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“A Bad Week For The NRA”: Every Time The NRA Has A Week As Bad As This One, The American Public Wins

The NRA wants people to believe that its agenda — guns for anyone, anywhere, anytime — is as American as apple pie.

Only, the American public isn’t buying it.

This week, gun lobby extremism went down to defeat in a number of venues, in a number of states.

Guns for anyone? Not in California.

Guns anywhere? Not in Arkansas.

Guns anytime? Not in Florida.

It’s been a bad week for the NRA.

Consider what happened in California. You’d think we could all agree that someone who poses a significant danger to himself or herself or others shouldn’t have a gun. At the same time, that person is entitled to due process.

That’s why the particulars of California’s new gun violence restraining order law are important. Lawmakers — following the lead of states as diverse as Connecticut, Indiana, and Texas — got it right.

California’s law, which the governor signed on Tuesday, allows law enforcement or immediate family members to present evidence to a judge, who can order the police to take temporary custody of a person’s guns for an emergency period. Unless there’s a petition to hold the guns longer, the person will have his or her guns back after 21 days.

Now, both the police and family members can intervene in dangerous situations. More gun deaths — both homicides and suicides — can be prevented.

Of course, the NRA opposed the bill.

In California, no one was talking about banning guns — just temporarily keeping guns away from people who have given police and/or loved ones cause for significant concern.

But according to the NRA, letting everyone — felons, domestic abusers, the seriously mentally ill — have guns is just the price we pay for our Second Amendment rights. According to the NRA, life-saving restrictions on gun ownership — even court-ordered, temporary restrictions — are unacceptable.

While the NRA has had success pushing its agenda in state legislatures over the years, it’s met resistance on college campuses, where law enforcement and administrators agree that guns don’t belong.

You can understand the reasons college officials don’t want guns on campus. Think of those college ratings that magazines publish — and parents consult –every year. Colleges don’t want to be known as party schools, let alone places where people are carrying guns in classrooms and cafeterias.

The Arkansas legislature, in the NRA’s infinite wisdom, last year passed a law permitting university faculty and staff to carry guns on campus. Schools in the state do have the right to opt out of campus carry. But if only to make opting out more onerous, Arkansas requires schools to take that step and opt out every year.

For the second straight year, the vote on campus was unanimous. Once again, the governing boards of every Arkansas college, university, and technical institute chose to prohibit guns.

And that’s part of a pattern we’re seeing across the country. The gun lobby makes a dedicated push in state legislatures to pass campus carry laws. Then, when schools can opt out of allowing guns on their property, they almost uniformly do so.

Guns for anyone, anywhere, anytime might sound good to the NRA and gun manufacturers — but for the rest of us, it’s not a sound or an appealing public policy.

An argument over loud music, for example, isn’t the time to shoot someone. Justice was done in Florida this week, when a jury rejected Michael Dunn’s “Stand Your Ground” defense and found him guilty of first-degree murder — another high-profile blow to the “shoot first, ask questions later” mentality that NRA-backed Stand Your Ground laws help create.

With its losses adding up, the NRA’s political arm is getting desperate. On Wednesday, PolitiFact gave a “Pants on Fire” rating to the ad the NRA is running against Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana. The Washington Post‘sFact Checker gave it “Four Pinocchios” — a perfect score for a perfectly misleading ad.

When you see or hear an NRA ad talking about someone trying to take away your gun rights, it’s not true. As PolitiFact put it, it’s fear mongering, plain and simple.

The truth is that the NRA’s agenda is more guns, in more places, all the time. It’s dangerous and deeply irresponsible — and an ideology that elected officials, school administrators, and concerned citizens alike are increasingly rejecting.

And every time the NRA has a week as bad as this one, the American public wins.

 

By: John Feinblatt, The Huffington Post Blog, October 3, 2014

October 4, 2014 Posted by | Gun Lobby, Gun Violence, National Rifle Association | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Infinite Circle Of Black Responsibility”: Part Of The Privilege Of Whiteness Is You Don’t Have To Have Responsibility For Anyone Else

In 2006, after being a United States senator for one year, Barack Obama made an appearance on Meet the Press. After talking about the Iraq War for a while, Tim Russert asked Obama this: “I want to talk a little bit about the language people are using in the politics now of 2006, and I refer you to some comments that Harry Belafonte made yesterday. He said that Homeland Security had become the new Gestapo. What do you think of that?” Obama said he never uses Nazi analogies, but people are concerned about striking the balance between privacy and security. Russert pressed on, asking Obama to take a position on whether some insulting things Belafonte had said about George W. Bush were “appropriate.”

