What Are You Doing on September 25th?

Even if you have something else to do, you might think of coming to DC next week to participate in a national demonstration aimed at getting Congress to pass some rather obvious laws that will reduce gun violence. The laws are such draconian measures as expanding background checks, banning assault rifles, you know, all those terrible infringements on our beloved 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’ Except the only ‘right’ protected by the 2nd Amendment in its current (2008) iteration is to keep a handgun in your home.

That being said, I guarantee you that in the morning’s Judiciary Committee hearing on banning assault rifles, virtually every member of the NRA – oops! – I mean the GOP, will make an impassioned plea to forestall any and all attempts to regulate anything having to do with guns. And what they will all say, because they’ve all said it so many times that they know the script by heart, is that they simply cannot allow a bunch liberal, do-goods from around the country to pressure them into backing down from their sacred duty to protect Constitutional guarantees.

And these do-gooders, incidentally, will represent various organizations from all over the place, and they will get together on the West Lawn of the Capitol Building at 1 P.M. This is hardly the first time that folks have come together in DC to ask Congress to do something, anything about gun violence and it won’t be the last. The simple fact is that most GOP politicians still feel they can respond to gun violence by voicing their thoughts and prayers whenever a particularly nasty shooting takes place. As my grandfather used to say, they’re basically a bunch of “dem fools.”

Incidentally, one of the largest contingents is coming to DC from the Windy City led by Father Pfleger and his Saint Sabina group. The buses they are renting for this trip don’t come cheap, and if you want to help them out you can make a donation right here. You know the old line: Money Talks, Bulls**t Walks.” We’ll hear enough bulls**t from the minority members of the House Judiciary Committee next week, okay?

Let’s get it on, folks. Let’s keep Congress on their toes. Let’s show up in DC next week and get this thing done!

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Sorry Gun-Nut Nation But Gun Buybacks Do Work.

To celebrate the fact that Donald Trump has moved from being the presumptive GOP nominee to the actual (how in God’s name did that happen?) I am going to make one change in the nomenclature which I use for talking about guns. Going forward, when a pro-gun noisemaker, individual or organization, spouts a misstatement about gun violence, I am no longer going to say that they are incorrect, or wrong, or anything polite like that.  I am going to say that they are lying because the pro-gun mob has access to the same data and documentation that I read. And if someone (including me) can’t distinguish between facts and factoids, then they should keep their mouths shut.

buyback             One of the most common lies floating around Gun-nut Mob these days is the lie that gun laws won’t work because criminals don’t obey laws.  Now the truth is that there have been gun laws passed here and there which really didn’t work, or didn’t work all that well.  But that doesn’t mean we throw the baby out with the bathwater.  Of course criminals don’t obey laws.  That’s what makes them criminals, duhhh?

On the other hand, there are some gun regulations which, in terms of lowering gun violence, have worked very well.  And chief among those laws, believe it or not, is the idea of gun buybacks, in particular those buybacks which took certain types of highly-lethal firearms out of private hands. The presumptive Democratic candidate, HRC, has been targeted by the Gun-nut Mob because of comments she made about the gun buyback law implemented in Australia in 1996 and 2003.  But in fact, the result of this program, according to researchers, “seems to have been incredibly successful in terms of lives saved.” It should be noted, incidentally, that the Australian buyback was directed not at all guns, but primarily at high-capacity, semi-automatic rifles, the absence of which in Australia can be directly linked to the complete disappearance of mass shootings, which have become all too commonplace in the U.S. today.

The problem with using Australia’s buyback experience as a model, however, is that it really wasn’t a typical buyback program (cash for guns) because the government first declared certain types of legally-owned guns to be illegal, and thus had to compensate owners because otherwise it would have been a case of seizing property without compensation, which is something that democratic governments simply don’t do.  But I recently came across a study that analyzed the effects of a major, countrywide buyback program in Argentina that collected more than 100,000 firearms, paid compensation for each gun and guaranteed anonymity for everyone who turned guns in.  If you want to read the study, you can download it from my website here.

What the researchers discovered was that the Argentine buyback program, which occurred in 2007 and 2008, did not really change suicide or homicide rates involving guns, but did lead to a ‘significant’ reduction in unintentional deaths.  Did criminals turn in their guns?  The researchers did not believe they did.  Did the program reduce the civilian-owned gun stock by as much as ten percent which significantly reduced gun accidents?  The positive evidence here was clear.

Which brings us back to the big, fat lie endlessly promoted by the Gun-nut Mob that criminals won’t obey laws that seek to control guns.  The lie in this case is the fact that gun buybacks have anything to do with criminals at all. They don’t.  They are simply a mechanism for getting guns out of circulation which people don’t want or don’t need.  And you know what?  It’s the guns that people don’t want and are happy to give up for some cash that end up being guns that are used carelessly, or are stolen and are then used in crimes.  Because folks who use guns responsibly and safely don’t need to give them up. But there’s nothing in a home more lethal than a gun which is just lying around.

 

Could Gun Control Be The Defining Campaign Issue In 2016? Don’t Bet Against It.

I can see it now.  The tumultuous last night of the 2016 Republican Convention.  The newly-nominated Presidential candidate strides up to the podium flanked by family members and whomever is going to be the VP.  Then he bends down, can’t be seen for a second stands back up and  raises an AR over his head.

