Nel's New Day

December 5, 2015

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

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

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

shooting calendar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Results of change in legislation:

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

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

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

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

Even President Ronald Reagan supported gun restrictions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 6, 2014

Change the Culture of Guns

Smoking was really cool, a half century ago, until people found out that the tobacco industry was lying and that tobacco was a horrifying public health issue. As the 21st century started, guns were cool. How did the people in the United States break the stranglehold that corporations held over lawmakers despite the favoritism that courts show the gun industry? They changed the culture. As more and more people learned that tobacco use kills, they pushed legislators into laws protecting people. In the same way, people can loosen the gun industry’s draconian hold on today’s lawmakers.

A tiny chink in the gun culture came yesterday with the announcement that Facebook will no longer post sales of weapons without background checks. The company’s spokesman, Matt Steinfeld, announced that Facebook had been working on curtailing illegal gun trafficking “for quite a while,” but the recent petitions on the Internet from Moms Demand Action and a coalition of other groups may have pushed them.

The social network will no longer allow posts for sales with “no background check required” or promises to send firearms across state lines without a licensed dealer. Another guideline is limiting minors’ access to pages and posts selling guns.

The National Rifle Association threatened retaliation for Facebook’s mandating legal gun sales. The executive director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, Chris W. Cox, said, “The NRA enjoys 150 times more support on Facebook than Michael Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns.” He added, “NRA members and our supporters will continue to have a platform to exercise their First Amendment rights in support of their Second Amendment rights.”

Members of Facebook’s “Guns for Sale” described the rules as unconstitutional and unnecessary although children and people without IDs can locate sales of assault rifles, handguns, shotguns, etc. in as little as 15 minutes on Facebook. The administrator of “Guns for Sale” did “support the idea of keeping guns out of the hands of children and dangerous people (i.e. criminals who aren’t allowed to own them).”

The same rules will be implemented on Instagram, owned by Facebook. Steinfeld said that monitoring will rely on complaints and send messages telling people who post “to comply with relevant laws and regulations.” A weak start, but a start.

Other facts to help change the culture of “cool” guns:

Having guns in the house make women less safe. A new study shows that higher rates of gun availability are correlated with higher rates of female homicide, especially notable because women in the United States account for 84 percent of all female firearm victims in the world. Men with guns claim that women need firepower to keep the weaker sex safe, but more than twice as many women are killed by husbands or partners than are murdered by strangers who use guns, knives, or other means of killing.

In one study, two-thirds of battered women were threatened with death by an intimate partner with a gun. Even if women use guns to protect themselves from abusive husbands, they are likely to end up in prison for many years as shown by the case of Marissa Alexander in Florida. She only fired a warning shot to protect herself, but she may have a 60-year sentence after fighting the 20-year prison term awarded her. At the same time, George Zimmerman walks free while he threatens the women in his life.

A 2005 study found that men killed themselves after shooting and killing their partners in two-thirds of the cases. Just one example is a Texas police officer who shot and killed his 42-year-old wife last week before he killed himself with the shotgun he had bought her. Sgt. Nick Pitofsky had posted an online video days earlier about buying a shotgun so that Vanessa, his wife of only three years, could protect himself.

Texas cop

Children are more likely to be killed by guns in the United States. In the U.S., children and teenagers are four times more likely to die by gunfire than in Canada, seven times more likely than young people in Israel, and 65 times more likely than children and teenagers in the United Kingdom. Children from 5 to 14 years old are also more likely to die from unintentional firearm injuries, suicides, and homicides if they live in states or regions with more rather than fewer guns.

Gun injuries are increasing. Some people argue that the number of deaths from guns is not increasing. No one can know if this is accurate because the NRA has blocked the keeping of accurate statistics. Even if this statement is true (which is unknown), injuries have increased 25 percent within the last decade.

Tough state laws are negatively impacted by other states with lax laws. In Massachusetts, where gun laws are among the most strict in the country, more than half the guns seized and traced in 2012 came from out of state. Federal agent Dale Armstrong compared the problem to barnacles:  “You know, one barnacle on the bottom of your boat’s not a problem. But the collective of a thousand barnacles on the bottom of your boat are a real big problem. They’re hard work to scrape off, nobody wants to help you do it.”

Massachusetts law requires that sales be reported to the state within seven days and a license to carry from local police that requires a background check. In surrounding states such as New Hampshire and Maine, private sales, even at a gun show, require neither background check nor record of the transaction. Not even identification. The law makes it illegal for a prohibited person, such as a felon, to buy a gun, the the seller doesn’t have any responsibility for selling to the person. In 2012, only three states, including Massachusetts, had the majority of seized guns traced to out of state sales.

Market forces could control gun industry. In Miami-Dade County, law enforcement may affect gun manufacturers by requiring them to show how they keep guns from those who are ineligible or “straw buyers” who buy guns to sell them illegally. Organizations such as Arms with Ethics are hoping that this practice catches on across the country in which law enforcement agencies spend over $1 billion for firearms.

At this time, lawmakers give more rights to guns than people, especially women and children. A common phrase is “Children are our future,” but legislators follow the mantra, “Guns are our future.” The people who promote open purchases of weapons with no background checks or registrations care more about a piece of metal that is designed only to destroy and kill than they do for the people who are devastated by shootings. Instead of strengthening protections from guns, most states have made their laws more lax, allowing more guns into the hands of felons and the mentally ill.

The NRA opposes even laws requiring trigger locks and safes for their guns. An example of NRA control is the removal of a provision requiring gun owners to report stolen weapons from a Missouri bill. Instead, Missouri is again considering a law that would remove any laws that would stop anyone from owning guns.

Those who cry Second Amendment rights want unlimited ownership and refuse to believe statistics about the dangers of gun ownership. They need to follow their own advice and not accept the statistics that they use to justify their positions that promote the injuries and deaths of innocent people.

