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NOW Can We Talk about Gun Control?

May 13th, 2013 2 comments
This is getting to be morbidly absurd.

We are now seeing mass shootings as common occurrences, and it is most likely we are become inured to them. After a shooter kills a few dozen first-graders, after all, what’s all that big about 19 shot in a New Orleans Mother’s Day parade?

Certainly, we should not react in a shocked manner, and absolutely it’s not something that should, for the nth time, trigger discussion about actually doing something about reasonable gun control. After all, HITLER! And OBAMA WILL CONFISCATE YOUR GUNS! And BOOGAH BOOGAH!!

Though I am not sure what effect this will have; after Newtown, not only did Congress fail to pass gun control, they actually passed laws that weakened gun control. Will the New Orleans mass shooting trigger even more pro-gun laws? Hard to tell.

It does beg the question: what will it take?

At least 19 injured in New Orleans Mother’s Day shooting
Sunday, May 12, 2013
At least nineteen people in New Orleans, including two children, were injured on Sunday when multiple gunmen opened fire on a Mother’s Day parade, police said. A 10-year-old boy and 10-year-old girl were grazed by bullets but are in good condition, New Orleans Police spokesman Garry Flot said in a statement.

But hey, no one was killed, right? Just like no one was killed here:

North Vallejo Little League cancels Saturday games after shooting
Sunday, May 12, 2013
VALLEJO, Calif. (KGO) — Vallejo Little League players are disappointed after they learned that all of thier Saturday games were cancelled because of another shooting near one of their fields. This is the second time shots were fired near North Vallejo little league players.

I mean, just because we have multiple incidents of shots being fired near Little League games doesn’t me we should be concerned! After all, who would be upset that kids can’t play baseball in their own neighborhood for fear of being shot? Besides, we all know that Vallejo is a shooting gallery anyway.

And it’s not like any of this is unusual. In an incomplete count, Slate tallies a minimum of 3963 shooting deaths in 149 days, about 25 people killed each day. But don’t worry, only 75 were children—well, unless you count the 199 teens. But that’s only three or four children and ten teenage kids killed a week. Perfectly acceptable losses for the right to unfettered gun ownership!

Why bother with training, controls, screening, and registration when we’re only talking about 60 small children slaughtered every year? 70 tops! And only 500 or so teens, which is OK, because they don’t count as much. [Note: suicides are typically not counted in the tolls being referenced here.]

Here’s a very small sampling of gun violence in the past 24 hours, from Google News—and you can be certain that this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Buncombe County Triple Shooting
Sunday, May 12 2013, 03:33 PM EDT
The Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a domestic shooting that injured two people and left another dead. It happened around 1:30 this morning on Rathfarahan Circle. Investigators say Arthur McArdle and Banning McArdle were taken to Mission Hospital. The shooter, Joshua McArdle, died at the scene from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Deputies say there are no other suspects. Neighbors tell News 13 Joshua Mcardle had been fighting with his father and brother for the past few days.

Four injured during shooting at motorcycle club
May 12, 2013 at 12:16 PM
APACHE JUNCTION, Ariz. — Four people were injured early Sunday morning when a shootout took place at a motorcycle club in Apache Junction.

Police Investigating Double Shooting In Hartford
2:37 p.m. EDT, May 12, 2013
Police are investigating a double shooting that took place early Sunday morning on Lawrence Street. Police said officers responded to the area of 172 Lawrence St. at 1:54 a.m. for reports of several shots fired. When they arrived at the scene they found one victim shot in the arm. A second victim arrived later at St. Francis with a gunshot wound to the foot, police said.

Four dead in Waynesville shooting
May 12, 2013
Autopsies will be conducted Monday on the bodies of four people murdered inside a home in Waynesville in Bartholomew County.

Man, woman wanted in connection to D.C. shooting
May 12, 2013 6:01 pm
Police are on the lookout for a male and female in connection with a shooting on the District’s southeast side early Sunday morning. Around 1:43 a.m. Sunday, D.C. police responded to reports of a shooting on the 2500 block of Pennsylvania Avenue SE. On the scene, authorities found an adult male suffering from an apparent gunshot wound. He was conscious and breathing.

Elderly man charged with murder after Mother’s Day shooting
May 12, 2013 at 6:33 PM
GASTON COUNTY, N.C. – Police arrested an elderly man after they said he shot and killed a woman Sunday afternoon. The shooting happened around 12:30 p.m. on Venn Drive. Authorities said they answered a call for a cardiac arrest, but when they arrived they found Vivian Schronce, 80, shot in the chest. Shortly after the shooting, she was pronounced dead at Caromont Regional Medical Center.

Hammond man killed at party early Sunday
May 12, 2013
HAMMOND | A 21-year-old man was killed after being gunned down early Sunday at a party on the 600 block of Sibley Street in Hammond, police said. Jeffrey Morgan, of the 6400 block of Monroe Avenue in Hammond, died from multiple gunshot wounds about 1:27 a.m., according to a release from the Lake County coroner’s office.

Police search for two suspects in Saturday shooting
MAY 12, 2013
Revere police are searching for two men who allegedly shot a man in the back on Sagamore Street Saturday night before fleeing on foot.

Man killed, woman in critical condition after Jacksonville shooting; 1 in custody
May 12, 2013 – 3:01am
A Jacksonville man who served 21 years in prison for the attempted murder of civil rights leader W.W. Schell is back behind bars after a weekend shooting killed one man and critically injured a woman.

Neighbor heard ‘angry voices’ prior to fatal shooting in Central District
May 12, 2013 at 9:10 AM PDT
SEATTLE — A man believed to be in his 20s was fatally shot in the city’s Central District neighborhood early Sunday morning, Seattle Police said.

Man, 22, Killed In Bridgeport Shooting
4:35 p.m. EDT, May 12, 2013
Police are investigating a fatal shooting Sunday morning on Berkshire Avenue near the Noble Avenue intersection. Police responded to the area at 4:15 a.m. after receiving a report of gunfire and found a parked silver Ford Fusion with several bullet holes, authorities said. Inside the car was Robert Rivera, 22, of Bridgeport, who had been shot multiple times, police said.

Just another Sunday in America. But hey, freedom ain’t free, right? And if we had to get training for guns and submit to background checks, we wouldn’t be free, now would we? Mandatory firearm safety training? Might as well just lock us all in concentration camps. FEMA has some ready, I hear.

Categories: Social Issues Tags:

Obama, Newtown, and Gun Control

December 17th, 2012 1 comment

Wow. My father and I watched Obama’s speech at the vigil in Newtown tonight, and noted along with everyone else how he made an unmistakable reference to gun control. Making that reference in his announcement the day of the shooting was one thing; his mention of it tonight was extraordinary.

I’ve been reflecting on this the last few days, and if we’re honest with ourselves, the answer’s no. We’re not doing enough. And we will have to change. Since I’ve been president, this is the fourth time we have come together to comfort a grieving community torn apart by mass shootings, fourth time we’ve hugged survivors, the fourth time we’ve consoled the families of victims.

And in between, there have been an endless series of deadly shootings across the country, almost daily reports of victims, many of them children, in small towns and in big cities all across America, victims whose — much of the time their only fault was being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change.

We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true. No single law, no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society, but that can’t be an excuse for inaction. Surely we can do better than this.

If there’s even one step we can take to save another child or another parent or another town from the grief that’s visited Tucson and Aurora and Oak Creek and Newtown and communities from Columbine to Blacksburg before that, then surely we have an obligation to try.

In the coming weeks, I’ll use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens, from law enforcement, to mental health professionals, to parents and educators, in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this, because what choice do we have? We can’t accept events like this as routine.

Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard?

Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?

It’s rather unmistakable that he’s referring to gun violence. References to shootings, to specific killings and massacres in Tucson, Aurora, Oak Creek, Newtown, Columbine, and Blacksburg.

Most notable is his reference at the end, that we cannot continue to believe that the victims of gun crimes are the price for our freedom.

Obama did mention mental health professionals and educators, so it’s not just gun control he’s talking about. And that seems like a smart way to present the issue, as a package with gun control wrapped up with other measures.

What was remarkable was that Fox did not, at least initially, react violently against this. The talking heads on FNC even sounded open to new gun control legislation. Whether this is just them knowing when not to fight back, or if it is the talking heads taking marching orders from Murdoch, who approves of gun control, is not yet clear.

Whatever the case, we might actually get reasonable gun control.

It is just unbearably sad that it took something like this to finally set that into motion.

Categories: Security, Social Issues Tags:

On Gun Control and the Virginia Tech Shootings

April 18th, 2007 10 comments

As I mentioned last night, I am getting a lot of hits from Google for my blog post on gun control in the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings. There has also been some talk about the topic in public.

I am pro-gun control, but I do not feel that incidents like the one at Virginia Tech are germane to the issue. Gun control is mostly about firearm safety and making it more difficult for criminals to arm themselves; gun control also acts as a net to catch wanted criminals or known felons who attempt to purchase firearms.

The Virginia Tech shootings, like most other such rampages, really don’t apply to this issue one way or the other. While they increase our awareness of the issue and perhaps spur people to push for better gun control, they are not the kind of incidents that can really be prevented with better gun control.

According to reports so far, both guns were purchased legally; the shooter did not have a criminal record aside from a single speeding ticket. While he had a record of depression and other psychological difficulties, it was not so severe that any regulation of sales to a mentally ill individual would apply. Virginia even has a relatively strict law about how often you can buy firearms, limiting purchases to one per month; from what I gather, the shooter bought one gun in February, and the other in March. He bought handguns, not assault rifles or semi-automatics, if I understand the description of the weapons correctly. Virginia police destroy records of gun purchases after 30 days, in an apparent sop to the gun lobby. But it would not have made a difference had they kept the record on file for longer. Concealed weapons permits would also not apply, unless the shooter happened to be searched by police or security people between leaving his dorm room and arriving at the scene of the crime.

In short, this is the kind of incident that just doesn’t apply to the argument. Even a complete, nationwide gun ban would not necessarily stop this kind of violence.

That is not to say that gun control would not work; just as it would have yesterday or ten years ago, sensible gun control could stem a good deal of violence and crime.

Just not stuff like this.

Categories: Main Tags:

Gun Control Blog

April 18th, 2007 4 comments

Interesting. Just in the past few hours, I got two different comments on an old post, my post on Gun Control from May last year. Usually I get comments on old posts very sporadically–to get two in such quick succession is very unusual. I thought maybe it was the same person using different names–but the IP addresses were different. Then I thought that someone was linking to my post from a popular forum or something–but no, my “Latest Visitors” stats page showed them coming from Google. Odd.

Then I figured it out: the Virginia Tech shootings. That has prompted people to search for sites that discuss gun control. And if you Google “gun control blog,” I’m #2 on the returns. And sure enough, when I checked my recent stats, the search terms “gun control blog” which lead people from search engines to my site have spiked in the last 24 hours.

Interesting how stuff like that comes together….

Categories: BlogTech Tags:

Gun Control

May 21st, 2006 51 comments

Editor’s note: Please read the entire post before you comment. Apparently, a lot of people read the first several paragraphs (or perhaps no more than the title alone) and then assume they understand where I stand on the issue. Also, it might not hurt to keep in mind the difference between gun control and a gun ban; despite my explaining it clearly in the second paragraph, it seems not to register with a lot of people. Thank you.

It’s hard to believe that I haven’t touched on this particular subject yet. It is, after all, how I first got started in debating on the Internet. This is one of those perennial issues that gets argued back and forth over time, one which has two rather galvanized sides, and rivers of different factoids and studies that unfortunately shed little real light on the issue. So let me do what I did that first drew so much fire over a decade and a half ago on the Usenet, and state my opinion on the issue. This will be a bit of a long post.

Most people see this as a binary issue: you either are for free gun possession, or you’re not. This comes from the usual right-wing misrepresentation of the opposing side of the issue, often intentional, I would believe, to make people think that “gun control” is synonymous with “gun ban.” There is, as usual, a middle ground: actual gun control–not a ban–which does everything possible to keep guns out of the hands of criminals while not hindering the right of lawful citizens to keep and bear arms.

But first, let’s start out with a little background:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

That, of course, is the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America. Gun advocates read that to state a broad, sweeping individual right to possess and use any kind of firearm they wish, without any restriction. The Supreme Court, as well as several federal courts, read it differently.

At the time of the drafting of this amendment, the role of personal firearms was far different than what it is today. Firearms were the arsenal of the fighting forces of the colonies; men who fought would use their firearms to fight in the militia. While the same weapons were used for hunting and personal defense, it is their use in the context of the militia that is relevant here. That initial clause to the Second Amendment creates that context: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State….” Pro-gun advocates will dismiss the clause as window dressing, saying it is meaningless as a qualifier of the latter clause. One pro-gun site (cached) offers this possible wording to the free press clause of the First Amendment:

The ability of the people to criticize their government unmolested being a requirement of a free and open society, the rights of a free press shall not be infringed.

