Let’s Stop Worrying About The 2nd Amendment And Start Worrying About Ending Gun Violence.

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I’m not sure whether it’s Donald Trump or Wayne LaPierre who is more convinced that Hillary is an enemy of the 2nd Amendment, but I get emails from both of them on a daily basis asking for money to keep her from moving into the Oval Office at High Noon on January 20, 2017. And what both of them keep telling me is that if Hillary becomes the 45th President, the first thing she’ll do is appoint a liberal to the Supreme Court, and the first thing the Supreme Court will do is reverse the 2008 Heller decision which will then be the first step in taking away all my guns.

2A           How do we know that Hillary wants to get rid of the 2nd Amendment?  Because the Breitbart website said so on June 5th, and if Breitbart says so, it must be true.  Actually, what she really said is that she favors laws that would extend background checks to private sales and reverse the 2005 statute (PLCAA) that gave the gun industry immunity from liability torts.

Hillary’s gun positions are right on her website, and there’s nothing in her proposals that is any different from what she and other liberals have been saying for years.  In fact, her call for stricter regulation of assault rifles has absolutely nothing to do with the Constitutional guarantee for private gun ownership, since the 2008 decision extended 2nd-Amendment protection to handguns, not rifles, and a later attempt by Heller to have the 2nd Amendment cover private ownership of rifles was turned down flat.

What I find interesting about Gun-nut Nation is they are the first ones to denounce the ‘liberal elite’ for using the judiciary to ‘make’ laws that run contrary to the people’s will.  And the reason they don’t want Hillary to appoint any judges is because she’ll appoint judges who don’t respect the Constitution and are always trying to promote liberal ideology with their decisions rather than going by exactly what the document says. These are the same people, incidentally, who tell you that the 2nd Amendment gives them the ‘right’ to own and carry a gun without any interference from the government at all.  Which means either a) they have never actually read the 2008 Heller decision; or b) they have read it and are too dumb to understand it; or c) they have read it, understand it, and are just lying to make a point. Breitbart fits somewhere between b) and c).

Let me tell you something about the 2nd Amendment and what I am going to say not only applies to Gun-nut Nation noisemakers like Breitbart, but applies to certain liberal, Constitutional scholars as well.  I bought my first, real gun in 1956 when I was twelve years old.  It was a beautiful, 6-inch, Smith & Wesson revolver that I found lying on a table in a tag sale on the edge of the Everglades on Hwy 441 near Boca Raton. Ten minutes after I bought it my Uncle Nathan snatched it out of my hands and sold it to a pawn shop the next day.  But that’s beside the point.

From 1956 until 2008 I probably bought and sold 500 guns (which is only 10 a year) and not a single one of those transactions was protected in any way by any kind of Constitutional guarantee. Nor was a single one of those transactions in any way jeopardized by the lack of a Constitutional guarantee.  Because until 2008, the 2nd Amendment only protected ownership of guns that would be used in what we call the ‘common defense.’ This was the ruling in the 1939 Miller case, and this ruling did not stop me from buying or selling a single gun.

I don’t think that ending gun violence has anything to do, pro or con, with so-called 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’ So let’s stop worrying about whether anyone gets offended because we don’t evince a proper reverence towards the sacred, 2nd-Amendment text. Let’s end gun violence, okay?

 

 

Hillary Takes On Race And Guns And Gets It On!

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To her immense credit Hillary has raised the issue of race in a direct and immediate way. The Republicans, after all, have been playing the race card ever since Saint Reagan joked about the ‘welfare queen’ during the 1980 campaign, and it’s time that someone finally came out and called it what it is.  And let’s not screw around and pretend that Trump with his wretched disdain for minorities is somehow outside the mainstream of Republican beliefs.  The red team has never (as in never) tried to make itself attractive to the minority vote.  In fact, if it were up to the GOP, minorities wouldn’t be able to vote at all.  Or am I wrong and did that recent North Carolina voting rights decision throw out a law pushed through the state legislature by Democrats from the Tar Heel state?

hillary3           When it comes to defining political issues in racial terms, of course, Trump has also dipped quite easily into the playbook authored by the NRA.  Because if you think for one second that Gun-nut Nation’s push for concealed-carry laws is something other than a direct appeal to racial animosities and prejudices, think again.  Why should everyone be walking around with a gun?  To protect us from crime. And who are all those people committing all those crimes?  The same people who, according to Mister Trump, are going to show up on election day, vote as many times as they can, and guarantee that the result will be ‘rigged.’

