Thursday, January 31, 2013

Music: "Blindness" by Peter Almeida


"Blindness"
written and performed by Peter Almeida

From Peter, who lives here with me in Eugene, Oregon:
"Twenty years ago, a friend was murdered in a mass shooting in San Francisco.  Recent events of gun violence have pulled at my heartstrings again and spurred me to compose a new song, dedicated to the 26 dead [in Newtown], my friend, John Scully, and all other victims."

From his site.

(click on the song title below and wait a moment for it to load:)


Lyrics:


Blindness
In the land that’s known as blindness
The one-eyed man is king
He sees for all his people
Half of everything
Direct lines straight and unbending
Long talk of rights each day
Disturbing message for his masses
Who hang on every word he says
They bow
They listen
Anointed
Then they’re blessed
Blind faith
So convenient
They cannot see
What’s at stake
In the land that’s known as blindness
The one eyed man is king
Holding fast to God and weapons
His aim is all too keen
Takes blood, takes money
He is deaf to the sounds of
Grieving mothers, wounded lovers
While clinging his legal ground
Sold out to
One more blind sinner
They all watched as children bled
Senselessness
Pulled the trigger
Twenty-six more
Now, are forever dead
In this land that’s known for freedom
How can this be so
So much madness, so much bleeding
So much blindness of the soul
In the land that’s known as blindness
The king has just one eye
Fanning fears, breaking lives
As we slip into decline
How much longer
Must tears linger
How much more
Must we cry
Each senseless finger
On a trigger
Leaves broken hearts
How many more must die
How much longer
Must tears linger
How much more
Must we cry
Each senseless finger
On a trigger
Leaves broken hearts
How many more must die
How many more must die

.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Outlaw High-Capacity Ammo Magazines Now

High-capacity ammo magazines of more than 10 rounds are good for one thing only: killing large numbers of humans quickly.  It's what they were designed to do.  And they do it very efficiently.

It's overkill for self-defense.  I have yet to hear of a single case where that many bullets needed to be fired for home defense.

It's overkill for hunting.  If you can't hit your target in three rounds or less, hunting isn't for you.  Go back to plinking.  As one Vietnam veteran told me the other day, "You don't need that many rounds unless you're tryin' to kill the whole damned herd."


"A Killing Machine": Half of All Mass Shooters Used High-Capacity Magazines

As lawmakers across the country and in the nation's capital debate possible restrictions on high-capacity magazines, one question emerges: Are these ammunition-feeding devices, which allow a shooter to fire many times without reloading, in fact commonly used by mass killers? We examined the data from Mother Jonescontinuing investigation into mass shootings and found that high-capacity magazines have been used in at least 31 of the 62 cases we analyzed. A half-dozen of these crimes occurred in the last two years alone.  
In the shooting that injured Rep. Gabby Giffords in Tucson, Arizona, Jared Loughner emptied a 33-round magazine in 30 seconds, killing 6 and injuring 13. Inside a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, James Holmes used 40- and 100-round magazines to injure and kill an unprecedented 70 victims. At Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, Adam Lanza used high-capacity magazines to fire upwards of 150 bullets as he slaughtered 20 kids and 6 adults. 
"It turns a killer into a killing machine," says David Chipman, who served for 25 years as a special agent in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. Outlawing high-capacity magazines won't prevent gun crimes from happening, Chipman notes, but might well reduce the carnage: "Maybe 3 kids get killed instead of 20."


That's right.  Half of all mass shooters since 1984, in the 62 cases analyzed, have used high-capacity ammo magazines.  

They have a listing of those shootings at that link, and stats like the numbers killed and injured, the weapons used, and the size of the magazines used.

Without the high-cap ammo mags, there would have been no "mass" in mass shootings.

Here in Oregon, Senate Bill 346 will ban the sale or transfer of ammo magazines greater than 10 rounds, except by law enforcement or military.  It creates a crime of unlawfully transferring large capacity magazines, and punishes by maximum of one year's imprisonment, $6,250 fine, or both.

It's time to stand up for public safety and ban these devices of mass murder!


ADDENDUM:  Here are the stories of 151 of the victims from those mass shootings.

