The Trump Campaign Really Wants The Minority Vote As Long As The Minorities Are Evangelicals And Folks Who Own Guns.

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As much as we don’t want to admit it, more than 60 years after the Supreme Court said that separate wasn’t equal, a Presidential election appears to be turning on the issues of religion and race.  More than any previous Republican candidate, Trump-o injects religion and racism into just about everything he says, from leading the birther movement, to calling for the deportation of all ‘illegals,’ (read: non-whites) to ‘joking’ about ejecting non-Evangelicals, this guy’s campaign rallies sound and look like an advertisement for the Klan.

trump2            While his supporters as well as media kibitzers continue to imbibe the Kool-Aid that Shlump’s success is based on something known as ‘anger about the present course of government,’ the truth is that the anger is all about religion and race, specifically, the feeling held by many Evangelical whites that their days of being in a majority of the population are coming to an end; i.e., today’s New York Times article profiling an Evangelical couple in Iowa who got some media attention three years ago when they refused to rent out a chapel on their property for a marriage ceremony involving two gay men.  They ended up being used as stage props by Ted Cruz before the Iowa primary and now feel betrayed and abandoned as the age of ‘Christian values’ appears to be coming to an end.

And why this loss of enthusiasm for a presidential candidate who is going out of his way to pander to the Evangelical vote?  “It all flipped so fast,” says Dick Odgaard. “Suddenly we were in the minority.”  The article goes on to say: “One day they felt comfortably situated in the American majority, as Christians with shared beliefs in God, family and the Bible. Overnight, it seemed, they discovered that even in small-town Iowa they were outnumbered, isolated and unpopular.”

As the grandchild of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, I find it a little difficult to sympathize with the Odgaards and their Evangelical compatriots because I knew from the gitgo that I wasn’t in the majority; I also knew from the gitgo that it made no difference at all. Which is why my grandparents came to the United States from a pogrom-torn zone in Russia rather than going somewhere else.  So I really have no idea how it feels to lose one’s ‘majority’ status, but perhaps my experience as a member of Gun-nut Nation might provide a lesson for how people who feel racially and culturally dispossessed should respond.

Want to know what it’s like to be a member of a minority group?  Buy a gun.  After all, according to the latest survey, only one out of five American adults owns a gun.  This happens to be about the same percentage who describe themselves as Evangelical Christians, according to a recent Pew poll. And even though gun ownership is protected by the 2nd Amendment, there’s also something in the Constitution known as the 1st Amendment which guarantees all those ‘minority’ Evangelicals the right to practice their religious beliefs as they see fit.

Meanwhile, talk to most members of Gun-nut Nation and they’ll tell you, 2nd Amendment notwithstanding, they are not only members of a minority, but a ‘persecuted’ minority at that.  And what’s the proof of this persecution?  Well, for beginners, we know that Hillary is hell-bent on taking away all the guns.  Now in fact she’s never said that, but decoding what she really means no matter what she says is a special technique used by members of persecuted minorities to identify and protect themselves from enemies both without and within.

When Fox News decided to produce a new show called Trump for President it was no accident that they asked the NRA to develop (and pay for) an advertising campaign.  After all, America’s ‘oldest civil rights organization’ has developed messaging for the persecuted minority of gun owners that is second to none.  Persecuted or not, Hillary better hope that Shlump-o’s Evangelicals and gun owners are still in a minority on November 8th.

 

A New NRA Program On Domestic Abuse Actually Increases The Chances Of Being Abused.

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In their endless and uncompromising quest to make sure that all Americans understand the risks of gun ownership (read: there are no risks,) the NRA has just announced a partnership with the gun blog Bearing Arms, to help celebrate Domestic Violence Awareness Month which takes place every October and even rates a Presidential Proclamation issued by the guy who has finally been granted American citizenship by Donald Trump.

domestic            THE NRA has been tirelessly promoting gun sales to women ever since they discovered that most of the guns that were scooped up since the Kenyan entered the White House were bought by the same old, white men.  And the problem with the white-man market is that as a percentage of people living in the United States, it’s not getting any larger, which means that at a certain point gun sales will begin to lag. In fact, the most recent survey on how many Americans actually own guns revealed that less than one-quarter of U.S. adults are gun owners, which means that Gun-nut Nation’s ‘chicken in every pot’ dream of a gun in every home just isn’t coming true.

Of course the new collaboration between the NRA and Bearing Arms isn’t what people think about when the issue of domestic violence is raised.  For most of us, advocating against domestic violence means making treatment options for abused persons more available, streamlining the process for seeking legal protection against abuse, and toughening sanctions against abusers who are charged and convicted of engaging in a domestic assault.

