Monday, May 8, 2023

Cause And Effect

Another week, and another mass shooting in Texas.  This time the body count is eight at a mall outside Dallas.  Last week it was eight outside Houston.

So what do the brilliant minds in the Texas legislature plan to do about this carnage?  Stop talking about it.

HOUSTON — After months of pleading for more gun control measures, a Democrat who represents Uvalde, Texas, where 19 children died in a mass shooting, was told by the Republican leader of the State Senate to stop bringing up gun legislation or be barred from speaking at all.

In the State House, Republican members talked and joked among themselves as another Democrat, Representative Jarvis Johnson of Houston, rose to discuss gun control. “This is not a joke — this is real,” he shouted from the lectern at his colleagues on Friday. “Children every day are dying.”


Among some Texans, the drumbeat of mass murder has fueled rising frustration and a slight openness to more gun regulation in a state where even Democrats proudly discuss their firearms. But the violence has done little to reshape the political realities in the State Capitol, where Republicans control both legislative chambers and all statewide offices.

In the past two years, as the state has been shaken by more than a dozen mass killings of four or more people, Texas has increased access to firearms, doing away with its permit requirements to carry handguns and lowering the age when adults can carry handguns to 18 from 21.

On Sunday, Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, attended a vigil for the victims of the shooting at the shopping center, Allen Premium Outlets, but said earlier that there would be no new effort by his administration to limit access to firearms — because it would not work.

“We’ve seen an increased number of shootings in states with easy gun laws as well as shootings in states with very strict gun laws,” Mr. Abbott said in an interview on Fox News. He said Texas was responding to the “dramatic increase in the amount of anger” across the United States by going to “its root cause, which is addressing the mental health problems behind it.”

It seems that the logic here, as in other hard-core Republican-controlled states, is that it is imperative that the government use whatever means necessary to stop drag queens from reading books aloud in libraries, to stop teachers from talking about gay people, to stop women from controlling their reproductive choices, and to stop large corporations from speaking out about laws they disagree with, but NOTHING can be done about guns and the massacres they cause because “it will not work.”

In fact, the Republicans at the behest of the gun lobby, have done everything they can to ensure that the laws won’t work.  This is also in spite of the fact that the majority of people of all parties — left, right, and center — support such things as background checks, age limits, strict permitting laws, red flag laws, and a ban on assault rifles along with the nearly 100-year-old bans on machine guns.

There is something that can be done.  These people can be voted out of office.  If the majority of the voters truly want the laws to be changed, then they should put their money — and their votes — where their mouths are and get rid of these ammosexuals.  It is literally a matter of life and death.

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Sunday Reading

Delusions About Guns — Nicholas Kristoff on mythologizing weaponry.

In most of the world, going to the wrong house is not a deadly risk.

But in the United States it is, because we’re awash in an estimated 450 million guns and suffer from a mass delusion that a gun in the home makes us safer.

We’re caught in a spiral in which perceptions of rising crime lead more people to purchase firearms — about 60 million guns have been sold in the United States just since 2020 — and this in turn leads to more gun violence, which leads to more fear and gun purchases …. You get the idea.

So we have recent tragedies:

— In Kansas City, Mo., a Black 16-year-old was shot twice, in the forehead and an arm, when he went to the wrong house to pick up his younger brothers; he is recovering from a traumatic brain injury. The 84-year-old white man who, according to the prosecutor, shot him through a glass front door has been charged with first-degree assault; the man said he thought the boy was breaking into his home.

— In upstate New York, a 20-year-old woman was killed when she and several friends drove to the wrong address. As their car was turning around to leave, the homeowner allegedly fired his gun and struck her.

— In Texas, two cheerleaders were shot after one of them mistakenly got into the wrong car in a parking lot. One of the girls, age 18, was hit in the back and a leg and taken by helicopter to a hospital; she was initially reported to be in critical condition.

Elsewhere, brutes send their victims to the E.R.; in America, they send them to their graves.

Foreigners admire our popular culture, our technology, our lifestyle, but are bewildered by our refusal to rein in guns.

In the 1990s when I was Tokyo bureau chief of The Times, Japanese people regularly spoke to me about a 1992 incident in which a 16-year-old Japanese exchange student, Yoshihiro Hattori, was shot dead in Louisiana after knocking on the wrong door. The homeowner said he thought the boy was a burglar and ordered him to “freeze”; Hattori perhaps didn’t understand “freeze” or misheard the man as saying “please.” In any case, the boy moved, and the man shot him with a .44 magnum.

In Japan, where fewer people are murdered with guns in a typical year than sometimes in a single mass shooting in America, the government later prepared a booklet for Japanese people traveling to the United States with helpful English travel phrases like “freeze” and “hands in the air.”

“We are more civilized,” a Japanese professor told The Times after the incident, and she had a point.

We’re not going to ban guns or eliminate gun deaths in America. But I’ve argued in a longer essay that common-sense gun measures could plausibly reduce the toll of gun deaths by one-third or more.

We can adopt universal background checks, safe storage requirements, a minimum age of 21 for private gun sales and an enforced ban on possession of guns by people with a history of stalking or violent misdemeanors. All states should adopt California’s successful experiment with background checks for buying ammunition; having instituted a number of smart gun measures, California now has a gun death rate 38 percent below the national average.

As I write this, I happen to be in Mississippi, which has a much more rigorous process to adopt a dog than to acquire a gun. Should it really be easier to buy an AR-15-style rifle than to adopt a Chihuahua?

Above all, we must challenge the misperception that a gun in the home makes people safer. Yes, on rare occasions, a gun can avert a crime. But researchers have found repeatedly that a gun in the house makes people more likely to be murdered, not less. “People living in homes with firearms have higher risks for dying by homicide,” according to a 2022 study in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

People may choose to have firearms for hunting or target practice or to protect livestock from predators (I live on a farm with guns), but given the elevated risk, personal safety is not a good reason to acquire a gun.

We might encourage homeowners who feel unsafe to get bear spray instead of a gun. As a backpacker, I carry bear spray in grizzly country because it’s more effective than a handgun at stopping one of these bears if it charges; the same may be true of stopping a home invader, and certainly the consequences of a mistake aren’t deadly.

Because of our complacency, the leading cause of death for children and teenagers in the United States is now gun violence, eclipsing vehicle crashes. In 2020, more than 4,300 young people died in America from firearms; the figure in the Netherlands for 2019 was two. At this rate, it will take a couple of millenniums for the Netherlands to lose as many kids to guns as we do annually.

We accept inconveniences when driving vehicles — seatbelts, infant seats, no one in the back of pickup trucks — because these can help us save lives. Why aren’t we similarly willing to accept safe storage or universal background checks for ammunition for the same reason?

I think of these young people shot simply because they went to the wrong place, and I think: If only we loved our children as much as we love our guns.

Doonesbury — What really happened.

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Not Impossible, But Improbable

Perry Bacon, Jr. on getting guns under control.

LOUISVILLE — The only path out of America’s cycle of gun violence is for the Republican Party to change course and join Democrats in backing far-reaching gun control. Otherwise, Americans will continue to be victims of gun violence, see friends or relatives shot, or be haunted by those possibilities.

I joined the third group this week.

On Monday, a man fired shots at a downtown building in Louisville, killing at least four people and injuring numerous others. I had been at the building, which housed a bank branch as well as office space, for a news conference in December, as Mayor-elect Craig Greenberg announced top aides in his administration.

The ongoing national wave of these shootings has made me increasingly leery of attending large events or visiting schools or other venues where mass carnage is all-to-easy to imagine. Five years ago, a high school friend of mine was shot (but thankfully survived) in a mass shooting in nearby Cincinnati. Monday’s shooting makes me even more nervous — I had been in this physical space before.

Because these shootings just keep happening, so many Americans now know someone affected. Twenty-one percent say that either they or a family member or friend has had personal experience with gun violence, according to a 2022 poll conducted by the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. That statistic now includes Gov. Andy Beshear (D) of Kentucky, who said two friends died in Monday’s shooting.

Each year, more than 20,000 Americans are killed in non-suicide incidents (mostly homicides) involving guns in the United States. Several hundred times a year, four or more people are shot and either killed or injured in a single event, which is how the Gun Violence Archive defines a mass shooting.

But, of course, this is not inevitable. Countries such as Australia and Canada have dramatically lower gun-related death rates than the United States. California and Massachusetts have substantially lower rates than many other states, including Kentucky.

It’s no mystery why. Australia, Canada and other nations have stringent gun regulations. States with higher rates of gun violence are largely Republican-dominated, with looser regulations, while those with lower rates are often blue states with greater gun control.

The solutions aren’t simple, but we can fix this problem. By some estimates, there are nearly 400 million guns in circulation in the United States, meaning we have more guns than people. A good incremental step would be for Kentucky to embrace gun laws similar to California’s. But ultimately, we need the United States to have gun laws more like Australia’s.

If the United States severely restricted AR-15’s and other such weapons, there would be fewer mass killings in which one person shoots dozens. But to truly reduce the number of homicides, we have to restrict handguns, too.

