Monday, July 30, 2012

"Outgunned By Cowardice"

The following is a re-post of a limerick, by one of my favorite political poets, Madeleine Begun Kane, which can be found at her blog, HERE.  Thank you for your insights, Mad!  (I've added the cartoon)

"Outgunned By Cowardice"
by Madeleine Begun Kane

Both Obama and Mitt are distressed,
By the movie house murders depressed.
But those gun lobby fears
Beget action-free tears:
Tighten gun control? Surely you jest!


Thursday, July 26, 2012

At Last, the President Calls For Stricter Gun Regulation

Yesterday, in a speech to the Urban League meeting in New Orleans, President Obama finally called for stricter regulation of guns to keep them out of the hands of criminals, for stronger background checks, and against assault rifles.  We have mass shootings multiple times a month, now.  They have grown more common and more deadly, so the sooner he can help enact legislation the better.

Here is a video of a large portion of that speech:

Here is a transcript of a portion of his speech, which includes the part from the video above, from the White House website (go to link for the full speech):
Now, I've got to say that I recognize we are in political season.  But the Urban League understands that your mission transcends politics.  Good jobs, quality schools, affordable health care, affordable housing -- these are all the pillars upon which communities are built.  And yet, we've been reminded recently that all this matters little if these young people can't walk the streets of their neighborhood safely; if we can't send our kids to school without worrying they might get shot; if they can't go to the movies without fear of violence lurking in the shadows.  (Applause.) 
Our hearts break for the victims of the massacre in Aurora.  (Applause.)  We pray for those who were lost and we pray for those who loved them.  We pray for those who are recovering with courage and with hope.  And we also pray for those who succumb to the less-publicized acts of violence that plague our communities in so many cities across the country every single day.  (Applause.)  We can't forget about that.      
Every day -- in fact, every day and a half, the number of young people we lose to violence is about the same as the number of people we lost in that movie theater.  For every Columbine or Virginia Tech, there are dozens gunned down on the streets of Chicago and Atlanta, and here in New Orleans.  For every Tucson or Aurora, there is daily heartbreak over young Americans shot in Milwaukee or Cleveland.  Violence plagues the biggest cities, but it also plagues the smallest towns.  It claims the lives of Americans of different ages and different races, and it’s tied together by the fact that these young people had dreams and had futures that were cut tragically short.

And when there is an extraordinarily heartbreaking tragedy like the one we saw, there's always an outcry immediately after for action.  And there’s talk of new reforms, and there’s talk of new legislation.  And too often, those efforts are defeated by politics and by lobbying and eventually by the pull of our collective attention elsewhere.  
But what I said in the wake of Tucson was we were going to stay on this, persistently.  So we’ve been able to take some actions on our own, recognizing that it’s not always easy to get things through Congress these days.  The background checks conducted on those looking to purchase firearms are now more thorough and more complete.  Instead of just throwing more money at the problem of violence, the federal government is now in the trenches with communities and schools and law enforcement and faith-based institutions, with outstanding mayors like Mayor Nutter and Mayor Landrieu -- recognizing that we are stronger when we work together.  
So in cities like New Orleans, we’re partnering with local officials to reduce crime, using best practices.  And in places like Boston and Chicago, we’ve been able to help connect more young people to summer jobs so that they spend less time on the streets.  In cities like Detroit and Salinas, we’re helping communities set up youth prevention and intervention programs that steer young people away from a life of gang violence, and towards the safety and promise of a classroom.  
But even though we’ve taken these actions, they’re not enough.  Other steps to reduce violence have been met with opposition in Congress.  This has been true for some time -- particularly when it touches on the issues of guns.  And I, like most Americans, believe that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual the right to bear arms.  And we recognize the traditions of gun ownership that passed on from generation to generation -– that hunting and shooting are part of a cherished national heritage.    
But I also believe that a lot of gun owners would agree that AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of criminals -- (applause) -- that they belong on the battlefield of war, not on the streets of our cities.  I believe the majority of gun owners would agree that we should do everything possible to prevent criminals and fugitives from purchasing weapons; that we should check someone’s criminal record before they can check out a gun seller; that a mentally unbalanced individual should not be able to get his hands on a gun so easily.  (Applause.)  These steps shouldn’t be controversial.  They should be common sense.  
So I’m going to continue to work with members of both parties, and with religious groups and with civic organizations, to arrive at a consensus around violence reduction -- not just of gun violence, but violence at every level, on every step, looking at everything we can do to reduce violence and keep our children safe -– from improving mental health services for troubled youth  -- (applause) -- to instituting more effective community policing strategies.  We should leave no stone unturned, and recognize that we have no greater mission as a country than keeping our young people safe.  (Applause.) 
And as we do so, as we convene these conversations, let’s be clear:  Even as we debate government’s role, we have to understand that when a child opens fire on another child, there’s a hole in that child’s heart that government alone can't fill.  (Applause.)  It’s up to us, as parents and as neighbors and as teachers and as mentors, to make sure our young people don’t have that void inside them.  
It’s up to us to spend more time with them, to pay more attention to them, to show them more love so that they learn to love themselves -- (applause) -- so that they learn to love one another, so that they grow up knowing what it is to walk a mile in somebody else’s shoes and to view the world through somebody else’s eyes.  It’s up to us to provide the path toward a life worth living; toward a future that holds greater possibility than taking offense because somebody stepped on your sneakers. 
That’s the difference that we can make in our children’s lives and in the lives of our communities.  That’s the legacy we must leave for the next generation.  (Applause.)  

