Nel's New Day

September 22, 2014

Courts, Laws Protect Domestic Abusers

Jessica Arrendale, 33, was found dead in her bathroom after her partner beat her with a baseball  bat, kicked in the locked bathroom door, and then shot her with an assault rifle. She saved her six-month-old daughter, Cobie by putting her in the toilet and leaning over it. Antoine Davis, a Iraq veteran, had been suffering from depression, according to his ex-wife. After killing Arrendale, Davis went to his infant daughter’s bedroom and killed himself. His two daughters, ages 9 and 10, were in the house. Police waited 13 hours until storming the townhouse. The infant has a traumatic head injury but is alive after being cared for hypothermia.

The death of Arrendale will join the number of women killed with a gun by an intimate partner—6,410 between 2001 and 2012, more than the number of U.S. military members killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.  The risk of a woman being the victim of homicide increases at least 500 percent when guns are present during the domestic violence crisis.

While people continue to be killed by guns either through intent or accident, the National Rifle Association has ramped up its attempt to put more money into the coffers of gun manufacturers. One of these efforts is hiring female gun enthusiasts as official NRA News commentators and the NRA Women’s TV Network, launched last year. Next month the NRA-hosted Women’s Leadership Forum Executive Summit will “celebrate the role of women as powerful leaders.”

One woman leader who NRA won’t celebrate is Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, attacked in the most recent issue of NRA’s America’s 1st Freedom. Conservative legal scholar and gun rights lobbyist Dave Kopel accuses Watts of being a front for a political group instead of a homemaker turned grassroots activist. Mother of five, Watts left her corporate PR executive position four years ago to be a consultant from her home. In 2010, she and her husband opened an art gallery. After Kopel’s denigration of Watts, he proceeds into the stale, false argument about how often good guys with guns stop the bad guys. But the major criticism is that “the willfully gullible media persist in portraying [Moms Demand Action] as an authentic social movement and Watts as a homemaker who just decided to do something about guns.”

Male NRA members support Kopel’s position. After the magazine posted an item on Facebook about Moms Demand Action “desperately bullying Kroger” over that company’s gun policy one commenter responded: “‘Moms Demand Action’ more like fat housewives that need to get a good dicking and get their ass back in the kitchen.” Another wrote, “Women are generally idiots.” Other responses: “Somebody needs to point out to these bitches that people who legally buy guns are not the ones going out and committing crimes”; and “They need to change their name to everyday nagging wives. That’s all they do. Seriously annoying.”

Desperate because they are not selling enough weapons for the gun manufacturers, the NRA has released two videos fantasizing young women as assault rifles. “Beauty Shots” shows NRA News commentator Colion Noir describing an attractive woman as she dresses in workout gear, swims, and stares seductively into the camera. Noir concludes, “She is Daniel Defense M4-A1.” The video was released three days after a college student killed seven people in Santa Barbara because of his rage at attractive young women. In a discussion of another video, Noir said, “The HK MR556 is that gun like that girl who’s unbelievably attractive, she has this presence about her that seems untouchable and she’s not apologetic about her beauty.” His female interviewer responded, “I like the comparison with the woman—the hot woman.”

The NRA sees women as an untapped source of gun buyers. Of the 70,000 people who attend its annual conferences, over 80 percent are men. As household gun ownership declines, male gun owners outnumber females by 3-1.

A common response from NRA supporters and people who refuse to believe in gun sense is that women should protect themselves with guns. Arrendale tried to protect herself with a baseball bat, but her killer took it away and beat her with it. Violence would most likely have happened if she had had a gun. There are many stories of men who purchase guns for wives and female partners before killing them with these weapons.

Equally—or perhaps more—tragic is the story of  Marissa Alexander, who fired one warning shot into the wall to ward off her abusive ex-husband as he threatened to attack her. The Florida woman was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Following George Zimmerman’s exoneration after he stalked and killed a black teenager, Alexander’s supporters were able to get her out of prison for a new trial. Now the prosecutor, the same person who gave such a weak case against Zimmerman’s defense, wants her in prison for 60 years. Florida has a new “Stand Your Ground” law that legalizes warning shots without first attempting to retreat. Yet Duval County Circuit Court Judge James Daniel has denied Alexander a hearing seeking immunity from prosecution.