Monday, January 28, 2013

What Do The Families Of The Newtown Massacre Have To Say About Gun Regulation?


There have been strong opinions on both sides of the gun violence issue since the horrifying massacre of school children in Newtown. 

But what do the parents and families in Newtown think?

Recently, I was reading a post at the Mikeb302000 blog about the NRA's shameful attack ad that targeted the President's kids, and left a comment there.  That's when a pro-gun extremist there challenged my opinion by writing (with the usual tactfulness):

Why don't you go to Newtown and tell the parents of those killed there what you think. Dumb ass.

Apparently he doesn't read the news.  You see, the parents of those children, and others in the Newtown community, have spoken out in favor of stronger gun regulation.

Examples:

-->  Monday, there was a legislative hearing on gun violence at the Connecticut capitol building in Hartford.  Doing everything possible to stall any meaningful conversation, as usual, the gun guys actually heckled the parents of the dead children as they delivered their testimony.

Let me repeat:  they heckled the parents of the dead children (just as they have harassed another hero of the massacre who gave shelter to some of the child survivors).

Here is video of the heckling.

Neil Heslin, father of slain Sandy Hook
student Jesse Lewis, testifying as he's heckled.
In fact, there were parents of three different kids who were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary, all of whom delivered testimony in favor of stricter gun regulation in Connecticut.

"The Second Amendment!" was shouted by several gun enthusiasts in the meeting room as Neil Heslin, holding a photo of his 6-year-old son, Jesse Lewis, asked why Bushmaster assault-style weapons are allowed to be sold in the state. 
"There are a lot of things that should be changed to prevent what happened," said Heslin, who grew up using guns and seemed undisturbed by the interruption of his testimony. 
Senate Majority Leader Martin M. Looney, co-chairman of the Gun Violence Prevention Working Group, threatened to empty the meeting room in the Legislative Office Building -- jammed with hundreds of people -- if the outbursts and chatter from the audience continued. 
"That wasn't just a killing, it was a massacre," said Heslin, who recalled dropping off his son at Sandy Hook Elementary School shortly before Adam Lanza killed 20 children and six adults. "I just hope some good can come out of this." 
Another father of a 6-year-old boy murdered in the shootings fought back tears as he told lawmakers to make any changes in gun laws simple. 
"I don't believe it's so complex," said Mark Mattioli, whose son, James, was among the first-graders slaughtered on Dec.14. 
"We need civility across our nation," said Mattioli, who appeared with his wife, Cindy, before the legislative panel. "The problem is not gun laws. It's a lack of civility." 
Veronique Pozner, whose son, Noah, was killed in the massacre, said his grave is only a five-minute drive from Chalk Hill School in Monroe. 
Pozner said her two other children, both Sandy Hook School students, are haunted by their brother's death, especially his twin sister. 
"It is our feeling that assault weapons should be comprehensively banned in the state of Connecticut," she said. "Faster weapons equal more fatalities."

Also in that hearing, the state chiefs of police said they supported mandatory background checks, and a state, and during the news conferences the state teacher's union said 85% of their members opposed arming teachers.

Here is video of Neil Heslin testifying, though it does not include the heckling in it:



and here is a link to a little video and description of Heslin's son, Jesse Lewis.

--> Last Saturday, thousands marched in D.C. for support of gun control measures.  Marching along with them were many residents of Newtown, including parents and pastors.


Marchers in Washington, D.C., along with Newtown residents

-->  The parents of one of the slain children in Newtown, Chase Kowalski created a fund in their son's name, which will be used to foster gun control, after his mother had a vision of her son visiting her (bolding added):

Becky takes a deep breath on Wednesday in the funeral home and says, “Okay, the best day of my life started on Sunday morning when my son came to me in a vision. He came to tell me to explain to my husband that the scope of this event was so large and that there were so many people around the country and the world we were touching. I felt that my son was here in this vision to tell me that the not-for-profit scholarship organization that we are starting in Chase’s honor will save lives, change building codes, demand gun and ammunition control, and that in Chase’s name I would like to bring God back to America. These are the first starting goals of the organization.”
--> The parents of Noah Pozner, a child slain at Sandy Hook, has been in communication with the White House and has made recommendations in support of stronger gun reforms:
Pozner's family has submitted a detailed proposal to a White House task force, recommending a range of legal reforms including federal grants to review security at public schools and requiring gun owners to lock weapons if mentally ill or dangerous people could access them otherwise. 
Pozner also says it's not right that the law protects the release of any mental health information on the gunman. She says she plans to challenge that because it could shed light. 
"Those are all answers that I feel that we're entitled to," she says. 
The family also is suggesting a new law requiring people to notify police within 24 hours if they know about an imminent threat of harm or death made by a person who has access to guns or explosive devices.

