There is absolutely no reason why we shouldn't require stricter checks on gun sales. It is a common sense no brainer. Guns should be harder to access than cough medicine and fishing licenses, not easier. Guns are weapons designed to kill. That is a fact. But the angry and grumpy old white guys want to keep things as they are. They want more guns to be carried into more public places and that, they think, will keep them in charge and protect the gun industry. Big industries, big banks and corporations have been in charge for too long. And we know where that got us. Millionaires and billionaires tried to buy our recent election and it didn't work. The NRA tried to influence the elections but didn't, as it turned out, though they spent a lot of money in the effort. As this article in the Washington Post put it:"I got carded at Dominick's the other day for buying natural cough medicine. Ingredients? Honey and eucalyptus - a real meth lab waiting to happen. We live in a world where cough medicine is regulated, where you need a license to fish and in most states, women have to endure mandatory waiting periods for a certain medical procedure. Our cars have to pass emission inspections. Restaurants have to adhere to health codes. But guns? Oh, you just buy those and toss 'em in your closet for your kids to find, sell them on the black market or twirl them around your thumbs like Yosemite Sam. Root 'em toot 'em! Guns are dangerous and yet remain highly unregulated.I posted a rather naive, emotional response to the Ohio school shooting back in February where I called for the banning of all handguns. (It was quoted two days ago on a Huffington Post article as well as in The Examiner discussing the original intent of the Second Amendment.) I have since realized that eradicating all handguns is not a logical or practical solution to the mess we've gotten ourselves into in this gun-infested country. But there are solutions. President Obama could work to ban assault weapons and the limit the sale of ammunition.For anyone disappointed in the results of last night's election, just realize the Republican party lost largely because the extreme direction the base has gone, including the staunch, immovable principles of the NRA. It is possible to uphold the Second Amendment and still put in place regulations to protect our people from gun violence. Let's do this, Obama. Be the president who makes this country a safe place with gun control."
If I were an NRA member, I would think twice about where my membership money and contributions were going. The NRA has lost its' influence on elections. Angry white men are losing their influence. My favorite quote after the election came from analyst Matthew Dowd on ABC when he said: "The GOP is a Mad Men party in a Modern Family America". The Republican party lost because of the angry and grumpy white men who inhabit it and think the country is still how it was in the 50s and 60s. They are in denial. They are scared. They are wrong and this election was proof of that as New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff opined this morning:The Sunlight Foundation ran the numbers and found that after spending nearly $11 million in the general election, the National Rifle Association got a less than one percent return on its investment this cycle. That is, less than one percent of the money went toward the desired result.The group supported 27 winning candidates, but most of its money was spent targeting winning Democrats (including over $7 million against President Obama) or bolstering losing Republicans (including $1.8 million supporting Mitt Romney and $500,000 backing Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock).
Listen up angry and grumpy old white men. The world is changing. In fact, the world has changed incrementally since the founding fathers wrote our Constitution. For one thing, the "fathers" of that time were all white men. Women couldn't vote. They couldn't and didn't hold office. They were supposed to stay at home and take care of the men and children. The guns were muskets with one shot at a time. This gun rights writer believes that the constitution protects even modern day weapons and more. From his writing:Then there are women. The paternalistic comments about rape by a few male Republican candidates resonated so broadly because they reflected the perception of the G.O.P. as a conclave of out-of-touch men. As Representative Todd Akin of Missouri might put it, when a candidate emerges with offensive views about rape, “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” Namely, they vote Democratic.America is changing. After this election, a record 20 senators will be women, almost all of them Democrats. Opposition to same-sex marriage used to be a way for Republicans to trumpet their morality; now it’s seen as highlighting their bigotry.An astonishing 45 percent of Obama voters were members of minority groups, according to The Times’s Nate Silver. Many others were women or young people. That’s the future of America, and if the Republican Party remains a purist cohort built around grumpy old white men, it is committing suicide. That’s bad not just for conservatives, but for our entire country.
Really? Nowhere in the Second Amendment are those words used. But facts don't matter. The above article reflects a view of the second amendment that many gun rights extremists actually believe. It is not how the Supreme Court interpreted the Second Amendment in the Supreme Court's Heller decision. But never mind. These guys have their own reality of the world and guns which, to them, are more important than life itself. As proof positive that some are willing to do anything for their own dangerous agenda, here is a comment left on my blog last night to a post about the shooting at the Wisconsin Sikh temple: " If a gun confiscation is attempted, you will be shown new meaning of the term "deaths per capita." It will be apparent that anyone willing to confiscate our guns has a death wish." So, readers, I ask you to think about what these guys are thinking and might do about what they are thinking. These are not reasonable people. Beware of the guys with the guns.Either way, the argument still goes along these lines: You have the right to keep and bear arms, but just guns for self-defense and nothing too dangerous. This misses the point completely. The Second Amendment was specifically about making the people dangerous to tyrants.
