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“A Much Less Safe Neighborhood”: The NRA And The “Wave Of Fear” Prevails In Colorado

In the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, several states took action in the hopes of preventing future gun violence. States like Delaware, New Jersey, and Connecticut each passed meaningful measures over the objections of far-right activists and the National Rifle Association.

So too did Colorado, where memories of the massacre at an Aurora movie theater were still fresh when the violence in Newtown occurred. Though the state has traditionally been resistant to gun reforms, lawmakers and Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) approved new measures in March to expand background checks and restrict high-capacity magazines — policies that even conservative Supreme Court justices have said are constitutional.

But the NRA and the right decided these efforts to reduce gun violence cannot stand, and they launched the first-ever recall elections in Colorado history. Yesterday, their gambit worked.

Two Colorado legislators who supported stricter gun control laws lost their jobs on Tuesday in an unprecedented recall election that became the center of the national debate over regulating firearms.

Senate President John Morse and Sen. Angela Giron were both defeated, the Denver Post reported, in the recall effort.

They’ll both be replaced with Republicans allied with the NRA, but this will not affect partisan control of Colorado’s state Senate, where Democrats will maintain a narrow majority.

Morse, a former police chief, was slated to leave office next year anyway, making his recall election more symbolic. Giron, first elected three years ago, has vowed to continue to find ways to serve her community.

Morse said last night, “We made Colorado safer from gun violence. If it cost me my political career, that’s a small price to pay.”

Let’s pause for a moment to ponder how remarkable it is that a respected lawmaker’s career had to end because he approved legal measures intended to prevent gun deaths.

The NRA, it’s worth noting, originally sought five recall elections against Democrats, but in the other three cases, the right-wing group failed to gather sufficient petition signatures.

But what, ultimately, was the point? If control of the state Senate was not at stake, Morse was retiring next year anyway, and the gun reforms aren’t going to be repealed anytime soon, why bother with multi-million-dollar recall elections with no precedent in state history?

The answer, of course, was that the NRA and far-right activists want to send a message to policymakers everywhere: efforts to prevent gun violence will end your career, too. Watch on YouTube

Indeed, the right has been quite explicit on this point. My colleague Laura Conaway posted this item a few weeks ago, featuring remarks from a local recall proponent.

For those who can’t watch clips online, the man in the video, Jon Caldara of the Colorado Independence Institute, argued:

“If the president of the Senate of Colorado, who did nothing except pass the laws that Bloomberg wrote, gets knocked out, there will be a shudder, a wave of fear that runs across every state legislator across the country, that says, ‘I ain’t doing that ever. That is not happening to me. I will not become a national embarrassment, I will not take on those guys.’ That’s how big this is.”

The goal of the NRA and its allies, then, was to create “a wave of fear.” Yesterday, they convinced just enough Coloradans who found this message appealing.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 11, 2013

September 12, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence, National Rifle Association | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Care Bears Plan”: Mitt Romney Seems Confused About Aurora

Mitt Romney may need to brush up on how he handles the topic of gun control, because what he said in an interview today with Brian Williams made no sense. Asked whether he could “see the argument” of people who question whether citizens should be allowed to buy AR-15 assault rifles or purchase 6,000 rounds of ammunition online, Romney responded:

ROMNEY: “Well this person shouldn’t have had any kind of weapons and bombs and other devices and it was illegal for him to have many of those things already. But he had them. And so we can sometimes hope that just changing the law will make all bad things go away. It won’t. Changing the heart of the American people may well be what’s essential, to improve the lots of the American people.”

Let’s break this down, piece by piece:

“Well this person shouldn’t have had any kind of weapons and bombs and other devices and it was illegal for him to have many of those things already. But he had them.”

We don’t yet know what chemicals Holmes used to make his booby traps or how he acquired them. But the weapons he used — including a semiautomatic assault rifle with a 100-round magazine — to actually shoot dozens of people were all purchased legally. That’s, uh, why he had them.

“And so we can sometimes hope that just changing the law will make all bad things go away. It won’t.”

Literally nobody believes that stricter gun-control laws would “make all bad things go away.” The point is to save lives by making it more difficult to kill people. Romney knows this — after all, he signed an assault-weapon ban into law as governor of Massachusetts.

“Changing the heart of the American people may well be what’s essential to improve the lots of the American people.”

Is that his actual plan? Let’s call up the Care Bears, maybe they can bathe all of America in the glow of their belly-rays and dissuade everyone from carrying out any more massacres.


By: Dan Amira, Daily Intel, July 25, 2012

July 26, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, Gun Violence | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Mourning and Mulling”: We Can’t Keep Digging Graves Where Common Ground Should Be

America is aching.

There are some events that we never grow numb to, things that weigh heavily on our sense of humanity and national psyche.

Early Friday morning, 24-year-old James Holmes, masked and armed, entered a crowded movie theater in Aurora, Colo., and opened fire. After things settled, at least 12 people were dead and 59 were left wounded.

It is on days like this that we are reminded of how much more alike than different we are, when we see that tears have no color, when ideologies melt into a common heart broken by sorrow.

But it is also on days like this that the questions invariably come.

