Nel's New Day

December 14, 2015

GOP Killing People with Inaction

Filed under: Guns — trp2011 @ 8:43 PM
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“Liberty isn’t just about having any gun you want, any time you want it. Liberty has got to also be about the right to be free from indiscriminate violence.”

This statement is part of the first speech that Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) made on that chamber’s floor in April 2013. Three years ago today, Murphy was a newly-elected U.S. senator. Three years today, a young man killed his mother and then went to Sandy Hook Elementary School where he killed 26 more people—20 of them children—before he killed himself. The last thing he did was to kill himself. During that three years, one child has died from gun violence every other day.

Almost 20 years ago, a local scoutmaster in a small Scottish school killed 16 children and their teacher before killing himself. The government took swift action to stop more mass shootings. Since then, there has been one “mass shooting” in which a man killed 12 people in various locations. Since 1996, the UK has had no school shootings; the U.S. has had 142 school shootings in the three years since Sandy Hook.

homicide rate chart

Satirist Andy Borowitz wrote:

“In what has become a tradition in the nation’s capital, the United States Congress on Monday notched the third anniversary of doing nothing in the aftermath of the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

“As on the first and second anniversaries of the tragedy, lawmakers took up no new measures to prevent future mass shootings in the United States, and instead chose to mark Newtown’s third anniversary with a day of inaction. In that respect, the third anniversary of Newtown resembles the thousand-plus days that came before it, during which Congress took no action on guns except to periodically vote down expanded background checks.”

Earlier this month, the NRA ordered the GOP senators to vote against an amendment to keep people on the no-fly list from buying guns. According to the FBI, 2,233 background checks for purchasing guns or explosives resulted in 190 denials. Attorney General John Ashcroft had ordered permission for people on the terrorist no-fly list to purchase guns after 9/11, and the order has not been repealed in the past 14 years, despite cries to stop foreign terrorists from killing.

The NRA ordered GOP senators to vote against closing loopholes in the federal background checks allowing unlicensed dealers to sell huge numbers of guns in private sales with no checks. An Al Qaeda video encourages jihadists to exploit these lax laws to attack people in the United States. The GOP senators voted according to the NRA orders, and suspected terrorists may buy as many guns as they wish.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) voted against the bills because people on the no-fly list might not be terrorists. That situation can be fixed; selling guns to terrorists can’t without a congressional vote.

Even with guns leaking over from states with more lax gun laws, states with background checks for all handgun sales have 52 percent fewer mass shootings than other states. There are “63 percent fewer mass shootings committed by people prohibited from possessing firearms in states that require background checks for all handgun sales than in those that do not,“ according to a study. In states with these background checks, 48 percent fewer law enforcement officers are killed with handguns.

fewer mass shootings

Another “nothing” action from the GOP is their refusal to re-fund research on gun violence. Almost two decades ago, former Rep. Jay Dickey (R-AR) introduced the NRA-authored legislation to ban the Centers for Disease Control from studying gun violence and ways to prevent it. Since then, the United States has seen about 2 million dead and injured people from gun violence. The year before the massacres at Sandy Hook and Aurora (CO), Congress extended the ban to the National Institutes of Health to keep it from researching a serious health issue.

Dickey now regrets what he did, calling it one of the biggest mistakes of his political office that ended in 2000:

“Research could have been continued on gun violence without infringing on the rights of gun owners, in the same fashion that the highway industry continued its research without eliminating the automobile.”

A coalition of over 2,000 physicians recently called on Congress to lift its ban on research, and nine medical associations urged Congress to overturn the Dickey Amendment. Dr. Alice Chen, executive director of Doctors for America, said, “Gun violence is a public health problem that kills 90 Americans a day.” Last month dozens of House Democrats called for renewal of federal research on gun violence, writing:

“We dedicate $240 million a year on traffic safety research, more than $233 million a year on food safety, and $331 million a year on the effects of tobacco, but almost nothing on firearms that kill 33,000 Americans annually.”

Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) has submitted a bill called the Gun Violence Research Act with the express purpose of “helping identify and treat those prone to committing mass shootings.” President Obama asked for $10 million for this research in each of his last two budgets. Both times, the GOP eliminated the request. The GOP Congress is also refusing to fund any research about gun violence that costs the United States a staggering $229 billion every year.

