Tag Archives: assault weapons ban

The Sound of Silence: Heller and Mass Shootings — Sandy Hook to Parkland

October 2, 2017:  A statement from Senator Dean Heller’s office:

“Nevada families are waking up to the shocking news of the tragic events that occurred last night in Las Vegas. Our communities are all in mourning as we try to understand this senseless massacre on the Strip,” said Heller. “I want to thank our first responders for their swift actions and efforts that without a doubt saved numerous lives. I’ve been in contact with the White House and Governor Sandoval, and I will continue to monitor the situation as this horrific event unfolds. Lynne and I are praying for all of the victims and their families who are experiencing immense pain and grave, shocking loss that cannot be measured.”

Let us parse.

“Nevada families are waking up to the shocking news of the tragic events that occurred last night in Las Vegas. Our communities are all in mourning as we try to understand this senseless massacre on the Strip,”

tragic events?”  It was a Shooting.  A man armed with a small arsenal rented a room with a view to kill concert-goers.  He used a bump stock to increase the lethality of his weaponry.  59 dead and 851 injured.  It was an event — singular, and singularly lethal.

as we try to understand…”  What is it we don’t understand?  When the shooting stopped there were 58 dead people, one more if we count the shooter.  Perhaps we don’t know the killer’s motive, but when the body count is 58 there’s not much more we need to comprehend other than the murderous SOB assembled his arsenal, loaded his weapons, and voluntarily fired into a crowd of concert attendees.  Jury duty training tells us there was a crime; the individual in question perpetrated the criminal act; and he did it with good old fashioned malice aforethought.  There doesn’t seem to be much more we need to understand.

praying for the victims and their families…” Yes that’s appropriate.  What we’d like to find out is what our Senator thinks should be done after we finish with the thoughts and prayers portion of the formulaic Republican/NRA response to this horror.

October 5, 2017: Senator Heller answers questions about what might be done to mitigate the lethality of the next mass shooting event, and his response

“Let me be clear, I’m not interested in watering down the Second Amendment,” Mr Heller, Nevada Republican, said on Fox News.  Mr. Heller was asked if he would support a ban on a device called a “bump stock,” which authorities now say the gunman used.  “You show me the law that would stop that, not only will I support it, I will be an advocate for that law,” he said.”

There’s a lack of clarity in this statement, i.e. what is “that?”  Was the Senator saying if we want to stop the sale of bump stocks he will be an advocate? Or, was he saying if a single law could have prevented the mass killing he would support it?  We do know that he’s previously not wanted to “water down” 2nd Amendment absolutism.  We know what he did in April 2013.

“On the weekend after Nevada Sen. Dean Heller joined 15 fellow Republicans to kill a GOP-led filibuster of gun-control legislation, he returned to his hometown of Carson City and ate with his family at an IHOP restaurant—the same one where a gunman went on a rampage in 2011, killing four people and injuring more than a dozen others before killing himself. In the process, the gunman unloaded a 30-round magazine clip and rocked the sense of safety in the small Nevada community.”

Did the Senator join with others to alleviate the carnage in the wake of the Sandy Hook Mssacre?

“But when the Senate began to take up individual pieces of gun-control legislation earlier this week, Heller joined with nearly all Republicans and several Democrats to vote no—no on an amendment to ban assault weapons, no on a measure to limit magazine capacity, and no on the Manchin-Toomey amendment to expand background checks for gun sales.” [TDB]

The original Machin-Toomey bill went down to a GOP filibuster 54-46.  If we drill down a little further the form of Senator Heller’s objections — his defense of the absolutism of the 2nd Amendment — become clearer.  The following votes were taken on April 17, 2013.

Vote 97 (113th Congress) Senator Heller votes “nay” on the Manchin Amendment to “protect Second Amendment rights, ensure that all individuals who should be prohibited from buying a firearm are listed in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, and provide a responsible and consistent background check process.”