Thank you, Mr. President, for standing up for commonsense legislation.  Now, let's turn your words of support into action.  We'll do everything we can to support you in your endeavor to make a new trajectory for our communities away from gun violence.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Michael Moore on Gun Violence in the U.S. In Light Of The Recent Aurora Mass Shooting

(image from a previous interview)
Last night, Michael Moore was interviewed on the Piers Morgan Show, regarding gun violence in the United States.  As always, I enjoyed very much the discussion, as Michael Moore has a way of getting to the heart of the issue and is never shy about blaming both sides of the political aisle for idiotic thinking.  The same day, Moore had an article at the Huffington Post Politics blog which had much the same message as what he had to say on the Piers Morgan Show.

(Slight tangent:  The previous night, Piers Morgan interviewed pro-gun advocate John Lott, Jr., and the civil liberties lawyer and legal scholar, Alan Dershowitz.  That debate was awful, if you could call it a “debate.”  Though I agree with many of Dershowitz’s and Morgan’s views and disagree with Lott’s (who, I feel, is dangerously misleading people with extrapolated data on the value of having concealed weapons in public, in contrast to every other researcher in the field), Dershowitz and Morgan were very disrespectful, basically shouting down Lott and refusing to let him speak – even belittling him.  I say let Lott speak his mind.  From what I’ve seen and read, his arguments are easy to refute in reasoned debate.  This sort of “interview” is the reason I don’t normally watch the Piers Morgan show, or others like it.  Far be it for me to defend the pro-gun folks, but Lott’s reaction to this disrespectful behavior was more tolerant and kind than I would have been in his shoes.  Anyhow, back to Michael Moore….  )

As you may recall, Moore made the award-winning documentary, “Bowling for Columbine” in 2002, which was about gun violence in America, with a focus on the 1999 mass shooting at Columbine High School.  That documentary has now celebrated a 10-year anniversary.  Sadly, very little positive change has been made to gun regulation in America.  In fact, gun laws have been significantly relaxed since then in many ways.  Not surprisingly, massacres like that in Columbine and Aurora have been steadily increasing in frequency, and, despite all the consoling words from politicians after each one, almost none of them have tried to enact any legislation aimed at stopping the next one.

In both the interview and in the HuffPost article, Moore poses a very important question: why is it America leads the advanced nations in gun-related deaths?  From the article (bolding and italics not added):
But here's the difference between the rest of the world and us: We have two Auroras that take place every single day of every single year! At least 24 Americans every day (8-9,000 a year) are killed by people with guns – and that doesn't count the ones accidentally killed by guns or who commit suicide with a gun. Count them and you can triple that number to over 25,000.  
That means the United States is responsible for over 80 percent of all the gun deaths in the 23 richest countries combined. Considering that the people of those countries, as human beings, are no better or worse than any of us, well, then, why us? 

He goes on to point out the huge gulf between other advanced nations and our, in terms of numbers of people shot to death.  Fewer than 20 in Japan, for instance, and around 200 in Germany.  Canada has only around 180.  America: tens of thousands.

In most countries, even a relatively “small” mass shooting, with just three or four victims, is headline news and worthy of debate in their parliaments.  Here, you’re lucky to find it on page 2 of the local paper, and forget about politicians actually proposing solutions.  Hell, even the shooting of a fellow congresswoman, Gabby Giffords, failed to enact any new legislation.  If anything, Arizona, the state in which the shooting occurred, has become even more lax than before.

In nearly every other way, our culture is just as violent as those other nations’.  Moore points out that we have similar histories of attacking other countries and genocides.  Our kids watch the same violent movies, play the same violent video games, and listen to the same music with awful lyrics.  Rates of divorce are comparable if not less problematic than them.  From the article:

They'll say it's the violent movies and video games that are responsible. Last time I checked, the movies and video games in Japan are more violent than ours – and yet usually fewer than 20 people a year are killed there with guns – and in 2006 the number was two!  
Others will say it's the number of broken homes that lead to all this killing. I hate to break this to you, but there are almost as many single-parent homes in the U.K. as there are here – and yet, in Great Britain, there are usually fewer than 40 gun murders a year.  
People like me will say this is all the result of the U.S. having a history and a culture of men with guns, "cowboys and Indians," "shoot first and ask questions later." And while it is true that the mass genocide of the Native Americans set a pretty ugly model to found a country on, I think it's safe to say we're not the only ones with a violent past or a penchant for genocide. Hello, Germany! That's right I'm talking about you and your history, from the Huns to the Nazis, just loving a good slaughter (as did the Japanese, and the British who ruled the world for hundreds of years – and they didn't achieve that through planting daisies). And yet in Germany, a nation of 80 million people, there are only around 200 gun murders a year. 

So what’s the difference? 

I would point out here that those other countries have far more regulation of guns to keep them from getting into the wrong hands, as he had demonstrated so very well in “Bowling for Columbine.”  But Moore doesn’t stop there.  He points out two other factors in his article:  “We Americans are incredibly good killers,” what with our international invasion strategies, and “We are an easily frightened people and it is easy to manipulate us with fear.”  If you doubt that last point, just look at the surge in gun sales since the Aurora shooting.  The NRA loves to manipulate our fear.

Oh, and Moore points out a third reason that he feels separates us from those other countries:  simple lack of caring, real caring, for our fellow citizens.  From the Piers Morgan interview:

"We have to see that we're a part of each other, and we have to take care of each other. The reason why they have universal health care in Canada and Britain, these other places? Because they believe if one suffers, everybody suffers," he tells the "Piers Morgan Tonight" host. "That is not our mentality, our mentality is 'I got mine, you get yours, and the hell with everybody else.'"

