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“Gun Nuts: Arm The Mentally Ill!”: Is This The Week The NRA Finally Jumped The Shark?

What a week it’s been for the Second Amendment. For starters, noted political philosopher Vince Vaughn said firearms should be available like they’re in candy machines at our nation’s schools. Probably because you never know when you’ll have to engage in pitched battle with Dean Pritchard to keep your frat house on campus.

OK, that’s not the actual reason, but his regurgitation of pretty much every inane—and wrong!—talking point he seems to have snorted off the National Rifle Association looking glass is no less fictitious.

But I guess there must be a full moon out for the wolves of Winchester this week, because along with the wit and wisdom of Mr. Vaughn, the NRA’s decided to pop off about the rights of domestic abusers and the dangerously mentally ill to have access to any ol’ gun they please.

This latest freakout was in response to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF) looking to bring back a rule proposed in 1998 that would block misdemeanor domestic abusers from owning or purchasing guns.

Tyranny, really.

Because, you see, in their tiny, malfunctioning cerebral cortexes, it’s a defensive maneuver. It’s an effort to prevent President Obama from engaging in the unprecedented confiscation of all guns, a move they’ve predicted since the day they heard the name Obama and just knew something had gone awry.

Much like the guy screaming about the end of the world on the street corner, when it doesn’t happen, the NRA just pushes back the timeline a bit, rinses and repeats. Considering their target audience is comprised of the same old white men who buy penis pills via group email, pulling this off is not as difficult as one would imagine.

There has been much already said about the NRA’s putting guns in the hands of the mentally disturbed by blocking universal background checks, which is really the most reasonable legislation imaginable. You can read more about that here and here. But not nearly enough time has been spent on the tragic role guns play in domestic violence.

The stats, of course, don’t lie, as much as discredited, sham researchers like the infamous John Lott try to tell you your nose is not in front of your face. This is why, on the same day as the first national Wear Orange Day, in which celebrities, policymakers, and regular Joes and Janes all across the country are sporting orange to honor victims of gun violence and say enough already, the U.S. House of Representatives is holding hearings on “Domestic Violence and Guns: An Epidemic for Women and Families.”

For an epidemic it is. Over half of all women killed by partners between 2003 and 2012 were murdered with guns. A gun’s presence makes a woman seven times more likely to be murdered by her abuser.

And, of course, the simple stat that belies what the NRA and all those Twitter trolls posing with their AK-girlfriends spew out. You know, the ones suffering from Gunorrhea, who like to hock out one canard after another—more guns means less crime, good guys with guns are like Iron Man, and other assorted delirium and detritus—women in the United States are 11 times more likely to be murdered with a gun than in other high-income countries.

This all just gets a collective yawn from the almost entirely male leadership of the NRA. When they’re not watering down legislation meant to protect women in Louisiana, blocking federal legislation to stop abusers from accessing guns, or actually committing these very transgressions themselves.

Because, who honestly thinks stalkers should have their guns taken away? Show of hands, NRA brass?

Gun nuts love to talk about “freedom.” Although, when hearing them utter it, it becomes meaningless to American women, who enjoy the “freedom” to be stalked and killed like animals because of gun fondlers, profiteers, and their squeezes in our legislative bodies. It leads me to think the word only applies to the male of our species in their vision, where, as Janis Joplin once sang, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”

 

By: Cliff Schecter, The Daily Beast, June 3, 2015

June 4, 2015 Posted by | Domestic Violence, Gun Violence, Mental Illness, National Rifle Association | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“From Poor Regulation To Terrorism”: Texas’ Wild West Approach To Protecting Public Health And Safety

You might think the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, that leveled the town and killed 14 people would have given pause to those conservative policymakers and boosters in the Lone Star State who proudly boast of a “Texas Way” in which job-creators aren’t hassled by pointy-headed bureaucrats and regulators or income taxes or any of those other new-fangled socialist devices. But no: under the leadership of Gov. Rick Perry, we learn from a New York Times story today, Texas government and business officials are going out of their way to reiterate that this is a place where the Bidnessman walks tall, and poor living standards and high workplace risks are just the price of keeping job creators fat and happy.

Texas has always prided itself on its free-market posture. It is the only state that does not require companies to contribute to workers’ compensation coverage. It boasts the largest city in the country, Houston, with no zoning laws. It does not have a state fire code, and it prohibits smaller counties from having such codes. Some Texas counties even cite the lack of local fire codes as a reason for companies to move there.