While the author of this site claims that such wording would not limit the press to only criticizing the government, he is incorrect; if the wording were written as such, the qualifying sentence, while not restricting the group which possesses the right, does restrict the purpose of the right. While it does not ban the press from doing anything save for criticizing the government, neither does it enable it to do anything else. Worded as such, a law, say, prohibiting the press from reporting on the private lives of celebrities would be entirely constitutional. Similarly, the initial clause of the Second Amendment qualifies the purpose of owning guns to militia activity.

Other gun rights advocates will say the clause is grammatically invalid. This argument falls to the rather obvious fact that the clause was set there intentionally; it is not meaningless, and it does qualify.

Then we get into what a “Militia” is. Gun rights advocates claim that everyone is a member of the Militia, and therefore the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right. This reading is usually justified by a reading of the Militia Act of 1792, which they usually quote as defining a militia as “every able-bodied citizen.” Of course, the original text cites “each and every free able-bodied white male citizen of the respective States, resident therein, who is or shall be of age of eighteen years, and under the age of forty-five years,” and further details enrollment requirements, as well as details of armament including “a good musket or firelock” and other outdated accouterments. A detailed reading clearly requires active enrollment in such a militia, not just the fact of being over 18.

In fact, there is a distinct difference between the “organized militia” and the “unorganized militia”; the Militia Act of 1903 (a.k.a. the Dick Act) defines that difference, as described in Wikipedia’s entry on the Second Amendment:

Further clarification was provided in 1990, in Perpich v. Department of Defense, 496 U.S. 334 (1990). In this case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that, “The Dick Act divided the class of able-bodied male citizens between 18 and 45 years of age into an “organized militia” to be known as the National Guard of the several States, and the remainder of which was then described as the “reserve militia,” and which later statutes have termed the “unorganized militia.” … “In 1908, however, the statute was amended to provide [496 U.S. 334, 343] expressly that the Organized Militia should be available for service “either within or without the territory of the United States.”

Ergo, a “well regulated” militia is equal to the “organized” militia, which limits the Second Amendment to weapons used by the National Guard. It would be impossible to suggest that the reserve militia–essentially everyone not in the National Guard–is somehow “well regulated.” I’ve even heard some gun advocates say that the “well regulated” qualification in the Second Amendment only means that someone have a firearm in working order. I would beg to differ.

I would further point out that in the drafting of the Second Amendment, a reference to conscientious objection was considered to allow for those whose religions did not let them commit violence. If the Second Amendment was truly about individual rights and not about military service, then this consideration would not have arisen.

Suffice it to say that the Second Amendment does not imply an individual right to keep and bear arms. Now, having gone through all that, you probably expect me to conclude that a ban on guns in constitutional. That is not the case. The right to keep and bear arms is not, in my opinion, guaranteed by the Second Amendment. However, in my debates with gun advocates over the years, it has been pointed out to me that this right is bestowed under the Ninth Amendment:

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Since there is precedence for rights to ownership of firearms in pre-revolutionary law, and since the right to keep and bear arms would fall under the Ninth, I see this as established (though I am hardly a legal expert).

So, now you perhaps expect that I approve of unrestricted gun ownership? Well, not so fast. It’s the “unrestricted” part that I have a problem with.

Every right comes with responsibilities. The Ninth Amendment does not guarantee unrestricted rights–in fact, I don’t believe any right is fully unrestricted. There are always exceptions, caveats, special cases. You cannot libel or slander, nor recklessly endanger through free speech, for example.

Some gun advocates have argued that there is a distinction between these exceptions and those imposed by gun control: gun control, they say, applies “prior restraint,” to mean that gun control applies “punishment” before an illegal act has been carried out. Gun control restrains not just those who would act illegally, but those who act within the law as well. Prior restraint should not be applied, they say; only punish those who use guns illegally, after the fact; gun control is oppressive.

I disagree with this on the grounds that the rights of one person do not exceed those of another; this is commonly expressed as “your right to swing your arm ends where my nose begins.” You have the right to travel, and to use an automobile to do so; but you do not have the right to jump into a car at age 16, untrained and unlicensed. We impose prior restrictions on dangerous activities, from driving a car to handling explosives. One must be trained, tested, and licensed. The same should be true, and also perfectly legal, in the context of gun ownership.

So while I believe that there is an individual right to keep and bear arms, I do not believe that this is an unrestricted right, free from obligations or exceptions. And those obligations and exceptions would entail gun control. If you want to own and use a gun, you should at the very minimum be required to demonstrate knowledge how to safely operate and store the weapon; in addition, you should be prepared to take responsibility for whatever happens with regard to the firearm you possess, and you should allow for whatever gun control measures that can inhibit illegal firearm possession and use, so long as they do not unduly restrict your right to own and use firearms.

So, what does this mean? First, I believe that one must be trained, tested, and licensed in firearm use and safety before being allowed to purchase a firearm. Such is precisely the process we undergo to drive a car, and we all are pretty much satisfied that this process is not an undue burden on the individual, when weighed against the safety considerations to society in general.

Here is where some in the gun crowd will bring up the Hitler gambit. What if, they say, the United States were to fall under the iron rule of a Hitler-like dictator? Gun registries were used by Nazis, they say, to round up personal firearms in WWII. I don’t know if this is true; it may well be. However, I do know that it is irrelevant, and not sincerely reasoned; it is an excuse, not a rationale. If an oppressive, fascist dictator were to take over the country (allowing for the right-wing stance that this has not in fact already happened in the past few years), then that dictator would not immediately go for the guns. Guns, in fact, would be a distant third on the list of things to oppressively control. The first would be communications, and the second would be travel. Guns would be a distant third because they would be relatively ineffective as a means of resistance or revolution. Any such dictator would, by definition, have to have the willing cooperation of the military in oppressing the people. And despite all right-wing “Red Dawn” fantasy scenarios, hunting rifles and handguns will pale in effectiveness relative to weapons owned by the military. As we have seen in Iraq, an insurgency does not fight like a Revolutionary War militia; handguns do not figure largely in the big picture.

Additionally, look at the history of the past century. How many oppressive dictatorships were overthrown by a people using personal firearms? Few, if any. Now, how many were overthrown by an unarmed populace? South Africa, the Philippines, and the Soviet Union come to mind as a few examples. Revolution does not come at the point of personal firearms, not any more.

So training, testing, and licensing should be required. Second: registration. If possible, bullets should also be registered, like they are in Switzerland (the NRA loves to bring up Switzerland as an example of universal gun ownership with low gun crime rates–until you point out their very strict gun licensing and registration laws). Just as explosives are tagged, a way should be found to tag bullets as well. If you bought a weapon and ammunition, you should be willing to face responsibility for what happens to these items; registration will help accomplish that.

Gun advocates point out that guns can have serial numbers removed, and that homemade bullets can be used. Well, license plates on cars can be switched or forged, along with other tricks, but we don’t give up on auto registration just because some criminals are resourceful. Most criminals are not, and registration of firearms and ammunition would help more than enough to justify the inconvenience involved.

Next, loopholes in gun control laws must be closed. One of the biggest is gun shows and gun trafficking. Criminals can easily visit a gun show in a state where there are few or no restrictions, buy dozens of firearms, then transport these to a state with strong gun control laws. Illegal gun trafficking is a major problem that could be fixed by simply limiting the number of firearms one person may purchase to one every few months, or, say, three every year. Special exceptions would be granted to law enforcement and security agencies, and licensed gun collectors and dealers. The restriction would allow lawful citizens to acquire a large number of guns over time, more than any ordinary citizen would ever need. But it would virtually halt gun trafficking.

Next, background checks should be universal. Such background checks have proved highly effective. In just four years after background checks were instituted in California, Florida, Virginia and Maryland, 47,000 illegal gun purchases were stopped, and more than a few wanted criminals were arrested trying to purchase guns.

One argument against gun control laws is that they are ineffective; despite these laws, criminals have guns, and they use them. Well, one reason is that gun control laws constitute a patchwork quilt full of holes, not a complete blanket over the nation. Gun advocates like to point to the legendary “20,000 laws,” supposedly the number of gun control laws that exist in the country; they point out that even with so many laws, gun control is ineffective. The truth is, gun control is ineffective because of the 20,000 laws. Since the NRA has been so effective at blocking gun control legislation at the national and state levels, individual municipalities have been forced to enacts sets of their own laws if they want to have them; ergo the large number. However, the fault is in the fact that many cities and states do not have gun control. That and other loopholes allow criminals to get their hands on guns in one locale and then transport them to a place with stricter gun control laws. This is why the vast majority of guns confiscated from criminals in New York, which has strong gun control laws, were bought out-of-state. The fact that criminals went to greater trouble and expense to buy weapons elsewhere in fact proves that the gun control works; the lack of gun control elsewhere is the culprit.

As a result, the “20,000 laws” should all be repealed, and one comprehensive, nation-wide gun control act with the details I have given should be enacted.

One of the problems that gun control has faced, however, is the fear instilled by the NRA that gun control will lead to gun confiscation and a gun ban. This is what frightens gun owners who would otherwise approve of gun control into blocking such legislation from passing. If the Ninth Amendment is not enough, then a new amendment should be drafted and passed, one which specifies gun ownership rights, but also notes the necessity of limited gun control. The purpose of such an amendment would be to relieve the concerns of gun owners who would support gun control, but fear the laws would go too far. With a new guarantee in place, better and universal gun control laws could be more easily enacted.

To sum up: individual gun ownership is guaranteed, but gun control is necessary and lawful. Said gun control should include mandatory training, testing, and licensing; registration of weapons and ammunition; background checks; and limits on the number of guns purchased at any one time. These laws must be universal. They would not unduly restrict gun ownership rights of lawful citizens, but would make illegal gun ownership much more difficult.

One more argument from the gun advocacy side remains: gun control will never stop crime. Well, duh. Of course it won’t. Nothing ever will. But effective gun control will make it far more difficult for criminals to obtain and use firearms. Not impossible, but far more difficult, time-consuming, and expensive. More criminals will be deterred, stopped, and arrested.

And that’s the whole idea.

Categories: Political Ranting Tags:

Obama’s Answer to the Gun Question: The Necessary Addenda

June 5th, 2016 Comments off

Obama got the gun question at a town hall meeting:

Knowing that we apply common sense to other issues in our society, specifically like holding irresponsible people accountable for their actions when they drink and drive and kill somebody, and we do that without restricting control of cars and cells phones to the rest of us, the good guys, why then do you and Hillary want to control and restrict and limit gun manufacturers, gun owners and responsible use of guns and ammunition to the rest of us, the good guys, instead of holding the bad guys accountable for their actions?

And Mr. President if I may, I would like to use Chicago your hometown, a city that has the strictest gun laws in the nation, a city that for decades and still is under Democratic control, a city that has an outrageous and even embarrassing murder rate, as my first example. Why can’t we round up these thugs, these drug dealers, and gang members, and hold them accountable for their actions, or allow the good people in Chicago access to firearms to protect themselves?

If you watch the video below, you’ll see Obama’s reaction, and it’s a good one—he makes several points about gun control which are very reasonable—but he does not answer some of the key right-wing lies about guns and gun control in the United States.

Let’s review this question from top to bottom.

Knowing that we apply common sense to other issues in our society, specifically like holding irresponsible people accountable for their actions when they drink and drive and kill somebody, and we do that without restricting control of cars…

The argument he is giving is a common one amongst gun advocates: for everything else, we punish people for improper actions; we do not restrict prior to that improper action.

We don’t have car control, so why do we have gun control?

However, the fact is, there are far more controls and restrictions to cars than there are to guns.

With a car, you often have to go through extensive training and testing, especially if you are a teen; not so for guns in most places in the U.S.

With a car, you have to get a license and maintain it for your lifetime, something most people don’t have to do with guns—less and less often, in fact, as concealed-carry gun laws are relaxed more often than not.

With a car, you have to register the vehicle and maintain that registration—rarely so with guns.

In addition to that, both cars and guns are treated in the same way in terms of “holding irresponsible people accountable for their actions.” You drive drunk, you get arrested; you discharge a weapon irresponsibly, you get arrested.

So really, the primary difference between guns and cars is that cars have far more prior restraint laws than guns—something which the questioner calls “common sense.” Hmm.

Most gun control advocates would love to see guns treated exactly the same way cars are. No hope of that in the near future, however.

Secondly, the speaker says:

…why then do you and Hillary want to control and restrict and limit gun manufacturers, gun owners and responsible use of guns and ammunition to the rest of us, the good guys, instead of holding the bad guys accountable for their actions?

First of all, gun control is aimed at everyone, not just the “good guys,” as this man claims, and more at the bad guys than the good.

Training and safety laws are for everyone (just like they are with cars). But background checks and registration, in addition to laws that prohibit mass purchases of weapons, are aimed at stopping the bad guys in particular.

Next, since when does anyone not “[hold] the bad guys accountable for their actions”? The suggestion is ludicrous. Of course we do.

