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“The Byproduct Of A Tragic Myth”: You Don’t Need That Gun For Self-Defense

One of the most important pieces ever posted at Politico Magazine was written on January 14 by Evan DeFilippis and Devan Hughes. Titled The Myth Behind Defensive Gun Ownership, it’s worth revisiting again:

What do these and so many other cases have in common? They are the byproduct of a tragic myth: that millions of gun owners successfully use their firearms to defend themselves and their families from criminals. Despite having nearly no academic support in public health literature, this myth is the single largest motivation behind gun ownership. It traces its origin to a two-decade-old series of surveys that, despite being thoroughly repudiated at the time, persists in influencing personal safety decisions and public policy throughout the United States.

There is nothing beyond anecdotal evidence and one very flawed study suggesting that defensive use of firearms has benefits that outweigh the obvious societal drawbacks. The conclusion to the article needs to be ingrained into the DNA of the gun control debate:

The myth of widespread defensive gun use is at the heart of the push to weaken already near catatonic laws controlling the use of guns and expand where good guys can carry guns to bars, houses of worship and college campuses—all in the mistaken belief that more “good guys with guns” will help stop the “bad guys.” As Wayne LaPierre of the NRA railed in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun.”

But the evidence clearly shows that our lax gun laws and increased gun ownership, spurred on by this myth, do not help “good guys with guns” defend themselves, their families or our society. Instead, they are aiding and abetting criminals by providing them with more guns, with 200,000 already stolen on an annual basis. And more guns means more homicides. More suicides. More dead men, women and children. Not fewer.

In the latest mass shooting in Oregon, of course, the “good guy with a gun” hypothesis fell on its face. Just as the potential “good guy with a gun” in the Gaby Giffords shooting came very close to firing on the wrong man and thankfully kept his weapon in check, an armed veteran in Oregon also wisely chose not to fire his gun lest he cause greater danger to himself and others.

There is no reason to believe that guns serve much if any social benefit beyond a few news stories now and again that are massively promoted by the gun lobby to further entrench the myth of effective self-defense.

Comedian Jim Jefferies also exploded the “self-defense” myth in a blisteringly funny and effective 3-minute bit:

But sadly, the same false arguments will continue to be used by gun proponents, in the same way that false arguments about climate change, taxes and abortion are consistently used no matter how often they’re debunked. The American right has gone so far off the rails that reality is no longer a relevant boundary on discussion. As with supply-side economics, the benefits of gun culture are taken not on evidence but on almost cultic faith by the right wing and its adherents.

 

By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Wasington Monthly, October 4, 2015

October 5, 2015 Posted by | Gun Control, Gun Lobby, Gun Violence, National Rifle Association | , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Clear And Present Danger”: The Biggest Threat To Americans? Other Americans With Guns

What do you think a mother would say is the greater threat to her child: Russia or guns?

I couldn’t help but ask myself that question on Friday when I heard the testimony of General Joseph Dunford, President Obama’s nominee to be the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, before the Senate Armed Services Committee. When Dunford was asked what was the greatest threat to the United States, he responded by ranking them in this order: Russia, China, North Korea, and ISIS.

Now, Dunford is undoubtedly correct when it comes to the global threats facing us, and those are the threats it’s his job to assess. But from a day-to-day perspective, our greatest threat, and I’d submit the more pressing one, is our fellow Americans. We kill far more of each other on a daily basis than any foreign actor has come close to doing in recent years.

Here are some numbers for you to consider:

1. Gun Violence: Every day 30-plus Americans are murdered with guns. We are talking over 10,000 Americans killed each year by gun violence. And every single day, including today, five children or teens are murdered by someone using guns; that is 11 times more often than children are killed by gun violence in other “high income” nations.

In fact, far more Americans were killed by gun violence in 2013 alone (33,636) than all the Americans killed on U.S. soil by terrorists in the last 14 years, and that’s including 9/11. (2,977 Americans were killed on 9/11 and only 48 have been killed since by terrorism on U.S. soil.)

