Archive for the ‘NRA’ category

Questions About Guns

February 26, 2018

The big question this week is how long will the news media keep reporting on the Parkland, Florida mass school shooting and in particular whether any changes to gun laws will follow. Here are three questions and some observations.

The Second Amendment speaks to the “right to bear arms” but does not refer to what type of arms. Were the founding fathers speaking of single action, ball and cartridge muskets, or did they perceive the coming of bullets and the civil war lever action repeater rifles?

The Supreme Court construed the 2nd Amendment as the right of any citizen to possess a gun for personal protection in the home. The Supreme Court noted that Congress and States legislatures could pass reasonable controls clarifying what type of guns, and where beyond the home, guns could be used. The Court also stated that reasonable controls could also include suspending a citizens right to a fire arm if due process was served.

Question #1: Fully automative guns, both hand and long guns, are illegal to possess, why is it accepted that a military style AR-15 (and other similar brands) are ok?

Leading politicians, Governors, Representatives, and Senators (not to mention the President) are all citing the need to study this latest incident carefully. Most all these politicians sigh and confess that it is difficult to see what could have been done to have avoided the Parkland shootings. These pro-gun politicians allow that tougher background checks, while good, would not have prevented Nikolas Cruz from acquiring legally his AR-15, extra clips and unnecessarily large amount of ammunition (because the FBI did not act upon tips called in by concerned citizens).

Question #2: What is the logic that allows Cruz (age 19) to legally buy an AR-15 when Cruz could not by a hand gun nor buy beer?

Probably the most often heard statement when a pro-gun politicians is asked about simply banning assault weapons is that most AR-15 owners are law abiding citizens and why should they have to surrender their 2nd Amendment rights? These politicians then follow with they support stronger background checks as long as the Federal checks do not inconvenience those lawfully seeking a weapon.

If you listen carefully, pro-gun supporters might accept some toughening of background checks (but not national gun registration list), accept the idea of mental health screening (but no government capability to link gun ownership to some future mental health condition), and at the end of the day, believe guns in the hands of good people is the best defense to guns in the hands of bad people (more guns is the answer to Parkland).

Does this sound disingenuous?

Question #3: If the conclusion to this open discussion does not include further restrictions on availability of guns (e.g. assault weapon ban, restriction on clip size, age and training criteria before guns could be owned), why should we not expect another “Parkland” or “Las Vegas” type mass shooting again soon?

When our politicians discuss publicly guns and gun control, they present a disquieting image which screams their words are insincere.  Some try the “wise man” approach (our society is very complex and the restrictions being suggested will not eliminate gun violence and seem very unfair to law abiding citizens), while others dismiss the subject as inevitable (guns don’t kill, people kill).

Comment: How can our youth not become further disenchanted with government and our elected leaders?

European Socialism

February 25, 2018

Wayne LaPierre, National Rifle Association CEO, spoke this week at CPAC (Conservative Political Action Committee). At a time when concern and sensitivity for the parents and friends of the 17 killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida was called for, LaPierre showed little sympathy and instead stuck to the heart and intent of his (probably) already written speech.

For LaPierre, the mass shootings were cut and dry. The school was simply too soft a target.

LaPierre had come to CPAC to bury Caesar, not praise him, and in the process make clear that all Democrats were really destructive socialist who wanted nothing less than European Socialism to spread through out America… the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Capitalism and our Constitutional rights were what LaPierre proclaimed as the basis of making America the greatest country on earth. The implication, of course, is that Democrats (and by extension) anyone who is not a far right conservative, was set on ending America’s exceptionalism.

I wonder what LaPierre and his speech writers are thinking?

  • Could it be that most CPAC attendees are unaware of European Countries since Europe is so far away?
  • Could it be that most CPAC attendees do not know that European Countries offer their residents universal healthcare which delivers superior healthcare to all residents at one half the cost which Americans pay?
  • Could it be that most CPAC attendees do not recognize the income inequality is greater in the US than in Europe?
  • Could it be that most CPAC attendees think Europeans are envious of American roads, education, and how Americans deal with their elderly?
  • Could it be that most CPAC attendees believe America is the safest country in the world?

La Pierre and his NRA staff have done a masterful job of framing the second Amendment as analogous to breathing fresh air. The logical extension, however, of La Pierre’s argument is for all Americans to openly carry weapons and in any dispute, for any reason, to “stand your ground” and use deadly force if necessary. This is apparently the NRA’s vision of the American Dream.

