Monday, October 5, 2015

Just DO IT

Gun Laws Are Both Constitutional And Will Help

Over the weekend, I saw several commentators who essentially argued that no laws which will help stop mass killings are possible because they are either too weak or will run afoul of the Constitution.  These commenters included one from the NRA and another from the National Review (an ultra-conservative magazine). 

They further argued (the same old meme) that criminals will "still get guns" and so any laws which restrict access to firearms are pointless and maybe even make the situation worse because they limit what "law abiding" people may have while not limiting criminals.

There are so many holes in these statements it is hard to know where to begin and equally hard to be concise, but I'll give it a try.

First, any law which limits the ammunition capacity and cyclic rate (rate of fire) of firearms will help and not meaningfully limit the ability of civilians to defend themselves.  I have argued time and again with conservatives on this point and not one of them disagrees that a 12 gauge shotgun or higher caliber revolver is insufficient for self-defense in 99.9999% of all cases.  The argument that the .00001% is some justification for access to firearms which otherwise help to cause needless deaths, is clearly NOT justification.  The purpose of high cyclic and high capacity weapons is ONE thing only, to kill multiple humans quickly, and nothing else.  Further, the US Supreme Court has made it very clear that limitations like banning weapons with a capacity of more than 7 rounds which are gas or spring fed and require no other action than pulling the trigger to fire another round is ENTIRELY permissible under both the Heller and McDonald decisions.  Making such a limitation does not imperil safety, and probably improves it as Police Departments feel more able to de-escalate the kinds of weapons they carry as the firepower of the civilian populace decreases.

Second, making it illegal to sell firearms to ANYONE and ANYPLACE without a background check is also Constitutional, very clearly since background checks have already passed muster in the courts.  Doing so would make the purchase of large numbers of firearms by "straw buyers", straw buyers who then SUPPLY the criminals, very much harder to do without detection.  So, it would likely make the access to high firepower weapons, and weapons in general, for criminals, more difficult.  Not impossible, but just like banning pseudo-ephedrine hurt access for meth amphetamine producers, it would hurt their access without in any way limiting the access by "law abiding" citizens to firearms.

Last, we MUST improve our reporting to a background database and use that database more broadly than is currently used.  It must include the ability to share data between policing agencies, and must include the ability to limit access to those who are judged mentally ill, have a restraining order against them and include the obligation to surrender weapons if deemed such.  Again, these are clearly Constitutional as they've passed muster and they will help because limiting access to firearms AND limiting the firearms they may possess may not stop everyone, but it almost certainly will decrease the potential number of fatalities if people have to reload more often, have to actuate the weapon more slowly, and potentially at least, aren't available to those who are most likely to strike out at those around them.

One post script, the other thing the right-wing gun addicts need to understand.  It is NOT the gang members who are the most dangerous, commit the most murders and otherwise use guns more often to harm so many, it is far more often the supposed "law abiding" husbands who kill their wives, or wives who kill their husbands, or students who kill their peers.  Of the 17k murders by firearms in the US per year, roughly 1000 are gang killings, meaning 16000 are others.  Those others ALSO thought they were "better" than the rest, wouldn't misuse their weapon, etc.. In short, it is THEY (YOU) who are the greatest threat to the wider community, at least where firearms are concerned and so you should not be above the same kind of sane and reasonable limits as you would expect for the rest of society, whether they be the mentally ill or the hardened criminal.  If you are judged a danger, you shouldn't be allowed firearms and you have NO reasonable need for a 5.56 or 7.62mm semi-auto rifle to lay by your bedside for you to defend yourself.  The truth is you're FAR more likely to use your "gun" to kill your family than anyone else but that right (to own and bear) has been affirmed, so it cannot be taken away.  What can be limited is the level of weapon you actually need to (supposedly) "defend" your home/family/self or what you need to hunt.  Those restrictions are legal, constitutional, valid and WILL work.  Changing the debate to what criminals will get doesn't address these reasonable limitations and are little different than ad hominem attacks on those who propose such reasonable limits.  You many not LIKE the limits, but that doesn't mean they won't work nor that they will fail to be Constitutional.

A few graphics that underline the point.  Credit for graphics to Vox, Gun Violence Statistics.

Not all parts of the US have an equal exposure to gun violence, which - logically - correlates to guns owned.  This demonstrates that more guns DO NOT keep us safer, more guns expose us to more gun violence.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Truth in Sarcasm

OF course, in the graphic below, all other countries, by which the writer appears to mean developed countries, have not eliminated mental illness.  But they have largely eliminated mass shootings. Most mass shootings are NOT the result of mental illness, such as schizophrenia, where an individual lacks the capacity to distinguish not only right from wrong, but reality from delusions.

