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“NRA Vs. Common Sense”: The NRA Is Selling Guns, Not Saving Lives

When the National Rifle Association promised “meaningful contributions” to prevent another massacre like the recent horror in Newtown, Conn., I didn’t expect much, but I hoped for more than what we got.

After a mentally ill gunman killed 20 children and seven adults, including himself, a remorseful public has been jerked alert once again to the need for some sensible gun reforms.

I had hoped NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre might try for a middle ground with some common-sense reforms on which gun owners and non-owners tend to agree — like measures that can help keep guns out of the hands of the mentally or criminally unfit.

But, no, LaPierre hunkered down. His “meaningful contributions” sounded less concerned with promoting gun safety than promoting gun sales.

The firearms trade business must have been delighted. The guns-and-ammunition industry has contributed between $14.7 million and $38.9 million to the NRA’s corporate-giving campaign since 2005, according to a report last year by the Violence Policy Center, a gun-control advocacy nonprofit. The trade appears to be getting its money’s worth.

LaPierre’s big news: He called for armed guards and armed schoolteachers in all of our schools. My initial thought: As soon as some teacher’s gun is stolen by a rambunctious student, that’ll be the end of that idea.

But, no, arming guards or even teachers is not a totally goofy idea. It’s not very original, either. “Across the country, some 23,200 schools — about one-third of all public schools — had armed security staff in the 2009-10 school year, the most recent year for which data are available,” The New York Times reports. Most are high schools in troubled areas, although a K-12 school in rural Harrold, TX, has allowed teachers to carry concealed weapons since 2007, after proper training. Lawmakers in at least six other states are considering similar policies, according to news reports.

But armed guards are not the panacea that many imagine they might be. Columbine High School in Colorado, for example, had an armed guard on duty during the murderous rampage of two students. He even engaged in a shootout with one of them, according to the official report on the tragedy. But he failed to stop either of the two teens before police arrived and they had killed themselves.

And Virginia Tech’s campus police had their own trained SWAT team. Yet they, too, failed to stop a student before he killed 33 in 2007, including himself.

“There exists in this country a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells, and sows, violence against its own people,” said LaPierre. No, he was not taking about the gun industry. He was talking about the entertainment industry.

He lambasted violent in movies, videogames, a coarsening of the culture and, ah, yes, that all-purpose scapegoat, the news media — as if massacres were not worthy of public attention.

What about common-sense gun reforms? At least two recent polls, for example, show large numbers of gun owners and non-owners favor measures that help keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill, suspected terrorists and people who have a criminal past. But the NRA headquarters opposes them.

Most gun owners who were not NRA members supported a national gun registry, a ban on magazines that hold more than 10 rounds and a ban on semi-automatic weapons, according to a poll last year by YouGov, a global marketing firm. Most NRA members in the poll — and the national organization — opposed all three of those measures.

In an NBC Meet the Press interview Sunday, LaPierre rejected a proposed ban on large magazines, saying he didn’t think it would “do any good.” Yet, such a ban might have saved lives in Tucson, Ariz., last year. Jared L. Loughner was tackled and restrained by onlookers when he paused to reload his oversized magazines. That was after he shot 19 people, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, killing six.

If only he had been limited to smaller magazines, one wonders, how many other lives might have been spared? But LaPierre and the NRA don’t seem to be interested in “if only” scenarios that don’t fit their arguments — or promote more sales of guns and ammo.


By: Clarence Page, The National Memo, December 26, 2012

December 26, 2012 Posted by | Gun Violence, Guns | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Republican Fear Factor”: Even Syrians Are More Optimistic About The Future Than US Republicans

Syrians, who are fighting a civil war in which 40,000 of them have died just this year, are still more optimistic about their own future than US Republicans, recent polls reveal. Republicans also are much less optimistic than Greeks, whose economy may still bring down the whole of Europe, and Afghans, who are hopeful despite three decades of on-and-off civil war.

A Gallup Poll of global sentiment concludes that Greeks are the most pessimistic people in the world, in fact much more so than Syrians. But the survey did not break down results by political party. If it had, US Republicans would have topped the list. A new Washington Post-ABC poll shows that 72% of Republicans are fearful about what 2013 holds in store for them personally. (In the same poll, just 20% of Democrats are fearful.)

According to Gallup, 42% of Greeks foresee a grimmer future, along with 33% of Syrians. And in a recent Asia Foundation poll, 52% of Afghans said their country is moving in the right direction.

   What troubles Republicans?

