

DDT is facing not only investigations but also liens against his properties. A third lien, this one from AES Electrical, brings the total to over $5 million against his Washington hotel after the company assigned 45 workers to 12-hour shifts for almost 50 consecutive days to get it open when he wanted. The hotel opened on time, and DDT stopped paying AES. Plumbing firm Joseph J. Magnolia Inc. and Northern Virginia company A&D Construction also filed $2.98 million and $79,700. DDT claims that he’s worth $10 billion, but he has a long-time reputation of stiffing his workers at all levels.

Elected politicians are causing a “collapse in pay for the bottom 90 percent” of the labor market since 1979 by giving power to employers through weakening unions, damaging minimum wage, and prioritizing low inflation over full employment. The bottom 90 percent of wage earners lost $1.53 trillion in income–$10,800 for every U.S. household—in 2015 alone. As a result of these policies, productivity has rapidly slowed since the 1970s, growing half as fast between 1973 and 2017 as it did from 1948 to 1973.

As DDT rails against Jerome Powell, the man he picked as chair of the Federal Reserve, the media is reminding people that he fired the former chair, Janet Yellen, because she is “too short.” Janet L. Yellen was considered the most qualified Federal Reserve chair perhaps ever, but DDT he broke a long-standing bipartisan tradition of retaining the Fed chair if they wanted to stay and were good at the job. Yellen fit both these criteria.

DDT is helping drug companies make more money from opioids by recommending that people with prescription for opioids also get prescriptions for an antidote. The health care costs will run over $1 billion. The recommendation came from DDT-appointed Assistant Secretary for Health Brett Giroir. A two-dose kit of Naloxone nasal spray costs about $125. An automatic injector runs $4,000 per kit.

EPA has approved the Monsanto’s pesticide dicamba, an airborne chemical that can kill crops for miles away. Corn and other grass crops can tolerate the weed killer, but it kills soybeans, tomatoes, and other broadleaf plants. In 2017 and 2018, dicamba damaged almost 5 million acres of soybeans in 24 states, primarily in Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, and Illinois, except for Monsanto’s genetically engineered soybeans. Dicamba drift has killed millions of dollars in pecan and peach trees plus destroying bees because they cannot survive on plants damaged from dicamba.

A new proposed EPA rule purports that a little pollution is good for people in order to erase regulations on toxic chemicals. Today, the EPA proposed a reversal of the clean-up of toxic mercury pollution from coal-fired plants. Mercury causes brain damage, learning disabilities, and other birth defects in children, and the pollutants enter the food chain.

After 17 people were shot and killed in a Parkland (FL) school last spring, DDT put Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos in charge of an all-white committee to solve the gun problem. Her first solution was to use federal funds to buy guns for schools, but she moved back from that move because of the backlash. In her next step, she admitted to Congress that her commission on gun violence would not study the role of guns in school shootings. Ten months after the tragedy, DeVos will use the “school safety commission” to discriminate against blacks and other minority students, permitting schools to use race in punishing them because of her claim that are the cause for an increase in school violence. The racial difference is already dire: black girls are suspended six times more than white girls, and black boys are suspended three times more than white boys. The commission was created because of killing by a white teenager, and most mass shootings at schools are by white males.

Almost 40,000 people died in shootings across the United States in 2017 during DDT’s first year after his inauguration, the highest number in 20 years. The U.S. now has 12 deaths per 100,000 people from guns compared to 0.2 per 100,000 people in Japan, 0.3 in the UK and 0.9 in Germany.

Last week, a second Guatemalan child died on Christmas Eve in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and DHS Secretary clings to her story that parents are at fault. Yet on December 23 to 25, ICE officials dumped 600 hundred asylum seekers in the cold outside a Greyhound bus terminal in El Paso where they had no housing or food and local shelters were not warned. Many of them were ill. The only other time that this has occurred was the week before the 2018 midterm elections.

Gallup poll’s most admired man for 2018 is Barack Obama, and the winning women is Michelle Obama. Barack tops the list for the 11th year in a row, one place short of tying Dwight Eisenhower for the record. Michelle has broken Hillary Clinton’s 17 year run. DDT came in second to Barack, and Melania Trump is fourth after Oprah Winfrey and Clinton.

Katherine Walker, the TV producer who oversaw the first five seasons of The Apprentice, said that workers “struggled to make Trump seem coherent.” She added that he frequently commented on women’s bodies in a derogatory fashion. Walker believes—like many of us—that DDT would not have been elected president if not for that show. A piece in the New Yorker describes how Mark Burnett, former executive producer of the show, gave DDT the appearance of a tycoon. Voters bought the image, not the real person.

December 13, 2014

Gun-Obsessive Society Leads to Violence, Inequality

Tomorrow is the second anniversary of 28 deaths surrounding the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown (CT). This tragedy was three days after three deaths at Clackamas Square, a shopping mall near Portland (OR). Despite 64 laws passed in different states that strengthen gun laws, the federal government has passed no gun-sense laws, and mass shootings have become so common that they get little media except regionally.

During the past two years, about 60,000 people died from guns in the United States, and the almost 100 schools shootings includes one this past week at Rosemary Anderson High School in north Portland (OR). A student reported that she changed schools from Reynolds High School to Rosemary because of two shooting deaths at Reynolds last June. According to trends, guns will pass motor vehicles as the top killer of the nation’s youth under the age of 26 in the coming year.

Equally serious are the deaths by law enforcement in the United States. Police officers have killed an estimated 1,039 people thus far in 2014. Despite some evidence, including videos, that some of these murders could have been avoided, however, police are generally not indicted for these killings. According to a 2012 study, about half of the people killed by police each year are mentally ill. Young black men are 21 times more likely to be killed by these police officers than young white men who also fail to follow police orders. People of color are the most likely to be killed by police in general.

most likely to be killed chart

Today, over 10,000 activists participated in the Justice for All March, which began at Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C. and continued along Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol. Similar numbers marched in New York, and hundreds more protested in Boston. Protesters called on Congress to combat racial profiling, and police discrimination and violence.

As just one example, police officers in Utah killed Darrien Hunt, who was carrying a toy sword. Initially the chief deputy attorney said Hunt was shot because he “lunged toward the officers” but later admitted that Hunt was shot in the back. An autopsy reported that Hunt was shot six times from behind, including the shot that killed him. The killing was judged justified, just as the killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson (MO) and Eric Garner in New York were.

Police officers consistently claim that they won’t shoot people who politely obey their orders. Yet a South Carolina state trooper shot an unarmed black man who reached into his car after the trooper ordered him to get his driver’s license. The man had taken off his seat belt as he pulled into a Circle K. He did everything he was told and stayed polite, begging the officer not to shoot him. Fortunately, he’s still alive because the police officer was such a bad shot that he hit the man only once although he fired several times. In this case, the trooper was fired from his position and has been charged, a highly unusual situation.

Police officers do not have an easy job. National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund reports that 1,501 police officers died on the job in the past decade, and 100 officers were killed in 2013. An annual average of 58,261 assaults against law enforcement in the last decade resulted in 15,658 injuries.

On the other hand, people don’t trust the police:

  • 65% overall say police departments nationwide do an “only fair” or a poor job in holding officers accountable when misconduct occurs, compared with 30% who say they do an excellent or good job.
  • 65% respondents say police do a fair/poor job in treating racial and ethnic groups equally, compared with 32 percent who believe the police do an excellent/good job.
  • 61% say police do a fair/poor job in using the right amount of force in each situation, compared with 35% who say the police do an excellent/good job.
  • Respondents were split evenly when asked if police departments nationwide do a good job in protecting people from crime.