I thought of that interview today as I watched another interview, this one with Bill O’Reilly interviewing White House aide Valerie Jarrett. I bring it up not because it’s important to be mad at Bill O’Reilly (it isn’t), but because it’s yet another demonstration of the rules both prominent and ordinary black people have to live with. Unlike white Americans, they are subject to an entirely different and far more wide-ranging kind of responsibility. A black senator has to answer for the remarks of every black activist, black musicians are responsible for the actions of every wayward teenager, and black people everywhere carry with them a thousand sins committed by others. That burden isn’t just psychological; as we’ve seen in cases like those of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, it can be deadly.

Yesterday, President Obama held an event at the White House called “My Brother’s Keeper,” to encourage people to help create more opportunities for young men of color. Afterward, O’Reilly told Jarrett that on “the streets,” there’s a problematic culture. “It’s not just blacks—it’s the poor, and the hard core, what they call ‘gangstas.'” He went on: “You have to attack the fundamental disease if you want to cure it. Now I submit to you that you’re going to have to get people like Jay-Z, all right, Kanye West, all of these gangsta rappers, to knock it off.”

You may laugh at the idea that disproportionately high levels of incarceration among young black men can be laid at the feet of Kim Kardashian’s husband. And I’m pretty sure that crime in America predates “Straight Outta Compton,” though we might have to look that up. But the truth is that Bill O’Reilly could hear a rap song about butterflies and rainbows, and the first thing to pop into his head would be “gangsta rap!” because it’s black people rapping.

And in this, O’Reilly resembles Michael Dunn, the man who gunned down Jordan Davis over his music. Over and over in his jailhouse writings, Dunn references the “culture” around rap music as one of criminality and danger, citing it as the source of crimes committed by black people. So naturally, when he heard that music coming from the next car over, he thought he was about to be the victim of a drive-by, and the only alternative was to pull out his gun and start firing first.

This is about the collectivization of every misdeed committed by a black person, the way all black people are implicated and have responsibilities imposed on them. When a white man beats his children or kills his wife or robs a liquor store or commits insider trading, nobody tells Bill O’Reilly that he, as a white person, needs to do something about it. And he sure as hell doesn’t go on the air and say that white people need better role models. There isn’t a thing called “white on white crime,” but there is a thing called “black on black crime,” because crimes committed by black people are black crimes, born from blackness and soiling all black people, but crimes committed by white people have nothing to do with the race of the perpetrators; they’re just crimes, no modifier needed.

My guess is that if you asked Bill O’Reilly what responsibility white musicians or white politicians have for the thousands of white crimes committed every year, he would have no idea what you’re talking about. It would sound like gibberish to him. As I’ve written before, a big part of the privilege of whiteness is that you don’t have to have responsibility for anyone else. You can be just yourself. The security guard is not going to follow you around in a store because some other white person shoplifted there last week. A TV host is not going to demand that you defend something stupid another white person said, for no reason other than the fact that the two of you are white. No one is going to think that because of the music you’re playing, it might be a good idea to fire ten bullets into your car.

Creating that broad black responsibility doesn’t just happen, it has to be reinforced and maintained. Nobody does it with more vigor than Bill O’Reilly and the rancid cauldron of race-baiting that is the network for whom he works. The real mystery is why the White House keeps trying to court him. They actually invited him to that event yesterday.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, February 28, 2014

March 1, 2014 Posted by | Bill O'Reilly, Racism | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Shoot First, Then Cry Self-Defense”: Welcome To Florida, Where The NRA Rules And We Proudly Stand Our Ground

Don’t hold your breath waiting for the state legislature to fix Florida’s cockeyed Stand Your Ground law. The National Rifle Association owns too many of the Republican lawmakers who could end the madness.

Nothing will get done in Tallahassee as long as black kids are the ones getting shot by white guys claiming they acted in self-defense. What might eventually pressure politicians to change the law is when white guys start getting shot.

The jaw-dropping verdict in the Michael Dunn case in Jacksonville brought not a peep of outrage from GOP leaders in the House or Senate. The outcome shamefully underscored the lunacy of Stand Your Ground, and once again put Florida in the national spotlight as a gun-nut mecca.

Dunn, who is white, got into an argument over loud music with some black teenagers who were parked beside him at a gas-station convenience store. He pulled a handgun and fired into the teens’ SUV, then crouched and continued shooting as it sped away.

In all, Dunn fired 10 times. Jordan Davis, age 17, was killed.

Oddly, Dunn didn’t call the police. He checked into a motel with his girlfriend and ordered pizza. The next day he was arrested in Brevard County, where he lives.

At the trial, Dunn said he saw a shotgun being pointed at him from the SUV, and that he fired in self-defense. He also said Davis got out of the vehicle and threatened him.