As Tom Diaz wrote in The Last Gun:

“Like the tobacco industry before it, the American gun industry and its lobby have successfully employed political intimidation, the crassest form of flag-waving propaganda, and mass-marketing techniques appealing to fear and loathing to prevent being called to account for the public health disaster it has inflicted on America and to avoid meaningful regulation.”

The next chink in the culture war against unlimited gun ownership might be the protests against Visa’s business partnership with the NRA. Members of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence argue that the purchases made with the NRA Visa card help fund the campaign to block stronger gun protections, including expanded federal background checks for firearm purchases. NRA’s website states that it has raised over $20 million from its affiliation with Visa. It underlines NRA’s sole purpose for existing: money.

September 6, 2013

Tuesday Elections

If it’s Tuesday, there must be an election somewhere. This next week, there are Current mayor Michael Bloomberg served three out of two terms because he got the city terms’ limit law changed to let him run a third time. There’s very little publicity about the GOP candidates: one of the three is a billionaire, but he’s not the one ahead in the polls. On the other hand, Democratic candidates have been seen on television a lot—especially Anthony Weiner after he said he was through with texting photos of his personal anatomy and then did it again. One of his opponents is the city commissioner Christine Quinn, a lesbian who married after New York changed its marriage equality laws and published a book, much of it about her marriage.

nyc_mayor_dabate_0903

Weiner seemed to be in the lead until he took up his texting again, but after a few highly publicized temper tantrums, there doesn’t seem to be much hope for him. The leader is the tall guy, Bill de Blasio, whose 43-percent polling puts him far in the lead. At the last debate, the other candidates, including Bill Thompson, Jr. and John Liu, kept trying to knock him down. The 43 percent would serve Blasio well because he needs over 40 percent not to have a run-off on October 1 before the general election on November 5.

A more important election, however, decides the fate of two Colorado state senators, one of them the senate president, because they supported gun control. If they are successfully recalled this next Tuesday, other gun legislation may suffer. The election has brought in almost $2 million in the past month, most of it from groups outside the state. NRA alone has spent almost $400,000 to protect their turf, and the Koch brothers have piled on more money. Bloomberg has promised $350,000 to Taypayers for Responsible Democracy, and Mayors against Illegal Guns back the background checks on gun purchases and limiting the size of ammunition magazines that passed the legislature earlier this year.

Voters decide both on the recall and, if that passes, the replacements. Only two incumbents are running, both Republicans who would win by default if the recall passes. The two subjects of the recall come from districts in which President Obama received 58 percent and 59 percent, respectively, during the last election. Yet regular absentee voters won’t receive ballots in the mail; in 2012, 77 percent of Coloradans voted by mail, instead of going to a polling place. Military and overseas voters can cast absentee ballots, probably on the Internet.

After three days of early voting, registered Democrats were outvoting Republicans in the Sen. Angela Giron (Pueblo) recall by a three-to-one margin. A recent poll by Quinnipiac University showed that Colorado voters opposed the recall efforts by two-to-one, saying that people who disagree with legislator should wait for another election. The poll was across the state, however; the winner will be decided by the voters who show up. It will also show whether NRA’s money can control state legislatures.

Colorado has another looming issue, the desire of the disgruntled to form a new state. The map below shows how people are reacting. The 51st State Initiative is a blog devoted to keeping track of interest in the project. Blue indicates counties with “significant support” from citizens or officials; yellow is used for places where people actively work for secession, green shows counties with a popular vote or a resolution to join the working group, and white counties in Kansas also might want to join “North Colorado,” the new name. Red? Just not interested.

Colorado

Left of Colorado, a group of counties in southern Oregon and northern California may go backwards over 70 years in their consideration of creating the free State of Jefferson, removed from “loony California.” This plan was hatched in the 1935s but lost momentum after just before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. On November 27, 1941, irate citizens blocked Highway 99 where the road entered the wished-for State of Jefferson. members of the citizen committee used guns to block Highway 99 where it entered the State of Jefferson. After distributing their proclamation, they let motorists continue on their way.

In last Tuesday’s meeting, Siskiyou County (CA) voted 4-1 for a declaration of secession from the state. Even staff members of their representative in Washington, Doug LaMalfa (R), expressed support for the separation. Country officials are also trying to drum up support in both Oregon and California; they say that Humboldt County (CA) has shown interest.

jefferson

Only one problem with all these separations from the mother state: seceding from one state and forming another one requires approval of both the original state and the U.S. Congress. But it entertains all the people involved in protesting their legislators.

All the complaining reminds me of teenagers who want to have their own way but don’t want to pay for their livelihood. Texas had the same issue when Gov. Rick Perry considered secession a few years ago before he counted all the money that the government sends to the state.

 

 

April 30, 2013

Background Check Votes Influence Voters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 17, 2013

Majority Vote Fails to Pass Gun Amendment

Four months ago, 28 people died in Newtown (CT), 20 of them six- and seven-year-olds. That’s just 94 days ago. Today the Senate voted 54-46 to support the weakened Manchin/Toomey amendment to have some background checks for guns. In a real world, that might be something to cheer about, but in the GOP world, it means a majority vote lost. A vote that got the majority of votes and the majority of people in the United States lost because of a filibuster by a minority of senators.

Four Republicans–Sens. Susan Collins (ME), Mark Kirk (IL), John McCain (AZ), and Pat Toomey (PA)—supported the amendment while four Democrats–Sens. Max Baucus (MT), Mark Begich (AK), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), and Mark Pryor (AR)–sided with the NRA. Heitkamp is a freshman senator; the other three are up for reelection in 2014. The proposed amendment was an attempt to partially close down the gun-show and online loopholes, mandating background checks for these sales.