This survey was taken before the police officer who killed Eric Garner was not indicted. The percentages of people disapproving of the police may be even higher since then.

Last year, the FBI identified 461 “justifiable homicides” by law enforcement—and none unjustified. Only the FBI determines whether these are justified. Homicides committed by on-duty law enforcement make up 3 percent of the 14,196 homicides in 2013; in 96 cases a white officer killed a black person, sometimes another law enforcement officer.

This total may be a serious undercount because reports are voluntary, and the federal government doesn’t keep a strict tally. A Facebook page, Killed by Police, has started keeping track of people killed by police officers through news articles. The creator of the page listed more than 1,450 deaths by law-enforcement officers since its launch on May 1, 2013. That’s about three per day, 1,100 a year. A website lists the names, dates, states, and links to news articles.

The wide distribution of left-over equipment from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq has greatly increased the militarization of police departments. SWAT teams are used about 50,000 times a year now, compared to 3,000 in 1980. These teams are used for routine patrols, breaking up poker games (Baltimore and Detroit), investigating under-age drinkers in bars (New Haven, CT), raiding barber shops for unlicensed workers (Orlando), cockfighting (Maricopa County, AZ), etc. Keene, a New Hampshire town of under 25,000 population, had three homicides between 1999 and 2012. It spent nearly $286,000 on an armored personnel-carrier known as a BearCat, used, according to the police chief to patrol the “Pumpkin Festival and other dangerous situations.”

Radley Balko collected stories about at least 50 innocent people who died from botched SWAT raids, one when a SWAT-team officer tripped while an innocent man was lying face-down on the floor. The officer’s gun discharged, killing the man.  In 2006 Kathryn Johnston, a 92-year-old woman in Atlanta, thought that the police raiding her house in the middle of the night were robbers. She fired an old pistol, and the police shot her five times, killing her. To cover their mistakes, they put marijuana in her house, but later it was discovered that the police had falsified the information for their “no-knock warrant.”

Police profit from SWAT raids. Officers can seize anything claimed to be the proceeds of a crime even if there is no conviction. If police find drugs in the house, they can take cash and the house. Forfeitures amount to about $1 billion a year, some of it from innocent people.

The United States has two faces of justice. Michael Brown was jaywalking when he was picked up; the officer knew nothing about his having allegedly stolen any cigarillos. People call him a “thug” and claim the police officer had the right to kill him. At the same time, Kate Meckler was caught stealing $2,000 worth of clothing from Saks Fifth Avenue in New York. She pled to “disorderly conduct” and worked five days in a soup kitchen. Meckler is white, one of New York’s top real estate brokers, and the daughter of MediaBistro’s CEO, Alan Meckler. Their multi-million-dollar ocean-side mansion appears in the movie, As Good As It Gets.

The effect of police killings, just like poverty and hunger, affects the body for generations. These external forces and stressors change the way bodies react by altering individual’s DNA. When high-stress environments cause the body to “turn on” or “turn off” genes, future generations carry the scars such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Other changes are mental disorders such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

The United States has a serious killing problem, most of it from its gun obsession. It begins with the fact that people refuse to face the fact that there is no problem. Instead everyone sweeps information under the carpet. Any statement about the number of police killings or racial profiling ends with journalists saying that there’s no proof because there are no accurate statistics. While police killed three people a day in the United States, police in the United Kingdom fired their guns a total of three times last year and killed no one. In 2011, police killed six people in Australia, two in England, and six in Germany.

guns-and-government different countries

 

With their military paraphernalia and training, law enforcement assaults and kills, too frequently with impunity and too frequently against minorities and lower-class people. As a country, we should do better.

July 1, 2014

U.S. – Culture of Gun Violence:

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:49 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

Dead two-year-old toddler: it’s God’s will. That’s her grandmother’s opinion after the girl’s five-year-old brother shot her in the face with his birthday present, a .22 caliber “My First Rifle” Crickett, designed and marketed as a toy for small children. The uncle said, “It’s something that you can’t prepare for.” Yes, you can! You can’t fix people’s stupidity, but you can make laws to keep them from letting their children kill each other.

“Be afraid. Be very afraid.” That’s the motto of many people in the United States who fight any kind of gun sense. An example from Ohio: teenagers stride through a suburban neighborhood with AR-15’s, yelling racial slurs. “Open carry in the state of Ohio, the cops can’t do nothing,” one teen said on camera. And he’s right. [Check on arrests]

In May, an armed man showed up in a park where children were playing Little League. He waved his gun around, yelling “Look at my gun!” and “There’s nothing you can do about it.” Alarmed parents called the police. The man was right. There was nothing that the police could do about the man. Gunners say that children should be taught about responsible gun use, but this is an example of what they see.

Other acts of gun insanity occurred frequently in Texas during the same week including armed men protesting outside a Jack in the Box. Frightened employees locked themselves in a freezer and called the policy to alert them to a robbery. All very legal, but the taxpayers had to pony up for the costs of sending over a dozen officers for the gunners’ expression. Again people lost their freedom to safety. Demonstrators were upset that the police were called and said, “We’re not trying to alarm anybody. We’re doing this because it’s our constitutional right.”

Today celebrates the first day of Georgia’s “guns everywhere” law, the so-called “Safe Carry Protection Act” that permits Georgians and residents of 28 other states to carry weapons into “unsecured government buildings,” consenting bars and churches, and schools which allow them.  The term “unsecured” means, however, that legislators don’t have to worry about guns around them; weapons are prevented in the state Capitol.

No one, not even the police, can ask people with guns if they have permits. Supporters of the new law compare gun ownership to driving cars. If that were true, guns wouldn’t be allowed in any of these places because people can’t drive cars into them. No one leaves a car lying around in the children’s section of a library the way that gun owners can.

Jerry Henry, director of georgiacarry.org, thinks “church carry” is vital, and the Georgia Baptist Church supports it to protect people from the “criminal element.”

Convicted felons cannot own guns, but under the new law they can use a Stand Your Ground defense, keeping them out of prison after killing someone.

In a satire on the new Georgia law, Stephen Colbert pointed out that people can carry guns in airports. Intended as humor, this photo can also be reality.

ColbertNRA-airport

Not satisfied with the number of Floridians who can kill people with impunity, the state has expanded its Stand Your Ground law. As of last week, people who fire or point a gun in “self-defense” or as a “warning” are immune from criminal penalty. The emotional appeal behind the extension of rights to kill was the 20-year sentence for a woman who fired a “warning shot” as her abusive husband came toward her. Her injustice more likely came from her color and gender than her attempt to protect herself; the new law won’t solve that problem.

Florida is so upset about the publicity it has received that the law also seals records in Stand Your Ground when charges are dropped and expunges records when defendants are granted immunity. No longer can the impact of the law be documented, as the Tampa Bay Times’ survey did for the earlier Stand Your Ground law in 2012. Florida doesn’t want people to know that Stand Your Ground laws are associated with a significant increase in homicides, have a disproportionate impact on African Americans, and fail to deter crime.

