Thursday, November 16, 2017

Monday, November 13, 2017

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Monday, November 6, 2017

Yet Again Yet Again

It’s becoming agonizingly tiresome.

SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Tex. — A gunman clad in all black, with a ballistic vest strapped to his chest and a military-style rifle in his hands, opened fire on parishioners at a Sunday service at a small Baptist church in rural Texas, killing at least 26 people and turning this tiny town east of San Antonio into the scene of the country’s newest mass horror.

The gunman was identified as Devin Patrick Kelley, 26, according to two law enforcement officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation was continuing. Mr. Kelley, who lived in New Braunfels, Tex., died shortly after the attack.

He had served in the Air Force at a base in New Mexico but was court-martialed in 2012 on charges of assaulting his wife and child. He was sentenced to 12 months’ confinement and received a “bad conduct” discharge in 2014, according to Ann Stefanek, the chief of Air Force media operations.

The motive for the attack was unclear on Sunday, but the grisly nature of it could not have been clearer: Families gathered in pews, clutching Bibles and praying to the Lord, were murdered in cold blood on the spot.

Yet again we will hear the vulture politicians who are bought and paid for by the NRA offer their “thoughts and prayers” and tut-tut that it’s “too soon” to talk about gun control of the mildest kind, or be reminded that no form of gun control will deter the criminals or the insane and then move on to wait for the next time.

“Thoughts and prayers” never stopped a bullet or someone determined to commit mayhem on their way to their suicide.  The only time it is “too soon” to talk about it is never because the next time will be too soon.

Texas has some of the most liberal gun laws in the country; by “liberal,” of course, the irony is clear: guns are allowed everywhere, even in churches, something the conservatives and the gun-whores declare to be their god-given right.  They neither deterred Mr. Kelley from his murderous mission nor ended it, so the knee-jerk conclusion we should come to is that all those open-carry laws are just as ineffective as the purveyors of guns claim the gun-control laws would be in keeping innocent people safe.

But there’s no point in trying to make sense of this because it never does.  We just accept it and go on, waiting for the next time, and lamentations are all we have.  Because as was noted all those years ago after Sandy Hook, once the mass murder of five-year-olds became acceptable, the battle to control this madness was lost.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

A Tiny Number

Three percent of Americans own 50% of the guns in America.

The survey’s findings support other research showing that as overall rates of gun ownership has declined, the number of firearms in circulation has skyrocketed. The implication is that there are more guns in fewer hands than ever before. The top 3 percent of American adults own, on average, 17 guns apiece, according to the survey’s estimates.

The survey is particularly useful to researchers because it asked respondents not just whether they own guns, but how many and what types of guns they own. This makes for one of the clearest pictures yet of American gun ownership, showing the concentration of most guns in the hands of a small fraction of American adults.

And yet they and their presumptive ally, the NRA, control the debate and the laws — or lack of them — that regulate them.

Bret Stephens, the token conservative columnist at the New York Times, calls for the repeal of the Second Amendment.

I have never understood the conservative fetish for the Second Amendment.

From a law-and-order standpoint, more guns means more murder. “States with higher rates of gun ownership had disproportionately large numbers of deaths from firearm-related homicides,” noted one exhaustive 2013 study in the American Journal of Public Health.

From a personal-safety standpoint, more guns means less safety. The F.B.I. counted a total of 268 “justifiable homicides” by private citizens involving firearms in 2015; that is, felons killed in the course of committing a felony. Yet that same year, there were 489 “unintentional firearms deaths” in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Between 77 and 141 of those killed were children.

From a national-security standpoint, the Amendment’s suggestion that a “well-regulated militia” is “necessary to the security of a free State,” is quaint. The Minutemen that will deter Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un are based in missile silos in Minot, N.D., not farmhouses in Lexington, Mass.

From a personal liberty standpoint, the idea that an armed citizenry is the ultimate check on the ambitions and encroachments of government power is curious. The Whiskey Rebellion of the 1790s, the New York draft riots of 1863, the coal miners’ rebellion of 1921, the Brink’s robbery of 1981 — does any serious conservative think of these as great moments in Second Amendment activism?