Last year and the year before that and the year before that, women constituted 20% of all homicide victims of whom roughly half were murdered with guns. Most killings where a gun was used grow out of domestic disputes, and many result in the injuring or killing of other family members as well.  Some states make it relatively easy to disarm people involved in domestics, other states make it more difficult, and still other states have disarming laws and procedures that are so complex and so vague that usually nothing is done at all.

But if there is one consistent area when it comes to domestic abuse and guns, it has been the NRA’s opposition to disarming people involved in such affairs.  On occasion, the NRA has quietly supported legislation that disarms persons accused or convicted of domestic abuse, but generally speaking, until a guy is actually convicted of beating up his wife or girlfriend, and even in some instances after being convicted, he can still hold onto his guns or petition the Court to get them returned.  In some states, the same Judge who issues an Order of Protection has no legal basis for issuing an order that would remove guns from the possession of the person who was told to stay away from his wife.  Which means that if the guy decides to violate the Order, he can show up on her doorstep with a gun.

The NRA and Bearing Arms calls this an effort to strengthen one’s ‘personal protection plan,’ and it involves getting shooting ranges to offer training discounts to individuals who are holding an ‘active’ order of protection, which means, of course, that abuse victims also have to own a gun.  The new NRA-Bearing Arms program is a cynical attempt to pretend that the best response to domestic violence is for an abused spouse or girlfriend to respond with violence as well.

 I am not arguing that anyone facing the threat of physical abuse should necessarily rule out any effective response, even if that response increases risk.  But if a victim of domestic abuse decides to arm themselves, they should be aware that there is no credible study which shows that access to a gun is either effective or safe; to the contrary, the odds they will hurt themselves or some other unintended person is a more probable outcome if they have access to a gun. And that’s not something that Gun-nut Nation will ever understand.

 

To reach an advocate at the National Domestic Violence Hotline call: 1-800-799-SAFE

Website for information and to access chat services: www.thehotline.org and www.loveisrespect.org (the latter is for youth)

Youth can text Loveisrespect services by texting “love is” to 22522

 

Donald Trump May Say He Will ‘Weaken’ Gun Laws, But He Says Lots Of Things That Aren’t True.

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The good news is that she didn’t cough during the debate – not once.  The better news is that he behaved like an asshole – so what else is new?  But I keep thinking that the reason the polls have narrowed is because voters who want to exercise what David Sedaris calls the ‘shit with glass bits’ option don’t really care how he behaves.  Trump’s supporters are much more forgiving of their candidate’s sins and omissions than HRC’s supporters are forgiving of hers.  And the media have followed suit.

nics           Yesterday Evan Osnos published a piece on Trump’s first 100 days, in which he imagined what Trump would do based on what he has said he would do during the campaign.  And what appears to be taking shape is the issuance of a pile of Executive Orders that would effectively erase Obama’s legacy, in particular orders to cancel Obama-care, renounce the greenhouse emissions agreement, block the arrival of more Syrian refugees, re-start the Keystone pipeline and loosen gun regulations by relaxing background checks.

I just took a look at Trump’s website and while it contains the usual nonsense about defending 2nd-Amendment ‘rights,’ the only mention of the NICS background-check system is that all relevant mental health and criminal records are loaded into the system and used to disqualify certain groups of people who shouldn’t be able to own guns.  But Evan Osnos wouldn’t have mentioned the possibility of ‘relaxing’ background checks if he hadn’t heard it from someone on the Trump team.  And the NRA hasn’t ponied up millions of dollars to run Trump ads if they didn’t expect to get something in return. So what might be the net effect on the background-check system if, God forbid, the shit with glass bits option is chosen by 50% plus 1 voter who cast Presidential ballots on November 8th?

In fact, where the whole issue of gun regulations – pro and con – will probably be met is in the identity of the person who would be nominated by Trump to replace Scalia on the Supreme Court.  And Trump has promised to appoint someone who will be a strong supporter of 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’ But while the Court with a 5-4 majority opinion written by Scalia pronounced gun ownership to be a Constitutional ‘right’ in 2008, this same Court with Scalia sitting on the bench has been unwilling to weaken long-endowed gun regulations, in particular the FBI-NICS system of background checks.

In 2009 an ex-cop in Virginia named Bruce Abramski walked into a local gun shop and bought a Glock.  He claimed he was buying the gun for himself but in fact he was buying the gun for his uncle whom he then met at a Pennsylvania gun shop so that his uncle could take possession of the gun after going through a NICS-background check. Even though Abramski’s uncle passed the NICS check, Abramski lied when he bought the gun in Virginia claiming that he was buying it for himself.  Five years later after various appeals, Abramski’s conviction was upheld by the Supreme Court.