No weapon was found in the SUV. Dunn’s own girlfriend testified that, contrary to his account, he never once mentioned to her that he’d seen a shotgun. Moreover, a medical examiner said Davis’ wounds indicated he’d been seated inside the vehicle, leaning back, when he was fatally struck by Dunn’s bullets.

The jury voted unanimously to convict Dunn on three counts of attempted second-degree murder for continuing to blast away at the SUV as it raced off.

However, the panel deadlocked 10-2 on the first-degree murder charge, the majority favoring conviction. Then it was 9-3.

The sticking point was Florida’s spongy self-defense law that essentially allows the use of lethal force if a person feels threatened.

True or not, practically anybody who shoots another person can say they feared for their lives, whether it’s a barroom fight, a domestic brawl or a traffic altercation. Self-defense claims in homicides have skyrocketed since 2005, when Stand Your Ground was passed.

Gang members, in particular, are big fans of the law.

No verdict was reached on the killing of Jordan Davis, so Michael Dunn is going to prison for attempting to murder the three other occupants of the car. Try to figure that one out, especially if you’re the parents of that dead teenager.

Coming less than a year after George Zimmerman was acquitted in the shooting of Trayvon Martin, another unarmed black youth, the Dunn case should have shamed legislators into action.

It hasn’t, although there’s another one looming that should bring more heat. This time the victim was white, a Navy veteran and the father of a young child.

Chad Oulson was shot to death in a Wesley Chapel movie theater by 71-year-old Curtis Reeves Jr., who’d become aggravated because Oulson was texting during previews.

The two men argued. Oulson stood up and turned around. Police said he threw popcorn at Reeves, who pulled a gun and shot Oulson in the chest. The bullet nicked the hand of Oulson’s wife.

Reeves, a retired Tampa cop, has been charged with second-degree murder. He told police was he was scared “s—less” by Oulson, whom Reeves said had struck him with a fist or some other object.

No punches are visible on surveillance video from the movie theater, and even Reeves’ wife said she didn’t see Oulson hit her husband. Reeves’ attorney said the video shows a small shiny object striking Reeves and falling to the floor.

After the popcorn was flung at him, he whipped out a .380 semiautomatic and fired point-blank. Then he sat back in his chair while Oulson died.

Oulson’s wife said Reeves had taunted her husband about using his phone even after he’d put it away. She said Chad had been texting the family babysitter to check on their daughter, who wasn’t feeling well.

This is life in Florida — guns everywhere, and laws that favor the trigger-happy. Shoot first, then cry self-defense.

Kids playing rap music too loud? Lock and load.

Some guy texting at the movies? Teach him some manners.

Don’t walk away from an argument when you can end it with a bullet. Stand your ground and hope you get the right jury.

Welcome to Planet NRA.

 

By: Carl Hiaasen, The National Memo, February 25, 2014

February 26, 2014 Posted by | Gun Violence, Stand Your Ground Laws | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Unreasonable Absolutist Death Penalties”: The ‘Stand Your Ground’ Mindset Is Flawed

Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law was not invoked by the defense at either the trial of George Zimmerman or, more recently, Michael Dunn. But the mindset was present in both cases, and raises some troubling questions about what constitutes self-defense.

In the Zimmerman case, the defendant was acquitted of shooting an unarmed teenager, Trayvon Martin, in the chest, arguing that Martin had attacked him. Zimmerman was acquitted.

In the Dunn case, the defendant’s behavior was even more sketchy. He had pulled into a gas station, and – annoyed by what he called the “rap crap” emanating from another car there – asked the four teenagers inside to turn it down. Dunn said 17-year-old Jordan Davis then threatened him and had a shotgun, and Dunn then shot into the car. Prosecutors said there was no threat (there was, in fact, no gun in the boys’ SUV) and merely shot 10 bullets into the car because he didn’t like the loud music.

Davis was killed, and Dunn was convicted of attempted murder of the three surviving teens. The jury deadlocked over whether Dunn was guilty of fist-degree murder of Davis. From a practical standpoint, it may not matter as much – Zimmerman is free, and has spent the time doing such bizarrely inappropriate activities as posing for a photo with a gun manufacturer and getting into a fight with his girlfriend, while Dunn already faces up to 60 years in prison for the attempted murder convictions. But the mindset, that “threat” is in the eye of the shooter, endures.

Florida law says someone does not have an obligation to retreat if he or she “reasonably” believes his or her life is at stake, even if there is no actual threat. (The “Stand Your Ground” law was not specifically invoked at either trial, but the Florida self-defense statute, complete with that language, was read to the jury.) How far does one take that? State of mind is indeed a reasonable factor to consider. But putting the onus on the prosecution to prove that the defendant was not reasonably in fear for his or her life merely enables racism, xenophobia and any other kind of fear-based in bias.

