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“Reckless Conduct”: The Supreme Court Just Affirmed That Domestic Violence Vacates Gun Rights; Here’s Why That’s So Important

It was a busy morning for for the Supreme Court. On Monday, the court struck down a Texas law that required Texas abortion clinics to have “admitting privileges,”and to be built up to hospital standards — even though neither make abortions much safer. It also reversed the bribery conviction of former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell.

The court also decided an important case for the future of America’s gun death epidemic. In a 6-2 vote — a notable tally on the evenly ideologically divided bench — the court ruled in Voisine v. United States that domestic violence, even unintentional or “reckless” violence, still justifies limiting access to guns. As Justice Elena Kagan wrote in her opinion, “Reckless conduct, which requires the conscious disregard of a known risk, is not an accident: It involves a deliberate decision to endanger another.”

The details of the case are fairly thorny: The court ruled that all sorts of domestic violence, even cases in which the abuser simply “consciously disregard[ed]” the effects of his or her actions, in addition to those cases in which violence was committed “knowingly or intentionally”, are grounds for precluding access to guns.

But the effects of the case are vast: Thirty-four states and the District of Colombia have defined the Lautenberg Amendment, the legislation governing the dispute in question, as including “reckless” instances of domestic violence as grounds for prohibition of gun ownership. This decision expands that standard nationwide, broadening the definition of the only federal misdemeanor that prohibits firearm or ammunition possession.

After the Orlando massacre, as politicians and concerned citizens nationwide strained to find an answer for the kind of mass-casualty hate crime Omar Mateen carried out, a small handful pointed out an obvious red flag: Mateen was an extremely abusive romantic partner.

And although he had no criminal record in adulthood, as details about Mateen’s past became more widely available, so too did the argument that domestic violence is often a predictor of gun violence. Huffington Post reported today:

Domestic violence and guns are known to be a deadly combination. Experts say that if an abuser has access to a gun, victims are five times more likely to be killed. A study published earlier this year found that simply living in a state with a high rate of gun ownership increases a woman’s chance of being fatally shot in a domestic violence situation.

There is more than can be done to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, including requiring the subjects of restraining orders to temporarily turn in their weapons, and taking guns from accused domestic abusers awaiting trial.

But the court’s decision today emphasizes one of the most overlooked truths of gun violence in the United States: Victims often personally know perpetrators.

Of women murdered by men, 93 percent in 2014 were killed by someone they knew — and the majority were intimate partners of their killers. More than half of women killed with guns in 2011 were killed in domestic disputes. And, according to a study of every available mass shooting between January 2009 and July 2014, 57 percent of them involved the killing of a family member or a current or former intimate partner of the shooter.

 

By: Matt Shuham, The National Memo, June 27, 2016

June 28, 2016 Posted by | Domestic Violence, Gun Deaths, Gun Ownership, Gun Violence, U. S. Supreme Court | , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Morning After Donald Trump”: The Slogan “Make America Great Again” Didn’t Spring From Untilled Soil

Donald Trump will almost certainly be the Republican presidential nominee, and I am afraid.

Not of him. Not really. Trump is neither the first nor the last lying sociopath to walk the Earth — if America’s multitudinous anti-Trump forces do what we need to do between now and November, he won’t see the Oval Office. I will admit that I’m not unconcerned (I suddenly find that I intend to canvass just as hard for candidate Clinton, about whom I’m not particularly thrilled, as I once did for candidate Obama, about whom I was), but I’m not afraid of him. Not really.

Neither am I afraid (not really) of the campaign’s ugliness, though I know it will only get worse. The 2016 campaign is and remains appalling — but the campaign will end.

I’m afraid of the morning after. I’m afraid of what happens when Trump loses.

Trump is not (by any means or measure) the only misogynistic, bigoted xenophobe in the 21st century Republican Party, and in the process of winnowing its primary field, the GOP has given increasingly clamorous voice to a profoundly embittered, violently enraged, and often well-armed minority, in the process normalizing it.

