“Guns Are a Right”: Yet, The Idea That A Citizenry Free To Bear Arms May Impose More Of A Threat To Freedom Than It Guarantees
We are at a point in the debate over gun control where these are dueling headlines: “At Least 71 Kids Have Been Killed With Guns Since Newtown” versus “A march on Washington with loaded rifles.” Given the status of gun control legislation in Congress, they’re equally infuriating, but one gives insight into why this debate is stalled.
Libertarian radio host Adam Kokesh is planning a gathering of gun owners and gun rights activist where they will…maybe it’s best to read him in his words. From the Facebook page:
On the morning of July 4, 2013, Independence Day, we will muster at the National Cemetery & at noon we will step off to march across the Memorial Bridge, down Independence Avenue, around the Capitol, the Supreme Court, & the White House, then peacefully return to Virginia across the Memorial Bridge. 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. Should we meet physical resistance, we will peacefully turn back, having shown that free people are not welcome in Washington, & returning with the resolve that the politicians, bureaucrats, & enforcers of the federal government will not be welcome in the land of the free.
Currently, 3400+ people on Facebook have stated their intention of participating (an admittedly shoddy means by which to gauge likely attendance), but it makes me wonder if anyone involved is reading the same news that I am.
What’s telling is the language used to promote this action. On May 3, Kokesh tweeted: “When the government comes to take your guns, you can shoot government agents, or submit to slavery.”
It’s not that he doesn’t know the horrors of guns, but that he views his right to own guns as integral to his freedom as an American. That’s the strain of thinking among pro-gun folks that’s difficult to defeat.
It’s why Glenn Beck doesn’t flinch when co-opting the message and symbolism of Martin Luther King Jr., to promote a pro-gun rights agenda. King’s nonviolent philosophy isn’t as important to Beck as the fact that his life represents a fight for freedom and Beck sees his crusade in the same light.
Here’s a thought this group may want to consider: the rights we have can, and do, have and will continue to change.
Slavery was once a right. Now-outdated notions of privacy and property allowed marital rape as a right. But the costs of those rights were the violation of others’ rights, and we reached a point as a society (through much debate, struggle, blood, sweat, tears and more) where we decided that protecting rights like slavery and marital rape was no longer worth the damage they inflicted. Alcohol was a right, then it wasn’t, and then it was again because prohibiting drinking caused more trouble than we were able to tolerate. However, when the right returned it did not go unchecked. This is how we negotiate rights in a democracy.
But on guns, we seem unwilling to even consider the idea that a citizenry free to bear arms may impose more of a threat to freedom than it guarantees. I understand why that is, as guns are tied into our national identity, our sense of masculinity, our desire for power, and it frightens some of us to think who we would be without that. And then more headlines read “13-year-old Florida boy shoots 6-year-old with handgun at home” and I just want us to pause to consider: Is the right to bear arms worth the deaths of our children?
We may well decide that it is, but a debate about guns that is afraid of that core question isn’t one worth having.
By: Mychal Denzel Smith, The Nation, May 10, 2013
“Who’s Doing The Terrorizing?”: Lindsey Graham Pulls A Page Straight Out Of The Bush-Cheney Playbook
Apparently on Friday, before Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was apprehended, Sen. Lindsey Graham was already torquing up the hysteria by taking the position that Tsarnaev not receive his Miranda warning before being interrogated. Graham–who, not to imply anything from this, is one of those lucky men who can go into any barbershop and the get the exact look he wants simply by saying, “I’d like the Adolf Hitler haircut”–tweeted “If captured I hope [the] Administration will at least consider holding the Boston suspect as [an] enemy combatant for intelligence gathering purposes.” He then added “The last thing we may want to do is read Boston suspect Miranda Rights telling him to ‘remain silent.’”
