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“More Frequent Than You Might Think”: Do We Really Want To Lead The World In Toddler Shootings?

I remember last fall when I saw this article by Christopher Ingraham I hesitated to share it because it is so sad.

This week a 2-year-old in South Carolina found a gun in the back seat of the car he was riding in and accidentally shot his grandmother, who was sitting in the passenger seat. This type of thing happens from time to time: A little kid finds a gun, fires it, and hurts or kills himself or someone else. These cases rarely bubble up to the national level except when someone, like a parent, ends up dead.

But cases like this happen a lot more frequently than you might think. After spending a few hours sifting through news reports, I’ve found at least 43 instances this year of somebody being shot by a toddler 3 or younger. In 31 of those 43 cases, a toddler found a gun and shot himself or herself.

This week, Ingraham updated the numbers.

There have been at least 23 toddler-involved shootings since Jan. 1, compared with 18 over the same period last year.

In the vast majority of cases, the children accidentally shoot themselves. That’s happened 18 times this year, and in nine of those cases the children died of their wounds.

Toddlers have shot other people five times this year. Two of those cases were fatal: this week’s incident in Milwaukee, and that of a 3-year-old Alabama boy who fatally shot his 9-year-old brother in February.

I know we all despaired when even the shooting of 20 first and second graders in Newton wasn’t enough to unseat the power of the gun lobby in blocking the implementation of small steps towards common sense gun control. But are we really willing to be the world’s leader in toddler shootings?

Recently President Obama initiated one step in a process that could prevent these kinds of tragedies.

President Obama will use the power of his office to try to jump-start long-stalled “smart-gun” technology that could eventually allow only the owner of a firearm to use it, the White House announced Friday…

The administration stopped short of mandating the use of smart guns by federal agencies but said it saw promise in committing more federal money and attention to a technology that has evolved in fits and starts over more than two decades.

The idea behind the smart-gun technology is to limit the use of a firearm to its owner, through personalized identifiers like a biometric sensor on the gun grip, a ring sensor worn by the owner or a digital pass code entered on a wristband.

Advocates see the technology as a way of stopping criminals from using stolen guns — or children from accidentally shooting themselves or others.

In reporting on this, the Fox News headline reads: Obama set to push for ‘smart gun’ tech despite concerns. You might wonder about the source of those “concerns.”

The NRA does not oppose the technology. But in responding to the president’s controversial January executive action, the group’s Institute for Legislative Action said the private market, not the government, should drive its development.

“Although NRA is not opposed to the development of new firearms technology, we do not believe the government should be picking winners and losers in the marketplace,” the statement said.

While the administration may not be pushing an executive order mandating the purchase of smart guns, Second Amendment advocates fear a slippery slope.

There is no argument to be made here that this is an attempt by Obama to take away anyone’s guns. In light of that, the fallback position is to worry about a “slippery slope”…the case to be made when all else fails.

Second Amendment advocates can’t stop President Obama from pursuing the possibilities of this kind of technology. But in light of these numbers on toddler shootings, it actually blows my mind that they would even attempt to raise objections.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 3, 2016

May 4, 2016 Posted by | Gun Control, Gun Deaths, Gun Lobby, Toddler Shootings | , , , , , | 2 Comments

“This Moment Was Arresting”: President Obama’s Tear A Starkly Human Thing

He didn’t bawl.

His voice only roughened for a moment and he dabbed at a couple tears that straggled down his cheek. As displays of emotion go, it wasn’t all that much. But it was, of course, more than enough.

Inevitably, President Obama’s tears became the takeaway from last week’s White House speech on gun violence. They came as he recalled the 2012 massacre of six educators and 20 young children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

“Every time I think about those kids,” said the president, tears shining on his cheek, “it gets me mad.”

One grows used to thinking of politics as a craft practiced mostly by people who are only technically human. One grows used to their cynical manipulations and insincere triangulations, to their poll-tested smiles, and focus-grouped quips. Which is why this moment was arresting. The president wept and it was a starkly human thing.

