Category Archives: Gun Issues

Kids These Days: Focus on Voting

The Reno Gazette Journal ran a piece this morning on the Student Walk Out in remembrance of the Columbine massacre.

“Students from at least eight Washoe County schools are planning to walk out of their classrooms, march through the streets or call their representatives on Friday to demand action over gun violence in schools.

The walkout is expected to start at 10 a.m., the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting in Colorado, and in conjunction with hundreds of other planned walkouts across the country.” [RGJ]

It seems appropriate to note that while the students are good at keeping their focus on the issues at hand, the media and all too many adults are having some difficulties doing the same.   The Las Vegas Sun ran what read like a canned article, the online edition of the Review Journal didn’t mention the walk out.

What should we, as adults, do to help the kids get their message out — and keep it in the public spotlight?  Get informedThe Trace is a good place to start.  However, I’m probably typing for the choir here.  There are other sites which collect and disseminate statistics such as the Johns Hopkins University Center for Gun Policy and Research; Everytown Research; and the Gun Violence Archive.

Get Registered.  Okay, we’re already registered, but what about friends and neighbors?  The Secretary of State’s Office posts basic information.  Not in Las Vegas or Reno/Sparks areas?  County Clerk information is here DMV.org also provides basic information:

  • Be a:
    • Citizen of the United States.
    • Nevada resident for at least 30 days before the date of an election.
    • Resident of your precinct for at least 10 days before the election.
  • Be at least 18 years old on or before the date of the election.
  • Not have been declared mentally incompetent by a court of law.
  • Not claim any other place as your legal residence.

If you have been convicted of a non-violent felony your voting rights are restored after you are discharged from incarceration and/or parole. If you have been convicted of a violent felony, or a second felony, you will need to apply to have your civil rights restored.

Vote.

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Filed under Gun Issues, Nevada, Nevada politics, Politics

We Are Not Being Well Served: A Lethal Pattern of Administration Obstruction

We aren’t well served when the Department of Justice declines to work WITH state officials to implement policy.  When the DoJ dithers about assisting Nevada’s attempt to improve the background check process for firearm purchases — [NV Indy] Gee, it almost seems like someone at the federal level is doing a bureaucratic dance routine to subvert the intent of those who want to expand background checks?  Someone doesn’t want to alienate the powers that be at the NRA?  Meanwhile candidate Adam Laxalt, subservient as ever to the NRA line, must be pleased with Governor Sandoval’s discomfort.

We also aren’t well served by the right wing echo chamber which has now evidently decided that if they can’t find logical arguments to deflect the demands made by the kids in March for Our Lives they will happily start tooting the Swift Boat Parade Brigade horns with personal attacks on the kids themselves.  [TampaBT] [WaPo] [KCStar] However, ad hominem is all too often the preferred argument for many on the right side of the political spectrum.  These people might be dismissed as small people with smaller, narrower, minds except that they have the ear of the current mis-administration, and those ears are receiving messages out of step with American concerns.  Listening to these radical voices obscures national issues we should be focusing upon.

Nor are we well served when the message comes from the podium at the White House briefing room that the Department of Justice will take no role in the investigation of the shooting of Sacramento citizen Stephon Clark.  There’s a pattern here.

The FBI will not facilitate the implementation of Nevada’s Question 1 decision. The Department of Justice will take its sweet time promulgating rules concerning the sale of bump stocks (see Las Vegas concert massacre). The Department of Justice will do an about-face on federal participation in the investigation of law enforcement use of lethal force on members of minority communities.  This pattern may explain why the citizens of Nevada continue to be frustrated by the lack of Question 1 implementation, the citizens of the US continue to see protests related to Black Lives Matter, and young people bemoan (and organize) against the inflexible obstruction to their demands for sensible restrictions on gun ownership and sales.

What the pattern won’t accomplish is the solution to any of the problems addressed by the Black Lives Matter organization or the young people involved in March for Our Lives.  The two issue areas are not unrelated.

Bullets fired from guns kill people.  The bullet may be a .223 round (5.56 mm) coming at a person at 3,330 feet per second (about three times the velocity of a typical Glock pistol.) [BI]  The bullets may also come from a Glock 19 or the Glock 22, or perhaps the Smith & Wesson M or P9, the most popular service handguns for law enforcement personnel. [SRI]  Instances of bullets being fired by one human being at another human being, or beings, should be investigated fully.  We have no problem with this concept when thinking about murder investigations in general.  We do have a problem with the concept when it’s in the context of a mass shooting or in a case of the use of lethal force by a police officer.

