The Watering Hole, Saturday, December 14, 2013: A Year Wasted

Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the past 53 weeks, you know that today marks the one-year anniversary since one of the most horrific mass shootings in our nation’s gun-crazed history. When twenty six- and seven-year-olds are shot to death by a lunatic with a gun, you would think a nation would jump up and down and demand that steps be taken to ensure this never happens again. Maybe some other nation, but not his one. Oh, it’s not as though nothing has changed. More than 200,000 people have joined anti-gun violence groups, but 194 children under the age of 12 have been killed by gun violence. There were 109 laws passed by state legislatures regarding guns, but 70 of those laws expanded gun rights while only 39 restricted them. (I would have preferred that it was 0-109, respectively.) And on the federal level, only one gun violence law passed, and that was a reauthorization of the Undetectable Firearms Act. (Why do laws like this have to be reauthorized? Do we envision a point where we’ll want undetectable firearms to be legal? Why isn’t this law permanent?) Of course, in all the debates about gun safety, the one thing that had almost universal support failed to become law – mandatory background checks on ALL gun sales. This was inexcusable. Again, why would anybody think it a good idea to let some gun sales go without a background check being performed, to make sure the person buying the gun is legally allowed to own one? I don’t care if you’re passing granddad’s old Winchester down to your 16-year-old son, you need to run that background check. And a background check needs to be a real background check, not a self-check where you just tell the dealer you’ve done nothing that would bar you from owning a gun. I mean, seriously, filling out a questionnaire whose answers will never be verified actually counts as a “background check” in some states? This is why I oppose the Conservative idea of “states’ rights.” It basically takes the “United” out of “The United States of America.” Obviously there are some things that should be determined by local government, but “some things” doesn’t mean “everything.”

We have a serious problem with guns in this country, and if it isn’t addressed soon more innocent children will die. Is your so-called non-militia-related gun ownership “right” really more important than the life of a child? Do we really believe the problems of the world can be solved with a gun? Why do we even listen to people who say the solution to the scourge of gun violence is more guns? Is the solution to the problem of nuclear proliferation more nuclear weapons? Is the solution to the problem of HIV spreading to have more unprotected sex? Is the solution to the problem of rampant stupidity in our country more stupidity?

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to talk about guns, gun violence, small penises or anything else you wish to discuss.

The Watering Hole, Thursday, January 17th, 2013: The NRA

Today’s thread provides a look at some recent activity from the NRA’s website, along with some background and statistical information from the ATF’s website, plus a few other odds and ends.

From the NRA’s website:

January 16, 2013
NRA RESPONSE TO PRESIDENT OBAMA’S GUN CONTROL PROPOSALS
Throughout its history, the National Rifle Association has led efforts to promote safety and responsible gun ownership. Keeping our children and society safe remains our top priority.

The NRA will continue to focus on keeping our children safe and securing our schools, fixing our broken mental health system, and prosecuting violent criminals to the fullest extent of the law. We look forward to working with Congress on a bi-partisan basis to find real solutions to protecting America’s most valuable asset — our children.

Attacking firearms and ignoring children is not a solution to the crisis we face as a nation. Only honest, law-abiding gun owners will be affected and our children will remain vulnerable to the inevitability of more tragedy.

[“inevitability?]
– and –

January 10, 2013
STATEMENT FROM THE NRA
The National Rifle Association of America is made up of over 4 million moms and dads, daughters and sons, who are involved in the national conversation about how to prevent a tragedy like Newtown from ever happening again. We attended today’s White House meeting to discuss how to keep our children safe and were prepared to have a meaningful conversation about school safety, mental health issues, the marketing of violence to our kids and the collapse of federal prosecutions of violent criminals.

We were disappointed with how little this meeting had to do with keeping our children safe and how much it had to do with an agenda to attack the Second Amendment. While claiming that no policy proposals would be “prejudged,” this Task Force spent most of its time on proposed restrictions on lawful firearms owners — honest, taxpaying, hardworking Americans. It is unfortunate that this Administration continues to insist on pushing failed solutions to our nation’s most pressing problems. We will not allow law-abiding gun owners to be blamed for the acts of criminals and madmen. Instead, we will now take our commitment and meaningful contributions to members of congress of both parties who are interested in having an honest conversation about what works — and what does not.

Back in December, the NRA-ILA (Institute for Legislative Action) – self-described as “The Lobbying Arm of the NRA” – commented on Senator Diane Feinstein’s draft for proposed new gun legislation. And on January 4th, the NRA-ILA began to gin up fear over proposed House gun control bills.

