How can anyone ever explain this to Mason?
He’s only 4 months old, so that moment still lies years in the future. Still, at some point, too soon, he will ask the inevitable questions, and someone will have to tell him how his dad was shot to death for being a police officer in Baton Rouge.
Montrell Jackson was not the only cop killed Sunday, nor the only one who left a child behind. Officer Matthew Gerald and Sheriff’s Deputy Brad Garafolo also had kids. And it’s likely that in killing five police officers earlier this month, a sniper in Dallas robbed multiple children of their fathers, too.
So there are a lot of people having painful discussions with a lot of kids just now. But Mason’s father was the only one of these eight dead cops with the maddening and paradoxical distinction of being an African-American man killed in protest of police violence against African-American people. He left a Facebook post that gave a glimpse into how frustrating it was, living on both sides of that line — being both black and a cop and therefore, doubly distrusted.
“I swear to God,” he wrote, “I love this city but I wonder if this city loves me. In uniform I get nasty hateful looks and out of uniform some consider me a threat.”
“Please,” he pleaded, “don’t let hate infect your heart.”
Nine days later, he was dead.
Counting two New York City policemen murdered in 2014, this makes at least 10 cops randomly killed in the last two years by people ostensibly fighting police brutality. But those madmen could hardly be bigger traitors to that cause.
One is reminded of something Martin Luther King said the night before his assassination, when he explained “the problem with a little violence.” Namely, it changes the discussion, makes itself the focus. King had been protesting on behalf of striking sanitation workers in Memphis when unruly young people turned his march into a riot. “Now … we’ve got to march again,” he said, “in order to put the issue where it is supposed to be.”
These cop killers leave us a similar dilemma. Instead of discussing the violence of police, we are now required to discuss violence against police and to say the obvious: These killers serve no cause, nor does any cause justify what they did. They are just punk cowards with guns who have changed the subject, thereby giving aid and comfort to those who’d rather not confront the issue in the first place.
But if we don’t, then what? One often hears men like Rudy Giuliani and Bill O’Reilly express contempt for the Black Lives Matter movement of protest and civil disobedience; one is less likely to hear either of them specify what other means of protest they would suggest for people whose concerns about racially biased and extralegal policing have been otherwise ignored for decades by government and media. If not Black Lives Matter, then what? Patient silence? Acceptance of the status quo?
That isn’t going to happen, and the sooner the nation understands this, the sooner it moves forward. Sadly, that move, whenever it comes, will be too late for Mason and dozens of others left newly fatherless, sonless, brotherless, husbandless and bereft. Still, we have to move. The alternative is to remain stuck in this place of incoherence, fear, racial resentment … and rage. Always rage.
But rage doesn’t think, rage doesn’t love, rage doesn’t build, rage doesn’t care. Rage only rends and destroys.
We have to be better than that. We have no choice but to be better than that. We owe it to Mason to be better than that. He deserves a country better than this mad one in which his father died, and life is poured out like water.
Jocelyn Jackson, Montrell’s sister, put it best in an interview with the Washington Post. “It’s getting to the point where no lives matter,” she said.
By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist, The Miami Herald; The National Memo, July 21, 2016
“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
As we have yet another round of our repeated and possibly fruitless arguments about the role of guns in American society, there’s one thing I desperately want to hear gun advocates say. It’s not complicated, it would have the benefit of honesty, and it might enable us to move this debate to ground where we could actually make choices about what kind of society we want to have.
What I want to hear gun advocates say is, “This is the price America has to pay for the right some of us cherish.”
The reason I want to hear this is that on no other basic debate over constitutional rights that I can think of does one side argue that there are no tradeoffs, that exercising a particular right, even in the most extreme way, doesn’t actually involve any cost whatsoever. Only gun advocates say that.
When somebody shoots 49 people in a club with a military weapon that gun advocates work so desperately to keep as widely available as possible, they don’t say, “That was terrible, but the right to have guns is so important that it’s something we need to live with.” When confronted with the fact that over 30,000 Americans are killed every year with guns, they don’t say that this cost is acceptable, they say that guns had nothing whatsoever to do with all the people killed with guns. Maybe it was because of mental illness, or radical Islam, or video games. But guns? Why should we talk about guns?
