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“Congressional Inaction And Cowardice”: President Obama, Wiping Away Tears, Announces Executive Actions On Guns

On the issue of guns, President Obama has showed anger before. He’s made his sorrow visible, his frustration. But Tuesday, in his address to the nation, he showed us his tears.

In a speech outlining executive actions his administration plans to take in an effort to curb gun violence, many of which he has been trying to implement for years, he stressed the common sense of his directives, and urged Americans to stand up to those who oppose his efforts.

He invoked many of the incidences of gun violence that had compelled him to action, beginning with Arizona congresswoman Gabby Giffords’s shooting five years ago, on Jan. 8, 2011 in Tucson, the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School – which inspired a bill that would have expanded background checks, but failed because of fierce Republican opposition – and then recited some of the mass shootings that have occurred since he took office in 2009, including Charleston, South Carolina; San Bernardino and Santa Barbara, California; Aurora, Colorado; Fort Hood, Texas; Binghamton, New York; the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C.; and Oak Creek, Wisconsin.

At times, he was greeted with sighs of assent, and later, standing ovations, as when he called out the NRA: “The gun lobby may be holding Congress hostage right now. But they cannot hold America hostage.”

The president said he wondered how the issue had become politicized, quoting Republican standard-bearers John McCain, George W. Bush, and the grand pooh-bah of them all, Ronald Reagan, on their sensible stances on guns.

He compared the effort to reduce gun deaths – the majority of which are suicides – to past struggles for civil rights, whether it was women winning the right to vote, the emancipation of black Americans, or LGBT rights; in doing so, he urged Americans not to give in to cynicism and defeat, or to grow dispirited by the routine nature of these tragedies, a routine which extends even to his now predictably outraged post-shooting speeches. “Just because it’s hard is no reason not to try,” he said, allowing that the effort will not succeed within his presidency nor during the current Congress.

Despite the tears, his speech was filled with personal anecdotes and chuckles, reminding Americans that he had taught constitutional law so that he was very familiar with the Second Amendment — to which he reiterated his steadfast commitment. Radical gun owners and the NRA have created a culture that elevates the Second Amendment such that it overtakes other rights Americans have, he said, including the right to assemble peaceably, the right to worship freely, and the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness

But the crux of his speech rested on the initiatives his administration will take to strengthen and clarify existing laws on gun possession:

All gun sellers must get a license and submit purchasers to background checks. The distribution channel will no longer matter. Background checks would expand to buyers who try to hide behind trusts, or purchase online, and the actual mechanisms of the checks would be streamlined.

Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) agents will be empowered to crack down on stolen guns and lost weapons. The 2017 budget will allow for allow for 200 new hires at the ATF Bureau to enforce gun laws.

A proposed investment of $500 million to expand access to mental health across the country. This was perhaps the least detailed of his actions, but he called on politicians to back up their rhetoric on blaming mental health for mass shootings by supporting this policy: “For those in Congress who so often rush to blame mental illness for mass shootings as a way of avoiding action on guns, here’s your chance to support these efforts. Put your money where your mouth is,” he said. Obama also pledged to remove barriers between federal record keeping on mental health issues and background checks, which might have prevented the Charleston, AuroraVirginia Tech, and Tucson assailants from obtaining guns.

He called on manufacturers to ramp up the deployment of safety technology, which has existed for years but due to political pressure and strange laws has stalled before being allowed to come to market. Using common-sense comparisons with everyday smartphone technology – “If we can set it up so you can’t unlock your phone unless you’ve got the right fingerprint, why can’t we do the same thing for our guns?” – he said that he would work with the private sector to make sure guns aren’t accidentally discharged by children, thereby reducing accidental deaths.

President Obama noted that we have regulation, safety procedures, and public health research for medicines, cars, and even toys, but that political inaction and cowardice have maligned and sometimes actively prevented public health professionals from studying and implementing reforms that could reduce gun deaths. On the whole, states that have stricter gun measures have fewer deaths, but those that that have weakened regulations, like Missouri, have seen gun deaths rise above national levels.

“Maybe we can’t save everybody, but we could save some,” he pleaded.

Invoking Martin Luther King, Jr., twice, he asked Americans to “feel ‘the fierce urgency of now’” and “find the courage” to vote and mobilize on this issue. He ended with the story of Zaevion Dobson, a 15-year-old from Knoxville, Tennessee, who died while shielding three girls who were caught in an accidental crossfire.