But Texas has also had the nation’s highest number of workplace fatalities — more than 400 annually — for much of the past decade. Fires and explosions at Texas’ more than 1,300 chemical and industrial plants have cost as much in property damage as those in all the other states combined for the five years ending in May 2012. Compared with Illinois, which has the nation’s second-largest number of high-risk sites, more than 950, but tighter fire and safety rules, Texas had more than three times the number of accidents, four times the number of injuries and deaths, and 300 times the property damage costs….

“The Wild West approach to protecting public health and safety is what you get when you give companies too much economic freedom and not enough responsibility and accountability,” said Thomas O. McGarity, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin School of Law and an expert on regulation.

So I’d bet today’s news that Texas law enforcement officials have launched a criminal investigation based on reports that federal agents found bomb-making materials in the possession of a paramedic who was on the scene in West is going to generate a lot of excitement in the state’s conservative circles. True, the suspect who was arrested by the ATF isn’t an Arab or even a Chechen, and no one knows at this point if he had anything to do with the explosion, and if so, what his motives might have been.

But Lord a-mercy, wouldn’t it be nice if it was a terrorist and not an industry or lawmakers or regulators we ought to be looking at in connection with this tragedy? The very possibility must be worth toasting in certain circles during today’s Texas happy hours.

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, May 10, 2013

May 12, 2013 Posted by | Public Health, Public Safety | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Mass Murder Lobby”: How The NRA Impeded The Boston Bomber Investigation

The intense hunt for the Boston Marathon bombers illustrates another way that the National Rifle Association helps mass murderers — by delaying how quickly they can be identified.

The inability to quickly track the gunpowders in the Boston bombs is due to government policy designed and promoted by the NRA, which has found a way to transform every massacre associated with weapons into an opportunity for the munitions companies that sustain it to sell more guns, gunpowder and bullets.

The price for such delays was put on terrible display Friday morning when the two brothers, who had been caught on video placing the bombs, killed one police officer, wounded another and carjacked a motorist, creating conditions so unsafe that the 7th largest population center in America spent Friday on lockdown.

But for the NRA-backed policy of not putting identifiers known as taggants in gunpowder, law enforcement could have quickly identified the explosives used to make the bombs, tracking them from manufacture to retail sale. That could well have saved the life of Sean Collier, the 26-year-old MIT police officer who was gunned down Thursday night by the fleeing bomb suspects.

Had the suspects in the Boston bombings killed by slipping poison into bottled water or canned food at a factory, or lacing spinach in a field with a deadly chemical, it would have taken only minutes to a few hours to identify exactly where that food was manufactured and how it moved through the food chain. That would have quickly narrowed the search for suspects.

With many food products you can use a smartphone app to scan the product’s barcode and learn where, when and by what company the product was made. Cans and bottles also come with codes printed or stamped on them to help stop foodborne illness by tracking products to their source.

“With almost any food these days you can quickly track it from the source to the store where it was sold,” according to Bill Marler, a Seattle litigator who specializes in food safety cases and sponsors the website Food Safety News.

Had the Boston bombers used a plastic explosive, it would have included identifiers that would have allowed a quick trace. Those taggants exist because the NRA does not oppose them.

Why is that? Why this breach in the NRA’s Maginot Line of defense against reasonable regulation of guns and ammunition?

The answer appears to lie in who makes plastic explosives like Semtx, which was used to bring down Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988. The world’s main supplier was not a company that finances the NRA, but Libya under Moammar Khadafy.

That this one breach in NRA policy traces directly to the economic interests of the American munitions industry provides powerful evidence of what motivates the NRA – profits.

That the gun makers have managed to turn each massacre into a spike in sales of both expensive rapid-fire weapons and ammunition adds to the evidence that the NRA should be viewed as the mass-murder lobby.

The major source of plastic explosives may also be significant in understanding the NRA’s willingness to go along with taggants for plastic explosives, which are much more powerful than gunpowder.

But gunpowder, like guns, are extremely difficult to trace because for more than three decades the NRA has fought to make sure it’s difficult to almost impossible to do.

That difficulty results not from the technical issues at hand, though the NRA tries to make people think that’s the case by mischaracterizing a 1980 government report.

In the case of guns, the NRA claims anything remotely resembling a gun registry or a national database tracking guns from manufacturer to retail sale would help the government disarm the citizenry. In this the NRA fuels the fantasy that in the event the American government turned on the people, bands of armed patriots could defeat the military with its trained soldiers, aircraft, drones, advanced weaponry and communications.

Iraqi households almost all had guns, too, but that did not protect them from their country’s military or the invading American-led ground forces a decade ago.

Bombs have long been used in America for personal, criminal and political purposes. The frequency of bombings may surprise many people given the intense focus on the Boston bombs.

