Nel's New Day

February 14, 2018

Shooting, Russian Involvement: Demand Action

Filed under: Guns — trp2011 @ 10:20 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

Today at least 17 people were killed in a school shooting, taking the public attention from other events. Vice President Mike Pence is especially lucky because most people may not notice that he again blatantly lied in an interview of Axios. He said:

“Irrespective of efforts that were made in 2016 by foreign powers, it is the universal conclusion of our intelligence communities that none of those efforts had any impact on the outcome of the 2016 election.”

Pence lied.

Six U.S. intelligence leaders, including Pompeo, Coats, and Wray, testified that Russia had interfered in the last general election, that they plan to do so in the current election, and that DDT has not given any direction to stop the Russian meddling. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said last week that the meddling has already started but that there is nothing that the United States can do to prevent any Russian involvement.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo said:

“We have seen Russian activity and intentions to have an impact on the next election cycle.”

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said:

“There should be no doubt that Russia perceives its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 U.S. midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations.”

The intelligence community concluded that Russia “aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him.” Collectively, they made this statement:

“We did not make an assessment of the impact that Russian activities had on the outcome of the 2016 election. The US Intelligence Community is charged with monitoring and assessing the intentions, capabilities, and actions of foreign actors; it does not analyze US political processes or US public opinion.”

The intelligence community made no ruling on the Russian affect on the outcome of the election last year when Donald Trump became the president of the United States. Yet Pence said that “it is the universal conclusion of our intelligence communities that none of those efforts had any impact on the outcome of the 2016 election.”

Donald Trump’s appointed FBI director, Christopher Wray, thinks that Russia believes its maneuvers succeeded in electing Trump as the president.

The Russians hacked and revised emails that resulted in negative press about Hillary Clinton. It distributed massive communications on social media that lied about Clinton and other progressive candidates. The FBI spread doubt about Clinton just days before the election while it failed to release the information about the Russian involvement in Donald Trump’s campaign, knowledge that they had for months before the election. And Donald Trump got over 60 million votes after he lied to the public about protecting the working people.

The same hackers also got into the email accounts of defense contract workers, and nobody is talking about that. Donald Trump refuses to sanction Russia for its interference.

Today witnessed the 18th school shooting in only 31 days of school in 2018, most of the shootings largely unnoticed by the media. Because of the gun industry and the NRA, conservatives take no action. (Although I wonder if they decide to allow all students over the age of five to take guns to school.) Yet GOP legislators give away trillions of dollars to the wealthy and the huge corporations. They plan to spend tens of billions of dollars on a wall to keep out immigrants and hundreds of billions of dollars to start and continue wars throughout the entire world.

The killer’s choice of weapon, at least one AR-15 style rifle and a large number of magazines, was the usual one for the deadliest mass shootings, including the October 1, 2017 Las Vegas massacre and the November 5, 2017 Texas church shooting. The assault-style rifle was developed for military use, but people use the Second Amendment to force its availability for the general population. Florida has no waiting period for anyone, including those on the terrorist watch list, who wish to buy guns, and the U.S. House has passed a bill making concealed-carry permits in one state valid in any other state.

Within hours after the shooting, officials associated the shooting with mental illness and calling them “evil.” Sheriff Scott Israel of Broward County said that nothing can be done about shooters if they are determined to kill people. Others are using the standard statement that shooters are “evil.” Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s response was that she would guarantee no “price gouging” for funerals and make sure that the families didn’t have to pay for the funerals of the dead students. Florida Gov. Rick Scott gave his “thoughts and prayers” to the victims.

People who want to think of the United States as exceptional should know that the U.S. has 270 million guns with 90 mass shooters from 1966 to 2012. No other country has more than 46 million guns or 18 mass shooters. In 2009, the gun homicide rate in the U.S. was far higher than other developed countries at 33 per million people. The rate was 5 per million in Canada and 0.7 million in Britain, corresponding with differences in gun ownership. In 2013, Japan had 13 deaths related to guns; U.S. gun-related deaths included 21,175 suicides, 11,208 homicides, and 505 deaths caused by an accidental discharge. The chances per capita of a U.S. resident dying from a gun is 300 times more likely than a Japanese person dying in the same manner, and U.S. gun ownership is 150 times as high as that of Japan. Only three countries—Guatemala, Mexico, and the U.S.—have the assumption that people have an inherent right to own guns.

