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“Conservative Politicians Insult All Of France”: Another Case Where Both Sides Don’t Do It

American conservatives wasted no time last night in using the recent terrorist atrocities as a vehicle for their own political agendas. In today’s partisan climate that was sadly to be expected.

But several prominent conservatives went so far in their posturing on guns that they managed to insult France and its people in such a way that it engendered an immediate and forceful backlash.

First came Newt Gingrich, who curiously for a conservative Republican suggested that some random number of death metal enthusiasts rock concert attendees be armed and packing:

This led to France 24’s Marc Owen public calling out Newt Gingrich on air with the following:

“So he’s using this atrocity to make his point that people should be able to carry guns basically,” Owen said. “It’s funny how people will very distastefully use this kind of situation to express their own particular political [inaudible]. Newt Gingrich, shame on you.”

Also interestingly, an older Donald Trump tweet from this January made after Charlie Hebdo attack to insult France and its gun laws resurfaced tonight after the French ambassador to the United States apparently mistook it for a reaction to tonight’s news:

The French ambassador has since deleted his own outraged tweet, but the fact remains that Trump did tweet this after Charlie Hebdo and has not apologized for it.

Mother Jones has compiled a list of other outrageous and insensitive statements by prominent conservative figures about the attack, from Judith Miller to Congressman Jeff Duncan to former Congressman Joe Walsh.

The Gingrich and Trump comments are reminiscent of former Texas governor Rick Perry’s statement that America needs more guns in dark, crowded movie theaters. Not only is insinuating that gun control policy is responsible for the deaths in Paris outrageously insensitive, it’s also beyond stupid. The notion that in an environment of darkness and chaos at a death metal concert, an assemblage of random citizens with pistols would have created a less deadly environment when faced with trained terrorists with Kalashnikovs and explosive vests is simply ludicrous. Above and beyond that, of course, is the fact that America’s permissive gun policies lead to a staggering gun death toll that is exponentially bigger than even dozens of terrorist attacks like the one we just saw in Paris.

But none of this fazes the Republican frontrunner for the Presidency and the former GOP Speaker of the House. While earlier this year or last night, they evidently believe it’s not only advisable to promote their destructive views on guns, but to do so in direct response to a terrorist tragedy overseas with significant diplomatic consequences.

You just won’t find anything parallel to this on the American left. The worst example from the left might be by Wikileaks, but even then that’s 1) not an American organization, and 2) was roundly called for being asinine by people of all political stripes, including even the Anonymous twitter account.

In this as in so much else, both sides do not in fact do it. The American Right has truly unilaterally gone off the rails, and last night’s response to the massacre in France is just another example of that.


By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, November 13, 2015

November 15, 2015 Posted by | Charlie Hebdo, Conservatives, Donald Trump, France Terrorist Attacks | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Gun Laws And What The Second Amendment Intended”: When The NRA Didn’t Support Everything That Goes ‘Bang’!

As school shootings erupt with sickening regularity, Americans once again are debating gun laws. Quickly talk turns to the Second Amendment.

But what does it mean? History offers some surprises: It turns out in each era, the meaning is set not by some pristine constitutional text, but by the push and pull, the rough and tumble of public debate and political activism. And gun rights have always coexisted with responsibility.

At 27 words long, the provision is the shortest sentence in the U.S. Constitution. It reads: “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

Modern readers squint at its stray commas and confusing wording. The framers believed in freedom to punctuate.

It turns out that to the framers, the amendment principally focused on those “well regulated militias.” These militias were not like anything we know now: Every adult man (eventually, every white man) served through their entire lifetime. They were actually required to own a gun, and bring it from home.

Think of the minutemen at Lexington and Concord, who did battle with the British army. These squads of citizen soldiers were seen as a bulwark against tyranny. When the Constitution was being debated, many Americans feared the new central government could crush the 13 state militias. Hence, the Second Amendment. It protected an individual right – to fulfill the public responsibility of militia service.