Vote 98 (113th Congress) Senator Heller votes “yea” on the Grassley Amendment, which purported to improve the background check system and prevent straw purchases and gun trafficking.  However, the poison pill in the Grassley-Cruz amendment was that while it did address trafficking, it also made it easier to purchase and carry guns across state lines. [WaPo]

Vote 99 (113th Congress) Senator Heller also voted “nay” on the Leahy Amendment “To increase public safety by punishing and deterring firearms trafficking.”  Not only did our Senator not seem to want to “water down” the 2nd Amendment, he even voted against an amendment which the NRA supported after the language was changed to allow for easy transfer of guns as gifts and prizes.  [WaPo]

Vote 100 (113th Congress) Senator Heller was among those voting “yea” on the Cornyn Amendment to facilitate reciprocity for concealed carry across state lines.  In other words, to create a situation in which the least restrictive states would inform how all other states regulate concealed carry issues.

Vote 101 (113th Congress) Senator Heller was one of the forty US Senators to vote against the Feinstein Amendment to “regulate assault weapons, to ensure that the right to keep and bear arms is not unlimited, and for other purposes.”  There wasn’t much hope that the assault weapon  would be passed, but Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) had promised Senator Feinstein he would bring the amendment to the floor.

Vote 102 (113th Congress) Senator Heller voted “yea” on the Burr Amendment to “protect” the gun rights of veterans and military families.  This is an interesting vote because it contains issues pertinent to today’s debate.  Original language in the proposed legislation said that veterans receiving disability benefits who are deemed unable to manage their own financial affairs would be precluded from owning firearms.  Opponents of this amendment argued that the proposed language would make it easier for mentally ill individuals to obtain firearms.

Vote 103 (113th Congress) Senator Heller voted “nay” on the Lautenberg Amendment to regulate large capacity ammunition feeding devices.

Vote 104 (113th Congress) Senator Heller voted in favor of the Barrasso Amendment to  withhold 5 percent of Community Oriented Policing Services program Federal funding from States and local governments that release sensitive and confidential information on law-abiding gun owners and victims of domestic violence.  Senator Barrasso was disturbed that a New York newspaper had compiled a list of gun owners from county information sources.

What did the 113th Congress do? It did agree to provide more funding for mental health services.   There was a pattern evident in the 2013 votes in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting.  Republicans were focused on ‘gun rights’ without restriction and in favor of passing legislation (without mentioning the word ‘gun’) concerning mental health.  Not to put too fine a point to it but when the shooters are white there is a voluminous amount of palaver concerning mental health; when the shooter is Muslim there is a chorus of indignation about terrorism; and, when the shooter is Black the GOP conversations shifts to “broken homes,” “lifestyles,” and “gangs.” Whether it’s mental health, terrorism, or broken homes — the GOP result is the same and the debate is diverted away from guns and toward some security or societal issue.   This pattern would test the Republicans in the wake of the San Bernardino shooting in December 2015.

On December 2, 2015 14 people were killed and another 22 seriously injured in a mass shooting in San Bernardino, California. On June 12, 2016 49 people were killed and another 58 wounded at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida.  During June 2016 a bipartisan group of Senators proposed a “No Fly, No Buy” bill prohibiting those on the TSA No Fly List for terrorism suspects from purchasing firearms. [NYT]  Subsequent attempts to apply “No Fly No Buy” became entangled in the appropriations bill for the Commerce, Justice, Science, and related agencies during the 114th Congress.  The following votes are of particular interest:

Vote 103 (114th Congress) Senator Heller votes “nay” on a cloture vote to bring up S Amendment 4751 to address gun violence and improve the availability of records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.  This element of the No Fly No Buy fails on a 53-47 vote.

Vote 106 (114th Congress) Senator Heller again votes “nay” on a cloture vote to bring up S Amendment 4720 to authorize the Attorney General to deny requests to transfer a firearm to known or suspected terrorists.

And thus ended the attempt to prevent those on the terrorist watch list from purchasing firearms in the United States of America. It was over on June 20, 2016.

March 3, 2018:  The White House hosted a “listening” session on gun violence in the wake of the Parkland, Florida killing of 17 people at Majory Stoneman Douglas High School.  Senator Heller did not attend.

“The office of Nevada’s senior senator, Republican Dean Heller, would not say why did he did not attend the White House meeting. Heller, who is facing a tough re-election fight, has avoided the spotlight in the subsequent days as well, declining to address specifics about his positions on gun legislation.”

