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“Republicans’ Do-Nothingness On Guns”: Assuming A Superior Posture Of Purposeful Neglect

It is axiomatic that congressional Republicans will oppose anything smacking of “gun control,” which may as well be read as “ your mama.”

Thus, it comes as no surprise that President Obama’s announcement of executive actions to clarify and enhance federal gun laws prompted reflexive, hyperbolic responses from the right.

Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) said “Obama is obsessed with undermining the Second Amendment,” while Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) averred, “We don’t beat the bad guys by taking away our guns. We beat the bad guys by using our guns.”

Spoken like a true Canadian-born Texan who has been busy burnishing his “outsider” Outdoor Guy image. What’s next? Cruz drinking the warm blood of a freshly slain (unarmed) beast?

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.) criticized the president for a “dangerous level of executive overreach” and for circumventing congressional opposition — as though Congress has been working feverishly to reduce gun violence. Rather, Republicans focus their laser beams on Obama’s and the Democratic Party’s political motivations, shocking to none, and remind us that we already have enough gun laws.

This may well be true, but couldn’t we stand to tweak them a bit? Or, perhaps, enforce them? And isn’t it possible to reduce the number of guns in the wrong hands without surrendering our Second Amendment rights or invoking the slippery slope of government confiscation?

Of course it is — and we can.

Obama made an artful and poignant counterargument to the usual objections Tuesday during a news conference at the White House. He reminded those gathered, including many who have lost family members to gun violence, that other people also have rights — the right to peaceable assembly and the right to practice their religion without being shot.

In fairness to the gun lobby, which may not deserve such charity, one can understand reservations about limiting access to guns. What is less easily understood is the refusal of Republicans to take the reins of any given issue and do something constructive rather than invariably waiting to be forced into the ignoble position of “no.”

It is one thing to be in the pocket of the National Rifle Association. It is another to do nothing and then assume a superior posture of purposeful neglect, as though do-nothingness were a policy and smug intransigence a philosophy.

The steps Obama is trying to take won’t save every life, but they seem minimally intrusive and could have significant effects. Summarizing briefly, he’s clarifying existing law and more tightly defining “gun dealer” in order to impose broader background checks; upgrading technology for improved information-sharing and safer guns; increasing relevant workforces to speed up background checks; and closing loopholes that have allowed criminals to buy guns online and elsewhere with a separate set of rules. Or no rules.

Giving the FBI more resources to modernize its system will help. So will giving $500 million to mental- health services aimed at keeping guns away from people determined to hurt themselves or others.

Requiring shippers to report stolen guns will also be helpful — and investing in smart -gun technology could be a game changer. As Obama said, tearing up at the mention of the Sandy Hook shooting that took the lives of 20 first-graders, if we can keep children from opening aspirin bottles, surely we can prevent their pulling the trigger on a gun.

As for expanding background checks, only the criminal or the suicidal object to waiting a day or two before taking home a gun. And if the government doesn’t complete the process within three days, seller and buyer can proceed anyway.

What concerns most people, meanwhile, are those weapons, especially semiautomatics with large magazines, whose only purpose is to kill people. Many argue that no current law could have prevented any of the mass shootings in recent years, but is this sufficient justification for doing nothing when doing something could make a difference we may never know about — the child who didn’t die because new technology prevented him from firing a pistol? The Islamic State-inspired terrorist who didn’t murder holiday revelers because he failed an online background check?

Obama’s actions won’t go unchallenged, needless to say. And much political hay will be threshed, bundled and sold to Republican primary voters in the meantime. But GOP voters should be as skeptical of those ringing the gong of doom as they have been of Obama. In a civilized society, more guns can’t be better than fewer.

 

By: Kathleen Parker, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, January 5, 2016

January 6, 2016 Posted by | Background Checks, Congressional Republicans, Gun Control, Gun Deaths | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Negligent Homicide At Best”: If You Shoot First And Ask Questions Later, You Should Go To Jail

It happened yet again: a trigger-happy homeowner hears something go bump in the night, pulls the trigger of a gun, and an innocent victim dies. This time it was a mother gunning down and killing her own daughter:

A woman in St. Cloud, Florida, woke up just before midnight Tuesday and fired a shot at a person she thought had broken into her home.

