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“From Silly To Ridiculous”: How To Ignore A National Consensus On Gun Violence

There are some fairly dramatic divisions among Americans on the major issues of the day, so when more than 90% of the country supports a proposal, it’s tempting to think policymakers would take notice.

Take universal background checks for gun purchases, for example. A CBS News poll found 92% of Americans support the idea. A CNN poll found 97% of American women favor the proposal. This week, Quinnipiac polled voters in Virginia, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania and found between 92% and 95% backing for expanded background checks and requiring checks on people buying firearms at gun shows. Hell, before the NRA went berserk, even it supported a system of universal background checks.

This is about as close as we get in this country to a national consensus. And yet, the idea still faces stiff resistance from the usual suspects.

Pursuing even the most popular of measures to curb gun violence would be a step toward destroying Americans’ liberty, Sen. Orrin Hatch argued Thursday.

[For Hatch, this] is a move toward tyranny.

“That’s the way reductions in liberty occur,” Hatch told reporters outside the Senate chamber. “When you start saying people all have to sign up for something, and they have a database where they know exactly who’s who, and where government can persecute people because of the database, that alarms a lot of people in our country, and it flies in the face of liberty.”

Yes, for the senior senator from Utah, background checks could, in his mind, be used as part of a nefarious scheme by the government to persecute citizens. Of course, but Hatch’s logic, the United States should not only leave the gun-show loophole intact, it should also eliminate the existing background-check system altogether.

Hatch isn’t the only one.

Yesterday, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) sounded very skeptical about the idea because it might interfere with “private sales on Sunday between relatives.” This comes a week after Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said the gun-show loophole” doesn’t exist, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) office said the idea is a “thinly-veiled national gun registration scheme” intended to “ensure federal government minders gain every bureaucratic tool they need for full-scale confiscation.”

And when Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) was asked whether he could envision supporting the universal background checks bill, he responded, “You know, I think video games is [sic] a bigger problem than guns, because video games affect people.”

It’s worth emphasizing that there appears to be some divisions among Republicans on the policy, with some prominent GOP policymakers saying publicly that they’re open to the idea and may end up supporting it. But in the face of overwhelming public sentiment, plenty of Republicans have few qualms about rejecting reform, for reasons that range from silly to ridiculous.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 1, 2013

February 2, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Doomed To Bloodletting”: The Republican Rabid Right Is Leading The Party To Ruin

Any credible account of the career of U.S. senator Saxby Chambliss, a Georgia Republican, must acknowledge this salient fact: He is conservative. He’s no maverick who managed to win a powerful office in a crimson state despite staking out positions that challenged the beliefs of his base.

He has opposed abortion rights, gay rights and government regulations on business. The American Conservative Union, whose ratings are considered the gold standard for grading elected officials on adherence to conservative dogma, gives him a lifetime score of 92.5 out of 100.

Still, Chambliss now finds himself under fire from right-wing extremists in the Republican Party — absolutists who believe that even a handshake with President Obama is a dangerous sign of collaboration with the enemy. So the senator will retire in 2014 rather than face a primary challenge from the right.

This is another unsettling development for the GOP, another sign of a party engaged in civil war. If Saxby Chambliss does not meet the standard for conservatism, then Republicans are doomed to bloodletting well into the foreseeable future. If a score of 92.5, which usually counts as an A, doesn’t pass muster, then the GOP is starting down the road to extinction.

The rabid right’s hostility to Chambliss grows out of his membership in the “Gang of Six,” a bipartisan group of senators who have toiled over the last couple of years to come to a compromise that would begin to eliminate federal budget deficits. Though he signed onto anti-tax activist Grover Norquist’s no-tax-increase pledge when he first sought a congressional seat, he has lately begun to voice doubt about its usefulness — as any reasonable person would.

If Tea Partiers were as worried about red ink as they claim, they would throw Chambliss a parade and hail him as a hero. But they’ve begun muttering about his conservative bona fides instead.

Last year, Georgia blogger Erick Erickson, a leader of the right-wing faction, wrote: “Saxby has consistently stabbed conservatives in the back and it is time to take him out.” By the time Chambliss voted in the earliest hours of New Year’s Day to support a tax hike on Americans earning more than $400,000 a year — a deal which, by the way, cemented in place George W. Bush’s tax cuts for everyone else — he was doomed among the absolutists.

Chambliss has said publicly that he’s not running from a primary challenge, but instead leaving a Congress that he finds dysfunctional.

But he is disingenuous — “The one thing I was totally confident of was my re-election,” he told reporters last week — in suggesting that the prospect of a primary challenge didn’t factor into his plans. He might have won, but he would have been forced to defend his decision to employ negotiation and compromise with his Democratic colleagues, strategies Republican extremists despise. He would have encountered rabid challengers willing to accuse him of grotesque crimes against party dogma. And he may have been forced to renounce the statesmanlike image he has spent the last few years building.

