Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category


I regret nothing

March 8, 2013

[Just catching up here, as I also wrote something today that is for some reason popular. Perhaps it’s the lolcat, or it could be references to Rachel Maddow’s show. They’re always popular with gun enthusiast assholes, though!  😀  ]


A few weeks ago, I wrote about an article from The Journal of the American Medical Association, in which doctors considered the lessons we can learn from various public health crises. They sought to show strategies useful against other public health problems, like smoking, in order to apply some of these ideas where useful to the current public health crisis of gun violence.

Yesterday, I saw that JAMA is not the only group studying the parallels between the plague of gun violence and the problem of smoking. On her show, Rachel Maddow spent a good deal of time comparing the National Smokers Alliance and the NRA; along with the spokesman for cigarette companies, Morton Downey Jr., and Wayne LaPierre, spokesman for the gun industry.

Morton Downey Jr. as it happens got lung cancer. He quickly went from spokesman for cigarettes to anti-smoking activist, and grew to regret what he’d done and blamed the cigarette companies for their lies and obfuscation before he died. As for Wayne LaPierre, well. What are the chances that he will ever have to own up to what he’s done, that he will ever regret his spirited defense of gun manufacturers?

Rachel’s first segment dealing with this particular issue covered the plight of the tobacco industry, back when C. Everett Koop took them on and beat back their campaign of disinformation, showing the link between cigarettes and their consequences for people’s health. The tobacco industry was caught at it, caught lying to people and covering up how cigarettes could harm you. Here I will pull a little from the transcript (I will correct a bit for punctuation).

Facing that turn in the conversation, the companies tried to protect themselves. They tried to protect themselves by in effect creating a heat shield for themself, themselves. A fake populist heat shield that was called the National Smokers Alliance. The idea was to keep the industry itself out of the news and out of the discussion, so it didn’t just seem like a fight between one side that cared about your health and another side that wanted to make as much money as it could off of the process of killing you. So it wouldn’t seem like it was the industry itself fighting the regulation of smoking and tobacco.

Speaking of many as much money as it can, the gun industry! They have a real winner in these ‘black rifles,’ prone to more accessories than an iPhone, as Wired magazine posted up about it last month. Take Jay Duncan, VP of Sales at Daniel Defense, for example:


“I always tease that it’s like Legos for grown men,” Duncan elaborates, “because there’s plenty of guys that get one, two, six ARs. And they’re constantly tinkering with them — changing barrel lengths, changing optics, putting different sights on them. It’s the same reason that a guy gets into remote-controlled cars or fly tying. Because it’s a fun hobby, and it’s a distraction from reality sometimes.”

Rachel Maddow goes on to discuss the National Smokers Alliance, funded by cigarette sales, with its fake grassroots mailers and postcards, and coasters that turned up in bars that said “resist prohibition”! And their fake grassroots recruitment drive…

The next year the newsletter featured the launch of “feet on the street,” a nationwide grassroots effort designed to recruit new members. Grassroots, yeah, right. The local papers would soon report this supposedly grassroots effort came with a bounty of 75 cents per head. The tobacco industry would pay to sign people up for their fake front organization that was supposed to look like a popular uprising of smokers getting together to defend their rights.

Again…sound familiar?


A recent NRA promotion invited people to join at a discounted $25 rate. In addition to receiving an official membership card, a subscription to an association magazine, and free gun insurance, new members received a $25 gift card for Bass Pro Shops, making the membership essentially free.

Yes, the very same NRA that no longer relies on its membership to supply even half of its funding anymore. The NRA, which receives millions from the gun industry through contributions, grants, royalties, advertising, not to mention all those ’round up for the NRA’ sales and direct kickbacks on sales from guns and ammo to the NRA — and why not direct, the NRA’s activities contribute just as directly to gunmakers’ profits. The NRA turns right around and spends that money offering discounts like the one above cited by ThinkProgress, essentially free plus free gun insurance, plus all kinds of other little financial incentives. It’s not quite so crass as handing cash directly to people for signing up, or attending a rally — at least, not that I’ve found, yet. It’s just a little more subtle than the tobacco industry’s failed grassroots efforts. But it still looks like astroturf to me. One important difference between once-big tobacco and now-big guns: accountability.

Pursuant to being hounded in the courts, to being sued for selling a product that when used as directed can kill you, the chief executives of the nation’s tobacco companies got hauled into congress to get asked the miserable questions they had sought for so long to avoid. The industry wanted to stay out of the debate. They paid to invent a whole fake smokers rights group to debate in public so they wouldn’t have to. But it didn’t work. They couldn’t get away from the lawsuits. So they couldn’t get away from congress. So they couldn’t get away from the public. They could not hide. Welcome to the spotlight of accountability. It’s hot, isn’t it?


Difference there? Gunmakers are protected, immune from lawsuits. They won that fight back in 2005; thank you once again, Bush regime. It’s not even up for debate right now in the Senate. I did find this reference from late January, where a House representative from California, Adam Schiff, is seeking to repeal that immunity. But I have heard of no such thing in the Senate, nor do I expect to. Cigarettes can kill you. Guns can kill you. Used as directed, they kill. The smokes, they inspired lawsuits, although it took decades; but the gunmakers got enough assholes in Congress to fix that for them.

That’s where we still are, today. And this is what the NRA represents, today. They are the ‘heat shield,’ as Rachel put it: the virulent, loudmouth defenders, the fake grassroots, the guys out there taking the heat so the gunmakers don’t have to. And they’re not, right now. I don’t see them getting hauled before Congress.

Rachel’s second segment details the NRA in particular, how they are doing what the tobacco companies tried to do with the National Smokers Alliance, but the gun manufacturers have done it better. Whether it’s that immunity from lawsuits, or the vacant position of ATF director, or the open seats for judges that haven’t been filled because the gun industry doesn’t like the look of a candidate.

