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“Guns Are Out Of Control”: Some Extremists Fire Guns And Other Extremists Promote Guns

Over the last two decades, Canada has had eight mass shootings. Just so far this month, the United States has already had 20.

Canada has a much smaller population, of course, and the criteria researchers used for each country are slightly different, but that still says something important about public safety.

Could it be, as Donald Trump suggests, that the peril comes from admitting Muslims? On the contrary, Canadians are safe despite having been far more hospitable to Muslim refugees: Canada has admitted more than 27,000 Syrian refugees since November, some 10 times the number the United States has.

More broadly, Canada’s population is 3.2 percent Muslim, while the United States is about 1 percent Muslim — yet Canada doesn’t have massacres like the one we just experienced at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., or the one in December in San Bernardino, Calif. So perhaps the problem isn’t so much Muslims out of control but guns out of control.

Look, I grew up on a farm with guns. One morning when I was 10, we awoke at dawn to hear our chickens squawking frantically and saw a fox trotting away with one of our hens in its mouth. My dad grabbed his .308 rifle, opened the window and fired twice. The fox was unhurt but dropped its breakfast and fled. The hen picked herself up, shook her feathers indignantly and walked back to the barn. So in the right context, guns have their uses.

The problem is that we make no serious effort to keep firearms out of the hands of violent people. A few data points:

■ More Americans have died from guns, including suicides, since just 1970 than died in all the wars in U.S. history going back to the American Revolution.

■ The Civil War marks by far the most savage period of warfare in American history. But more Americans are now killed from guns annually, again including suicides, than were killed by guns on average each year during the Civil War (when many of the deaths were from disease, not guns).

■ In the United States, more preschoolers up through age 4 are shot dead each year than police officers are.

Canada has put in place measures that make it more difficult for a dangerous person to acquire a gun, with a focus not so much on banning weapons entirely (the AR-15 is available after undergoing safety training and a screening) as on limiting who can obtain one. In the United States, we lack even universal background checks, and new Harvard research to be published soon found that 40 percent of gun transfers didn’t even involve a background check.

We can’t prevent every gun death any more than we can prevent every car accident, and the challenge is particularly acute with homegrown terrorists like the one in Orlando. But experts estimate that a serious effort to reduce gun violence might reduce the toll by one-third, which would be more than 10,000 lives saved a year.

The Orlando killer would have been legally barred from buying lawn darts, because they were banned as unsafe. He would have been unable to drive a car that didn’t pass a safety inspection or that lacked insurance. He couldn’t have purchased a black water gun without an orange tip — because that would have been too dangerous.

But it’s not too dangerous to allow the sale of an assault rifle without even a background check?

If we’re trying to prevent carnage like that of Orlando, we need to be vigilant not only about infiltration by the Islamic State, and not only about American citizens poisoned into committing acts of terrorism. We also need to be vigilant about National Rifle Association-type extremism that allows guns to be sold without background checks.

It’s staggering that Congress doesn’t see a problem with allowing people on terror watch lists to buy guns: In each of the last three years, more than 200 people on the terror watch list have been allowed to purchase guns. We empower ISIS when we permit acolytes like the Orlando killer, investigated repeatedly as a terrorist threat, to buy a Sig Sauer MCX and a Glock 17 handgun on consecutive days.

A great majority of Muslims are peaceful, and it’s unfair to blame Islam for terrorist attacks like the one in Orlando. But it is important to hold accountable Gulf states like Saudi Arabia that are wellsprings of religious zealotry, intolerance and fanaticism. We should also hold accountable our own political figures who exploit tragic events to sow bigotry. And, yes, that means Donald Trump.

When Trump scapegoats Muslims, that also damages our own security by bolstering the us-versus-them narrative of ISIS. The lesson of history is that extremists on one side invariably empower extremists on the other.

So by all means, Muslims around the world should stand up to their fanatics sowing hatred and intolerance — and we Americans should stand up to our own extremist doing just the same.

 

By: Nicholas Kristof, Op-Ed Contributor, The New York Times, June 16, 2016

June 20, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Mass Shootings, National Rifle Association, Public Safety | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“For Trump, Muslims Are Terrifying, and Guns Are Great”: But Guns Kill A Lot More People Than Muslims Do

If a presidential candidate really wanted to keep American families safe, which threat would he focus on more: a), the one that has resulted in over 150,000 Americans being killed over the last 15 years on U.S. soil; or b), the one that has killed fewer than 50 Americans?

I’m going to bet that most would say the threat that has taken over 150,000 American lives including thousands of children. That threat, of course, is gun violence. In 2015 alone, 13,286 Americans were killed by firearms and over 25,000 were wounded.

