Public officials are very selective about when violence and death matter.
Massacres and terrorist incidents cannot be ignored, but the day-to-day toll from gun violence is often swept aside. Politicians who tout themselves as advocates of law and order don’t want to be unmasked as caring even more about their ratings from gun lobbyists.
And opponents of the most moderate gun reforms engage in a shameless game of bait-and-switch. Because measures such as background checks would not stop every murder, they’re declared useless even though they’d still save lives. Then the gun lobby turns around and opposes other measures, such as a ban on high-capacity magazines, which could prevent some of the killings that background checks might not.
The lack of coherence doesn’t bother those who are willing to tolerate all manner of violence to keep the gun business free of inconvenient restraints. Their goal is to exhaust supporters of sane gun laws and get them to give up until the next big tragedy strikes.
Mayor Tom Barrett of Milwaukee has never given up and never given in. One of the earliest members of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the group spearheaded by New York City’s Michael Bloomberg and Boston’s Tom Menino, he has made curbing urban bloodshed a personal cause.
Every year between Mother’s Day and Memorial Day, he organizes a “Cease-Fire Sabbath” that enlists clergy around the city to preach against violence. “The ministers and other clergy can reach people that I can’t,” Barrett said in an interview in his office last week. Here’s a faith-based initiative that everyone can believe in.
Barrett has paid a price for his steadfastness on guns. In his rematch last year against Republican Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin’s recall election (he lost to Walker in 2010), gun groups spent more than $800,000 to defeat him. Such sums are designed to have a chilling effect on other politicians who might take on the gun lobby. “It hasn’t chilled me,” Barrett says with a smile, “but obviously I’m not the governor.”
Since late last year, Barrett has made the case for extending background checks to online and private purchases as well as gun show sales by pulling out a large cardboard blow-up of a request sent through an online gun market on Oct. 20, 2011.
It reads in part: “Looking for a handgun that is $300 obo [or best offer]. … Looking to buy asap. … Prefer full size. Prefer .45, .40. … I constantly check my emails. … Also I’m hoping it has a high mag capacity. … I’m a serious buyer so please email me asap. Have cash now and looking to buy now. I am mobile.”
As The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported, the ad was posted by Radcliffe Haughton days after his wife Zina Haughton “was granted a four-year restraining order against her husband because she said she feared for her life.”
“The couple had a volatile relationship,” the paper explained. “Police had been to their Brown Deer [WI.] home on 20 different occasions. These red flags should not have been ignored, but they were.”
The day after the ad went up, Radcliffe Haughton gunned down Zina and two other women at the Azana Salon & Spa in Brookfield, WI.
The Journal-Sentinel noted (and Barrett also makes this point) that Radcliffe Haughton “may well have found another way to get a gun. But that doesn’t mean that such legislation would not keep guns out of the hands of others who buy them every year without undergoing a background check.”
The slaughter in Newtown decisively shifted the nation’s discussion on guns, and Barrett says he’s still hopeful that a background check bill will eventually pass. The law is needed, he said, not just because of gruesomely spectacular killings but also to stop “what my police chief calls slow-motion mass murders in the cities around our country.”
But can the politics be overcome? At a recent talk at Georgetown University, former president Bill Clinton spoke of how politicians draw warnings from past political fights even when those lessons have become obsolete. He used the analogy of the cat that gets burned on a hot stove, and will never jump on the stove again, even after the stove has cooled.
As of May 8, according to Slate magazine, there had been at least 3,947 gun deaths since Newtown. The political heat is now coming from those who have lost patience with slow-motion mass murders. Will Congress notice the temperature change?