It’s the image of the rugged, individual manly American with a gun strapped to his side, handling his own problems and leaving yours alone – from John Wayne to Bruce Willis, isn’t that the image projected in the movies?  The only time they care to help others is through violent vigilantism.  Isn’t that how the gun nuts like to see themselves

To me, that’s just selfishness.  “No man is an Island.”  With the exception of a few loonies out there living “off the grid” in cabins and writing their manifestos, we all rely on each other to have a civil society.  It’s time to act like it.  It’s time to be “involved in mankind.”  Instead of reaching for the gun to solve our problems and keeping it loaded at all times, let’s instead reach for the door of our local non-profits and actually give of our time and money to worthy causes that help people with the issues that lead to crime, like poverty and mental problems, support our government and police programs that protect our safety, and call for meaningful restrictions of weapons to keep them out of the hands of those we aren't able to help.  I do all of those things, in every way I can.  I demand that our legislators and our President do the same.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Statement from Ceasefire Oregon: Reinstate the Assault Weapons Ban

Ceasefire Oregon
A statement from Ceasefire Oregon, regarding the mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado, and assault weapons:

Ceasefire Oregon extends our deepest sympathies to the families of the victims and survivors of the mass shootings in Aurora, Colorado. To subject anyone to that horror is unconscionable. Today, our supporters are wearing red armbands to show our support and solidarity with those victims and with all victims of gun violence throughout the country.

James Holmes bought 6,000 rounds of ammunition by mail and unleashed some in a crowded theater in Aurora at the rate of 60 shots a minute, killing 12 people and wounding 58 others in a matter of minutes. With his assault weapon he used a 100-round magazine. We are sure that the survivors appreciate President Obama’s prayers and sympathy. But he needs to do more.

The sole purpose of assault weapons is to kill as many people as possible very quickly. The Tucson shooter was tackled when he stopped to reload; Holmes fired his assault weapon until the magazine jammed. Anyone who thinks that armed citizens firing their own weapons at Holmes’s battle armor in the darkened, smoke-filled theater full of panic would have saved lives just isn’t thinking straight. 

Right now, in this country, the best we can hope for is a law that bans assault weapons and large-capacity magazines. At least make them stop to reload. Give us a chance.

Ceasefire Oregon calls on both presidential candidates—Barack Obama and Mitt Romney—to speak out now, unequivocally, in support of immediate reinstatement of the ban on assault weapons and large capacity gun magazines. The men, women, and children who died scrambling to protect each other even as they fled Holmes’s murderous barrage showed the kind of courage our leaders need to emulate. It is time to stand up to the NRA and protect Americans by removing assault weapons from the marketplace.

Reinstate the assault weapons ban. Now. Before another domestic terrorist guns down our loved ones.

Image of protest from today, outside the Portland Convention Center

RELATED: An Associated Press news report about today's protest.

(image taken from HERE)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

David S. Cariens: Now Suburban Denver: When Is The Right Time?

The following is a guest blog post from David S. Cariens, Jr., a retired CIA Intelligence officer who is the author of a book, A Question of Accountability: The Murder of Angela Dales, which examines the 2002 Appalachian School of Law shooting of the mother of Cariens' granddaughter in Virginia.  Mr. Cariens is also the author of an anti-gun violence blog, A Sense of Security, which examines the issue of gun violence in the United States, especially when it comes to school and university shootings, like Virginia Tech.  

The posting below is a cross-post from A Sense of Security, with his permission:

Following the Tuscon shooting that killed six and seriously wounded 12 others including Representative Gabriele Giffords, members of the Brady Campaign asked to meet with House Majority Leader John Boehner to discuss ways to curb gun violence. Boehner said that “now is not the right time.” On the fifth anniversary of the Virginia Tech shooting Brady Campaign officials asked for a meeting with La. Sen. Vitter to discuss a bill he had introduced making it easier for the mentally ill to buy guns. Vitter was too busy.

Congressman Boehner isn’t too busy to visit tanning booths and Vitter found time to frequent New Orleans prostitutes.

Now we have 12 dead and 58 wounded in a movie theater in suburban Denver. So when is the right time to discuss ways to keep guns out of the hands of convicted felons, convicted domestic abusers, terrorists, and mentally ill people who are a threat to themselves and others?

The guns rights advocates’ assault on the First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and dialogue with elected officials has been blistering and deadly. With rare exception, politicians are so afraid of the National Rifle Association they won’t even talk to people looking for ways to curb this epidemic of violence.

Following the massacre at Virginia Tech, a UCLA Professor Douglas Kellner monitored coverage on the Sunday news shows on all the major networks. The results debunked claims of liberal media bias. What he found was a feeding frenzy of right wing, pro-gun advocates. Only one gun control advocate spoke, and that was just for a few moments on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

So, when will our elected officials respect the First Amendment as much as they fear the Second? When will they engage in a dialogue?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

This Is How The Colorado Shooter Was Armed -- And Sadly It Was All Legal

When you picture someone who is dressed and armed for self-defense and conceal carry, what do you picture?  I picture someone dressed normal, except for a handgun strapped under their jacket or in a holster at their waist or in their purse.

When you picture someone who is dressed and armed for hunting, what do you picture?  I picture someone in rugged outdoor clothes, a hunter-red vest and hat, and a long rifle.

From the Denver Post online.
When you see the picture to the right, does this fit either of those images?

To the gun lobby, this picture is an image of "freedom" and self-defense.

James Eagon Holmes, the young man who opened fire on a crowded theater of men, women, and children, who killed 12, wounded another 58, and terrorized hundreds, and who set booby trap bombs all over his apartment, was dressed and armed like this, according to an article in the Denver Post today.

