Tuesday, January 25, 2011

President Obama, Take A Stand Against Gun Violence!

Tonight our President gave a State of the Union address.  He laid out plans for improving the economy, the military, education and science funding, about pulling together Republicans and Democrats, and various reforms.  Survivors from the Tucson shooting were in attendance.  What would he say about the shooting or gun violence?

I started out hopeful.  Not since the Virginia Tech massacre, or really the Columbine massacre, has public discourse and opinion turned so strongly toward sensible gun legislation.  In the past month we've had a shooting of a sitting Congresswoman, a federal judge, a young girl, and 16 others in a single massacre in Tucson, and in the last 24 hours the shooting of 13 law enforcement officers, and an estimated 6700 other Americans in January alone.

Each of the senators and congressmen had an awareness ribbon on their chest in honor of the Giffords shooting:  a white ribbon with a black stripe through the middle ("The white ribbon represents hope for a peaceful, nonviolent society. The black ribbon is in remembrance of all who have died and been wounded as a result of violence.").  A promising start.  Interestingly, the President chose not to wear one.

But what did the President say about gun violence?  He acknowledged the shooting in Tucson by highlighting Gifford's empty seat.  Great! I thought.  A moment later, he added, "But there's a reason the tragedy in Tucson gave us pause."  I leaned forward.  Yes?  Is he going to lay out our culture of violence and the ease of which anyone can get a gun?  Mention the need for mandatory background checks for all gun purchases?  The excessiveness of a 30-round large ammo clip?  Strengthening mental illness records?  No!  Instead he goes on to say that the reason the tragedy gives us pause is because we need to rise above party and political differences to fulfill our dreams and the promise of America.

Well, that's well and good, Mr. President, and I agree, but it hardly strikes at the cause of the tragedy!  That's not why I paused.  There was no mention of the McCarthy bill to ban large ammo clips, or the Tucson shooter's ability to fire 32 rounds in only 16 seconds.  There was no mention of the proposal to require background checks for all purchases.  There was no mention of improving mental health records in those background checks.  In fact, there was no mention at all about our culture of violence and guns.

His acknowledgment of the issue was as empty as Giffords' chair.

Would bringing up the issue of gun violence have been "dancing in the blood of victims" as some pro-gun people have written?  If that's what it takes to call attention to the issue, I'll do a freakin' tango in a pool of it!  They didn't shed their blood just to have us ignore the issue!  This isn't taking advantage of the unfortunate.  It is calling attention to yet another example of our policies gone wrong.  Instead, the NRA and pro-gun folks would rather take a hose and wash it away.  "Nothing to see here folks!  Just some red stuff.  It's gone now.  Just a random bad guy doing his thing.  Go about your business and honor the 2nd amendment.  There's a gun store just down the street."

Mr. President, and members of Congress, I call upon you to pay attention to the issue of gun violence and pass sensible legislation.  Solutions are out there, being proposed right now, to create a new trajectory for our nation away from gun violence.  Now is the time!  If this shooting or past mass shootings aren't enough to spur you into action, what, exactly, will it take?  How many must die to rouse your attention?  For four years, we haven't even had an ATF director.  100,000 shootings a year isn't enough death, maiming, and shattered lives??  What will it take for change?  Tell me!

A related article, by Shikha Hamilton:  http://www.examiner.com/gun-control-in-san-francisco/obama-honors-empty-chair-yet-offers-empty-solutions

Another related article:  http://www.golfersguide.com/puttingandpolitics/index.php/2011/01/26/win-the-future-forget-about-reducing-gun-violence/

And another related article from Paul Helmke:  http://blog.bradycampaign.org/?p=3128



  1. The pro-gun lobby and supporters are itching for this latest tragedy to die away, as all the others have, with no real movement on sensible gun legislation, and for the American people to shrug it off as they do most violence in America. Here's an example: http://blog.joehuffman.org/2011/01/26/SoFarSoGood.aspx

    Don't let apathy happen again. Act now.