By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, May 12, 2013
“Fun And Games Until People Get Killed”: Constitutional Conservatism’s Non-Violent March To Threaten Violence
As readers have probably noticed, I’m on something of a campaign the last few days to train a spotlight on the revolutionary rhetoric and gun-brandishing of many Second Amendment activists and “constitutional conservatives,” which has leeched over into standard conservative and GOP messaging to an alarming degree. Like anyone shining a spotlight into previously dark shadows, I’m not always familiar with what I’m seeing. That’s definitely the case with Adam Kokesh, an Iraq War vet and omni-libertarian who is planning a non-violent march of armed citizens on Washington for Independence Day to show, best I can tell, that resistance to the demands of people like him that government radically retract its size and scope will eventually face real fire. Here’s Paul Szoldra’s write-up of Kokesh’s scheme at Business Insider:
Adam Kokesh, 31, is planning a July 4 rally of pro-gun activists openly carrying rifles from Virginia to Washington as an act of “civil disobedience.” The plan, according to his Facebook event page, is to march across Memorial Bridge with rifles loaded and slung across the back “to put the government on notice that we will not be intimidated [and] cower in submission to tyranny.”
The invite continues, stating, ” … This will be a non-violent event, unless the government chooses to make it violent.”
Kokesh writes that if 10,000 attendees RSVP by June 1st, “we have the critical mass necessary to pull this off.” He said he wants to have at least 1,000 actually marching in the event, and as of this writing, more than 1,400 have said they were going.
As the headline at Karoli’s post on this plan at Crooks & Liars rightly says: “Marching On DC With Loaded Rifles: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?”
But even if no violence ensues, this exercise is actually typical of an awful lot of the stockpiling-guns-to-resist-tyranny talk on the Right (and on rare occasions, the Left) these days. It’s actually the inverse of what Kokesh says: it’s an effort to intimidate political opponents with the threat, if not the immediate actuality, of violence. Otherwise, what’s the point of carrying guns to your nonviolent protest? The point, it seems clear, is to make extraconstitutional claims for the legitimacy of the “constitutional” protests against Big Government. We can peacefully debate, the potential “armed resistance” forces suggest, this or that aspect of gun regulation or Obamacare or drone policy or taxes or “welfare looters” via conventional politics. But in the end, our conviction that your “progressive policies” represent “tyranny” trumps all civil discourse, and that’s when the shooting may start.
And that, of course, is why this sort of talk is not limited to anarchists or even to the kind of “constitutional conservatives” who really do think the policies of Calvin Coolidge or Grover Cleveland or the doctrines of John C. Calhoun came down from heaven and were enshrined eternally by the Declaration of Independence. Consciously or unconsciously, regular conservative politicians see this sort of militancy as a crucial difference-maker (or in times of Democratic political success, an “equalizer”), and so they exploit it. It’s all fun and games until people start getting killed.
By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, May 6, 2013
A former Marine, candidate for Congress, and self-defined libertarian radio talk-show host has sparked some controversy over a Facebook event gone viral. Adam Kokesh, host of Adam vs. The Man, created an event on Facebook entitled, “Open Carry March on Washington #OpenCarry130704” to promote an individual’s Second Amendment rights. In a July 4 march from Virginia to D.C., the participants will pass Congress, the Supreme Court, and the White House—all while carrying their loaded guns.
According to the Facebook page, over 30,000 people have been invited, more than 1,500 have confirmed they will attend, and nearly 1,500 have declined — and the numbers are continuing to grow.
Virginia’s lenient gun laws grant protestors the right to publicly load their guns within state lines. Since Washington, D.C. has strict gun laws, law enforcement may be able to arrest any Open Carry March participants if they cross state lines with their loaded guns.
The description on Kokesh’s Facebook page states, “This is an act of civil disobedience, not a permitted event. We will march with rifles loaded & slung across our backs to put the government on notice that we will not be intimidated & cower in submission to tyranny. We are marching to mark the high water mark of government & to turn the tide. This will be a non-violent event, unless the government chooses to make it violent.”
Kokesh said that the event website needed 10,000 supporters and at least 1,000 confirmed marchers by June 1st for the march to take place. This goal was met Monday afternoon, when Kokesh posted an update confirming that he’d reached the required number. “Now that it’s undeniable that this is going to happen, allow me to make clear how. There will be coordination with DC law enforcement prior to the event,” he wrote. “Failing to provide that commitment to safety, we will either be informed that we will only be allowed up to a certain point where we would be arrested. If this is the case, we will approach that point as a group and if necessary, I will procede [sic] to volunteer myself to determine what their actual course of action with someone crossing the line will be at which point fellow marchers will have the choice of joining me one at a time in a peaceful, orderly manner, or turning back to the National Cemetery.”