Trump’s biggest problem, and it’s been a problem for the entire Republican Party, is that they are slowly but steadily losing the party’s base.  Because it was the same Republican Party, by the way, that blocked immigration from Europe after 1924.  And it never occurred to those dopes and racists back then that what they were really setting in motion was a situation that would eventually lead to a basic change in the ethnicity of new Americans, due largely to the immigration reform law signed by Saint Reagan in 1986.  Because this law allowed American farmers to employ non-citizens as ‘temporary’ farm workers, most of whom after the harvest season decided to stick around.  Remember all those ‘rapists’ and ‘criminals’ from Mexico that Trump discovered when he first announced his candidacy?

So what we ended up with is a Presidential candidate who until he realized last week that his racist jeremiad wasn’t working, told every Ku Klux Klan rally– oops! – I mean campaign rally, that he was going to throw ‘them all the hell out.’ And, by the way, if any of those criminals and rapists are left over after the mass deportations, we can always depend on all those law-abiding, 2nd-Amendment-loving NRA members to protect us with their guns.

There’s a reason why the NRA decided to break with its own tradition of endorsing the Republican candidate in October and, instead decided back in April to go with Trump.  Because the NRA has been playing the same fear-mongering racial card to its own members since it began promoting gun ownership as a response to crime. And this new advertising strategy served two purposes: it helped the gun industry make a product transition from sporting and hunting to self-defense, and it gave Republican politicians a leg up in races for various Congressional seats.

When Dana Loesch makes a video for the NRA saying she needs a gun to protect her and her family against ‘street thugs,’ does anyone have any trouble figuring out the skin color of those so-called thugs?  Loesch and her NRA sponsors pander to many Americans who mistakingly believe that crime is on the rise.  And they also believe that a gun will make them safe, even if they don’t own a gun.

Calling Trump a racist takes guts but is also an easy one to see.  The real challenge for Hillary is to give Americans who are afraid of crime or terrorism ways to assuage their fears without going out and buying a gun.

Are We In The Middle Of A Gun Violence Epidemic, Or Is It Something Worse?

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I happened to glance at the remarkable Gun Violence Archive website today and two things caught my tired, old eyes.  First, the site has added maps, which allows someone at a glance to see the location of mass shootings, the places where law enforcement officers have been shot or killed, and the locations where people were shot or killed by police.  I’ll comment below on what these maps mean to me, but first I want to spend a few paragraphs discussing the other thing that caught my eye, namely, the number of people who have been killed this year by guns.

GVA            The figure for fatal shootings is unbelievable: 9,175.  If gun shootings continue at this level for the rest of the year, we end up at more than 14,000 who lost their lives due to guns, which will also be an unbelievable figure.  And it’s unbelievable for two reasons: first, because the number would mark an extraordinary increase from previous years; second, because the numbers captured and then published by the Gun Violence Archive go far beyond the numbers presented by anyone else, including the government agencies who are paid by us – the taxpayers – allegedly to track and publish these numbers on official terms.

According to the CDC, the total for all gun deaths other than suicide was 11,995, a number which includes homicides, accidental shootings and what is politely referred to as ‘legal interventions, which means that someone was shot (and killed) by a cop.  The FBI doesn’t track deaths, it tracks crimes, and they say there were 11,971 homicides in 2014, of which 8,124 were committed by someone who used a gun.  If we compare these 2014 numbers to the number in the GVA, both the CDC and FBI come up short.

I trust the GVA not because their numbers are higher than the other figures, but because their research is rigorous and comprehensive. But let’s not forget that since GVA pulls its information from media and other open sources, by definition even its number undercounts what’s really going on.  Notwithstanding these caveats, what the GVA shows is that gun deaths went up 7% from 2014 to 2015, and if the current carnage rate continues until year’s end, the 2016 figure will jump at least another 4% again. Is there a chance that we are now looking at an annual 5% increase in gun deaths every year?  That’s not only a good possibility; the numbers actually indicate that the increase in annual gun-deaths might be higher than that.

Now let’s take a look at the new GVA maps.  There are three maps that show the location of this year’s mass shootings, the location of cops shot or killed and persons shot or killed by cops. I am hopeful the GVA will eventually give us is a map showing the location of all person-to-person shootings because what I suspect we will see is that gun violence is generic to all 50 states.  And this should not surprise given the number of times each year that someone kills or injuries someone else with a gun.

