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“It’s Time To Hold America’s Gunmakers Accountable”: An Unaccountable Industry Involved In Selling Products That Kill People

It’s not just Congress that fails to respond after another massacre briefly focuses attention on the irrationality and permissiveness of our country’s firearms statutes. Those of us seeking change also regularly fall down on the job. We express outrage and move on, leaving the debate exactly where we found it.

Opponents of the big gun interests are often insufficiently innovative in what we propose. Let’s face it: We have been losing this fight.

The solutions we suggest are rarely big enough to deal with the problem comprehensively. This opens up advocates of change to predictable attacks. This suggested law, gun-industry apologists say, would not have prevented that shooting. More broadly: How will your little proposals ever get a handle on guns when there are already more than 300 million of them on the streets? (Part of the answer: Deal with ammunition.)

We put ourselves at a steep disadvantage from the outset. We often get angry at rank-and-file gun owners who, in turn, see us as elitist big-city folks who don’t respect the traditions of those who have had weapons in their families for generations. Pro-reform politicians often don hunting outfits and shoot deer or birds to curry favor with those who mistrust them. Mostly, the politicians look silly. Anybody can put on a costume.

The time has come to recast this battle as a fight to hold those who make billions of dollars from the sale of firearms accountable for what their products do to individuals and communities. We must call for corporate responsibility, and enforce it by law if it’s not forthcoming. And President Obama, whose outrage about guns many of us share, must be willing to go well beyond what he has done so far.

As is their way, the community organizers and activists at the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) are pushing the president to use the federal government’s purchasing power to promote safer guns. To do business with the government, companies would have to be willing to “remove the barriers to getting smart guns and gun safety technologies to market” and cooperate with law enforcement to “identify and isolate dealers that provide large numbers of guns used in crimes.”

Governments at all levels account for roughly 40 percent of gun-industry revenues. The federal government alone accounts for about 25 percent. Taxpayers have a right to demand responsibility from an industry that gets so much of our money.

The president won’t much like the slogan of a Metro IAF news conference scheduled for Thursday across from the White House in Lafayette Square — “Clergy and Citizens to President Obama: Stop Whining, Start Working to Curb Gun Deaths.” But the former community organizer might appreciate this: Since his administration has been reluctant to use the taxpayers’ power in the weapons marketplace to promote accountability from the big gunmakers, outside pressure might make it easier for him to do the right thing.

He also faces prodding from his fellow Democrats. Both Hillary Clinton and Martin O’Malley have put forward comprehensive gun proposals that are more adventurous than the ideas Obama has embraced. O’Malley deserves particular credit for going far beyond the highly constricted gun-policy conversation. His comprehensive plan includes a proposal that echoes the IAF in mandating that the federal government buy weapons only from manufacturers who adopt basic safety measures and the microstamping of weapons.

Arnie Graf, a longtime IAF organizer, explains that microstamping can allow law enforcement to trace guns and bullets used in crimes. “Smart guns” that could be used only by their owners would vastly reduce trafficking, prevent accidents and diminish suicides. And because a relatively small number of dealers are responsible for the sale of a large number of weapons used in crime, focusing on those dealers (and demanding that the gun companies stop selling to them) could further reduce gun violence.

So let’s talk less about the National Rifle Association and more about those whose interests the NRA serves, the big weapons sellers such as Sturm, Ruger & Co., Smith & Wesson, SIG Sauer, Beretta, Glock and Freedom Group. Let’s insist that Obama put his anger to work. And let’s use our proven capacity for technological innovation to reduce violence.

Responsible business people care about the well-being of their communities and live with all sorts of health and safety regulations. They above all should see how profoundly misguided it is that one of the least accountable industries in the United States involves enterprises selling products that kill people.


By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, October 7, 2015

October 14, 2015 Posted by | Gun Control, Gun Manufacturers, Gun Violence | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Why Clinton’s Debate Dominance May Change The 2016 Race”: A Timely Reminder Of Just How Formidable Clinton Really Is

Even Hillary Clinton’s most ardent supporters would concede the last few months have not gone according to plan. Relentless media criticism, coupled with a surge of excitement surrounding Bernie Sanders and his progressive agenda, have weakened Clinton’s standing as the campaign has unfolded.

