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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

“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

“A President Cries, And The NRA Trembles”: A President Taking On The Gun Lobby That Has Held Our Country Hostage

Two of my closest friends are also my steadfast movie companions. It is our habit, whenever possible, to sit in the same row of our favorite theater.

We’ve been doing this for years, but during our most recent excursion, one of them quietly asked during the previews, “When we sit here, do you ever think a man with a gun–.”

Her wife and I didn’t even let her finish her sentence as we started to nod.

“That we would be the first to be shot?” one of us asked.

“That we would die?” the other asked.

Oh, yeah, we all agreed. We think about that.

This is an absurd mental exercise on our part. As Plain Dealer Editor George Rodrigue III wrote in a recent column in my hometown of Cleveland, “If you lived in America last year you were less likely to be shot by an Islamic terrorist than by a toddler.” This is just as true about the likelihood of being gunned down by a homegrown terrorist shooting up a movie theater.

We know this, my friends and I, but there we were anyway, imagining the rain of bullets. I am embarrassed to admit to this, in part because such fear is so irrational but also because it suggests the right-wing fearmongering has had its way with me, a lifelong liberal. Only for a moment, mind you, but it’s the sort of lapse in rational thinking that can eat away at you if you aren’t vigilant. Before you know it, you’re parroting talking points from the National Rifle Association, which acts more like a mob syndicate than it does a lobbying organization.

Right after New Year’s, President Barack Obama signed 23 executive orders designed to address gun violence, including tightening loopholes on who can sell guns and who is allowed to buy them. As The New York Times duly noted, these are guidelines, not binding regulations, and the president will face “legal, political and logistical hurdles that are likely to blunt the effect of the plan he laid out.”

That’s a gentler way of saying the gun zealots and the Republicans who pander to them are acting as if the devil just galloped into town to lasso the whole bunch of them and drag them back to hell. Not a wholly unpleasant scenario to imagine, but it has nothing to do with the president’s plan.

Republican right-wing propagandist Ted Cruz said: “We don’t beat the bad guys by taking away our guns. We beat the bad guys by using our guns.”

If he weren’t serious, he’d be hilarious. It’s so easy to imagine all 5 feet 8 inches of him standing there in the dirt with spurs jingling as his hands hover over the Colts in the gun belt slung around his hip-huggers.

I can’t even.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said that “rather than focus on criminals and terrorists, (President Obama) goes after the most law-abiding of citizens. His words and actions amount to a form of intimidation that undermines liberty.”

I am so tired of these men thinking we’re this stupid. Every credible poll shows that the overwhelming majority of Americans want gun reform. In October, for example, a CBS News/New York Times poll found that 92 percent of Americans favor background checks for all gun buyers. That included 87 percent of Republicans who were polled.

The NRA, preferring to channel the voices in its collective head, claimed otherwise this week. NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker, in a statement to Fox News: “President Obama failed to pass his anti-gun agenda (through) Congress because the majority of Americans oppose more gun-control. Now he is doing what he always does when he doesn’t get his way, which is defy the will of the people and issue an executive order.”

Hear that? That’s fear talking. For the first time in a long time, the NRA hears the American people pounding on a door it doesn’t want to open. So of course, it declined to participate in the president’s town hall on guns with CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

At his White House news conference Tuesday, the president began to cry when he started talking about the victims of school shootings.

“Our right to peaceful assembly, that right was robbed from moviegoers in Aurora and Lafayette,” he said. “Our unalienable right to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness, those rights were stripped from college kids in Blacksburg and Santa Barbara and from high schoolers at Columbine and from first-graders in Newtown — first-graders — and from every family who never imagined that their loved one would be taken from our lives by a bullet from a gun. Every time I think about those kids, it gets me mad.”

Many right-wing pundits and lollygaggers on social media mocked the president for his tears. This disrespect outraged a lot of President Obama’s supporters, but it made me feel optimistic about gun reform for the first time in years.

Who mocks a man for showing the same hollowed-out grief most of us feel when we think of those babies being gunned down? Who makes fun of a president standing tall with the majority of his citizens?

Scared people, that’s who. The ones who are trembling in their boots because, finally, we have a president willing to take on the gun lobby that has held our country hostage for far too long.

 

By: Connie Schultz, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Columnist; The National Memo, January 7, 2016

January 8, 2016 Posted by | Domestic Terrorism, Fearmongering, Gun Lobby, National Rifle Association | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“These Things Happen From Time To Time”: At Least 43 Instances This Year Of Somebody Being Shot By A Toddler 3 Or Younger

I don’t want to sound like some kind of weeny liberal nag, but I’m having trouble understanding how we’re supposed to use our guns in these cases to act like the good guys who are getting the bad guys with the guns.

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.

I know, I know. I’m a moron.

Because only a moron believes that a two year old can pull the trigger on a gun, right?

You might as well tell me that we put a man on the moon or that real men eat arugula.