No one knows how many other women are in prison because they defended themselves against abusers: no agency, including prison and court systems, keeps track of this statistic. A California prison study found that 93 percent of women who killed their significant others had been abused by them. In New York, it’s 67 percent.

Victoria Law reports that every domestic violence survivor in prison for defending herself had repeatedly, and unsuccessfully, sought help. One woman said that the police drove by and ignored the violence while her boyfriend beat her on the street. The only time that they arrested the boyfriend was for illegal drug paraphernalia—an overnight offense. Another woman said that every time she called the police that they would talk to the boyfriend and then allow him to return to abusing her. The abuser of a third woman was a police officer which left her nowhere to go for protection.

Law wrote:

“In Sin by Silence, a documentary about survivors incarcerated for defending themselves, sociologist Dr. Elizabeth Leonard explained that a battered woman is 75 percent more at risk of being killed after she leaves. She stays at that increased risk for the next two years. Feeling as if he’s losing control, batterers generally increase their level of violence. ‘Leaving does not stop the violence,’ states Dr. Leonard, in the film.”

Every women dealing with abuse knows that the choice is his life or hers. The difference between men and women is that men are exonerated and women are imprisoned.

Last month U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller was arrested for misdemeanor battery after his wife called 911 during his attack on her. He agreed to a 24-week domestic violence intervention program with no time behind bars and stays on the bench with his record expunged. Federal judges are confirmed by the Senate to lifetime terms, though the chamber can also remove them from office. Fuller, a George W. Bush appointee, was confirmed in 2002 with the support of GOP Alabama Sens. Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions.

Fuller issued this statement:

“This incident has been very embarrassing to me, my family, friends and the court,” Judge Fuller said in a statement. “I deeply regret this incident and look forward to working to resolve these difficulties with my family, where they should be resolved.”

At this time, Shelby and Sessions both want Fuller to leave the bench, but they have not called for impeachment. Law enforcement and courts continue to protect men and incarcerate women. Marissa Alexander is still in prison for defending herself, as are thousands of other women. Jessica Arrendale is dead because of domestic violence, like thousands of other women. And the United States allows uncontrolled purchase and ownership of guns used for killing innocent people.

December 16, 2013

The Direction of Responsible Gun Legislation

The lobby to Sen. Manchin’s (D-WV) office has a bronze statue of an Old West lawman holding a gun, an award from NRA after his TV ad in which he fired a bullet through President Obama’s cap-and-trade bill. Always a “gun guy,” Manchin changed after the Sandy Hook massacre one year ago and introduced legislation requiring background sales for commercial sales of weapons. Support for this bill proliferated until the NRA killed it.

Wayne LaPierre, the 64-year-old face of the NRA, was paid $831,709 in 2011 for his success in keeping guns on the streets of the United States. One week after Sandy Hook, he attacked the news media, the movie industry, and video-game manufacturers with the NRA war cry of “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

Starting in 1871 as a benign group teaching marksmanship to former Union soldiers, today’s NRA was formed gun-loving legislators such as senior Rep. John Dingell (R-MI) after the Gun Control Act of 1968. Two years after the lobbying group was created in 1975, the ousting of existing NRA executives led to the reign of today’s extremist Second Amendment absolutists.

By 1986, Dingell and friends passed the Firearms Owners’ Protection Act, restoring gun rights outlawed 18 years earlier. The ban on assault weapons during President Clinton’s early years led to NRA’s targeting of Congressional members who voted for reason in gun control and then lost to Republicans in the next election.

Even the 1999 Columbine shootings with guns bought at shows with no background checks didn’t stop the NRA. By the 2007 Virginia Tech murders, politicians knew that they didn’t dare vote for any legislation that the NRA opposed. The horror of Sandy Hook led to over a million new members for the NRA.

The media repeatedly published the popularity among almost everyone in the United States—including NRA members—for universal background checks, but NRA panicked constituents by saying that Democrats, who faced difficult re-elections, supported a national registry of gun owners. The organization offered to help a watered-down background check pass before two more extremist groups, Gun Owners of America and the National Association for Gun Rights, forced the NRA to back out of its agreement. Senators bailed on the bill after the NRA made paid calls to  its members.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) told several relatives of slaughtered Sandy Hook children, “You know, I have an A rating from the N.R.A., so I’m probably not going to support this.”

