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.
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Thursday, July 18, 2013

The "elephant in the room"

Did I read what I thought I read? Did Ted Nugent just say what I thought he said? Some days you've just got to shake off the crazy and ludicrous rants of the far right extremists. The only problem with ignoring what they say is that they influence a certain number of people who believe what they hear and see without thinking it through. Either that, or those folks actually also believe in the dangerous and stupid rhetoric themselves. So let's get to it. NRA Board member Ted Nugent went on a racist rant on the radio show of a right wing extremist. Surprised? I'm not. But we should take note of what he is saying. After all, he is on the Board of the NRA which claims to have 4 million members and definitely influences many gun toting Americans and quite a gaggle of politicians. They should think twice about throwing their support behind an organization that elects ( or appoints) someone like Nugent to its' Board of Directors. From the link to Nugent at the Meet the NRA website:
"In a March 18, 2013 interview on a Lynchburg, Virginia talk radio show, Nugent stated, “When you have freaks like Bill Maher and the animal rights freaks, these brain-dead, doped up monsters, these mongers that think that they’re gonna tell Ted Nugent I can’t eat venison. Every time I hear the words ‘animal’ or ‘right’ in the same paragraph I kill more stuff.” Nugent also spoke about President Barack Obama’s public speaking abilities, stating, “If ever there was an ounce of truth that came out of Barack Obama’s mouth, he would be great speaker, but—much like Hitler—if you lie and you scam I’m afraid I can’t give you much credit for being a good anything.” (Animal Rights, GOP Ties)
Republican Party (GOP) | Animal Rights"
Seriously? That was just a sample. I suggest you read the rest of Nugent's rants for more entertainment. You might come away frightened for our country and more than a bit worried about gun rights extremists. Nugent doesn't pull any punches here. From the Media Matters article, linked above:
"National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent continued his ongoing racial tirade, appearing on conspiracy theorist Alex Jones' radio show to claim that that African-Americans could fix "the black problem" if they just put their "heart and soul into being honest, law-abiding, [and] delivering excellence at every move in your life."
Nugent has faced criticism over the past two days for a pair of columns he wrote for conservative websites WND and Rare that variously termed deceased Florida teenager Trayvon Martin as a "dope smoking, racist gangsta wannabe," an "enraged black man-child" and a "Skittles hoodie boy."
During his appearance on The Alex Jones Show, Nugent used the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Martin as a platform to offer advice to black America and make a number of unfounded claims about racism."
I'm sure Black people all over American are grateful for this advice. The not guilty verdict for George Zimmerman seems to have brought out the worst in racist commentary. It appears that some of these folks think they can get away with it now that the trial is over. Race was supposedly not an issue in the Zimmerman trial or the verdict. Raise your hand if you believe that. It's actually now becoming more clear that race and the Florida Stand Your Ground law were the underlying elephants in the room. But Nugent is painting a very unsavory picture of gun rights and far right conservative extremism. He just keeps going on and on and on. Someone should yank him off the stage before things get worse. Here is more:
He continued that Americans should "beg our fellow Americans who are black to admit to this suicidal self-inflicted curse that you've bought into the big lie of Jesse Jackson and Eric Holder and Al Sharpton, that you're not helpless, you're not a slave, you're not worthless, you're not inept, you can do anything you want to do to if you just get out from the self-inflicted shackles that have been brought upon by the race baiters."
Then, speaking of a "racist industry" that has convinced African-Americans they are "incapable of independency," Nugent said that African-Americans could "fix the black problem tonight," if they would put their "heart and soul into being honest, law-abiding, [and] delivering excellence at every move in your life." According to Nugent, "I would like to reach out to black America and tell them to absolutely reject the lie of Al 'Not So' Sharpton, and Jesse Jackson, and the Black Panthers and Eric Holder and Barack Obama. They are enslaving you and the real shackles on black America, 100 percent of the time come from black America."
Nugent concluded by claiming that, "racism against blacks was gone by the time I started touring the nation in the late [19]60s" and by the 1970s, "nothing of consequence existed to deter or compromise a black American's dream if they got an alarm clock, if they set it, if they took good care of themselves, they remained clean and sober, if they spoke clearly, and they demanded excellence of themselves and provided excellence to their employers."
Nugent also used his appearance on Jones' show to further attack Martin, again calling the Florida teenager a "dope-smoking, gangsta wannabe, involved with illegal drugs, and illegal guns and illegal people" and while alleging that Martin was "emboldened by a Black Panther president" to attack Zimmerman.
We all understand what Nugent is saying, right? Racism is gone? Hypocrisy as far as the eye can see. "...get an alarm clock,,,,,if they remained clean and sober...if they spoke clearly...dope-smoking, gangsta wannabe, involved with illegal drugs and illegal guns and illegal people?" Nugent is speaking the language of the extremists on the right wing. These claims are coming from this information, released by Zimmerman's lawyers and folks like Nugent have just run with it. We can read what Trayvon Martin texted to a friend from this article. We have scant evidence that it mattered in the confrontation on a dark and rainy night in Sanford, Florida. Martin was unarmed and just walking in a neighborhood where he belonged on that night. What we also actually know is that George Zimmerman was actually charged with domestic violence and a restraining order. Did Nugent want to also talk about that? I guess not.