There are other challenges to current gun regulations floating around federal courts, in particular a decision that came out of Texas (Mance v. Lynch) and would, if upheld, allow dealers in one state to sell guns to residents of other states.  But while such a legal revision would make it easier for gun nuts like me to buy guns here, there and everywhere, I would still have to pass the FBI-NICS background check in order to get my hands on the gun.

Trump’s penchant for saying whatever pops into his head without regard for the slightest concern about the truth is not only a staple of the stump speech he delivers at his Klan rallies, but is also what his campaign will feed to anyone and everyone who might represent a potential vote.  Gun-sense Nation may be frustrated in their efforts to expand NICS checks to secondary sales, but the NICS as it currently operates isn’t going away.

 

How Easy Is It To Buy A Gun? Not As Easy As The Boston Globe Thinks.

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As I am sure everyone knows, Gun-nut Nation has been celebrating what they claim is a tremendous surge in gun sales which started when Obama moved into the White House and allegedly hasn’t let up.  The result for a publicly-owned company like Smith & Wesson is an increase in share price from $5 in 2009 to nearly $26 last week; for the gun industry in general a conviction that guns are becoming so mainstream that sooner or later there will be one in every American home.

dealers           Actually, surveys about gun ownership keep pointing to a different reality; namely, that fewer and fewer people own more and more guns.  The gun researchers at Harvard and Northeastern have done the latest study on gun owners and found that only 22% of adults own guns, of whom 3% re considered ‘super’ owners because their gun stash is between 8 and upwards of 100 guns.

But surveys conducted by phone or computer are one thing; hard data is something else. And here is where the problem gets sticky, because the data that is usually used to figure out how many are being sold is probably less exact and reliable than the surveys of gun owners like the Harvard-Northeastern survey that’s currently making the rounds.

I am referring, of course, to the monthly totals of FBI-NICS background checks published by the ATF, which shows a nearly 80% increase in annual checks between 2009 and he current year. The problem with this number, is that it hides more than it explains, because NICS is utilized for any over-the-counter transaction which means that used guns, which for many shops count for 30-40% of their inventory, are not being sold for the first time but are being resold.  NICS is also used for checking the issuance and status of gun licenses, this type of check has recently been responsible for 25% of all NICS calls, and then there is the requirement in a growing number of states that all gun transactions take place at the countertop whether the dealer sold the gun or not. I’m not saying that gun sales haven’t increased under Obama – of course they have.  But I’m not about to drink the gun industry Kool Aid which, if true, would make it appear that just about everyone out there is grabbing a gun.

On the other hand, it’s not only Gun-nut Nation mixing up a pitcher of Kool-Aid for everyone to drink; Gun-sense Nation also has a tendency from time to time to offer up their own flavor of Kool-Aid when it comes to discussions about how many people buy or own guns. I am talking in this instance to a story that just appeared in The Boston Globe in which the reporter, Matt Rocheleau, looked at the ATF listing of gun dealers for Massachusetts and discovered, much to his concern, that the Bay State has more people holding federal firearms licenses (FFL) than it has cities and towns. According to Rocheleau, there are 389 license-holders in Massachusetts and only 351 municipalities, with some locations having as many as six or more – oh my God!  If you live in Massachusetts, it sure must be easy to buy a gun.

There’s only one little problem with this article – it bears no relationship to reality at all.  You can have as many FFLs as you want, but if you don’t have a state dealer’s license you can’t sell a gun to anyone except yourself.  And you can’t even sell a gun to yourself unless it is approved for civilian ownership in Massachusetts both by the Executive Office of Public Safety and the AG; which means you can’t own a new Glock, Springfield or Taurus handgun, as well as any gun that looks like an AR-15.

I’m not surprised when writers for Gun-nut Nation take liberties with the truth because, after all, their job is to promote guns. But when The Boston Globe promotes their version of gun sense, at least they should get it right.

Lots Of Folks Have Lots Of Guns But It Only Takes One.