If the annual rate of gun deaths continues to mount at 5% a year, by 2024 we will be over 20,000 gun deaths, and if we add that number to what has also been an upward trend in gun suicides, we could be looking at gun violence claiming more than 50,000 lives each and every year. Gun violence is often called an ‘epidemic,’ but I prefer the approach taken by one of our most brilliant gun researchers, Katherine Christoffel, who considers gun violence to be endemic to our society because it exacts a constant and more ongoing toll.

Feel free to download Dr. Christoffel’s article and consider what she has to say. The bottom line is that unless we take very dramatic and very forceful steps to curb gun violence, we may find ourselves with no choice but to accept this extraordinary loss of life as an ordinary state of affairs. And that is something we simply cannot permit.

Get Ready For September 25! A Really Big Event.

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Want to see a really hip and cool website?  Take a look at the Concert for America website which is promoting a remarkable event on September 25th. This event is becoming so big, and the website is so beautiful and chock-full of energy, ideas, things to buy and things to do that I don’t know where to start.  So let’s start with why this event, or I should say, this phantasmagoria of events is being held at all.

CAA           Actually what this really is all about is a #ConcertAcrossAmerica to #EndGunviolence.  You see, even an old guy like me is starting to write with hashtags rather than just plain, old (boring) words.  Behind these tags is a remarkable, collaborative effort combining the energies and commitments of more than 100 organizations who have already organized more than 75 concerts in 40 states, with more on the way.  And not only can you get to a live event by driving a couple of hours in one direction or another, if you even have to go that far, but through the miracle of social media you’ll be able to attend multiple events. In that regard, I should also put a link (it’s right here) to the concert’s Facebook page, which also contains news about all the different events.

I was going to stick around my home state, Massachusetts, and go to concerts here and there, but I’m tempted to go down to da city because the concert at the Beacon Theater, which happens to be a few blocks away from where I used to live, is going to be an unbelievable event.  I mean, when was the last time that the one, the only, the magnificent Jackson Browne shared a stage with Marc Walkin’ in Memphis Cohn and, and, Roseanne Cash??? I mean, this really can’t be done.

I’m going to make a prediction.  My sister Barbara and my mother actually went to Woodstock for the real deal in 1969.  They went up there because my father, who managed a big dairy in New Jersey, used to buy raw milk from Max Yasgur, on whose farm the concert was held. So a couple of days before the great event Max called my father to tell him not to send up a truck to get that week’s milk supply because, as Max put it, “they’re running all over the place.” And he wasn’t talking about his cows. He was talking about the 400,000 who showed up and camped out all over his land.

Anyway, back to my prediction.  If I had a nickel for everyone who, over the years, claimed to have been at Woodstock, I wouldn’t have to keep working for a living.  Truly, the concert was a national, cultural event.  And my prediction is that we may be looking at the same kind of situation on September 25th because everyone will either have been at one of the performances or will want everyone else to believe that they went to one of the events.

Take a quick look at the logos of the supporting organizations.  It’s a who’s who of faith-based groups. anti-violence groups, environmental groups, student groups, education groups – an enormous outpouring of interest, energy and concern.  And don’t forget to buy a t-shirt and contribute to the campaign. I just bought a shirt and added some more dough.  You should do it too.

In addition to the music already planned, many more are taking shape, and at least 150 faith-based organizations are also planning to hold musical and devotional events. This gets us to around 300 venues where people will gather on September 25th to use music as a medium to express their determination to stop the killings, the injuries and the violence caused by guns.

Know who’s really going to take back America?  The Gun Violence Prevention movement is going to take back America and the campaign gets into high gear on September 25th.  Remember, if you don’t go to one of these concerts, you’ll have to tell everyone that you did.

The NRA Doesn’t Believe That Gun Suicide Is Gun Violence Since They Don’t Believe That Guns Cause Violence At All.

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If you are active in the field of Gun Violence Prevention, you can tell you are making a difference if you get attacked by the NRA, or better yet by Breitbart, which is one and the same thing.  Breitbart has been pimping for the NRA since it first started up in 2007 because if you want to become known as the loony voice on the Right, what better way to do it than to say something crazy about guns?  And at least for the next couple of months the craziness will be spread even further by a guy named Trump.

suicideSo it was no surprise to me that yesterday’s NRA-ILA political blog would carry a lead story attacking (and distorting) the views of one of our most dedicated and distinguished public health scholars, who happens to be Shannon Frattaroli, a faculty member at the Bloomberg School of Public Health.  Professor Frattaroli has been an outspoken advocate in many areas of gun violence, in particular helping to frame the discussion around taking and keeping guns away from individuals involved in domestic disputes.  She is also an authority on the issue of restricting gun use by persons who are strong self-harm candidates, and helped the California Legislature draft its 2014 law that allows family members and intimate partners to directly petition a judge to determine if an individual might be a threat to themselves or someone else.