--> The police chief of Newtown has called for a ban on assault rifles, high-capacity ammo magazines, and better background checks:
The police chief of Newtown, Conn., the site of the Sandy Hook school massacre, urged the White House to ban assault rifles, saying he was "sickened" by the unimaginable horror that has rocked his quiet family community.   
“Ban assault weapons, restrict those magazines that have so many bullets in them, shore up any loopholes in our criminal background checks,” Newtown Police Chief Michael Kehoe told NBC News, when asked what his message to President Obama would be. ...

“We do a good job of securing dynamite in our society," Kehoe said. "(Assault rifles) are another form of dynamite...I think they should ban them.”
 
Remember, Newtown is also the home of the National Shooting Sports Federation, which aggressively markets assault rifles, rebranding them as "modern sport rifles" and marketing them as no different than hunting rifles.

Newtown school superintendent Dr. Janet Robinson
testifying for help in reducing gun violence
-->  The superintendent of the Newtown school district calls for help in protecting her students "without creating fortresses."

What do I say to the parents who want to be assured that when they put their children on the bus to school that they will come home.  How do I protect our students without creating fortresses. 

-->  A congressman who represents Newtown, reacted badly to the NRA's "guns-in-school" suggestion:

Democratic congressman and senator-elect Chris Murphy, whose congressional district includes Newtown, tweeted a sharp reaction from Connecticut after the group's comments: "Walking out of another funeral and was handed the NRA transcript. The most revolting, tone deaf statement I've ever seen."

“How dare they?” fumed Elizabeth Murphy, 42, who lives in [Newtown]. “We are all still grieving. This is the wrong time to discuss their goal of putting more guns on the street . . . The bodies haven’t even all been buried yet.”

-->  And another resident:
Lee Shull a Newtown resident: “I don’t think it’s reasonable for assault weapons in any way in our society -except for military or police”.


Newtown resident David Stout, 49,an energy consultant and hunter, said he had hoped to hear an honest announcement from the NRA regarding background checks on all gun sales or closing other loopholes – not putting more armed guards in schools.
"Folks in Newtown are appalled by that suggestion," said Stout, who owns several hunting rifles. "I understand we want to protect our kids, but there are other ways to do that. We don't want to turn our schools into prisons." ....
"It's ridiculous we can't all come together and say, 'Ok, what makes sense?'" Stout said. "Something has to change."
He added: "More guns is not the solution."
Martin Blanco, 49, a stay-at-home Newtown dad, said the NRA missed a real opportunity to endear residents of Newtown and across the USA with sensible recommendations on gun legislation. Instead, he called their suggestion of putting armed guards in schools "madness."
"Just an awful slap in the face, particularly to the people in Sandy Hook," he said.
"The overwhelming majority of people in this town will find it a foolish, self-serving statement that has no place in Newtown or the United States of America," he said.
Craig Mittleman, 50, a Newtown emergency physician, said he wasn't surprised by the NRA's position but was nonetheless appalled by the brazenness of the comments, especially coming just a week after the incident. 
"Completely ludicrous," Mittleman said of LaPierre's suggestion of placing armed guards in schools. "It is an insensitive response at a time like this when there are families I know and have a connection with who have just sustained the greatest loss any human being can ever encounter."
Like others in Newtown, Mittleman said he had hoped to hear a more conciliatory tone from LaPierre and a sign that the gun lobby would cooperate with Congress to improve gun laws, not arm more Americans.
"I think even the most ardent gun owners in town are going to see the shame in that comment," he said.

-->  A number of the grieving parents and other residents have formed a group called Sandy Hook Promise:  SandyHookPromise.org.  Their promise:

I Promise to honor the 26 lives lost at Sandy Hook Elementary School. 

