Making A Killing: Don’t Miss This Movie

There’s a media company in California called Brave New Films which earlier this year released a remarkable documentary about America and guns.  The film is called Making A Killing – Guns, Greed and the NRA, and from the title you can easily guess which side of the gun argument is being caught in this film.  It’s a lengthy production for a documentary, runs more than 90 minutes, and much of the footage is devoted to comments by the families and friends of people whose lives were ended because they got in the way of a loaded gun.

The film is divided into four basic segments, each covering a category of gun death with which we are all too familiar: domestic abuse where an ex-husband assaults the ex-wife, the accidental shooting of a young kid, the endless shootings which take place virtually every day in Chicago, and a suicide committed by a seemingly stable young man who runs out one day, gets a gun and does himself in.

Interspersed between each segment are some quick cameos of the usual gun-nonsense comments by Wayne-o, as well as various devotees of the 2nd Amendment including Rubio and Cruz.  I must say that juxtaposing a shooting victim lying in the street with Ted Cruz saying that expanded background checks won’t do “anything at all” makes the gap between gun violence reality and pro-gun political pandering a joy to behold.  Not that the film is joyful in any sense of that word, but I really am pleased at how the filmmakers created an aesthetic production without sacrificing any truth or honesty at all.

Of course there are people who will say that there’s no necessary connection between the fact that Glock pistols are used in countless acts of gun violence and that Gaston Glock lives in a beautiful mansion or that Wayne-o evidently keeps his front lawn neat and trim. And while the production weaves back and forth between data on the number of people killed and wounded by guns each year versus the revenue and profits that accrue to companies like S&W and Colt, ultimately the question has to be asked whether there are certain types of profit-making ventures where the physical costs ultimately outweigh the financial gains.  What the film does project in a particularly direct and emotional way is the efforts of the gun industry to separate itself from the physical toll connected to the products that it manufactures and sells.

This brings me to the last twenty minutes or so of the film and I am not sure if I can adequately convey the degree to which this final footage is simply beyond anything that exists when it comes to capturing the extreme violence associated with guns.  Because this last segment relives in the most graphic terms, the mass shooting in the movie theater at Aurora, and what makes it so chillingly and terribly effective is that in parts it is narrated by the shooter himself!

That’s right.  The filmmakers use some of the taped interviews with James Holmes to show how he methodically collected what he refers to as his ‘equipment,’ i.e., guns, ammo, smoke bombs and gear.  Then his voice narrates how he drove to the theater and parked out back.  Meanwhile, you are then taken inside the theater where moviegoers describe how they lined up for popcorn, went to their seats, settled back to watch the show.  And then here comes Holmes again who says, in a clinically measured voice, that planning the shooting was how he coped with his depression because going into stores and onto the internet to buy ammo and guns allowed him to “shift from the suicidal to the homicidal.” And then we hear a smoke bomb go off, and a theater security camera captures panicked, terrified people fleeing from the scene.

I can’t say any more.  See the film and judge for yourself.  The moviemakers set an initial goal of 1,000 screenings and 1,00,000 pairs of eyes in front of those screens and they are almost there.  Help them exceed that goal?  Contact Brave New Films.

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Score A Big ‘W’ For GVP Laws In The Centennial State.

               Back in 2013 two new gun laws took effect in Colorado which extended background checks to just about all weapons transfers and also banned the purchase of high-capacity gun magazines.  The laws were a response to the Aurora movie theater shooting the previous year that left 12 people dead and 70 injured and earned the shooter, James Holmes, twelve life sentences and an additional 3,318 years.

            The law was immediately attacked by the usual coalition of gun-nut groups; i.e., NRA, 2nd Amendment Sisters, blah, blah and blah, who took to the legal ramparts to defend their precious 2nd Amendment rights.  A concurrent suit was also filed by 55 Colorado sheriffs who claimed that the law was unenforceable and therefore should not be allowed to stand. In 2014 District Court Judge Marcia upheld both laws, stating that neither infringed on the 2nd Amendment or anything else.