Republican presidential candidates predictably denounced Obama and his reforms, with Sen. Ted Cruz calling them “illegal and unconstitutional” and House Speaker Paul Ryan saying that without a doubt Obama’s actions will be challenged in court.

Anticipating a frequent anti-gun-control canard, the president clarified: “Contrary to the claims of what some gun rights proponents have suggested, this hasn’t been the first step in some slippery slope to mass confiscation… This is not a plot to take away everyone’s guns.”

Josh Earnest, the White House spokesperson, said Tuesday afternoon that the president was “well within his legal right” to make these reforms and that the White House worked with the Department of Justice to coordinate these executive actions.

The president has said that Dec. 14, 2012, the day of the Sandy Hook shooting, was the worst day of his presidency, and that the failure to pass gun-control legislation in its wake was one of his most stinging defeats.

“Every time I think about these kids,” he said, referring to the 20 first-graders between the ages of 6 and 7 who were murdered, “it makes me mad.”


By: Stephanie Schwartz, The National Memo, January 5, 2016

January 6, 2016 Posted by | Background Checks, Congress, Executive Orders, Gun Violence, Sandy Hook | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The Byproduct Of A Tragic Myth”: You Don’t Need That Gun For Self-Defense

One of the most important pieces ever posted at Politico Magazine was written on January 14 by Evan DeFilippis and Devan Hughes. Titled The Myth Behind Defensive Gun Ownership, it’s worth revisiting again:

What do these and so many other cases have in common? They are the byproduct of a tragic myth: that millions of gun owners successfully use their firearms to defend themselves and their families from criminals. Despite having nearly no academic support in public health literature, this myth is the single largest motivation behind gun ownership. It traces its origin to a two-decade-old series of surveys that, despite being thoroughly repudiated at the time, persists in influencing personal safety decisions and public policy throughout the United States.

There is nothing beyond anecdotal evidence and one very flawed study suggesting that defensive use of firearms has benefits that outweigh the obvious societal drawbacks. The conclusion to the article needs to be ingrained into the DNA of the gun control debate:

The myth of widespread defensive gun use is at the heart of the push to weaken already near catatonic laws controlling the use of guns and expand where good guys can carry guns to bars, houses of worship and college campuses—all in the mistaken belief that more “good guys with guns” will help stop the “bad guys.” As Wayne LaPierre of the NRA railed in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun.”

But the evidence clearly shows that our lax gun laws and increased gun ownership, spurred on by this myth, do not help “good guys with guns” defend themselves, their families or our society. Instead, they are aiding and abetting criminals by providing them with more guns, with 200,000 already stolen on an annual basis. And more guns means more homicides. More suicides. More dead men, women and children. Not fewer.

In the latest mass shooting in Oregon, of course, the “good guy with a gun” hypothesis fell on its face. Just as the potential “good guy with a gun” in the Gaby Giffords shooting came very close to firing on the wrong man and thankfully kept his weapon in check, an armed veteran in Oregon also wisely chose not to fire his gun lest he cause greater danger to himself and others.

There is no reason to believe that guns serve much if any social benefit beyond a few news stories now and again that are massively promoted by the gun lobby to further entrench the myth of effective self-defense.

Comedian Jim Jefferies also exploded the “self-defense” myth in a blisteringly funny and effective 3-minute bit:

But sadly, the same false arguments will continue to be used by gun proponents, in the same way that false arguments about climate change, taxes and abortion are consistently used no matter how often they’re debunked. The American right has gone so far off the rails that reality is no longer a relevant boundary on discussion. As with supply-side economics, the benefits of gun culture are taken not on evidence but on almost cultic faith by the right wing and its adherents.


By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Wasington Monthly, October 4, 2015

October 5, 2015 Posted by | Gun Control, Gun Lobby, Gun Violence, National Rifle Association | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“We Deserve A Vote”: Americans Stand With President Obama’s Gun Control Pleas

On Tuesday, President Obama delivered his fourth State of the Union address (his 2009 speech was technically not a State of the Union). He followed the traditional path of laying out his vision with a laundry list of policy ideas and priorities. As he suggested, all are needed to create more jobs, encourage more economic growth, and to keep America safe, while protecting its values of fairness and equal opportunity.

