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“Hawked By Dealers With A Ready Grin”: Where Mass Murderers’ Weapons Of Choice Are Sold With A Smile

As the third anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings approached, a weapon identical to the Bushmaster AR-15 assault rifle used to murder 20 youngsters and six staff was on display at an Indiana gun show.

Next to it at the Crown Point show on Dec. 12 was a weapon identical to the DPMS AR-15 used by one of the terrorists who killed 14 at a San Bernardino holiday party.

Next to that was an AK-47 knockoff such as was used to kill a police officer and two other innocents at a Planned Parenthood center in Colorado.

Nearby was a Smith & Wesson AR-15 identical to the ones used by the other terrorist in the San Bernardino killing and by the madman who killed 12 in a movie theater in Colorado.

And just past the assault rifles were handguns such as are used in the day-to-day carnage that receives only sporadic attention in between mass shootings.

Among the handguns was a .40 Glock, of the same caliber as the pistol used to target and kill 9-year-old Tyshawn Lee last month in Chicago, a little over an hour’s drive from Crown Point. The pistol was one of several now being examined by a girl of around the same age.

“Hello, young lady, did you come to buy your daddy a gun?” the dealer on the other side of the display table cheerfully joked. “I bet he’s the best dad ever. I bet he’s just going to love you for buying him a gun!”

Nobody seemed to see any great irony in the signs reading “NO Loaded Firearms in Building” and “Absolutely No Loaded Guns or Clips in Building” covering the glass doors at the entrance to this one-story red brick structure on the Lake County Fairgrounds. A uniformed cop inspected the guns of all new arrivals to ensure the weapons were unloaded.

“If you don’t have a gun, you can go through,” the cop announced.

Among the folks who had bought guns at earlier Crown Point shows in this same one-story red brick building on the Lake County Fairgrounds was a former suburban Chicago high school football star named David Lewisbey. He is said to have made a “to do” list upon arriving at college that included, “Get guns back up.”

To that end, he made repeated trips down to Crown Point and elsewhere in Indiana, which provides 19 percent of the illegal guns recovered back up in Chicago.

“He would go travel to Indiana, to these gun shows where he would load up literally a duffel bag, go from table to table paying in cash, large amounts of cash, and collect all of these firearms before returning from these gun shows right into the worst neighborhoods of Chicago, where he would sell them literally in the back alley and on the side streets,” a prosecutor later said.

In a two-day period, Lewisbey sold 43 firearms. He is believed to have sold many more before his arrest in 2012. He insisted he had only bought guns for his “personal collection” and dealt drugs, not firearms.

Lewisbey was convicted and sentenced to 16 years in federal prison. The trial record shows that he sometimes made the purchases through licensed dealers, which required him to undergo a background check. He would simply report that the weapon had been stolen if it was recovered in connection with a crime.

More often, Lewisbey took advantage of what is known as the “gun show loophole,” which allows private dealers to sell firearms without conducting background checks or filing any paperwork regarding the buyer.

Nationwide, some 5,000 gun shows are held each year. Indiana is among the 33 states that allow such loophole sales. The regular gun shows at the Lake County Fairgrounds in Crown Point were said to be “one of the prime topics” at a kind of summit of 20 federal, state, and local law enforcement officials two years ago.

In an indication of slight progress, no private dealers were in evidence at the most recent Crown Point show. The dealers were all licensed, which meant purchasers had to undergo a nearly instant background check via one of the laptops each dealer had.

“They tell me to proceed and then it’s yours,” a dealer told one prospective customer. “You just have to have an Indiana driver’s license or picture ID.”

But there was nothing in the law to prevent a private citizen from then giving the gun to another private citizen.

And among those who would be happy to keep it that way and maybe roll back restrictions altogether was a gentleman collecting petition signatures for both Ted Cruz and Rand Paul.

“Get gun rights candidates on the ballot!” he exhorted.

He noted that both senators had a top NRA rating.

“A-plus,” he said.

He could offer no rating for Donald Trump, on whose behalf a woman in a pink T-shirt reading “Get on the Trump Train” was collecting signatures at the next table.

“He’s unique because he’s never held elective office,” the man said of Trump. “He’s unproven.”

Strict gun laws have proven to reduce gun violence and would almost certainly cut deaths dramatically if all states adopted them uniformly. But as long as we keep manufacturing high-capacity weapons, there is no way to guarantee they will not fall into the hands of people who should not be allowed anywhere near a firearm. California has some of the toughest restrictions in the country, but the San Bernardino killers had little trouble arming themselves with assault rifles such as were for sale at Crown Point.