The senator is right about this much: Politics has become ugly and ruinous, especially inside the Republican Party. He joins a list of towering conservative figures who have left office — or been run out — after encountering the lunatic ravings of the crazed ultra-right. That includes Bob Bennett of Utah and Richard Lugar of Indiana, GOP stalwarts who lost to challenges by ultraconservatives.

And who might replace Chambliss? Several Georgia Republicans are eyeing the race, including U.S. representative Paul Broun, who told a church audience last year: “All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell.” Broun, by the way, is a physician who sits on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

Obama and other Democrats — as well as many moderate Republicans — have wondered how long it will be before the raging fever breaks on the rabid right. Well, by the time it does, the patient — the Republican Party — might be dead.


By: Cynthia Tucker, The National Memo, February 2, 2013



February 2, 2013 Posted by | GOP | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Everyone But Us”: The NRA Should Add Its Own Members To Its “Enemies List”

Last September, The National Rifle Association released its annual “enemies list” of organizations and individuals who endorse “anti-gun positions.” The bizarre list of 525 names includes mainstream organizations from AARP to the National Association of Police Organizations, and celebrities, national figures and journalists from Maya Angelou to Henry Winkler to E.J. Dionne Jr.

But why aren’t NRA members on the enemies list? After all, 75 percent of NRA members support universal background checks for gun sales, which the NRA opposes.

And why aren’t women on the enemies list? A majority 67 percent of women support a ban on semi-automatic weapons, which the NRA opposes.

And why aren’t gun owners on the enemies list? A majority 60 percent of gun owners favor a federal database to track gun sales, which the NRA opposes.

Lastly, why aren’t the American people on the NRA’s enemies list? The majority of Americans support an assault weapons ban, a ban on high-capacity magazines, and universal background checks… all of which the NRA opposes.

There is one group that the NRA would never add to its enemies list — gun manufacturers. One must always remember on which side one’s bread is buttered.


By: Josh Markds, The National Memo, February 1, 2013

February 2, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Its Time To Reboot”: Ronald Reagan Is The GOP’s Problem, Not Its Solution

So the Republican Party’s going through some soul searching. And after the results of the 2012 elections that seems like a sensible thing to do.

But so far most of the changes contemplated tend toward the cosmetic—we have to change our “tone,” they say, or the “face” of the party. And that’s all well and good. But one is left to wonder: Is there something going on here that requires plumbing a little deeper into the Republican depths?

I think the answer is yes.

Come back with me to 1981. It’s Ronald Reagan’s inaugural, a shining moment for conservatives and the GOP, punctuated by his famous quotation: “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”

Those words were the apotheosis of a conservative line of argument championed by the likes of William F. Buckley and Russell Kirk for over 30 years. And here was a president not attacking this government program or that one, but instead indicting government as a whole. How satisfying that must have been for those who had long railed against programs like the New Deal and the Great Society.

Not surprisingly, Reagan’s creed became a rallying cry for conservatives and over the past three decades it has remained ever thus. It’s a great slogan that immediately communicates a distinctive set of values, and in that respect, in many cases, it has served the GOP well. But as an organizing principle for electoral success? Well, that’s a little more complicated.

For the GOP’s traditional base—the wealthy—it’s a terrific message. If you have sufficient wealth, you don’t have much need for the domestic programs you see your taxes going to fund, and maybe it offends you to see your money being redistributed by the government to folks less well off than you. If that’s the case, you might prefer a federal government that does less and, as a result, costs less, leaving more of the money you earn in your pocket. In other words, for you, government really is the problem: it diminishes the amount of money you can spend on the things you want, and it does so without offering you something that you regard as an offsetting benefit.

If the number of people who don’t need domestic programs were large enough the GOP would need go no further than Reagan’s creed to win elections. But it isn’t.

Recognizing this, clever Republicans take a step back from the broad sweep of Reaganism and instead try taking it to a more tactical scale, identifying a particular demographic group whose taxes can be said to be paying for a program that benefits someone else. By saying to Group A you are paying for the benefits of Group B some try to mine a latent vein of resentment without threatening government programs that benefit a broader swath of the electorate. See: Reagan appealing to blue color whites by talking about welfare.

Finding the sweet spot between Reagan maximized and Reagan targeted is often the key to Republican electoral prospects, as no less than Reagan himself found out. Early in his first term he managed to push through broad spending cuts. But as people learned the impact those cuts were actually having (remember ketchup as vegetable?) momentum waned. And that’s the thing: take Reagan too far, and your spending cuts start hacking away at programs that people have come to rely on. Think school lunches. Student loans. Social Security. You see, sometimes government is the solution, no matter how much conservatives don’t want to believe it.