2. Other Gun-Related Deaths: Apart from gun violence, another 20,000 Americans use guns to commit suicide each year. (Suicides involving firearms are fatal 85 percent of the time in contrast to about a 3 percent fatality rate when using pills.) When you combine the above numbers with the 560 people accidentally killed by guns on an annual basis, that comes out to more than 32,000 Americans who die each year by firearms. These numbers really brought it home for me: Between 2000 and 2010, 335,609 people died from guns in our country; that’s more than the entire population of St. Louis, Missouri. (318,000.)

3. Driving Under the Influence: Each day nearly 30 people are killed in auto accidents that involved an alcohol-impaired driver. In 2013 alone, 200 children 14 and younger were killed in crashes involving alcohol-impaired drivers.

4. Domestic violence: Each day, three women are killed by their husband, boyfriend, or a person with whom they had been in a relationship. In fact, a study found that alarmingly, at least one-third of all women murdered in the United States in recent years were killed by their current or past male partners.

These killers of Americans are all distinct. There’s no one remedy that will reduce the deaths in all these cases. But there is one killer that truly jumps out as the greatest existential threat to Americans: Deaths involving guns.

Now I know that many on the right are preparing to regurgitate their tired talking point that this is a push to grab their guns. They are wrong. I fully support that the Second Amendment guarantees them the personal right to own firearms as recognized in the seminal 2008 Supreme Court case of District of Columbia v. Heller. (Amazing how many on the right applaud the Supreme Court when it renders decisions they like such as Heller but literally want to abolish the Supreme Court as we know it after the recent gay marriage ruling)

But how can we sit idly by as so many of our fellow Americans are killed by guns? It is as if we have collectively decided that these deaths are acceptable loses. Even after mass shootings nothing seems to change, generally due to political considerations.

And we see politics at play again over the heartbreaking shooting death of Kate Steinle in San Francisco last week by Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, a man who was not in the country legally. Many on the right, like Donald Trump, refuse to talk about the gun aspect of this crime and solely want focus on Sanchez’s immigration status because it plays to their political base. (I doubt Trump would ever mention that 70 percent of the guns recovered by the ATF in the Mexican drug war between 2007 and 2011 originated in the United States. Talk about exporting dangerous things to another country.)

So while we are confirming a new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to protect us from global threats, isn’t it time to create a federal level “Department to prevent gun deaths” to protect us from this domestic threat?

The federal government’s current gun-related tasks would be unified and integrated into this new department in an effort to increase effectiveness, much the same way we saw the Department of Homeland Security bring together the responsibilities of 22 different agencies under its auspices.

For starters this new agency can ensure that the federal law barring federally licensed gun dealers from selling firearms to people convicted of crimes or with mental illnesses is fully functioning.  As we learned just last week, the Charleston shooter Dylann Roof should not have been able to legally purchase a gun as he did because of his criminal record. However, a background check flaw allowed that to happen.

This new agency can also be charged with investigating gun trafficking across state lines, formulating comprehensive programs to reduce suicides by guns, and cracking down on federally licensed gun dealers that consistently sell guns used in crimes. Astoundingly, 1 percent of gun dealers account for nearly 60 percent of the guns used in crimes.

We have numerous federal agencies dedicated to keeping us safe from global threats. Isn’t it time we had a federal agency dedicated to protecting us from the clear and present danger posed right here in our nation by guns?

 

By: Dean Obeidallah, The Daily Beast, July 13, 2015

July 14, 2015 Posted by | Domestic Violence, Gun Violence, Terrorists | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“An Act Of Terror On Flight 9525”: When Someone Kills Himself And 149 Others, It Is Not A Suicide

We don’t need to know the political or religious views of Germanwings co-pilot Andreas Günter Lubitz to call his crashing of a crowded airliner into a mountainside an act of terrorism. And we don’t need any further evidence to recognize a cruel irony: Legitimate fear of potential terrorist attacks apparently made this tragedy possible.

Imagine the final moments of Flight 9525 as it hurtled toward oblivion. Passengers were screaming. Some, I am certain, must have been praying. According to French prosecutor Brice Robin, the pilot, who had stepped out of the cockpit for a moment, was pounding on the door, trying desperately to get back in.