The whole idea of gun control, aside from basic safety and competency, is to limit the access criminals and the mentally unstable have to weapons—and, as Obama pointed out, the NRA and so many gun advocates, like the questioner, are the people who are tying their hands, preventing us from keeping guns out of the hands of the irresponsible and the criminal. Obama answers it in greater length in his reply, which you can watch below.

Finally, the speaker moves on to an egregiously specious right-wing talking point: that gun control doesn’t work, and Chicago is a perfect example of why not. Conservatives love this, because it allows them to attack Democrats, black people, and gun control all at once.

I would like to use Chicago your hometown, a city that has the strictest gun laws in the nation, a city that for decades and still is under Democratic control, a city that has an outrageous and even embarrassing murder rate, as my first example. Why can’t we round up these thugs, these drug dealers, and gang members, and hold them accountable for their actions, or allow the good people in Chicago access to firearms to protect themselves?

First, there’s the suggestion that “these thugs, these drug dealers, and gang members” (gee, I wonder who he’s talking about?) are not being hunted or prosecuted for gun violence—an astonishingly incorrect assertion, one which, I believe, the Chicago PD would vigorously disagree with.

Second, he mentions that Chicago has been under Democratic control (at least he didn’t say “Democrat” control), as if somehow Democratic leaders somehow encourage gang violence.

People in urban areas tend to vote Democratic, and urban areas have more gun crime—but neither is the cause or the effect of the other, any more than meth use is caused by Republicans because it happens a lot in rural areas. Why doesn’t he try asking the Republican leaders in those areas why the meth dealers aren’t all “rounded up” and “held responsible”? Maybe it has to do with the fact that law enforcement is not quite as simple as that.

Third, he asks Obama why we shouldn’t “allow the good people in Chicago access to firearms to protect themselves.”

Wait—are drug dealers and gang members breaking into homes in such a way that armed citizens could repel them? Obviously not. The only connection between the two is ambiguous at best—people armed in their homes could not really do anything to affect gun violence on the streets. I don’t know if he understands exactly how gang violence works.

That’s what happens when you regurgitate random memes—you stop making much sense. Like, “There’s a problem with too many shootings, so why don’t we add more guns to the equation?” It’s like suggesting that we have too many explosions happening, so let’s get more sticks of dynamite and more matches, that ought to solve the problem.“

But wait, the questioner is directly stating that law-abiding people cannot have weapons in Chicago: ”Why can’t we… allow the good people in Chicago access to firearms…?“

Is there a gun ban in Chicago? Exactly how hard is it to get a gun there?

Turns out, this guy is dead wrong: in Chicago, you can absolutely get a gun to protect yourself. And it’s easier to do so than it is to get a car.

Illinois requires an ”FOID,“ a kind of ID card, to get a gun for the home. It’s called a ”license,“ but it’s not really—it’s more like a certification that you have undergone background checks. No training or testing is required just for that. In fact, many red states require the same or more for voter ID, and they claim it is not a difficulty at all, even when they shut down most offices which provide such ID.

In Chicago proper, you need to get a ”Chicago Firearms Permit.“ It costs about $150 and requires 5 hours of training. That’s less than the the minimum possible requirement for getting a driver’s license. Getting a driver’s license also requires a behind-the-wheel test, which requires a great deal more practice, making getting a gun far easier.

In Chicago, within 5 days of a gun purchase, you have to register your gun—a much cheaper and less involved process than registering a car.

Concealed carry is also legal in Chicago, you just need 16 hours of training, another $175 or so.

So, although the questioner suggests that law-abiding citizens somehow aren’t allowed to get guns in Chicago, it turns out that it’s actually not that hard. Get an ID card, pay some fees, take a few hours of training, and bam, you have your gun. Another few days of classes, and you can do concealed carry. Even going so far as to get concealed-carry is less effort and expense than getting a driver’s license.

In Chicago, the laws which, the main restriction is against assault rifles and semi-automatic weapons. However, it is perfectly legal to purchase and own weapons in the city and county.

So, exactly what is it that is ”not allowing“ the ”good people“ from owning guns?

Nothing—except in his imagination.

But then there’s the final, and biggest canard: that gun control doesn’t work. Obama only peripherally responded to this, by noting that one can buy as many guns as you like somewhere else, and even ISIL sympathizers can’t be stopped.

That’s a good reply, but he missed a golden opportunity in regards to the ”patchwork quilt“ and his own home state of Hawaii.

The reason why we have a gun problem is not because gun control laws don’t work, it’s because gun control laws are not allowed to work. You’re only as strong as your weakest link, and in terms of gun control, the country is riddled with weak links: cities, counties, and entire states with weak and permissive gun laws.

If you have a boat and want to stay afloat, you can’t have any leaks. Even if this part of the hull is sound, and that part of the hull is sound, if there are leaks elsewhere, the boat sinks.

The United States is like a boat in this respect. It doesn’t matter if Chicago has strong gun control laws, and New York has strong gun control laws; if there are leaks—cities, counties, and states with weak gun control—the boat sinks. But not because of the places with strong gun control. The boat does not sink because of the places where the hull is strong, it sinks because of the leaks and the weak spots.

And yet people point to the strong parts of the boat, then point to all the water leaking in, and then claim that the leaking is because of the strong parts. Their solution: create more holes and let in more water.

I suppose it makes sense: if you’re at the bottom of the lake, you don’t have to worry about leaks any more!

This is the ”patchwork quilt“ problem: gun control in one area is compromised by no gun control in a nearby area.

Ironically, conservatives have been caught making this exact argument: Nebraska and Oklahoma filed suit again Colorado because of Colorado’s permissive marijuana laws. Their argument: because you can get pot legally in Colorado, residents of Nebraska and Oklahoma have been going to Colorado, buying pot, and bringing it back to their home states.

Which is exactly why gun control doesn’t work. Apparently, conservatives only see this as a problem when it’s a mild recreational drug, and not an epidemic of deadly weapons causing the deaths of thousands of people.

The fact that states with strong gun control laws find that the vast majority of guns used for crime come from out of state helps prove this point; if gun control doesn’t work, then why are almost all the guns coming from places without gun control?

Hawaii is the best proof of gun control working: it’s an island state far from the mainland. You cannot simply drive to another state to buy a gun. In this way, Hawaii is it’s own boat; weak gun control in other states won’t affect the state.

Hawaii does have good gun control laws. In addition to assault weapon bans, there is state-wide gun registration required. Home ownership requires at least 6 hours of training. There is a 2-week waiting period. Background checks are required. Concealed-carry and open-carry are technically legal, but heavily restricted, only issued in ”exceptional“ cases.

In all, Hawaii has stronger gun control than Chicago. And guess what? Hawaii has the lowest gun death rate in the country, and has one of the lowest gun crime rates in the nation.

Is it only because people in Hawaii are stripped of their guns? Hardly. There are still more guns than people in Hawaii. 400,000 have been registered in the last 15 years, and an estimated 1,000,000 guns exist in private hands since before then.

So we have (a) strong gun control laws, (b) lots of guns in responsible hands, (c) few criminals with guns, and (d) a low gun crime and death rate.

Gun control does work. The problem is places without gun control, not places with it.

More complete video on PBS’s Facebook page here.

Categories: Security, Social Issues Tags:

It’s Time to Collectively, Publicly, and Definitively Denounce the False Gun Nut Hitler Claim

October 3rd, 2015 1 comment

Tt100805Gun nuts* keep repeating their refrain: privately owned weapons are the most effective bulwark against the rise of tyranny, or its continued reign.

They imagine themselves as patriotic heroes, ready to grab their AR-15s and do battle with the minions of Obama-turned-genocidal-maniac. They believe that the model of a modern American tyranny is a liberal coming into the White House, grabbing control in a military coup (because somehow the U.S. military turned ultra-liberal all of a sudden), and confiscating the guns of the people before rounding up all the Christians and conservatives and placing them in concentration camps (no, not those ones, those are okay, and we actually like these ones) before their eventual extermination.

If a tyrant comes to power in the U.S., it is most likely that said tyrant will represent himself as a true-blue patriot, will drape himself in a flag and profess a profound belief in Christianity, and will have the full-throated support of the pro-gun crowd. The same people fearing being rounded up will appear at rallies, declare others like Muslims to be “the problem,” and will ask when their new leader will “get rid of them.”

Tyrants don’t really care about confiscating your guns. Hitler relaxed gun control in Germany. Saddam Hussein didn’t confiscate guns; Iraqi gun culture under Hussein was more open than our own (ironically, we instituted gun control in Iraq). The people under the Taliban have guns. Most tyrants allow their people to have guns for a very simple reason: most tyrants have the support of at least a majority of their people, and very often it’s the people who have the guns.

Gun advocates are the most likely to vote the tyrant into office; tyrants tend to use the most easily frightened segments of society, those who fear they are losing what they have, and Americans who possess guns, including the more reasonable people, are fearful of losing what they feel is their right.

But here is the irony: when tyrants rise, they will not take the guns. Their first act will be the same as it always is: to control communications. They will take the television and radio networks, and they will try to control the Internet, just as China does. They will monitor phone conversations and Internet activity.

Well, in our country, communications are heavily licensed and registered, right down to ham radio sets. You never hear the gun extremists worrying about any of this. They are, in fact, very often vocal supporters of the government surveilling phone and Internet activity.

When a tyrant rises, their second act will be to identify and monitor the people so as to corral them and control them. Any depiction of a fascist state would be incomplete without a picture of security officers stopping people in public and demanding to see their papers.

And yet, who is it that wants to have the police demand to see people’s papers? Who demands we all get IDs to prove who we are? Yep: the same people who spread the fears that dictators will be confiscating our guns.

When a tyrant rises, their third act will be to control the movement of people. We have traffic cameras everywhere now, and any kind of public or private transportation is heavily licensed and regulated.

And yet, the people who say they are the bulwark against the iron fist of dictators seem completely unconcerned with such facts.

All of this belies the idea that the gun nuts actually oppose dictatorships at all. At best, they believe they will be champions coming to the rescue with their trusty firearms. Like this guy in Texas, who came to the aid of a carjacking victim, his gun blazing—and then promptly shot the victim in the head while the criminals escaped. Then he panicked and scrambled to pick up all his shell casings before fleeing the scene and going into hiding. At worst, they just like their guns and will go to any length, make any claim no matter how bizarre, as a justification to use guns without restriction.

So tell me, Mr. My-Gun-Will-Stop-American-Hitler, if a tyrant has control over TV, radio, the Internet, and the phone system, monitors all communications, controls what you see and hear, knows exactly who you are and everything about you, tracks you everywhere you go and controls your movements—and in addition to all that, wields armed forces with not just rifles equal to yours, but also tanks and artillery and drones and jets and weapons of mass destruction—exactly how do you plan to overthrow that tyrant with your AR-15?

The answer: you don’t. Because you were the guy who voted the tyrant into power in the first place. If you’re one of the extremists, you want the tyrant—that is, you want the tyrant to make everyone else do what you want. But the "tyrant"? He’s your guy. And you’re likely the one standing in front of him blaming all your problems on a group of Americans you hate, calling them “the problem,” and asking when your new leader is going to “get rid of them.”

Tyrants are those who impose their will on others in a way that make others suffer. Well, look at all the people who now lay dead because of how you bent society to your will. And they are just the first wave of your victims should your influence grow beyond the unchecked and uncontrolled proliferation of guns.

More often than not, tyrants come from within.

The Weight of a Gun

April 6th, 2013 2 comments

The Trayvon Martin case has a number of elements which are, to say the least, distracting. The fact that the police accepted Zimmerman’s story and seemed to dismiss Martin as a criminal, failing even to identify him in a timely fashion. The fact that Zimmerman’s wounds were not at all apparent from then-current evidence, and that police may not have collected evidence properly. The fact that parts of the 911 call were unclear, and there was not a small amount of media sensationalism regarding an assumed racial epithet. All of this fired up discussions of racial profiling, police collusion, and the possibility of a conspiracy. While this may have helped motivate the police to act more properly on the case, it also created a flurry of red herrings.

This only got worse as time went on, with problems in the other direction as well. Which photos of Trayvon were used created complaints, and that the friend who Trayvon was on the phone with had made false statements under oath. All of these became issues that everyone focused on.

Today was no different. Zimmerman’s brother, Robert, posted (or re-posted) an image on Twitter:


While this throws a certain amount of doubt as to whether there is indeed racism in the Zimmerman household, it is yet another red herring—possibly the mother of all red herrings. Robert is not George, and George should not be held responsible for crap his brother posts. Whether or not Robert intended only to demonstrate how photographs can be used to make any associations and that people should not judge Trayvon Martin based on his “harmless friendly teen” images, the post was the height of idiocy and insensitivity—and not the least bit relevant to the main questions of the case.

These distractions are not only less relevant, but they distort perceptions: for example, so much attention was placed on whether or not Zimmerman had any injuries, that when photos came out showing the injuries were real, many seemed to assume that was the end of it, case closed—as if that were the only real question in the case.

