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“Why Is America So Hostile To Gun Control?”: The Damage Isn’t Limited To Gun Deaths

The President of the United States and the mayor of the District of Columbia both used this week to address violence within the sphere of their responsibilities. And they are catching flak for it.

President Obama’s focus was on the weapons that now kill as many people as car accidents and on the need for gun-control measures. He said at the White House on Tuesday: “Every single year, more than 30,000 Americans have their lives cut short by guns — 30,000. Suicides. Domestic violence. Gang shootouts. Accidents.” And he added this grabber: “In 2013 alone, more than 500 people lost their lives to gun accidents — and that includes 30 children younger than 5 years old.”

The next day, D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) went to the city’s Eastern Market Metro station to announce the formation of a task force to combat gun robberies, which last year increased to 1,249, 10 percent more than the 1,112 recorded in 2014. This year isn’t off to a good start — 25 gun robberies in the first six days of 2016. Robberies without guns numbered 28.

Yet robberies aren’t the only crime on the rise in our nation’s capital. Last year ended with 162 murders. There were 105 in 2014.

Something, however, may get lost in these numbers. How can the toll taken by death be measured with any degree of accuracy? It’s impossible to quantify the sense of loss and grief that follows; the sadness, emptiness and loneliness that death leaves behind.

The families and friends of those 30,000 people whose lives were cut short by guns may have some idea.

The damage isn’t limited to gun deaths.

What is the impact of more than 3,000 total street robberies in a city? Gauge the distress of having possessions taken by force — imagine the fear, anger, insecurity and unwanted memories that robbery leaves behind.

The violence assailed by Obama and Bowser is disturbing. So is the opposition mounted against them for trying to do something about it.

Criticism of Obama’s proposed regulations to ensure that laws on the books are enforced as written and intended is sickening. Unlike the “he’s gonna take away your guns” rhetoric coming out the mouths of some gun enthusiasts and their sycophantic Republican presidential hopefuls, Obama’s plan to reduce gun violence is light stuff. It would:

  • Require all those in the business of selling firearms to be licensed and to conduct background checks.
  • Overhaul the FBI’s background check system to make it more efficient and effective and provide the bureau with more staff.
  • Beef up staffing of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to crack down on firearms trafficking.
  • Increase funding for mental-health treatment and mental-health reporting to the background check system and direct the departments of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security to pursue research into gun-safety technology.

Several law professors who looked at the constitutionality of Obama’s executive actions said that they “ensure robust enforcement of the law” and are “entirely compatible with the will of Congress and the President’s constitutional authority.”

But listen to the resisters.

Obama wants your guns,” says Ted Cruz’s campaign website.

Obama is “making an end-run around the Constitution” to “restrict one of the basic, fundamental principles of our country,” Donald Trump’s campaign manager told CNN.

“Just one more way to make it harder for law-abiding people to buy weapons to be able to protect their families,” said Marco Rubio on Fox News.

“Obama’s executive orders trample on the 2nd Amendment,” said a Jeb Bush tweet.

Obama “is advancing his political agenda,” a Ben Carson tweet said.

Forget about saving lives. Better to save political hides from National Rifle Association attacks.

The president’s proposals should triumph over demagoguery and plain stupidity. But don’t cut the gun lobby short. Fear of NRA money and power makes cowards out of congressmen.

The local climate for reform may not be any better.

This is a city where many people are afraid to venture out of their homes after dark, where going to and from school can be hazardous and where guns — and those who would use them — seem as plentiful as the air.

Though overall crime rates are down in the District, murders and gun robberies are up.

In August, Bowser proposed a public safety plan to combat the violence. She contended that if the D.C. Council had adopted her proposals — more money for more cops in high-crime areas, stiffer penalties for crimes on buses and subway trains and in D.C. parks, cracking down on repeat offenders — last year’s jump in homicides might have been avoided.

But Bowser is at loggerheads with key council members over the direction of crime-fighting and criminal justice reforms. And so? Nothing. Handwringing, finger-pointing . . .