The GOP is actually taking some action regarding gun laws. Republicans have started a process to send more guns into Washington, DC, the only city that Congress completely controls. After the mass shootings in San Bernardino, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) sped up a bill to repeal gun restrictions in the nation’s capital by skipping over the committee process. Gun violence has increased in the city because lax gun laws in the state of Virginia allow a glut of guns in DC.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has introduced a bill to repeal Washington’s ban on semiautomatic guns, remove criminal penalties for unregistered firearms, repeal a gun-offender registry, revoke the federal ban on interstate handgun transfers, restore the right of self-defense in the home, and require D.C. to issue and honor concealed carry firearms permits for residents and non-residents. In addition, he wants guns allowed in “public, non-sensitive areas of federal property”—in the nation’s capital. Earlier this year, Rubio raised his NRA rating from a B+ to an A with a similar bill.

Concealed carry of guns is allowed in bars in 16 states, in churches in 25 states, and schools in 28 states. States have prohibited authorities from seizing guns during emergencies, moved to ban the use of taxpayer funding for government gun buyback programs, and banned the destruction of firearms seized by law enforcement. Some states have pre-empted local governments’ ability to pass stricter firearms laws. The year following Sandy Hook, 26 states passed 63 laws allowing people to more easily carry guns in public.  For example:

  • Kansas: Gun owners don’t need a licensed for carrying concealed weapons.
  • Texas: Permits will allow open carry in holsters and concealed weapons in college classrooms.
  • Arkansas: People can carry guns into polling places.
  • Georgia: People can carry guns in bars and churches. 
  • Wisconsin: People no longer have a 48-hour waiting period to buy guns.

Every widely-publicized mass shooting brings GOP members to their knees. They pray for the victims and survivors while following the NRA directives. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) wrote:

“Your ‘thoughts’ should be about steps to take to stop this carnage. Your ‘prayers’ should be for forgiveness if you do nothing–again.”

As NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said about guns, “I have no faith in the Congress of the United States.” The GOP goes farther than doing nothing: they kill people by their lack of action in a crisis of gun violence and proliferation of even more lax gun laws.

November 14, 2015

Fear, Hatred Make People Victims of Terrorism

Filed under: Terrorism — trp2011 @ 8:43 PM
Tags: , , ,

People around the world are still reeling from yesterday’s attack on Paris that killed at least 129 people in a coordinated attack on several targets including a musical performance, a soccer game, and restaurants. Juan Cole writes that a surviving radio and television professional reported that he heard the attackers say to the hostages, “It is [President Francois] Hollande’s fault, it is the fault of your president, he should not have intervened in Syria.” They also spoke of Iraq. ISIS, which holds territory in Syria and Iraq, has already taken responsibility for the attacks. Another possibility is the Support Front (al-Jabha al-Nusra) in Syria, but it does not have territory in Iraq, and France has not specifically targeted it in the west of Syria. Cole wrote:

“When I was in France in mid-October, I was told by a former diplomat that President Hollande had decided to begin flying missions against ISIL in Raqqa, Syria, last September because French intelligence had learned that ISIL was planning to hit France. It is estimated that there are some 3,000 radical French Muslims fighting in ISIL (though remember that this number is proportionally tiny, since there are on the order of 3 million French Muslims, some 5% of the population– and the majority of them is not religious)….

“The French air force has been inflicting substantial damage on ISIL in Raqqa and its hinterlands. On Tuesday, AFP reported that France launched a fourth wave of airstrikes on Daesh targets in Syria, targeting the oil infrastructure that is a source of much of ISIL’s budget.”

The attacks may be an attempt to replicate the 2004 Madrid train bombings which also aimed at “soft targets” and persuaded Spain to withdraw its troops from Iraq. Attackers tend to perform their acts for a goal, not just from generalized anger. The “war on terror” has made little distinction between noncombatants and alleged militants with a shrug of the perpetrators toward “collateral damage,” killing hundreds of thousands of people in the Middle East and displacing hundreds of thousands of people.

The GOP has reacted to the attacks by peddling more fear and hatred. The right-wing media latched onto the jihadists’ action by claiming that all Muslims are responsible for last night’s atrocities. In tonight’s Democratic presidential debate, all three candidates agreed that they would not use the term “radical Islam” because it insinuates that all 1.7 billion Muslims in the world are affiliated with these violent groups. Hillary Clinton said, “We are not at war with Islam or Muslims. We are at war with violent extremism.” Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley argued a better term would be “radical jihadists.”

President Barack Obama said last February that he refuses to say “radical Islam” because the term grants them a religious legitimacy they don’t deserve.