At the time when the story first broke, and still today, I held and do hold that most of that is irrelevant, and there is one central issue here: George Zimmerman was armed, and deliberately left his car to follow and confront someone who only looked suspicious to him. I hold that a key lesson of this incident is the cavalier attitude we have assumed toward the carrying and use of guns, especially in terms of vigilantism.

This is what I posted almost a year ago, comparing Zimmerman with Rodney Peairs, the man who shot and killed Yoshi Hattori:

[T]he most significant factor, at least to my reckoning, was that the men who wielded the guns failed to act responsibly. Neither did what they were supposed to do. Rodney Peairs, the man who shot Yoshi Hattori, had a right to defend his home–but he violated that precept when he unnecessarily stepped outside his home to actively confront the “intruders.” No matter how it played out in terms of specifics, George Zimmerman made the same error: instead of holding back and allowing trained professionals to do their job, he pursued Martin, and Martin is now dead as a result. In both cases, the men with guns felt the necessity to confront the people they felt threatened by, no doubt emboldened by the possession of their weapons. …

Peairs and Zimmerman both owned guns, and they both assumed a right to step beyond their own bounds and confront people they believed to be criminals. That is an explosive combination that will result in the deaths of innocent people. Peairs required no training to be armed in his home; Zimmerman only needed to take a few hours of gun safety courses before he was allowed to walk the streets armed. If either received training which firmly emphasized that they retreat from confrontation instead of seek it out, it certainly did not take.

In my mind, Zimmerman is guilty. Not because I know how the specifics played out, that Martin did not assault him, or anything else. Instead, it was because Zimmerman was the one holding a gun, he did not need to pursue Martin (the 911 call made that clear), and so he bore responsibility.

As far as I’m concerned, that by itself should be a separate element in any judgment about Zimmerman. What happened specifically after that—whether he initiated the confrontation with Martin or was attacked, whether there was justification to shoot or not—these I see as separate issues.

Zimmerman carried a gun. He willfully engaged in vigilante behavior. He left his car and followed a suspect, against the instructions of the police, apparently assuming too much about who he was following, apparently without thinking how his actions might be perceived were the person in fact innocent.

What happened after that was a result of this choice on his part.

I think this needs to be emphasized and recognized as a central issue. How photos are used in journalism, the significance of race and racial profiling, even the details of the confrontation itself—these all are relevant within their own contexts, but irrelevant to a very critical issue.

That issue is armed engagement: that, when you carry or use a gun, you must also assume a responsibility to be cautious in the extreme.

We have moved in the opposite direction, sending all manner of signals—cultural and legal—telling people to shoot first and ask questions later.

That has to stop, it has to be reversed. People need to be sent the message: if you pick up the gun, you should feel the weight of the responsibility it carries.

It also highlights a critical element of gun control: training and licensing. These are absolutely essential and should be required nationwide.

Categories: Social Issues Tags:

Smoking Guns

January 18th, 2013 1 comment

In Talking Points Memo, there was an article about gun vs. non-gun culture. It touched on a story about a couple of 22-year-old men who decided to “educate” people in a neighborhood in Portland, Oregon unused to seeing guns by openly carrying assault weapons through the town. The sight of two young men carrying assault weapons down peaceful suburban streets generated a rash of 911 calls from frightened residents, and sent at least one school into lockdown—this coming less than a month after the Newtown incident. Neither man was arrested because they had “concealed handgun licenses,” though how this covered the open display of assault rifles escapes me. Their purpose was, purportedly, to demonstrate their Second Amendment rights, and seemed unconcerned that they were upsetting people.

Josh Marshall wrote a piece on the incident, naturally not painting the two young men in the best light. Someone wrote to Marshall about how his story on the incident rankled them; they felt it was a slanted piece that demonized gun owners:

My point is that regardless of how we feel about the law, that it was legal for them to do what they did but the tone I read was illustrating criminal behavior. I liken it to people obnoxiously purposely coughing and giving the stink eye to others who are smoking outside, well away from a door, in an allowed smoking area. Obviously less severe but an example of frankly, being pissy about others’ non criminal choices.

To say that Marshall’s story is like a non-smoker finding people smoking in their designated area and coughing obnoxiously as a means of objection is pretty far off the mark. In this case in particular, the two young Oregonians were not like smokers enjoying a drag outside and away from doors. That would be like gun owners shooting at a gun range, not 22-year-olds walking down residential streets with assault rifles. They were the ones going out of their way to be pissy about other’s attitudes about guns. Smokers in a designated smoking area are not “educating” others about smoking rights, or anything else.

This brought to mind a rather interesting comparison, because I do see similarities in attitudes between the two cultures, pro-gun and pro-smoking: the sense that smokers and gun owners can assert their freedoms without regard for the rights or concerns of others; the sense that people who object to this are being unreasonable; and a cultural sense of resentment at being persecuted, marked by a conflation of rash impositions and reasonable objections. A great deal of this has to do with perceptions, as well as with what one considers a normal or neutral state of affairs—what I call the “neutral space.”

The reaction of the pro-gun reader to Marshall’s objections to the Oregon story was starkly indicative of the difference in perception: what is the natural or neutral state of things? For smokers and gun owners, it seems to be, “I get to do my thing wherever I want and you just have to be cool with that.” The more militant smokers are like this; they do not see a space where no one is doing anything as a fair and neutral starting point; they see a room where they are smoking as a fair and neutral starting point, from which any objection you make is an imposition upon them which crosses the line of fairness. Secondhand smoke, to them, is little different from clear air, at least in the context of what one can fairly expect and have no objection to. To them, secondhand smoke is a non-issue; to the non-smoker, it is the entire issue.

The more militant gun owners, in this sense, are the same way: a fair and neutral starting point is that I get to have guns and carry them around, and you just have to be cool with that. Anything less free than that concerning gun “keeping and bearing” is an unfair imposition on them. For these people, your rights and concerns about safety are a non-issue; they may as well simply not exist. The non-gun person, however, has this threat to their safety, and the safety of their children and others around them, suddenly thrust upon them in the form of seeing an unknown person bearing a weapon designed to kill people entering their space. They may not react well to being told that there is nothing they can do about this.

The second similarity, stemming from this, is the perception of who is being unreasonable when there is a conflict. The concept of the neutral space is at the root of this. In smoking culture, since “doing what you want” is considered the neutral space, someone who demands to breathe clean air is being unreasonable. The smoker does not see their act as an invasive one, so when they are told to stop smoking, they see that as the invasive act. You are butting into my business.

I may be biased about this myself, but I cannot see how that attitude is reasonable. If you and I are in a confined space, the social norm is that we do not carry out any act which imposes on the other. Or perhaps stated more pertinently, we do not carry out the initial act of imposition. If we are in a doctor’s waiting room, and I start making annoying noises and you ask me to stop, who is imposing upon whom first? If we are sitting in adjacent seats on an airplane, and I keep shifting around so my arms and side keep nudging and brushing against you and you ask me to stop, who is being unreasonable? If we are in an elevator and I let rip a particularly gruesome fart and you give me a dirty look, do I have the right to be offended?

In the smoking context, smokers—at least the militant ones—do not see what they do as the initial act of imposition; they see their actions as a natural right which others are required to accept as the normal state of affairs. They ignore the initial neutral space, they disregard the fact that they are imposing an unpleasantness on others first, and are annoyed when they are asked to stop.

So it is with the militant gun owners. They ignore the clear context of militia in regards to the entire Second Amendment “keep and bear arms” right, and literally read it as a right to not just possess weapons, but to carry them wherever they damn well please. Thus we have two men in Oregon who believe that they are doing a public service when, just weeks after the entire nation is horrified by a young man bearing an assault rifle killing 20 young children, they themselves bear the same or similar weapons and walk past residential homes and schools. They felt that they were making an important statement about their freedoms; they did not see the context or viewpoints of others as being relevant.

The neutral space—one which assumes a right to keep and bear arms—is one where arms are normally kept safe and locked up at home or other establishments, and used in specific contexts in designated areas. Not to walk around scaring the living crap out of parents soon after a severe national trauma.

The third similarity is a perception of resentment and sense of persecution from within the “using” cultures, who focus, often markedly, how put-upon they are. There is the tendency to superimpose the most egregious of objections made by critics onto every instance of criticism, no matter how subdued or polite.

As an example of this in smoking culture, I recall one job I had at a language school in Japan where the common teaching area was smoke-free, but the common teachers’ preparation area was not smoke-free. Between every lesson I was constantly subjected to 10 or 20 minutes of heavy cigarette smoke. Appealing to management was unproductive: they were all smokers as well. I didn’t even want to ban smoking; all I wanted was one table within the room where smokers would not puff away so we non-smokers could at least have a mild refuge from the worst of the smoke. The boss unhelpfully told me I could get this, but only if every smoker in the office agreed. I started by asking one of the smokers this, someone I had never confronted or complained to. I sat down and explained to him that the smoke was a difficulty professionally for me, as I had to speak all day, and between lessons, the smoke was making my throat raw. I asked politely (and those who know me in an office context know that my default mode is to be deferential and polite) if he would agree, and that he would decide himself which table could be smoke-free, just one of five or six tables in the room. He smiled, exhaled a long, leisurely stream of smoke, and said, “Fuck off.” It was pretty clear that he was enjoying retribution, not against me, but against everyone who he felt had annoyed him about his habit or had kept him from enjoying it where he pleased.

Gun owners seem to have the same sense of persecution, and indulge in the same general reaction to any objections from others. I see it when I debate guns with them, in which I support the right to keep and bear arms but debate whether the right stems from the second or the ninth amendment, and they react as if I think there is no right to keep and bear arms at all; or when I suggest gun control measures, making clear that under such measures, people could still have houses filled with guns, but they instantly assume I am promoting gun bans and confiscation—no matter how clearly I state otherwise. I sense they are not confronting my arguments, that in fact, they may not even be paying much attention to what I am saying at all, but instead feel that they are debating everyone who they felt had infringed on their rights; that whomever suggests any restrictions on guns may as well be the same person who wants to ban guns. The conflation in the Talking Points Memo story of the Oregon men (armed with assault rifles walking by homes and schools in the wake of a mass school shooting) with smokers (trying to get a brief break in a remote and restricted area and yet still being accosted by asinine non-smokers) is an excellent example of this.

It might even be that the gun “enthusiasts,” who now possess incredible freedoms compared to cigarette smokers, see similarities between smoking and guns as well—in that they fear guns will be treated as smoking is treated, where the practice in question will be demonized, those indulging will be seen as pariahs, and the enjoyment of their favorite pastime will be restricted to spaces away from others.

Categories: Health Issues, Social Issues Tags:

Guns and Hitler

January 10th, 2013 12 comments

Ever since I started debating gun control on Usenet forums in the early 90’s, one argument has been standard: Hitler took away his people’s guns, like all dictators take away their people’s guns. Gun bans open the door to dictators like Hitler taking over the country. In part of his insanely angry explosion at Piers Morgan, Alex Jones nearly screamed, “Hitler took the guns!”

Umm, no. Actually, He gave them back.

After the end of World War I, guns were heavily restricted. In 1938, Hitler changed gun laws in Germany to relax gun control laws—dropping restrictions on long guns and ammunition, expanding the number of people who needed no permits, lowering the minimum age for ownership, and extending permit periods. The same law prohibited Jews from owning firearms—the one point gun advocates focus on—but the law in general, contrary to how it is painted by people like Jones, made guns more freely available. Nor would have things been any significantly different had Jews not been excluded.

Not to mention the fact that Hitler came to power politically, and that personal firearm ownership was not even remotely an issue in his ascension. Had the Germans been fully armed during that period, Hitler would not have been stopped.

And while the gun nuts talk about Stalin taking the guns, the fact remains that when the Bolsheviks took power, they were armed. In fact, unlike many successful modern revolutions, many of the dictators came to power by way of armed force. Meaning that the presence of guns does not prevent dictators from taking power, which is the central theme in the gun advocates’ rants.

Nor does any of this necessarily translate into our current situation. The fact of the matter is, if America does fall into a dictatorship, it will likely be with the full-fledged support of people who own guns. Witness the Bush administration, in which many civil liberties were rolled back in a manner far more concomitant to dictatorships than any gun control. A national warrantless wiretapping program? Curtailment of legal safeguards whenever any claim, however bogus, of “national security” was invoked? “Rendition” of people to foreign countries to be tortured? Little of this set off alarm bells in the gun crowd; in fact, since Bush was considered no threat to gun ownership, gun advocates tended to be perfectly fine with, even enthusiastic about such measures.

The fact is, an American dictator would not fret about arms much. Tyrants worry far less about guns than they do communications and freedom of movement. Controlling communications is the number one priority—and yet you see none of these gun nuts worrying about communications much. Nor do they fret about car ownership, despite that being heavily regulated and controlled by the government.

