Nel's New Day

September 4, 2019

NRA Rapidly Disintegrates

Filed under: Guns,Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 11:02 PM
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Last year has been hard on the organization that controls Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) and GOP legislators since the National Rifle Association imploded at its annual conference only five months ago. That was when NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre blocked the re-election of NRA’s President Oliver North. When North became president a year earlier, LaPierre called him “hands down, the absolute best choice to lead our NRA Board”; a year later LaPierre accused North of trying to extort him.

Since that time, multiple scandals about NRA have dribbled out, causing many of its members to become disillusioned. In May, leaked documents showed employees unhappy about low wages, underfunded pensions, and a culture of fear while LaPierre made $1.4 million in 2017, making him the eighth-highest compensated nonprofit leader in the nation. The pension plan was frozen in 2018, meaning that employees cannot accrue new benefits while working for the organization. LaPierre got a one-time $3,767,345 supplemental retirement payment in 2015.

Less than two months after North’s ouster, LaPierre got rid of chief lobbyist Chris Cox, part of NRA leadership for 24 years, by accusing him of conspiring with North against him. Cox was also executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, the explicitly political arm of the gun lobby, since 2002 and made over $1.1 million in 2017. A lawsuit against Cox might force North to pay his own legal fees with the claim that he acted in bad faith.

Another blow was NRA’s closure of its online media arm, NRATV. NRA board members had increasingly become disenchanted with live production for the video channel with little response: January had only 49,000 unique visitors. The content also moved far from gun rights into right-wing talking points such as criticism of immigration and the FBI. Bad publicity came from Dana Loesch’s program putting KKK hoods on talking trains from Thomas & Friends because the popular children’s program added a train from Africa. 

A sexual harassment allegation against NRA senior official Josh Powell from an employee was settled in 2017 with the nonprofit’s funds, the same year that LaPierre promoted Powell to executive director of general operations. The next year, NRA’s ad agency, Ackerman McQueen, barred Powell from any further contact with its employees after a sexual harassment dispute with a woman who worked for the ad agency. Ackerman said that Powell received “the full support of Mr. LaPierre and the board of directors.” LaPierre said that the claim was part of a larger “extortion demand” and made Powell a “senior strategist” on the NRA’s legal team. NRA accountants found payments by Powell to his father, and his wife was hired by one of NRA’s top fundraising vendors. Board members had asked that Powell be dismissed.

Two prominent board members resigned from the NRA board in mid-August: country music singer Craig Morgan and NASCAR team owner Richard Childress, the latter after he had urged careful review of spending under LaPierre. Childress wanted an independent ethics counsel to review $24 million paid in 13 months to an outside law firm. Since May, seven of the 76-member board have left, some of them after they were stripped of committee assignments. Board objections came from cuts in funding for firearm safety and education to increase spending on legal fees, travel, and entertainment. Eighteen board members also benefited from NRA finances, incurring possible conflict of interest charges.

The departures started in the midst of news about LaPierre’s efforts to get NRA to pay for a $6 million mansion in a gated Dallas-area golf club after the Parkland shooting. The “good guy with a gun” said he need a more secure place to live. In addition, LaPierre and his wife asked for a membership at the exclusive club and two vehicles. The NRA started the purchase transaction by paying $70,000 to an entity set up by Ackerman at LaPierre’s request. The deal fell through, and the ad agency stopped funneling LaPierre’s personal expenses through its multimillion-dollar annual contract.

Before Ackerman stopped paying LaPierre’s bills, NRA paid $542,000 for private jet trips for LaPierre, including a trip to the Bahamas with his wife after the Sandy Hook shooting; $300,000 for Italian designer suits; and $13,800 rent for a summer intern’s apartment. LaPierre’s wife, Susan, also benefited from the NRA, spending tens of thousands of dollars flying hair and makeup artists around the country, including housing the stylists in luxury hotels. Again, LaPierre blamed Ackerman.

Prior to North’s departure, the NRA suffered from publicity about its expenditure of $31 million for DDT’s campaign, part of the over $50 million for the 2016 elections. The media reported possibly illegal connections, perhaps money laundering between NRA and Russian officials for the election. Gun safety groups outspent the NRA for the 2018 elections for the first time ever, and gun safety candidates won, partly from the movement led by Parkland High School students after the horrific high school shooting in Florida. Since 2010, the NRA took over $200 million in cash from its non-profit NRA Foundation to survive, and NRA was short $31.8 million at the end of 2017.