Bitterness, rage, and violence have always been part of the American story, but since roughly the moon landing they’ve been at least nominally verboten in American politics. The dog whistles and code words with which we’re familiar came into common usage because Americans realized that it wasn’t always socially expedient to state their hate outright.

The head of the American Freedom Party (“arguably the most important white nationalist group in the country,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center) and erstwhile Trump delegate William Johnson (who has said “the skinheads thought I was too extreme to run the organization”) recently clarified our new political reality for Mother Jones: “[Trump] is allowing us to talk about things we’ve not been able to talk about. So even if he is not elected, he has achieved great things.”

Indeed. For the first time in the decades since the assassinations of JFK, RFK, and MLK, we find that it is once again hip — or, at the very least, socially acceptable — to be awful. Supporters of the AFP told Mother Jones that Trump’s “honest discourse” has allowed them to feel “emancipated.”

We’ve seen in recent years how violent words once emancipated can lead to violent consequences — we’ve seen mosques attacked, women’s health care providers murdered, African Americans slaughtered with their Bibles open before them.

Many angry voters have legitimate grievances, and I certainly don’t believe the vast majority of Republicans seek violence — but they don’t have to. Chaos doesn’t require tens of millions of angry Americans. It only requires a few Americans who believe tens of millions support them. Those who commit politically motivated violence invariably believe they’re acting on behalf of people who are too afraid to do so.

Humans become more bold, not less, when they believe they’re not alone, and they’re particularly prone to bold violence when they find themselves backed into a corner. Trump’s supporters and fellow travelers have felt themselves to be backed into a corner for eight long years — as Trump’s former butler has made abundantly clear in a series of Facebook posts, one of which declares that Barack Obama “should have been taken out by our military and shot as an enemy agent.” The slogan “Make America Great Again” didn’t spring from untilled soil.

So what happens when the Great White Hope of angry, embittered, racist, misogynistic, homophobic, xenophobic America flames out?

I don’t know, and that’s why I’m afraid. I think about the rage and resentment that are everywhere fanned, named, and given a place of pride in today’s GOP, and though I fervently hope Hillary Clinton is elected, I wonder where that rage and resentment will go if and when she is. I know my fear is a win for those who benefit from it, but I can’t do anything about that now. Here it is, rooted in my belly, climbing through my veins.

In truth I’ve felt something like it since the day President Obama announced his candidacy — though that fear has never been quite so amorphous, being laser-focused on a single life. I expect it will live in my belly until Barack Hussein Obama achieves a natural end to his days, or I achieve my own.

Many years ago, when I lived in a different country, I watched a minority of my fellow citizens demonize the leader for whom I’d voted. I watched as they and the opposition party wrapped him in Nazi imagery, I watched as they prayed publicly for his death. I wanted to believe it would come to nothing, that the peace he sought would be greater than their loathing of it, but then I watched as he was buried. It didn’t take all of Israel’s extremists to assassinate Yitzhak Rabin — it only took one.

The 2016 presidential campaign is ugly and appalling, but it will end. Then — if we’re lucky — America will find out what happens when the angry and the aggrieved are told to go home.

 

By: Emily L. Hauser, The Week, May 13, 2016

May 15, 2016 Posted by | Domestic Violence, Donald Trump, GOP, White Nationalists | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“An Appalling Message To Women”: Stop Second-Guessing Hillary About Her Marriage

Ruth Marcus is a respected journalist, who has achieved an extremely privileged position in a male-dominated industry. More power to her! I’d be the last person to say she didn’t work hard to get where she is. Good on her.

But I am troubled by her recent over-the-top screed attacking former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, which sends an appalling message to women: Ladies, if you have a messy personal life, stay the hell off the public stage! Be forever shamed by your total humiliation! A respectable woman whose husband cheats on her must leave him — indeed, leaving him is the only way for her to regain her respectability, after an acceptable period of being ashamed of him, and ashamed of herself for ever having been with him. Darn that Hillary Clinton, she is not acting respectable! How dare she go out in public with that man!? How dare she run for U.S. Senate, serve with distinction, then go on to reshape the U.S. State Department as Secretary of State — all without leaving that no-good husband of hers. She was a shamed woman! How. Dare. She.