In the instances of mass shootings authorities appear to want to investigate everything except the actual cause of death — the AR 15 is often the weapon of choice for mass shooters [BI] who want to use the gun as it was designed — to cause the greatest level of lethality in the briefest possible time.  If we know the level of lethality associated with the use of assault style weapons like the AR 15 why don’t we directly address the issue of whether or not these should be in the hands of civilians?

In the instances of officer involved shootings almost the first thing reported is that the “officers feared for their lives.”

“Black Americans are more than twice as likely to be unarmed when killed during encounters with police as white people, according to a Guardian investigation which found 102 of 464 people killed so far this year in incidents with law enforcement officers were not carrying weapons.

An analysis of public records, local news reports and Guardian reporting found that 32% of black people killed by police in 2015 were unarmed, as were 25% of Hispanic and Latino people, compared with 15% of white people killed.” [Guardian 2015]

Question: Why do law enforcement personnel “fear for their lives” more often when confronting a person of color than when facing a white person?  I think we know the answer, it is just that this aspect of the problem isn’t something the present Department of Justice is particularly interested in pursuing.

We aren’t well served by an administration which will not admit the vast scope of the problems presented by mass shooters and highly questionable use of force by some members of law enforcement.  These are national problems which beg for national solutions, whether the current Department of Justice wants to step up to the plate or not.


The kids have broken the 10,000 contract plateau in their Parents Promise To Kids project.  Right now it’s at 10,127.  That’s 10,127 parents, grandparents, and other interested people who have pledged to kids they will make gun reform a major feature in their voting decisions.  Step Up. Thank You.

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Filed under Gun Issues, Nevada, Nevada politics, Politics

Isabelle Robinson Takes Us To School

Nag Nag Nag.  The kids at Parents Promise To Kids have picked up 9,725 parents and family members for their contract project as of right now.  We can do a bit better. They should break 10K today.  Take a minute to make a difference.

Reading material:

This isn’t recommended reading — it should be required reading.  Isabelle Robinson, a senior at Stoneman Douglas HS speaks to the ill informed suggestion that students are responsible for “making peers feel better,” and thus less likely to commit atrocities.  She’s right.  The “WalkUpNotOut” proposal is a distraction, and for my money a very dangerous distraction.   Let’s agree, if only for the sake of the argument, that discussions about mental health and adolescent issues are a diversion from the very real problem of access to guns.

In the aftermath of the Columbine massacre, (April 20, 1999) in which two very disturbed youngsters hauled firearms, and propane tanks, into their high school with every intention of either shooting or blowing their cohorts to bits, we discussed “bullying” ad nauseam — to the detriment of closing the gun show loophole.  No, the kids at Columbine almost twenty years ago were no more responsible for the actions of the criminals than the young people in Parkland, FL are responsible for the damage done to their lives.  Robinson puts it succinctly:

“This deeply dangerous sentiment, expressed under the #WalkUpNotOut hashtag, implies that acts of school violence can be prevented if students befriend disturbed and potentially dangerous classmates. The idea that we are to blame, even implicitly, for the murders of our friends and teachers is a slap in the face to all Stoneman Douglas victims and survivors.”

Please don’t misunderstand me, anti-bullying programs and rules are positive and useful.  However, never mistake an exercise in victim-blaming for a substantive suggestion toward solving our gun violence problems. Never mistake assigning “mental illness” as the culprit when it’s access to guns that increases the lethality of the incidents. Surely no one is suggesting that teens acquire the nuanced information in the current literature on the subject of violence and mental illness.

“Taken together with the MacArthur study, these papers have painted a more complex picture about mental illness and violence. They suggest that violence by people with mental illness — like aggression in the general population — stems from multiple overlapping factors interacting in complex ways. These include family history, personal stressors (such as divorce or bereavement), and socioeconomic factors (such as poverty and homelessness). Substance abuse is often tightly woven into this fabric, making it hard to tease apart the influence of other less obvious factors.”  [Harvard Health]

If the experts admit it is difficult to analyze and evaluate the factors — obvious and obscure — involved in mass killings, then certainly it doesn’t do to prescribe such a bromide as ‘if you’d only been nicer to  him…’ in the present instances of gun violence.