You think it can’t happen?  You think that gun control couldn’t be the defining issue of the next Presidential campaign?  I beg to differ with you and frankly, I even wish this little fantasy would come true.  Why?  Because if the election does turn on the gun issue, the folks who agree with the New York Times about banning assault rifles might just win.

heston              Before explaining, I have to mention the decision by the SCOTUS that denied certiorari to the appeal of the 7th Circuit’s decision that upheld the assault weapons ban in the town of Highland Park, Illinois.  The ban was passed after Sandy Hook, as were similar bans enacted (and upheld) in Connecticut and New York.  What was interesting about the denial of certiorari in the Highland Park case was the margin was 7 to 2; in other words, when it comes to protecting the 2nd Amendment rights of assault-rifle owners, as of now the usual 5-4 conservative majority that ruled in favor of Heller in 2008 has collapsed.

Given what just happened in San Bernardino, this decision should come as no great surprise.  And luckily for all the Republican candidates, the news that the slaughter did constitute a real, ISIS-inspired terrorist attack, gave them all some way of responding without having to spend much time or verbiage on what has become the standard, red-meat rhetoric about the virtues of an armed citizenry, the dangers of gun-free zones, and all that other crap.  This time around, defending the gun industry was left to Jerry Falwell, Jr., whose father, you may recall, blamed gays and lesbians for the World Trade Center attacks.

But let’s get back to which party would be helped and which would be hurt if an assault weapons ban was the driving campaign issue in 2016.  And make no mistake about it, ISIS or no ISIS, there’s every good chance that between now and next November, at least one idiot will bring out his Bushmaster or his DPMS and try to even some real and/or imagined score. And I’ll take the short odds right now that the Republicans will make “defending the 2nd Amendment” the Number One plank in the GOP Platform next year, which means that the Democrats will have no choice but to call for some kind of ‘sensible gun control,’ which could mean a ban on black guns.

Here’s the bottom line on next year from a gun point of view.  If Hillary gives up Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Minnesota and Florida but keeps the other states that voted blue in 2012 she still wins.  Doesn’t win by much, but she wins.  With the exception of Colorado, the others are all solid, gun-rich states.  The bad news is that if she gives up those states, she has to keep states like Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Ohio in the Democratic column, which are also states with lots of voters who own guns.  But ‘lots’ and 50% plus 1 is not the same thing.  And it was the Democratic turnout in large, metropolitan areas in these states in 2012 which kept them blue.  And most of those voters could care less about the 2nd Amendment or about guns.

The Democrats used to keep themselves below the radar screen on gun control as a campaign issue because the NRA took Gore to the showers in his defeat by George Bush.  But 2016 isn’t 2000, and the country may not buy one more Sandy Hook.  I don’t want any election to turn on the loss of human life, but put an AR in the wrong hands and it could work out that way, like it or not.

The GOP Response To San Bernardino: Nearer My God To Thee.

Want to know what the pro-gun crowd thinks about gun violence?  Or I should say, what the pro-gun crowd wants everyone else to think about gun violence?  All you gotta do is wait for a mass shooting to occur, then check the Twitter accounts of the so-called GOP Presidential candidates. I say ‘so-called’ because the idea that any of this bunch has demonstrated even a sliver of leadership, never mind the slightest attention to facts, makes me wonder how we could remotely imagine one of these clowns sitting in Oval Office after January 20, 2017. Anyway, back to the topic at hand.

san bernardinoI knew we were in for a know-nothing treatment of gun violence when, in putting together a game plan for 2016, the GOP decided that the 2nd Amendment would be the ‘values’ niche issue this time around. They used to have abortion and then gay marriage to gin up the base, but when Donald Trump started boasting about defending himself by carrying a gun, I knew the NRA’s wildest dream about defining the social agenda for America was finally coming true.

Then we had the shooting of two television journalists in Virginia, and while killing only 2 people is hardly worth mentioning in the same breath as dispatching ten victims in Oregon, nine in Charleston, never mind fourteen in San Bernardino, what was impressive in a bizarre way about the Virginia shooting was that the entire thing was caught on tape.  And the very next day, there was Trump telling us that the problem had nothing to do with guns, it was caused by the lack of mental hospital space which was needed to lock all the crazies away.

Once Trump defined the issue in accordance with the standard NRA lexicon that it’s not guns that kill people, etc., everyone else fell into line.  The next opportunity for the GOP pretenders came a month later in Oregon when the killing of ten faculty and students at Umpqua Community College unleashed a torrent of pro-gun commentary from the GOP Presidential field.  Once again Trump knew the nuts were “coming out of the woodwork;” Ben Carson called for better detection of “early warning signs,” and in case there was any doubt about why the shooting occurred, we had self-appointed gun fantasists like John Lott telling us that we couldn’t expect anything else to happen in a gun-free zone.

This time around, however, the Republicans might have overshot their mark. Because when Hillary spoke out about the Umpqua massacre, she made a point of tying it to enacting “sensible gun-control measures,” and promised to lead the effort after she took over the Oval office in 2017.  This was the first time that the Democrats made gun ownership a campaign issue, and it caught the GOP entirely off guard.  Let’s remember it was Hillary’s husband who decided that Democrats lost the White House in 2000 due to the power of the NRA. So I knew that, going forward, the GOP would have to come up with a revised game plan to avoid having to appear condoning gun violence while still keeping the gun-nut vote on their side.

And to the credit of their campaign PR teams, it seems to me that the Republican Presidential wannabes have indeed come up with an approach to gun violence which gets them all off the hook; namely, that gun violence is an act of God, so what can mere mortals do?  Here’s a selection of Twitter feeds from last night: Trump – “Good luck to law enforcement and God bless.” Cruz – “Our prayers are with the victims.” Bush – “Praying for the victims.” Paul – “My thoughts and prayers are with the victims.”

Any mention of guns?  Here’s Hillary: “We must take action to stop gun violence now.”  And what Hillary knows is what the pro-gun gang and its new crop of Presidential pretenders don’t want to imagine; that maybe most Americans are sick of the shootings, sick of guns, and fed up with the NRA.