From the article (I've added bolding):
He also came dressed for battle, wearing a gas mask, a combat helmet, a ballistic vest and armor protecting his legs, throat and groin.
Law enforcement officials said Friday that they are investigating whether James Eagan Holmes, the 24-year-old suspect, was legally eligible to own all those weapons and combat gear. But they had found no evidence of a criminal history that would have prohibited him from buying the weapons used to massacre moviegoers at a midnight Batman premiere in Aurora.
His only run-in with police: an October 2011 speeding ticket.
Aurora Police Chief Daniel Oates said Holmes brought a pair of .40-caliber Glock pistols, an AR-15 military-style rifle and a Remington shotgun to the Century Aurora 16 complex, but it was unclear whether he used them all as he strode through the theater, shooting people apparently at random. One Glock pistol was found in his white Hyundai when police arrested him outside the car, he said. Oates said Holmes purchased 6,000 rounds of ammunition and multiple magazines, including a drum magazine able to hold 100 cartridges, from stores and on the Internet.
Oates also said investigators have not yet determined how many shots were fired or how many gun magazines were brought to the theater to carry out the midnight massacre.
But "many, many rounds were fired," he said.
According to one law enforcement source, the gunman could easily have shot police officers as they approached because of all his combat gear but sat calmly by his car instead.
The AR-15 is a semi-automatic version of the military M-16 rifle, first marketed for civilian sales in 1963.
Glock, an Austrian gunmaker, has become the leading seller of semi-automatic pistols to U.S. law enforcement agencies and offers a variety of .40-caliber pistols to civilians as well.
The Remington Model 870 is a U.S.-made pump-action shotgun used by the public for sport shooting and hunting and is often carried by law enforcement and military personnel.

Holmes purchased all of his weapons legally, passing background checks, and purchased the thousands of rounds of ammo online.

What do you think of when you see that image?  I think of military special forces or SWAT teams.  Yet everything he wore or was armed with was completely legal to purchase and possess in America.  In some places, such as Arizona, where unlicensed "open carry" is allowed, you can walk down the street dressed and armed this way, and there's not a thing the police can do to stop you.

Is this the cost of our "freedoms," as the NRA defines them?

It's time to put a limit on what dangerous people are able to buy in the United States.  It's time to re-instate the Assault Weapons Ban, prohibit high-capacity ammo clips, and better regulate large sales of ammunition and weaponry.

ADDENDUM:  For details about the guns used, see this article at The Truth About Guns blog.

UPDATE (8/5/12):  To the right is another graphic from a National Post article, which better illustrates the armament and ballistic equipment used by the shooter.

Response To The Aurora, Colorado Shooting, From The President

President Obama had some thoughtful words on the shooting in Aurora, Colorado.

HERE is video:

HERE is the transcript:

As many of you know, early on Friday, at least twelve people were killed when a gunman opened fire at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado.  Dozens more are being treated for injuries at local hospitals.  Some of the victims are being treated at a children’s hospital. 
We are still gathering all the facts about what happened, but we do know that the police have one suspect in custody.  And the federal government stands ready to do everything necessary to bring whoever’s responsible for this heinous crime to justice.  We will take every step possible to ensure the safety of all our people.  And we will stand by our neighbors in Colorado during this extraordinarily difficult time.
Even as we come to learn how this happened and who’s responsible, we may never understand what leads anyone to terrorize their fellow human beings.  Such evil is senseless – beyond reason.  But while we will never know fully what causes someone to take the life of another, we do know what makes that life worth living. 
The people we lost in Aurora loved, and were loved.  They were mothers and fathers; husbands and wives; sisters and brothers; sons and daughters; friends and neighbors.  They had hopes for the future and dreams that were not yet fulfilled.  And if there’s anything to take away from this tragedy, it’s a reminder that life is fragile.  Our time here is limited and it is precious.  And what matters in the end are not the small and trivial things which often consume our lives.  It’s how we choose to treat one another, and love one another.  It’s what we do on a daily basis to give our lives meaning and to give our lives purpose.  That’s what matters.  That’s why we’re here.
I’m sure many of you who are parents had the same reaction I did when you first heard this news: what if it had been my daughters at the theater, doing what young children enjoy doing every day?  Michelle and I will be fortunate enough to hug our girls a little tighter this weekend, as I’m sure you will do with your children.  But for those parents who may not be so fortunate, we need to embrace them and let them know we will be there for them as a nation.
This weekend I hope everyone takes some time for prayer and reflection – for the victims of this terrible tragedy, for the people who knew them and loved them, for those who are still struggling to recover, and for all the victims of the less publicized acts of violence that plague our communities on a daily basis.  Let us keep all these Americans in our prayers.  And to the people of Aurora, may the Lord bring you comfort and healing in the hard days to come.

The President will be visiting the location of the shooting on Sunday.

So far, he has not indicated in any way whether he will propose any solutions to keep this from happening again or take part in such conversations.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Over 30 National, State, and Local Gun Violence Prevention Groups Issue Statement On Colorado Mass Shooting

Below is a statement about the Aurora, Colorado mass shooting, put out by the Violence Policy Center and signed by 30 different gun violence prevention organizations, in solidarity, including Ceasefire Oregon.

Washington, DC--Following today's mass shooting at a Colorado movie theater leaving at least 12 dead and dozens wounded, national, state, and local gun violence prevention organizations (see list at bottom) issued the following joint statement:

“Our deepest sympathies go to all those affected by this terrible tragedy.

"Today's mass shooting is the price paid in death, pain, and suffering by families and communities for an out-of-control, militarized gun industry that prides itself on selling increasingly lethal products to virtually anyone with little concern for the inevitable tragedies that result.  In America today--where virtually anyone with a credit card and a grudge can outfit their own personal army--mass shootings are as predictable as they are tragic.  Just as predictably, those who celebrate this lethal shift--the NRA and its gun industry partners--remain mute when families and communities suffer the consequences.  And when attention fades, they'll once again resume their lethal trade, unless we stand together as Americans to stop them. 

Gun violence is preventable.  It is long past time for policymakers at all levels to act.  Americans have a right to feel safe in their communities--in schools, restaurants, movie theaters, and all public places.  Using the cynical desires of the gun lobby and firearms industry as an excuse for inaction is shameful." 