Ruth Marcus has been on the receiving end of media attention for her column, from this on MSNBC to this in the New York Times. Now, I know that columnists are often deliberately provocative, and I don’t expect to agree with everything that even a favorite opinion writer publishes. But I have a particularly personal reaction to this column.

Reading Marcus, I can be reminded what a loser I am. My life has been messy with many personal failures. My first husband beat the crap out of me. That was humiliating. I knew it was something that did not happen to respectable young women. I was extremely fortunate, however, as with the help and support of my parents I regained respectability by leaving my batterer. My mother and father breathed a sigh of relief and hoped I would stay on the right path. I went to law school, got good jobs and performed well. But my life kept being messy. I married again, not once but twice. Not respectable. My mother was bitterly disappointed. Ms. Marcus reminds me of her.

When my third marriage was breaking up, a friend of mine told me she believed marriage failures were always the woman’s fault. I laughed, but stopped when she said she was serious. This individual truly considered herself a friend, and so did I. I still do. I just don’t share her archaic view of women’s place in the world. Ruth Marcus’s narrow conception of what wives must and must not do is outdated in the same way.

All of which brings me round to why I admire Hillary Clinton as a woman, and why I am supporting her to be the next president of the United States. For most women, whose lives have not been perfect, Sec. Clinton’s career path — which has been marked by persistence and resilience in the face of extraordinary barriers — is cause for celebration and inspiration. When she ran for president in 2008, she was subjected to vicious forms of misogyny, but she didn’t let that chase her out of the public square. As a result, today, other women know that they don’t have to be chased out either.

The good news is that the vast majority of women aren’t interested in second-guessing Sec. Clinton’s decisions about her marriage. To paraphrase Sen. Bernie Sanders, the public has no interest in that ancient history. Most people consider former President Bill Clinton to be more than the personal actions he regrets and has apologized for. As adults living in the 21st century, we are able to agree or disagree with him on policy without clutching our pearls and fantasizing about some dress.

What women voters do care about is whether our next president will enact policies we need more than ever — a higher minimum wage, an expanded Social Security system, paid family leave, racial justice initiatives that include girls and women of color, access to safe, legal abortion care and birth control, and recognition of civil and human rights of LGBTQIA people. I don’t agree with Sec. Clinton on everything, but I do know that she listens and responds to people who disagree with her. And I especially admire her strength in the face of the hate and nasty attacks that come at her from all angles.

Thanks to Ruth Marcus, we have been schooled once again in the old rules of how wives are supposed to behave. But thanks to Hillary Clinton, there is a brighter future for women leaders.

 

By: Terry O’Neill, President, National Organization for Women, The Blog, The Huffington Post, January 6, 2016

January 10, 2016 Posted by | Domestic Violence, Hillary Clinton, Women | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“We’re Ignoring The Real Gun Problem”: Exactly Which Forms Of Gun Violence Do Republicans Support?

Today President Obama spoke briefly to the press about yesterday’s mass shooting in San Bernardino, and he began by noting: “So many Americans sometimes feel as if there’s nothing we can do about it.” But what’s the “it” we’re talking about here? Is it just our spectacular and never-ending run of mass shootings?

Because if it is, we’re on the lesser of our gun problems. I’ll explain why in a moment, but here’s a bit more of what Obama had to say:

“It’s going to be important for all of us, including our legislatures, to see what we can do to make sure that when individuals decide that they want to do somebody harm, we’re making it a little harder for them to do it, because right now it’s just too easy. And we’re going to have to, I think, search ourselves as a society to make sure that we can take basic steps that would make it harder — not impossible, but harder — for individuals to get access to weapons.”

His mention of “legislatures” is an implicit acknowledgement that any movement that happens on gun laws will happen at the state and local level, because congressional Republicans are emphatically against any legislation that would even inconvenience, let alone restrict, anyone’s ability to buy as many guns of as many types as they want. But what are those “basic steps” we can take, and would they actually work? And which kinds of gun violence would they stop?