But the person wasn’t an intruder; it was her 27-year-old daughter. The woman fired one round, but police didn’t say where the bullet hit the daughter. She died at a hospital. The shooting appears to be accidental, police said. An investigation is ongoing.

The only problem with that story is the use of the word “accident.” Such shootings–and they occur all too frequently in America–are never accidents. They are not tragedies. They are negligent homicides at best, and 2nd-degree murders at worst.

The number of home invasion robberies that lead to physical harm for the victim is low–particularly in the sorts of neighborhoods in which “defensive gun use” tends to take place. There is very small chance that whatever is going bump in the night actually means you and your loved ones harm.

Most of the time that bump in the night isn’t even human, and doesn’t need you to pull out your gun.

Most of the time a human is involved, there’s an innocent explanation–whether it be someone who got lost, an intoxicated person who can’t find their proper way home, a neighborhood kid playing a prank, a teenager’s romantic partner sneaking into a bedroom, etc. Twice in my life I’ve encountered a current or would-be home invader, and twice resolved it without violence because both men were under the influence of drugs and mistook my home for that of a friend or associate. I would have had every right to use a gun and fire on them, but that would have made me a reckless killer, not a responsible gun owner.

Even when there really is a criminal situation, the vast majority of the time it’s a petty thief looking to boost some electronics or jewelry to make a quick sale. They just want their next fix or meal ticket, and they’re not looking to up the ante on possible jail time by hurting you. Hurting you generally gains them nothing. Which means that common thieves can usually be scared off simply by shouting and alerting them to your presence.

There is almost never an excuse to fire a gun at an intruder without trying to talk to them and assess the situation first and at least try to scare them off. The notion that an intruder might have a gun which they might use on you first unless you have the element of surprise is essentially Hollywood fantasy. When Oskar Pistorius tried to defend himself from murder charges by suggesting he thought he was shooting behind a door at a potential burglar, the answer shouldn’t have been so much to contest his intent as to state that he’s a murderer regardless of his intent. No one should ever fire a gun in a domestic situation without having any idea what they’re firing at.

If you shoot first and ask questions later, you should go to jail. It’s not an accident. It’s a crime.

 

By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, January 2, 2015

January 3, 2016 Posted by | Gun Control, Gun Deaths, Gun Violence | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Hawked By Dealers With A Ready Grin”: Where Mass Murderers’ Weapons Of Choice Are Sold With A Smile

As the third anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings approached, a weapon identical to the Bushmaster AR-15 assault rifle used to murder 20 youngsters and six staff was on display at an Indiana gun show.

Next to it at the Crown Point show on Dec. 12 was a weapon identical to the DPMS AR-15 used by one of the terrorists who killed 14 at a San Bernardino holiday party.

Next to that was an AK-47 knockoff such as was used to kill a police officer and two other innocents at a Planned Parenthood center in Colorado.

Nearby was a Smith & Wesson AR-15 identical to the ones used by the other terrorist in the San Bernardino killing and by the madman who killed 12 in a movie theater in Colorado.

And just past the assault rifles were handguns such as are used in the day-to-day carnage that receives only sporadic attention in between mass shootings.

Among the handguns was a .40 Glock, of the same caliber as the pistol used to target and kill 9-year-old Tyshawn Lee last month in Chicago, a little over an hour’s drive from Crown Point. The pistol was one of several now being examined by a girl of around the same age.

“Hello, young lady, did you come to buy your daddy a gun?” the dealer on the other side of the display table cheerfully joked. “I bet he’s the best dad ever. I bet he’s just going to love you for buying him a gun!”

Nobody seemed to see any great irony in the signs reading “NO Loaded Firearms in Building” and “Absolutely No Loaded Guns or Clips in Building” covering the glass doors at the entrance to this one-story red brick structure on the Lake County Fairgrounds. A uniformed cop inspected the guns of all new arrivals to ensure the weapons were unloaded.

“If you don’t have a gun, you can go through,” the cop announced.

Among the folks who had bought guns at earlier Crown Point shows in this same one-story red brick building on the Lake County Fairgrounds was a former suburban Chicago high school football star named David Lewisbey. He is said to have made a “to do” list upon arriving at college that included, “Get guns back up.”

