Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The NRA Now Wants To Make It Mandatory To Arm Children In School!

Remember after the Sandy Hook tragedy how the NRA was silent for so long?  Even those of us who were used to the cynicism of the nation's main gun lobby thought that, maybe, the brutal deaths of all those elementary kids and teachers might be enough to get the NRA to at least sit at the same table and consider what could be done to find middle ground.

When the NRA finally broke its silence, instead of working with other organizations to find a way to keep guns out of the hands of madmen like Lanza or limit the deadliness of their weapons, the NRA had an entirely different proposal that shocked the rest of the world:  Arm our schools!  

They blamed the media.  They blamed video games.  And they blamed the absence of guns (of course) in schools.  They called for a program to train and arm school administrators and guards, and even teachers, and played up the myth of the conceal carry hero.  It was a line that any sane person would recognize as insanity, and was only supported by groups known to be exceedingly extreme (like this one from here in Oregon).

In doing so, they ignored all those cases of conceal carry gun owners and guards who actually CAUSED incidents by carrying guns on school campuses, some of which since happened because the schools followed the NRA's recommendation (Four, in fact, which you can read HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE)!

The reaction to the NRA's extremist position was swift and negative, including from the people of Newtown and teachers organizations:
The American Federation of Teachers called the suggestion "irresponsible and dangerous," while the National Education Association described it as shocking and based on the "delusional assumption that everything other than guns contributes to these tragedies."
Those of us who were used to the NRA's widely out-of-touch views wondered how they could possibly become any more extreme.  "What's next?" we wondered, thinking it exaggeration, "Will they want to arm the kids, next?"

For years, with household gun ownership falling and a largely aging white, male population of gun owners, the market was becoming saturated.  Marketing to women and minorities isn't terribly successful, and you can only sell so many guns to those who already own guns and buy into the NRA paranoia about the government coming to take them away.  The only other market to tap was that of children. 

The push to sell guns to kids and their parents has been shameless.  I'm not talking about hunter-safety programs here, or even Eddie Eagle.  The NRA has tried, and failed, to lower the legal age for teens to buy guns to 18, in Texas.  They host special "youth day" events to prop up child memberships.  Gun manufacturers market small, pink and multi-colored rifles, such as Crickett rifles, specifically made for children.  And they have a large number of kids' apparel and publications aimed at normalizing these lethal weapons for kids.

So this week it wasn't particularly shocking to those of us who know the NRA that they suggested that kids in school be armed.

Let me say it again:  This week, the NRA suggested that kids in school should be armed.  And not just armed, but have it as a requirement to be trained in order to pass a grade!

One of the NRA News commentators floated the idea this week on their website, in a video aptly entitled "Everyone Gets A Gun."

He starts the video with symbolic descriptions of civil rights against discrimination due to race, creed, gender, and other factors, for education, healthcare, food, and retirement.  The passive inference, of course, is that the Second Amendment is supposedly a right to have any gun anywhere, despite what the Supreme Court has stated against that suggestion in the Heller case, as well as in a number of federal court cases since then.

He then launches into the concept of requiring gun training in grade schools and making schools "guns required zones."  From a Media Matters article:

In a July 21 NRA News video titled "Everyone Gets A Gun," NRA News commentator Billy Johnson said, "We don't have a U.S. gun policy. We have a U.S. anti-gun policy" that is based on "the assumption that we need to protect people from guns" and "that guns are bad or dangerous."
Instead Johnson wondered what gun policies the United States would have "if we designed gun policy from the assumption that people need guns -- that guns make people's lives better." Johnson then made the following recommendations that would "encourage" and might "reward" people "to keep and bear arms at all times."
  • Johnson wondered, "What if instead of gun free-zones we had gun-required zones?"
  • He imagined a compulsory education system that would require children to become proficient with firearms, just like "reading and writing," even "if they didn't want to learn" in order to advance in school: "Gun policy driven by our need for guns would insist that we introduce young people to guns early and that we'd give them the skills to use firearms safely. Just like we teach them reading and writing, necessary skills. We would teach shooting and firearm competency. It wouldn't matter if a child's parents weren't good at it. We'd find them a mentor. It wouldn't matter if they didn't want to learn. We would make it necessary to advance to the next grade."
  • Like "education, healthcare, food, [and] retirement," Johnson suggested that gun ownership be subject to a government subsidies, either through "government ranges where you could shoot for free or a yearly allotment of free ammunition."
We wouldn't want kids to see "that guns are bad or dangerous" would we? 