It’s not surprising that we focus on mass shootings, because they’re sudden and dramatic — the very fact that they’re unusual compared to ordinary shootings is why they’re newsworthy. That’s despite the fact that we have them so often that the victim count has to get pretty high before the national news pays attention. But as this blog has noted before, they’re actually the smaller part of our gun violence problem.

Using the now-common definition of a mass shooting as one in which four or more people are injured or killed, there were 351 mass shootings in the United States this year before San Bernardino, or more than one per day. In those shootings, a total of 447 people died and 1,292 people were injured.

Now let’s use a year for which we have complete data on gun violence, 2013. That year, there were 363 mass shootings resulting in 502 deaths. But overall, 33,636 Americans died from gun violence that year. The number of gun homicides was 11,208. That means that victims of mass shootings made up 1.5 percent of all gun victims and 4.5 percent of gun homicide victims.

Democrats advocating for gun restrictions take the opportunity when there’s a mass shooting dominating the news to say: “This is why we need these restrictions.” Which is understandable as far as it goes, but it still keeps attention on the smaller part of the problem.

Republicans and conservatives, on the other hand, see mass shootings as regrettable but say that any government action to restrict access to guns either won’t stop such shootings, or would represent an unacceptable trade-off in terms of surrendering liberty. Some will instead say, “we need to reform the mental health system. ” But nine out of ten GOP congressmen probably couldn’t tell you a single thing they’d do to reform it, let alone how whatever they support would actually reduce the yearly death toll. There are a couple of related bills in Congress that Republicans support to make some reforms to the mental health system, but they could actually wind up making it easier for some people with a history of mental illness to get firearms.

And of course Republicans don’t address this simple fact: the overwhelming majority of gun homicides in America are not committed by people who have been declared mentally ill. They happen when abusive men kill their spouses or partners, when an argument between neighbors gets out of hand, when an angry ex-employee shoots his boss, when cycles of revenge spiral onward.

But if we only try to talk about guns when there are mass shootings, it allows Republicans to say, “It’s not about the guns — this guy was just crazy!” (Never mind that there are people with mental illness everywhere in the world; only here is it so easy for them to arm themselves to the teeth.)

If Republicans (and I’d put special focus on the presidential candidates, since they’re the ones who can get the most attention) are going to argue that the answer to gun violence is mental health reforms, they ought to be forced to get specific. Exactly which forms do they support? How exactly will each of those forms reduce gun violence? Will any of their ideas do anything to help the 95 percent of gun homicide victims who don’t die in mass shootings?

We’re now getting reports that Syed Farook, one of the shooters in San Bernardino, may have been in touch with an international terrorism suspect, and so this shooting may have been politically motivated (even though he chose to target his co-workers). Had that not been the case, Republicans would have said that all that matters is that Farook was crazy — how could anyone who killed 14 people not be? Now they’ll say that all that matters is that he was a terrorist. But if that turns out to be true, it would bring the number of Americans killed at home in jihadist attacks since 9/11 to 45. That’s about the number of Americans murdered with guns in an average day and half.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line, The Washington Post, December 3, 2015

December 5, 2015 Posted by | Congressional Republicans, Domestic Violence, Gun Violence, Mass Shootings | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

A Clear And Present Danger”: The Biggest Threat To Americans? Other Americans With Guns

What do you think a mother would say is the greater threat to her child: Russia or guns?

I couldn’t help but ask myself that question on Friday when I heard the testimony of General Joseph Dunford, President Obama’s nominee to be the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, before the Senate Armed Services Committee. When Dunford was asked what was the greatest threat to the United States, he responded by ranking them in this order: Russia, China, North Korea, and ISIS.

Now, Dunford is undoubtedly correct when it comes to the global threats facing us, and those are the threats it’s his job to assess. But from a day-to-day perspective, our greatest threat, and I’d submit the more pressing one, is our fellow Americans. We kill far more of each other on a daily basis than any foreign actor has come close to doing in recent years.

