Posts Tagged ‘freedom!’


Xmas in the desert

December 27, 2013

Dad was interested in seeing some photos today, so I took one of the xmas cactus as I have no proper tree. On the bright side, decorating this one doesn’t result in a dead tree every year.

Personal 009Just the string of lights I added to it on a whim last year; it’s not that spectacular. Sue tells me it’s understated. I think she’s just being nice.

Anyway, with some time off I also entertained the neighbor’s cat today, who is not enjoying the windy day and the cold night. It’s not below freezing, but it’s cold for us!

Personal 005Mudbug enjoying the la-z-boy and his favorite blanket too. He wants to move in, but there is no litter box and there will be no cat food. Besides, I know where his real home is; it’s right behind mine. He’s just too bad a cat to stay there apparently. So, he gets to hang out until he gets to be a pain here and then I kick him out too.

So, not doing much for the holidays, and that’s all right. The weather has not been conducive to much yard work, not that there is much to do. After last winter, it’s mostly taken care of with minimal maintenance. The fancy term is xeriscaping but for me, it means less yard work.




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.


It’s not going to happen

February 27, 2013

[I resisted the urge to include a picture of the Mean Girls meme about this, but I did work in an old Star Trek reference as gun control legislation runs the Congressional gauntlet…of pain.]

Most bills never even get this far. (Schoolhouse Rock)

So, it’s come to this: the new assault weapons ban will get a vote in the Senate. Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy has chosen — wisely, I think — to schedule separate votes on four different measures, rather than build them all into one package of legislation. And I realize that even before this turn of events, the prospects for an assault weapons ban were not good.

So while earlier reports that this would never even get a vote in the Senate proved to be untrue, it’s still not going to happen. It’s scheduled for tomorrow but since parliamentary maneuvers could delay a vote for a week, a vote tomorrow won’t happen. And even if by some miracle the assault weapons ban can get a majority vote to match its overall support among Americans (69% overall, 83% among Democrats), it can still be filibustered. And even if it survived that, there’s the House. So get over it, it’s not going to happen.


Even after the mass shooting in Newtown, Harry Reid wasn’t interested in a ban on assault weapons. Pay no attention to the victims. Nothing will change. It’s not going to happen. Late in January, he magnanimously changed his mind and decided that he may allow a vote.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, signaled on Tuesday that despite earlier indications to the contrary, he may allow a vote on a possible ban on assault weapons.Reid, a longtime gun-rights advocate from Nevada, recently indicated he would not permit a vote because the Republican-led House of Representatives was unlikely to go along with such a prohibition.

But after a weekly meeting with fellow Senate Democrats, Reid told reporters he expects “to have a free amendment process” on gun legislation.

Still, Senator Reid’s refusal to reform the filibuster gave him the tools he needed to take the assault weapons ban out back and quietly shoot it. Earlier this month, his vague signals and indications made it clear that whatever vote did happen would be behind the scenes. Forget about the ban; his priority was providing political cover. It’s not going to happen.

The ban will get a vote. But the purpose of that vote will be in part to facilitate its demise. The expectation is that there won’t be 60 members of the upper chamber to support the bill’s inclusion in the final legislative language.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-VT

Now, somehow Patrick Leahy, Democratic Senator from Vermont, has apparently dodged this roadblock and set up separate pieces of legislation, offering less of an easy target for Republicans to shoot down the entire proposal. Individual Senators will be able to vote for the pieces they like, and against those they don’t.

The decision to stage separate votes, rather than bundle the measures together, is significant, as it will allow centrist Democrats wary of Obama’s gun-control strategy to hand-pick which elements (if any) they want to support. It also ensures that the assault weapons ban – the most radioactive of the measures – is not automatically included in the package, thereby threatening the less controversial reforms.

