mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Defying A Bloody Status Quo”: In The Face Of Brutality And Carnage, The “Moderate” Is Fighting Back

President Obama went big in offering a remarkably comprehensive plan to curb gun violence, and good for him. But his announcement Wednesday is only the beginning of a protracted struggle for national sanity on firearms. Extremists have controlled the debate on guns for many years. They will do all they can to preserve a bloody status quo. The irrationality of their approach must be exposed and their power broken.

Far from acting as if his work was now done, the president made clear that he is fully invested in seeing his agenda realized — and fully prepared to lead a national movement to loosen the grip of resignation and cynicism in the face of brutality and carnage. Gun violence is not some “boutique” issue, as it is occasionally called. We are in danger of having mass shootings define us as a nation. As a people, we must rise up against this obscenity.

This fight is especially challenging for many who view themselves as “moderates” or “centrists.” Moderation is a thoroughly honorable disposition, and Obama’s proposals are moderation incarnate. By international standards, they are very cautious. The president did not call for registering all guns or confiscating assault weapons. He strongly endorsed the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Second Amendment right to bear arms. He is operating within a broad consensus about what is possible and what can work.

An assault weapons ban received 38 Republican votes in the House in 1994 and is backed by 58 percent of Americans, according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll. Were those Republicans outside the mainstream? And what about that 58 percent of Americans? The poll also found that 65 percent favored a ban on high-capacity magazines, another part of the Obama plan, and 88 percent favored closing the gun show loophole, part of the effort to make sure there are background checks for all gun purchases.

But the lobbies that purport to speak for gun owners (while actually representing the interests of gun manufacturers) don’t care what the public thinks. They tried to pretend the president’s ideas are radical. And it shows how perverse our national conversation can become when those who speak in the name of civility, reason and bipartisanship give in to timidity.

Too often, moderation has become a synonym for cowardice. Too often, moderates lack the guts to define the sensible middle of the road themselves — as Obama has done on the gun issue — and then defend it. Instead, they yield to the temptation to calibrate where everyone else stands before deciding what they believe. This allows extremists who lack any shame to drag our discourse off the road entirely, into a ditch of unreason, fear and invective.

After the NRA’s vile new advertisement that uses Secret Service protection for the president’s daughters to make a small-minded political point, can anyone take the organization’s arguments seriously again? Aren’t politicians who continue to bow low before the NRA complicit with a crowd that lacks any sense of decency?

It tells us all we need to know that the gun lobby is deeply afraid of the facts and the evidence. This is why one of the most important actions the president took was to end the ban on research into gun violence by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that the weapons lobby had forced through a compliant Congress.

Yet Obama and Vice President Joe Biden also worked hard to find middle ground in their anti-violence program in drawing on concerns raised since the Sandy Hook tragedy by gun rights advocates. Obama thus addressed not only firearms issues but also the imperative to improve school security and our mental health system, as well as the need to know more about the impact of violent videogames.

Most heartening of all was the tone the president took. He did not cast himself as an evenhanded umpire far above the fray, handing down ideas that all people of good will would inevitably accept. He acknowledged that the battle ahead would be difficult. He predicted he would have to fight the lie that his plan constituted “a tyrannical assault on liberty.” And he sought to mobilize a new effort to counteract the entrenched power of those who have dictated submissiveness in the face of bloodshed.

“Enough,” Obama declared, insisting that change would come only “if the American people demand it.”

Will we?

 

By: E. J. Dionne Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, January 16, 2013

 

January 17, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence, Guns | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Confessions Of A Former Gun-Worshipper”: Like All Religions, Gun Worship Deserves A Healthy Dose Of Critical Thinking

First confession: I used to have a thing for guns.

Because guns meant men, power, danger, and love.

Guns meant legendary rifle-carrying Revolutionary War-fighting ancestors, posses of Okie great-grandfathers riding the line between outlaw and volunteer lawman, and Johnny Cash look-alike uncles. They meant chuckling tales of misspent shotgun cartridges traded by friends of Johnny Cash look-alike uncles at family funerals. Grandfathers who special-ordered assault rifles to keep in their homes in the Los Angeles suburbs—just because they could, and just because someone might think that they shouldn’t. And, once in a long while, guns meant a drive into the manzanita-thicketed Southern California foothills with Dad to aim into the dusty hillsides.

