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“Gun Lobby Goons At It Again”: The NRA’s Disarming Plan To Arm Schools

The gun-lobby goons were at it again.

The National Rifle Association’s security guards gained notoriety earlier this year when, escorting NRA officials to a hearing, they were upbraided by Capitol authorities for pushing cameramen. The thugs were back Tuesday when the NRA rolled out its “National School Shield” — the gun lobbyists’ plan to get armed guards in public schools — and this time they were packing heat.

About 20 of them — roughly one for every three reporters — fanned out through the National Press Club, some in uniforms with gun holsters exposed, others with earpieces and bulges under their suit jackets.

In a spectacle that officials at the National Press Club said they had never seen before, the NRA gunmen directed some photographers not to take pictures, ordered reporters out of the lobby when NRA officials passed and inspected reporters’ briefcases before granting them access to the news conference.

The antics gave new meaning to the notion of disarming your critics.

By journalistic custom and D.C. law, of course, reporters don’t carry guns to news conferences — and certainly not when the person at the lectern is the NRA’s Asa Hutchinson, an unremarkable former congressman and Bush administration official whom most reporters couldn’t pick out of a lineup. But the NRA wasn’t going to leave any doubt about its superior firepower.

Thus has it gone so far in the gun debate in Washington. The legislation is about to be taken up in Congress, but by most accounts the NRA has already won. Plans for limiting assault weapons and ammunition clips are history, and the prospects for meaningful background checks are bleak. Now, The Post’s Philip Rucker and Ed O’Keefe report, the NRA is proposing language to gut the last meaningful gun-control proposal, making gun trafficking a federal crime. Apparently, the gun lobby thinks even criminals deserve Second Amendment protection.

If the NRA has its way, as it usually does, states will soon be weakening their gun laws to allow more guns in schools. The top two recommendations Hutchinson announced Tuesday involved firearms in the schoolhouse. The first: “training programs” for “designated armed school personnel.” The second: “adoption of model legislation by individual states to allow for armed school personnel.”

Hutchinson claimed that his task force, which came up with these ideas, had “full independence” from the NRA. By coincidence, the proposals closely matched those announced by the NRA before it formed and funded the task force. The task force did scale back plans to protect schools with armed volunteer vigilantes, opting instead for arming paid guards and school staff — at least one in every school. States and school districts “are prepared” to pay for it, Hutchinson declared.

The task force garnished the more-guns recommendations with some good ideas, such as better fencing, doors and security monitoring for schools, and more mental-health intervention. But much of that is in the overall Senate legislation that the NRA is trying to kill.

To close his case, Hutchinson introduced a secret weapon, “special guest” Mark Mattioli, the father of one of the Newtown, Conn., victims. Mattioli told reporters that there had been “nine school shootings since Newtown” but that Newtown was “off the bell curve, if you will, with respect to the impact.”

Perhaps that’s because the Newtown killer had a military-style gun with a 30-round magazine?

Hutchinson, queried by a reporter from Connecticut, said that limiting assault weapons is “totally inadequate” because it “doesn’t stop violence in the schools.” Likewise, he told CBS News’s Nancy Cordes, limiting magazine clips won’t work as well as his plan to “give the schools more tools” — i.e., guns. And he told CNN’s Jim Acosta that background checks weren’t related to his focus of school safety.

Fox News’s Chad Pergram mentioned the gun-control legislation. “Do you see any common ground?” he asked.

“This will be the common ground,” Hutchinson said of his proposals.

If so, American schoolchildren may grow accustomed to the sort of scene Hutchinson caused Tuesday, protected by more armed guards than a Third World dictator.

Hutchinson, pressed by reporters about the armed goons, said: “You go into a mall, there is security. And so there is security here at the National Press Club.”

A reporter asked Hutchinson what he was afraid of.

“There’s nothing I’m afraid of. I’m very wide open,” Hutchinson replied, separated from his unarmed questioners by an eight-foot buffer zone, a lectern, a raised podium, a red-velvet rope and a score of gun-toting men. “There’s nothing I’m nervous about.”


By: Dana Milbank, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, April 2, 2013

April 4, 2013 Posted by | Gun Control, Guns | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Close The Loopholes”: What Republicans Used To Believe On Guns

Greg Sargent flags a video today that’s almost hard to believe. If anyone needed a reminder about the stunning trajectory of the debate over gun policy, this clip ought to do the trick.