And now we have the relatively new and now ubiquitous “active shooter” phenomenon, something that remains extremely rare in the rest of the world. Conservatives often say that the right response to these horrors is to do more on the mental-health front. Yet by all accounts Stephen Paddock would not have raised an eyebrow with a mental-health professional before he murdered 58 people in Las Vegas last week.

What might have raised a red flag? I’m not the first pundit to point out that if a “Mohammad Paddock” had purchased dozens of firearms and thousands of rounds of ammunition and then checked himself into a suite at the Mandalay Bay with direct views to a nearby music festival, somebody at the local F.B.I. field office would have noticed.

The only way the Second Amendment would ever be considered for repeal would be when every non-white man went out and bought an AR-15.  Then you’d see the GOP pass every gun-control proposal ever dreamed up in an afternoon.  Until then, like the system of English weights and measures, we are stuck with an artifact of the 18th century in the hands of the very few.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Why Nothing Will Change

Former Rep. Steve Israel sums up why we’re not going to do anything about guns ever.

First, just like everything else in Washington, the gun lobby has become more polarized. The National Rifle Association, once a supporter of sensible gun-safety measures, is now forced to oppose them because of competing organizations. More moderation means less market share. The gun lobby is in a race to see who can become more brazen, more extreme.

Second, congressional redistricting has pulled Republicans so far to the right that anything less than total subservience to the gun lobby is viewed as supporting gun confiscation. The gun lobby score is a litmus test with zero margin for error.

Third, the problem is you, the reader. You’ve become inoculated. You’ll read this essay and others like it, and turn the page or click another link. You’ll watch or listen to the news and shake your head, then flip to another channel or another app. This horrific event will recede into our collective memory.

That’s what the gun lobbyists are counting on. They want you to forget. To accept the deaths of at least 58 children, parents, brothers, sisters, friends as the new normal. To turn this page with one hand, and use the other hand to vote for members of Congress who will rise in another moment of silence this week. And next week. And the foreseeable future.

Not that I’m in the mood to get all smug and say “Told you so,” but Mr. Israel is saying what I’ve been saying after every mass shooting since I started this blog: Gabby Giffords in Tucson, Sandy Hook, Orlando, and on and on.  I grow tired of this repetition; of saying it.

I almost think that instead of coming back to the same points over and over again I should just provide a link to kittens falling into boxes or squirrels being ejected from bird feeders so you’ll have a place to go to until all the politicians with their “thoughts and prayers” and stories about the lives lost have moved on to the next distraction.  Oh, look at the kitty.  But then nothing really would change.  We’d just keep doing this over and over.

I keep hoping that we will do something, and it’s beyond just hoping.  I bring this up with every politician I meet; I make it part of who I vote for or against; I make sure that people who know me know that it’s the deal-breaker.  It’s not because I wield so much influence; but no less than anyone else, either, and voices united — even against the gun lobby — will make a difference.  The part I hate the most is that it doesn’t get noticed until there are body counts.  And there are those every day.

So instead of just waiting, make your point and keep making it.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Monday, August 7, 2017

Target Practice

The NRA got what it wanted: Republicans in control of all three branches of government.  But it’s actually bad for their business.  Without a president who supported gun law reform, they would seem to have no one to rail against and use as their fund raiser.

Oh, but there is one fat target left: the media, of course.

Data from the FBI gives us a hint of why.  Since January 2009, when Obama took office, 46 of the first seven months of the year have seen increases over the prior year’s gun sales, as roughly measured by the number of federal background checks performed. (This isn’t a precise metric, but it’s a decent estimate.) That means that, in 17 of those months, there were fewer background checks relative to that month the year before.

Six of those 17 declines happened over the first seven months of 2017.

Part of this is certainly that the first seven months of 2016 saw a big increase in background checks relative to 2015, itself in part a function of the looming threat of a Hillary Clinton presidency. But even after the big increases in 2013 that followed the Sandy Hook shooting (and Obama’s reelection), sales were up in March of 2014 relative to the prior year.