Kokesh is a former Marine who received a general discharge, one step below an honorable discharge, after wearing his uniform to an anti-war protest. His radio talk show on Russia Today, a Russian-sponsored network that is critical of American policies, was canceled after he supported and fundraised for Representative Ron Paul’s (R-TX) presidential campaign. Kokesh stands for anti-government policies and his past run-ins with authorities show he is not afraid to make a statement for the sake of his political cause—in fact, two of his latest tweets include: “It’s time to abolish the US federal government,” and “When the government comes to take your guns, you can shoot government agents, or submit to slavery.”
There is no doubt that Kokesh’s views have become a bit extreme and radical—marching across Washington D.C. militia-style is just one way his ideology is sadly rubbing off on right-wing gun nuts across the country who relentlessly believe the government is trying to take away their guns. It is still uncertain if Kokesh will actually go through with the march, or if the event will achieve what he hopes. After all, arguing to uphold one law he enjoys by breaking another and triggering arrest wouldn’t make him a hero or patriot — it would make him a criminal.
By: Allison Brito, The National Memo, May 6, 2013
There’s even more exciting gun news today, coming from a small nonprofit organization called Defense Distributed. They announced that they have successfully test-fired a gun made almost entirely in a 3-D printer. The only part that wasn’t 3-D printed was the firing pin. And the bullet, of course. Now previously, people had made gun components in 3-D printers, but prior tests of entire weapons had been unsuccessful. This raises some rather troubling questions, which we’ll get to in a moment. But first, here’s their short video, which shows the firing and construction of the gun, inexplicably interspersed with shots of World War II-era bombers: http://youtu.be/drPz6n6UXQY
They may call this thing “The Liberator,” but it’s a little too impractical to be able to liberate anyone at the moment. It’s probably highly inaccurate, and it holds only one bullet. But this is more a proof-of-concept than anything else, and if you want to, you can go to their website and download the plans, then print one out on your own 3-D printer.
Defense Distributed is run by Cody Wilson, a 25-year-old law student, gun enthusiast, and libertarian. There’s a Q&A with him from a few months ago here, and if you read it you’ll see he sounds pretty much like any Ron Paul acolyte. His motivations aren’t all that important, because if he didn’t do it, it was only a matter of time before someone else did. You may be asking, is this legal? And the answer appears to be yes. There is a law called the Undetectable Firearms Act which prohibits the manufacture, sale, or possession of any gun that won’t show up on a metal detector, but Defense Distributed handles that by including in the design a piece of metal in the gun’s body. You can figure out how tough that would be to get around.
As it happens, the Undetectable Firearms Act is expiring at the end of this year. There will be an effort to renew it, particularly in light of this development, and it would certainly be interesting to see the NRA try to argue that being able to print out a plastic gun in your basement is the very essence of the liberty for which the Founders fought so bravely. But you know what? I’m guessing the NRA won’t oppose a renewal of the UFA at all. They’ll be happy to support it.
And why would that be? Well, who’s the most threatened by the idea of people making their own guns in large quantities? The gun manufacturers, that’s who. And in recent years, the relationship between the NRA and the manufacturers has grown so intertwined that there’s virtually no distinction between them. So don’t be surprised if we see the NRA come out in full-throated support of new restrictions on 3-D printed guns.
Now, let’s address the technological question. Even if there isn’t much point in 3-D printing your own gun right now, the technology is in its very early stages. If you want to get a 3-D printer today, you can pay $2,000 for one from MakerBot, the most popular brand, or you can get one for as little as $400 from some other companies (the one Defense Distributed used was a used industrial model, somewhat more expensive). 3-D printing boosters predict that as the technology improves and prices come down, before long—maybe 10 years, maybe 15—3-D printers will be as common a household appliance as microwave ovens. And let’s say the technology does improve, to the point where you could print out a full, working version of a Glock or, if you had a huge printer, an AR-15. And instead of paying $500 for the former or $1,000 for the latter, it’d cost you maybe five or ten bucks for the material and that’s it. Why not make a hundred of them? Or a thousand?