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Gun-sense Nation is all agog because of some news out of Harvard and Northeastern which claims that roughly 3% of Americans adults – which is 7.7 million – between them own 8 to 140 guns each, for an average personal ownership of 17 guns.  These ‘super’ gun owners, according to the not-yet-but-soon-to-be released study, together have 130 million guns sitting around their homes which constitutes what Mother Jones calls the ‘craziest’ statistic about guns.

buyback            Let me break the news gently to my friends in Gun-sense Nation: having 17 guns around is nothing.  Down in Chesterfield County, SC, ol’ boy name of Brent Nicholson’s got, according to the County Sheriff, an ‘ass-load’ of guns, probably around 5,000 or so. Out in Southern California in the ritzy neighborhood known as Pacific Palisades, the cops broke into the home of a fellow who had been dead for a couple of days and found over a thousand guns.

Right now I’m kinda light when it comes to guns that I personally own; last time I looked my pile was somewhere around 60 or so, and I hope my wife doesn’t read this column because she’ll tell me to sell some more.  I got a call from a fellow the other day who’s step-father just died, his mother found a bunch of guns down in the basement and doesn’t want them around the house so I told him that I would buy the whole bunch, sight unseen, for five thousand bucks.  To which my wife then said, “we don’t have any room for the damn things so do me a favor and sell some of the ones you have.” I don’t see her selling any of her shoes, btw, but I gotta sell my guns, right?

I get lots of nasty comments from members of Gun-nut Nation whenever I refer to my guns as ‘adult toys.’  But that’s exactly what they are.  Owning all that metal doesn’t in any way make me ‘free’ (actually it ties me down because I can’t imagine packing the damn things up and moving them all to a new home); it doesn’t protect me from terrorism or any other kind of threat; it doesn’t support my 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’  I own all those guns because I like owning guns – it’s as simple as that.  I had toy guns around me from almost the time I could walk, I bought my first, real gun when I was twelve years old, over the sixty years since then I have probably bought and sold more than 1,000 personal guns. Sound like a lot?  That’s a little more than one a month. That’s no big deal.

And by the way, between 1956 when I bought my first real gun and 2008, not a single one of those transactions was protected by any kind of Constitutional ‘right,’ and not a single one of those transactions was in any delayed or prohibited because I didn’t have any kind of Constitutional protection for owning a gun.  If the 2nd Amendment is what keeps a gun-grabber like Hillary from taking away my guns, how come gun-grabbing liberals didn’t try to ban guns before Dick Heller took his case to the Supreme Court?

You can invest gun ownership with any kind of social, cultural or legal rationale that you choose, but the only reason why most people actually own guns is because there’s nothing that says they can’t. They might want to believe that their guns will protect them from crime, and on very rare occasions someone actually does use a gun to keep a bad guy from breaking down the back door, but a lot more people accidentally shoot themselves than shoot someone else who otherwise might cause them harm.

Is there any connection between the number of guns I own or have owned and the fact that 115,000 Americans get injured or killed each year with guns?  There sure is.  Called a gun.

Maybe Wilderness Should Manage Wilderness Zones

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Beginning this week I am going to publish some columns on wilderness. Hope you will find them interesting.

            At the same time the U.S. Census declared in 1890 that the continental United States no longer contained any wilderness, the first attempts were being taken to preserve it. Beginning in the 1870’s there had been discussions about protecting forests which culminated in the passage of the Forest Reserve Act in 1891.  This law embodied the notion of protecting forest ‘reserves’ and entrusted a federal agency, the U.S. Forest Service, with the task of monitoring the welfare of forest zones.

The whole point of the 1891 law was not so much to preserve woodland spaces, but to regulate their use and balance out the need for lumber and other woodland products with the necessity to allow woodlands to reproduce and, at the same time, sustain the animal and plant species which existed in forest zones.

         Montague Plain

Montague Plain

But management of open and untrammeled space is one thing, preservation is quite another. This difference was recognized in the watershed 1964 Wilderness Act, which created and protects more than 100 million acres throughout the 50 states administered by four federal agencies, chiefly the Park Service, Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the purpose being to protect space that will serve no ends other than recreation and natural habitat.

What chiefly makes the lands designated as ‘wilderness’ distinct from all other land owned or administered by government agencies is the concept of ‘permanence;’ or rather, the lack of any kind of permanent structures or facilities which would allow humans to exist within those spaces in any kind of permanent way.  The law says that in these spaces “man himself is a visitor,” whose presence is both temporary and transient so as to protect the ‘primeval character’ of wilderness zones.

Of the present 109 million acres of land designated as wilderness, 94% is located in 11 western states, of which Alaska alone contains 56 million acres, which is 52% of the total.  The only state east of the Mississippi containing more than 1 million acres is Florida, mostly within the Everglades National Park.  My state – Massachusetts – is third to last, containing only 3,244 acres which encloses a little piece of Cape Cod.  So if I want to see any real wilderness, I have to get in my car, figure to be away for a week or more, and drive.  Or do I?