What about today’s gun-rights debates? Surprisingly, there is not a single word about an individual right to a gun for self-defense in the notes from the Constitutional Convention; nor with scattered exceptions in the transcripts of the ratification debates in the states; nor on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives as it marked up the Second Amendment, where every single speaker talked about the militia. James Madison’s original proposal even included a conscientious objector clause: “No person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms shall be compelled to render military service in person.”

To be clear, there were plenty of guns in the founding era. Americans felt they had the right to protect themselves, especially in the home, a right passed down from England through common law. But there were plenty of gun laws, too. Boston made it illegal to keep a loaded gun in a home, due to safety concerns. Laws governed the location of guns and gunpowder storage. New York, Boston and all cities in Pennsylvania prohibited the firing of guns within city limits. States imposed curbs on gun ownership. People deemed dangerous were barred from owning weapons. Pennsylvania disarmed Tory sympathizers.

That balance continued throughout our history, even in the Wild West. A historic photo of Dodge City, Kansas, the legendary frontier town, shows a sign planted in the middle of its main street: “The Carrying of Fire Arms Strictly Prohibited.” Few thought the Constitution had much to say about it.

Through much of history, this balance evoked little controversy. Even the National Rifle Association embraced it. Today the NRA is known for harsh anti-government rhetoric, but it was started to train former Union soldiers in marksmanship. In the 1930s, the group testified for the first federal gun law. In 1968, its American Rifleman magazine told its readers the NRA “does not necessarily approve of everything that goes ‘Bang!’”

Of course, over the past three decades, the NRA shifted sharply. At the group’s 1977 annual meeting, still remembered as the “Revolt at Cincinnati,” moderate leaders were voted out and the organization was recast as a constitutional crusade.

Together with even more intense advocates, such as the Second Amendment Foundation, of Bellevue, Washington, they are quick to decry any gun laws as an assault on a core, sacred constitutional right. They waged a relentless constitutional campaign to change the way we see the amendment.

Remarkably, the first time the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment recognizes an individual right to gun ownership was in 2008. The decision, District of Columbia v. Heller, rang loudly. But a close read shows that Justice Antonin Scalia and his colleagues make the familiar point that gun rights and responsibilities go together. The court said that, like all constitutional rights, there could be limits. “Nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms,” Scalia wrote.

That’s how judges have interpreted this constitutional right. Dozens of courts have examined gun laws since 2008. Overwhelmingly they have upheld them, despite the claims of gun-rights attorneys. Yes, there is an individual right to gun ownership — but with rights come responsibilities. Society, too, has a right to safety, and there is a compelling public interest in laws to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people.

To be sure, the final scope of the constitutional provision has not been determined. The Supreme Court has not spoken again. It is infallible because it is final, as Justice Robert Jackson once wrote, not final because it is infallible. But the greatest controversy revolves around issues such as the rules for carrying a gun outside the home.

So what does the Second Amendment really mean? From the debate over the Constitution to today’s gun fights, the answer is really up to us, to the people. That answer changes over time. But one thing has remained surprisingly constant: Americans cherish freedom, but believe passionately that rights demand responsibilities. It’s hard to think of an area where that insight matters more than when it comes to ensuring that lethal weapons do not fall into the wrong hands.


By: Michael Waldman, President of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law; The National Memo, July 14, 2014

July 15, 2014 Posted by | Constitution, Gun Control, National Rifle Association | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“A Fatalism About Life”: Surprise, Surprise, Gun Violence In Red States

Pooh-poh this if you like, since it comes from the Center for American Progress, but the group just released a big study showing that–across 10 measures like the number of firearms homicides, number of total firearm deaths (including accidents etc.), law enforcement agents killed by firearms, and so on–the deadliest states are those with the most lax gun laws.

The “top” 10: Louisiana, Alaska, Alabama, Arizona, Mississippi, South Carolina, New Mexico, Missouri, Arkansas, and Georgia.