But, according to Robin, Lubitz, 27, who had been regarded as a rising star at the airline, refused to open the door — and it was impossible for the pilot, identified by German media as Patrick S., to break it down. “The door is reinforced according to international standards,” Robin said Thursday, using the wrong verb tense. He meant “was” reinforced. The door is now in bits and pieces, along with the rest of the Airbus A320, scattered among the crevices of the French Alps.

In the post-9/11 era, the cockpit doors of airliners are made to be impregnable. This is to ensure that terrorists cannot force their way inside and seize the controls — a logical precaution that probably has saved many lives. Terrorists may still attempt to smuggle explosives aboard commercial aircraft, but they know that invading the cockpit and crashing the plane would be all but impossible.

The deterrent is effective, however, only if nobody can open a locked cockpit door under any circumstances — not the passengers, not the flight attendants, not even the captain. Some sort of hidden latch or override switch would defeat the purpose, since terrorists could learn the secret. So the Germanwings plane was safe from terrorists — until the trusted co-pilot, in Robin’s account, committed a grotesque act of terrorism.

Officials involved in the investigation have been rejecting the word I just used. “There is no reason to suspect a terrorist attack,” Robin said, echoing the words of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other leaders. I disagree.

What they mean is that there is no known link to terrorists or any known group such as al-Qaeda. Indeed, no such connection was immediately apparent from the sketchy outlines of Lubitz’s life that began to emerge Thursday. He reportedly had dreams of becoming a pilot since he was a teenager and belonged to a flying club in his home town about an hour from Frankfurt. He started working for Germanwings, Lufthansa’s budget airline, in September 2013 and amassed 630 hours of flight experience. He was regarded as talented and full of promise.

Surely we will soon learn another side to this picture. Normal, well-adjusted young men do not commit terroristic acts of mass murder.

As Lufthansa’s chief executive, Carsten Spohr, noted, “When someone kills himself and 149 others, . . . it is not a suicide.” If Lubitz wanted to kill himself in a plane crash, he could have gone to any small airport on his day off, rented a Cessna and flown it into the terrain of his choosing.

According to the prosecutor, Lubitz decided instead to make his exit by killing a jetliner full of travelers heading from Barcelona to Düsseldorf. There was a group of high school students. There were two singers who had just performed at Barcelona’s grand opera house. There were three American tourists.

Terrorism is often defined as violence committed for a political or religious purpose, and no one can say yet what the pilot had in mind. But no one does something like this without intending to make a statement. We may not yet know what it means — and I suppose it’s possible that we may never know. Murder of this kind, on this scale and in this chilling manner is terrorism.

It’s possible, I suppose, that Lubitz was profoundly delusional. But if this were the case, how could he have passed the airline’s annual medical exams? How could he have worked in such close quarters with fellow pilots, flight attendants and others, day after day, without anyone noticing behavior that suggested a problem?

It looks as if Lubitz wasn’t just trying to end his life because he was depressed. He apparently decided to end 149 other lives as well because he wanted to tell us something. Tragically, this is precisely the kind of thing that terrorists do.

 

By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, March 26, 2015

March 29, 2015 Posted by | Andreas Gunter Lubitz, Flight 9525, Terrorism | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“A Stranger To Whom?”: President Obama Has To Work Pretty Hard To Feel Much Empathy With People Like Chuck Todd

We all know by now that Chuck Todd thinks of President Obama as The Stranger. That narrative fits pretty well for a lot of DC pundits who see him as aloof, cold, distant and remote.

But I suspect that description would come as a surprise to the young people of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Nation.

When President Obama visited the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Nation in June, he and first lady Michelle Obama emerged stunned and emotional from a meeting with six students who spoke of lives affected by homelessness, alcoholism, poverty and suicide.

“I love these young people,” Obama said shortly after meeting them. “I only spent an hour with them. They feel like my own.”

The Obamas emerged from the private conversation at a school in Cannon Ball, N.D., “shaken because some of these kids were carrying burdens no young person should ever have to carry. And it was heartbreaking,” Obama said.