            Today the 10th Circuit ruled that the initial finding by the District Court was correct and went further, dismissing the both appeals because the appellants could not prove any ‘standing’ in either case. In order to bring a case of this sort into Federal court, the plaintiffs have to demonstrate that they were harmed by the law which they are challenging, or would face imminent harm.  Without such proof, the plaintiffs don’t have ‘standing’ in the case, or what we might call skin in the game.

            To show you how much the plaintiffs in this case were being damaged by these laws, it’s worth examining their specific claims in each case.  As to the injuries that might be caused by limiting magazine capacities to 15 rounds, the plaintiffs were represented by someone named Elisa Dahlberg who said she owned two 30-round magazines and one 17-round magazine, all of which were grandfathered in under the 2013 law but, according to Ms. Dahlberg, might eventually “wear out” and thus could not be replaced.  But since Ms. Dahlberg did not testify that she was going to purchase a new hi-capacity magazine, nor did she even have any plans as to when she might try to buy a new hi-cap mag, she had not been injured by the law nor did she face the imminent possibility that she might wind up being prosecuted in court.  And that meant she had no standing to bring this case.

            As to the damage from background checks, the plaintiffs produced the secretary of a Colorado chapter of Outdoor Buddies, which happens to be a wonderful organization that helps disabled individuals enjoy the outdoors.  And basically what this guy said was that a disabled individual might want to borrow a gun to go hunting but would encounter difficulties if borrowing the weapon created the need to engage in an immediate background check.  Except that not only does the Colorado background check law include exemptions for temporary loans of guns, but just like Ms. Dahlberg who hadn’t yet decided that she actually was going to need more hi-cap magazines, the Outdoor Buddies had yet to take a disabled person out to the woods who actually needed to borrow a gun.

            What I find interesting in this case is the degree to which the gun-nut community goes hog-wild every time they sniff the slightest threat to their so-called Constitutional ‘rights,’ but when push comes to shove, they can’t show that their rights have been damaged at all. In fact, in this particular case, the plaintiffs couldn’t even find anyone who gave one rat’s damn about exercising their gun rights, at least the gun rights that were allegedly being circumscribed by these draconian laws.

            As to the sheriffs and their defense of the 2nd Amendment, in order to have skin in the game they had to show that carrying out these laws created a ‘credible threat of prosecution’ but in their own testimony the sheriffs admitted that not one of them faced any prosecutorial threats of any kind at all.  Which meant that their legal challenge also got tossed, which means that both Colorado laws remain in full force.

The Bad News For The NRA Is There Are Lots Of People Who Believe ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill.’

                 Yesterday I found myself in the company of 150 people from all over the United States who came to Washington, DC because they want to do something about gun violence.  What they don’t want to do is entertain the stupid idea that more guns will protect us from violence and crime. That crap used to be promoted only by connivers like John Lott who used this insultingly unfounded nonsense to build a following on the red-meat lecture tour.  But now it’s been taken up by lackluster, red-striped Presidential wannabes who will stoop no matter how low to try and spear a few votes. The group that convened in DC was decidedly of a different sort.

It was an eclectic assemblage, representing national and state-level advocacy groups, political and policy experts from within the Beltway and without, researchers, activists from all over the place, in every respect a serious-minded and, more important, an energetic  group of folks.  I have been following the gun debate going back to the 1960s; in other words, before there was a real debate.  And I don’t remember a time when so many different types of people from so many different backgrounds were as committed to serious and continuous efforts to reduce or eliminate the violence caused by guns.  And just in case any NRA sycophant or 2nd-Amendment devotee wants to argue the case, let me make one thing completely and perfectly clear: it’s the gun stupid, it’s the gun.

peacenow                So I sat, watched and listened to speakers at the National Gun Violence Prevention Coalition Annual Meeting and I came away with the following thoughts.  First, the level of gun violence, both mass shootings and individual events, can no longer be justified or excused just because the 2nd Amendment protects individual gun rights. Since August, for example, there’s been a guy or maybe guys who have been shooting at motorists riding through Phoenix on Interstate 10. To date there have been at least eleven confirmed shootings, and the only good news is that’s it not that easy to hit someone in a moving car.