Well, the commentator seems to forget that, 

.... according to one study, almost 3000 kids are killed each year in America from gunfire, and another 14,000 are injured.

... the United States accounts for nearly 75 percent of all children murdered in the developed world. Children between the ages of 5 and 14 in the United States are 17 times more likely to be murdered by firearms than children in other industrialized nations.

... children in the United States between the ages of 5 and 14 have an overall suicide rate twice the average of other developed nations. This stark difference is driven almost exclusively by a firearm-related suicide rate that is 10 times the average of other industrialized nations.

Sounds pretty "bad or dangerous" to me!

[More statistics on the deaths and dangers of guns and children can be found HERE and HERE].

There have been at least 74 school shootings just since Sandy Hook (here's a MAP).  Arming teachers or children isn't the answer to stopping them.  To stop this, we shouldn't make fortresses of our schools.  Instead, we need to do more to keep guns out of the hands of those who would abuse them, by putting in place commonsense gun regulation to require safe storage of guns in homes with kids, universal gun background checks, better mental health reporting, and requirements to report lost or stolen guns.

Just as importantly, we need to adhere to the same rule we tell our children:  you can't stop violence with more violence.  When we teach our kids that the only way to feel safe is to arm ourselves with lethal weapons and prepare ourselves to kill others, then something very wrong has happened to our culture.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Militias “Helping” Law Enforcement At The U.S.-Mexico Border – We’ve Heard This Tune Before, And It Wasn't Pretty

The Conservative talk machine has always been paranoid about the issue of illegal immigrants and the need to secure our border with Mexico.  But lately they have been running full-tilt about a “wave” of illegal immigrants “swarming” our border with Mexico.  In the last week or so, for instance, the issue has centered around a very large number refugee children from Central America, where drug cartels and gangs have vastly increased the level of violence, and parents, fearing for the safety of their children, have sent their children on a one-way trip to the U.S. to escape.  They figure the uncertainty and danger of sending the children away is better than the “certain death” (as one refugee put it) faced at home.  After all, America is the land of prosperity, and written at the base of the greatest symbol of America, the Statue of Liberty, are the words from a poem:

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Given the number of kids shot to death in the U.S., including all the school shootings, I'm not sure if America is really the best choice of places to send their kids.

Very few illegal immigrants are coming to the U.S. for some sort of nefarious purpose.  Most come either to try to earn some money for family back in their poverty-stricken home, or they are refugees like these children.  Sadly, instead of offering to help these refugees, many of whom are children, the ultraconservatives would turn them away, or protest the way they are being bussed to holding facilities.  (Hilariously, one GOP candidate made a big show of blocking a bus of these illegal children, only to discover that these were American kids headed to the local YMCA camp).  Some people would even shoot them on sight! 

Just to help stir up the far right, GOP talking-mouth Sean Hannity and extreme gun-guy Governor Rick Perry went on a tour of the Rio Grande in gunboats bristling with mounted full-auto machine guns.

One group of pro-gun extremists in Michigan, openly carrying assault rifles and handguns, gathered supporters to protest the illegal immigrants.  Naturally, they were sure to inject a healthy dose of anti-government and anti-Obama bloviating.  There’s lots of paranoid speculation about these children carrying diseases or working for drug-runners, or even out to rape American women, just to make them seem more evil and inhuman, instead of the lost children that they are.  (Get the facts about these kids HERE).