“Every customer is a friend,” words on the DPMS AR-15 box read. “We wish you many years of enjoyable use of your product. Welcome to our family.”

Across the top of the box was the exhortation “Get Ready to Flip the Switch.”

A paper tag said the DPMS could be yours for $599. The tag on the Bushmaster beside it read $649. The dealer was asked the difference between the two assault rifles.

“Mainly brand,” the dealer said. “Little bit of accessory difference, but that’s about it.”

He added, “They’re both midlevel ARs.”

He was asked what might be a top level assault rifle.

“Far as your budget would allow you to spend,” he said. “LWRC, Daniel Defense, you could spend two, three grand on an AR.”

The LWRC and Daniel Defense assault rifles are indeed in that price range. Mass shooters favor the mid-level ARs, which also includes Smith & Wesson, going at the show for $639.99.

“Very important: Instruction book inside to ensure safe use,” read a small notice on this box.

Beyond that table was one that displayed hunting rifles and shotguns, all of which would satisfy the right to bear arms as contemplated by the Founding Fathers and were more than adequate for self-defense.

Maybe call these long guns DRs, for defense rifle.

But they lack the military hoo-hah that apparently makes ARs—the A seeming to stand for arousal as well as assault—popular with boys who never quite grow up. DRs also lack the capacity for mass carnage that make ARs the favorite of terrorists and murderous madmen.

The deadliness of ARs definitely appeals to gangbangers and other street criminals. The problem for them is that the weapons are difficult to conceal. Thugs generally prefer handguns such as the Glock .40.

The dealer at Crown Point gave Glocks high marks for durability. He cited a YouTube video of “the Glock torture test,” in which the guns are dragged behind a four-wheel vehicle and buried in dirt.

“They spray them off with a hose, load them up, and fire a thousand rounds,” the dealer said. “Glocks are pretty much indestructible.”

Also for sale at the show were extended magazines that allow a gangbanger to let loose as if with a shrunk down AR-15.

“The more shells the merrier,” a Chicago gang member told The Daily Beast the other day.

Among the legitimate citizens who have felt compelled to arm themselves is Felix Gonzalez, a 42-year-old real estate lawyer from Chicago who came to the Crown Point show with his two sons, 10-year-old Diego and 9-year-old Nico.

As a second calling, Gonzalez teaches gun safety to like-minded citizens, particularly to those who legally carry concealed firearms. He left the show having purchased two giant plastic bags of .45 caliber and 9 mm bullets, 500 of each, for a total of 1,000. His younger son pronounced himself less than thrilled by the visit to a gun show, his first.

“Boring,” Diego said. “Because there’s nothing to do. All we were doing was watch you buy ammo.”

The father paused and shared his feelings about legal gun ownership with The Daily Beast. His foremost reason for carrying a handgun is to protect his family. He said “God help” anyone who tried to hurt his sons and declared himself ever ready to defend their lives with his own.

“Because I love you,” he told them.

The father added, “The enemy will not win if he comes against us.”

Diego said, “You don’t know that for sure.”

The father said, “I am at peace. I don’t worry about dying.”

The two bags of bullets to be used for self-defense training were loaded into the back of the family minivan. Father and sons then set off for Chicago, where a boy the same age as Nico had been targeted when three gang members in a black SUV saw him on the swings in a park after school back on Nov. 2.

Tyshawn Lee was the son of a reputed member of the New Money gang, which has been in a protracted war with the Bang Bang Gang (BBG). One of a trio of BBG members exited the black SUV, sauntered into the park, and picked up a basketball that Tyshawn had set down when he clambered onto the swing.

The BBG member spoke to Tyshawn and apparently persuaded him to cross the street into an alley behind the boy’s grandmother’s house, where there was a basketball hoop. A second BBG member followed. At least one of the gang members then produced a .40 caliber pistol and executed the boy.

The BBG member who remained in the SUV is said to have informed on the other two. One, Corey “Tez Poe” Morgan—whose brother had been killed and his mother wounded by New Money members in October—was arrested and charged with murder. Kevin “Ace” Edwards remained a fugitive at last report.

On the foggy morning the gun show opened down in Crown Point, the swing in Dawes Park hung empty save for the memory of the murdered boy who had been coaxed from there to his death by gun. Somebody had affixed a pair of wooden signs to a tree.