Heller spokeswoman Megan Taylor declined to say whether the senator supported universal background checks, raising the age for gun purchases to 21, or provisions to ban high-capacity magazines and assault rifles, all ideas tossed out by lawmakers or President Trump in recent days.

“He looks forward to continuing discussions with his colleagues as Congress explores ways to enhance compliance with existing law and keep our communities safe,” Taylor said.

Heller has signed on to legislation known as “Fix NICS,” a modest measure supported by the NRA and intended to encourage better participation in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. It was one of the few gun bills to find bipartisan support and appeared poised to move ahead, only to be sidelined.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican who has said little about the gun debate in recent days, said Thursday that no gun-related legislation would be heard in the coming week. [TDB] [RGJ]

No more formulaic GOP press responses from Senator Heller. This massacre warranted  a tweet. “Lynne and I are heartbroken for those impacted by the senseless act of violence at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. We are praying for the victims and their families, the school’s students and faculty, as well the entire Parkland, FL community,” Heller wrote.” [NVIndy]  The only response less informative came from Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2): “The first thing that needs to be done is find out what the story is with this guy…so we have a 360-degree picture and then we’ll go from there,” Amodei said.” [NVIndy]

Perhaps in light of the Academy acknowledgment of an award winning rendition of Winston Churchill last evening, a quote from the Prime Minister is appropriate:

“It’s no use saying, ”We are doing our best.” You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary.”

 

 

 

 

 

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Law Abiding Citizens and Their Lethality

I’m getting weary of the Republican refrain that the 2nd Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens must be protected — presumably to own lethal weapons of war like the AR 15 and MCX.

We need to remember after each mass shooting that the “gun owner” was, as the almost cliched statement goes, “a law abiding citizen” until he wasn’t.  What the AR 15 and MCX rifles do is increase the lethality of mass shootings.   Not sure about this? Here’s a report from a hospital radiologist:

“In a typical handgun injury, which I diagnose almost daily, a bullet leaves a laceration through an organ such as the liver. To a radiologist, it appears as a linear, thin, gray bullet track through the organ. There may be bleeding and some bullet fragments.

I was looking at a CT scan of one of the mass-shooting victims from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who had been brought to the trauma center during my call shift. The organ looked like an overripe melon smashed by a sledgehammer, and was bleeding extensively. How could a gunshot wound have caused this much damage?” [Atlantic]

The Atlantic article is difficult to read, and the examples cited by the author on the effects of high velocity bullets going through the bodies of adults and teenagers are disturbing.  Imagine for a moment the effect on those 6  year old children at Sandy Hook?  Exit wounds the “size of an orange.”  Children unidentifiable except for their clothing?  What I have yet to hear from the “Gun Club” is why civilians should possess weapons capable of such lethality.  And, we’ve known what kind of damage these guns do since 1977.

“Wounds inflicted by high velocity, center-fire rifles firing hunting ammunition are radically different from wounds caused by handguns or .22 rim-fire rifles. Injuries from pistol or .22 rim-fire bullets are confined to tissue and organs directly in the wound track. In contrast, high velocity rifle bullets can injure structures without actually contacting them. This is due to the temporary cavity produced by such missiles with the resultant shock waves having pressures of up to 200 atmospheres (20 MPa). Organs struck by such high velocity rifle bullets may undergo partial or complete disintegration.”  [NCBI January 1977]

41 years after the NCBI report a radiologist in Florida must remind us what these weapons do to human bodies.  However, the “Gun Club” will not admit that weapons like the AR 15 and MCX are more that mere “hunting rifles.”   It’s obvious a center fired high velocity firearm with a high capacity magazine is far more lethal than a criminal shooting a 9mm semi-automatic hand gun such as in the Fort Lauderdale example.

Not to make too fine a point to it, but what the NRA is saying to the American public is “law abiding citizens” should have the “right” to possess and use weapons which are designed for military use and which are capable of creating mass LETHAL casualties when used in public spaces. 