CPAC is not a monolithic organization as it relates to guns.

  • CPAC has members who do not know which end of a gun shoots bullets.
  • CPAC members/attendees do see lower taxes as good without concern for the consequences such as necessary cuts in social programs aimed at less fortunate Americans.
  • Some CPAC members see religious rights (that is the right to express their deeply held religious views) as a means to discriminate against fellow Americans in what they see as a legal way.
  • Other CPAC members seek weak or no regulations allowing oil and gas exploration freely without regard to consequences.
  • In short, CPAC represents a group of single issue Americans whose America protects those aspects which they believe is best for themselves and consequences be damned.

Unfettered capitalism is a two headed beast. One head which acts as an engine and propels the economy forward, is not only good but necessary. The other head, which is greedy, destructive, and without conscience, is dangerous and demands wise limitations on ability to run free.

A wise CPAC would seek a balance between the old wild west and the modern 21st century in which we live. A wise CPAC would realize that Wayne LaPierre and the NRA have gone off the reservation and should be viewed with a dim opinion.

Too Soon To Talk

February 16, 2018

When ever there is a mass shooting, the public conversation jumps to guns and the role they played. Soon we hear “guns don’t kill people, people kill people”, or a constant crowd pleaser is “our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families”. In a few days (which our leaders said would be necessary to get all the facts), the mass shooting would be pushed off the front page and replaced by some other gruesome news.

Will we hear a repeat of this pablum following the Florida shootings? (You know the February 15th shooting at a school in Broward County, Florida).

Think about what is known so far

  • Assault rifle (semi-automatic)
  • Lots of clips and ammunition
  • Unarmed, soft targets
  • History of anti-societal behavior
  • Warnings to police and FBI in the past
  • Weapons legally obtained

In the 2008 Columbia v Heller decision, the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision separated gun possession from any connection with a well regulated malitia. Justice Scalia, writing for the majority, said each American has a Constitutional right to own fire arms for self protection. Scalia was a staunch Catholic and believer in the here after. I wonder what he is thinking now about his 2008 opinion?

President Trump pontificated that it was a top priority for his Administration to ensure school safety. Hmmm, I wonder what he is thinking?

  • Could he be thinking that more armed police in each and every school?
  • Or, could he be thinking that the US is awash in guns with the largest number of guns per capita. (The runner-up country to the US (guns/citizen) is Yemen.)

The answer to mass shootings seems to glare back at us… Guns are simply too available and guns which fire many bullets, seem the preferred weapon of choice in mass murders.

At this point in any similar discussion, some will say that mental health plays a large role in mass killings. Others will say they are responsible gun owners and assault type weapons are particularly desired. So, does this mean that the best way to deal with gun violence is to make guns even more available?

Commonsense cries out that the place for guns are in the home, ton he firing range, or in designated hunting fields.

In rural parts of the country where wild animals pose threats, open carry for hand guns may be justified. But private ownership of military style, automatic or semi-automatic weapons have no place in a sane society.

Orlando Magic

June 12, 2016

Just like that, early this morning, 50 people were killed and at least another 53 were wounded, some with life threatening gun shot wounds. Was it magic or was it an event with preventable causes?

The gun crowd have already begun the familiar refrains that guns do not kill, people do. And of course that is true, it is just that people can kill a lot more other people with certain guns. What is so difficult about that concept?

Chris Rock’s solution has been to increase the price of bullets, say to several thousand dollars a round. Humorous for sure, but like most price controls, smuggling might circumvent this containment measure.

Over the next few days there will be calls for out right gun restrictions and other calls for arming everyone. With the current Supreme Court ruling confirming the Constitutional right of Americans to own and carry guns, the Country is left only with the option to implement reasonable gun control measures. What could they be?

Donald Trump may say no guns for Muslims or Mexicans, although it is doubtful the NRA would stand for any retrenchment in gun ownership.

Democrats will call for more “background checks” and longer waiting periods to conduct these checks. While this should be commonsense, these are relatively meaningless in view of the number of guns already available for private sale. Waiting periods and background checks require a willing public to be effective. People who want guns are not model citizens.

Here is a proposal.

What if it became law that private citizen could own military assault style weapons and large ammunition clips BUT could only possess them if stored and used in a secure and regulated gun club or shooting range? Gun lovers, come out and shoot to your heart’s content but when one is done shooting the guns stays at the club.