Gun ownership is the reason for these gun deaths:

  • The U.S. does not reflect a greater problem with mental health issues than any other wealthy country. Only four percent of U.S. gun deaths might be attributed to mental health problems. Other countries with high suicide rates have low rates of mass shootings.
  • People in the U.S. are no more likely to play video games than in any other developed country.
  • European countries show little association between immigration and other diversity with the rates of gun murders or mass shootings.
  • The U.S. is no more prone to crime than other developed countries—just more lethal.
  • Gun control legislation reduces gun murders, according to an analysis of 130 studies from 10 countries.

Britain’s 1987 mass shooting and Australia’s 1996 shooting turned the tide of unregulated gun ownership. The U.S. doesn’t care. British journalist Dan Hodges wrote:

“In retrospect Sandy Hook marked the end of the US gun control debate. Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over.”

These are the 1,607 mass shootings in the U.S. since Sandy Hook.

Broward County Public Schools Supt. Robert Runcie said, “This has been a day we’ve seen the worst of humanity.” He may be right, but the worst is coming from people on the internet accusing the shooter of being a DACA recipient and an ISIS supporter with no evidence. The worst of humanity comes from people who refuse to take any action to stop mass shootings. The shooter will be dehumanized as insane, and the dead will be classified as heroes. And the Republicans will block any sane action. Only a shooting by an immigrant or in the name of a non-Christian religion would bring any action.

In their sanctimonious method of controlling gun safety laws, conservatives always accuse people who want to stop shootings as attempting to “politicize” a tragedy. The only way to stop the growing mass shootings and lack of safety at schools is to stop electing Republicans because they are controlled by the NRA and the gun industry. They have no interest in protecting people; they only want to get elected and grow richer and more powerful. Their demands to not politicize tragedies are to guarantee that gun laws grow more lax.

Happy Valentine’s Day, thanks to your GOP legislators, owned by the gun industry, who think that words like “prayers and condolences” are sufficient action. And Vice-President Pence, your intelligence community didn’t say that Russia had no impact on last year’s election that turned the United States away from democracy and toward authoritarianism.

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.

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. 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.



May 3, 2014

Bundy’s Militia Takes Away Freedom, Liberty

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:39 PM
Tags: , , ,

Freedom and liberty—that’s what gun lovers who want to curl up with cold metal at night call unfettered gun ownership. These are the same people—mostly men—who want to leave their guns readily available for children to kill their siblings so that they feel safe from the imaginary intruders. The same ones who accidentally drop their guns in coffeehouses so that other people are accidentally injured. The same people who pull out their guns at any offense in someplace like a pizza place or outside a 7-11 so that they can shoot, and sometimes kill, anyone who they perceive as insulting them.

Recent events in Nevada show serious problems from uncontrolled gun ownership. After federal officials rounded up some of rancher Cliven Bundy’s cattle on public property because he refused to pay his grazing fees for the past 20 years and lost at least two court cases in connection with his theft, the Wild West standoff continues. Bundy’s cry for help from self-appointed militia on the sympathetic Fox network brought over 1,000 heavily armed far-right extremists to his aid. The BLM agents backed off to avoid violence, and the gun-totin’ folk proudly claimed a victory. Yet they won’t leave.

Conservative media and political leaders also claimed victory—until the 68-year-old rancher opened his mouth. His opinions about black people extended to the claim that they were better off in picking cotton in slavery. Former supporters such as Sens. Dean Heller (R-NV) and Ron Paul (R-KY), who had called Bundy a “patriot,” decided they had better fish to fry and let their spokespersons bail them out of the mess. Sean Hannity now avoids any mention of the man who was prominently featured on his program for several days.

Range Showdown

intimidating Bundy called for the militia, and the people living near Bunkerville are left with the mess. The militia set up checkpoints on public land and demanded IDs, requiring proof that people live in the area before they pass through. The armed militia members roam along highways and roads as well as churches and schools. Afraid of them, the people of the community have asked their U.S. representative, Steven Horsford, for help because they don’t feel safe.