The Las Vegas shooter was a “law abiding” citizen until October 1, 2017 when he killed 59 people and injured 527 others.  He started shooting at 10:05 and ended the barrage at 10:15 PDT.  Again, 59 killed, 527 injured in 10 minutes.

The shooter at the the Sunderland, Texas, First Baptist Church killed 26 people and injuring 20 more on November 5, 2017.  He should never have had any firearm in the first place, his history as a domestic abuser was a matter of record.  However, records aside — what he purchased and used was a Ruger AR 556.

The shooter in the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, used a SIG Sauer MCX and a Glock 17 9mm handgun on June 11, 2016 to kill 50 people, 38 of whom died at the scene.  Police reports indicated he had fired at least 110 rounds.

Variations on an Old Theme

Most of the “Gun Club” apologists are simply playing variations on the same old tune: “We can’t do anything about this.”  (Read: We don’t want to do anything about this because the military style rifles are popular)

Variation OneWhat we need to do is get these guns out of the hands of disturbed people.   And, so what do you propose?  Are these voices advocating mental health evaluations for every buyer of a center fire high velocity firearm with large magazine capacities?  This variation includes it’s very own instant objection.  No one would advocate the invasion of personal privacy required to perform these mental evaluations on every applicant for these weapons; ergo — we can’t do anything about this.

Variation Two: We can’t punish law abiding citizens for the sins of the few who misuse these weapons of war.   Punish?  I am not being “punished” because I cannot purchase an RPG 7 (rocket propelled grenade launcher.) Nor am I being “punished” because owning a Russian-Jordanian RPG 32 anti-tank grenade launcher is forbidden to me. I am being protected from those who would do me and fellow citizens harm if they use these things.

Variation ThreeWe must protect the 2nd Amendment.  Yes, why not.  However, as I’ve said time and again, no right is absolute.  At the risk of redundancy, I can’t “yell fire in a crowded theater,” there are limits to my freedom of speech; nor can I create a mob and call it “freedom” of assembly,” nor can I speak slander and print libel and call it protected by the 1st Amendment.

Until the gun manufacturers and their lobbyists come to the humane conclusion that weapons of war have no place in civilian society, we will continue to have very lethal “law abiding” people among us.

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Saturday Morning: Nice Try Rick Scott

The FBI has admitted it made a major mistake mishandling a tip regarding the Parkland, FL assassin.  The reaction of Florida governor Rick Scott is to call for the resignation of FBI Director Christopher Wray.  Neither of these elements is helpful.  No, FBI you don’t get to make an apology and walk quietly away.  The Bureau needs to conduct an internal review, and if some heads should roll then make the consequences fit the incompetence.  And no, Governor Scott you don’t get to rail about the FBI as a way to excuse the incompetence of an administration which has an A+ from the National Rifle Association for “more pro-gun” legislation than…whatever. [Time]

It seems no level of government and no agency was ready to deal with an “evil kid.” Local authorities were called to his address for various and sundry forms of abuse, violence, and assaults 39 times in a seven year period.  39 times.  The shooter was detained for mental health treatment at least once.  And still he could walk into a gun store and walk out with an assault style rifle, because “freedom.”

Most kids will tell you it’s easy to get suspended from school, getting expelled takes some real work. [FL statute] This shooter was expelled, but before he was expelled he’d been admonished for his anti-social behavior, and informed that he was not to appear at school with a back pack, the only item he was allowed to carry was a clear plastic bag.  Evidently that was insufficient, he was expelled.  And still he could walk into a gun store and walk out with an assault style rifle, because “freedom.”

Where were the mental health professionals in Florida while this young man was continuing his destructive pattern of anti-social behavior?  Still reeling from state budget cuts to mental health services, and trying to figure out how to make cuts such that no one program took the entire hit? [Orlando Sent]  So, while funding for ‘receiving centers’ where police could assign individuals for evaluation was cut, a young man could walk into a gun store and walk out with an assault style rifle, because “freedom.”