Before this gets too long, I’ll close with the recommendations from JAMA regarding our past successes with public health problems, and how these could be applied to the problem of gun violence. Just as cigarettes were taxed to reflect their cost to society, and the revenues used to make change in society, so guns and ammo could also be taxed. And, sooner or later, that unique immunity the gunmakers currently enjoy has to be challenged.



Senators voting with the NRA over their own constituents

March 8, 2013

[RL takes precedence, and some days it does for my blogging too. Yesterday I wrote this up about the problem of background check legislation in the Senate, as key — oh, hell, all — Senators standing in the way are doing the bidding of the NRA and ignoring huge majorities of their own people. They will go on doing this, I figure, until held accountable. I should also note that I was amazed that I posted that black rifle with that caption and no one’s head exploded. I figure that’s because no one read this diary.]

A man of the people?...nah.

A man of the people?…nah.

As bipartisan negotiations over a universal background check bill have faltered in the Senate, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) chose this moment to introduce the NRA’s preferred legislation, which addresses mental health issues and ignores the gaping hole in the law permitting private gun sales (often called the ‘gun show’ loophole) with no background check.

Although groups dedicated to the reduction of gun violence, like Gabby Giffords’ Americans for Responsible Solutions, see value in the bill — from a pragmatic standpoint, it will help deal with the one problem the NRA has picked out for its sacrificial lamb — they also acknowledge the big problem, private gun sales, that Graham’s bill will do nothing to solve.

And since Mayors Against Illegal Guns has released polling data on universal background checks for all gun sales, showing many legislators who enjoy the support and endorsement of the NRA, one of my own Senators, Jeff Flake of Arizona, stands accused of siding with the NRA by co-sponsoring their bill. He’s ignoring 90% of his own constituency to do it.

So, MAIG polled a variety of states and Congressional districts, looking for voters and their views on background checks. Many of the districts they polled are represented by A-graded, NRA-approved politicians. And the lowest percentage they could find in support of universal background checks — for all gun sales — was 79%. Arizona, my home state, not known as a bastion of deep ‘blue’ or liberal, progressive values, polled at 90%.

And yet, there’s Jeff Flake, my senator, co-sponsoring the NRA bill that fails to address the private gun sale loophole. Ignoring the people of Arizona. Before the expected objection about whether or not the NRA supports this bill is raised, let me point out that CNN quotes the NRA-ILA executive director supporting Graham’s bill:

The National Rifle Association announced its support for the legislation saying it would “improve” the current background check system.“This bill will create accurate definitions of those who pose serious threats and should be barred from the ability to buy or possess a firearm, while protecting the rights of law abiding citizens and veterans,” said Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action.

CNN also went looking for responses from gun control advocates, and got one from Giffords’ new group, Americans for Responsible Solutions.

“We are glad that Senators Graham, Flake, Pryor and Begich agree that America has a problem with gun violence. And we agree with their ideas for strengthening the NICS system” said Pia Carusone, executive director of the new group. “But they cannot ignore the fact that 40% of the guns purchased in this country are bought outside of the system all together –meaning dangerous people have easy access to guns.”

On the contrary — I think that ignoring the facts is precisely what the NRA and its agents in Congress mean to do. What I suspect the NRA will now do is lie to the American people, and present their bill as addressing the background check issue, despite the gaping loophole, 40% of all gun sales, that it fails to tackle.

Yes, I've called out a Democrat

Yes, I’ve called out a Democrat

Incidentally, Senator Flake isn’t the only one subject to some MAIG polling; they also show that Mark Pryor (D-AR), one of the Democratic co-sponsors of the NRA’s bill, is ignoring 84% of his constituency as well. Considering that the lowest percentage the MAIG could find in these states and districts was 79%, all of the NRA’s supporters may be going against the will of their own people, Senator Graham included.

Meanwhile, some writers are looking to blame the White House for controlling gun control advocates too much, in order to present a unified front. With a title like “How the White House silenced gun control groups,” this Politico article tries hard to make it look like Obama has hurt gun control advocacy. A writer could quote half of it for a pretty good hit piece, I’d say. Saved for the end, they quote Michael Barnes, a former representative in Congress and former president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

Now, Barnes said, it would be “counterproductive” to the cause of gun control for any of the groups to make waves — even if they don’t believe Obama’s effort goes far enough.“It probably doesn’t go as far as some of us would like, but it’s a great program,” Barnes said. “They shouldn’t be putting energy into trying to make it stronger because it’s going to be very tough to pass this. A lot of people say it can’t be done. If I were involved, I would counsel against people saying it doesn’t go far enough.”

So, yes. It sucks that the fight to enact some sensible, amazingly popular legislation to reduce gun violence is this hard to win, but it is. And taking some progress over none is an easy choice. Some of this also applies to the NRA’s chosen bill, even. If everyone supposedly agrees on making the NICS database work better as a check on the dangerously mentally ill, then perhaps Congress can make quick work of it. But it’s not enough, and the NRA and their allies in Congress have very few of the people on their side.

Those few people, though, they’re definitely speaking up. Just for example, this “fire mission” that I found today. I guess it takes a particular mindset to be comfortable with comparing political advocacy to killing folks…and I guess, the “Home of the Black Rifle,” qualifies.

They've found something black that they like!

They’ve found something black that they like!

Provided are the names of the members, party affiliation, and links to their E-mail contact page as well as their DC office phone and fax information.

They left out Dianne Feinstein’s info as a lost case, although she’s not the only one for them.

Dianne “lol don’t bother” Feinstein

One might think that the NRA, staking out such an isolated, fringe position on opposing background checks, would have political clout matching its far-right take, but no. Media Matters documented how the NRA has flip-flopped on this very issue, having supported background checks after Columbine. As I pointed out yesterday, they’re losing the support of gun manufacturers and gun rights advocacy groups. Even Bill O’Reilly of the raging spittle has referred to background checks as a reasonable position — perhaps not the best arbiter of that which is reasonable, but it shows just how far gone the NRA is now that Bill O’Reilly or even Lou Dobbs are to the left of them.