To that end, he made repeated trips down to Crown Point and elsewhere in Indiana, which provides 19 percent of the illegal guns recovered back up in Chicago.

“He would go travel to Indiana, to these gun shows where he would load up literally a duffel bag, go from table to table paying in cash, large amounts of cash, and collect all of these firearms before returning from these gun shows right into the worst neighborhoods of Chicago, where he would sell them literally in the back alley and on the side streets,” a prosecutor later said.

In a two-day period, Lewisbey sold 43 firearms. He is believed to have sold many more before his arrest in 2012. He insisted he had only bought guns for his “personal collection” and dealt drugs, not firearms.

Lewisbey was convicted and sentenced to 16 years in federal prison. The trial record shows that he sometimes made the purchases through licensed dealers, which required him to undergo a background check. He would simply report that the weapon had been stolen if it was recovered in connection with a crime.

More often, Lewisbey took advantage of what is known as the “gun show loophole,” which allows private dealers to sell firearms without conducting background checks or filing any paperwork regarding the buyer.

Nationwide, some 5,000 gun shows are held each year. Indiana is among the 33 states that allow such loophole sales. The regular gun shows at the Lake County Fairgrounds in Crown Point were said to be “one of the prime topics” at a kind of summit of 20 federal, state, and local law enforcement officials two years ago.

In an indication of slight progress, no private dealers were in evidence at the most recent Crown Point show. The dealers were all licensed, which meant purchasers had to undergo a nearly instant background check via one of the laptops each dealer had.

“They tell me to proceed and then it’s yours,” a dealer told one prospective customer. “You just have to have an Indiana driver’s license or picture ID.”

But there was nothing in the law to prevent a private citizen from then giving the gun to another private citizen.

And among those who would be happy to keep it that way and maybe roll back restrictions altogether was a gentleman collecting petition signatures for both Ted Cruz and Rand Paul.

“Get gun rights candidates on the ballot!” he exhorted.

He noted that both senators had a top NRA rating.

“A-plus,” he said.

He could offer no rating for Donald Trump, on whose behalf a woman in a pink T-shirt reading “Get on the Trump Train” was collecting signatures at the next table.

“He’s unique because he’s never held elective office,” the man said of Trump. “He’s unproven.”

Strict gun laws have proven to reduce gun violence and would almost certainly cut deaths dramatically if all states adopted them uniformly. But as long as we keep manufacturing high-capacity weapons, there is no way to guarantee they will not fall into the hands of people who should not be allowed anywhere near a firearm. California has some of the toughest restrictions in the country, but the San Bernardino killers had little trouble arming themselves with assault rifles such as were for sale at Crown Point.

“Every customer is a friend,” words on the DPMS AR-15 box read. “We wish you many years of enjoyable use of your product. Welcome to our family.”

Across the top of the box was the exhortation “Get Ready to Flip the Switch.”

A paper tag said the DPMS could be yours for $599. The tag on the Bushmaster beside it read $649. The dealer was asked the difference between the two assault rifles.

“Mainly brand,” the dealer said. “Little bit of accessory difference, but that’s about it.”

He added, “They’re both midlevel ARs.”

He was asked what might be a top level assault rifle.

“Far as your budget would allow you to spend,” he said. “LWRC, Daniel Defense, you could spend two, three grand on an AR.”

The LWRC and Daniel Defense assault rifles are indeed in that price range. Mass shooters favor the mid-level ARs, which also includes Smith & Wesson, going at the show for $639.99.

“Very important: Instruction book inside to ensure safe use,” read a small notice on this box.

Beyond that table was one that displayed hunting rifles and shotguns, all of which would satisfy the right to bear arms as contemplated by the Founding Fathers and were more than adequate for self-defense.

Maybe call these long guns DRs, for defense rifle.

But they lack the military hoo-hah that apparently makes ARs—the A seeming to stand for arousal as well as assault—popular with boys who never quite grow up. DRs also lack the capacity for mass carnage that make ARs the favorite of terrorists and murderous madmen.

