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“This Is Why The Gun Nuts Win”: An Oregon Sheriff’s Nutty Conspiracy Theories Explains The GOP’s Impotence

Mass shootings and gun-crazed conspiracy theorists: Our country is swimming in an abundance of both, so it was just a matter of time before the two collided, not on the shooter side of the equation but on the law enforcement side.

John Hanlin, the sheriff of Douglas County who has been in charge of the police response and investigation of Thursday’s shooting at Umpqua Community College, has fallen under media scrutiny because he’s left an eyebrow-raising trail of gun nuttery that shades into conspiracy theorist territory. His past behavior calls into question not just his own office’s ability to handle this case responsibly, but tells us a lot about why it’s so hard to even begin to have a reasonable conversation about guns in this country, much less move towards sensible policies to reduce gun violence.

Conservatives aren’t lying when they say they need guns to feel protected. But it’s increasingly clear that they aren’t seeking protection from crime or even from the mythical jackbooted government goons come to kick in your door. No, the real threat is existential. Guns are a totemic shield against the fear that they are losing dominance as the country becomes more liberal and diverse and, well, modern. For liberals, the discussion about guns is about public health and crime prevention. For conservatives, hanging onto guns is a way to symbolically hang onto the cultural dominance they feel slipping from their hands.

This comes across clearly in the letter that Hanlin wrote to Vice President Joe Biden in 2013 where he asked that the administration “NOT tamper with or attempt to amend the 2nd Amendment” and where he threatened ominously, “any federal regulation enacted by Congress or by executive order of the president offending the constitutional rights of my citizens shall not be enforced by me or by my deputies, nor will I permit the enforcement of any unconstitutional regulations or orders by federal officers within the borders of Douglas County Oregon.”

Despite all the attempts at formal, legalistic language, Hanlin is clearly writing more in a mythical vein than he is actually addressing any real world policy concerns. His absolutist language about the 2nd amendment ignores the fact that there are already federal and state regulations on guns and who can buy them. More disturbingly, his posturing about open rebellion against the federal government evokes the conspiracy theory-mindset of the hard right, the kind of paranoid hysteria about federal power that led to so much violence during the Clinton administration, from shootouts at Waco and Ruby Ridge to the federal building bombing in Oklahoma City. This is not a letter from someone soberly assessing the pros and cons of proposed regulations on firearms. This is the letter of someone wrapped up in childish fantasies of revolution.

In case there is any doubt about this, Hanlin also, at the same time, used his personal Facebook page to promote the conspiracy theory that the Sandy Hook shooting was a “false flag” operation meant to give cover to the federal government gun grab that right wingers have been warning us for decades is coming any day now.

It’s not just Hanlin. Guns are generally talked about in right-wing circles in these mythical terms. And because a gun isn’t just a gun to conservatives, but a symbol of all they hold dear, having a reasonable conversation about gun control has become impossible. To liberals, it’s about keeping guns out of the hands of people who misuse them. But to conservatives, it’s clearly about stripping away their very sense of identity, which is naturally going to be a touchier subject.

That’s why Republican politicians would rather say the dumbest, most offensive things possible after a mass shooting than even entertain the possibility that guns might need a teeny bit more regulation. Jeb Bush is getting a lot of grief for saying, in the wake of this latest shooting, that “stuff happens, there’s always a crisis,” but there’s not much else he could say without running the risk of losing the primary. To dare suggest that guns, which have become this precious symbol of conservative identity, could be anything but pure and good and wholesome is just bad politics for a Republican. You might as well wipe your shoes with the American flag in their eyes.

This is also why Mike Huckabee went with the baldly ridiculous route of saying, ““Seven hundred people a year get killed because somebody beats them up with their fist,” as if that’s comparable to the 11,000 people who are murdered by guns a year. The point of this rhetoric is to distract from the fact that guns were invented for the sole purpose of killing. Instead, Huckabee is invoking the framework where  the gun is actually a symbol of all that conservatives hold dear instead of what they really are, which is weapons that have no use outside of being weapons.

Squaring the emotional attachment to firearms with the real world fact that guns are weapons that kill innocent people causes too much cognitive dissonance, and so the pleasant fantasy is chosen over the hard reality. For gun victims, however, there is no fantasy, but just the gruesome fact that guns are weapons that can deal death with a minimum amount of effort from aspiring murderers.