The young man issued racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, anti-Islamic, violent rants on social media.  Did social media platforms flag his demented spiels?  He affiliated with a white supremacist group. (Last month a white supremacist was charged with domestic terrorism, but the public barely heard of it. [Salon])  The Countering Violent Terrorism program is still a part of the federal bureaucracy and White extremists are still listed, but expect budget cuts for grant programs to state and local governments to combat terrorism, and we can expect the administration to fold programs together in the name of greater efficiency. [Snopes]  Someone has to pay for those permanent tax cuts for corporations and the top 1%. So, still a young man could walk into a gun store and walk out with an assault style rifle, because “freedom.”

We’d probably be far better off if we’d tell Congressional representatives to forget giving corporations and billionaires a tax cut and start funding programs that adequately service the mental health needs of our citizens, adequately fund state and local anti-terrorism efforts, and require more information sources feeding into the background check database.  What we don’t need?  More concealed carry reciprocity laws. More lax restrictions on gun magazines. More lax statutes on who can get an assault style rifles.  More lax regulations on gun modifications to emulate automatic fire.  More people arguing that if an 18 year old can serve in the military he should be able to buy an assault style rifle.  How about if we said to an 18 year old — You want to shoot an M-16? Join the US Armed Forces, learn to operate your M-16 under adult supervision within a clear structure of command, learning when, where, and under what circumstances it’s appropriate to use your firearms?

Perhaps we should consider “red flag” laws which allow authorities to remove firearms from those who are a clear and immediate danger to themselves and to others. California, Connecticut, Washington, Oregon, and Indiana allow such actions. [WaPo]

Perhaps we could start listening to the kids.

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FYI: Pew Research on Guns

Gun approval poll

Full article HERE.

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Random Thoughts and Recommendations

Assault RifleMy right wing gunner friends can recite the 2nd Amendment in their sleep, but have a great deal more difficulty remembering the provisions of Article I, Section 8 wherein we find the power of Congress: “To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel invasions.”   Thus much for the neo-Confederate fantasy in which John Doe seizes his assault rifle and sallies forth to fight for “our” freedom from a “tyrannical government” — that “well regulated militia” is supposed to suppress your insurrection, not join it.  Besides, about how long do we think even the most ardent Enthusiast is going to last when facing down the very well armed professionals of the U.S. military?   Somebody’s been watching too many movies.

Question Time

If the charge is true (and it really isn’t) that Democrats want to cut the Defense budget and thus leave our nation less well protected — then why aren’t the gun cultists arguing with equal vehemence for more DoD spending cuts thereby making that “tyrannical government” easier to defeat?

If the rationale for not enacting any more restrictions on the ownership of military style weapons is that we tried banning assault rifles and people were still getting killed, then perhaps they’d like to de-criminalize bank robbery because we’ve outlawed the practice of bank hold ups yet they still occur?

If other things (knives, hammers, cars, bath tubs, swimming pools) also kill people then why not outlaw those too?  This is about as silly as it gets.  Last time I heard, assault weapons were designed to kill People.  Other things might be used to kill, but that is not the expressed intent of the manufacturer.

If all guns are really just alike, they all have a firing mechanism, etc. so we really can’t legislate for one type, then there is NO difference between a black powder musket (one shot at a time, range about 200 yards depending on the wind) and an AR-15 (with bump fire modifications allowing the user to fire about 100 rounds in 7 seconds)?   Yes, a bicycle and an automobile both have wheels, an energy source, steering mechanisms, and seats — just don’t try to convince me that a half ton Chevy Suburban LSFWD with 320 horsepower and 335 lb/ft torque is analogous to a Trek Remedy 7 mountain bike.   Consider for a moment which one you’d like to get hit by on the road?

If allowing the government to amass lists of registered gun owners could lead to the confiscation of firearms, then does allowing the government to compile lists of all real estate property owners mean that the government might have the power to confiscate the property — and must be resisted at all costs? We do allow governments to confiscate property (by eminent domain) but we require reasonable payment — it wouldn’t do to have me ask for $1,000,000,000 for my incredibly modest real estate holdings should they be needed for a highway right of way.

If the government should compile a database of all individuals who have been treated for mental illnesses, then is this not an invasion of privacy similar to the “invasion” recommended by those who want to compile lists of emotionally unstable people?