The deadliness of ARs definitely appeals to gangbangers and other street criminals. The problem for them is that the weapons are difficult to conceal. Thugs generally prefer handguns such as the Glock .40.

The dealer at Crown Point gave Glocks high marks for durability. He cited a YouTube video of “the Glock torture test,” in which the guns are dragged behind a four-wheel vehicle and buried in dirt.

“They spray them off with a hose, load them up, and fire a thousand rounds,” the dealer said. “Glocks are pretty much indestructible.”

Also for sale at the show were extended magazines that allow a gangbanger to let loose as if with a shrunk down AR-15.

“The more shells the merrier,” a Chicago gang member told The Daily Beast the other day.

Among the legitimate citizens who have felt compelled to arm themselves is Felix Gonzalez, a 42-year-old real estate lawyer from Chicago who came to the Crown Point show with his two sons, 10-year-old Diego and 9-year-old Nico.

As a second calling, Gonzalez teaches gun safety to like-minded citizens, particularly to those who legally carry concealed firearms. He left the show having purchased two giant plastic bags of .45 caliber and 9 mm bullets, 500 of each, for a total of 1,000. His younger son pronounced himself less than thrilled by the visit to a gun show, his first.

“Boring,” Diego said. “Because there’s nothing to do. All we were doing was watch you buy ammo.”

The father paused and shared his feelings about legal gun ownership with The Daily Beast. His foremost reason for carrying a handgun is to protect his family. He said “God help” anyone who tried to hurt his sons and declared himself ever ready to defend their lives with his own.

“Because I love you,” he told them.

The father added, “The enemy will not win if he comes against us.”

Diego said, “You don’t know that for sure.”

The father said, “I am at peace. I don’t worry about dying.”

The two bags of bullets to be used for self-defense training were loaded into the back of the family minivan. Father and sons then set off for Chicago, where a boy the same age as Nico had been targeted when three gang members in a black SUV saw him on the swings in a park after school back on Nov. 2.

Tyshawn Lee was the son of a reputed member of the New Money gang, which has been in a protracted war with the Bang Bang Gang (BBG). One of a trio of BBG members exited the black SUV, sauntered into the park, and picked up a basketball that Tyshawn had set down when he clambered onto the swing.

The BBG member spoke to Tyshawn and apparently persuaded him to cross the street into an alley behind the boy’s grandmother’s house, where there was a basketball hoop. A second BBG member followed. At least one of the gang members then produced a .40 caliber pistol and executed the boy.

The BBG member who remained in the SUV is said to have informed on the other two. One, Corey “Tez Poe” Morgan—whose brother had been killed and his mother wounded by New Money members in October—was arrested and charged with murder. Kevin “Ace” Edwards remained a fugitive at last report.

On the foggy morning the gun show opened down in Crown Point, the swing in Dawes Park hung empty save for the memory of the murdered boy who had been coaxed from there to his death by gun. Somebody had affixed a pair of wooden signs to a tree.

One sign read, “Rest in Heaven Tyshawn Lee,” the other, “Mothers against Street Shooting.” At the base was a cross fashioned with sticks and a ribbon tied in a bow.

The Chicago police had pledged to crush both BBG and the New Money gang, but there were more than enough pistols handy from gun shows and gun shops, and the gangs remained ready to use them. New Money members followed a member of another gang called Bloody 8 home and seriously wounded him. BBG shot and killed a reputed New Money member named Willie Clifton late last week. Clifton, the 21-year-old father of a baby girl, is said to have been waiting in an alley for his girlfriend with bags of laundry when he was ambushed.

One might have thought that yet another killing by a gang accused of deliberately targeting a 9-year-old would have sparked a public outcry. But the murder passed with little notice, and the killings promise to go on and on and on.

The next Crown Point gun show is on the weekend of Jan. 23 in a New Year that challenges us all to end the madness.

 

By: Michael Daly, The Daily Beast, December 22, 2015

December 24, 2015 Posted by | Assault Weapons, Gun Manufacturers, Gun Violence, Gunshow Loopholes | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Terrorism We Tolerate”: Our Collective Denial Allows Anti-Government Domestic Extremists To Slip Under The Radar

As a nation, we’re loath to tackle uncomfortable conversations. It’s far easier to put our collective head in the sand and go-along to get along. So we didn’t see it coming when a perfect storm of extremism hit a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic the Friday after Thanksgiving.