It was not until he called upon Congress to take up new proposals to curb gun violence that he became emotional and animated. It was a stark contrast to his address in 2009, delivered shortly after the tragedy in Tuscon, Ariz., when he failed to mention any need for gun control at all.

Recent Quinnipiac University polling shows the majority of Americans are more supportive of a nationwide ban on the sale of assault weapons (56 percent to 39 percent) and more supportive of a nationwide ban on the sale of high-capacity ammunition magazines (56 percent to 40 percent) than members of Congress, and overwhelmingly support the president’s position to require background checks for all gun buyers (92 percent to 7 percent).

In having the confidence of knowing where the American people stand and with Gabby Giffords in the audience, along with many other victims of gun violence, the president said, “This time is different.” In a cadence often reserved for the pulpit, he called out the names of those individuals and communities who have suffered tragic losses and repeated the simple refrain, “They deserve a vote.”

It was a powerful moment in the speech, one that brought scores of lawmakers to their feet in thunderous applause, and one that the president can now use effectively to continue to build the necessary political support to pass common sense gun control measures.


By: Penny Lee, U. S. News and World Report, Debate Club, February 13, 2013

February 14, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence, State of the Union | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“What An Honor”: What Do I Have To Do To Make The NRA’s ‘Enemies List’?

I can’t tell you how let down I am that I didn’t make the National Rifle Association’s so-called “enemies list,” which has surfaced again as the gun lobby comes under closer fire, if you’ll excuse the expression.

The NRA keeps so many scores of groups in its sights as anti-gun-control that it beggars belief. Among them are the American Academy of Pediatrics, the United Methodist Church, the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Jewish Congress, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, the YWCA, and Physicians for Social Responsibility. Those from the creative arts named include Bruce Springsteen, Alec Baldwin, Jerry Seinfeld, Matt Damon, Kyra Sedgwick, and Maya Angelou, to name but a few.

What an honor. Some newspaper columnists, notably E.J. Dionne, Jr., and Cynthia Tucker, got the nod. Congratulations to all, but count me in for next time. Another columnist, the economist Paul Krugman, who writes for the New York Times, is also mysteriously missing. He recently described the NRA as “insane,” in the wake and ashes of the Newtown school shooting tragedy.

Well, I go farther than that. The NRA may as well be criminally insane for the part it plays in American society, terrorizing legislators like a loose junkyard dog. It has intervened to block medical treatment and lawsuits relating to gun ownership and violence. Deaf to the urgent words of wounded former representative Gabrielle Giffords, whose congressional career was cut short by a lone white young gunman, the NRA was unmoved by the cold blooded murder of women and children in Newtown by a lone white young gunman. For its aggressive stance over the last decades, NRA has the blood of children on its hands.

Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the NRA, didn’t bat an eye in front of a Senate panel where Giffords and Newtown parents made eloquent pleas for better gun laws, such as background checks for buyers. LaPierre didn’t move an inch on working with Congress on an assault weapons ban. And there was no apology to President Obama for the ludicrous, lowdown ad suggesting that his daughters’ school, Sidwell Friends, has armed guards (“his kids are protected by armed guards at their school”). Of course the Secret Service protects every president’s family, but the daughters’ school does not have armed guards. (Note to LaPierre’s outfit: Society of Friends schools are Quaker, a pacifist faith founded in 17th century England. “Pacifist” is a word NRA leaders should go look up in the dictionary.)

Assault weapons are more sacred than preventing human tragedy, both civilian and police deaths. It’s just that simple in the NRA’s sinister worldview. Obama could not have done anything better with his Monday than visiting Minneapolis to talk to citizens about stemming the tide of gun deaths. He stated he didn’t intend to wait for another Newtown in taking this fight to the people. Thank you, Mr. President, for acting like one.

One more thing: Gayle Trotter, a senior fellow at the NRA-allied Independent Women’s Forum, also testified in front of the same Senate panel as LaPierre last week. How she could make the absurd claim that mothers need to protect their children from intruders with guns is beyond the reach of reason. It is pure right-wing fiction, since studies show that women are actually less safe with a gun in the house. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island tried to set the record straight with some facts, but Trotter wasn’t having any of that.