Militia groups are answering the “call of duty” as they see it, to “help” law enforcement patrol the border.  Don't these people have jobs and families?  Is their hatred of illegal immigrants really that strong, or is it that their lives back home are so bad?  From an article:
Some of the militia "border patrol" extremists
The militia groups have set up a "command post" in Von Ormy, about 20 miles south of downtown San Antonio, Davis told KRGV on Tuesday. Von Ormy Mayor Art Martinez de Vara did not immediately return a request for comment.

"We have patriots all across this country who are willing to sacrifice their time, money even quit their jobs to come down and fight for freedom, liberty and national soveringhty," Davis said in the interview.

Davis deleted his Facebook and YouTube accounts, including a 21-minute video in which he describes plans for "securing the border:" "How?" he asked on the video. "You see an illegal. You point your gun dead at him, right between his eyes, and you say, 'Get back across the border or you will be shot.' "
One might question their patriotism, though, since these same groups are calling for a “second revolution” against our government if the Feds try to stop them.   From another article, quoting a militia organizer named Chris Davis:
He also urged militia members to “start the next 1776 right there on the border” if they were confronted by law enforcement authorities.
“It is time that we start taking back our national sovereignty,” Davis says.  …

“I believe in the King James Bible, The Constitution, and Bill of Rights!” he says. “I am a Future Veteran of the Refounding. Molon Labe! III%! Spirit of 1776!”

Militia organizer Chris Davis and extremist pals
It turns out that Davis and his fellows were active at the Bundy ranch (you know, Cliven Bundy, the seditious guy who has been illegally sponging off the Federal government for 15 years and then called for armed militias to protect him from arrest?), and was dishonorably discharged from the military.  Some “patriot!”  From an article:
The Texas militia, known as "Operation Secure Our Border," is being led by Chris Davis, a 37-year-old truck driver who was discharged from the Army in 2001 "under other than honorable conditions in lieu of trial by court martial," according to a summary of Davis' military service obtained by the San Antonio Express-News.

The details of Davis' discharge are protected from public view through the Privacy Act of 1974. Davis, originally from Florida, served in the Army from 1996-2001 as a mechanical systems operator-maintainer and was ranked as a private at the time of his discharge.

He does not appear to have any arrests, according to public record sources. Last year, Davis was one of three men in the group Open Carry Texas cited by the San Antonio Police Department for disorderly conduct while openly carrying rifles outside a Starbucks. The incident sparked an open carry rally at the Alamo that drew hundreds of armed protesters.

Huh. Imagine that. This extremist “hatriot” is also an “open carryintimidator demonstrator (they can’t seem to learn about how their movement keeps backfiring.  But I digress...).

Naturally, law enforcement doesn’t want their “help” and recognize it as dangerous.  From one article:
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection opposed the militias through a statement, saying they "could have disastrous personal and public safety consequences."

And from another article:
Hidalgo County sheriff Eddie Guerra said the militia was not needed in the Rio Grande Valley.
“We don’t need their services on our border,” Guerra said. “If we ever did, I’m sure we have enough good people in Hidalgo County that I can call up.”

Well, how could all of this go wrong?  I mean, if it’s legal to carry loaded assault weapons around and they have “patriotic” intentions, shouldn’t we want the help of these militias?

Consider the case last year where three heavily armed militia “border guard” members got into a confrontation with a real law enforcement.  One of them pulled his assault rifle out and threatened a sheriff’s deputy, thinking for some reason the deputy was an illegal alien, or something.  What followed was a standoff that nearly turned bloody:

