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“The Party’s Silence Magnifies Its Hypocrisy”: GOP Eerily Silent On Guns At Republican National Convention

So do you think guns should be allowed at the Republican National Convention?

Granted, the question is moot. On Monday, the Secret Service announced that only its agents and Cleveland police will be allowed to bring firearms into Quicken Loans Arena when the GOP assembles there this summer. But “moot” is not the same as irrelevant.

As you may know, the Secret Service put its foot down because of a petition at demanding that convention goers be allowed to bring weapons to the Grand Old Party. The fact that the arena does not allow weapons, says the petition, is “a direct affront to the Second Amendment and puts all attendees at risk.”

It goes on to say: “As the National Rifle Associationhas made clear, ‘gun-free zones’ … are ‘the worst and most dangerous of all lies.’ The NRA, our leading defender of gun rights, has also correctly pointed out that ‘gun-free zones … tell every insane killer in America … (the) safest place to inflict maximum mayhem with minimum risk.”

The petition adds that because “Cleveland … is consistently ranked as one of the top 10 most dangerous cities in America” and because of “the possibility of an ISIS terror attack on the arena,” convention goers must be allowed to bear arms.

As of Tuesday, over 50,000 people had signed.

Presumably, at least some of them recognized the petition as a pitch-perfect satire, albeit from a man whose sense of humor is drier than saltines in the Sahara. CBS News has identified the author, who styles himself “the hyperationalist,” as a fellow named Jim — he would give no last name or city of origin — who told the network he’s a liberal Democrat. But, he said, “I’m 100 percent sincere in my conviction that guns should be allowed at the GOP convention. (It would be a reflection of) the policies they sought to impose around the nation.”

He’s right, of course. The Republican Party has marched in lockstep with the NRA for many years, pushing an agenda of guns everywhere for all people at all times.

So why not guns inside the Republican Convention? If it’s OK to have guns in schools, bars and churches, then why not there? If Republicans in Iowa think blind people should have guns and Republicans in Alabama want little kids to have guns, then why not sighted adults? If, as Republicans routinely argue, more guns equal greater safety, why shouldn’t convention goers be armed? Wouldn’t this provide better protection for their candidates?

So far, the party has declined to answer. Ohio Gov. John Kasich, in whose open-carry state the convention will be held, told reporters he would defer to the Secret Service. Ditto Ted Cruz, who once gleefully ate bacon cooked on the barrel of an AR-15 rifle. Donald Trump said that before he comments, he will need to read “the fine print;” the petition is 799 words long.

The party’s silence magnifies its hypocrisy. If Republicans believe what they say, they should demand the right to cram as many firearms into that 20,000-seat arena as it will hold. This is shaping up as the tensest, angriest, most contentious convention of modern times. By GOP reasoning, it would be safer if handguns, machine guns and the odd bazooka were added to the mix. It should tell you something that no Republican will say that now.

For years, they have promoted their cynical, dangerous policy of pushing guns into every cranny of American life. The rest of us have argued against it with limited success. But now, along comes Jim, eviscerating both party and policy in a single brilliant stroke and reminding us that when people make foolish arguments, sometimes it’s better not to fight them.

Sometimes, it’s more damning if you just take them at their word.

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, March 30, 2016

March 30, 2016 Posted by | Guns, National Rifle Association, Republican National Convention | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“The Guns We Don’t Talk About”: The One On The Nightstand Whose Most Likely Victim Is Yourself Or Someone You Love

It was a good day to die.

In early September 2003, I spent the morning shuffling my children off to school, used our last 10 dollars to put gas in the tank, folded a basket of laundry, and tidied up the tiny motel room we lived in. And then, I went to my car and pulled the small, .22 caliber revolver from the locked glove compartment.

I sat in the dimly lit room—for minutes or hours, I do not know—surrounded by the remains of my life, haunted by a broken marriage that was nearly 10 years gone, a failed business, a pile of overdue utility bills, and a string of eviction notices. We were living, if you could call it that, on $150 a week in child support and a few hundred dollars each month in food stamps. What was left of our furniture was in storage, paid for by our church benevolent fund. There had been two flat tires, but no job interviews that week. The weekly motel rent was due again and there wasn’t a dime left on my credit card to cover it.

