Tapas bar, we sat over a glass of Sangria and various tasty Tapas, we began to talk a little about the differences in the cultures of the 3 countries represented at the table. Health care came up, for one. Of course, both Australia and Spain have versions of a national health care plan, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. We found that there is not a perfect system of providing health care to citizens but neither the Australians or the young Spanish guide wanted the system offered in the U.S. They pay higher taxes but don't feel them to be a burden. The Australian woman, Beatrice, is diabetic and so gets most of her treatment as a benefit of the government's health care system. They each can purchase supplementary plans which are affordable to them for better care than the basic care offered by the government- similar to our Medicare plan.
small minority who is always fussing over gun rights to a group who make some noise but usually don't get anywhere. He knew about the influence of the American NRA on the gun owners group in Australia and didn't find that to be a good thing. The young Spaniard, Marcus, was curious over why anyone could or should carry a gun around in public. His first response was that guns would get used in situations where another means of defense might solve the problem without loss of life. He said that guns are just not carried around in Spain and that some people felt a need for guns for self protection in their homes but gun laws were very strict. He didn't understand America's gun culture at all. It is not even on the radar really, of the Spanish people.
While away from home, of course, shootings continued as well as proposed laws in state legislatures and media coverage of both. Just a sampling of such from all over the country while I was away:
- In the Los Angeles area ( actually before I left for Barcelona) a friend shot his buddy, an NBC executive, while showing him his large gun collection. The AR15 in his collection discharged and killed the young man after a round from the rifle lodged in the man's chest. An update to this story now changed the shooting from accidental to homicide; the father of the victim had this to say: " “Because of one of those guns I had to bury my son yesterday,” Joe Kaplon said in an interview with The Times on Thursday.""
- In Tucson, the scene of the January 8th shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, the Fix Gun Checks tour stopped by to call attention to the fact that we have too many gun deaths in America and simple measures can fix the system. We became familiar with the face of Dr. Peter Rhee, the Trauma Surgeon who performed surgery on Representative Giffords. He gave daily press updates about her condition. Now he has written in favor of passing sensible legislation to prevent some of the insane gun violence experienced in this country. His articulate and eloquent piece is compelling. Here, in his words, are some things for all of us to consider: "For a doctor, an ounce of prevention is always worth more than any cure. Enforcing our laws and screening for unstable people like Jared Loughner, the accused killer, would surely help. I can't see how anyone would argue against that. Innocent people die from gunshot wounds all the time, right here in our country. We have to work to decrease that, don't we? The plan I am supporting is, in my view, common sense. And it respects the constitutional rights we all share. It is possible to have a better system that could have stopped people like Loughner, and I would like to be a part of helping to make that a reality.Fixing these simple gaps in the law could mean the difference between a war zone and just another beautiful, peaceful day -- both here in Tucson and in cities across America."
- While in Oklahoma, the state NRA has objections to an "open carry" bill that will allow 18 year olds to walk around with loaded guns in public. Really? Read about it: "First, The purchase of handguns by persons under the age of 21 is in violation of existing Federal Law. Second, Allowing citizens, trained or untrained, to carry Rifles and Shotguns either in a scabbard or with a sling on city streets and into business establishments will create an atmosphere of hostility and distrust, not to mention create fear in those in our society who have an aversion to any type of firearm. Third, The apprehension, created for the Law Enforcement Officers by the open carrying of long guns could create situations resulting in unnecessary use of deadly force. For these reasons we ask you to vote against SB 129 when it comes to the floor of the House of Representatives." Wow- I couldn't have put it better myself!
- In Texas, things are not going so well for the gun lobby sponsored "guns on campus" bill. Watch just a little of the testimony against the bill here. This is widely opposed by reasonable people. The NRA would not be included in that group. The bill is now stalled. Let's hope it stays that way. A similar bill was defeated in Idaho.