Now if you can explain to me how a lawfully-armed citizen walking around with his or her gun should be considered as a bulwark against this kind of crime, I’ll meet you tomorrow at the Morton’s Steakhouse of your choice and pick up the tab. According to the Gun Violence Archive, by year’s end the death toll from shootings may exceed last year’s number by 20 percent. The day in, day out reports of what appears to be an endless spiral of gun violence has clearly aroused more than its usual share of concern, and this concern was clearly evident at the DC conference this past week.

The NRA’s response to this situation is to have Chris Cox find an instance where an individual, in this case Vester Flanagan, used a legally-purchased gun to commit mayhem, the “proof’ that more laws won’t do anything to stop violence caused by guns.  This argument is so dumb I’m surprised that even a twit like Cox would try to foist it on the members of the NRA.  To follow his logic, the next time that there’s a pile-up on the Interstate we’ll understand why speed limits don’t help to save lives.

I spent a few minutes at the conference speaking quietly and emotionally to the parents of a young man who was among the 12 audience members killed in Aurora by James Holmes.  They told me they needed to help prevent more tragedies like the tragedy that resulted in the loss of their son.  I told them I don’t think it’s possible to understand what happened in Aurora in rational terms, but what they are doing will have a rational and objective end.  And the end will be that gun violence will disappear because ways will be found to respond to their courage and their strength.  There is, after all, a moral imperative called Thou Shalt Not Kill.

 

Don’t Get Rid Of The Guns, Get Rid Of The Nuts. Thank You Donald, Chris, Bobby, Et. Al.

So it’s official.  The Republican Party, or at least its putative Presidential candidates, has decided that the key to eliminating gun violence is to get rid of the nuts, not the guns.  The idea that gun violence has nothing to do with the gun and everything to do with the crazy people who on occasion use guns, has been floating around for a long time.  But after last week’s Virginia ambush, first The Donald and then every other red-meat Republican (a redundancy if I ever wrote one) fell into lockstep proclaiming that the real culprit was a mental health system that still needed to be “fixed.”  Here’s Bridgegate Christie explaining it to dopes like you and me who actually believe that stricter gun regulations should be in effect: “We need to have more information about people’s mental health background, but we don’t need new laws to do that.”

trump                Just for a moment I’m going to pretend that these jerks know what they’re talking about and go along with their stupid and pandering idea that ‘fixing’ mental health will ‘fix’ the problem of gun violence.  So let’s take three instances of horrific gun violence and see if the ‘fix mental health’ bullshit has even the slightest connection to reality or not.  The three instances I’m going to mention involved three shooters named James Holmes, Adam Lanza and Elliot Roger.  Together, these three ‘nuts’ shot 126 people, of whom 41 died either at the scene or in a hospital following the attacks.

What did these three young men have in common besides their ability to use a gun?  They not only had documented histories of some degree of mental distress, but had all been seen by mental health professionals in a short period of time before the actual shootings took place.  The official report on the Sandy Hook episode indicates that Adam Lanza’s mother dragged him hither and yon for mental health consultations; Elliott Roger’s diary contains numerous references to treatment by shrinks.  In the case of Holmes, who committed the worst massacre of all, his psychiatrist actually reported threats he was making to the University of Colorado Neuroscience Department because he had flunked out of school, reports that were forwarded to the campus police who took no action at all.

chris2                When we look at instances of individual shootings, we find a similar pattern wherein the shooter made contact with professional caregivers prior to the event, expressed concern about what was going to happen, disclosed the possibility of violence, but then was allowed to go about his business as if the discussion had never taken place.  I cited a case earlier this year in which a severely-agitated young man visited no less than seven different medical facilities in and around Fargo, ND, complaining that his room-mate was trying to poison him but was told in every visit to go home and take previously-prescribed psychiatric meds.  The cops then encountered him wandering in front of his apartment at 1 AM, but after he told them that his room-mate had a gun they decided that no crime was about to be committed and told him to go back home.  Three hours later, this young man shot his room-mate to death.

jindal                Every single state has a system whereby certain designated individuals must report suspected child abuse.  And once reported, the agency designated to deal with the problem must take action to see if the report is true.  The Federal Child Abuse and Prevention Act defines abuse as: “An act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.” And notice the word ‘must.’  Not maybe, not perhaps, must.