Here are some numbers for you to consider:

1. Gun Violence: Every day 30-plus Americans are murdered with guns. We are talking over 10,000 Americans killed each year by gun violence. And every single day, including today, five children or teens are murdered by someone using guns; that is 11 times more often than children are killed by gun violence in other “high income” nations.

In fact, far more Americans were killed by gun violence in 2013 alone (33,636) than all the Americans killed on U.S. soil by terrorists in the last 14 years, and that’s including 9/11. (2,977 Americans were killed on 9/11 and only 48 have been killed since by terrorism on U.S. soil.)

2. Other Gun-Related Deaths: Apart from gun violence, another 20,000 Americans use guns to commit suicide each year. (Suicides involving firearms are fatal 85 percent of the time in contrast to about a 3 percent fatality rate when using pills.) When you combine the above numbers with the 560 people accidentally killed by guns on an annual basis, that comes out to more than 32,000 Americans who die each year by firearms. These numbers really brought it home for me: Between 2000 and 2010, 335,609 people died from guns in our country; that’s more than the entire population of St. Louis, Missouri. (318,000.)

3. Driving Under the Influence: Each day nearly 30 people are killed in auto accidents that involved an alcohol-impaired driver. In 2013 alone, 200 children 14 and younger were killed in crashes involving alcohol-impaired drivers.

4. Domestic violence: Each day, three women are killed by their husband, boyfriend, or a person with whom they had been in a relationship. In fact, a study found that alarmingly, at least one-third of all women murdered in the United States in recent years were killed by their current or past male partners.

These killers of Americans are all distinct. There’s no one remedy that will reduce the deaths in all these cases. But there is one killer that truly jumps out as the greatest existential threat to Americans: Deaths involving guns.

Now I know that many on the right are preparing to regurgitate their tired talking point that this is a push to grab their guns. They are wrong. I fully support that the Second Amendment guarantees them the personal right to own firearms as recognized in the seminal 2008 Supreme Court case of District of Columbia v. Heller. (Amazing how many on the right applaud the Supreme Court when it renders decisions they like such as Heller but literally want to abolish the Supreme Court as we know it after the recent gay marriage ruling)

But how can we sit idly by as so many of our fellow Americans are killed by guns? It is as if we have collectively decided that these deaths are acceptable loses. Even after mass shootings nothing seems to change, generally due to political considerations.

And we see politics at play again over the heartbreaking shooting death of Kate Steinle in San Francisco last week by Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, a man who was not in the country legally. Many on the right, like Donald Trump, refuse to talk about the gun aspect of this crime and solely want focus on Sanchez’s immigration status because it plays to their political base. (I doubt Trump would ever mention that 70 percent of the guns recovered by the ATF in the Mexican drug war between 2007 and 2011 originated in the United States. Talk about exporting dangerous things to another country.)

So while we are confirming a new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to protect us from global threats, isn’t it time to create a federal level “Department to prevent gun deaths” to protect us from this domestic threat?

The federal government’s current gun-related tasks would be unified and integrated into this new department in an effort to increase effectiveness, much the same way we saw the Department of Homeland Security bring together the responsibilities of 22 different agencies under its auspices.

For starters this new agency can ensure that the federal law barring federally licensed gun dealers from selling firearms to people convicted of crimes or with mental illnesses is fully functioning.  As we learned just last week, the Charleston shooter Dylann Roof should not have been able to legally purchase a gun as he did because of his criminal record. However, a background check flaw allowed that to happen.

This new agency can also be charged with investigating gun trafficking across state lines, formulating comprehensive programs to reduce suicides by guns, and cracking down on federally licensed gun dealers that consistently sell guns used in crimes. Astoundingly, 1 percent of gun dealers account for nearly 60 percent of the guns used in crimes.

We have numerous federal agencies dedicated to keeping us safe from global threats. Isn’t it time we had a federal agency dedicated to protecting us from the clear and present danger posed right here in our nation by guns?

 

By: Dean Obeidallah, The Daily Beast, July 13, 2015

July 14, 2015 Posted by | Domestic Violence, Gun Violence, Terrorists | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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