And yet, all it takes is a few Senators to turn, and even this most popular of all policies intended to curb gun violence will fall. So, I’m going to include the contact information again for the Senate Judiciary Committee. This isn’t literal combat. Don’t think of it as a ‘fire mission.’ But it can save lives, so…you know what, think of it as a war if you like. Because if the NRA wins, there will be casualties.

Patrick J. Leahy, Chairman, D-Vermont [202-224-4242] Dianne Feinstein, D-California [202-224-3841] Chuck Grassley, Ranking Member, R-Iowa [202-224-3744]
Chuck Schumer, D-New York [202-224-6542] Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah [202-224-5251] Dick Durbin, D-Illinois [202-224-2152]
Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama [202-224-4124] Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island [202-224-2921] Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina [202-224-5972]
Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota [202-224-3244] John Cornyn, R-Texas [202-224-2934] Al Franken, D-Minnesota [202-224-5641]
Michael S. Lee, R-Utah [202-224-5444] Christopher A. Coons, D-Delaware [202-224-5042] Ted Cruz, R-Texas [202-224-5922]
Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut [202-224-2823] Jeff Flake, R-Arizona [202-224-4521] Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii [202-224-6361]

NRA’s support among gun advocates splintering over background checks

March 6, 2013

[…which may or may not be a result of my hammering away at them on almost a daily basis, but anyway, good news today. Set phasers to Infuriate the RKBA.]

Fringe, it’s not just a TV show

Today I am pleased to see that gun manufacturers, dealers, and gun rights groups are breaking with the NRA on background checks. Even better, Democrats are flipping the economic threat around on the gun industry, with big-city mayors and their budgets for guns and ammo looking for manufacturers that will work with them on legislation.

This is a promising turn of events. In some previous work I’ve documented gun manufacturers like Barrett Firearms Manufacturing punish law enforcement in California with a ban on sales in retaliation for California’s strict gun laws, and Magpul, which makes ammunition magazines and other gun ‘accessories,’ threaten to pull their manufacturing plant and hundreds of jobs out of Colorado if Democrats pass gun control legislation. And the NRA has orchestrated boycotts to punish anyone who steps out of line, so anyone breaking up the coalition now is asking for it.

And yet, they are, showing that NRA’s leadership is out of touch. Not only with vast majorities of Americans, Democrats, gun owners, and NRA members, but now, even gunmakers and gun rights advocates.


History shows why the individual manufacturers, gun enthusiasts or gun rights groups have reason to fear the NRA; that is, when the rest of the industry is lined up behind them. In 2000, they turned on Smith & Wesson for signing an agreement with the Clinton administration. Since I’m no gun expert, I looked them up and I guess it was their .44 Magnum Model 29 featured in the old Clint Eastwood movies. He couldn’t save them from the NRA, I suppose.

May have been busy, yelling at a chair

In March 2000 Smith & Wesson was the only major gun manufacturer to sign an agreement with the Clinton Administration.[5] The company agreed to numerous safety and design standards as well as limits on the sale and distribution of its products. Gun clubs and gun rights groups responded to this agreement by initiating large-scale boycotts of Smith & Wesson by refusing to buy their new products and flooding the firearms market with used S&W guns.[5][6][7] After a 40% sales slide,[8] the sales impact from the boycotts led Smith & Wesson to suspend manufacturing at two plants.[9] The success of the boycott led to a Federal Trade Commission antitrust investigation’s being initiated under the Clinton administration,[7] targeting gun dealers and gun rights groups, which was subsequently dropped in 2003.[10] This agreement signed by Tomkins PLC ended with the sale of Smith & Wesson to the Saf-T-Hammer Corporation. The new company (Smith and Wesson Holding Corporation), which publicly renounced the agreement, was received positively by the firearms community.[11]

This agreement was intended to increase gun safety by mandating safety devices on their guns, such as gun locks. Also, among other things, it barred gun sales — including gun show sales — without a background check on the buyer. Interesting, eh? Following more links, I see that the Bush regime dropped the antitrust investigation and scrapped Clinton’s agreement, but for S&W the damage was done. Bush’s failure to investigate was summed up, perhaps with unintentional irony, by FTC spokeswoman Brenda Mack:

Thanks for nothing — as usual

“This does not mean that a violation did or did not occur, so the commission reserves its right to take action again in the future if necessary,” said Mack.

With that history in mind, it’s encouraging to witness these cracks in the monolith. Like a trade group for gun manufacturers breaking with the NRA over universal background checks.

“That’s more the NRA’s issue,” Steve Sanetti, president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), said in an interview. “From the commercial side, we’re already there, and we’ve been there, and we were the ones that have been the strongest proponents of an effective, complete background check.”

The Washington Post reports that, behind the scenes, gunmakers, dealers, and gun advocates are expressing support for background checks. The NSSF president is a brave fellow for putting his support on the record. Hopefully the target on his back will be rhetorical only. But with the death threats gun control advocates and politicians are receiving, well…who knows.

And as gunmakers have tried their intimidation tactics on lawmakers, like Magpul in Colorado, it seems that some Democrats are putting their own economic leverage to use. Big-city mayors, after all, must spend quite a bit of money on firearms and ammunition for police departments.

“Our residents want to ensure that the tax dollars that are being used to purchase guns for our police departments are going to manufacturers that share our values and support our strategies,” Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, who leads the National Conference of Democratic Mayors, wrote in a letter to Glock and the NSSF.

