Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Poem: Let Us Explain How This Happened In Your School

(The poem and collage, below, and preamble, are by Cynthia Jacobi, a volunteer for Ceasefire Oregon)


Preamble: 
After Newtown, people asked what could you say to those parents who lost children?  
I ask what could we say to the children who we failed to 
Protect?  What could we possibly give as explanation?  

(Collage by Cynthia Jacobi)


Let Us Explain How This Happened In Your School    
by Cynthia Jacobi 


It happened because the mother was odd
     and the boy was weird   
because neighbors did not bake cookies to greet them
     blank curtains were drawn and lawns were wide

Because the mother could no longer sing the boy to sleep
because the mother didn’t lock the safe or hide the key
because the other kids pushed him aside

It happened because the mother took the boy to practice
because the mother took the boy Christmas shopping
because America sells mega-magazines everywhere
     and Hollywood sells violence

It happened because of Gun Luv
because we are the land of the brave and the free
     and cowboys and Bonnie and Clyde
because bullets open doors to entry

Because the boy didn’t need to reload much
It happened because the NRA
     loudspeakers spread dollars and fear
because there was no good guy with a gun
    to shoot the bad guy with a gun

It happened because we fail to be horrified for long
because hunters of quail and rabbit are silent

Because reasonable people find no reason to be so

It happened because we have forgotten the poems
     we once knew by heart


.

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.