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.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The times, they are changing

I have beens struggling with what all of the recent changes to laws, Supreme Court decisions, news events, and national attitudes and opinions mean. It's clear that the country is in the midst of major changes on many fronts. Change is inevitable and also scary. It challenges us to move forward and be more accepting and tolerant in our beliefs. But it also feels to me like some of the changes will take us backwards to days when things were vastly different than they are today. I don't want to live in the 1950s when women were supposed to be happy being at home with their kids and quietly taking care of their husbands in "traditional" family settings. Home life was what was portrayed on "Leave It To Beaver." I do want to live in the 1950s when there were no mass shootings to speak of and people mostly used guns for hunting. I don't want to live in the 1950s when blacks and other people of color suffered from discrimination and restrictions at the polls. I don't want to live in the days when women who didn't want to continue a pregnancy for a good reason ( birth control was not available then) had to end a pregnancy with a coat hanger or in a dark alley room where they were lucky not to suffer from a terrible infection or even death as a result. I don't want to live in the 1950s when gay/lesbian people suffered from discrimination or depression or worse because it was not socially acceptable to be attracted to someone of the same sex. We live in a different time and what's happened in the last few weeks has highlighted the changes. Depending on your political persuasion or personal beliefs, you could be feeling really good right now or not so good. Let's take a look at some of the changes.

In Louisiana, change is coming to first and second amendment rights. Governor Jindal signed a law to fine journalists or others for releasing information about gun permit holders. 
On June 19, Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) signed a bill that sets penalties of up to six months in jail and $10,000 for those who publish "any information regarding the identity of any person who applied for or received a concealed handgun permit." The law includes exceptions for cases in which the concealed handgun holder is charged with a felony offense involving the use of a handgun.
Supporters cited as their rationale for proposing the law a New York paper's controversial Decemberpublication of a Google map that featured the names and addresses of local handgun permit holders, saying that the legislation was necessary to prevent local media outlets from publishing similar information. Most states, including Louisiana, have laws that make such information confidential, but Alabama is the only other state that currently makes publication of that information illegal subject to a penalty.
The law's passage comes during a furious debate over whether the federal government infringed upon freedom of the press by naming a reporter as a co-conspirator in a leak case; the journalist was never charged with a crime.
Louisiana's law, explicitly passed in order to chill and criminalize journalism, has not received national attention. According to a review of the Nexis and Factiva databases*, major newspapers like The New York TimesThe Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and USA Today have not mentioned the law. Neither have ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, or Fox News. The Associated Press produced several articles as thebill moved through the legislative process and became law, reporting on June 19:
Despite criticism it would violate the First Amendment, Gov. Bobby Jindal on Wednesday signed into law a bill that makes it a crime for journalists or anyone else to publicly identify concealed handgun permit holders or applicants.
Carl Redman, the executive editor of the Baton Rouge Advocate and chairman of the Louisiana Press Association's Freedom of Information Committee, offered a stirring defense of freedom of the press in opposing the Louisiana law at a May 7 state Senate committee hearing. He called it "very ironic that the very people who screamed the loudest about attempts to limit their Second Amendment rights are here eager to limit my First Amendment rights.
The hypocrisy is out in the open for all to see. Yes, the corporate gun lobby is still trying to keep us in the dark. Let's look at a Media Matters article, for reaction from journalists to this law: 
Some of the country's top news editors are criticizing a new Louisiana law that punishes journalists who publicly identify gun owners with concealed weapons permits.
At the American Society of News Editors annual conference being held this week in Washington, D.C., several major newspaper editors spoke out against the law during interviews with Media Matters, with some saying that it appears unconstitutional.
"It seems absurd on its face," said Seattle Times Executive Editor David Boardman said. "In fact, it seems to me on the surface it is a prior restraint issue."
"Prior restraint" is government action that prohibits speech, and with few exceptions has been found by the Supreme Court to violate the First Amendment.
The Louisiana law, signed by Gov. Bobby Jindal on June 19, sets penalties of fines of up to $10,000 or six months in jail for those who publish "any information regarding the identity of any person who applied for or received a concealed handgun permit." The law includes exceptions for cases in which the concealed handgun holder is charged with a felony offense involving the use of a handgun.
The law stems from the controversial decision by The Journal News of White Plains, N.Y., to publish names and addresses of those who had conceal carry permits in their area last year. The information was obtained legally through open public records; in Louisiana, such records are closed to the public.
Journalists in the state have spoken out against the bill, arguing that it chills and criminalizes journalists from doing their jobs. That argument found support at the ASNE convention.
"The reporting of factual information in the public interest is something I support," said Jill Abramson, executive editor of The New York Times, who added that it must be handled carefully, but should not be outlawed.
Martin Baron, editor of The Washington Post, also said he would not necessarily publish such information, but opposes legal restrictions.
"I don't think media organizations should have to pay a price," he said. "It is up to the news organization to decide if it should be published. I think that is for every individual news organization to make that decision on their own."
Whose rights are more important in this case? That seems to be up for debate.The world seems topsy turvy these days. There are the NSA leaks bringing to the forefront whether or not some state secrets should be out in the open. Every day, we learn of new information about Edward Snowden, his whereabouts, his actual name, his intentions, the charges against him and other surprises. It's enough to cause whiplash. Then there's the IRS looking at the records of conservative organizations to check on whether they should have tax exempt status. It turns out that they were also looking at liberal organizations. Let's see if that evidence is enough for Representative Darrell Issa, chief critic of the Obama administration on the IRS "scandal" to change his mind.

