Thursday, February 28, 2013

It’s time to dump the Tea Party back in the harbor

Even as a committed progressive, I get an average of two or three emails from the Tea Party on a daily basis with some of the most bizarre headlines I have ever read. Like, America in danger: Stand and Fight, Prevent the Next Holocaust Right Here in America.” The organization is floundering fast and the last gasps are both dramatic and desperate. With supporters like Sarah Palin, Rand Paul and Michelle Bachmann, this leaves no doubt over the mentality of this group. Wikipedia says:
The Tea Party “is an American political movement that advocates strict adherence to the United States Constitution, reducing U.S. government spending and taxes, and reduction of the U.S. national debt and federal budget deficit.”

The “Party” took off in 2009 supporting several conservative candidates and labeled itself from the beginning as a crowd of conservative fanatics, many of which sported double-digit IQs.  Back in 2011 even Glenn Beck accused the membership of being racist, which was confirmed in several of their rallies.  They have been and still are in the radical camp with the National Rifle Assn. (NRA) on gun rights, with signs like, “Dictators want you disarmed” in a recent demonstration in Monterey, California, for gun rights.

Their opposition to immigration reform is legend.  From Day one the Tea Party movement has  supported hardline policies toward illegal immigrants and for border control.  As far as the group is concerned, we could deport all 11 million+ undocumented.  On Tuesday, Judson Phillips of the Tea Party Nation said in the Washington Times that Republicans are committing “political suicide” and “paying Democrats for the privilege of killing themselves, re. immigration reform.”  It is this kind of right-wing conservative rhetoric that is bringing the U.S. to its knees.       

But time and public opinion have not been on the side of the TPers with a recent conservative Rasmussen poll released in the Huff Post finding that only 30% of the country has a favorable view of the Tea Party.  A compelling 50% view the party unfavorably.  Rasmussen also reports that only 8% of Americans claim to be Tea Party affiliated.  This is clout?  This paltry bunch of bigots can have the sway on Congress it does to push the GOP ideological agenda and get what they want?  It reminds me of the NRA’s hold on Congress, also highly overrated.

Here’s an example of more headlines from the Tea Party rubbish I receive by email:

             Obama Communist Coup Underway: America in Danger
       (Pic of Obama with Swastika on his arm)
       Supporting a group to give away shotguns in high crime area

 Sheriff warns of 2nd American Revolution if gun laws are enforced

 Don’t let Obama get away with murder and treason

 We’re rude, crude, impolite, and we wouldn’t have it any other way

 Civil War 2: Why the banking elite want riots in America

 Shock claim: Obama picks Muslim for CIA chief

 Resistance to new gun laws builds in USA

 Foreign agent Piers Morgan talks about repealing 2nd Amendment

The Tea Party took a beating in the Senate in 2012 when many of their supported candidates lost. The House did much better but the writing was on the wall when some key members were defeated and Michelle Bachmann won only with a slim margin. Big questions loom in 2014 for both the Tea Party and the NRA in relation to just how much impact they will have on the elections. The apathy of the American public has been making a dramatic change over the past year or so and with involved voters you get a much more educated class at the polls.
But let me leave you with the most hilarious statement made yet in 2013.  This is Michelle Bachmann, the U.S. Representative from Minnesota who barely held on to her seat in 2012: “I was very proud of the fact that I didn’t get anything wrong that I said during the course of the debates," she said, according to Salon. "I didn’t get anything wrong, and that’s a huge arena."  She, of course refers to the 2012 GOP presidential debates.  According to the Huff Post:

“…there is a long list of statements Bachmann made during debates showing she actually got a number of things ‘wrong.’”

Who is it these people appeal to???  Thank God their numbers are diminishing fast.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Gun nuts claim Obama Helter Skelter…the amassing of forces to annihilate White Americans

Although Taylor Marsh is a well-known political analyst, writer and strategist, I still might have discounted someone I never heard of like Stan Solomon whose Talk to Solomon Show recently had conservative blogger Greg W. Howard on his show.  I have also not heard of Howard but being new to the game of critical politics, just figure I may not yet be up to speed.  However, when Larry Pratt’s name came up I not only took notice but became very interested.  As a gun fanatic, Pratt is only topped by Wayne LaPierre, head of the National Rifle Assn. (NRA).

Charles Manson
Then I understood the first entry in Joyce Arnold’s article on the Taylor Marsh Blog.  Arnold quoted from Brian Tashman at Right Way Watch: “Gun Activists Warn Obama is Raising a Private Black Army to Massacre White Americans.”  Pratt was on the Talk to Solomon Show with Howard predicting that, “Obama may begin confiscating guns in order to provoke a violent response to justify further oppression, which host Stan Solomon feared would lead to the imprisonment of hundreds of thousands of people.  That’s heavy; also completely brainless.

There’s more.  “I believe they will put together a racial force to go against an opposite race resistance, basically a black force to go against a white resistance, and then they will claim anyone resisting the black force they are doing it because they are racist,” commented Solomon and seconded by Howard.  Can you believe this idiot Howard accuses Obama of sowing the seeds of racial hatred when it has been clear from the President’s first inauguration that many in this country dislike, even hate, Barack Obama simply because he is black?

Clip from the Helter Skelter movie:

There is a comparison between Obama’s gun control legislation and the incidents at Waco and Ruby Ridge where government force was used to quell an illegal uprising, resulting in lives lost.  Each of those episodes was carried out due to a defiance of the law and the people involved decided to fight rather than surrender peacefully.  Arnold asks the question which is no doubt uppermost in the mind of anyone who reads her article:

“I don’t know how many people take this kind of ‘thinking’ seriously, but it’s happening in the context of the ongoing national debates about gun and ammunition controls.”  It is gun hugger scare tactics at their worst…my words.