In fighting among the different armed groups is also causing danger. The Oath Keepers, a radical right-wing group, reported being afraid of the Bundy security guard who said they’d shoot deserters in the back. At the same time, Oath Keeper member Mike Vanderboegh, also leader of the militia group Three Percenters, warned that the country is “staring a civil war in its bloody face.” As he held up a skull, he told a story about an Alabama woman who killed federal agents who supposedly murdered her family during the post-Reconstruction era and used their skulls as a soap dish. Vanderboegh then said that he would give the skull to Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) as the “2014 Award for Incitement to Civil War” and added, “Don’t poke the wolverine with a sharp stick, Harry, unless you want your balls ripped off.” Reid had accurately called the militia “domestic terrorists.”

The small town of Mesquite, nearby, isn’t safe from the militia either. Hotels report that they have lost over $100,000 in business because of their presence, and the city police is investigating death threats to hotel staffers after a bomb threat. Militia callers told workers at the Holiday Inn Express that it wouldn’t be standing in the morning if the BLM rangers were allowed to stay in the hotel. One Mesquite hotel worker, afraid of being seen on camera, said he was told that he would be “dragged out in the parking lot and shot.”

The militia poured lighter fluid around news trucks after blocking reporters from access on public roads. Clark County Assistant Sheriff Joe Lombardo said that the law enforcement were afraid for their lives. Talking about facing the militia, Metro Sgt. Tom Jenkins said, “You are standing there going, ‘I just hope it doesn’t hurt when it comes. That it’s quick,’ and it was real for us.” He said that he thought he could die there.

On the day of the confrontation, Bundy ordered Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie to disarm every federal official and report back to Bundy in an hour.  The arms were to be put in his compound. He also ordered them to bulldoze down the entrance places “where they ticket us and where they—ah–entrance and make us citizens pay their fees.”

In a meeting with area leaders, Horsford said, “We are not a playground for armed militias.” As of last Tuesday, the militia stated that they don’t plan to leave the area. Militia group spokesman Ryan Payne denied that they were setting up checkpoints and that they wouldn’t “pull over civilians, without, you know, reasonable cause.” Militias have no legal rights to pull over anyone with any reason.

Because of the prevalence of the country’s gun culture, people can point a high-powered rifle at federal officers and get off scot-free. Sitting down at a peaceful Occupy protest, such as the one on the campus of UC Davis in California, results in the police spraying Mace in the peaceful protesters faces. The policeman who did this got $38,000 in compensation for “anxiety and depression.”

At least one of the government-hating militia members, Mike Vanderboegh, was receiving $1,300 each month in Social Security disability payments as of 2010. His health insurance came from his wife’s employment. The question is how many other members of the militia disturbing community life in southeast Nevada are also living on government “handouts.”

Great Britain has a much different approach toward gun ownership and lacks the violence shown in Nevada. The country controls the sale of firearms although it still allows people in the country to have shotgun licenses or .22 rifles for killing small animals. Since 1997, only police and military are allowed to carry automatic weapons, and most people like it that way. As Simon Crump wrote, “ There are plenty of other people around who can’t be trusted with a gun, and I want it to be as difficult as possible for them to buy guns. I would be uncomfortable if it were made easier to buy firearms.”

He continued:

“If the burglar knows I might have a gun, he’s more likely to have one, too. He’s also probably a lot more comfortable about pointing it at someone than I am. And for that, I would have to accept the responsibility of owning a gun and storing it safely where my children and visitors can’t get at it….  An argument put forward by the gun lobby is that criminals will always be able to source guns from somewhere, so strict gun control only serves to put us good guys at a disadvantage by preventing us from defending ourselves. The problem with this is that we do not live in a world solely made up of good guys and bad guys. Most of us are normal people who occasionally get drunk or angry and make mistakes, and when those mistakes involve guns, the consequences are much worse.”

Almost two years ago, Fox network and other conservative media raised an alarm because two men, calling themselves “The New Black Panthers” stood outside a voting area. They had no guns, and they didn’t approach or intimidate anyone: they just stood there. If over 1,000 black and Hispanic men with AR-15s and AK-47s paraded around land in Nevada and pointed guns at federal agents, conservative media would certainly have a different approach than they have with the current white militia. If a white militia member were shot by a federal agent, he would be described as a heroic martyr. A black militiaman shot would be retribution by the police saving the people.

What if Bundy’s “patriots” are part of a movement to take over a town, or city, or region? Right now Nevada looks like Ukraine without the masks. Unfettered gun control can create this situation across the entire country. We can thank the NRA and the gun industry for the loss of freedom and liberty across the United States.