The Republican fear factor is a gigantic leap into trepidation—in 2008, 54% of Republicans said they fear what is ahead; in 2006, the number in the same poll was just 20%. What troubles Republicans? It is fear for the world at large (79% expect a bleaker 2013, compared with 36% of Democrats) and the US economy in particular (82% are pessimistic about next year; 28% of Democrats feel that way).

But what about their personal situation did the Republican respondents fear? The poll does not appear to have asked. But oddly, 62% of Republicans are optimistic about their family’s financial situation next year, lower than the 78% of cheery Democrats but a definitively rosy outlook.

One possibly correlating number is support for owning guns: If you own a weapon or support liberalized availability of them, you may be a hunter, but you may also seek protection against a perceived threat out there. In a Pew Poll released Dec. 20—after the Sandy Hook massacre in which a gunman murdered 20 first-grade students with a semi-automatic weapon—69% of Republicans said continuing to protect the right to own guns is more important than regulating ownership (72% of Democrats took the opposite view).

But are we talking fear, such as worry about personal safety, or something more idiosyncratic? Consider the Gallup poll, whichalso gauged “positive emotions” (this is a relevant question since one can reasonably regard fear of the future as a negative emotion). It found that 85% of Panamanians feel pretty good, compared with just 46% of Singaporeans, who are much wealthier on a GDP basis. Here are the questions that comprised the gauge of this good feeling:

Did you feel well-rested yesterday? Were you treated with respect all day yesterday? Did you smile or laugh a lot yesterday? Did you learn or do something interesting yesterday?

By: Steve Levin, Contributor, Business Insider, December 25, 2012

December 26, 2012 Posted by | Politics, Republicans | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Common Sense Legislation”: To Get Better Gun Control, Don’t Use The Phrase

We can now be confident that last week’s massacre of 26 women and children at an elementary school in Newtown, CT, will not be swept under the carpet like so many mass shootings of the past.

President Barack Obama said Dec. 19 that he would act “without delay” after hearing from Vice President Joe Biden’s task force in January. We’ll probably spend much of the winter and spring debating Obama’s anti-violence proposal.

The question now is what the president — and the rest of us — can do to make sure that the National Rifle Association doesn’t once again intimidate enough members of Congress to gut the bill. The only answer is to build a smarter, more effective movement for common-sense gun laws than we have today, which means lots of meetings, marches, TV ads, door knocks and social- media campaigns.

Only the technology of movement-building has changed. Abolitionism, women’s suffrage, civil rights, conservation — every great stride forward in U.S. history has come from ordinary people defying the odds and bringing organized pressure to bear on politicians.

Any movement starts with its core legislative agenda. In this case, that means:

– Banning all assault weapons and high-capacity magazines for everyone except the military.

– Requiring instant background checks on all gun purchases, including those at gun shows and online.

– Providing law enforcement full access to all state and local databases on felons and the mentally ill.

– Making illegal gun trafficking a felony.

Until now, the NRA has disgraced itself by blocking each of these no-brainer reforms, mostly by putting tens of millions of dollars behind its lies. The best thing Obama did in his news conference was his attempt to drive a wedge between NRA members, most of whom favor reasonable gun-safety laws, and their hardline officers and board of directors.

With the NRA’s news conference on Dec. 21, we’re about to see if its tardy response to the Newtown shootings plays with the public. I have my doubts. Once a bully is exposed in harsh daylight, it can be harder to instill fear again.

To break the NRA’s stranglehold, reformers need to shake off the hangdog fatalism of the past. Former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell often points out that he won three statewide elections against the gun lobby in a state that is second only to Texas in NRA membership.

Democrats are too worried about senators from Alaska, Arkansas, Montana, Louisiana and West Virginia up for re-election in 2014. Even if many rural counties are out of reach, dozens of others in suburban areas are full of moderate and compassionate people who have not been approached imaginatively on the gun issue.

Doing so requires reframing the debate with new language, always an essential weapon in politics. That means retiring “gun control” (the “control” part is threatening to gun owners) and replacing it with “gun safety,” “anti-violence regulation,” “military weapons for the military only” and — on every occasion — “common sense.”

Mom-and-apple-pie appeals always work best. So far, with anti-gun groups starved for money, they haven’t been widely tried.

In the meantime, liberals need to downplay accurate but politically useless arguments. It’s true that violent videogames don’t cause shooting rampages, that state laws allowing concealed weapons are a menace, and that guns in the home are more likely to be used in an accidental shooting than to protect against burglars. But emphasizing these points just exacerbates cultural differences and does nothing to advance next year’s legislation.