Or at least, that’s surely how most of us saw it. It is a sign of how angry and hateful our politics have become that some conservatives refused to accept the moment at face value.

“I would check that podium for a raw onion,” sneered Andrea Tantaros of Fox “News.”

“He’s putting something in his eyes to create the fascist tears,” wrote John Nolte of Breitbart.

“(hashtag)Crocodile Tears” tweeted actor James Woods.

One hardly knows how to respond. There isn’t even anger. There is only embarrassment for them, only amazement that some people are so bad at being, well … people.

But the sense of disconnectedness, of the action being wholly at odds with some people’s interpretation thereof, went far beyond the president’s tears. To compare what Obama actually said as he seeks to rein in the nation’s runaway gun violence with the way it was afterward construed by his political opposites is to feel as if one has fallen down the rabbit hole into an alternate reality where people drink trees and smell music and the idea that words have fixed meaning is about as real as the Tooth Fairy.

“I believe in the Second Amendment … that guarantees the right to bear arms,” said the president.

Which House Speaker Paul Ryan interpreted as: “From day one, the president has never respected the right to safe and legal gun ownership that our nation has valued since its founding.”

Obama took a handful of modest actions, including: an executive order clarifying that anyone who makes a living selling guns is required to conduct background checks on buyers; hiring more personnel to process background checks; pushing for improved gun safety technology and tracking of stolen firearms.

Which Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump processed as: “Pretty soon, you won’t be able to get guns.”

One nation, two realities, one of them populated by the NRA and its GOP henchmen, by extremists who don’t just own guns or like guns, but who sanctify and worship guns and so regard even the most humble effort to check their destructive power as blasphemy against their god.

In the other reality live the rest of us, heartsick and frustrated that our country has come to this: Mass shootings are commonplace and we cannot muster the political will to do anything about it. So nothing happens; nothing changes. Bullets fly, the gun lobby prattles on, and in an endless loop, we mourn mothers, fathers, sisters and sons in San Bernardino, Aurora, Ft. Hood, Tucson, Charleston and, yes, Newtown, where 20 first-graders — little children — were gunned down, slaughtered.

And people are disbelieving that the president cried? It is not amazing that someone might ponder this carnage and want to weep. No, what’s amazing is that some of us ponder it and do not.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, January 10, 2016

January 12, 2016 Posted by | Gun Deaths, Gun Violence, National Rifle Association, Sandy Hook, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Why Is America So Hostile To Gun Control?”: The Damage Isn’t Limited To Gun Deaths

The President of the United States and the mayor of the District of Columbia both used this week to address violence within the sphere of their responsibilities. And they are catching flak for it.

President Obama’s focus was on the weapons that now kill as many people as car accidents and on the need for gun-control measures. He said at the White House on Tuesday: “Every single year, more than 30,000 Americans have their lives cut short by guns — 30,000. Suicides. Domestic violence. Gang shootouts. Accidents.” And he added this grabber: “In 2013 alone, more than 500 people lost their lives to gun accidents — and that includes 30 children younger than 5 years old.”

The next day, D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) went to the city’s Eastern Market Metro station to announce the formation of a task force to combat gun robberies, which last year increased to 1,249, 10 percent more than the 1,112 recorded in 2014. This year isn’t off to a good start — 25 gun robberies in the first six days of 2016. Robberies without guns numbered 28.

Yet robberies aren’t the only crime on the rise in our nation’s capital. Last year ended with 162 murders. There were 105 in 2014.

Something, however, may get lost in these numbers. How can the toll taken by death be measured with any degree of accuracy? It’s impossible to quantify the sense of loss and grief that follows; the sadness, emptiness and loneliness that death leaves behind.

The families and friends of those 30,000 people whose lives were cut short by guns may have some idea.

The damage isn’t limited to gun deaths.

What is the impact of more than 3,000 total street robberies in a city? Gauge the distress of having possessions taken by force — imagine the fear, anger, insecurity and unwanted memories that robbery leaves behind.

