This will be short.
So, being the liberal I am I was listening to NPR yesterday just after I debated my weekly sparing partner, Republican Jim Innocenzi, on WTTG-TV here in DC. We went at it on guns. The story on NPR was about the president’s trip to Colorado to highlight his effort on universal background checks and to focus on that state’s passage of legislation to control guns.
Here is what I heard, verbatim, from Dudley Brown, head of the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners in Colorado and the NPR announcer:
“This is a very Western state with traditional Western values,” he says. “And citizens had to have firearms for self-defense, and right now that’s still the case.”
…He’s promising political payback in next year’s election that could cost Colorado Democrats their majorities.
“I liken it to the proverbial hunting season,” Brown says. “We tell gun owners, ‘There’s a time to hunt deer. And the next election is the time to hunt Democrats.’”
Really? After the murders in Kaufman County, Texas and West Virginia of prosecutors and police, he really wants to talk about hunting Democrats, like deer? Is he trying to channel Sarah Palin? Wayne LaPierre, too, I guess. Can we just stop talk of bulls eyes and hunting public officials.
Come on. No one is taking away the 320 million guns in America; no one is stopping the $12 billion the gun industry makes a year; no one is preventing hunting; no one is taking away your constitutional rights.
Sadly, Dudley Brown and the NRA’s answer to gun violence is more guns. What a shame.
By: Peter Fenn, U. S. News and World Report, April 4, 2013
Every so often, disparate political events line up so perfectly that they create the possibility of real resonance. In these fleeting moments, a point which might have been lost to news cycle noise can break through and singularly shift momentum by introducing a new angle to an otherwise binary debate. President Obama’s Wednesday visit to Colorado could be one of those moments, thanks to the events surrounding his gun-control-themed trip.
In its preview story of the political week ahead, the New York Times notes that the president is “seek(ing) to regain momentum” on the gun issue as “a filibuster threat is growing in the senate” and as a two-week congressional recess is marked by a nationwide activist push by the National Rifle Association. To counter it, the president is heading to Colorado, a state made famous by two of the most high-profile gun massacres in history – and now the first state in the historically pro-gun West to pass serious gun regulations.
If that was all that was happening, this week might not hold much political potential. But in a coincidental turn of events, the president’s visit will occur at the very moment the Colorado Republican Party is making a high-profile effort to derail Democratic legislation that would disarm domestic abusers. That, of course, allows Democrats to portray the GOP as extreme on the gun control issue, to connect that specific issue to the Republican Party’s war on women – and to connect it in a state that has electorally punished the GOP for that war.
In terms of just sheer extremism, if ever there was a succinct, simple-to-understand bumper-sticker-ready metric for understanding the fringe-iness of today’s Republican Party, the fight in the Colorado legislature over gun rights for domestic abusers is it. As the Denver bureau of the Huffington Post reports, the Colorado bill in question simply “prohibits gun possession from those convicted of certain felonies involving domestic violence or certain misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence (and) also prohibit guns from individuals subject to certain (domestic violence) protection orders.” According to a recent statewide poll in Colorado, that is a concept supported by 80 percent of voters – yet Republicans are opposed.
To truly appreciate the radicalism of that opposition, understand that longtime federal law already technically bans most of this. According to the New York Times, however, that federal statute “is rarely enforced” to the point where in 2012 prosecutors were willing to invoke it fewer than 50 times. In light of that negligence, state legislation to reaffirm the federal law would seem to be an easy way to do as the Republican Party so often rhetorically demands and better enforce existing gun statutes. Yet, that same GOP is nonetheless taking the side of domestic abusers and opposing the state legislation on the grounds that the restriction “is ripe for abuse.”
What’s amazing – and what evokes Democrats’ “war on women” meme – is the fact that Republicans don’t seem to see that what’s really “ripe for abuse” is guns in the hands of domestic abusers.
According to data compiled by the non-profit Futures Without Violence, “nearly one-third of all women murdered in the United States in recent years were murdered by a current or former intimate partner”; “of females killed with a firearm, almost two-thirds of were killed by their intimate partners”; and “access to firearms increases the risk of intimate partner homicide more than five times more than in instances where there are no weapons.” Likewise, the Violence Policy Center reports that “for every time a woman used a handgun to kill an intimate acquaintance in self-defense, 83 women were murdered by an intimate acquaintance with a handgun.”