The video is a 30-second ad recorded by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2000, endorsing an Oregon ballot measure intended to expand firearm background checks. For those who can’t watch clips online, here’s the script:

“I’m John McCain with some straight talk. Convicted felons have been able to buy and sell thousands of guns at gun shows because of a loophole in the law. Many were later used in crimes. That’s wrong.

“Here in Oregon, Measure 5 will close this dangerous loophole by requiring criminal background checks by unlicensed dealers at gun shows. I believe law abiding citizens have the right to own guns — but with rights come responsibilities. Close the loophole; vote yes on 5.”

Keep in mind, this was in 2000 — the year McCain sought the Republican presidential nomination, and won seven primaries.

Thirteen years later, Republicans not only can’t bring themselves to agree with this same message, they’re actually prepared to kill any legislation that does what McCain wanted to do.

In other words, in 2000, there was nothing especially shocking about a conservative Republican — someone with an “A” rating from the NRA, who enjoyed a national following — endorsing expanded firearm background checks. In 2013, in the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, just about all congressional Republicans consider this idea to be outrageous assault on liberty that must be crushed.

In 2000, McCain said tougher federal restrictions on firearms purchases made sense “in light of some of the terrible tragedies that have befallen our nation.” In 2013, in the aftermath of terrible tragedies, McCain’s party is reluctant to even have a debate on measures that enjoy overwhelming public support.

I can only imagine how appalled McCain circa 2000 would be with McCain circa 2013.

The point, however, isn’t just that John McCain is a shell of his former self; the point is there’s been a striking shift in Republican politics as the party has grown increasingly radicalized in recent years. McCain’s moderation on guns 13 years ago is simply intolerable within today’s GOP.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 2, 2013

April 4, 2013 Posted by | Gun Control, Gun Violence, Guns | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“One Nail In The Coffin”: Wisconsin Voters Reaffirm Election Day Registration

Voters in Madison and Milwaukee have reaffirmed the state’s Election Day registration law, with an overwhelming majority supporting the practice in two advisory referendums on Tuesday’s ballot. Allowing voters to register on Election Day has helped Wisconsin achieve one of the highest voter turnout rates in the country — but some state Republicans have proposed rolling back the state’s highly successful law.

Advocates say the vote on the advisory referendum sends a message to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and legislative leaders that election day registration works well and should be retained. Around 82 percent of voters in Dane County (where Madison is located) supported Election Day registration, and 73 percent of Milwaukee voters backed it.

The Milwaukee Common Council and Dane County Board added the advisory referendums to the April 2 ballot after Governor Walker indicated support for ending election day registration in November 2011, followed by other top Republicans, including Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. Students, people of color, and the poor are most likely to register on election day — largely because they are more likely to have moved since the last time they voted — and proposals to end Election Day registration were considered part of the larger GOP push to rig the voting process for partisan gain.

Pew Charitable Trusts recently ranked Wisconsin as one of the highest-performing states in the nation during the 2008 and 2010 election cycles, and praised the Dairy State for allowing voters to register at the polls on election day, which has helped Wisconsin achieve the second-highest voter turnout rate in the nation. The other seven states that allow Election Day registration also rank among those with the highest turnout in the country.

In 1975, Wisconsin was one of the first states in the country to allow voters to register on election day, and in recent years others have been catching on: last year, California and Connecticut passed Election Day registration (but the laws have not yet taken effect), and fourteen other states are considering similar proposals this year.

In February, Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board estimated that ending Election Day registration could cost $14.5 million. Walker backed off his support for any measure that cost that much, but Speaker Vos questioned the cost estimate.

Tuesday’s referendum votes are non-binding, but voting rights advocates hope the measure will put the nail in the coffin for proposals to end Wisconsin’s Election Day registration.


By: Brendan Fischer, The Center for Media and Democracy, April 3, 2013

April 4, 2013 Posted by | Voting Rights | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Firearms And The Romance Of Heroism”: How The NRA’s Proposal To Put Guns In Schools Became Credible

This week, the National Rifle Association is starting up its propaganda machine to argue in favor of using federal money to put armed guards in schools. They’re calling it the “National School Shield Program” – nomenclature that invites us to imagine guns as defensive barriers, only pointing outward against threats. But guns can point in any direction. What’s more, they can fire in any direction. That’s what makes them guns and not, you know, shields.