Obama, urging action, cited the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words “the fierce urgency of now,” because people are dying. “The constant excuses for inaction,” the president declared, “no longer suffice.”

Even as national and D.C. lawmakers turn a deaf ear to that message.

 

By: Colbert I. King, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, January 8, 2016

January 11, 2016 Posted by | District of Columbia, Gun Control, Gun Deaths | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Why The Media Is Duty-Bound To Call Donald Trump A Racist”: That Ugly Fantasy Might Just Become Our Ugly Reality

It was easy to label the Missouri murder of Craig Anderson “racist,” as BuzzFeed did in its excellent accounting of the modern-day lynching. In 2011, a group of white teenagers allegedly shouted racial epithets while beating Anderson and celebrating running him over with a truck. No one would accuse BuzzFeed of bias for calling that horrific crime racist; it’s a simple statement of fact, not a judgment call. Indeed, it’s easy to call a group of violent, ignorant teenagers committing an alleged hate crime racist.

But for some reason, when covering the people vying for the most powerful office in the land, the media is hesitant to apply the “R” word, no matter how apt it may be. And that hesitation could have extraordinarily serious consequences for the country.

Donald Trump, who maintains a comfortable lead in national polls, launched his campaign by arguing that Mexico sends rapists over our border illegally. His subsequent rise in the polls came not in spite of this anti-immigrant rhetoric, but because of it.

There has long been a racist undercurrent in the battle for the Republican presidential nomination. And the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris by ISIS-affiliated terrorists have exposed it to sunlight.

When the Paris attacks were initially — and falsely, it appears — blamed on terrorists who had snuck into Europe with Syrian refugees, each of the Republican presidential candidates strived to be the most fiercely opposed to allowing Syrian refugees into the U.S. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush suggested we allow just the Christians in, and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz followed up with a bill that would write that policy into law. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said he wouldn’t allow 5-year-old Syrian orphans into the country.

But just denying the refugees fleeing terrorism and repression wasn’t enough. The anti-terrorism furor has grown into an anti-Muslim furor. Trump has called for shutting down mosques and refused to rule out a national registry for Muslims. Marco Rubio is trying to out-Trump Trump by calling not just for shutting down mosques, but even cafes or websites where Muslims gather.

Now, to be clear, these ideas would not only fail to combat terrorism — they would probably increase extremist violence. Repressing loyal Muslim-Americans would drive more radicalization and help ISIS and other terrorist organizations with their recruiting drives. Tell 5-year-old orphans they’re too dangerous to seek refuge in America, and you’ll create the next generation of terrorists.

But these proposals aren’t just obviously wrong-headed; they’re racist. And the media — even nominally objective reporters from mainstream outlets — shouldn’t be shy about saying so.

Nazi analogies are usually the worst. People who resort to comparisons to Hitler or concentration camps or the Holocaust are trivializing the 20th century’s greatest horror. They’re invariably overreacting.

But look at where we are today. Leading candidates for presidents are flirting with requiring adherents of a single religion to be registered. To carry identification cards. To be subject to additional surveillance. To be refused entry to the nation even if they’re escaping horrific repression. To have their houses of worship closed down.

Those are racist, fascist policies. To avoid the comparison with early Nazi repression against Jews is to avoid telling the full story. And that’s just what the media is doing by refusing to call these proposals racist.

Calling a candidate for president racist sure sounds biased, doesn’t it? After all, except for a small fringe of extremists, virtually all Americans believe racism is a Very Bad Thing. Tarring a candidate with that label doesn’t sound like objective reporting; it looks like taking sides.

But it isn’t a judgment call to identify the naked racism of Donald Trump for what it is. Several GOP candidates — even the “mainstream” candidates like Christie, Bush, and Rubio — are suggesting ideas that harken back to some of the ugliest stains on American history, like the unjustified internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

It’s not just the racism directed at Muslims. On Sunday, Trump retweeted a graphic filled with made-up statistics about how blacks commit a majority of murders against whites in the United States. It was quickly debunked; the majority of murders of both whites and blacks are committed by people of the same race.