In an impassioned speech decrying the senate vote, President Obama said:

“By now, it’s well known that 90 percent of the American people support universal background checks that make it harder for a dangerous person to buy a gun. We’re talking about convicted felons, people convicted of domestic violence, people with a severe mental illness. Ninety percent of Americans support that idea. Most Americans think that’s already the law.

“And a few minutes ago, 90 percent of Democrats in the Senate just voted for that idea. But it’s not going to happen because 90 percent of Republicans in the Senate just voted against that idea.

“A majority of senators voted “yes” to protecting more of our citizens with smarter background checks. But by this continuing distortion of Senate rules, a minority was able to block it from moving forward.”

Earlier, the president said, in referring to the fact that 90 percent of people in the United States support universal background checks:

“Think about that. How often do 90 percent of Americans agree on anything? … And yet, there is only one thing that can stand in the way of change that just about everybody agrees on, and that’s politics in Washington. You would think that with those numbers Congress would rush to make this happen. That’s what you would think. If our democracy is working the way it’s supposed to, and 90 percent of the American people agree on something, in the wake of a tragedy you’d think this would not be a heavy lift.”

One of the more conservative Democratic senators and a co-author of the amendment initially recommended by the NRA, Joe Manchin (D-WV), described the NRA as “disingenuous” and said that it told “lies.”

The NRA is using one of these lies in its new ad campaign, that 80 percent of police officers think background checks have no influence on violent crime. National correspondent William Saletan called that ad a “bald-faced lie.” This statistic came from volunteer responses to a non-governmental website which never directly asked if background checks would have an effect on violent crime. Saletan added, “The NRA’s ad … flunks a simple background check. Senators should ask themselves what else the NRA is lying about.”

Senators were not satisfied just to filibuster the background check amendment; Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) is putting forth another amendment to overturn a state’s ability to set its own laws. Gun rights advocates call it the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity. Technically it could be called the George Zimmerman Act because it would permit lax states like Florida to allow anyone to carry a gun. George Zimmerman is the man who killed teenager Trayvon Martin almost exactly a year ago on April 11, claiming that he felt “threatened.” He is free on bail.

If this bill were to go into effect, anyone with a concealed gun carry permit in one state could take it anywhere in the United States until the initial state suspended the permit. Some states are strict about concealed carry permits; others, like Florida, give them to criminals, alcoholics, and domestic abusers. Zimmerman was arrested in 2005 after assaulting a police officer and had domestic restraining orders executed against him until 2006, but he still had a gun permit in 2012. Thirty-eight states ban people convicted of violent misdemeanors from buying and carrying guns; federal law does not.

The NRA is helping conceal the perpetrators of this week’s bombing in Boston through its past lobbying efforts. Investigators could use a crucial piece of evidence called a taggant to trace the gunpowder used in the bombs to a buyer at a point of sale if not for NRA-created laws. Thanks to the NRA, manufacturers are required to place tracing taggants only in plastic explosives—not in gunpowder.  The NRA was afraid of taggants being used to trace either firearms or the gunpowder used to make ammunition, the very thing that could find the Boston bomber.

A 1999 NRA “Fact Sheet” shows that the organization knew it would be helpful in tracing bomb-makers:

 “Identification taggants are microscopically color-coded particles that, if added to explosives or gun powders during their manufacturing, might facilitate tracing those products after a bombing back to the manufacturer. Then, through the use of mandatory distribution records, tracing would continue through wholesaler and dealer levels to an original purchaser or point of theft.”

Following the wave of bombings by the Weather Underground and Puerto Rican nationalist groups during the 1970s, a 1980 congressional study found that “identification taggants would facilitate the investigation of almost all significant criminal bombings in which commercial explosives were used.” At that time, the NRA successfully lobbied to keep taggant markers out of black and smokeless gunpowders. After the 1993 New York City truck bombing of the World Trade Center, Charles Schumer, then New York representative, tried to have these markers mandated in gunpowder.

Again the Clinton administration tried to mandate these markers after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, 18 years ago last Friday. A National Research Council committee in 1998 concluded: “Identification taggants and an associated record-keeping system could be of further assistance in tracking down bombers in cases where basic forensic techniques fail.” Nothing was done after George W. Bush was appointed president.

The Senate has a total of eight other amendments:

  • A Republican substitute gun measure. From Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Ted Cruz (R-TX), this alternative to the bill would increase gun rights such as allowing interstate handgun sales but does nothing to restrict gun ownership.
  • Tweaks on trafficking and straw purchases. Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Susan Collins (R-ME) would strengthen penalties against people who legally buy guns and then give them to people who are prohibited from owning them.
  • Expansion of concealed-carry permits. This Cornyn amendment is described above.
  • An assault weapons ban. Authored by Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), this would ban certain assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and try to strengthen some of the loopholes in the previous assault-weapons ban, which lasted from 1994 to 2004.
  • Expansion of veterans’ gun rights. Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) wants to provide “judicial authority” for veterans now prevented from owning firearms if they cannot manage their own financial affairs.
  • A ban on high-capacity magazines. Authored by Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), this focuses solely on high-capacity clips.
  • Gun owners’ privacy protection. Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) proposes a limit on the ability of state governments to release the names of gun owners.
  • Funding for mental health programs. Sens.Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) co-authored this to expand federal mental health programs from schools to suicide prevention to “assessing barriers to integrating behavioral health and primary care.”

And on the day that the senate refuses to limit guns in any way, a woman confessed to the killing of a district attorney and his wife two months after the killing of an assistant district attorney in Kaufman County (TX). Suspicion had been placed on white supremacists in the media, but the confessor is the wife of a former justice of the peace who lost his position and law license after he was convicted of stealing from the county. She says her husband helped her; he says he’s innocent. He also has a history of threatening to kill people, including an ex-girlfriend, but still has his guns. The dead DA had guns everywhere in his house and carried them everywhere he went.