Here is another article by Andrew O'Hehir from Salon.com that talks about this sort of racist talk which has come to the surface after the Zimmerman trial: 
No, that’s not funny. But I’m not trying to be funny. I’m suggesting that if liberal female legislators from red states, and African-Americans who go out at night in neighborhood-watch communities, and lesbian, gay or transgender people in conservative small towns, decide to arm themselves in self-defense, that’s a legitimate response to a crazy situation, and we don’t have the right to get high-minded about it.
There’s no obvious connection between the Florida encounter that led to Zimmerman shooting Trayvon Martin and the January 2011 attack, outside a suburban Arizona supermarket, in which Jared Lee Loughner shot Giffords in the head (and shot a bunch of other people too). None, that is, except for the glaringly obvious fact that if we could find a way to keep lethal firearms out of the hands of delusional anti-government obsessives and self-appointed neighborhood watchdogs, neither one would have happened. Giffords, Loughner, Zimmerman and Martin are all avatars in America’s most widespread religion, the cult of the gun. One is dead, one will suffer the effects of a devastating brain injury for the rest of her life, another will spend his life in prison and George Zimmerman is at home watching “Big Brother.” (...) 
Listen, NRA trolls: Save your self-righteous emails about liberty and your dumbass interpretations of the Second Amendment for someone else. I’m not here to take away your cache of assault weapons, your cans of Spam or your camo pants. Restricting access to dangerous weapons in some reasonable fashion – as opposed to pretty much removing all limits and regulations on gun ownership — would have been the rational response, of course. But you people are living proof that we don’t live in a rational country.
I mean it. How many times do we have to have the same stupid conversation about guns – after every school shooting, post-office massacre or attempted assassination — while elected officials shift uneasily in their loafers and gun lobbyists stand in the corner giggling into their $18 designer cocktails, before we realize that there’s no point? On this subject (and quite a few others), evil people with lots of money have the whole country in a chokehold. George Orwell imagined the future as a boot stamping on a human face forever, but he didn’t quite imagine that a large proportion of the population could be induced to beg for more vigorous stamping in order to prove their devotion to freedom.
So I say Lord love the well-informed liberal activists who are willing to wade into the gun-control debate one more time, armed with logic and statistics: Easy availability of handguns and assault weapons enables the high murder rate characteristic of our beloved homeland, and most Americans would be totally fine with tighter federal regulations. (I realize, by the way, that that’s where Gabby Giffords’ actual position lies, and that her gun-shootin’ press release was a P.R. maneuver.) But I’m done with it. If you believe actual logic applies in the United States of America, as opposed to the bizarro-world logic of dreams and action movies, you haven’t been paying attention. (...) 
I’m here to say that given our sick and deranged society, Giffords’ decision to pick up a gun two years after getting shot in the head and suffering a massive brain injury makes perfect symbolic sense, and maybe literal sense too. We are a nation awash with guns, a people who love guns more than we love cars or children. Why should angry white men get them all? Most black people are too sensible to say this stuff out loud, but I guarantee you more than one African-American parent has had this thought in private: If Trayvon Martin had been armed the way George Zimmerman was – and the way that Scary Young Black Men are presumed to be — he might be alive today.
No, I know – it’s not a wholesome thought, and most parents who’ve had it tried to squelch it immediately. Many police departments still target young black men with stop-and-frisk policies, based on the presumption that they’re armed and up to no good. Even an African-American carrying a legal, registered weapon is likely to wind up in jail overnight while the situation gets sorted out. Furthermore, black neighborhoods suffer from the effects of gun violence far more than white neighborhoods do. (Your odds of violent death are six or seven times higher if you’re black than if you’re white.) Even with violent crime at or near historic lows, young black men die every night in every major city, sometimes at the hands of other young men and sometimes at the hands of the police. As African-Americans know all too well, if a young black man in a hoodie with Skittles and a soda bottle is a threatening specter whose death can be considered an understandable mistake, a young black man with an actual weapon is a nightmare too horrible to think about, subject to summary execution. A white man with a gun, even one as evidently disturbed and confused as George Zimmerman, is intuitively understood as John Wayne or Clint Eastwood, a defender of the innocent and seeker of justice. A black man with a gun is a thug, a pimp, a drug lord or an armed revolutionary planning rape and pillage. (...) 
Gun ownership among the craziest people in our society is dangerously high, and there doesn’t seem to be anything we can do about it. Those who choose to counter it with their own guns are simply pursuing the inexorable logic of American life, the logic of the gun cult.
This isn’t a new idea. On May 2, 1967, in one of the most startling acts of political theater in American history, a few dozen members of the Black Panther Party marched on the California State Capitol carrying loaded rifles and shotguns. The state’s then-governor, a fellow named Ronald Reagan, was addressing schoolchildren on the Capitol steps and bolted inside, afraid an armed insurrection was in progress. But under existing law, what the Panthers did was entirely legal: The guns were not concealed and were carefully pointed at the sky. On the Capitol lawn, Panther leader Bobby Seale read an “executive mandate” directed at “the American people in general and the black people in particular.” Since African-Americans were subject to “terror, brutality, murder and repression” by the police and other authorities, Seale went on, the time had come for black citizens to take up arms and defend themselves.
I don’t mean to fetishize the Black Panthers, as many white radicals did at the time. They were a sexist and autocratic paramilitary group that degenerated into crime and internecine warfare in later years (in no small part thanks to intensive penetration and persecution by the FBI). Those Sacramento images were used at the time – and still are — to strike terror in the hearts of Middle America and paint the group as violent, white-hating revolutionaries. In fact, no shots were fired that day and the smattering of violent acts committed by the Panthers over the party’s entire existence pretty much disappear in comparison to the crushing violence inflicted on them by police and the U.S. government. I know many progressives would say that the Sacramento demonstration and the whole Panther experiment backfired, but I’m not so sure. The Panthers made their point, which was that if you allow the people to bear arms, sooner or later they might decide to use them for something besides killing each other. So the members of the California Legislature changed their drawers and passed a gun-control law, lickety-split.
We are finally talking about what people don't want to talk about. Or, in Nugent's case, what they really do want to talk about. The guys with the guns are mostly white and mostly male. From this article:
White men represent just a third of the U.S. population, but about 60 percent of adults with guns in America today are white men.
Many of them have been convinced that they should be very afraid of Black Americans and most particularly, their own President. Why did gun sales go up after President Obama was elected? Partly because of the fear that he would start confiscating guns but mostly because he was the first Black President elected to the highest office of the land. Fear and paranoia reign and the corporate gun lobby is fueling it.