I Promise to do everything I can to encourage and support common sense solutions that make my community and our country safer from similar acts of violence
 
They have not come out in support or opposition to any one particular policy yet, but they have released a statement in support of the President's plan.


As usual, the victims and families of victims of gun violence overwhelmingly come out in favor of stronger gun reform.  Once you've held a dead or dying child in your arms, guns lose their false symbolism of freedom and justice and become exactly what they were intended to be -- a killing machine -- which has once again fallen into the wrong hands.  It's time to listen to the families of Newtown and support stronger gun reforms to make a new trajectory for our communities away from gun violence.

UPDATE (1/31/13):  Today, the father, David Wheeler, of another Sandy Hook child victim, Ben Wheeler,  gave testimony in favor of stronger regulation of guns.  

Speaking in front of a 52-member task force, Wheeler decried the inability of agencies to share relevant information about at-risk individuals’ personal histories, mental states, and proximity to firearms. He also advocated a ban on military-style assault weapons, saying they “belong in an armory under lock and key,” and for annual registration of personal firearms. 
Finally, Wheeler invoked Thomas Jefferson’s inalienable rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” from the Declaration of Independence. “I do not think the composition of that foundational phrase was an accident,” he said. “I do not think the order of those important words was haphazard or casual. The liberty of any person to own a military-style assault weapon and a high-capacity magazine and keep them in their home is second to the right of my son to his life.”

Here is video:


Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

UPDATE (2/10/13):  See a compilation of very moving testimony by a number of Sandy Hook parents and other community members who dealt with the shooting, here, all of whom are supportive of changes to our gun regulation system to keep this from happening again:

..

ADDENDUM (2/14/13):  From an article: "Mother of Sandy Hook Victim Noah Pozner Targets Gun Violence":
Veronique Pozner: "This is not about the right to bear arms. It is about the right to bear weapons with the capacity for mass destruction. We’re talking about a 223 caliber that is designed to penetrate a steel helmet on a battlefield, that was modified for that purpose, or to take down a 250, 200 pound deer, going into 40 pound children. You know, do these weapons have a place in our society? I say they don’t. Who am I? Well not anyone other than a mother who lost a child."
ADDENDUM (3/13/13):  An organization and website has been started by parents of slain Sandy Hook victims and others in Newtown, to support stronger gun legislation.  They are called "Newtown Action Alliance." From their "About" page:


NewtownAction is an action-based grassroots organization founded by Newtown residents in the weeks after December 14, 2012. 
We are dedicated to reversing the escalating gun violence epidemic in this nation through the introduction of smarter, safer gun laws and broader cultural change.
Our membership is open to anyone who wants to help make this nation a safer place for our families and children. 
Our immediate goals: 
Support state legislators as they work to pass smarter, safer gun laws. 
Support federal lawmakers as they work to pass smarter, safer gun laws. 
Work together with other gun safety organizations towards safer schools, streets, towns, and cities.
UPDATE (3/28/13):  See here for a video, where some family members of the victims speak out for stronger gun regulation:  http://www.demandaction.org/newtown-families 
.


Monday, January 21, 2013

"A Revolver" - A Newly-Discovered Poem By Carl Sandburg

This previously unknown poem by Carl Sandburg was just discovered by a volunteer at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, scratched on a piece of paper.


"A Revolver"  
by Carl Sandburg 

Here is a revolver. 
It has an amazing language all its own. 
It delivers unmistakable ultimatums. 
It is the last word. 
A simple, little human forefinger can tell a terrible story with it. 
Hunger, fear, revenge, robbery hide behind it. 
It is the claw of the jungle made quick and powerful. 
It is the club of the savage turned to magnificent precision. 
It is more rapid than any judge or court of law. 
It is less subtle and treacherous than any one lawyer or ten. 
When it has spoken, the case can not be appealed to the supreme court, nor any mandamus nor any injunction nor any stay of execution in and interfere with the original purpose. 
And nothing in human philosophy persists more strangely than the old belief that God is always on the side of those who have the most revolvers.

I love that last line.  It sums up very well the "God, Guns, and Guts" philosophy of the pro-gun extremists.  Remember Wayne LaPierre's exclamation that "The guys with the guns make the rules"?