The goal of the NRA isn’t directly to affect gun sales, but there’s a clearly a correlation between how urgently people want to buy guns and how urgently they feel the need to give to LaPierre’s group.

That means that there needs to be a threat that necessitates both gun sales and NRA memberships. With Obama gone and Clinton back home in Chappaqua, that role is now filled by the “violent left” and the media. Since the violent left is a bit nebulous, it seems that the media will enjoy the majority of the NRA’s focus.

The “violent left” is a dog-whistle; it really means anyone who isn’t white who owns a gun.  And attacking the media is an oldie but a goodie; it worked for Father Coughlin, Joe McCarthy, and Spiro Agnew, and it will always get the pigeons fluttering.

Friday, June 30, 2017

How Is The New NRA Ad Any Different?

The NRA put out a recruitment ad in April that is suddenly going viral, and a lot a of people are concerned about its message that basically says the only way to prevent liberals from taking over is to buy a gun — lots of them — and backed it up with images that evoke Nazi propaganda against the Jews in the 1930’s.

This is nothing new from them.  In fact, compared to the rants of Wayne LaPierre, their usual mouthpiece, it’s fairly tame; instead of labeling the police “jackbooted thugs,” they just show pictures of them over the calm narration of Dana Loesch.  Perhaps that’s what’s bothering people; the NRA is trying the “chilling” approach.

Whatever.  It’s just a new ploy.  They’re still nothing more than the marketing arm of the gun industry.

Bonus Track: Charlie Pierce:

Look, free speech and all that. If Loesch and her unhinged boss want to sound like the Khmer Rouge, or like Franco, in front of the whole nation for the purposes of selling more weaponry, well, that’s a sad fact of life here in the United States of America. (Still waiting for them to get outraged at the police killing of law-abiding gun owner Philando Castile; Loesch showed more sympathy for Cliven Bundy’s cows.) But this kind of thing, from an organization with outsized political clout at all levels of the government, tends toward incitement. Also, in the immortal words of the late Charlie Skinner, “the clenched fist of truth” is some huckleberry bad writing.

 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

People Shouldn’t Get Shot

Charles P. Pierce:

Violence doesn’t “intrude” on everyday life in America. Violence is a part of everyday life in America. A little more than a week ago, five people were shot to death in warehouse in Orlando. Is a warehouse in Orlando less innocent than a Virginia ballfield? Is a disgruntled worker taking his mad vengeance less of a demonstration of a country unhinged than a home-inspection specialist who fried his brain over politics? Is somebody who wounds over politics a worse murderer than someone who kills because he got fired? I admire the ability of anyone who can make that measured a moral choice.

On the whole, people shouldn’t get shot. They shouldn’t get shot in the streets. They shouldn’t get shot in school. They shouldn’t get shot in the workplace. They shouldn’t get shot while carrying snack food in the “wrong” neighborhood, and they shouldn’t get shot while they’re trying to surrender. They shouldn’t get shot while dancing in a nightclub. And they shouldn’t get shot on the ballfield on a spring morning.

In the main, one victim is not more “innocent”—and, thus, of more value—than any other one. Their occupation shouldn’t matter. Their politics shouldn’t matter. There is a violence inherent in the country’s history and there is a wildness present in its soul and, on occasion, both of these surface more clearly than is usual. Technology has made the violence more lethal and the wildness more general. The uniquely American conflation of innocence with hubris is a luxury we can no longer afford.

While cable news was live-covering the breaking news from Alexandria, there was another mass shooting in California at a UPS warehouse.  Four people died.  Another day.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Tales Of The Well-Regulated

Via the Washington Post:

A man accused of stealing guns in connection with a possible plan for an attack has been captured in Wisconsin following a 10-day manhunt, authorities said.

Joseph Jakubowski, 32, was taken into custody early Friday morning after authorities responded to a call about a suspicious person on a farmer’s property in Readstown, Wis., authorities said in a statement.