Of all the assaults on the Parkland, Washington DC, Chicago, Los Angeles (etc) students who spoke so eloquently on the subject of gun violence during the March for Our Lives rallies, none seems more insidious than to suggest that they could have ‘prevented’ the heinous crimes IF they had been proactive little saints.  They are the victims.

Has anyone suggested that the concert attendees in Las Vegas might have been more involved in the mental illness factors contributing to the slaughter on October 1, 2017?  Were the movie theater goers in any way responsible for the shooting in Aurora in July 2012?  Were the church members responsible in any way for the outrageous shooting in Sunderland Springs, TX November 5, 2017? The answer if obviously a resounding “no.”  However, too many people have expended too much wind re-litigating the diversionary arguments of Columbine.  I’d urge a careful reading of Isabelle Robinson’s essay, it’s definitely an “A” grade example of student writing. And, an “A” grade rebuttal to the distraction tactics of the radical gun lobby.

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Filed under Gun Issues, Politics

What’s Next? The kids are already ahead of the pundits

For all the pundit palaver on television opining about “what’s next?” please be advised the kids are already ahead of the game.  We can reasonably assume that while the stage was being dismantled there were youngsters working on their ParentsPromiseToKids web site.  The site is simple and direct.

“Students Adam Buchwald and Zach Hibshman, both juniors at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, have taken the initiative to create the organization “Parents Promise To Kids” to ensure that children’s voices are HEARD! In our movement, we urge parents to make a promise to their children that they will vote for politicians who choose your children’s safety over guns! Children under the age of 18 are not permitted to vote for our leaders; however, their parents are. We want parents to sign a contract to promise their children that they will vote for politicians who will keep our schools safe. Parents, make a promise to your kids!”

The instructions are simple and direct:

In order to be apart of our movement, we would like parents to sign a contract, print it, and take a picture with their children to show their support against guns. Please refer to our contract page.

There are contract forms for parents, for grandparents, and a general contract for “interested others.” Download. Print. Share.  As of today 8,521 individuals have downloaded the contracts.  It’s the next step to assist those youngsters who are as yet too young to vote in our elections, but unfortunately not too young to be the targets of gun violence.

Your support would be appreciated.  (In the time it took to type this post the number of downloads moved from 8,513 to 8,527.  Join the movement.)

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FYI: Retirement funds, pensions, and educational savings plans invested in gun manufacturing?

First, please read the June 2016 article from Mother Jones which describes the ownership of the gun manufacturers who, in turn, direct the agenda of the National Rifle Association.   And now for some financial information:

Sturm Ruger and CompanyNASDAQ reports the company is 88.79% owned by institutional investors. The top five institutional investors are Black Rock (2,948,467 shares), Vanguard (1,659,697 shares), Capital World Investors (1,490,248), London Company of Virginia (1,355,076 shares), Voya Investment Management (777,224 shares)

Blackrock offers college savings plans, retirement investment plans, factor investing, and ironically “sustainable” investment programs.  Vanguard advertises its IRA accounts, retirement savings accounts, and pension plans.  Capital World Investors manages equity and mutual funds for its investors.  The London Company of Virginia is reported as “The London Company of Virginia, LLC is an employee owned investment manager. The firm primarily provides its services to individuals. It also provide its services high net worth individuals, investment companies, pension and profit sharing plans, charitable organizations, foundations, State or municipal government entities, and corporations.”  Voya Investment Management advertises its mutual funds for its investors.  The firm primarily serves insurance companies. [Bloomberg]

American Outdoor Brands (formerly Smith and Wesson) includes Smith & Wesson, Gemtech Suppressors, Crimson Trace, and accessories. It is 74.96% institutionally owned. The top institutional investors are Blackrock (6,012,767), Invesco Ltd (4,858,400), Vanguard (4,508,410), LSV Management (2,148,948), Dimensional Fund Advisors (1,774,780), Voya Investment Management (1,655,896) as of December 31, 2017. [NASDAQ]  LSV Management provides investment services to corporate pension and profit sharing plans. [Bloomberg] Dimensional Fund Advisors offers a variety of funds for its investors, most recently noticed for increasing its position in Chevron. [LG]

Remington Outdoor Company is owned by Cerberus Capital Management.  Cerberus advertises its $30 billion under management. [Cerb]   The firm recently drew the attention of Bloomberg News in an article by Joe Nocera, “Cerberus, Guns, and the Legacy of Newtown.” [BN 3/14/18] (Highly recommended reading)

“What Cerberus did right, again in a business sense, was market guns, especially the AR-15. Feinberg helped popularize assault weapons, making them a must-have purchase for a certain kind of gun owner.