The news has been full of amazing changes, rulings and new laws regarding controversial issues such as abortion, voting rights, gun rights, espionage, taxes, and equal marriage rights. For example, there was ( and still is) an attempt of the Texas legislature to stop a filibuster about the overreaching bill to deny women the right to choose their own health care decisions. Thanks to Texas Senator Wendy Davis, the new hero for women's rights, the bill did not get passed. Check out the video of the one woman filibuster and the celebration of those who wanted a bright light shed on the back door methods used by the Texas Legislature to pass a piece of legislation meant to suppress the rights of women.

I applaud the efforts of one very brave and dedicated woman in Texas to challenge the attempt to make it impossible for women to exercise a Constitutional Right. Change is coming and let's hope it comes down on the side of human ( and womens)rights.

And then there was the schizophrenic rulings by the Supreme Court in decisions rendered and released in the past two days. Yesterday SCOTUS did its' best, in my opinion which is shared by many, to suppress the rights of voters in certain states, mostly in the South, when it ruled against one provision of the Voting Rights Act. Voting is a right of U.S. citizens, mentioned more often than other "rights" in the Constitution. Without free and fair elections, we are not a democracy. We should be making it easier to vote rather than more difficult. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was one of the most important pieces of legislation to pass out of Congress. And now the Supreme Court of 2013 has changed and weakened this significant law.