But just as importantly, it’s shaken Democrats’ confidence. To be sure, Democratic insiders and loyalists are an easily panicked bunch, but in recent months, certainty over the strength of Clinton’s candidacy evolved into doubt – a dynamic that created a vulnerability that has nearly lured Vice President Biden into the race.

With this in mind, Hillary Clinton not only dominated last night’s debate in Las Vegas, it arguably changed the direction of the race.

Going into last night, the former Secretary of State was confronted with headwinds: Clinton was perceived as the faltering frontrunner, burdened by a “scandal” no one can identify. Over the course of two impressive hours, however, Clinton emerged as a sure-footed, quick-witted, presidential-level powerhouse.

There’s simply no credible way Biden or any of his boosters watched the debate and saw an opportunity for the V.P. to seize. For that matter, Republican officials, increasingly confident about their general-election odds, received a timely reminder of just how formidable Clinton really is.

The intra-party argument over debates also took a turn last night. For months, a variety of Democratic insiders and candidates have complained that the DNC has scheduled too few debates, probably in the hopes of shielding the frontrunner. Last night turned the whole argument on its head – Clinton is easily the best debater, in either party, running in this cycle.

I was generally sympathetic to the Clinton campaign’s strategy – likely nominees always want fewer debates – but if I were her campaign manager, I’d start exploring the possibility of scheduling as many of these events as humanly possible. A one-debate-per-day plan through the fall of 2016 would probably be beneficial.

Indeed, it’s hard to imagine how last night could have gone much better for Clinton. She effectively went on the offensive over guns; she adeptly used President Obama to inoculate herself against criticism of her 2002 Iraq vote; she crushed a question about big government by slamming Republicans on reproductive rights; and she even turned a comment about a bathroom break into a charming moment.

And what of the emails? Clinton knew the question was coming, and she took full advantage of the opportunity Republicans created for her.

“I’ve taken responsibility for it. I did say it was a mistake. What I did was allowed by the State Department, but it wasn’t the best choice. And I have been as transparent as I know to be, turning over 55,000 pages of my e-mails, asking that they be made public. And you’re right. I am going to be testifying. I’ve been asking to testify for some time and to do it in public, which was not originally agreed to.

 “But let’s just take a minute here and point out that this committee is basically an arm of the Republican National Committee. It is a partisan vehicle, as admitted by the House Republican majority leader, Mr. McCarthy, to drive down my poll numbers. Big surprise. And that’s what they have attempted to do.

 “I am still standing.”

As effective as this was, moments later, Bernie Sanders brought down the house with this memorable line: “Let me say something that may not be great politics. But I think the secretary is right, and that is that the American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails.”

The entire “controversy,” such as it was, unraveled before our eyes into a manufactured, partisan, faux-scandal.

As for the bigger picture, Republicans must have been discouraged by Clinton’s strong showing, but I hope they also noticed how much better last night’s debate was than anything the GOP candidates have shown in their events. On every front, the exchanges in Las Vegas showed Democratic candidates better prepared, more substantive, and more knowledgeable than their far-right counterparts.

During the debate, Politico’s Glenn Thrush noted on Twitter, “The level of discourse – nuance of discussion – compared to the GOP debates? Not even close.” The Washington Post’s Dave Weigel added soon after, “[W]atching this debate after slogging through all the Trump debates is like moving from kindergarten into grad school.”

Hillary Clinton won big last night. Republicans lost.


By; Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 14, 2015

October 14, 2015 Posted by | Democratic Presidential Primaries, GOP Primary Debates, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Dems, Don’t Freak Out About Rubio Just Yet”: Let’s Take A Look At His Drawbacks, Shall We?

So in the past week or so, it seems that people have decided that Marco Rubio is going to be the GOP nominee. What people, you ask? Oh, you know—the kind of people a person like me means when he says “people.” Which is to say, not regular real people, but total political junkies, and, being on the side of the fence I’m on, mostly liberal total political junkies.