What would? The most heartening remarks of the week came from people such as West Virginia senator Joe Manchin, who was elected in 2010 with an ad featuring him firing a gun. Now he believes it’s time to rethink some positions. A couple of country stars on his side (hello, Toby Keith) would help. So would anti-violence Super PACs (yet to be formed) airing attack ads in suburban media markets that thrust the NRA on the defensive, where it has never been.

The NRA spent more than $11 million on behalf of candidates in the 2012 cycle, a relatively small sum by today’s standards. Let’s see what happens when it has to respond to a heavy ad barrage next year that includes families talking about their dead children.

The president’s role — better late than never — is to mobilize his base. His 2012 grassroots political organization, the best ever built, raised more than $1 billion, amassed more than 15 million email addresses, contacted tens of millions of voters and recruited a million volunteers in battleground states.

Now the Obama team has the passionate issue it needs to target and organize crucial suburban congressional districts. If all House Democrats vote for the landmark bill next spring — a reasonable supposition — Obama would need the support of 17 House Republicans for it to pass.

The only thing they or other members care about is their own political survival. So the question for them is this: What’s the use of a 100 percent NRA rating in the Republican primary if it’s going to doom you in the general?

I know, I know. This sounds like a fantasy. The gun lobby likes to point to the elections of 1994 and 2000, when several Democrats who backed the assault-weapons ban lost their seats. No federal gun laws have been passed since. New ones at the state level have all been for the worse.

But U.S. politics is in a state of transition. Obama won a solid majority in November. His army — not the NRA’s — is the one that’s on the march. The massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School was so unspeakable that it may yet help a whole new generation of political activists to find their voice.


By: Jonathan Alter, Bloomberg View, The National Memo, December 21, 2012

December 26, 2012 Posted by | Gun Violence, Public Safety | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“And Bullets Keep Raining Down”: Too Many People Who Should Not Have Guns, Do

On the day after the recent massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, CT, police in Newport Beach, CA, took a man into custody for allegedly firing more than 50 rounds from a semi-automatic handgun in the parking lot of a shopping mall. He aimed into the air and no one was hit, though one person was hurt slightly while running away. Police say 42-year-old Marcos Gurrola was destitute and frustrated with his circumstances. Firing dozens of rounds at the sky was his way of venting.

If there is a more apt metaphor for where this nation now finds itself than some fool standing befuddled as bullets rain down about him, one finds it hard to imagine.

Come, then. Let us weep for the 20 children shot to pieces by the young man who invaded their elementary school wielding semi-automatic weapons. Let us mourn for the six adults who could not save the children, could not save themselves, who died as the children died, shot multiple times at close range. Let us whisper our sorrows and shed our tears. Let us stagger against one another in our mountainous grief. Let us light our candles and leave them at makeshift shrines to be cared for by the uncaring sun and rain.

But let us also understand these as acts of moral masturbation, in that they satisfy some need, yet have no chance of producing anything of lasting consequence. Let us not pretend our sorrow in this moment means a damn thing or changes a damn thing, because it doesn’t and won’t. Not until or unless the American nation is finally willing to confront its unholy gun love.

The parameters of this argument have not changed for generations. On the one side are people who enjoy hunting for sport or sustenance and people who, when bad guys come through the door, want to have more in their hands than just hands. They are, by and large, decent and responsible individuals who know and respect guns and resent any suggestion that they are not trustworthy to own them.

On the other side are equally decent and responsible people who think we ought to take reasonable steps to ensure that children, emotionally disturbed individuals and violent felons have no access to guns, people who believe no hunter requires 30 rounds to bag a deer and no homeowner not expecting to be attacked by a band of ninjas has need of an AK-47 to protect her property.

There is, you will notice, nothing about one side of that argument that precludes the other. Reasonable people who had their country’s best interests at heart could have bridged the distance between the two many dead bodies ago.

Such people are, unfortunately, in woefully short supply.

What are rather more plentiful are lawmakers in thrall to the gun lobby and to an ideology that finds more to fear in a paranoid fantasy (jackbooted government thugs coming to seize your guns) than in an objective reality (innocent people repeatedly, senselessly, unnecessarily dying).

Is this where that changes? Maybe.

Certainly the magnitude of what happened in Newtown seems to have imposed a rare lucidity upon the debate. One sees Sen. Joe Manchin, conservative Democrat from West Virginia and a staunch ally of the NRA, calling for gun control, and it is cause for hope.

Then one hears Sen. Joe Lieberman suggest that videogames may have played a role in the shooting. And Mike Huckabee says maybe it happened because the government no longer mandates prayer in schools. And Bob McDonnell, Virginia’s Republican governor, suggests the teachers should have been armed (as if the problem is that there were too few guns in that school). And hope chokes.