Donald Trump, however, doesn’t want to talk gun violence. But he loves to talk about the danger posed by Muslim terrorism, which literally has resulted in zero American deaths in 2016 on U.S. soil. (The San Bernardino terror attack was in 2015.) In contrast, gun violence in 2016 has already claimed over 5,000 lives, including 219 children under eleven years old.

In fact since January, 23 Americans have been killed by toddlers with a gun, yet none by Muslim extremists. Can we expect Trump to call for a “total and complete shutdown” on toddlers until “our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on” with them?!

Trump apparently cares less about keeping your family safe from the threat that’s killing over 30 Americans every single day—including today. Rather Trump wants to scare you about Muslims and then save you from this threat. The irony is Trump’s proposed Muslims ban is not the mark of a strong leader, but rather the frightened and irrational response of a very scared man.

A real leader would address the threat taking American lives on a daily basis, even if that proved politically challenging. But just last week we saw Trump do the opposite.

After the EgyptAir flight crashed early Thursday, Trump didn’t wait for the authorities to release the facts. Instead he chose to politicize the tragedy for political gain based on a hunch. So at 6:30 a.m. Thursday, even before French or Egyptian officials had made public comments about the possible cause of the plane crash, Trump tweeted his own conclusion: “Looks like yet another terrorist attack. Airplane departed from Paris. When will we get tough, smart and vigilant? Great hate and sickness!”

Later Thursday, Trump doubled down, saying if you disagreed that the plane crash was a terror attack then “you’re 100 percent wrong.” (Apparently Trump knows more than Egyptian President Abdel el-Sisi, who stated Sunday morning, “There is no particular theory we can affirm right now,” adding, “this could take a long time but no one can hide these things.”)

And then Trump tripled down, issuing a statement reaffirming his proposal to ban over a billion Muslims because of the sins of a few: “Look at the carnage all over the world including the World Trade Center, San Bernardino, Paris, the USS Cole, Brussels and an unlimited number of other places.”

Now, in the same week when Trump was doing his best to scare Americans about Muslim terrorism, he spoke at ground zero for guns: the NRA convention. A leader concerned about saving American lives would’ve used this opportunity to at least raise proposals on how to reduce gun violence, such as calling for universal background checks to close what is known as the “gun show loophole.” In fact polls show that even NRA members strongly support this measure.

Or maybe he’d talk about the need for a federal law to monitor or even close down “bad apple” gun dealers that have been linked to a big chunk of guns used in crimes. Astoundingly, 5 percent of the gun dealers are linked to 90 percent of the guns used in crime, as noted by the Brady campaign.

No, of course Trump didn’t mention those things. Instead he served up a rambling speech that included the lie that Hillary Clinton wants to “ban every gun,” called for the elimination of gun free zones and joked that his sons own so many guns that “I get a little concerned.”

Stunningly, while Trump has no problem taking to Twitter to comment on almost any issue, for some reason he doesn’t want to tweet about the epidemic of gun violence. For example, there’s no mention in Trump’s Twitter feed of the 17 Americans killed during the week of April 14 in various mass shootings. That’s more killed than in the San Bernardino terror attack that left 14 dead, an attack that Trump has invoked countless times during this campaign.

Why hasn’t Trump taken a break from calling people “losers” to tweet condolences to the family of Yvonne Nelson, a 49-year-old Chicago city employee killed Friday by an errant bullet after she exited a Starbucks. How about a tweet concerning five-year-old Haley Moore, who was killed Saturday when a gun accidentally went off in her house? Or what about Amy Koegel, a 43-year-old Lexington, Kentucky woman killed over the weekend after being shot several times Friday by her boyfriend? (Over half of the women murdered with guns in the United States in 2011 were killed by intimate partners or family members.)

Are ISIS and Al Qaeda threats? Absolutely, and we must be vigilant in defending our nation from them. But if Trump truly cared about keeping your family safe, he would be raising the issue of gun violence at least as much as he talks Muslim terrorists.

The reality, however, is Trump only cares about what helps Trump and his campaign. So expect to hear Trump talk a lot more about Muslims and nothing about gun violence between now and November. Except maybe to regurgitate the NRA’s talking points after future mass shootings.

 

By: Dean Obeidallah, The Daily Beast, May 27, 2016

May 29, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Gun Violence, National Rifle Association, Terrorist Attacks | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Donald Trump’s Corrupt Bargain On Guns”: Where The Party’s Elites Pretend To Share The Base’s Cultural Values And Priorities

Donald Trump speaks before the National Rifle Association’s convention today, where he will enact a charade of cultural affinity for the assembled members, one utterly laughable in its insincerity. Not being there to ask them, I can’t say whether anyone in the hall actually believes that he means what he’ll say to them.