The violence assailed by Obama and Bowser is disturbing. So is the opposition mounted against them for trying to do something about it.

Criticism of Obama’s proposed regulations to ensure that laws on the books are enforced as written and intended is sickening. Unlike the “he’s gonna take away your guns” rhetoric coming out the mouths of some gun enthusiasts and their sycophantic Republican presidential hopefuls, Obama’s plan to reduce gun violence is light stuff. It would:

  • Require all those in the business of selling firearms to be licensed and to conduct background checks.
  • Overhaul the FBI’s background check system to make it more efficient and effective and provide the bureau with more staff.
  • Beef up staffing of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to crack down on firearms trafficking.
  • Increase funding for mental-health treatment and mental-health reporting to the background check system and direct the departments of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security to pursue research into gun-safety technology.

Several law professors who looked at the constitutionality of Obama’s executive actions said that they “ensure robust enforcement of the law” and are “entirely compatible with the will of Congress and the President’s constitutional authority.”

But listen to the resisters.

Obama wants your guns,” says Ted Cruz’s campaign website.

Obama is “making an end-run around the Constitution” to “restrict one of the basic, fundamental principles of our country,” Donald Trump’s campaign manager told CNN.

“Just one more way to make it harder for law-abiding people to buy weapons to be able to protect their families,” said Marco Rubio on Fox News.

“Obama’s executive orders trample on the 2nd Amendment,” said a Jeb Bush tweet.

Obama “is advancing his political agenda,” a Ben Carson tweet said.

Forget about saving lives. Better to save political hides from National Rifle Association attacks.

The president’s proposals should triumph over demagoguery and plain stupidity. But don’t cut the gun lobby short. Fear of NRA money and power makes cowards out of congressmen.

The local climate for reform may not be any better.

This is a city where many people are afraid to venture out of their homes after dark, where going to and from school can be hazardous and where guns — and those who would use them — seem as plentiful as the air.

Though overall crime rates are down in the District, murders and gun robberies are up.

In August, Bowser proposed a public safety plan to combat the violence. She contended that if the D.C. Council had adopted her proposals — more money for more cops in high-crime areas, stiffer penalties for crimes on buses and subway trains and in D.C. parks, cracking down on repeat offenders — last year’s jump in homicides might have been avoided.

But Bowser is at loggerheads with key council members over the direction of crime-fighting and criminal justice reforms. And so? Nothing. Handwringing, finger-pointing . . .

Obama, urging action, cited the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words “the fierce urgency of now,” because people are dying. “The constant excuses for inaction,” the president declared, “no longer suffice.”

Even as national and D.C. lawmakers turn a deaf ear to that message.

 

By: Colbert I. King, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, January 8, 2016

January 11, 2016 Posted by | District of Columbia, Gun Control, Gun Deaths | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Gun Lobby’s Con Game Will Come To An End”: Only Fearlessness Will Flip The Politics Of Guns

The apologists for the weapons industry — they pass themselves off as the gun-rights movement — demonstrate their intellectual bankruptcy by regularly contradicting themselves with a straight face.

On the one hand, President Obama’s modest initiatives to keep guns out of the wrong hands are denounced as an outlandish abuse of his executive powers. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.) showed why the Republican far right has such faith in him by declaring that Obama’s “words and actions amount to a form of intimidation that undermines liberty.” Accusing a president of undermining liberty is a nice way of encouraging those who see him as a dictator.

Yet there was the National Rifle Association itself making fun of Obama’s actions for being puny. “This is it, really?” said the NRA’s Jennifer Baker. “They’re not really doing anything.” The same NRA put up a frightening online video declaring that Obama is “our biggest threat to national security.” So a president who’s “not really doing anything” is also a menacing tyrant.

This is an old trick on the part of those who will not budge, no matter how many Americans are killed by firearms. Their favorite ploy is to say that since there are already so many guns out there — some estimates run to more than 300 million — no particular practical measure will do much of anything to stem the violence. It’s hard to know the exact number, by the way, partly because the NRA and its congressional enablers impede gun research.