A loner named Robert Dear Jr. is charged with the murder of three people after he allegedly opened fire on a Planned Parenthood facility. After a five-hour stand-off with police, his reported rampage left nine wounded and an Iraq War veteran, police officer and young mother dead. It’s both an outrage and a tragedy, and when you break it down, the story of this mass shooting reads like a field guide to Realities We’d Rather Not Talk About.

We’d rather paint Islam as the face of terrorism most imminently threatening the U.S. than talk about American-born, non-Muslim radicals.

Indeed, anti-government extremists pose a greater threat to the homeland than does the Islamic State group or al-Qaida, according to the Justice Department’s head of national security. The numbers are striking: Anti-government extremists caused the deaths of 254 people in the 10 years after 9/11; Islamic extremists were responsible for approximately 50 deaths. In other words, you’re seven times more likely to be killed by a homegrown, anti-government extremist than a Muslim terrorist.

Yet following the Islamic State group’s attack in Paris, the U.S. was awash with calls to block the entry of Syrian refugees in the name of national security – even though several of the Paris terrorists were French-born. In the wake of Friday’s mass shooting at Planned Parenthood, there’s been no similar national security outcry over European-born refugees who have already entered the U.S. nor fears of a threat from white, Christian men, despite the fact that Dear was Caucasian and reportedly professed to be a Christian.

Instead it’s considered offensive even to acknowledge the existence of domestic extremism: In 2009, then-DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano was forced to defend agency intelligence reports on the dangers posed by anti-government radicals after pundits and lawmakers from both parties blasted the report as an attack on Americans exercising free speech.

We’d rather not talk about how easy it is to acquire a gun in this country, either.

Dear allegedly used an AK-47 style, high-powered assault rifle to carry out the mass shooting and may have brought “duffel bags full of rifles and handguns” with him to the clinic ­­– enough weaponry for the hours-long standoff with police.

All that firepower was in the hands of a man with a history of mental instability and run-ins with law enforcement. Dear was charged with rape in 1992. Years afterward, he was arrested for peeping tom accusations and later on animal cruelty charges. An ex-wife once made a domestic violence call to police after a fight with Dear. Stories from neighbors and online postings suggest he was a doomsday prepper who believed metal roofs would keep the government from spying on him.

Details are still emerging about Dear’s weapons and how he acquired them, and it’s unclear that a background check would have found him unfit to purchase a gun. But any attempt to discuss whether or not citizens should have the right to amass a military-grade weapons cache is shot down as an attack on the Second Amendment. It’s “politicizing” a mass shooting to bring up these questions, and even when 90 percent of Americans desire increased gun safety regulations or kindergarteners are slaughtered in their classroom, the National Rifle Association succeeds in silencing not only any legislation but national dialogue on guns as well. And meanwhile, we’ve had 351 mass shootings in the first 334 days of this year. That’s the latest count, anyway.

What’s more, we’d rather not correct the record on the fact that Planned Parenthood was not in the business of harvesting baby parts.

The investigation into Dear’s motives is still ongoing, but his reported declaration about “no more baby parts” to police is telling. It’s seemingly a reference to anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress’ videos on Planned Parenthood, heavily edited to concoct the impression that the organization is involved in the illegal sale of fetal tissue. The myth was repeated so often, and with so little pushback, that it’s now taken as a given in our national discussions about Planned Parenthood. Without batting an eye, Republicans cite it to rail against women’s health care in presidential debates, and governors use it to justify witch hunts into the organization and cuts to women’s health access. The videos have inspired their very own House select panel.

Imagine holding the sincere belief that a government-sanctioned organization was involved in the butchery and sale of baby parts. It’s an outrageous idea, and one Dear may have come to believe from hearing it so oft-repeated. He wouldn’t have been alone in this belief – threats against Planned Parenthood reportedly spiked after the videos were released.

It’s unfair, of course, to assume that a national dialogue on any of these issues would have stopped the Planned Parenthood shooter from carrying out his hideous plan. But ignoring them doesn’t help either. Our collective denial allows white, anti-government extremists to slip under the radar with their arms full of guns and their heads full of lies.