More than 150 local, state and federal law enforcement officials had been searching for Jakubowski, whom authorities suspected of stealing at least 16 high-end firearms April 4 from a gun shop in Janesville, a town not far from Wisconsin’s southern border. Police said he had written a 161-page antigovernment and anti-religion manifesto, which he apparently mailed to President Trump at the White House.

It prompted police to monitor local schools, churches and public leaders as a precaution.

“What could have happened here was a mass shooting; that was our concern,” Janesville Police Chief David Moore said during a news conference Friday afternoon, adding: “That’s not the case.”

Moore said that authorities were fortunate to learn about the manifesto, the burglary and a “very involved plan” and “prompt disappearance.”

“All of this alerted us that we needed a quick and thorough investigation,” he said.

Good work on the part of the local authorities.  Meanwhile, the Trump administration is doing all it can to keep Syrian children from coming to the U.S. because, y’know, they too might knock over a gun store, right?

Oh, by the way, notice that they don’t call the suspect a terrorist.  Who ever heard of a terrorist named “Jakubowski”?

Monday, November 28, 2016

Short Takes

Trump says he would have won the popular vote if millions hadn’t voted “illegally.”

Bernie Sanders tells GOP to can it about the recount objections.

Gun sales to blacks, minorities soar after Trump’s election.

South Korean leader digs in amid calls for impeachment.

R.I.P. Ron Glass, 71, Detective Harris on Barney Miller; Florence Henderson, Mrs. Brady of The Brady Bunch.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Short Takes

Iraqi special forces entered the outskirts of Mosul.

2016 early voting outpaces 2012.

Flood of guns from eastern Europe raises fears in the U.K.

Putin wants Microsoft out of Russia.

Another explosion at a gasoline pipeline in Alabama kills one, injures seven.

Game 6: The Cubs beat Cleveland 9-3 forcing a Game 7.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Short Takes

Militants attack police academy in Pakistan; many killed.

Vatican to help mediate political situation in Venezuela.

Ex-attorney general of Pennsylvania sentenced to prison.

Pentagon trying to get back recruitment bonuses.

No kidding: Study says guns on campus won’t make them safer.

Game 1 of the World Series is tonight in Cleveland.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Whites Only

Eugene Robinson in the Washington Post:

If you are a black man in America, exercising your constitutional right to keep and bear arms can be fatal. You might think the National Rifle Association and its amen chorus would be outraged, but apparently they believe Second Amendment rights are for whites only.

In reaching that conclusion I am accepting, for the sake of argument, the account given by the Charlotte police of how they came to fatally shoot Keith Lamont Scott on Tuesday. Scott’s killing prompted two nights of violent protests that led North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) to declare a state of emergency. Last Friday, police in Tulsa shot and killed Terence Crutcher — an unarmed black man — and the two incidents gave tragic new impetus to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Scott’s relatives claim he was unarmed as well. But let’s assume that police are telling the truth and he had a handgun. What reason was there for officers to confront him?

North Carolina, after all, is an open-carry state. A citizen has the right to walk around armed if he or she chooses to do so. The mere fact that someone has a firearm is no reason for police to take action.

This is crazy, in my humble opinion. I believe that we should try to save some of the 30,000-plus lives lost each year to gun violence by enacting sensible firearms restrictions — and that the more people who walk around packing heat like Wild West desperados, the more deaths we will inevitably have to mourn. In its wisdom, however, the state of North Carolina disagrees.

In open-carry states such as Florida or Texas, if a group of white men walked down the street toting semi-automatic rifles and strolled into Wal Mart, they would be seen as Americans exercising their rights.  Change the adjective “white” to “black,” however, and you’d have SWAT in the parking lot and a BREAKING NEWS crawl on CNN as their correspondent did a stand-up a block away under the glare of a searchlight from the police helicopter.

That’s the subtext behind Donald Trump’s call for “stop and frisk;” take away the guns from the non-white people.  You would think the NRA would be against that, too.  But so far they’ve been silent.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Sunday Reading

Planning Ahead — Charlie Pierce on how the GOP will undermine Hillary Clinton, just like they did Barack Obama.