  2. Unfortunately, the pattern in the US is to have a mass shooting, there is outrage, yet nothing is done.

    I am not sure how the gun rights crowd has managed to change the debate to make the do nothing, or make the situation worse by relaxing the already lax gun laws, seem respectable.

    In fact, the loosening of gun laws is pretty dienhartening to those of us who want to see sensible gun laws.

    It seems the lunatics have taken over this debate with some seriously out of touch beliefs about firearms.

  3. We don't want the tragedy to die away, we want your attempts to pass useless laws that infringe on our rights and don't do a damn thing to reduce gun violence to die away.

    We want to focus on the cause of this tragedy and find ways to fix it. Unfortunately, you and the other gun control advocates are so gun obsessed that you think that guns are the cause, and can stop this sort of thing with laws. If laws could stop tragedies like this, why didn't the laws against murder and assault prevent it? What evidence do you have that gun control stops people willing to break the law from getting a gun? (Hint: It doesn't!)

    You're so obsessed with firearms you can't realize the futility and ineffectiveness of the "sensible" legislation you keep trying to shove down our throats. (Hint: It's not really "sensible" at all!)

    What it will take for a change is for the real causes of violent crime to be addressed so we can stop breeding criminals. All of that takes too much work though, it's easier to sit on your ass and propose law after law that doesn't really work, but that doesn't effect your life any.


  4. Baldr, the fact of the matter is that the gun control lobby fought a long and hard war against the gun rights lobby, and it lost. Even with a Democratic POTUS and the a Democratic majority in Congress there was no new gun legislation, but rather an expansion of gun rights.

    Now, with the economy getting worse every day, the primary concern of the American people is creating jobs and fixing the economy. They don't give a shit about those Republican boogeymen—the deficit, taxes or gays—and they certainly don't give a shit about the Democratic boogeyman of guns.

    It's just not on their radar as a priority.

  5. Also, passing any new gun control legislation would absolutely doom Obama to a one-term presidency and virtually guarantee a Republican in the white house next, which would have far-reaching, disastrous results. I'm not ready to have that party of hypocrites and bumbling fools running shit again, so please stop trying to destroy President Obama :)

  6. "Would bringing up the issue of gun violence have been "dancing in the blood of victims" as some pro-gun people have written? "

    Naw, but it probably would have been political suicide. The pro-gun side has the votes and the facts. Obama's not stupid.

  7. Thank you Baldr for posting my article. You are so right about that moment when the President said the Tucson shooting gives us "pause"...Like you, I was waiting on the edge of my chair thinking he was going to say something relevant. But as expected, he went on to discuss "political behavior". What a disappointment. The world was watching, and he offered no solutions to a tragedy that had the world shaking their heads at us. Keep talking Baldr. Thank you, Shikha

  8. It's time to change the focus of our conversation about guns and gun violence in this country. You are doing a great job of it and I'm doing my best as well. The time for apathy has passed. The time for action is now.

  9. @Japete:
    Action without results is a waste of energy.

    If we want results, we have to get our hands dirty and address the REAL causes of violent firearm-related crime... Like THIS group does:

    Unlike the other anti-gun rights CeaseFire groups, Cease Fire Chicago focuses on the REAL causes of violent crime. They don't sit back and suggest useless ineffective gun control laws, they get right into the thick of things and interrupt violence before it happens, and they have a provable track record of reducing violent crime significantly and consistently in areas where they're involved.

    THAT'S the real CeaseFire organization. CeaseFire Oregon is just a sham like the Brady Campaign - all talk, no proven results.


  10. Orygunner, I already tried showing Baldr the success that Chicago has had by using direct intervention that focuses on, you know, the people actually doing the shooting.


    I guess he wasn't impressed, because he never replied to my email.

    The things that actually reduce homicide involve going into these communities where homicide is concentrated and working with the drug and gang leaders that drive homicide rates. But that's HARD WORK, and most people don't want to bother doing that.

    The saying "gun control is what you do instead of something" comes to mind.