From the ATF (which the NRA refers to as the BATFE, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives), here’s a brief history of the National Firearms Act. The ATF website also includes information regarding Firearms Trace data (“state-by-state reports utilizing trace data which is intended to provide the public with insight into firearms recoveries”) as well as graphs and links for “Number of NFA Firearms Processed by Fiscal Year” Take a look at the jump in the numbers of “firearms processed” in 2008, 2009, 2011, and 2012, when the NRA, in the person of Wayne LaPierre, was strongly pushing the “Obama’s going to take your guns away” meme. The website also provides a list (including photos and descriptions) of firearms which are covered under the National Firearms Act and subsequent additional gun control legislation.

Let’s go back to the NRA again. Here’s a brief introductory excerpt from a fascinating Alternet article by Steven Rosenfeld entitled “The Surprising Unknown History of the NRA”:

“For nearly a century after, its founding in 1871, the National Rifle Association was among America’s foremost pro-gun control organizations. It was not until 1977 when the NRA that Americans know today emerged, after libertarians who equated owning a gun with the epitome of freedom and fomented widespread distrust against government—if not armed insurrection—emerged after staging a hostile leadership coup.

In the years since, an NRA that once encouraged better markmanship and reasonable gun control laws gave way to an advocacy organization and political force that saw more guns as the answer to society’s worst violence, whether arming commercial airline pilots after 9/11 or teachers after the Newtown, while opposing new restrictions on gun usage.

It is hard to believe that the NRA was committed to gun-control laws for most of the 20th century—helping to write most of the federal laws restricting gun use until the 1980s.”

The NRA claims to have over four million members, a number disputed in this article from motherjones.com. There have also been claims made by the NRA that, since the Newtown tragedy, the NRA is gaining 8000 new members a day, supposedly over 100,000 total. However, when I tried to find more information to back up these claims, all I found were links to Fox News, Breitbart, and to some site called “The Daily News Report” (no relation to the NY Daily News.) And since this Daily News Report article contains the sentence “Unlike many who are using the school shooting as a political club, the National Rifle Association (NRA) has been staying quiet out of respect for the Newtown victims“, I think we can safely dismiss this ‘report.’ BTW, tomorrow night, FoxNews will be presenting “Hannity Special: Inside the Gun Debate, featuring Wayne LaPierre.” I wonder if they’ll have any of the parents from Newtown on for this “fair and balanced” Hannity “Special.”

And lastly, also from motherjones.com, here’s Frank Smyth’s article “Unmasking the NRA’s Inner Circle”, as discussed last night on Lawrence O’Donnell’s Last Word.

This is our open thread…better put your reading glasses on!

The Watering Hole, Saturday, December 22, 2012: No, Wayne, We Don’t Need More Guns

In the aftermath of one of the most horrific mass shootings in our nation’s long history of mass shootings (see partial list of recent mass shootings here), David Keene, President of the National Rifle Association (NRA) the began an announcement to the press “for the purposes of beginning our discussion of the topic that’s been on the mind of American parents across this country, and that is, what do we do about the tragedies of the sort that struck in Newtown, Connecticut — to avoid such events in the future?” He then introduced Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, who proceeded to lie.

Wayne said, “Out of respect for the families and until the facts are known, the NRA has refrained from comment.” Except if that were true, he would not have been making those comments, because the facts are not yet known and won’t be for some time. But after promising on Tuesday that the NRA would have a “meaningful contribution,” their solution to prevent more mass shootings in schools was – yes, you guessed it – more guns in schools. Really, Wayne? Do you honestly think that if we put armed security guards in every school, that fewer children would die from guns? Maybe you really do believe that, because among many stupid things you said was this gem, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” This is the mind set we must face if we are to do anything about the prevalence of guns in our society. A mind set that believes that the only thing wrong with the guns in our society is that there just aren’t enough of them, not that there are too many in the hands of people who have no business holding one let alone owning it. A mind set that thinks guns provide a level of safety their absence can’t match, despite the clear evidence that guns provide a level of danger their presence can’t eliminate. A mind set that believes you have every right in the world to kill someone for no other reason than that you believe, some how, some way, that he posed some kind of danger, possibly imaginary, to you or someone in your care.