Gun Appreciation Day Isn't Shared By The Victims Of Around 370 Thousand Gun Crimes A Year



Sunday, our President, Barack Obama, gave the oath of office of President of the United States in the Oval Office, officially beginning his second term in that role, by the will of the American people.

Today, Monday the 21st of January, he gives his inaugural speech, on the same day as Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

But back on Saturday, when the rest of America was gearing up for this momentous occasion, the gun lobbies had a different agenda.  They, instead, chose to make up a new day, which they called "Gun Appreciation Day."  A day made up by a White Supremacist Group. From the article:

The event is being billed as Gun Appreciation Day and has backing from white supremacist group American Third Position (A3P), Media Matters reported on Friday
A3P, which is listed on the Gun Appreciation Day website as a sponsor, does little through its own content to veil the fact that the political movement is dedicated to white supremacy. 
In its mission statement, A3P writes that it "believes that government policy in the United States discriminates against white Americans, the majority population, and that white Americans need their own political party to fight this discrimination." 
It goes on, saying that the group aims to "stop the immigrant invasion" in order to put "America first!" 
A3P has been listed as a white nationalist hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
In an email to The Huffington Post last year, A3P's chairman candidly admitted to his white nationalism, saying that he found it a "just and proper position for all white people to hold."

Yikes.  But the clearly racist origins of the event did nothing to slow the fervor of the gun guys. 

Here in Oregon, several hundred gun owners showed up on the steps of the capital building, as they did at many other state capitols, brandishing their assault rifles and handguns, like some scene out of a third-world nation.  Why is it when we see such scenes from Pakistan or Iraq that we think "extremist," but some people see the same thing here and think "freedom?"  I see no significant difference.  They can try to dress it up in patriotic language, but it's intimidation of our lawmakers, plain and simple, and shouldn't be tolerated.  Along with nonsensical signs about prying guns from their cold dead hands were radical anti-Obama and insurrectionist signs, too.

Meanwhile, the shootings and gun crimes continue, unabated.  Here in my home town of Eugene on that day, a woman got hold of her roommate's guns and fired a shot, then holed up in the home, threatening to shoot herself, until a SWAT team used tear gas and stormed the home, pulling her out alive.  On the same day here in Eugene, a man with warrants out against him hid in the back of a car and then kidnapped two men who got in, at gunpoint, of course.  Luckily, they eventually overpowered him.  The night before, a 16-year old girl was shot to death.  Her killer fled to California, where he shot himself to death as well.  I don't think any of these people or their families appreciated guns very much that day.

Across the nation, murders, suicides, and accidents continued, including five people unintentionally shot in three different shootings at gun shows.

The annual statistics are staggering.  31,000 deaths annually from gunfire.  70,000 injuries.  Guns are implicated "an estimated 337,960 nonfatal violent crimes."

Parents Against Gun Violence had a better idea.  They chose instead to celebrate Child Appreciation Day.  That's a far better area to appreciate, I think, given that 3000 kids are killed each year in gun crimes, and another 14,000 are injured.

It's time to stop appreciating guns, and start appreciating the welfare of our people.  I call upon our lawmakers to ignore the extremists with guns at their doorsteps and do what is right to protect our people from guns getting into the wrong hands.

UPDATE (1/22/13):  The Daily Kos published a list (non-comprehensive) of at least 103 shootings that happened on "Gun Appreciation Day."  I don't think those victims appreciated guns very much, do you?

ADDENDUM (1/22/13):  A related article, from The Jersey Journal online.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The NRA’s Attack Ad Targets The President’s Kids


So the NRA has countered the President’s wise gun violence reduction legislative proposals and executive orders with an interesting video.  See here:




First, let me point out the negative attack ad that this is.  How very typical of the NRA, with their anti-Obama propaganda and agenda.  But now they’ve sunk so low as to try to use his children for political purposes.

Furthermore, where the President and gun violence prevention groups are working in a positive manner to reduce the violence (What can we do to keep guns out of the wrong hands?), the NRA prefers instead to work in a negative manner (What can we do to kill the “bad guy with a gun”?).  It has only hurt the NRA’s approval rating.