More than 50 percent of the people in the United States will have a mental disorder in the coming years, based on the latest edition of the “psychiatric bible,” The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. The NRA will then be forced to change its strategy of keeping guns away from people with mental issues. But they have no where to go if they do.

Neil A. MacInnis, 18, legally bought a 12-gauge shotgun and last Friday shot two women at Christiansburg (VA) just ten miles from Virginia Tech, the scene of a deadly mass shooting killing 32 people six years ago yesterday. MacInnis said he was having a “bad week.” There has been no indication that MacInnis had any mental problems.

April 11, 2013

Gun Vote, Not a Victory

People cheered at today’s vote in the Senate: in a 68-31 vote, the Senate passed a motion to allow debate on the proposed gun legislation. The cheers show how dysfunctional Congress has become when a victory is allowing a bill to move forward to a vote to proceed. Two Democrats (Mark Begich from Alaska and Mark Pryor from Arkansas) opposed the vote to just debate the bill, and 16 Republicans voted in favor. In the week that marks four months after the Sandy Hook massacre in Newtown (CT), 31 GOP senators tried to block even debating a bill to make life safer for people in this country.

This vote, however, doesn’t mean that the bill is now up for debate. It was only on “cloture,” meaning that there now has to be a vote on a motion to proceed, which could be put off for as much as 30 hours. If Senate has a majority vote to proceed, then the chamber begins debate, starting with an amendment changing the provisions regarding background checks.

The amendment comes from the NRA’s success in watering down the universal background check requirement for buying guns. Under the pretense of supporting a bill, the NRA persuaded two senators, Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA), to omit background check for private sales. Once they agreed on this change, NRA came out in strong opposition to the bill (roughly translated as “hell no!”). Commercial sales require background checks, but others do not.

Adam Winkler, a law professor at UCLA and author of Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America, said that the proposal “doesn’t ‘close’ the private sale loophole” but merely “reshape[s] it.” He added:

“Private sales still won’t require a background check, so long as they occur outside a gun show or without a publicized advertisement. There’s nothing in the law that prevents someone from going to a gun show, finding the gun he likes, then meeting the seller off-site to complete the sale without a background check.”

There actually is no victory because the GOP plans a plethora of amendments to bog down the bill. Even if anything survives the Senate, there’s a 99.5 percent guarantee that the House will quash any gun legislation.

Legislators who opposes tighter gun legislation should be forced to watch a video from  Adam Gadahn, an American-born spokesperson for al Qaeda, who endorses our current lax gun control in the United States:

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

Gadahn is slightly wrong. People can buy only a semi-automatic rifle at a gun show. Even if the proposed bill is passed, however, anyone can just wander over to a neighbor and buy these weapons. Sure it might be illegal, but terrorists tend not to follow all the nation’s laws.

Republicans are considering their own gun legislation. Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) wants to tighten background checks on people with mental illness and reform health care privacy laws “so we can get better access to troubled folks–the Virginia Tech situation.” He hasn’t said how his bill would differ from the one that will now move into debate because of today’s vote.

Even with a watered down bill, any Senate decision puts House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) in an awkward position. Trying to look more professional, the harried leader turned all decisions over to the Senate, assuming that the gridlocked chamber could send the House no bills. If the Senate passes gun legislation, then the ball is tossed over to the highly split Republicans in the House. If he doesn’t move on legislation sent by the Senate, he looks as if he’s obstructing the will of the people. If he does—and fails—then he looks worse than he does now. Boehner, like all the other House members, is up for re-election in a year.

Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA), who supported a Pennsylvania background checks law in the state Legislature almost 20 years ago, expressed support for the Senate background checks measure. On the other hand Reps. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA) and Phil Gingrey (R-GA) didn’t want anything to do with the Senate bill and wanted a plan.

Sources indicated four House options if the Senate sends them anything: pass it along to the House Judiciary Committee for a markup (to procrastinate and then gut the bill); ask that committee for its own bill (to match whatever the NRA wants); ignore the bill (unlikely because they’ll get in trouble); or move it directly to the floor (if the GOP gets in trouble without doing that).

In the meantime, anti-gun legislation people are moving along in their own way that displays their mental illness. Last week, after the U.N. passed its first international Arms Trade Treaty by 154 to 3 with 23 abstentions, saber-rattling GOP senators started their opposition. The Senate must ratify the treaty by a two-thirds vote—67 senators voting in favor—before the United States can be a party to the treaty. Last month, the Senate added an amendment to the budget plan to stop this from happening.  The treaty cannot take effect until at least 50 countries ratify it.

As usual, conservative senators use misinformation to oppose what they don’t want. The treaty would not control the domestic use of weapons anywhere, but it would require countries that ratify it to have federal regulations to control gun transfers and regulate arms brokers. The purpose of the treaty is to regulate the multibillion-dollar international arms trade by keeping illicit weapons out of the hands of terrorists, insurgent fighters, and organized crime. The United States is responsible for 30 percent of international gun transfers.

The three countries who voted against the treaty? Iran, North Korea, and Syria. Because of the U.S. conservatives, the United States is adopting the policies of countries that Bush labeled the “axis of evil.” Last summer, conservatives said they needed more time to consider the treat. Their position was immediately echoed by Russia and China.

One bright spot comes from Maine. Following the lead of four other states, its state legislature took up two dozen gun bills. One bill would ban carrying weapons “in a public place in a manner that causes a reasonable person to suffer intimidation or alarm.” Another would limit the size of magazines to 10 rounds. (There is a backlash, one bill preventing governments from destroying firearms and ammunition received from gun buybacks and another exempting firearms and ammunition from federal laws.) Since Democrats regained control of Maine’s legislature, GOP Gov. Paul LePage has generally refused to meet with it or sign any bills that it passes.