Because of these facts, it should be no surprise that polls show women are disproportionately sympathetic to the gun control argument. It should also be no surprise that because of the obvious connection between domestic abuse and firearm violence, banning domestic abusers from owning firearms can have demonstrably positive results. For instance, as the New York Times reports, “a study in the journal Injury Prevention in 2010 examined so-called intimate-partner homicides in 46 of the country’s largest cities from 1979 to 2003 and found that where state laws restricted gun access to people under domestic-violence restraining orders, the risk of such killings was reduced by 19 percent.”
Put all of this together – the political dynamics, the “war on women” meme, the urgent need for the gun control legislation itself – and this week could be the start of a big shift in the gun debate and in the larger electoral struggle between the parties heading into 2014.
Think about it: the president is swooping in to the home of Columbine and Aurora to draw national attention to the gun extremism of the Republican Party – and he will be able to point right to the state capitol where that Republican Party is opposing legislation to simply enforce federal law that is supposed to be protecting women from gun-wielding domestic abusers. Not only that, he will be in the state where Democrats’ have most maximized their inherent advantage with women.
That last point is significant. Out of all the swing states in America where political themes are test marketed, Colorado has been the one where Democrats’ claim of a Republican “war on women” has most powerfully resonated at the polls. This is the state where the GOP lost an eminently winnable senate race in 2010 thanks to their candidate pulling an early version of Todd Akin and making hideously flippant remarks about rape. It is also the state where the GOP lost 9 eminently winnable electoral votes after the Obama campaign specifically hammered the Republican Party for its extreme positions on contraception and a woman’s right to choose. Now, following the trend, it is a state whose GOP is using its legislative power to defend the alleged rights of domestic abusers to remain armed.
That’s why, as mentioned before, President Obama’s visit may not be just about this week – thematically, it may also be about beginning to make the Colorado political template the national Democratic Party’s mid-term election template.
Party operatives clearly know that, as TalkingPointsMemo recently reported, polls suggest that “women who don’t usually vote in midterm elections will turn out in 2014 over the issue of guns.” All those operatives need to realize that prediction is for Republicans to offer up some good ol’ fashioned extremism. By opposing Democratic legislation to disarm domestic abusers right as a president is drawing national attention to the need for gun regulations, the GOP seems more than happy to oblige.
By: David Sirota, Salon, April 1, 2013
Colorado is supposed to be Mitt Romney’s most promising major swing state. According to Politico’s Mike Allen, Republicans’ internal polls show Romney ahead in Colorado, even as they acknowledge that he has fallen behind in Florida, Ohio and Nevada. Other Republican-leaning polls, such as Rasmussen Reports, show Romney with a slight edge here, although Rasmussen’s most recent poll is two weeks old. The Real Clear Politics polling average shows Obama ahead in Colorado by three points, which is consistent with Virginia and Florida, but smaller than Obama’s commanding leads in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa.
But Colorado presents Romney with a challenge. In order to win it he must simultaneously appeal to three constituencies: the ardent conservatives—both religious social conservatives and current and retired military personnel—in the Colorado Springs area, the more economically focused Republicans in the Denver suburbs and at least half of the state’s large independent electorate.
The Romney campaign is aware of the importance of the state’s nine electoral votes. Romney has already visited the state repeatedly, and in advance of Wednesday night’s debate in Denver his campaign has scheduled a series of events. Ann Romney will hold a rally here on Tuesday and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) will hold one on Wednesday. On Monday night, Romney spoke in a warplane museum—Republicans seem to love that as a setting for campaign stops—in Denver. It was apparent from Romney’s remarks that he is carefully trying to balance the aforementioned constituencies. But, ultimately, he is betting that he already has the most ardent conservatives in his pocket and so he avoids any mention of his party’s polarizing stance on social issues.
Romney was introduced by John Elway, the legendary Denver Broncos quarterback, who just endorsed Romney. In what passes by Romney’s standards as regular guy sports talk, Romney effused, “You guys have some real teams here, no doubt about that!” He then went on to list to the Denver area’s other assets: “This is the home of the Air Force Academy, of NORAD, that helps keep our skies safe, home to great universities.” It appeared not to have dawned on Romney, nor his enthusiastically clapping audience, that the US military is a government program and that Colorado’s universities are all either public or draw heavily upon federal support for student tuition and research. But the biggest applause by far came when Romney said, “and it’s the home of Focus on the Family.” (The socially conservative advocacy organization, like NORAD and the Air Force Academy, is based in Colorado Springs, about an hour from Denver.)
Given the subtle signal his crowd sent—that these are what used to be called “family values” voters—you might have expected Romney to talk about how he plans to stifle gay marriage, appoint judges who would overturn Roe v. Wade and free Catholic organizations from covering employees’ health insurance for contraception.