The NRA has been against universal background checks from the beginning. Their executive VP Wayne LaPierre is on record, repeatedly, claiming these background checks will lead to gun registration — pointedly silent about the existing federal law his organization worked to pass that forbids any such registry at the federal level. The NRA’s lies were debunked by Mark Kelly in an op-ed at Politico at the end of February, and I spent some time digging into the details. Instead of the truth, they offer this lie by omission, along with threats of confiscation and false comparisons to Nazi Germany. In spite of this consistent message, even here I see folks trying to soften the NRA’s image. They challenge this simple reality that the NRA is out of touch, increasingly isolated in their opposition to universal background checks.

Not all of the NRA’s traditional allies share this sense of alarm. For example, the founder of the pro-gun Second Amendment Foundation tentatively backed a proposed compromise bill in Washington state last month that would expand checks while limiting state firearms record-keeping.In addition, the head of the nation’s largest police union, which was allied with the NRA in a major legislative battle in the past, has joined the movement for expanded background checks.

Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, said in an interview that he now supports extending checks to gun shows and other venues where they are not required.

The Washington Post article notes the negotiations underway in the Senate as another break with the demands of the NRA’s leadership, in that NRA-supported Republican Senators have agreed in general on expanding background checks. True enough. But the remaining sticking point — record keeping — shows that these Republicans seek a watered-down, toothless universal check. Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), for example, who wants no record-keeping, in other words, no accountability, no enforcement.

Senator Tom Coburn (R-not-so-OK)

While the NRA’s extremism has managed to drive away some allies, on the issue of background checks it still has the support of at least one key legislator. The Huffington Post reports that Democratic Senators Chuck Schumer and Joe Manchin have been trying to hammer out a bipartisan deal, but they’ve still made no progress with Republican Senator Tom Coburn. For weeks, Coburn, who has an “A” rating from the NRA, has insisted that the legislation must not require records of private gun sales to be kept, since supposedly that’s the first step toward a national gun registry. The Senate Judiciary Committee plans to consider several gun control bills on Thursday, so if Coburn doesn’t come around by then, Schumer may file his old background check bill as a placeholder. Getting the bill passed without the Republican senator’s assistance wouldn’t be impossible, but it’s not a good sign for what was supposed to be one of the easier gun control measures to get through Congress.

Tom Coburn may well be an intractable roadblock, but the Senate Judiciary Committee could all use a push on this issue, as some votes are supposed to take place tomorrow. One of the Senators on the committee, Jeff Flake, is from my state. Although I don’t expect this Republican to vote my way on this issue, I’m still making a point to contact him. Nothing but endless ringing at Flake’s office number this morning, so the NRA’s mobilization effort may already be underway, but I mean to try again.

Here are all of the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee considering the background check law, among other gun control proposals. If any of these are your Senators, perhaps it’s worth a moment of your time to call them? The United States Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 can connect to any Senate office upon request.

Patrick J. Leahy, Chairman, D-Vermont Dianne Feinstein, D-California Chuck Grassley, Ranking Member, R-Iowa
Chuck Schumer, D-New York Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah Dick Durbin, D-Illinois
Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina
Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota John Cornyn, R-Texas Al Franken, D-Minnesota
Michael S. Lee, R-Utah Christopher A. Coons, D-Delaware Ted Cruz, R-Texas
Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut Jeff Flake, R-Arizona Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii

You will know fear!

March 5, 2013

[Since I have seen the Sha of Fear (and beaten him in LFR, but then who hasn’t), it seemed appropriate to include a reference to the bastich in today’s presentation of NRA fear-mongering.]

Another physical manifestation of terror

The NRA seems to have recognized its weakness on universal background checks for buying guns, as their spokesmen made the rounds yesterday, trying to reinforce their campaign of fear-mongering against this popular gun control policy. Undeterred by the demonstrable falsity of their claims, NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre and Ronnie Barrett, an NRA board member and manufacturer of his namesake sniper rifle, preached messages of conspiracy theory and revisionist history, aiming to frighten any doubting conservatives, gun owners or NRA members back into line.

With three-quarters of NRA members supporting background checks, their leaders have some work to do, since they’re evidently not going to follow the will of their own membership.


Let’s begin to face the peril with Wayne on Fox & Fringe, er, that is, Varney & Company on the Fox Business channel. Stuart Varney obligingly pretended to play devil’s advocate, offering a position in favor of background checks while doing nothing to counter LaPierre’s arguments. I guess he personified the straw man.

LAPIERRE: It is a huge waste of money. It’s going to be selectively enforced. It’s going to be abused. And the worst thing, you’re creating a registry of all the law-abiding people in the country that own firearms. I know the politicians say, “Hey, we’ll never use that list to confiscate.” That’s a pretty darn tall order to believe a promise from people in this town right now.

Media Matters goes on to explain, yet again, how the NRA chooses to ignore the Firearms Owners’ Protection Act of 1986 (FOPA), the law they worked to pass, which forbids the creation of a federal gun registry. It’s this law which has created the sticking point in Senate negotiations, as Republicans resist any kind of record-keeping — and as Democrats try to find an effective alternative to a federal agency.

The Raw Story also notes Wayne’s appearance on Fox Business, pointing out his empathic commentary on the mentally ill…

“It’s a speed bump for the law-abiding,” he said in an interview with Fox Business Network host Stuart Varney. “It has no effect in the real world on stopping crime or keeping mental defectives from committing horrible acts.”

LaPierre goes on to claim that HIPAA laws and privacy laws will prevent would-be mass shooters from being entered into the system for psychological issues. This NRA article of faith, as usual, is demolished by the facts. As can be seen in this helpful infographic from the Center for American Progress, of the nearly 2 million people blocked from purchasing guns via NICS background checks, 1.1% are categorized as “severely mentally ill.” They cite FBI data on adjudicated mental health reasons for denial, and that percentage translates into 10,690 people who tried and were stopped from buying a gun.

Mind you, this is the current, flawed, incomplete record-keeping system that President Obama and Democrats in Congress are trying to reform and improve. This system that Wayne LaPierre claims isn’t stopping anybody, in reality, has stopped almost 2 million people.