With sufficient fines and random searches, the public could be encouraged to store these weapons in secure locations or risk having them confiscated.

Would that stop mass shootings? Probably not but it should lower the death toll.

Galvanizing the public to come to their sense and recognize what is responsible and sensible gun ownership would be the best outcome that could come from this tragedy.

It would be Orlando magic.


Assault On The 2nd Amendment?

January 5, 2016

House Speaker Paul Ryan described President Obama’s speech today and his accompanying Executive Order as an “assault on the second Amendment”… and of course a clear case of Executive “over reach”. Why am I disappointed but not surprised?

For sure, it is highly questionable whether reducing the number of ways Federal Background checks can be avoided would subsequently reduce the number mass shootings. But is their any logic in requiring a background check if you purchase a firearm at Cabela’s sport store and not requiring one for sales at gun shows?

The President’s proposal seems hardly an assault on the 2nd Amendment. A responsible Congress would not only support the role of expanded background checks, it would also turn to national registrations lists (to aid law enforcement) and greater funding for mental health clinics (to treat those who are a danger to others especially when armed).

One area which seems to be overlooked in our national (and irrational) gun discussions is what the 2nd Amendment (“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”) means.

Gun rights advocates focus on “shall not be infringed”. But two conflicts arise from this perspective.

  • First, it is doubtful the founding fathers intended to give gun rights to some who would in turn use guns to restrict other people’s civil liberties.
  • Second, there is no clarification about what a “well regulated militia” means. Does this include US based Sunni or Shiite groups organizing, acquiring, and training with guns including heavy duty ones?

It should be worrisome to see how many GOP leading members (for example, Speaker Ryan and most of the Presidential primary candidates) have spoken out today denouncing President Obama’s Executive Order. These individuals either already have or seek to attain extremely important government positions. Where is their sense of what it takes to govern a free and open society?

Donald Trump was one of the candidates who said he would overturn President Obama’s Executive Order if elected. Trump continues to lead the GOP field by a large margin (37% to second place of 18%). MSNBC reported segmentation of the 37%.  The network found that 67% of Trump’s supporters believed President Obama was a Muslim and had not been born in America. Hmmm.

For GOP members who are truly worried about the Country’s direction (and not for personal wealth reasons), these poll numbers should be a wake up call. It is past the time when political rhetoric should be encouraged that divides the country into extremes. There are wide grounds for bi-partisan legislation reigning unlimited gun sales.

Our leaders must consider the horrifically higher number of US mass shootings compared to the rest of the world, and then, think ahead to what it will be like when “a well regulated (and armed) militia” chooses to put an exclamation point under its extreme views.

Mass Shootings, Any Lessons?

December 4, 2015

The San Bernardino, California tragedy provides another lesson in a text book which our Country seems set on not learning. People kill but people with guns kill more. Where has common sense gone?

Yesterday Congress took great pride in using its precious time passing legislation it knew would be vetoed. The waste of time bill once again repealed Obamacare and to the cheers of many Republicans also defunded Planned Parenthood. At the same time, Congress brushed aside a proposal to increase the nature of gun purchase background checks. Where are our priorities?

The San Bernardino chapter is one in a fast growing encyclopedia. The encyclopedia titled, “Summary of Mass Killings” is growing at a rate of one per week. Each occasion provides hours of prime television time and a wonderful stage for politicians to pontificate.

In response to the California incident, each of the GOP candidates invoked their prayers while each of the Democrats called for stricter measures to acquire guns. The New York Daily News summed it up well when they front page headlined “God Isn’t Fixing This” calling out these politicians.

Each of theses mass killings features something different. Mental illness, racism, and religious radicalism have made the best headlines but behind each event was the statement, “the weapons were purchased legally”.

The headline grabbing shootings tend also to mask the everyday shooting variety where suicide and gangs and common thugs use guns to enforce drug trade and petty crime. The toll from guns is off the charts.

NPR summed the mass shooting phenomena recently providing data which pro-gun advocates would prefer not to read. I wonder whether this is why in House Speaker Paul Ryan’s has recommended defunding NPR too.


The Limits Of Political Speak

October 3, 2015

This week, in Roseburg, Oregon, another inexplicable mass murder took place. A gunman carrying 6 of his 13 weapons stormed into the local community college and began shooting. When the shooter was finally “neutralized”, nine people were dead and 10 others wounded. There was no obvious motive. Law enforcement authorities cited “hate” as the killer’s motivation.