“They are not religious leaders; they are terrorists. We are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who have perverted Islam.”

The Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, also known as ISIS or ISIL, is “desperate” to portray itself as a group of holy warriors defending Islam. It uses to recruit and radicalize young people. He added:

“They no more represent Islam than any madman who kills in the name of Christianity or Judaism or Buddhism or Hinduism. No religion is responsible for terrorism. People are responsible for violence and terrorism.”

GOP presidential candidates called the Democrats’ positions one of “weakness.” [As you read the following comments, please note that President Obama said that he wanted his team to accept at least 10,000 Syrian refugees in the upcoming fiscal year. He did suggest 83,000 refugees, but most of these would be from other countries. The numbers over 200,000 Syrian refugees came from a right-wing parody news website. “RealNewsRightNow”–not to be confused with the respected TheRealNews.com–is not at all “real.”]

Donald Trump: “It was just reported, one [attacker was] from Syria. Our president wants to take in 250,000 from Syria.

Rick Santorum: “ISIS is a creation of a political decision by Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to abandon Iraq — against all of our generals’ recommendations, against all of the policy recommendations.” [Actually, George W. Bush made the arrangements to leave—or “abandon”—Iraq.)

Carly Fiorina: “I am outraged because the murder, the mayhem, the danger, the tragedy we see unfolding in Paris, throughout the Middle East, around the world, and too often in our own homeland are the direct consequence of this administration’s policies.”

Mike Huckabee: “During the debate last week, I stated that we should not admit those claiming to be Syrian refugees and was condemned by the left for that position. I was right, and the events in Paris affirm that …. It’s time for a President who will act to protect Americans, not just talk and protect the image of Islam.”

Ted Cruz:  “I call on Congress to pass the Expatriate Terrorist Act. We should not allow jihadists to come back to America using U.S. passports to murder innocent men and women. We are at war.” “We need to immediately declare a halt to any plans to bring refugees that may have been infiltrated by ISIS to the United States.” [That to Cruz is probably all of them.] He also wants to kill more civilians: “The radical Islamism … will not be deterred by targeted airstrikes with zero tolerance for civilian casualties, when the terrorists have such utter disregard for innocent life.”

Ben Carson: “I think America’s involvement should be trying to eliminate them, completely, destroy them. Boots on the ground would probably be important.” “If we’re going to be bringing 200,000 people over here from that region—if I were one of the leaders of the global jihadist movement and I didn’t infiltrate that group of people with my people, that would be almost malpractice.”

Jeb Bush: “This is an organized effort to destroy Western civilization [and the U.S. should] re-garner the alliances, fortify those alliances, reconnect with our counterintelligence and intelligence capabilities with our European allies, and engage in the Middle East to take out ISIS.”

Marco Rubio: “We must increase our efforts at home and abroad to improve our defenses, destroy terrorist networks, and deprive them of the space from which to operate.”

John Kasich: “You know, our thoughts and our prayers go to the people of France but that’s not enough. Action is required. Time is of the essence. Negotiation, ambivalence, or delay, are not acceptable,” he said in a speech that focused entirely on the terror attacks.”

Eschewing the hateful feedback from GOP presidential candidates, including immediately blocking the Iran agreement, President Rhouhanni of Iran sent this message to France:

“In the name of the Iranian people, who have themselves been victims of terrorism, I strongly condemn these crimes against humanity and offer my condolences to the grieving French people and government.”

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossein Jaber Ansari declared that the extremist death cult does not “believe in ethical principles” and is “not loyal to any type of divine religions — including Islam.” Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo called for International cooperation to fight terrorism, and the leaders of Qatar, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia called the attacks “heinous” and “criminal.” They called for an end to the “plague” of terrorism.

Conservatives delight in their misrepresentation of President Obama’s statement about having “contained” Isis, but he mean that the terrorist group had not gained ground in Iraq. Donald Trump doubled down on his position, which he first stated in January after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, that gun control doesn’t prevent the violence. Yet one suicide bomber stopped by guards at the stadium location turned away before he detonated his bomb.

On Fox, people like Bill O’Reilly and Brian Kilmeade push the myth that  “all terrorists are Muslims.” Terrorists in the U.S. are usually Christians, but Fox fails to identify them as such.

People need to deny that the attacks are related to religion. Muslims are not terrorists. Terrorism has no religion. We need to repeat this over and over. If we let unreasonable hatred take over our lives, then we are the victims of the attackers.

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