 

By: Amanda Marcotte, Salon, October 5, 2015

October 7, 2015 Posted by | Gun Control, Gun Violence, Law Enforcement | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Americans Are Paying The Price In Blood”: Guns Kill People In The US Because We Pervert The Second Amendment

America’s gun violence, like our grief in Oregon, seems to know no bounds, no limits, no end. The reason is deadly simple: our very lives are chained to a constitutional amendment that is willfully misinterpreted by many and perverted by gun rights advocates for political ends.

That sullied amendment is the United States constitution’s Second Amendment which states, “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.” The gun industry and its supporters have turned that simple statement into a clever marketing tool, and Americans are paying the price in blood.

On Thursday, Roseburg, Oregon – a three-hour drive south of the Oregon’s largest city, Portland – was rocked by a deadly mass shooting that wounded seven people and took the lives of 10 others, including the gunman. Students were in classes at Umpqua Community College when a 26-year-old gunman shattered their world when he opened fire on them. They are, sadly, not unique: hardly a week has passed in the last three years without a mass shooting.

For 15 years, Ceasefire Oregon has fought the gun lobby – and people like Douglas County sheriff John Hanlin, the gun rights advocate who is investigating this latest shooting – and worked to pass reasonable, effective gun laws.

Hanlin is one of many who claim that the answer to gun violence is to help those who have mental health problems while the rest of us stock up on guns and ammo. Hanlin, gun extremists and groups like the National Rifle Association have scapegoated people with mental health problems for years – but they know that such people are far more likely to be victims of violence than the perpetrators of it (and far more likely to kill themselves than other people).

Gun rights advocates also claim that we need more guns to protect ourselves from gun violence. But with 310m firearms in the US, and despite the fact that one in every three Americans owns guns, more guns are not making us safer.

After the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012, we at Ceasefire Oregon worked with Moms Demand Action, Everytown for Gun Safety, Gun Owners for Responsible Ownership, the Brady Campaign and the Oregon Alliance for Gun Safety to pass a background check law despite opposition from a few Democratic legislators and a few Oregon sheriffs, including Hanlin. And, after years of work, Oregon finally passed a bill requiring background checks for almost all gun sales last spring.

But gun violence is a cancer in our nation and, just as no single drug will cure all cancers, no single gun law will cure all gun violence. Rather, we need comprehensive, effective legislation and caring, courageous leadership to change both America’s laws and Americans’ views on guns and gun violence. Too often, gun control advocates hear that nothing can be done to change things in this country, but that’s just not true.

Gun violence prevention researchers and advocates know that we can reduce gun violence by passing effective, common-sense laws, like background checks for all gun sales to stop criminals and those with demonstrated mental health issues and histories of violence from buying guns. Waiting periods between the time of gun purchase and possession can provide purchasers with a cooling-off period to help deter homicide and suicide. Instituting gun violence restraining orders can reduce violence by allowing family members and law enforcement to remove a gun from a loved one who is exhibiting warning signs of violence.

We can require – or at least heavily incentivize through liability statutes – that firearms be kept secured at all times with trigger locks or in a safe. We can reduce gun trafficking by allowing people to purchase only one gun per month. We can reinstate the federal assault weapons ban to ban the purchase and possession of high-capacity magazines and assault rifles, which are not necessary for the most dedicated home-defender or hunter.

And Americans can refuse to support lawmakers of any party who do not support “gun-sense” laws – like background checks, higher standards for gun ownership and funding for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms – at the ballot box. We can challenge all 2016 presidential candidates to issue a plan to cut gun violence by 50% before 2020 (the final year of the next president’s first term in office), and Ceasefire has done so.

We are citizens of a great nation, but our children, our mothers, our fathers and our friends are being mowed down, fed to the gun industry’s insatiable appetite for profit. Our founding fathers wrote the Second Amendment to protect our country. Now we must protect our country from those who pervert the Second Amendment.

We know this can be done. We know this must be done. Our national nightmare of paying into the gun lobby’s profit machine must be brought to an end.

 

By: Penny Okamoto, The Guardian, October 2, 2015

October 4, 2015 Posted by | Gun Lobby, Gun Violence, National Rifle Association, Second Amendment | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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