Mayors against Illegal Guns plans to take a page out of NRA’s book and grade lawmakers on their support for gun safety regulations. For decades, the NRA has operated a reign of terror to bully legislators who oppose their draconian positions on lax gun regulation. Now Mayors will have a scorecard to show voters and donors.

How afraid are the GOP senators who promised to filibuster any gun legislation? CBS News contacted all 14 of them, and all 14 refused to be interviewed about the filibuster. That includes Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) who desperately wants publicity. Last December NBC’s Meet the Press  and CBS’s Face the Nation both commented on gun-rights backers’ refusing to appear on their programs. It looks like fear to me.

NRA’s fear was palpable when the association presented its grand new plan to stopping gun violence by making schools safer through more guns and fixing mental illness in the nation. The rollout of “National School Shield” was accompanied by security guards at the National Press Club. About 20 of them, approximately one for every three reporters attending the event, presented an unusual spectacle with uniforms, exposed gun holsters, earpieces, and bulges under their suit jackets, according to Dana Milbank.

The plan, replete with guns at school and supposedly in “full independence” from the NRA, was pretty much like the plan that the NRA proposed three days after the Sandy Hook massacre. Background checks weren’t part of it.

Milbank wrote:

“A reporter asked Hutchinson what he was afraid of.

“’There’s nothing I’m afraid of. I’m very wide open,’ Hutchinson replied, separated from his unarmed questioners by an eight-foot buffer zone, a lectern, a raised podium, a red-velvet rope and a score of gun-toting men. ‘There’s nothing I’m nervous about.’”

April 5, 2013

Gun Manufacturers Use NRA to Fight Gun Legislation

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:42 PM
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As Wayne LaPierre waits for the “Connecticut effect” behind stricter gun legislation to fade across the country, Connecticut became the fourth state to pass stricter gun legislation with over two-thirds of each state chamber voting in favor of the bipartisan legislation.

The Connecticut law:

Expands the state’s assault weapons ban: Among the over 100 new types of assault weapons that the new law added to the existing ban is the Bushmaster AR-15 gun, used in the Sandy Hook massacre. People who own these banned weapons may keep them but must comply with the new registration requirements.

Limits magazine clips will to 10 rounds: The sale of any large-capacity magazine clips holding mover 10 rounds are immediately banned. Again, owners of these high-capacity clips are permitted to keep them but must register them if they plan to keep them. Owners are also permitted to use them only in a residence or shooting range.

Requires background checks for all gun and ammunition sales: This part of the law also goes into effect immediately.

Expands mental health funding: The law includes more funding for mental health research, greater training on mental health issues for Connecticut’s teachers, and creates a state council to determine how to increase school safety and when to block someone with mental health records from a person buying weapons.

Gun legislation in Maryland went farther than Connecticut in requiring fingerprinting and licensing for handgun purchases. Gun owners are also required to report lost weapons to the police, and state policy can audit gun dealers. The state is one of five to require training and a license before buying a handgun.

People screaming about these outrageous laws have no one to blame but themselves. The violent current sweeping across the nation so predominant in the anti-choice movement has moved into other politics and threatens everyone’s safety.

Running for Nevada senator in 2010, Sharron Angle recommended that people use “Second Amendment remedies” if they didn’t approve of the government; in short, she physically threatened elected officials. Sarah Palin used a map with crosshairs over vulnerable Democratic districts on her website.

Dudley Brown, former NRA lobbyist and founder of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, wants gun owners to have the right to “hunt Democrats.” About the new Colorado laws requiring background checks on gun purchases and restricting clips to 15 bullets and at the same time that President Obama visited the state, Dudley said:

“I liken it to the proverbial hunting season. We tell gun owners, there’s a time to hunt deer. And the next election is the time to hunt Democrats.”

When Brown left the NRA in the 1990s, the organization looked on the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners as an “extreme right gun group”; now the two groups have similar philosophies.

Anti-gun Legislation Complaint #1: These laws keep people from buying guns in opposition to their Second Amendment constitutional rights.

Answer: People can still go out and buy as many guns as they want as long as they pass the background checks in respect to mental health and crime issues; take the appropriate training; and obtain licensing. No restriction of the number of guns.

Anti-gun Legislation Complaint #2: These laws don’t do any good.

Answer: Studies continue to show that strong gun legislation can cut down on gun-related violence. The most recent one, “America under the Gun,” compared ten indicators of gun violence with the degree of strength in gun legislation. It found a clear link between high levels of gun violence and lax gun laws.

Indicators:

  • Overall firearm deaths in 2010
  • Overall firearm deaths from 2001 through 2010
  • Firearm homicides in 2010
  • Firearm suicides in 2010
  • Firearm homicides among women from 2001 through 2010
  • Firearm deaths among children ages 0 to 17, from 2001 through 2010
  • Law-enforcement agents feloniously killed with a firearm from 2002 through 2011
  • Aggravated assaults with a firearm in 2011
  • Crime-gun export rates in 2009
  • Percentage of crime guns with a short “time to crime” in 2009

These ten states listed below have twice the level of gun violence as the ten states with the strongest gun legislation. Louisiana has an average of fifth-worst for the above indicators and have the highest level of gun violence. Eight of these states rank among the 25 states with the laxest gun legislation:

  • Louisiana
  • Alaska
  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Mississippi
  • South Carolina
  • New Mexico
  • Missouri
  • Arkansas
  • Georgia

gun violence

An earlier, less comprehensive study found similar links between gun deaths and lax gun laws. After Missouri repealed its background check law, gun homicides increased by 25 percent despite a national and regional decline at the same time. Three independent papers show that counties with more guns have higher rates of gun death. The Center for American Progress did the study because Congress has limited research on gun violence using the excuse that it “may be used to advocate or promote” new gun laws.

Anti-gun Legislation Complaint #3: People won’t obey gun legislation.

Answer: This is simply an argument to get rid of all laws; it has no rationale.

