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“The Only Sensible Answer To A Brutal Problem”: It’s Time: Democrats Are Speaking Up About Gun Control

Pressure from Democrats to finally push the needle on gun reform, after repeated mass shootings have been met with silence from the right, came just hours after the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history. Following House Speaker Paul Ryan’s usual moment of silence on the floor on Monday, Democrats chanted “Where’s the bill?” and dismissed the silence as meaningless without legislative action.

Democrats are pursuing a slate of legislation, including “No Fly, No Buy,” which would ban those on the FBI’s no-fly list from accessing guns; addressing the “Charleston loophole,” which allows guns to be sold after a three-day waiting period, even if the FBI’s background check isn’t complete; and legislation that would ban anyone convicted of a hate crime from purchasing guns.

On Wednesday, Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut and other senate Democrats staged an old-school talking filibuster to urge movement on gun reform. And while a handful of conservative voices — and Donald Trump, via a tweet — have come out in favor of curbing access to military-style weapons, the vast majority pivoted towards focusing on “radical Islamic terrorism” in the wake of the attack.

Republicans talk a tough terrorism game, yet they don’t see a problem with suspected terrorists being able to purchase guns. As Hillary Clinton tweeted on Wednesday, “people can’t board planes with full shampoo bottles — but people being watched by the FBI for terrorism can buy a gun, no questions asked?” The nation was able to swiftly pass new airport security measures in the wake of 9/11, yet in the wake of the worst LGBT hate crime in American history, and the worst terrorist on American soil attack since 9/11, Republicans are holding back, hiding behind the Second Amendment.

The effort by Republicans to shift the debate away from gun control and towards ISIS is a reflection of who is really pulling the strings — the gun manufacturing lobby. Ted Cruz has raked in $36,229 from gun lobbyists. When, as speaker of the Florida House, Marco Rubio’s caucus failed to pass a bill allowing employees to bring firearms to work, NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer complained ominously that Rubio “talked the talk, but he didn’t walk the walk.”

The CEO of Sturm, Ruger, and Co., Michael Fifer, assured shareholders a month ago that, although demand for their product was “easing,” they should anticipate higher gun sales during the election season, as the “rhetoric from both sides” will “[keep] consumers aware and thinking about their firearm rights.”

Fifer didn’t try to hide his opportunism, adding that “If the political environment in this election year causes one or more strong spikes in demand, we may stretch our capital expenditures budget to take advantage of the opportunities presented.” In other words: Yes, the political fear mongering is purposeful, and yes, it is profitable.

Despite the silence and inaction, Democrats are pushing forward in their campaign to make progress on gun control. Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) introduced legislation that would ban anyone convicted of a hate crime from purchasing, possessing, or shipping a gun, marking the first proposed gun control legislation after the Orlando shootings.

Like other gun reform proposals, this one is common sense. According to an analysis by the Center for American Progress, 43,000 hate crimes committed in the United States involved the use or threat of a gun. And considering that the most recent one involved the slaughter of 49 people in a gay nightclub, or that the brutal shooting in Charleston, South Carolina resulted in 33 federal hate crime charges, there is ample need for the legislation.

Democrats are also expected to continue pushing for the renewal of the ban on assault rifles. Rep. Seth Moulton, an Iraq War veteran, penned an op-ed for Wednesday’s New York Daily News in which he advocated for the ban. “I know assault rifles,” Moulton tweeted. “I carried one in Iraq. They have no place on America’s streets.”

“I had to look at pictures of dead and mangled bodies in order to understand the magnitude of what it meant to pull that trigger,” he wrote.

President Obama joined presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders — and nearly every Democrat in national politics — this week in reinforcing calls for a ban on assault rifles, which was in effect from 1994 to 2004.

The pressure to change laws is a popular one, too: A CBS poll conducted this week found that the percentage of Americans who support banning assault weapons jumped to 57 percent, from 44 percent in December. And a White House petition to ban the AR-15 from civilian use has tallied more than 157,000 signatures in three days.