The gun industry has always been reluctant to acknowledge the fact that two-thirds of gun deaths each year are caused by people who use a gun to end their own lives.  For some of the more extreme Gun-nut Nation elements, this isn’t a worrisome aspect of gun violence, it’s all about ‘personal choice.’  But there are more enlightened approaches being taken about gun suicide by the gun-owning community, witness the recent announcement by the National Shooting Sports Foundation to partner with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to develop resources for gun dealers, shooting ranges and gun owners about suicide and guns.

About the last thing that the NRA is going to endorse is any effort by anyone to develop ‘educational’ resources about anything; their definition of ‘education’ is to have an invented YouTube character with a phony name like Colion Noir prance around with his AR, or home-school queen Dana Loesch come down from her perch and lecture all those soccer moms on how they could defend the ‘real America’ if only they would all go out and buy guns.

But when the NRA really wants to concoct an argument completely out of whole cloth, they can always count on Breitbart to help them out.  And the story they relied on for this week’s attack on Shannon Frattaroli comes right out of the Breitbart land of make-believe.  Pulling some of Frattaroli’s comments out of context from an article in New America Media, the Breitbart writer, a Gun-nut Nation noisemaker named AWR Hawkins, accuses her of trying to disarm the senior, gun-owning population because older gun owners tend to be the most adamant supporters of 2nd-Amendment rights.

Actually, what Frattaroli is really saying reflects nothing more than common sense, namely, that guns are problematic when they are on the hands of an aging population, because the older we get, the more we become susceptible to physical and mental conditions that make us more vulnerable to the risks posed by guns. The CDC reports that in 2014, for example, while the overall gun-suicide rate per 100,000 was 6.54, the rate for ages 70 and above was 12.4, more than twice as high.

The NRA has never felt comfortable with saying anything about guns which leads to a discussion about risk.  This is because the only gun-risk they believe exists is when you don’t own a gun. Which is why they find it convenient and necessary to attack what Shannon Frattaroli says.  All the more reason why it’s very important to read what she has to say.

 

 

Can Gun-nut Nation Push Trump Over The Top?

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So now Shlump-o has gone from the bizarre to the absurd, and brought in the real lunatics from the asylum to run his campaign.  I’m referring to the appointment of the head of Breitbart, a former Goldman-Sachs banker, who will now make sure that the Shlump doesn’t fall prey to anyone who even quietly suggests that maybe Americans are just getting sick of all the insults, cursing and rhetorical flailing-about that is claimed to be a political campaign.

trump2            When I go to the internet to look at news blogs I spend most of my time reading stuff on the Right, first of all because I know what the liberals are saying because I happen to be a liberal; but also because in keeping with the maxim of don Corleone, it’s important to keep my enemies closer than my friends. So I read Breitbart and Drudge and listen to Rush who is really becoming boring as hell.  At least Drudge is basically an aggregator promoting for the most part right-wing mush, but Breitbart pretends to be a real newspaper, with op-eds and reporters and headlines and even an occasional exclusive.

The problem with Breibart, however, is that you really can’t tell if anything you read is even remotely based on facts, which is why I guess the management gets it on so easily with Shlump, who seems to have something of a problem distinguishing between facts and fiction as well. And if there’s one issue above all where the line between true and false doesn’t exist, it’s the issue of guns. Here’s a few doozies randomly picked off the Breitbart site

  1. On June 9th there was a story about whether a Clinton-appointed 9th SCOTUS Justice would reverse the Heller and McDonald decisions which give Americans Constitutional protection for keeping a gun in the home for self-defense. The article says that the 2nd Amendment guarantees that citizens should be able to carry a weapon outside the home (which it doesn’t) in order to defend against a ‘tyrannical’ government.
  2. On August 15 they ran a column which blamed universal background checks for the mass shootings in California, Colorado, Paris and Munich – “all sites of some of the highest profile and deadliest shootings of the last 18 months.” I thought that the Aurora movie shooting occurred in 2012, and what does Paris or Munich have to do with FBI-NICS?