One sign read, “Rest in Heaven Tyshawn Lee,” the other, “Mothers against Street Shooting.” At the base was a cross fashioned with sticks and a ribbon tied in a bow.

The Chicago police had pledged to crush both BBG and the New Money gang, but there were more than enough pistols handy from gun shows and gun shops, and the gangs remained ready to use them. New Money members followed a member of another gang called Bloody 8 home and seriously wounded him. BBG shot and killed a reputed New Money member named Willie Clifton late last week. Clifton, the 21-year-old father of a baby girl, is said to have been waiting in an alley for his girlfriend with bags of laundry when he was ambushed.

One might have thought that yet another killing by a gang accused of deliberately targeting a 9-year-old would have sparked a public outcry. But the murder passed with little notice, and the killings promise to go on and on and on.

The next Crown Point gun show is on the weekend of Jan. 23 in a New Year that challenges us all to end the madness.

 

By: Michael Daly, The Daily Beast, December 22, 2015

December 24, 2015 Posted by | Assault Weapons, Gun Manufacturers, Gun Violence, Gunshow Loopholes | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Terrorism We Tolerate”: Our Collective Denial Allows Anti-Government Domestic Extremists To Slip Under The Radar

As a nation, we’re loath to tackle uncomfortable conversations. It’s far easier to put our collective head in the sand and go-along to get along. So we didn’t see it coming when a perfect storm of extremism hit a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic the Friday after Thanksgiving.

A loner named Robert Dear Jr. is charged with the murder of three people after he allegedly opened fire on a Planned Parenthood facility. After a five-hour stand-off with police, his reported rampage left nine wounded and an Iraq War veteran, police officer and young mother dead. It’s both an outrage and a tragedy, and when you break it down, the story of this mass shooting reads like a field guide to Realities We’d Rather Not Talk About.

We’d rather paint Islam as the face of terrorism most imminently threatening the U.S. than talk about American-born, non-Muslim radicals.

Indeed, anti-government extremists pose a greater threat to the homeland than does the Islamic State group or al-Qaida, according to the Justice Department’s head of national security. The numbers are striking: Anti-government extremists caused the deaths of 254 people in the 10 years after 9/11; Islamic extremists were responsible for approximately 50 deaths. In other words, you’re seven times more likely to be killed by a homegrown, anti-government extremist than a Muslim terrorist.

Yet following the Islamic State group’s attack in Paris, the U.S. was awash with calls to block the entry of Syrian refugees in the name of national security – even though several of the Paris terrorists were French-born. In the wake of Friday’s mass shooting at Planned Parenthood, there’s been no similar national security outcry over European-born refugees who have already entered the U.S. nor fears of a threat from white, Christian men, despite the fact that Dear was Caucasian and reportedly professed to be a Christian.

Instead it’s considered offensive even to acknowledge the existence of domestic extremism: In 2009, then-DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano was forced to defend agency intelligence reports on the dangers posed by anti-government radicals after pundits and lawmakers from both parties blasted the report as an attack on Americans exercising free speech.

We’d rather not talk about how easy it is to acquire a gun in this country, either.

Dear allegedly used an AK-47 style, high-powered assault rifle to carry out the mass shooting and may have brought “duffel bags full of rifles and handguns” with him to the clinic ­­– enough weaponry for the hours-long standoff with police.

All that firepower was in the hands of a man with a history of mental instability and run-ins with law enforcement. Dear was charged with rape in 1992. Years afterward, he was arrested for peeping tom accusations and later on animal cruelty charges. An ex-wife once made a domestic violence call to police after a fight with Dear. Stories from neighbors and online postings suggest he was a doomsday prepper who believed metal roofs would keep the government from spying on him.

Details are still emerging about Dear’s weapons and how he acquired them, and it’s unclear that a background check would have found him unfit to purchase a gun. But any attempt to discuss whether or not citizens should have the right to amass a military-grade weapons cache is shot down as an attack on the Second Amendment. It’s “politicizing” a mass shooting to bring up these questions, and even when 90 percent of Americans desire increased gun safety regulations or kindergarteners are slaughtered in their classroom, the National Rifle Association succeeds in silencing not only any legislation but national dialogue on guns as well. And meanwhile, we’ve had 351 mass shootings in the first 334 days of this year. That’s the latest count, anyway.