On Saturday night, authorities say, Glendale resident Richard Malley pointed a semiautomatic rifle at a sheriff's deputy in the Vekol Valley, provoking a standoff that lasted until the deputy could convince Malley that he was a legitimate law-enforcement officer.
Malley, 49, was arrested on suspicion of aggravated assault involving a law-enforcement officer and released Sunday after posting a $10,000 bail.
Robert Deatherage, 48, and Robert Crooks, 63, who along with Malley were patrolling the drug-smuggling corridor running through the desert south of Interstate 8 and Gila Bend, were not arrested or cited.
Deputy Pat Arend, who reported staring down the barrel of Malley's AR-15, said it is a small miracle that neither he nor Malley was shot in the brief encounter.
Arend said he initially assumed that Malley, dressed in tactical gear, was another law-enforcement officer working in the area when they encountered each other after 9:30p.m. outside Gila Bend.
"The reason there wasn't a shooting is because, to me, he was passing himself (off as) law enforcement, so the last thing I'm going to do is shoot a cop," Arend said.
"If I would have pulled my gun, and he's thinking I'm a drug smuggler, he's going to shoot. I asked the guy later, 'What would you have done if I had my gun out?' And there was dead silence."
It was blind luck that no one was shot.  He was almost a cop-killer.
Militia "border patrol" organizer J.T. Ready

Militia “border patrols” don’t have a good record, do they?

One very active advocate for militia border patrols was a guy named J.T. Ready.  He was very outspoken, with news coverage and even GOP political involvement as a precinct committee person, Tea Party speaker, and even Sheriff candidate.  Until 2012.  That’s when this neo-Nazi racist and militia organizer shot to death his girlfriend and her 5-year old daughter before killing himself.  Child killer.  Murderer.  He had had run-ins with the law before, as had many of his pals.  Seems they didn’t need to fear illegal immigrants as much as themselves and each other!

But that wasn’t the first time, by any means, that such a militia border patrol turned violent.  There was also the case of the 2009 murder of the Flores family, who were American citizens in Arizona.  Three members of the Minutemen American Defense militia, led by a woman named Shawna Forde, invaded the home, robbed it, and shot the three family members there.  Two of them died, including a 9-year old girl and her father.  The mother was wounded but was able to pretend she was dead, then called 911.  All of these militia members had had run-ins with the law before, yet were still able to possess assault weapons and other guns.  And all of them considered themselves “patriots.”  Child killers, murderers, and thugs.
Militia "border patrol" organizer Shawna Forde

But these cases aren’t exactly outliers.  Militias have a long history of crimes and mass murder plots.  These aren’t the militias of the Revolutionary War, no matter what these yahoos may think.

We have a dangerous situation in America.  We are a nation that supposedly prides itself on diversity and compassion.  Let’s put that in perspective and try to live up those ideals, shall we, instead of fomenting hate, calling for the deaths of foreigners, and marching around the desert with guns playing “soldier.”

Thursday, July 3, 2014

"Open Carry" backfires -- AGAIN!

(UPDATED -- see below)

Once again, the "open carry" movement has shot itself in the foot.
no more of this....

Open carry activists, in their fevered minds, decided that going into Target stores, heavily armed, would be a great PR move for them.  Through June, in Texas and then throughout the country, they invaded Target stores and made a show of themselves.

By openly carrying assault rifles and handguns into otherwise family-friendly Target stores, these gun extremists have sent shoppers fleeing the store.  Instead of "normalizing" guns in our society or "educating" the public about guns, they've managed only to rile up normal, everyday people.  Led by Moms Demand Action, a movement began to stop shopping at Target stores until Target bans guns in their stores.

And for a couple weeks, it was looking like Target wouldn't see common sense.  They even turned away protesting moms with their strollers, despite having accepted gun-toters with open arms. But the numbers of unhappy customers kept growing.

Faced with increasing numbers of sensible people boycotting their stores, Target has now announced that guns are no longer welcomed there.  From their announcement....

[S]tarting today we will also respectfully request that guests not bring firearms to Target – even in communities where it is permitted by law. ....
[W]e are asking for help in fulfilling our goal to create an atmosphere that is safe and inviting for our guests and team members.
This is a complicated issue, but it boils down to a simple belief: Bringing firearms to Target creates an environment that is at odds with the family-friendly shopping and work experience we strive to create.
Did you catch that?  They said "not bring firearms to Target," not just openly, but in any manner, to
"create an atmosphere that is safe and inviting" (because they recognize that openly-carried guns are inherently not safe nor inviting!) and "at odds with the family-family shopping and work experience."