Of course, as the Hill makes it clear, the assault weapons ban is not going to happen. It’s the most controversial, the one most likely to face opposition from “centrist Democrats” — never mind that 83% or more of Democrats and more than half of Republicans approve of such measures as banning the sale of assault weapons and large-capacity magazines. I am left wondering what a “centrist Democrat” is, considering half of Republicans are willing to see this happen. But never mind that. It took this much time and effort and pressure from the President and from us just to get this proposal to a vote. Which, still, may or may not happen.

And though I heard more about these proposals to reduce gun violence yesterday on Rachel Maddow, I’m sure the NRA and its agents in the Senate have nothing to worry about. The assault weapons ban will never happen.

Never mind that Navy admiral in the MAIG ad denouncing the proliferation of assault weapons that belong on battlefields, “not for cowards to use” in mass shootings. Those gun hobbyists with their tricked-out ‘black rifles’ have nothing to worry about. Some Navy admiral? Who’s he supposed to be? Or the rest of them, retired flag-rank military officers? What do they know about weapons of war?

I read today in Mother Jones that more than half of the weapons possessed by the mass shooters that have victimized our country in the past thirty years would be affected by the assault weapons ban. They collected data going back to 1982.

And beyond the restrictions on assault weapons, the restrictions it would place on high-capacity magazines are worth noting. This would do nothing about the proliferation of semi-automatic handguns, of course. But the AWB would have an effect on the use and abuse of handguns, limiting the number of bullets a mass shooter could fire before having to reload.

Feinstein’s Assault Weapons Ban of 2013 isn’t just about mass shootings, of course. By far the most common weapons used in these cases are semiautomatic handguns—the type of weapon also at the heart of the daily gun violence plaguing American communities. Banning high-capacity magazines may be especially key with regard to these guns, not only because they’re popular among mass shooters, but also because they tend to increase casualties in street violence, as a veteran ATF agent explained to us in a recent interview.The devices have appeal on the streets. A Chicago high school student recently described his preference for 30-round magazines to a reporter for This American Life: “They got the most shots. You can shoot forever. Let out 15. Run back to where you going. Somebody else come out and let out five more. There you go.”

Never mind all of that, though. The NRA-sponsored spending drive amongst gun enthusiasts, buying up high-capacity magazines and ‘black rifles’ and such, is all simply an exercise in pointless paranoia. That, and lovely profits for gun manufacturers. Because they can’t seriously believe that an assault weapons ban is going to happen.

If some fringe of Republicans, centrist Democrats and Wayne LaPierre think their cause is so righteous and their chances are so good, if it’s such a political winner to kick the victims of gun violence to the curb, let’s see them match that bravado with action. Never mind the lives that could be saved by the assault weapons ban, and I’m sure they have nothing to fear from putting some votes on the record. It’s not as if we can repeat the victory of Robin Kelly in Chicago, her district is so blue, supposedly my monitor can’t display it with the proper level of color saturation. It means nothing. There’s no need for the NRA to be afraid, is there? Put up or shut up.

I’ve been told, more times than I can easily count, that this is all an exercise in futility. Or worse, political suicide. Nevertheless I will continue to demand a vote and encourage others to do the same. As the President points out,

It won’t be easy, but if we can save even one life, it’ll be worth it.


Acts of desperation: NRA pushing lies and conspiracy theories

February 26, 2013

[…and we’re back! New week, more tales of NRA paranoia and fear. Are they really as frightened as they sound? Well, gun manufacturers could see their profits take a hit, so…]

In the Senate, the Judiciary Committee has released the bills they will consider in regard to gun violence prevention. As legislative proposals like universal background checks and a new assault weapons ban come closer to getting the vote that the President has demanded for them, the NRA counterattack has become increasingly unhinged.

They seem to be testing the ability of fact-checkers to keep up with their lies, and today I see Media Matters has tackled a series of programs the NRA ironically titled “Media Misinformation”…in which the misinformation taking place is coming from the NRA.