So we need Americans to voluntarily give up their guns en masse — or be required to do so. That would require numerous, aggressive pieces of gun-control legislation, judges upholding those laws in court — and potentially a constitutional amendment stating that the Second Amendment does not provide an individual right to gun ownership.

I don’t think that’s impossible. Australia did something similar in the 1990s after a mass shooting there.

But we all know the problem. Such massive policy changes would require Republican politicians, powerful right-wing institutions such as Fox News and many hard-line conservative voters to stop acting as though radical gun freedoms are essential to a free society. In our current political environment, Fox and other conservative entities regularly suggest that conservatives are under mortal threat and that owning a gun is both good and necessary. Republican politicians also whip up pro-gun sentiment. And many rank-and-file Republicans both have fairly extreme views on guns and are pushed even further right by party leaders.

This makes for a self-reinforcing cycle of fervent opposition to gun control. Just last month here in Kentucky, for example, the GOP-dominated legislature adopted a provision declaring the state a “Second Amendment sanctuary” barring local law enforcement officials from enforcing some federal gun laws.

For the United States to make progress on guns, the Republican Party has to change direction. That would require powerful parts of the Republican coalition, such as former president Donald Trump and Fox News, to start telling Republican voters that conservatism doesn’t require opposition to gun regulations. But it would take even more than that: You would also need some agreement among candidates to not outdo one another in demagoguing gun control during Republican primaries, and some major donors and groups to spend money boosting pro-gun-control candidates.

I know how far-fetched that sounds. But ultimately, that’s the only solution. The Democratic Party can’t impose gun control on its own, particularly in GOP-dominated states such as Kentucky. Nor can it push aggressive legislation if Republicans are loudly suggesting Democrats want to put conservative voters in bondage.

We have become a nation of mass-shooting victims and people like me are traumatized by hearing about so many mass shootings. This is a terrible problem, but it is one we can solve. Slavery was abolished. Jim Crow was outlawed. Mass shootings and gun violence can be dramatically reduced, if not eradicated.

But we need some Lincolns and Kings to emerge in the Republican Party to push it in the right direction. I am not optimistic, but I am not fatalistic, either.

As much as I wish it would happen, I am sadly confident that it won’t.  There are too many absolutists who, whether or not they understand the Constitution, will never give up their guns and fight — literally — to keep them.  The lesson of Prohibition needs to be taken into account: what seemed to be a simple solution — ban the sale and manufacture of liquor — created a whole new world of problems such as organized crime that we still deal with today.

As Mr. Bacon notes, it will take a sea change for anything to happen.  As he says, slavery was abolished and Jim Crow was outlawed, but there are still those among us and in power who believe in slavery and segregation.

It’s not impossible that we will do something, but I’m not holding out hope… or thoughts and prayers.

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

The Gunshine State

From the Miami Herald:

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday signed into law a bill that lets people carry guns without a permit and without any training.

John Velleco, executive vice president of Gun Owners of America, said the governor signed the bill Monday morning in the Capitol, in front of a group of about 20 people.

The bill, which will take effect on July 1, has faced attacks on both sides of the gun debate. People from gun safety advocacy groups have said allowing people to carry concealed guns in public without training, and removing an additional background check, will make the public less safe.

People who are otherwise prohibited from carrying a gun under state and federal law — like people with felony records and certain disqualifying misdemeanors — would still be barred under the legislation.

Second Amendment advocates have criticized the bill for not going far enough, saying that without allowing people to openly carry guns in public, the bill isn’t a true “constitutional carry” measure as DeSantis guaranteed and as the Legislature has hailed.

I wonder how the cops on the street feel about this. Yes, of course, criminals will always carry guns regardless of the laws, but it’s the man — and it’s usually a man –who’s involved in a domestic disturbance or gotten shitfaced and pulled a gun on someone next door who put his trashcan on the wrong side of the driveway that worries them.  Not knowing what’s on the other side of the door usually leads to body counts.  I wonder how many police funerals Ron DeSantis will go to after July 1.

If the NRA and the base had their way…

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

No Room For Rosa Parks

Charles P. Pierce:

This is a very welcome development. There really is no point in having a Department of Education if it’s not going to defend, you know, education. From Politico:

Miguel Cardona is sick of the political strife that’s consuming classrooms, and he’s ready to say so out loud…“I was hired to improve education in the country. I’m not a politician. I’m an educator. I’m a dad, and I want to talk about raising the bar in education,” Cardona said in an interview with POLITICO last week. “But I won’t sit idly when some try to attack our schools or privatize education.”

“When we talk about politicization, when we talk about book banning, when we talk about Black history curriculum being picked apart — I think there are deliberate attempts to make sure that our public schools are not functional so that the private option sounds better,” the education secretary said. “I don’t doubt that’s intentional.”

That’s some very plain talk, especially that last part, when Cardona calls out the It’s All For The Kids riff that the well-funded privatization side of the argument trots out every time someone mentions that handing education policy over to, say, the primary shareholders in the Silicon Valley Bank, so they can use school kids as their lab rats, is not an altogether promising notion.

Conservatives say they’re the ones on the defensive.

(Ed. Note: They say that when they’re ordering breakfast.)

Many Republican governors and lawmakers argue their restrictions on classroom lessons, curriculum, and LGBTQ students are meant to blunt diversity initiatives run amok or what they see as the misapplication of legal protections to include transgender people. Some Republican groups are also looking to combine a longstanding push for expansive school choice programs with renewed efforts to harness more power on local school boards.

This seems like a terribly longwinded way to say “bigotry,” even if you tack on “ignorance,” too. But that’s just me.

That Cardona can see the nationwide nature of the program, and that he can also see its connection to the efforts to whitewash curricula, is simply to say that he can see a church by daylight. If he’s willing to fight these battles out in the open, that’s a whole ‘nother thing.

“It just seems like it’s a constant attack on what I know as a dad, and what I know as an educator, is happening in our schools,” Cardona said in the interview. “Education being used to divide communities is the challenge that we face now as leaders….I’m tired of folks looking to get political points by attacking vulnerable students, vulnerable communities and attacking our schools.” He added: “If we’re not standing up for our students, who will? I feel it’s time.”

Speaking as someone who sat through the preposterous confirmation hearings into the nomination of the noted grizzly-phobe who has this job before him, Cardona’s recent engagement in a 2024 campaign that already has been joined by Ron DeSantis on the issue of education feels like somebody just rang the bell for recess at Betsy DeVos Middle School, which has space in its classrooms for assault weapons, but not for Rosa Parks.

The current response from the GOP leadership is <crickets>.  The one GOP congresscritter who did speak up said, “There’s nothing to be done.”  That’s because they’re winning on guns and they love it.  Paul Waldman in the Washington Post:

No recitation of the number of Americans killed by guns — men, women, and increasingly, children — can carry the emotional power of hearing that three 9-year-olds were just slaughtered in their school, the latest in a long line of such horrors. The result for all of us is terror: a state of heightened alertness when we’re out in public, a fear that even if we don’t think about it for a time never quite goes away.

That terror, and the ever-growing toll of violence that keeps it fed, were brought to us by the cooperation of the gun industry, its political advocates and the Republican Party. Can they defend what they have wrought?

The answer: They can’t, and they don’t. They have gotten almost everything they wanted on guns, and this nightmare is the result.


But it’s important to separate what conservatives do and don’t say about the gun-saturated nation they created. They put a great value on the freedom they associate with gun ownership and would undoubtedly argue that the United States is more free today than it was a decade ago because of loosened gun laws. They celebrate the states where guns are least hindered as the freest places in the country.

What they don’t say is that all of us are safer. They believe the freedom to own guns is more important than the freedom not to be terrorized by the presence of guns and that the trade off in lives lost has been worth it.

And they call themselves the “pro-life” party.

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Sunday Reading

A Warning Shot — Mark Karlin in Buzzfeed on how the Alex Jones verdict could bankrupt the gun industry.

Although Alex Jones is attempting to protect himself from a recent civil court verdict (for compensatory and punitive damages) of nearly $50 million by declaring bankruptcy for his main propaganda business, more civil suits are in the pipeline. Furthermore, if the civil suit he lost last week for defamation is successful after appeals, along with others filed against him, he may indeed become bankrupt, even if he is raising money through other vehicles than his parent company right now.

Jones was sued for propagating the cruel lie that the Sandy Hook school massacre of 2012 was actually a false flag operation perpetrated to try to pass more gun control. The result has been a merciless and ceaseless series of verbal attacks, doxxing and harassment against the parents of children who died in the school. Jones’s statements were heinously harmful to those who were already living with the grief of a child being shot and killed in a classroom.

Civil suits are about attacking the pocket books of defendants, and they can be filed when a criminal suit doesn’t apply.

The gun industry learned of the danger of such suits based on the charge that gun manufacturers were and are knowingly excessively manufacturing guns for potential killers, and that they are specifically designing and marketing guns to appeal to the young, deranged, non-sports shooter based on firepower and style, as if they were selling the latest season’s cars.