There’s no other right we talk about this way. When the exercise of other rights produces things we don’t like, we don’t deny that we’re paying a price for something we value. When Nazis decide to hold a march and it makes us upset, nobody says, “Oh, we didn’t have to endure that hateful sight because of free speech; it was our road-building policy that made it possible. Speech had nothing to do with it!” We say that as unpleasant as it was, we have to tolerate hateful speech because of our commitment to free expression. Nobody denies that it has a cost.
Now to be fair, on some extremely rare occasions a prominent conservative has acknowledged that our national gun fetish has a price. For instance, Ben Carson said last fall that while he treated gunshot victims as a doctor, “I never saw a body with bullet holes that was more devastating than taking the right to arm ourselves away.” If your mind reels at how morally obtuse that is, then you know why it’s an argument you almost never hear. Instead, gun advocates say that the real answer to the carnage guns inflict is to saturate our society with yet more guns. In other words, there’s no tradeoff at all. It’s as though someone said that if you’re worried about the privacy we give up when we let the government snoop on our communications in order to stop terrorism, the answer is to just give the government all your passwords and set up a webcam in your bathroom, and then you’ll have real privacy.
Nor does anyone talk this way about less fundamental rights, the things we merely want and need. Cars kill the same number of Americans as guns, but even though cars are incredibly useful, nobody denies that they’re dangerous. So we try to make them as safe as possible. We build technologies into them, like seat belts, air bags, and anti-lock brakes. We try to make sure people are capable of handling them safely before we give them permission to drive. We pass new laws on things like texting while driving in order to eliminate the factors that make them less safe. Nobody says, “Well, the fact that your child was mowed down by a teenager texting on his phone doesn’t have anything to do with cars and driving—let’s put the focus where it belongs, on teen attention spans.”
Perhaps it’s because gun advocates look at their opponents and see people who put no value at all on gun rights, who would rather have America be more like, well, like almost every other industrialized country in the world, where guns are heavily restricted and gun ownership isn’t seen as a “right” at all. They may think that arguing against those people requires taking an absolutely categorical position at all times. Or perhaps it’s because that small proportion of gun owners, the ones who fight with fervid intensity against even the most modest restriction and regulation, really have sanctified guns in their own mind. An object so perfect in its wondrous glory can’t possibly be blamed for anything done with it.
But the truth is that gun advocates do actually think that the price we’re paying is a reasonable one for the existing gun regime, in which it’s so spectacularly easy for almost anyone to obtain as many weapons as they like. Nobody thinks that the NRA or your average Republican politician is happy about the 30,000 Americans whose lives are ended by guns every year, but it’s not a high enough number for them to embrace any measure that might inhibit gun ownership. It’s not even high enough for them to tolerate some inconvenience, like making gun owners demonstrate that they know how to handle them safely and are able to store them where children can’t get them.
Presumably, there’s some number that would be too high. Maybe it would be a hundred thousand Americans killed with guns every year, or five hundred thousand, or a million. But 30,000? That’s a price they think we can pay.
I have little doubt that some gun advocates genuinely believe that they’ll probably have their home invaded by murderous gangs, or that they need their concealed carry permit because there’s an ISIS strike team waiting at the supermarket, or that society is eternally on the brink of complete breakdown and their guns are the only way to protect their family against the cannibal hordes. But they also won’t say to the rest of us what they say to each other, which is that guns are fun, guns are cool, guns make you feel like a man and that’s the reason that guy in the shop is buying his fifth or tenth or 12th gun, not because he’s the only thing standing between the rest of us and government’s tyranny.
And the AR-15s that are getting so much attention? They aren’t as popular as they are because it’s impossible to defend your home without one. They’re popular because they’re relatively affordable, because they can be easily modified (so you can trick yours out with lots of cool accessories), and because having a gun designed for the military makes you feel like a real warrior.
That’s a truth that can’t withstand the light of day. If it’s really not about needing guns but about people wanting them and loving them, then we’d have to ask exactly what price we’re willing to pay for some people’s love of guns. So maybe that’s the question gun advocates should answer: If 30,000 dead Americans is an acceptable price to pay for your version of freedom, what price would be too high?
By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, June 29, 2016
“The Day The NRA’s Gun Dam Began To Crack”: The Ongoing Holocaust The NRA And The Republicans Are Abetting
I couldn’t believe Wednesday night that some liberals were expressing indifference or even suspicion toward the House Democrats’ sit-in. I wouldn’t say this was all that widespread, but I did see it, and it was based on the fact that one of the bills they were demanding a vote on, the one banning people on watch lists from buying guns, is problematic from a civil-libertarian point of view.