What seemed to be overlooked was the shooter motivation might have been simply because “he could do it”.

President Obama spoke from the White House calling again into question America’s gun laws and accepted practices. Pointing out the comparison with all other modern countries, only the US has so many guns in the hands of its citizens and experiences so many gun related deaths. The President wonder why was that?

Gun related killings joins a dubious list of other American firsts. America spends more than any other modern country on healthcare (two times) and receives health outcomes no better or worse than countries like Japan, Canada, UK, or Germany. America also spends more on K-12 education per student and ranks mediocre when compared to other modern countries. American prisons incarcerate more persons per capita than its peers at a huge tax payer costs. And, America spends more on “defense” then the rest of the world combined. Hmmm.

Saying that something is wrong with healthcare, education, criminal justice, and defense spending is an understatement. Yet, politicians dance around these subjects using phrases like “we must do better”. Why is that?

The Supreme Court has ruled that all Americans (with some exceptions) have a Constitutional right to possess fire arms. One can question the Court’s logic, but for starters that decision is the law of the land.

The Court has not ruled that Americans are entitled to own unlimited numbers of weapons nor should they be allowed to own tanks and anti-aircraft weapons. From this light, it seems reasonable that certain limits on gun ownership are within the prerogative of State and local governments. The question is which ones?

The President spoke from his heart following the Oregon killings. Unfortunately, his words were woefully inadequate. He said things that most all legislators already know as do most intelligent Americans. The President did not say what needed to be done.

The tried and true remedy laid out for all the recent mass killings is “stricter background checks”. Political speaks says “we must keep guns out the hands of criminals and those suffering from mental health issues”. So here’s a questions.

Why should anyone possess more than one weapon in the first place?

Sport is a reasonable response. For example, one might want a special gun such as deer rifles, shot guns for large and small game, and pistols for personal protection while in the wilderness. The Oregon killer was legally able to purchase 12 hand guns and one assault weapon. Where is the sport in that?

It is time for the President to say what is necessary. Possessing fire arms is not an unlimited right, gun possession is a special privilege. Accordingly, gun ownership must be accompanied with certain compliance measures by prospective owners.

Here is a proposal.  A gun owner must have a mental health background checks every five years, show proof of secure storage facilities, agree to no “concealed” (on ones body) or “public” carry, transport guns only in secured containers, and when purchasing the second or subsequent gun, show proof of a bond or insurance for unauthorized or illegal use of his/her guns.

The 2nd Amendment famously says “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.” Common sense should have guided the Supreme Court to emphasizing “regulated” and recognizing “militia” to be an obsolete reference to private armed groups protecting farms and villages (today we have police and a Federal standing army.

Common sense should also tell us that the problem is related to aspects of multiple gun ownership. Authorities estimate that the US possesses over 300 million guns (about one for each resident). Most Americans do not own guns of any type. This means that many others possess many and multiple gun owners are still free to acquire more.

In most major cities, the newspapers recount shootings and gun related murders every day. And, the largest single class of gun related murders is suicide. Guns are American means of choice.

The President needs to say what needs to be done. The number of guns in the US must be reduced. There will be a huge outcry from the NRA and many individuals. There is no other way to reduce senseless mass murders or to reduce the indiscriminate use of guns in one on one shootings until the number of guns is significantly reduced.

No guns, no shootings.

Roanoke Tragedy – No Kidding

August 28, 2015

The two television employees who were killed while recording a live interview for a morning show once again shed an uncomfortable light upon guns. Armed with two recently purchased hand guns, a former station employee shot the TV anchor person and her cameraman. To add insult to injury, the killer then posted his own video on social media. A few hours later, the killer took his own life as police neared his capture. What a tragedy.

News reports have not shown any connection between these specific victims and the killer. The killer had been fired from the local Roanoke television station but the two victims were not involved (according to reports). In addition to the two victims, there was also an interviewee who was shot but is predicted to survive. Is this a tragedy about being in the wrong place at the wrong time?

News reports indicate the killer felt himself the victim of racism as well as sexual discrimination. He attributed his firings at the Roanoke station as well as an earlier one at a Florida station to discrimination because he was black and a gay man. Was this a tragedy because the killer was mistaken in these beliefs or was he correct in his beliefs and just cracked under pressure?