Well, I’ll be needing a Prestone gimlet or five.

Not that anybody will remember this little thing from Tiger Beat On The Potomac in March of 2017, when everybody will be writing about how Hillary Rodham Clinton’s strident rhetoric during the campaign has crippled her ability to govern effectively, or to “reach across the aisle,” or to “create bipartisan solutions.” But I thought it ought to be noted for the record that the Republican commitment to institutional vandalism will not be going anywhere any time soon, and that there are Republicans—and a few Democrats and faux independents—who see an inert executive to be a political opportunity.

That means the bipartisan show of support she has now—thanks to Donald Trump and the “alt-right,” conspiracy-driven campaign Clinton attacked Thursday in Reno—is likely to evaporate as soon as the race is called. If she wins the presidency, Clinton would likely enjoy the shortest honeymoon period of any incoming commander-in-chief in recent history, according to Washington strategists, confronting major roadblocks to enacting her ambitious agenda, as well as Republican attacks that have been muted courtesy of the GOP nominee. “It will be the defining fact of her presidency,” Jonathan Cowan, president of the moderate think tank Third Way, said of Clinton’s problem of entering office with a divided Congress. “It’s unprecedented.”

Good Lord, not these people again. They represent nobody. There is no viable constituency for anything they represent. The Republicans are going to be bad enough, but all HRC is going to need is to be heckled from the Joe Lieberman Memorial Peanut Gallery, especially with Zombie Evan Bayh on the verge of reappearing in the Senate, after his sabbatical during which he helped save representative democracy by being a lobbyist.

And check out the example cited in the piece.

Republicans operatives on the Hill, for instance, are already planning to block Clinton’s agenda by strategically targeting individual Democratic senators who will be up for reelection in 2018. “Take Joe Manchin in West Virginia,” explained one GOP operative of the strategy. “If Hillary puts up an anti-coal pro-EPA judge for the Supreme Court, the smart play is to start pressuring him with an advocacy campaign to vote no.” Voting with Clinton would jeopardize his reelection chances, and voting against her would rob her of a Democratic Senate vote she couldn’t afford to lose without the 60 votes needed to filibuster.

Yes, One GOP Operative, this is just the week to be concerned about the political viability of the Manchin clan.

If HRC wins the election, it is going to be in great part because a Republican Party that ate the monkeybrains 40 years ago has developed within itself a prion disease that has produced a public hallucination instead of a candidate. She should not govern by pretending that the prion disease will disappear because El Caudillo de Mar-A-Lago cratered. If the Republicans decide to freeze the agenda, to the detriment of the country, that has to be framed by the administration as a further example of the political dementia that also produced Donald Trump.

Short-Arm Inspection — Molly Stier in The Nation on the hard-core reaction to Texas’ law allowing open carry on college campuses.

College senior Julia Dixon stuck a dildo in the side pocket of her backpack as she headed to campus, setting out to conquer her final first day of classes as an undergraduate student. A sex toy might be the last thing you’d expect to see in a college lecture hall, but on Wednesday, August 24, Dixon and thousands of University of Texas students were participating in what some are calling the largest anti-gun protest in Texas history.

“As much fun and hilarious protesting with dildos may be, the issue behind it all is nothing to joke about,” Dixon said.

Dixon is referring to Texas’s passage of Senate Bill 11—commonly known as campus carry—which permits concealed handgun license holders to carry guns in all public universities in the state. The legislation went into effect on August 1. It coincided with the 50th anniversary of the University of Texas tower massacre, an event widely regarded as the first mass shooting in the country, where a sniper perched atop the campus’s main building shot 43 people, 13 of whom were killed. To fight the bill, students, faculty, staff, and parents gathered on the UT Austin campus on Wednesday to participate in an event called “Cocks Not Glocks.”

“If you’re uncomfortable with dildos, how do you think I feel about your gun?” student protester Rosie Zander shouted to the crowd gathered on the west side of the UT tower.