Making matters worse, New York declared that the NRA’s “Carry Guard” insurance program providing policies for self-defense shootings violated state insurance rules. Critics called it “murder insurance” because of is coverage for a potentially criminal act. Litigation continues while the state’s AG investigates NRA’s tax status and Congress investigates campaign finance law violations involving Russia.

Government records show that DDT’s 2020 campaign funneled money to a shell company connected to ad buyers in an illegal coordination scheme with the NRA through 2018 and up to May 2019. The buys were routed through a secret limited-liability company appeared in FCC records.

In July, D.C.’s attorney general issued subpoenas to the NRA for its financial records, payments to vendors, and payments to officers and directors.

Ackerman continues to sue NRA after it demanded the ad agency remove any NRA references from the ad agency’s website. The National Rifle Association has sued, again, its former ad maker and “NRATV” creator, Ackerman. The feud started in April when NRA sued Ackerman for not handing over financial records and then for leaking documents. Ackerman then sued NRA for the first time, and the back and forth became more vicious as LaPierre accused Ackerman of extortion.

The NRA’s biggest loss may be its donors disgusted with the organization’s problems. David Dell’Aquila gave $100,000 to NRA and pledged most of his own estate but said that $134 million in pledges may disappear. One donor, an anonymous “senior firearms industry executive,” might decide that LaPierre is bad for the interests of the firearms industry. Under LaPierre, the NRA focuses on guns as self-defense for angry and paranoid people who might not approve of LaPierre’s scandals. Difficulty in attracting followers might translate in difficulty in finding Republican voters.

The gun culture may be changing, especially after the growing number of deaths in highly-publicized mass shootings this summer. The loss of 22 percent in membership fees between 2016 and 2017 means an even greater drop in membership because of two membership raises in one year. Contributions to the NRA were $98 million in 20017, down from almost $125 million the year before. Almost one-fifth of last year’s contributions, $19 million, came from one anonymous donor. At the end of 2018, the NRA reported losing $55 million in revenue.

Gun sales are also dropping: U.S. firearms sales fell 6.1 percent in 2018 marking the second straight year of declines. Because NRA gets a cut of these sales, their revenue also goes down. More stores are eliminating gun sales, the most recent Walmart, that is ending sales of handguns and short-barrel rifle ammunition that can be used in large capacity clips on military-style weapons while asking customers to not openly carry firearms in its stores. A statement referred to concern about “multiple incidents” of individuals wanting to “test our response” to the El Paso shooting by bringing weapons into stores. For example, 20-year-old Dmitriy Andreychenko who faces up to four years in prison and a $10,000 for legally bringing over 100 rounds of ammunition to a Walmart in Springfield (MO) as part of a “social experiment.” Walmart stopped selling assault-style rifles in 2015, raised the age to buy guns from 18 to 21 in 2018, and called for strengthened background checks. Krogers has also asked customers to not openly carry in their stores.

Despite an increasing number of mass shootings and more gun violence from white supremacists, GOP members of Congress who receive hundreds of thousands from the NRA reject any gun safety legislation plus millions more dark money given to PACs. These are the top-20 list of congressional members recently getting the most money recently from the gun lobby based on the 2017-2018 election cycle. Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ) who lost her election and then was appointed until 2020 came in second at $227,928.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution declaring the NRA a “domestic terrorist organization” and urging the city to examine its financial relationships with companies that do business with the group. The statement noted mass shootings, including the murders of three people, all younger than 26, at Gilroy’s (CA) food festival. “The National Rifle Association musters its considerable wealth and organizational strength to promote gun ownership and incite gun owners to acts of violence,” the resolution read.

After the August killings in El Paso, DDT made a few noises about background checks but quit after several long discussions with LaPierre. Later killings in Midland-Odessa made no difference with him. In a complete rejection of democracy, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that he would bring any bill to the floor that DDT didn’t want. Only elections may make a difference.

February 25, 2017

DDT: Lies, Lies, Lies

cpac-ballroomConservatives celebrated at CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) and his minions this year—a change from last year when he wasn’t even wanted at the conference. DDT’s speech could have been the one he wanted to give last year as he quoted Hillary Clinton’s term “deplorable” and encouraged the crowd to shout “Lock her up!” Another last election message was the conspiracy against Bernie Sanders with “super-delegates.” Numbers also plagued him when he claimed that they would not read about CPAC “lines that go back six blocks.” The speech is probably for his 2020 run, but the lies are the same. Even the ballroom at CPAC was not full for DDT’s speech.