But no. Romney delivered his usual litany of vague, bogus economic promises. He will simultaneously increase free trade and get tough on China. He will hand out drilling rights on federal land like it’s candy, and somehow that will create millions of jobs by magically bringing back the manufacturing sector thanks to cheap energy. He will defenestrate teachers unions, so that our workforce is better educated and cut spending to balance the budget. And by extending the Bush tax cuts he will make small businesses grow and then they will go on a hiring spree. Isn’t Romney lucky that every long-held Republican plot to please a group of Republican donors, or antagonize a group of Democratic donors, is also sure to induce economic growth?
In case the message were not clear enough, there were giant letters behind Romney’s lectern: “J-O-B-S.” The only supplement to his economic message was a nauseating pander to Colorado’s large military population. Romney attacked the sequestration defense spending cuts that President Obama agreed to with the Republican Congress, and for which his own running mate, Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), voted. “It will cost thousands of jobs here, and millions of jobs across the country,” Romney complained.
Millions of jobs? That sounded exaggerated to me. And sure enough, it is. Romney did not cite a source. Knowing Romney, he may have simply made it up out of thin air. But most likely he is referring to a report by the Aerospace Industries Association, which claimed, “A total of 1,090,359 jobs with a total labor income of $46.5 billion would be lost due to DOD budget cuts in FY 2012-FY 2013.” However, as the Brookings Institution explained, the AIA estimate is totally bogus. (This should come as no surprise, given AIA’s vested interest in the subject.) As Brookings notes, the AIA is predicting that a 10 percent cut to defense spending will lead to one-third of all jobs in the defense and aeronautics industries being eliminated. This is extraordinarily unlikely, especially in light of the fact that not even all of those jobs are defense-related.
But even if what Romney said were true, it’s a disgusting sentiment. We should spend everyone else’s hard-earned tax dollars on building weapons simply to keep people employed? This is wasteful big government at its absolute worst.
“I do not believe in shrinking the military,” declared Romney. “I believe it should be second to none in the world.” Romney did not bother to explain why the sequestration cuts would make the US military lose its spot as number one in the world. Nor did he say who would replace us. The United States spends about six times as much as its nearest competitor, China. So it would still vastly outspend China if the sequestration cuts do occur.
Romney’s effort to tie his views on military spending to his economic pitch was a vague statement that “we need a strong economy to support a strong military.” Almost as an afterthought he added, “We need strong homes.”
And that was about it, as far as social conservatism was concerned. Not a single one of the infamous “three Gs”—God, guns and gays—that Republicans once used to peel away working-class and rural white voters appeared in the speech. There was no mention of abortion or stem cell research. The only time Romney came to close to mentioning any of that was when he claimed, “The founders [had a] great insight that rights come from the Creator, not the government.” That’s a nonsensical false dichotomy: the founders saw fit to enshrine those same rights in the Constitution, the basis of their new government. But Romney was not trying to be historically accurate. His purpose was to nod to theocrats while wrapping even his token religious reference into an argument for small government. Except for military spending, everything with Romney comes back to fiscal conservatism.
That may not please of all his supporters. A young woman named Carol whom I met on the way into the speech said she likes Romney “because he is a conservative like me, he is pro-life, like me.” But you would never know Romney opposes abortion rights from hearing him speak. Lee Ann Barnhart, a middle-aged mother in attendance, told me that she was disappointed that social issues were never mentioned. Still, she is growing to like Romney, she said. (She supported Gingrich during the primaries.)
Romney’s calculation is clearly that he can count on these voters coming out for him in opposition to Obama, and so he can avoid reminding swing voters of the Republican War on Women. It’s probably wise politics. But Democrats devoted much of their convention to making sure women are not fooled. The question now is whether that message gets through.
By: Ben Adler, The Nation, October 2, 2012
America is aching.
There are some events that we never grow numb to, things that weigh heavily on our sense of humanity and national psyche.
Early Friday morning, 24-year-old James Holmes, masked and armed, entered a crowded movie theater in Aurora, Colo., and opened fire. After things settled, at least 12 people were dead and 59 were left wounded.
It is on days like this that we are reminded of how much more alike than different we are, when we see that tears have no color, when ideologies melt into a common heart broken by sorrow.
But it is also on days like this that the questions invariably come.
They are questions about the shooter. How deep must the hole have been in his life? How untenable was the ache? How cold must the heart have grown? When did he cross the line from malcontent to monster?
But there are also questions for us as a country and as a people. We are called to question our values and our laws, and those obviously include our gun laws.
My own feelings on the matter are complicated.