But even beyond these points, the video is a pro-gun fantasy run amok.  Let’s step back for a moment from the poisonous air of the video and take some reality checks:

Reality check #1:  The children of the President of the United States require stronger protection because of obvious reasons (risk of kidnapping or assassination due to their father being a world leader), which clearly is different from the children of the average citizen.  If the average citizen really thinks that their kids run the same risk as Sasha and Malia Obama, then they are deluding themselves.

Reality check #2:  The Secret Service detail for the President’s children are not the same as some local yokel "volunteer" who has a conceal carry license and maybe a little bit of training, as suggested being used by LaPierre and Hutchinson in their little media spectacle, or "deployed" around schools by the extremist Sheriff Arpaio in Maricopa County, Arizona (some of whom have police records).  IF there are armed guards at that school outside of the Secret Service (and I haven’t seen verification of whether they are armed), I imagine that they, too, are better trained.  (UPDATE: It turns out there AREN'T armed guards outside of the Secret Service. See the update below.)

Reality Check #3:  Yes, as many as one-third of schools already have armed guards, but for the most part those schools hired guards because of a demonstrated need due to incidents that occurred, not out of paranoid fear. 

Reality Check #4:  There’s no clear evidence that having armed guards has reduced the violence rate.  The vast majority of schools have never demonstrated a need, nor likely ever will demonstrate a need, for armed interference.  One report for armed schools in Mississippi reported that the guards engaged in “overly harsh school disciplinary policies,” unnecessary arrests, and racial prejudice.  Further, two different studies (HERE and HERE) have shown that armed guards in schools make students feel less secure, possibly affecting their performance.

Reality Check #5:  Having an armed guard at a school has never stopped a school shooting in the few instances where they've had a chance (such as Columbine).  It is almost impossible for an armed guard to be in the right place at the right time, in those few minutes when a shooting is actually taking place.

Reality Check #6:  Having an armed guard at a school only treats the symptom (stopping the "bad guy with a gun" - usually a kid who got it from his parents' closet -- only after they've gotten the gun), instead of treating the causes of the problem (easy access to guns and lack of safe storage, poor parenting, mental health problems).

I’ve posted on the lunacy of the NRA’s “armed schools” proposal before, but it’s clear that all the negative feedback from parent and teacher groups, school officials, and the general public hasn’t made  a difference in their extremist agenda.  From one article:
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."
The general public has opened its eyes and can now see through the NRA exaggerations and lies, so the NRA and other gun lobbies are just digging themselves deeper into a rut with hate ads like this one.

ADDENDUM (1/18/13):  There is currently a petition, initiated by Carolyn McCarthy, demanding that the NRA stop running this ad and exploiting the children of the President.

ADDENDUM (1/18/13):  Here is a great article, written by the granddaughter of President Eisenhower, Susan Eisenhower, who had a Secret Service detail of her own while her grandfather was President.  Read how she slams the NRA for this shameless attack ad.  From her article:

For the eight years that my grandfather, Dwight Eisenhower, was president of the United States, I had Secret Service protection. Known as the “Diaper Detail,” these armed agents protected my sisters, brother and me from potential kidnappings or other targeted attacks. Such threats might be aimed at hurting us, but they would also strike a devastating blow to the president and possibly our national security. 
I repeat: We had Secret Service protection because we were seen as potential targets. 
That’s why any thinking person has to be disgusted by the National Rifle Association ad released Wednesday, suggesting that the president is an “elitist hypocrite” because his children have the benefit of armed protection at school and the nation’s children as a whole do not. This is absurd. The nation’s children are not individually at risk the way the Obama children are.
UPDATE (1/20/13):  It turns out that there are no armed guards hired by the school where the President's kids attend.  Oopsie!  The NRA might have wanted to do a tiny bit of fact-checking first.  From a Washington Post article:

In fact, it has no armed guards. My Post colleague Glenn Kessler, who writes The Fact Checker column, wrote about the issue here and quoted Ellis Turner, associate head of Sidwell Friends, as saying: “Sidwell Friends security officers do not carry guns.”
Parents and students say they have never seen one either. 
The president’s children are protected by Secret Service agents, which is required by federal law, but that is not the same thing as armed school resource officers. 
The Fact Checker, who hands out “Pinocchios” depending on how accurate — or inaccurate — a particular story is, gave the NRA and its ad the worst possible rating, four Pinocchios. Whereas three Pinocchios are given for “significant factual error and/or obvious contradictions,” four Pinocchios are given for “whoppers.”