Anti-gun Legislation Complaint #4: There is no evidence that smaller magazines would result in few deaths, for example at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Answer: Yes, there is. Nicole Hockley, whose six-year-old son Dylan was killed, said, “We have learned that in the time it took him to reload in one of the classrooms, 11 children were able to escape.”

Despite the overwhelming demand from the public for universal background checks, the NRA and the GOP are terrified of supporting them. Immediately after the Sandy Hook massacre, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) found bipartisan support for “more effective and broader” background checks, but this last weekend he said they were “a bridge too far” for Senate Republicans.

This week, Asa Hutchinson, leader of the NRA’s task force on school violence, said he’s “absolutely … open to expanding background checks.” NRA said that Hutchinson wasn’t talking about background checks. Soon after, the NRA said Hutchinson wasn’t really talking about background checks.

Rachel Maddow said:

The modern National Rifle Association is a tool funded by the gun industry to take the public heat so that the companies themselves don’t have to. They put the NRA out there so that people who profit off selling guns don’t have to themselves be identified as the source of the argument that gun sales can’t be restricted in anyway. … And they are put out there to take all of the criticism and all the attention so that the industry doesn’t have to.

The gun companies make a product that kills people but the gun companies cannot be sued for that. Congress in 2005 passed a specific law to give gun companies immunity from lawsuits for how their products get used. The fight against gun reform is …about the gun makers who want to keep selling as many guns as possible, and who therefore fund the NRA. It is all about protecting the gun makers from becoming the focus themselves.

At bottom, this is gun makers protecting themselves from We the People turning on them.

March 29, 2013

Let’s Keep Talking about Gun Legislation

When people in the United States woke up on December 14, 2012, to discover that massacres from assault rifles weren’t going to stop, the media started to point out that the vast majority of people in the country wants universal background checks as a way to keep felons and the mentally ill from buying guns. The majority also thinks that large clips on assault rifles that allows people to riddle the bodies of small children with over 150 bullets in less than five minutes aren’t necessary.

When President Obama delivered his State of the Union address last month, he didn’t ask members of Congress to pass any particular laws. He just asked them to treat the gun bills in the same way that they address budget bills and anti-abortion bills—just give gun bills a fair hearing. He said, “Gabby Giffords deserves a vote. The families of Newtown deserve a vote. The families of Aurora deserve a vote. The families of Oak Creek and Tucson and Blacksburg, and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence — they deserve a simple vote.”

But Senate Republicans are determined to stop any debate on gun laws. And they have a very strange reason for the planned filibuster. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) argued that they will filibuster a floor debate so that they will have a “full debate.” He plans to stop legislators talking about gun bills so that there will debate the issue. Maybe he means that he wants the “full debate” to happen out in the corridor, away from television cameras.

Lee has company from four other GOP senators: Ted Cruz (TX), Jim Inhofe (OK), Rand Paul (KY), and Marco Rubio (FL). One can guess at the reasons that these five conservative senators think that the Senate is no place to discuss gun laws. Maybe they want to keep the topic from getting any publicity. Or maybe they don’t want people to hear about some of these events around the country within the past few weeks.

The young man who complained “Why can’t we just have segregation?” at the CPAC panel “Trump the Race Card: Are You Sick and Tired of Being Called a Racist and You Know You’re Not One?” was accompanied by a student at Towson University (Maryland), part of the newly formed “White Student Union.” According to its blog, its purpose is to save the campus from the threat of black people:

“…every single day black predators prey upon the majority white Towson University student body. White Southern men have long been called to defend their communities when law enforcement and the State seem unwilling to protect our people. The virtue of white Christian womanhood is under attack at Towson University by degenerate criminals seeking to rob our women of their God given innocence.”

With this goal, there are more Trayvon Martin killings on the horizon.

Why should the law prevent perpetrators of domestic violence from owning guns? Yesterday, Mark R. Miscavish, a former state trooper killed his wife, Traci Miscavish, inside a central Pennsylvania supermarket Thursday and then killed himself, just days after she filed for divorce. He was arrested two months ago for trying to bind her with duct tape after she had left him and then returned to the house for some of her personal belongs.  At that time he pulled out a gun, threatened to kill her, and tried to drag her back into the house. A passerby rescued her. She had a protection order against her husband, but he was allowed to keep his gun. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, more than two-thirds of spouses and ex-spouses killed by their partners between 1990 and 2005 died at gunpoint.

Thanks to the Armed Citizen Project, high-crime areas in Tucson (AZ) will have more shotguns. Realtor Shawn McClusky, who failed in his attempt to be mayor of the city, plans to spent $12,000 to give these guns away. For several years, Tucson has tried to raise taxes for their police and fire departments while McClusky has led the Tea Party to block these in the name of anti-government and anti-spending. As a result, Tucson lost 155 of 1113 sworn officers in the past four years, the same time that the population has increased from 517,000 to approximately 600,000. Nearly 100 of the current officers are currently funded by COPS grants, another program strenuously opposed by the Tea Party.

One person who won’t be allowed to buy a gun in Arizona is retired Navy captain Mark Kelly, husband of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) who was shot in the head over two years ago while speaking to her constituents in front of a Safeway north of Tucson. After Kelly went to buy a gun at Diamondback Police Supply Co. on March 5 to show how easy it was, owner Douglas MacKinlay decided to rescind the sales because Kelly was not going to keep it. Kelly had planned turn the gun over to the police after the transaction. MacKinlay said he was donating the gun to be raffled off by the Arizona Tactical Officers Association–maybe ending up in one of those “high-crime” areas.

One of those so-called “responsible gun owners” might be 34-year-old Christopher Stanlane in Fairmont (NC). He shot and killed his ten-year-old son, Christopher Stanlane, Jr., while cleaning his shotgun. The elder Stanlane was on his couch wiping down his gun while his son sat in front of him watching television. Like Giffords, the 10-year-old was shot in the head; unlike Giffords, he didn’t survive.