But as soon as the weapons extremists have said that sane action is useless in the face of so many guns, they turn around and assert that those who support universal background checks and other small steps are secretly in favor of gun confiscation. Wait a minute: In one breath, they are implying, against all their other assertions, that the problem really is too many guns; in the next, they are condemning those who propose any regulations as would-be despots who want to disarm the country — the only thing their own rhetoric suggests would make a real difference. Welcome to a new philosophical concept: circular illogic.

That the gun lobby has managed to make this con game work so well for so long is a national scandal, and it drove the president to tears on Tuesday.

But something important happened in the East Room when Obama offered a series of constrained but useful steps toward limiting the carnage on our streets, in our schools and houses of worship and movie theaters. He made clear that the era of cowering before the gun lobby and apologizing, trimming, hedging and equivocating is over.

On the policy front, his commitment to innovative gun-safety technology that would confine the use of a weapon to its owner has exceptional promise. What have come to be known as “smart guns” could reduce the use of stolen weapons in crime and also prevent accidents. Obama made a point every parent can relate to: “If a child can’t open a bottle of aspirin, we should make sure that they can’t pull a trigger on a gun.” Someone should ask Speaker Ryan if such safety measures for drugs or guns undermine our liberties.

And when it came to the politics of guns, Obama drew lines as he has never drawn them before. He explicitly called out the “90 percent of Republicans in the Senate” who opposed universal background checks in the fateful roll call after the Newtown, Conn., massacre. As Obama put it, advocates of gun reform will need to “find the courage to vote” on the issue, and also have “the courage to get mobilized and organized.”

“All of us,” he said, “need to demand a Congress brave enough to stand up to the gun lobby’s lies.”

Obama isn’t running for reelection, but the 2016 Democratic presidential candidates have shown that they, too, are unafraid to take on those who remain unmoved by death after death. At this point, Democrats have little to lose. Only fearlessness will flip the politics of guns and begin to put Republicans on the defensive. Surely some in the GOP know that their party cannot forever embrace an irrational absolutism that leaves the country powerless before unconscionable carnage.

Bullies are intimidating until someone calls their bluff. By ruling out any reasonable steps toward containing the killing in our nation and by offering ever more preposterous arguments, the gun worshipers are setting themselves up for wholesale defeat. It will take time. But it will happen.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, January 6, 2016

January 10, 2016 Posted by | Gun Control, Gun Deaths, Gun Lobby, National Rifle Association | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Obama’s Gun Speech Was One For The Ages”: It Will Be Remembered For A Long Time To Come

For a president who sometimes is criticized as too cerebral and lacking emotion, the memories he carries from comforting grieving families in Tucson, Fort Hood, Binghamton, Aurora, Oak Creek, Newtown, the Navy Yard, Santa Barbara, Charleston, and San Bernardino came together in what history will likely record as one of President Obama’s landmark speeches on Tuesday.

It was an effort to bring urgency to the gun issue in the same way he rescued his candidacy with a speech about race when he first ran for the White House. And for the gun-safety advocates and gun-violence survivors packed into the East Room of the White House on Tuesday morning, it was a huge moment in a fight that for too long has seemed stalemated.

“The gun lobby may be holding Congress hostage now, but they can’t hold America hostage,” Obama declared as he outlined the executive actions he is taking to circumvent Congress and expand background checks to cover the growing commerce of guns over the Internet.

“This is a great day for responsible gun owners,” said retired astronaut Capt. Mark Kelly, whose wife, Gabby Giffords, got a standing ovation as she entered the East Room. Then-U.S. Rep. Giffords was shot in the head along with 18 others outside a supermarket in Tucson five years ago this week. “We’re grateful to the president for standing up to the gun lobby,” Kelly said after the White House event, describing himself to reporters as a strong supporter of the Second Amendment.