News reports claimed that the killer had only recently purchased two handguns. In a perfectly legal Virginia transaction, the killer obtained the means to become a black, gay, killer. Could this tragedy have been prevented if the laws prohibited the sale of guns to blacks, or gays, or just black gays?

This event’s tragedy reflects the heavy cost of having let the gun genie out of the bottle. When one reads the 2nd Amendment and reads the words “well regulated militia”, the Constitutional purpose of gun ownership is clear.   The right of States to control or regulate other uses should also be clear.

The tragedy of this Roanoke shooting stems from the Supreme Courts recent decision affirming the right of all Americans to possess fire arms any time, any place, and severely limits the reasons a State can limit gun ownership or possession.

Commonsense would lead a thoughtful person to minimize the provocative nature of “open carry” or the general public danger of “concealed carry”. Target shooting, hunting, and home defense, on the other hand, when combined with appropriate levels of training and gun safety education, could be allowed for all willing Americans.

The Roanoke tragedy is just another example of deaths that didn’t need to happen. Clearly hand guns didn’t make the killer kill. Hand guns simply enabled the killer to kill. As the NRA says, guns don’t kill, people kill.

Columbine, Newtown, and Virginia Tech gun tragedies, for example, were all front page news. Senseless deaths only possible due to easy gun availability.  Nothing has changed. That’s the real tragedy.

What Does South Carolina Teach Us?

June 19, 2015

I have resisted writing about the senseless murder of 9 AME church members in South Carolina. The killings were clearly the results of a warped, delusional mind who thought he had a motive, knew he had the means, and found, for his purposes, a perfect opportunity.

Why, most sensible people are asking themselves? And trust me on this, God’s will is not the answer.

There is a vanishingly small chance investigators will find a silver bullet cause. Rather, prosecutors and pundits will toss back and forth reasons that may have contributed but from these assertions, there will be unlikely a single cause found.

It seems ironic that on the same day, the Supreme Court ruled that Texas could deny references to the Confederacy from State license plates without violating the first Amendment rights of those wishing to have such plates. The symbolism of this slave bound era seems eerie.  Hmmm. I wonder whether people still advocating for the glory of the Confederacy may have in a little way contributed?

Also occurring recently was the announcement that the storied fire arms make “Colt” was putting itself into bankruptcy. The gun that won the West might soon be relegated to history books. The gun which the South Carolina killer used was a 45 caliber hand gun. What might have happened had the maker of this weapon already have gone out of business before it issued this fire arm?

And the place most pundits are running towards is linking the killings to race. Hmmm. Well, maybe but that seems a cop-out answer to me. Sure the killer utters nonsensical words about race but frankly, African Americans look different from caucasians and to ignore the recognition that these AME worshipers were different from the killer is to ignore the obvious. Of course these victims were African American and racially they were different from the shooter.  But why these African Americans, why not some at a mall or movie theater?

IMO, American has a far bigger problem than racial hatred. It has a problem of gross ignorance and the inability to separate fact from fiction.  This weakness is abetted by the political and media industries who amasses huge profits from fostering divisive public opinions.

While there are senseless killings around the world, Americans appear to have more.  Americans appear ignorant of why so many countries limit gun ownership and demand guns stay out of public places. This same ignorance keeps Americans thinking the current US healthcare system is state of the art if not the best in the world. Americans also think our education system is still number one and the “American dream” still is open to everyone.

An inquisitive mind would check the data and know that while America is a great place to live, it imprisoned more people than another other country, it has more gun related murders than any other country, its healthcare system cost twice as much as more that two dozen other modern country, does not cover all citizens, and provides poorer health outcomes. Americans would also realize our education system ranked someplace between 15 and 20 against other comparable countries and upward mobility was better in Europe than in America. Hmmm.

I don’t know if there was anything that could have been done to have avoided these senseless killings. There have always been crazy people in the world. I strongly believe, however, that the institutional denial of fact and the political spin applied to all sorts of issue in order the divert attention from root causes (and facilitate personal profit), is developing a generation of people who cannot discern reality from dreams.

Dylann Roof, the 21 year old shooter, may point to some specific hate filled reason for justifying his shootings at the Charleston AME church. This irrational act, however, can not be explained by some clear just motivation. Rather, Roof like many other Americans thinks there are no responsibilities attached to guns and that these weapons can speak in ways stronger than words. Roof most probably does not know also about healthcare, education, or the rest of the world.

He does think he knows that the American dream, however, is not within reasonable reach for himself.  He just doesn’t know why.