A victim’s brother, 13-year-old James Barden, asked, “Senator, there’s over a thousand deaths from gun violence in Ohio every year. I’m here on behalf of my little brother, Daniel. Do you think that this bill would save some of those lives?”

Portman said, “It could. It could.” The senators who voted against background gun checks knew that the law could save lives but voting for it wouldn’t save their own re-election.

The attrition of gun owners may eliminate the NRA’s control. Between 1977 and 2012, 36 percent fewer households in the United States had guns. Currently the NRA is recruiting young military veterans and Boy Scouts while fomenting the fear that President Obama and his administration will not rest “until they’ve banned, confiscated and destroyed our guns, just like they did in England and Australia.” As with the Tea Party, the rabid rhetoric hurts the GOP among young people and Hispanics, and mainstream gun owners are more concerned with jobs and college tuition than a national registry.

A growing gun-control organization is Moms Demand Action, created by Shannon Watts, a 42-year-old Indiana-based public-relations veteran and mother of five. She said, “I think what’s been missing are the voices of mothers.” Most gun-control organizations “have been run by men,” she said.

“Women are the caretakers of the family, and the ones who make most of the spending decisions. Most of us don’t realize — I certainly didn’t — that it’s easier to buy ammunition than Sudafed. But the massacre of innocent children in the sanctity of their schools woke us up.”

Watts continues her activism, despite the fact that men show up her group’s events with semiautomatic weapons and she receives threatening phone messages against her and her children.

Two other gun-responsible organizations are Mayors against Illegal Guns and Americans for Responsible Solutions, co-founded by Gabby Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly. With her husband, Giffords, the former representative from Arizona who was shot in the head while holding a meeting in a shopping mall, tours rural regions and meets with gun owners to build consensus on addressing the eminent killings.

The NFL, which keeps its football on the pulse of popular culture and acceptability, has rejected an ad for an assault rifle in the upcoming Super Bowl. Last year, sports commentator Bob Costas told the millions at halftime of a Sunday Night Football game that the “gun culture” was responsible for Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher shooting and killing his girlfriend before killing himself. Costas also pointed out that “handguns don’t save lives.” In 2011 when Wisconsin let people with gun permits carry concealed weapons in public, the Green Bay Packers refused to allow these guns into Lambeau Field.

Extremist gun-lovers accused President Obama of using the Super Bowl for his personal propaganda as Adolph Hitler with the 1936 Olympics and called for a boycott of NFL games. They failed to consider that football is more popular than guns.

One recent federal achievement was the ten-year extension of the Undetectable Firearms Act, continuing the ban on sales or possession of firearms, including 3-D printed guns, that X-ray machines and metal detectors cannot detect. These guns are required to have a metal strip to make them visible in detectors. The NRA and GOP members of Congress opposed a Democrat proposal to require permanent metal components on 3-D printed guns.

Cody Wilson, a promoter of 3-D printed guns, estimates that 3-D gun blueprints have been downloaded at least one million times on file-sharing sites such as the Pirate Bay after the U.S. government banned Wilson’s company, Defense Distributed, from downloading the file. Ladd Everitt, director of communications for The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, said he is more concerned about the organization’s ideology than printing the guns.  Wilson has been upfront in his intention to “foment insurrectionism,” Everitt said, “to send a message to our government and other governments around the world that you cannot regulate firearms because we can print our own if necessary, and if you go too far, we can use them.”

During the past year, state legislatures passed 109 gun bills out of the 1,500 that were introduced. Seventy laws loosen gun restrictions while 39 tighten them. Although unconstitutional, 136 bills nullifying federal gun regulations were also sponsored in 40 states. In the past year, 20 states have passed tighter gun restrictions, but 27 states have loosened existing gun laws. Some states have done both.

Gun control contributions were just 6.5 percent of what gun-rights advocates raised from 1989 through the 2012 elections. Gun rights candidates and causes raised $29.4 million in direct contributions to candidates, parties, and PACs at the federal and state level, whereas gun control causes raised just $1.9 million. Seven states–Alaska, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Wyoming—had no contributions to support gun control.