Now I know conservatives are thinking: No way these places are deadlier than New York and other states with big cities that have very violent neighborhoods. But according to CAP, New York and New Jersey, for example, rank 46th and 47th in gun violence. The full “bottom” 10: Nebraska, Maine, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Iowa, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Hawaii. That’s basically a combination of sparsely populated states and states with strong gun laws.

Does this check out with other information? Here’s another study showing Louisiana as the “least peaceful” state in the country. Here’s a third that also has Louisiana at the top (yes, I know that’s mainly because of Nawlins), but also features largely Southern and Southwestern states as the most violent, with New York in the bottom half.

This will never change, unless gun laws undergo some kind of serious revolution, because obviously the people who live in these places accept these levels of violence. I think it’s not merely that they are resistant to changing gun laws. There’s some deeper thing about the relationship between violence and concepts like justice and fate. That is to say, for example, that I think cultural responses to a seven-year-old girl accidentally killing herself with her father’s rifle are different in Georgia than they are in Connecticut.

I’m not saying Georgians wouldn’t care. Obviously, they’re human beings. But I am saying that they on some level would be more likely to accept that this is just how life goes sometimes. It’s a fatalism about life that probably has to do with some combination of comparative lack of opportunity and religious attitudes (that is, matters are in the Lord’s hands, etc.).

And by the way, if you haven’t been checking Joe Nocera’s blog (the NYT columnist), you may wish to do so. He’s just listing gun violence reports from around the country. It’s pretty chilling to read. There’s also the Slate gun-death tally; 3,293 gun deaths since Newtown.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, April 3, 2013

April 5, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence, Guns | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Weaponization Of Our Culture”: Ten Arguments Gun Advocates Make And Why They’re Wrong

There has been yet another mass shooting, something that now seems to occur on a monthly basis. Every time another tragedy like this occurs, gun advocates make the same arguments about why we can’t possibly do anything to restrict the weaponization of our culture. Here’s a guide to what they’ll be saying in the coming days:

1. Now isn’t the time to talk about guns.

We’re going to hear this over and over, and not just from gun advocates; Jay Carney said it to White House reporters today. But if we’re not going to talk about it now, when are we going to talk about it? After Sandy hit the East Coast, no one said, “Now isn’t the time to talk about disaster preparedness; best leave that until it doesn’t seem so urgent.” When there’s a terrorist attack, no one says, “Now isn’t the time to talk about terrorism.” Nowl is exactly the time.

2. Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.

Maybe, but people with guns kill many, many more people than they would if they didn’t have guns, and guns designed to kill as many people as possible. We don’t know if the murderer in Newtown was suffering from a suicidal depression, but many mass shooters in the past were. And guess what? People suffer from suicidal depression everywhere in the world. People get angry and upset everywhere in the world. But there aren’t mass shootings every few weeks in England or Costa Rica or Japan, and the reason is that people in those places who have these impulses don’t have an easy way to access lethal weapons and unlimited ammunition. But if you want to kill large numbers of people and you happen to be an American, you’ll find it easy to do.

3. If only everybody around was armed, an ordinary civilian could take out a mass killer before he got too far.

If that were true, then how come it never happens? The truth is that in a chaotic situation, even highly trained police officers often kill bystanders. The idea that some accountant who spent a few hours at the range would suddenly turn into Jason Bourne and take out the killer without doing more harm than good has no basis in reality.

4. We don’t need more laws, we just need to enforce the laws we have.

The people who say this are the same ones who fight to make sure that existing laws are as weak and ineffectual as possible. Our current gun laws are riddled with loopholes and allow people to amass enormous arsenals of military-style weapons with virtually no restrictions.

5. Criminals will always find a way to get guns no matter what measures we take, so what’s the point?

The question isn’t whether we could snap our fingers and make every gun disappear. It’s whether we can make it harder for criminals to get guns, and harder for an unbalanced person with murderous intent to kill so many people. The goal is to reduce violence as much as possible. There’s no other problem for which we’d say if we can’t solve it completely and forever we shouldn’t even try.