WHAT those other countries do NOT have is our sick, failed gun culture which exalts individual capacities for violence.

WHAT those other countries do NOT have is the NRA, promoting obsessive single issue voting through fear mongering lies and propaganda manipulation.  No one in government or gun control advocacy is "coming for your guns"; they (the government, in the form of Republicans and Tea Partiers) ARE, as has been wryly observed, trying to take away your health insurance.

WHAT those other countries do NOT have is the sheer quantity of guns in private hands.  There is a clear correlation to gun violence and the number of guns, by state.

WHAT those other countries do NOT have is a gun lobby contributing to significant corruption and cowardice in government.

WHAT other countries DO have that helps drastically reduce mass shooting, is a combination of guaranteed health care, including for mental health, and significantly stricter and more effective gun control.

WE could have both of those, but conservatives obstruct and oppose it.  They would rather have wealth and income inequality by serving corrupt big money interests, not the citizens of this country.
The right wing politicians don't care if we citizens are killed or injured in large numbers, or in smaller number individual shootings, especially those which are murder suicides, seen daily across the country.  The party signified by the color red doesn't care if you or those you care about bleed, so long as they cash in on their nice green money.  The right wing voters believe they will somehow avoid, individually, any threat to their safety by carrying a gun.  Evidence does not support that emotional thinking.  Right wing voters believe they will survive the lack of a comprehensive medical policy by luck, and maybe prayer, and a false notion that, somehow, makes them more free.  That doesn't appear to be successful either, based on the number of people in this country bankrupted, regardless of religious belief or political affiliation.

Conservative ideology is a failure which is literally killing people in this country, by violence and by illness that is preventable.

Oregon Shooter DID NOT target Christians

The conservative guns-and-Bibles pushers are LIARS. That explicitly and emphatically includes the GOP candidates who are exploiting the Oregon shooting for political gain.

They make money and gain influence by peddling false claims about tragedies.  They make claims from un-verified reports; in the case of Oregon, the unverified reports about targeting Christians which law enforcement conspicuously would not validate or confirm.  The guns-and-Bibles pushers then CONTINUE to push their inaccurate but scary narrative, even after the facts are clear their statements and positions are false.  Follow the money; they do this because there is bloody $$$ in it for them, from the religious right and from the gun promoters.

To update that old line "there's money in them thar hills!", there is money in those 'shills'.  From
Shill, noun:a person who poses as a customer in order to decoy others into participating, as at a gambling house, auction, confidence game, etc.
The Oregon shooter, like the Columbine shooters he emulated, did not target people for their religion, much less for being Christian.

From the Inquisitr:

Even initial reports that Mercer was targeting Christians now appear to be incorrect. Initial reports indicated that he asked victims if they were Christian, and shot them in the head if they answered yes.
But new reports from witnesses say that Mercer did ask questions about religion, but it did not appear to be a motivating factor in who he shot and who he did not.
“‘Do you have a God? Are you Christian? Do you have a religion?’ It was more so saying, ‘You’re going to be meeting your maker. This won’t hurt very long.’ Then he would shoot them,” said Stephanie Salas, whose son, Rand McGowan, was wounded in the attack, in an interview with the Associated Press.
We saw something similar in the Columbine mass shooting back in 1999.  There were false claims made then about religious persecution in the targeting of victims.  And it is likely from the information known to date that the Oregon shooter, who had a sick interest in becoming famous (or more precisely notorious and infamous) like those other shooters, was to some degree emulating the Columbine shooters.

This shooter - and I won't use his name, precisely to deny him that notoriety, was into Goth.  The Columbine shooters were erroneously widely reported to be into Goth.  The Columbine shooters were, again erroneously, widely reputed to be outcasts, without friends, part of the 'trench coat mafia'.  And the Columbine shooters (who were really trying more to be bombers) were widely reported to have targeted certain groups, notably jocks, minorities, and Christians. 

Watch the news coverage of the Oregon shooter unfold.  Then take a look at his proto-type mass shooting, Columbine.  The parallels are chillingly clear that the Oregon shooter was emulating the myths and the actual behavior of the Columbine mass shooting in a number of ways.

From the most definitive research on Columbine, Dave Cullen's book Columbine, via the article 7 Myths about Columbine:
Myth #3: The Columbine killers targeted certain kinds of students.
Truth: Although initial news reports claimed the Columbine killers had targeted minorities, jocks, and Christians, the killing was indiscriminate. Their initial plan was to blow up hundreds of students in the cafeteria. When the bombs failed to go off, they killed students randomly. Interestingly enough, Eric’s friends described him as a sports enthusiast, and two of his best friends were Asian and African American.

