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.

Monday, April 28, 2014

The World is Flat: More NRA convention, Georgia gun law and Bundy reflections

There are a lot of people writing about the NRA convention taking place in Indianapolis. I ran across this article by Ana Marie Cox of the Guardian. It's spot on when it comes to the real problems facing the country that are denied, ignored and consistently trounced by the NRA leaders and lobbyists. From her article:
"You might think there's a wide cultural and logistical gulf between the gun enthusiasts downtown and the ones in the neighborhoods where they don't need banners to announce the presence of firearms. But the two groups have more in common than you'd think – including at least one supplier. Don's Guns, just seven miles away from the convention center, is one of the country's top five suppliers of guns used in the commission of a crime. Don Davis, the Don in Don's Guns, is a believer in word-of-mouth advertising, obviously; this week, he told one reporter that he welcomes the NRA convention because "enthusiasts will see something they like at the NRA's gun and ammo exhibits and then go shopping."
Don's Guns supplies criminals with weapons and, less directly, supplies those against gun regulation with a favorite counterexample to the notion that gun control works: But what about Chicago?
Most of the guns confiscated by Chicago police come from just outside the city limits; the second-biggest supplier is Indiana. A lot of guns up in northeast Indianapolis, just like those owned by the NRA members across the street from me today, were legal when they were first bought. And after that? A survey of incarcerated juveniles found that they obtained their guns through "informal purchases, trades with family members and friends or acquaintances"; another study found that friends and family were the source of 30 to 40% of guns used in crimes. "Friends and family" – and "street trade" – sounds to me a lot like the "private sales" that the NRA feels pretty strongly about protecting, albeit skewed dangerously young. (...) 
The NRA doesn't spend a lot of time talking about solutions to inner-city gun violence; they're too busy using it to scare people into thinking they need guns. To the extent they pose a strategy for ending it, the refrain is simple: "enforce existing laws". This sounds relatively sane – see, we're not advocating a total free-for-all – though it's also incredibly condescending to the hard-working police departments of our major metropolitan areas, who mostly would like more gun laws to enforce.
"Enforce existing laws" is a solution to inner-city gun crime only if you believe that it's not guns that are the problem, but the people that use them. Those who advocate the solution assume, understandably, that illegal guns are just a part of the web of criminality that blankets all urban areas. Take the criminals out of the equation, the logic goes, and you'll get rid of gun violence.
But most inner-city gun violence isn't directly related to ongoing criminal activity. It's violence that stems from arguments over bragging rights or girls or wounded pride: one study of urban youth violence found that 42% of violent altercations stemmed primarily from "being disrespected," 31% from the offender's girlfriend being insulted. In firearm homicides specifically, "other arguments" accounted for almost two and half times (1,801) as many deaths as juvenile gang killings (681) and five times as many as those involving narcotics trade (311).
The young black men who die from gun violence are dying not because they're so different from young people people everywhere, but because they're so much like them. They argue about the things young men everywhere argue about. They just have guns."
But Wayne LaPierre and his minions at the convention have all been scaring those attending the convention that they should be afraid of those gang members and those people who don't look like them who are out to do them harm. They don't talk about the people like themselves who shoot people every day in every day shootings over every day arguments about money, divorces, disputes about property, road rage, loud music, walking with Skittles, etc. It's the guns, stupid.

And then there's Franklin Graham who apparently believes that God performs background checks on each and every one of us. He spoke at a breakfast on Sunday at the NRA convention.This article is illuminating about how a man of faith decided to take back his support for something that makes common sense. From the article:
"Franklin Graham is Billy's son and a major figure in the evangelical world. Given the general conservatism of evangelical Christians, it was big news last year when Graham said he supported universal background checks on gun buyers. Now Graham is making an appearance at the NRA's ongoing annual meeting in Indianapolis—he'll lead Sunday's prayer breakfast—and some gun activists have wondered if he would make a point of mentioning his support for background checks. Per a just-posted note on his Facebook wall, it sounds like the answer is no..."
His answer on a tweet ( from the article): ..." I want you to know that God has already done a universal background check on every one of us. He created you and knows everything about you. Nothing is hidden from His eyes."