The Brothers Tsarnaev will never be known as anything but terrorists, but Boston certainly doesn’t look like a town that has been terrorized to me. Defiant? Sure. Inspired? Definitely. There’s a kind of a civic euphoria arising from the realization that town came through this blow with strength and intelligence and courage. From the first responders on Monday, to the individuals who opened their homes to stranded runners, to the full-throated expression of patriotism that infused the way Bruins fans sang the national anthem, to an exemplary performance by the law enforcement authorities, Boston has a lot to be proud of. They don’t look terrorized to me.
It’s the Lindsey Grahams who are terrorizing people by suggesting that this threat maybe might possibly be so enormous that we have to deny Dzhokhar Tsarnaev his rights as an American citizen. This is a page straight out of the Bush-Cheney playbook, the idea that we have to start throwing away our most important values and traditions in order to be secure.
It’s nonsense. Denying Dzhokhar Tsarnaev his rights won’t improve my safety. Let’s face it: if I really wanted to improve my safety, I would lose twenty pounds.
By: Jamie Malanowski, Washington Monthly Political Animal, April 21, 2013
Is it any wonder that Americans dislike Congress so much? It shouldn’t be a surprise because our representatives in Washington ignore public opinion. Gun control is the perfect example. A clear majority of people favors a ban on assault weapons (57 percent favor and 41 percent oppose, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll). But members of Congress can’t even agree on universal background checks which just about every living and breathing American favors. (91 percent according to ABC News/Washington Post.)
On economic issues, Washington is completely out of sync with public opinion. Seven in ten (or more precisely 71 percent, according to Gallup) Americans favor raising the minimum wage to $9.00 per hour but Republicans won’t even let the increase come to a vote on the House floor. House Republicans won’t even consider raising taxes on rich people even though a majority of Americans favor an increase in the capital gains tax to reduce the deficit (that would be 52 percent in favor and 36 percent opposed, according to survey conducted for CBS News). On the other hand, only one in six (18 percent, again according to CBS News) Americans want to cut Medicare but the president and Congress want to cut the spending for a program which is the only thing that keeps millions of seniors financially afloat.
The debate over the federal budget is just another example of congressional indifference to public opinion. For years, the debate over the federal budget has mainly been about the federal budget deficit to the exclusion of any meaningful discussion about job creation. When President Obama formally introduces his budget for the 2014 fiscal year on Wednesday, it will be business as usual. We’ll have a lot of talk about deficits but little debate about jobs.
Everyone in Washington talks about the deficit but Americans outside our nation’s capital worry about jobs. Not that anyone in Washington cares but the public disagrees with the tone of the budget discussion in D.C. A new Marist College poll shows that Americans want Congress to focus on creating jobs (62 percent of them anyway) more than they want deficit reduction (only 35 percent want that). If that doesn’t work for you, the national Election Day exit poll showed that a lot more voters were worried about jobs (59 percent) than they were the deficit (15 percent).
A focus on jobs instead of the deficit is good politics for Democrats but also good policy. Government programs create jobs and put money into the pockets of middle class families. People with jobs pay taxes and buy things, which in turn creates more jobs, and higher tax revenues. The title of Representative Paul Ryan’s budget “Path to Prosperity” should be the “Path to Austerity” which in turn is the path to poverty. The economy had been creating a lot of jobs for the last few months until the sequester kicked in last month. But spending cuts sucked money out of the economy and the wind out of job growth.
Congress has gone rogue and working families are paying the price.
In his new book, “Who Stole the American Dream?” Hedrick Smith writes that the big business lobby has become so powerful in Washington that it can get Congress to do its bidding. Unions used to counteract the corporate lobby but pro business policies at the state and federal level have weakened labor. In 2010, businesses shelled out $972 million in soft money contributions to party committees compared to $10 million for labor. Business PACs contributed $333 million to only $69 million for labor committees.
Members of Congress can safely ignore public opinion because most of them represent districts where there is little or no competition. And if a member does have a tough race, he or she can always count on big business political action committees to bail them out with large campaign contributions or independent expenditure efforts.
That’s why we are cutting funding for education and moving to limit spending on Social Security and Medicare while Republicans hold spending on oil company companies ($4 billion a year) and tax breaks on corporate jets ($3 billion annually) sacrosanct.