Myth #6: Cassie Bernall was martyred for her faith in God.
Truth: According to the eyewitness under the table with her, Cassie was shot when Eric poked his shotgun under the table and said, “Peekaboo.” The 911 tape verifies this testimony.
The martyr story arose from the testimony from another student in the library, Craig Scott (brother to victim, Rachel Scott), who recounted a conversation that took place across the room. Valeen Schnurr was the one who actually professed her faith in God, and this took place after she was shot. As she lay bleeding, she prayed, “Oh my God, don’t let me die.” Dylan turned around and asked her, “God? Do you believe in God?” Valeen said, “Yes, I believe in God.” When the killer asked why, she replied, “Because it’s how my parents raised me.”
We also heard, about Columbine, that those two mass shooters would have been stopped if someone had a gun.  There were two armed cops who were unsuccessful in stopping those two shooters.  Likewise, there was a security guard, and numerous armed students, mostly trained veterans, on the Oregon campus - it was NOT a gun free zone - and they did NOTHING to prevent the tragedy from taking place.  In fact, no civilian with a gun has EVER prevented or stopped a mass shooting in the United States, even when on the scene.

Conservatives like to play the victim card, claiming to be victims when they are not. It is one of the more annoying aspects of conservatives. The religious right is particularly prone to making these false claims. Pro-gun advocates likewise push the notion they could be attacked at any moment, by fill-in-the-blank adversaries, and they likewise push the factually faulty notion that if they have their gun(s) with them they will shoot the bad guy dead, the good-guy-with-a-gun fallacy.  All of which sells more guns to stupid people who are not fact or reason based, the goal of the NRA.  Because gun sales need two things, a ginned-up threat and the myth that another gun in circulation in the hands of a civilian carrier is the solution.

Pro-gun candidate Ben Carson is trying to gin up his support from the religious right based on the false initial claims that Christians were targeted in the Oregon shooting.  God-and-Guns scam artist Mike Huckster-bee, promoter of fake diabetes treatments to desperate sick people for cash, and Bible-thumping pro-gunner, is also trying to gain political advantage from the tragedy.  We also see Donald Trump doing the same, with a less explicitly religious persecution angle.  And we have the Lt. Gov. of Tennessee claiming that Christians should be arming themselves because they are a persecuted minority - both factually false claims.

Whether it is claiming they're some kind of martyr if you don't wish them Merry Christmas, to the false claims they were targeted in the latest mass shooting -- by a self-proclaimed fellow conservative -- they try to spin gain, including political capital from these false victim claims.  Pushing the "we are victims" at every opportunity, no matter how factually false is also part of the right wing propaganda that keeps the right wing, especially the radical and extremist right, feeling angry and agitated. That gets unqualified crooked con artists elected, and it sells a lot of guns.

It does not get us good governance or greater safety.  It is based on lies and corrupt money, corrupt power.  Only the foolish and the willfully ignorant should support this effort to propagandize, manipulate, and gain advantage from these efforts to push an us vs. them national mentality of fear and divisiveness.  They lie, they profit, they gain advantage and power.  DON'T LET THEM. They will make you their victims, not the victims of some shooter who should never have had access to legal guns in the first place, much less 14 of them (yes, they found another one).

Friday, October 2, 2015

Dick shooters, Dick NRA, Dick GOP

We have too many guns, too many shootings, too damn much money corrupting our government preventing action and too damn much right wing propaganda lying and distorting the discussion.  The President tells it straight, and the country needs to listen: we need to restrict guns better than we are doing.  It is time for government regulation to save us from crazies, extremists, racists, and the armed religious right.

According to the Freethinker - to which we link on our bog roll -
The Guardian reports that the father of Anastasia Boylan, 18, who was one of those injured, said that Mercer started asking people one by one what their religion was.
‘Are you a Christian?’ he would ask them, and ‘if you are a Christian then stand up’ and they would stand up. He’d say ‘because you are a Christian you’re going to see God in about one second’ and then he shot and killed them. And he kept going down the line doing this to people.
In this Guardian report, Mercer described himself on an on-line dating site as as  a 26-year-old, mixed-race “man looking for a woman”. He said he was “not religious, but spiritual”, was a “teetotaler” living with his parents and was a conservative Republican.

When 3 people shoot themselves in their shorts in one week, it should be obvious we have a problem.  It should be obvious guns are not making us free or safe, so many guns are making us numb and dumb, hurt and dead.