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, January 25, 2015

Supporting our own terrorists and lone wolf killers

Does the fear and paranoia pushed by extremist groups and even the gun lobby lead to some of the feelings of alienation, suspicion of the government, law enforcement or "others"? Or do the gun rights extremists who stock pile guns start to believe in conspiracy theories or in the violent take-over of a mythical tyrannical government because of all of the guns? I read this recent article published in Salon that exposes this extremism, mostly occurring on social media sites where many of us don't see it. But it's there and in plain view if we look. From the article by Amanda Gailley:
"As one example, several hundred people indicated on Facebook that they were going to participate in the harassment of American Muslims over the MLK Day weekend.  The event, called “Flag Up the Mosques American Reaper Style,” asked Christians—a certain kind of Christian, that is—to plant Christian paraphernalia all over mosque properties, in what the event organizer calls “a peaceful calling…for now.” However, participants on the page were of mixed opinions about whether this religious harassment should involve violence."
Then the author describes comments on social media by these intolerant folks advocating violent actions against those who are not like them. The examples and remarks are offensive and concerning. Gailley ends with this:
On Monday our nation set aside a day to reflect on the struggle for equality and tolerance in the United States, and the history of nonviolent struggle for justice. What could degrade American democracy and civic life more than advocating genocide, religious persecution, and violence in the name of patriotism? These self-proclaimed patriots—wrapped in a flag, carrying a cross and a gun, and menacing minority populations—are in fact the heirs of the violent white Christianists who had a different target 50 years ago.
These folks live on social media in today's world for it is the way they gin up the anger, fear and paranoia amongst their own. Without social media, they would be a few loonies with their extremist views and largely ignored. Until one of them actually does something about it. Of course, there are, and have been historically, those lone wolf extremists and loonies who do a lot of harm. Do we have to name them? The Oklahoma City bomber, extremist and gun nut, is just one notorious example. There are others and we know who they are. This wonderful column was written by Lonnie Phillips, whose daughter was murdered in the Aurora Theater shooting. From his article:
Judge Samour said he was skeptical about the contention by both prosecutors and defense attorneys that expanded media coverage would result in unfair scrutiny of victims and witnesses, saying his decision was a tough call that balanced the defendant’s right to a fair trial with the “need for public access.”
So now we know where the judge stands. He is taking account of the murderer’s rights. He is paying attention to the public’s rights. But what about my family’s rights—our right to grieve and honor her in privacy? What of the right of our dead daughter not to have her memory desecrated?
We do not need any more undue attention paid to the moment that changed our lives forever. We don’t need that man—that monster—to have one more minute of publicity.
Lone wolf killers, like the Aurora Theater shooter,  have committed many of our country's mass shootings. Add the Navy Yard shooting in our nation's Capitol, and the Sandy Hook school shooting for just a few. The shooters were not connected to any militia or terrorist group. Sometimes these shooters were dangerously mentally ill. Sometimes they had political or racial motivations. Sometimes we can't explain why they killed. One common denominator is that the shooters all had easy access to guns to carry out their carnage. That we have not changed the equation guarantees we will have more of the same.

But sometimes there are groups of gun rights extremists using their second amendment rights and their guns to intimidate the public and politicians and getting away with it. Examples of their activities are now becoming more open and obvious as the Open Carry Texas extremists are becoming bolder and the gun rights folks in the state of Washington "flexed" their second amendment rights at the State Capitol in Olympia. (You can read the interesting comments posted after this article and decide for yourself.)