Today, the Republican caucus seems fractured between true believers looking to cut anything that moves, and more traditional Republicans who speak Reagan boldly, but apply him more cautiously. And while the radicals have had some well-publicized victories, the long-term health of the party seems dependent upon the veterans’ ability to retake the agenda. One suspects that that is how this play will eventually unfold.

But I’d like to suggest something a little different. There’s an honorable role to be played by a party that holds government expenditure to a rigorous standard. To be sure, for every government program that works there are any number that don’t. Fashioning a government that is narrowly tailored to the problems its constituents face, and that moves efficiently to address them (whether through a program or the absence of one) ought to be everyone’s goal.

Just imagine how constructive a Republican party able to have a rational discussion about the role of government in our lives could be, a party able to contemplate not only the costs but also the benefits of government, and one that offered a principled view about how to distinguish between the two. That would be quite something. And it would offer an extraordinary service to this country.

But for that to happen, something pretty fundamental has to change. There must be a recognition that for all he did for the Republican cause, in this present crisis Ronald Reagan isn’t the solution to your problem; Ronald Reagan is the problem. And its time to reboot.


By: Anson Kaye, U. S. News and World Report, February 1, 2013

February 2, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Politics | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Straw Woman”: The NRA’s Phony Women’s Pro-Gun Argument

The latest weapon in the war against reasonable restrictions on access to guns is the straw woman. Don’t fall for her.

This formulation would have you believe gun rights are women’s rights and that limits on guns would harm women disproportionately. The insinuation is that only insensitive men, who can’t possibly identify with the vulnerable position in which women find themselves, would be foisting gun control on them.

“Guns make women safer,” Gayle Trotter of the conservative Independent Women’s Forum, told the Senate Judiciary Committee at its Wednesday hearing on gun violence. “For women, the ability to arm ourselves for our protection is even more consequential than for men. Because guns are the great equalizer in a violent confrontation. As a result, we protect women by safeguarding our Second Amendment rights. Every woman deserves a fighting chance.”

This argument would be powerful, if only it were true. The facts suggest precisely the opposite.

First, women are far more likely to be the victims of gun violence than to benefit from using a gun in self-defense.

Second, the restrictions under discussion would not harm women. They would either make women safer or, at the very least, not impede their ability to use guns in self-defense.

On the threat that guns pose to women, consider: Women are far less likely to be the victims of gun violence than men. But they are far more likely than men to be killed by someone they know, generally a spouse or partner.

Women with a gun in the home were nearly three times as likely to be the victim of homicide than women living in a home without firearms, according to a 2003 study in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.

“There’s good evidence that a gun in the home increases the likelihood that a woman in the home will die,” said David Hemenway, director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center. “There is no evidence that a gun in the home is protective for the woman.”

So much for guns making women safer. Still, the Second Amendment grants women as well as men the freedom to take the risk of having one at home.

Then on to the second issue: whether various gun-control proposals — enhanced background checks, limits on magazine sizes, restrictions on assault weapons — would make it more difficult for women to defend themselves.

Trotter’s Exhibit A was Sarah McKinley, an Oklahoma widow alone with her 3-month-old son when two intruders, one armed with a foot-long knife, broke into her home. McKinley shot and killed one of them with a Remington 12-gauge shotgun.

But here’s the problem with Trotter’s example: Nothing in the restrictions under discussion would have stopped McKinley.

As Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) observed, “I think it proves the point that with ordinary firearms, not hundred-magazine, peculiar types of artifacts, people are quite capable of defending themselves.”

Trotter remained impervious to Whitehouse’s logic. “How can you say that?” she asked. “You are a large man. . . . You cannot understand. You are not a woman stuck in her house having to defend her children, not able to leave her child, not able to go seek safety.”

Trotter argued that assault weapons such as the AR-15 are young women’s “weapon of choice” because they are accurate, light and, most of all, intimidating. “The peace of mind that a woman has as she’s facing three, four, five violent attackers . . . knowing that she has a scary-looking gun,” she said, “gives her more courage when she’s fighting hardened violent criminals.”

You have got to be kidding. The intruder is going to be more scared off — the woman is going to feel more empowered — because the gun is scarier-looking?

If anything, women should be clamoring for gun-control measures — in particular, for expanded background checks. Individuals convicted of domestic violence are prohibited from buying guns — but, of course, the porousness of the current background check system lets abusers dodge that rule. And, according to the National Institute of Justice, abused women are six times more likely to be killed when a gun is in the home.

“I speak on behalf of millions of American women across the country who urge you to defend our Second Amendment right to choose to defend ourselves,” Trotter proclaimed.

I’d say that I speak for millions of American women who reject this phony solicitude, but there is a better representative. She spoke at the hearing, too. “Too many children are dying,” she said, painfully enunciating each syllable. “We must do something.”

Her name is Gabby Giffords. Anyone dare tell her that guns make women safer?


By: Ruth Marcus, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, January 31, 2013

February 2, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence, Women | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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