They are questions about the shooter. How deep must the hole have been in his life? How untenable was the ache? How cold must the heart have grown? When did he cross the line from malcontent to monster?

But there are also questions for us as a country and as a people. We are called to question our values and our laws, and those obviously include our gun laws.

My own feelings on the matter are complicated.

I grew up in a small town in northern Louisiana — in the sticks. Everyone there seemed to own guns, even the children. My brothers slept beneath a gun rack that hung over their bed. Women carried handguns for protection. Even now, my oldest brother is an amateur gun dealer, buying and selling guns at his local gun shows.

There are parts of America where guns are simply part of the culture, either for hunting and keeping the vermin out of the garden (there are more humane methods of doing this, of course, but some people simply have their ways), or for collecting. (According to a 2011 Gallup poll, 45 percent of Americans have a gun in their home.)

But, as a child, I also saw how guns could be used in a fit of anger or after a few swigs of liquor. And I have seen the damage they do to the fabric of society in big cities where criminals and cowards alike use them to settle disputes and even scores.

While I hesitate to issue blanket condemnations about gun ownership — my upbringing simply doesn’t support that — common sense would seem to dictate that it is prudent and wise to consider the place of guns in modern societies. It has been some time since we have needed to raise a militia, but senseless violence is all too common. The right to bear arms is constitutional, but the right to be safe even if you don’t bear arms would seem universal. We must ask ourselves the hard question: Can both rights be equally protected and how can they best be balanced?

As Howard Steven Friedman, a statistician and health economist for the United Nations, wrote for The Huffington Post in April:

“America’s homicide rates, incarceration rates and gun ownership rates are all much higher than other wealthy countries. While the data associated with crime is imperfect, these facts all point to the idea that America is more violent than many other wealthy countries.” This is not the way in which we should seek to excel.

There are whole swaths of gun owners who don’t use their guns in a criminal way. But many of the people who use guns to commit murder are also law-abiding until they’re not. (Holmes’s only previous brush with the law seems to have been a 2011 traffic summons.) We shouldn’t simply wait for the bodies to fall to separate the wheat from the chaff.

One step in the right direction would be to reinstate the assault weapons ban. Even coming from a gun culture, I cannot rationalize the sale of assault weapons to everyday citizens. (The Washington Post reported that Holmes had a shotgun, two pistols and an AR-15 assault rifle, all legally purchased.)

But this will be an uphill battle because the National Rifle Association has been extremely effective at promoting its agenda and sowing fears that gun rights are in jeopardy even when they are not. Much of that campaign has been aimed at painting President Obama as an enemy of the Second Amendment, and it has been exceedingly successful.

That 2011 Gallup poll, in a reversal from previous polls, found that most people are now against an assault weapons ban. (In general, the desire for stricter gun control laws has been falling for the last two decades.)

We simply have to take some reasonable steps toward making sure that all our citizens are kept safer — those with guns and those without.

We can’t keep digging graves where common ground should be.


By: Charles Blow, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, July 20, 2012


July 21, 2012 Posted by | Gun Violence | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Let’s Talk About Guns”: Why New Gun Control Is Not Likely To Follow Tragedy

Before the sun had even risen in Aurora, Colo., the shooting there last night had reignited the debate over gun control, with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, one of the country’s most outspoken advocates of gun regulations, demanding action. While it may seem a bit crass to turn to politics so soon, it is worth asking how this could happen less than 30 minutes away from Littleton, the Colorado town where the 1999 Columbine high school massacre left a lasting scar on the state and the country for years.

While the emotional damage from Columbine may linger, its policy effects did not. After the school shooting, the state legislature, like many across the country, pushed a flight of bills aimed at making it more difficult for kids to get hold of guns. Lawmakers sought to close the “gun show loophole,” which allows people who buy guns at conventions, instead of brick-and-mortar retailers, to avoid a background check. They also aimed for a law requiring guns to be stored with trigger locks or in safes at home, and tried to increase the age someone could buy a handgun from 18 to 21.

But a year later, almost all of these bills had been shot down thanks to effective lobbying from the NRA and other gun groups. The only laws that passed were token ones the gun lobby supported, like allowing police to arrest people who knowingly purchased guns for criminals. The NRA spent $16,950 in January of 2000 alone fighting gun laws. “[It’s a] tremendous amount of money,” Pete Maysmith of Colorado Common Cause, a government watchdog group, told CBS News in February of that year. “$16,000 in one month going into the Colorado Legislature — it’s a financial arms race.”

More than a decade after Columbine, gun laws across the country are more lax than ever. Opponents of gun control say legislation wouldn’t have prevented the Columbine massacre or any other major shooting, which may be true to varying degrees, depending on the shooting. Early reports indicate the suspect in last night’s theater shooting had an AK-47-type weapon, some variants of which were outlawed under the Federal Assault Weapons Ban. That law was signed by President Clinton in 1994 but expired 10 years later and is not likely to be reauthorized.

The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza, writes today, “If history is any guide, however, the Aurora shootings will do little to change public sentiment regarding gun control, which has been moving away from putting more laws on the books for some time.” Indeed, the experience after the Columbine shooting shows he may be right.


By: Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, July 20, 2012

July 21, 2012 Posted by | Gun Violence | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments


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