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“The Right To Be Free From Guns”: Those Who Want To Live, Shop, Go To School, And Worship In Gun-Free Spaces Also Have Rights

Advocates of a saner approach to guns need a new strategy. We cannot go on like this, wringing our hands in frustration after every tragedy involving firearms. We said “Enough” after Sandy Hook. We thought the moment for action had come. Yet nothing happened. We are saying “Enough” after Charleston. But this time, we don’t even expect anything to happen.

What’s needed is a long-term national effort to change popular attitudes toward handgun ownership. And we need to insist on protecting the rights of Americans who do not want to be anywhere near guns.

None of this should mean letting Congress off the hook or giving up on what might be done now. So kudos to Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) for saying on Tuesday that they are looking for ways to bring back their proposal that would require background checks for gun sales. In 2013, it failed to get the needed 60 votes and won support from only three Republicans besides Toomey.

Lest anyone doubt that gun-control measures can work, a study released earlier this month by the Center for Gun Policy and Research at Johns Hopkins University found that a 1995 Connecticut law requiring a permit or license contingent on passing a background check was associated with a 40 percent drop in gun homicides.

But as long as gun control is a cause linked to ideology and party — and as long as the National Rifle Association and its allies claim a monopoly on individual rights arguments — reasonable steps of this sort will be ground to death by the Washington Obstruction Machine.

That’s why the nation needs a public-service offensive on behalf of the health and safety of us all. It could build on the Sandy Hook Promise and other civic endeavors. If you doubt it could succeed, consider how quickly opinion changed on the Confederate flag.

My friend Guy Molyneux, a progressive pollster, laid out how it could happen. “We need to build a social movement devoted to the simple proposition that owning handguns makes us less safe, not more,” he told me. “The evidence is overwhelming that having a gun in your home increases the risks of suicide, domestic violence, and fatal accidents, and yet the number one reason given for gun purchases is ‘personal safety.’ We need a public health campaign on the dangers of gun ownership, similar to the successful efforts against smoking and drunk driving.”

The facts were on the side of those who battled the tobacco companies, and they are just as compelling here. When we talk about guns, we don’t focus enough on the reality, reported in the 2015 Annual Review of Public Health, that nearly two-thirds of the deaths from firearms violence are suicides. Yes, people can try to kill themselves with pills, but there’s no coming back from a gunshot to the head. Those in the throes of depression who have a gun nearby are more likely to act on their darkest impulses.

Nor do we talk enough about accidental deaths when children get their hands on guns, or what happens when a domestic argument escalates and a firearm is readily available. The message is plain and simple: Households that voluntarily say no to guns are safer.

“The best way to disarm the NRA rhetorically is to make the Second Amendment issue moot,” Molyneux said. “This is not about the government saying you cannot own a handgun. This is about society saying you should not have a gun, especially in a home with children.”

Molyneux says his approach “does not imply giving up on gun control legislation.” On the contrary, the best path to better laws is to foster a revolution in popular attitudes. And this approach would finally put the rights of non-gun owners at the center of the discussion.

“Those of us who want to live, shop, go to school, and worship in gun-free spaces also have rights,” Molyneux says. “In what way is ‘freedom’ advanced by telling the owner of a bar or restaurant they cannot ban handguns in their own place of business, as many states now do? Today, it is the NRA that is the enemy of freedom, by seeking to impose its values on everyone else.”

The nation could ring out with the new slogans of liberty: “Not in my house.” “Not in our school.” “Not in my bar.” “Not in our church.” We’d be defending one of our most sacred rights: The right not to bear arms.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post; The National Memo, June 29, 2015

June 30, 2015 Posted by | Background Checks, Gun Deaths, Gun Violence, National Rifle Association | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Our Exceptionalist Conversation”: Whaddaya Know? Gun Control Actually Works–Even In America!

One of the more frustrating aspects of American policy discussions is that evidence from other countries is effectively barred. America is said to be “exceptional” and American problems are said to require “American solutions.” This is quite convenient for big business interests when it comes to, say, universal healthcare: we’re not allowed to consider what works in Canada, Japan or Great Britain because we must supposedly have uniquely American solutions.

It is also conveniently presumed that America has its own sets of problems that other countries do not have. For instance, ask a Republican why the United States can’t have social safety nets as generous and effective as they do in other countries, and you’ll usually hear racist claptrap about our “demographics” (as if European nations do not also have large, difficult-to-assimilate immigrant populations) or nonsensical and irrelevant objections about our larger number of people.