And then there's the speech at the NRA convention by Sarah Palin. I wonder if they will regret inviting her to speak. Here's what she had to tell the convention goers:
"Come on. Enemies, who would utterly annihilate America, they who'd obviously have information on plots, to carry out Jihad. Oh, but you can't offend them, can't make them feel uncomfortable, not even a smidgen," she said. "Well, if I were in charge, they would know that waterboarding is how we'd baptize terrorists."
Uff Dah. But there's more:
During her speech, Palin focused on Second Amendment rights, which she said liberals are "attacking" in addition to the United States' "foundational values and tradition." According to Palin, creating gun-free zones in schools and other public buildings is "stupid on steroids."
"Maybe our kids could be defended against criminals on the spot if more Mama Grizzlies carried," she said. "And [the] Obama administration wants you ID'd for that? Well, then go ahead and carry a sign too. A sign that says 'Yeah, I carry a gun because a cop is too heavy.'" 
You can't make this stuff up. And in the midst of the convention of people touting guns, guns, guns, more guns and hate, fear and paranoia comes new polling from the Pew Research Center showing some interesting stuff:
Just as the NRA’s focus has shifted over time from its start as an organization focused on training and marksmanship to one that is a major player in the battle over gun control, the reasons why Americans own guns also have changed. About half (48%) of gun owners said the main reason they owned a gun was for protection, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in February 2013. About three-in-ten (32%) said they owned a gun for hunting. That was a turnaround from 1999 when 49% said they owned a gun for hunting and 26% said they had a gun for protection in an ABC News/Washington Post poll. 
And more from the poll, linked above:
Although a measure to expand background checks on gun sales failed in the Senate last year, Americans who live in a household where they or someone else is an NRA member overwhelmingly favored the idea of making private gun sales and sales at gun shows subject to such checks. About three-quarters (74%) backed these expanded checks compared with 26% who opposed them. But far fewer people in NRA households supported proposed bans on assault-style weapons or high-capacity ammunition clips. 
The corporate gun lobby has succeeded in getting people to believe they must have guns for self protection. That brings a whole new group of people into the gun shops all over America and buying different kinds of guns. As hunting has receded in popularity for Americans, the market for hunting guns has changed. In order to sell new guns, people had to be scared into thinking they should be scared all the time. Thus, the need for self defense guns. Follow the money. But I digress.

More in this polling shows that the same number of NRA members and gun owners who supported background checks in most other polling still do. Huh? Then why does the leadership ignore this support from its' members? I guess they can't drum up fear and paranoia if they just admit that background checks are popular. This is about keeping the base scared and happy all at once. In spite of evidence to the contrary, these folks seem to live in a world where up is down and down is up. It just doesn't go away.

The Cliven Bundy stuff just won't go way either. What about a little sarcasm with music? Stephen Colbert provided us with a Cliven Bundy ballad. This is not only entertaining but so right on the "target" when it comes to the "guys with the guns" making fools of themselves. They deserve all the sarcasm that comes their way.

Satirist Andy Borowitz also weighed in with some great humor about Cliven Bundy, if there can be any. From his article:
Republican politicians blasted the Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy on Thursday for making flagrantly racist remarks instead of employing the subtler racial code words the G.O.P. has been using for decades.
I ran across this cartoon ballad by Cartoonist Mark Fiore for the Daily Beast. This Bundy stuff is so over the top and so extreme that it was bound to cause a stir. I'm quite sure Cliven Bundy didn't expect the type of stir it did create. And that goes for his pals at Fox News and the others who at first blush called him a Patriot. That's what happens when you support the far right and the gun nuts. It actually gets you in trouble. Lesson? Stop listening to the crazies and go with your gut. Bundy's protest is just plain nuts and the armed insurrectionists who joined him are a breed of American willing to fight against their own government. They are a fringe group far far from the mainstream of American thought.

Even some of their own are criticizing the coverage of Cliven Bundy on Fox News. Howard Kurtz openly mentioned that Fox went silent once Cliven Bundy opened his mouth and started spewing his hateful and offensive remarks. Inexplicably, Larry Pratt of Gun Owners of America held a press event and was still supporting Cliven Bundy even after everyone else ran away from him. From the article:
"I think that this is a very positive development that came out of the confrontation out on that ranch," said Pratt, who regularly sits for credulous interviews with mainstream media outlets. "And hopefully we will look back on what happened there as a turning point in modern American history. The American people are saying 'Enough, no farther.'" (...) "I think we really are hopefully on an upswing," he said to a group of roughly 20 onlookers, including a Media Matters reporter. "We are seeing, finally, a proper, legitimate, lawful response to illegitimate, unlawful exercise of government power, particularly on the federal level."
Yes, Mr. Pratt. Americans have had enough of this stupid and dangerous talk of anarchy. He and his organization have it all wrong and no one else wanted to come near him at the press conference. We will look back on what Pratt said and find that it was a "turning point in modern American history" but not in the way he believes it will be. In a blatant "double speak" statement, Pratt made this incident look like the federal government was at fault for Bundy refusing to pay his legal taxes for grazing rights that everybody else is required to pay. He's been at fault for 20 years. How does Pratt try to spin this to make it look like the government's fault? Up is down. Down is up. I guess the world is still flat, too.