More than one million people in America have been killed by guns since Ronald Reagan was elected president in 1980. That’s equivalent to the population of Austin, or San Francisco, or Columbus, or Indianapolis, or Charlotte, or Memphis, or Boston, or Nashville. If the number of children slaughtered with guns were killed by cars or medications, the country would change. MADD shifted the culture because drunk drivers were killing children. People didn’t say that laws couldn’t be made to lower the acceptable alcohol level for driving; they just did it.

According to the NRA and other people opposed to reasonable gun legislation, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” Would the same people say, “Guns don’t kill children, children kill children”? In 2010, nearly three times more children and teens were injured by guns than U.S. soldiers wounded in the Afghanistan war; 83 children under five died from guns compared to 55 law enforcement officers killed in the line in duty. U.S. children and teens are 17 times more likely to die from a gun than their peers in 25 other high-income countries combined.

States with background checks have 16-percent lower gun fatality rates. Child access prevention laws reduce accidental shootings by as much as 23 percent. Australia passed a strict assault weapons ban and mandatory buy-back program and hasn’t had a single mass shooting since.

A year ago the NRA and GOP members refused to attend a panel on Face the Nation.  One person who showed up talked about restrictions on the First Amendment, such as not yelling “fire” in a crowded theater. Joking in line at the airport about bombs may put a person on the no-fly list.

What has saved almost totally unfettered gun rights for gun-lovers in the United States is that the mass killers have been almost 100 percent white and Christian. If Sandy Hook’s killer, Adam Lanza, had been a Muslim, gun laws during the past year would most likely have taken a different turn.

November 13, 2013

Purpose of Guns to Intimidate, Kill

“I firmly believe that all U.S. citizens have a right to keep and bear arms, but I do not believe that they have a right to use them irresponsibly.” That’s what Dick Metcalf wrote in the December issue of Guns & Ammo where he argued for mandatory training for gun owners.

Metcalf has a history with fighting any gun control. Last year he led the charge to pass a law in his home Pike County (IL) to carry concealed weapons with no permit, calling it “constitutional carry.” Thirty years ago he lobbied for loosening gun restrictions that came into effect after Robert Kennedy’s assassination. Yet he believes in Illinois’ new law to require training for all gun owners.

Anti-gun control protesters fought back against what they perceived as Metcalf’s unreasonable “diatribe.” On his blog “The Truth about Guns,” Robert Farago said that the Metcalf’s argument was a “bone-headed, uninformed, patently obvious misinterpretation of the Second Amendment.” Cancellations to Metcalf’s magazine piled onto more angry comments, and two gun manufacturers threatened to pull their advertizing.

Last week I wrote about this situation and described how the magazine’s editor, Jim Bequette, resigned following the backlash of publishing criticism  Metcalf’s column and apologized for his mistake in publishing any dissension to the hardest core gun carriers. In contrast, Metcalf stood by his words:

“If a respected editor can be forced to resign and a controversial writer’s voice be shut down by a one-sided social-media and internet outcry, virtually overnight, simply because they dared to open a discussion or ask questions about a politically sensitive issue . . . then I fear for the future of our industry, and for our Cause. Do not 2nd Amendment adherents also believe in Freedom of Speech? Do Americans now fear open and honest discussion of different opinions about important Constitutional issues? Do voices from cyberspace now control how and why business decisions are made?

“In today’s political climate within the community of firearms owners, even to open a discussion about whether 2nd Amendment rights can be regulated at all, is to be immediately and aggressively branded as anti-gun and anti-American by outspoken hard-corps pro-gunners who believe the answer is an absolute ‘NO!’ ….

“I further clearly understand that owning or driving a vehicle is not a constitutional right, and that keeping and bearing arms is. But both involve issues of public safety, which is why both are of great and immediate interest to a great number of Americans for much the same reasons. Should we not speak of both in the same sentence?”

As the conflict about gun carrying grows hotter and hotter, maybe people like Dick Metcalf will understand the dangers coming from people who believe it is their right to intimidate anyone who has the temerity to disagree with them.

