Monday, August 4, 2014

James Brady, the Man Behind the Brady Bill, Passes Away at Age 73


(UPDATED -- See below)

A statement from Ceasefire Oregon:


Ceasefire Oregon, the Oregon Alliance to Prevent Gun Violence, States United to Prevent Gun Violence, along with millions of other gun violence prevention advocates mourn the passing of former White House press secretary James Brady. Mr. Brady was a true American hero and an inspiration for all of us who are fighting to make our communities safe from gun violence.

Wounded during an assassination attempt against President Ronald Reagan, Jim Brady and his wife turned personal tragedy into a 30-year crusade to pass stronger gun laws and save lives. For those maimed by gun violence, he became a symbol of the purposeful life, made meaningful by the struggle to make all Americans safer.

As the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence pointed out, "Because of Jim's hard work and the policy that bears his name--the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act--an estimated 2 million gun sales to criminals, domestic abusers and other dangerous people have been blocked. As a result, countless lives have been saved. In fact, there are few Americans in history who are as directly responsible for saving as many lives as Jim."


ADDENDA:  
An online condolence card can be signed HERE.

Articles from national news sites can be found HERE and HERE.

Other statements regarding Jim Brady's passing can be found HERE, and HERE.  


UPDATE (8/10/14):  A coroner has ruled Brady's death a homicide, since he died from ongoing complications caused by the bullet wound from Hinckly 33 years ago.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Unpatriotic Gun Nuts Rush To Buy AK-47's Due To Sanctions Against Russia


Russia hasn't been behaving itself lately, what with annexing Crimea, building up troops on the eastern border with Ukraine, arming and aiding Ukrainian rebels, playing a role in the downing of Malaysian Flight M17, and, today, is even firing artillary into the Ukraine from inside the Russian border to help the rebellion.  Putin is returning to the glory days of headlong Communist expansionism.  As the most recent release of Time Magazine put it in their article "In Russia, Crime Without Punishment:" 


Can the West stop a figure who is determined to uphold the dreary habits of czars and Soviet leaders while projecting Russian exceptionalism and power?



So far, the U.S. and other Western powers have responded only with condemnation and economic sanctions. 



I feel that any thinking individual with a shred of love of democracy would approve of at least that much of a response.  At this very moment, Russia is invading a sovereign, democratic nation in an act of unprovoked warfare.  If we are lovers of democracy and patriotic to the needs of our country and our allies, wouldn't it make sense to support the U.S. sanctions?



What are those sanctions from the U.S., exactly?  From an article:



The Obama administration last week announced a new round of sanctions against Russia that it says are intended to discourage Russia from continuing to support rebel groups in eastern Ukraine. Companies blacklisted by the U.S. include Russian banks, energy firms and eight weapons manufacturers -- including Kalashnikov Concern, a maker of what is arguably the most popular weapon in the world, the AK-47.



It makes sense, doesn't it?  If Russia wishes to act against our allies and our democratic ideals, we as a nation shouldn't support Russia economically, and we should do what we can to stop them from arming rebels, including small arms like AK rifles.



So what does the supposedly "patriotic" gun crowd do -- the same men who quote (selected) portions of the Constitution and (selectively) pore over the history of the Revolution and Founding Fathers?  They whole-heartedly support sanctions against Russia and Russian gun companies, right?  Right???



Wrong.



Their love of guns supersedes any actual patriotic feelings.  Take, for instance, when the inventor of the AK-47, Mikhail Kalashnikov, died.  Kalashnikov confessed that he felt "spiritual pain" for having invented the AK-47 -- the gun that has killed untold millions of people, including Americans in every war and conflict we have fought since Korea, and ushered in with a rain of bullets every Communist, jihadist, and anti-American insurgency since.  The AK-47 symbolizes everything that is the antithesis of American democracy.  Did the pro-gun crowd cheer that this villain had died?  No, they mourned instead.  A sampling of their responses:



"Damn that sucks. Father of the most famous assault rifle. RIP Mikhail!" (source)



"I just told my AK about it. We had a good cry together. RIP to one of the greatest weapons designers of the 20th century." (source)



"The world has lost a true genius and a hero today." (source)



"Guess I'll fire a 21 gun salute from my own AK-47 variant." (source)



"Rest in Peace. The master tinkerer's invention has probably done more to shape world events than any ideology." (source)



"It was an honor to live in the same century with him." (source)



This, despite the fact that it isn't uncommon for the AK-47 and other AK variants to be used in crimes here in America.  At the Kid Shootings blog, for instance, you can find 15 examples where an AK-47 was used in a crime involving children, including their deaths, and those are by no means inclusive.