.
UPDATE (1/25/13):  An NRA senior lobbiest, Jim Baker, says the attack ad was "ill advised."  Ya think?  From an article:

Jim Baker, head of the federal affairs division at the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action, said he had made his views known to others at the powerful gun-rights organization. 
The ad, which cast Obama as hypocritical for having expressed skepticism about putting armed guards in schools, when "his kids are protected by armed guards at their schools," drew widespread criticism when it first became public on January 15. 
Nationwide outrage over the shooting of 20 children and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, on December 14 moved gun violence and gun control to the center of the U.S. political debate. 
"I don't think it was particularly helpful, that ad," Baker told Reuters in a telephone interview. "I thought it ill-advised."

.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Leadership for Sandy Hook and for Oregonians

A message from Ceasefire Oregon:



Today we heard from two important political leaders in the fight for better gun laws. President Obama spoke with courage and set the standard for leadership that should serve to inspire all of us in this struggle. The President laid out a solid, reasonable and effective strategy for reforming America's weak gun laws and introduced 23 executive orders to improve gun safety. He cited the Clackamas Town Center shooting as evidence that assault weapons need to be banned and concluded his remarks by saying, "Let's do the right thing."

Please, right now, send President Obama a message of thanks for his courage and leadership.

In Oregon, however, incoming House Speaker Tina Kotek announced that she would not take a leadership role in improving Oregon's gun laws but will "look to the Senate for their leadership."

Speaker Kotek surely knows that this reform movement will be much more difficult without her leadership in the Oregon House.

Please email Speaker Kotek or call her right now at  503-286-0558 and show her that Oregon has a strong coalition of individuals seeking reasonable and responsible gun laws. Ask her to do the right thing.

Thank you.

Insurrectionist Sheriffs Paranoid About New Gun Violence Proposals

(UPDATED -- see below)

Pop Quiz: 

1)  Which of the three branches of government is responsible for creating new laws?

2)  Which of the three branches of government is responsible for interpreting existing laws?

3)  Which of the three branches of government is responsible for enforcing existing laws?


Answers:  1) Legislative, 2) Judicial, 3) Executive


Now for the tough questions:

4)  Who heads the Executive branch of government?

5)  To which branch of government does law enforcement belong?


Answers:  4) The President of the United States, 5)  Executive


These are very basic tenets learned in a child's first social studies classes.  I think I recall learning these basic facts as early as 5th grade.  The three branches of government insure a separation of power to help prevent tyrannical rule and to best represent the will of the American people.

But, unfortunately, some people fail to grasp these facts.  Or, more likely, some people refuse to apply these facts to situations that don't match their extremist positions.

Later today, President Obama, on the recommendations of a panel headed by Vice President Biden, will release his recommendations for increased gun regulation.  Likely this will include bans on assault weapons, high-capacity ammo magazines, and increased background checks, including for private sales.  It will be a major step toward reducing the insane level of gun violence in our country. (UPDATE: he has now made those recommendations)

Unfortunately, even before the President can release his proposals, at least three rural sheriffs have announced, in the most public way possible, that they will refuse to enforce any new laws for gun regulation.  Without even seeing the proposals first, they have stated in no uncertain terms that those regulations are against the Second Amendment and are unconstitutional.

Here in Linn County, Oregon, just north of where I live, Sheriff Tim Mueller wrote:

"Any federal regulation enacted by Congress or by executive order of the President offending the constitutional rights of my citizens shall not be enforced by me or by my deputies, nor will I permit the enforcement of any unconstitutional regulations or orders by federal officers within the borders of Linn County, Oregon.  
"In summary, it is the position of this Sheriff that I refuse to participate, or stand idly by, while my citizens are turned into criminals due to the unconstitutional actions of misguided politicians."