They will try to make this about anything but guns. They will try to make it about mental health. They will try to make this about public health. They will try to make this about school safety. They will try to make this about ANYTHING but guns. But there is one, and only one, thing that all mass shootings have had in common – guns. People have committed mass murder without using guns, but those incidents are few and far between, and they certainly aren’t happening at the rate of about one per month, as is true with mass killings using guns. But until we talk about the issue, we won;t come to any meaningful solutions. And since the discussion will revolve around the Second Amendment, the very first question we should ask and answer is a simple one: What year is it right now? Because it isn’t 1791, and we don’t rely on out militias for law enforcement, only law assistance. And since militias were the clearly obvious reason for allowing people to own guns, shouldn’t we discuss them, too? The “right to keep and bear arms” is not without context, and a discussion on how to reduce the number of mass shootings in our society must address that context.

This is our open thread. Feel free to discuss guns or any other topic you wish.

Open letter to President Obama

Article 2, Section 3 of the United States Constitution grants YOU the power to convene both houses of Congress, “on extraordinary occasions”.

I submit to you that the mass murder of kindergarten children constitutes an “extraordinary occasion”. You have said that if we could take even so much as one step to prevent such tragedies in the future, that we should take that step.

Well, one such step is the reinstatement of the assault weapons ban.

YOU, President Obama, have the power to convene both houses of Congress and DEMAND they get a bill reinstating the assault weapons ban on your desk before Christmas.

It is but a small step. But a step in the right direction. Could you stand in the room of those slain kindergartners and ask for anything less?

The Watering Hole: Monday, December 17, 2012 – Can We PLEASE Talk About Guns In Our Society Now?

On the morning of December 14, 2012, it was Newtown, Connecticut.
Before that it was Clackamas Town Center, Oregon.
Before that it was Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Before that it was Oak Creek, Wisconsin.
Before that it was Aurora, Colorado.
Before that it was Seattle, Washington.
Before that it was Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Before that it was Oakland, California.
Before that it was Seal Beach, California.
Before that it was Carson City, Nevada.
Before that it was Tucson, Arizona.
Before that it was Manchester, Connecticut.
Before that it was Fort Hood, Texas.
Before that it was Binghamton, New York.
Before that it was Carthage, North Carolina.
Before that it was Northern Illinois University, Illinois.
Before that it was Kirkwood, Missouri.
Before that it was Omaha, Nebraska.
Before that it was Virginia Tech, Virginia.
Before that it was Salt Lake City, Utah.
Before that it was Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Before that it was Seattle, Washington.
Before that it was Red Lake, Minnesota.
Before that it was Brookfield, Wisconsin.
Before that it was Meridian, Minnesota.
Before that it was Fort Worth, Texas.
Before that it was Atlanta, Georgia.
And before that, on the morning of April 20, 1999, it was Littleton, Colorado.

These are all places where someone, or several someones, took a gun, or several guns, and began shooting people at some location, or several locations. Does this list strike you as being rather long? These are just ones since Columbine. There were others in between and before that. Many people died in those mass shootings. Too many. And too many were children. Far, far too many. And yet, we can’t seem to have that talk about all these mass shootings and the prevalence of guns in our society.

How many people have to die in mass shootings before we are allowed to talk Continue reading

Dear Mike Huckabee,

You were quoted as saying, “We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we’ve systematically removed God from our schools.”

I would like to offer the following suggestion and ask for your endorsement:

Let us all agree to post The Lord’s Prayer in each and every public school classroom and office. And, along with that, let us remove all restrictions on gun ownership.

Would you agree that God will then prevent all shootings in all public schools? If not, why not?

You see, I’m still having problems with the notion that God is so vindictive as to allow the murder of 22 little children because of something done by grown-ups a couple of hundred years ago – you know, the separation of church and state thing. A fair reading of your statement is that because we took God out of the classroom, God is seeking His vengance by allowing the mass murder of little children.

Frankly, I am getting a little weary of a God who wipes out entire communities with storms because some folks accept gay marriage as just another expression of God’s love. And I am absolutely appalled at a God who sends a guy to a school house armed to the teeth to kill little kids just because His Word isn’t in the curriculum.

So, Mr. Huckabee, what do you say? Will God prevent mass murders if we adopt Christianity as the official religion of the United States of America? If we become a Christian Nation, can we then get rid of all restrictions on gun ownership and allow people to buy whatever armament they can afford?

And will you, Mr. Huckabee, visit each and every grieving parent, look them in the eye, and tell them that God allowed their little girl or boy to be murdered because public schools don’t teach His Holy Word?

Somehow, I doubt it.