6. The Constitution says I have a right to own guns.

Yes it does, but for some reason gun advocates think that the right to bear arms is the only constitutional right that is virtually without limit. You have the right to practice your religion, but not if your religion involves human sacrifice. You have the right to free speech, but you can still be prosecuted for incitement or conspiracy, and you can be sued for libel. Every right is subject to limitation when it begins to threaten others, and the Supreme Court has affirmed that even though there is an individual right to gun ownership, the government can put reasonable restrictions on that right.

And we all know that if this shooter turns out to have a Muslim name, plenty of Americans, including plenty of gun owners, will be more than happy to give up all kinds of rights in the name of fighting terrorism. Have the government read my email? Have my cell phone company turn over my call records? Check which books I’m taking out of the library? Make me take my shoes off before getting on a plane, just because some idiot tried to blow up his sneakers? Sure, do what you’ve got to do. But don’t make it harder to buy thousands of rounds of ammunition, because if we couldn’t do that we’d no longer be free.

7. Widespread gun ownership is a guarantee against tyranny.

If that had anything to do with contemporary life, then mature democracies would be constantly overthrown by despots. But they aren’t. We shouldn’t write laws based on the fantasies of conspiracy theorists.

8. Guns are a part of American culture.

Indeed they are, but so are a lot of things, and that tells us nothing about whether they’re good or bad and how we want to treat them going forward. Slavery was a part of American culture for a couple of hundred years, but eventually we decided it had to go.

9. The American people don’t want more gun control.

The truth is that when public opinion polls have asked Americans about specific measures, the public is in favor of a much more restrictive gun regime than we have now. Significant majorities would like to see the assault weapons ban reinstated, mandatory licensing and training for all gun owners, significant waiting periods for purchases, and host of other restrictions (there are more details here). In many cases, gun owners themselves support more restrictions than we currently have.

10. Having movie theaters and schools full of kids periodically shot up is just a price we should be willing to pay if it means I get to play with guns and pretend I’m Wyatt Earp.

OK, that’s actually an argument gun advocates don’t make. But it’s the truth that lies beneath all their other arguments. All that we suffer because of the proliferation of guns—these horrifying tragedies, the 30,000 Americans who are killed every year with guns—for gun advocates, it’s unfortunate, but it’s a price they’re willing to pay. If only they’d have the guts to say it.

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, December 13, 2012

December 15, 2012 Posted by | Guns | , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

When Al Qaeda Endorses The GOP Line On Guns

A few weeks ago, House Republicans killed a proposal to prevent those on the FBI’s terrorist watch list from buying firearms. It’s the same party that’s supported the gun-show loophole for years.

When it comes to organizations that appreciate the Republican approach most, the National Rifle Association certainly comes to mind, but Chris Brown flags a different group that seems pleased.

In a video released [Friday] Al Qaeda spokesman Adam Gadahn encourages terrorists to use American gun shows to arm themselves for potential Mumbai-style attacks.  Gadahn’s video laid out a new tactic for Al Qaeda to continue their murderous terrorist agenda:

“America is absolutely awash with easily obtainable firearms. You can go down to a gun show at the local convention center and come away with a fully automatic assault rifle, without a background check, and most likely without having to show an identification card. So what are you waiting for?”

At gun shows buyers can purchase guns from private sellers without passing a background check.

Because the discourse allows no meaningful discussion of restricting gun ownership, this news will probably spark exactly zero debate on Capitol Hill.

But it’s a reminder of just how complete the NRA’s victory really is. Al Qaeda itself is urging radicals to take advantage of loose American laws to arm themselves, presumably to aid in acts of terror … and policymakers who fear the NRA more than they fear terrorists don’t say a word.


By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly-Political Animal, June 6, 2011

June 7, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Conservatives, Constitution, GOP, Government, Guns, Homeland Security, Ideologues, Ideology, Lobbyists, National Rifle Association, National Security, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, Terrorism | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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