The protesters—dildos in hand, on backpacks, strapped to waists, suction-cupped to foreheads—gathered to listen to local progressive leaders, like Austin City Council member Kathie Tovo and Democratic candidate for state representative Gina Hinojosa, as well as members from Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and Cocks Not Glocks leaders Jessica Jin and Ana López.

Jin, a UT alum working for a tech startup in San Francisco, had her work cut out for her as soon as her plane touched down in Austin this week. She teamed up with allies to promote the event, making videos with dramatic Shakespearean monologues and jazz bands whose sets were decked out in dildos swinging from the ceiling. Days before classes started, she got word that the The Daily Show would be sending a correspondent to cover the event. She had more than 4,000 sex toys sitting in boxes crowding the apartments of her co-organizers, waiting to be distributed before Wednesday.

To deal with the latter, Jin, López, and co-organizer Kailey Moore held a dildo distribution rally the day before classes began. They liquidated their sex toy stock, all donated by companies based everywhere from Austin to Singapore, in 23 minutes.

The popularity of the event can be credited, in part, to how long it was planned in advance. Cocks Not Glocks has been in the works since October, after Jin learned that her home state would become the eighth in the country to allow students to carry guns on campuses.

As a Texan hailing from San Antonio, Jin got the gun thing. She understood that it was fun to go out shooting on a friend’s ranch, and she saw the value in getting a concealed-handgun license, having considered getting one herself. But with guns now making their way into classrooms, she thought enough was enough.

The idea came shortly after the Umpqua Community College shooting in Oregon, where a gunman killed nine and injured nine others before turning the gun on himself. Jin sat in Austin traffic and listened to an uninspiring discussion on gun violence in this country.

“What a bunch of dildos,” she called the commentators—and then something clicked.

After digging into the UT code of conduct, she found that the university defaults to Texas law in prohibiting obscenity, which is defined as making public “a dildo or artificial vagina, designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs.”

She took to Facebook to create an event she titled “Cocks Not Glocks”—calling on the UT Austin community to strap sex toys to their backpacks on the first day of classes.

“You’re carrying a gun to class? Yeah well I’m carrying a HUGE DILDO,” Jin wrote on the event page. “Just about as effective at protecting us from sociopathic shooters, but much safer for recreational play.”

Jin, proud of what she thought would be a small joke, shut her laptop, went to bed, and woke up to find that her event had gone viral. She went from being indifferent to gun issues, to being thrown into the arena of gun activism overnight.

In the following months, Jin’s Facebook event garnered 10,000 members. She flipped her once-neutral stance on gun issues, and began attending gun safety–advocacy gatherings, meeting professors, students, and people personally affected by gun violence. She actively confronted her trolls, who argued that guns would protect her from being assaulted or raped. One Second Amendment enthusiast went so far as to publish her address online, instructing people to “let her know how they felt” about her protest.

“Nobody really wants to be an activist in this space because of the amount of hate that you get and the amount of abuse that you have to undergo,” Jin said.

Gun rights zealots threatened the demonstration, but to no avail. Rather than using aggression, one member of the national pro-gun group Students for Concealed Carry carried a sign reading “Coexist,” intended to communicate solidarity with the right to free speech and to also highlight its ability to exist with concealed carry.

“It’s an issue of personal liberty,” said Brian Bensimon, a UT student and the organization’s Texas director. “It’s a matter of rights and when you consider that concealed carry is allowed in museums, grocery stores, and even at our own state capitol, that there’s not really a reason to ban it from colleges.”

Other Texan students echoed this sentiment. C.J. Grisham, a Texas A&M student and army veteran who carries his gun on campus, specifically challenged a growing concern held especially by faculty.

“This idea that it’s going to stifle debate is asinine and absurd,” Grisham said. “It’s just a narrative by anti-gun, liberal professors to undermine our rights.”