But as long as he hits the right notes — vowing to make sure guns are brought into as many places by as many people as possible, pouring sneering contempt on city slickers and egghead liberals, painting ludicrously paranoid pictures of America as a post-apocalyptic hellscape of crime and chaos, insisting that Hillary Clinton will singlehandedly destroy every right they treasure — it’ll be good enough for them.

This is a perfect expression of the larger Republican bargain, where the party’s elites pretend to share the base’s cultural values and priorities, and in exchange are put into office where they pursue an agenda of tax cuts and regulatory rollback. You can see it played out with one constituency group after another. For instance, when Trump stood before an audience of evangelicals and cited “Two Corinthians,” he quoted from the verse, then said, “Is that the one? Is that the one you like? I think that’s the one you like.”

The audience snickered at his ham-handed attempt at pandering, and when Trump says that the Bible is his favorite book (even better than The Art of the Deal!), nobody thinks he’s being honest. But guess what: Trump will have no trouble holding on to the evangelical vote in the fall. After some doubts, they came around to him, just like every Republican constituency group either has already or will before long.

It does take a bit of rationalization, but that’s often a part of the presidential campaign process. Once somebody is your party’s nominee, you’re going to work hard to convince yourself that he’s not just the least bad option, but somebody who’s actually terrific. So in the latest CBS/New York Times poll, 67 percent of Republican voters say Trump “shares their values,” even though for so many of them he plainly doesn’t. That number will probably climb higher between now and the election.

As for the NRA faithful, Trump is about as far from their values as he could be. A born-and-bred city dweller, he used to support an assault weapons ban and expanded background checks. In his 2000 book The America We Deserve he wrote that “The Republicans walk the NRA line and refuse even limited restrictions.”

But now he’s turned himself into a parody of a gun nut. He says he has a concealed-carry permit, he wants to rescind President Obama’s executive actions expanding background checks, he thinks assault weapons are tremendous, and he wants to make any permit you get in any state valid in the 49 other states, so people can bring their guns even where other states don’t want them. And as for gun-free zones, “My first day, it gets signed, okay? My first day. There’s no more gun-free zones.”

Trump is saying to gun advocates: Is that the one? Is that the one you like? I think that’s the one you like.

Gun advocates certainly get something substantive out of the deal: inaction. Fortunately for them, Trump doesn’t actually have to do much for them, since the status quo isn’t that bad as far as they’re concerned (forget about him wiping away gun-free school zones with a stroke of a pen on his first day — that exists as the result of a law passed by Congress in the 1990s, and it would take another act of Congress to repeal it). But the real appeal is cultural, and they want candidates to genuflect before that culture, no matter how baldly phony the act might be.

The NRA, which believe it or not used to be an organization devoted to promoting gun safety and good marksmanship, has succeeded over the last couple of decades in freighting guns with all kinds of cultural associations, making them one of the most powerful markers of identity in American life. They’ve encouraged people to think that gun ownership makes you self-reliant, independent, masculine, strong, capable, and patriotic — and anyone who thinks that 30,000 Americans killed by guns every year is a problem worth addressing must not be any of those things.

Those voters will be told that if they don’t get out and vote Republican, Hillary Clinton will send her jackbooted government thugs to break down their doors and take their guns, leaving them defenseless against the dusky horde of low-lifes lying in wait to kill them and rape their women. They will be told that it’s an emergency, that the gun-grabbing is set to begin the day after inauguration, that their lives and freedom and everything they hold dear hang in the balance.

“If you cherish Second Amendment rights, the stakes have never been higher than they are in this election,” says an NRA spokesperson, which is an amazing coincidence, considering that the stakes were never higher than they were in the last election, and the stakes were never higher than they were in the election before that, and the election before that and the election before that.

The cultural argument also helps cloud the fact that Republican politicians have chosen to take the positions of the NRA leadership, which are far more extreme not just than those held by the public, but even by the group’s own membership. The NRA opposes universal background checks, which are supported not only by around nine in ten Americans, but by three-quarters of NRA members. With just a few exceptions, nearly every Republican in Congress lines up with the NRA leadership and against their own constituents.

The group successfully tells gun owners: Forget about that, because Democrats want to grab your guns. There can be no compromise. And when Donald Trump goes before them and acts like Yosemite Sam, either they’re foolish enough to think he means what he says, or they decide that it doesn’t really matter.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, May 20, 2016

May 23, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Gun Deaths, Gun Free Zones, National Rifle Association | , , , , , , , | 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

“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

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