This is an example of how bad the gun culture has gotten:

Child’s email: “Whenever my parents fight, my dad threatens my mom with his gun. Fortunately, this now means nothing to my mom, and she never goes nuts about it; she is very calm. But as a child, I get nervous and worried when this happens. Even my younger brother saw this incident. What should we do about it and him?”

Response: “Well, again, you don’t want to get your father busted, but you could. You ought to go to your mother and say, ‘Mom, this thing is scaring me, and I ask you please to get my father to have some help.’ This kind of rage — I mean, one day he’s going to pull the trigger. It doesn’t take too much if you’ve got a loaded weapon and you’re brandishing it around, ‘I’m going to kill you.’ And the next thing you know, the thing goes off. It may be accidentally, but the mother will end up dead. But you’re a kid, what do you do? You know? Your mother ought to take care of that.”

The man giving the advice of not getting the father “busted” is televangelist Pat Robertson on CBN’s June 11, 2014 The 700 Club.

The new term for gun “enthusiasts” is ammosexuals. As Bill Maher said, “Guns aren’t just a tool of last resort.  They’re awesome.  That’s why people stroke them.  And name them, and take pictures with them.” Maher recommends that ammosexuals try going out without their guns to recover from their separation anxiety. “Just think how exciting it will be when you get home and there she is,” he said. “Oiled up and just wearing a holster.”

One of these ammosexuals, 37-year-old Greg Philip Winnick, fell asleep cradling his Rebel Arms AR-15. An accidental discharge went through the ceiling next to the mattress where a couple was sleeping.  As Maher concluded, the problem with guns isn’t necessarily that they’re legal. It’s the love affair between ammosexuals and their guns. The United States doesn’t have a monopoly on irresponsible and angry people, but we do have a monopoly on gun deaths.

GunViolence-620x445 world Facts that the NRA and gun industry don’t want to hear:

  • The United States accounts for nearly 75 percent of all children murdered in the developed world.
  • Children between the ages of 5 and 14 in the United States are 17 times more likely to be murdered by firearms than children in other industrialized nations.
  • Children from states where firearms are prevalent suffer from significantly higher rates of homicide, even after accounting for poverty, education, and urbanization.
  • Easy access to firearms doubles the risk of homicide and tripled the risk for suicide among all household members.
  • Family violence is much more likely to be lethal in homes where a firearm is present, placing children especially in danger.
  • Murder-suicides, a major risk to children, are most likely to be committed with a gun.
  • Gun deaths are not offset by defensive gun use. For every time a gun is used legally in self-defense at home, there are “four unintentional shootings, seven criminal assaults or homicides, and 11 attempted or completed suicides.”
  • The U.S. firearm-related suicide rate is 10 times the average of other industrialized nations.
  • Adolescents living in states with higher gun prevalence suffer from higher rates of suicide and are significantly more likely to live with guns in their homes.
  • Firearms that are stored loaded have the highest risk, while safely stored guns (locked and unloaded) are much safer.
  • Children younger than 15 are nine times more likely to die by a gun accident in the U.S. than in the rest of the developed world.
  • Parents’ ownership of weapons is a significant risk not only to their own children but also to their children’s friends.
  • In the developed world, 87 percent of children younger than 14 killed by firearms live in the United States.

The NRA and extreme gun advocates perpetuate a culture of fear and violence, teaching children that guns are a solution. Bullied students are bringing thousands of guns to schools. Exposure to firearm violence doubles the risk that an adolescent will then in turn commit violent acts over the next two years. The death toll continues to mount. And people blame God.

June 21, 2014

ASK, A Start to Gun Sense

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:08 PM
Tags: , , , ,

In late May, a woman visited her 78-year-old neighbor in Payson (AZ) with her two small children. They wandered off into another room where the three-year-old shot and killed his 18-month-old brother.  This is just one of thousands of reasons for the national ASK campaign that kicks off today. It urges parents to ask if there is a gun where their children play. In the United States, where almost eight children are killed with guns every day, one-third of the children live in homes with guns. About 1.7 million children live in homes where firearms are kept loaded and unlocked.

Trying to ensure that the environment where children play has enraged many people, usually men, who say that it’s none of anyone else’s business if they have unlocked and loaded guns around children. This is just one piece of evidence demonstrating the extreme culture of violence throughout the United States.

Here’s more:

A man reported that an 8-year-old was firing an assault rifle in the street over the head of pedestrians. The mother explained that she had a 13-year-old babysitter and that the gun belonged to a convicted felon. No one was charged.

In Montana a man set a trap for burglars in his garage and killed a teenager after firing blindly into the building. Germany might be able to prosecute the man because the murdered teenager was a German foreign-exchange student.

Gun activists walk around Texas with loaded assault rifles, including a Target store where a loaded Glock was found among children’s toys.

Federal airport screeners have found 892 guns in carry-on bags, a 19-percent increase from last year. And 2013’s total was 1,813. About 80 percent of the guns are loaded. And all the gun owners claimed they “just forgot.”

A 15-year-old student took his older brother’s gun to school, killed another student and himself, and injured a teacher. Although the Troutdale (OR) police chief said that the gun was “secured,” it was left in the boy’s bedroom and several other guns unsecured in the home.

Two men at a surprise party in central Pennsylvania on Father’s Day were playing with a gun; the guest of honor shot another man when he tried to hand him the gun.

Justin Ayers, 33, and his wife were celebrating the birth of their three-day-old baby when a 62-year-old neighbor shot off his gun through the wall and into the back of Ayers’ head, killing him. The neighbor had a previous felony conviction.

Two of Cliven Bundy’s followers on the Nevada ranch went to Las Vegas and shot and killed two armed police officers. A third man who pulled a gun on one of them was shot and killed by the other killer.

Since the Sandy Hook massacre 19 months ago, there have been 74 shootings at school. Conservatives, backed up by CNN, even claim that some of these are not “real” school shootings because they involve drugs—sort of like their need for a “pure definition” of “real rape.” The justification is that “it’s not a school shooting when someone goes and shoots a specific person on campus. It’s a shooting that happens to take place at school.”

These stories are such the tiny tip of the iceberg. People kill other people when they hug them, when they traing them in proper usage of guns, when they try to scare them—the list goes on and on. DailyKos GunFail keeps track of disasters by week, if you have the stomach for reading them.

States with weak gun violence prevention laws and higher rates of gun ownership have the highest overall gun death rates in the nation, according to this week’s study from Violence Policy Center (VPC) using new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. The inverse is true: states with the lowest overall gun death rates have lower rates of gun ownership and some of the strongest gun violence prevention laws in the nation.

States with the Five Highest Gun Death Rates 
(Rank State Household Gun Ownership Gun Death Rate Per 100,000)

1 Louisiana: 45.6 percent ownership, 18.91 deaths
2 Mississippi: 54.3 percent ownership, 17.80 deaths
3 Alaska: 60.6 percent ownership, 17.41 deaths
4 Wyoming: 62.8 percent ownership, 16.92 deaths
5 Montana: 61.4 percent ownership, 16.74 deaths

 States with the Five Lowest Gun Death Rates
(Rank State Household Gun Ownership Gun Death Rate Per 100,000)

50 Rhode Island: 13.3 percent ownership, 3.14 deaths
49 Hawaii: 9.7 percent ownership,  3.56 deaths
48 Massachusetts: 12.8 percent ownership, 3.84 deaths
47 New York: 18.1 percent ownership, 5.11 deaths
46 New Jersey: 11.3 percent ownership, 5.46 deaths

The number of deaths even in these states, however, is intolerably high and far greater than in most Western industrialized nations. The data come from 2011, the most recent year for which data is available. You can find your state ranking here.