Obama’s nearly 40-minute long speech was thankfully more sermon than college lecture as he sought to mobilize activists and voters alike for the long battle ahead. And one point, tears visibly streamed down his face. He didn’t use the word “movement” to describe the increasing array of gun-safety groups, some launched in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, but he reminded his audience that the women’s right to vote and the liberation of African Americans didn’t happen overnight, and LGBT rights took decades of work.

“Just because it’s hard, it’s no excuse not to try,” he said as he acknowledged the obvious, that gun violence and the scourge of mass shootings will extend beyond his presidency.

He expressed his puzzlement at how American society has reached a point where mass violence erupts with such frequency that it seems almost normal “and instead of talking about how to solve the problem, it’s become one of the most partisan and polarizing debates.” He put in a plug for a town meeting he is doing Thursday evening that will be televised on CNN. “I’m not on the ballot again. I’m not looking to score some points,” he said, adding that he wants to instill what Dr. King called, “the fierce urgency of now.”

“People are dying and the constant excuses for inaction no longer suffice,” Obama said. “We’re here not to debate the last mass shooting but to do something to prevent the next mass shooting,” a statement that got a big round of applause.

Obama’s rhetoric and his invocations of some of the lives lost brought people to tears, including Attorney General Loretta Lynch, top aide Valerie Jarrett, and Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell. Every year more than 30,000 Americans die in gun suicides, domestic violence, gang shootouts, and accidents, and hundreds of thousands of Americans have lost family members or buried their children.

“Many have had to learn to live with a disability, or without the love of their life,” Obama said. “Here today in this room, right here, there are a lot of stories, a lot of heartache… and this is only a small sample.”

After the event, several people stood out in the White House driveway in the bitter cold telling their stories. Among them was Jennifer Pinckney, the widow of slain Charleston minister Clementa Pinckney. She held a framed photograph of her husband as she told reporters about how her young daughters are frightened by any sound that could be a gunshot.

After Sandy Hook, Obama signed 23 executive orders reinforcing federal law in an attempt to restrain gun violence, and it’s taken the last year to navigate the legal thickets where Obama felt confident enough to go forward with closing the so-called “gun show loophole.” New guidelines on who qualifies as a gun dealer went up on an administration website as the president spoke.

Noting that two in three gun deaths is a suicide, Obama wants Congress to do more to fund access to mental health treatment. To those in Congress who rush to blame mental illness as a way to avoid the gun issue, he said, “Here’s your chance to support these efforts.” He also pledged to put the federal government’s research arm, including the Defense Department, behind gun-safety technology. “If a child can’t open a bottle of aspirin, we need to make sure they can’t pull the trigger on a gun.”

The expansion of background checks so that people with criminal records, domestic-assault violations, and severe mental illness can’t buy guns is popular with all groups, including 64 percent of gun owners and 56 percent of those who describe themselves as “favorable toward the NRA,” according to pollster Anna Greenberg, who conducted the survey just before Thanksgiving for Americans for Responsible Gun Solutions, founded by Kelly and Giffords. Ninety percent of millennials support the kind of action Obama took, Greenberg said.

Elected officials have long memories, and Bill Clinton still blames the Democrats’ loss of Congress in 1994 on their support for the Brady Bill and an assault weapons ban. A lot of big names went down in that election, and gun regulation went down with them. What Obama did this week is “the most significant achievement since the Brady Bill” more than 20 years ago, said Kelly.

It’s a nice twist of fate that Hillary Clinton might be able to capitalize on the shift. “Thank you, @POTUS, for taking a crucial step forward on gun violence. Our next president has to build on that progress—not rip it away” she tweeted after Obama’s speech. Guns are on the agenda in 2016, and Democrats are no longer cowering, which signals a cultural shift that goes beyond Obama’s still rather limited executive actions.

 

By: Eleanor Clift, The Daily Beast, January 6, 2016

January 7, 2016 Posted by | Background Checks, Gun Deaths, Gun Violence, President Obama | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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