As a result, the gun industry was successful in getting Congress to pass the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) in 2005. This bill made the gun industry the only type of business protected from a broad array of liability, with some narrow exceptions. In short, it put an end to a large civil liability threat to the gun industry for its design, marketing and chain of distribution. (As one successful suit showed, Sandy Hook parents settled with Remington Arms for $73 million in a pre-trial settlement.)

The Trace, a website that reports on gun violence and the gun industry, recently posted an article on how a few states are attempting to find legal loopholes in PLCAA. However, although not currently passable with the current Congress, what Jones’s failed suit portends is that the repeal of PLCAA would offer the possibility of a successful “supply side” approach to shrinking the gun market by putting many manufacturers out of business through widespread civil suits, such as the ones that were gaining steam in the ‘90s and early 2000s.

This could put less pressure on laws aimed at individuals who shouldn’t own guns or violence intervention programs, since it is not really effective, as we have seen, to develop a large-scale approach that is based on a “good guys” vs. “bad guys” gun violence reduction strategy. There aren’t enough jail cells nor enough community-based resources.

The major cause of gun violence is too many guns, period.

The Trace’s Champe Barton wrote:

While PLCAA provides broad legal immunity, it does come with exceptions. Lawsuits against gunmakers may proceed if the company in question violated a state statute “applicable to” the sale or marketing of firearms. Nearly all lawsuits since PLCAA’s passage have hinged on differing interpretations of the words “applicable to”: Does a commerce law that regulates commerce of all goods including firearms apply? How about a marketing statute prohibiting advertisements that promote violence?

These questions were at the center of a recent lawsuit brought by the families of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre against the gunmaker Remington Arms. The plaintiffs argued that Remington had violated a state marketing law by intentionally marketing its Bushmaster XM-15 rifle to young, unstable men. The families reached a $73 million settlement with Remington [in 2o21].

This reinforces the vast possibilities of starting to reverse America being the most heavily-armed nation on earth among civilians, with a seemingly intractable death and injury toll. If it is going to be some time before PLCAA is repealed, start with passing appropriate state laws, such as the one in Connecticut.

The bloodshed will not be reversed until the gun industry becomes unprofitable and is brought to its knees.

Imagine That! — Alexandra Petri in the Washington Post on the tyranny of the Fourth Amendment.

This is the kind of thing that could only happen in countries run by “tin-pot dictators” conservatives fumed on Twitter upon seeing that the FBI had searched former president Donald Trump’s Florida home. “If this is what they’re able to do to the former president of the United States, think about what they could do to you,” Lara Trump warned on Fox News.

It’s true! If this is what investigators will do to the former president of the United States — follow all the steps to obtain a warrant from a judge to search his home for documents that they (and the judge) believed probable cause suggested were there, then leave without arresting anybody — imagine what they will do to you! You might also have to deal with a search warrant from a judge! You, too, might receive due process when suspected of committing a crime!

Imagine! The next time it appears that you have run afoul of the Presidential Records Act by taking classified documents home, the FBI will obtain a warrant from a judge to come to your combined residence and country club to search your safe — with cooperation from the Secret Service! There are millions of Americans out there right now reasonably saying to themselves, “All this time I have been storing classified materials pertaining to the office of the president, some too classified even to be described (which sounds like a koan), as I thought was my right as an average citizen. And now, I see what kind of hell scape I am living in! One where the former president is subject to laws, just as I, an average citizen, am subject to laws!”

It is a well-known fact that federal law enforcement exists solely to make miserable the lives of civil rights leaders, to bury in a deep hole all allegations against Brett M. Kavanaugh and to investigate Hillary Clinton, root of all evil. What it is not for is this. Next, you are going to tell me that if somebody tries to keep themselves in power by force, they ought to face consequences for it!

Well may the Republican congressional minority rend its garments and wail. Well may House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy threaten retribution. What are we coming to, when law enforcement agencies enforce the law against the president? Against average citizens, sure. Against troublemakers, an ill-defined category that I refer you to Trump speeches to better understand — naturally! But against our god-king? Our cherished former president?

A state governed by laws is no state for me. I wanted a state where some people are above the law and some people are below the law. I wanted one where Trump specifically was above the law and also got to use the apparatus of the state to harass his political opponents. That is apolitical and just. This is — just awful!

“No former president is safe,” tweeted Matt Gaetz, (R-Fla.) Too true! Too true! John Adams sitting there on his trove of documents. Benjamin Harrison, inciting all those insurrections. William Henry Harrison, being there! Any one of us could become a former president, if we play our cards wrong, and we must first ask ourselves: If the most powerful are not above the law, who can be? Is anyone? Shouldn’t someone be?

Doonesbury — Thank you for waiting…

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

One Small Step

The Senate has come up with a gun-control bill that is a start…

The Washington Post ran an altogether remarkable paragraph on Monday to kick off its coverage of the bipartisan agreement on gun violence that emerged over the weekend. This was it.

A bipartisan group of senators announced Sunday that it had reached a tentative agreement on legislation that would pair modest new gun restrictions with significant new mental health and school security investments — a deal that could put Congress on a path to enacting the most significant national response in decades to acts of mass gun violence.

It could do that. It could also provide a lake of stew, and of whiskey, too, that you can paddle around in a big canoe. Even assuming that the plan passes the Senate at all, which is still not a mortal lock, to assume that this is some sort of stepping-stone toward more toothsome gun control regulations seems to be wildly optimistic. Remember those heady days when the Affordable Care Act was supposed to put us all on the road to universal healthcare and Medicare For All? All that’s actually happened is that the ACA has been fighting for its own life ever since. Republican governors even refused the FREE MONEY!!! available to them to expand Medicaid coverage, and then they bragged about it. Keep that part of the story in mind as we go along here.

I do not in any way mean to disparage the hard work done by Senator Chris Murphy and the others to pry the agreement they got out of the Republican morass that is the Senate minority caucus. The provisions of the bill are certainly helpful with regard to a number of the country’s problems. The difficulty comes when one realizes that one of the problems being addressed is decidedly not Too Many Damn Guns, and also, that there are a number of self-destruct mechanisms built in to the agreement.

Under the tentative deal, a federal grant program would encourage states to implement red-flag laws that allow authorities to keep guns away from people found by a judge to represent a potential threat to themselves or others, while federal criminal background checks for gun buyers younger than 21 would include a mandatory search of juvenile justice and mental health records for the first time.

Other provisions would prevent gun sales to a broader group of domestic violence offenders, closing what is often called the “boyfriend loophole”; clarify which gun sellers are required to register as federal firearms dealers and, thus, run background checks on customers; and establish new federal offenses related to gun trafficking.

I trust that I don’t have to explain the problem with a program to “encourage” states to do things, especially when those states are run by conservative Republican governors and conservative Republican legislatures. Generally, history tells us, this money, assuming the state even accepts it, ends up in the general budget, and/or someone’s cousin’s concrete and asphalt business. Hell, just light that money on fire on Main Street and shoot it full of holes.

However, this pale pastel of a framework is the only kind of bill with a ghost of a chance of bringing along 10 Republicans in the Senate. And even so, the flying monkeys went predictably ballistic. Rep. Ronny Jackson, the former White House physician who claimed the former president* was the Slenderman, leaped to the electric Twitter machine to lose most of his shit.

I WILL NOT support the horrendous anti 2nd Amendment bill that’s being proposed in the Senate. It’s AWFUL! This is a MASSIVE violation of your Constitutional rights, and it MUST be rejected!

Rep. Andy Biggs chimed in with the customary paranoia:

The House’s recently passed gun control legislation would not have prevented the Uvalde or Buffalo mass shootings. This legislation is part of a broader goal to take all of our guns and erode the Second Amendment.

And Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene gabble-gooble-red-flags-gobble:

There should be ZERO votes for red flag laws in the @HouseGOP. Stop helping Joe Biden and the Democrats hurt Americans. The people will not forget.

And so on.

I hope the thing passes. But I’m not going to fall for the alleged magical powers of the word “bipartisan” to turn chickenshit into chicken salad. This is a good start in the same way that making sure your shoes are tied is a good start to a marathon.

It’s not much, but it’s better than “thoughts and prayers.”

Thursday, June 9, 2022

They Saw The Carnage

Charles P. Pierce on yesterday’s testimony from Uvalde.

WASHINGTON — They were the witnesses to the unthinkable and now they are witnesses to encroaching oblivion, trying to beat it back with their fresh memories of blood and death. All over Capitol Hill, the talk on Wednesday was all about this country’s insane addiction to its firearms. The Senate debated some bills, the Senate Judiciary Committee having taken on domestic terrorism and white supremacy on Tuesday, and that was about guns, too. Even the breaking news was about guns; an armed man was arrested in the general vicinity of the home of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. The Supreme Court did not hand down its expected endorsement of more guns. And in the Rayburn House Office Building, the teeth came right down to the bone.