And then Arnold quotes Evan McMorris-Santoro of Talking Points Memo who exclaims the war over gun control has gone to the “ground;” in other words as the media decide it is yesterday’s news, both sides will depend on grass-roots action to get the job done.  McMorris-Santoro points out that the NRA is already running ads against weak Democrat and Republican moderates in states like Arkansas, Louisiana, Maine, North Carolina and West Virginia.  At the same time we can expect more on gun control through groups like Gabby Giffords new PAC.

Those moderate Democrats, above, are not as afraid this go-around because of the rash of firearm deaths across the country, particularly mass incidents like the Newtown, CT massacre. The Senate is working on a plan re, universal background checks but McMorris-Santoro comments, “there’s the usual GOP House members who oppose most everything that isn’t their idea. Some of them probably think it’s possible ‘Obama is Raising a Private Black Army to Massacre White Americans.’” Shades of Charles Manson and his HelterSkelter.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Hard to understand how anyone could believe the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre

But they do.  These die-hard gun bubbas who strut around with their weapons either at their side or concealed completely from the public, are the real believers who do it because they have to have some way to prove their manhood.  And they would follow the head fanatic, wacky Wayne, to the end of the world if he said so.  It is amazing to me just how easily he can arouse these double-digit IQs to do his bidding and then force them to come back again and again to feed from the same fount spewing this propaganda.  But such is the mentality of these wackos.

Wayne LaPierre is head of the NRA and since assuming this post in 1991 the organization has prospered dramatically in increased membership and donations flowing in.  This is all due to one single factor; LaPierre zeroed in on the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms exclaiming it is an “absolutist” right of the people and the gun control advocates want to take it away.  And then along came a Democratic President, Barack Obama, and the screed switched to “Obama wants to take away your guns.”  Same crusade, just a different target.

Wacky Wayne laPierre

In each national incidence of guns killing innocent Americans, wacky Wayne used the situation to fire up his fellow gun worshippers by saying, as an example, they want to take away assault weapons today but tomorrow they will come for your handguns, then your hunting rifles.  The latest was delivered in a tirade from Salt Lake City during a speech at the Western Hunting and Conservation Expo.  He once again picked up on President Obama and other Democrats re. the drive for universal background checks.  This is what he saidon CNN:

"This so-called universal background check that you're hearing about all over the media ... is aimed at one thing: It's aimed at registering your guns.  And when another tragic opportunity presents itself, that registry will be used to confiscate your guns."

Actually, this registry of guns is a great idea for everyone but gun owners, and that raises a question within itself.  Why are you afraid to have your gun registered; got something to hide?  And it is absurd to think the feds would use any registry of firearms to confiscate legal guns.  It is the bad guys that they are after and if you gun huggers are a little bit inconvenienced, blame it on your head wacko LaPierre who has suppressed reasonable gun control legislation for years, putting 300 million guns on the streets of America, a record throughout the world.

Mark Kelly with wife Gabby Giffords
Astronaut Mark Kelly, husband of former Arizona U.S. Representative Gabby Giffords, who was seriously injured by Jared Loughner in the Tucson gun massacre, where 6 died, sort of whacked wacky Wayne up-side the head at the recent Senate Judiciary hearings on guns when the gun nut “LaPierre repeatedly voiced the talking point that there’s no need to expand the background check system because criminals don’t cooperate with background checks,” from the Washington Post.  Kelly’s retort was:

“The Tucson shooter was an admitted drug user. He was rejected from the U.S. Army because of his drug use. He was clearly mentally ill. And when he purchased that gun in November, his plan was to assassinate my wife and commit mass murder at that Safeway in Tucson. He was a criminal. Because of his drug use, and because of what he was planning on doing. But because of these gaps in the mental health system, in this case, those 121,000 records, I admit did not include a record on him. But it could have.

“And if it did, he would have failed that background check. He would have likely gone to a gun show, or a private seller, and avoided that background check. But if we close that gun show loophole, if we require private sellers to complete a background check, and we get those 121,000 records and others into the systems, we will prevent gun crime. That is an absolute truth. It would have happened in Tucson. My wife would not have been sitting here today if we had stronger background checks.”

LaPierre’s claims that background checks don’t work is obviously just another of his false statements since 1.5 million guns were prevented from going to those prohibited from having them in 2010.  In the hearing, after gun rights grunts pointed to Chicago’s tough gun laws, yet high volume of gun violence, Sen. Dick Durbin from Illinois commented:

When you take a look at where these guns come from, 25 percent plus are sold in the surrounding towns around the city of Chicago, not in the city. Look over the last 10 or 12 years. Of the 50,000 guns confiscated in crimes, almost one out of 10 crime guns in Chicago came to that city from Mississippi. Why? Because the background checks there, the gun dealers there, are a lot easier than in other places. And they end up selling these guns in volume.

It is easy enough to shoot holes in most claims made by Wayne LaPierre and his NRA minions, but what isn’t easy is having the equal time to advertise the gun control side of the issue.  Organizations like the Brady Campaign and the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence try but have limited budgets.  Just the opposite of the NRA, which is well funded in its advertising campaigns with the support of U.S. gun manufacturers.  The gun nuts are preparing to launch a new onslaught of major propaganda that will cause many more innocent people to be killed by guns.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Will the US Senate fix the Washington mess?