The first gun company to make an AR-15 was Armalite in the early 1960s, but it took over three decades for the gun to become a major factor in the business. Only when the culture of hunting began to be eclipsed by a more militaristic gun culture did the AR-15 become popular. At least part of this was due to gun advertising, which stressed both militarization and masculinity.

And no company took this advertising as far as Remington Outdoor. In 2010, it began an ad campaign that showed a picture of a Bushmaster XM-15 in a shooting position. The headline read: “Consider Your Man Card Reissued.” Another ad had the headline, “Forces of Opposition, Bow Down,” with a picture of an AR-15. Remington called one of its guns the Remington ACR — for Adaptive Combat Rifle.”

SIG Sauer is a privately held German firm, with SIG Sauer, Inc as its American branch. It’s been most recently in the news for securing a nearly $600 contract with the US Department of Defense to replace the M9 handguns.

Conclusions?  It’s a bit unsettling to consider that the pension plan into which a person might be investing in order to avoid being a burden on one’s children, is the same plan investing in the weapons used to lethal effect on those children?  Or, that the college savings plan might be tragically unnecessary should a child be killed by one of the products manufactured by the gun industry, supported by mutual fund investment companies?

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Single Issue Voters on the Horizon

I’m old enough to have been around when Mothers Against Drunk Driving was founded on September 5, 1980.  (Actually, I’m old enough to have been around for lots of things except The F/lood)  I’m also aware of an historical point which might be of interest to current gun reform advocates.   One of the issues faced by the organization as it sought to reduce the number of vehicular accidents caused by impaired drivers was how to differentiate between (1) legislation to control drinking and driving; and (2) measures to control alcohol consumption. [PSU.edu pdf]  To exactly no one’s surprise, attempts to address the second issue faced opposition from the alcohol and “hospitality” sectors. When MADD sought to promote legislation to reduce the BAC to .08 the industries fought back saying these measures would unfairly punish “social drinkers.”  Fast forward to the gun law reform issues.

Insert “law abiding gun owners” for “social drinkers” and we can see the problems faced by reformers taking on the NRA/gun manufacturers.  In actuality there are multiple facets of the gun issue which present hurdles for reformers. However, there is much room for hope.  For starters, the youngsters participating in Walk Outs, and who will presumably be the leaders in March For Our Lives, have already put a face on the problems.

Statistics are useful, but too often insufficient to move public sentiment — we know that on an average day in the United States of America 96 people will be killed by guns; that about 13,000 people per year will die by firearm; and, sadly each day an average of 7 children and teens will be killed by a gun. [ETres] Broadcasters have contributed by keeping the photographs of the deceased on air after mass shootings, but other victims of gunfire are relegated to the obituary pages, to be forgotten almost before the funeral services are completed.  More silence comes as part of the reaction to the fact that 62% of gun deaths in this country are suicides. [ETres]

Further progress may hinge upon how reformers cope with the “social drinker” analogy.  A social drinker is a social drinker until he gets behind the wheel of a 4,000 pound sedan and hits another human being causing injury or death.  A law abiding gun owner is a person who owns firearms, until he pulls out the gun and shoots another human being — or beings.

For all the possible factors leading to an increase in public awareness of impaired driving, and a reduction of impaired driving from a 1973 rate of 36.1% to a 25.9% rate in 1986, [PSU.edu pdf] it isn’t too difficult to infer a correlation to MADD publicity and awareness campaigns, leading in turn to the enaction of stronger statutes to curb drunk driving in the 1980s.  Similarly, continued publicity of gun violence should lead to consideration and eventual enaction of laws to reduce the lethality of gun incidents.  What is needed is organizational structure to capture and extend the energy demonstrated by young people who are quite evidently fed up with being educated behind “secure” walls and being shot at — either in their schools or on their streets. There are several organizations already in place to accomplish this.  [Everytown, the Brady Campaign, Moms Demand Action, Giffords.Org, Giffords Law Center, and an umbrella group Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.] Unlike the original MADD efforts, the organizational structures are already in place.  This situation should present an advantage for gun law reform advocates.