If we shouldn’t do anything because nothing will solve the entire problem of gun violence in America — then does this mean that because we’ve not yet been able to treat and cure all forms of cancer we should quit the field and accept the inevitable?  Or, should we do what we can with what we have for the people about whom we care?

(1) Nationwide comprehensive background checks.

(2) A waiting period before the finalization of the sale.

(3) Improvement in our health care insurance and delivery systems for the treatment of mental illnesses.

(4) A ban on military style assault weapons.

(5) More parental education concerning the desensitizing effects of violent video games.

It’s a start.

 

 

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Voices in their heads, money in their pockets?

Assault RifleI come at this not as an elected official but as a parent,” he said. “My view is that we need to move from a culture of violence to a culture of safety.”  [Stephen Horsford, Representative Elect, (D-NV4) LVSun] Mr. Horsford supports an assault weapons ban.  Good for him.

Some other Nevada Representatives appear to be on “radio silence.”  Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2), he of the “NV2 Channel on You Tube” has posted nothing on the subject of banning assault rifles.  Representative Joe Heck (R-NV3) has nothing new on his copious video collection either.   Republican Representatives seem to be more comfortable with those Telephone Town Halls, wherein the questioners are faceless friends who ask questions to which the recipient may drone on at length for the  session.  This guarantees the constituents will (1) probably not get a question answered during the session but will received a written response later, and (2) never have to face up to organized criticism of their policy positions.

We do have Representative  Amodei’s acceptance statement when the NRA endorsed him:

“Mark Amodei is a steadfast supporter of freedom. He earned the NRA-PVF endorsement because of his demonstrated support for our rights, including improvements to Nevada’s right-to-carry law; preventing gun confiscations during states of emergency; and protecting firearm manufacturers and dealers from bogus lawsuits,” said Chris W. Cox, chairman of NRA-PVF. “His proven commitment to our Second Amendment rights and hunting heritage make Amodei the best choice for Nevada gun owners in this special election in Nevada’s 2nd congressional district.”

So we can be reasonably assured that Representative Amodei will not be voting to repeal the shield law for gun manufacturers which was enacted in October 2005, “aimed at ending a spate of lawsuits by individuals and municipalities, including New York City, seeking to hold gun manufacturers and dealers liable for negligence when their weapons are used in crimes.” [NYT]

Among the 283 members of Congress voting in favor of S. 397, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, were Representative James Gibbons (R-NV2), and Representative Jon Porter (R-NV3).   The law they voted for contained an exception, but one with an interesting twist.

While it bars such suits, the measure contains an exception allowing certain cases involving defective weapons or criminal behavior by a gun maker or dealer, such as knowingly selling a weapon to someone who has failed a criminal background check.” [NYT]  “Knowingly” is a high legal standard.  Further, there’s a Catch 22 involved.  If we have a significant Gun Show loophole, and about 40% of all gun sales are conducted without a background check, then no gun manufacturer can be held liable for any use of a firearm resulting in death or injury where no background check was conducted.

The NRA contributed $4,000 to Representative Amodei’s campaign in 2012.

Congressman Joe Heck (R-NV3) touts his 92% rating from the National Rifle Association, and his 83% rating from the Gun Owners of America.  It’s difficult to imagine his support for an expansion of gun registration, a ban on assault rifles, and comprehensive background checks for prospective gun buyers.

Heck’s rating from the Gun Owners of America indicates an appreciation for the GOA’s position:

“Larry Pratt. According to Pratt, the best way to protect people from mass shootings is to make sure more guns are allowed in more places. “Gun-free zones are like magnets for the monsters in our society,” Pratt told Mike Huckabee during a radio interview Monday. More guns, he argued, equal more safety.”  [HuffPo]

And then there was this response from the GOA  to the Newtown tragedy, issued on December 19, 2012:

“While the nation witnessed a real tragedy last week, the media continues to ignore the far greater number of kids who die by other means—like in cars or pools. Sadly, I know about this personally, as one of my children drowned a few years ago.

But just as I’m not going on a nation-wide campaign to ban access to pools, neither should Congress deny access to the very instruments that help good people stop violent thugs from killing children.”