The George Zimmerman verdict has provided us with a lot of opportunities for reflection about gun laws and racism in America. Wouldn't it be nice if we would all put our heads together in the name of common sense to solve some very big and enduring problems in our country? Is that even possible when Ted Nugent and others like him rant about race and when gun rights extremists are arming themselves to fight against the duly elected government of the country? Is that even possible when right wing media outlets falsify stories to make it look like armed black people are killing innocent white people over a non-existent "Free Zimmerman bumper sticker? This is just plain crazy.

Another elephant in the room is the armed insurrectionists who seem to be a throw back to the days when, according to Nugent,"racism against blacks was gone by the time I started touring the nation in the late [19]60s" and by the 1970s," " Really? I wonder what world Nugent was living in back then? No racism in the 60s and 70s? Check here, here, here, hereMartin Luther King 1968 assassination, Medgar Evers shooting in 1963, and many others. Pot, meet kettle. Does Nugent realize what he said here? Racism against blacks was gone by the 1960s and 1970s so surely there can be no racism now? Hypocrisy and denial as far as the eye can see.

Never mind the truth. Andrew O'Hehir in his piece, linked above, reminds his readers that reason and rational behavior is sparse in the gun rights extremist community and among the Americans who fear and hate the "other" Americans who happen not to be white guys or share their extremist views. From the latest entry to the Insurrectionist Timeline, linked above:
May 20, 2013-The  Secret Service investigate threats  made during an angry rant by Internet radio host Pete Santilli. During the broadcast in question, Santilli claims that he wants to “pull the trigger…to shoot [former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton] right in the vagina.”   “I don’t want her to die right away,” he adds, because “I want her to feel the pain.” During the same broadcast, Santilli states that “[President] Barack Obama needs to be tried, convicted, and shot for crimes against the United States of America. And if anybody has a problem with that, then you are an enemy of our state.”
Surely we are better than this.

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