  11. Orygunner, I think that is a very interesting program you've linked to. I hope to look into it further. If they are as successful as they say, then I think they are on to something. Here in my area, I am loosely associated with other organizations which apparently do similar things, going into neighborhoods and working to reduce crime on the streets with 1-on-1 contact, organizations that work with the homeless and those in poverty to relieve stresses that lead to violence, and a great organization called Sponsors which works with ex-cons to re-adjust them to society and reduces recidivism.

    However, approaching from that end, with the potential criminals, is just one part of an overall successful program. I strongly feel that it must ALSO be approached from the other end, reducing the availability of weapons to those who would mis-use them. It's not a sham to feel that way, even if you refuse to believe the results.

  12. Guav, as I just commented to Orygunner, the approach sounds sensible and successful. As the deputy chief said in the article, "We have to be open to different approaches." That doesn't mean abandoning legislative approaches, rather it means considering other approaches as well -- something I agree with very much. All of those I know with similar philosophies as mine are in agreement as well.

    Like I told Orygunner, I'm involved in similar approaches here. I'm not opposed to the HARD WORK you mention. And your comment about "gun control is what you do instead of something" is merely a smear.

  13. @Baldr: What results?

    All I have seen you suggest is loose correlations on a couple charts you posted here on your blog. Limited data showing correlation does not prove causation. Where's the proof?

    Where has ANY of the gun control laws you support ever been proven to reduce violent firearm-related crime?

    Now what exactly do you mean "loosely" associated with these local organizations that work to reduce crime in our area? Not sure what I would be able to do to help, but I might be interested in getting involved. (I do just live over here in Springfield).


  14. I apologize if I have offended you, it's not my intent.

    But the CDC conducted a sweeping federal review of 51 published studies about the effectiveness of gun-control laws—including bans on specified firearms or ammunition, restrictions on firearm acquisition, waiting periods, registration and licensing of firearm owners, concealed weapon carry laws and combinations of firearms laws—and found insufficient evidence for the effectiveness of any of the firearms laws on violent outcomes. I know of no study that has established that gun control laws significantly reduce firearm violence. If you do, please post them.

    It is with that in mind that I say "Gun control is what you do instead of something." Something that works, that is. I'm not trying to smear you. I have no doubt that you genuinely desire to reduce firearm violence. But insisting on pushing for more of the legislation that has not been proven to be effective in the past seems irrational to me.

  15. @ Orygunner: Well hello, neighbor. Given your call name, I figured you were an Oregonian. By "loose" association I mean that I have volunteered with and fundraised for organizations here, such as ShelterCare, United Way, CASA of Lane County, Willamette Family Inc., Womenspace, Eugene Mission, Looking Glass, and Birth-to-Three, among others, but not an official member or full volunteer. If you wish to volunteer, they're always a phone call away. Here is a good site, via United Way, where you can find opportunities to volunteer:

    As for the studies, I've cited a lot on this blog, including peer-reviewed publications in medical journals, with statistically-significant correlations. If they don't meet your criteria after that, then I'd say you'll never be satisfied.

  16. The "peer-reviewed publications in medical journals, with statistically-significant correlations" you posted were in relation to whether or not owning a gun made you more or less likely to be killed by a firearm, not whether or not gun control laws were effective in lowering crime rates.

    There are states that have passed restrictive gun control laws. There are also states that have relaxed gun control laws. If gun control laws positively impacted crime rates, it should be fairly easy for the gun control lobby to show how crime significantly shrank when places like NY, Chicago and DC all but banned handguns, and to show how crime skyrocketed as other states allowed citizens to carry concealed weapons in public.

    To measure the impact of gun control laws, one must look at crime trends before and after the passing or easing of such laws and note the effects, if any. To my knowledge, there is no data whatsoever to suggest that gun availability/gun control is the primary driving factor behind crime rates one way or the other.

  17. @Baldr,

    Actually, I've seen you post links to information that claims correlations between guns and crime, but nothing that shows an actual decrease in violent firearm-related crime after gun control is introduced. Do you have the links to any studies that show that?


  18. Oh, and a year after the CDC's review, the National Academy of Sciences reviewed 253 journal articles, 99 books and 43 government publications evaluating 80 gun-control measures. Researchers could not identify a single firearm regulation that reduced violent crime, suicide or accidents.