A young survivor of the Uvalde Massacre testified via videotape, showing unimaginable courage. (I mean, Jesus, it’s only been a couple of weeks since they were all caught up in Salvador Ramos’ unfortunate exercise of his Second Amendment freedom, and now they were asked to tell the Congress of the United States about it.) Miah Cerillo is in fourth grade, and she shouldn’t have to be talking about what an AR-15 can do to the human body. Miah is the student who covered herself with the blood of a slain classmate in order to keep from being shot to death herself. She is now famous for that. She should not be famous for that. Nobody should.

We were just watching a movie. And then [the teacher] heard something and went to lock the door. He was in the hallway and then he came in and attacked. And then she went to the back of the room and she told us to go hide. And then we went to go hide behind my teacher’s desk and behind the backpacks and then he shot the little window. and then he went to the other classroom, and there was a door between our classrooms and he went through there and shot my teacher and killed my teacher, and he shot her in the head and then he shot some of my classmates, and the white board. When I went to the backpacks, he shot my friend that was next to me. I thought he was gonna come back into the room, so I grabbed the blood and I put it all over me.

Miah also talked about how she called 911 using the telephone of one of her murdered teachers. Pause for a moment and ponder the uncommon cool-headedness under fire that Miah Cerillo demonstrated—both in using the blood of a murdered classmate as camouflage and in finding a way to call for help from the police which, as we’ve subsequently learned, never came. Now ponder what kind of a country it is that demands this kind of steadiness under fire from a fourth-grader watching a Disney movie in school. Miah’s father, Miguel Cerillo, came all the way to Washington to testify about his daughter.

Hello, I came here today because I could’ve lost my little girl. She is not the same girl that I used to play with and run with. She was daddy’s little girl … I do not know what to do because I think I would have lost my baby girl. I thank you all for letting me be here and speak out, but I wish something would change, not only for our kids but for every single kid in the world that goes to school and is not safe.

There is a debate going on in journalism right now about whether or not showing pictures of the carnage would help make it more real and help institute real change. People who believe it would cite the precedent established by Emmett Till’s mother, who insisted on an open-casket funeral so that the world could see what his murderers had done to him. If, as I suspect, nothing will come of this, there’s no problem. Just put Dr. Roy Guerrero on TV and let him describe what he saw on May 24.

Guerrero is the pediatrician in Uvalde. He was born and raised there, and he even attended Robb Elementary School. He’s treated every sneeze and sniffle, every fever that unsettled nervous parents. He helped Miah Cerillo through serious liver surgeries when Miah was small, which should have been risk enough for one lifetime. On May 24, though, he walked into his old school and found himself in Fallujah.

The hearing room plunged into a deep, signifying silence.

I will never forget what I saw that day that, for me, that started like any typical Tuesday at our pediatric clinic. Moms calling for coughs, sports injuries, right before the summer rush. School was out in two days and summer camps would guarantee some grazes and ankle sprains, injuries that could be patched up and fixed with a Mickey Mouse sticker as a reward. Then, at 12:30 business as usual stopped and with it my heart … What I did find was something no prayer will ever relieve. Two children whose bodies had been pulverized by the bullets fired at them. Children decapitated. Children whose flesh had been ripped apart, but the only clues to their identities was the blood spatter.

Having virtually laid the bleeding bodies on the floor of the hearing room, Dr. Roy Guerrero got down to the real business he’d come to Washington to discuss—our insane addiction to our firearms.

Adults are stubborn. They are resistant to change even if the change will make things better for ourselves, but especially when we think we are immune to the fallout. Why else would there have been such little progress made in Congress to stop gun violence? Children all over the country today are dead because laws and policies allowed people to buy weapons before they are old enough to buy a pack of beer. They are dead because restrictions have been allowed to lapse. They are dead because there are no rules about where guns are kept, No one is paying attention to who is buying them. The thing I cannot figure out is whether our politicians are failing us out of stubbornness, passivity, or both.

If you figure that out, Dr. Roy, pass the answer along to the rest of us. But it’s clear that he has his hands on one piece of it, that encroaching oblivion that always shrouds the aftermath of horrible crimes like this one.

I said before that as grown-ups, we have a habit of remembering the good and forgiving the bad, never more so than when it comes to our guns. Once the blood is rinsed away from the bodies of our loved ones and scrubbed off of the floors of the schools, supermarkets, and churches, the carnage that we have seen is erased from our collective conscience and we return to nostalgia, to the rose tinted view of our Second Amendment as a perfect instrument of American life.

I chose to be a pediatrician. I chose to take care of children, keeping them safe from preventable diseases. That I can do—keeping them safe from bacteria and brittle bones, I can do. But making sure our children are safe from guns, that is the job of our politicians and leaders. In this case, you are the doctors and our country is a patient. We are lying on the operating table, riddled with bullets like the children of Robb Elementary and so many other schools. We are bleeding out and you are not there.

As eloquent as Dr. Guerrero was, his testimony was not the most dispiriting element of Wednesday’s hearing. That came one panel later, when Dr. Guerrero and Miah Cerillo were replaced by activists and purported experts. There was a guy from the gun-safety group Everytown and a woman from the Heritage Society, and what they said was entirely predictable. The members of the committee chose up entirely predictable sides.

For example, Rep. Andrew Clyde, Republican of Georgia, explained that the answer is to harden schools into firebases in Vietnam’s Central Highlands. Clyde also attempted to soak up the blood in Uvalde with the pages of the Constitution.

For almost 250 years, since the founding of our nation, countless hundreds of thousands of men and women have sacrificed their lives to provide the freedoms we enjoy today. Indeed, those freedoms were bought at a very high price and must be guarded continually so they can be passed on to further generations. If we allow emotions to drive our actions, actions that have constitution-altering consequences, we will destroy the very foundation of our country and break faith with those who gave everything that we would be free. Evil deeds do not transcend constitutional rights. It’s the other way around. Constitutional rights are the ones that transcend evil.

It should be noted that, in his other life, Rep. Clyde owns a gun store, and not a small one, either. From Business Insider:

When not working in Washington, D.C., Clyde leads the No. 4-ranked firearm store in Athens, Georgia, according to Yelp: Clyde Armory. According to Clyde’s 2021 federal financial disclosure, the congressman’s stake in the store is worth anywhere between $5 million and $25 million, and it earned him between $1 million and $5 million in income in 2020 alone. The store’s website shows it sells a multitude of firearms and accessories, including military-style semiautomatic rifles, weapon silencers, and ballistic helmets. Among the items for sale at Clyde Armory: a Colt-manufactured AR-15 rifle for $1,349.95 and a .50 caliber semi-automatic rifle for $11,384.95.

And a familiar oblivion closes in from all sides and only Dr. Roy Guerrero and Miah Cerillo have to live with the memory.

It provides absolutely no solace to anyone, but one can hope that those vultures who dismissed the dead and wounded in the name of “freedom” and their own pocketbook will be reminded again and again of the carnage by their opponents in the mid-terms and common human decency.

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Speaking Of Smoking Guns

I don’t own a gun or a rifle or a shotgun.  I never have, and it’s safe to say I never will.

It’s not that I’m opposed to them as existential things, any more than I am to a power drill — I do own one of those — or any other inanimate object that is a tool that can be used as a weapon.  Thanks to my father taking me duck hunting, first when I was twelve and then for several years after, I know how to shoot and take care of a shotgun.  I even achieved a pretty decent marksman level at camp with a .22.  So it’s not like my innate pacifism kicks in and I recoil, so to speak, at the thought of a gun.  I just don’t have a need for one.

But I don’t understand the fetishization and fixation that some people have for them.  This is more than just a hobby or an interest in collecting memorabilia about Ethel Merman or the Titanic.  There are people who proudly display every gun they own, often posing with their children carrying more than just a revolver or a small-bore shotgun.  That, at least to me, moves it beyond just a hobby into a world of obsession.  And I’d say the same about someone in his sixties posing in the dress that Merman wore in her last appearance in “Gypsy.”

The difference, of course, between the dress and an AR-15 is that no one has ever walked into a school or a supermarket and killed a lot of people with a dress.  And that’s where the talk about “common sense” gun regulation goes a little astray because the folks who see their guns and the Second Amendment as an absolute will not give in to the idea that licensing and insurance and other simple things we do to regulate automobiles and barbers apply to them.  It’s not the Constitution, it’s the mindset that anything that regulates a gun is a violation of the Second Amendment.  Never mind that every other article or amendment to the foundation of our civil society is not absolute — we have a lot of limits to the First Amendment’s freedom of speech and the press provisions, including bans on pornography and laws against libel or violations of national security.

So it isn’t the laws that are the problem.  It’s the idea that it’s acceptable to murder children in their classroom because to try to control that is a violation of some idea of freedom.  I don’t think that’s what the framers had in mind, and to the vast majority of Americans who have seen it time and time again, they feel powerless to do something about it.

As I’ve said many times before in this space, it’s going to require a fundamental change in our culture to fix it.  I don’t say we can’t do it; we’ve managed to revamp our culture before to the better.  For example, in my lifetime smoking cigarettes has gone from something everyone did to practically vanishing from public view.  It was done by showing us how much damage tobacco was doing and fiercely regulating the sale and advertising of the products as well as taxing the hell out of them.  We could do the same with guns; not by banning them but by making them hard to get and expensive to own, not to mention socially unacceptable.