  • Nationwide gun death rate: 10.38 per 100,000.
  • Number of people in U.S. killed by gunfire: 32,351 in 2011 increased from 31,672 in 2010.
  • Death rates in other countries: United Kingdom, 0.23 per 100,000; Australia, 0.86 per 100,000.

Gunners now claim that they are feeling threatened, that this is the reason that they carry assault rifles into family restaurants and the baby section of Target. Others are frustrated that gun nuts give such a bad impression of gunners. BearingArms.com editor Bob Owens wrote, “If someone has an idea of how to break through to them that they are not only hurting their alleged cause but gun owners as well, I’d love to hear your advice.”

Several comments to Owens agreed. Larry Nutter  wrote, “A person with a long gun is actually carrying a, ‘shoot me first sign’ but don’t realize it.” David Deering added, “Can any sensible person really think a bunch of guys who look like they just escaped from their parent’s basement carrying long guns is a good way to convince anyone to have a positive outlook toward gun owners?”

People in the United States are slowly—very slowly—beginning to protest the overt display of violence. Chains such as Starbucks, Chipotle, Chili’s, Sonic and Jack in the Box have stated that open-carry customers aren’t welcome in their business as have Costco, Toys R Us, Babies R Us, Food Lion, Whole Foods, and IKEA. One woman who made a video of the Open Carry men so shamed them that they erased the video of the event on their website. Fortunately, Mother Jones had saved it for posterity.

The backlash after Sandy Hook caused the introduction of over 1,500 bills with the lax ones initially gaining more ground. Georgia passed a law allowing guns almost everywhere in the state, and Indiana legalized shooting police officers.

Gun sense prevailed elsewhere: New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Colorado, California, and Rhode Island all require background checks for all gun sales. Four states also require gun owners to report lost and stolen weapons. Wisconsin added four other states that prevent domestic abusers from owning or possessing guns.

In a reversal of previous anti-gun sense decisions, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the buyer of guns have to actually be the buyer of guns, not a person who will turn around and pass it off to another person. In 2009, former police officer Bruce James Abramski, Jr. of Collinsville (VA) lied on his federal form about buying a gun for himself because it was actually for his uncle. As usual in controversial cases, the Abramski v. United States vote was 5-4 with Justice Anthony Kennedy the swing vote between the two court factions.

The Supreme Court is avoiding the constitutionality of gun laws. Justices rejected a New Jersey case about discretionary permission for concealed carry, the Texas’ ban on concealed carry for people under 21, and a federal law for selling handguns to those under 21.

Meanwhile those NRA-identified “good guys” continue to be stupid with their guns. A Georgia man was trying to put away his .45 caliber pistol at a gas station in Macon shot off the end of his penis. The bullet exited through his buttocks, and his pants stopped it. When he dropped his pants, the spent round dropped on the floor. At least five other men in the United States have done the same thing since 2010.

ordinary gun

The biggest tragedy is that shootings happen every day resulting in the main-stream press ignoring them. We just move along, hoping that we’re not going to be one of those who gets shot by those “good guys.” As Jon Stewart reported on The Daily Show, Fox network suffered from shock and awe on the day after the school shooting in Troutdale (OR), but it was from Rep. Eric Cantor’s (R-VA) primary loss. As for the shooting, another day another shooting was their response.

 

 

March 25, 2014

Guns: Public Health Issue

As Michael Cohen wrote in The Guardian, “The only thing that stops a good guy against guns is the gun lobby.” Such is the case of nominee for U.S. surgeon general, Dr Vivek Murthy. Once the right-wing element in the country, led by Fox, had polished off the possibility of highly qualified civil rights attorney Debo Adegbile to attain a position in the Department of Justice, they attacked Murthy. His sin was declaring that gun violence is a public health issue because of the high rate of deaths and injuries every year from guns in the United States.

One of the attacks was that he hadn’t done much in his career. Yet, former Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher emphasized Murthy’s “impressive track record of accomplishments as an innovative and well-respected thought leader in healthcare.” Satcher served for both Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

NRAsurgeon720 cartoon

The NRA, a front for the gun industry, has long dabbled in public health issues. It tried to keep pediatricians from counseling parents about dangers of guns in the home just as medical professionals talk about the dangers of swimming pools and riding bicycles without helmets. A 2011 Florida gag law, crafted by the NRA for the gun industry, stopped doctors from “making written inquiry or asking questions concerning the ownership of a firearm or ammunition by the patient or by a family member of the patient.” A district court decision that the law violated free speech put the law into the appeals process.

“Guns are a health care issue,” Murthy tweeted in 2012. He also stated, “Tired of politicians playing politics w/ guns, putting lives at risk b/c they’re scared of NRA.” The lobby group, backed by the gun industry, took great offense at this statement. But Murthy is right. Between eight and ten Democratic senators are afraid of voting for him, even if some of them are not running for re-election this year. That leaves the nomination without a simple majority in the Senate.

The NRA, front for the gun industry, refuses to admit that the thousands of deaths and injuries from guns are, in reality, a public health issue. In 2010, the number of gun deaths was equal to those from car accidents, and the number of gun deaths is staying steady. In comparison, car accidents not kill people at ten percent the rate of 50 years ago when measuring the number of miles that people drive.

The American Public Health Association calls gun violence in the United States “a major public health problem and a leading cause of premature death.” The American Medical Association adopted a resolution in 2011 officially opposing any law that prevents doctors from openly talking about gun safety and the risk of firearms in the household with patients. A 2013 essay in the New England Journal of Medicine  recommends that a public health and safety campaign, like the one that greatly reduced deaths from car accidents, should be applied to gun deaths and injuries.

C. Everett Koop, President Ronald Reagan’s Surgeon General, called gun violence a “public health emergency.” Over 20 years ago, he wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Association: “The right to own or operate a motor vehicle carries with it certain responsibilities … We propose that the right to own or operate a firearm carries with it the same prior conditions.”

The risk of homicide in neighborhoods located near a gun retailer is almost 13 times higher than in those far from one. The lapse of the Assault Weapons Ban in 2004 caused a surge in the homicide rate of more than 16.4 percent across the border in Mexico. Homicide rates in Mexican municipalities near California, where a state-level assault weapons ban was still in effect after 2004, rose less than in municipalities near other U.S. border states. The lapse of Missouri’s background check law to an annual rise of 60 murders.

The NRA has launched a full-bore attack against what it called Murthy’s Radical gun control measures”:

“Murthy has some crazy, crazy ideas about guns. For example, he wants to bring back the federal assault weapons ban. He supports universal background checks; mandatory-waiting periods of 48 hours for gun purchases, mandatory safety training for gun owners and limits on ammunition purchases. He even wants to do away with laws that would prevent doctors from discussing gun safety with their patients; he wants to see laws that prohibit physicians from documenting gun ownership be repealed; and he wants to restore CDC and NIH funding to conduct firearms research.”

As Michael Cohen wrote:

“Only in America’s up-is-down, sky-is-green, right-is-wrong discussion about guns would views like those of Vivek Murthy be considered radical. Indeed, the good doctor’s views are remarkably similar to those held by a majority of Americans.”

The result of the NRA lobbying on behalf of the gun industry is that more and more states are eradicating gun laws. The NRA has no concern about the increasing carnage from guns in the United States; it just serves as a shill for the gun industry.