  19. Guav, regarding your last comment, is this *your* take on their results or do you have a reference to the NAS interpretation of those papers?

  20. Showing trends before and after gun control legislation for specific areas or states is a reasonable analysis to make. I think this will need a separate post to address, though.

  21. I am NOT a member of this group.
    There are "gun purchase" regulations in EVERY state.
    To own a rifle bought through a dealer, you MUST be 18, fill out a Federal form 4473, and pass a Federal criminal background check.
    To own a pistol bought throuh a dealer, you must be 21, fill out the 4473 and pass the same background check.
    TO CARRY A PISTOL, you have to also (in most states) pass a FBI criminal back ground check, take a weapons safety course, and prove you know how to use the weapon safely.
    UNFORTUNATLY, the "shooter" did ALL these things.
    Also unfortunatly, the system failed.
    He was showing signs of mental unstability long before he started shooting and the area police KNEW this.
    BUT BECAUSE HE WAS NOT ADJUDICANTED (JUDGED) MENTALLY UNSOUND (as required by law and which is a disqualifier to purchase ANY weapon legally), he was able to purchase his weapon.

  22. Hope this helps... in case Guav could not get it for you. Look for the bottom half for a free executive summary to decide if you think the $40 is worth it.


  23. I've never made any secret of my lack of enthusiasm for the president of the Democrats, but he clearly took the smart course last night.

    This country has a great many important problems it needs to work on, and screwing around with additional ineffectual infringements on that which shall not be infringed ain't gonna solve them.

    Actually, in light of the projected $1.5 trillion deficit for the year, it's especially gratifying to see that the administration is looking at BATFE funding cuts:

    At the department's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, OMB had proposed, in a document drafted just before Christmas, a cut of 3.5% from what the agency is likely to spend this year, and a 12.7% cut from what the agency had said it needed. ATF officials therefore spent weeks deliberating whether to scale back Operation Gunrunner, part of the Obama administration's effort to attack Mexican drug cartels by cracking down on gunrunning along the southwest border.

    Sic 'em, boys!

  24. Oh, that was my summary. In their words:

    The committee found that answers to some of the most pressing questions cannot be addressed with existing data and research methods, however well designed. For example, despite a large body of research, the committee found no credible evidence that the passage of right-to-carry laws decreases or increases violent crime, and there is almost no empirical evidence that the more than 80 prevention programs focused on gun-related violence have had any effect on children’s behavior, knowledge, attitudes, or beliefs about firearms.


    In summary, the committee concludes that existing research studies and data include a wealth of descriptive information on homicide, suicide, and firearms, but, because of the limitations of existing data and methods, do not credibly demonstrate a causal relationship between the ownership of firearms and the causes or prevention of criminal violence or suicide.


    The evidence to date does not adequately indicate either the sign or the magnitude of a causal link between the passage of right-to-carry laws and crime rates.

    In the interest of fairness, it should be noted that just because both the CDC's and NAS's extensive reviews failed to find evidence of a causal link between firearm availability/restrictions and crime/homicide/suicide rates does not mean that there is not one—but if there is a conclusive link, nobody has yet been able to find or demonstrate it.

    Unless such a thing occurs, it is accurate for me to say that gun control has not been shown to reduce gun crime rates, and unfortunately, it is inaccurate for you to claim that it has.

  25. Anonymous: Technically speaking, Loughner did not acquire his weapon legally. He had to have lied on the ATF form 4473 where it asks "Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, or narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?" Answering "yes" automatically disqualifies you from purchasing the firearm, and we know that Loughner was described as a “pothead” and was rejected by the US Army because of his admitted marijuana addiction. So he had to have lied on the form, and in the process committed a federal felony.

  26. Zorroy, if I'm reading this right, you're celebrating the fact that the ATF is getting less money to prevent illegal gunrunning of weapons to the drug cartels in Mexico? And you guys question MY priorities!