For example, last weekend in Dallas (TX) when four women, members of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, met in a restaurant. Outside about 40 members of the Open Carry group gathered, brandishing semi-automatic rifles and other weapons, posing for photographs, and waiting for the women to leave—in a sense, holding them hostage. A spokeswoman for the restaurant said that no one called the police for fear of “inciting a riot” although people inside the restaurant were afraid.

Later OCT emailed the women:

“People are ‘getting used’ to seeing and being around guns and police have come to accept it and don’t even question us anymore. What we are doing is working and society is coming to view the sight of ‘military style rifles’ in public as just another normal thing. Isn’t that a good thing?”

People parading around with weapons strapped on their bodies is not new: a group decided to do the same thing at the Oregon capitol building last year to prove that they could do this. Open-carry advocates have targeted MDA meetings before, for example an event in Indianapolis last spring and a Let’s Roll America event at the Texas capitol last month. They also met at the site of John F. Kennedy’s assassination and at the Alamo.

Although Texas prevents open carrying “in a public place in a manner calculated to alarm,” OCT claims that their “objective is to educate, not alarm.” If anyone is frightened, that’s not OCT’s problem because they don’t have that intent. Free speech can be difficult to define. For example, is driving at 100 miles per hour on the highway to protest speed limits considered free speech?

Even Charles C.W. Cooke’s comments on the highly conservative National Review indicates that OCT might have gone too far:

“As a matter of personal taste, I dislike the tactics that Open Carry Texas used, and I think they got close to ‘intimidation.’ Unlike the protest depicted above, targeting a small group while carrying rifles strikes me as a counter-productive and mean strategy and one likely to turn off people who are instinctively on Second Amendment advocates’ side. Regardless of the legality of the thing, it is almost certainly ill-advised to alarm people in the name of making them feel more comfortable around guns.”

Cooke, however, complained about the photograph that Think Progress provided with its article.

open-carry-texas-moms-demand-action-gun-555x403

The philosophy of the modern pro-gun movement is its belief that they should be able to shoot and kill anyone who opposed their position—including elected officials, police, and military members. After President Obama planned to go to Dallas, almost 50 years after John F. Kennedy’s assassination there, two Texas-based Facebook pages displayed fantasies of also killing the current president through such comments as “take him via Dealey Plaza [where Kennedy was killed]”  and “Can he had a parade just like jfk?” Derek Roesler showed off his .50-caliber sniper rifle and wrote, “Drive him past the old book depository.” Russell Boyd fantasized, “Maybe another president will be sworn in on Air Force One as in the past. Everyone say’s [sic] that history repeat’s it’s [sic] self.”

Obviously Texas conservatives aren’t alone in their eagerness to kill people in authority. In September  conservative California radio host repeated a so-called “joke” with the punch line  that Abraham Lincoln told Hillary Clinton that she should “go to the theater.” Last May radio host Pete Santilli said Clinton should be “shot in the vagina” for being “involved in the killings of American troops.”

Last February the Wisconsin NRA handed out copies of The Reality News, calling for the armed overturn of the government. Karl Koenigs asked for a dictatorship which he and his followers would control. Thus a lobbying group for passage of laws distributed material at a state meeting calling for civil war.

Larry Klayman has declared November 19, six days from today, the day that he and his followers will march in Washington, D.C. and overthrow the government because the president is a Muslim. They plan to send Obama to “72 Virgins,” a thinly veiled death threat. 

Flyers from those who want a dictatorship with the Tea Party in charge read: ”Elections are not the solution to our problem; elections are the problem!” And these people are the ones carrying the guns with intent to kill.

One month from tomorrow is the anniversary of the killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School where 20 children and seven adults were shot and killed. Three pro-gun groups have decided to call December 14, “Guns Save Lives Day.” A press release last month from the Second Amendment Foundation, the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, and DefendGunRights.com, stated that the day is a reminder that “crazy people, criminals and gun control extremists prefer unarmed victims.”

Every day in the United States, people are killed through either acts of violence or stupidity—or both. Men murder women because of domestic violence, children shoot themselves or others because adults don’t lock up guns and ammunition, a father even shoots and kills his son because the son didn’t want to stay and watch a football game at a bar. These are the people whose lives weren’t saved through guns.

The only purpose of a gun is to kill. People carrying guns intend to use them for this purpose, frequently to kill anyone who gets in their way.

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