To be fair, I can’t excerpt too much of the Media Matters article, and it’s worth the read for the variety of NRA mythbusting in it. But it’s clear that the gun enthusiasts have been busy. On their Cam & Company show, the NRA spokesman Cam Edwards has done several segments about “Media Misinformation.” Intended as some sort of media criticism, the NRA’s rebuttals are themselves founded on falsehoods and debunked by Media Matters.

   In five recent “Media Misinformation” segments, Edwards…        …cited the long-debunked research of criminologist Gary Kleck to claim that up to 2.5 million defensive gun uses occur each year while also pushing the false claim that loosening concealed gun carry laws reduces crime.

…falsely claimed that the United States ranks 28th among industrialized nations in terms of gun homicide rate when the U.S. actually ranks first in a more comparable study among high-income nations.

…used discredited research to attack an accurate claim by Mother Jones that guns in the home are more often used in criminal acts, accidents or suicides than for self-defense.

…made a flawed and anecdotal comparison to deny that increased gun availability is associated with increased firearm homicide.

…denied that a link exists between firearm access and suicide while suggesting that making firearms less accessible to a suicidal individual was not a plausible way to prevent a suicide attempt.

For example, the discredited research of Gary Kleck was used twice — while Cam Edwards was pushing concealed carry laws, and in his attack on Mother Jones. I was particularly amused by the way in which this research was debunked by Dr. David Hemenway, Harvard Injury Control Research Center Director: simple math. Not even fuzzy.

[I]n 34% of the times a gun was used for self-defense, the offender was allegedly committing a burglary. In other words, guns were reportedly used by defenders for self-defense in approximately 845,000 burglaries. From sophisticated victimization surveys, however, we know that there were fewer than 6 million burglaries in the year of the survey and in only 22% of those cases was someone certainly at home (1.3 million burglaries). Since only 42% of U.S. households own firearms, and since victims in two thirds of the occupied dwellings were asleep, the 2.5 million figure requires us to believe that burglary victims use their guns in self-defense more than 100% of the time.

There’s much more, of course — other research from around the same time as the old Kleck study showing a fraction of his numbers, and more recent data from the CDC showing a ratio of 32 gun homicides to each “legal intervention,” or justifiable homicide by firearm. 32 to 1.

Cam Edwards was also caught in a lie while attacking Stephen Colbert, who is more than capable of defending himself, of course. But it’s interesting to see how the NRA uses statistics to make a misleading argument.

On January 10, Edwards claimed that Colbert Report host Stephen Colbert was wrong to say that the United States has the highest firearm homicide rate among industrialized countries. Instead, Edwards claimed that the United States ranks 28th in the world in firearm homicide.

Media Matters tracked down the chart that the NRA used to make this claim, and found that the U.S. ranks 28th when compared to a whole range of countries that submitted data for the 2007 Small Arms Survey. And sorted by Homicide by firearm rate per 100,000 pop, sure enough, the U.S. is 28th — after 27 industrialized nations with similar income and living standards? No, not so much. The NRA is using a chart that treats America the same as Honduras, or Mexico, or Zimbabwe.

To look for, say, European countries, one has to look further down; that is, through countries with much lower homicide by firearm rates. Countries like, say, Switzerland, with its conscripted militia and mandatory gun ownership and training laws often admired by the NRA, and its homicide by firearm rate of 0.77, compared to ours at 2.97 on the same chart.

And there’s more still, whether it’s data collected by the Violence Policy Center showing the link between more guns and more homicide, a link that the NRA disputes. Almost makes me want to move to New Jersey.

Or, how about data collected by the New York Times showing the link between more guns and more suicide, which the NRA also disputes. Because even if restricting access to guns is the most effective suicide-prevention policy, that might mean…horrors! Less guns!

And if a series of lies and discredited research masquerading as criticizing “Media Misinformation” isn’t enough, there’s always Wayne LaPierre pushing the CT, to a standing ovation in Utah. Same old tale, background checking leading to registration, then confiscation. With an added bonus of gov’t hacking and criminals stealing your guns.