I grew up in a small town in northern Louisiana — in the sticks. Everyone there seemed to own guns, even the children. My brothers slept beneath a gun rack that hung over their bed. Women carried handguns for protection. Even now, my oldest brother is an amateur gun dealer, buying and selling guns at his local gun shows.
There are parts of America where guns are simply part of the culture, either for hunting and keeping the vermin out of the garden (there are more humane methods of doing this, of course, but some people simply have their ways), or for collecting. (According to a 2011 Gallup poll, 45 percent of Americans have a gun in their home.)
But, as a child, I also saw how guns could be used in a fit of anger or after a few swigs of liquor. And I have seen the damage they do to the fabric of society in big cities where criminals and cowards alike use them to settle disputes and even scores.
While I hesitate to issue blanket condemnations about gun ownership — my upbringing simply doesn’t support that — common sense would seem to dictate that it is prudent and wise to consider the place of guns in modern societies. It has been some time since we have needed to raise a militia, but senseless violence is all too common. The right to bear arms is constitutional, but the right to be safe even if you don’t bear arms would seem universal. We must ask ourselves the hard question: Can both rights be equally protected and how can they best be balanced?
As Howard Steven Friedman, a statistician and health economist for the United Nations, wrote for The Huffington Post in April:
“America’s homicide rates, incarceration rates and gun ownership rates are all much higher than other wealthy countries. While the data associated with crime is imperfect, these facts all point to the idea that America is more violent than many other wealthy countries.” This is not the way in which we should seek to excel.
There are whole swaths of gun owners who don’t use their guns in a criminal way. But many of the people who use guns to commit murder are also law-abiding until they’re not. (Holmes’s only previous brush with the law seems to have been a 2011 traffic summons.) We shouldn’t simply wait for the bodies to fall to separate the wheat from the chaff.
One step in the right direction would be to reinstate the assault weapons ban. Even coming from a gun culture, I cannot rationalize the sale of assault weapons to everyday citizens. (The Washington Post reported that Holmes had a shotgun, two pistols and an AR-15 assault rifle, all legally purchased.)
But this will be an uphill battle because the National Rifle Association has been extremely effective at promoting its agenda and sowing fears that gun rights are in jeopardy even when they are not. Much of that campaign has been aimed at painting President Obama as an enemy of the Second Amendment, and it has been exceedingly successful.
That 2011 Gallup poll, in a reversal from previous polls, found that most people are now against an assault weapons ban. (In general, the desire for stricter gun control laws has been falling for the last two decades.)
We simply have to take some reasonable steps toward making sure that all our citizens are kept safer — those with guns and those without.
We can’t keep digging graves where common ground should be.
By: Charles Blow, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, July 20, 2012
Before the sun had even risen in Aurora, Colo., the shooting there last night had reignited the debate over gun control, with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, one of the country’s most outspoken advocates of gun regulations, demanding action. While it may seem a bit crass to turn to politics so soon, it is worth asking how this could happen less than 30 minutes away from Littleton, the Colorado town where the 1999 Columbine high school massacre left a lasting scar on the state and the country for years.
While the emotional damage from Columbine may linger, its policy effects did not. After the school shooting, the state legislature, like many across the country, pushed a flight of bills aimed at making it more difficult for kids to get hold of guns. Lawmakers sought to close the “gun show loophole,” which allows people who buy guns at conventions, instead of brick-and-mortar retailers, to avoid a background check. They also aimed for a law requiring guns to be stored with trigger locks or in safes at home, and tried to increase the age someone could buy a handgun from 18 to 21.
But a year later, almost all of these bills had been shot down thanks to effective lobbying from the NRA and other gun groups. The only laws that passed were token ones the gun lobby supported, like allowing police to arrest people who knowingly purchased guns for criminals. The NRA spent $16,950 in January of 2000 alone fighting gun laws. “[It's a] tremendous amount of money,” Pete Maysmith of Colorado Common Cause, a government watchdog group, told CBS News in February of that year. “$16,000 in one month going into the Colorado Legislature — it’s a financial arms race.”
More than a decade after Columbine, gun laws across the country are more lax than ever. Opponents of gun control say legislation wouldn’t have prevented the Columbine massacre or any other major shooting, which may be true to varying degrees, depending on the shooting. Early reports indicate the suspect in last night’s theater shooting had an AK-47-type weapon, some variants of which were outlawed under the Federal Assault Weapons Ban. That law was signed by President Clinton in 1994 but expired 10 years later and is not likely to be reauthorized.
The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza, writes today, “If history is any guide, however, the Aurora shootings will do little to change public sentiment regarding gun control, which has been moving away from putting more laws on the books for some time.” Indeed, the experience after the Columbine shooting shows he may be right.
By: Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, July 20, 2012