In the immediate aftermath of the NRA‘s disastrously received post-Sandy Hook press conference, the “National School Shield Program” was easy to mock (I did!). But as the weeks have worn away at support for gun control, the gambit appears increasingly, depressingly savvy. Public sentiment whipsawed between unimaginable grief and inchoate rage, and the NRA provided a concrete proposal whose very outlandishness contained a glimmer of hope: no one has ever before seriously proposed weaponizing public schools. It could work! At least it hasn’t failed!

While guns themselves took on some of the toxicity of the incident, the NRA’s idea neatly capitalized on the understandable human fantasy that accompanies any senseless death – “If only I could have done something” – as a way of re-imbuing firearms with the romance of heroism. When we hear, “The only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” the focus is on bad guy versus good guy, not “how did that bad guy get a gun?” What’s more, that reduces the problem of gun violence into “bad guys” and “good guys”, when the reality looks more like “good guys who believe they’re bad”: most gun deaths – about three out of five – are suicides.

In the context of school-age children, the math is not quite so bleak, even if the idea that they could be so hopelessness is all the more grim: for children and teens, 66% of gun deaths are homicides, 29% suicides. There is a simple reason for this reversal of proportions: adults have greater access to guns.

The National Rifle Association’s program to put guns in schools will change that.

For me, that is the end of the argument. Reams of documentation point to the correlation between access to firearms and the deaths of young people – most likely due to suicide. One study of state-level data, controlling for mental illness, substance abuse, income, family structure, urbanization and employment found that in the 15 states with the highest levels of gun ownership, the risk of suicide was double that of the six states with the lowest levels (though the total populations were about the same). Among those young people who have committed suicide with a firearm, another survey found that 82% used a gun that was legally obtained by a relative or someone else they knew.

Increasing the number of legally-obtained guns will increase the number of deaths. It’s almost a mathematical certainty, and these cold statistics point up the (literally) fatal error that’s made its way into the debate over gun violence: that these deaths are somehow the product of faulty laws, that if we could just figure out the right mechanism for enforcement, the right filter for ownership, the right place to set up our perimeter, then gun deaths would decrease … to some level that’s tolerable, I guess.

But when all is said and done, it’s not the laws that are the problem, it is the guns. They are lethal machines, made to be lethal. I like shooting guns, myself. At targets, sure. But you know what makes shooting guns fun? The idea that they’re lethal.

As I’ve written before, the tragic foolhardiness of putting such objects in the vicinity of children might be clearer to people if we substituted “Ebola virus” or “thermonuclear device” for “gun”. Both those things are safe enough, in the right hands and following the right protocols, but there’s a reason we don’t let teachers keep biological weapons in their desks: what if something went wrong? What if they fell into the wrong hands?

The NRA posits a universe in which both the bad guys and the good guys are, in their own way, perfect: the bad guys will be expert gun-handlers for whom reloading cartridges is so easy that no lives would be saved by decreasing the capacity of their magazines. And they would meticulously avoid schools foolish enough to be “gun-free”. The good guys, on the other hand, never miss, always store their guns safely and, of course, are unassailably good and non-homocidal and non-suicidal: no intentions ever change; no circumstances lure them into depression or rage.

Those of us who argue against the NRA’s policies also have to argue against the NRA’s universe; it’s the latter that’s more difficult. The popular appeal of the “School Shield” program hinges on believing in heroics; good public policy depends on preventing the need for them.


By: Ana Marie Cox, The Guardian, April 2, 2013

April 4, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence, Guns | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Shameful Waste Of Taxpayer Money”: North Carolina Lawmakers Introduce Law To Establish An Official State Religion

What is it about GOP state legislators that drives them to create laws that have no hope of surviving constitutional scrutiny yet always succeed in running up millions in legal fees to be paid by taxpayers on the way to failure?

And why is it that these same lawmakers are always among the ones crying foul when taxpayer money is spent on things such as healthcare for children or food stamps for the hungry but gladly blow big money on useless challenges to the United States Constitution?

Apparently, helping kids and seniors get needed healthcare is a shameful waste of taxpayer money while paying lawyers big money to pursue hopeless cases that only serve to further political careers is both noble and enlightening.