So, flash forward to today.  Despite the sanctions levied against Russia for their warlike and anti-democratic behavior, and despite the wicked history of the AK-47 on the battlefield as well as American streets, the gun is now selling out on American gun store shelves.  And it's not just AK-47s, but other Russian guns as well.  From a Huffington Post article:



While there’s no hard data showing an uptick in Russian gun sales, gun sellers around the country say they’re seeing big business in AK-47s and other Russian firearms.



Blaine Bunting, president of Maryland gun distributor Atlantic Firearms, said Tuesday that orders for their AK-47-style rifles and shotguns have "tripled, if not quadrupled" since Obama announced the sanctions.



"We have 15 employees here, and yesterday we started at 7:30 in the morning and didn't leave until eight at night," he said. After selling more than 400 Russian guns in just a couple days, Bunting said, Atlantic Firearms is sold out.   ....



Last week in Nampa, Idaho, the gun store Armageddon Armory bought 60 Saiga semi-automatic shotguns, which are made by Kalashnikov. They were gone in just a few days, according to the shop’s manager, David, who refused to give his last name, citing store policy.



"We sold out of them instantly," he said.



Right now, Saiga shotguns cost $800 to $900, David said, estimating they would double in price within six weeks because of Obama’s executive action.



Wow.  So why are they selling so many?  As one gun dealer put it after a surge in AK-47 sales in his store, "The simple thing is, people want what they can't have."



And there you have it.  It's not about having a gun for home defense, and it's not about hunting (assault rifles are a poor choice for either home defense or hunting, compared to other options).  It's about panic-buying an item that the gub'ment has told them not to buy.  It's the result of a deeply anti-authoritarian view, fostered in large part by the perpetuation of the false refrain that the government is going to take away everyone's guns.  And it's about the very-male fascination by low-brows of making things go "boom" for "fun."  You've got to have the highest-quality gun for that, right?  Again, from the Huffington Post article, quoting a gun seller:



"The Russian AK-47 is one of the highest quality AKs out there," said Ben, from North Raleigh Guns. "It's been around forever. The ammo is affordable. Plus, it's really fun to shoot."



Patriotism goes out the window when you have a need to fuel a gun fetish for "fun."  Panic buying doesn't bring in new gun owners, generally, but merely appeals to those who are already amassing arsenals of these deadly weapons.  These aren't the run-of-the-mill gun owners who have one or two guns for home defense or hunting.  These are the extremist, insurrectionist types, and we should all be fearful.  Remember, too, that modern guns are made with high enough quality that they will likely outlive those who buy them.  Where, then, will they wind up?



Mikhail Kalashnikov said on his deathbed, "My spiritual pain is unbearable" because of the gun he invented to "protect the Motherland."  I wonder if any of the gun nuts who are buying up Mikhail's weapons will one day feel the same guilt for bringing such dangerous weapons into their homes and for betraying the needs of our country, just so they can feel part of some anti-government "fun" trend?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

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



(UPDATED -- See below)

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. 


UPDATE (7/25/14):  It didn't take long for the NRA's bizarre "make-kids-learn-guns-in-school" proposal to make waves on Twitter and news sites and for sane people to start criticizing them (examples HERE, HERE, and HERE).  In response, the NRA started backpedaling, and clipped out the end of the commentator's video (where he suggests that firearms training be mandatory to pass grades).  You can read more on this backpedaling in an article from MediaMatters.

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

(UPDATED -- See below)

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.”


UPDATE (8/10/14):  The problem of extremist militias "guarding" the border has expanded, particularly since certain far-right Texas politicians have given their blessing to these dangerous individuals.  From an article:
And now, they have the blessing of a sitting Texas lawmaker. After touring the Rio Grande Valley near the border, Republican state Rep. Doug Miller claimed that the militias “have a right to be there” and that they “are not currently a problem.” According to Miller, he was told that the militias “are on private property, helping ranchers and owners to keep illegals coming onto or through their property … and there haven’t been any problems.”
Miller is not the highest-ranking Texas official who has dismissed criticism of armed vigilantes patrolling the Texas border. Late last month, the 12 Democratic members of Texas’ congressional delegation penned a letter to Greg Abbott, the state’s attorney general and the Republican candidate to be Texas’ next governor. In it, the 12 lawmakers quote a militia leader who said that “You see an illegal. You point your gun dead at him, right between the eyes, and you say, ‘Get back across the border or you will be shot.’” They also ask Abbott to “denounce the actions of these militia groups and clarify the jurisdiction these militia groups have to patrol alongside local law enforcement and Border Patrol agents.”
A spokesperson for Abbott dismissed the letter as a “partisan political stunt.”
.