I find it interesting, if a bit odd, that the likes of Wayne LaPierre continues to rain down abuse and trash-talk on the mentally ill. It doesn’t seem to be in keeping with the NRA business model. Then again, considering the NRA’s desired result of no new gun laws, maintenance of the status quo, ever more gun proliferation, and of course profits for gun manufacturers…

All right then, don’t tell me that it’s too perilous. Let’s have just a little bit more peril. In the form of Ronnie Barrett, CEO of Barrett Firearms Manufacturing and a member of the board of the NRA. Yes, when I see an NRA board member on an NRA sponsored TV show, I see just another NRA spokesman. Barrett’s history of gun manufacturing and sales is…interesting, perhaps worth a moment to read that wiki article. This is another company who refuses to sell to law enforcement, specifically in California, as punishment for their state’s law against the company’s .50 caliber rifles.

In Ronnie’s case, he appeared on the NRA’s Cam & Company show on the Sportsman Channel. This NRA propaganda vehicle is often featured on Media Matters, and in my diaries for that matter. So here we go again, as Barrett compares gun laws to Nazi Germany and predicts genocide…

Ronnie Barrett, defender of liberty

BARRETT: In all of history when this kind of stuff has happened before, it’s bad news. You know and I hate to be one of these doomsday guys, but in past things like this result in the death of millions. You know, and World War II hasn’t been 700 years ago, it’s only been 70 years ago. And if people don’t think that these things don’t happen to modern, progressive, Christian nations like Germany was, they’re wrong, brother, I mean we’re sitting here just nearly repeating the same past of that, the disarming of the citizenry not based on any facts but based on cynical emotions that are put in and rushed through in the middle of the night before anybody has a chance to study the true facts, before their citizenry even knows what’s going on. I mean holy smokes, what kind of state government was that? I can’t believe that’s one of the members of the Union here, one of the members of our Republic. It’s just unimaginable.

Compare this to the previous video of Wayne and Stuart tut-tutting about the confiscation of guns in the United Kingdom. How about that, anyway? A law was passed there in 1997, which banned private gun ownership almost completely. Surprisingly, years later — 10 years since the full effect of the law was achieved — no genocide. Wondrous. Well, it could be Barrett is just mad with them because his company used to supply sniper rifles to the IRA; I suppose Barrett may not be selling many Light Fifties there now. And in some previous work, I’ve gone over the revisionist history used by the NRA to falsely compare gun control legislation to the Nazis. Actual history shows that the gun laws in Germany were much more strict, prior to the Nazi regime, and that the 1938 law signed by Hitler deregulated guns for most Germans, while prohibiting gun ownership for Jews and some other persecuted classes. To quote again the historian Salon consulted on the matter:

“Their assertion that they need these guns to protect themselves from the government — as supposedly the Jews would have done against the Hitler regime — means not only that they are innocent of any knowledge and understanding of the past, but also that they are consciously or not imbued with the type of fascist or Bolshevik thinking that they can turn against a democratically elected government, indeed turn their guns on it, just because they don’t like its policies, its ideology, or the color, race and origin of its leaders.”

Of course, Wayne wants his flock to believe the myth that they are a persecuted class, even as he barks about gun laws unfairly treating a hundred million gun owners. A hundred million people, as a persecuted minority class? Wayne’s absurdities don’t stand up to scrutiny. What he’s counting on, though, is a lack of scrutiny. From gun owners, from the NRA membership, and a lack of scrutiny from the media won’t hurt his chances either. Which is why I value Media Matters’ work, and make such frequent use of it. Let some light shine on these hectoring blackcoats and their false dogma. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, so the saying goes.


When gun control is outlawed…

March 4, 2013

[…and, we’re back. Since my schedule switched I have a little spare time today due to yesterday’s chore duties. Today I poke at the NRA and a manufacturer of high-capacity ammunition magazines and other gun…accessories…I think ‘accessories’ and I can’t get toys out of my head, and I suppose that’s appropriate. Oh, yes…and a bonus reference for Escher Girls, couldn’t help it.]

¿Quien Es Mas Macho?

There’s an old saw about outlaws and guns, that I was reminded of as I surveyed the day’s news. On average, though, guns rack up a body count of about 87 people a day. And as the day’s victims queue up to be counted (Tom Begnal may have his next piece up shortly), I’m left wondering if it’s actually the American people who are outlaws — outside the protection of the law.

I mention this as, in Colorado, a manufacturer of high-capacity magazines, Democrats in the state Senate are under pressure to abandon new laws that would restrict the size of ammunition magazines, and mandate serial numbers on magazines. Magpul, the manufacturer in question, has threatened to pull out of the state, with Wyoming and Texas more than willing to facilitate a move for the promise of some jobs.

And Magpul has also decided to demand a loyalty oath from police — an oath to the 2nd Amendment — before it will deign to sell to them.


Over the weekend, I wrote about the threats that Democratic representatives in Colorado are receiving lately, since new gun control legislation was proposed and then passed in the state House. Death threats against these Democrats, threats about their children being raped…quality rhetoric from gun enthusiasts, surely.

And since I monitor the activities of my enemies, I note that the NRA has compiled a list of Colorado state Democrats to intimidate, er, to contact and please express opposition to anti-gun measures. It might be time well spent for anyone interested in reducing gun violence to also contact these state Senators. Subvert the NRA with their own handy list, why don’t you?

With this legislative backdrop in mind, let’s get to Magpul, manufacturer of ammunition magazines and other gun accessories. When they’re not marketing calendars of pinup girls with guns, they have an section of their website dedicated to Propaganda. And no, neither of those is even a joke, although perhaps the folks at Magpul think it’s funny. In this news/propaganda section, Magpul’s CEO explains his decision to make outlaws of cops.