National Organizations

Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and its national network of chapters
Coalition to Stop Gun Violence
Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence
States United to Prevent Gun Violence
Violence Policy Center

State and Local Organizations

Arizonans for Gun Safety
Women Against Gun Violence (California)
Ceasefire Maryland
Ceasefire New Jersey (a project of the Coalition for Peace Action)
Colorado Ceasefire
Connecticut Against Gun Violence Education Fund
Georgians for Gun Safety
Gun Violence Prevention Center of Utah
Hawaii Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence
Hoosiers Concerned About Gun Violence
Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence
Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence
Stop Handgun Violence (Massachusetts)
Northland Brady Chapter (Minnesota)
Million Mom March, Richmond, VA chapter
New Yorkers Against Gun Violence
North Carolinians Against Gun Violence
Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence
Lance Orchid, National Organizing Director, Gun Violence Prevention
ProgressNow Colorado
Protect Minnesota
Maria Roach, New Organizing Institute, Gun Violence Prevention Senior Fellow
Virginia Center for Public Safety
Washington CeaseFire
Wisconsin Anti-Violence Educational Fund

UPDATE (7/21/12): This blog post was featured on the Rachel Maddow Show.  We would like to thank the RMS for their airing of this important statement on this sad and preventable tragedy.  See timestamp 5:40 at this link:

A Statement On The Aurora Movie Theater Mass Shooting, From The Coalition To Stop Gun Violence

The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence has released a statement about last night's mass shooting in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, at a "Batman" movie premiere, by a shooter named James Holmes.  I don't think I could say it better than this.  

Here it is, in its entirety:

We are deeply saddened by today’s tragic events in Colorado. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the victims, those who were injured, and everyone traumatized by this senseless act of violence.  
Reports indicate that the shooter, 24-year-old James Holmes wore body armor and was armed with two Glock handguns, a tactical shotgun, and an AR-15 style assault rifle. He also released some type of chemical gas into the theater during the massacre. 12 fatalities have been reported so far, with approximately 38 moviegoers injured, including 16 critically.  
Sadly, there is nothing novel about this tragedy. It is yet another massacre perpetuated by a homicidal maniac who was given easy access to lethal, military-style firepower.  
The pro-gun movement has told us that bloodbaths like Aurora are the price we must pay to guarantee freedom and individual liberty in the United States. Rational Americans should reject such radical ideology and demand immediate reform of our gun laws.  
The truth is that there is no greater threat to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” than the wanton gun violence that continues to destroy American families and communities. Until our legislators stand up to the extreme leadership of the National Rifle Association and enact laws to assure the thorough screening of gun buyers, tragedies like Aurora will continue to haunt America. It is long past time to put public safety back on the agenda in the U.S. Congress, and in our state legislatures.

(HERE is a good page on the shooting, with constant updates, from Huffington Post.)

(a good response article from the New Yorker)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

NRA opposes changing away from lead shot which is killing wildlife

This is a re-post from my guest-blog post at Mikeb302000 blog, HERE.

California Condor.  Wingspan ~10 feet
The NRA automatically opposes any legislation of any sort that has anything to do with regulating guns and ammo.  So it's no surprise that they oppose this one.

California condors have been endangered for many decades, due to shooting and chemical toxicity.  Now they face a new toxicity threat: lead.  Like vultures, condors eat already-dead animals. Some of those animals have been killed by shooters, with the lead shot still inside their bodies.

Studies have now found that condors are dying at an alarming rate from lead toxicity.

HERE is a good article on it.  From the article:

The impact of lead poisoning on the condor population has long been debated, but a study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences provides some clarity. It shows that many condors are suffering the effects of lead poisoning, suggesting the population will continue to struggle as long as lead ammunition remains in use. 
Researchers compiled the results of over 1,100 blood samples taken from 150 California condors between 1997 and 2010. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children with blood lead levels above 450 ng/ml undergo treatment, and this is roughly the level at which the condors are taken in for treatment as well. About 20 percent of the birds sampled each year exceeded this level, and 48 percent of individuals living in the wild exceeded it at some point during the 14-year period. Blood lead levels as high as 6,100 ng/ml were seen. 
Because blood samples only provide a snapshot of lead levels, the group also analyzed feathers from 18 condors. The concentration of lead in each segment of the feather depends on the concentration in the body at the time that segment formed. That means that each feather records a few months of exposure history. From comparisons of the most recent segment to blood levels, they were able to estimate blood lead levels over the duration of the feather. 
The feathers showed that after ingesting lead, the birds’ blood concentrations exceeded 450 ng/ml for about a month. Unsurprisingly, blood samples often miss the peak lead concentrations, which were 1.4x to 14.4x higher. About 34 percent of the average feather history was higher than the level at which the condors are treated.
The Center for Biological Diversity just sent out a notice, urging their supporters to contact their legislators to put pressure on the gun industry to move away from lead shot.
Of course, the tons of lead shot into our environment each year don't just affect condors.  They affect all wildlife... and us. I grew up in Arkansas, where duck hunting is very popular.  Duck hunters routinely hunted in rice patties. Rice is a major crop in Arkansas, and they exported a large amount of their rice to Asian markets (believe it or not).  Unfortunately, the level of lead in the rice, from all that duck hunting, exceeded safe limits for those Asian countries, who then banned purchase of the rice.  Of course, us Americans were still eating it.  (I don't know how long the ban lasted or if it is still in effect).
HERE is a report put out by the Arizona Game and Fish Department, reviewing the danger of lead poisoning to California condors and giving information on non-lead bullet sources.  As the report details:
Biologists have documented over 300 instances of lead exposure in condors since testing began in 1999, with 45 to 95 percent of the condor population testing positive for lead exposure each year. ... 
Although there may be other sources of lead, a scientific study funded by the Arizona Game and Fish Department has identified lead from spent ammunition as the major source of lead in condors. Background lead from the environment does not appear to be a factor. An additional study has determined that condor lead exposure rates are highest during the fall hunting season in northern Arizona. This study also concluded that during this same time, condors spend forage heavily on the Kaibab Plateau. The Arizona Game and Fish Department is committed to reducing the amount of lead available to condors by encouraging sportsmen to take lead reduction actions when hunting in condor range. 
Condors incidentally ingest lead bullet fragments and shot remaining in game carcasses and gut piles. Fragments from lead bullets or lead shot have been found within the digestive tracts of condors 22 times in Arizona. Lead bullets fragment into hundreds of pieces before they exit a game such as a deer or coyote. Since condors are group feeders, and only one or two lead fragments or pellets can cause lead toxicity, one animal carcass or gut pile containing lead fragments or lead shot has the potential to poison several condors.
The report lists sources for non-lead ammo, and makes recommendations about minimizing effects, such as removing carcasses from access to condors.