Twenty minutes from where I live is a 1,200-acre area known as the Montague Plain.  It is a flat, wooded zone, now owned and managed by the State Department of Conservation and Recreation and considered a prime example of pine-scrub oak barren which is the natural habitat for certain rare animal species and plants.  Evidence indicates that fire was used to manage and drive game by native Americans from perhaps as early as 2,000 years before European settlers first appeared.  The current plan adopted for the Montague Plain involves conducting small, managed burns and cuttings in order to better understand ecological management of such sites.

Want to explore some wilderness?  Drive to the Montague Plain, park your car and walk a mile or so into this remarkably empty zone. The 1890 Census defined wilderness as any square-mile that did not offer permanent settlement to two persons or less and this is certainly the case on the Montague Plain.

But the fact that an environmental agency starts managing a wilderness area doesn’t mean that the strategy will necessarily correspond with what Nature has in store for any particular natural space.  The deer herd in Massachusetts, for example, has declined by at least half since forest lands were protected and allowed to revert to mature growth which prevents deer from foraging and reproducing in the undergrowth that was left after early farmers cleared much of the land. The prehistoric inhabitants who used fire to drive game animals were only copying what natural fires had been doing ln the Montague Plain from the beginning of time.  Who is to say which way works best?

An Important Book On Gun Violence Is Worth Waiting For.

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A new voice is about to be added to the debate about gun violence, and for those who take this debate seriously (because there are some debate participants who don’t) this is a voice with something important to say.  I am referring to Caroline Light, who directs undergraduate studies of women, gender and sexuality at Harvard and is about to publish a book, Stand Your Ground, America’s Love Affair With Lethal Self-Defense.

blacks-gunsNow you would think that a Harvard faculty member would, of course, be anti-gun.  But Professor Light happens to be a Southern girl who, not surprisingly, grew up in a family where there were guns. And while she clearly understands that gun violence can’t be separated from the existence of guns, particularly so many guns, she’s not barking up the usual, gun-control tree.  What she is after in her narrative, and certainly succeeds in this respect, is to explain how and why ‘stand your ground’ (SYG) laws have become so evident and pervasive throughout many parts of the United States.  Because the point is that 33 states now have such laws. And most of these states also grant residents the unquestioned right to walk around with a gun. Put two and two together and what do you get?  The legal sanctioning of gun violence, which is what the book Stand Your Ground is really all about.

Like most of our legal system, these laws came from the British common law tradition, which, on the one hand, recognized that a person had the right to protect himself from attacks except that the attack had to occur within the home; i.e., the ‘castle doctrine’ as it was known.  British law did not sanction lethal self-defense outside of one’s domicile, in fact, it was presumed that in a civilized, ordered society, retreat in the face of possible injury was always preferred.

The sanctity of human life transcending the necessity to protect oneself from possible injury disappeared, however, in the evolution of American penal law.  For that matter, the law’s recognition of armed self-protection in the case of home invasions (the ‘castle doctrine’) was extended to justify lethal self-defense in any location where the defender had the legal right to appear.  Cases which upheld this kind of reasoning appeared as early as 1806 and became common in the decades following the Civil War, particularly in the South.

Here is where Professor Light’s narrative gets interesting.  Because what she argues is that armed, self-defense, as codified in SYG laws coupled with concealed-carry laws (CCW) reflect a culture which celebrates the dominance of white men, particularly in the South, where ‘rugged individuality’ is a code for keeping women and African-Americans in their (subservient) ‘place.’ And rather than guns being used to equalize the power relations between white males and everyone else, what the author refers to as do-it-yourself (DIY) security just hardens the degree to which white male dominance continues to control the perceptions of crime, gender and race.

This is a complicated subject and I cannot really do justice to this book or fully discuss its subtle twists and turns. But it should come as no surprise that when we talk about anything related to gun culture (which certainly would embrace SYG) that we are basically talking about the South, because that’s where a majority of the civilian-owned guns and a majority of NRA members happen to be.  And while SYG and CCW laws have spread far beyond Dixie, this region gave birth to those laws and this is where such laws have resulted in significant increases in ‘lawful’ violence against women and Blacks.

The South may have lost the Civil War, but the mind-set which justified slavery back then is the same mind-set that embraces inequality today.  And anyone who believes that owning a gun endows them with more freedom than someone who is unarmed is drinking the same Kool-Aid that Jefferson Davis drank before Fort Sumter when he believed that Lincoln would back down. But plenty of that Kool-Aid is still going around.

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