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“Shut Up Or We’ll Shoot You”: Gun Nuts Are A Threat To Democracy: How Open Carry Undermines Open Debate

“Our founding fathers understood that the guys with the guns make the rules.”

Those were the words of Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president for life at the National Rifle Association and a sputtering rageaholic. NRA leadership has perhaps never stated the aim of the group with more clarity and gusto than when LaPierre produced this gem at the 2009 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). He could have just as easily said might makes right or held up a fasces.

For all the talk about “the Constitution” those on the gun-fondling right like to toss out, that quote betrays the true authoritarian nature of the society he and his henchmen in NRA leadership wish to see us become. One in which the guys who choose to arm up on military weaponry dictate to the rest of us how we conduct ourselves. We can dispense with all the other stuff the founders actually spent most of their time talking about, the rule by majority vote, the right to petition, due process, the security in person and property.

This week was the ghost of Christmas future coming back to warn us, reminding us we need to continue turning back the NRA’s efforts to make guns as ubiquitous in our society as the grain in Ben Carson’s pyramids.

First, counter-protesters, who are alleged to be white supremacists showed up at a Black Lives Matter rally in Minnesota, got into an argument with the protesters, and started shooting. Then of course, on Saturday, a lunatic launched an assault on the women, patients and police guarding a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs (disclosure: I serve on the boards of Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio. I am speaking only for myself in this piece, however), killing three, including a police officer and Iraq veteran.

Finally, the University of Chicago has been shut down due to a gun threat. No debate on campus, no inquiry in the classroom. Held hostage, quite literally, to a potential deranged gunman and whatever his agenda might be.

The proliferation of concealed and open carry and lack of universal background checks means anyone can be a terrorist and carry in public, so how the hell is that not going to make others think twice about what they say? Not shockingly, this has a chilling effect on democratic debate, our republican form of government and the ability to gather peacefully. If you don’t think the gun—the extended phallus of the FoxNews watcher—is about demographic shrinkage and the wish to wield unearned power, so the guys with the guns can still make the rules, let me share a few more examples.

There was Irving, Texas, just after the Paris attack, where a bunch of gun-wielding white guys surrounded a mosque. There was November of 2013, also in Texas, when a group of 40 or so gun fetishists showed up at a restaurant where members of Moms Demand Action just happened to be meeting, displaying their weapons and waiting outside the door of the joint. Anna Sarkesian, the victim of harassment at the hands of a bunch of atavistic cavemen in the gamer world, had to cancel a lecture at Utah State University because of anonymous threats and the reality that guns are allowed on campus. And there was The Virginia Citizens Defense League, who decided to make sure they’d intimidate their way to victory over their opposition to a gun store being put next to an elementary school in McLean, Virginia, by showing up at a public debate of the McLean Citizens Association with “armed individuals and a customized RV depicting a threatening image of Virginia Tech shooter Seung Hui-Cho.”

The message is clear: Shut up or we’ll shoot you.

My friend Joan Peterson, president of the board of Protect Minnesota, shared a personal story about the 2013 legislative session in Minnesota when “hundreds of open carriers” showed up in the Capitol to intimidate those testifying for gun safety inside, and one of them tweeted directly at her, to ask “how she liked being surrounded by guys with guns.” They also “stared at her” for long periods of time and “took photos,” all while openly carrying their weapons.

In Texas (once again, not a surprise), this reached the point of farce when a loony-tunes group of gun nuts mad at Democratic State Rep. Poncho Nevarez because he opposed an open-carry bill, showed up at his office, and filmed themselves calling him a “tyrant to the Constitution,” saying “You won’t be here for very long” and refusing to leave after being asked to numerous times. So the Texas Legislature, in its infinite wisdom, responded by passing the open-carry bill and installing “panic buttons” the legislators’ offices. Panic buttons! What’s next, an ejector seat?

This absurdity reminds me of nothing so much as what sage comedian George Carlin once said about the danger of kids being shot because they had toy guns that looked real: “And now they’re thinking about banning toy guns, and they’re gonna keep the fucking real ones!”

All of this is part of the NRA’s plan, remember: the guys with the guns making the rules.

We can have our democracy replete with free expression, free assembly, and open debate, which our Constitution clearly prescribes. Or we can allow the angry, the unhinged, domestic terrorists, to purchase weapons of war. We can’t have both.