Which brings us to what should be obvious: this is not about fear of incipient dictatorship. It’s a ruse, or at most a deluded fantasy. The one thing it is not is a relevant issue.

Categories: Social Issues Tags:

If Only Someone Else Had Had a Gun

January 24th, 2011 7 comments

It’s a common fantasy repeated endlessly by gun enthusiasts. When you get a crazy person who walks into a crowd and starts shooting people, some of us begin to question the overly-lax gun laws and start suggesting that at least some reasonable, even ridiculously mild form of gun control–you know, like allowing clips that hold only ten bullets instead of thirty so crazy people can only shoot a more limited number of people. At which point the enthusiasts disagree (some vehemently), and that’s when they bring up the fantasy.

“It’s too bad that one of the victims wasn’t armed, or better yet, all of them,” they lament. They envision a scenario in which a shooter would immediately meet return fire and be taken down before many people got hurt. After the shooting in Arizona, local congressman Trent Franks deplored, “I wish there had been one more gun in Tucson.”

The reality is much more complicated. The fact is, there was an armed citizen nearby when Loughner began his shooting spree in Arizona; the man immediately grabbed his gun, ran to the scene of the shooting–and very nearly shot one of the people who was subduing the gunman. This was not some frazzled dimwit, but someone who seemed to know their way around a gun, who seemed completely reasonable and responsible.

As if to back up the point, in Detroit yesterday, a gunman walked into a building filled with people and opened fire, shooting one man in the back and hitting three others before someone returned fire and killed the man. You might think that this is the fantasy situation fulfilled–that there was an armed person nearby who was able to return fire. In a sense, this is true: the building was a police station. There were lots of armed people there. And yet, four people got shot before someone returned fire, and the situation was less than controlled:

“Utter chaos and pandemonium took place,” Police Chief Ralph Godbee said at a news conference. “We have a number of officers who are shaken up.”

Even when nearly everyone in the room is armed, a gunman can still do a great amount of damage. Even trained, experienced police officers do not always react like the hero-fantasy expects. If a room full of professional gun-bearers reacted like that to random gun violence, can we really expect randomly armed citizens to do much better?

Also keep in mind that in the Detroit case, the gunman did not even have as deadly a gun as Loughner did. Furthermore, these are scenarios where the gunman comes in and starts firing with no thought to protecting himself. If the gunman has even the slightest ability to plan ahead and work out a scenario more complex than “walk in and start shooting,” he could potentially employ strategies that would allow him to do even more harm against rooms filled with armed people.

As for arming everyone, let’s also remember that there are few places which require a gun owner to train in the use of the weapon or to take even rudimentary safety instruction. Is it ever a good idea to suggest that more untrained people go around armed? We would not imagine allowing people to drive cars without going through at least basic instruction and testing, and most Americans value their right to own and drive a car more than they would to own a gun. Yet few question the wisdom of training, licensing, and registration where motor vehicles are concerned.

As has been pointed out:

A panel of criminology and statistics experts with the National Research Council the National Academies published a study in 2004 that found no reduced crime in states with right-to-carry (RTC) laws.

A 2010 study from Stanford Law School found that “the most consistent, albeit not uniform, finding to emerge from the array of models is that aggravated assault rises when RTC laws are adopted.”

Now, before anyone gets on their high horse, I do not advocate gun bans. (Most gun enthusiasts immediately jump to that conclusion even when the opposite is clearly pointed out; it’s the knee-jerk straw-man argument.) But I do advocate firm, reasonable gun control, of a nature that minimizes any impact on the law-abiding citizen but maximizes impact on those who would purchase guns for illicit use. As has been pointed out, at the very least, we know that lives would have been saved had Loughner been restricted to a 10-bullet clip rather than a 30-bullet clip; the larger-capacity clip had been banned before the Republican congress let it die, and let’s face it–it is the epitome of the reasonable gun control law. No hunter or home protector needs a 30-bullet clip, it’s an accessory for people who are either too lazy to reload more often, or for people who want to kill the largest number of human beings before they have to pause before killing more.

I also question the legitimacy of the assumption that simply putting more guns in the hands of more people more of the time–especially when there is no mandatory safety training–will result in less violence. Something about that just doesn’t ring true for some reason.

Right now, a lot of the people who would still defend preventing even eminently reasonable gun control measures say that it’s about controlling the gunman, not the gun. The problem is, Loughner should have been denied the ability to buy guns and ammunition–it’s not like his unbalanced state was a secret or anything–but the same people who fight reasonable gun control measures also fight against laws which would, in fact, control the crazy people who fire guns at crowds of people. Background checks, mental instability provisions, efficient networks to register and keep track of such individuals, and other checks that could have at least slowed Loughner down are just as hated by the gun crowd, who argue that such laws either inconvenience them or could be abused by the government to disarm normal law-abiding folk.

Having armed people nearby could–potentially–save lives, if those people are properly trained. It almost certainly did in the Detroit police station. However, having more guns around is not always the best way to deal with the problem, and reasonable gun control laws are probably a much better idea.

Categories: Law, Security, Social Issues Tags:

Gun Rush

November 16th, 2008 1 comment

You’ve probably heard of the surge in gun sales after Obama got elected. This usually happens after a Democrat is elected president, but it strikes me as unusually short-sight and dim-witted.

For one thing, Obama’s stands on gun control are pretty moderate (not too different from John McCain’s, in fact), and a recent Supreme Court decision has upheld gun ownership rights; the idea that gun bans are imminent is weak at best.

However, far more significantly, any new gun laws that come about would be foreseeable pretty far in advance, especially any laws that outlawed various types of guns–the NRA and the Republican Party would both see to it that everyone knew what was happening well before it got to a vote. Obama won’t even take office for another two months, and the new Democratic gains in Congress similarly won’t take effect until then.

So the rush of gun buyers–in some places, up as much as 60%–is panic-buying by people who, to be quite frank, are not too smart. It seems to speak to their paranoia–that they seem to think that Obama and/or the Democrats will stealthily craft gun bans overnight and will send jack-booted thugs to round them and their weapons up the next morning. I would not be surprised if many of these people bury their guns in their backyards or otherwise try to hide them somehow.

Alternately, one could consider this opportunistic buying–people who had their eyes on such guns anyway, and this simply gave them an excuse to go out and make the expenditure. I doubt, however, that this explains all or even most of it, especially given the nature of the rhetoric out there, and how gullibly many hard-core right-wingers bought into so much of what the McCain campaign fed them.

Categories: Election 2008 Tags:

For the Love of Oppression

May 22nd, 2016 Comments off

Conservative-Outrage-DispenserYou may have heard about conservatives being in their usual rage about how Facebook is “censoring” them. Complete nonsense, of course, but this is one of their favorite things to do.

Conservatives love being the victim. Christian conservatives adore martyrdom (have you noticed all the movies on that theme lately?), but conservatives in general simply can’t get enough of claiming they’re horribly oppressed. Liberal media! Reverse racism! Feminazis! Religious persecution! Gun grabbers! Voter fraud! The list goes on.

My favorite representative example of this mindset was a news story back in 2005, about how quotes printed on the side of coffee cups at Starbucks were more often liberal than conservative. Right-wingers got in the exact same state about Starbucks then as they are with Facebook now. The media obliged, running stories on the “issue.”

The money quote, however, came from a woman named Yvette Nunez, a 27-year-old Republican from Tampa. Originally, she hadn’t even noticed the supposed imbalance, but once alerted to it, she quickly fell into line. “I’m not surprised,” she said. “I’m used to being under-represented.”

Keep in mind that in 2005, conservatives controlled pretty much everything. They had had the White House for 5 years, control of the House for 11 years, and the Senate for 9 of the previous 11 years. Conservatives dominated the Supreme Court, and similarly exercised controlling influence over the media—all of this in the shadow of 9/11, when the conservative agenda carried more power than ever.

This woman, however, perhaps from reflex more than anything else, felt “under-represented” because her coffee cups disagreed with her more often than not. Not that she had actually noticed or been affected in any real way.

This is more than just a conditioned reflex or personality quirk amongst right-wingers, however; it is also very much a conscious strategy. It’s called “working the ref.” The more you can claim to be disadvantaged and that the deck is stacked against you, the more you can demand things be “corrected” in your favor. It’s a negotiating ploy: insist that the reasonable center is in fact somehow terribly skewed against you and that the “real” center is way more toward you, and you can shift the end result far more in your direction.

Conservatives will play on this any and every time they possibly can. The entire “liberal media” lie is based on this. The claim of a “color-blind” society which actually suffers from “reverse racism” is founded on the same principle. The specter of “religious persecution” against Christians in a country absolutely dominated by them mirrors this imagined imbalance. We see it in “scandals,” like the story about how the IRS was targeting conservative groups, or how Homeland Security was maligning conservatives by citing a threat from their ranks.

It is, in short, one of the favorite forms of “political correctness” that conservatives take glee in demanding. “We’re being discriminated against and disparaged!” we hear. “Correct for that!”

The whole Facebook “scandal” is exactly the same, and based on evidence just as shoddy. Apparently, one anonymous, admittedly conservative, and presumably disgruntled former worker from Facebook made a completely unevidenced and possibly biased claim that other workers at Facebook were allowing their liberal bias to steer them in their control of the “trending” list.

If you read the story carefully, however, the headline and the main claim can be seen for the bullshit they really are. After reading the headline “We [Facebook] Routinely Suppressed Conservative News,” and multiple accusations about conservatives getting “deep-sixed” and “blacklisted,” we read the actual practice:

Stories covered by conservative outlets (like Breitbart, Washington Examiner, and Newsmax) that were trending enough to be picked up by Facebook’s algorithm were excluded unless mainstream sites like the New York Times, the BBC, and CNN covered the same stories. …

“We were told that if we saw something, a news story that was on the front page of these ten sites, like CNN, the New York Times, and BBC, then we could inject the topic,” said one former curator. “If it looked like it had enough news sites covering the story, we could inject it—even if it wasn’t naturally trending.”

In other words, Facebook was trying to exclude political bias—not practice it! They were told that if a story was not being picked up by the major news sources—not just liberal ones—then it should not have free rein on Facebook. Note that the description of the process did not exclude the possibility that liberal stories would also be held from trending if they were not also reported in the big news outlets—which was probably the case, if any of this was true.

If that’s how it worked, then that makes eminent business sense: Facebook would not want to let itself devolve into a partisan cesspool, where any one point of view dominates—thus alienating potentially half their audience. It is fully likely that liberal-leaning trending stories were “suppressed” exactly as much—but the anonymous former worker, a self-described conservative, didn’t notice or care about those.

In the wake of this, conservatives acted true to form: they railed and wailed about how badly they are oppressed, taking advantage of the idea that tech companies are so liberal and conservatives are so put upon. What, at worst, would have been a subtle act of bias only a fraction as significant as run-of-the-mill daily business as Fox News (which is actually a “news” outlet, unlike Facebook), was treated as so utterly scandalous that even a congressional investigation was warranted—and immediately threatened.

Facebook, in a strikingly acquiescent move, agreed to have a group of notable conservatives come to Facebook to judge them first-hand. Among them was Glenn Beck. I will admit, I figured him to be the most explosive of the bunch, and fully expected to hear him lead the pack in ranting and hair-pulling, no matter what Facebook told them.

Instead, surprisingly, Beck was actually the voice of reason in the group—which might tell you something about how rabid the group was. Beck wrote:

Walking out of the meeting, I was convinced that Facebook is behaving appropriately and trying to do the right thing. They were humble, open, and listened intently to everyone in the room. …

Conservative media, which was started as a reaction to the inherent bias in the main stream media, does not trust anyone outside our circle. Hell, we don’t even trust the people inside our circle. So it’s understandable that going to Silicon Valley, for many conservatives, is like going into enemy territory. … as a general rule, we do not trust them. And with one story, conservatives told Facebook, “There’s nothing left in the trust bank. There’s no goodwill. You must have been scamming us this whole time.” …

So what disturbed me about the Facebook meeting?

I sat through a meeting that, to me, felt like I was attending a Rainbow Coalition meeting, that people (not me) had come with a list of demands.

I looked around the room, I heard the complaints, I listened to the perspectives, and not a single person in the room shared evidence of any wrongdoing. …

I sat there looking around and heard things like:

1) Facebook has a very liberal workforce. Has Facebook considered diversity in their hiring practice? The country is 2% Mormon. Maybe Facebook’s company should better reflect that reality.

2) Maybe Facebook should consider a six-month training program to help their biased and liberal workforce understand and respect conservative opinions and values.

3) We need to see strong and specific steps to right this wrong.

It was like affirmative action for conservatives. When did conservatives start demanding quotas AND diversity training AND less people from Ivy League Colleges.

He also stressed several times that this whole thing was based upon one story from one source, not something with any real evidence behind it.