Guns were what boys got to do. More precisely: guns were what sons got to do.

How could I not have a thing for guns?

Second confession: I no longer have a thing for guns.

Yes, Newtown had something to do with it. But I have more private reasons as well. Suffice it to say, I sat up one morning last month and said, yes, I’m all done with guns now. Not interested. In any way, shape, or form.

And my conversion—or is it a deconversion?—has made me think more seriously about the reverence in which guns are held in this country.

It’s something I’ve known intellectually, of course. I’ve read my Richard Slotkin. I know, as he writes in Gunfighter Nation (1992) that one of our greatest national myths holds that “violence is an essential and necessary part of the process through which American society was established and through which its democratic values are defended and enforced.”

What I’ve only realized lately is the extent to which the sacralization of guns by the gun lobby has made it nearly impossible to have a sober, data-based public conversation about gun policy—blocking even the collection of data on gun violence, as Tom Diaz of the Violence Policy Center explained here last month.

We’re all waiting, of course, to hear what Vice President Joe Biden will say next Tuesday as he presents the findings of his gun task force. You can bet there will be something about closing the now infamous “gun show” loophole that allows for nearly 40% of gun purchases to proceed without a background check, as well something about reinstating bans on assault weapons—like the weapon used at Sandy Hook elementary. Maybe Vice President Biden will also underscore an obvious national need for better mental health screening and treatment.

But also needed is a broader conversation about the sacred halo many Americans—including me—have bestowed on guns and gun ownership.

Like all religions, gun worship deserves a healthy dose of critical thinking.

 

By: Joanna Brooks, Religion Dispatches, January 11, 2013

January 14, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence, Guns | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Lives Hang In The Balance”: Americans Must Stop Stigmatizing Mental Illness

Of all the outrages to decency and common sense during National Rifle Association president Wayne LaPierre’s bizarre press conference following the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, the most offensive may have been his depiction of America as a dark hell haunted by homicidal maniacs.

“The truth,” LaPierre insisted, “is that our society is populated by an unknown number of genuine monsters — people so deranged, so evil, so possessed by voices and driven by demons that no sane person can possibly ever comprehend them. They walk among us every day. And does anybody really believe that the next Adam Lanza isn’t planning his attack on a school he’s already identified at this very moment?”

Monsters, evil, possessed. Demons, for the love of God.

Is this the 21st century, or the 17th? In LaPierre’s mind, like many adepts of the gun cult, it follows that every grown man and woman must equip themselves with an AR-15 semi-automatic killing machine with a 30-round banana clip to keep monsters out of elementary schools. Die Hard: With a Blackboard.

To be fair, polls show that most gun owners support reasonable reforms like closing the “gun show” loophole allowing no-questions-asked sales that evade FBI background checks. It may be politically possible to ban high-capacity magazines and to reinstate something like the assault weapons ban allowed to expire in yet another of President George W. Bush’s many gifts to the nation.

That these actions would have limited short-term effect is no reason not to act. Nobody’s Second Amendment rights would be compromised either. America can’t achieve sensible gun laws without first politically isolating extremists.

But there’s another way that LaPierre’s appalling rhetoric helps make a bad situation worse. Loose talk about possession and demons serves only to deepen the stigma and shame surrounding mental illness and contributes to society’s refusal to deal seriously with its effects.

Newtown mass shooter Adam Lanza hasn’t been, and probably can’t be, diagnosed with any certainty. But all the signs point to paranoid schizophrenia, a devastating brain disease whose victims are no more possessed by demons than are cancer patients or heart attack survivors.

Psychiatrist Paul Steinberg writes that early signs of the disease “may include being a quirky loner—often mistaken for Asperger’s syndrome,” the less-stigmatizing diagnosis Nancy Lanza reportedly told friends accounted for her son’s peculiarities.