March 14, 2014

Take My Gun, Please

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:14 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

jay kirell[The following by Jay Kirell was posted on The Sterling Road last September.]


By all measure, I’m the type of person who would not be questioned when purchasing a firearm in America.

I’m white.

I’m male.

I’m educated.

I’m an honorably discharged military veteran.

Anyone looking at me in my normal casual attire – Old Navy shirts and jeans – would assume I’m just like anyone else interested in firearms.  Maybe I want to own a gun to keep my shooting skills sharp.  Maybe I want something for home protection.  Maybe I just want to own a gun just to own a gun and don’t feel the need to provide a further explanation.

Nothing about my outward appearance would send up a red flag.  Likewise, nothing in my background would send a warning to anyone trying to sell me a firearm.

And that’s the problem.  Because I shouldn’t, by any reasonable measure, own a firearm.

I have post-traumatic stress disorder.  It was diagnosed from the VA a few months ago and it was caused by the things I experienced in Afghanistan.  Horrible things.  Visions of death, violence, pain, agony.

Visions that I can’t stop from entering my head when I don’t want them to.  Memories of events long over that your brain hasn’t figured out aren’t still happening.

The reasons I have these visions aren’t my fault.  I didn’t ask for them to occur and certainly didn’t ask them to linger.  But even though the damaged state of my brain is not of my doing, I am responsible for how I prevent it from becoming someone else’s problem.

And step one is to recognize that my right to own a gun is outweighed by the public’s right to have as few people as possible with mental problems walking around with hand-held death machines.

I shouldn’t have been able to walk into any of the dozens of gun shops near Fort Campbell, Kentucky (where I was stationed) and hand over a copy of my orders and $500 and within minutes, walk out with my choice of handgun, shotgun or long rifle.

I shouldn’t be able to hide my PTSD evaluation from a background check because of HIPA laws.

For the last two years I was walking past gun store after gun store with undiagnosed PTSD and nothing preventing me from taking all the steps necessary to follow in the footsteps of recent mass shooters other than my own disposition against guns and violence.

Now, keep in mind, a disposition against guns isn’t exactly the default setting in most active duty service-members and veterans with combat-related PTSD.  I served with 20 or so people in my platoon in Afghanistan, 15 of whom are out of the army now and have diagnosed PTSD.  Of those 15, I am the only one who doesn’t own a gun.

And while I’m sure there aren’t many, if any, congressman in Washington with the balls enough to go up to a combat veteran and ask them to hand over their guns  – I’ll do it for them.

Hand them over now, before something happens and you (and everyone else) regret not handing them over later.

I have no gun to give up myself, but I’m more than willing to give up the right to purchase one in the future.  That’s my sacrifice.  That’s how I’m willing to protect America here at home now that I can no longer do it on the battlefield.

This nation owes us a debt for all we sacrificed in the wars we’ve fought in.  Unfortunately, the sacrifice we made in our mental health causes us to make yet another sacrifice, [this time for one of our basic freedoms] for the greater good of society.

If anyone should stand up and lead the way in this effort against gun violence, as well as the effort to understand and treat mental illness, it’s our veterans and the people we’ve entrusted to keep us safe since our nation’s founding.

We answered the call once.  Time to stand up and answer it again.

[At the same time, Kirell wrote another thoughtful essay addressing the “intersection of guns and mental health.”]

Take out the NRA, take out the gun-grabbing left.  Imagine we lived in an alternate universe where Democrats and Republicans sat down and seriously tried to tackle this issue….


  1. What can we agree marks a mental health disqualifier when purchasing/owning firearms?
  2. How much of our mental health records are we willing to allow private entities access to for full background checks when purchasing firearms?
  3. How much access are we willing to grant people with a history of reported mental health issues in purchasing and/owning firearms?
  4. Finally, and most controversial, are we willing to deny access to firearms to certain normally-supported groups of individuals who suffer through mental health issues?


[Since these writings, Kirell has stopped writing because he suffers from severe depression, even attempting suicide. I hope that he returns; he has much to offer us.]

September 19, 2013

Gun Culture Leads to Murder, Suicide

Ho-hum. There was another mass shooting a few days ago, this one killing 13 people. It’s business as usual in the gun culture of the United States. This time, a veteran and defense-industry employee got into the Washington Navy Yard in the nation’s capital by using his pass. No particular outrage—just the customary stupid responses from the right.