Oh please. Do these people know history happening when they see it? The sit-in was about the two bills only in the most nominal sense. It was really about dead bodies. It was about the NRA and its stranglehold on their institution. It was about saying “enough.”
I wrote earlier this week that yes, the NRA won again on those four Senate votes, but “someday, this dam will break.” Well, it’s coming a hell of a lot faster than I thought it would. No, the dam isn’t broken—yet. That will still take a fair amount of time. But after Wednesday night, it’s now possible to see a different future, one in which the NRA is not all-powerful. It’s no longer crazy to think that its back can be broken.
Sure, there are serious civil liberties concerns about government lists. Here’s what the ACLU has to say about them. If you are a man with an Arabic name in particular, the risk of being put on one of these lists because of error or confusion is not inconsiderable. That has to be addressed, and a citizen has to be able to go to the government and demonstrate wrongful harm.
But everyone agrees on all this. As I watched the coverage Wednesday, every single Democrat I saw interviewed said as much. I wish I could retrieve for you what Illinois Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky told Chris Hayes late last night, but the video wasn’t posted on his site yet as I sat down to write. She said in essence: Of course, we all agree, fix the bill, build in an appeals process for individuals to challenge being put on the list. Given. In the meantime, actual dangerous people who deserve to be on that list can go buy assault weapons and mow down innocent people. Let’s stop that first, then we’ll fine-tune the bill.
What on earth is objectionable about that? Nothing. And anyway, the bill isn’t going to pass even if Paul Ryan does allow a vote. But it would have the effect of calling the Republicans’ bluff. That is, the standard Republican criticism of the bill has been precisely this civil-libertarian critique. So if the Democrats come to them en masse to say fine, we agree with you, let’s find a way to build in a workable appeals process, and the Republicans still vote against the bill, they will stand exposed, and everyone will know that civil liberty concerns aren’t what’s driving GOP opposition. Fear of Wayne LaPierre is. We all know this already anyway, but if there is a vote and they still vote against it, we’ll have proof.
Legislating is ugly business. The choices are usually between okay and not okay, or often between bad and much worse. You take what you can get. This is why the sit-in merits support and admiration (and if you really want to be a liberal who’s on the opposite side of the great John Lewis, be my guest). This is very different from the civil rights actions of the 1950s. Then, activists had a country to persuade; they had to move the mountain of public opinion. And so activists in Birmingham settled on segregated buses as the target that would tangibly and visibly make segregation stark for white Americans outside the South. They bided their time, deliberately chose Rosa Parks as the woman to do it, and slowly won public opinion over to their side.
But here, the public doesn’t have to be persuaded. It’s 80 or 90 percent on the Democrats’ side on guns. Even most NRA members support background checks, the subject of the other bill over which the Democrats staged their action. The boulder that has to be moved—or crushed—is the Republican Congress. So it’s up to congressional Democrats to make that fight, and they have to do it with the imperfect implements at their disposal, which means particular pieces of legislation that are bound to be deficient in one way or another.
And they’re finally making that fight. It was remarkable to see lawmakers holding those pieces of paper with the names of victims from Newtown and Orlando. That wasn’t about watch lists. It was about the ongoing holocaust that the NRA and the Republicans are abetting. It was all the more remarkable for the fact that it was done in an election year, when everyone’s supposed to be double-terrified of the NRA.
So the sit-in is ending as I write, on Thursday afternoon. But one of these days, the NRA will lose a vote. Two or three more Orlandos (which is of course two or three too many) will have the nation tearing its hair out. Democrats will finally stand firm, and enough Republicans from purple districts and states will defect. The stranglehold will end. And maybe in time, after LaPierre has gone off to whatever place eternity has reserved for him, the NRA will again become what it used to be, which is an organization that promotes reasonable Second Amendment rights but stops insisting that these death machines that were never intended to be in civilian hands deserve constitutional protection.
And when that time comes, historians will point to June 22, 2106 as the day the dam started to crack. I’m clear about which side I’m on.
By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, June 24, 2016
“Donald Trump’s Corrupt Bargain On Guns”: Where The Party’s Elites Pretend To Share The Base’s Cultural Values And Priorities
Donald Trump speaks before the National Rifle Association’s convention today, where he will enact a charade of cultural affinity for the assembled members, one utterly laughable in its insincerity. Not being there to ask them, I can’t say whether anyone in the hall actually believes that he means what he’ll say to them.