It won’t be easy, and it will be a long battle, but as long as it can prevent another mass shooting, it’s worth it.

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Sunday Reading

When the Cost of Liberty is the Occasional Massacre — Jamelle Bouie in The New York Times.

The gun was legal.

Under state law, the young man who killed 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, was entitled to his guns. He bought his AR-platform rifles legally for his 18th birthday. He had no criminal record. He was, until the moment he shot his grandmother, a law-abiding citizen, the kind of person we are supposed to trust with high-powered firearms.

But this gets to the fundamental problem with the conservative idea that the only people with guns we have to worry about are the “bad guys.” It’s the idea that, as Senator Ted Cruz of Texas put it last year, after a gunman killed 10 people at a grocery store in Boulder, Colo.: “You go after violent criminals, you go after felons, you go after fugitives, you go after those with serious mental illness, you stop them from getting guns. And when they try to illegally buy a firearm from you, lock them up and put them in jail.”

To the conservatives who posit a sharp distinction between “good guys with guns” and “bad guys with guns,” law-abidingness is an inherent trait of a class of individuals. It is an ontological category; some people have it, others don’t. Any form of gun control is verboten in this worldview because it could interfere with the ability of a “good guy” — of a “law-abiding citizen” — to obtain that to which he is entitled.

This is not how the world works. People are law-abiding until the moment they are not. They are “good guys” with guns until their circumstances and their choices make them “bad guys” with guns. And from the perspective of the person who sells guns and ammunition, there’s no way to know whether a law-abiding customer will, at some point, become a criminal.

The most vociferous supporters of permissive gun laws seem to believe that an armed society will be, for the most part, self-regulating. That we will be able to keep weapons out of the hands of the wrong people and insofar as we can’t, a law-abiding citizen will be there, with a gun, to stop the bad guys, whenever and wherever they appear.

But people don’t exist on such a strict binary. And when we allow for the unlimited proliferation of weapons, we guarantee that when the switch flips, people will die.

If that is the cost of freedom — if our liberty demands the occasional massacre — then conservatives ought to make that case.

Doonesbury — Action figure.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Beyond Redemption?

Jack Holmes:

LONDON—It is a remarkable thing to watch the American horror unfold from another place. Great Britain is not perfect, God knows. Maybe it isn’t even Great. But it is not a place where children are shot to death in school so often that it scarcely ever qualifies for the nightly news. Kids are shot in school all the time in the United States. It is a fact of life. But on May 24, 2022, there was an incident of uncommon horror in Uvalde, Texas. Mind you, the horror is familiar to the victims and their families and the kids at those other schools, the ones who still have to show up for class every day. The horror they saw is just as real. It will have done just as much damage, having heard or seen or felt the bullets fly, even when fewer than 15 people die. But this is the one that will make the news. The other times that the kids were murdered in math class aren’t worth our time. We’re busy. Your friend was shot to death against her locker? Get back to us when she’s one of a dozen.

In truth, the ones that make the news are just a tiny sample of it all. A splashy front page in amongst the square miles of obituaries. That goes for school shootings, that goes for mass shootings. It goes for all of it. Most gun deaths are quotidian, in a disgusting American sense. About 45,000 Americans die at the point of a gun in a given year, and a lot of those are suicides. People, usually men, putting a gun to their heads. It’s silent until it isn’t. And the silence we greet it with is loud indeed. There are murders, too, and we’ll hear a lot in the coming days about “Black-on-Black crime,” and Chicago, and how criminals will never abide by gun laws. The thing to remember is that this is never about the fact that the United States is home to 400 million civilian-owned firearms. It’s never about the fact that this kind of mass death at gunpoint does not happen in other rich nations that are home, supposedly, to the rule of law. No wonder only a bit over half of homicides are cleared by the cops in the Land of the Free. We’re putting them to work.

And a lot of people don’t die, by the way. Their murders were merely attempted. They will live on, God bless them. The kids in Uvalde will be traumatized, but even some who were shot will live, God willing. We never talk about the ones who are shot and don’t die. We don’t talk about the people who went to Iraq and Afghanistan and came back unable to sleep through the night or play in the backyard with their kids. And we don’t talk about the kids who will never play basketball again. Have you ever thought about what it might be like to be shot and live? To never be the same? What it might feel like to have the volcanic lead pierce your flesh? Have you ever read about what it’s like to be shot with a bullet from an AR-15? To have your body torn asunder by the almighty power assumed by mere mortals? It’s unlikely you’d live from that. But those that do can rarely hope to live full lives again. If you make it physically, even, it will take momentous strength—uncommon fortitude—to survive the horrors of the mind that await you. You are fucked, in other words, if you’re lucky enough to survive.

And the greatest horror of all, maybe, is that there may well be no way back for the United States. There is no taking back the 400 million guns, no convincing the chorus of the loud and the deranged that something must be changed. Any measure, even the most mild restriction, is a “gun grab” or an assault on Second Amendment rights as detailed by right-wing justices hand-picked for the purpose. You can call for voluntary—voluntary—voluntary—gun buyback programs and be called a gun-grabber, a totalitarian, a hater of liberty. Never mind the kind of changes that would actually make a difference. We’re told the answer is more guns. Guns to defend yourself, so you can get in a shootout at the grocery store. Guns for armed guards at schools, so they can shoot it out with school shooters. About a third of Americans own a gun, and many are quite reasonable about the proposition. But others aren’t. The rest of the country and the politicians that represent them have found no answer, and the game is up anyway. “In retrospect,” reads a famous tweet from Dan Hodges, “Sandy Hook marked the end of the US gun control debate. Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over.”

This is the gun country, where your kid might just be shot in the head at school. Is that too graphic? Is it too much to bear? Because that’s the country you’re living in. It’s the country where more than 450 people just shoot themselves every week. It’s the country where you might just get shot at the mall, or the movie theater, or the subway, or anywhere at anytime. Here’s hoping you aren’t in the wrong place at the wrong moment. In a time when the democratic process itself is under attack, when people are running to be governor of a state on the platform of throwing out votes if they don’t like who got more of them, it is the gun thing as much as anything that has me convinced that the United States of America may well be a nation beyond repair. Those kids in Texas had two days left until school was out for the summer. You have to wonder whether the sun will ever shine the same way.


Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Another Massacre

Washington Post:

UVALDE, Tex. — A gunman wearing body armor and carrying a rifle killed at least 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school in this Texas city on Tuesday, authorities said.

It was the deadliest mass shooting to unfold at an American school in nearly a decade.

The massacre began at 11:32 a.m., police said, on the third-to-last day of the school year. The shooter opened fire in a fourth-grade classroom, a parent said, sending children fleeing for their lives. They crawled through windows and hid in a nearby funeral home to escape, witnesses said.

Lt. Christopher Olivarez of the Texas Department of Public Safety said that 19 children and two teachers were confirmed dead. The gunman was killed by law enforcement officials.

Before the gunman drove to the school, he shot his grandmother, police said. She was airlifted to a hospital in San Antonio, as were several other victims.

The shooter barricaded himself inside the school and exchanged gunfire with officers as they entered the building, said Marsha Espinosa, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security. One U.S. Border Patrol agent was wounded.

The gunman was identified by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) as Salvador Ramos, 18, a resident of Uvalde.

An emotional President Biden, speaking to the nation Tuesday night from the White House, urged lawmakers to pursue tougher restrictions on guns. For years, Biden has been at the forefront of efforts to pass such restrictions, which have been blocked by Republicans and some Democrats.

“Why are we willing to live with this carnage?” he asked. “Why do we keep letting this happen? Where in God’s name is our backbone?”

Biden noted that mass shootings have become almost commonplace in the United States, unlike in other countries. “It’s time to turn this pain into action,” Biden implored. He concluded his remarks with a prayer for the parents of the victims.

Charles P. Pierce goes to the source:

Fourteen students and a teacher are dead after a shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, according to Gov. Greg Abbott.

The 18-year-old suspect, a student at Uvalde High School, is also dead, he said.

“He shot and killed horrifically and incomprehensibly 14 students and killed a teacher,” Abbott said during an unrelated press briefing.

The suspect also allegedly shot his grandmother before entering the school and again opening fire, Abbott said. He did not say anything further about her condition. Abbott said the shooter had a handgun and also possibly a rifle.

Fuck you and your adverbs, Governor. “Horrifically”? I have no doubt. “Incomprehensibly”? Give me a goddamn break, will you? What’s incomprehensible about it? You signed the permitless carry bill last September. People told you what could happen, and this is what they said. From the Texas Tribune:

“The permitless carry bill will cause more violence and loss,” said U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso, in a statement Wednesday. “Despite overwhelming support for common-sense gun violence prevention legislation like universal background checks, Texas Republicans, led by a cowardly governor, are more interested in groveling for the gun lobby’s attention than they are in preventing gun violence and honoring victims and survivors in El Paso and across Texas.”