Alex Jones said it’s all a fake, the same thing he said about earlier mass shootings and the Boston bombing. Elisabeth Hasselbeck, who has moved from The View to Fox network, thinks that a solution is to ban video games. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) said, “Blaming this on guns is like saying the big problem with obesity is we’ve got too many spoons.” CNN was back to doing its dance around the facts although this time, they would say that they might be getting in the information wrong after every report.

The conservative Reds are screaming that the carnage happened because the Navy Yard is a “gun free zone.” As usual, they got it wrong: only civilians there were not permitted to carry guns. They also skipped the fact that the first person killed was an armed security guard, that “internal security” immediately began firing at the gunman, and that local police officers arrived within two or three minutes.

Not one mass shooting in the past 30 years has been stopped by an armed civilian. Fewer than one-fourth of the mass shootings in the past four years occurred in “gun free zones.” And there is not one shred of evidence that shooters targeted places where guns were prohibited. Then conservatives decided to blame President Clinton for a policy approved during the that George H.W. Bush administration.

So many people carry guns that the police have started firing at anything that indicates the slightest bit of danger. After 24-year-old Jonathan Ferrell, former Florida A&M football player, was in a car crash, he dragged himself to the nearest house to find help. The owner called 911, and three officers from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department in North Carolina came to the scene. Police accused Ferrell of charging them, and Officer Randall Kerrick, 27, fired at Ferrell 12 times, eventually killing him. The charge against Kerrick involves killing without malice, using “excessive force” in “imperfect self-defense.”

A study by the New York Times shows that highly trained New York City police officers who discharged their guns in public hit their intended targets only 34 percent of the time. That means that these police officers miss their targets two-thirds of the time.  Last Saturday evening, police were aiming at a mentally disturbed man walking in and out of traffic but shot two innocent bystanders. One of the women, using a walker, was shot in her knee.

Today, a man in Michigan suffering from road rage fired at another car. The second man shot back. The result is two more funerals.

The Navy Yard killings happened nine months and two days after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown (CT) killed 26 people. On the same day, a crazed man in China attacked children in an elementary school. During that massacre, 22 children were seriously injured, but none was killed. The man had a machete, not a gun. The U.S. shooter had a military-grade weapon capable of firing a bullet every two seconds.

Details about Aaron Alexis, the 34-year-old shooter, show that he had been suffering from “a host of serious mental issues, including paranoia and a sleep disorder” and reported hearing “voices in his head.” He was involved in at least two incidents involving a gun while in the Navy and was discharged in January 2011. His “pattern of misconduct” ended his military career but didn’t stop him from legally carrying guns. He got a concealed carry permit from Texas and bought a shotgun in Virginia because the two states honor each other’s gun licenses. Washington, D.C. has tough gun laws, which means that 98.2 percent of all guns used for crime in the District come from states with weaker gun laws, including Virginia just across the Potomac River.

At least 17 mass murders, defined by the FBI as the slaying of four or more people, have occurred thus far this year. Shootings related to drug or gang violence don’t get the publicity as one gunman. HuffPost prepared the following graphic from news sources, including Reddit’s community-generated database of mass shootings. There may be more, but NRA pressure keeps the government from compiling statistics. It includes killing sprees that occurred in more than one location, but the ones that happen on more than one day, such as the string of homicides committed by ex-cop Christopher Dorner in Los Angeles, aren’t listed.


Guns have killed about 24,580 Americans since Newtown, according to Slate’s estimate based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; we’re pretty much on target for the annual 30,000+ deaths. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google, the fifth most frequent cause of death in the United States is “unintentional injuries”–including those inflicted by guns. The tenth most frequent cause of death in the country is suicide, including those involving guns. And the 16th most frequent cause of death in the country is homicide, including many murders-by-gun. Those figures are on a par with people in the nation who die from cancer and heart disease.

People in the U.S. have far greater odds of getting killed by other people in the country than by terrorists—about one in 20 million. The number is greater in areas that have more gun ownership. Boston University’s School of Public Health has released the results of a new study showing a connection between gun ownership and gun violence. Published in the American Journal of Public Health, the study found a direct correlation between gun ownership rates and homicides in the U.S.