Education is a lot more important to America’s economic future than subsidizing oil barons and corporate jet setters but you would never know it if you follow the economic debate in Washington. The sequester means that 70,000 fewer kids will be able to enter Head Start this fall. That’s 70,000 children who won’t get a much-needed head start in the new world of cutthroat global economic competition.
Let’s talk about basic American values like opportunity and democracy. America should be the land of opportunity but it is getting harder for Americans who grow up in low-income households to reach the middle class than it has ever been before. America should be the bastion of democracy but Congress no longer considers the views of the public it should represent.
By: Brad Bannon, U. S. News and World Report, April 8, 2013
Pastor-politician Mike Huckabee continues to stoke fear and paranoia regarding the sensible gun safety measures proposed in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting that killed 20 children and six adults, the latest gun-related massacre that occurred because of what many consider to be lax gun laws in America, compared to other developed nations.
On his radio show Wednesday afternoon, Huckabee responded to a caller who repeated the lie that Adolf Hitler and the Nazis turned Germany from a democracy into a dictatorship by registering and collecting guns, by saying:
“When you bring that up there are people that get crazy on us. They’ll start saying, ‘oh there you go, comparing to the Nazis.’ And I understand the reaction. But it’s the truth. You cannot take people’s rights away if they are resisting and have the means to resist. But once they’re disarmed and the people who are trying to take over have all the power — not just political, not just financial — but they have the physical power to domesticate us and to subjugate us to their will, there’s not a whole lot we can do about it, other than just plan to die in the course of resistance…in every society and culture where dictators take over, one of the things they have to do is get control of the military and police and ultimately all the citizens and make sure the citizens are disarmed and can’t fight in the streets. Gosh I hope it doesn’t come to that.”
Besides making a slippery-slope argument that modest gun reform will somehow lead to weapon confiscation and a Nazi-style dictatorship, Huckabee and the caller display a dangerously ignorant reading of history regarding gun laws in Nazi Germany. Mother Jones, Salon, and other publications have refuted the oft-repeated assertion among gun rights absolutists that gun control allowed Hitler’s rise to power and made the Holocaust possible.
First, it is worth noting that other developed, democratic nations with stronger gun laws, such as Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan, Australia and others, did not see a dictator rise to power and “domesticate” and “subjugate” their people when they enacted new gun measures. In fact, their democracies are still intact with the people still deciding important issues peacefully through the ballot box. What these countries have done is made their societies safer by decreasing gun violence.
Now back to the right wing’s seemingly favorite comparison when discussing anything President Obama has proposed to help the American people — Nazis.
The reality is that the Weimar Republic following World War I actually had tougher gun laws than the Nazi regime, in part to disarm the violent extremists causing havoc, like the paramilitary SA brownshirts. The Nazi Weapon Law of 1938 actually loosened gun restrictions, except for Jews and other persecuted minorities.
But there were only 214,000 Jews living in Germany when World War II started and between 160,000 and 180,000 were murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators. That is a small fraction of the six million Jews from other countries who were murdered and who wouldn’t have been subject to the Nazi gun laws. The mighty Russian army lost more than 10 million soldiers fighting the Wermacht on the Eastern Front, so it is unrealistic to think that a Jewish armed uprising in Eastern Europe would have beaten back the German military machine. That is why many say a strong Israeli army is so important to preventing another holocaust, the reasoning being that a Jewish state with a modern military is the only match for a genocidal force like the Nazis.
In reality, it is the Tea Party “patriots” intimidating people with loaded assault rifles, Republican efforts to suppress the vote, and right-wing radio hosts like Huckabee stoking fear and paranoia that more closely resemble the tactics used by Hitler’s Nazis to gain power.
Gun control and Second Amendment-analysis website GunCite concludes the following in a story titled “The Myth of Nazi Gun Control”: “There are no lessons about the efficacy of gun control to be learned from the Germany of the first half of [the 20th] century. It is all too easy to forget the seductive allure that fascism presented to all the West, bogged down in economic and social morass. What must be remembered is that the Nazis were master manipulators of popular emotion and sentiment, and were disdainful of people thinking for themselves. There is the danger to which we should pay great heed. Not fanciful stories about Nazis seizing guns.”