I placed my gun on the bed and kneeled down on the carpet to pray. I listed my complaints and my failings. “Father, help me.”

I remember feeling tired when I turned on my old desktop computer, logged in to AOL, and started to type out what I intended to be a final message to family and a few close friends. “I want to thank you,” I started.

I sat there a while longer, realizing there was nothing I really wanted to say, until an instant message popped up on the screen.

“Hi, Mom! How are you?”

“Hey, Katie Lady…”

“I’m in the computer lab and guess what?”

“What is it sweetie?”

“I won the election!”

“That’s great, honey.”

“I’ll see you after school!”

“See you then…”

Tonight, as the country continues a national conversation on gun control, I am thinking about my old gun. I purchased it and two others over the years. They were handguns, bought legally, as a means of personal protection.

Each year, there are some 30,000 victims of gun violence in the U.S. Nearly half of those deaths come at the hands of another. Whether it is the Bushmaster that cuts down a classroom of schoolchildren, an assault-style weapon used to carry out a massacre in a church basement or a movie theater, or one of the thousands of cheap, illegal handguns that flood our streets, gun violence continues to capture national headlines. When we talk about gun control, invariably we are talking about those guns.

We don’t talk about the gun in the nightstand. We don’t talk about the one in the lockbox in the top of a bedroom closet. We don’t talk about the one, like mine, secured in the glove compartment of a car.

And even when we do discuss mental health as a factor, we rarely—if ever—mention the nearly 15,000 Americans who commit suicide each year. When we talk about expanding access to mental health care, we mean for the mass shooter who wipes out an entire kindergarten class. We mean for the loner who walks into a movie theater and shoots indiscriminately into the darkness. We mean for the man who targets a Planned Parenthood clinic.

We don’t mean the uninsured, unemployed, single mother battling depression, who begs the heavens for a reprieve.

The president has proposed a myriad of solutions, including expanded background checks. Taken together, his planned executive actions may work to dampen the tide of guns. Closing the so-called gun show loophole may hamper a straw-purchaser’s ability to buy firearms in a state like Indiana and later sell them on the streets of Chicago.

I lost my father and two brothers to gun violence and all were killed with illegal handguns that were used in other crimes. Growing up, it was all too easy to get a gun in our neighborhood in East St. Louis. Placing reasonable restrictions on the most dangerous consumer product on the market isn’t a violation of the Second Amendment. It’s common sense.

However, in this country, suicides outnumber homicides almost two to one. We should not forget that when an individual owns a gun they are more likely to kill themselves and/or someone they love. Survival rates among those who attempt suicide by other means, such as a pill overdose or hanging, are higher than for those who use a gun. It is no accident that states where guns are most prevalent also report higher suicide rates. According to the Annals of Internal Medicine, people who live in homes with firearms are two to three times more likely to be murder victims or commit suicide.

We can debate the notion that more “good guys with guns” is the answer to violent crime or if the cast of solutions proposed by the president will make a difference in practice. There are no easy answers. But we should try everything within the confines of the Constitution if it will make it harder for criminals to stockpile guns. We should impose more meaningful barriers to high-capacity magazines and rapid-fire weaponry, if it means curtailing a mass shooter’s ability to slaughter and maim. If it means more children will be safe walking to school in America, that people can enjoy a prayer service at church or join their family for a night at the movies, we should do it. Maybe, as Chicago’s Father Pfleger suggested during tonight’s town hall on CNN, we should “title” guns like we title cars.

Tonight’s broadcast focused almost solely on the potential for homicide, with little or no conversation about the thousands of people who take their own lives each year. But, make no mistake: A self-inflicted gunshot wound is an act of violence.

My oldest daughter Katie was in the eighth grade the day I decided to die and I know that her message saved my life. That year, she would go on to be valedictorian of her graduating class and give an incredible speech at the ceremony. Today, she is an Ivy League alum, an extraordinary schoolteacher, and expecting her first child this fall.