Trotter’s testimony goes to show that the enemies of a more peaceful public square remain ruthless. We more temperate Americans can’t let them take Thomas Jefferson or James Madison away from us. We have to work harder to oppose their locked-in conviction, knowing that it won’t be perfect or pretty (to paraphrase Baltimore Ravens champion Head Coach John Harbaugh). But we have to get on the field and engage. Obama has started the dialogue out in the open where it belongs.

My mother, a professor, made the Nixon enemies list. Do you think I just made the NRA’s?

By: Jamie Stiehm, U. S. News and Eorld Report, February 5, 2013

February 6, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence, National Rifle Association | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Straw Woman”: The NRA’s Phony Women’s Pro-Gun Argument

The latest weapon in the war against reasonable restrictions on access to guns is the straw woman. Don’t fall for her.

This formulation would have you believe gun rights are women’s rights and that limits on guns would harm women disproportionately. The insinuation is that only insensitive men, who can’t possibly identify with the vulnerable position in which women find themselves, would be foisting gun control on them.

“Guns make women safer,” Gayle Trotter of the conservative Independent Women’s Forum, told the Senate Judiciary Committee at its Wednesday hearing on gun violence. “For women, the ability to arm ourselves for our protection is even more consequential than for men. Because guns are the great equalizer in a violent confrontation. As a result, we protect women by safeguarding our Second Amendment rights. Every woman deserves a fighting chance.”

This argument would be powerful, if only it were true. The facts suggest precisely the opposite.

First, women are far more likely to be the victims of gun violence than to benefit from using a gun in self-defense.

Second, the restrictions under discussion would not harm women. They would either make women safer or, at the very least, not impede their ability to use guns in self-defense.

On the threat that guns pose to women, consider: Women are far less likely to be the victims of gun violence than men. But they are far more likely than men to be killed by someone they know, generally a spouse or partner.

Women with a gun in the home were nearly three times as likely to be the victim of homicide than women living in a home without firearms, according to a 2003 study in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.

“There’s good evidence that a gun in the home increases the likelihood that a woman in the home will die,” said David Hemenway, director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center. “There is no evidence that a gun in the home is protective for the woman.”

So much for guns making women safer. Still, the Second Amendment grants women as well as men the freedom to take the risk of having one at home.

Then on to the second issue: whether various gun-control proposals — enhanced background checks, limits on magazine sizes, restrictions on assault weapons — would make it more difficult for women to defend themselves.

Trotter’s Exhibit A was Sarah McKinley, an Oklahoma widow alone with her 3-month-old son when two intruders, one armed with a foot-long knife, broke into her home. McKinley shot and killed one of them with a Remington 12-gauge shotgun.

But here’s the problem with Trotter’s example: Nothing in the restrictions under discussion would have stopped McKinley.

As Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) observed, “I think it proves the point that with ordinary firearms, not hundred-magazine, peculiar types of artifacts, people are quite capable of defending themselves.”

Trotter remained impervious to Whitehouse’s logic. “How can you say that?” she asked. “You are a large man. . . . You cannot understand. You are not a woman stuck in her house having to defend her children, not able to leave her child, not able to go seek safety.”

Trotter argued that assault weapons such as the AR-15 are young women’s “weapon of choice” because they are accurate, light and, most of all, intimidating. “The peace of mind that a woman has as she’s facing three, four, five violent attackers . . . knowing that she has a scary-looking gun,” she said, “gives her more courage when she’s fighting hardened violent criminals.”

You have got to be kidding. The intruder is going to be more scared off — the woman is going to feel more empowered — because the gun is scarier-looking?

If anything, women should be clamoring for gun-control measures — in particular, for expanded background checks. Individuals convicted of domestic violence are prohibited from buying guns — but, of course, the porousness of the current background check system lets abusers dodge that rule. And, according to the National Institute of Justice, abused women are six times more likely to be killed when a gun is in the home.

“I speak on behalf of millions of American women across the country who urge you to defend our Second Amendment right to choose to defend ourselves,” Trotter proclaimed.

I’d say that I speak for millions of American women who reject this phony solicitude, but there is a better representative. She spoke at the hearing, too. “Too many children are dying,” she said, painfully enunciating each syllable. “We must do something.”

Her name is Gabby Giffords. Anyone dare tell her that guns make women safer?


By: Ruth Marcus, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, January 31, 2013

February 2, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence, Women | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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