And today SCOTUS ruled on the Defense of Marriage Act ( DOMA) and Proposition 8. Both were decided on by the same 5-4 vote in yesterday's ruling but this time in favor of the rights of GLBT Americans to have the same rights as the rest of us concerning marital property and benefits. And now, GLBT citizens can marry in California, thanks to the Court striking down Proposition 8. These are victories for human rights. But the right wing of the Court, most especially Justice Scalia, would like to have us all live in a time before changing attitudes by Americans supported the idea that traditional marriage between a man and woman was the American ideal. It's interesting to note, in this article about the rulings, what Scalia's interpretation would mean for America:
It would’ve been much simpler, probably, for Scalia to have just said, like Kathryn Jena Lopez did today, he was “nostalgic” for the time when a Democratic president signed the Defense of Marriage Act. That’s basically the argument he’s making: Stuff is changing too much and I miss the days when everyone felt like discriminating against the gays was fine.
Indeed. Life has changed. Attitudes have changed. 13 states have now made marriage between gay and lesbian couples legal and now they can have the same benefits as other married couples where there are marriage equality laws. Have things changed about a woman's right to choose? Perhaps. Women now have more choices. Birth control measures are now more available, including Plan B. The extremist pro-life groups would also like to prevent access to birth control and Plan B. Why? It doesn't make sense, of course. But women still get pregnant when they don't expect to for one reason or another. Women are still raped and get pregnant after a rape even though this silly and ignorant Texas legislator tried to claim that rape kits are essentially abortions:
However, early in the amendment process, Rep. Laubenberg was debating the bill, and part of her argument concerned other, more indirect ways to get abortions. Specifically, Rep. Laubenberg claimed that "in the emergency room, they have what's called rape kits, where a woman can get cleaned out."
Please pick your jaw off the floor. I heard that in real time on the live feed and couldn't believe my ears. This woman actually believes that rape kits are some kind of unofficial Plan B? Clearly that abstinence-only sex education program in Texas didn't cover rape, incest, or legislative idiocy.
Beyond the wingnut factor here, every person reading this should know that this abortion bill is opposed by a majority of Texans, whether they are Republican or Democrat. As the clock ticks with each amendment, Texas Democrats are still holding the line to try and run out the clock in such a way that this bill will die before it gets to the Senate. They're joined by over 1100 Texas men and women standing up for women's health rights in Texas.
The public is in favor of women's choice. Though the public doesn't always understand what interfering with voting rights means, when they are educated, they are against the idea. That is what happened in my home state of Minnesota where an attempt to restrict voting rights was turned down in the last election. Education and making sure daylight is shed on the facts makes a difference. Ignorance is bliss to some. And yes, there is still discrimination against people of color concerning voting rights in many states. That has really not changed much in spite of the Court's majority opinion stating that since more people of color are voting, we don't need to be concerned about the voting laws in certain states that must ask for permission to change their laws. And as soon as the ruling came down, several states were ready to go with their restrictions on voting for minorities, elder Americans and young voters. This ruling matters a lot. From the article above:
For these reasons and many more, the Supreme Court's decision in Shelby County is one of the worst in the history of the institution. As a matter of fact, and of law, it is indefensible. It will be viewed by future scholars on a par with the Court's odious Dred Scott and Plessy decisions and other utterly lamentable expressions of judicial indifference to the ugly realities of racial life in America. And to those tens of millions of Americans whose voting rights were protected last year by Section 4, it is a direct slap in the face rendered by judges who today used the banner of "states rights" to undermine the most basic right any individual can have in a free society -- the right to be able to vote free from racial discrimination employed by public officials.  
The America described by the Chief Justice, the one in which "blatantly discriminatory evasions of federal decrees are rare," is an America which has never once existed and which obviously does not exist today. The America the rest of us see so clearly with our own eyes, the America in which officials all over are actively seeking to suppress black and Hispanic votes, is the one that tens of millions of the rest of us have to live with, at least for now, without the protections of Section 4 of the venerable law. When rights are weakened for some, they are weakened for all. We all are much weaker today in the wake of this ruling.
Sad and unfortunate.

So back to abortion laws. It has been determined in a Supreme Court ruling in 1973 that women have a right to have an abortion in America if that is what they choose. I don't believe anyone who makes this decision makes it lightly. It can't be easy to decide to abort a fetus. There are many reasons why women choose to have an abortion. They are personal and should be made by the woman and a health care provider and hopefully with the father and/or other family members. There are restrictions on abortions and most have been determined by state legislatures. Now in several states, a forced ultrasound, sometimes a vaginal ultrasound, unnecessary for the abortion procedure, has been imposed on women who desire an abortion. This is an invasion of privacy, personal space and health care decision making by a state government or even by a state Governor ( Iowa Governor Terry Branstad for example who will now personally decide if a woman on Medicaid should or should not get an abortion) I thought that the conservatives don't like government intrusion into their rights. Sigh.

Other amendments and bills have been passed in states all over the country by conservative legislators to make abortion difficult if not impossible. But it is a Constitutional right that is now being compromised with attempts to ban it.