When we talk about gun violence we almost always focus on the criminal aspects, and forget the public health questions. We forget that there are thousands of gunshot victims who die by their own hand. The president briefly broached the topic, saying that while the majority of young homicide victims are black or Latino, the overwhelming majority of suicides by young people are white. If we are to truly host a national conversation about gun violence and commit ourselves to real solutions, we cannot forget the people who die alone in the dark. They rarely make the news and, like tonight, too little attention is paid to their pain.

I am grateful for this life, thankful for my children who are now taking the world on their own terms. I cannot wait to hold my second grandchild. Too many Americans will miss moments like these.

We can do something about that.


By: Goldie Taylor, The Daily Beast, January 8, 2016

January 9, 2016 Posted by | Gun Violence, Guns, Suicide | , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

“Here’s How To End The NRA’s Stranglehold On Gun Policy”: Dislodging The Current Hard-Line Leadership With A Palace Coup

Supporters of gun control often characterize the National Rifle Association as a permanent obstacle to sensible reform. Many believe that the group will do anything in its power to keep pushing firearms into a free-for-all marketplace.

But there may be a way to short-circuit the NRA’s grasp on Congress: It involves dislodging the current hard-line leadership with a palace coup — a reverse-replay of the same tactic that brought the guns-above-all wing of the organization into power less than 40 years ago.

The NRA has historically been a far more benign organization, mostly concerned with sport hunting, safety and marksmanship contests. In fact, it had been co-founded immediately after the Civil War by a reporter from the New York Times, ex-Union Army lieutenant colonel William Conant Church, who had been worried about the poor aim of the troops under his command.

In 1934 the NRA’s president testified before Congress: “I do not believe in the general promiscuous toting of guns. I think it should be sharply restricted and only under licenses.” As historian Adam Winkler has noted, the group almost never discussed the Second Amendment in any of its official literature, let alone in its currently strident terms. After the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963, the group even favored the end of mail-order rifle sales.

But anxiety about urban crime in the 1970s, combined with gun restrictions enacted out of alarm at the Black Power movement, convinced a subsection of the NRA to make a radical shift in focus. They arrived at the annual meeting on May 21, 1977, at the Cincinnati Convention Center wearing orange hunting caps and, in a parliamentary procedural duel lasting  until 4 a.m., ousted the gun-conservative “Old Guard” from the board.

The insurgents scrapped a plan to move the NRA headquarters from Washington to Colorado Springs, and later built a fortress office in Fairfax, Va. A new executive vice president named Harlon Carter, a Texan with an intolerance for dissent, summed up the new philosophy: “We can win it on a simple concept — no compromise. No gun legislation.” The following year, an ambitious young lobbyist named Wayne LaPierre came on board and made intimidation a business strategy. Today he is executive vice president.

The NRA loves to use the phrase “responsible gun owners” to distinguish their membership from criminals, and indeed, polls from the Pew Research Center show that 74 percent of the membership supports universal background checks. The power of the hard-liners is only reinforced by those members passionate enough to actually show up to NRA conventions and vote in its customarily pro-forma elections.

What’s needed now is for this level-headed majority lurking within the NRA to take over the 76-member board by political force — an exact reversal of what happened to the NRA in Cincinnati.

Any NRA member may put himself or herself forward on the ballot by gathering 250 signatures on a petition. The four-decade reign of darkness that has cost hundreds of thousands of American lives could be put to an end on May 21, 2016, at the next convention in Louisville, Ky.

The leadership is aware that such a move is possible and has acted to squelch challenges through its nominating committee, which endorses its preferred candidates for the board. But an informed rump caucus can still put its candidates forward to a floor vote. All it would take is enough moderates who have grown disgusted with the current regime to make the trip to Kentucky. The annual membership meeting tends to be attended by very few of the actual members, and — even if a coup fails — a vigorous discussion might force some concessions and give hope to those who see the NRA as unbreakable.

There’s another reason for a royal Restoration beyond saving lives, and it has to do with the preservation of the NRA as a legitimate body. Its current path is both reckless and unsustainable. It supports policies that benefit criminals. It gives all gun owners a disreputable name and lumps them in with the zealots.