 

By: Cliff Schecter, The Daily Beast, December 2, 2015

December 3, 2015 Posted by | Gun Violence, National Rifle Association, Wayne LaPierre | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Bobby Jindal Enabled Louisiana’s Gun Violence Problem”: Worked To Weaken The State’s Already Lax Gun Control

Governor Bobby Jindal suspended his sputtering presidential campaign on Friday, a day after 59-year-old gunman John Houser killed two people and wounded nine others in a movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana. “We’re going to do whatever we can to support our community here,” he said on Fox News. “This is a time for us to come together.”

He should do a lot more than that. Louisiana has some of the weakest gun laws and worst gun violence in the nation.

The state doesn’t require background checks on private sales, even for assault weapons; doesn’t require gun owners to register their firearms; and doesn’t have a limit on the number of firearms that can be purchased at one time, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. As for gun violence, the state has the second-highest gun death rate in the nation, according to an analysis of the latest National Vital Statistics report. Louisiana’s lax oversight also enables firearms trafficking to other states, in which it ranks fifteenth in the nation, and 28 percent of guns wind up in criminals’ hands within two years of sale—almost six points above the national average.

Jindal has worked to weaken the state’s already lax gun control by signing a wave of bills in 2013 and 2014. He broadened the “Stand Your Ground” law to protect shooters who hurt, but don’t kill, someone they feel is threatening. He allowed concealed weapons in places that serve alcohol. He banned public access to the personal information of concealed handgun permit owners. He approved guns in churches. And he allowed Louisianans to apply for lifetime concealed-carry permits.

So don’t expect from Jindal the type of comments that Barack Obama delivered after last month’s massacre in a Charleston, in which the president said, “Now is the time for mourning and for healing. But let’s be clear. At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries.”

Jindal called Obama’s remarks “completely shameful”—words that more appropriately describe the governor’s own gun policies.

 

By: Rebecca Leber, The New Republic, July 24, 2015

July 27, 2015 Posted by | Bobby Jindal, Gun Control, Gun Deaths | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Why The NRA Is Staying Silent On Target’s Gun Bun”: Idea of Public Being Safer If People Don’t Walk Around With Guns Is Spreading

Last week the mega-chain Target joined Chipotle and Starbucks in making their stores places where customers have a good chance of getting gunned down. At least this is what the NRA believes will happen now that the company’s CEO announced that Target shoppers should leave their guns at home. Everyone remembers the NRA’s reaction after Sandy Hook — namely, that schools that were gun-free zones invited kooks like Adam Lanza to walk in and start blasting away. But the notion that public space is safer if people don’t walk around with guns seems to be spreading and it’s interesting that the NRA’s response so far to Target’s new policy has been no response at all.

The gun industry is not only encountering some push-back to its notion of guns as being the best way for citizens to protect themselves against crime; they can’t even get their facts straight about whether there’s any connection between gun ownership and criminal activity at all. The NSSF (the trade association for America’s firearms industry) just posted a video which announces that “gun crimes have fallen dramatically over the past 20 years,” except the graphic that accompanies this statement shows that the entire decline took place between 1993 and 2000, which was before Obama went into the White House and gun sales soared.

Despite what John Lott says, there’s no proof that higher levels of gun violence occur in gun-free zones. And the evidence that protecting yourself with a gun may actually be less safe than using other protective methods to thwart a criminal attack — yelling, punching, running away — comes from, of all people, a scholar named Gary Kleck who first “discovered” that arming ourselves made us better able to stop crime. Kleck published a study in 1995 which, based on answers collected from interviews with 213 respondents, claimed that people used guns to prevent more than 2 million crimes from being committed each year. But in 1994 he submitted a report to the Department of Justice in which he found that defensive methods other than guns actually resulted in fewer injuries from criminal attacks. He didn’t mention these findings when he began touting the benefits of armed resistance the following year.

And neither did the NRA. Ever since the mid-1990s the gun lobby has been tirelessly beating the drums for expanding concealed carry, as well as for diminishing the list of locations where guns cannot be found. Their latest victory was Georgia, where a new law took effect July 1 which expands the right to carry a gun in locations that serve alcohol, houses of worship and government facilities, as long as the owners of the affected properties don’t object.