Marcus Scott survived being shot in the head by another driver in Mesquite (TX). Thinking that the person driving the car in front of him was drunk, he pulled up near it. Leonard Young waved a fake badge and waved him over. Scott slowed down to look at the other car’s license plates, and Young stopped, jumped out, and fired 15 shots at Scott. Young went to the police station to complain about Scott, and Scott went to the hospital with a bullet in the back of his head.

A bored nighttime custodian in Cincinnati decided to use the basement of a school for target practice. A teen in Orlando fatally shot his younger brother because he thought he was an intruder. And the stories just keep coming.

While profits soar for gun and ammunition manufacturers to over $1 billion in profit this year and the NRA rakes in millions to lobby legislators, the 30,000+ gun deaths a year cost the health care system and the economy tens of billions of dollars. This is just an estimate because lobbyists have limited federal agencies in researching the subject, and legislators fight efforts to treat gun injuries and deaths as public health issues.

“Death from firearms is not inevitable. It is preventable,” said Georges Benjamin, a physician and the executive director of the American Public Health Association. He watched the human and economic toll from gun violence when he ran the emergency department at one of Washington, D.C.’s largest hospitals and later led the health department. “The cost to the health care system was enormous,” he said. “It’s just absolutely enormous.” Gun-related fatalities are on pace to surpass deaths from automobile collisions by 2015.

A combination of the direct medical costs of treating fatal gun injuries and the economic damage of lost lives cost the United States $37 billion in 2005, the most recent year for which an estimate is available. Non-fatal gun injuries also cost an additional $3.7 billion that year. The National Shooting Sports Foundation, an industry trade group, says the total domestic economic impact of the firearms and ammunitions industry broadly is $31.8 billion a year.

Federal medical research agencies are forbidden by law to finance studies to reduce the harm from guns or, as the law phrases it, “advocate or promote gun control.” Law stopped the Center for Disease and Prevention in 1996, and the prohibition now extends to the entire Department of Health and Human Services.

Injury prevention research can help. Over the last 20 years, the number of Americans dying in motor vehicle crashes has decreased by 31 percent. Deaths from fires and drowning have been reduced even more, by 38 percent and 52 percent, respectively. This progress came from interpreting research findings into effective interventions, not banning automobiles, swimming pools, or matches. Instead, it came from translating research findings into effective interventions.

gun

What can be done with guns? Here’s one great idea. After confiscating and publicly destroying some 6,700 weapons in the city of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico’s Secretary of Defense gave some mangled guns to Mexico City artist Pedro Reyes, who turned them into musical instruments.

Two of his creations are being exhibited at the Lisson Gallery in London. Imagine, an orchestra of 50 instruments from flutes to string and percussion instruments, is designed to be played live.  The second, Disarm, can either be automated or played live by an individual operator using a laptop computer or midi keyboard.

Swords into plowshares.

March 21, 2013

Congress Loosens Gun Laws

Yesterday Colorado’s governor John Hickenlooper signed landmark gun laws that expanded background checks and limited magazine sizes. Just hours earlier, Tom Clements, the head of Colorado’s corrections department, was shot and killed when he answered the door to his home. The county sheriff where Clements lived had promised not to enforce the new state laws.

On the day that Clements was killed, Senate Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) withdrew a ban on assault weapons and the provision to limit magazine sizes from the planned bill to increase penalties for people who purchase guns for others barred from having them.  Tonight, after extreme pressure, Reid said that he would return the ban on assault weapons to gun legislation.

Since December 14, 2012, NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre has said that he’s waiting for the “Connecticut effect” to wear off. It appears that he is getting his way. After Republicans threatened to close down the United States, Congress sent the continuing resolution for government funding to the president for signing. The first gun legislation since the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre actually loosens gun controls. When President Obama signs the bill, it makes four long-term gun provisions permanent:

(1) Justice Department cannot require inventories from firearms dealers to make sure weapons haven’t been stolen;

(2) the government cannot change the definition of antique guns which allows many of these weapons to be sent into the country;

(3) the Justice Department cannot deny a license to firearms dealers who report no business activity; and

(4) the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives must include language in firearms data stating that the information can’t be used to make conclusions about gun crimes.

Andy Borowitz, author of a humor column for the New Yorker, came too close to being accurate in his assessment of LaPierre’s comments when he satirized LaPierre’s position:

“I must admit, when the national conversation about guns started in those dark days of December, I thought it was a bad idea.People kept saying that things would be different this time, and that scared the bejesus out of me. I was concerned that the national conversation about guns would turn into something uglier, like congressional action. Fortunately, that danger seems to have passed.”

Borowitz continued, writing that LaPierre said that the NRA would remain vigilant in keeping the conversation from “veering off into concrete remedies that will actually change things.” And that’s exactly what the NRA CEO is doing. The people want a ban on assault rifles: 59 percent of voters support this. But the NRA lobby is powerful; even my own representative, Kurt Schrader (D-OR), gets enough money and persuasion from the NRA that he opposes any tighter gun legislation.

What the people who support tighter gun laws know is that the states with the best gun laws have the fewest gun deaths. Just using the volume of gun laws on the books shows that the states with the highest number of firearms measures have a 42-percent lower rate of gun deaths than those with the fewest number of gun laws. Massachusetts has 3.4 gun deaths per 100,000 people, only 19 percent of the 18 gun deaths per 100,000 people in Louisiana. Since the tragedy at Newtown (CT) on December 4, Kentucky has had four times the rate of gun deaths as New York.

 

Getting any research in gun deaths, however, is extremely difficult. In the early 1990s, Rep. Jay Dickey (R-AR), self-identified as “point person for the NRA,” succeeded in choking off the evidence.