Other false claims from DDT: “Obamacare covers very few people,” and “[the wall is] way, way, way ahead of schedule.” The Affordable Care Act reduced the number of uninsured by 20 million people, and there is no schedule for the wall that may never be built.” The rate of people in the United States who lack health insurance has hit a record low with only 8.6 percent of people, about 27.3 million, being uninsured. That’s 20.4 million fewer people than when the program started in 2010, and the number would be lower if the Supreme Court had maintained the states’ mandatory Medicaid expansion. Red states showed the greatest decline in the number of uninsured, and those without Medicaid expansion had the highest percentage of uninsured with Texas and Mississippi at the top.

Throwing red meat to his CPAC base, DDT defined his enemies: “radical Islamic terrorists”; immigrants who he described as “the gang members, the drug dealers, and the criminal aliens”; and, of course, the “dishonest media.” Also the Constitution as he whined about the “Fiii-rrrst Amendment!” After he talked about keeping “the bad ones” out, he excluded several media outlets from his Friday briefing session.

DDT’s new National Security Advisor, Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, negated the use of the term “racial Islamic terrorists.” Speaking to his staff, he said that the label was not helpful because terrorists are “un-Islamic.”

 With so much news flooding the air waves about DDT, this one may have slipped through the cracks. One week before Michael Flynn left his position as National Security Advisor on February 13, 2017, he received a proposal for the way that DDT could lift sanctions against Russia. DDT’s personal Mafia-linked lawyer Michael D. Cohen, business associate plus convicted felon and government informant Felix Salter who helped DDT scout deals in Russia, and Ukrainian lawmaker Andrii Artemenko are pushing the plan of releasing evidence of corruption to allow Artemenko to take over the government and negotiate a long term Russian “lease” of Crimea.

The goal is to replace the current Ukrainian government with the Russia-tolerant faction allowing DDT to lift the sanctions against Russia’s military invasion and capture of Russia and give Secretary of State Rex Tillerson the $500 billion deal for Exxon Mobil. Flynn has disappeared, but the plan surely remains, most likely with a payoff for DDT. And it’s on paper. Artemenko is currently under treason investigation, and Cohen denied delivering any plan.

DDT’s assertion that his Muslim ban is to protect the country was soundly debunked by a report from his own Department of Homeland Security that concluded citizenship is an “unreliable” threat indicator and that people from the seven countries have rarely been implicated in U.S.-based terrorism. People from the dangerous seven countries identified by DDT, the same ones where he doesn’t do personal profit-making business—Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Yemen and Libya—are “rarely implicated in U.S.-based terrorism,” according to the report.

Although terror groups in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen pose a threat of attacks in the United States, the other four countries are “regionally focused.” Of the 82 people “who died in the pursuit of or were convicted of any terrorism-related federal offense,” over half were U.S.-born citizens. Eight of them convicted or died in pursuit of terrorism were from Somalia, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, and Yemen. People are more likely to be killed by guns, trains, a railway vehicle, their own clothes melting or lighting on fire, lightning, falling furniture–the list goes on and on about the dangers of life outside terrorism. Of the 3,252,493 refugees admitted to the United States from 1975 to the end of 2015, 20 were terrorists, 0.00062 percent of the total.  Only three of them were successful in their attacks, killing a total of three people.

At the same time DHS released its report refuting DDT’s claim about Muslims and terrorism, Secretary John Kelly released a memo creating a new DDT-ordered federal office to work with victims of undocumented immigrants. He wrote that “criminal aliens routinely victimize Americans and other legal residents.” Once again, the government is “misrepresenting,” a polite word for lying. Undocumented immigrants are no more likely to commit crimes and U.S. citizens and are less likely to be criminals in some cases.

The Secure Communities (S-COMM) immigration enforcement program failed to reduce crime. A study of 159 cities shows no correlation between crime rates and levels of immigration, and other research showed that levels of recent immigration had a negative affect on homicide rates and no affect on property crime rates. Another study found that immigrant influx was correlated with decreases in homicide and robbery rates.