Should an internal coup be successful, there would, of course, be an immediate regrouping. It’s entirely possible that extremists would form a brand-new organization dedicated to the same bullying tactics or would join already-existing fringe groups. But it would also disrupt the gun rights bloc, which has for too long covered up a long-simmering ideological divide between those who recognize the need for sane regulations and safety precautions and those who cry apocalypse at the slightest twinge of government movement.

Honor and prudence must be restored to gun ownership in the United States before the private ownership of firearms becomes even more disreputable. Instead of continuing its deadly obstructionism, the NRA can purge itself of its Gucci-clad fanatics and practice some genuine leadership.


By: Tom Zoellner, Opinion Page, In Theory, The Washington Post, December 11, 2015

December 12, 2015 Posted by | Gun Control, Guns, Gunsense, National Rifle Association, Wayne LaPierre | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“It’s Time To Ban Guns. Yes, All of Them”: Urgently Needs To Become A Rhetorical And Conceptual Possibility

Ban guns. All guns. Get rid of guns in homes, and on the streets, and, as much as possible, on police. Not just because of San Bernardino, or whichever mass shooting may pop up next, but also not not because of those. Don’t sort the population into those who might do something evil or foolish or self-destructive with a gun and those who surely will not. As if this could be known—as if it could be assessed without massively violating civil liberties and stigmatizing the mentally ill. Ban guns! Not just gun violence. Not just certain guns. Not just already-technically-illegal guns. All of them.

I used to refer to my position on this issue as being in favor of gun control. Which is true, except that “gun control” at its most radical still tends to refer to bans on certain weapons and closing loopholes. The recent New York Times front-page editorial, as much as it infuriated some, was still too tentative. “Certain kinds of weapons, like the slightly modified combat rifles used in California, and certain kinds of ammunition, must be outlawed for civilian ownership,” the paper argued, making the case for “reasonable regulation,” nothing more. Even the rare ban-guns arguments involve prefacing and hedging and disclaimers. “We shouldn’t ‘take them away’ from people who currently own them, necessarily,” writes Hollis Phelps in Salon. Oh, but we should.

I say this not to win some sort of ideological purity contest, but because banning guns urgently needs to become a rhetorical and conceptual possibility. The national conversation needs to shift from one extreme—an acceptance, ranging from complacent to enthusiastic, of an individual right to own guns—to another, which requires people who are not politicians to speak their minds. And this will only happen if the Americans who are quietly convinced that guns are terrible speak out.

Their wariness, as far as I can tell, comes from two issues: a readiness to accept the Second Amendment as a refutation, and a reluctance to impose “elite” culture on parts of the country where guns are popular. (There are other reasons as well, not least a fear of getting shot.) And there’s the extent to which it’s just so ingrained that banning guns is impossible, legislatively and pragmatically, which dramatically weakens the anti-gun position.

The first issue shouldn’t be so complicated. It doesn’t take specialized expertise in constitutional law to understand that current U.S. gun law gets its parameters from Supreme Court interpretations of the Second Amendment. But it’s right there in the First Amendment that we don’t have to simply nod along with what follows. That the Second Amendment has been liberally interpreted doesn’t prevent any of us from saying it’s been misinterpreted, or that it should be repealed.

When you find yourself assuming that everyone who has a more nuanced (or just pro-gun) argument is simply better read on the topic, remember that opponents of abortion aren’t wondering whether they should have a more nuanced view of  abortion because of Roe v. Wade. They’re not keeping their opinions to themselves until they’ve got a term paper’s worth of material proving that they’ve studied the relevant case law.

Then there is the privilege argument. If you grew up somewhere in America where gun culture wasn’t a thing (as is my situation; I’m an American living in Canada), or even just in a family that would have never considered gun ownership, you’ll probably be accused of looking down your nose at gun culture. As if gun ownership were simply a cultural tradition to be respected, and not, you know, about owning guns. Guns… I mean, must it really be spelled out what’s different? It’s absurd to reduce an anti-gun position to a snooty aesthetic preference.

There’s also a more progressive version of this argument, and a more contrarian one, which involves suggesting that an anti-gun position is racist, because crackdowns on guns are criminal-justice interventions. Progressives who might have been able to brush off accusations of anti-rural-white classism may have a tougher time confronting arguments about the disparate impact gun control policies can have on marginalized communities.