The campaign to promote carrying guns in public places took a big step backwards, however, with the decision by Target to ask gun-toting shoppers to stay out of their stores. The announcement was worded in a way that did not absolutely ban concealed-carry in states which, unlike Georgia, don’t give property-owners the right to restrict the presence of guns. But when Target said that guns are at odds with the “family-friendly” atmosphere they try to maintain, they weren’t just sending a message to gun owners, they were sending a clear message to the gun lobby as well.

Despite twenty years of unending appeals to fears of crime and the utility of owning guns, the NRA and its allies have failed to convince a majority of Americans that walking into a public place with a gun in your pocket is the smart thing to do. What they have done is to provoke a grass-roots backlash organized and funded by a guy with lots of bucks whose efforts to get Americans behind the notion of less guns equals more safety may just begin to pay off.

 

By: Mike Weisser, The Huffington Post Blog, July 3, 2014

July 4, 2014 Posted by | Gun Control, Gun Lobby, National Rifle Association, Target | , , , , | Leave a comment

“We Snookered The Other Side”: Proof That Congress Is A Captive Of The Extremists

Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey’s (R-PA) bipartisan compromise on expanding gun sale background checks was widely praised by gun safety advocates as an important reform, and slammed by the National Rifle Association as a step in the wrong direction. But at least one major gun group thinks that the conventional wisdom has it backwards.

Daylight Disinfectant has obtained video of Alan Gottlieb, founder and executive vice president of the Second Amendment Foundation, bragging that “we snookered the other side” by loading the Manchin-Toomey bill with pro-gun amendments.

“It’s a Christmas tree,” Gottlieb said to a Portland, OR crowd on Friday. “We just hung a million ornaments on it.”

“We’re taking the background check and making it a pro-gun bill,” he continued. “Unfortunately, some of my colleagues haven’t quite figured it out yet because they weren’t sitting in the room writing it. My staff was.”

“If you really read what’s in the Manchin-Toomey bill — man, it’s a godsend. We win rights back like crazy,” he later added. “I think we snookered the other side. They haven’t figured it out yet.”

Gottlieb also suggested that maybe he should have kept his opinion to himself, noting, “If we talk about it too much, the other side’s gonna find out about it and they’re gonna realize we’re gonna win off of this thing.” Video of the speech via Daylight Disinfectant:: http://youtu.be/E9UMox1WoTw

Indeed, although the Manchin-Toomey compromise would represent the most significant gun reform in two decades, it contains many elements that should please the “gun rights” crowd. The bill exempts private, not-for-profit sales from background checks (falling far short of the universal standard sought by many Democrats), allows concealed-carry permits to transfer across state lines, and explicitly bans the creation of a national gun registry, among other provisions. The compromises were enough to lead New York governor Andrew Cuomo, a prominent gun reform advocate, to lament, “This is a Congress that is captive of the extremists and there is no clearer proof of that than this.”

In addition to the Second Amendment Foundation, the Citizens’ Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms — which claims to be the nation’s second-largest “gun rights” group, and with which Gottlieb is also closely associated — has also publicly endorsed the bill.

Still, it’s unclear whether this push from gun interest groups will actually make a difference in the final vote. As of now, just four Republican senators — Toomey, Susan Collins (R-ME), John McCain (R-AZ), and Mark Kirk (R-IL) — have signaled their intention to vote for the bill. Several red-state Democrats have also suggested that they will oppose the bill, despite the political cover provided by the gun interest groups. If a bipartisan bill that is so tame that “gun rights” groups hail it as a major victory cannot move through the Senate, then it would be safe to question whether any reform is truly possible.

 

By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, April 15, 2013

April 16, 2013 Posted by | Background Checks, Gun Control | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Nothing Short Of Horrifying”: Here A Gun, There A Gun, Everywhere A Gun

As Jaime and I noted yesterday, many Democratic politicians feel the need to preface any discussion of guns with an assurance that they, too, own guns and love to shoot, as though that were the price of admission to a debate on the topic. But what you seldom hear is anyone, politician or otherwise, say, “I don’t own a gun and I don’t ever intend to” as a statement of identity, defining a perspective that carries moral weight equal to that of gun owners. So it was good to see Josh Marshall, in a thoughtful post, say, “Well, I want to be part of this debate too. I’m not a gun owner and, as I think as is the case for the more than half the people in the country who also aren’t gun owners, that means that for me guns are alien. And I have my own set of rights not to have gun culture run roughshod over me.” Let me tell you my perspective on this, and offer some thoughts on the question of what sort of a society we want to have when it comes to the question of guns. Because there are two radically different visions that are clashing here.