So how does the right to bear arms fit in here? Simple. Many of the gun rights extremists, often conservative folks politically, are perfectly fine with the government denying rights to people of color to vote or to women to make their own health care decisions, but when it comes to guns, hands off. Any restrictions, to them, mean a total ban on guns or an infringement on rights. With the help of the corporate gun lobby, these folks use fear and paranoia to keep the government from passing common sense laws that would actually not keep them from bearing arms but would keep those who shouldn't from bearing arms. Some proposals would keep some military style assault rifles from being manufactured and sold and lower the number of bullets in a magazine. These would not interfere with an individual right to bear arms, as has now been determined by the Supreme Court, but would change some things in the law that even Justice Scalia has stated are constitutional. The pubic is in favor of universal background checks and other gun violence prevention measures. And most people seem to think that gun rights can co-exist with changes to gun laws.

What has changed about gun rights since the second amendment was written? Well, the guns for one big change. If you don't think things have changed, look at this award winning video created by States United to Prevent Gun Violence:

So yes, the times are changing for both good and bad depending on what side you find yourself. Times are also very interesting and a bit unsettling. The nation is polarized and that causes unrest and uncertainty. Social media and 24 hour media coverage have made us hyper aware of the contradictions. I really like this quote from Rachel Maddow created by Politically Preposterous:

In the end, what matters most is that people's rights to vote, to marry who they love, to make their own informed decisions about their health care, to be free from gun violence in their communities, to be able to speak freely, to be free from discrimination because of color, sexual orientation, gender, age and race should not change.


  1. Of all the cases going on I thought you would be bringing up the Zimmerman trial. You do remember insisting that he was a murderer. The witnesses so for seem pretty thin on the prosecution side.

    1. Ah yes, the Zimmerman trial is for another post. It is on-going and in process. I haven't forgotten about it. There was enough in this post to write about.

  2. "Then there's the IRS looking at the records of conservative organizations to check on whether they should have tax exempt status. It turns out that they were also looking at liberal organizations. "

    As has happened often in previous iterations of breaking scandals, Someone makes a claim, then there are counterclaims by the government and eventually (hopefully) the documented truth comes out. In this case, we are just getting into the claim and counter-claim phase.
    So far we hear that some conservative groups have claimed to have had their tax exempt status delayed due to their political leanings. The IRS has so far admitted that this has happened, but was limited to only one office. Now it's saying that key words used to identify progressive groups was also on the list.
    So far though, I haven't heard any progressive groups step up and complain. One easy solution to this will be to get the list of all of the groups that got special attention due to this list and see what it shows.
    We are still likely a long way from seeing this type of documentation, which is something quite reasonable to ask for. In today's age of digital data, this "scandal", could have been dealt with this simple list that would be quite easy to print out.
    Rep. Issa has experience dealing with these issues since he has been the driving force behind the investigation into "Fast and Furious" and has seen first hand the administrations fight to keep from releasing documentation, culminating in the President himself claiming Executive Privilege to prevent the release of this evidence.
    It doesn't matter which administration is in power, be it Nixon, Clinton, etc, when people start dragging their feet like this, the truth needs to come out.
    The following article suggests that though key words to identify progressive groups was on the list, but how those groups were handled was more lenient, than those identified as a conservative group.
    "A November 2010 version of the list obtained by National Review Online, however, suggests that while the list did contain the word “progressive,” screeners were instructed to treat progressive groups differently from tea-party groups. Whereas they were merely alerted that a designation of 501(c)(3) status “may not be appropriate” for progressive groups — 501(c)(3) organizations are prohibited from conducting any political activity — they were told to send applications from tea-party groups off to IRS higher-ups for further scrutiny. "

    All the more reason to conduct a thorough investigation into these assertions.

    1. As I said, these issues are hyper partisan and people on both sides have their opinions. Yours is obviously not the same as mine. You quote from the National Review, which has posted an article about James O'Keefe and "Rules for Radicals". ( http://www.nationalreview.com/article/352149/james-okeefes-rules-radicals-eliana-johnson) Fast and Furious didn't work out so well for Issa in that he didn't find wrong doing but rather used it as a tool to go after Attorney General Eric Holder which also didn't work out well for him.

  3. No hesitation the plight of homosexuals is on the top of the list of social problems professed in the EU because this week a meeting is taking place in Europe to address the fact that not everyone is getting onboard with the "gay agenda. Homophobia, transphobia and other forms of sexual orientation discrimination is said to still exist in the EU on a larger scale than the Union wants to see.