LaPierre has changed his own views since the 1990s. In May 1999, he said, “We believe in absolutely gun-free, zero-tolerance, totally safe schools. That means no guns in America’s schools, period.” By Sandy Hook, he had moved from gun-free zones to calling for armed, NRA-trained vigilantes patrolling all the nation’s almost 100,000 public schools.

Past pillars of the GOP have supported gun control. After George Wallace, southern governor campaigning to be president, was shot in 1972, President Richard Nixon recommended getting rid of Saturday-night specials and considered banning all handguns. Nixon said, “I don’t know why any individual should have a right to have a revolver in his house. The kids usually kill themselves with it and so forth.” He asked why “can’t we go after handguns, period?”

Republican William Safire, wrote in 1999 about the Second Amendment “[A] right that sometimes isn’t, is no right at all. After a great job on the First Amendment, the amending Founders botched the Second… Here’s how to fix a flawed amendment that is the source of so much confusion: Repeal its ambiguous preamble. Let some member of Congress introduce an amendment to strike the words before the comma in the Second Amendment.”

The attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan in March 1981 that seriously wounded his press secretary James Brady led to the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban. Reagan advocated for the law and said, “Every year, an average of 9,200 Americans are murdered by handguns, according to Department of Justice statistics. This does not include suicides or the tens of thousands of robberies, rapes and assaults committed with handguns. This level of violence must be stopped. If the passage of the Brady bill were to result in a reduction of only 10 or 15 percent of those numbers (and it could be a good deal greater), it would be well worth making it the law of the land.”

The year after terrorists took down the World Trade Center on 9/11, William F. Buckley, Jr. said:

“The assertion of a right at ridiculous lengths–the absolutization of it, in the manner of the American Civil Liberties Union–is a way of undermining it. If the Constitution says you can say anything you want under any circumstances, then you can shout “fire” in a crowded movie theater. If you have the right to remain silent in all circumstances, then you can decline to give testimony vital to another citizen’s freedom and rights. If you insist that a citizen has the right to own a machine gun, you discredit his right to own a pistol or a rifle.”

The gun industry has always lobbied for more gun sales and threatened to move their companies to more sympathetic states. Their latest tactic is to refuse to sell firearms or accessories to police and police agencies “that citizens can’t buy.” Thus if a state votes to limit magazine capacity to 7, New York for example, the boycotting manufacturers will not sell magazines with higher capacity to cops, federal agents or any other law enforcement magazines.

I reflect on the attitude that all gun owners responsible. Here are a few of these “responsible” people. In Crawfordville (FL), 61-year-old Mary Frances Alday threatened a Wal-Mart employee with a gun because her $1.00 Internet coupon was not accepted. In Orange City (FL), Jose Martinez pull off five shots in a Wal-Mart parking lot with the excuse that he was defending himself from a shoplifter who ran over and injured him. The police pointed out that Martinez was bumped by the car only because he chased it and tried to open the car’s door.

A 35-year-old Florida man, Gregory Dale Lanier, was shot by his dog as they traveled State Road 17 North. The dog kicked the 9mm lying on the floor of the truck. The gun went off, hitting Lanier in the leg. (Maybe it’s just Florida?)

In a classic example of irony, the gun industry is immune from liability suits, but bb gun manufacturers can be sued for negligence. The NRA lobbied GOP lawmakers in 2005 to obtain this shield. As Jon Lowy, director of the Brady Center Legal Action project, said on The Rachel Maddow Show on March 8:

 “There’s a basic principle of civil justice which governs everyone in society. That we all have to act reasonably. And if we don’t, we are deemed negligent. We can be deemed liable. The only people that that rule does not apply to are licensed gun dealers, manufacturers and distributors.”

He continued:

“We have cases where gun dealers supply criminals profit from those sales and then they come up with defenses such as, ‘I put a gun on the counter. I turned my back. What do you know, the criminal took the gun, left money on the counter for me and I didn’t know that he was going to do that.’ That, as implausible as it sounds, is a compelling defense under this federal law that can get them off the hook.”

A lawsuit, however, is trying to make gun owners responsible, using the example of a bar held responsible for a drunk driver who seriously injured a young couple and killed a fetus in a car crash. That decision was based on the Dram-Shop law holding bars and liquor stores in some states liable for damages caused by a person who is over-served or sold to. An Ohio lawsuit is claiming that gun owners who do not properly secure their weapons or family members responsible for people using guns for crimes are liable for the damages.

A year ago, 17-year-old boy T.J. Lane used his uncle’s .22 caliber pistol to shoot and kill three boys at Chardon High School in Painesville. He also wounded three other students. The families of the three people he killed are suing Lane, his natural parents, his grandparents–also his custodial guardians –-and his uncle John Bruening, claiming that they failed to prevent the shooting. Those who think that this is outrageous must consider that Nancy Lanza, the mother of the Sandy Hook shooter, bought the weapons, trained her son in shooting, and left the weapons accessible.

Civil Rights Advocacy

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. -- Margaret Mead

AGR Daily 60 Second News

Transformational News; What Works For Seven Future Generations Without Causing Harm?

JONATHAN TURLEY

Res ipsa loquitur - The thing itself speaks

Jennifer Hofmann

Inspiration for soul-divers, seekers, and activists.

Occupy Democrats

Progressive political commentary/book reviews for youth and adults

V e t P o l i t i c s

politics from a liberal veteran's perspective

Margaret and Helen

Best Friends for Sixty Years and Counting...

Rainbow round table news

Official News Outlet for the Rainbow Round Table of the American Library Association

The Extinction Protocol

Geologic and Earthchange News events

Central Oregon Coast NOW

The Central Oregon Coast Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW)

Social Justice For All

Working towards global equity and equality

Over the Rainbow Books

A Book List from Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table of the American Library Association

The WordPress.com Blog

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.

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