For the record, I, too, am not a gun owner (you’re shocked to learn this, I know). I took riflery at camp as a kid, shooting a .22 at paper targets (and when you achieved each new level of marksmanship, you got a certificate from the NRA!), and I’ve held unloaded guns a few times. I understand the attraction of guns. They give you a feeling of power and potency, and they’re fun to shoot, which is why every little boy loves playing with toy guns. But in the town where I grew up, you never saw a gun that wasn’t in a cop’s holster. If any of my classmates’ parents had them (and I’m sure some did), they never mentioned it, and my own parents would sooner have adopted a pack of hyenas than brought a gun into our home. As far as that community was concerned, the relative absence of guns was one of the things that made it a nice place to live. It wasn’t because everyone got together and took a vote on it, but that absence was nevertheless an expression of the community’s collective will.

I’m sure that many gun advocates would hear that and say, “Don’t you realize how vulnerable you all were? You should have been armed!” But the truth is we weren’t vulnerable (crime was low; I have a vague memory of one murder that happened during my entire childhood but I could be imagining it), and although as kids we always complained that the town was boring, everyone seemed pretty happy with the security situation. And if one day, a few of the town’s citizens started letting everyone know that they were now carrying firearms when they were down at the drugstore or the bank, it wouldn’t have made anyone feel safer. Just the opposite, in fact. It would have changed everything for the worse.

What I’m getting at is that one of the things that makes a society work is that people have rights that are protected in the law, but they also exercise those rights with consideration for the society’s other members. For instance, we have a strong commitment to freedom of expression, such that many things that would be deemed obscene and get you tossed in jail in other countries are tolerated here. So if I want do a performance art piece that involves lots of cursing and tossing about bodily fluids, I can do it. But I’m not going to do it on the sidewalk in front of your house during dinner time, not because I don’t have the right, but because that would make me an asshole. In the exercising of my rights, I’d be changing the conditions of your existence, even for a brief time, in a way that you’d find unpleasant. So because I value having a society where we all live together, I’ll choose to find a theater to put on my performance, and you can choose to come see it or not. In the same way, if you choose to have a gun in your home because you think it protects you, that’s your right. I’m going to choose not to let my kid come play with your kid at your house, and we can all get along.

According to the Constitution, you have a right to own a gun. I’ll be honest and say that I wish it weren’t so; the fantasies the most extreme gun advocates notwithstanding, our liberty is protected by our laws and institutions, not by our ability to wage war on our government. Canadians and Britons and French people aren’t any less free than we are because they are less able to start killing cops and soldiers when they decide the time for insurrection has come. Nevertheless, that basic right exists and it isn’t going to be taken away. But the rest of us should also be able to say that there are limits to how far your exercising that right should be allowed to change the rest of our lives, and if necessary the law should enforce those limits.

As I’ve written before, the goal of many gun advocates, particularly those who promote concealed carry, is that we make it so as many people as possible take as many guns as possible into as many places as possible. That’s been the focus of their legislative efforts in recent years, not only passing concealed carry laws nearly everywhere, but also passing laws to make you able to take guns into bars, schools, government buildings, houses of worship, and so on, and also advocating for laws that would let you take your guns to communities where it would be otherwise illegal to carry them. Which would mean that your right to carry your gun trumps the right of everyone else to say, this is a place where we’ve decided we don’t want people bringing guns.

Is it possible that on my next visit to the local coffee place, a madman might come and shoot the place up? Yes, it’s possible. And is it possible that if half the patrons were armed, one of them might be able to take him down and limit the number of people he killed? Yes, it’s possible. It’s also possible that I’ll win the next Powerball. But if holding out that infinitesimal possibility means that every time I go down for a coffee, I’m entering a place full of guns, it’s not a price I’m willing to pay. That’s the decision I’ve made, and it’s the decision that the other people in my community have made as well.

But gun advocates want to create a society governed by fear, or at the very least, make sure that everyone feels the same fear they feel. “An armed society is a polite society,” they like to say, and it’s polite because we’re all terrified of each other. They genuinely believe that that the price of safety is that there should be no place where guns, and the fear and violence they embody, are not present. Not your home, not your kids’ school, not your supermarket, not your church, no place. But for many of us—probably for most of us—that vision of society is nothing short of horrifying.

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, January 18, 2013

January 20, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence, Guns | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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