- Next up, Alaska's Congressman Don Young has his own gun problems. Palling around with terrorists is not a good idea while you serving in the U.S. Congress. But, whatever. He's still there representing the good folks of Alaska. The militia leader/terrorist, Francis Cox, who has ties to several high profile Alaska political leaders, has said so many outrageous things at gatherings of militia groups and tea party rallies, that it's hard to pick out just one. But here is just one of many statements made by him: " "Authority comes from being congruent from natural law, God's law. Power comes from the barrel of a gun," he said. "The federal government is all power and no authority. The Constitutional Congress is all authority and no power. So we're faced with this question, 'Do we condone a rebellious government and become an accessory to that with our compliance, or do we come together and try to find a way to put force, put power with that authority?"" I'm pretty sure that some of my commenters here agree with his statement.
- Now let's check out what an Oregon gun smith has to say about reasonable gun laws. " The NRA has put its position forward that it is the last bastion of protection for America, as if an army that defeated the U.S. military would wither under fire from the unlicensed Uzis flooding our neighborhoods and taking the lives of thousands of young Americans. This might have made sense back in Colonial or Old West days, but now it's just an anachronistic leftover, like chamber pots and the horseshoe smith on the corner."
- Time to move eastward with the gun stories. In Florida, a 92 year old woman just wanted a kiss from her neighbor. When he denied her that request, she took matters into her own hands and shot at his house, firing bullets through the walls of the home. Hmmm. Self defense? Too senile to handle a gun? Anger issues? Whatever.
- Again, be careful when cleaning your gun. A gun is a dangerous thing to have around the house sometimes. Particularly when it discharges and kills your own son. Oh dear, this 10 year old Milwaukee, Wisconsin area boy is injured after his father's gun discharged and hit him in the abdomen.
- In Georgia there was yet another shooting of police officers. One is dead and another wounded in a shooting after the officers began searching for a carjacker. There are too many officers shot on the job. Attorney General Eric Holder has addressed this national problem as well in a recent statement. A statement by Dennis Kenney, professor at New York's John Jay College of Criminal Justice, put it this way:" "What this is all going to mean is that police are going to have to protect themselves," he said. "Shootings of police are up and shootings by police are up. It's a fairly negative downward spiral we're on." Kenney said there is one solution — albeit an unpopular one: gun control. "There's a ready availability, an increasingly more potent level of weapons," he said. "Police are on the front edge of having to confront that and we're seeing that right now.""
- In Illinois, the fight goes on for passing a conceal and carry law. Illinois is one of 2 states that does not have a law allowing anyone who can pass a background check and minimal training, to carry a loaded gun in public. This article explains all the good reasons to keep it that way in Illinois. Wisconsin is the other state. If both states pass NRA supported laws, one of the NRA's missions will have been accomplished. But the slippery slope won't stop there. They continue pushing for more places to carry those guns and by more people. They won't stop until everyone is armed and they have unrestricted rights to own and carry guns. Public safety is not their issue. Also this from the mother of a student shot at the Northern Illinois University about why Illinois doesn't need a carry conceal law.
- One last look at what's going on in various states but I remind my readers that this is just a sampling. Much more is happening. Many more people are losing their lives to bullets. It's an every day occurrence in our country. Folks in other civilized countries not at war do not understand our gun culture. Common sense prevails in other countries. So, last, but not least, is this one. It's a free gun or a pizza- whichever- if you sign up for Dish network satellite T.V. at a Radio Shack store in Montana. Whatever. This is one clever way to make sure people have their guns and to make gun owners out of those who might not otherwise be. The gun lobby is a clever group. Any way to get new gun owners benefits the gun dealers and manufacturers who are all of a piece with the gun lobby.
- I just finished watching Sarah and Jim Brady on MSNBC with Andrea Mitchell. More on this tomorrow. But while watching, the breaking news story came across about a shoot-out in Chicago involving gunmen with AK 47s. 11 have been injured, including some in a bus which crashed in the mayhem. Oh hum- just another day in America.
Tomorrow (March 30th) will be the 30th anniversary of the shooting of Jim Brady, President Reagan's press secretary, who was wounded in the assassination attempt against Ronald Reagan. I will be writing about it tomorrow.