We don’t need to cop out on the issue of gun violence by pretending that the NICS system should get better reports on which nuts are walking around who shouldn’t be able to buy a gun.  We need to acknowledge that anyone who expresses anger or possible violence becomes an imminent threat if he has access to guns.  And the guns must be taken away.  Not maybe, not perhaps, must.

Hot Off The Ticker: The AME Church Is To Blame For The Shooting Because It’s A Gun-FreeZone

I really don’t want to write this piece, not just because it’s about the unspeakable tragedy that took place yesterday at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC, but because I knew that by today, the usual pro-gun sycophants would be lecturing us all on the dangers of gun-free zones.  Actually, they couldn’t even wait until today, although by this morning, the gun ‘experts’ on Fox & Friends were already advising their audience that if someone in the church had been carrying a gun, “they would have had the opportunity to pull out their weapon and take him out.”

But one of the real experts on gun-free zones didn’t even wait until the shooter was captured to tell us not only why the shooter, Dylann Roof, chose the historic Black church to practice target-shooting with live targets, but also why the now-dead parishioners were really to blame for their self-massacre because they weren’t all sitting there armed.  I am referring, of course, to Maestro John Lott, who regularly orchestrates a chorus about the dangers of gun-free zones whenever a particularly nasty shooting takes place.

pat                Lott announced the shooting on his website with a headline which read: “Another Shooting in a Gun-free Zone.”  He then went on to insist that virtually every mass public shooting since 1950 has taken place in a gun-free zone, and then finished up by letting it be known that the Charleston church was a strong supporter of gun control and regularly opposed concealed-carry and stand your ground laws.

Remember the loony statement by Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell who blamed the World Trade Center attack on America’s moral decay?  Now I’m not saying that Lott has become that crazy, but that he couldn’t even wait 24 hours after the unspeakable event to begin peddling a shabby version of ‘they got what they probably deserved,’ speaks volumes about the motives and agenda of this self-proclaimed academic researcher on guns. And for that matter, it also says something about the way in which pro-gun mouthpieces like Lott and others respond every time that a shooting takes place which provokes horror and dread.

Because the simple fact of the matter is that mass shootings aren’t supposed to happen in churches or schools.  These places are sanctuaries in every sense of the word, and when we send our children off to school or we ourselves go off to a house of prayer, there’s simply no good reason on God’s Earth why we should stop and consider, even for a second, about whether there’s any chance at all that we or our children will face the horrific trauma of a gun barrel being pushed into our face.

John Lott

John Lott

But of course John Lott knows that we wouldn’t have to give it a moment’s thought because he also knows something that nobody else knows, namely, that shooters who go into gun-free schools or churches or movie theaters do so because they know that nobody is carrying a gun. After the 2012 shooting at the Aurora, CO theater which left 12 dead and 70 wounded , Lott stated that the reason James Holmes chose the Cinemark theater, even though it was neither the closest theater to his apartment, nor did it have the largest audience, was because it was the “only one where guns were banned.”  The trial of Holmes is actually going on right now, but from the time of the shooting until today, Holmes has never once said to anyone that he chose the Cinemark theater because nobody in the audience would be carrying a gun.

If the parishioners at Emanuel AME had just talked to John Lott, they would have realized the error of their ways and would have been carrying guns.  And of course Dylaan Roof would have attacked another church. And of course he’s already told John Lott that he walked into Emanuel AME because he knew it was a gun-free zone.