The only people who need to be afraid are those with brown skin who might be accused of being Hispanic or Muslim. For example, Muhammad Ali Jr., son of one of the greatest boxers and civil rights activists in the nation, was detained two hours on February 7 at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood (FL) airport on his return from Jamaica. He had gone there with his mother, Khalilah Camacho-Ali, who gave a speech about black history. He was asked twice about his religion and “where he got his name,” a common question for Muslims. Agents released Ali’s mother when she showed him a photo of herself with her ex-husband, but Ali had no picture of himself and his father who died last year. DDT’s Muslim ban was overturned three days prior to Ali’s detention, but agents reportedly did not respect the court’s judgment.

NRA executive vice president and CEO Wayne LaPierre is using the DDT system of lying. Before Election Day, he told gun lovers that they had to vote for NRA Republicans because every one of his predictions about Obama taking guns and sabotaging the Second Amendment had come true. The reverse was actually true as federal gun safety laws and those in most states were weakened. At CPAC, LaPierre ranted about how the “Anarchists, Marxists, communists, and the left of—the rest of the left-wing socialist parade” are coming for the guns.

Anti-Trump protesters “spit in the face of Gold Star families,” a revision of history when progressives defended these families and DDT excoriated them unless they were white. LaPierre said these leftists want “to tear down our system.” At the same time, White House and white supremacist Steve Bannon declared that “deconstruction [aka destruction] of the administration” is its goal. The crowning claim from LaPierre was that progressive activists get paid $1,500 a week, $78,000 a year. Watch for the letters of your newspaper because these lies are sure to appear there.

“I was shot on a Saturday morning. By Monday morning, my offices were open to the public. Ron Barber—at my side that Saturday, who was shot multiple times, then elected to Congress in my stead—held town halls. It’s what the people deserve in a representative.”

gabby-giffordsThat was the response from Gabby Giffords to Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) who used her as an excuse for not facing his constituents. Gohmert won his last election by more than 49 points, and his district is one of the reddest in the country—but he’s afraid of “the threat of violence at town hall meetings.” And he used the 2011 shooting at former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) where she was severely injured and six people were killed. With her customary bravery, Giffords responded:

“To the politicians who have abandoned their civic obligations, I say this: Have some courage. Face your constituents. Hold town halls. [During my congressional career] listening to my constituents was the most basic and core tenet of the job I was hired to do.”

Giffords’ husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly said that Gohmert shouldn’t “hide behind” his wife to avoid town halls:

“If he doesn’t want to do town halls, he should just say he doesn’t want to face his constituents. He shouldn’t hide behind Gabby.”

Town hall complaints from tens of thousands of people included the repeal of health care, Scott Pruitt’s confirmation to head the EPA, and legislators refusal to investigate DDT’s links to Russia. Many crowds chanted, “Do your job!” Terrified of this response, a vast majority of GOP legislators simply avoided their constituents in any way they could.

Gohmert also repeated lies that “paid” groups were disrupting the Republican town halls. No town hall meetings this year have been violent, even if some members of Congress have called the police instead of facing a group of people. There’s no evidence of paid protesters, and progressive activists haven’t “threatened public safety.” It was the violent Tea Party members who protested Barack Obama’s election and gathered with their guns to threaten and spit on legislators who supported the ACA.

If Gohmert—and his GOP colleagues—are so terrified of vilence from guns, it’s time for them to enact gun safety laws. And it’s time for “these people” to stop lying.

 

 

March 21, 2013

Congress Loosens Gun Laws

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He continued:

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

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

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

January 31, 2013

Gun Deaths – The Culture of Violence, Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 5, 2013

Gun Deaths – The Loss of Life and Happiness, Part 1

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

This morning four people, including the shooter, were killed in Aurora, Colorado where another 12 people were killed in a movie theater on July 20 last year. The deaths of these people add to the almost five hundred gun deaths in the United States since 28 people died in Newtown, Connecticut less than a month ago.

Since the death of these 28 people, the media has turned to other areas of concern. The NRA leadership is sure to breathe a sigh of relief as the public worries about the next “cliff” because the fractious Republicans hold the United States hostage. Forget the gun deaths, the media says, covering the dissension caused by those who want to  make the poor and middle class pay for the advantages of the wealthy.

The first response to the Newtown killings was to find reasons for this tragedy. Because people could not face the fact that people need guns to kill people with guns, they created irrational justifications. Feminism, abortion, and other ways that white men are oppressed were very popular  as were the lack of God in our schools and the acceptance of marriage equality, ala Mike Huckabee.  In a Tennessee Baptist church, Pastor Sam Morris blamed mass shootings on schools that teach “evolution” and “how to be a homo.”