  27. Thanks, Guav. I'll need to check out that publication.

  28. @Baldr: The flow of weapons to Mexico is frankly, not our problem and not our responsibility.

    Their BIGGER problem is the flow of weapons from ELSEWHERE because that is where they are getting the fully automatic assault rifles and grenades, which are extremely difficult to buy legally in the US so they get them from other sources in other countries. There may be some semi-automatic rifles and other guns making their way across the border, but it's a very small percentage of guns that are being seized (IIRC, around 13%?).

    Perhaps if Mexico didn't want all those guns smuggled in, they should tighten their borders.

    And I would like to see those armed tax collectors (The ATF) shut down completely. They do no good for our society and have screwed up far too many people's lives.


  29. Orygunner, the flow of weapons to Mexico IS our problem. 90% of guns that have been successfully traced came from the U.S. These guns are used to arm the drug cartels fighting Mexican law enforcement and military in Mexico. Obviously, this aids the drug cartels in continuing to process and sell drugs to the U.S.

    It's true that this percentage is for guns that are successfully traced, and does not include weapons that are clearly made outside of the U.S. such as fully-automatic rifles or grenades, for instance. I had heard 17% were U.S. sourced. But that 17% accounts for many thousands of weapons, and that's only those that have been traced -- likely many more have not either been submitted for tracing and have not been captured.

    Tightening borders is a good thing, but must be done in addition to other measures.

    Clearly I have more faith in the ATF to safeguard our interests and welfare.

  30. @Baldr, (for some reasons my notifications have stopped when these threads are updated)

    Yes, that's 17% of the overall number. The ones not submitted for tracing were obviously not of US Origin.

    I also haven't seen any mention of what percentage of guns seized were related to drug cartel activity, and how many were seized in other investigated crimes. I have heard that many Mexican citizens violate gun laws and try to keep firearms for self-defense, and that many Mexican nationals that go home to visit carry US-purchased handguns with them when they go back.

    The Cartels are using fully automatic firearms, why would they want semi-autos when they can get the real assault rifles?

    And how, again, is this OUR problem? If the Mexican government wants guns from the US to stop entering their country, THEY should tighten THEIR border. I don't see anyone here blaming Mexico for our drug smuggling problem or for the illegal aliens that come from their country.


  31. That's probably because you've never heard of them throwing an innocent man in jail for doing the right thing, yet still unknowingly selling to an illegal alien, while the illegal alien and strawman purchaser walks free:

    Or maybe the case of a guy loaning his legal AR-15 to a friend, who experienced a mechanical malfunction resulting in a multiple discharge, and who was then imprisoned for illegally transferring a "machine gun":

    Just a couple of examples I know about off the top of my head, but they don't exactly inspire any confidence in the BATF. I (and many other law abiding gun owners worried about their Gestapo tactics) won't shed any tears if their funding gets reduced, they never get a director, and they eventually go the way of the dinosaurs. They don't do anything the FBI couldn't do better and more professionally anyway.

  32. Baldr, I'm glad that you qualified that by admitting that the number is only for guns traced and doesn't include those clearly made outside the US. You are forgetting though, that the US government does sell guns to other countries. So, just because a traced gun has a US origin, doesn't mean it came to Mexico directly from the US, further diluting that number.

    This is not the problem people make it out to be.

  33. The 17% represents 5,114 weapons, to be exact. The majority of firearms recovered at Mexican crime scenes come from China, Russia, Israel, Spain, Korea, Guatemala and the Mexican Army itself, not the US.

    You really want to slash the homicide rate both here and in Mexico? Put your time and energy toward legalizing drugs, not restricting firearms :)

  34. Don't forget the slaughter at the Branch Davidian ranch in Waco, TX and the Weaver family at Ruby Ridge.



    Those are just the biggest high-profile cases.
    There's more:

    I am amazed that someone can know what these armed tax collectors have done and not only believe they should continue, but want them to have MORE money.


  35. Good luck getting drugs legalized, Guav, other than maybe medical marijuana.

  36. I didn't say it was realistic ... but it would be a hell of a lot more effective in saving lives, on many levels.