Republicans continue to repeat the polarizing message that those on the left are trying to “take your guns away” — a useful slogan that doubles as ad copy for gun manufacturers.

Meanwhile, they stand in the way of reforms that are not only long overdue and hugely popular, but also the only sensible answer to a brutal problem that every other nation on earth has legislated out of existence.


By: Matt Tracy, The National Memo, June 15, 2016

June 17, 2016 Posted by | Democrats, Gun Control, Mass Shootings, National Rifle Association | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Black Guns No Different From Other Sporting Guns”: Court Decision Uses Gun Industry’s Own Fiction To Uphold Assault Rifle Regulations

Right after the Sandy Hook massacre, both New York and Connecticut passed laws that tightened up restrictions on owning ‘black’ guns, a.k.a., the military-style AR rifles like the type Adam Lanza used to kill 26 adults and young kids. The laws basically toughened the earlier assault weapons bans, provoking immediate outcries from the pro-gun gang who challenged the laws based on their inalienable 2nd-Amendment rights. After all, the 2008 Heller decision protected private ownership of all guns that are “in common use,” and what could be more common than AR rifles of which probably more than four million have been manufactured over the last twenty years?

The gun industry began promoting black guns in the 1990s when they realized that hunting and traditional sporting use of guns was dying out. This promotion took two forms: on the one hand creating the fiction that black guns, like all guns protected us from crime; on the other hand creating the equally beguiling fiction that military-style weapons were no different from other, traditional rifles since they could only be fired in semi-automatic mode.

The industry went so far as to create an entirely new shooting tradition, replacing the phrase ‘assault rifle’ with the nomenclature ‘modern sporting rifle’ so as to pretend that an AR-15 is nothing other than the same, old hunting gun that sportsmen have for generations been taking out to the woods. And for those who like to imagine themselves mowing down ISIS or Al Queda in the streets and alleys of Philadelphia or New York, the guns being sold by Bushmaster, Colt, Stag and other black-gun manufacturers are referred to as ‘tactical’ weapons, which everyone knows is simply an assault rifle with a different name.

Both the CT and NY laws were challenged and upheld in District Court; now the Court of Appeals, 2nd Circuit, has upheld both laws again. What is interesting about this decision, indeed remarkable, is the fact that it is based not just on the government’s authority to regulate guns that are in “common use,” but to regulate these particular types of weapons based on their definition as created and promoted by the gun industry itself! The Circuit Court accepted the notion that black guns are just another type of sporting rifle, and it was the acknowledgement that black guns are no different from other types of sporting guns that ultimately legitimized the assault-rifle bans in Connecticut and New York.

Plaintiffs in this case argued that there were more than four million AR-15 rifles owned by civilians and that these guns, like other civilian weapons, could only be fired in semi-automatic mode. As the Court said, “This much is clear: Americans own millions of the firearms that the challenged legislation prohibits.” Further, the Court also accepted the notion that many Americans keep an AR-15 in their home for self-defense. Given those circumstances, how could the Circuit Court decide that prohibiting civilian ownership of such weapons was not a violation of 2nd-Amendment rights? Because what the Court did was take the gun industry’s own fiction about these guns and stand it on its head.

The industry’s marketing of black guns as ‘sporting’ rifles is based on one thing and one thing only; namely, these weapons can only be shot in semi-auto mode. Never mind that you can deliver up to 60 rounds of ammunition in thirty seconds or less; never mind that the .223 round has a lethality specifically designed to kill or injure human targets; never mind that many military and law enforcement units also deploy the semi-auto gun. That residents in New York and Connecticut can own all kinds of semi-automatic rifles which do not contain certain military-style features means that the ban on AR-style rifles is not a prohibition of semi-automatic weapons at all.

As a noted Supreme Court justice once said, “History also has its claims.” And one of those claims is that the 2nd Amendment doesn’t give the gun industry the right to invent a tall tale to justify how it tries to sell guns.