Would a middle-aged white man be more “reasonable” in believing that four black teenagers were a threat, than if the ages and races were reversed? That’s not stated in the law, of course, but juries, which insert their own experiences and fears into their judgments, might think so. A woman has a far greater chance of being raped than any man of any race has of being murdered. Would that make it OK for a woman walking alone to attack or shoot a man walking past her – especially if the man were of the same race, since most rapes are intra-racial?

The problem with the standard of “reasonable” is that it isn’t reasonable at all. It puts law behind emotion and human bias.

In Virginia, current law allows farmers to shoot dogs which run after their chickens, and officers are actually required to kill a dog caught going after someone’s poultry. The state legislature recently cleared a bill that would soften that law, giving urban areas (where more people, it seems, are raising chickens) the right to ease such absolutist death penalties. If Virginia can do more to protect dogs, perhaps Florida could do more to protect people.

 

By: Susan Milligan, U. S. News and World Report, February 19, 2014

February 22, 2014 Posted by | Gun Violence, Stand Your Ground Laws | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Repeal Stand-Your-Ground Laws”: We Shouldn’t Have To Wait For Another Death And Controversial Trial

The law is supposed to solve problems, not create them. Laws should provide as much clarity as possible, not expand the realms of ambiguity and subjectivity. Laws ought to bring about the practical results their promoters claim they’ll achieve. And at its best, the law can help us to live together more harmoniously.

By all these measures, “stand your ground” laws are a failure. These statutes make the already difficult task of jurors even harder. They aggravate mistrust across racial lines. They appear to increase, rather than decrease, crime.

We should not have had to go through another racially charged trial in Florida to learn all this. Writing online for The Post, Mark Berman offered a succinct account of the facts of the Michael Dunn case that has aroused so much legitimate passion.

“In November 2012, Michael Dunn shot 17-year-old Jordan Davis in a Jacksonville, Fla., gas station parking lot. Dunn had approached a Dodge Durango holding Davis and three other teenagers and asked them to turn down their music. . . . An argument developed, and Dunn fired 10 times at the vehicle, including multiple shots fired as it pulled away.

“Davis died almost immediately after he was hit. . . . Dunn, who was in town for a wedding, returned to his hotel and drove back home to Brevard County the following morning; he was arrested later that day.” Dunn said he saw a shotgun in the Durango, but there was no evidence of one.

Dunn was convicted on three counts of attempted second-degree murder, but the jury hung on the first-degree murder charge brought in connection with Davis’s death.

The verdict came seven months after George Zimmerman was acquitted in the Sanford, Fla., killing of Trayvon Martin in another case where the stand-your-ground law was at issue. Both Martin and Davis were black teenagers. Should it surprise anyone that many African Americans fear that the law does not protect young males of color when they find themselves in confrontations with whites?

We shouldn’t fault the Dunn jury, which seemed to struggle to reach a just outcome. Unlike Zimmerman, the 47-year-old Dunn was not acquitted and could spend the rest of his life in prison. The jury clearly saw no justification for his firing at a fleeing car. But the stand-your-ground law undoubtedly sowed confusion on the murder count.

Supporters of the law say it was technically not at issue in the case, but this overlooks the obvious role it played in the trial. Cory Strolla, Dunn’s lawyer, mentioned it in his closing argument: “His honor will further tell you,” Strolla said, “that if Michael Dunn was in a public place where he had a legal right to be, he had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force.” The judge, Russell L. Healey, was required to read the relevant stand-your-ground provisions to the jury.

Florida’s statute allows someone to use force if he or she “reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force.” The “reasonable belief” standard is not unique to stand-your-ground laws, but it opens a vast loophole for extreme subjectivity when it is applied in conjunction with them. This has created problems that even the law’s supporters should acknowledge.

A comprehensive 2012 examination of the law by the Tampa Bay Times concluded: “Seven years since it was passed, Florida’s ‘stand your ground’ law is being invoked with unexpected frequency, in ways no one imagined, to free killers and violent attackers whose self-defense claims seem questionable at best.” The law, the Times reporters wrote, has “confused judges” and has “allowed drug dealers to avoid murder charges and gang members to walk free.”

A study by two Texas A&M economists found that such laws “do not deter burglary, robbery, or aggravated assault” but do “lead to a statistically significant 8 percent net increase in the number of reported murders and non-negligent manslaughters.”

Stand-your-ground laws shift the balance of power on the streets to those who carry weapons. They thus provide an incentive for everyone to be armed, which is why the National Rifle Association has pressured legislatures in some two dozen states to enact them. We shouldn’t have to wait for another death and controversial trial to recognize that this is a poor reason for laws that cause such palpable harm. It’s time to repeal them.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, February 20, 2014

February 21, 2014 Posted by | Gun Violence, Stand Your Ground Laws | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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