I did a post on Wednesday of last week, “How to fix a broken U.S. Government,” which emphasized the importance of negotiating, a lost art from the days of Sam Rayburn and Lyndon Johnson.  During those periods, an old hand at the job, and Johnson and Rayburn were not only well-entrenched but also well respected, could talk to his or her fellow legislators and somehow come to a reconciliation that was favorable for both side.  This mastery of politics has been gone for, let me see, at least as far back to when George W. Bush became president.

Mitch McConnell
So far the GOP hasn’t recovered from an election they thought they would win, and Sen. McConnell has never retreated from his statement to make Obama a one-term President, which obviously failed.  Joe Palermo said following the 2012 election, “McConnell now promises the next best thing: Continue to abuse the filibuster as no Senate minority in American history has and gum up the works while demanding total capitulation on Obama's part before any bill can escape the clutches of his icy, deadening hand.”  In Washington things never seem to change.

So with McConnell as the Senate Minority Leader, how is it that Ira Shapiro thinks this dysfunctional body can fix Washington?  He says the consensus is already formed and that politics under president Obama’s second term will continue to be polarized.  But he wants a “rejuvenated” Senate to be the nation’s mediator.  Somehow I can’t see Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader and Mitch McConnell coming together on any major issues, except maybe gun control.  Reid has refused to back Obama on the assault weapons ban.

Democrats do have control of the Senate and won 25 out of 33 elections in 2012, which Shapiro reads as a reaction to GOP extremism and obstructionism.  The question is whether this trend can continue with momentum leading through the 2014 elections where the incumbent President’s party traditionally loses seats in Congress.  Palermo’s article was over three months ago but now Shapiro says the country is in need of responsible adult leadership, something sorely lacking in both houses of Congress. 

Harry Reid
Shapiro the optimist thinks, “The Senate is the only realistic partner to the president in seeking constructive solutions to the nation's challenges on guns, climate change and immigration.”  I hope he is right because, aside from the economy and jobs, these are the three most important issues facing the United States.  And in continued optimism he believes the majority of the Senate is serious about facing the challenges of the country.  On the other hand we are just four days away from the $1.2 trillion in budget cuts that many say will paralyze the U.S.

Lyndon Johnson, along with Mike Mansfield, Everett Dirksen and Howard Baker are cited in Shapiro’s article illustrating a quality of leadership lost on today’s Senate.  Although Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell didn’t create the current political barricades in the Senate, it has certainly flourished under their watch.  Will they eventually retire having failed to accomplish the demands facing Congress today, or will they emerge finally as leaders who figure out that it is necessary to negotiate, not constantly call checkmate?  The ball is clearly in their court.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Arizona gun huggers and other stupid Wild West stories

Arizona is a state in which someone with absolutely no training can go out and buy a gun, carry it as a concealed weapon without a permit, and even take it into a bar.  That is the kind of rhetoric that has made the Grand Canyon State the laughing stock of the country.  The GOP-controlled legislature prides itself in passing the most asinine and loose gun control laws in the U.S. and then flaunts it to those hysterical over this obsession with guns.  And then you must add to that a foggy headed Governor, Jan Brewer, with shifting desert sand for a brain.

What more could the media ask for, particularly progressive bloggers like myself.  What is most disheartening about living in a state like Arizona is these fruitcakes are serious.  Their worship of guns transcends any reasonable approach to gun control and approaches the level of placing their weapons on a pedestal to be considered a divine entity.  I did a blog back in January, “Religious leaders say the worship of guns is a form of idolatry,“ that examines just how gun fanatics feel about their firearms.  The findings are pathetic.

But the religious community is reacting in force.  Rev. Gary Hall, dean of the Washington Nat’l Cathedral, said, “Everyone in this city {Washington} seems to be in terror of the gun lobby. But I believe the gun lobby is no match for the cross lobby.”  Rabbi Saperstein, dir. of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, said: “Is the need for sensible gun control a religious issue?  Indeed, it is, for our worship of guns is a form of idolatry, the random distribution of guns is offense against God, and the only appropriate response is sustained moral outrage.”

Spoof on Arizona gun laws:

So where do these Arizona gun nuts come off pushing all these ridiculous gun laws to put even more guns on the street in the hands of completely unqualified owners when the state ranks eighth nationally in firearm deaths, with 15.1 deaths per 100,000?  They don’t care because they choose their celestial guns over human life.  Another source shows that in Arizona 65% of all murders are committed using firearms.  And yet another survey reports that there are 232 Arizona gun murders a year, or about 4.5 per week. 

Even considering all of the above, which really only scratches the surface, an Arizona legislature of Republican lunatics continues to propose and pass more bizarre gun legislation.  And it is all but guaranteed that the discombobulated Governor will sign the trash.  As an example, the gun bubbas got all up tight when a Tucson city Councilman did a gun “buyback” offering $50 gift cards for unwanted guns.  But the obsessed firearms crowd would have none of it and proposed a law to bar any destruction of guns in Arizona.  There’s lots more.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio
Another bill would allow people to carry guns into public buildings, unless secure gun lockers are provided which are expensive to construct.  Not a law, but another pitiable fact; Arizona ranked third in the nation for guns confiscated at the Phoenix airport checkpoints in 2012.  And Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is arming his 3,000 member “volunteer” posse with 400 military-style assault rifles.  That’s right, at least 400 scantily trained part-time upholders of Arpaio’s style of Arizona law on the streets with lethal weapons.  Hard to believe but true.

And now House Bill 2326 forbids state and local government agencies and federally licensed gun dealers from maintaining a database of people who own or sell guns.  State Attorney General Tom Horne, who himself has lawsuits filed against him for acting illegally as a candidate for office and leaving the site of a hit and run accident, wants to arm the teachers in Arizona schools.  And finally, a local pediatric cardiologist by the name of Dr. Scott Schnee responded to Denver reporter Adrian Dater re. something he wrote about the Phoenix Coyotes:

The Twitter user BabyDocScott tweeted "Go catch a movie in Aurora" and said Dater could "join Jessica for all I care." Dater was friends with Jessica Ghawi, who was killed in the Aurora movie theater shootings July 20.  Beyond pathetic.