And so it is with gun control. No amount of evidence of the effectiveness of gun control in foreign countries is allowed in our exceptionalist conversation. Instead we only endlessly argue intra-American evidence in which conservatives can denigrate the efficacy of gun control laws in certain poor areas–despite the fact that they are easily evaded by bringing in guns from outside the area–even as they attempt to hail the “success” of lax control laws by pointing to lower crime rates in incongruously more affluent and rural areas.

It’s a convenient argumentative restriction that allows conservatives to get their way by ignoring the mountains of evidence from other countries demonstrating how wrong they are about everything, including gun control.

Fortunately, there’s new purely American evidence for the beneficial power of gun control that conservatives won’t be able to so easily sidestep through parochial special pleading:

In the early ’90s, gang shootings gripped Connecticut. Bystanders, including a 7-year-old girl, were getting gunned down in drive-bys. “The state is becoming a shooting gallery, and the public wants action,” an editorial in the Hartford Courant said at the time. So in the summer of 1994, lawmakers hustled through a gun control bill in a special session. They hoped to curb shootings by requiring people to get a purchasing license before buying a handgun. The state would issue these permits to people who passed a background check and a gun safety training course.

At the time, private citizens could freely buy and sell guns secondhand, even to those with criminal records. Connecticut’s law sought to regulate that market. Even private handgun sales would have to be reported to the state, and buyers would need to have a permit.

Critics scoffed at the plan. They argued that a permit system would hassle lawful citizens, while crooks would still get guns on the black market. If the problem was criminals with guns, why not clean up crime instead of restricting guns?

Now, two decades later, researchers at Johns Hopkins University and the University of California, Berkeley, say that Connecticut’s “permit-to-purchase” law was actually a huge success for public safety.

In a study released Thursday in the American Journal of Public Health, they estimate that the law reduced gun homicides by 40 percent between 1996 and 2005. That’s 296 lives saved in 10 years.

Yes, even comparatively minor gun control measures work to save hundreds of lives. Even in a small state here in the U.S.

You don’t even have to look outside our borders anymore to realize what should be common sense.

 

By: D. R. Tucker, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, June 14, 2015

June 15, 2015 Posted by | Gun Control, Gun Transfers, Gun Violence | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“If GOP Is So Right, Why Are Red States So Far Behind?”: Red States Are The Poorest States In The Country

I have a question for my Republican friends.

Yes, that sounds like the setup for a smackdown, but though the question is pointed, it is also in earnest. I’d seriously like to know:

If Republican fiscal policies really are the key to prosperity, if the GOP formula of low taxes and little regulation really does unleash economic growth, then why has the country fared better under Democratic presidents than Republican ones and why are red states the poorest states in the country?

You may recall that Bill Clinton touched on this at the 2012 Democratic Convention. He claimed that, of all the private sector jobs created since 1961, 24 million had come under Republican presidents and a whopping 42 million under Democrats. After Clinton said that, I waited for PolitiFact, the nonpartisan fact-checking organization, to knock down what I assumed was an obvious exaggeration.

But PolitiFact rated the statement true. Moreover, it rated as “mostly true” a recent claim by Occupy Democrats, a left-wing advocacy group, that 9 of the 10 poorest states are red ones. The same group earned the same rating for a claim that 97 of the 100 poorest counties are in red states. And then there’s a recent study by Princeton economists Alan Binder and Mark Watson that finds the economy has grown faster under Democratic presidents than Republican ones. Under the likes of Nixon, Reagan and Bush they say we averaged an annual growth rate of 2.54 percent. Under the likes of Kennedy, Clinton and Obama? 4.35 percent.

Yours truly is no expert in economics, so you won’t read any grand theories here as to why all this is. You also won’t read any endorsement of Democratic economic policy.

Instead, let me point out a few things in the interest of fairness.

The first is that people who actually are economic experts say the ability of any given president to affect the economy — for good or for ill — tends to be vastly overstated. Even Binder and Watson caution that the data in their study do not support the idea that Democratic policies are responsible for the greater economic performance under Democratic presidents.

It is also worth noting that PolitiFact’s endorsements of Occupy Democrats’ claims come with multiple caveats. In evaluating the statement about 97 of the 100 poorest counties being red, for instance, PolitiFact reminds us that red states tend to have more rural counties and rural counties tend to have lower costs of living. It also points out that a modest income in rural Texas may actually give you greater spending power than the same income in Detroit. So comparisons can be misleading.