They are the gun nuts who are so intense about the possibility of "gun control" that their fervor leads them to become more radicalized as they stock pile their weapons in anticipation:
The center tracked 1,360 radical militias and anti-government groups in 2012, an eightfold increase over 2008, when it recorded 149 such groups. The explosive growth began four years ago, sparked by the election of President Obama and anger about the poor economy, the center says. That growth is likely to continue as the groups recruit more members with a pro-gun message, the center's senior fellow Mark Potok said.
President Obama's second term and a gun control movement bolstered by the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School is intensifying anti-government rage and will lead to more growth for the groups, Potok said.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, a non-profit civil rights advocacy group based in Montgomery, Ala., defines the patriot movement as groups of people who believe the federal government is conspiring to confiscate Americans' guns and curtail liberties to create a socialist government or "new order." Most are non-violent citizens groups. Some groups also include militias, which arm themselves and conduct military-style training, the center said.
Some of these fine folks showed up in Nevada at Cliven Bundy's ranch and had a stand-off with government officials. A couple who spent time at the Bundy ranch went on to shoot up people in Las Vegas. They were no ordinary "law abiding" citizens with guns. From the article:
A man and a woman who shot two police officers and then a civilian in Las Vegas on Sunday may have been white supremacists, according to Las Vegas newspapers.
The Las Vegas Sun quoted neighbors at the couple’s apartment complex saying that the two “had a reputation for spouting racist, anti-government views, bragging about their gun collection and boasting that they’d spent time at Cliven Bundy’s ranch during a recent standoff there between armed militia members and federal government agents.”
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that police found Swastika symbols in the apartment.
If the two are involved with neo-Nazi or white supremacists groups, the Vegas slayings would be one of several linked to hate movements. 
Among recent killings: A former Ku Klux Klan “grand dragon” killed three at two Jewish facilities in a Kansas City suburb in April; a man killed six before killing himself at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin in 2012; and a man killed three officers in Pittsburgh in 2009. 
Sadly our very own corporate gun lobby is helping these folks get their weapons. The SHOT show, or the largest American show of gun industry weaponry, is just finishing up. No citizens or press are welcome inside. You may remember that comedian Jay Leno was asked to speak at this prestigious show but backed out once he was helped to understand what it was all about. From the above linked article by Josh Sugarman of the Violence Policy Center:
So why so camera shy? One reason is that such images would reveal all too clearly what the modern gun industry has become: an industry dominated by military-bred weaponry marketed with militarized language (almost always in capital letters) and imagery that would disturb the vast majority of Americans. And not surprisingly, the gun industry is quick to deny any responsibility when these semiauto versions of battle weapons are used for the very purpose they were designed: to kill large numbers of people quickly and efficiently. (...) 
Also present at the SHOT Show with its own display will be the National Rifle Association, a member of NSSF and the unofficial trade association for the gun industry. The NRA is increasingly the recipient of gun industry dollars targeted at increasing sales: whether through industry-branded marketing or opposition to gun violence prevention laws that would impact gunmakers' bottom line. 
If this year's SHOT Show is like prior years, the NSSF, the NRA, and the gun manufacturers who help pay their bills will talk about virtually every aspect of guns in America except one: the price the rest of us pay for the irresponsible and virtually unfettered marketing of their increasingly lethal products.
These are weapons of war promoted for use by civilians in language meant to encourage civilians to act like soldiers. Are we at war? So why the language and the promotion of the use of such weapons? Good question. It needs to be asked and answered. The gun industry profits are leading to the deaths of innocent Americans. Most people support shooting sports and hunting for recreation and family activities. But we are talking about more here. Author Stephen King, quoted in the image at the top of this post, wrote a great column about this topic. King understands, as do most Americans, that some guns are made for killing people and killing a lot of people in a short period of time. Some law abiding people like to shoot these guns for sport. But when they are promoted the way they are at gun shows and major trade shows like SHOT, it leads some gun enthusiasts to believe they should be ready for battle. Bad things have happened as a result.

And when the guns are so readily available to those who can't pass background checks when buying from licensed gun dealers, we have a problem. Too many of these types of weapons are accessible to those who have bad intent. Until we change that and require background checks on all gun sales, we will see these guns used in crime and killings of innocent people. It's beyond explanation that there is so much resistance to a common sense measure that can save lives and won't affect the rights of law abiding citizens to buy and own these guns if they so choose.