Catey Hill, who writes articles for the Wall Street Journal and other business sites about “ten things” that industries don’t want the public to know, lists ten things about the gun industry in “What you don’t know about the firearms business can cost you.” Each of these have supplemental information that you can access here:

  • “Owning our product may be hazardous to your health.”
  • “Fear is good for profits”
  • “Guns get special treatment under the law”
  • “We need your kids to play with guns”
  • “Gun control may work. We still think it’s a bad idea”
  • “Politically, we’re practically unbeatable”
  • “Under the “Gun Ban Obama’, we’re doing just fine”
  • “Sometimes we aren’t ‘pro gun’ enough”
  • “We sell to people we probably shouldn’t”
  • “Ammo is our secret (business) weapon”

The rejuvenated gun industry has brought big bucks to the NRA. The 300 manufacturers representing $6 billion in revenue donated over $76 million to the NRA in just 2009. Small and medium-sized gun sellers also give liberally to the NRA. The 54,000 licensed dealers and the industry as a whole may employ as many as 100,000 people. Claiming President Obama as a threat, the NRA boosted expenditures from 2006 to 2010 by 37 percent. By 2012, the NRA’s revenues swelled to $256 million with three individuals giving $3 million or more and another 15 donors writing checks of between $100,000 and $1 million. As a non-profit, the NRA doesn’t have to name its donors.

The National Shooting Sports Federation generously credits the gun industry with benefiting the U.S. economy by $18 billion. Yet the NRA and the gun industry cost the people of the United States $47 billion every year because of deaths and injuries. In Mexico, 50 percent of the 120,000 murders are from guns, and 68 percent of the guns in Mexico came from sales in the United States.

In 2012, Washington state saw the highest tally of gun injuries since 1995 and 30 percent higher than the average during that period. At the same time, firearms conducted three times the number of background checks for gun sales as a decade earlier. A measure requiring firearm dealers to offer trigger locks when selling guns, as 11 states already require, went down in flames. So did a measure to make it a crime of reckless endangerment for adults to allow an unsupervised child to gain access to a gun that results in shooting. That crime exists in 28 states.

In Georgia, a House bill would allow convicted felons who kills someone with an illegally possessed gun to claim justification under the state’s Stand Your Ground law. If the measure passes, Georgia convicted felons can’t vote, but they can legally kill someone. A second measure would allow concealed guns on college campuses, despite the opposition of 78 percent of polled Georgians.

Florida has become notorious for the effects of its Stand Your Ground law, especially after a Tampa Bay Times’ review of 200 cases found an “uneven application” and “shocking outcomes.”  State Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fort Walton Beach) has a solution for this problem: don’t let anyone find out about what happens with Stand Your Ground in Florida. He has filed an amendment to stop access to court records in self-defense cases. People found innocent in one of these cases could “apply for a certificate of eligibility to expunge the associated criminal history record.” This amendment is attached to the bill that gives Stand Your Ground immunity to anyone who fires warning shots during a confrontation.

The Sunshine State has an answer for the public health problem of gun deaths and injuries: just shut off the lights. Watch the rest of the country follow suit.

August 16, 2013

Stop the Gun Paranoia

At the height of the argument about gun control following the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, an op-ed in my local newspaper talked about how laws were not necessary because all legal gun owners were responsible. It is only the criminals who shoot people. I remember this statement every time that I see articles like this one:

This week, 56-year-old Gary Wingate of Prescott (AZ) insisted that his wife hand him his 12-gauge shotgun despite her being uncomfortable with handling guns. She did what she was told and accidentally shot him in the torso, killing him.

Near there, two months earlier, a four-year-old killed his father in what was called an accidental shooting. A Tucson-area man was luckier: his three-year-old son left him alive after accidentally shooting him in the butt with a .22 caliber rifle. The man was target shooting in the desert.

In another act of carelessness this week near Lancaster (OH), 73-year-old Terry J. Dunlap, instructor in a gun safety class, shot one of his students, 26-year-old Michael Piemonte, in the right arm. The gun safety instructor didn’t know that the gun was loaded.

The above events—and thousands of others—have been classified as “accidental.” But a policeman in Danville (VA) refuses to believe that these shootings are accidental. When a six-year-old found a gun in his Danville (VA) home and shot a one-year-old in the back, Cpl. T.B. Scearce of the Danville Police Department said there is no such thing as an accidental discharge:  it is a negligent discharge. In order for a gun to fire, Scearce said, three things have to occur: It has to be functional, it has to be loaded and the trigger has to be pulled. Somebody has to be responsible, and most likely it’s the person who left a working, loaded gun where a child can find it and pull the trigger.

Between 2006 and 2010, 561 children age 12 and under were killed by firearms, according to the FBI’s most recent Uniform Crime Reports: 120 in 2006; 115 in 2007; 116 in 2008, 114 in 2009 and 96 in 2010. The FBI’s count does not include gun-related child deaths that authorities have ruled accidental. Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, said children are more likely to die by gunfire at home or in the street, in answer to the NRA argument that teachers need to be armed.

  • Alyssa Celaya, 8, was shot and killed by her father with a .38-caliber gun at the Tule River Indian Reservation in California.
  • Delric Miller died at 9 months when gunfire from an AK-47 sprayed his home on Detroit’s west side.
  • Angel Mauro Cortez Nava, 14-months-old, was in his father’s arms on a sidewalk near their Los Angeles home was shot and killed by a bicyclist.
  • Faith Ehlen, 22 months, Autumn Cochran, 10, and Alyssa Cochran, 11, were all killed in their DeSoto (MO) home when their mother shot them.
  • Jackson Engels, 11, and his older sister Bailey, 13, were killed by their father in Dundee (OR).
  • Lincoln Leatham, 2, picked up a non-service gun left in the Springville (UT) home by his father, a police officer, and died after shooting himself.
  • Amari Markel-Purrel Perkins, 6, accidentally shot and killed himself with a gun found in his Clinton (MD) home after an adult hid the weapon inside a Spiderman backpack.

A man was shot in the head and killed after a relative on a kayaking trip urinated on a gravel bar along the Meramec River near Steelville, Missouri. James Robert Crocker, 59, thought he owned the land and picked a fight. The dead Army veteran wasn’t the one who picked up rocks, but Crocker said that he “just shot the one closest to me.”

Another “responsible” gun owner didn’t kill anyone, but she tried. When a woman saw a SUV in her driveway turning around, she opened fire on the couple and their five children, ages four to twelve. The kids’ mother yelled that they were turning around, but the woman fired again.

In Missouri the Ku Klux Klan, noted for perpetrating violence on minorities, is volunteering to be in the Neighborhood Watch. So far, they are targeting only white neighborhoods to fit with the mission on their website: “There is a race war against whites….”

Wisconsin doesn’t need the KKK for protection; they have the Arizona-based Bulletproof Securities, a “no compromise security force,” in the popular Penokee Heritage Park. Camouflaged, masked commandos are crawling around the popular hiking and camping destination because Gogebic Taconite plans to build “what could become the largest open-pit iron-ore mine in the world,” according to the Sierra Club’s Taconite Mine Web page. They’re likely to succeed because Gov. Scott Walker signed the Wisconsin Mining Act (aka “Bad River Watershed Destruction Act”) that strips any environmental protections Wisconsin. When somebody gets killed, the company can just say it thought it was one of the those environmentalist “terrorists.”