We have paid and continue to pay an obscene price for this lesson some of us obstinately refuse to learn. We paid it in Tucson, AZ, and we paid it on the campus of Virginia Tech. We paid it at Columbine High and at a midnight showing of a Batman movie in Aurora, CO. We’ve paid it in Compton, CA, and Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Norcross,GA, We’ve paid it in Gilbert, AZ, Bechtelsville, PA, Prince George’s County, MD, Bay City, TX, Copley, OH, and Lauderdale Lakes and North Miami, FL.

Now we pay it in Newtown, in the blood of teachers and young children. We have paid more than enough.

And our choice could not be more clear. We can continue with acts of moral masturbation. We can harrumph and pontificate about how the problem is videogames or the problem is a lack of prayer or the problem is too few guns.

Or we can finally agree that the problem is obvious: too many people who should not have guns, do.

Unless we achieve the simple courage to reach that consensus, nothing else we do will change anything. Let us weep, let us mourn. Let us whisper sorrow and shed tears. Meanwhile, frightened children return to school in Newtown.

And bullets keep raining down.


By: Leonard Pitts, The National Memo, December 24, 2012

December 26, 2012 Posted by | Gun Violence, Guns | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“John Boehner’s Christmas Gift”: A Guarantee That The Republican House Will Destroy The Economy

Last week, we learned that Speaker of the House John Boehner has no control over his majority. We’ve seen Boehner have trouble with his caucus before, of course — a significant portion of these people are crazy — but the failure of “Plan B” was different. In the past Boehner has had trouble whipping votes to support things that were destined to become law. Boehner couldn’t get his caucus to support TARP because TARP was awful and was also definitely going to happen. Boehner couldn’t get the votes for the 2011 debt deal because conservatives thought they’d eventually force an even better deal. But this was a totally symbolic gesture that never had any shot at passing the Senate or getting signed by the president. Boehner’s “Plan B” was a stupid pointless empty gesture, and that is why its failure is actually slightly scary, in addition to being hilarious.

The point of “Plan B” was to give Republicans a means of blaming Democrats when everyone’s taxes go up next year, while also giving them an opportunity to claim that they supported raising taxes on rich people. The problem was, Republicans really don’t support raising taxes on rich people, and they feel so strongly about this that they didn’t want to pretend to support a tax increase.

What is especially silly about all of this is that in any sort of sensible political system none of it would be happening. A majority of Americans just voted for Democrats to control the White House, Senate and House of Representatives, which would seem to indicate that a majority of American voters would just prefer it if Barack Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi decided all of this for themselves. But that’s not the way our archaic political system works, and instead we will watch this unpopular anthropomorphic Camel 100 carefully negotiate a compromise with the president that his party will refuse to support, until we either extend all tax cuts forever or “go over the cliff” and cause every Sunday show panelist in the country to hyperventilate until losing consciousness.

How did we get here? Keep in mind, your average congressperson is as dumb as your average regular person, and Republican members listen to the same talk radio and read the same right-wing blogs and watch the same Fox News as every other conservative. It’s always been comforting to imagine that canny evil masterminds huddle in backrooms plotting how to use the right-wing media machine to manipulate the rubes into accepting whatever the corporate elites want, but the story now is that the canny masterminds have no control over the media operation they’ve built and the “grownups” cannot convince the true believers to do shit. There’s really no talking sense into Michele Bachmann and Steve King, and every two years gerrymandered ultra-conservative districts send more and more Kings and Bachmanns to the House. And Republicans know that their safe districts are only safe from Democrats, not even-crazier Republicans.

John Boehner will probably be fine. He’ll likely remain speaker even, mostly because no one else wants that horrible job. America might not be fine.

“Going over the fiscal cliff” will be a fun adventure at first, especially because it has been so long since America has had any sort of tax hike or defense budget cut, but shortly after the “cliff” comes the debt ceiling increase vote, and there is really no chance, at all, of the House raising the debt ceiling, under any circumstance. Maybe if the president agrees to block grant Medicare and return America to the gold standard. And promises to personally fire 100 teachers.

The idea that “going over the cliff” would give the president enough leverage to get a halfway decent deal — with some stimulus up front and everything! — depended on a House of Representatives capable of acting rationally. It’s apparent that they are in fact prepared to intentionally tank the entire American economy.


By: Alex Pareene, Salon, December 24, 2012

December 26, 2012 Posted by | Fiscal Cliff | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments


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