The meeting spurred Obama to tell his administration to aggressively build on efforts to overhaul the Indian educational system and focus on improving conditions for Native American youths.

You can read the rest of the article linked above to get details on the action this meeting with tribal youth spurred.

The very same thing happened when President Obama met with youth involved in the Becoming a Man program in Chicago. The result was the launch of the President’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative where he pointed out that “I’m not that different from Roger.” Here was my reaction that day:

What we’re witnessing for the first time in this country’s history is a President who knows these struggles – just like we now have a Supreme Court Justice who embraces the fact that she grew up poor and Latina in the Bronx and an Attorney General who speaks openly about what it means to have “the talk” with his own teenage son following the shooting of Trayvon. The world looks different when viewed through the lens of those who have lived these experiences. I suspect that means an awful lot to young people like Roger.

I would suggest that President Obama has to work pretty hard to feel much empathy with people like Chuck Todd. But he very naturally gravitates to young people like this. Michael Lewis says that its a pattern for him.

His desire to hear out junior people is a warm personality trait as much as a cool tactic, of a piece with his desire to play golf with White House cooks rather than with C.E.O.’s and basketball with people who treat him as just another player on the court; to stay home and read a book rather than go to a Washington cocktail party; and to seek out, in any crowd, not the beautiful people but the old people. The man has his stat­us needs, but they are unusual. And he has a tendency, an unthinking first step, to subvert established stat­us structures.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal, The Washington Monthly, December 6, 2014

December 8, 2014 Posted by | Chuck Todd, Native Americans, Poverty | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“It’s Difficult Not To Think About Loss”: Face It; Thanksgiving Is Depressing This Year, And You Don’t Have To Give Thanks

This Thanksgiving, it’s difficult not to think about loss.

For a lot of people, this time of year brings more sadness than cheer – thinking about the kinds of relationships you wish you could have with family or friend, thinking about loved ones that aren’t there. And as injustice prevails in Ferguson, as another young man of color is killed with seeming impunity, as sexual predators are given standing ovations and sexual violence across the US continues to be unearthed, it’s hard to remember how to be thankful. It’s easier to ask what we are supposed to be thankful for at all.

Hard times can bring out the best in people – whether it’s a national tragedy or an individual loss, some of us comfort each other and try to send hope even when it feels like there is none. More than once this year, as people in my life have suffered losses, I’ve sent around this Rumi quote: “The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”

But what if there are just too many wounds? What if we can’t see any light?

Earlier this month I found out that a friend (with whom I’d fallen out of touch) had killed himself. I struggled to reconcile the memories I had of him – equal parts kind and hilarious – with what his last days or weeks must have been like. He was an artist, and I still have one of his paintings – it’s chaotic and beautiful, and I wish I could find some answer in it as to why he is gone. But all I see is paint.

Sometimes it’s all we can do not to let our losses eat us whole.

It’s incredible, really, that those who experience tremendous loss and injustice have the strength to go on fighting. It’s amazing that people – parents – whose children’s lives and futures were stolen from continue on with grace. But I wonder how the rest of us can think to ask them, even for one day a year, to be thankful. To look on the bright side. To be positive.

Whether their wounds are fresh or years old, asking such a thing of hurt people feels a bit selfish – like we don’t want to bear witness to their pain, so we ask them to put a happy face on it. Maybe asking people to think about what they’re grateful for can be a way to help them to move on or be happy despite their hurt – or maybe that’s just what we like to tell ourselves. But doing so requires enough self reflection to be sure it’s about what someone really needs instead of our desires to do something.

As I prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family this week, I’m acutely aware of how incredibly lucky I am to have a family that loves me, to have food on the table.

But I’m not thankful, and this year – for reasons much more important than my own – I don’t believe we should ask anyone else to be either. We can be there for each other, and we can comfort each other, but let’s not demand gratefulness from one another in a time of sorrow.

 

By: Jessica Valenti, The Guardian, November 27, 2014

November 27, 2014 Posted by | Ferguson Missouri, Thanksgiving, Violence Against Women | , , | Leave a comment

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