But I digress. Back to the sale of guns that can kill a lot of people in short order- What better way to support gun extremists, felons, the dangerously mentally ill, people with bad intent and possible terrorists than to manufacture more of their weapons of choice right here in the U.S? The AK-47, a favorite of the aforementioned, will now have a manufacturing home in Pennsylvania. This article written by Cliff Schecter for Daily Beast points out the insanity of this business decision:
Fear not, for even with the threat of a falling inventory of Kalashnikovs—due to sanctions against manufacturer—Mother Russia, this little kink in the supply chain has been solved.
We’re gonna make them here.
By “we,” I mean arms company RWC, and by “here” I am referring to Tullytown, Pennsylvania, where RWC is based. The gun maker conveniently owns the rights to the “AK-47 Kalashnikov brand of guns” in the only high-income country that thinks it’s a good idea for any schmo on its streets to port around mass homicide in the palms of his/her hands.
This is yet more proof—as if we needed it—that even as states like Washington pass ballot initiatives instituting universal background checks, in the Washington on the Potomac, nothing’s changed. In that Washington, the military wing of one of our two major political parties—the grand old one—is still only too happy to bestow upon those wishing to bring domestic harm the ability to do it, with one of the most efficient killing machines ever created.
Even Mikhail Kalashnikov himself, on his deathbed a year ago at the age of 94, expressed “spiritual pain” that was “unbearable,” because of the weapon he had created. But then again, unlike today’s Republican Party, he didn’t rely on campaign contributions from the National Rifle Association.
Back here in the good ol’ US of A, it has become pretty clear to anyone who’s paying attention, why we should ensure that as few people as possible get their hands on weapons such as these. Twice in the past week and a half, armed gangs referring to themselves in innocuous terms such as “open carry enthusiasts” showed up to state capitols—in Texas and the aforementioned Washington State—to try and intimidate lawmakers into supporting even more permissive gun bills. There is a name for using physical threats to get the legislation you want. It isn’t democracy.
In short we have a problem involving guns and extremism. What should we do about this problem? Many of these people are "law abiding" when they purchase their guns in the first place. Some are not. Some have bad intentions with these legally purchased guns. Some don't have bad intentions when they purchase their guns but get "radicalized" by groups whose intentions are bad. And some listen to sources of fear and paranoia and get hyped up about the wrong things. Mental illness also enters in to the twisted thinking of some of our nation's most notorious mass killers. I believe that most Americans understand that when you have a gun or guns, you can do things you wouldn't be able to do with other weapons or means of violence.

But there are insurrectionists and extremists living amongst us who can easily get any kind of gun they want in America. There are also dangerously mentally ill people, felons, terrorists and others who shouldn't have guns who can get them anyway. The cynicism of the corporate gun lobby selling guns under the guise of freedom, liberty and to use against those I mentioned in my last sentence is the vicious circle that leads to our insane gun culture. There is no common sense when it comes to guns, the gun industry, the corporate gun lobby and gun violence in America. We can change that with the serious national conversation about the role of guns and gun violence that we deserve to have. Saving lives should come before profits. Until that is the bottom line, Americans will lose their lives at alarming rates and gun sales will go unchecked to those who should not have guns.


As always happens, I run into more articles to support what I have written in my post. This OpEd piece from New Mexico supports background checks on all gun sales and starts out with similar words to what I have written:
What do the Columbine shooters, Timothy McVeigh, Branch Dividian leader David Koresh, Pentagon shooter John Bedell, serial killer Timothy Diller, gangster Whitey Bulgar and violent Mexican drug lord Miguel Angel Trevino Morales all have in common — other than being criminals? Every one of them used the gun show loophole to buy their firearms at gun shows.
Requiring all gun buyers at gun shows to go through a background check simply keeps guns out of unsafe hands. The good guys with guns can still buy any legal firearm they desire.
I rest my case.

1 comment:

  1. The guys on www.armedwithreason.com throw out the interesting factoid that almost all gun violence/accidents/suicides are correlated to the fact of ownership. There appears to be no meaningful correlation with the number of guns held. Therefore, a law abiding gun enthusiast with 57 varieties of AR-15 is, for all practical purposes, no greater a threat than the Dad with the .38 in the bedside cabinet (actually, as it is his hobby he probably keeps everything in a gun safe and is fairly well versed in matters of safety etc,). Quite honestly, observing from the other side of the Pond I just do not understand the rational of opposing background checks - most gun enthusiasts undergo the checks frequently anyway and often more onerous ones again to buy sound suppressors (silencers).