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“Nothing Short Of Horrifying”: Here A Gun, There A Gun, Everywhere A Gun

As Jaime and I noted yesterday, many Democratic politicians feel the need to preface any discussion of guns with an assurance that they, too, own guns and love to shoot, as though that were the price of admission to a debate on the topic. But what you seldom hear is anyone, politician or otherwise, say, “I don’t own a gun and I don’t ever intend to” as a statement of identity, defining a perspective that carries moral weight equal to that of gun owners. So it was good to see Josh Marshall, in a thoughtful post, say, “Well, I want to be part of this debate too. I’m not a gun owner and, as I think as is the case for the more than half the people in the country who also aren’t gun owners, that means that for me guns are alien. And I have my own set of rights not to have gun culture run roughshod over me.” Let me tell you my perspective on this, and offer some thoughts on the question of what sort of a society we want to have when it comes to the question of guns. Because there are two radically different visions that are clashing here.

For the record, I, too, am not a gun owner (you’re shocked to learn this, I know). I took riflery at camp as a kid, shooting a .22 at paper targets (and when you achieved each new level of marksmanship, you got a certificate from the NRA!), and I’ve held unloaded guns a few times. I understand the attraction of guns. They give you a feeling of power and potency, and they’re fun to shoot, which is why every little boy loves playing with toy guns. But in the town where I grew up, you never saw a gun that wasn’t in a cop’s holster. If any of my classmates’ parents had them (and I’m sure some did), they never mentioned it, and my own parents would sooner have adopted a pack of hyenas than brought a gun into our home. As far as that community was concerned, the relative absence of guns was one of the things that made it a nice place to live. It wasn’t because everyone got together and took a vote on it, but that absence was nevertheless an expression of the community’s collective will.

I’m sure that many gun advocates would hear that and say, “Don’t you realize how vulnerable you all were? You should have been armed!” But the truth is we weren’t vulnerable (crime was low; I have a vague memory of one murder that happened during my entire childhood but I could be imagining it), and although as kids we always complained that the town was boring, everyone seemed pretty happy with the security situation. And if one day, a few of the town’s citizens started letting everyone know that they were now carrying firearms when they were down at the drugstore or the bank, it wouldn’t have made anyone feel safer. Just the opposite, in fact. It would have changed everything for the worse.

What I’m getting at is that one of the things that makes a society work is that people have rights that are protected in the law, but they also exercise those rights with consideration for the society’s other members. For instance, we have a strong commitment to freedom of expression, such that many things that would be deemed obscene and get you tossed in jail in other countries are tolerated here. So if I want do a performance art piece that involves lots of cursing and tossing about bodily fluids, I can do it. But I’m not going to do it on the sidewalk in front of your house during dinner time, not because I don’t have the right, but because that would make me an asshole. In the exercising of my rights, I’d be changing the conditions of your existence, even for a brief time, in a way that you’d find unpleasant. So because I value having a society where we all live together, I’ll choose to find a theater to put on my performance, and you can choose to come see it or not. In the same way, if you choose to have a gun in your home because you think it protects you, that’s your right. I’m going to choose not to let my kid come play with your kid at your house, and we can all get along.

According to the Constitution, you have a right to own a gun. I’ll be honest and say that I wish it weren’t so; the fantasies the most extreme gun advocates notwithstanding, our liberty is protected by our laws and institutions, not by our ability to wage war on our government. Canadians and Britons and French people aren’t any less free than we are because they are less able to start killing cops and soldiers when they decide the time for insurrection has come. Nevertheless, that basic right exists and it isn’t going to be taken away. But the rest of us should also be able to say that there are limits to how far your exercising that right should be allowed to change the rest of our lives, and if necessary the law should enforce those limits.

As I’ve written before, the goal of many gun advocates, particularly those who promote concealed carry, is that we make it so as many people as possible take as many guns as possible into as many places as possible. That’s been the focus of their legislative efforts in recent years, not only passing concealed carry laws nearly everywhere, but also passing laws to make you able to take guns into bars, schools, government buildings, houses of worship, and so on, and also advocating for laws that would let you take your guns to communities where it would be otherwise illegal to carry them. Which would mean that your right to carry your gun trumps the right of everyone else to say, this is a place where we’ve decided we don’t want people bringing guns.

Is it possible that on my next visit to the local coffee place, a madman might come and shoot the place up? Yes, it’s possible. And is it possible that if half the patrons were armed, one of them might be able to take him down and limit the number of people he killed? Yes, it’s possible. It’s also possible that I’ll win the next Powerball. But if holding out that infinitesimal possibility means that every time I go down for a coffee, I’m entering a place full of guns, it’s not a price I’m willing to pay. That’s the decision I’ve made, and it’s the decision that the other people in my community have made as well.