The logic is straightforward enough. It looks like the race will eventually whittle down to one outsider vs. one insider. The outsider could be Donald Trump or who knows maybe Ben Carson, with an outside shot at Carly Fiorina. As for the insider, not so long ago that was either Rubio or Jeb Bush or John Kasich, throw a dart. But Bush just keeps getting worse and worse, and Kasich looks increasingly goofy. This is a great mystery so far. Here’s a guy 20-something years in the public eye. He should be better at this. But he’s not. An NBC/Marist poll that came out Monday showed Kasich on the march in New Hampshire over the last month, but in the wrong direction—he’s gone from 12 to 6 percent. In Iowa, he’s nowhere.

So that leaves Rubio as Mr. Insider. He’s been good in the debates, has gained some ground in most polls, and at least conveys the impression of actually trying. And since none of my people can really believe that Trump or Carson is going to win the actual nomination, it’s going to have to go to the insider in the end. Hence, Rubio.

Now, here’s the second thing these people believe: Rubio frightens them. They think he could win. “He’s the one who makes me nervous,” they say.

Well, of course he could win. And I don’t deny that he has certain attributes the others lack. But I think my little focus group is over-sweating this. So herewith, four reasons why Rubio might be formidable, and four corresponding reasons why he’s being overrated.

Reason One: This whole youth business. Let’s face it, on the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton is the spring chicken. At least she’d be shy of 70 when inaugurated. Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden probably couldn’t last two terms. So Rubio can lay it on thick with all that cloying rhetoric about the future and passing torches to a new generation. The media really fall for that. Oh, and speaking of…

Reason Two: It seems the media like him. They sure like him more than they like Hillary. If she’s the nominee, the default narrative in the media will be something like “fresh-faced new figure takes on tired old hag.”

Reason Three: The Latino vote. You’ll be reading a lot if he’s the nominee about how he won 55 percent of the Latino vote in his first Senate run in Florida in 2010. The press will be full of breathless stories about how if he can replicate that, the Democrats are doomed.

Reason Four: He seems reasonable and totally unthreatening, which may make it hard for Democrats to sell people on the idea that he’s a right-wing extremist. There’s an art for these wingers in knowing how to emphasize all the non-extreme stuff and really play down the extreme parts. Rubio is better at that than the others. A case in point is that woman-on-the-$10-bill business from the second debate. Three of them said Rosa Parks, but Rubio said it first. This was after Rand Paul said Susan B. Anthony, which isn’t bad, but Anthony doesn’t cover nearly as many reassure-mainstream-America bases as Parks does. Also keep in mind that he had that crackerjack answer about Black Lives Matter recently, which was likely the best response to the movement by a GOP candidate. If Rubio can keep doing things like that, the “No, you fools, he’s a true right winger!” counter-narrative might be very tough to advance.

All right. Now, here are the reasons why Rubio is eminently beatable in a general election.

Reason One: His youth story line can be very easily countered. Picture a Clinton-Rubio debate. Rubio prattles on about youth, the future, optimism, what have you. Mrs. Clinton? “Well, look, the Senator is undoubtedly younger than I am, that’s an objective fact. But if we’re talking about which one of us has the policies of the past, I’d say voters should look beyond mere age. Which one of us wants to keep fighting the Cold War in Cuba, and which one of us wants to move toward a new future there? Which one of us opposes gay people getting married, a policy of the past that large majorities of Americans no longer support? Which one of us would allow no abortions even in the case of rape and incest, which is literally kind of a 19th-century position? Which one of us not only opposes raising the minimum wage but opposes the existence of a federal minimum wage law, which would put us all the way back to 1937, the last time this country had no federal minimum wage? That’s the candidate of the future?” Boom. If she said something like that and made two good commercials and Democrats in general hammered away at it, Rubio would shut up about the future pretty fast.

Reason Two: The women’s vote. Let’s go back to that abortion sentence above. It was at the first debate that Rubio said no rape or incest exceptions on abortion. Now, if he becomes the nominee, he’ll try to walk that back in some way, at least rhetorically, and he’s usually been clever and slippery in the way he’s worded it. No Republican nominee since abortion became a public issue has ever opposed exceptions for rape and incest. It’s an extreme position that should, if the Democrats hit it the right way, cost him a few points among suburban women in all the key swing states.

Reason Three: The Latino vote. He’s not getting close to 55 percent among Latinos. OK, some say, but what if he gets a mere 40, isn’t that enough? Well, maybe, maybe not, depending on other factors. But after being for immigration reform, he’s now basically against it and against a path to citizenship, although here too he is slippery. He says now that we should postpone the citizenship debate for 10 or 12 years, which means that if he serves eight, he won’t be the guy to be doing anything about it.