The opposing view, which is shared by the majority in polling over many years is expressed by Huffington Post writer Sanjay Sanghoee in this article:
And then Sanghoee goes on to write about why the issue of gun control is so important to discuss in a reasonable way:In its 2008 ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570, the Supreme Court said that the Second Amendment protects a person's right to possess a firearm and to use it for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home. This "individual" right is different from the "collective" right of citizens to form a militia, but serves the same purpose, since armed individuals make up a militia. But the ruling still does not clear up the questions posed above or clarify the wider intent of the Second Amendment.On the issue of the definition of "arms," I accept that private citizens should be able to buy firearms to protect their home, but protection of the home does not require or justify the stockpiling of dozens of weapons (you only have two hands, how many guns can you fire at a time?) or the ability to purchase high-capacity assault weapons such as the semi-automatic assault rifle used by the gunman in Aurora, Colorado, which had a 100-round drum magazine capable of firing 50 to 60 rounds per minute. Those are not firearms used for self-defense, but military weapons used for shooting at armies, and in civilian hands, instruments of mass murder. The application of the Second Amendment to protect high impact weapons like these is unconscionable, beneficial only to homicidal maniacs and gun manufacturers, and ultimately, dangerous.In fact, even the most conservative Supreme Court Justice, Justice Antonin Scalia, admitted recently that when the Founding Fathers wrote the Second Amendment, people were already prohibited from carrying weapons that were deemed "affrighting," which is pretty true of modern assault weapons.As for the security of a "free State," the Founding Fathers likely meant the most imminent threat against the newly formed United States at that time, namely a foreign power, and not our own government. That is not to say that they did not want safeguards against our democracy turning into a dictatorship, but not necessarily through the vehicle of the Second Amendment. For that they created checks and balances for our political system, including limits on the power of the Executive Branch of the government. I know that some constitutional scholars would disagree with this but then they disagree with each other too, and even if I am not a scholar, I am an educated citizen of the United States and have the right to determine whether the way in which our Constitution is interpreted makes sense.The question is not just one of the Founding Fathers' intent, but their purpose. Whatever the literal meaning of their words, they were visionary leaders of a nation conceived in independent thought, and would never have wanted Americans more than two centuries later to be restrained from applying their own independent thought and intelligence to the running of the country.Finally, in examining the phrase "well regulated" militia, let's get one thing straight: the Founding Fathers were freedom fighters, not gun-happy militants. If the rhetoric of the extreme right were to be believed, there is little difference between George Washington and Osama Bin Laden, since they both took up arms for a cause they believed in deeply. The difference is that George Washington's cause was a noble one, whereas Bin Laden's cause was a murderous one, which makes the former a hero and the latter a psychopath.
Given all this, it should be obvious that "well regulated" needs to be exactly that, even if the original meaning is ambiguous. While it is fine for private citizens to own guns, and even permissible for them to form groups to protect their community, it is also the right of the government to ensure that the militias themselves do not become a threat to the security of our nation. If you are paying attention, you will see how this ties very neatly with the next phrase in the Second Amendment, namely "being necessary for the security of a free State." The Founding Fathers wanted to give Americans the power to defend themselves, but they also wanted to ensure that our own countrymen did not become a threat to us. Only with the emphasis on "well regulated" does the concept of a militia not run counter to the security of the state. In any other situation, the militia would be reduced to a gang, and I cannot imagine any patriotic American accepting that.
Gun control will continue to be a hotly debated topic for years to come, and with the NRA pumping huge sums of money into Congress, it is a safe bet that even moderate gun laws, such as stronger licensing checks, longer waiting periods to secure guns, limits on the number of guns that any one person is allowed to own, and a crackdown on unscrupulous internet vendors of weapons and ammunition, will be constantly challenged.
But that does not mean that we should not have a national discussion on this issue. In the movie The Dark Knight Rises, Batman is a heroic figure that battles the forces of anarchy and mindless violence to protect the people of Gotham. Nothing we do will bring back the tragic victims of Colorado or Wisconsin, but we can honor them by rising up ourselves against the perverted interpretation of our Constitution, which is not patriotic but an insult to our Founding Fathers.