By: Mike Weisser, The Blog, The Huffington Post, October 21, 2015

October 22, 2015 Posted by | 2nd Amendment, Assault Weapons, Gun Control | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Washington, Carver, And… Zimmerman”: We Can’t Let Our Heroes Be Vilified By The Mainstream Liberal Media

As George Zimmerman finds himself in the news again for yet another charge of domestic violence, I am reminded of the thing that baffled me most in this bizarre series of events. It wasn’t just that Zimmerman was acquitted; it was his elevation to hero status amongst many of the citizens of this country. And he didn’t even have to cross the Delaware River to surprise the Hessian forces at Trenton, or even discover 300 uses for peanuts. To become a hero, all Zimmerman had to do was shoot an unarmed black teenager.

That’s all it took for one group of people in this country to back him, the diehard supporters of the Second Amendment. You know; the group that ignores the first line of the Second Amendment and thinks our forefathers were specifically referring to their personal right to own assault rifles. The group that was angry at 20 six-year-old kids for having the nerve to get killed, which might affect the number of rounds their magazines can carry.

After all, the Second Amendment says nothing of being responsible, so apparently you can’t support the amendment without supporting every bizarre case of someone using a firearm to kill someone else, especially if it’s an unarmed black teen, because we all know that person will eventually become an unarmed black man.

Zimmerman has been given the royal treatment ever since, beginning with the police not pressing charges or even opting to do an investigation. It was this no-harm-no-foul attitude that prompted national outrage. Hence a theatrical trial was put on to appease the masses.

Immediately people in this country began sending money to their hero, somewhere in the neighborhood of $200,000. After all, we can’t let our heroes be vilified by the mainstream liberal media.

And everyone in this country is entitled to representation, usually in the form of a court-appointed attorney. But not for Zimmerman. He received representation from a million-dollar lawyer, Mark O’Mara, who has stated that he still hasn’t received one penny for his services. But that doesn’t matter; he’s representing a hero who shot an unarmed black teen. Heck, why is that even against the law?

On to the theater as the trial commenced. I wondered how the prosecutors could win this case without it making them look incompetent or of showing favoritism for not pressing charges to begin with. Maybe that explains their effort, or lack thereof, during the play… uh, I mean trial.

For example, Zimmerman’s wife did not even testify to the fact that she had left George the day before and he was very upset about that. But really, what does a person’s state-of-mind have to do with their actions? Heck, he was even referred to as a Neighborhood Watch captain by everyone, including the media, even though he was not actually part of any chapter, and Neighborhood Watch volunteers are not allowed to carry weapons. Hence the word “watch.”

And when the defense presented an “expert” witness to testify that a 29-year-old, five-feet-nine, 220 pound man toting a loaded Kel Tec 9 millimeter pistol was no physical match for a 17-year-old, six-feet-one, 140 pound boy carrying a pack of Skittles, his testimony was not even questioned. And we all know of disclosure, so the prosecution had to know what this person would testify to.

I can find no studies that show that a four-inch height difference gives a person any advantage at all in a physical confrontation. In professional boxing, four inches means nothing. It is strictly the weight that matches opponents. So why was this “expert” testimony not questioned?

After the trial, Zimmerman’s status as a hero continued with his tour of the facility that manufactured the gun that he used. What a proud moment that must have been for the company to not only have someone purchase their product, but use it to kill an unarmed black teen.

Then, in perhaps the most bizarre of all events associated with this craziness, Zimmerman listed a painting on eBay, a painting that looked like a PhotoShop rendering of a clipart image with patriotic words added, and it sold for over $100.000. That means someone out there dished out that kind of dough just to own something from their hero, because the actual value of the painting from an artistic perspective would probably be under a buck.