Of course, I'm sure the NRA will label this as "junk science" and urge legislators to ignore completely.  What's a few dead condors (out of only around 200 left in the wild) compared to gun industry profits and tradition?

George Zimmerman Says That Targeting And Shooting Trayvon Martin Was "God's Plan"

George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin's shooter, was interviewed by conservative right-wing FOX pundit Sean Hannity yesterday, along with Zimmerman's lawyer.  It's highly unusual for a suspect in a high-profile murder case to be interviewed on live TV.

In the past, Zimmerman has made a public apology to Trayvon's parents.  Well, not really an apology, since he didn't express regret for his action.  He said, "I wanted to say I am sorry for the loss of your son."  That's the sort of thing an acquaintance would say to the grieving parents upon meeting them in the hallway.  There's no "I'm sorry I killed him" in there anywhere.

But tonight he was much more defiant and tried to distance himself from any decision-making leading to the shooting.  He said "it was God's plan" that the shooting happened, that he regretted nothing, and, at the end, stated, "I do wish there was something, anything I could have done that would have put me in the position where I didn’t have to take his life. And I do want to tell everyone…that I’m sorry that this happened.”

Here's a revealing clip:

Interesting.  Apparently he doesn't feel he had a choice about arming himself that night.  He feels it was "God's plan" that he defy the advice of 911 and get out of his car, stalking the teen through the apartment complex.  Apparently he does not regret shooting to death an unarmed 17-year old.  These are choices that most people would not have made.  I'd say that the other choices are "something, anything" that he could have done to keep from being in the "position where he didn't have to take a life." 

Zimmerman said in the interview, "I feel that it was all God's plan.  And for me to second guess it, or judge it, um... " [here he shakes his head]

After the interview, Trayvon's father, Tracy Martin, issued a statement: "We must worship a different God, because there’s no way my God would have wanted George Zimmerman to kill my son.”
Hannity asked Zimmerman, "Is there anything you would have done differently, in retrospect, now that time has passed a little bit?" 

"No sir," Zimmerman said, shaking his head.

Really??  If I had to kill someone in what I felt was self-defense, I would be incredibly remorseful, particularly if it were an unarmed teenager, and I would be second-guessing every step that led to it.  Even if my attacker were a giant of a man with a felony murder record, blasting an assault rifle at me, I'd still be questioning the steps that led me to be in the situation.

But not George Zimmerman, a man who used his wife to hide money from the court, who mayhave been preparing to leave the country while on bail, who is accused of molesting his cousin as a child, and who has had a number of previous violent behavior incidents, including with police and his ex-fiáncée.  He said, "I'm sorry that this happened."  But is he, really?

UPDATE (7/20/12):  A statement from Trayvon's mother, Sybrina Fulton:
"I think it's absolutely ridiculous. God did not have a plan for Trayvon to die and for George Zimmerman to shoot Trayvon for no reason," she told CNN's Soledad O'Brien on Thursday.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Should we blame shooting victims for wearing hoodies?

Trayvon Martin's hoodie, after evidence collection
Geraldo Rivera became notorious for blaming teen shooting victim, Trayvon Martin, for wearing the wrong clothing, saying that the hoodie he was wearing was what led George Zimmerman to stalk and shoot to death the unarmed boy.  Said Rivera, "I think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin's death as George Zimmerman was"

He now repeats the accusation, saying that he was right about the shooting, and that Trayvon was shot because he wore "thug wear," according to an article:
I was right about the hoodie, wasn't I? I hate to brag, but I got criticized by every pundit in America when I said that Trayvon Martin would be alive today but for the fact that he was wearing thug wear. He was wearing the hoodie.
This came up during an interview about the recent surge in Chicago shootings, wherein Rivera also criticizes black leaders for paying too much attention to the Trayvon Martin shooting and not enough attention to the Chicago shootings.

What do you think?  Should a shooting victim be blamed for the shooting because they wore the wrong clothes?

Of course not.  This argument is analogous to blaming rape victims for wearing revealing clothing.  It doesn't matter whether the shooting victims wear hoodies or khakis, black leather and chains or choir boy robes, the clothing doesn't make the victim.  It's solely the responsibility of the shooter.  And Rivera's statements are shameful and apologetic to murderers.

(image of Trayvon's hoodie taken from HERE)

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Why shouldn't suspected terrorists be banned from purchasing guns, again?

I've been asked to guest-blog over at the MikeB302000 blog for the rest of the month while Mike is on vacation.  I'm happy to do so, alongside the other bloggers there, Dog Gone and Laci.  I'm happy to do so.  I'm not going to re-post all of my posts there, but here is one I posted there today....

Reposted from MikeB302000:

I love the mental backflips the gun guys do in their opposition to putting suspected terrorists on the NICS background check prohibition list.  And then THIS happens.....

I wonder how often the authorities DON'T catch these guys.  It's incredibly -- astoundingly -- easy for would-be terrorists to amass weapons for terrorist plots in the U.S.  Semi-auto assault weapons?  .50-caliber rifles?  No problem.  Hell, as long as they purchase from private sellers, they don't even need to go through the trouble of background checks.  It's just cash-and-carry, baby!  America is a jihadist's jannah.