Beck’s point about the conservatives being so liberal-like in their demands, however, shows up another propensity on the right: accusing the left of doing something, then doing it far more vehemently themselves. “Democrats filibuster!” they raged in 2005, and then when Republicans took over Congress, they filibustered several hundred percent more. “Liberals are too politically correct!” they rage, and then demand that no one says “Happy Holidays,” and rage when anyone publicly discusses gun control after yet another mass shooting.

They despise exactly the things Beck pointed out the conservatives were demanding—but only when liberals do it. But It’s OK If You’re A Republican.

Not that Beck isn’t still biased in his reporting, or that he won’t go all nutball again tomorrow. However, when Beck himself sees his own people as going off the deep end, you know that it’s not all “fair and balanced” in that crowd, to be sure.


November 29th, 2015 2 comments

More is coming in on what happened at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado. The headlines are, “Planned Parenthood alleged gunman is from North Carolina”; “Gunman’s Past Scoured for Clues to Siege at Planned Parenthood”; and “Suspect in Colorado clinic shooting had past brushes with the law.” The headlines and articles use the words “gunman,” “shooter,” “recluse,” and “suspect.”

All of these reports very carefully and studiously avoid the one most highly accurate and relevant term: “terrorist.” No one dares use that word.

Here’s my favorite headline: “Colorado shooter politically motivated.”

Hmmm… what is the definition of “terrorism” again? Oh, yeah, right here in my dictionary: “the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.” In short, the Colorado shooting was nothing less than terrorism, and the “gunman,” Robert Lewis Dear, was a terrorist. If it was a shooting at, well, actually, anywhere, but the person shooting was a Muslim from a middle eastern country, no one at all would hesitate to use the word “terrorist”; every single last article would be filled with terror, terrorism, terrorist. But not now, not in this case.

Already people are talking about the man being “mentally unstable,” despite there being no evidence either way on the matter. This is the normal fallback position when a Christian or conservative commits a crime like this, a setup for the “no true Scotsman” fallacy: he wasn’t really a conservative/Christian, he was just crazy. Neither his politics nor his faith are really relevant, is the standard explanation. He was a “recluse,” a “loner,” divorced from the community, we’ll be told.

Nope. From all indications, the man is a terrorist. He mentioned “no more baby parts,” a reference to the recent bogus Planned Parenthood videos which have been all the rage in conservative circles as of late. His target, a Planned Parenthood clinic, was not some coincidence. Officials have stated that his attack was “definitely politically motivated.”

It was the same thing last week when five people were shot at a Black Lives Matter protest. Again, a politically motivated violent attack—and again, the media refused to use the word “terrorism.” Again, it was “shooters,” “gunmen,” “suspects”—but no terrorists.

It’s about time we stopped shying away from calling domestic terrorism for what it is. The problem, of course, is that Fox News and the entire conservative media and much of the core community will explode in anger at the suggestion that politics has anything to do with it.

Fox and other conservative outlets are quickly laying down the crazy-lone-recluse story; Newsmax highlights that he had “few religious or political leanings” and that his mental health is under scrutiny, a story nearly identical to Fox News. Breitbart is almost hilarious in its coverage, going straight for the man’s voter registration and—I kid you not—blaming Colorado gun control laws for the incident, whilst highlighting the claim that Dear was “unknown to pro-lifers in the area.” In short, they are trying to lay down damage control, to give their readers and viewers everything possible to deny that the shooter had any relation to conservatives or the conservative cause.

Nor is that a simple political whitewash; the right-wing noise machine has a serious vested interest in disassociating itself from this case, just like they had when Byron Williams drove his car to San Francisco to kill as many people as he could at the Tides Foundation and the ACLU, after watching Glenn Beck on Fox News rage about these organizations taking over the country. Or when Richard Poplawski killed three police officers in Pittsburgh after watching Fox News and reading InfoWars. Or when Dylann Roof killed nine black people in a church after being radicalized by lies spread on conservative web sites.

It is pretty obvious that not just one source, but the entire culture of dramatically, I would even say breathtaking lies and distortion now blanketing the conservative bubble—this is what is driving the more and more violent right wing in the United States, making monsters out of peaceful protesters, painting a women’s health organization as a machine of genocide, and creating a bizarre alternate fantasy world regarding the president in which he’s a fascist, communist Kenyan with a fake birth certificate bent on slaughtering Christians and conservatives in concentration camps.

It has come to the point where fact no longer matters, not even a little bit. Where top presidential candidates just make all kinds of crap up and the press can’t even refute them for fear of being smeared as “liberal media.” Where outrageous lies and distortions are the norm, not the deviation.

It is my fear—and I believe a well-founded one—that we’re just seeing the beginning of a new wave of violence, beyond the simple slaughter being carried out with firearms on a daily basis. The new violence is, simply, terrorism: politically motivated violence driven by a relentless drumbeat of despicable lies and hatred blared to an increasingly desperate and gullible core of conservatives lost in the desolate bubble of modern conservatism.

Categories: Right-Wing Extremism Tags:

Doing More, Just with Less Flash

August 27th, 2015 Comments off

One of the difficulties of several liberal vs. conservative policies is that the liberal ones are often at a disadvantage in apparent terms.

For example, racism exists in most part silently, whereas Affirmative Action and quotas are out in broad daylight; as a result, AA and quotas are very high-profile, whereas most racism, despite being far more prevalent and influential, hides from view.

This was brought to mind when a Facebook friend shared the story of a man whose life was very clearly saved by gun control. A woman had her gun confiscated by police because she did not have a license (something not required most of the time); the next day, the woman had a psychotic break, and used a knife to attack the writer of the post. He was stabbed twice, but was not seriously injured. Had there not been a requirement for a license, the police would have not been allowed to take her gun away, and the man would be dead. Luckily, this was in a state where a license is required; there are only 5 such states, and 40 have no requirement for permits or licenses whatsoever.

However, this is a rare case: the woman just happened to have been deprived of her weapon very recently, and the police happened to tell the victim about it.

In the vast majority of cases, gun control works in a way in which it can rarely if ever be definitively found to have saved any specific lives. As a result, anecdotes such as the ones above are extremely difficult to find.

On the other hand, when a person with a gun even suspects that their gun helped them, it gets trumpeted all over the Internet. There are endless anecdotes to be found; pro-gun sentiment and venomous spewing against gun control is incredibly pervasive over that medium.

The problem is, most of these are cases where there is an assumption that the firearm saved them, termed DGU, or “defensive gun use.” “That guy looked like trouble,” you will read, “but when I flashed my handgun under my jacket, he got scared and took off!” In such a case, there is no evidence that the gun stopped any actual event—just a feeling. Studies like those done by Gary Kleck include even the weakest data—such as, a man hears a sound outside his house, fires a warning shot, he sees nothing and nothing happens—as evidence of “defensive gun use,” which is then extrapolated to ridiculous effect. Furthermore, you know that most of these anecdotal reports are embellished to make the teller sound more heroic, and that cases in which firearms escalated situations and caused problems, you never hear people report that. This is the kind of “data” which is collected and used by gun advocacy groups to make “studies” which purportedly show that owning and carrying guns saves huge numbers of lives.

The thing is, no such report ever survived peer review intact; most if not all such studies are highly biased with severely flawed methodologies. However, it gets repeated, and strongly punctuated by anecdotal stories like the 83-year-old grandmother who fends off a street gang with a shotgun, or whatever.

It is unlikely that many will be able to report the specific effectiveness of gun control, despite its efficacy; it’s reporting about the dog that didn’t bark. Some criminal with a record for aggravated assault and murder tries to buy a gun, but gets arrested due to a background check. He goes to jail and never kills anyone again. How do the people who don’t get killed by this guy ever know they were saved? They don’t. And therefore, no anecdotal evidence. Or, at least, it is extremely rare, with only scattered stories like the one linked to above.

Despite the lack of persuasive anecdotal evidence for the effectiveness of gun control, the figures supporting it are significant and convincing.

Between 1994 and 2010, at least 118,000 gun sales to wanted criminals have been stopped by background checks; during the same time, 1,034,000 convicted felons and 291,000 people with histories of domestic abuse tried to buy guns and were blocked by background checks. In total, over 2,000,000 illicit gun purchases have been stopped, an average of more than 62,000 per year—and that is with many weaknesses built into the program, weaknesses demanded by the NRA and other gun advocates.

The number of criminals trying to buy guns who were arrested because background checks does not seem to be available, but some figures are. For example, a background check instituted in Virginia has caused 1355 fugitives to be caught and arrested over a 20-year period; extrapolated to the population of the entire country, that would be the equivalent of 52,000 fugitives arrested over a 20-year period, about 2600 per year. In addition, the same state, in 2009 alone, arrested 856 individuals for violations related to background checks, which would amount to 32,000 per year nationwide.

So, with checks, every year, 62,000 illicit gun sales stopped, 32,000 arrests for illicit purchase attempts, 2600 wanted fugitives put in jail.

You want to argue that this does not/would not result in thousands of lives saved every year?

The problem is, since it works preventively—and because conservatives have fought hard to suppress any such research or reporting of numbers—it is impossible to say how many have been saved by the relatively weak, loophole-ridden process that we currently have.

Imagine what we could do if we have actual gun control—nationwide, closed loopholes, emphasis on availability to legal owners but with added requirements for safety and proficiency training… not to mention measures to help track down people who actually committed gun crimes.

Categories: Law, Social Issues Tags:

This Is Conservatism

September 29th, 2013 4 comments
Even in 2009, it was pretty evident. A foreign leader asked Obama:

“We don’t understand it. You’re trying to make sure everybody has health care and they’re putting a Hitler mustache on you — I don’t — that doesn’t make sense to me. Explain that to me.”

Conservatives are doing things which would have been unimaginable a few decades ago. Some things which we even take for granted now. Think about the following facts in the context of what would have passed muster a few generations ago—or even more alarmingly, in the context of sound reason.

Conservatives run a propaganda channel on TV which they shamelessly pretend is a “news network.”

Conservatives openly mock facts, deny science, and fervently stand behind statements which are easily proven false.

Conservatives are openly suppressing liberal voters under the laughable pretense of openly discredited “voter fraud.”

Conservatives work almost exclusively now via obstructionism, essentially stopping all meaningful legislation.

Conservatives oppose any and all legislation favored by the opposition regardless of what it is, even if it was what conservatives themselves were promoting until very recently.

Conservatives have utterly rejected the core principle of American politics—compromise—and now genuinely threaten to destroy the American economy if they do not get their extremist agenda passed. For conservatives, “negotiation” means nothing more than “give us everything we want and you get nothing.”

Conservatives are opposed to virtually any policy that would help their supposed constituents, the people: health care, retirement benefits, a living wage, solid public education, college education, union protection, infrastructure, corporate and government regulation, clean air, clean water, clean and/or cheap energy, environmental protection, reproductive choice, progressive taxes, network neutrality, unemployment insurance, food stamps, responsible gun control, the ability to sue if wronged… the list goes on and on and on. Anything that would help the people of the country, anything that would help the economy at large, conservatives oppose.

What do conservatives fight for? Lower taxes, mostly for wealthy people. Oil and coal. Military spending. Land wars in the Middle East. Privatization.

And yet, tens of millions of Americans who are most hurt by what Republicans are doing vote them back into office time and again.

Could the lack of a well-informed electorate somehow be involved?

Together, of course, with the excruciating inability of Democrats to effectively counter all of that or to even provide a marginally attractive alternative choice. As I put it in 2010, if Republicans had to advertise truthfully, their campaign slogan would be this:

We’re Crazy and Destructive, but the Other Guys Are Ineffective at Stopping Us!

Categories: Right-Wing Extremism Tags:

Conservative Myths, Memes, & Lies

July 14th, 2013 3 comments

There comes a point where the sheer volume of fault- and falsehood-ridden conservative “facts” and ideas is rather breathtaking to behold. With sadly lowered expectations of what passes for logic and standards of evidence, and then to be assaulted with such claims on an almost daily basis, we sometimes fail to appreciate the startling number of assumptions and opinions held by conservatives which are not only demonstrably false, but usually obviously so.

Here is a list of ones that come to mind at the moment. I had to stop at fifty, the list was getting so long.

You cannot say the word “God” in the public square. Yes you can. God is everywhere, in every public oath and on every piece of currency. How many children are compelled daily to mention God in the pledge in public schools? How many television and radio shows and even stations are dedicated to preaching 24/7? Clearly, you can say the word all you want. Myths about people practicing religious freedom in public and being arrested for it are inevitably about people failing to secure parade permits and the like. If this claim is instead made to mean that god cannot be mentioned in government buildings, then a person claiming such may be referred to any American legislative session at any level, virtually all of which are initiated, daily, by a clergyman saying a prayer.

You cannot say the word “God” in a public school. Of course you can. The only restriction is that no one representing the school may advocate a specific religion to the exclusion of others.

Children are not allowed to pray in public schools. Wrong. Students can and often do pray in public schools. Any “private, voluntary student prayer that does not interfere with the school’s educational mission” is allowed.