The fake statistics from a fake organization was accompanied by a racist graphic of a black man, face covered in bandanas, holding a gun sideways. The Hill called this “controversial.” BuzzFeed said it was “questionable.”

It was actually racist.

Trump spread a false statistic about black-on-white crime to drive up an unfounded fear of black criminals. He was trying to make white people afraid so they’ll vote for him.

This is racist.

Donald Trump is the leading candidate for the Republican nomination for president. He has expressed outright racism against Latinos, Muslims, and African-Americans. His words have already had real-world consequences. Trump supporters kicked and beat a Black Lives Matter protester at a rally Saturday. The next day Trump said “maybe he should have been roughed up.” Two men cited Trump when they beat a homeless Latino Boston man in August. Trump said his supporters were “passionate.”

The America Trump promises to build is ugly: walled off, repressive, and racist. If the media fails to call racism what it is, if they fail to tell the full story, then that ugly fantasy might just become our ugly reality.

 

By: Jesse Berney, The Week, November 25, 2015

November 28, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Fascism, GOP Presidential Candidates, Mainstream Media, Racism | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Fact Is No Match For Fear”: For Every Gun Used To Wound Or Kill In Self-Defense, Four Are Used In Accidental Shootings

It was the kind of a statistic that would have left a sane country stunned and shamed.

This country barely noticed it.

It came last month, courtesy of the Washington Post, which reported that, as of mid-October, toddlers in America have been shooting people this year at a rate of one a week. You know how the story goes. Little one finds an inadequately-secured gun and starts playing with it, too young to know that death lurks inside. The thing goes off with a bang, leaving a hole — sometimes a fatal one — in human flesh.

Sometimes it’s Da-da. Sometimes, it’s Nana. Sometimes, it’s the toddler himself.

That’s how it was for Darnal Mundy II. As detailed by Charles Rabin in Tuesday’s Miami Herald, Darnal, age 3, was looking for an iPad one morning in early August when he climbed a chair and opened the top drawer of his father’s dresser. Instead of a tablet computer, he found a Smith & Wesson. With the gun pointing directly at his face, he pulled the trigger. A .40-caliber bullet struck him between the eyes, exiting the left side of his skull.

Improbably, Darnal survived. More improbably after brain surgery and rehab in a Miami hospital, he is walking, talking, laughing and playing and has recently begun feeding himself. Darnal still lacks full use of his right arm and leg, but seems, in most other respects, to be perfectly fine, not counting the depressed area on the left side of his head where doctors removed a piece of his skull.

He and his family, it seems superfluous to say, were very lucky. Indeed, they were blessed.

The gun that so nearly proved fatal is now kept disassembled in a safe. We do not know why Darnal’s father, who works as a fitness attendant, feels the need to own it in the first place. But who would be shocked if it turned out that he keeps it for home security? Putting aside the crackpots who think they’re going to have to defend Texas against the U.S. Army, that seems the most common rationale for gun ownership. People fear being caught empty-handed when the bad guys come.

It is, of course, a fear completely at odds with statistical fact.

Like the fact that, according to the FBI, crime has fallen to historic lows and your life, property and person are safer now than they have been in decades.

Like the fact that, according to the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, for every gun that is used to wound or kill in self-defense, four are used in accidental shootings.

Like the fact that toddlers are now shooting themselves and others at the rate of one a week.

But it’s not just that fact is no match for fear; it’s that we live in a media culture that has the effect of maintaining fear in perpetuity, keeping it a low-grade fever simmering within the body politic, a heat that abides, but never abates.

A 2014 study by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, for instance, found that exposure to violent crime on TV dramas intensifies the fear that one may become a victim. “CSI,” anyone? And a 2003 study from the same source found that the more people watch local TV news — where if it bleeds, it leads — the greater their fear of crime.

