Welcome to Common Gunsense

I hope this blog will provoke some thoughtful reflection about the issue of guns and gun violence. I am passionate about the issue and would love to change some misperceptions and the culture of gun violence in America by sharing with readers words, photos, videos and clips from articles to promote common sense about gun issues. Many of you will agree with me- some will not. I am only one person but one among many who think it's time to do something about this national problem. The views expressed by me in this blog do not represent any group with which I am associated but are rather my own personal opinions and thoughts.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

What's the NRA up to these days?

from Keystone Progress Funnies
The NRA lobbyists and leaders have been busy digging in their heels after the Sandy Hook shooting. One would think they might actually try to empathize and maybe even get on board with reasonable gun laws supported by the majority of their own members. One would be wrong. Instead, they are introducing bills that make them look good until examined for their weakness and their punitive nature. The NRA is not interested in preventing shootings in the first place. Why not? Good question. I haven't been able to answer it for years. But here is what they did in Minnesota:
"Rep. Debra Hilstrom, DFL-Brooklyn Center, has discovered again that there is no comfortable middle ground when the subject is guns.
At noon at the Capitol, Hilstrom, standing with Hennepin County Sheriff Richard Stanek and Rep. Tony Cornish, the gun-toting legislator from Good Thunder, introduced a gun bill that she said “can bring people together’’ on the volatile subject of guns.
Her words were still echoing in the Capitol when critics, who had hoped for much stronger actions from the Minnesota Legislature, lambasted the effort of Hilstrom and a bipartisan group of 69 other legislators to “close gaps’’ in current state gun law.
“This is just a band-aid over a huge problem,’’ said Jane Kay of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense, an organization formed in the days following the mass shooting of school children in Newtown, Conn. “I’m fed up. I’m angry. We have the opportunity to do great things and this (the bill) doesn’t come close.’’
The bill has the support of the National Rifle Association, presumably because it does nothing to require background checks on all gun sales and because it does nothing to restrict sales of military-style weapons or even the quantity of rounds in ammunition magazines.
Despite the fact that it’s a bill that authors hoped would unite people, it seems to be dividing. Yes, there was a mix of Republican and DFL representatives standing with Hilstrom, Cornish and Stanek. Other than Stanek and the Minnesota Sheriff's Association, there were no law-enforcement organizations represented at the news conference where the proposal was unveiled. There also were no DFL senators, though presumably the bill will be as attractive to outstate senators as it appears to be to many outstate DFL representatives."
This bill does some of the same things that are in the bill presented a few weeks ago in the House Public Safety Committee but focuses more on punitive measures, after a gun crime or shooting, rather than prevention. There are some good things in the bill. But it is not enough. Until we come to terms with the idea that some people can buy guns without a background check, we won't be able to do what needs to be done to prevent some of the gun deaths and injuries which are so devastating in our communities. The NRA extremists resist this idea with all their might. For the life of me, I cannot figure out why. It is the very same background checks we now have on the sale of guns through a federally licensed firearms dealer. Nothing is different except that we will now be asking that all sellers require background checks from buyers- through Internet sales (Armslist.com), gun shows, flea markets, etc. There are some exceptions in the bill that go to certain of the concerns of the gun rights folks. But these same folks are all twisted in a pretzel about a provision that could save lives that they will go to any length to avoid it. This is what the NRA is up to after 12/14. It does not make sense to the public who supports universal background checks in large numbers. In fact, I wrote about the Star Tribune poll in a recent post and now Mayors Against Illegal Guns has hired more polling data all over the U.S., two of them in Congressional Districts in Minnesota which again show broad support for this measure.