In Jackson County, Kentucky, Sheriff Denny Peyman wrote:

“My office will not comply with any federal action which violates the United States Constitution or the Kentucky Constitution which I swore to uphold. 
“Let them pull that stuff in other places if they want, but not in Jackson County, Kentucky.”

And over in Pine County, Minnesota, Sheriff Robin K. Colewrote:

"I do not believe the Federal Government or any individual in the Federal Government has the right to dictate to the states, counties or municipalities any mandate, regulation or administrative rule that violates the United States Constitution or it various amendments. I would view any such mandate, regulation or administrative rule illegal and refuse to carry it out."

All three of these Sheriffs attempt to couch their insurrection in Constitutional verbiage.  But it's hogwash.  They need to retake their social studies classes.  They would fail my little pop quiz.

You see, it isn't the duty of a sheriff to interpret law.  They don't wear robes when they're on duty and aren't in the Judicial branch.  And they don't get to make the laws like those in the Legislative branch.  Their job is to enforce the laws.  They don't get to determine what is and what isn't constitutional.

And they report to the President of the United States.

Refusing to enforce a law is against their oath of office, a betrayal of public trust, and insurrectionist.  It won't be tolerated.  They enforce the rule of law, separate from whatever opinions (or gun fetishes) they may have. 

If they feel a law or executive order is unconstitutional, then there is a process by which they can address it:  they take the case to the Legislative branch through court action.  But they still have to enforce the law in the meantime.

It should be pointed out that Vice President Biden didn't come up with proposals out of thin air.  He sought input from a wide range of organizations from both sides of the issue.  Among those are  the Fraternal Order of Police, International Association of Chiefs of Police and the National Association of Police Organizations, all organizations which represent most of American law enforcement communities. 

It's time for these three sheriffs to step down, and the public they represent need to call them out for their insurrection.  They are a disgrace to their office.

ADDENDUM (1/16/13):  An additional sheriff can be added to the list, from the very pro-gun area of rural southern Oregon:  Sheriff Glenn E. Palmer, from Grant County, Oregon.  Like the others, he also tries to justify his insurrection with constitutional language beforehand.  From Sheriff Palmer:


"As Sheriff for Grant County, Oregon, I too will publicly state that I will refuse to participate, or stand idly by, while the people I represent are made into criminals due to your unconstitutional actions."
ADDENDUM (1/16/13):  Here's another rural Oregon sheriff that has joined the insurrection and decided he can decide what is constitutional or not:  Sheriff John Hanlin of Douglas County, Oregon, who writes with the same exact statement as Mueller:


“[A]ny federal regulation enacted by Congress or by executive order of the President offending the Constitutional rights of my citizens shall not be enforced by me or by my deputies, nor will I permit the enforcement of any unconstitutional regulations or orders by federal officers within the borders of Douglas County Oregon.”
The exact same statement, with the slight change in the name of the county, was also made by Sheriff Jim Hensley of Crook County, Oregon.

Given the exact same language is being used, this is part of a insurrectionist cabal among these three sheriffs (Mueller, Hanlin, and Hensley).

ADDENDUM (1/16/13):  The 23 Presidential Executive Orders have been released.  See them here.  From the article:
It does not appear that any of the executive orders would have any impact on the guns people currently own-or would like to purchase- and that all proposals regarding limiting the availability of assault weapons or large ammunition clips will be proposed for Congressional action. As such, any potential effort to create a constitutional crisis—or the leveling of charges that the White House has overstepped its executive authority—would hold no validity.
So what, exactly, do these insurrectionist sheriffs consider "unconstitutional" about these orders?

UPDATE (2/1/13):  The National Sheriff's Association just released a statement, regarding new gun laws.  Basically, it states (surprise!) that they will uphold the Constitution, including the Second Amendment, but that it is up to the courts to determine the constitutionality of laws, not the Sheriff.  From the statement:

WHEREAS, the doctrine of judicial review grants to the United States Supreme Court and the
lower courts the power to determine the constitutionality of any law and sheriffs do not v possess the legal authority to interpret the constitutionality of any law;

UPDATE (9/25/13):  Thankfully, insurrectionist sheriff Tim Mueller is now retiring.  Perhaps now Linn County, Oregon, will have a sheriff willing to uphold the Constitution and enforce the law of the land instead of acting like he is above the law.