With the fight in Colorado right now we do not have time to implement a new program, so I have suspended all LE sales to ban states until we can implement a system wherein any Law Enforcement Officer buying for duty use will have to promise to uphold their oath to the US Constitution – specifically the second and fourteenth amendments – as it applies to all citizens.

Why the 14th Amendment, you might ask? Oh, I can think of at least one reason.

On June 28, 2010, the Supreme Court, in a 5–4 decision, reversed the Seventh Circuit’s decision, holding that the Second Amendment was incorporated under the Fourteenth Amendment thus protecting those rights from infringement by local governments.[6] It then remanded the case back to Seventh Circuit to resolve conflicts between certain Chicago gun restrictions and the Second Amendment.

Yeah, so, guns. Figures. Anyway, that’s Magpul demonstrating its great fondness for law enforcement professionals. I guess they may have to do without those pinup calendars for awhile. There are some reasonable facsimiles out there.

Beyond just pissing off cops, Magpul has weighed in on the new gun legislation in Colorado, and threatened to move out of state if it’s passed. It’s already passed in the state House, and the governor is on record that he’ll sign it.

The bill would make it a crime to have magazines that can carry more than 15 rounds, with a stricter limit of eight for shotguns. People who own larger magazines now would be allowed to keep them.As the debate unfolds, states have made overtures to Magpul, including offering to pay their moving costs. The company won’t name the states, but Wyoming and Texas have expressed interest in netting the $85 million the company projects it will spend in Colorado next year in payments to suppliers, subcontractors and service providers. Magpul said the move would also impact its 200 employees, plus an additional 400 who work for suppliers and subcontractors.

They also cite added production costs for a requirement to add serial numbers to magazines. Because why not spend the money instead on moving to another state where it’s not required?

Anyway, what’s another 80 or so people dying today…there’s corporations out there, with a few jobs to dangle in front of state legislatures! Time will tell if Columbine and Aurora, or Magpul and the NRA will win the day. But it’s clear who gun enthusiasts think should enjoy the protection of the law, and who should be outlaws.

Tuesday edit:…

Don’t think I will follow up on this today, so I noted on DK for the persistent commenters; state Senate committees in Colorado passed all seven gun control bills, and they are scheduled to be debated in the full Senate on Friday. Republicans are looking to peel off three Democrats to kill any of the legislation, and I understand one or two Democrats have already expressed opposition to at least some of the bills.


Responsible, law-abiding gun owners exercising their free speech rights

March 2, 2013

[…and I’m spent. More chores to do tomorrow than today, so I do not expect to have much to write about on Sunday. Closing out the week with a mildly snarky collection of death threats and the like from some passionate gun enthusiasts, and the obvious connections to the NRA.]

Because freedom!

What can I say, it’s the weekend and I feel like mercilessly mocking some gun enthusiasts for going Godwin, issuing threats, and hoping for the rape of children. The alternatives to mockery that I’m considering seem like bad ideas.

I can’t help but be amused just a little, though, when even Republicans are forced to speak out against the threats and abuse, when they fail to pay the requisite fealty to the 2nd Amendment and then they start getting some flak.

Freedom loving, lawful and responsible gun owners, all, I’m sure.


So a few days ago, this story broke about death threats and racial slurs delivered against two Democratic state representatives in Colorado. One of these Democrats, Rhonda Fields, represents the district where the mass shooting in Aurora took place last July. It seems reasonable that she’s playing a central role in the push to enact new gun laws in Colorado.

Fields, a Democrat who represents the district where 12 people were killed while watching a movie, is a leading proponent for new gun restrictions, and her role has thrust her into the spotlight.”I will not be deterred by threats,” Fields said in a statement.

Steven D’s diary from Feb. 26th goes into the details of the profanity, slurs and threats sent to these Democrats, and also mentions that Rep. Fields’ son was a victim of gun violence. So, yeah, I bet it’ll take more than that to stop her.

Unfortunately, they’re not alone. While gun enthusiasts in some states continue to push for ever more unfettered freedom to take their guns anywhere, many others have fought to pass new restrictions intended to make their states safer from gun violence. And so the diehard supporters of the NRA have spoken up across the nation.

In California, police arrested a man suspected of threatening a state senator over a bill to limit the rapid reloading of assault weapons. In Minnesota, a lawmaker who sponsored an assault weapons ban said she’s received threatening emails and calls. During hearings on gun bills this year, armed Minnesota State Patrol officers have been present, which is a rarity.

These examples demonstrate why the notion of ‘second amendment remedies’ isn’t so much of a joke, and why that contributed to

Sharron Angle’s spectacular flameout in Nevada. In addition to these examples, the news piece cites Republicans in Wyoming, who are being threatened for refusing to bring up a bill intended to exempt the state from any assault weapons ban.

Apparently, some Republicans have heard of the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, which makes such laws pointless and unconstitutional. Not that this has stopped all manner of local sheriffs and state legislatures, mind you. This article is worth citing for the irony alone.

From Oregon to Mississippi, President Barack Obama’s proposed ban on new assault weapons and large-capacity magazines struck a nerve among rural lawmen and lawmakers, many of whom vowed to ignore any restrictions — and even try to stop federal officials from enforcing gun policy in their jurisdictions.”A lot of sheriffs are now standing up and saying, ‘Follow the Constitution,'” said Josephine County Sheriff Gil Gilbertson, whose territory covers the timbered mountains of southwestern Oregon.

Yep, follow that Constitution, fellas. Read that Supremacy Clause and weep.

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.

Honestly. I can understand pushing for laws at the state and federal level in support of gun rights, if that’s your bag of tea. But defying the feds, and demanding that they ‘read the Constitution’ — this stuff writes itself. Lest I leave out my charming home state of Arizona, this nullification rush has struck here, too. In fact, the proposed law here was so bad that the NRA spoke out against it

And the Constitution isn’t Smith’s only problem; he’s catching some friendly fire too. Todd Rathner, an Arizona resident who sits on the board of the National Rifle Association, told the Capitol News Service that he doesn’t like the bill because of what it would do to gun dealers, who must receive federal licenses and comply with federal regulations.“I worry about putting federal firearms licensees in the middle of a fight between us and the federal government,” he said. “It puts them between a rock and a hard place because they worry about committing a federal crime or a state crime.”