These, however, are criticisms of certain tentative, insufficient gun control measures—the ones that would leave small-town white families with legally-acquired guns well enough alone, allowing them to shoot themselves or one another and to let their guns enter the general population.

Ban Guns, meanwhile, is not discriminatory in this way. It’s not about dividing society into “good” and “bad” gun owners. It’s about placing gun ownership itself in the “bad” category. It’s worth adding that the anti-gun position is ultimately about police not carrying guns, either. That could never happen, right? Well, certainly not if we keep on insisting on its impossibility.

Ask yourself this: Is the pro-gun side concerned with how it comes across? More to the point: Does the fact that someone opposes gun control demonstrate that they’re culturally sensitive to the concerns of small-town whites, as well as deeply committed to fighting police brutality against blacks nationwide? I’m going to go with no and no on these. (The NRA exists!)

On the pro-gun-control side of things, there’s far too much timidity. What’s needed to stop all gun violence is a vocal ban guns contingent. Getting bogged down in discussions of what’s feasible is keeps what needs to happen—no more guns—from entering the realm of possibility. Public opinion needs to shift. The no-guns stance needs to be an identifiable place on the spectrum, embraced unapologetically, if it’s to be reckoned with.


By: Phoebe Maltz Bovy, The New Republic, December 10, 2015

December 11, 2015 Posted by | Gun Control, Gun Violence, Guns, National Rifle Association | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Squirt Gun Rambo’s”: When Fake Guns Are Banned And Real Guns Are Protected

Three years ago, Tampa was getting ready to host the Republican National Convention, and local officials took a variety of steps to improve public safety for those attending the event. Among the items prohibited in the area outside the convention center? Water guns – but not real guns. The former was deemed a possible threat to public safety, while the latter was protected by state law.

A similar issue came up recently in Tennessee.

The Tennessee House of Representatives passed a bill Monday night that makes it illegal to take a squirt gun – but not a real gun – within 150 feet of a school.

The new ban was included in a larger bill that would nix any local laws prohibiting people with gun permits from taking guns to parks.

The headline in The Tennessean read, in all seriousness, “House bill bans fake guns – not real guns – near schools.”

What’s especially striking about this story are the circumstances that led state lawmakers to take a look at gun policy in the first place.

As Rachel noted on the show last night, the National Rifle Association’s annual conference starts this week in Nashville, and Tennessee’s Republican-led state government was looking for a way to approve a “thank-you” gift to the NRA in the form of new state policy. The legislature set aside several days of legislating on the issue, which affectionately became known as “gun week.”

As part of the process, lawmakers wondered what to do about a guy known locally as “the Radnor Lake Rambo,” who has a habit of walking around outside courthouses and schools while wearing a bulletproof vest and carrying an assault rifle, which tends to freak people out.

So, one Republican state legislator figured that as long as Tennessee was in the midst of “gun week,” maybe they should do something about the Rambo guy who tends to scare the bejesus out of people. But GOP lawmakers also didn’t want to do anything that might offend the National Rifle Association.

What’d they come up with? A ban on squirt guns. As Rachel explained:

“It’s a ban on fake guns, toy guns, things like squirt guns would be banned specifically anywhere near Tennessee schools. No squirt guns, no fake guns within 150 feet of Tennessee schools.

 “Real guns are still OK. But squirt guns and toy guns would be illegal outside of schools under the new law. The ostensible reason for this new language was to respond to the Radnor Lake Rambo guy. The Tennessean newspaper helpfully points out that that guy is actually carrying real guns, so he’d still be OK to keep doing what he’s doing under the new law. But if your personal plan to stop that guy was to sully his bullet proof vest with a squirt from your super soaker, you would be the Tennessee gun criminal now, not him.”

Right. If you stood near a school with a loaded AR-15, that would be legal. If you stood near a school with a water pistol, that’d be illegal.

This, evidently, got a little too weird for the legislature, which decided to slow the whole process down, even if that meant not being able to present the NRA with a legislative gift by tomorrow.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 10, 2015

April 11, 2015 Posted by | Guns, National Rifle Association | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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