Perhaps it had something to do with how a loaded gun was left by a felon in the toy isle of a Target store (which, of course, the gun guys thought was a "false flag" conspiracy by Moms Demand Action).  Perhaps it had a LOT to do with thousands of safety-conscious people signing petitions for Target to ban guns in their stores.

Nearly 400,000 people signed the Moms petition!

So, once again, the "open carry" movement has backfired.  Just as it has backfired with other businesses (as I blogged on recently).  The list just keeps on growing:  Target, Texas Roadhouse, Sonic, Chili's, Chipotle's, Jack in the Box, Starbucks, Whataburger, and others.  Wherever they demonstrate with their guns, they are eventually banned.

But the "open carry" crowd didn't learn their lesson from previous demonstrations.  I'm sure they'll keep popping up.  The leader of Open Carry Texas, for instance, has already said in his Twitter posts that he'll keep going back to Target with his weapons, no matter what Target has said.  Whatever.  Keep trying, Kory.  We'll be watching.

Wherever the open carry extremists decide to make their next target for demonstrations, I and other gun violence-conscious people will be sure to fight back, with our voices and pens as our weapons, and we will continue to win, until, at last, America makes a national policy against this unsafe and extremist behavior.

UPDATE (7/3/14):  The Target spokeswoman confirmed in an article that their request not to have guns in their stores includes concealed guns as well as openly-carried guns.
The Wire reached out to Target to explain the details of this statement, and Target's stance on Concealed Carry. "This isn't a policy change, this is a position," said Molly Snyder, a member of Target's public relations team, in a phone interview. "We are requesting that people do not carry any firearms in our stores, including concealed carry. We will continue to follow local laws, however, concealed weapons are included in our position." Target also confirmed that they have not sold any guns or gun paraphernalia in their stores since the early 1980s, and have not sold realistic toy guns since the 1990s.
However, the spokesman has also said that their employees will not attempt to remove anyone who does bring in a gun, nor will they post "no guns" signs at the entrances.  More from the previous article:
While Target is "respectfully requesting" customers not bring weapons of any kind into their stores, they won't actually force customers to leave if they do so. When asked if Target will ask a gun toting customer to leave, Snyder told The Wire, "Because this is a request and not a prohibition, we do not plan to communicate with our customers at this time."
These statements, combined with the wording of the Target statement as a "request" has led to some in the open carry movement to conclude that Target is not serious about not wanting guns and plan to take their guns in anyways.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Survivor Story: Allen Wayne McNeil

Shooting survivor Allen Wayne McNeil
Today we have a survivor story from guest blogger Allen Wayne McNeil.  In 2012, he survived being shot three times in front of his residence, in Mobile, Alabama.  Wayne is now an advocate for stronger gun regulation to keep others from being victims.  Here is the account, in his own words, of his harrowing experience....

On October 10th 2012, I became a victim of gun violence in America. I have never tried to collect all of my thoughts and recollections about the experience in one place.  Perhaps now is the time.

I came home from work later than usual that evening and settled into the swing underneath the large old oak tree in my front yard to wind down. My former neighborhood was not one of the better in midtown Mobile, AL, but I had lived there for 10 years and thought nothing of being outside after dark. I suppose it was this complacency that contributed in at least a small part to being shot that evening. I was listening to music through headphones, blissfully unaware of the world around me. 

Deciding at around 11:30pm that it was getting late, I got out of the swing and headed to the front door of my house and heard what I though was a firecracker explode. I turned towards the sound and saw two men walking down the side walk.  I continued towards the door and heard a second firecracker go off, the men were following me. With the second blast I remember thinking “why are they throwing these things at me?” There was an odd sensation of air being compressed around my torso paired with what felt like an equal expansion inside my body. Somewhere in the next few seconds I saw the gun and began to realize they were shooting at me (at this point I had been shot once through the upper arm and once through my chest.) I tripped over a planter and fell down with my back to the door. I do not remember any details about my shooters appearance, but I will never forget him asking “do you like my gun” holding it out towards me to see. I raised my arm to shield myself and felt the third bullet hit my body, just below my armpit. It was in this moment that I knew they would just keep shooting me over and over if I didn’t get inside the house. I reached up and opened the door and crawled inside. 