In other words, the answer to gun violence is to put more guns on the streets, in the malls, on the highways, on the airplanes?  This, from an organization which posted this conspiracy theory on its website:

“A top communist defector is warning of an unprecedented “alliance” between the Democratic Party and the Communist Party, reflected in the CPUSA’s endorsement of Barack Obama for president in 2008 and the party’s continued support for Democratic Party policies. But is this warning going to be too hot to handle for the media? And the Republicans?

Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa, the highest-ranking official ever to have defected from the former Soviet bloc, says in an article for PJMedia that any doubt that the Democratic and the Communist parties had secretly joined forces was erased in 2009, “when Van Jones, part of a left fringe of declared communists, became the White House’s green jobs czar.”

Obama aide Valerie Jarrett had disclosed at a left-wing bloggers convention that “we,” apparently referring to herself and President Obama, had hired Jones for the job. However, Jones was fired when an outcry developed over his communist background, and the media quickly dropped any probes into Jones’ White House contacts.”

OK, it doesn’t get much Looney Tunes wackier than this, but this organization did give Representative Heck an 83% rating.   Rep. Heck also accepted $2,500 from the National Rifle Association.

The grand prize winner for NRA contributions in Nevada is Senator Dean Heller, who accepted $6,950 from the organization, making him the 10th highest recipient of the NRA’s largess.  He also accepted $2,500 from the National Shooting Sports Foundation, and $7,000 from the “canned hunt” crowd at the Safari Club.  Senator Heller thus accepted a total of $16,450 from gun related organizations.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation website is still playing possum on the issues related to the massacre at Newtown, on behalf of the Firearms Industry Trade Association:

“We listened with careful attention to President Obama’s statement from the White House today. Being one of the “stakeholders” he discussed, we would welcome the opportunity at the appropriate time to become part of a full national conversation with all policy makers that has as its goal the improved protection of our children and our communities from future violence.”

In other words, “we listened,” now “we’re going to be very quiet until the waves of grief subside, and then we’ll lobby with a vengeance to make sure no meaningful legislation is enacted which might curtail any of our sales?”

Safety First?

Yes, I’d like to discuss ultra-violent video games — but those games are available on every continent.  Why is it our children must be protected from violent video games but not from individuals who purchase assault rifles without undergoing a thorough background check?

Yes, I do believe the broadcast media all too often glamorizes violence. However, these broadcasts are also nothing new on this planet, or exclusive to our society.  Why is it that only our children seem to be at risk?

Yes, I do think we definitely need to take better care of our citizens who suffer from mental illnesses.  Lord knows we need to apply more resources to research, diagnosis, and treatment of mental health problems.  However, this isn’t exclusive to this country either.   So what makes our schools such as Columbine, Platt County High School, Virginia Tech University, and Sandy Hook the object of attack?  And, no, it’s not the “magnetization of gun free zone.”

It is simply the easy access to guns which are too powerful to be used by anyone other than military personnel or law enforcement officers.  We have 5% of the world’s population and 50% of the world’s guns. That’s a recipe for more, not less, disasters.

A reasonable approach would be to ban assault weapons, require comprehensive background checks for all gun sales, and encourage more scientific research on the subject of gun violence by the Centers for Disease Control.  In short, I am a gun owner BUT the NRA doesn’t speak for me. Nor do Representatives Heck, Amodei, and Senator Heller on this subject.

Legislation to Save Lives

When might it be an appropriate time to discuss these proposals rationally?  When the financial sector collapsed in an avalanche of mismanagement we didn’t worry about “politicizing” the issues. We enacted new laws to protect our money.  Might we not take equal action to protect our children?

In the wake of 9/11 we didn’t “politicize” the issues; we enacted a Terrorist Watch List.  We reorganized the government to create the Department of Homeland Security.  We instituted increased security at airports. Why can’t we reorganize our government priorities to protect kids?

After the collapse of the I-35 bridge in Minneapolis  we beefed up our  bridge safety protocols demanding better inspection, evaluation, and maintenance of gusset plates on truss bridges.  Why should we take substantive action which our kids aren’t traveling over bridges…but sitting in their classrooms?

NOW is the time to discuss school safety, but we’ll have a much more productive conversation if the voices we hear aren’t the voices in the heads of delusional radicals who have decided that in the event of some fictitious government takeover they are going to reenact the fantasies of their favorite cartoon action figures.