Duly noted. But the starkness and sheer preponderance of the numbers are hard to ignore. As of 2010, according to the Census Bureau, Connecticut, which has not awarded its electoral votes to a Republican presidential candidate since 1988, had a per capita income of $56,000, best in the country, while Mississippi, which hasn’t gone Democrat since 1976, came in at under $32,000 — worst in the country. At the very least, stats like these should call into question GOP claims of superior economic policy.

Yet, every election season the party nevertheless makes those claims. It will surely do so again this fall. So it seems fair to ask: Where are the numbers that support the assertion? Why is Texas only middling in terms of per capita income? Why is Mississippi not a roaring engine of economic growth? How are liberal Connecticut and Massachusetts doing so well?

It seems to suggest Republican claims are, at best, overblown. If that’s not the case, I’d appreciate it if some Republican would explain why. Otherwise, I have another earnest, but pointed question for my Democratic friends:

How in the world do they get away with this?

NOTE: In a recent column, I pegged the indictment of Texas Gov. Rick Perry to his “Democratic opponents.” Though the indictment did come out of Austin, which is a blue island in the red sea that is Texas, I should have noted that the judge who assigned a special prosecutor in the case is a Republican appointee and the prosecutor he chose has, according to PolitiFact, ties to both parties.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist, The Miami Herald; The National Memo, September 3, 2014

 

 

 

September 3, 2014 Posted by | Blue States, GOP, Red States | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Killing Germs, Not Jobs”: A New Report Confirms That Business Fears About Paid Sick Day Laws Are Unfounded

Every time the idea of implementing a paid sick days law – which requires that workers earn paid time off to use when they fall ill – gets  floated somewhere, the same thing occurs: Businesses and conservative lawmakers cry bloody murder about the effect the law will supposedly have on small businesses and job creators. Every mom and pop store will have to close, they say! Job creators will flee elsewhere to escape the job-killing mandate! Oh, the humanity! (Check out the Cry Wolf Project for some choice quotes.)

Reality, though, stubbornly refuses to conform to the script. For instance, when San Francisco adopted a paid sick days law in 2007, its job growth actually outperformed surrounding counties that did not have a similar law. (This isn’t to imply that having paid sick leave caused any job growth, just that it didn’t hurt either.) And a new report from the Center on Economic and Policy Research shows that Connecticut experienced much the same thing after becoming the first state to adopt a paid sick days law 18 months ago.

Gathered via both surveys and site visits, the Center’s data show businesses faced extremely modest costs – if any – due to the sick days law. As the Center’s Eileen Appelbaum, Ruth Milkman, Luke Elliott and Teresa Kroeger wrote:

Most employers reported a modest effect or no effect of the law on their costs or business operations; and they typically found that the administrative burden was minimal. … Despite strong business opposition to the law prior to its passage, a year and a half after its implementation, more than three-quarters of surveyed  employers expressed support for the  earned paid sick leave law.

Not only that, but the data show that “in the period since [Connecticut’s law] took effect, employment  levels rose in key sectors covered by the  law, such as hospitality and health services, while employment fell in manufacturing, which is exempt from the law.” Some job killer! Business warnings about employees abusing their sick leave also failed to come true.

On an economic level, this actually makes perfect sense. Sick employees coming to work and infecting others reduces productivity, as does the constant turnover if workers have to quit to recover from an illness or are fired for missing time while sick. In addition, most workers already have paid sick leave, so the disruptive power of applying it to the usually low-income, service sector workers who don’t is low. San Francisco, New York, Seattle, Jersey City and Washington, D.C. all have some form of paid sick leave requirement, and all of them continue to have functioning economies. Plus, paid sick day laws have the added benefit of cutting down on the transmission of diseases, including those of the decidedly deadly variety.

This report is actually the second knock this week to the notion that business regulation automatically increases costs and kills jobs. A Bloomberg News report yesterday noted that in the 15 years since Washington state voted to gradually increase its minimum wage, its job growth has outpaced the national average, with jobs even growing in the sectors thought particularly susceptible to a minimum wage hike, such as food services. Even the recent Congressional Budget Office report showing that a national minimum wage increase would cause some workers to drop out of the labor force or reduce their hours showed benefits that vastly outweigh any cost.