Schizophrenia is a physiological disorder of the prefrontal cortex of the brain, resulting in disordered and obsessive thinking, auditory hallucinations and other forms of psychosis. Sufferers often imagine themselves to have a special connection with God or some other powerful figure. It’s when they start hearing command voices telling them to avenge themselves upon imagined enemies that terrible things can happen.

Ronald Reagan’s would-be assassin John Hinckley, Jr. suffers from schizophrenia; also John Lennon’s killer Mark David Chapman. More to the point, rampage shooter Seung-Hui Cho, who killed 32 students and teachers at Virginia Tech in 2007, had been in and out of treatment for paranoid schizophrenia, but never hospitalized for long enough to bring him back to reality.

Nobody knew what to do about Jared L. Loughner, who killed six people while attempting to murder Rep. Gabby Giffords in Tucson. Same disease. After James Holmes began showing signs of advancing psychosis, University of Colorado officials more or less, well, “washed their hands of him” would be a judgmental way to put it. Then he killed 24 strangers attending a Batman movie in Aurora, CO. He reportedly mailed a notebook describing his mad plans to a university psychiatrist, which she received only after the fact.

With the possible exception of Lanza, all of these killers had exhibited overt symptoms of psychosis previous to their explosive criminal acts. They belonged in locked-down psychiatric hospitals under medical treatment — whether voluntarily or not. Nobody in Seung-Hui Cho’s or James Holmes’ state of mind can meaningfully decide these things for themselves.

Properly speaking, psychosis has no rights.

Yet the biggest reason people don’t act is that for practical purposes, ill-considered laws make involuntary commitment somewhere between difficult and impossible. Sources told New York Times columnist Joe Nocera that Connecticut makes it so hard to get somebody committed to a psychiatric hospital against their will that Nancy Lanza probably couldn’t have done anything had she tried. (And risked antagonizing her son in the process.)

“The state and federal rules around mental illness,” Nocera writes “are built upon a delusion: that the sickest among us should always be in control of their own treatment, and that deinstitutionalization is the more humane route.”

A liberal delusion, mainly. The good news is that anti-psychotic medications work; diseased minds can be treated. Putting somebody into a psychiatric ward for 30 days shouldn’t be as simple as a 911 call, but neither should it require the near-equivalent of a criminal trial.

Just as with gun control, lives hang in the balance.

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, January 2, 2012

January 3, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence, Health Care | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“NRA Getting A Bang For Its Bucks”: Gun Sales Rise Sharply After Newtown Shooting

Firearm sales are surging across the country in response to President Barack Obama’s promise to pursue new gun control laws in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, CT.

According to a December 18 Fox News report, shortly after the massacre, consumers began buying huge numbers of AR-15 rifles — the same type used by shooter Adam Lanza — in preparation for Congress to reinstate the assault weapons ban:

–The Colorado Bureau of Investigation says it set a new record for single-day background check submittals this past weekend.

–In San Diego, Northwest Armory gun store owner Karl Durkheimer said Saturday “was the biggest day we’ve seen in 20 years. Sunday will probably eclipse that.”

–In southwest Ohio, from dawn to dusk a Cincinnati gun show had a line of 400 waiting to get in, said Joe Eaton of the Buckeye Firearms Association. ”Sales were through the roof on Saturday,” said Eaton. “People were buying everything they could out of fear the president would try to ban certain guns and high-capacity magazines.”

The initial sales surge has proven surprisingly durable in the days since the shooting. Several gun store owners told Outdoor Life’s John Haughey that the weekend before Christmas was one of their busiest ever.

According to local reporting, gun sales have also skyrocketed in Arizona and New Mexico.

One weapons company, Brownells Inc. — which claims to be the world’s largest supplier of firearms accessories and gunsmithing tools — says that it sold an astonishing three and a half years worth of ammunition magazines in three days after the Newtown shooting.

This is the second major surge in gun sales over the past two months; they also rose sharply directly after President Obama’s re-election on November 6th.