People in Gilberton (PA) are taking action against the infamous Police Chief Mark Kessler, asking the National Guard to disarm the suspended police chief and his followers who call themselves the “Constitution Security Force.” Kessler started by posting online videos of his firing automatic weapons while calling for violence against Democrats and Secretary of State John Kerry. Because the guns used belonged to the borough police force, the Council called a meeting to discuss disciplinary action. Kessler used another video to call on his personal militia to attend the meeting. Although a few brave people faced Kessler and his hundred-plus followers brandishing guns and the insurance threatened to withdraw its policy, the Council only suspended Kessler for 30 days. The state of Pennsylvania sent helicopters to the meeting, but officials may be afraid to fire Kessler.

Protesters at women’s clinics understand how dangerous guns are. This week, anti-abortionists went to the Wichita (KS) City Council asking that the South Wind Women’s Center be closed because it draws gun violence. South Wind is in the same building as Dr. George Tiller’s clinic. Before he was murdered in his church by an anti-abortionist terrorist four years ago, Shelley Shannon, another anti-abortion terrorist shot Tiller in front of his clinic.

The only gun violence will come from the protesters who want to close the clinic. Mark S. Gietzen, chairman of the Kansas Coalition for Life, made threats toward an escort who makes sure that women can safely enter and exit the facility when he said,

“The way this guy acts, I’m afraid that someone’s going to shoot him. He’s asking for it.”

The danger of gun ownership in the country by all these so-called “responsible” gun owners is their paranoia. Almost 30 percent of registered voters agree with the statement: “In the next few years, an armed revolution might be necessary in order to protect our liberties.” These are the same people who subscribe to conspiracy theories; one-fourth of people in this country believe that facts about the Newtown shootings “are being hidden” and another 11 percent “are unsure.” Connecticut Carry, a pro-gun lobbying group, has accused the father of a child murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School of “profiting off of the tragedy.”

Angry fearmongers foment hatred in the country through their irresponsible statements about public officials and agencies. The widening income inequality results in resentment while the most resentful continue to elect lawmakers who worsen the gap between rich and poor. Their answer is a violent uprising; the rest of us need to use the ballot box and courts to fight back against them.

We need to stop the philosophy of “I’ve got mine and you’re not going to take it, but I’m going to take yours—because I have lots of guns.”

July 8, 2013

Raise Insurance on People with Guns

Since the horrific Newtown massacre last December, at least 114 children died because of guns—four of them in the week before the Fourth of July, celebrating “independence.” There could have been many more because the government is prevented by law, passed by conservatives, to track these deaths.

In Kentucky a four-year-old boy accidentally shot and killed his six-year old sister after their grandfather left a gun unattended without checking to see if it was loaded. In Ohio, 12-year-old Austin Wiseman shot and killed his nine-year-old brother, Blake Campbell when they were left unattended by their grandparents in a home with multiple weapons. In Louisiana, a five-year-old girl shot and killed herself, probably by accident, after she was locked alone in a bedroom while her mother went to the store.

Many more small children have become killers, but they aren’t the only ones. The same week that the four children were killed, 38-year-old Sgt. Lance McLean of the Hood County Sheriff’s Office (Texas) was shot and killed with an assault-type rifle by Ricky McCommas, an avid gun enthusiast who sold guns from his home. McCommas had recently been charged with sexually assaulting his wife’s niece a year ago.  He had gone to the victim’s home with a gun to convince her to drop the charges. After the shooting, police seized over two dozen guns and 20 cases of ammunition from McCommas’ home.

In the same state, the Armed Citizen Project (ACP) in Houston (TX) is giving away free shotguns to single women and residents of neighborhoods with high crime rates. The group plans to extend the giveaways to 15 cities. People who support the Second Amendment are concerned about more gun-related deaths rather than less crime because of the ACP’s actions.

David Hemenway, a professor of health policy and management at the Harvard School of Public Health, cited studies showing that gun ownership is correlated with more crime. “When there is a gun in the mix, there is much more likely to be somebody dying or somebody incredibly hurt,” he said. Single-mother Cheryl Strain hopes that she will be less nervous firing the shotgun with more training. She’s also having her 12-year-old son Rory practicing.

The more guns people have, the more guns other people can steal. For example, 21-year-old Justin Jaspar drove a stolen pickup to the University of Washington in Seattle to “argue with some legislators” with maps of three college campuses as well as weapons that included a deer rifle, a double-barrel shotgun, Molotov cocktails, and military-grade body armor. He had taken these from long-haul trucker Erik Henderson of Butte (MT) who gave Jasper a ride from Idaho and left him at his house while he went onto another haul. Henderson said he didn’t want to prosecute Jaspar because it would take too much time.

Henderson’s experience is not unique. After President Obama announced his plans to make it more difficult for criminals and people with mental illness to get guns, he ordered the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) to provide an annual report on lost and stolen firearms in the United States. The first one, for the year 2012, came out the end of June, hidden under the excitement of NSA surveillance, IRS so-called targeting, etc.

Nationwide, National Crime Information Center (NCIC) received reports of 190,342 lost and stolen firearms. Texas had the most, 18,874 stolen weapons. Gun dealers reported the loss of 9 percent of the total, 16,667. Of those 5,762 were reported as stolen. The remaining 10,915 firearms were reported as lost. Gun dealers lost over 10,000 guns. The real numbers are certainly much worse because non-dealers are not required to report any missing guns. People are also not required to maintain records of guns they own, including the serial numbers.

Because of the nation’s archaic laws, the ATF traces guns, in the words of The Daily Beast’s Adam Winkler, “the way 17th-century monks copied texts: by hand.” He explained:

“When a gun is found at a crime scene, ATF agents can’t just look up who owned the gun in a computer database. They first have to call the gun manufacturer and find out which wholesaler purchased it. Then they have to get the wholesaler on the line and find out which dealer purchased the gun from the wholesaler. Then they have to call the gun dealer and have the dealer’s files searched by hand to identify the first consumer to purchase the gun. If the gun dealer is no longer in business, ATF agents have to search through files—many of them handwritten—maintained in cardboard boxes, one by one. Because we don’t require background checks on all gun sales, all this work may be for naught. Even if the person who bought the gun is identified, he may just say he sold the gun to an unknown person. For this secondary transaction, which is perfectly legal, there won’t be any files to sift through.”

The ATF goes through this process over 300,000 a year in wasted time costing taxpayers millions of dollars. Law-breaking gun dealers are protected by the law that limits inspections to once a year. With 70,000 licensed gun dealers in the country, the ATF would need seven years to inspect each one because of their limited funding and personnel. In one of the few gun laws this year—all of them supporting gun violence—Congress reduced the penalty for falsifying records from a felony to a misdemeanor.

To make violence in the country worse, conservative states are passing the so-called “Stand Your Ground” laws that encourage more killing. A prime case is the current George Zimmerman trial in Florida. Almost 18 months ago, a man took his gun, got into his truck, and tracked a teenager who was walking through the neighborhood minding his own business. Even after the police told Zimmerman to leave the teenager alone, he got out of his truck and approached Trayvon Martin. What happened from there, no one exactly know, but Zimmerman precipitated the entire situation up until then against special directions from the police. This wasn’t the first time that Zimmerman had stalked people and the police had told him not to do this. Now he claims that it was self-defense.