What’s more, we’d rather not correct the record on the fact that Planned Parenthood was not in the business of harvesting baby parts.

The investigation into Dear’s motives is still ongoing, but his reported declaration about “no more baby parts” to police is telling. It’s seemingly a reference to anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress’ videos on Planned Parenthood, heavily edited to concoct the impression that the organization is involved in the illegal sale of fetal tissue. The myth was repeated so often, and with so little pushback, that it’s now taken as a given in our national discussions about Planned Parenthood. Without batting an eye, Republicans cite it to rail against women’s health care in presidential debates, and governors use it to justify witch hunts into the organization and cuts to women’s health access. The videos have inspired their very own House select panel.

Imagine holding the sincere belief that a government-sanctioned organization was involved in the butchery and sale of baby parts. It’s an outrageous idea, and one Dear may have come to believe from hearing it so oft-repeated. He wouldn’t have been alone in this belief – threats against Planned Parenthood reportedly spiked after the videos were released.

It’s unfair, of course, to assume that a national dialogue on any of these issues would have stopped the Planned Parenthood shooter from carrying out his hideous plan. But ignoring them doesn’t help either. Our collective denial allows white, anti-government extremists to slip under the radar with their arms full of guns and their heads full of lies.

 

By: Emily Arrowood, Assistant Editor for Opinion, Thomas Jefferson Street Blog, U.S. News & World Report, December 1, 2015

December 7, 2015 Posted by | Anti-Government Extremists, Assault Weapons, Planned Parenthood, Terrorism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Completely Unhinged Embrace Of Firearms”: Easy Access To Assault Weapons Is Still Gospel On The Right

“Violence is as American as cherry pie.” — Black Panther H. Rap Brown

Did Syed Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, suspects in the San Bernardino massacre, just hand the GOP nomination to Donald Trump? Will his poll numbers soar into the stratosphere now that Muslims with foreign-sounding names have been identified as the shooters who killed 14 people and wounded countless others?

Even before Trump came along with propane tanks of bigoted rhetoric, Islamophobia had been burning through the cultural landscape. He and rival Ben Carson poured on fuel, with Carson declaring that no Muslim should be eligible for the presidency and Trump swearing — wrongly — that throngs of American Muslims rejoiced in the aftermath of the 9/11 atrocities.

After last month’s terror attacks in Paris, Trump’s support wafted ever higher; he now claims the allegiance of nearly 30 percent of the GOP electorate, according to a Quinnipiac University poll. And even some Democrats have endorsed the uncharitable view that Syrian refugees should be subjected to such stringent background checks that they would be virtually disqualified from asylum in this country. Farook and Malik have likely intensified that fearful response.

Still, there was in the couple’s rampage much that was peculiarly American, not foreign. Farook, indeed, was a U.S. citizen, born in Illinois. His wife had a green card, a document allowing her to live and work here legally. And while investigators are still searching for a motive for their homicidal impulses, the attack had many of the hallmarks of the quintessential American mass shooting.

No matter what inspired the couple, whether Islamist extremism or perceived workplace grievances, they were mimicking countless other American mass shooters who find some twisted glory in gunning down other citizens — strangers, passers-by, co-workers, moviegoers, schoolchildren. This is a peculiarly American phenomenon, a homegrown form of madness.

And it centers around an irrational — a completely unhinged — embrace of firearms. Using almost any definition of “mass shooting,” the United States has more than any other country. (Most researchers discount homicides that are gang-related or have robbery as a motive. They also leave out domestic violence, counting only those incidents that occur in public places.) And staging them has only grown more popular. Mother Jones magazine, which has analyzed data for the past 33 years, concludes that there have been more mass shootings in the U.S. since 2005 than in the preceding 23 years combined.

According to University of Alabama criminal justice professor Adam Lankford, we account for less than 5 percent of the world’s population but 31 percent of its mass shootings. From his study of other countries, he has concluded that easy access to guns is a prominent factor.

But a significant portion of the population — and of conservative political leadership — refuses, just flat-out refuses, to see any link between the proliferation of firearms and the increase in mass shootings. Indeed, the gun lobby insists — and I couldn’t make this up — that the country would be safer if there were even more guns in every home, automobile, school, church, synagogue and nightclub.

The lunacy that pervades our worship of the Second Amendment — our warped reading of it, anyway — is so wildly perverse that it eclipses our fear of terrorism. Here’s what the gun lobby has insisted upon: Even if Farook had been on an official terrorist watch list, he still would have been legally permitted to purchase the semiautomatic assault-type weapons he allegedly used to gun down his victims. Yes, you read that right.

And GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina repeated that bit of gun-lobby gospel in the wake of the San Bernardino massacre: Even people on the terror watch list should be allowed to purchase firearms. There you have it — a tightly woven web of crazy that logic simply cannot penetrate.

Whatever motivated Farook and his wife, easy access to high-powered firearms allowed them to kill quickly and efficiently. Indeed, that’s the common element in the epidemic of mass shootings that has shaken the country. Yet that’s the one element we refuse to do anything about.

 

By: Cynthia Tucker Haynes, Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 2007; The National Memo, December 5, 2015

December 6, 2015 Posted by | Assault Weapons, Donald Trump, GOP Primary Debates, Gun Deaths | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Black Guns No Different From Other Sporting Guns”: Court Decision Uses Gun Industry’s Own Fiction To Uphold Assault Rifle Regulations

Right after the Sandy Hook massacre, both New York and Connecticut passed laws that tightened up restrictions on owning ‘black’ guns, a.k.a., the military-style AR rifles like the type Adam Lanza used to kill 26 adults and young kids. The laws basically toughened the earlier assault weapons bans, provoking immediate outcries from the pro-gun gang who challenged the laws based on their inalienable 2nd-Amendment rights. After all, the 2008 Heller decision protected private ownership of all guns that are “in common use,” and what could be more common than AR rifles of which probably more than four million have been manufactured over the last twenty years?

The gun industry began promoting black guns in the 1990s when they realized that hunting and traditional sporting use of guns was dying out. This promotion took two forms: on the one hand creating the fiction that black guns, like all guns protected us from crime; on the other hand creating the equally beguiling fiction that military-style weapons were no different from other, traditional rifles since they could only be fired in semi-automatic mode.

The industry went so far as to create an entirely new shooting tradition, replacing the phrase ‘assault rifle’ with the nomenclature ‘modern sporting rifle’ so as to pretend that an AR-15 is nothing other than the same, old hunting gun that sportsmen have for generations been taking out to the woods. And for those who like to imagine themselves mowing down ISIS or Al Queda in the streets and alleys of Philadelphia or New York, the guns being sold by Bushmaster, Colt, Stag and other black-gun manufacturers are referred to as ‘tactical’ weapons, which everyone knows is simply an assault rifle with a different name.

Both the CT and NY laws were challenged and upheld in District Court; now the Court of Appeals, 2nd Circuit, has upheld both laws again. What is interesting about this decision, indeed remarkable, is the fact that it is based not just on the government’s authority to regulate guns that are in “common use,” but to regulate these particular types of weapons based on their definition as created and promoted by the gun industry itself! The Circuit Court accepted the notion that black guns are just another type of sporting rifle, and it was the acknowledgement that black guns are no different from other types of sporting guns that ultimately legitimized the assault-rifle bans in Connecticut and New York.

Plaintiffs in this case argued that there were more than four million AR-15 rifles owned by civilians and that these guns, like other civilian weapons, could only be fired in semi-automatic mode. As the Court said, “This much is clear: Americans own millions of the firearms that the challenged legislation prohibits.” Further, the Court also accepted the notion that many Americans keep an AR-15 in their home for self-defense. Given those circumstances, how could the Circuit Court decide that prohibiting civilian ownership of such weapons was not a violation of 2nd-Amendment rights? Because what the Court did was take the gun industry’s own fiction about these guns and stand it on its head.

The industry’s marketing of black guns as ‘sporting’ rifles is based on one thing and one thing only; namely, these weapons can only be shot in semi-auto mode. Never mind that you can deliver up to 60 rounds of ammunition in thirty seconds or less; never mind that the .223 round has a lethality specifically designed to kill or injure human targets; never mind that many military and law enforcement units also deploy the semi-auto gun. That residents in New York and Connecticut can own all kinds of semi-automatic rifles which do not contain certain military-style features means that the ban on AR-style rifles is not a prohibition of semi-automatic weapons at all.

As a noted Supreme Court justice once said, “History also has its claims.” And one of those claims is that the 2nd Amendment doesn’t give the gun industry the right to invent a tall tale to justify how it tries to sell guns.

 

By: Mike Weisser, The Blog, The Huffington Post, October 21, 2015

October 22, 2015 Posted by | 2nd Amendment, Assault Weapons, Gun Control | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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