Roughly 5,000 bombings and attempted bombings are reported in the U.S. each year, according to Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms reports.

The ATF data, like that the FBI gathers, takes a broad measure, counting bombs made from matchsticks as well as dynamite.

The level of reported bombings in 2011 and 2012 was triple the number compared to more than four decades ago, when I wrote a three-part series in the afternoon San Jose News on homemade explosive devices. Back then, as a staff writer for the morning San Jose Mercury, I covered California radicals, left and right, and the cops trying to catch them. I even got one bomb-maker in 1972 to invite me home to see a nonworking bomb model fashioned from advice in a book we both owned, anti-war protester William Powell’s The Anarchist Cook Book.

Hobbling law enforcement, and attacking it, has long been an NRA strategy.

After the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, federal agents had a tough time tracing the fertilizer used to make the bomb that killed 168 people and injured 680 more because the NRA had fought using identifiers for explosives.

As my then-colleague Fox Butterfield reported in The New York Times three weeks after the crime:

Technological advances in the last three decades might have made it harder to build such a bomb and easier to trace its origin, the experts say, but gun enthusiasts and makers of fertilizer and explosives have repeatedly blocked efforts to put the research to use.

“It is just amazing that in this dangerous time, fanatical, boneheaded people are opposed to controls on explosives,” said then-Representative Charles E. Schumer, a Democrat from Brooklyn, who introduced bills in 1993 and 1994 that would have forced manufacturers to add an identifying marker to explosives so their users could be tracked.

Mr. Schumer was referring primarily to the National Rifle Association and the explosives industry, which helped defeat the bills, citing among their objections safety hazards and reliability. The use of markers, they said, makes explosives more unstable and, when used in gunpowder, makes the charge less reliable.

Reynold Hoover, a former bomb expert with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, said his agency had money in the budget in the 1970s to develop a tagging or identification agent, known as a taggant. The 3M Corporation devised the technology by the late ’70s, said Mr. Hoover, now a consultant in Washington: fluorescent particles that could be detected by ultraviolet light. Manufacturers would use a different taggant in each batch.

Although up to 90 percent of taggants might be destroyed in a detonation, enough would remain to reveal their source.

In 1979, while conducting a $5 million pilot project using taggants in some seven million pounds of explosives, the ATF was able to track down and convict James L. McFillin, who had used an explosive, Tovex 220, to make a bomb that killed one man and injured another in Baltimore.

But shortly afterward, Congress ordered the bureau to stop work on ways to trace explosives. At the time, Representative William J. Hughes, the New Jersey Democrat who headed the House subcommittee on crime, said the National Rifle Association and makers of explosives had pressured Congress to block the program.

The NRA opposed using taggants, saying they would contaminate some explosives used by gun hobbyists, like old-fashioned gunpowder called black powder and the newer smokeless powder. It said people who liked to fire antique rifles or who loaded their own ammunition would have to use less accurate gunpowder.

Let’s not forget what Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s CEO, said shortly after that terrorist act in Oklahoma City. LaPierre went on the attack against law enforcement, comparing federal agents to the Nazis and calling them “jack-booted thugs.”

Former president George H.W. Bush then resigned from the NRA in protest, but LaPierre kept his job, which speaks volumes.

As for taggants, the “study” the NRA cites to show that good science found taggants would make gunpowder less reliable and would not work was in fact only a review of the literature.

Anyone who actually reads the 1980 report, “Taggants in Explosives,” will find this revealing line by the Office of Technology Assessment: “Due to severe time constraints, OTA did little original research.”

Technology has advanced since that report, which is so old that it was prepared on a typewriter.

We can get identifiers put in gunpowders because of technological advances, just as reports get prepared these days on computers. And if “good science” says existing taggants fall short, then Congress can fund research to develop taggants that work without degrading the quality of the explosive charge in bullets.

But as the votes in the Senate killing modest gun regulation and controls on gun trafficking showed this week, what stands firmly in the way of reducing mass murders and bombings is one organization and its backers.

We can change that, once the public understands that the NRA is not so much a defender of Second Amendment rights as a lobby for enabling mass murder.

By: David Cay Johnson, The National Memo, April 20, 2013

April 21, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence, National Rifle Association | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Bridge Too Far”: GOP Sees Background Checks As Too Much Paperwork

Before the Senate left for their spring recess, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) made clear what he and his party expect of legislation to reduce gun violence. While he said several key provisions are negotiable, “[I]n order to be effective, any bill that passes the Senate must include background checks.”