But gun advocates want to create a society governed by fear, or at the very least, make sure that everyone feels the same fear they feel. “An armed society is a polite society,” they like to say, and it’s polite because we’re all terrified of each other. They genuinely believe that that the price of safety is that there should be no place where guns, and the fear and violence they embody, are not present. Not your home, not your kids’ school, not your supermarket, not your church, no place. But for many of us—probably for most of us—that vision of society is nothing short of horrifying.

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, January 18, 2013

January 20, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence, Guns | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Another Right Wing Freakout”: Sorry Rush, Gun Violence Is A Health Care Issue

How illogical has the right-wing media ‘debate’ about gun control become this week in the wake of President Obama moving forward on a host of violence prevention measures?

So illogical that conservative media voices expressed outrage, while spreading constant misinformation, about the role doctors might play in addressing gun violence in America. The right-wing Noise Machine cranked up the indignation because the Obama administration wants to make sure health care professional are allowed to communicate with their patients about guns and gun safety.

In other words, the right-wing Noise Machine is furious that the White House is treating gun violence, in part, as a health care issue when it so transparently is one.

Fact: The United States’ life expectancy rate is far lower than most other affluent countries, in part because of our rate of gun violence far outpaces those other countries.

Meanwhile, taxpayers here spend billions each year paying health care costs to treat gunshot victims, the strong majority of whom, research indicates, are uninsured. Taxpayers spend even more money covering societal costs, such as long-term psychological problems, disability, and the loss of productivity suffered by approximately 70,000 Americans who suffer non-fatal gun shot wounds annually.

Following the school gun massacre in Newtown, Conn. last month, Bloomberg News reported:

The cost of U.S. gun violence in work lost, medical care, insurance, criminal-justice expenses and pain and suffering amounted to as much as $174 billion in 2010, according to data compiled by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in Calverton, Maryland.

That averages out to more than $644 in costs for every gun owned in America. As economist Ted Miller, the Institute’s principal research scientist, told Bloomberg, “Gun ownership is like smoking, an expensive and dangerous habit.”

So yes, gun violence is America represents an epic and costly health care problem, which is why it makes sense to include health care providers in any comprehensive attempt to combat the crisis. (On Wednesday, the White House announced the administration would “issue guidance clarifying that the Affordable Care Act does not ban doctors from asking patients “about firearms in their patients’ homes and safe storage of those firearms.”)

As the Firearm & Injury Center at the University of Pennsylvania has concluded, “Healthcare providers have a vital role in preventing intentional and unintentional firearm injuries and their impact on patients, families and communities.” And that’s why the group Doctors for America applauded Obama’s gun violence imitative this week.

Meanwhile, the far-right allegation that Obama now requires physicians to press patients about gun use represents a complete fabrication. So was Rush Limbaugh’s claim that Obama’s trying to turn doctors into “snitches,” and Lou Dobbs’ fearmongering about the president turning doctors into “an agent of the federal government.”

The right-wing freak-out is built around the fake premise of, how dare Obama recruit doctors to fight his war on gun violence. (Drudge Report headline: “War on Crazy: Obama Deputizes Doctors”) That may be a conservative attempt to keep the gun debate focused on the issue of gun rights and the Second Amendment and away from the catastrophic, real-life costs that gun violence registers each year.

However, the right-wing media’s baseless assertion ignores the obvious fact that the health care industry in this country — doctors, hospitals, emergency rooms, mental health centers -remains inundated with gunshot wounds daily and deals with the life-changing crisis all the time. (Nearly 300 people are shot everyday in America.) Doctors don’t have to go snooping around acting as “snitches” in order to find the problem.

And the financial costs of those gunshots wounds is rising; improved trauma care means hospitals now save more gunshot victims, which in turn adds to larger, long-term health care and rehabilitation costs.

A 2005 study of hospital charges for firearm injuries in Pennsylvania found that the average charge for inpatient hospitalization due to firearm injuries was $30,814. That figure was more than double what gunshot injuries cost hospitals between 1996-1998.

An in-depth investigation on gunshot violence by the Milwaukee Journal in 2006 reported that the average bill for a shooting patient treated at the city’s Froedtert Hospital was $38,000. For gunshot victims who suffered spinal damage, the bill regularly reached six figures.