Conservatives and the NRA have attempted to show that stricter gun laws did not lead to fewer “intentional deaths.” columnist AWR Hawkins cited a Harvard University study from Europe. It listed Eastern Europe and Scandinavia but skipped countries such as the UK, Italy, Portugal, and Spain; much of it concentrates on homicide rates in the U.S. and Russia. Don B. Kates and Gary Mauser, authors of the study, have a history of bias in their connections to organizations and their opposition to gun control legislation.

Dr. Michael Siegel, the principal author of the Boston University study, looked at data from all 50 states going back over 30 years. According to, the study “determined for every one percentage point in the prevalence of gun ownership in a given state, the firearm homicide rate increased by 0.9 percent.” Siegel commented on the findings:

“This research is the strongest to date to document that states with higher levels of gun ownership have disproportionately large numbers of deaths from firearm-related homicides. It suggests that measures which succeed in decreasing the overall prevalence of guns will lower firearm homicide rates.”

A summary of the main findings:

  • Over the three decades, the mean estimated percentage of gun ownership ranged from a low of 25.8 percent in Hawaii to a high of 76.8 percent in Mississippi, with an average over all states of 57.7 percent.
  • The mean age-adjusted firearm homicide rate ranged from a low of 0.9 per 100,000 population in New Hampshire to a high of 10.8 per 100,000 in Louisiana over the three decades, with an average for all states of 4 per 100,000.
  • For all states, the average firearm homicide rate decreased from 5.2 per 100,000 in 1981 to 3.5 per 100,000 in 2010.

Other studies show that a gun in the home increases the incidence of suicide, particularly for young people. According to another new study conducted by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health and published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, the strongest predictor of how likely a person is to die from suicide within a given state is whether they have a gun in the home.

Guns don’t increase the number of attempts; they just increase the risk of succeeding. Victims who attempt suicide using pills or cutting are 100 times more likely to survive, said Dr. Matthew Miller, the study’s author, whereas “you don’t get a second chance when you use a gun.” Less than 10 of suicide survivors make another attempt. Nearly one in five people under 21 who are at risk for suicide have guns in their homes.

The irony of Monday’s shooting is that a Senate hearing on gun laws had to be postponed. The mothers of two Florida teenage boys slain by gunfire were slated to testify about their opposition to their state’s infamous “Stand Your Ground” law. The hearing has yet to be rescheduled. One woman is the mother of Trayvon Martin, killed by George Zimmerman; the other woman’s child is 17-year-old Jordan Davis, who died after an intoxicated man fired into the back of a SUV because he didn’t like the music. The killer said he didn’t know anyone had died until the next morning.

One CEO has decided to buck the gun culture. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has asked customers to stop bringing guns into his 11,000 coffee shops after the increasing number of “Starbucks Appreciation Days” when extremists wander around the coffee places displaying their guns. Their actions led to gun safety advocates’ promoting “Skip Starbucks Saturdays” urging “the public to get their caffeine fix somewhere other than Starbucks” and “post a photo of themselves enjoying a non-Starbucks coffee.”

Schultz is one of the good guys. He supports marriage equality, suggesting that opponents can just sell their Starbucks stock. He also openly supports raising the minimum wage and has stated that Starbucks has no intention of cutting workers’ hours or employee benefits in response to Obamacare. As some gun owners pointed out, extremists are ruining gun ownership for everyone else.

September 13, 2013

U.S. Exceptionalism All Negative

Many in the U.S. have taken exception to Russia’s president Vladimir Putin taking exception at President Obama’s statement “I believe in American exceptionalism.” So how is the United States exceptional?

The health care in this country is exceptional because it’s costly with poorer outcomes than other countries. People in the U.S. spend almost 18 percent of the country’s GDP on health care, one and half as much as any other OECD country and twice as much as the average. 

health care expenditure

At the same time, about 50 million people in the U.S., almost 15 percent of the population. In other developed nations, 100 percent of the people have health care. In addition, many other people in the U.S. who have health insurance put off getting healthcare because of high deductibles and copayments. Obamacare  won’t solve the problem, but it attempts to remediate it. Personally I take exception to GOP members of the House who waste my taxpayer money by continually voting against helping people as they did again yesterday afternoon.