Professors are among the most vocal about their opposition to the law, their most common worry being that the presence of guns in classrooms will chill academic discourse. Over the past few months, thousands of professors have signed petitions and begun discussions on Facebook about the new policy, debating how to word their syllabi and the extent of their obligation to observe the law. Three UT Austin professors went so far as to file a lawsuit against the university and the state. Their request for a preliminary injunction, which would have blocked implementation of the law before the first day of class, was denied on August 21, but the case will continue on to trial.

“This is a fight that needs to happen in Texas,” said Mia Carter, UT Austin literature professor and a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

In a similar spirit, Jin is instructing students to keep the movement going until the law is repealed.

“Dildos should be on backpacks as long as there are guns in backpacks,” she said.

Almost Got Away — Humor from Andy Borowitz.

VIRGINIA (The Borowitz Report)—Calling it a “scary moment” and a “close call,” Donald Trump’s campaign officials confirmed that they had recaptured Mike Pence after the Indiana governor attempted to flee the campaign bus in the early hours of Friday morning.

According to the campaign, Pence had asked to stop at a McDonald’s in rural Virginia so that he could use the bathroom, but aides grew concerned when the governor failed to reappear after twenty minutes.

After determining that Pence had given them the slip, Trump staffers fanned out across the Virginia backcountry, where the governor was believed to have fled.

News that Pence had vanished touched off a panic in Indiana, where residents feared that he might return to resume his political career.

After forty-five minutes of searching, however, campaign officials located a bedraggled and dazed Pence walking along Virginia State Route 287, where the Republican Vice-Presidential nominee was attempting unsuccessfully to hitch a ride.

A confrontation that Trump aides characterized as “tense” ensued, after which a sobbing Pence returned to the bus.

In the aftermath of Pence’s disappearance, Hope Hicks, Trump’s press secretary, attempted to downplay the severity of the incident. “This is the kind of thing that happens in the course of a long and demanding campaign,” she said. “Having said that, we’re grateful to have Mike Pence back with us, and we won’t let him get away again.”

Reportedly, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie offered to fill in for Pence in the event that he became unable to fulfill his duties. That offer was declined.

Doonesbury — Daydreamin’.

Monday, July 18, 2016

What Will It Take?

How many people have to be killed by people with guns in order for us as a nation to do something about it?

We ask this question every time there’s a shooting that interrupts the TV (and we should be asking that question after every shooting, broadcast or not), and all we seem to do is shake our heads, offer “thoughts and prayers,” and move on.  Oh, and in the height of a political campaign, we ask the candidates what they think as if they will enlighten us with something other than “thoughts and prayers.”

The standard response to “What will it take?” has always been, “Well, it’s complicated….”  No, actually, it’s not.  Make it illegal to own a military-style weapon the same way it’s illegal to own a machine gun or a howitzer or a bazooka or a functioning Sherman tank.  Require anyone who owns a firearm to be licensed and carry liability insurance the same way we require people who own cars to be licensed and insured, and make it as hard to get a gun permit as it is for black people to register to vote in Alabama or a woman to get an abortion in Texas.

The easiest ways to curb gun violence is to shame the gun culture into submission.  It’s worked before; look at how public attitudes have changed about cigarette smoking in the last twenty years.  All we have to do is make it as socially unacceptable to carry a gun in public as it is to smoke a cigarette.  Force the gun manufacturers to run ads the same way tobacco companies have to run public service spots on the dangers of smoking.  Make them put huge warning labels on their products, and tax the hell out of them so that a box of bullets costs as much as a printer cartridge for your average Epson.  None of these will infringe upon the Second Amendment any more than laws on pornography, libel, or slander infringe upon the First.

None of these measures will put an immediate end to gun violence any more than Prohibition put an end to alcohol abuse or the civil rights laws ended discrimination.  We have never been able to change our morals by legislation.  What we have to change is whether or not we as a society will accept it as a part of our civilization.  But as long as there are those among us who can defend the rights of people to use a weapon of war to kill children and policemen and threaten the careers of the elected representatives who stand up to them, we will be seeing this happen again and again, and we’ll still be asking the same question.