…ok, so you knew it wasn’t going to be an objection to the law as a constitutional violation, but that it might hurt gun dealers. Right? I mean, this is the NRA. And for going Godwin, I can’t forget the NRA rally in New York yesterday, with posters equating Governor Cuomo with Hitler. Of course, the NRA president David Keene was out there defending it, too.

I’m guessing the answer was no.

Asked about the Nazi imagery during an appearance on the AM 1300 radio show “Live from the State Capitol,” Keene told host Fred Dicker that the signs were in reference to the fact that dictators have historically limited citizens’ gun rights.

“Folks that are cognizant of the history, not just in Germany but elsewhere, look back to the history and say we can’t let that sort of thing happen here,” Keene said.

What gun enthusiasts are cognizant of is NRA revisionist history, and it’s popular stuff, as this piece from Salon has found. The actual history is interesting; the Nazis deregulated guns and ammunition and exempted many people from gun ownership regulations, while banning prohibited classes of people from owning guns. Salon quotes Omer Bartov, a historian at Brown University who studies the Third Reich:

He continued: “Their assertion that they need these guns to protect themselves from the government — as supposedly the Jews would have done against the Hitler regime — means not only that they are innocent of any knowledge and understanding of the past, but also that they are consciously or not imbued with the type of fascist or Bolshevik thinking that they can turn against a democratically elected government, indeed turn their guns on it, just because they don’t like its policies, its ideology, or the color, race and origin of its leaders.”

Which brings us back to the Cuomo-as-Hitler posters, the abuse and death threats heaped upon any politician — Democratic or Republican — who steps out of line, and the president of the NRA preaching to his choir that they’ll do whatever it takes to get rid of those politicians.

“Because of the fact that we, as believers in the Second Amendment, are willing to do something that most people in this country are not willing to do, which is not just to stand up for our rights, but to support those people who stand with us and work to get rid of those in public office who do not,” the NRA president told the crowd.

“So we’re with you,” Keene added. “We’ll help you defeat the politicians that would deprive you of your rights. We’ll help you overcome these statutes in court. We’ll do whatever’s necessary to make certain the Second Amendment rights that we have had passed down to us are are going to be passed down to future generations.”

Did this NRA brochure come with a tinfoil hat?

It’s interesting to contemplate the jarring difference here, between the NRA leadership and various gun enthusiast cranks across the nation — the threats, the revisionist history, the abuse — and what they perceive to be such grave threats to them. While the President and various Democrats take great pains to assuage these anxious gun owners and accommodate their paranoia, what do we get for our trouble?

Well, I did mention that rape comment at the top…so I will finish where I began, in Colorado.

“There is this extremist element where it does feel dangerous to stand up,” said Colorado state Sen. Jessie Ulibarri, a Democrat who will be voting on the bills Monday. Ulibarri received a letter from someone who said they hope the senator’s daughter is raped. Ulibarri has a 2-year-old girl.

Gun enthusiasts need not ask why they now reap a whirlwind. After years of spending their money and time attacking Democrats, getting Republicans elected, and bullying anyone who dared defy them, things have changed. But this change needs to be realized in legislation — something to begin to address the plague of gun violence in this country. Our representatives endure having their lives and the lives of their children threatened. Don’t ignore their courage; speak up, and demand a vote.


The NRA is just one part of a right wing campaign

March 1, 2013

[Although I may write more tomorrow, today I am actually looking at…a weekend! As my work schedule has flipped again. Today’s little rant is about how the NRA fits in so well with the right wing fringe, from reality denial to conspiracy theory to sneaky corporate backing.]

No, this isn’t shame — though it should be

David Keene, president of the NRA, was in New York yesterday for a rally against the recently passed gun control legislation passed by the state. Promising to do whatever’s necessary to get rid of politicians who oppose them, to the delighted cheers of what few tea partiers they could bus in for the publicity stunt, it was business as usual for the NRA.

Keene called them believers in the 2nd Amendment, making a somewhat religious argument for a fervent crowd. And the dog whistling about getting rid of their opposition by any means necessary didn’t hurt, either. I’m sure he would deny it, but Keene’s remarks are right in line with the threats coming out of the right wing, threats for anyone trying to make our society safer from gun violence.

So, I also read today a fascinating article by People for the American Way, which I found through Right Wing Watch, one of my regular stops for news of the extreme right wing. PFAW correctly places the NRA in the right wing, as part of the campaign to stop legislation intended to curb gun violence — they’re out to preserve the status quo, the ongoing slaughter, and they’ve got help.


This was the NRA president in Albany, on Thursday:

“Because of the fact that we, as believers in the Second Amendment, are willing to do something that most people in this country are not willing to do, which is not just to stand up for our rights, but to support those people who stand with us and work to get rid of those in public office who do not,” the NRA president told the crowd.“So we’re with you,” Keene added. “We’ll help you defeat the politicians that would deprive you of your rights. We’ll help you overcome these statutes in court. We’ll do whatever’s necessary to make certain the Second Amendment rights that we have had passed down to us are are going to be passed down to future generations.”

Also noted in the news piece was the crowd’s response, responsible, law-abiding gun owners all, chanting “we will not comply.” Now, the crowd bussed in for the NRA rally isn’t representative of gun owners in general, or even NRA members. There’s good reason for those ‘don’t tread on me’ flags waving in the video that can be found at the linked article. That crowd is the tea party, the far right fringe of conservatism.

Mathew Staver, anti-gay crusader

And that is where the NRA has made its bed, as shown in the PFAW article. For example, they begin with a quote from Mathew Staver of the Liberty Counsel, from back in January.