The U.S. is 33rd in life expectancy and 34th in infant mortality. This nation has the highest first-day infant death rate out of all the industrialized countries in the world—68 other countries. It is estimated that 45,000 people died each year because lack of access to medical care. People in the U.S. pay twice as much for medications as people in Canada or Europe, and 30 percent of every healthcare dollar is spent on administrative costs. In comparison, Taiwan spends a little over 6 percent of GDP on healthcare with better outcomes in some key indicators. Medicare in the U.S., a single-payer system similar to that in most other developed countries, has administrative costs of about 3 percent.

Adolescents die at higher rates from car crashes and homicides, and they have the highest rates of sexually transmitted infections. People in the U.S. have the highest incidence of AIDS, the highest obesity rates, the highest diabetes rates among adults 20 and older, the highest rates of chronic lung disease and heart disease and drug-related deaths.

The U.S. is the only industrialized nation in which workers are not legally entitled to paid leave—even vacation time. European nations typically provide five weeks; Germany gives almost seven weeks. Almost one-fourth of the U.S. workers get no time at all. Germany’s decreasing unemployment rate is 5.4 percent, and the average hourly wage has gone up more than 4 percent in the last three years. Wages in the U.S. have barely gone up, and the 7.4 percent unemployment rate is unhealthy for the economy. U.S. workers put in 1,800 a year while German workers work an average of 1,400 hours per year.

U.S. productivity rose by 80 percent from 1973 to 2011 while compensation went up barely 12 percent with no increase since 2000, despite a 23-percent productivity increase in that time.

The United States provides no maternity leave, compared to most of the other countries in the world.

paid-maternal-leave-by-country With a child poverty rate of 20-25 percent, the United States rates 34th out of 35 countries. (Romania is below the U.S.) Map


The United States is exceptional in having the most millionaires and billionaires who have collected more of the planets assets than any other country. Yet the U.S. is #27 in middle-class wealth. Adding all assets such as homes and bank accounts before subtracting liabilities such as loans and other debts gives the best indicator of individual and family prosperity. As the following chart shows, 26 other countries have a higher media wealth than the U.S.

Middle Class wealth

Incarceration is higher in the United States than in other countries such as Russia, Cuba, Iran, or China. The lock-up rate is ten times what it is in Norway and more than that in Japan and Iceland. Several states in this nation lock up people for debt, and private corporations count on “growth” models to increase their profits. In Arizona, for example, the state guaranteed full prisons when private companies built them.

 The U.S. has the highest gun ownership rates in the world and the second highest rate of gun deaths among industrialized nations. These two things are related, looking at developed nations shows that the higher the rate of gun ownership, the more people die from gun wounds.

The U.S. ranks 23rd in wage distribution, 22nd in gender equality, and 29th in intellectual property protection. The U.S. ranks 10th in purchasing power of minimum wage and 11th in minimum wage. The nation also ranks 125th in GDP growth per capita. Out of 24 nations, the U.S. ranked between 19th and 23rd in critical areas of health, education, and material well-being.

The United States is now 9th in the world in Internet speed, down one place from last year. South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Netherlands, Latvia, Czech Republic, and Sweden are above the U.S. Yet this country charges more for Internet use that these other countries.

The United States does rank first in the world in death by violence. The U.S. is also exceptional among the industrialized world for having the only president who claims the right to execute citizens without due process in the U.S. post-constitutional philosophy. For other ratings, check out the Global Competitiveness Report for 2012-2013.

In lashing out at Putin’s response to President Obama’s threatened attack on Syria, Putin wrote that claiming the exceptionalism of America is “dangerous”:

“We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.”

Because of Russia’s vicious anti-LGBT laws that cause physical harm and death to those perceived to be LGBT, Rep. Nancy Pelosi used Putin’s words to attack him when she said:

“He says that we are all God’s children. I think that’s great. I hope it applies to gays and lesbians in Russia as well.”

In the nationalistic craving for U.S. exceptionalism, Pelosi and many others forget that LGBT people can be fired for their sexual orientation or gender identity in over 30 states, they cannot be married in 37 states, and the federal government is denying Social Security benefits to all married same-sex couples who do not live in one of the jurisdictions that have not yet legalized marriage equality. By comparison 14 countries in the world have legalized same-sex marriage.

Before getting into a contest about whether the United States is “exceptional,” people might work toward making it so—in a good way and not just in high rates of mortality, bad health, hunger, poverty, income inequality, and incarceration.


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