Back in 2019, after mass shootings in Beaumont and Odessa, Governor, you conjured up a scarecrow of an action plan to get you through the bad news cycle. This, of course, went nowhere, which is precisely where it was intended to go. You got to blame the pandemic, which was nice for you. Profile In Poltroon.

There are too many damn guns in this country. There are too many damn guns in Texas. There are too many damn guns in Uvalde County. There are too many damn guns in the city of Uvalde. And, on Tuesday, there were too many damn guns on Old Carrizo Rd in Uvalde, Texas. And, on Tuesday, there were too damn many guns at 715 Old Carrizo Rd in Uvalde, Texas. And, on Tuesday, there were too damn many guns in the Robb Elementary School at 715 Old Carrizo Road in the city of Uvalde, in the county of Uvalde, in the state of Texas, in the United States of America, where there are too damn many guns.

It is too damn easy to get guns in this country. It is too damn easy to get guns in Texas. It is too damn easy to get guns in Uvalde County. It is too damn easy to get guns in the city of Uvalde. And, on Tuesday, it was too damn easy to get guns on Old Carrizo Rd in Uvalde, Texas. And, on Tuesday, it was too damn easy to get guns at 715 Old Carrizo Rd in Uvalde, Texas. And, on Tuesday, it was too damn easy to get guns in the Robb Elementary School at 715 Old Carrizo Road in the city of Uvalde, in the county of Uvalde, in the state of Texas, in the United States of America, where it is too damn easy to get guns.

Goddamn this country and its politicians and their adverbs. Goddamn them all to hell.

As long as it is acceptable by the lawmakers of this nation to murder children in their classroom in the name of “freedom,” nothing will be done.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Sunday Reading

A Consequential Gun Ruling — Amy Davidson Sorkin in The New Yorker on a pending Supreme Court ruling that could make the problem worse.

During the Supreme Court oral arguments last November, in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc., et al. v. Bruen, a major gun-control case, Justice Clarence Thomas and Barbara Underwood, New York’s solicitor general, had an exchange about the kinds of place a person might carry a gun. “It’s one thing to talk about Manhattan or N.Y.U.’s campus,” Thomas said. “It’s another to talk about rural upstate New York.” The individual plaintiffs in the case, a challenge to New York’s licensing requirements for carrying a concealed pistol in public, live in Rensselaer County, which, Underwood told Thomas, is more “intermediate” than rural. It’s “not that far from Albany,” she said. “And it contains the City of Troy and a university and a downtown shopping district.” There was an echo of those words on May 14th, as reports came in of a shooting in upstate New York: if Payton S. Gendron, from the small town of Conklin, which is near a university, had driven two and a half hours northeast, he would have ended up in Troy. Instead, he drove more than three hours northwest, to Buffalo, where he killed ten people at a Tops supermarket.

Gendron sought out Black victims, according to his online posts; they indicate that he had become fixated on the “great replacement” theory, which posits that there is a plot to supplant white Americans with supposedly more tractable minorities. That world view, in this Trump-distorted era, is not rare. An Associated Press/NORC poll conducted last December asked respondents to assess the statement “There is a group of people in this country who are trying to replace native-born Americans with immigrants who agree with their political views.” Thirty-two per cent either “somewhat” or “strongly” agreed. The vitriol of Gendron’s alleged screeds and the brutality of his attack are nonetheless startling—a warning about the prospect of more politicized violence in the country’s near future.

What seems tragically mundane, though, in American terms, is that Gendron, who is eighteen, is reportedly the owner of at least three guns: a Savage Axis XP hunting rifle, which he received as a Christmas gift when he was sixteen, the legal age to own one in New York; a Mossberg 500 shotgun, which he bought, legally, in December; and a Bushmaster XM-15 semi-automatic rifle—the apparent murder weapon—which was also legal when he bought it, in January, for less than a thousand dollars, and which he then easily modified to allow for a larger capacity magazine than is permitted in the state. An alarm that Gendron’s high school raised last year, when he said that his post-graduation goals included “murder/suicide,” was not in itself enough, under the state’s “red flag” law, to forestall the purchases.

Gendron’s arsenal accounted for a handful of the estimated four hundred million guns owned privately in the United States. Four days after the shooting, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives issued a report showing that licensed gun manufacturers produced more than eleven million new weapons in 2020—almost triple the number produced in 2000. The report also documented an increase in the number of “ghost guns”—weapons assembled from parts by illicit dealers or by people at home, and bearing no serial numbers. Law enforcement seized more than nineteen thousand such guns last year, suggesting that a far larger number is unaccounted for. (Last week, Illinois became the eleventh state to pass a law restricting ghost guns.) In 2020, some forty-five thousand Americans died of gun-related wounds, more than half of them suicides. When it comes to guns, no corner of the country is untouched.

The New York State Rifle decision, which is expected by the end of June, could make the rules even looser. It has the potential to be the most significant—and, depending on how broadly it is written, most disastrous—gun-law decision in a decade. The ruling should arrive around the same time as the one in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the case that is expected to overturn Roe v. Wade. Both cases are the product of decades of advocacy on the right. New York State Rifle is a long-awaited successor to District of Columbia v. Heller, the landmark 2008 decision that enshrined gun ownership as an individual right under the Second Amendment, rather than as the primarily militia- or community-based right that courts had long understood it to be. Under the New York law—six other states have similar statutes—people who want a license to carry a concealed pistol in public for self-defense must have jobs that make them targets (judges, bank messengers) or show “proper cause,” meaning a need specific to them (for example, a person subject to a particular threat) rather than a general fear of crime. The plaintiffs argued that it is illegitimate under Heller to ask people to explain why they should be granted a license. More broadly, their view is that not just owning a gun but carrying it in public places is a right that should be limited only in extraordinary circumstances.

Heller does allow for some gun regulation, but it is not clear about how much, which is why New York State Rifle presents such an opportune opening for those who’d prefer as little as possible. The plaintiffs’ lawyer, Paul Clement, argued that an injustice is being perpetrated against New York gun owners, because they can’t walk around with their weapons as easily as gun owners in Arizona can. Thomas’s comment about urban and rural New York is not a sign that the conservatives would uphold gun laws focussed on cities. Indeed, Justice Samuel Alito offered the view that carrying a concealed weapon on the subway might make sense for “people who work late at night in Manhattan,” and wondered why they shouldn’t be able to easily do so.

For all that, the goal of implementing sensible gun-control laws is not hopeless—most Americans favor restrictions such as universal background checks. The challenge is that the Republican Party has made gun extremism into an organizing principle. The idea that Americans must be armed to defend themselves against every enemy, stranger, or person of a different race—and, ultimately, against their own government—has become intertwined with Trumpism. Like Trumpism, it needs to be countered with a different political vision.

In the oral arguments, Clement strongly objected to the notion that New York has any legitimate reason to discourage the proliferation of guns. “In a country with the Second Amendment as a fundamental right, simply having more firearms cannot be a problem,” he said. He’s wrong about that. The horror in Buffalo is a reminder that it is a very American problem.

Doonesbury — Kids these days.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Once Again

Here we are again, friends: watching loops of video of people grieving, of a suspect in custody, of stern-faced officials making statements, and then the national media attention until we move on to the next time or, in the case of this past weekend, shifting the scene from Buffalo to suburban Los Angeles.  The body counts.  The words of condolence blending with calls for someone to do something… but what?

The most frustrating and agonizing thing about this is that it is a sick version of the film “Groundhog Day” where we wake up and repeat the same thing over and over, learning nothing.  And we are a nation that has the short-term memory of a goldfish, along with the willingness to accept the plain fact that once we did nothing when twenty children were mowed down at Sandy Hook, all the hand-wringing and talks of doing something was just so much talk.

This time, however, there is a clear connection between the shooter and a mindset within the Republican party.  “The great replacement theory” may not have been a plank adopted by the GOP, but so far they have done nothing to step away from it or isolate the members of the party — including those in a leadership position — who espouse or echo it.  They may not have written out a 180-page manifesto, but why bother when you have a major news network providing the coverage?  Of course they will deny and deflect, but it’s time to hold them accountable.  Call them out.  Make them pay attention, and if that doesn’t work, vote them out.  They share the blame, so make them take the fall.

Perhaps the horror unleashed in Buffalo on Saturday will cause Carlson and his allies to rethink their paranoid, racist and inflammatory rhetoric. That is doubtful, however. After all, this is just the latest in a series of mass shootings inspired by the “great replacement” theory, including the Walmart shooting in El Paso that left 23 dead and the synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh in which 11 people died. Since those massacres, the “great replacement” theory has only become more popular with Republican voters, largely thanks to Carlson and similar figures on the right. It has also become popular with Republicans, including J.D. Vance, the Republican nominee in Ohio’s Senate race. Just this week, the conspiracy theory got another round of hype as Republican pundits and politicians pretended to believe that President Biden was stealing baby formula from Americans to feed “illegals,” their slur for refugees applying for asylum. Those who would support deliberately starving babies for racist and xenophobic reasons aren’t likely to feel any real empathy for the victims and their families in Buffalo. We cannot legitimately hope that they will be chastened by this latest round of violence, but we can make clear that their hateful rhetoric helped to unleash it.