I guess I’m from the proverbial old school. I remember when heroes were scrutinized just a little more. I remember when that term was reserved for people who did extraordinary things like firemen who rush into burning buildings to save lives, or soldiers who give their all to save a fallen friend or to protect our country, or any number of events where ordinary people put their own safety at risk to help others

But here we have George Zimmerman, and when all the dust is settled, we have a man who has done nothing out of the ordinary other than face several charges of violence and walked away as if made of Teflon. The only other thing George Zimmerman ever did in his life that was of note that makes him different than almost every other citizen of this country, was to shoot an unarmed black teenager.

And that, to millions, makes him a hero.


By: Neal Wooten, The Blog, The Huffington Post, January 13, 2014

January 13, 2015 Posted by | Criminal Justice System, Domestic Violence, George Zimmerman | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Arms Race On The Streets”: It’s Clear, Something Has Gone Terribly Wrong

To read a lot of the post-Ferguson discussion about the “militarization of the police,” you’d think the whole phenomenon was the product of the Pentagon or the Department of Homeland Security. But as Peter Mancuso argues convincingly at Ten Miles Square today, there’s another angle that libertarian folk like Rand Paul do not want to pursue: cops bulking up with military hardware as part of an arms race created by Second Amendment absolutism:

[The] larger story begins many years before our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It involves a tit-for-tat escalation of armaments between criminals, citizens, and police departments that has been egged on by America’s arms manufacturers and gun rights groups. That escalation has led to a breakdown of essential republican understandings among ordinary citizens and government officials alike, and it will continue even if Washington manages to turn off the spigot of surplus weaponry from the Pentagon. As a former Marine combatant, weapons instructor, and career law enforcement official, I am hardly gun-shy, but it’s clear to me that something has gone terribly wrong.

By the early 1980s, there was a growing perception among law enforcement officers and portions of the public that America’s police were being out-gunned in encounters with criminals…. [R]outine arrests for illegal gun possessions were increasingly turning up weapons more powerful than those carried by the officers making those arrests. As law enforcement officers, their families, and police unions began naturally voicing their concerns, the call became louder to increase police officers’ “firepower” (a military term). It was argued strenuously then that this would require replacing the highly reliable revolver, which had been carried by most departments for over a half-century, with a rapid fire, more powerful, semi-automatic side arm.

Of course, this call to increase police officer fire power was further exacerbated by the fact that state legislatures failed miserably in the face of the gun lobby to curb the sale of some of the most powerful and lethal firearms that posed threats to police officers across the country in the first place. As this dichotomy, of the availability of more powerful weapons in the face of police officer safety took hold weapons manufacturers finally broke through and hit real pay dirt. The true irony in all of this is that the huge fortunes realized by their marketing more powerful weapons to American law enforcement, was actually the result of them having already made a fortune selling these more powerful weapons, easily acquired by criminals, to the public to begin with.

It’s actually a bit worse than Mancuso suggests. The arms race between police departments and lawbreakers created an atmosphere of spectacularly lethal violence (even as violent crime rates actually went down) that made it easy for the gun lobby and its paymasters to argue that every single citizen needed to become his or her own police force, as heavily armed as the cops and robbers. “Army of One” indeed.

So we aren’t just witnessing the consequences of the “militarization of the police.” It’s the militarization of America, which happens when you deliberately destroy the state monopoly on means of lethal violence. But again, the Second Amendment fanatics of libertarianism, for whom the only violence worth deploring is state violence, just won’t go there.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Editor, Washington Monthly Political Animal, August 25, 2014

August 26, 2014 Posted by | Ferguson Missouri, Gun Lobby, Militarization of Police | , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Sanest Approach To Gun Policy”: The NRA Won’t Like This Idea

The National Rifle Association has just finished its annual meeting in Indianapolis. I don’t think I’m being reductionist in describing the NRA’s position on gun safety as pretty basic: Guns are good; gun regulations are bad. That’s unfortunate because the key insight in the perpetually fruitless gun control debate is that our social problem is deaths from guns, not the guns from themselves.