At least on the surface, it would seem to be the most difficult provision to oppose. Expanded background checks enjoy extraordinary levels of public support, even among gun owners, and there are no constitutional concerns to speak of. Critics of the idea have generally been reduced to making up nonsense and conspiracy theories, unable to think of any substantive arguments.

It would seem, then, that expanded background checks would be the kind of measure that might actually pass. And yet, on the Sunday shows, Republican senators rejected the popular idea out of hand.

In this clip, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) said closing the gun-show loophole is “a bridge too far” for most Senate Republicans. He added that the “paperwork requirements alone would be significant.”

The nation would like to reduce mass murders, but for some federal lawmakers, “paperwork requirements” have to take precedence?

Similarly, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) was asked whether expanded background checks can survive in the Senate. “I don’t think so,” he said. “I don’t think it makes any sense. The current system is broken. Fix the current system.”

By “fix the current system,” Graham apparently envisions efforts to improve the existing background database while enforcing the law more diligently — that might be possible if Senate Republicans weren’t also blocking ATF from functioning effectively — all while leaving the massive gun-show loophole in place, on purpose.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 1, 2013

April 1, 2013 Posted by | Gun Control, Gun Violence | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Fast And Loose”: A Contemptuous Vote In The House Of Representatives

The House is due to vote Thursday on whether to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress — setting up a protracted, unnecessary and expensive court battle between coequal branches of government about the extent of executive privilege. To say this is a terrible misuse of Congress’s power is an understatement.

The dispute stems from a botched federal investigation into firearm trafficking along the U.S.-Mexico border. In an operation named after a blockbuster movie, “Fast and Furious,” federal law enforcement used the scandalous tactic of letting guns “walk” in hopes of tracking them to cartels. Unfortunately, federal officials failed to follow the guns across the border. We have learned that the Bush administration tried the same tactic in an operation called Wide Receiver — with similar results. Some guns from Fast and Furious were among those found where a U.S. Border Patrol agent, Brian Terry, tragically lost his life.

This certainly merits vigorous congressional oversight. But after 16 months, 7,600 documents and nine hearings with the attorney general, the investigation has become unmoored. It is no longer an examination of what went wrong in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives under both administrations. Rather, it has devolved into the latest partisan attack on the Obama presidency.

Holder has bent over backward to comply with all the requests from Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The attorney general only refused when Issa asked for materials such as internal deliberative communications, which the Justice Department is prohibited by law and privilege from providing.

GOP leadership has now made the absurd claim that assertion of executive privilege establishes that the White House was involved in the planning and aftermath of Fast and Furious. This fantasy shows a complete disregard for the well-established facts of this case and the law as argued by administrations from both parties. The White House assertion is backed by decades of precedent that has recognized the need for the president and his senior advisers to receive candid advice and information from their top aides.

So why is the House moving forward with this vote to hold the attorney general in contempt? Because the GOP leadership won’t take yes for an answer. It wants — and needs — a fight.

This contempt vote is over documents produced after February 2011 — a month after Fast and Furious reached its ignominious end. The papers could not shed light on what DOJ officials were thinking years earlier. It’s clear that this has morphed into an election-year hunt for a senior administration official’s scalp.

This is the type of politics that makes the American people fed up. It’s a lamentable distraction from the work we should be doing to get at the real problem — the mutually destructive trade of guns and drugs that has made our southern border less safe, resulted in the deaths of Americans and killed tens of thousands of Mexicans.

Pressing forward with the ATF rules requiring reporting when an individual buys more than one high-powered rifle along the border, as the administration is pursuing, or passing legislation to crack down on gun traffickers and those that provide them with weapons, as I have proposed, would give investigators and prosecutors the tools they have asked for and need.

It is difficult for Americans to grasp the scale and the brutality of the violence in Mexico — the battle against the drug cartels is a literal war for the Mexican authorities. But it’s a war fought with U.S. weapons. The cartels use the U.S. as their armory because of the easy availability of high-powered firearms.

For all the talk about Fast and Furious, Issa has been loath to discuss the steps we must take to stop the flow of weapons to some of this hemisphere’s most violent criminals.

The irony of this Republican plan to push ahead with a contempt citation is that it can only play out in a predictable scenario. The House will most likely pass the resolution on a party-line vote Thursday. The GOP majority will then go to court to obtain the documents. It will settle after months, or years, of costly litigation — and get exactly what Holder offered it last week.

But we will have lost an opportunity to put the politics aside and finally do something meaningful to fight the traffickers flooding Mexico with guns.

 

By: Rep Adam Schiff, Politico, June 26, 2012

 

 

 

June 28, 2012 Posted by | Congress | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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