If our politicians are listening to these voices — we have an even larger problems.

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Cravenly Caving?

The Nevada Progressive has a good title for the subject, “Fast and Frivolous.”   Not only was the deportment of the House Republicans mystifying yesterday, but the the entire performance was underpinned by the acceptance of one of the most bizarre conspiracy theories yet propounded.   And, Representatives Heck (R-NV3) and Amodei (D-NV2) fell for it.

The core of the Great Conspiracy: “Republicans in Congress are arguing that the Justice Department deliberately allowed the anti-gun trafficking operation to unfold in a way that would create a crisis, outraging the public and giving Democrats the cover to implement stricter gun controls.” [HuffPo]

This head-scratcher probably began with the musings of a militia-type blogger:  “Michael Vanderboegh, a blogger with militia ties and a long history of talking up armed resistance to the government, asserts that the ATF purposely let the guns go to the bad guys in Mexico so that, after the ensuing bloodbath, the feds could justify a crackdown on assault weapons and gun shows.” [BaltSun]

Mr. Vanderboegh, and his Sipsy Street Irregulars, the same folks who advocated throwing rocks through the windows of Democratic Party HQ’s after the passage of the Affordable Care Act, published the whacky theory, and made his “information” available to Senators Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Charles Grassley (R-IA).   Vanderboegh, a sort of neo-secessionist is better known to the anti-hate investigators of the SPLC:

“Back in the mid-1990s, he wrote a document entitled “Strategy and Tactics for a Militia Civil War” in which he discussed the utility of snipers using “violence carefully targeted and clearly defensive: war criminals, secret policemen, rats (Pitcavage take note).” Mark Pitcavage, a historian, was then running a Web group called The Militia Watchdog and doing some work for police agencies. He is currently the fact-finding director of the antiracist Anti-Defamation League. “

There’s fringe, and then there’s fringe.  The “information” enhanced by the capacity of the NRA leadership to believe that a Democratic Administration which has not sought a single piece of legislation even remotely mentioning gun regulation wants to re-institute the assault weapons ban, made its way to Rep. Issa who ran with it in his Government Oversight Committee.  This was an unfortunate example of an imaginary cart crashing along behind a galloping crazed horse.

The Vanderboegh Conspiracy has been debunked 21 ways to breakfast.   This didn’t prevent the NRA leadership from chiming in:

“This fits in with the broader conspiracy theory of Wayne LaPierre, the head of the National Rifle Association. The NRA boss has insisted that the reason Mr. Obama has done nothing to harm the Second Amendment in his first term is so he can win another four years in office, at which point his administration will start confiscating guns with no fear of retribution from voters. That’s right, according to Mr. LaPierre, President Obama is not taking your guns now so he can take them later.” [BaltSun]

A person might think that rationality alone would be sufficient to stifle this perseveration, but with Fox News treating Vanderboegh as an “expert analyst,” and Chairman Issa treating the theory as lucid in a parallel universe, the upshot is a “vote” taken in the U.S. House of Representatives to hold the Attorney General of the United States in contempt — for shutting down a demonstrably unworkable and ethically questionable program?

What did Nevada Representatives do?  As noted by Nevada Progressive, Mr. Amodei and Mr. Heck voted to participate in the Alternative Universe, and declare AG Holder “responsible” for — something. [roll call 441] Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV1), functioning in the real world in which the musings of radical right winger Vanderboegh aren’t received wisdom, voted no.

The entire Fast and Furious Conspiracy Theory would be risible if it didn’t result in official sanctions being voted upon by politicians elected to office to engage in serious issues facing the American public.   Indeed, the episode reeks of partisanship of the first water, and irrationality of the first order.   It would be interesting to know if Representatives Amodei and Heck voted in favor of the contempt citation because they truly believed Mr. Vanderboegh’s ramblings, or only because the NRA was scoring the vote and promising retribution during the campaign season?

One rationale makes them look almost psychotic, and the other rationale makes them appear weak?

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Filed under 2012 election, Amodei, Grassley, Gun Issues, Heck