So that’s the latest on a gun culture out of control from the Wild West state of Arizona, which for many of us is a beautiful and pleasant place to live.  But for those of us who want sane gun laws in our state, and throughout the country, the day is definitely on the horizon to get this accomplished, and the gun huggers will just have to go to the movies to get their violence.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Gun deaths escalate while an impotent Congress of deadbeats just hovers in limbo

Mindy McCready
I am not a country music fan but it was tragic to hear that singer Mindy McCready had taken her life…with a gun.  On Monday, 4 people were shot in Spokane, 2 at a night club, 2 more nearby.  And then on Tuesday a gunman went on a shooting spree in Southern California that left 4 people dead, including the shooter.  Does the question, “What does it take?” come to mind?  Abby Rogers in Business Insider says, “A History Of Gun Control Laws Shows US Citizens Don't HaveAn Absolute Right To Bear Arms.”  Something I have blogged about for months. 

Rogers tracks the history of gun control laws from 1860 through 2010.  There were the early laws in the 1930s covering the manufacture and transfer of firearms along with another that regulated interstate commerce in firearms.  Then came the 1968 Gun Control Act following the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King.  There were others like California’s law restricting the use of assault rifles, the Brady Act of 1993 imposing background checks and then the federal assault weapons ban in 1994 which was allowed to expire in 2004.

Most recently New York passed one of the toughest gun control laws ever and they did it with a GOP controlled Senate along with a Democrat-dominated assembly.  Are the Republican politicians more intelligent in New York, or do they simply favor human life over worshipful gun ownership?  And then on Monday, the Colorado House voted in a package of gun control measures that included a ban on concealed weapons on college campuses.  Also included is a fee for state background checks.  It now goes to the Senate.

Adam Winkler on gun control:

Former U.S. Rep. from Arizona, Gabby Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly have formed a gun control group called Americans for Responsible Solutions.  Giffords was seriously wounded in the 2011 Tucson massacre by Jared Loughner where 18 others were shot and 6 died including a nine-year-old girl.  And then less than a week ago, announced it will spend six-figures on a TV spot titled, “The NRA doesn’t speak for me.”  Jerry Thompson, a gun owner and defender of the 2nd Amendment is the spokesperson who says in disgust:

“For years I’ve watched Congress take money from the NRA and then oppose any kind of reform that helps keep us safe.”  Further, "I've had enough. So here's my message to Congress. You take money from the NRA and then continue to do their bidding, we're going to remember that come election time. The NRA doesn't speak for me, and they don't speak for the vast majority of Americans so stop taking their money"

81% of gun owners support background checks which would close the gun show loophole.  40% of gun buyers purchase their weapons at gun shows where private sellers are not required to make background checks.  Seem like a no-brainer?  Not for Wayne LaPierre and his gang of gun bubbas at the National Rifle Assn. (NRA).  These gun nuts are fighting background checks as well as any other meaningful gun control legislation.  Other gun rights advocates say:

 “Our backs are against the wall,”  “We are in for the fight of our lives. I have never seen anything like it.”  This is a statement by Scott Wilson, president of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League, a pro-gun rights group following the Sandy Hook Elementary carnage.  The CCDL also conceded that the assault weapons and high-capacity magazine bans just might make it through Congress.      

What is it about New York, Illinois, Colorado and California gun control reasoning that the rest of us don’t seem to assimilate?  New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg credits the state’s tough gun laws for decreasing his city’s gun violence significantly.  If it can work in the largest metropolitan area in the country, it should be able to work anywhere.  Contact your congressional leaders, U.S. House, here, U.S. Senate here.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

How to fix a broken U.S. Government

I realize I am no expert on social science, wasn’t even really interested in the subject in college, but as a lowly progressive political blogger, I have become fascinated with our political system and its intricate workings.  Actually, the system isn’t working now and if we don’t fix it soon, this country’s downfall could make the decline and fall of the Roman Empire look like a Sunday school picnic.  We are no longer on the fiscal cliff, or curb as some described the problem, we are now headed toward a newly created political buzz word, “sequestration.”

Sequestration is defined by the HuffPost as, “referring to a series of draconian budget cuts, totaling $1.2 trillion, that {were} scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2013. These cuts are evenly split between defense and domestic discretionary spending (with some exemptions, such as Social Security, Medicare, and veterans' benefits).”  The GOP doesn’t want any more short-term fixes but refuses to budge on additional revenue mixed with spending cuts.  The President is standing firm on what he wants and is likely to win the battle in the long run.

Is the problem caused entirely by Republicans?  The answer is no and on the Democratic side, there is still the extreme left rallying for raising taxes and limiting spending cuts.  In some cases we have noticed House Speaker John Boehner shifting from his supporters on the right, particularly the fanatics of the Tea Party, moving further toward the middle for some reconciliation on the issues.  Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also seems conciliatory in his latest speeches.  So what is the problem?  I’m not sure anyone really knows.

The first thing that comes to mind is that the GOP hasn’t recovered from an election they thought they would win.  And Sen. McConnell has never retreated from his statement to make Obama a one-term President, which failed.  According to JoePalermo in November of 2012, “McConnell now promises the next best thing: Continue to abuse the filibuster as no Senate minority in American history has and gum up the works while demanding total capitulation on Obama's part before any bill can escape the clutches of his icy, deadening hand.”

Sam Rayburn, former Democratic Speaker of the house from Texas, was considered by many to be the great negotiator.  Lyndon Johnson was known to be good at bringing parties together in agreement on serious matters and even Barack Obama is looked on as a pretty good negotiator, considering the passage of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.  What happened to the art of negotiation, which almost anyone will agree is the only objective way to arrive at a governing solution?  Where did this political necessity fall by the wayside, almost into oblivion?

Looking back at George W. Bush, he had a rather diverse Congress with the majority swinging from one party to the other in his eight years.  Regardless, with GWB it was his way or the highway, thanks in part to his henchman, Karl Rove.  Going back a few years, Ronald Reagan was known as the great communicator and managed to get a lot of what he wanted.  George H. W. Bush was known for managing the end of the cold war.  Bill Clinton was able to get those in his party to vote for the largest tax increase in history in 1993. He also passed sweeping trade and welfare reforms in the face of withering fire from the left. 

Not bad on both sides, except for the tyranny of George W. Bush, who many say will go down in history as this country’s worst president.

Negotiation is defined simply as a “mutual discussion and arrangement of the terms of a transaction or agreement.”  Well it’s not simple, at least as far as this Congress is concerned, a body that closed out 2012 with a 14% approval rating.  In picking that definition apart, there are three basic ingredients that have to be satisfied.  The first is there must be a discussion; second, there must be agreement on terms to fix the problem; and third, you must arrive at an agreement.  Here’s how I sum that up: 

There are discussions that tend to lead nowhere, basically blamed on a GOP Congress of “NO” to anything Barack Obama proposes.  No one can come to terms because Republicans would rather obstruct Democratic legislation than present their own, except in rare cases.  There can be no agreement because of one and two.

In simplification, it reminds me of the kid that didn’t like the way the football game was going, so he picked up his ball and went home.  Sure, the Dems have to shoulder some of the blame in this standoff, but they might be more amenable to the conservatives if they weren’t constantly being stonewalled.  But there is one thing that the right had better understand and that is the fact that Progressives are here to stay, and Republicans no longer have a free ride.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Did the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban work? Actually…yes

Alex Seitz-Wald has done an excellent job in Salon of organizing and evaluating statistics that relate to the success of the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban.  Having expired in 2004, the question was whether or not it had helped reduce gun violence while in effect.  The answer is that it did, especially when you consider the main obstacle the results were up against.  In 1996 Congress passed a law limiting the use of gun violence data collected that could be used to analyze this issue.  Naturally, this was backed and promoted by the National Rifle Assn. (NRA). 

Although Obama has issued a memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other agencies to conduct more gun violence research in the future, fortunately one group did not wait for this to happen and compiled their own data on the success of the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban.  In the Salonarticle, it accuses the National Rifle Assn. (NRA) of misleading the American public on assault weapons.  It’s full of loopholes, Seitz-Wald says, and there are studies confirming that the ban was effective. 

Congress required an assessment of the law in 1999 which was paid for by the National Institute of Justice, a research arm of the Department of Justice.  Conducting the investigation were two criminologists, Christopher Koper and Jeffrey Roth.  The report was updated in 2004, evaluating everything from homicides to gun prices.  To start, it was found that banned guns and magazines were used in up to 25% of gun crimes before the ban.  Assault pistols were used more than assault rifles also finding large-capacity magazines were the biggest problem.

Comments on 2013 assault weapons ban:

I did a blog back in January, “NRAafraid of gun violence statistics,” that examined this issue of the missing gun violence data.  I came to the conclusion that, although the NRA made sure we can’t use the numbers, we still know that the gun violence is caused by guns.  No matter who is doing it or where they got the weapon, it was a gun that caused the injury or death.  Without the “death data” the gun manufacturers continue to sell more firearms and pour more money into the coffers of Wayne LaPierre and the NRA.  It is truly a vicious circle.

Not in the defense of assault weapons but more facing the reality of just what kind of gun control legislation might pass a much prejudiced Congress, my blog, “Would banning highcapacity magazines and requiring universal background checks be a good start tostricter gun control?” asks whether limiting these magazines to no more than ten rounds would at least be a start.  The Salon article reported that assault weapons accounted for only a fraction of the total gun deaths overall.  It was the high-capacity magazines that really caused the mayhem.
The infamous AR-15

As an example, Seitz-Wald says, “the same .223 Bushmaster AR-15 assault rifle was used  in the Aurora, Colo., theater massacre, the shooting at the Clackamas Mall in Oregon, the Newtown elementary school shooting, and, just a few days ago, the killing of two firefighters in upstate New York.”  Jared Loughner in Tucson used a 33-round high-capacity magazine, Seung-Hui Cho used a 15-round magazine at Virginia Tech.  The big question here is whether curbing the size of the magazine would limit the effectiveness of the assault weapon?

Following are additional factors found in the recent independent gun violence research:

· An October 2012 study from Johns Hopkins concluded that “easy access to firearms with large-capacity magazines facilitates higher casualties in mass shootings.”

· Data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) also shows a significant drop (66%) in assault weapon usage in gun crimes following the 1994 ban.

· The 10-year ban was also complicated by the fact that millions of pre-ban assault weapons and large-capacity magazines meant that any progress in stopping the violence would be gradual. The real results of the ban may not be known for years.

Seitz-Wald concludes with a comparison between American gun violence and our lack of gun control and Australia’s enactment of an assault weapons ban following a 1996 massacre killing 36 people.  Gun-related homicide plummeted by 59 percent.  In my 2012 blog, “Australia: Another gun control successstory,” I wrote about this carnage where the shooter also used an AR-15 assault rifle.  Are the citizens of Australia and some European countries with tough gun control laws more intelligent than the U.S. or do they just love life more?

I urge you to read the Salonarticle.

Monday, February 18, 2013

GOP Congress backs immigration reform to garner votes…opposes gun control to hold on to votes

It’s all about “ME,” and by that I mean a dysfunctional Congress thinking only about what it takes to get reelected.  When it means turning on a huge new voting population like Hispanics, they are now rushing in to enlist this group in hopes of holding on to their jobs in 2014, and maybe adding a few seats in heavily Latino districts.  But when it comes to curbing gun violence through the passage of reasonable gun control legislation that will save innocent lives, the votes evaporate under the cloud of Wayne LaPierre and his National Rifle Assn. (NRA).

And it isn’t just Republicans.  There are turncoat Democrats representing conservative to moderate districts who walk the fence and vote with the right just to stay in office.  The primary example is Dems who refuse to back the President’s gun control legislation because of the gun bubbas they represent.  Much of this group is likely to be against immigration reform but if their district has a sizable Hispanic population, the typical politician will no doubt find a way to justify a vote in favor just to stay competitive.  I say throw ‘em all out.

As an example of a classic flip-flop, there was Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain who championed immigration reform prior to the 2008 election.  But in his run for President, in a time where the Tea Party still had a firm grip on the GOP, he turned against the issue to please his Arizona and national constituents.  As it turned out it worked, at least as far as turning off the Latino vote.  Obama received 67% nationally, 56% in McCain’s home state of Arizona compared to McCain’s 31% and 41% respectively.  Overall, Obama 52.9%, McCain 45.7%.

In a recent CNN/ORC International survey, 53% want the main focus of the immigration issue focused on allowing undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship.  This is a change from 2011 when 55% said the main focus should be on deportation.  With a wishy-washy American public, is Congress making its decisions based on the current direction taken on immigration reform?  If so, why don’t these blockheads listen to this same constituency when it says in a CBS News poll following the Sandy Hook massacre that 59% favorstricter gun control?

It’s clear why.  Because of the intimidation of LaPierre’s NRA and the fear he instills in Congress that he will get them fired if they don’t back his brand of gun control.  Once again, looking out for number one over passing common sense gun control legislation that could save thousands of lives.  And there’s a connection between the Hispanic vote and gun control. A November 2011 poll by Mayors Against Illegal Guns found that 69 percent of Latino voters support stricter laws on gun sales.  Hispanics for gun control in 2014 could be a formidable force.

After the Romney disaster with Hispanics, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said: "I think you are seeing a lot of movement from our party on these issues.  A lot of it, I tell you, was tone. You know, it wasn't necessarily the policy on immigration, it was what is coming out of your mouth."  I’m not sure just how to interpret this but it sounds suspiciously like an approach to Latinos of ‘we will tolerate you for your vote but don’t expect too much from the GOP in the way of change on immigration issues.’  That’s just my take.

John Feinblatt, chief adviser for policy and strategic planning to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, says our “antiquated immigration laws” are still meant for the black and white TV era.  Adding, even China provides generous stipends and other perks to lure the best scientists and engineers to its country.  Further, while “Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Singapore and Chile offer visas and other incentives to attract entrepreneurs to their countries, we make it nearly impossible for most entrepreneurs to come here.”  There’s more but you get the idea.

And gun control is just one more example illustrating the mental retardation of the United States on issues clearly beneficial to Americans living a better life.  But in Congress you will jeopardize your career in politics if you cross Wayne LaPierre and his NRA.  FormerArizona Sen. Dennis DeConcini, a Democrat, championed legislation against assault weapons in 1989 after the Stockton, CA shooting of school children.  It passed in the Senate, failed in the House.  DeConcini, in Arizona, was almost recalled.  What else would you expect from this state?

The 2014 elections will be interesting from several standpoints.  A lot depends on what happens to gun control and Immigration reform legislation in the next several months.  Even more will be decided on how the GOP Congress of “NO” will work with the President on the programs he laid out in his State of the Union message.  Obama’s win was a mandate but he is still hampered by a Republican led House and a bare majority in the Senate.  And so far the conservatives have shown few signs of cooperation.  How long will the American public put up with this?

Friday, February 15, 2013

The 2nd Amendment is ripe for new interpretation…again

Alan Singer is a social studies educator at Hofstra University in Long Island, New York and the editor of Social Science Docket (a joint publication of the New York and New Jersey Councils for Social Studies).  Apparently he has done his homework on the 2nd Amendment in research for an article in the Huff Post titled, “Does the U.S. Constitution Prevent Gun Control?”  The answer to this question is a resounding “Yes” if asked of the gun nuts and their head fanatic Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the National Rifle Assn. (NRA).

Wacky Wayne says the 2nd Amendment is sacred and an absolutist part of the Constitution that cannot be touched by gun control advocates.  Having been proven wrong on this several times already, this lunatic continues to rant and rave about gun owner rights in spite of the killings by firearms happening on a daily basis.  This sick ideology of rights over life itself is beginning to turn off a newly savvy American public.  LaPierre has used fear to make his point for years in the American Congress, NRA membership and the general population. 
President Obama has proposed new gun control regulations that range from universal background checks to banning assault rifles.  New York State passed their own law placing an immediate ban on semi-automatic rifles and pistols, shotguns, and other firearms with military-style features, requiring universal background checks prior to the sale of all guns and ammunition, making it easier for officials to confiscate firearms from the mentally ill, and increases penalties for gun-related crimes.  Singer ponders whether the law will survive.

In a conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court, they ruled that in the 2008 decision on District of Columbia v. Heller that the 2nd Amendment protects an individual's right to possess a firearm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home and within federal enclaves.  The key here is “in the home” which doesn’t rule out but definitely leaves the door open to curbing the carrying of concealed weapons.  Yes, this is a separate issue but it does illustrate a potential crack in the 2nd Amendment that proves non-absolutism. 

Wayne LaPierre has accused the President of “undermining 2nd Amendment constitutional principles.”  Alan Singer counters with just how the apparently divine Amendment—at least to the gun nuts—could be in trouble.  He cites the conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court which leans to a “textualist” interpretation of the Constitution.  Textualism is defined by Wikipedia as follows:

A formalist theory of statutory interpretation, holding that a statute's ordinary meaning should govern its interpretation, as opposed to inquiries into non-textual sources such as the intention of the legislature {or forefathers/my words} in passing the law, the problem it was intended to remedy, or substantive questions of the justice and rectitude of the law. 

Singer says, “In general I find most ‘textualist’ arguments forwarded by the Supreme Court's right-wing activists to be self-justifying contorted attempts to discover constitutional support for positions they already hold.”  An interesting observation when you consider Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, one of the most conservative, has said that stricter gun laws could be possible under the 2nd Amendment.  This probably sent head NRA gun nut, Wayne LaPierre, gyrating into outer space but aroused the passions of all gun control advocates.

And it is here where Singer analyzes the Constitution in relation to the right of the people in connection with individual rights.  He says, “An examination of the Constitution shows a very clear and precise distinction between the term ‘people’ and ‘person’ or "persons.’"  Further, that America functions as a whole, not individually by states nor individual persons.  True, individuals do elect our lawmakers both local, statewide and nationally, but these same individuals acting separately can legally be limited. 

In the view of a textualist, “the right of the ‘people’ is a general statement of principle not a specific or individual right.”  Singer draws support from the Fourth amendment in its collective right of the people to be secure in their homes, papers, effects, etc., the right to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures.  However, with probable cause, identifying the place to be searched, the persons (individual), things can be searched and seized with the proper warrant.  It just proves that there is no absolutist finality in this or the 2nd Amendment.

In conclusion, singer quotes the 2nd: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." 

It is clearly referring to the collective “people,” in other words the country has a right to defend itself, he claims.  He does add, “there is no specific prohibition on limiting the access of individual ‘persons’ to dangerous weapons.”  Even so, this interpretation of the 2nd Amendment “provides an opportunity for even the most conservative Supreme Court Justices to support significant new gun restrictions approved by elected officials in local, state, and federal governments.  We can only hope for the best.        


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Stopping illegal weapons trafficking could put big dent in gun violence

Gun trafficking is closely related to straw buyers.  The latter is defined as an illegal firearm purchase where the actual buyer of the gun, being unable to pass the required federal background check or desiring to not have his or her name associated with the transaction, uses a proxy buyer who can pass the required background check to purchase the firearm for him/her.  You can see a list of those prohibited to purchase a gun here.  It is illegal to sell to these people but in many cases it is even done through a small number of corrupt federal firearms dealers. 

According to the Brady Campaign, only 1 % of gun dealers account for almost 60 % of crime guns recovered by police.  But 94% of licensed dealers approached by undercover stings at gun shows in Ohio, Tennessee and Nevada sold to individuals who appeared to be criminals or straw purchasers.  34% of crime guns recovered in 1999 (last year data available, had been purchased from a new gun dealer within the last 3 years, indicating to the ATF that the guns had been trafficked.  40% of all U.S. gun sales are without background checks.

There is no federal law against buying a gun from a dealer today and selling it to someone else tomorrow.  The Federal Observer says, “Although the maximum federal penalty for participating in a straw purchase is a 10-year prison term, in practice sentencing guidelines call for only 2 to 2 1/2 years' imprisonment for someone caught providing as many as a dozen guns to a convicted felon. That's half the mandatory (5-year) minimum for possession of 5 grams of crack cocaine.”  Some gun control advocates favor limiting purchases to one handgun per month.

Continuing, “The so-called straw purchase of guns is ‘the most significant factor in gun trafficking, without any question,’ said Jack Killorin, director of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms' Atlanta field division.  As an example, in a straw purchase, the two shotguns and a rifle used in the 1999 Columbine High School carnage were bought by Dylan Klebold’s 18-year-old girlfriend.  Klebold was too young at age 17.  According to Bureau of Justice statistics, 40% of criminals obtain firearms from friends or family.

Sen. Kristen Killibrand introduces gun trafficking law:

From the Brady Campaign’s first report of Gun Industry Watch, Without A Trace, it exposes how the gun lobby, working with the Bush Administration and its allies in Congress, had protected corrupt gun dealers by systematically blocking the release of information identifying the gun dealers responsible for selling most of the crime guns recovered in America.  The Action Council’s Fact Sheet on gun victims provides more startling answers to why the government is so constrained in efforts to curb gun violence:

Until 2002, the ATF released aggregate crime gun trace reports to local police departments, researchers, policymakers and public safety advocates.  Then Congress voted to restrict police access to crime gun trace data and cut off public access altogether. These restrictions, known as the Tiahrt Amendments (named for the Kansas Congressman who sponsored the bill), have passed in every Department of Justice budget since 2003, despite the fact that prominent law enforcement associations oppose them as a serious threat to public safety.

The ATF, the sole government agency charged with enforcing federal gun laws, has operated without a permanent director since the Bush Administration, and operates with just 1,800 agents to monitor approximately 77,000 gun dealers. Given these constraints, it would take ATF 22 years to inspect all federally licensed gun dealers. Even if the ATF had the manpower to inspect most gun dealers, federal law limits the agency to a single unannounced inspection of a dealer in any 12-month period. Congress has made it increasingly difficult for the ATF to revoke licenses of crooked gun dealers.        

It is impossible for law enforcement to know the whereabouts of millions of firearms in circulation today because Federal law explicitly bars the ATF from establishing a database of retail firearms sales, and private gun sellers are not required to keep a paper trail of transactions. Prior to 2001, federal authorities maintained criminal background check records for up to six months. Under President Bush, Attorney General John Ashcroft reversed this policy and ordered the destruction of all criminal background check records within 24 hours. Even though the General Accounting Office found that destroying these records endangers public safety, the policy remains in effect. says, “In 9 of 10 gun crimes, the gun was not used by the original purchaser.  Felons and gun runners exploit the unregulated private market—the denial rate has plummeted to 1.53% despite the fact that the background check system is far better today than 15 years ago.  And 92% of background checks are completed within minutes.”  So what’s the problem?  With the combination of universal background checks and sending people like Klebold’s girlfriend to prison for 20 years could at least put a dent in gun violence.

And now to counter this gun insanity, 2 Democrats and 2 Republicans have taken the first bipartisan step toward new gun restrictions by introducing a bill in the House of Representatives to crack down on gun trafficking to criminals.  Carolyn Maloney, New York Democrat, along with Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the other Democrat, and Republicans Patrick Meehan of Pennsylvania and Scott Rigell of Virginia.  The bill would strengthen penalties on "straw purchasers," who buy guns for those who are barred by law from buying their own weapons.

Reuters quotes Cummings re. The Gun Trafficking Prevention Act of 2012, "We have a message for our colleagues in the House.  This bill simply makes sense. Law enforcement officials have asked for it. It will make a significant difference in combating gun crime. And it will not affect the rights of a single legitimate gun owner."  I can just hear the head gun nut of the National Rifle Assn. (NRA), Wayne LaPierre, right now.  He has a message for Cummings, and promptly trots out the NRA’s clichéd, stagnant and tiring stand on an out-of-date 2nd Amendment.  Pathetic.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Arizona gun nuts or…bring on the clowns

When you live in the state of Arizona and regularly experience the insanity of a Republican state legislature led by a correspondingly moonstruck governor, it is hard to reconcile that these apparently unbalanced individuals are running your state.  I grew up in the South and went through the States’ Rights movement and actually participated in a Dixiecrat rally in 1948.  I thought these people were crazy then, and I think the states’ rights fanatics in Arizona are equally insane.  And there are many who will agree with me.

Arizona State Legislature at work
The Blog For Arizona chides Arizona’s citizenry of gun nuts in attempting to pass legislation to close the loophole in allowing law enforcement to destroy guns not wanted by their owners by saying, “They seek to make the secular sacred by force of state law. In doing so they seek to use the power of "Big Brother" government to trample the rights of individuals to do with their private property as they see fit, which these groups comically pretend to defend.”  BFA asks if Arizona is on the verge of making “idolatrous gun worship the state religion?”

I thought it already was.

“These people are truly insane,” says the BFA, quoting Tucson City Councilman Steve Kozachik as follows:

"This bill clearly illustrates that some people don't view guns like toasters. When it comes to guns, it's as though they hold some magical or sacred designation in their lives," Kozachik said. "They go around proclaiming to be for private property, but civil liberties are out the window when it comes to guns. I guess the message is, we can't do what we want with our property in this state if that property is a firearm."

Then another state legislative lunatic, Rep. Steve Smith, a Republican naturally, wants to make it illegal for any public servant to enforce "any act, law, statute, rule or regulation'' of the federal government relating to personal firearms or accessories as long as they remain inside Arizona.  The problem with this, as even confirmed by a National Rifle Assn. (NRA) board member, is that it is putting federally licensed firearms dealers smack in the middle of a fight between the loonies in Arizona and the federal government.  If passed, will probably end up in a court battle.

But it took Bloomberg to change Arizona’s designation from Valley of the Sun to “Valley of the Gun.”  Arizona leads the nation in licensees to manufacture firearms.  Add that to the loosest gun laws in the U.S. and you have a potential powder keg.  They are calling it the “Insurrectionist Ideology,” which is what the current gun culture is all about.  Bloomberg quotes one of the top gun control advocates today:

“It plays into this insurrectionist ideology that is at the core of the gun-rights movement: If the government is going to shackle me, I’ll become my own gunmaker, my own gun dealer,” said Ladd Everitt, communications director for the Washington-based Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. “There has been a really strong resurgence in this type of mentality that started when Obama was elected president.”

 Bloomberg calls this country an “American Arsenal,” and rightfully so considering the approximately 300 million firearms owned by U.S. citizens which breaks down to an average of about 2.5 guns per household.  However, since the concentration of gun ownership is confined to one-third of all households, the family arsenal is even bigger.  Additional alarming figures are 10.8 million guns were sold in 2011, and in just January of 2013, there were 2,495,440 FBI NCIS background checks, the prelude to gun ownership.

And if you remember Tea Party-backed State Sen. Ron Gould, the head Arizona gun worshipper who ran for Congress and lost, well another crackpot gun nut has taken his place in the name of Sen. Kelli Ward, who mirrors Smith’s legislation, above, in the Senate.  In many other states in this country these people would be labeled certifiable and committed.  Ward’s legislation goes so far that Blog For Arizona says she would change the 2nd Amendment as follows:

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

Wayne LaPierre, the head gun worshipper at the NRA, would be proud of her.

Is this the end to the NRA? One can only hope

  The NRA's head gun nut, Wayne LaPierre, is never at a loss for words, but that look on LaPierre's face (left) stems from the fact ...