And here, it bears repeating: We have less to fear from crime now than we’ve had in many years.

But, though lacking cause to fear, we fear just the same, fear all the more, making life and death decisions about personal security based on perceptions that have little to do with reality. We fixate on stopping the stranger kicking in the front door. Meantime, there goes the toddler, balancing atop the chair, chubby little hands closing on the gun in the top drawer.

The irony is as sharp as the bang of a gunshot down the hall. We fear so many things. But some things, we don’t fear nearly enough.

 

By: Leonard Pitts,Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald: The National Memo, November 9, 2015

November 10, 2015 Posted by | Gun Control, Gun Deaths, Gun Ownership | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Relying On Anecdotes From Police Officials”: No Data Exists To Support Police Claims Of Victimization

Shortly after FBI Director James Comey delivered ill-considered remarks linking increased scrutiny of police to rising crime, a cellphone video of a Columbia, South Carolina, school cop violently manhandling a teenage girl went viral. Comey’s comments were quickly overtaken by that news — which, coincidently, showed how imprudent they were.

On two occasions in late October, the FBI’s top official had the opportunity to reinforce for police officials the sacred trust at the center of their oaths, which require them to protect and serve. That sacred trust was violated — cleaved and quartered, in fact — by Ben Fields, the Spring Valley High “school resource officer” whose actions resulted in his firing and sparked a Justice Department investigation.

Instead, Comey chose to play to police officers’ paranoia and sense of isolation and victimization. In speeches at the University of Chicago Law School and to the annual convention of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, he suggested that homicides are on the rise in several cities because police officers are too intimidated to do their jobs properly.

Speaking to the police chiefs, Comey asked: “In today’s YouTube world, are officers reluctant to get out of their cars and do the work that controls violent crime? Are officers answering 911 calls but avoiding the informal contact that keeps bad guys from standing around, especially with guns?”

At the law school, he’d said that “viral videos” may be contributing to a police reluctance to confront criminals.

Let’s be clear: There is absolutely no data — as Comey admitted — that links rising homicides to a new passivity on the part of police. (Violent crime continues to decline, as it has since its peak in 1991, but homicides are now rising in a handful of cities. Criminologists don’t know why, as they still don’t know why crime has declined over the last few decades.)

In fact, there is no data showing that police are less aggressive than they used to be. The FBI director, who ought to know better, is relying on anecdotes from police officials, who are in the habit of complaining when they are under scrutiny.

But that scrutiny is long overdue. The Black Lives Matter movement, a loosely organized network of activists, was sparked by police violence that has resulted in the deaths of unarmed black civilians. You know the names of many of the victims, who include Eric Garner, put in a deadly chokehold by New York City police for the crime of selling untaxed cigarettes; 12-year-old Tamir Rice, shot dead by police in Cleveland for waving a toy gun in a park; and John Crawford III, shot dead by Beavercreek, Ohio, police after he picked up a BB gun from a Wal-Mart store shelf.

If protests over such official savagery keep police from doing their jobs, they are not committed to keeping the peace, to serving or protecting. If they were, they’d welcome attention that helps to weed out the bullies, the poorly trained and the bigots in their ranks. After all, police officers need the respect and cooperation of the communities they serve in order to catch the real criminals.

Unfortunately, though, many rank-and-file officers and their superiors have assumed the mantle of victims, complaining that the Black Lives Matter movement disrespects, and even endangers, police. It keeps them from doing their jobs. It emboldens criminals, they say.

And that narrative is constantly fed by conservative media outlets, whose pundits insist that President Obama panders to criminals while blaming police for simple errors. That notion was further fueled at the most recent Republican debate by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who insisted that the president doesn’t “support police officers.”

“You know, the FBI director … has said this week that because of a lack of support from politicians like the president of the United States, that police officers are afraid to get out of their cars, that they’re afraid to enforce the law,” Christie claimed.