But the NRA lobbyists will hear none of this common sense stuff coming from the public. I mean, who are the public to understand that we need to do more to keep people from being shot? They are just the majority of Americans, that's all. Never mind. NRA bought and paid for Senator Lindsay Graham has introduced a similar watered down bill at the national level. This is no coincidence. The NRA has lobbyists and field representatives all over this country whose job it is to shut down any reasonable legislation, to make sure their own bills to further the interests of the organization and the gun industry and to cause fear and paranoia amongst those few folks left who believe in the extremism. Check out Graham's alternate bill now introduced: 
A Republican senator introduced bipartisan gun background check legislation on Wednesday that would make it harder for mentally ill people who are considered to be dangerous to buy a firearm.
The legislation proposed by Lindsey Graham would require reporting of certain mental illness treatments and legal proceedings to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, the clearinghouse for all new gun purchases.
Those cases would include anyone found not guilty of a crime by reason of insanity or anyone who received involuntary outpatient treatment from a psychiatric hospital. (...) 
Graham said the legislation would ensure that those who have been declared an imminent danger to themselves or others cannot legally obtain a firearm.
"There is a lot of emotion around the gun violence issue, but I am hopeful this is one area where we can find tremendous bipartisan support to fix what I think is a gaping gap in our law," Graham said.
The Senate is considering several other gun-control bills, including a controversial proposal that seeks to revive the federal ban on the sale of assault weapons that was in effect for a decade before expiring in 2004.
Another bill would require criminal and mental health background checks of all gun buyers. The debate over gun control has heated up since a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school in December.
The legislation introduced by Graham is co-sponsored by Republican Jeff Flake of Arizona and Democrats Mark Begich of Alaska and Mark Pryor of Arkansas.
The four senators said their proposal contains provisions to allow people who have recovered from their mental illness to have their Second Amendment rights restored.
The bill "strengthens the background check system while protecting both gun and mental health rights," Begich said.
If these Senators feel so strongly about people with mental illness not being able to get guns and want to strengthen our system, why would they be opposed to stopping sales of guns to anyone who won't or doesn't get a background check? That would really strengthen the system in a much bigger and more meaningful way. These politicians want to make themselves look like they are doing something good after the Sandy Hook school shooting. This is about more than that. This is about saving the most lives we can. That is why we need universal background checks. Fixing the flaws in our system is important. But changing the system to stop people at the point of sale from buying a gun is what is needed. Let's just get on with it. Politicians have copped out for way too long to the NRA lobbyists. It's time for that to change.

But can anything change when the very people influencing Senator Graham and other politicians have violated laws involving domestic abuse and gun rights? One of the NRA's New York field representatives had his guns and rights taken from him in a domestic incident. This is who is influencing our Congress members and state legislators to do the bidding of the NRA. From the article:
A top National Rifle Association official in New York no longer has the right to bear arms.
Richard D’Alauro, the NRA’s field representative for the city and its suburbs, is forbidden from owning guns under an order of protection stemming from a confrontation with his wife in their Long Island home, the Daily News has learned.
Suffolk County authorities filed misdemeanor charges of assault and endangering the welfare of a child and a noncriminal charge of harassment as a result of the domestic dustup, which occurred at 1:55 a.m. on Sept. 1, 2010, records show.
At the time, the police confiscated a whopping 39 pistols, shotguns and rifles that D’Alauro kept in the couple’s East Northport, L.I., home.
Cops had to return to the house for guns and ammunition they missed the first time, according to Maribeth D’Alauro, who divorced her husband after the incident. (...) 
The NRA official pleaded guilty Oct. 3 to the harassment charge, admitting to Suffolk County Court Judge Toni Bean that he intended to “harass, annoy or alarm” his wife “by subjecting her to physical contact,” a transcript of the proceedings show.
The judge continued an order of protection against D’Alauro for one year, banning him from owning or purchasing firearms until Oct. 3, 2013. At that time, D’Alauro, who is 62, will be allowed to rearm, and the police will be required to return his guns — a prospect his former wife says she finds terrifying. (...) 
In an interview, Maribeth D’Alauro — who has multiple sclerosis and walks with a cane — declined to detail the confrontation with her former husband, but she said that assault “is an accurate description.”
She said she suffered from “years of domestic violence” but was “too afraid to ever call the police on him.”
“I’m finally able to talk about things I wasn’t able to talk about,” she said.
She called her ex-husband a “bully” who acted at home with the same confrontational behavior that NRA leaders use in politics.
“They are cut from the same cloth,” she said.
D’Alauro has been with the NRA since 1989, most recently as its field representative for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, after working as a police firearms instructor, according to an NRA blog.
An NRA spokesman did not respond to requests by The News for comment on the case and whether the NRA knew about D’Alauro’s guilty plea.
Nice. What would you do if this person worked for you? We can guess that the NRA is only happy to have this domestic abuser on board. A reasonable person might want to think twice about employing someone who has threatened his wife and has had his guns taken from him. He looks like a poster boy for the NRA extremists.