From the article:
Ulugbek Kodirov, a 22-year-old Uzbek man who moved to the United States planning to study medicine in New York, but ended up working in a suburban Alabama mall, was sentenced to more than 15 years in prison on Friday for plotting to kill President Obama on behalf of a jihadist group in Uzbekistan.
As The Associated Press reports, Mr. Kodirov’s lawyer, Lance Bell, blamed the Internet for radicalizing the young man, who moved to Alabama after giving up on a plan to get a medical degree at Columbia University because his English was not good enough. “I’m not calling him a victim,” Mr. Bell said, “but he’s a victim to a degree of social media.”
According to the signed confession in his plea agreement, which was posted online by The Birmingham News in February, the young man hatched his plot to shoot the president after being radicalized while watching jihadist videos online. He then communicated via YouTube with someone he believed to a member of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which is on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations.
He was arrested exactly one year ago at a motel in Leeds, Ala., in possession of an automatic machine gun, a sniper rifle with a telescopic sight and four hand grenades provided to him by an undercover agent for the American government, posing as a jihadist sympathizer.

If he had just stuck to buying semi-auto handguns, rifles, or assault rifles, and as much ammo as he could afford, he wouldn't have actually been breaking the law.  Lucky for us, he wanted a machine gun and grenades.

Don't ya love how he blames the internet for his almost-terror-spree?  Haters, like terrorists and insurrectionist gun nuts, love to come together on social media.  They aren't mainstream enough to find enough like-minded pals in real life.

To all you gunloons who oppose mandatory background checks and the terrorist watch list....  aren't you proud you support "2nd Amendment remedies" for terrorists?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Rene King Thompson: A Sense Of Deja Vu About the U.N. Small Arms Treaty And The NRA

Today we have a guest blogger...  Rene King Thompson.  Ms. Thompson is one of the original 10 founding moms of the Million Mom March and works passionately to reduce gun violence as well as teen suicide.  As you read her thoughts, please also consider the current U.N. Small Arms Treaty talks and the NRA's close ties to gun manufacturers, who both profit from the international arms trade and donate tens of millions of dollars to the NRA.

Below is from Ms. Thompson:

When I hear Wayne LaPierre’s ranting that a UN treaty concerning the regulation of small arms imports and exports would strip Americans of their Second Amendment rights, I feel a sense of déjà vu.  I feel this because 11 years ago, when I was a member of the first Million Mom March NGO to attend the United Nations, I heard the same BS.

Mary-Leigh Blek, Vicky Keller and I had the honor of representing the March in July 2001 at the United Nations Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects and it was an extraordinarily educational experience and a fantastic chance to network with others internationally.  For someone like me, who had come to the issue after the Columbine and Jewish Community Center shootings, I had tended to concentrate on what occurred here in the U.S.  This was a chance to understand the issue and the problems globally.

I learned of the problems with gun running and the circulation of illegal guns from one war zone to the next, from one criminal cartel to the next.  I learned about the ties between gun running and the use of kidnapped children being used as child soldiers, drug trafficking, blood gems, and human trafficking.  I came to recognize that this problem wasn’t just our problem. It was a global problem in which our country played both a positive and negative part.

For those who have never had the chance to listen to, let alone participate in a UN conference, it was awe inspiring.  Men and women from every corner of the world coming together respectfully to work to solve an issue, it was magnificent.  While acknowledging state’s (countries) sovereignty and laws, it made several rational recommendations which would help deal with the problems including:

Suggesting to member countries that do not have laws concerning production, importation and exportation of small arms that they enact such laws;

Suggested to member countries that do not have laws concerning illegal stockpiling of firearms that they create such laws, so that small arms cannot move into illegal hands;

Identify and take action against those individuals and organizations who are illegally stockpiling and gun running within individual countries;

Request that licensed manufacturers apply reliable markings on their firearms so that nations can track firearms that are moving into illegal hands;

Insuring that all confiscated or seized small arms are destroyed, so that they cannot be deviated into criminal hands.

Reasonable, rational strategies made so as to deal with crime, terrorism and war.  Efforts made to make it harder for illegal arms dealers to supply weapons to criminal gangs and terrorists and for small arms to move from one war to the next.

And all you heard from the NRA was “No.  It will strip away our Second Amendment freedoms.”  They couldn’t quite understand that (a) none of the suggestions would remove a single legal firearm from a single legal gun owner (b) it didn’t in any way effect legal gun ownership, production or export and (c) the problems being discussed were bigger than just our country.

I watched and listened to several more experienced activists attempt to explain to the NRA NGO members that sovereign countries requesting that gun manufacturers and gun import/exporters working within their countries to register had no effect whatsoever on the U.S. because the U.S. had its’ own laws in place.  They explained the problems and the needs caused by the problems and the solutions that would have a positive effect to resolve said problems.

It didn’t matter to the NRA.  To paraphrase the Marx Brothers, “Whatever you say, we’re against it.” No solution which allowed firearms to be identified, regulated or destroyed was going to be approved by the NRA.  The victims didn’t matter.  The terrorism didn’t matter.  The crime syndicates didn’t matter.  More than once I heard members of their group use the term ‘collateral damage’ after hearing about human beings who had died or had been wounded.  They were more emotionally distressed by the thought of the confiscated firearms being destroyed than they were by the human beings whose lives were destroyed.  They were more incensed that illegal arms dealers might lose business than they were about the terrorist acts committed by those who bought the firearms.  It was apparent to all at the conference that their priorities were not the same as the rest of those in attendance.

And so, here we are, 11 years later and as we continue to work to solve the problem, we note that the NRA and their ilk still fight for the rights of gun runners, arms dealers and those who make money off of the suffering that war, crime and terrorism inevitably bring, all the while claiming that they want to make people free.  Luckily, even the most conservative groups are now starting to question the NRA’s rants since their leaders have made some outrageous claims such as supporting those who have acted treasonously against this country in the past and the NRA’s writing and supporting legislation which would have placed guns back in the hands of convicted felons.  