But as long as he hits the right notes — vowing to make sure guns are brought into as many places by as many people as possible, pouring sneering contempt on city slickers and egghead liberals, painting ludicrously paranoid pictures of America as a post-apocalyptic hellscape of crime and chaos, insisting that Hillary Clinton will singlehandedly destroy every right they treasure — it’ll be good enough for them.
This is a perfect expression of the larger Republican bargain, where the party’s elites pretend to share the base’s cultural values and priorities, and in exchange are put into office where they pursue an agenda of tax cuts and regulatory rollback. You can see it played out with one constituency group after another. For instance, when Trump stood before an audience of evangelicals and cited “Two Corinthians,” he quoted from the verse, then said, “Is that the one? Is that the one you like? I think that’s the one you like.”
The audience snickered at his ham-handed attempt at pandering, and when Trump says that the Bible is his favorite book (even better than The Art of the Deal!), nobody thinks he’s being honest. But guess what: Trump will have no trouble holding on to the evangelical vote in the fall. After some doubts, they came around to him, just like every Republican constituency group either has already or will before long.
It does take a bit of rationalization, but that’s often a part of the presidential campaign process. Once somebody is your party’s nominee, you’re going to work hard to convince yourself that he’s not just the least bad option, but somebody who’s actually terrific. So in the latest CBS/New York Times poll, 67 percent of Republican voters say Trump “shares their values,” even though for so many of them he plainly doesn’t. That number will probably climb higher between now and the election.
As for the NRA faithful, Trump is about as far from their values as he could be. A born-and-bred city dweller, he used to support an assault weapons ban and expanded background checks. In his 2000 book The America We Deserve he wrote that “The Republicans walk the NRA line and refuse even limited restrictions.”
But now he’s turned himself into a parody of a gun nut. He says he has a concealed-carry permit, he wants to rescind President Obama’s executive actions expanding background checks, he thinks assault weapons are tremendous, and he wants to make any permit you get in any state valid in the 49 other states, so people can bring their guns even where other states don’t want them. And as for gun-free zones, “My first day, it gets signed, okay? My first day. There’s no more gun-free zones.”
Trump is saying to gun advocates: Is that the one? Is that the one you like? I think that’s the one you like.
Gun advocates certainly get something substantive out of the deal: inaction. Fortunately for them, Trump doesn’t actually have to do much for them, since the status quo isn’t that bad as far as they’re concerned (forget about him wiping away gun-free school zones with a stroke of a pen on his first day — that exists as the result of a law passed by Congress in the 1990s, and it would take another act of Congress to repeal it). But the real appeal is cultural, and they want candidates to genuflect before that culture, no matter how baldly phony the act might be.
The NRA, which believe it or not used to be an organization devoted to promoting gun safety and good marksmanship, has succeeded over the last couple of decades in freighting guns with all kinds of cultural associations, making them one of the most powerful markers of identity in American life. They’ve encouraged people to think that gun ownership makes you self-reliant, independent, masculine, strong, capable, and patriotic — and anyone who thinks that 30,000 Americans killed by guns every year is a problem worth addressing must not be any of those things.
Those voters will be told that if they don’t get out and vote Republican, Hillary Clinton will send her jackbooted government thugs to break down their doors and take their guns, leaving them defenseless against the dusky horde of low-lifes lying in wait to kill them and rape their women. They will be told that it’s an emergency, that the gun-grabbing is set to begin the day after inauguration, that their lives and freedom and everything they hold dear hang in the balance.
“If you cherish Second Amendment rights, the stakes have never been higher than they are in this election,” says an NRA spokesperson, which is an amazing coincidence, considering that the stakes were never higher than they were in the last election, and the stakes were never higher than they were in the election before that, and the election before that and the election before that.
The cultural argument also helps cloud the fact that Republican politicians have chosen to take the positions of the NRA leadership, which are far more extreme not just than those held by the public, but even by the group’s own membership. The NRA opposes universal background checks, which are supported not only by around nine in ten Americans, but by three-quarters of NRA members. With just a few exceptions, nearly every Republican in Congress lines up with the NRA leadership and against their own constituents.
The group successfully tells gun owners: Forget about that, because Democrats want to grab your guns. There can be no compromise. And when Donald Trump goes before them and acts like Yosemite Sam, either they’re foolish enough to think he means what he says, or they decide that it doesn’t really matter.
By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, May 20, 2016