That distinction opens up the door to what I’ve always believed is the sanest approach to gun policy: a public health approach. What if we treated guns like cars, cribs and small electrical appliances? What if we focused less on the guns and more on when, where and why people get hurt or killed by them?

Automobile safety is an encouraging example. America’s roads are much, much safer than they were a half century ago. We didn’t become anti-car. We didn’t take cars away (except for some chronic drunk drivers). We made cars and roads safer and minimized the situations in which Americans were most likely to kill themselves on the road.

In 2010, the last year for which we have data, roughly 11,000 Americans died in gun homicides; 19,000 died by gun suicide; and 600 died from gun accidents – over 30,000 gun deaths a year. To put that in perspective, the faulty General Motors ignition switch at the heart of the current massive recall has been blamed for 13 deaths. Not 13,000. Not 130. Thirteen.

Experts believe that a high proportion of gun deaths are preventable. David Hemenway, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, has been an advocate of the public health approach to gun deaths for decades. I first met him when I was writing about this subject for The Economist in the late 1990s. The NRA annual meeting prompted me to call Professor Hemenway and ask what his top three reforms would be if our goal were to reduce unnecessary gun deaths.

Here are three sensible policy changes that would enable Americans to keep their guns and not die from them, too:

Universal background checks to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. Unlike drugs, just about every gun starts out legal. (You can make heroin in the remote regions of Afghanistan; you can’t make a handgun that way.) Regulations that make it harder for legal guns to end up in the hands of criminals and psychopaths will make it less likely that those criminals or psychopaths rob or shoot the rest of us.

More responsibility on the part of manufacturers for producing safer guns. The phrase “safer gun” may seem like an oxymoron; it’s not. There are many ways that gun technology can be improved to reduce inadvertent harm. Guns can be childproofed, so that young children cannot fire them. Guns can be equipped with “smart chips” so they cannot be fired by anyone but the owner. (This makes them both safer and less likely to be stolen.) Recording the unique ballistic fingerprint on every firearm would make it possible to trace any gun used in a crime back to its owner.

Lean on gun dealers to do much more to prevent “straw purchases,” in which a person buys a gun legally with the express intent of passing it on to someone who cannot buy a gun legally (e.g. a convicted felon). We do not consider it acceptable for retailers to sell liquor to people who are underage. So why is this practice in the gun trade not more rigorously opposed, including by gun enthusiasts? Let me connect the dots: If it is harder for bad people to get guns, then fewer bad people will have guns.

The NRA and the most steadfast gun rights advocates oppose these policy changes as well as the public health approach to reducing gun violence in general. Opponents typically subscribe to the “slippery slope” argument: If the government is allowed to require background checks or to promote “smart guns,” then soon all conventional guns will be banned.

This is sadly tragic logic. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, traffic fatalities per mile driven have fallen more than 80 percent since the 1950s. We’ve cracked down on deadly behaviors like drunk driving. We’ve used data to reduce other risk factors (such as young drivers driving at night or with other teens in the car). We put airbags in every new car and required seat belts.

Lots of people are alive today as a result. I may be one of them. When our Ford Explorer rolled over at 65 mph on an interstate highway in 2001, my wife and I were wearing seat belts and our two children were in car seats; we were relatively unhurt.

These kinds of changes are not costless. In the 1980s the major car companies argued that airbags were far too expensive to ever become a standard feature. Technology solved that problem; the same companies now use safety as a selling point. Most important, we have saved a lot of lives without fundamentally changing the driving experience.

So let’s do that for guns. The public health approach seems like an end run around a pro-gun versus anti-gun debate that is getting us nowhere. We have the potential to prevent tragedy – while still respecting the basic rights of responsible gun owners – if we focus on one crucial fact: guns and gun deaths are distinctly different things. I’ve never met anyone who is in favor of the latter.


By: Charles Wheelan, U. S. News and World Report, April 29, 2014

April 30, 2014 Posted by | Gun Deaths, Guns, Public Health | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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