It would seem that as the rest of us work to take the weapons out of the hands of criminals and terrorists, we were right to let the NRA just keep speaking, as, left to their own devices, they shot themselves, without any assistance, in the foot.

ADDENDUM (added by Baldr):  A related article from the New York Times:
From the NYT Opinion piece: 
The United States is the world’s main arms exporter, and President Obama deserves credit for reversing American policy in 2009 and agreeing to back an arms trade treaty. Now he must lead the way in ensuring that the final document is robust enough to make a difference. Predictably, the administration is under pressure from the gun lobby even though it has vowed that it will not approve any treaty that impinges on Second Amendment rights. 
Only 52 of the world’s 192 governments have laws regulating arms brokers, and fewer than half of those penalize violators. The United States and a few others have good national controls, and there are 26 United Nations, regional and multilateral arms embargoes in place.
ADDENDUM (7/15/12):  Amnesty International USA also denies the NRA's distortions:

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Pro-Gun Extremists Jumping To Conclusions And Blaming Child Shooting Victims... Again

It's late at night.  A gun nut goes into the darkness to confront a child.  A struggle ensues.  An unarmed child gets shot.  The adult shooter claims self-defense, but he's not the one in the hospital... or the morgue.

Sound familiar?  This time I'm not talking about Trayvon Martin and his shooter, child-killer George Zimmerman.   No, this time I'm talking about a different shooting that happened this week in Oregon, very close to where I am.

Here's the facts that have been released so far:  A man in Springfield, Oregon, annoyed at the loud house party across the street at 2:00 AM, goes out in his driveway and yells at the kids there to be quiet instead of calling the police.  Some of the kids come out to him.  The man had brought a gun with him.  According to one of the children, the man puts a gun to the chest of one boy and pulls the trigger, but the gun misfires.  The man then opens fire on the other kids, hitting one boy in the rear end and hitting a 15-year old girl in the thigh.  The children go to the hospital.  The man is questioned by police and released back home.  No arrests.

HERE is the news article and video.

Shooting victims, Christopher Carson (age 14) and April Hamilton (age 15)
This raises some very important questions.  Since the shooter wasn't arrested, does this mean that he had a legitimate self-defense claim?  But if he had been attacked, why weren't any of the teens arrested?  Why did he bring a gun with him?  Was he expecting to be in a fight?  If so, why didn't he just call the police?  Were the kids who were shot actually the ones trying to attack him, or did he just fire blindly into the crowd?  Alcohol was apparently being served at the party.  Were any of the kids who were engaged with the man actually drunk?  Neither of the victims were apparently cited for alcohol consumption.  And where were the kids' parents during all of this?  How responsible are they, given their kids were at a house party at 2AM? 

I don't have the answers to any of these questions.  I've known some teens, even at age 15, who were formidable enough to put up a serious fight.  But does this warrant shooting them?  Look at the picture of the boy and girl who were wounded.  They don't seem so formidable to me.  Given that they were not armed, I can't imagine trying to shoot them to death no matter how angrily they attacked me with their fists.

I am, of course, reminded of the shooting of Trayvon Martin.  Similar questions were swirling when the shooting first happened.  I sat back and read the reports, waiting before I passed judgment.  Not so with the gun nuts, though.  Their first assumption was that Zimmerman was well within his rights to shoot the boy to death.

The gun nuts aren't losing any time doing so in this case either.  They can't know any more than I do about the case, but that doesn't stop them from jumping to conclusions.  Consider the comments from this pro-gun forum: 

"Flyingswords" commented:
Kids got what they had coming to em. You mess with fire and your liable to get burnt. They played with fire and 2 got burnt.

"Nutty4Guns" commented: 
I doubt they were innocent bystanders.

"Jack Thompson" comments:
Guns. The magic equalizer that gives a single old man the "Right" to ask 10 rowdy drunk teenagers to please be quiet at 2:00am without fear of getting curb stomped in return.
Guns for President.

According to "Stomper":  
I'm down with donating to his defense fund if he gets tagged with any kind of criminal or civil suit. Not only would they have been digging bullets out of their legs, but they would have had to extricate my shoe from one of their arses, and my empty pistol from the other arse.
In gerneral, I flippin' HATE teenagers! It truly is the most dangerous time/phase of their lives.

Another, "ereezy503", agrees: 
If they sue this guy I will definitely donate money to his legal defense. Kids have no respect anymore.

These gun guys don't even have the facts yet, but they're happy to donate money to this guy who just shot two teens.

They don't seem to remember what George Zimmerman did with the money donated to him.  According to the judge in Zimmerman's case, where Zimmerman and his wife were talking code to each other and moving money around to hide it from the courts:
"Under any definition, the defendant has flaunted the system," Lester said. "Although there is no record of flight to avoid prosecution, this court finds that circumstances indicate that the defendant was preparing to flee to avoid prosecution but such plans were thwarted."

"Notably, together with the passport, the money only had to be hidden for a short time for him to leave the country if the defendant made a quick decision to flee," the judge said. "It is entirely reasonable for this court to find that, but for the requirement that he be placed on electronic monitoring, the defendant and his wife would have fled the United States with at least $130,000 of other people's money."

Remember how Zimmerman told police that Trayvon had banged his head into the sidewalk so hard that he thought he would pass out?  According to a medical examiner, Zimmerman did not suffer serious brain trauma, only a couple cuts and a broken nose.  Apparently Zimmerman wasn't too concerned, either, since he declined to be seen by a specialist afterward.

And what about the man in the Oregon case?  Was he injured at all by the teens?  The news reports don't say.  He certainly wasn't hospitalized, unlike his victims.  I wonder what he will later claim.  Will he blow his injuries out of proportion, like Zimmerman did, in an attempt to justify his horrific reaction?  Time will tell.