And as to the NRA Board, no changes there. In fact, the extremism is accentuated by the choice of new Board members and relationships with crazy media folks.. Check out this latest one:
At the same time, NRA leaders are reaching beyond even Republicans to embrace Glenn Beck, who is now a self-described anti-GOP-establishment conservative.
This year, George Kollitides II, the chief executive officer of Freedom Group, America’s largest and most profitable consortium of gun manufacturing companies, has been selected as a candidate for the NRA board.
“He was put on by the Nominating Committee,” said Richard Pearson, one of the members of the NRA’s 2013 Nominating Committee who is not an NRA director, in a brief telephone interview with MSNBC from his office at the Illinois State Rifle Association. “We looked at the qualifications, and he was there.”
Kollitides has run for the NRA board himself in years past and lost, with some gun rights activists complaining that he is too close to the financial industry. But this year he may have a better chance. NRA activists may be more likely to vote him into the board now that military-style, AR-15 semi-automatic rifles of the sort made by his consortium are at the heart of a proposed federal assault weapons ban.
A Bushmaster AR-15 rifle made by one of the firms owned by Freedom Group was used in this winter’s grade school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. But only in recent years did Freedom Group begin to acquire different arms firms, including the 197-year-old Remington Arms, and the 30-year-old Bushmaster Firearms International, which manufacture AR-15 rifles.
By 2011, The New York Times described the Madison, North Carolina-based Freedom Group as “the most powerful and mysterious force in the American commercial gun industry today.” Its success has been driven by sales of “modern sporting rifles,” like AR-15s, at a faster pace “than the general firearms industry,” according to the firm’s latest available report. Freedom Group’s profits have risen from nearly $80 million five years go to an average of almost $250 million a year since 2009.
The gun lobby is embracing Freedom Group and Glenn Beck at the same time. These days few other figures seem to move NRA audiences like the former Fox News commentator, and every year NRA conventions are looking less like mainstream conservative events. This year it may be telling that the gun lobby, which has long prided itself on being able to draw many top conservative speakers, slated just Beck to give the keynote address. It will be the second year in a row that Beck has delivered the keynote.
Past keynote speakers have included Vice President Dick Cheney, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (months before he resigned over campaign money laundering charges for which he was later convicted; he is now free pending an appeal), ret. U.S. Army General Tommy Franks, who commanded U.S. troops in both Afghanistan and Iraq, and John Bolton, the Bush administration’s former ambassador to the United Nations, who, for a time, also joined the NRA board.
Plus, the NRA has thought of a cynical new way to make angry white guys more afraid of Black people with guns by encouraging people of color to arm themselves. Here is an article about this latest NRA fear and paranoia campaign:
Fear is the greatest weapon used against the defenseless. It is one that makes a group of people believe in interests that are contrary to their very own preservation. It throws people off balance. It is a tactic that confuses the blurred minds of those who are in struggle. And right now, it is the best ammunition that the National Rifle Association can muster.
Just recently, the NRA has placed their bulls-eye on the heart of Black America with their new advertisement starring some black guy with a Yankees hat! Like Black guys wearing Yankees hats can have any success in this world! But with all seriousness, I find the message of this new video by the NRA deeply troubling, where the guy in the Yankees hat is advocating that our people arm themselves and fight the government (all under the banner of the NRA). Quite hypocritical of them, as during the Civil Rights movement, when the government was overtly oppressing our people, the NRA was quick to pressure legislatures across the country to get the guns out of the hands of the Black militants who were ready to fight back. I guess those weren't the "well-regulated militias" they had in mind when they read their version of the Second Amendment. But, now that we have a Black president, and we have made great progress in creating a more equal playing field in America (although we still have much work to do), the NRA is encouraging us to pick up guns again and start poppin'. With smokescreens and a barrage of bullets, the NRA is intentionally playing into the fears of very few people. Very, very few.
And Simmons ( author of the above linked article) goes on to say this:
If members of the National Rifle Association really want to "help" Black America, then they should fund programs like LIFE Camp that hires young men and women from the community to teach alternative methods to resolving conflicts that often arise.They should support programs like Homeboy Industries that train young people so they can enter the workforce with the tools necessary to get well-paying jobs. They should support programs like Peacekeepers, an organization of Black men who positively mentor the younger guys away from a lifestyle the might include holding a pistol.
The Black-on-Black crime epidemic that is destroying our communities will not be solved by arming more people with more guns. We do not need more 15-year-old children placing their fingers on triggers that when pulled, kill more 15-year-old children.
Our community is not interested in a corporate sponsored gun group telling us what to do, when their real mission is to make more money for the corporations that line their dirty pockets with rolls of cash and silver bullets. We're much smarter than that and certainly can see through their motives. Until they show a real interest in solving the violence problem in our community, they can keep their Yankee hat-wearing spokesman and their African-American "campaigns" for themselves. In the words of another Internet star, "ain't nobody got time for that."
I need to ask an important question. Is the NRA ( lobbyists and leaders that is) interested in saving lives? What is this about? It appears to be about saving themselves, their profits, the gun industry and a gun culture that contributes to the sale of guns but also contributes to lack of action to pass common sense gun laws that could save lives. This continual effort to water down reasonable gun laws has not made us safer. We need strong gun laws if we are all about saving lives. That is what the rest of the world does. We know it works. In states with stronger gun laws, there are fewer gun deaths. We need more research into this association between laws and deaths. As I wrote in my last post, research has been squelched. It's time for that to change as well. If we look at the issue of gun violence prevention from a perspective of saving lives, then we just can't accept what the gun rights extremists in the NRA are doing. Enough is enough. It's time to get to work to solve the country's problem with gun violence.

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