The moral of the story is this: The Econ 101 notion of more regulations or higher mandatory wages automatically translating into fewer jobs and higher business costs doesn’t actually hold true out in the real world. Paid sick days laws actually kill germs, not jobs.

By: Pat Garofalo, Washington Whispers, U. S. News and World Report, March 6, 2014

March 9, 2014 Posted by | Businesses, Jobs | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Crafted Public Spectacle”: There Is No Such Thing As A Motive For Mass Killings

Why did the Newtown shooter do it? This is the question to which the media and the public anxiously awaited an answer before yesterday’s release of a report by Connecticut investigators. The report itself even notes this interest, saying, “The obvious question that remains is: ‘Why did the shooter murder twenty-seven people, including twenty children?’”

If we are looking for a reason to make sense of it all, the report leaves us disappointed—and the lack of motive figures in just about every headline covering yesterday’s report. But even looking for one is a futile act.

Here is what the report does find: The shooter had mental health problems, including social dysfunction, anxiety, lack of empathy, and obsessive-compulsive tendencies. But the shooter’s actions cannot be explained away merely by mental illness: although he was troubled, he was not psychotic or insane. Rather, he “had the ability to control his behavior to obtain the results he wanted, including his own death.” There is overwhelming evidence that he acted intentionally and planned his actions carefully. He knew exactly what he was doing.

Despite early speculation, there is little evidence that bullying or other personal grievances provided a motive. While a few teachers, friends, and relatives indicated that the shooter had been bullied as a child, none said that it had been severe, and a larger number said they had never seen him bullied or heard him complain of it.

But this line of questioning is peculiar to begin with. Even if evidence of bullying had been found, it could not possibly amount to a motive in any ordinary sense for a young man to murder people who had never victimized him—particularly not twenty children who had yet to be born when he himself was a child.

When we search for a “motive,” we’re looking for things like self-defense, revenge, jealousy, or personal dispute. There are also motives in which the victim may be somewhat more arbitrary, such as robbery, sexual assault, or sadistic pleasure. But there is no evidence that any of these motives apply to the Newtown shooting, as there almost never is for mass shootings—which is why we speak of them as “senseless.”

The reason that we never find these motives is that the slaughter of random victims is what mass shootings are ultimately about. Indiscriminate targeting is the main criterion that criminologists use to distinguish rampage shootings from other forms of mass murder, like gang violence.

The best framework for understanding rampage shootings at Newtown, Aurora, Columbine, Virginia Tech, and many others is not bullying, mental illness, or gun violence, but terrorism, only without (usually) a political agenda. In terrorism, the true target is society itself; the people who are killed are, grotesquely, a means to this end. Likewise for mass shootings, as forensic psychiatrist Paul E. Mullen wrote in a 2004 article, “Vengeance usually directed against society at large is part of the motivation.”

The particular reasons that drive each shooter are idiosyncratic. The common element is that mass shooters suffer from some toxic, paradoxical mix of narcissism and weak ego that brings them to make a deliberate choice to blame their frustrations on the world as a whole rather than on themselves.

The mass shooting provides a means for the perpetrator to fulfill his unrequited grandiosity and hatred. The motive is not fame but infamy. Mullen writes, “they are eased towards their self-destruction by fantasies of how others will react and by the effects they believe their deaths will produce.”

Like political terrorism, the mass shooting is a crafted public spectacle, a theater of violence in which we are the unwitting yet compliant audience. The report describes the shooter’s obsessive interest in prior massacres. But among its many inconclusions is that it finds “no clear indication why Sandy Hook Elementary School was selected.” Perhaps the answer is too sickening to be sayable: the shooter deliberately chose a target that would maximize the horror and ensure his place in the pantheon of anti-heroes.

Trying to make ordinary sense out of these extraordinary crimes is fruitless. It leads reporters to broadcast the shooters’ manifestos and scribblings, to search for any scraps of frustration or injustice they suffered that might somehow explain their actions.

But this devoted attention is just what allows the shooters to control not only their actions but the meaning of them. Putting a stop to mass shootings begins by agreeing that, once a person has resorted to the mass slaughter of indiscriminate victims, speculating on his motives means spreading half-truths that might encourage others to follow in his footsteps.

 

By: Ari Schulman, Time Magazine, November 26, 2013

November 29, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence, Mass Shootings | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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