There is a war on Christianity in American society. Quite the contrary. It is other belief systems that are discriminated against; Christianity is safely dominant in American society. The perceived “war” on Christianity is nothing more than (1) appropriate and yet often-less-than-wholly-effective resistance to unconstitutional encroachments by Christianity in violation of the First Amendment, such as resistance against teacher-conducted prayer in public schools; or (2) fictional “attacks” on religion which are nothing of the sort, such as a business using the expression “Happy Holidays!” to greet all customers, including Christians.

Conservatives fight for freedom of belief. Not true; they do so only when the religion in question is Christian; all other belief systems are second-class or worse. Religious discrimination is in fact practiced in the United States—only it’s conservative Christians who are the most often guilty of it. Blocking the building of mosques, demanding atheist billboards be taken down, shouting down a Hindu cleric delivering an invocation—even harassing a Jewish family when they object to their daughter being pressured to convert to Christianity.

Secularism is anti-religious. Secularism is not the banning of religion, it is the policy in which no one religion is allowed to be presented as the official religion of the state, as it is a historical fact that when a belief system is endorsed by the state, all other belief systems suffer as a result. Christians who want state officials and representatives to overtly promote Christianity are in violation of this principle, but do not see things that way. They see their dominance in state affairs as a given, only natural and right; they see secularism as a means of preventing their “religious freedoms,” i.e. to impose their religious beliefs (which they see as moral imperatives) on others. In a way, this is similar to the claim that science is anti-religious when it announces observations such as life evolves from simpler forms or that the universe is billions of years old; these claims do not attack religion, but instead simply contradict religious excursions into realms in which religion has no right to dominate.

Separation of church and state is an offense to religion; the founding Pilgrims would have abhorred it. Very similar to the claim above. The invocation of the Pilgrims is especially ironic, as their plight was one of the reasons that separation of church and state was established, and serves as an excellent example of why the principle is sound. The Pilgrims were driven out of England when the state-endorsed religion enacted a series of laws requiring all subjects to attend state-sponsored churches and to read from state-authorized prayer books, else face fines and imprisonment. The only way to allow all belief to flourish is to do so in a state where no one belief system is allowed to dominate; the only way to assure that is to maintain a strict separation of church and state.

Corporations are job creators. As Nick Hanauer pointed out, businesses, by nature, are opposed to creating jobs. Employing people is an expense, and businesses avoid every expense possible. Businesses hire people only when there is no other choice, and fire people whenever possible. Job creation is most accurately attributed to demand for goods and services, which is mostly driven by middle-class consumption.

Wealthy people are job creators. Untrue, for many of the same reasons listed above. Consumption by rich people is far less responsible for creating jobs than is consumption by other groups, including the poor. Investment by wealthy people does not create jobs, rather said investment is a response to demand that presents an opportunity to a wealthy person to gain more money by purchasing ownership in a business which will attempt to hire the fewest number of people possible to respond that that demand.

Cutting taxes raises tax revenues. The idea that the government can raise more revenues by cutting the amount of taxes people pay is dubious at best. There may be stimulative tax cuts if they are targeted precisely, but it is more likely that there are far better stimulative alternatives—amongst which the strongest include issuing food stamps and spending on infrastructure projects. Worse, conservative tax cuts are aimed primarily at the wealthy, a type of tax cuts which is rather plainly not stimulative.

Cutting taxes for wealthy people and businesses spurs investment in businesses which create jobs. This is usually argued when conservatives wish to cut the capital gains tax, or other taxes which mostly affect wealthy people. It is patently untrue. If a market is depressed and no one is spending, you can give all the money in the world to wealthy people and businesses, and they will not invest it in job-creating industries—precisely because no one is buying anything. Why should a wealthy person build a factory to create things when no one is buying them? In contrast, if you give wealthy people and businesses no tax cuts, or even if you raise their taxes, they will always find revenue to invest (by using their collected wealth or by borrowing from banks) if people are buying something.

Wealthy people will stop working if you raise their taxes. And people will stop eating if you take away most of their food. Or, wait, that’s incredibly stupid.

Reagan cut taxes and doubled revenue. Net taxes actually went up under Reagan, and most revenue increase claimed to his credit was inflationary.

Conservatives want to cut taxes for all Americans. This is contradicted by the most recent election cycle, in which conservatives wanted to repeal both the estate tax and slash the capital gains tax and corporate taxes—and at the same time also advocated raising taxes on the poorest Americans, most specifically by eliminating tax credits and breaks aimed squarely at low- and middle-class earners. This was proposed under the infamous “47%” claim, in which it was usually asserted, either overtly or by inference, that 47% of Americans paid no taxes. The number referred to those who owed no federal income taxes, but who still paid sales, property, payroll, and many other taxes, some even in excess of the percentage paid by the excessively wealthy Republican presidential candidate himself.

Liberals are “takers” who tax hard-working conservatives so they can live off of government entitlements. It is usually not directly stated that liberals are the takers and conservatives are the makers, but that is clearly what is meant. What is ironic is that it is conservative states that take more than they contribute, conservative areas that take more than they give. Generally speaking, the division is much closer to equal than otherwise; there are takers and makers on both sides. However, it is clear that conservatives are just as enamored of entitlements as liberals are; they are just less willing to pay for them when they go to other people.

Democrats are tax-and-spenders; Republicans want to cut the budget. Everyone in government is a “tax and spender.” If there is a differentiation, it works out that Republicans are “spend-and-debtors,” in that they are less willing to pay the bills at the end of the day. The vast majority of spending, the deficit, and the debt has been incurred by Republican administrations and policies over the past several decades.

Business owners built their businesses without any government help. Nobody lives in a vacuum, nobody lives cut off from everyone else. Everyone depends upon resources created by others, many created by or nurtured by the government. Everything from trade deals to education to infrastructure contributes to every business; without the government, business as we know it today would be completely unrecognizable, and certainly far less robust. The assertion to the contrary is part of the recent conservative desire to stop having to pay for what they receive by denying they receive anything at all.

Private industry created the Internet. Yes, people really claim that. I refuted it here. Spoiler alert: the claim is not true.

Freedom on the Internet is threatened by government regulation. To the contrary, the “regulation” claimed to be throttling Internet freedom is that which prevents private industries, primarily telecommunication firms, from asserting ownership over a public resource, which would result in diminished freedom, not to mention higher costs.

Government never creates jobs. This claim is obviously ludicrous, considering the 22 million jobs held in federal, state, and local governments, many of them life-long, in fields ranging from education to the military. One can only assume that the claim being made is that specific stimulative spending does not create jobs in private industry, under the assumption that “creating jobs” means permanent lifetime employment. However, no matter how absurdly you parse the claim, it is utter nonsense; the 2009 stimulus saved millions of jobs, and helped create millions more. Claims of its “failure” are as unfounded as all the other conservative claims on this list.

Conservatives support higher wages and better working conditions, which can only result from a free market system without government regulation. This is one of a class of statements which predicts riches for everyone if only the government stops interfering and businesses can do virtually anything they like. Needless to say, the relentless drive to deregulate business, dismantle unions, and block minimum wage raises has resulted in a workforce remunerated far less than before. It is a rule of business that, unless forced otherwise, wages must be driven down and benefits cut wherever possible, while “efficiency” (fewer people doing more work for less pay) is driven as high as it can be. Witness the rare exception, Costco, paying better wages and benefits—and being castigated by Wall Street for doing so.

Academic excellence can only be achieved through government-regulated standardized testing. Which, when you think of it, is kind of ironic when you consider how conservatives are against anything being government-regulated. Unless, of course, it is something they don’t like, in which case, the government should regulate or ban it. Suffice it to say that standardized testing is a horrible way to run public education.

Conservatives freed the slaves. Conservatives to blacks: “You’re welcome.” This claim is dredged up when conservatives feel like minorities, for some weird, inexplicable reason, seem to be voting less and less Republican. The logic: conservatives today are Republicans, the Republican Party was founded by Abraham Lincoln, Lincoln freed the slaves—therefore, conservatives freed the slaves and are champions of civil rights. They even sometimes try to claim that liberals supported slavery, hinting that liberals oppose religious groups (another common conservative fallacy), and religious groups were abolitionists (most religious groups of the day were not).

Martin Luther King, Jr. opposed corrective or reparative measures against racism. An old idea to combat Affirmative Action by citing King’s statement about judging a person only by the content of their character—whilst conveniently ignoring that King was speaking of a future devoid of racism, not a present in which racism flourishes and corrective measures are the best manner to at least partially counteract such forces.

Racism is no longer an issue in America; the country is color-blind, and corrective measures are reverse racism against whites. This is essentially what the conservative bloc on the Supreme Court recently decided. Within hours of that decision, states which had formerly been restrained by the Voting Rights Act immediately begin passing and enacting strongly discriminatory redistricting and laws, aimed at robbing minorities of the ability to vote and elect representatives for their interests. So, no, we’re not color-blind, and the Voting Rights Act was not reverse racism.

Laws intended to offer equal protection to women and minorities are “special privileges.” “Special privileges” is one of those code words for equal rights and treatment under the law. How a law, for example, requiring equal pay for women and allowing them to sue when they do not receive it, is a “special privilege” is somewhat difficult to reason. Conservatives will likely point to hate-crime legislation as a “representative” example of such special treatment; however, such laws apply to everyone—including violence against whites—and are in effect not to give special treatment to minorities, women, or gays, but to protect society from individuals who pose a special threat as they wish to do violence against entire classes of people.

Businesses and workplaces are often forced to hire unqualified women and minorities in order to satisfy quotas. If such a thing ever happened, it would only as a misapplication of the law, usually due to people believing this very myth. No quota ever required any business or office to hire someone unqualified for the job.

The free market is self-regulating. No it’s not. Oh, it regulates certain economic factors in very crude ways, but it does not self-regulate the behavior currently handled by government regulations. Left to itself, it would abuse employees, pollute the environment, and cheat people to no end. Its chief goal is to make money; all other considerations fall in that wake of that prime directive. It does not react to consumer complaint by cleaning itself up and regulating itself; if it did, government regulation would never have been necessary in the first place. Besides which, non-governmental factors which would help regulate certain aspects of business—such as unions—are consistently opposed by conservatives.

Treatment for drug addicts is coddling criminals / a waste of money. All evidence to the contrary. People have a tendency to reject treatment over incarceration because it means spending money to help people they disrespect or outright despise. No matter that it costs far more to incarcerate, and creates an incredible drag on the economy as well as general damage to society as a whole. Like drug laws overall, it is not about what makes sense or is best for people, it is about appearances and appearances only.

The context of the Second Amendment has not changed at all in 222 years, but the context of the Voting Rights Act has completely changed in 48 years. Do I even need to go into details?

We have never executed a person innocent of the crime for which they were executed. Wrong. Statistical evidence proves it beyond any rational doubt. Most individual proof is extremely difficult as states regularly destroy all evidence after someone is executed, and police and prosecutors refuse to investigate the crime further. Not to mention the fact that we do know of such specific cases. Ironically, conservatives who claim the government never does anything right and do not trust the government at all to regulate business, educate children, or run health care, nevertheless seem to trust the government explicitly to never wrongly execute someone.

States rights must prevail. Except when they want to do something conservatives don’t like. If a state, for example, wants to legalize marijuana, allow gay marriage, or permit people dying of terminal illnesses the right to end their own lives, then states do not have rights over the federal government. But if a state wants to ban abortion, relax gun control, or outlaw gay marriage, medicinal marijuana, and right-to-die, then state’s rights becomes the absolute principle that must be respected. Historically, “state’s rights” has a powerful racial impact due to its use to defend slavery, and later, segregation; like “strict constructionism” and “judicial activism,” “state’s rights” is really just a code word for advocating conservative agendas; these are by no means actual “principles.”.

Conservatives are against “big government.” Funny, then, that every time they get control of things, we get bigger government. Not that Democrats are much better at it—but at least they don’t pretend to be against something they clearly support. For conservatives, “big government” is yet another code word, this one meaning “spending we don’t like.” Medicare, for example, is “big government,” while an exploding military budget which vastly outspends the rest of the world combined is somehow defensible.

Conservatives want to “save” Medicare and Social Security. By dismantling them and replacing them with programs given the same name but not resembling the original programs at all.

Conservatives support the troops; liberals hate the soldiers. Remember how liberal protesters spat on returning Vietnam vets on the tarmac of airports? So do a lot of people—which is strange, as it never happened. In fact, war protesters were usually supportive of vets, which is evidenced by the fact that so many of the protesters were themselves veterans. The specific story as well as the general myth that conservatives are pro-soldier is false. Conservatives have gained the reputation for being pro-military primarily for their support of military spending, in addition to their generally hawkish stances. They mouth support for the troops, but fall short of actually giving it. In fact, when it comes to supporting veterans’ causes, it is liberals who often do the best job, while conservatives do their best to block such support. Conservatives have even claimed that Obama’s efforts to increase benefits and support for troops is evidence that he hates them—I shit you not. Veterans groups typically give very high scores to Democrats for supporting veterans’ issues, and very low scores to Republicans. Republicans, despite their reputation, are much more liable to block the granting of benefits and programs for vets. As General Wesley Clark said in 2004, “Republicans like weapons systems; Democrats like the soldiers.”