And speaking of gun nuts, apparently some "law abiding" gun owners think they can flaunt their guns and their rights and get away with it. Just because the Georgia law allows people to carry everywhere doesn't give them the right to call out that you have a gun on your person and pace around at a children's baseball game bragging about it:
“He scared people to the point where we stopped the game, took the kids out of the dugout and behind the dugout, and kind of hunkered down,” Rabb said.
Park users flooded 911 with 22 calls about the man. Forysth County deputies questioned the man, and found that he had a permit for the handgun. Authorities said since the man made no verbal threats or gestures, they could neither arrest him nor ask him to leave the park.
Another parent questioned what point the man was trying to prove. 
"Why would anyone be walking around a public park, with a lot of children and parents and people here playing baseball, and he's walking around with a gun? I don't think the parents would have been nervous had he just had the gun in his holster and was just watching the game," said parent Paris Horton.
Rabb's 6-year-old son Ethan was playing at the time and later expressed concern to his mother.
"When I was reading my son's story last night, he turned to me and said 'Mommy, did that man want to kill me?'" said Rabb.
Scary. Why does the Sheriff have to start his remarks by saying he respects everyone's rights? What about the rights of the parents and children to feel safe at a baseball field and other places where families gather? When Sheriffs and Law Enforcement become courageous enough to call out this sort of brazen behavior, a change will occur in our national conversation. Guns are dangerous. They are designed to kill people. This is what Georgia is going to look like once the new gun law goes into effect. Another article called out the mostly Republican Governors for attacking civility in America with their support of loosening conceal and carry laws:
According to Republican Governor Nathan Deal, what Georgia residents who thought they lived in a civilized society should keep at the forefront of their minds is the same as people living in lawless and uncivilized societies like Somalia and Yemen; guns. This week Republican Deal signed House Bill 60, and stated that for Georgia residents, “The Second Amendment should reside at the forefronts of our minds.” The legislation passed in the eleventh hour of Georgia’s legislative session and expands gun zealots’ ability to carry loaded firearms in public with no restricted areas whatsoever. Critics of the barbaric National Rifle Association legislation dubbed it the “guns everywhere” law for its broad scope and gun proliferation in the public sector they errantly thought was part of civilized society; opponents attempted to block the legislation’s passage to no avail. Frightened Georgia residents, gun fanatics, the NRA, and gun proliferation groups flooded Deal’s office demanding he sign the legislation into law to give the NRA, Gun Owners of America, and Georgia Gun Owners precisely what they intend for the entire nation; “the most comprehensive pro-gun reform bill in state history.”
The law defining Georgia as an uncivilized society takes effect on July 1, and among other absurdities legalizes silencers for hunting (human beings), and puts guns in the hands of convicted felons who can now use the law’s expanded “stand your ground defense” when they take revenge on prosecutors, judges, witnesses, and law enforcement officials who helped make them convicted felons in the first place. Ever since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School and the preponderance of gun-related slaughters across the country, the National Rifle Association has pushed hard to put guns in schools, churches, government buildings, bars, malls, courthouses, airports, and anyplace a gun fanatic has a legal right to be; their efforts were rewarded in Georgia. The legislation also expanded ALEC and the NRA’s soon to be “stand your ground law” of the land. (...)  
In a way, although it is perverse in a so-called civilized society some Americans think this country is, it makes sense that Georgia, part of the third world former Confederacy, passed a law allowing frightened residents to carry loaded firearms in any public area; guns are likely at the forefront of their minds. The region already leads the nation in poverty, crumbling infrastructure, low-wage jobs, child poverty, lack of healthcare, poor educational outcomes, and a people mired in religious extremism, so the vision of residents carrying loaded firearms meets the standard of uncivilized nations like Somalia and Yemen. America is continuing to devolve from a once-civilized society into a barbaric gun-toting nation and while many Americans pale at the prospect of loaded guns in schools, bars, courthouses, malls, airports, and churches, an element of the population derives pleasure at the prospect of armed men roaming the public square because they saw images of Somalia and begged the NRA and Republicans to create America in Somalia’s image.
Most Americans don't live in this world of fear and paranoia requiring them to believe that being armed everywhere will actually protect themselves and others from whatever they have been coerced to believe is around every corner. I'm glad I don't live in that kind of world. It must be terribly inconvenient to be scared enough to strap a gun into a holster every day and go about your business believing there is danger lurking everywhere. As I said in my last post, actually crime is down in America. Gun deaths are not. And it's not the felons shooting up our country either. Read my last post.