Breitbart has been pimping for the NRA since it first appeared back in 2007 and declared itself to be the ‘Huffington Post of the Right.’ And if there is one voting bloc on the Right that Shlump has assiduously courted, it’s the gun-owning voter who, it is assumed, might make the difference in swing states like Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, not to mention keeping him above water in Southern states like Georgia where his ship is beginning to tilt.

I don’t want to imagine that someone running to be the CEO of the world’s largest corporation could be a captive of such delusions, but I’m beginning to think that from the very beginning, Shlump believed that he could ride a pro-gun wave into the White House if he could just find a way to motivate gun owners to vote.  His panderings about concealed-carry (“…if someone in the Orlando nightclub had been armed…”,) his positive allusions to gun violence (“… I could shoot someone down in the street…,”) and his latest not-so-veiled invitation for 2nd Amendment supporters to ‘deal’ with Hillary, there has never been a Presidential candidate who has so openly and continuously promoted guns as a positive and necessary political stance.

So now it’s time to roll out what I hope is a bit of delusional thinking of my own, except I’m not so sure that I’m wrong.  In the last three Presidential elections, the winner polled more than 60 million votes.  That’s about half the number of adults who live in households which contain guns.  There are 82 days until November 8th. Get it?

Apple Gets Rid Of Its Gun Emoji But Did They Do The Right Thing?

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Every once in a while I like to share something which takes the issue of Gun Violence Prevention far beyond the boundaries in which the issue is usually discussed.  And in that respect, what Jonathan Zittrain wrote today in The New York Times should be read and given thoughtful consideration by everyone in GVP.

emoji3            Zittrain is the co-founder  of the Berkman-Klein Center, a Harvard-based research group which focuses on cyberspace, in particular the legal issues that abound regarding internet use and abuse.  His editorial is a response to the decision by Apple to make a change in one of its iconic emojis, the revolver, so that it now looks like a water gun rather than the cap gun image that used to adorn lots of messages that I received from Gun-nut Nation over the years.

Although Apple isn’t saying anything outright, the decision to ‘de-lethalize’ this graphic and turn a gun into a plaything is no doubt a response to a campaign waged by New Yorkers Against Gun Violence to get this emoji removed from the approved emoji Unicode list so that it could no longer be attached to any message flying through cyberspace.  The campaign asked supporters to tweet Apple’s CEO and send him a letter which reads, in part, “We ask that you stand with the American people and remove the gun emoji from all your products as a symbolic gesture to limit gun accessibility.” Evidently, the campaign worked.

Zittrain has no issue with the idea of Gun Violence Prevention per se.  In fact, I suspect that given his background and training, he’s probably as interested in promoting gun ownership as the man in the moon. The problem, as he sees it, is that Apple’s decision to remove the gun emoji by basically turning the image into something else, raises the wider issue of who owns the internet and who should be making the rules on how we all use this technology to share and spread ideas.

This isn’t the first time that policing internet content about guns has been raised.  Last year the Brady Campaign asked everyone to sign a petition that called for Facebook to police user content that promoted the sale of guns, in particular advertisements for private sales that were posted either by individuals or Facebook gun groups, a campaign that resulted in Facebook announcing a gun-sale ban although like any content restriction it’s a toughie to enforce.

But telling a company what they can sell or not sell on a proprietary website is one thing (commercial advertisements are not considered free speech) telling a company or an individual what they can say about a product is something else. And here, for Zitrain, is where the rubber meets the road.  Because what he is arguing is that emojis have become not just a way to decorate a cyber-message, but now constitute a cyber vocabulary in and of themselves.  As he says, “To eliminate an elemental concept from a language’s vocabulary is to reflect a sweeping view of how availability of language can control behavior, as well as a strange desire for companies — and inevitably, governments — to police our behavior through that language.”

And this brings us back to the central problem, namely, who can and should control what we say to one another, even if what is said constitutes something offensive, or something that a lot of people don’t like, or even promotes a type of behavior that we want to eliminate or change?  Note the demand by NYAGV to get rid of the gun emoji as a ‘symbolic gesture,’ which is exactly what raised Zittrain’s concern; i.e., where do we set the border for acceptable versus unacceptable when we are talking about symbols which represent figures of speech?

The GVP community is dedicated to changing a culture which celebrates guns and gun violence as proper social norms. But Zittrain’s fears about how to strike a proper balance between what we want and what we do to get what we want deserves an audience too. His commentary should be read and shared.

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