Once inside the house I stood up, walked over to the table and grabbed a shirt to press against my wounds. I saw the terrified look on my roommate’s face from where she stood at the end of the hallway. It was in this moment that fear became a part of the whole experience. I started to walk towards her, she was telling me to lie down and stay still. I was so fevered and kept asking for a wet washcloth. (I later learned a few weeks later that she was afraid they would fire into the house and was frightened to walk to the bathroom to get me the washcloth.)

As I lay on the tile floor, I felt the most intense pain in my abdomen, weird cramps that would not subside. I started to think of all of the things that I hadn’t finished that week and thought “is this what it feels like to die?” I wondered how long it would take the paramedics to arrive. Next a fairly calm belief that “this isn’t all I get, I will wake up tomorrow” settled over me.

I guess about 15 minutes from the first shot being fired the police arrived and began asking me
questions, shortly after the ambulance was outside. I answered questions as thoroughly as I could in the pain and confusion. While the EMT’s were attending to me on the ambulance, I remember asking them “to keep me alive until we get to the hospital.” I guess I was in surgery by 12:00 am. Here is where the events become less detailed, I recall hearing voices, being awake, seeing bright hospital lights. I regained consciousness the next day in the ICU.

The bullet removed from Wayne McNeil's back.
The shooters used a 9mm handgun and three bullets went through my body, hitting one lung, stomach, liver, and destroying my gallbladder. The third bullet lodged in the small of my back about 2” from my spine. It was removed a few weeks later and I have it as a souvenir of sorts. My torso bears a myriad of scars both from the bullets and surgery. I remained in the hospital for eight days, spent the next two weeks recovering at family and friends' homes. During that recovery period my house was packed up and moved to a new neighborhood. Three and half weeks later I went back to work.  

I feel so fortunate to have survived this ordeal and to be able to lend my voice to the debate of gun control issues in our country. Mostly I feel lucky that anger and fear aren’t a part of the emotions I have about becoming a victim. In some regards it is hard to even view myself as a victim, when I woke up in the hospital I was surrounded by an endless stream of family and friends. Mobile, particularly historic downtown where I have worked for years, rallied behind my recovery. I felt and still feel so much more love than pain.

To present date the shooters have not been identified by the police, the case is still open but not actively being investigated. The crime was officially listed as attempted robbery, though the criminals never asked for nor tried to take anything. I have wondered if, (and in fair disclosure… this is pure speculation on my part,) listing my shooting as attempted robbery somehow makes the crime rate in Mobile, AL look better, statistically.

It has taken me almost two years to feel comfortable talking about my experience publicly. The questions I am left with have less to do with whether or not my shooters will ever be caught, and more to do with how we solve this problem. Before being shot I was always in favor of gun control reform, but now I feel compelled to be an active participant in asking for sensible legislation that will ensure that unnecessary deaths do not happen. I am currently trying to find the best way to represent and advocate gun crime victims and survivors. I hope I can be a part of making positive changes in the way we think about guns and crime in America.

My name is Allen Wayne McNeil, I became a gun violence victim of October 10th 2012 and when I woke up on the 11th I became a survivor!

ADDENDUM (from Baldr): Thank you, Wayne, for sharing your story.  It takes courage to do so, yet can make such a difference, for the voices of survivors and the families of victims are the strongest to call for commonsense gun regulation.

Wayne McNeil's is one of a number of survivor stories posted here at New Trajectory.  You can also find others, or add your own survival story or the story of loved ones injured or killed by gun violence, at the links found in one of my previous posts, HERE.