This will not be the last time we do this, but one can only hope.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Sunday Reading

Second to None — Leonard Pitts, Jr. in the Miami Herald.

Conservatives have a special purgatory for uppity black women who dare question America’s founding myths.

New York Times journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones — her Pulitzer Prize-winning “1619 Project” centralized slavery in America’s origin story, a heresy that inspired laws banning her work from classrooms — now lives there. And she’s about to have company.

In her new book, “The Second,” Emory University history professor Carol Anderson takes on an even more sacred cow: guns. She argues that the Second Amendment — which supposedly came about solely as a hedge against tyranny — had at its heart a much less noble concern: Southern states demanded the right to bear arms because they feared rebellions by enslaved Africans.

All that talk about “a well-regulated militia?” Anderson told me in a telephone interview that that was just the cover story. State militias had not performed well either in fighting off the British or in defending against a domestic uprising: Shays’ Rebellion. “What the militia was really good at, however, was putting down slave revolts.”

So the South held America hostage. It refused to join the new nation unless it was guaranteed the right to keep its guns. Not that this was the region’s only demand. Ultimately, the Constitution contained several clauses protecting slavery and slave owners.

It was to be a recurring theme. From the Founders in 1787 to today’s refusal to enact needed voting-rights reform because of so-called bipartisanship, protecting Black people’s humanity has always come in second to other concerns deemed more vital. But as Anderson noted, “When you’re willing to sacrifice Black folks for what you consider to be the larger issue, you end up sacrificing the larger issue as well.”

Meaning that America cannot credibly practice racial discrimination, then tout itself as a beacon of freedom. That’s a hypocrisy with which geopolitical foes have taunted presidents from Kennedy to Biden.

But as Anderson observes, the Second Amendment betrays Black folk not only in its origin but also in its application. Put simply: The right to keep and bear arms does not extend to Black people. If it did, would the NRA — that vigilant defender of gun rights — have kept silent when a John Crawford III or a Tamir Rice, the one a man legally carrying a firearm, the other a boy legally playing with a toy gun, were executed by police?

By its loud silence, the group gave tacit approval of what Anderson calls the “fractured citizenship” of African Americans. “When they were enslaved or free blacks, when they were Jim Crow blacks or when they were post Civil Rights Movement black folks, that did not alter how the right to bear arms, the right to a well-regulated militia and the right to self-defense did not apply to them.”

Yet the same people who keep silent when Black people are deprived of those rights — and their lives — are only too happy to tell us how we all need guns for self-defense. As Anderson noted, when “Black” is perceived as America’s “default threat,” that argument “puts Black folks in the crosshairs.” Indeed, all of us end up enduring daily mass shootings so that some of us can be ready when the hypothetical Black man comes through the hypothetical window.

In “The Second,” Anderson highlights the manifest hypocrisy of the Constitution’s most troublesome amendment. She makes a compelling case that, for all the noble rhetoric, it was created mainly to oppress.

And that it is still working as designed.

Doonesbury – Who’s calling?

Monday, June 7, 2021

Swiss Army Knife Massacre

This is madness.

A federal judge Friday night overturned California’s longtime ban on assault weapons, saying the state’s law was unconstitutional and that prohibiting such firearms for decades was “a failed experiment.”

In a 94-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez of the Southern District of California said that sections of the state ban in place since 1989 regarding military-style rifles violate the Second Amendment. Benitez characterized the assault weapons Californians are barred from using as not “bazookas, howitzers or machine guns” but rather “fairly ordinary, popular, modern rifles.”

The judge then compared an AR-15 to a Swiss Army knife.

“Like the Swiss Army Knife, the popular AR-15 rifle is a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment,” Benitez said in the ruling.

In addition to issuing a permanent injunction Friday, Benitez granted a request from California Attorney General Rob Bonta (D) for a 30-day stay of the ruling, which will bring about an appeal from the state.

“Today’s decision is fundamentally flawed,” Bonta said in a news release. “There is no sound basis in law, fact, or common sense for equating assault rifles with Swiss Army knives — especially on Gun Violence Awareness Day and after the recent shootings in our own California communities.”

Why, just the other day I was using my Swiss Army knife to tighten a screw and accidentally shot and killed 17 people in a school. And last weekend my neighbor was using the corkscrew to open a bottle of wine and killed two people at a party in Miami.

Ever since the Supreme Court came up with the Haller decision that basically granted open season on people on the business end of weapons in the name of “Freedum!”, we have been in what Tom Levenson at Balloon Juice calls a murder-suicide pact. There has to be a way to stop it.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Murder In Boulder

Here is a link to the Boulder Daily Camera.

Ten people, one of them a Boulder police officer, are dead following a shooting at a King Soopers in south Boulder on Monday.

After police earlier in the day did not confirm the number of fatalities, Boulder police Chief Maris Herold said at an evening news conference there were 10 dead, including Boulder police Officer Eric Talley.

“My heart goes out to the victims of this incident and I’m grateful for the police officers that responded, and I am so sorry about the loss of Officer Talley.”

Herold said police received a call at about 2:30 p.m. of a man with a rifle at the King Soopers at 3600 Table Mesa. Herold said Talley was the first on scene and was fatally shot.

Herold said Talley’s actions were “heroic,” and also praised the officers who followed him in responding to the active scene.

“Police officers’ actions fell nothing short of being heroic,” she said.

The other nine victims have not yet been publicly identified by the Boulder County Coroner’s Office, but Herold said they were working to notify families as soon as possible.

“I know there are people out there waiting for an answer, and I’m sympathetic to that,” Herold said.

Police said the shooting and possible motive were still under investigation, but police do have one suspect in custody and do not believe there is any threat to the public.

I lived and worked in the Boulder area from 1982 to 1988 when I was in grad school, and from 1983 to 1984 I lived about a mile from the store where the shootings took place. That was my local supermarket, and judging from the aerial footage, it still looks much the same as it did when I shopped there. It’s a nice residential neighborhood on the south side of town with an amazing view of the Flatirons Mountains that dominate the western skyline.

This is madness, and nothing is being done to stop it.  We will see the images, including the bodies, on TV, we will shake our head and offer thoughts and prayers, and then move on.  It doesn’t matter whether there’s a Democrat or a Republican in the White House or whoever is in the majority in the House and the Senate.

It’s not a matter of courage.  It’s a matter of persistence.  We can defeat the gun lobby and have meaningful gun control without overturning the Second Amendment.  But we really have to want to.  Apparently we don’t yet.  So when?

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Looking Back/Looking Forward

Time for my annual recap and predictions for the coming year.  Let’s see how I did a year ago.

Barring natural causes or intervention from an outside force, Trump will still be in office on December 31, 2019. There is no way he will leave voluntarily and even with the House of Representatives in Democratic control and articles of impeachment being drafted they will not get to the Senate floor because the Republicans are either too afraid to rile up the base or they’re too enamored of their own grip on power to care about the government being headed by a poor imitation of a tin-pot banana republic authoritarian douche-canoe.

That was an easy A.  As of today, the articles of impeachment are still with the House as Speaker Pelosi holds on to them.

The Mueller Report will be released to Congress and even though it’s supposed to be classified it will be leaked with great fanfare and pundit predictions of the end of the Trump administration with calls for frog-marching him and his minions out of the West Wing. Despite that, see above.

I get a C on that.  There were no leaks and the Mueller report was too nuanced for the punditry to read it and spit out sound bites.  The unintended consequence, though, was that the day after Mr. Mueller testified before Congress, Trump picked up the phone and placed an overseas call to Ukraine.

There will be no wall. There never will be. Immigration will still be a triggering issue as even more refugees die in U.S. custody.

That was a gimme.

There will be no meaningful changes to gun laws even if the NRA goes broke. There will be more mass shootings, thoughts and prayers will be offered, and we’ll be told yet again that now is not the time to talk about it.

Another gimme, more’s the pity.

Obamacare will survive its latest challenge because the ruling by the judge in Texas declaring the entire law unconstitutional will be tossed and turned into a case study in law schools everywhere on the topic of exasperatingly stupid reasoning.

Roe vs. Wade will still stand.

With the Democrats in control of the House, the government will be in permanent gridlock even after they work out some sort of deal to end the current shutdown over the mythological wall.  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will become the Willie Horton for the GOP base and blamed for everything from budget deficits to the toast falling butter-side down.

An A- on these three.  As of today, Obamacare is still in place but the Supreme Court is sniffing around the whack-ass lower court ruling, so see below, and the same goes for Roe v. Wade.  The House has passed over 250 bills and sent them on to the Senate, but Mitch McConnell has not touched them, and won’t.