By: Josh Marks, The National Memo, April 5, 2013
“Fighting Big Money With Big Money”: Until Citizens United Overturned, Best Way Out Of Our Dilemma Is To Democratize The Money Game
If you are tired of seeing the debate on guns dominated by the National Rifle Association and yearn for sensible weapons laws, you have to love New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. When most politicians were caving in or falling silent, there was Bloomberg, wielding his fortune to keep hope alive that we could move against the violence that blights our nation.
But imagine that you also believe the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision was a disaster for representative government because a narrow majority broke with long precedent and tore down the barriers to corporate money in politics. The decision also encouraged the super-rich to drop any inhibitions about using their wealth to push their own political agendas.
When it comes to policy, I fall into both of these camps — pro-Bloomberg on guns but anti-Citizens United. So I have been pondering the issue of consistency or, as some would see it, hypocrisy.
Put aside that the hypocrisy question rarely is raised against those who defend unlimited contributions except when the big bucks are wielded against them. Can I be grateful for what Bloomberg is doing and still loathe Citizens United? I say: Yes.
Are opponents of Citizens United and the new super PAC world required to disown those who use their wealth to fight for causes we believe in? I say: No.
To begin with, even before Citizens United, the regulations on “issue advertising” — most of what Bloomberg is doing now — were quite permissive for activities outside the period shortly before elections. The Supreme Court’s 1976 Buckley v. Valeo decision already had given wealthy individuals such as Bloomberg a great deal of leeway.
And, unlike those who donate large amounts anonymously, Bloomberg is entirely open about what he’s up to. He is simply offsetting the political might of the arms manufacturers.
Supporters of universal background checks and bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines simply cannot be asked to repudiate the help they need to face down the power of the gun lobby.
To put it in an unvarnished way, I’m glad some members of Congress will have to think about whether enraging Bloomberg is more dangerous than angering the NRA. And Bloomberg’s advertising serves to remind politicians inclined to yield to the gun lobby that their constituents support universal background checks by margins of around 9 to 1.
The Supreme Court has stuck us with an unsavory choice. If the only moneyed people giving to politics are pushing for policies that favor the wealthy, we really will become an oligarchy. For now, their pile of dough needs to be answered by progressive rich people who think oligarchy is a bad idea.
But playing the game as it’s now set up should not blind anyone to how flawed its rules are. Politics should not be reduced to a contest between liberal rich people and conservative rich people. A donor derby tilts politics away from the interests and concerns of the vast majority of Americans who aren’t wealthy and can’t write checks of a size that gets their phone calls returned automatically. A Citizens United world makes government less responsive, less representative and more open to corruption.
That’s why many who welcome the continued political engagement of President Obama’s campaign organization are nonetheless concerned about its dependence on big-dollar givers. This creates a troubling model that other politicians are certain to follow. It would be far better if Obama concentrated primarily on building off the pioneering work his campaigns did in rallying small donors.
This points to the larger danger for those who tout their tough-mindedness about using the current system for progressive purposes while still claiming to be reformers: Politicians are growing so comfortable with the status quo that they largely have given up trying to change it.
Two who haven’t are Reps. David Price (D-N.C.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), sponsors of the Empowering Citizens Act. It would provide a 5 to 1 match from public funds for contributions of $250 or less, thus establishing strong incentives for politicians to rely on smaller donors while offering the rest of us a fighting chance against the billionaires. Harnessed to new technologies, this approach could vastly expand the number of citizens who are regular contributors. Similar reforms are being proposed at the state level in New York, and Obama’s organization says it will push to get them passed.
Until Citizens United is overturned, as it should be, the best way out of our dilemma is to democratize the money game.
So, yes, let’s cheer for Mike Bloomberg. But let’s also insist on creating a system in which we will no longer need his money.
By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, March 27, 2013