And just to make sure we all have this straight, the corporate gun lobby and those who are associated are so afraid of those who shouldn't have guns having them anyway that they even resist all attempts to make sure those folks can't get the guns or use the ones they steal. New technology is available- a "Smart Gun" that only allows its' owner to shoot it. But recently, a company that released information about this new type of gun got so much flack for a product that could save lives that they have gone silent to avoid being attacked by incensed "gun guys". From the article:
But shortly after Armatix went public with its plans to start selling in Southern California, Ms. Padilla, a fast-talking, hard-charging Beverly Hills businesswoman who leads the company’s fledgling American division, encountered the same uproar that has stopped gun control advocates, Congress, President Obama and lawmakers across the country as they seek to pass tougher laws and promote new technologies they contend will lead to fewer firearms deaths. (...) 
And despite support from the Obama administration and the promise of investment from Silicon Valley, guns with owner-recognition technology remain shut out of the market today.
“Right now, unfortunately, these organizations that are scaring everybody have the power,” Ms. Padilla said. “All we’re doing is providing extra levels of safety to your individual right to bear arms. And if you don’t want our gun, don’t buy it. It’s not for everyone.” (...) Second Amendment defenders argue that once guns with high-tech safety features go on sale, government mandates will follow. They cite a decade-old New Jersey law requiring that within three years of the recognition technology’s becoming available in the United States, all guns sold in the state would have to be “smart.”
The guns could save lives. Suicide is the number one cause of gun death in America. This type of gun could stop someone from using another's gun to take their own life. Accidental gun deaths? I write about them all the time. That, too, could be prevented. But here is what the NRA leaders said about this gun technology on a blog ( from the article):
The National Rifle Association, in an article published on the blog of its political arm, wrote that “smart guns,” a term it mocks as a misnomer, have the potential “to mesh with the anti-gunner’s agenda, opening the door to a ban on all guns that do not possess the government-required technology.” 
Up is down. Down is up. And the world is flat.

Where is common sense? In Larry Pratt and the corporate gun lobby's alternative universe, civilized society means being armed and ready to shoot at a moment's notice. That is not who we are as a nation. We can change that by changing the conversation and passing some laws to make it harder for people who shouldn't have guns to get them anyway. We don't have to believe the deceptions from the corporate gun lobby. The corporate gun lobby and folks like Cliven Bundy and the Georgia legislature are under the microscope of public opinion and in public view. What they say and do is not flying under the radar any more. We are all watching and what we see is not the American we want or deserve to have. We are better than this. The world is round. Up is up and down is down. Let's get to work to make change happen.


Cliff Schecter has written this piece, post NRA convention, for The Daily Beast. We both wrote, independent of each other, a similar piece. Why? Because the themes of the corporate gun lobby and the recent intersection of their agenda with Cliven Bundy is becoming so extreme that it needs exposure to daylight. From his article, written about his NRA convention experience ( linked above):
Through the entrance to the hall were rows, probably a dozen of them or more, each filled with one booth after another of salesmen hawking their wares, going on for as far as the eye could see. The NRA had a banner outside the convention center describing it as “9 Acres of Guns & Gear,” and for once it wasn’t exaggerating.
As I entered the room, directly in front of me were T-shirts for sale with assault weapons on them, bearing the likenesses of former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, President Obama and California Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Two coastal Jews and an African-American from Chicago—what’s known in Alex Jones land as “The Trifecta.” As I moved past the T-shirts, two guys walking past me looked back, and one chuckled. “Bloomberg,” he said, and shook his head. (...) 
This is the modern NRA laid bare, the inevitable result of its chosen path, to go all in with arms dealers looking to sell ever more exotic military weaponry as their market has shrunk with the decline of hunting in a more urban and suburban America. As long as Sig Sauer and Remington and Winchester are profiting, there can be no gun too lethal, no weapon too powerful, no shooting tragic enough for the NRA to alter course. 
It has embraced this new mission to militarize the streets of America with zeal, scaring the bejesus out of its most faithful adherents with ghost stories about preparing for the breakdown of civilization, to destroy any faith they might have in our democracy or our first responders. You’re all alone, in their telling. Just you and the one thing that’s always faithful: your gun.
There is much more here. I hope you will read it. This, dear readers, is the world of the corporate gun lobby and those who are prepared to fight against their own government. It is not a pretty picture. It is extremism on display and it's coming to our streets and to our public places all over America. Is this what a civilized country looks like?

1 comment:

  1. "New technology is available- a "Smart Gun" that only allows its' owner to shoot it. But recently, a company that released information about this new type of gun got so much flack for a product that could save lives that they have gone silent to avoid being attacked by incensed "gun guys"."

    You are correct in that biometric technology shows great promise in helping to reduce accidental shootings and use by unauthorized users. However, its development was politicized by both sides of the gun debate. While the technology showed much promise, it still has some issues to work out in the area of reliability. While the occasional failure to fire is only a slight inconvenience at the range, it is unacceptable when defending your life.
    However, New Jersey mandated that all new firearms sold contain the technology within three years after it becomes available. New Jersey's law specifically exempts law enforcement and military weapons, perfectly illustrating that the technology isn't ready to be fielded for the purpose of self defense.