“Picture this: your name, your address on a map giving directions to your home that could include a list of all the specific firearms you own,” LaPierre said. “That’s a pretty handy list if you’re a seasoned criminal or a drug dealer or a gang member, isn’t it? How safe do you think that government list would be?”

Wayne figures we’re just one mass slaughter away from confiscation, showing his disrespect for the victims of gun violence in this country. He utterly fails to see this violence as an actual problem — that is, anything beyond portraying victims as political props, as a threat to gun manufacturers’ profits. More guns is, of course, the only solution the NRA will entertain.

“This so-called background check is aimed at one thing – registering your guns,” he said. “When another tragic opportunity presents itself, that registry will be used to confiscate your guns … Imagine right now your name on a massive government list.”

So it’s clear, at least to Wayne. Although the current proposals have no gun registry included, he sees that as inevitable. Certainly I would like to see a nationwide gun registry after reading about the success stories in some states, but in Congress it’s simply not on the table. And if the government won’t indulge his paranoid fantasies and confiscate guns, criminals will hack the database and steal them. I see I’m not alone in recognizing the paranoia and fear that the NRA seeks to instill in its membership; Miriam Walkingshaw, founder of Utah Parents Against Gun Violence, was quoted for the Salt Lake Tribune about the speech.

“He made this chain of logic that universal background checks equate to registering guns and that leads to confiscation,” she told The Salt Lake Tribune. “It went more and more into the paranoia, and then he mentioned the catch-and-release justice system – this constant fear that there are so many criminals out there.”It’s always more and more guns” with the NRA, she added.

Precisely. Always comes down to that, doesn’t it? Funny how that works.

Which brings me back to the beginning of this piece, and the latest move in the Senate. Since John Boehner’s Republican majority in the House has achieved total incompetence at its legislative function, it’s up to the Senate to make the first move and force the House into action.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has released a series of gun-violence preventions bills — including a controversial assault weapons ban being pushed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) — for mark up in his panel on Thursday….

Other legislation being considered for Judiciary markup is a bill by Leahy to stop illegal gun trafficking; a “placeholder” proposal on universal background checks for all gun sales by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.); and a measure by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) to increase school safety.

Since procedural rules could delay this for a week, I expect that Republicans will force that delay. The NRA is expected to try to derail the legislation in committee — no doubt hoping to kill this effort before it reaches the entire Senate, and draws more attention. And Politico expects a Republican filibuster because of the assault weapons ban; I expect a filibuster because Democrats are sponsoring legislation, period.

The time is now, bring the noise — demand a vote.


A winter wonderland, it’s not

February 21, 2013

Snow 001

Snow on the little barrel cactus in my front yard this morning. There was snow here on Wednesday, in town, which doesn’t happen very often at all. On the mountains is one thing, but in Tucson we don’t get to make snowmen (not that I would want to). So, the snow was interesting enough to take a few pictures.

Snow 004

The backyard had much more leftover snow; it all melted during the day today. The streets were no issue at all. Although a co-worker of mine who lives up in the northern foothills mentioned snow on the streets and snow thick enough to measure in his neighborhood.

Snow 002

I have trouble getting a good view of those mountains to the north from my yard; this is the best I could do. On my morning commute I got a much better view of snow-covered mountains from head to toe. Of course, during the day most of it melted. But this snow is good for us. Snow on the mountains means water that will take a while to trickle down later. It’s the kind of thing we need to help stave off the drought…although I think this region will be drought-stricken for the duration.

Anyway, that’s what it looked like this morning. Yesterday, on Wednesday, we had blizzard conditions it seemed (briefly) during the day and then more snow at night. I got some shots of what was left, but during the day it looked impressive. Snow is usually just something we see on the mountaintops — nice to look at, perhaps visit, but it can stay up there. Leave it to the weather to bring me the one thing I miss the least from PA on my birthday!

So, yay, I’m older, and all that rot. We had ice cream cake today. Having survived another spin around the sun is a reasonable excuse in this society, I suppose.