If we don't, we will never get to a reasonable place. And more people will die.Lives depend on our changing the way we have been doing things while the grumpy white men have been in charge. Gun control was put on the back burner by those who wanted to protect the gun industry and the establishment at the same time as people have been shot to death in mass shooting after mass shooting and daily single shootings. Will this recent election allow us to have the discussion that Sanghoee and those of us involved in the gun violence prevention movement have been urging? There may be hope. In the 2012 election, we just elected our 20th woman to the U.S. Senate. I predict that that will make a difference. Women are problem solvers and willing to work together. They are compromisers. Women are just not as into guns as men. Women want to choose what happens to their own bodies and want equal access to health care and to jobs as men now have. Women care about the economy. They, too have jobs. If they don't work outside of the home, they often manage household finances and budget for groceries, clothing, rent, etc. Women have a different perspective about lots of issues of real importance to our country. They understand why access to birth control is important and they just don't get the "legitimate rape" thing. For the sake of our country, let's get on with the important job of running the country and doing what's best for all of us.
One of my favorite movies was Grumpy Old Men set in Minnesota in the midst of the winter ice fishing season. But the characters played by Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau were actually endearing men who just had a lot of things wrong concerning relationships. Here is a clip from the movie:
These guys at least didn't harm other people. They had trouble dealing with changes in their lives and took it out on each other to the amusement of others. It just isn't amusing to watch the party of grumpy old white guys dissemble over the election. The old guard and the Fox News extremists are making ridiculous and stupid statements in response to the President's re-election. Here is an article summarizing just a few. The worst and most frightening of the comments comes from the crazy and over the top Glenn Beck who suggests that people ought to use the second amendment to survive now that President Obama was re-elected. Watch this ( from the linked article):
Really Glenn Beck? Did you hear the ominous music? Good grief. Get over yourself. Talk about an angry white guy. Do people actually believe this stuff? Pity them. One of the commenters on my blog left me this comment as a way of reminding me that the NRA is in charge and we should watch out for them. "Sounds again like your kind is going to push for bans. Tread carefully, we will resist and youll have.a gop uprising in thehouse and Senate a la 1994 " Really? Between this guy, the guy who left the comment I quoted above and Glenn Beck, it sounds like there is going to be an "uprising" whatever the heck that means. "My kind" just want to stop people from getting shot to death. His kind apparently think that means something like banning their guns and taking away their rights. They are wrong of course. This kind of crazy talk was just rejected by the voters. We are better than this.
In all of the talk about the Republican party as the party of grumpy old guys I was reminded of this case of 4 angry old men arrested in Georgia for a terrorist plot:
At the trial for 2 of the men, tapes of conversations with the men were played. From one of the old guys: " "I could shoot at the ATF and IRS all day long, at the judges and the DOJ and the attorneys and prosecutors," Thomas said on the recording." Hmmm. There's much more of interest in these articles if you take the time to read them. There are an increasing number of militia groups like this all over the country, particularly after President Obama was elected. What does that tell us? Why do they hate the President so much? I explored that in my last post. Hatred, fear, paranoia, racism and guns just do not go well together. And not all of these guys are old. There is a new generation of angry and fearful white guys with guns waiting to act out some sort of dangerous fantasy. They appear to be scared enough into believing the hyperbole of Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Wayne LaPierre that they just might act. As one NRA member says in my link to LaPierre, ""But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t an awful lot of people out there that just think he’s a wingnut.”" Indeed. Wingnuts have been running things for far too long. Could there be a grumpier old white man than Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell who made it his campaign to keep President Obama from winning a second term?Thomas is also quoted as saying: “Let’s shoot the bastards that we discover are anti-American or enemies of America, treasonous. And to me the easiest and best way to do that is to walk up behind them with a suppressed .22. I am of the , uh, old school, Mafia; one behind the ear with a .22 is all you need. … Of course a .40 Smith and Wesson or .45 ACP is just as good, even better, [be]cause it makes the whole head explode.” At another point, discussing scouting buildings to bomb in Atlanta, he allegedly said, “We’d have to blow the whole building, like Timothy McVeigh.”During a four-month period that ended when they were arrested on Monday, Thomas and Roberts negotiated with an undercover FBI agent to buy a silencer for a rifle, as well as a conversion kit to make the rifle fully automatic. According to the FBI, Thomas planned to use the silencer he was purchasing and said he would clean the rifle and use rubber gloves to conceal his fingerprints. As the negotiations dragged on, Thomas and Roberts expressed concerns that the undercover agent was a law enforcement officer, “but wanted to go forward with the transaction anyway,” according to an FBI statement.