Zimmerman’s actions follow then Vice-President Dick Cheney’s One Percent Doctrine precipitated by the World Trade Center disaster of 9/11. Cheney’s method of protecting the country from danger is that people are encouraged to destroy the potential adversary with just one-percent suspicion of harm. George W. Bush used the one-percent solution to attack Iraq based on faulty intelligence. “It is not about our intelligence,” the vice president declared. “It is about our response.”

The jury’s decision in the Zimmerman trial will affect thousands of lives across the United States. His exoneration would send the message that creating a situation in which one can cry “self-defense” gives license to kill anyone. As Hemenway said,“Firearms are used far more often to frighten and intimidate than they are used in self-defense.” When arguments get out of control, one or both of those involved may reach for a gun and kill the other.

One study shows that judges perceive shootings by people who claim self-defense, as described by the shooter, are usually not legal uses of self-defense and could be avoided. Approximately half of convicted felons who used a gun in their crimes claim they did so in self-defense. These claims for shootings often come from the desire to shoot a person because someone “disrespected” them with a comment or look–that the person “had it coming to them.”

The greatest proof of guns being dangerous comes from the EMC Insurance Company that ensures 90 percent of Kansas schools. The company won’t give coverage to districts which allow teachers to carry guns. The Wright Speciality and Continental Western Group insurance providers said the same thing. EMC gave “the financial security of our company” as the reason for this refusal.

Maybe this can start a trend. Insurance for smokers skyrocketed in costs. People who have dogs in one or more 11 breeds have to pay extra for their insurance. Insurance companies should do the same thing for gun owners.

February 12, 2013

‘Manly’ Gun Owners

How dumb are the people who want to establish and maintain an arsenal of high-powered weapons that they claim are for hunting? Oregon gun owners have joined the insanity. At this time, the state has no law preventing anyone from carrying as many firearms into the capitol. There is no check to see if people are bringing guns into the building where the legislature makes laws, and there is no way to prevent them from doing so if they choose to do so.

How do gun owners reward this privilege? Last Friday they marched on the capitol with guns to wander the halls with semi-automatic weapons. I understand that protesters also went to the Washington capitol for the same purpose.

Two days after these people paraded around the Oregon capitol, a man shot and killed two women in the lobby of a Delaware courthouse. He killed himself after he wounded two police officers.

We can assume that carrying guns prove how “manly” they are. That’s what the ads for Bushmaster rifle declared. Have your “man card”: carry a big gun.

Bushmaster rifle

Gun owners also marched on the Portland city hall with some people—and dogs—opposing unlimited gun ownership. Ann Hubard took the following photos.

gun man

gun dog

gun kid 1

gun kid

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How safe are we with current gun laws? The day before the march on the Oregon capitol, Barbara Annett Masters, 48, shot her husband, 47-year-old Richard Lee Cooper, in a Bend (OR) McDonalds. She leaned forward, the gun fell, and he went to the hospital where his condition has been upgraded to “fair.” That’s what our gun laws allow.

Mcdonalds

Tim Denny, a gun carrier at the Oregon capitol, justified his action by saying, “I think there’s a certain section of America that does misunderstand.” I disagree. I understand, but I don’t agree.

Two letters to Oregon newspapers today make points about the people wandering around with assault rifles:

Doug Hintz of Eugene wrote to The Register-Guard:

The photos of recent pro-gun rallies indicated that the crowds are mostly male, overwhelmingly white, with camouflage a common clothing choice. In the 1960s Black Panther members openly carried guns to public meetings. The reaction was quite different. Then, California Gov. Ronald Reagan declared, “There’s no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying a loaded weapon.”

Suppose the pro-gun rallies consisted of predominantly African-American males wearing hoodies and openly carrying assault rifles. Would we reading the same uncompromising pro-gun letters to the editor? If Trayvon Martin had been carrying an AR-15 he might be alive today.

Let’s try another thought experiment: imagine if the pro-gun rallies consisted predominantly of men dressed in tunics and keffiyehs carrying assault rifles in one hand and a Quran in the other. Would so many people still be advocting for unrestricted access to military-style weapons, banana clips and copy-kill ammunition?

Remember, the Second Amendment doesn’t discriminate on the basis of race or religion.

Hintz’s letter reminds me of the dither that Fox and Friends got into when one Black Panther stood outside a Philadelphia polling place last November 6, and the network accused the man of voter intimidation. He wasn’t even carrying a gun.

n_blackpanthers

Bill Whipple of Cornelius wrote to The Oregonian:

What red-blooded American patriot would not be put at ease with the thought of thousands or more young 20-something boys/men, armed with their assault weapons and several high-capacity magazines on the street corner, at the mall, the library, the supermarket, at their favorite game store, bar, rock concert, Cascades, visiting their grandma at the nursing home–all with that smug “it’s all perfectly legal, do you want to make something of it” look on their faces?

Although the GOP doesn’t provide government tracking of gun deaths in the United States, informal reports show over 1775 deaths because of guns since the Newtown (CT) massacre.

January 31, 2013

Gun Deaths – The Culture of Violence, Part 1

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

Nine days after she led her classmates in the King College Prep School Marching Band for the inauguration parade, Hadiya Pendleton was gunned down a few blocks from her school. Last year, gun-related murders in Chicago were 58 percent higher than the number of U.S. soldiers shot and killed in Afghanistan.

Three days earlier, seven people were killed and six wounded because of gun violence in Chicago. One of them was 34-year-old Ronnie Chambers whose mother had already lost her other three children to shootings.

Two days ago in Midland City (AL) Jimmy Lee Dykes, a 65, killed a school bus driver, and kidnapped a six-year-old boy.  Witnesses reported that Dykes boarded the school bus filled with grade school children when it stopped at one of its regular drop-off points and brandished a gun, telling the bus driver, “I need two kids between the ages of 6 and 8.” The bus driver replied, “I can’t do that” and attempted to get away. That’s when Dykes shot and killed him.  The shooter then holed up in a bunker keeping law officers at bay. Three days later, he is still holding the boy in the bunker. Negotiators are trying to communicate with Dykes through a 4-inch-wide ventilation pipe. 

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), strong supporter of budget cuts to decrease funds for more police officers on the streets, said he wants high-capacity magazines and semi-automatic weapons because budget cuts mean inadequate police forces.  This is the same senator who told Fox News that “Hillary Clinton got away with murder” when he talked about the four deaths in Benghazi.

The Missouri state senate is considering a law requiring all first-graders to take a gun safety training course. This is in a state that has no sexual education requirement to help students protect themselves from STIs or unintended pregnancies.

Fontana Unified School District superintendent authorized the purchase of 14 high-caliber rifles at $1,000 each to be stored on campuses around the district for use in attacks like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary. Two years ago the district closed its counseling program; the purchase of guns does not address students’ mental issues.

The New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police collaborated with New Hampshire gun makers Sig Sauer and Sturm, Ruger & Company in a fundraising program. They will auction off a Ruger SR-556C assault rifle and 30 other guns, one each day of the month, to the highest bidder.

In St. Paul, Kirill Bartashevitch, 51, pointed his recently-purchased assault rifle at his teenage daughter and wife because his daughter got two B’s in school instead of straight A’s. He also threw his wife to the floor. He told the police that it wasn’t a problem because the gun wasn’t loaded and he had checked the chamber earlier.