Women in Sandy Hook Elementary School saved the lives of several children, but National Review published Charlotte Allen’s article in which she said,  “A feminized setting is a setting in which helpless passivity is the norm. Male aggression can be a good thing, as in protecting the weak — but it has been forced out of the culture of elementary schools and the education schools that train their personnel.” In other words, the women were to blame because of their passivity.

The head of Tea Party Nation accused the “sex in movies, television, on the internet” because young people’s “passions are eternally inflamed, and they wander the Earth with no outlet for their overstimulated glands.” Author Timothy Birdnow told parents to “make sure [their children] dress modestly.” Parents should have open talks with their children, he wrote. “If black thugs kidnap and rape a woman, ask if there is something in the black culture that fostered that. If an evil white kid murders a bunch of children at the school, ask the same question of the white community … We have to stop hiding from our respective national sins.” Other writers pitied the “angry white man” because they are no longer superior to everyone else.

After the NRA took down its Facebook page and hid out for a few days following Sandy Hook, Wayne LaPierre had a press conference to explain the NRA spin on this disaster:  schools are “gun free zones”; they just need armed guards for everyone to be safe.  These shootings are the fault of the mentally ill running around society, according to the NRA, as well as the copycats (who might also be mentally ill). LaPierre wants a national database of the mentally ill but strenuously objects to a national database of gun sales.

LaPierre also blamed President Obama because he’s soft on crime. In fact, the president is soft on gun control. Video games, too few lawful gun owners, and lack of gun safety training were also at fault, according to LaPierre, despite his bragging about the NRA gun education and safety training programs.

Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, just blamed everyone for not carrying guns at all times. It is his belief that the shooting at Sandy Hook would have been prevented if teachers had firearms. He also wants all the people in the country to have guns “in order to control the government” and use their weapons when the government steals elections or “after a long trail of abuses.”

With the crazy reasons came crazy solutions, the most prevalent being lots more guns as Pratt suggested. As LaPierre said, “Call me crazy.”   And he is if he thinks that armed guards at schools will protect everyone. The Sandy Hook shooter got into the school by breaking a window; there was an armed guard at Columbine High School in 1999 when two boys killed 13 people and at Virginia Tech in 2007 when a student killed 32 other people. Yet conservatives, who want to shrink the government to nothing, want the government to pay for armed guards at all the schools.

The most terrifying solution, however, comes from Megan McArdle in Newsweek. “I’d also like us to encourage people to gang rush shooters, rather than following their instincts to hide; if we drilled it into young people that the correct thing to do is for everyone to instantly run at the guy with the gun, these sorts of mass shootings would be less deadly, because even a guy with a very powerful weapon can be brought down by 8-12 unarmed bodies piling on him at once.” Imagine a group of six- and seven-year-olds running toward a man with a Bushmaster rifle with a magazine that holds 30 rounds.

Once all the media has died down about shootings, NRA, in connection with Koch Brothers-backed and corporate funded ALEC, will push for more gun laws favorable to their leadership:

Guns on Campus that limits regulations by college and university governing boards.

Immediate Firearm Purchases that prohibits waiting periods.

More “Stand Your Ground” Laws like the one which allowed one man to shoot another because of an argument over a pizza.

No Borders to Firearm Movement that requires states to recognize concealed-carry permits or licenses from other states.

Annulling Local Regulations on Guns removing authority of local jurisdictions.

Defending an Unregulated Gun Market.

Guns for Emergencies prohibiting states from confiscating firearms because of a declared “state of emergency.”

Semi-Automatics for Everyone to eliminate regulations that would curb the use and sale of semi-automatic rifles.

Bolstering the NRA Reading of the Second Amendment to stop “restrictive firearms laws that only serve to limit law abiding citizens in the exercise of their Constitutionally guaranteed rights while having no effect on the activities of the criminal element in our society,” according to ALEC’s resolution.

Despite the number of gun deaths, the NRA works with corporations and spends millions of dollars to promote looser and looser gun laws. Their goal is to protect gun sales because they get their money from arms dealing. NRA lobbyists will go to any lengths to keep the money rolling in. Only four percent of the people in the United States belong to the NRA. That’s not where the money is. Through the power of this organization, the NRA has made the United States into the most lucrative personal arms market in the world.

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