Really Senator McConnell. Get over yourself. We're moving on. It's time for a change. It's time to get busy on many issues important to the new majority of Americans not represented by the grumpy old white men amongst us. Lives depend upon it. The health care of Americans, the environment, public safety, the infrastructure, dealing with climate change, women's rights, the economy and so much else depends upon moving forward instead of backwards.
And finally, this post has to end with the victim impact statement made yesterday at the sentencing hearing for Jared Loughner by Mark Kelly, the husband of former Representative Gabrielle Giffords who was shot by Loughner at the Tucson mass shooting:
"We have a political class that is too afraid to do something as simple as have a meaningful debate about our gun laws and how they are being enforced. We have representatives who look at gun violence not as a problem to solve, but as the white elephant in the room to ignore. As a nation we have repeatedly passed up the opportunity to address this issue. After Columbine; after Virginia Tech; after Tucson and after Aurora we have done nothing. In this state we have elected officials so feckless in their leadership that they would say, as in the case of Governor Jan Brewer, “I don't think it has anything to do with the size of the magazine or the caliber of the gun.” She went on and said, “Even if the shooter's weapon had held fewer bullets, he’d have another gun, maybe. He could have three guns in his pocket.” She said this just one week after a high-capacity magazine allowed you to kill six and wound 19 others, before being wrestled to the ground while attempting to reload. Or a state legislature that thought it appropriate to busy itself naming an official Arizona state gun just weeks after this tragedy occurred.”Jared Loughner was and is an angry and mentally ill young white man who should never have had a gun and never should have had access to the bullets in the high capacity magazines he carried on the day he shot 6 people to death and injured 19 others, including a representative to the U.S. House of Representatives. But he did have that ammunition because it is easily available for just about anyone who wants it. This is the world of the gun rights extremists. This is the world of the angry white guys who have been attempting to push their dangerous and ludicrous agenda on the majority of Americans who don't want it. We have failed the many victims of gun violence by ignoring gun policy for far too many years. It's time to change that.
One more article about the myth of the NRA's influence from the San Francisco Chronicle:
The $3.4 million in the Senate races was targeted at three Democratic incumbents - Sens. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Bill Nelson of Florida and Claire McCaskill of Missouri - and three Democratic competitors for open seats - Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Tim Kaine of Virginia and Chris Murphy of Connecticut.All six won their races against Republicans.With a membership of 4.3 million gun owners and gun-rights supporters, the NRA has long enjoyed a reputation as an influential lobbying group with enough clout to doom lawmakers from red states who oppose their agenda.The 2012 election results undercut that perception, gun-control advocates insisted."It shows their influence over elections is a myth," said Brian Malte of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
Here's what I call a sore loser. An Arizona gun dealer wants to turn away anyone who voted for President Obama. From the article:
Stupid and immature.“I’ve been trying to wake people up,” he lamented.Reynolds’ approach is like a bucket of ice water, rather than a diplomatic nudge, however. The sign posted in the door of his shop says it all:“If you voted for Barack Obama Your business is not welcome at Southwest Shooting Authority.You have proven you are not responsible enough to own a firearm.”Inside, another sign warns, “If you voted for Obama, please turn around and leave!”As a reader of this column revealed, not every gun owner turned his back on Obama. A number of people who belong to various Pacific Northwest gun rights forums also indicated, either openly or by refusing to disclose, that they voted for the president. Apparently, the phenomenon is not confined to Washington and Oregon, where some gun owners are “blue bloods” in a political sense.Reynolds is having none of it, and he no longer wants their business. A sign that was posted outside of his store announced an “Obama bin Biden” sale, which brought criticism from pro-Obama residents in his community, according to a newspaper article. Reynolds doesn’t care. He wants to alienate those people, although upon reflection, it is not clear how he could enforce the policy.
I am hoping that more media outlets decide to write and talk about a newly emerging truth about the NRA. The Washington Post editorial board has written now about the total failure of the NRA in the 2012 election:
Examination by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence of spending by the National Rifle Association in the 2012 elections showed that, of the $11.8 million spent to defeat President Obama and $3.4 million across six key Senate races — 88 percent of its federal independent expenditures — the gun lobby could claim no victories; all of its candidates lost. This evidence that the association’s ability to influence elections may be exaggerated should stiffen the spines of Mr. Obama and congressional leaders to take on this important issue — before another person touched by gun violence has to stand up in court to offer words about the horrors of loss.