I’m sure you’ve had enough of pantywaist protesters, but I haven’t forgotten how the NRA reacted to the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

After a weeklong silence, the National Rifle Association announced Friday that it wants to arm security officers at every school in the country. It pointed the finger at violent video games, the news media and lax law enforcement — not guns — as culprits in the recent rash of mass shootings.

“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” Wayne LaPierre, the N.R.A. vice president, said at a media event that was interrupted by protesters. One held up a banner saying, “N.R.A. Killing Our Kids.”

It’s hard to say that it’s the NRA killing our kids when it’s clearly our kids killing each other and themselves and their grandmothers. And this wouldn’t happen if we just put a good guy with a gun in the backseat of all of our cars to keep a watch on our toddlers and put a quick stop to any gang-related activity.

I’m sure you can go talk to the families who have been impacted by these tragedies and find them suffering from no regrets and no second thoughts about how safe their guns were keeping their families.

Oh, yes, I know the solution. Those stupid parents shouldn’t just leave their loaded guns lying around where any Tommy, Richie or Harry can pick them up and pop off a few quicks shots.

And girls shouldn’t have sex.

And boys shouldn’t horse around.

And say ‘no’ to drugs.

And no one gets hurt.

 

By: Martin Longman, Ten Miles Square, The Washington Monthly, October 16, 2015

October 19, 2015 Posted by | Gun Deaths, Gun Lobby, National Rifle Association | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Gun Industry Must Not Be Shielded From Liability”: Bloodshed Is Moving The Needle On The Question Of Liability For The Gun Industry

Hillary Clinton pounded Sen. Bernie Sanders for his gun rights record during the first Democratic presidential debate, all but calling him a BFF of the NRA.

Clinton’s argument was that Sanders’ support for the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which prohibited lawsuits against gun sellers and manufacturers for the unlawful misuse of a firearm, means that he isn’t serious about stemming gun violence in America.

With his vote, Clinton charged, Sanders supplied immunity from liability to the only industry in America that has it. “Everybody else has to be accountable but not the gun manufacturers,” she said. As a senator, Clinton had voted against the bill.

She might not have been aware that within hours of her comments, that law — long considered nearly insurmountable — had taken a major hit. A Milwaukee jury awarded two police officers more than $5 million in damages, holding the owners of a gun store negligent for selling a semi-automatic pistol purchased through a straw buyer.

One of the officers, Graham Kunisch, now retired, was said to not show any emotion when the civil verdict was reached, according to the New York Times. He couldn’t, his lawyer said, because of the brain injury he suffered after being shot in the head by the gun.

Staff at Badger Guns, the defendant, should have been more suspicious that the pistol was being bought for an 18-year-old who stood alongside the straw buyer, attorneys argued. The younger man, now serving 80 years for shooting the policemen, strode into the store with the buyer, helped pick out the gun, left the store to get more cash together for the purchase, and watched as the straw buyer fumbled filling out the paperwork. On the form, the buyer admitted that he wasn’t the intended owner but then changed his answer.

Red flags had been everywhere, the plaintiffs’ attorneys argued. The jury agreed. That almost never happens in America. One of the reasons it doesn’t is a 2005 law that Clinton says she intends to repeal (and that Sanders agrees needs to be revisited).

The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act passed after major lobbying by the National Rifle Association. George W. Bush signed it. To the gun lobby, the bill was seen as necessary to protect the gun dealers and manufacturers from being bankrupted by a slew of cases being filed nationwide at the time.

Gun safety advocates had a strategy to move manufacturers toward devoting more attention to safety features on firearms and for sellers to improve ways to ensure that they were selling to legal buyers.

The idea was to treat gun safety as a matter of public health. Car manufacturers, after all, hadn’t eagerly added seatbelts and other safety devices to vehicles. They did so under public pressure and after being held accountable by the courts.

Passage of the immunity law circumvented that approach to the manufacture and sale of firearms.

But times have changed in the decade since the law was passed. The public is all too aware of the toll of firearm violence: dead children slaughtered in mass shootings, women murdered because men with records of domestic violence aren’t stopped from buying guns, a yearly toll of 19,000 gun suicides. Bloodshed is moving the needle on the question of liability for the gun industry. But only a smidgen.

The NRA has filled people’s heads with the nonsense that it is unfair to expect a seller to know whether a gun he sells will be used later in a crime. Really? Even if the gun is sold to a known criminal, someone under age or a person with a record of domestic violence?

What’s missing are the other pieces of smart gun safety. Gun shows should no longer be places where guns are bought and sold without any scrutiny. The tracking of guns that wind up at crime scenes must improve. Records of who should be barred from ownership need to be readily accessible and comprehensive. And the public needs to come to grips with the fact that there are no magic formulas to predict who might act out violently with a gun due to a mental health condition. Most people with mental illness are not violent.

A great sense of responsibility ought to come with being licensed to sell a product designed to take human life. It’s far past time that gun manufacturers and sellers come to grips with that moral and civic duty.

 

By: Mary Sanchez, Opinion-Page Columnist for The Kansas City Star; The National Memo, October 16, 2015

October 17, 2015 Posted by | Gun Lobby, Gun Manufacturers, National Rifle Association | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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