Truth is, any attempt to reduce gun violence in America must include a health care strategy, no matter how much whining Fox News and Rush Limbaugh do about it.


By: Eric Boehlert, The Huffington Post, January 18, 2013

January 20, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence, Guns | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Taking Aim”: On Virtually Every Measure, The N.R.A.’s Messaging Is Off

This week the president aimed high in the gun debate, and the National Rifle Association aimed low, despicably low.

On Wednesday, the president outlined a broad range of measures — including universal background checks, a ban on assault weapons, a ban on high-capacity magazine clips, as well as improved data collection and sharing about backgrounds of potential gun buyers. It was all intended to increase public safety over all and make an honest effort to prevent mass shootings and lessen the carnage in the event that there are more

The N.R.A., for its part, released on Tuesday an ad called “Elitist Hypocrite” that invoked the Obama children and their Secret Service security as evidence of a president who values his children above those of average Americans.

It was an outrageous, unnecessary and ultimately stomach-churning ploy to pit the value of some children against others while completely ignoring the longstanding and very real threats that presidents and their families face.

As the Christian Science Monitor reported in November, “Since 2007, the Secret Service has disrupted several assassination conspiracies — including some involving white nationalists — and arrested dozens of people who have made less-than-idle threats against the president.”

Most of us don’t have to worry that our children live under the constant threat of harm. Heads of state do. Feigning ignorance of that distinction for political expediency only suggests that you may not be feigning at all.

Furthermore, the president hasn’t voiced opposition to more school security. He has, however, said that he doesn’t believe that that’s the sole solution. In a recent interview on “Meet the Press,” the president said, “I am skeptical that the only answer is putting more guns in schools.”

Lastly, as the White House pointed out in an e-mail to me last month, the administration proposed money for “Secure Our Schools” policing grants, which provide funding to improve school safety, “however, Congress zeroed out the program in 2012.”

In fact, the president’s proposal as presented on Wednesday specifically states:

“We need to enhance the physical security of our schools and our ability to respond to emergencies like mass shootings, and also create safer and more nurturing school climates. Each school is different and should have the flexibility to address its most pressing needs. Some schools will want trained and armed police; others may prefer increased counseling services. Either way, each district should be able to choose what is best to protect its own students.”

And one of the president’s executive orders reads: “provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.”

On virtually every measure, the N.R.A.’s messaging is off.

The president’s proposals, on the other hand, are very much in step with public opinion, which has shifted toward more restrictions, according to a number of polls reported Monday.

A poll by Gallup found that dissatisfaction with America’s gun laws has “spiked” to 38 percent after the Newtown shooting and the public discussions that followed. As Gallup points out, “this is up from 25 percent who held this set of views a year ago, and is the highest since 2001.” That’s an increase by more than half in one year — reversing a trend of continuous decline.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll found that “most Americans support tough new measures to counter gun violence, including banning assault weapons and posting armed guards at every school” and that “[m]ore than half of Americans — 52 percent in the poll — say the shooting at the elementary school in Newtown, Conn., has made them more supportive of gun control.”

And a Pew Research Center poll found that most Americans now support a federal database to track gun sales, background checks for private sales and sales at gun shows, preventing the mentally ill from purchasing guns, and bans on semiautomatic weapons, assault style weapons, high-capacity ammunition clips and online ammunition sales.

But as Pew pointed out, “there is a wide gap between those who prioritize gun rights and gun control when it comes to political involvement.”

The report continued: “Nearly a quarter (23 percent) of those who say gun rights should be the priority have contributed money to an organization that takes a position on gun policy, compared with just 5 percent of those who prioritize gun control. People who favor gun rights are also about twice as likely as gun control supporters to have contacted a public official about gun policy (15 percent vs. 8 percent).”

This is where gun control advocates — those who believe that a society can be safer and more civil with fewer rather than more high-powered, high-capacity killing machines — must have their mettle tested. This is where they must take a stand, become vocal and active, and demand accountability from elected officials, not just now but also in the future.

One of the most profound lessons to emerge from the Newtown tragedy is the power of voice. Americans refused to cede the discussion to the N.R.A. and other gun interests. They refused to buckle to fear or be swayed by propaganda.

Yet too many politicians still quake at the mere mention of the N.R.A. They are more interested in protecting their jobs than protecting society.

The public must make them quake at the idea of doing nothing on this issue.

We must never forget what happened in Connecticut last month and we must never forget what happens in Washington in the coming months.

The tragedy of Newtown must herald the dawn of a new America.

By: Charles M. Blow, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, January 16, 2013

January 20, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence, Guns | , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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