These tragedies are only a few of the daily occurrences in the United States. Yesterday, the U.S. Senate held a hearing in an introduction to legislating gun laws. At the same time as the hearing, a man shot three people in a north-central Phoenix (AZ) office complex after the shooter did not do well in a civil mediation meeting. One of them has died, another is expected to die, and the man who did the shooting was found dead of a self-inflicted gun shot.

The Senate hearing got off to a violent start when NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre and his bodyguards walked off the elevator in the Dirksen Senate Office Building yesterday. Finding TV cameras waiting for them, one of the men “bumped and body-checked journalists out of the way so they couldn’t film LaPierre or question him as he walked,” according to columnist Dana Milbank. After a journalist was pushed against a wall, congressional officials told the NRA officials that congressional procedures prevented manhandling.

Two years ago, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) was shot in the head while addressing her constituents in a Tucson Safeway parking lot. Six other people were killed by the shooter who had a semi-automatic weapon with a high-capacity magazine. Yesterday she read the following statement at a Senate hearing on gun violence. Everyone should hear her statement.

“Thank for inviting me here today. This an important conversation for our children, for our community, for Democrats and Republicans. Speaking is difficult, but I need to say something important. Violence is a big problem. Too many children are dying. Too many children. We must do something. It will be hard. But the time is now. You must act. Be bold. Be courageous. Americans are counting on you.”

At the hearing, James Johnson, Baltimore County chief of police and chair of the National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence, said “the best way to stop a bad guy from getting a gun in the first place is a good background check.” But LaPierre said the NRA opposes closing the gun show loophole, claiming that background checks are pointless, as are other gun laws, because criminals and the mentally ill don’t abide by them. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) responded, “Mr. LaPierre, that’s the point. The criminals won’t go to purchase the guns because there will be a background check.”

Although–thanks to Congress–there is no formal process for tabulating the number of gun deaths in the U.S., an informal count shows that at least 1478 people have died because of guns in the United States since the tragic event at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown (CT).

January 17, 2013

What Happened to Filibuster Reform?

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:10 PM
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Filibuster reform: discussion of this seems to have faded since the twin crises of the debt ceiling and gun control issues. Yet it’s still swirling around in the blogosphere. Theoretically, any changes in Senate rule have to be done on the first day of the session which was January 3, the only day that rules can be changed through a simple majority. If there is an attempt any other time, the GOP is sure to—ahem—filibuster changes. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has extended the first legislative day of the new Congress, however, until Jan. 22. (This website provides extensive information on the filibuster process.)

Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tom Udall (D-NM), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) have launched a petition to get support for eliminating the silent filibuster. Currently, senators can just say that they are filibustering and then go back home without having to actually standing and speaking on the floor. The proposal is also to eliminate the motion to proceed, typically offered by the majority leader to bring up a bill or other measure for consideration.

Sens. Carl Levin (D-MI) and John McCain (R-AZ) have a scaled-back plan, supported by at least six other senators, that would sunset in two years.  Instead of a rules change, the proposal would ask Senators who want to object to unanimous consent, or threaten to filibuster, to do it in person on the Senate floor. That’s how it’s done now—and the GOP members refuse to follow this “recommendation.” In addition, the proposal states that the Senate shouldn’t go over the 30 hours of post-cloture debate time (as if that’s a major problem), and that the Presiding Officer could always call for a vote if nobody objects. Those are the current rules that have caused massive obstructionism and delay during the past several years.

Even when the talking filibuster was part of Senate rules, the filibustering Senators could use quorum calls and other practices such as dilatory motions or forced roll-call votes to avoid speaking. “Without a talking filibuster, obstructionist Senators will still be able to silently stall any piece of legislation they want without any accountability,” he writes.

Currently, the motion to proceed is eligible for a filibuster. Thus a minority of 41 Senators can force the Senate to extend debate on whether to start a debate on legislation. Udall-Merkley would eliminate this circumstance, so that proceeding to debate could not be filibustered.

On the other hand, Levin-McCain propose that ending the filibuster on the motion to proceed could happen only if the majority permits two amendments from each side of aisle, resulting in poison pill or messaging amendments. The underlying legislation would require 60 votes for final passage, but the amendments would demand only a simple majority vote. Example: the Democrats might have a bill on funding health care, and the GOP could amend it to defund Planned Parenthood. Most likely the result is legislative paralysis like the current situation.

To set up a conference committee, reconciling differences between legislation passed separately by the two houses of Congress, the Senate needs to pass three motions (to insist on its version of the legislation, request a conference with the House, and appoint conferees), all of which can be filibustered. If the minority wishes, they can force the Senate to spend 12 days to get through all three steps.

Udall-Merkley would consolidate the three motions into one and end filibusters against that motion so that a bill already passed by the Senate (and already subject to filibuster) can get to a conference committee with the House. The underlying legislation is still subject to filibuster after it gets back from conference. Although the McCain-Levin would consolidate the three motions into one, it could still be filibustered.

Udall-Merkley reduces post-cloture debate to two hours on all nominations except for Supreme Court Justices, a change from the four days of floor time on every individual nominee. McCain-Levin adds the 531 Presidential-level nominees to a streamlined process by going directly to the Senate calendar instead of through committee review, but every Chair and Ranking Member would have the opportunity to strike these new nominees from the list. That would eliminate most of the nominations. At this time, 75 seats on the federal bench, including Chief Justice John Roberts’ former position on the DC Circuit Court—vacant since he left in 2005.

Reid has a compromise proposal that would require a filibustering minority of senators to occupy the floor and speak after the debate has begun. They would staill retain the ability to force a 60-vote threshold for the first motion to begin debate. After that, the majority could advance legislation, or nominations to the minority could try to block it. Thus at least 51 senators would have to remain in the chamber to maintain a quorum rather than the current rule of keeping just one senator on the floor until the majority caves. Reid said, “If somebody wants to stall things let them stand and stall, not hide back in some office someplace.”

Reid’s plan would also eliminate a rule requiring a 30-hour gap between cloture and a final vote on a measure to make it easier for the Senate to go to conference with the House.

Merkley said, “As of this point, the only person who has said that he will definitely oppose Reid’s package if it is to be done with 51 votes is Senator Levin.”

Senate majority might have approved the Dream Act, campaign finance reform, and equal pay for equal work. None of these bills could come up for a vote, however, because they were all filibustered. When one considers the extent of filibustering during the last Republican minority, it is sure than at least one, and perhaps more, of the president’s nominees for cabinet seats will be filibustered. Although in the past a few cabinet nominees have been voted down in a majority vote, none has ever been filibustered.

A HuffPost/YouGov poll conducted in late November found that 65 percent of Americans believe senators should have to participate in debate for the duration of a filibuster, while only 9 percent of those polled said that senators should be able to filibuster without being physically present. The Senate is ripe for change because of the unprofessional behavior of the GOP Senate minority during the past six years.

Speaking of the GOP, House members are currently safely ensconced at their Williamsburg retreat. Part of today’s agenda was a panel on “Successful Communication with Minorities and Women.” The location is in the gracious Burwell Plantation room, named after the famous Virginia slave plantation, on the remnants of the Kingsmill Plantation.

Since January 1, 2013, at least 496 people have died of gun deaths in the United States, including 20-year-old Caitlin Cornett, her 53-year-old uncle Jackie Cornett, and her 12-year-old cousin Taylor Jade Cornett. The gunman had bought the semiautomatic pistol the same day at a pawn shop.

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