So that’s a way of being against it without saying the words “I’m against it,” but people aren’t stupid. In one recent poll that looked especially closely at Latino preferences (PDF), Clinton led Rubio among Latinos 61 to 31 percent (statistically, no different from how she fared against Bush or Ted Cruz). I would bet you today that that’s about how it will end up if those two face each other. And that ain’t enough.

Reason Four: The Electoral College. My long-suffering readers know that I bang on about this a lot, but the Democrats have a big advantage here, and I see nothing about Rubio that will shake this up. Rand Paul could have beaten Clinton in Colorado and Nevada, maybe even Ohio. Not Rubio. And fine, let him win Florida. A Democrat can still get 300-plus electoral votes without Florida.

So there you have it. Calm down, people. Rubio is better than the rest of the field. That’s about all that can be said of him at this point.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, October 6, 2015

October 14, 2015 Posted by | Democrats, GOP Presidential Candidates, Marco Rubio | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“Whose Positions Are ‘Extreme”?: Marco Rubio, ‘A Woman Has A Right To Choose’, But Not Really

A few years ago, shortly before Election Day 2014, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) realized he was struggling with women voters and he worried about whether the gender gap would derail his campaign. Walker responded with a TV ad in which, in the context of the abortion debate, the governor defended leaving these decisions “to a woman and her doctor.”

Substantively, the rhetoric was ridiculous – it reflected the exact opposite of Walker’s policy agenda – but the Republican candidate saw value in trying to use his rivals’ phrasing to make his own far-right policies sound more mainstream.

BuzzFeed’s Andrew Kaczynski reported the other day on a similar tactic adopted by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

“Again, terrible tragedy what happened in Oregon, but you’re right, every single year unborn in this country are killed legally, through laws that allow that to happen,” Rubio said when radio host Glenn Beck asked him to respond to Hillary Clinton’s comments on the Oregon shooting, which Beck used to pivot to the issue of abortion.

“Look, I recognize this is tough issue and I actually do believe that a woman has a right to choose with her body,” he added. “The problem is that when there’s a pregnancy, there’s another life involved and that life has a right to live. And so, as policymakers we have to choose between two competing rights, and I’ve chosen as a matter of principle to choose life in that debate.”

First, it’s a lingering mystery why we still see competitive candidates for the nation’s highest office associating themselves with Glenn Beck, chatting about who they see as radical, without appreciating the irony.

Second, it’s jarring for Rubio, who’s been a consistent far-right voice on issues such as abortion and contraception access, boast that he “actually” does “believe that a woman has a right to choose with her body” – though he’s comfortable pursuing an agenda to curtail and restrict that right.

The Florida senator added that Hillary Clinton “has extreme positions” when it comes to reproductive rights.

Rubio has argued more than once in recent months that if a woman is impregnated by a rapist, the government has the authority to force her to take the pregnancy to term, regardless of her wishes.

How eager is he, exactly, for a debate about whose positions are “extreme”?


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 12, 2015

October 14, 2015 Posted by | Marco Rubio, Women Voters, Women's Health | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Conspiracy Theorists And Doomsday Preppers”: Ben Carson, American Gun Advocates, And The Fantasy Of Individual Heroism

Chances are that you are not a hero. That is to say that you do your job and live your life, but seldom if ever are you called upon to do something extraordinary in a life-or-death moment, some spectacular act of bravery that calls upon otherworldy cunning and physical skill. Compared to a Hollywood action film, your life is rather mundane and ordinary. You don’t begin your week on Monday knowing that by Friday you will have leaped from explosions, taken down ninja death squads, or battled supervillains.

It’s fun to indulge those fantasies from time to time—with enough money, time, and training, maybe I could be Batman!—but most of us are level-headed enough to realize that they are just fantasies. They certainly shouldn’t be the source of judgments we make about our fellow human beings, let alone the basis for policymaking.