Over the past few years, red state after red state has taken to passing anti-abortion laws designed to subvert the Supreme Court’s judgment in Roe v. Wade—despite the reality that these state laws, on their face, clearly violate the law.

Recently, many have watched in amazement as Mississippi legislators filed a piece of legislation that would establish a state committee empowered to decide which federal laws the state will agree to follow and which ones they will chose to ignore. According to these Mississippi state lawmakers, they possess the power to ignore any federal law they wish as a result of their state sovereignty—despite a United States Constitution that clearly says otherwise.

But now, in what can only be seen as the coup de grâce in a Republican rebellion against the U.S. Constitution which is sweeping the nation, legislators in North Carolina are preparing to take on one of the most fundamental notions upon which our nation was founded—the freedom of religion and the importance of that pesky wall that separates church and state.

Meet North Carolina Representatives Carl Ford (R-China Grove) and Harry Warren (R-Salisbury), the primary sponsors of a bill introduced into the state’s General Assembly that would clear the way for the state to adopt an official, state religion.

The proposed law, introduced earlier this week, states that the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment—which prohibits Congress from passing laws respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise of religion in America—simply does not apply to the states. The bill goes on to proclaim the sovereignty of the states in this matter while proclaiming that each state is free to make its own laws respecting an establishment of an official religion and that such an establishment cannot be blocked by either Congress or the judiciary.

If you are of the mind that these North Carolina lawmakers have it right, allow me to introduce you to Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602 (1971), the U.S. Supreme Court case that established the three-pronged test—called “The Lemon Test”— for determining when a state has run afoul of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause:

  • The law or state policy must have been adopted with a neutral or non-religious purpose.
  • The principle or primary effect must be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion.
  • The statute or policy must not result in an “excessive entanglement” of government with religion.

Clearly, there is no way that a state can create an ‘official’ religion without going very wrong when it comes to meeting The Lemon Test as established by the highest court in the land.

We should not be overly surprised that such an effort to ‘break’ the Constitution—not to mention the will of the Founders—should come from the state of North Carolina. This is the same state that continues to have a provision in its State Constitution requiring that nobody may run for a public office in the state unless that candidate affirmatively states his or her belief in God. Never mind that such a requirement is, again, in direct contradiction to the U. S. Constitution’s prohibition against religion as a prerequisite for serving in public office or the many writings of the Founders expressing their strong feelings against religion as a disqualifying factor for holding office.

And never mind that North Carolina has never removed this requirement from their Constitution despite the Supreme Court’s ruling in Torcaso v. Watkins, 367 U.S. 488 (1961) which held that such a law violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. It was in the Torcaso case that the Court wrote—

“We repeat and again reaffirm that neither a State nor the Federal Government can constitutionally force a person “to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion.” Neither can constitutionally pass laws or impose requirements which aid all religions as against non-believers, and neither can aid those religions based on a belief in the existence of God as against those religions founded on different beliefs.”

So, is this latest effort to subvert a fundamental premise upon which this nation was founded simply the work of a few misguided public officials in North Carolina looking to score some points with the electorate?

Sadly, it is not.

Joining in the fun, as a co-sponsor of the bill allowing North Carolina to establish an official state religion, is one of the most powerful members of the North Carolina General Assembly, GOP Majority Leader Edgar Starnes. Apparently, expecting a leader in so important a role to show some fealty to the law and the legal underpinnings of the nation is asking a bit too much when compared to the opportunity provided that elected official to score a few political points.

I would call these ‘cheap’ political points but there is nothing cheap about the bills the state will rack up as they work to move their faulty legislation up to the United States Supreme Court in order to make their point.

For me, the overriding question presented by this latest effort to subvert the Constitution is just how long it will take for those who self-identify as strict constitutionalist—typically people who also identify as Republicans—to understand that their taxpayer dollars are being squandered by the millions by their elected officials.

When public servants have come to the point where they are desirous of turning their backs on citizens of their state whom may not subscribe to the same religious beliefs of those elected officials, we are on the road to an America that the Founders would neither recognize nor approve.


By: Rick Ungar, Op-Ed Contributor, Forbes, April 3, 2013

April 4, 2013 Posted by | Constitution, Religion | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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