If a conservative says something that offends people and results in damage to their reputation or career, their First Amendment rights are being violated. This is a common dodge to controversy. Although conservatives have no problems pushing for boycotts to punish people and causes they disapprove of, when the same happens in reverse, they often claim that the person’s first-amendment rights are being violated. This despite the clear fact that the First Amendment protects your right to say what you want, and not your right to avoid people shunning you for it.

Obama caused high unemployment. Conservatives who claim that Obama was responsible for high unemployment consistently and conveniently ignore that the rate began to skyrocket under Bush, who took it from 5.0% in April 2008 to 7.8 % in January 2009, a rise of 2.8% in just 9 months, and that it hit a high of 10% in October 2009, a 2.2% rise in another 9 months. However, to hold Obama responsible for the latter rise is questionable at best, and most likely completely inaccurate. Imagine Bush piloting an aircraft at 40,000 feet: he pushes the airplane into a steep dive, and at 28,000 feet, as the plane plummets, he hands over the controls to Obama. Obama struggles to level out the plane, but cannot manage to do so until it reaches 20,000 feet—at which points conservatives blame him for the low altitude and do everything they can thereafter to impede his piloting duties. In addition to sheer inertia, the fact is that the unemployment rate is a “lagging indicator,” meaning that the current rate indicates the response to what was happening in the economy 6 to 9 months previously. Meaning that Obama only began “owning” the unemployment rate when it was already at its peak—and has consistently driven it down ever since.

Obama skyrocketed the deficit. Nope. As with the unemployment rate, the deficits skyrocketed under Bush; Obama has done nothing but reduce them. The current deficit is primarily a result of Bush-Cheney tax cuts, the wars in the Middle East, and the 2008 economic collapse. Obama has initiated far less deficit spending than Bush; Bush went from incipient surpluses to a trillion-dollar deficit; Obama has only brought down spending and deficits. Historically, over the past half-century, Democratic presidents have presided over deficit reductions, while Republican presidents have exploded them.

Republicans have always fought hard to balance the budget, but are confounded by Democrats who bust it. See above. When Republicans had control of the presidency and both houses of Congress, they went from a surplus to a nearly $600 billion deficit—and that was before the 2008 collapse. They try to take credit for the deficit reduction in the 90’s, but that was due as much to the Internet boom and to Clinton’s 1993 tax hike. Even under Reagan, who supposedly tried to cut spending while Democrats foiled his efforts, the facts are that the Democratic Congress passed budgets which were lower than Reagan’s proposals 7 of 8 times.

Gay marriage will undermine the institution of marriage, leading to polygamy and bestiality. See my recent post. In short, no.

Gay marriage will undermine population growth. Again, no. Stupid claim.

Global warming is a myth. Funny that Fox News doesn’t put Al Gore’s book on the sidewalk now. Do we really need to discuss how global climate change is real? I hope not.

Scientists disagree on global warming / evolution. There is no consensus. It can be said that scientists disagree on virtually everything. When 97% believe it is happening, that’s pretty conclusive. When only 1% ~ 6% of climate scientists claim that humans have had little or no effect on climate change, claiming that the debate “isn’t settled yet” is disingenuous at best. As for evolution, only 0.15% of scientists in fields relating to evolution disbelieve in it.

Evolution is “only a theory.” So is gravity, but you ain’t floating away, are you? This chestnut is just a distortion of the meaning and use of the term “theory.” The evidence for evolution is overwhelming; we simply do not understand all of the details yet. The creationists use the “theory” dodge to avoid the mountain of evidence supporting evolution, and contradicting their own claims which are supported only by faulty interpretations of ancient scripture. As stated near the top of this list, noting certain realities such as evolution does not attack religion, but instead simply contradicts religious claims about science which religion is not justified to make.

Money equals free speech. It may be true legally, but not in fact. Free speech is free speech; money is a means to elevate one person’s freedom to speak above everyone else’s. You have the right to speak, just not the right to be heard. Money allows a very few the assurance that one will be heard. That is not a right. It is a means of granting extraordinary power and special rights to those who possess wealth, with all of the freedoms a right confers so as to avoid any attempts to level the field. Arguably, the idea that money is free speech actually degrades the freedom of speech for most people.

Corporations are people. This is a legal fiction constructed to allow corporations to create contracts, participate in lawsuits, and shield individual shareholders (e.g., prevent the collection of debt from reaching personal possessions). Although the legal fiction describes the corporation as a legal “person,” this had never been assumed to grant corporations constitutional rights—at least until the right wing of the Supreme Court made the ethically repellent decision of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and declared that corporations have First Amendment rights, as if they were actual people. This is a break from tradition, and has poisoned our political process since then, far in excess of the toxic mess it already was. The conservatives on the court, from thin air, created a right that had not existed before—as audacious a case of “legislating from the bench” as has ever been witnessed before. Suddenly, corporations could be wielded as a super-person by people who already enjoy their own individual rights, giving them extra powers—not by all shareholders, but just those few wealthy and power people who actually control them.

Capital gains tax is double-taxation. No it’s not. Corporate shareholders are shielded by the “body” of the corporation; the price for this is that the corporation is treated separately from the shareholders. It is not double taxation when an employer is taxed and then an employee is taxed. The same principle applies here. Those who make this claim simply want all the protections a corporation supplies without paying any of the costs—an all-too-common conservative theme.

Liberal justices legislate from the bench; conservatives are strict constructionists who want to preserve or “restore” the original constitution. In simple terms, a conservative will define any decision that conservatives disagree with as “judicial activism” and “legislating from the bench,” no matter what the grounds. It is little more than a reflexive response to dismiss judgments that go against them.

Actual judicial activism is when a decision is handed down that goes beyond or contradicts precedent, engages in judicial overreach (the court going well beyond what is necessary to settle the case), and defies standards of judicial restraint.

While it can be argued that both liberal and conservative judges and justices have practiced such activism, there is ample evidence that this is far more a practice among conservative jurists than of liberal ones. Roe v. Wade is the primary and usually sole arguable example of liberal judicial activism. Conservatives, however, have been going on a spree of such activism in recent years. Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, Bush v. Gore, District of Columbia v. Heller (rewriting the Second Amendment to match current conservative views), or the recent fiasco of Shelby County v. Holder (essentially gutting the Voting Rights Act)—there has been a long string of outrageous decisions by conservative jurists which go beyond any precedent and often any standing law and create completely new legal assumptions based upon little else than a egregiously unrestrained conservative agenda. In 2005’s McCreary v. ACLU, for example, Scalia attempted to rewrite the Establishment Clause.

This flies in the face of “strict constructionism,” which has historically been, according to William Rehnquist himself, a philosophy used when a judge is not “favorably inclined toward claims of either criminal defendants or civil rights plaintiffs.” Strict constructionism, nominally at least, is supposed to be about interpreting the law very narrowly. It holds that anything not clearly expressed may not be interpreted, and—in complete contradiction to the Ninth Amendment—that if a right is not positively granted by the constitution, it does not exist.

Not only is this “philosophy” patently unconstitutional, it is not even consistently applied—as the many cases of conservative judicial activism, exemplified by the cases above, evidence more than clearly. In addition, for a group that claims to be “preserving” the constitution, it seems strange that they are constantly trying to amend it.

Voter fraud is a serious issue. No it’s not. Voter fraud is rare, and conservative claims to the contrary are completely unevidenced. Usually cited are cases where people hired to collect registrations create false documents to collect more money—documents which are found, trashed, and never result in actual stolen votes, mostly due to the fact that there was never any intent to do so.

Election fraud, on the other hand, is copious these days—and is quite notably a completely conservative practice. From Katherine Harris’ historical perverting of the Florida Central Voting File throwing the 2000 election illicitly to Bush, to the current right-wing judicial activism allowing conservative states to gerrymander and rewrite voting laws to specifically disenfranchise minorities, conservatives have rigorously and rather openly driven to abuse their legal power in order to win elections dishonestly.

The media has a liberal bias. I’m not even going to dignify that long-standing piece of excrement with an explanation; if you are not fully aware of why it is wrong, then there’s no talking to you; you may return to viewing Fox News, which is totally unbiased.

If conservatives comment on this list, they will most likely do so in their usual fashion: to ignore the bulk of the list, go after the one or two points they believe are weakest, and within those points focus on only one contention or a subset of the entire point—and never, ever concede everything (and possibly anything) else. We’ll see.

The War on Reason Rages On

March 26th, 2013 2 comments

Remember how we believed that the horrific national tragedy of twenty little children being slaughtered with an assault rifle, especially after so many other shootings like the Aurora theater massacre, would lead to an assault weapons ban, or at least a law to limit the number of bullets in a cartridge?

Apparently not.

While the public may have been sufficiently aghast at such tragedies to pull the switch, Congress seems to feel differently. A majority appear to be saying, “No, we think more than two dozen first-graders need to be shot to bloody pieces before we act. Let’s wait and see.”

Not that an assault weapons ban would lead to an immediate halt to such slaughters, but the later you act, the longer they go on. So, good work, senators. You just proved that the NRA is not as weak and ineffective a lobby as some had started to believe.

But hey, at least we can all agree on universal background checks, right? Background checks, even in their currently weak form, have proven effective at stopping two million gun sales, over one million of those to felons, over the past few decades. Obama’s plan for shoring up their weaknesses so that criminals and the mentally ill will have a hurdle in their way before they can acquire a major arsenal is the most milquetoast, sensible, non—

Other gun control efforts like universal background checks on people buying guns are also struggling in Congress, despite public anger at the Connecticut shooting and other massacres.


It is, after all, what, three months since we saw those children gunned down. So, who cares any more?

Arguing From Both Sides of Their Factoids

January 20th, 2013 9 comments

In writing the last post, I re-read the definitive posting I made on gun control back in 2006 and the comments, which ranged into late 2007. The last comment I made held a point which I had forgotten about over time, but which points out a very subtle and ironic flaw in two major arguments made by gun advocates.

Gun advocates say that gun control or even gun bans are not effective; that with such laws, criminals are still able to get all the guns they need.

Gun advocates also argue that if a dictatorship establishes itself in our country, they will institute restrictive gun control or gun bans, and these will be so effective that we will be defenseless against said dictator.

See the slight flaw in the reasoning?

It’s actually quite similar to the arguments made by conservatives about taxing the wealthy: when you try to raise their taxes, the argument is that they don’t have enough money to make a difference. But when they want to lower their taxes, the argument is that they are paying the lion’s share of the nation’s tax revenue.

These kinds of inconsistencies betray either the lack of logic or reasoning in creating the argument, and/or a fundamental dishonesty when it comes to making the point.

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No Kidding?

January 20th, 2013 1 comment

A few gun stats noted in the Washington Monthly:

— According to the CDC, having a gun in your home is associated with triple the risk of homicide and nearly fivefold the risk of suicide.

— The Harvard Injury Control Research Center (HICRC) has found that suicide attempts using a gun are far more likely to be fatal than such attempts using any other method. HICRC also reports that the availability of more guns is associated with more accidental deaths.

As if to prove the point, yesterday was “Gun Appreciation Day,” and TPM points out a little twist of irony: five people were sent to the hospital with gunshot wounds from at least three accidental discharges at gun shows commemorating the event.

The next article at TPM has a very appropriate note in a letter from a reader, making a point about a gun control requirement I have long supported but which was left out of Obama’s package:

Over Christmas, the family was talking to my brother in law —a sheriff in rural Maine, a hunter, an NRA member —about the possibility of limiting guns, and the “defense argument” —that we all need guns to defend ourselves.

He looked at me and said he definitely did not want me to carry! Then he made the serious point, that using guns to defend oneself or others takes both skill and emotional training. This is not something that just anyone can do. He could not imagine arming school teachers. And he noted, from 20 years as a sheriff, most gun deaths are from stupidity (accidents of various kinds) or family anger (and the human stupidity that encourages).

What we need: mandatory gun training, testing, and licensing. Because even if you are a clear and clean law-abiding citizen, if you do not know how to properly store, maintain, and use your arms, then you are statistically a far greater threat to yourself and those around you than is any burglar or phantom dictator. A gun should be denied to you not just if you are a criminal or mentally incompetent; it should also be denied to you if you are incapable of using it with at least nominally safe skills.

Nobody denies that we all have the right to travel, and part of that is the right to own a car. But we also all agree that if you are a menace with that car, if you are untrained or untrainable, if you cannot operate it safely, then you have no right to get behind the wheel of one.

Guns, unlike cars, are designed to kill people. That is their primary purpose. And right now, it is 100% legal in many if not most places in this country to acquire, keep, and use a gun with no training or testing whatsoever. That is completely insane.

Which is why I advocate a national training and testing requirement just as we have for motor vehicles. It makes eminent sense.

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