We will have a pretty good idea who the Democratic front-runner will be in 2020. I think Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s chances are still good (she announced her exploratory committee as I was writing this), as are Sen. Kamala Harris’s, and don’t count out Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, but who knew that Beto O’Rourke, a charismatic loser in the Texas senate race, would raise a lot of hopes? That said, fifteen years ago when I started this blog, Howard Dean looked like the guy who was going to beat George W. Bush.

A big old red F on that one.

The economy will continue with its wild gyrations, pretty much following the gyrations of the mood of Trump and his thumb-driven Twitter-fed economic exhortations. The tax cuts and the tariffs will land on the backs of the people who provide the income to the government and the deficit will soon be out there beyond the Tesla in outer space. But unlike that Martian-bound convertible, the economy will come crashing back to Earth (probably about the time I retire in August) and Trump will blame everyone else.

That’s a C.  It hasn’t happened yet, but with the deficit doubling since Trump took office, something will have to give.  The question was — and remains — when will it?

There will be a natural event that will convince even skeptics that climate change and sea level rise is real and happening. Unfortunately, nothing will be done about it even if lots of lives are lost because [spoiler alert] nothing ever is done.

That’s an A.  It’s already happening.

I’m going out on a limb here with foreign affairs predictions, but I have a feeling that Brexit will end up in the dustbin of history.

Another big old red F, right up there with the Dolphins and the Lions ending up in the Superbowl in 2020.

Personally, this will be a transition year.  My retirement from Miami-Dade County Public Schools occurs officially on August 31, 2019, and I’m already actively looking for something both meaningful and income-producing to do after that.  (E-mail me for a copy of my resume; nothing ventured, nothing sprained.)  My play “Can’t Live Without You” opens at the Willow Theatre in Boca Raton, Florida, for a two-week run on March 30, and I’m planning on returning to the William Inge Theatre Festival for the 28th time, either with a play or most assuredly with a scholarly paper.  I have my bid in for a variety of other theatre events and productions; I think I’m getting the hang of this playwriting thing.

Things went pretty much as planned this year.  I retired on August 31 and started my new part-time jobs the next week.  The run of “Can’t Live Without You” was great, and I had a very busy year in getting plays done and conferences attended and new friends made from Miami to Alaska.

On to the predictions:

  • Trump will survive impeachment.  The fix is in.  Revelations about his corruption will keep on coming, and yet the Republicans will cower with him.  It will be his big campaign rallying point.
  • I have no idea who the Democratic Party will nominate for president, and neither do you, but whoever it is will beat Trump in November despite the best efforts of the Kremlin.  I hope it is by such a margin that even Fox News will call it a blowout.  Trump will scream and carry on about it being rigged, but by this time in 2020, he’ll be doing everything he can to trash the place on the way out the door with pardons and lame-duck appointments of Nazi sympathizers and pedophiles.  (If I’m wrong on this and Trump is reelected, I’m moving to Montserrat.  It’s safer to live on an island with an active volcano.)
  • Obamacare will survive in the Supreme Court but by a 5-4 ruling.
  • There will be more restrictions placed on reproductive rights, but Roe v. Wade will not be struck down.
  • The Democrats will take back the Senate by one seat and all that bottled-up legislation will finally get through in time for the House, still under Nancy Pelosi, to pass them all again and get them signed by the new president.
  • The economic bubble will burst, the trade deals with China and Europe will screw over the American consumer, and it’s going to look like one of those 19,000 piece domino videos.  Trump and Fox will blame the Democrats for the monster deficit and carry on about how we need to cut more taxes and destroy Social Security and Medicare to save them.
  • Even with the Democrats taking over in 2020, they won’t be in office until January 2021, so I’ll save predictions for what they’ll come up with in terms of health care, gun safety, and climate change until this time next year, assuming my house in the suburbs of Miami at 10 feet above sea level is still on dry land.
  • As for me, my playwriting and productions thereof will continue.  I’m planning on my 29th trip to the Inge Festival in May and hope to be invited back to Alaska in June.  As I’m writing this, the novel that I started twenty-five years ago tomorrow is on the glide path to land by the time I go back to work next week.  I can predict that it will never be published because I never meant it to be.
  • As for hopes for the new year, I hope for continued good health and fortune for my friends and family.  I can’t ask for more than that.

Okay, your turn.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Buyback Backlash

Via Digby, the circular mindless drivel of the Very Serious People continues to twirl.

CHUCK TODD: I tell you, this is tricky. Claire, I want to show you some poll numbers here. Among Democrats, the mandatory buyback program is extraordinarily popular, mandatory. This has surprised a lot of people. It’s got 74% support. Now look at it among Independents, and you start to see a declining support for it. But it’s basically one to one, among independents. Now, look at it among Republicans, two to one, essentially, against it, which gives you an overall support number of 52%/44%.

This, to me, seems to be the trap for Democrats, if you will. This is extraordinarily popular. And it’s growing in popularity. And it may be a case where the public’s ahead of the politicians. But you’ve been in that Senate. Are Chris Coons and Pat Toomey right about this?


SENATOR CLAIRE McCASKILL: Well, this is really what you started with. There’s two things here. Do we want to get things done and reassure the American people that their democracy works? Or do we want to continue to be inspirational only, with policies that, frankly, are not realistic, in terms of the way our government’s set up? They’re not going to get done…

Well, of course they’re not going to get it done.  We knew that from the start.  But what makes me crazy about this and all the other pundit idiocy is their amazement that something so popular with the electorate would hit a brick wall when it arrives in Congress.  Don’t they know about lobbyists, campaign contributions, and threats of retribution for voting against the NRA or any other group that has any kind of clout in their district?

Or, to paraphrase Yogi Berra, it’s so popular no one will vote for it.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Core Values

According to the New York Times, the two shootings over the weekend that killed 29 people — 20 in El Paso and nine in Dayton, have shaken the nation to its core.

On Sunday, Americans woke up to news of a shooting rampage in an entertainment district in Dayton, Ohio, where a man wearing body armor shot and killed nine people, including his own sister. Hours earlier, a 21-year-old with a rifle entered a Walmart in El Paso and killed 20 people.

In a country that has become nearly numb to men with guns opening fire in schools, at concerts and in churches, the back-to-back bursts of gun violence in less than 24 hours were enough to leave the public stunned and shaken. The shootings ground the 2020 presidential campaign to a halt, reignited a debate on gun control and called into question the increasingly angry words directed at immigrants on the southern border in recent weeks by right-wing pundits and President Trump.

“It’s outrageous,” said Terrion Foster, who works in accounting and lives in Kansas City, Mo., where he was out shopping at a farmer’s market near downtown on Sunday afternoon. “It’s really sad because I feel like you can’t go anywhere and be safe. I’m 50 years old and I didn’t think I’d be alive to see some of the things that are going on today.”

The shootings prompted Republicans, including Mr. Trump, to condemn the gunmen’s actions and offer support to the people of Dayton and El Paso. Democrats urged Congress to take action and pass stricter gun laws. “We have a responsibility to the people we serve to act,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.

I would really like to believe that the massacres this weekend will be the final straw.  That finally the NRA and their Republican minions along with the rest of the gun lobbyists realize that enough is enough and something really has to be done to not just deal with the proliferation of weapons that can be purchased legally, but with the mindset that one amendment to the Constitution outweighs all the others.

But if the slaughter of kindergartners in Connecticut and a shooting spree at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas and a garlic festival in Gilroy and on and on and on, going back in a year, a decade, and a century didn’t do anything but generate thoughts and prayers and blaming outside agitators like violent video games — which are just as popular in Canada and Australia and Great Britain and Japan but have fewer deaths from guns in a year than we have in a weekend — or nebulous catch-phrases like “mental health” — again, also existing in other places without the same carnage — then why should the headlines and the BREAKING NEWS and the shock and horror result in anything more than what we’ve seen for the last fifty years?

We have already heard and will continue to hear that “now is not the time to talk about gun control,” which is one of of those phrases that is meant to deflect our attention until the next shiny object pops up on Facebook or Instagram and the dead are buried and the debris swept away.  But when someone says that now is not the time, it reveals their core value, which is to say that there is never the time because to do so would mean they truly have to tell the truth: that they view human life as expendable in favor of some mythology that the right to keep and bear arms is the only core value we have, setting aside the rest of those that this idea of a nation were built on: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  They are absolute in their grasp of one amendment to the detriment of all others, and like other fundamentalists, never allow for any other interpretation.  And when you pose the obvious rejoinder — When is the time to talk about gun control? — they will, in some way, shape, or form, tell you Never.

If we are truly shaken to our core, than we can expect to see a massive uprising in this nation the likes we have never seen before and action from our representatives in such a way that would truly change the world we live in.  If we can outlaw child pornography and saying “fuck” on national networks in contravention of the First Amendment; if the Supreme Court can waive the Fourth and Fifth Amendments in the hunt for terrorists; if we can consider the death penalty to be within the limits of the Eighth Amendment, and if citizenship can be questioned in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, then what makes the Second sacrosanct?

As long as our core values make it acceptable to slaughter people in a shopping mall and claim that the uninfringed right to own the tool that did the job is one of those core values as well, the nation will go on being bewildered, and people will still die.

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