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“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

“Survivalism”: Nothing New Under The Wingnut Sun

There’s nothing new under the wingnut sun.

Survivalists are back in the news this week, though now we call them “preppers.” In Alabama the hostage standoff against a doomsday prepper holding a five-year-old in a bunker he’d been working on in the middle of the night for over a year approaches the end of its first week. Adam Lanza shot up the children of Sandy Hook elementary with weapons his mother was reportedly stockpiling “for the economic and social meltdown.” And the brittle worldview that drives the survivalist mentality—the imagination of one’s one innocent enclave, always ever threatened by siege from dread unnamed Others—was laid bare at the recent congressional hearings on gun control, when Gayle Trotter of the Independent Women’s Forum (incidentally: not independent, not by and for women, not a forum) spun out her delirious fantasy of “a young woman defending her babies in her home” by fending off “three, four, five violent attackers” with one of those lightweight, easy to handle assault rifles.

Recently a young blogger, in a nice profile of the diverse subculture as it thrives now, unfortunately described preppers as a “nascent” movement. That ain’t so. As I’ve insisted earlier, “too much of what we observe today on the right we act as if started the day before yesterday. Always, we need to set the clock back further—as a political necessity. We have to establish deeper provenances. Or else we just reinvent, and reinvent and reinvent the wheel.” Let’s think about this: for generations we have shared our America with Americans who fear change, fear difference, fear you and me, fear everything falling apart. So much so that they organize their lives and politics around staving off the fear—which often entails taking political action that only makes America more fearful and dangerous for everyone; which destroys the trust and love it takes to sustain communities; and who reinforce one another in their fear to such a degree that the less crazy among them surely play a positive role in spurring the more crazy to the kind of awful acts we see around us now. We need to better understand where that comes from, and why it is not going away.

So let’s get down to work.

In the early 1960s there was a group called the “Minutemen,” preparing for the imminent combined Communist and United Nations invasion. Their founder, Robert DePugh, a manufacturer of veterinary phamarceuticals in Misssouri, told the press that while waiting for the final showdown, his men would monitor and check subversive activities in their hometowns. DePugh claimed inspiration from a speech given by John F. Kennedy: “We need a nation of Minutemen, citizens who are not only prepared to take up arms, but citizens who regard the preservation of freedom as a basic purpose of their daily life.”

Make no mistake: armed right-wing enclave-defenders aren’t just a function of their hatred for Democrats; they are also enabled by Democrats who braid paranoia into the political identity of the nation—Cold War paranoia then, “Homeland Security” paranoia now.

The stickers they distributed included one reading “REGISTER COMMUNISTS, NOT FIREARMS,” and tiny one members would slap on restroom walls or inside phone books featuring an image of rifle crosshairs, and this text: “See that old man at the corner where you buy your papers?” the sticker read. “He may have a silencer equipped pistol under his coat. That fountain pen in the pocket of the insurance salesman that calls on you might be a cyanide gas gun. What about your milkman? Arsenic works slow but sure. … Traitors, beware! Even now the crosshairs are on the back of your necks.”

In 1966, Minutemen were arrested in a raid after FBI infiltration indicated they were on the verge of attacking three pacifist camps in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. They had stockpiled rockets, bombs, and literally tons of ammunition. (You can read all about the group in this excellent book published at the time.)

What was DePugh’s connection to later preppers and survivalists? It was direct. In 1973 he published Can You Survive? Guidelines for Resistance to Tyranny for You and Your Family. Read the Amazon comments (“Everything they don’t want you to know…”); some people still find it useful now. And note the cover of the paperback. Like I said: the enclaves of innocents, always ever threatened by sudden siege by dread unnamed Others. Be prepared.

By the way, heard that new one? That a liberal is a conservative who’s been incarcerated? According to an article in his hometown newspaper published upon his 2009 death, “DePugh spent four years in federal prison and wrote a book about the plight of the incarcerated. Many consider it his best and most compassionate work.”

But that article also noted, “His ideas were so out of whack with what most people were thinking that the great majority of people laughed him off as a kook.” Not precisely so. The culture DePugh helped midwife grew and grew—so much so that, by 1981, Peter Arnett, then of the Associated Press, did a four-part series on the subject. It began: “Small but growing bands of Americans are arming themselves and learning how to kill because they are convinced the social order is crumbling and they will have to fend for themselves to survive…. “There are inner perimeters in America today, places people are reluctant to leave for fear of their own safety. The national perimeter no longer seems secure.’”

Enclaves of innocents, always ever threatened by sudden siege by dread unnamed Others.

And now we have the hit new cable series.

Is there a continuity of culture here? Well, consider the reviews by the podcasting proprietor behind TodaysSurvival.com of “Best of the 80s Survivalist Books” (“The gem, the golden find of this book is his reloading tables: He has provided load data for virtually every cartidge in existence…with only 3 powders. This is incredibly helpful to the survivalist reloader who may anticipate reloading ammunition for themselves, and possibly others. By storing only 3 types of powder one may reload everything from the 219 Zipper to 300 Weatherby Magnum to .44 Special and everything in between. This book is out of print, but Mr. Stair is alive and well. He runs the ‘End Times Report’ web site, which sells a pamphlet containing the reloading data in the ‘booklet’ section.”)

There’s nothing new under the wingnut sun—only that, these days, you’re more likely to find ideas that once upon a time might have got you laughed off as a kook aired out in front of respectable Congressional committees.

By: Rick Perlstein, The Nation, February 2, 2013

February 3, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence | , , , , , , , , | 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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