The rapidly rising sales help to explain the motivation behind the NRA’s inflammatory response to the Newtown shooting. Although Wayne LaPierre’s defiant speech and appearance on Meet The Press were widely panned, they kept guns in the headlines, which have kept gun sales high. Over the past seven years, the gun industry has donated between $14.7 million and $38.9 million to the NRA’s corporate-giving campaign; even if Congress does reinstate the assault weapons ban in the coming months, it’s pretty clear that the NRA has gotten a good bang for its buck.

By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, December 26, 2012

December 27, 2012 Posted by | Guns | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Enablers Of Death”: The NRA Has America Living Under The Gun

You might think Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of and spokesman for the mighty American gun lobby, the National Rifle Association, has an almost cosmic sense of timing. In 2007, at the NRA’s annual convention in St. Louis, he warned the crowd that, “Today, there is not one firearm owner whose freedom is secure.” Two days later, a young man opened fire on the campus of Virginia Tech, killing 32 students, staff and teachers.

Just last week LaPierre showed up at the United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty here in New York and spoke out against what he called “anti-freedom policies that disregard American citizens’ right to self-defense.” Now at least 12 are dead in Aurora, Colorado, gunned down at a showing of the new film, “The Dark Knight Rises,” a Batman movie filled with make-believe violence. One of the guns the shooter reportedly used was an AK-47 type assault weapon that was banned in 1994. The NRA pressured Congress to let the ban run out in 2004.

Obviously, LaPierre’s timing isn’t cosmic, just coincidental and unfortunate; as Shakespeare famously wrote, the fault is not in our stars, but in ourselves. In other words, people — people with guns. There are some 300 million guns in the United States, one in four adult Americans owns at least one and most of them are men. According to the British newspaper The Guardian, over the last 30 years, “the number of states with a law that automatically approves licences to carry concealed weapons provided an applicant clears a criminal background check has risen from eight to 38.”

Every year there are 30,000 gun deaths and perhaps as many as 300,000 gun-related assaults in the U.S. Firearm violence costs our country as much as $100 billion a year. Toys are regulated with greater care and safety concerns than guns.

So why do we always act so surprised? Violence is our alter ego, wired into our Stone Age brains, so intrinsic its toxic eruptions no longer shock, except momentarily when we hear of a mass shooting like this latest in Colorado. But this, too, will pass as the nation of the short attention span quickly finds the next thing to divert us from the hard realities of America in 2012.

We are a country which began with the forced subjugation into slavery of millions of Africans and the reliance on arms against Native Americans for its westward expansion. In truth, more settlers traveling the Oregon Trail died from accidental, self-inflicted gunshots wounds than Indian attacks – we were not only bloodthirsty but also inept.

Nonetheless, we have become so gun loving, so gun crazy, so blasé about home-grown violence that far more Americans have been casualties of domestic gunfire than have died in all our wars combined. In Arizona last year, just days after the Gabby Giffords shooting, sales of the weapon used in the slaughter – a 9 millimeter Glock semi-automatic pistol – doubled.

We are fooling ourselves. Fooling ourselves that the law could allow even an inflamed lunatic to easily acquire murderous weapons and not expect murderous consequences. Fooling ourselves that the Second Amendment’s guarantee of a “well-regulated militia” be construed as a God-given right to purchase and own just about any weapon of destruction you like, a license for murder and mayhem. A great fraud has entered our history.

Maybe you remember a video you can still see on YouTube. In it, Adam Gadahn, an American born member of al Qaeda, the first US citizen charged with treason since 1952, urges terrorists to carry out attacks on the United States. Right before your eyes he says, “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?”

The gunman in Colorado waited only for his opportunity. So there you have it – the arsenal of democracy has been transformed into the arsenal of death. And the NRA? The NRA is the enabler of death — paranoid, delusional and as venomous as a scorpion. With the weak-kneed acquiescence of our politicians, the National Rifle Association has turned the Second Amendment of the Constitution into a cruel and deadly hoax.

 

By: Bill Moyers and Michael Winship, BillMoyers.com, July 20, 2012

July 22, 2012 Posted by | National Rifle Association | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: