The NRA May Think It Owns The Gun Debate But The Other Side Is Waking Up.

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One of the things I’ve trained myself to do is a weekly check of the NRA-ILA website, because as don Corleone advised his son Michael, you always have to keep your enemies closer than your friends. And while I don’t consider myself and the NRA to be enemies necessarily, I do consider their continued attempts to push a very radical, pro-gun agenda to be shortsighted and ill-advised.  When I joined the NRA in 1955, it was an organization devoted to training, gun history and outdoor life.  It still devotes time, energy and resources to those activities, but the organization’s major thrust today is to promote the notion of armed citizens which I believe does nothing except increase risk.

open                The real reason I’m against the NRA’s push for concealed-carry is that, believe it or not, I think CCW laws for the most part actually threaten rather than strengthen the 2nd-Amendment right to own a gun.  I say that for the following reasons.  First, the 2008 Heller decision specifically and explicitly limited private ownership to guns kept in the home, and I don’t care if all these so-called 2nd Amendment ‘absolutists’ want to yap about their God-given right to walk around with a gun, the law says otherwise, period, end of debate.  Second, Heller also vested in government the right to regulate, and there has not been a single challenge to Heller that has denied the public authority from having the last word when it comes to how, why and when people can carry or use guns.

Finally and most important, a majority, in fact a large majority of Americans don’t own guns.  That’s not true in Western states like Montana, the Dakotas or Idaho, which together have a total population 4.4 million, which is less than the body count for Brooklyn and Queens.  The moment you move into populous states however, particularly on the two coasts where more than 100 million live, per capita gun ownership begins to drop down to one out of four or one out of five.  And despite the whining of Mother Loesch about all those millions of Moms who own guns, that’s about as near to reality as how effectively she teaches her kids by keeping them at home.

Most Americans are in favor of gun ownership, as long as guns are kept out of the wrong hands.  And the only way that will happen is to let the public authority create and enforce laws that restrict gun ownership to folks who play by the rules; and I’m not talking about the rules that govern everyday conduct, I’m talking about the rules that regulate the ownership of guns.  Which is why it’s absurd that the NRA would be campaigning against background checks while, at the same time saying that every law-abiding citizen should own and carry a gun.  It’s a contradictory message and, unless you’re a diehard gun owner, it makes no sense.

This is why I found it interesting that the NRA-ILA website carried a story this week criticizing a recent report which once again found that upwards of 40% of all gun transfers occur without a background check – a loophole that has been mentioned by just about everyone who wants to see an end to violence caused by guns.  The evidence for this claim is an old survey conducted in 1994 which, according to the NRA, cannot be used to measure “anything about the American people with only 251 respondents in a survey.”  This is the same NRA that has been telling us that armed citizens prevent “millions” of crimes from being committed every year.  Where does this evidence comes from?  Another 1994 survey whose respondents numbered 221!

The NRA will never have a problem convincing gun owners that what it says about guns is sacred and true.  But the recent shootings in Virginia and Oregon may have turned the tide and 200 million non-gun owners may be asking themselves what they can do.

Want To Produce A Video On Offensive Comments About Guns? Just Listen To Carson, Trump, Fiorina, Bush, Et. Al.

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Last year a photographer named Dana Spaeth-Williams put out a three-minute video consisting of a bunch of stills of kids holding placards which together delivered a standard and benign series of statements about the risk of guns.  Nothing that was said on the video hasn’t been said on thousands of other YouTube videos, none of the portraits of the children were inflammatory, provocative or anything like that.  The music was spare and haunting, the black-white contrast was artistic as could be; the video was as much a work of art as it was a political statement about gun violence today.  Evidently the video was also posted on Yahoo, AOL and MSNBC.

oregon                To date the YouTube video has been viewed 32,115 times, which isn’t a game-breaker for YouTube by any means. It has also attracted 263 comments and garnered 337 ‘likes’ and 158 ‘dislikes;’ again, numbers which indicate that neither the pro-gun nor the anti-gun crowd is responding to the video in droves.  Nevertheless, Ms. Spaeth-Williams has produced another video, again with a lovely musical background, which is simply a series of comments that were made about the original video since it went live.  To sum up, the comments are about as nasty, ugly and (it goes without saying) stupid as they can be.  As much as we like to think we are an educated, advanced and cultured society, there are certainly some among us who still believe they can contribute to a conversation by saying the worst, most profanity-laced rants, regardless of whether they have anything to do with the topic at hand.

The second video states that the comments were culled from “thousands” of comments received from pro-gun extremists, and while I didn’t look at comments on Yahoo, AOL or MSNBC, I did read all the postings on YouTube which, I assume, would have been similar to what appeared wherever the video could be seen.  Were there lots of loony, nasty and indecipherable comments?  Of course.  Did some of the bloggers compete with one another to see who could say the nastiest, coarsest things?  Of course.  Did many of the most ‘extreme’ comments appear to be the work of teen-agers who love to say on the internet what they can’t say out loud in their 7th grade class?  Of course.

But what I found most interesting were the numerous comments that were positive, favorable and not just a quick pat on the back, but often contained serious efforts to talk about the content and impact of the video’s message, along with its clear attempt to be considered as a piece of art. In fact, I don’t recall seeing as many thoughtful and respectful reactions to any other gun-control message that has been posted online, which only proves once again that if you elevate the level of your content, you tend to elevate the level of people who respond.

Did the crazy, loony and offensive pro-gun comments upset me?  Not a bit.  Comments like “You left wing libernuts should be the first ones in the encampments like the Jews”  don’t bother me because the guy who wrote it talks to the same two or three people every day and nobody really cares what he thinks or says. Meanwhile, a guy who says the same thing to CNN is favored by nearly one out of five likely national Republican voters to be the next President of the United States. Can I really blame some poor, pathetic shut-in sitting in front of his computer all day making anti-Semitic rants when Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon no less, dismisses criticisms from a leading Jewish civil rights organization as “foolishness?” But we all know that Jews = Liberals so what does Carson stand to lose?

Hey Dana, want to make another video containing extreme and offensive statements about guns? Just splice together the words of Carson, Trump, Fiorina, Bush and all the other Republicans who have decided that protecting the 2nd Amendment is the most important problem facing America today.


Want To End Gun Violence? Just Keep Showing The Numbers.

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I participated in my first anti-war demonstration in 1964.  Johnson had just announced the first, major troop commitment to Southeast Asia, I thought he was going to drag us into an unwinnable war, so about twenty of us walked around Times Square one day after school handing out leaflets, shouting some slogans and having a good time.  Everyone who walked past us was polite, a few actually took a leaflet, most said they had never heard of Viet Nam.  What happened over the following nine years was that public opinion shifted from not knowing, to not caring, to being concerned and finally, to being against the War.

Know when public opinion really began to shift?  When the television networks ended their nightly news broadcasts with a graphic that showed how many U.S. soldiers had been killed in Nam.  The networks did the same thing again in 1980 when each night’s news broadcast ended with a graphic showing how many days the hostages had been in captivity in Iran.  Remember who won the 1980 election?  It wasn’t the guy who couldn’t get the hostages out of jail.

war dead                The same thing now seems to be happening when it comes to mobilizing people against the violence caused by guns.  And while the major media outlets haven’t yet caught on, the ‘daily count’ has spread throughout the internet, and sooner or later it will be picked up by the networks as well.  Or it won’t matter whether the numbers make CNN or MSNBC because increasingly we depend on ‘alternate’ internet media for our information anyhow.

The granddaddy of in-your-face gun violence calculators is the Gun Violence Archive, which was first mounted in 2013. Mother Jones has presented data and graphics over the years, ditto the Center for American Progress.  Joe Nocera and Jennifer Mascia kept up a running count for The New York Times.  But the Gun Violence Archive was the first attempt to go beyond media anecdotes and try to assemble a comprehensive, real-time analysis of all violence committed with guns.  And this is an important point, because the data from government agencies like the CDC and the FBI is either several years behind, or skewed in ways that don’t give a true picture of the damage caused by guns, or both. What you get from the GVA is a comprehensive picture of the toll of gun violence; no ifs, ands or buts.

The GVA has been joined by a crowd sourced website, the Mass Shooting Tracker, which counts all shootings in which four people are hit by bullets, whether any of them are killed or not.  This is an important element in the gun violence debate, because the FBI only counts mass shootings if four or more people are killed at the same time.  Not only does the FBI definition seriously underestimate the carnage and costs of gun violence, but it also doesn’t count shootings in which one of the victims is the shooter himself.  But this is an absurd and arbitrary way to analyze gun violence, and the MST sets it straight. You can read a good story about GVA and MST by Jennifer Mascia in the current issue of Trace.

Leave it to the pro-gun gang, of course, to try and come up with reasons why the gun-violence calculators are nothing more than “pure propaganda,” as one red-meat story claimed.  It turns out that the MST mistakenly listed 2 shootings out of 498 in 2013 involving pellet guns.  If this is the best example of the MST “padding” its numbers, the pro-gun crowd better look somewhere else.

The biggest problem facing the GVP community is enlisting and mobilizing the ‘average’ person in the debate about guns.  These websites will help turn the tide because numbers really do tell a story that goes beyond words.  When I handed out anti-war leaflets in 1964 I didn’t imagine that CBS would ever run a daily tally on how many U.S. troops had died.  But they did.  And the war came to an end.




Ben Carson Knows For A Fact That Jews Could Have Stopped The Holocaust If They Had Been Armed.

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It’s been almost twelve hours since a shooting took place on the campus of Northern Arizona University, killing one student and wounding three others, and the pro-gun noisemakers have yet to point out that the campus is a ‘gun-free’ zone.  But if it turns out that guns aren’t allowed on the campus, I guarantee you that we’ll shortly be hearing from John  Lott, Dana Loesch and the other self-appointed Ministers of Personal Protection that once again we have failed as a society to exercise the proper response to violence, namely, to let everyone walk around with a gun.

carson                Actually, I should have known that even though it’s too early for him to have made a specific statement about the incident at NAU, we could count on America’s leading expert on self-defense against gun violence, Dr. Ben Carson, to say something so stupid that it really makes me wonder if he understands just how dumb he really is.  I’m referring to a comment he made yesterday on CNN in which he mentioned that the passengers on United 93 may have prevented even worse damage by rushing the terrorists who had hijacked the plane and, in the resultant melee, forcing it down in Pennsylvania rather than allowing it to crash into some other, heavily-populated site. Of course the Flight 93 passengers didn’t have guns, but neither did the hijackers, a minor point that Carson simply ignored.  But the reason he even mentioned the 2001 tragedy was to bolster his belief that anyone who is unarmed is vulnerable, and his proof of this belief is the ‘fact’ that six million Jews were slaughtered by the Nazis because they didn’t have guns.

This has been a quasi-official line of the NRA for a number of years, and received its formal enshrinement in a book written by the NRA counsel, Stephen Halbrook, Gun Control in the Third Reich. Halbrook argues that Jews might have been able to prevent the Holocaust had they not been disarmed by the Nazi regime in 1938.  But what he fails to mention is that the Nazis made no effort to disarm anyone else after they came to power and yet the fact that 99% of the German population were entitled to own guns did not result in any attempt by civilians to rise up against the Third Reich. The Anti-Defamation League reacted to Carson’s statement with their usual polite response, calling his comments “historically inaccurate and offensive.”  It was worse than that.  They were the product of a deranged, sick mind who is stooping to the lowest common denominator of human intelligence to try and gin up a few votes.

The argument over whether this campus or that campus is a gun-free zone is not just playing out because the pro-gun gang wants everyone to walk around armed.  It’s part and parcel of an ongoing strategy to promote guns on college campuses to get young people into ownership of guns.  As usual, the campaign is being led by Grandma Marian Hammer in the Gunshine State – the place where all laws that make it easier to own guns are first beta-tested before the campaign moves on to other states.  And you can be sure that Granny Hammer is walking around today telling all her friends in the Florida Legislature that what happened in Oregon and Arizona is proof that colleges shouldn’t be gun-free zones.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  My friends in the GVP movement need to stop being so darn polite. They need to stop worrying about protecting the 2nd Amendment and they need to stop worrying about upholding gun rights.  Most of all, they need to stop being concerned about offending anyone who actually believes that a jerk and low-life like Ben Carson should be part of the national gun debate.  I’m totally in favor of gun ownership without restrictions when it comes to hunting or sport.  Otherwise, America should be completely a gun-free zone. And Ben Carson should go lay brick.

Follow The Money Said Deep Throat. And You Can Follow The NRA’s Money With This New Website.

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There’s a new website in town called NRACONGRESS.COM and it’s one you should check out.  Based on data from the Center for Responsive Politics, along with some other resources, the site gives a dollar-and-cents breakdown for every penny the NRA has delivered to current members of Congress during their tenures in DC, along with their NRA rating and recent votes on key bills.

finance                What a surprise to learn that of the 241 Congressional members who have ever received any money at all from the NRA, 234 are Republicans.  But the 114th Congress counts 301 red members, which means that 60 Republicans in the House and Senate have never received any NRA money at all.  I find this somewhat puzzling because the Republicans hold a 4-seat majority in the Senate and a 30-seat margin in the House.  If all the Democrats supported a gun-control measure, they could get it to Obama’s desk if they only picked up half of the Republicans who don’t receive any dough from the NRA.  I thought that when it comes to gun issues, money buys votes.

On the other hand, maybe there are other reasons why the NRA wins more than it loses on Capitol Hill.  For example, the last several days have witnessed one heckuva political firestorm in the House chamber with the open rebellion of the Tea Party’s ‘liberty caucus’ which resulted not only in the resignation of Speaker John Boehner, but then the quick self-elimination of his supposed successor, Kevin McCarthy, who quit even before his candidacy was put to a vote.  You would think that the most conservative members of the House Republicans would benefit from NRA largesse, but only 25 of the 40 liberty caucus members have ever received NRA support, and their totals average about half of what other House and Senate members have received from the NRA. I can’t imagine that any of these ultra-right politicians vote against the NRA; yet 40% of them, according to the NRACONGRESS website, have never received a dime.

What the list of NRA recipients seems to show, more than anything else, is that what really counts in DC when it comes to picking up cash is seniority.  For example, the Number One NRA money hog is Rep. Don Young from Alaska, who has received $104,650, the only member with a tab in excess of 100 grand.  But Young has been sitting in the House since 1973, which means he has been re-elected 21 times.  And that works out to just under $5 grand each time the election rolls around.  Hell, they’re getting him cheap.  Ken Calvert, who represents the 42nd C.D. in California has been on the take to the tune of fifty big ones, but he’s rolled through 11 electoral contests which also works out to less than five grand each time. Hal Rogers from Kentucky has been re-elected 16 times, so the $59,200 that he’s bankrolled from the NRA looks like chump-change to me.

One thing that’s clear from the website is that, with a couple of exceptions, there’s no love lost between the Democratic Party and the NRA.  And while the total amount of cash that the NRA spreads around at the Federal level is peanuts when compared to what comes in from lobbies representing lawyers, bankers and insurance agents, the pro-gun money floating around Congress is ten times as much as what is spent by the other side.

But I’m not so sure that the imbalance between NRA versus GVP money means all that much when it comes to counting votes. A quick back-and-forth between NRACONGRESS.COM and the 2014 election results shows that of the 18 ‘swing’ House races won by Republicans, only 2 of those candidates received any money from the NRA. Which means the NRA was not a real player when it came to deciding the contests that moved the House from blue to red.  Is a national fundraising effort by the GVP community to re-establish a 2016 Democratic House majority within reach?

Know What Ben? It’s Time For You To Shut Up.

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Ben Carson isn’t the first physician to run for President and, in fact, isn’t the only doctor trying to get into the White House in 2016.  He may be the only board-certified doctor, because it’s not clear whether Rand Paul is certified or not.  Carson certainly is.  All the more reason that when he says something which violates the Hippocratic Oath we should ask whether he has the credentials even to claim that he’s a bone-fide physician, never mind credentials to be the next President of the United States.

Let me make one thing clear about the Hippocratic Oath.  It’s not mandatory either to subscribe to it or to follow it.  There are some medical schools that don’t, in fact, administer the oath to new graduates, there are also various versions of the oath floating around.  But the Hippocratic Oath is a reminder that medicine is a profession whose effective practice requires attention not just to science and learning, but to compassion and ethics as well.  After all, we vest the responsibility and often the authority for making life and death decisions within the medical profession.   So it’s heartening to know that this profession expects its members to think and behave according to certain basic and well-tested rules.

hippocratic                And rule number one is: Do No Harm.  Now these words aren’t, in fact, found in the text of the oath itself.  But ask any physician to tell you what it means to subscribe to the Hippocratic Oath and he or she will state either those exact words or words to that effect. Which brings us to the recent statements made by Ben Carson following the slaughter at Umpqua Community College that produced a sickening amount of harm.

The first statement was on Ben’s Facebook page, although he scrubbed it when the responses began pouring in.  Nevertheless, here’s the exact quote:  “I never saw a body with bullet holes that was more devastating than taking the right to arm ourselves away.”  In other words, if Carson was practicing in a locality that had very strict gun-control laws like, for example, Washington, D.C., he would claim that the inability of a D.C. resident to carry around a handgun was a greater medical risk than if that same individual was brought into the ER with a bullet lodged in his head. So much for Carson’s ability to stratify gun violence risk, adopt the proper medical response and thereby reduce harm.

Just to make sure that ol’ Ben keeps his bone fides alive with the pro-gun crowd, he then went on CBS and said that if he were facing a mass shooter, the first thing he would do is put up a fight.  He would also advise other people in the vicinity to do the same thing. Of course macho man Carson has absolutely no idea of the degree to which such behavior increases risk, and if you don’t believe me, just take a look at the active shooter guidelines issued by the Department of Homeland Security: Run, hide, if all else fails, fight.

Every time Carson opens his mouth about gun violence, he says something that increases risk.  If he wants to say something stupid, that’s fine.  But when he advises people to do something that increases risk, he’s not just being dumb, he’s violating the Hippocratic Oath.  The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence has posted a petition asking Carson to apologize to the survivors and victims’ families at Roseburg because of the comments he made on Facebook and ABC.  The petition says that Carson’s remarks are “offensive and beyond the pale.”

I think it’s now time for the medical community to tell their colleague Ben Carson that he should stop putting the initials ‘M.D’ after his name. Because no doctor who takes his work seriously would make statements like that. Ben doesn’t  just offend the Umpqua survivors, he offends the profession which he claims to represent.  Shut up Ben, just shut the f***up.


What Would We Do If Ben Carson Wasn’t Protecting Our 2nd Amendment Rights?

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Uh-oh, the gun industry just suffered a minor jolt that could become a knockout punch because a Federal judge has decided that the suit against Bushmaster brought by the parents of children murdered at Sandy Hook must be heard in a state, as opposed to a federal court.  What this means is that the manufacturer, Bushmaster, will have to prove that their gun was not too dangerous to sell to the public, notwithstanding the fact that Adam Lanza was able to kill 20 kids and 6 adults in slightly more than five minutes’ time.

We don’t yet know which weapons were used to kill nine people at Umpqua Community College on October 1, but we do know that one of the guns carried into the school by Christopher Harper-Mercer was an assault rifle. The fact that the Connecticut Bushmaster suit was revived the day before another school slaughter took place is a horrifying coincidence that, if nothing else, tells us two things: 1) these mass shootings are become so frequent as to be almost routine; 2) the shooter’s access to an AR-15 in both incidents simply can’t be overlooked or ignored.

carson                I’m hoping that if the Bushmaster case is argued in open court that Ben Carson will decide to weigh in on the side of the gun. His recent rise in the polls has coincided with a shameless effort to grab every single pro-gun vote, even if it means saying things that physicians should never say.  Here’s a sample that was posted on his Facebook page although now it’s been taken down: “I never saw a body with bullet holes that was more devastating than taking the right to arm ourselves away.”  Does this jerk have any idea how stupid, pandering and medically-unethical such a comment can be?  Does he have any idea how reprehensible it is for a physician to compare the effects of any injury to a legal state of affairs?

Ben – you’re a creep. Nobody’s taking anybody’s rights away. What is going to happen when the Bushmaster suit is re-opened in state court, is that the whole issue of gun violence is finally going to be discussed by people who will be under oath and won’t be able to pretend that a marketing slogan can be used to obscure or fudge the truth.  Because here’s the truth about the gun that Adam Lanza and probably Chris Mercer used when they opened fire in classrooms on both coasts. They didn’t use a ‘modern, sporting rifle,’ if by ‘sporting’ the gun industry tries to pretend that it’s no different than the old Remington 700 or Winchester 64 that I lug into the woods. It’s a military gun, pure and simple. it’s used by military and para-military forces worldwide, and just because some of the military guns can be set on full-auto doesn’t alter the fact that many armed forces units fire it in semi-auto mode as well.

But the argument about whether a semi-automatic weapon is just as lethal as a full-auto gun misses the whole point.  And to understand the degree to which gun jerks like Carson will go to drag the argument away from the reality-lethality, here’s what he said today on Fox: “Guns don’t kill people. We need to figure out who is the dangerous person so we can intervene.”  Okay Ben, how do you propose we ‘figure out’ the identity all those dangerous persons?  Should we administer a Rorschach test to every gun buyer after they fill out a 4473? Or maybe you would prefer we use the Minnesota Multiphasic exam.

I don’t think there’s much chance that Ben Carson’s going to be the tenant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue come January 20, 2017.  But I’d give anything for him to represent the gun industry when the case against Bushmaster comes into court.  I can’t wait to hear him tell the parents of the kids gunned down at Sandy Hook that those lethal wounds weren’t as important as our 2nd Amendment rights. I just can’t wait.

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