But not everyone agrees. Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson, for instance, has recently attracted a great deal of attention for saying that unlike those cowering sheep who were killed by a gunman in Roseburg, Oregon, he would have quickly organized his fellow victims-to-be and rushed the shooter. In the ensuing discussion, Carson’s similar views about the Holocaust came to light—that if the Jews had more guns and more gumption, they could have stood up to Hitler and, if not stopped the genocide entirely, at least … well, at least done something or other.

As a piece of historical analysis, this is positively deranged, as any historian will tell you. But it’s also widely shared on the right, not just when it comes to World War II in particular but as a way to understand the broader relationship between the individual and government. Take, for instance, this execrable op-ed on from frequent on-air contributor Keith Ablow, which basically argues that the Holocaust happened because German Jews were too wimpy to rise up, find some guns, and do the job.

As Jacob Bacharach reminds us, plenty of Jews did fight back, not only in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising but among resistance forces spread throughout Europe in the places Germany occupied. And what happened to them? They mostly got slaughtered, because they were fighting against a vastly stronger force, the Wehrmacht. It took the combined might of the United States, the Soviet Union, Great Britain, and about 20 smaller countries to actually defeat the Nazis. But Carson and others want to believe the Jews could have done the job, too, if only they had some guts and a few bolt-action rifles.

And why might they think that? I’d suggest that it’s because their ideas are shaped by a particular kind of Hollywood fantasy, one in which individual heroism and ample firearms are the means by which enormous, sweeping problems can be solved.

Though it hasn’t gotten as much attention as it should in the coverage of his candidacy, Carson is succeeding in part because he is the candidate of a particular portion of the Republican fringe, the conspiracy theorists and doomsday preppers who watch Glenn Beck, listen to Alex Jones, and know that the apocalypse is around the corner. One of the key components of the ideology these people imbibe is not just that you’re on your own, but that on your own you can do anything. Society will disintegrate, vast conspiratorial forces are arrayed against you, jackbooted government thugs are about to come knocking at your door—but if you’ve got your AR-15 and a strong will, you can turn them all back and maintain our freedom. Not only that, the only reason it hasn’t happened yet is because the government knows and fears your potency.

This fantasy—at once maniacally paranoid and looking desperately forward to the day the opportunity for heroism comes—is fed by the gun industry, the NRA, and gun advocates like Carson. It tells people they need to have lots of guns stockpiled at home, and to always carry their gun everywhere they go. Because today could be the day when everything depends on your willingness to use deadly force.

Now think for a moment about how Hollywood action films work. They’re seldom about large armies facing off, with the individuals within them each playing their small but important role. Instead, they show us a solitary hero or small band of comrades doing spectacular things against far superior forces. Arnold Schwarzenegger mows down hundreds of faceless enemies who never manage to lay a hand on him; Liam Neeson cracks the necks of dozens of thugs on his way to save his daughter; Sylvester Stallone single-handedly defeats the entire North Vietnamese army; Jennifer Lawrence overthrows a brutal dictatorship with a few friends and some well-aimed arrows.

If you don’t appreciate that these are fantasies, it might make perfect sense to think that Germany’s Jews could have stopped the Holocaust by being more gutsy. In real life, though, that’s not how it works. Armies aren’t defeated by a lone hero with a gun and a ready quip; armies are defeated by bigger, better armies (or in some cases by organized, decades-long insurgencies). Dictatorships aren’t brought down by a single act of defiance; more often it takes years or even decades of protest, organizing, and arduous work.

All of the Republican candidates would probably tell you that owning a gun (or two or twelve) is a good idea to protect your family. This happens to be wrong; a gun in your home is far more likely to wind up killing one of your family members than it is to defend you from a home invasion. But at least it’s possible. And you might, someday, commit an act of heroism that saves people’s lives, even if most of us never do. But the chance that you will buy a gun and use it to stop a fascist takeover of America is precisely zero, not only because there won’t be a fascist takeover, but because if there were, you and your gun wouldn’t stop it from happening.

Ben Carson imagines himself a Hollywood hero. If he were in that classroom in Oregon, no one might have died. And if he were a Jew in Germany in 1939, he would have hidden away a revolver, stood up to the SS, and before you know it, Hitler would have been taken care of. Right now, he’s speaking for everyone who shares his fantasy. And it looks like there are plenty of people who do.


By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, October 11, 2015

October 14, 2015 Posted by | Ben Carson, Conspiracy Theories | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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