Radicals in power have already devoured our First Amendment right to Freedom of Conscience through ObamaCare and have repeatedly chomped on our Freedom of Speech in the ongoing “homosexual rights” campaign. Now these insatiable socialists are drooling all over our Second Amendment right to bear arms!

It should be fairly obvious, but the Liberty Counsel has a reputation for its anti-gay agenda, and it’s never a good sign when the SPLC takes an interest in a group like this.

The LC supports the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy.[3] The LC also opposes efforts to prohibit employment discrimination against gay workers.[4] The LC further opposes ‘the addition of “sexual orientation”, “gender identity” or similar provisions’ to hate crimes legislation.[5] The Southern Poverty Law Center lists the Liberty Counsel as being one of twelve groups comprising an “anti-gay crusade.”[6] The LC also devotes its time to fighting against same-sex marriage, civil unions, and adoption by homosexuals.[7]

PFAW offers a list, with examples, of the different strategies used by the right wing — not just against gun control, but for a variety of issues. And they show how the NRA fits right in with these conservative extremists. When it comes to reality denial, anyone familiar with the religious right’s campaign against evolution knows all too well about the tendency for creationists to deny the science. Or, as another example, climate science denial and the right wingers and corporate interests that support that entire industry. And then there’s the NRA, denying the obvious results of scientific research; that is, when they haven’t outlawed the practice of researching gun violence.

On issues from gay rights to climate change, right-wing activists stick stubbornly to their ideology even when it is clearly controverted by scientific consensus and other reality.  On gun violence, NRA officials  and their allies refuse to acknowledge that the availability of assault weapons and high-volume ammunition clips, or the lack of background checks for private sales of guns, are problems that make it easier for a shooter to kill more innocent people quickly.  They ignore evidence that stronger gun laws can and do reduce gun crimes. According to an October 2012 report from the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, “When states expand firearm prohibitions to high-risk groups, and adopt comprehensive measures to prevent diversion of guns to prohibited persons, fewer guns are diverted to criminals, and there is less violence. ”

Likewise, when it comes to shifting blame away from that which is precious to the right wing, the NRA is in excellent company. While Wayne LaPierre pulled out the old standards of blaming everything else in society but guns, the religious right stood beside them issuing sermons on their god’s judgment:

Religious Right leaders and right-wing pundits played their usual parts in the spin. Religious broadcaster James Dobson said the shooting was God’s judgment for the country turning its back on scripture and on God.  Franklin Graham said much the same: “This is what happens when a society turns its back on God.”  Radio host Steve Deece blamed public schools for promoting a “culture of death” and teaching students “there is no God and thus no real purpose to their lives.”  American Family Association spokesperson Bryan Fischer said God wasn’t there to protect students because schools were not starting the day with prayer.  Newt Gingrich blamed “an anti-religious secular bureaucracy and secular judiciary seeking to drive God out of public life,” along with video games.

And that’s about…maybe half of the instances of blame-shifting documented by PFAW just for this one mass shooting. I’m reluctant to go looking back for more blame-spewing from back in 2011 after the shooting in Tucson, but I’m sure it’s out there for the googling.

There’s so much more in the PFAW article that I can’t touch on all of the ideas discussed within the limits of fair use. It is well worth your time to check it out. But they go on, and on. Hostility to compromise. Smearing opponents. Promoting conspiracy theories. None of this should be news to anyone following news of the NRA. Fickle loyalty to states’ rights — like when the NRA and ALEC push federal laws intended to force other states to abide by the concealed-carry laws of the most lax states in the union.

Ted Cruz, constitutionally challenged

Extremist interpretations of the Constitution — they cite Texas Senator Ted Cruz, in a piece from ThinkProgress, claiming reforms of gun laws violate the Constitution.

CRUZ: The reason we are discussing this is because of the the tragedy in Newtown. And every parent, my wife and I we have two girls aged four and two, every parent was horrified at what happened there. To see 20 children, six dults senselessly murdered it takes your breath away. But within minutes, we saw politicians run out and try to exploit and push their political agenda of gun control. I do not suppor their gun control agenda for two reasons. Number one, it is it unconstitutional.

Just as right-wing outfits like the NRA make a habit of reality denial, they bookend this by creating false perceptions of their own — like the mythology of their own political power. This is something I’ve written about before, but it bears repeating in the face of ongoing reality denial.

Indeed, the NRA did poorly in 2012, and not only with the millions it spent to defeat President Obama.  An analysis by the Sunlight Foundation found that less than one percent of the NRA’s political spending in 2012 supported candidates who actually won.  Early in 2012, Paul Waldman released a study of prior year elections and found that the NRA’s endorsement and spending had little impact on most races.  He challenges the notion – an article of faith among many Democrats – that Democratic support for the assault weapons ban gave control of Congress in 1994.  Waldman called the NRA a “paper tiger.”

This flies in the face of the perception that the NRA’s influence is what allowed Republicans to gain power in 1994, a myth that is perpetuated to this day, even here on Daily Kos. And it comes as no surprise that this myth is still defended, and reality still denied, even here.

But the NRA is demonstrably out of the mainstream. Their leadership is out of touch, even with their own membership. NRA members support background checks, and a majority of people in gun-owning households support the banning of high-capacity magazines for guns. The best they can do now is rally some tea partiers to their side. They belong with the rest of the right wing fringe. Their ideas deserve to be dismissed by liberals. And their influence, such as it is, shows weakness in political victories like Robin Kelly’s win in Chicago. Or in Maryland, where a new wave of gun control legislation ran a gauntlet of more than 75 amendments and votes meant to weaken it, and beat a filibuster attempt from Republicans, to pass in the state Senate.

The NRA deserves no pity or support here. They can be, they are being beaten. And in Congress, we have the opportunity to defeat the NRA again in the Senate. Keep the pressure on, and demand a vote.