MakerBot doesn’t allow plans for guns on its Thingverse, the biggest forum for trading 3-D printing plans. But that doesn’t matter; if it’s on the Internet somewhere, people will find it if they want to. And even if we made them illegal, you could break that law without involving any accomplices. If you had a gang, you could outfit them with more guns than they could possibly want. The technology may be just developing, but the possibilities are pretty frightening.
By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, May 6, 2013
The suicide rate among middle-aged Americans, and especially among the middle-aged men, soared from 2000 to 2010, according recent findings from the Center For Diseases Control and Prevention. There were 38,350 suicides in 2010, making it the tenth leading cause of death in America, surpassing the annual number of car fatalities. Among men ages 50 to 59 years old, there was a nearly 50 percent spike in suicides over that ten-year span. More than half of all male suicides were carried out with a firearm.
The startling findings have produced a steady stream of news coverage in recent days. But it’s been coverage that has largely overlooked a central tenet of the escalating suicide crisis: Guns. And specifically, easy access to guns in America.
The oversight continues a troubling media trend of news reports routinely failing to put U.S. gun violence in context and failing to give news consumers a proper understanding of the size and scope of the deadly epidemic. Self-inflicted gun deaths remain the cornerstone of suicides in America, accounting for 56 percent of male suicides. And the gun rate is increasing. You simply cannot discuss suicide in America without addressing the pivotal role firearms play. Unfortunately, in recent days lots of news organizations have tried to do just that.
The truth is, gun suicides are rarely front-and-center in the firearms debate in this country, which instead is often focused on crime statistics and, sometimes even less rarely, the total number of people killed by guns annually. And according to researchers, there exists a clear connection between states that have high gun ownership rates and states that suffer high suicide rates.
Moreover, guns are especially lethal. Suicide attempts with a gun prove to be fatal 85 percent of the time, as compared to suicide attempts via pill overdoses, which prove fatal just two percent of the time, according to a study from the Harvard Injury Control Research Center.
In covering the CDC’s latest suicide findings though, news accounts have paid little attention to guns.
NBC News made just a single reference to firearms in its report about escalating suicides, despite the fact guns are used in early 20,000 suicides every year. The Wall Street Journal’s news report never referenced “guns” or “firearms” even once. The same was true of CBS’ Evening News on May 2. It aired a suicide report based on the CDC’s findings and never mentioned guns.
Meanwhile, the Associated Press dispatch included just one sentence acknowledging that guns are used for more than half of the suicides in the U.S. The AP included one additional sentence noting the CDC does not address the relationship between suicide rates and gun ownership.
Lobbied by the NRA, Congress in 1996 effectively banned the CDC from conducting research on gun violence. That 17-year ban came to an end when President Obama this year issued an executive order in the wake of the Sandy Hook School massacre, granting the CDC permission to “conduct research on the causes and prevention of gun violence.” (NRA allies in the press still condemn the CDC as being anti-gun ownership.)
While the CDC hasn’t been studying and collecting data on gun violence, other researches have consistently confirmed a link between firearm ownership and suicide, which is why guns ought to be a key media focus for today’s surging suicide rate.
From the American Journal of Epidemiology:
Persons with guns in the home were also more likely to have died from suicide committed with a firearm than from one committed by using a different method.
The researchers found that states with higher rates of household firearm ownership had significantly higher rates of suicide by children, women and men.
The availability of guns in the home, independent of firearms type or method of storage, appears to increase the risk for suicide among adolescents.
With few exceptions, states with the highest rates of gun ownership — for example, Alaska, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Alabama, and West Virginia — also tended to have the highest suicide rates.
After researching the link between guns and suicide, Augustine Kposowa, a sociology professor at the University of California, Riverside, noted that new government policies aimed at regulating gun ownership would “reduce individual suicides.” But because the NRA and most Republicans oppose them, laws cannot be passed. And the suicide rate continues to climb.
That’s all the more reason for the press to connect the obvious dots between suicide and the larger gun violence debate in America.
By: Eric Boehlert, Media Matters for America, May 6, 2013