One of the most impressive portions of the young people’s efforts is their focus on political action, specifically getting young people registered to vote.  For those not yet eligible to vote, students are encouraging other students to write and call their governmental representatives.  This activity is a proven way to get people involved and to keep them activated.  Student action in concert with the existing organizations’ efforts presents a strong start for reform efforts.

The strong start doesn’t mean there aren’t significant obstacles to effective reforms.  The first tactic of the NRA is nearly always a stall game.  While the clichéd line “It’s too early to talk about this…” has been swatted down by the Parkland, FL students, that doesn’t mean there won’t be suggestions to “study the problem via the good offices of a commission.”  Paralysis by analysis is a standard NRA tactic to avoid action.

The second tactic is diversion.  It really isn’t Guns, it’s mental illness, it’s violent video games, it’s some elusive factor which is the “root cause.”  The argument goes that if we don’t address the “root cause” then we will not really “solve the problem.”  The problem is simply that too many people have access to entirely too much firepower, and some of these people kill other people.

The third prominent tactic is the snail paced regulatory and subsequent litigation route. For example, instead of outlawing the sale of bump stocks the White House has opted to advise departmental creation of rules under the rubric current Federal legislation.  The development of rules is time consuming, and is often followed by even more time consuming litigation.  This shirt-tail cousin of paralysis by analysis is an effective way for politicians to posture in support of gun regulation without actually doing anything.

The kids have it right:  The only way to avoid paralysis by analysis, “root cause” distractions, and regulation/litigation is at the ballot box.  Candidates for public offices can ignore, dismiss, or diminish their appeals, but will do so at their electoral peril.

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FYI: I’ll Just Leave This Here

March 6, 2018  “A South Carolina white supremacist who praised racist mass shooter Dylann Roof and longed to commit violence against Jews, Muslims and people of color has reached a plea deal with federal prosecutors that will likely result in a relatively short stint in federal prison.”  [HuffPo]

March 2, 2018   “Nikolas Cruz left at least 180 rounds of ammunition — inside magazines that bore Nazi swastika symbols — at the scene of the Parkland school shooting.Along with his AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, Cruz abandoned at least six magazines that each contained 30 bullets at the scene of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, according to two sources who spoke on condition of anonymity.” [SunSentinel]

December 16, 2016  “Dylan Storm Roof’s website hinted at why he chose “historic” Charleston to shoot nine people to death at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina. Along with a long, hate-filled screed, the 21-year-old included photos of himself burning an American flag, taking aim with Ca pistol and posing proudly at sites connected to the Confederacy.” [CNN]

August 6, 2012  “Before he strode into a Sikh temple with a 9 mm handgun and multiple magazines of ammunition, Wade Michael Page played in white supremacist heavy metal bands with names such as Definite Hate and End Apathy.” [CBS]

January 7, 2010   (DC Holocaust Museum shooting) “Prosecutors said that von Brunn, an admitted white supremacist who lived most recently in Annapolis, had been planning the assault for months and that he hoped “to send a message to the Jewish community” that the Holocaust was a hoax. “He wanted to be a martyr for his cause,” a prosecutor said in court.” [WaPo]

July 28, 2008  “Jim David Adkisson told investigators all liberals should be killed and admitted he shot people Sunday morning at Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, according to a search warrant affidavit obtained by CNN affiliate WBIR.” [CNN]

Generally speaking —

August 22, 2017  “Terrorists murdered 3,342 people on U.S. soil from 1992 through August 12, 2017. Islamist terrorists are responsible for 92% of all those murders. The 9/11 attacks, by themselves, killed about 89% of all the victims during this time. During this time, the chance of being murdered in a terrorist attack committed by an Islamist was about 1 in 2.5 million per year.

Nationalist and Right Wing terrorists are the second deadliest group by ideology, as they account for 6.6% of all terrorist murders during this time. The 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, the second deadliest terrorist attack in U.S. history, killed 168 people and accounted for 77% of all the murders committed by Nationalist and Right Wing terrorists. The chance of being murdered in a Nationalist or Right Wing terrorist attack was about 1 in 33 million per year.”  [Forbes]

ADL 2017 Report 

“Unlike 2016, a year dominated by the Pulse nightclub shootings in Orlando, Florida, committed by an Islamic extremist, a majority of the 2017 murders were committed by right-wing extremists, primarily white supremacists, as has typically been the case most years.”

I’ll just leave this here.

 

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Filed under Gun Issues, Hate Crimes, Politics, terrorism, White Supremacists