 

By: Emily Arrowood, Assistant Editor for Opinion, Thomas Jefferson Street Blog, U.S. News & World Report, December 1, 2015

December 7, 2015 Posted by | Anti-Government Extremists, Assault Weapons, Planned Parenthood, Terrorism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Problem Is Unfettered Access To Guns And Ammo”: In America, Dangerous People Find It Very Easy To Get Weapons

Gun sellers can expect a bountiful Christmas.

On Black Friday, the kickoff to the annual holiday shopping frenzy, more than 185,000 background checks were processed for firearms purchases — an all-time record.

This week’s shooting spree in San Bernardino, California — death toll so far: 14 — will be good for business as well. Background checks always spike after mass shootings. Given that the perpetrators appear to have been a married Muslim couple, the hysteria factor will only be magnified.

At this writing, the motives of San Bernardino murderers, Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, are still being deciphered. But one aspect of their case fits a pattern: In America, dangerous people find it very easy to get weapons. They even do it legally, as is believed to be the case for two handguns and two assault-style rifles the couple used.

If you hope the San Bernardino deaths will move minds to limit access to guns by those who would cause such carnage, think again. That’s not how fear works in America. We freak out first. Wisdom comes later, if at all.

Congress certainly isn’t helping. A day after the San Bernardino attacks, GOP senators deep-sixed an amendment that would have allowed the attorney general to ban people on the federal terror watch and no-fly lists from purchasing weapons. Senators also nixed an attempt to expand background checks.

So expect that a number of Americans will rush to arm — or, rather, re-arm. According to the General Social Survey released in March, only 22 percent of Americans personally own a gun. What might account for growing arms sales is that those gun owners are increasing their arsenals. The sales volume at Walmart, the nation’s biggest gun and ammunition seller, isn’t being driven by new gun buyers.

Gun ownership statistics tend to undercut widely held preconceptions. If you listen to gun-rights chatter, you might assume that gun ownership rates were far higher. The NRA likes to create that impression. But even if you credit other surveys that find higher rates than the spring General Social Survey, one fact is inescapable: Far more Americas packed heat in the late 1970s and early 1980s than do now. At the high point, about half of Americans either owned or lived with someone who owned a gun.

That’s a sign of hope. Most Americans don’t buy the argument that they will be the “good guy with a gun” that gun advocates pitch as the antidote to mass shootings. Demographics are another factor. Minorities now make up a higher percentage of the population, and they have historically lower rates of gun ownership. And fewer people hunt.

Among gun owners, there’s reason to believe there’s a silent majority — a too silent majority — of safety-conscious people who recognize that their right to own a gun comes with great responsibility.

The voices of this crowd tend to be drowned out by those who can only scream about the Second Amendment and by those who ignore the complicated nature of enacting stronger protections.

The Republican reply to the rising toll of mass shootings has been to call attention to the failures of mental health services. Yes, they need reform; we need to address underfunding and lack of access to care. But that’s half a solution. At the very least, we must go the same distance to ensure that people who are dangerously mentally ill cannot possess a gun. There’s nothing anti-Second Amendment about that approach.

That would require comprehensive background checks, including as a prerequisite for private sales and sales at gun shows.

Certainly, we need databases for gun sales that respect and protect privacy, and that are also accurate and up to date. That’s a tall order to construct. But let’s be serious. Adam Lanza and his mother needed less privacy about his mental health and the arsenal they kept in their home.

The same can be said about the San Bernardino shooters. They had 12 pipe bombs and more than 3,000 rounds of ammunition at their home, had more than 1,600 bullets with them when they were killed by police and had shot off at least 75 rounds at the Inland Regional Center.

Time will reveal the shooters’ motives, how they gathered their arsenal and how they planned their attack.

But our silence, our denial that we have a problem and our fecklessness to address it have cost 14 more lives.

 

By: Mary Sanchez, Opinion-page Columnist for The Kansas City Star; Featured Post, The National Memo, December 4, 2015

December 5, 2015 Posted by | Background Checks, Congress, Gun Control, Mass Shootings | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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