If you want to see fear, take another look at that disturbing video of Ben Fields flinging a teenage girl across the floor. The other students cower in their desks, some afraid to look up. That lesson is one from which they’ll likely never recover.

 

By: Cynthia Tucker Haynes, Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 2007; The National Memo, October 31, 2015

November 1, 2015 Posted by | James Comey, Police Brutality, Police Officers | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“What Does ‘Black-On-Black Crime’ Have to Do With Ferguson?”: The Issue Isn’t Us; It’s How White America Views Blackness

The answer to the question posed in this post’s title is nothing. Absolutely nothing. Not one thing. Nada. Zip. Zero.

The “Black-on-Black crime” moniker is racist rhetoric functioning under the guise of concern for the state of Black America. People of all races — Blacks included — seemingly love to discuss how not killing our own and being more respectable will alleviate the effects of racism.

It’s dangerous, however, to tell Black people to dress better, work harder or be respectable because it diverts attention from the gaze of the oppressor to the behavior of the disenfranchised. It showcases how deep anti-blackness runs within our society. This highly misinformed line of thinking negates the complex historical implications surrounding a white cop killing an unarmed Black teenager.

Authority has a long history of not respecting Black people so why some folks think becoming more respectable will solve anything is confusing. Our respect means nothing to those who see no value in Black life. They don’t care for or want our respect — they want our compliance. They want our submission.

“Black-on-Black crime” highlights the fear surrounding Black masculinity, the lack of Black femininity, and perceived inherent Black criminality. And, when Black people are shamed for committing the same crimes at almost the same rates as whites, it illustrates how much the white supremacist gaze has been internalized.

The term, which originated in the 1980s, cites Black people as a problem as opposed to poverty, poor educational opportunities, proximity and other factors that lead to increased crime rates within all communities — regardless of color.

Research conducted by David Wilson explains how the media picked up on a new wave of violence within Black communities — which was undoubtedly fueled by job loss, debased identity and “rampant physical decay”– and constructed the misperception that intraracial crime was a malady only plaguing Black America.

But racial exclusivity is apparent in the majority of violent crimes. Around 91 percent of Black victims are murdered by Black offenders while 83 percent of white victims are killed by another white person, based on the most recent FBI homicide statistics.

The “Black-on-Black” crime argument alludes that there’s nothing normal about Black intraracial crime. “White-on-white” violence is simply called crime. Why is Black intraracial violence depicted as some rare Pokémon in crime discussions when it is only slightly more prevalent?

Flawed white perception is not assuaged is these talks — Black behavior is, instead, attacked. This places Black folk in a “Catch 22.” No matter how “respectable” we are or become, as long as our skin is Black we will never amount to white standards though we are expected to be a reflection of them.

Respectability will never be a solution because the issue isn’t us; it’s how white America views blackness.

Mike Brown’s death, and the subsequent lack of justice, isn’t about the myth of “Black-on-Black crime.” It’s about how Blacks are disproportionately, and often unjustly, targeted by law enforcement. It’s about how systemic racism frames the way in which Black people, especially men, are viewed. It’s about how Black corpses are criminalized and put on trial but their white killers often go unindicted.

The circumstances surrounding Mike Brown’s death represent a much larger racially oppressive government and police structure that excuses white killers but refuses to humanize black victims due to the inherent guilt attributed to black people and blackness.

And when you tell Black people to be more respectable and not kill one another, you’re identifying us as savage brutes who deserve to be gunned down due to this assumed lack of humanity.

The protests in Ferguson do not show the supposed intrinsic animalistic nature of Black people. They showcase a community — and reflect a nation of people — tired of constantly being at the mercy of a justice system that sees no value in their livelihood.

Ferguson is illustrating what happens when people are fed up with being targeted. Ferguson is spearheading a movement. Stop detracting from that with baseless “Black-on-Black crime” discussions.

 

By: Julia Craven, The Blog, The Huffington Post, November 30, 2014

December 1, 2014 Posted by | Black Americans, Criminal Justice System, White Americans | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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