Thursday, January 31, 2013

Music: "Blindness" by Peter Almeida

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:)


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
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
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.


-->  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:  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 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: 

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.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Lyrics: Weapon Wonderland Song Parody

A parody.  See the original post by Madeleine Begun Kane at her site, along with a link of her singing it, reposted here:

Weapon Wonderland Song Parody  
(to be sung to Winter Wonderland)
by Madeleine Begun Kane 

Gun sales surge. Are you listenin'?
Ammunition keeps glistenin'.
They're arming tonight and causing a fright. U.S. Constitution arms the land.
People die for no reason.
Children shot! 'Tis the season.
A terrible blight, each night after night.
Gun rights absolutists harm our land. 
NRA and cronies claim our homeland
Must allow their arms in every town,
Claiming guns will help us.
We say "No man!
"The murder stats have got to go way down." 
Weapon fans have conspired
Now our nation is mired.
With lives we have paid.
New laws must be made.
Or soon we'll have a gun in every hand.

Friday, January 11, 2013

If Only He'd Had A Gun To Defend Himself. Oh, Wait…. (gunmaker and gun show producer)

The gun crowd is always saying, “If only the victim had had a gun, they could have defended themselves.”  After all, according to the NRA's Wayne LaPierre in his unhinged call to arm all schools, "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."

Well, last week the gun crowd lost one of their own.  Pro-gun extremist Keith Ratliff was the star and producer of a wildly-popular YouTube channel, FPSRussia, devoted to high-powered guns and explosives, and owner of a customized firearms company, FPS Industries. 

This guy is a poster-boy for the pro-gun extremists.  He once tweeted that he took his concealed gun to a movie theater, "praying that somebody would try to pull a Batman!"  Only a gun loon would desire such a thing.

Here's an example of his videos, where he shoots an assault rifle with a silencer made from a MagLight (Notice how quiet it is!  So much for the gun guy argument that silencers really aren't so "silent".)

Here's another video where he boasts about how easy it is to make a semi-automatic assault rifle into a full-auto ("It doesn't take but a second!" he says), and demonstrates it firing:

Well, Ratliff’s weapons didn’t help him at all last week when he was shot once in the head and killed on a rural road in Georgia.  From an article:

Keith Ratliff, who was a business partner at FPSRussia, YouTube's ninth most popular channel with more than three million active subscribers and a combined half billion views, was discovered on a rural road in Carnesville, Georgia. 
Ratliff had a single gunshot wound the head and police are treating his death as a homicide.

That's horrible.  If only he'd had a gun to defend himself!  Oh, wait...

When authorities made the grisly discovery on Thursday, they noticed there were several guns near Ratliff, according to a local radio station report. 
 'For him not to pull out that gun and try to defend himself, he had to feel comfortable around somebody. Either that or he was ambushed,' said Ratliff's heartbroken widow, Amanda.

As with other cases of pro-gun extremists, like this one, it would seem that he should have been more fearful of his fellow gun owners than the boogey-men they always blame for gun violence (gangstas, Mexicans, druggies, whatever).  As studies have shown, you are MORE likely to die if you have a gun around you, than if you don’t (whether you are at home or carrying concealed).

I’ll be watching the news closely.  It’ll be interesting to find out who the killer was, if they catch him, and whether the shooter was truly another gun nut.

According to another article:

On his LinkedIn profile, Ratliff stated, “After a life of loving firearms and computers, I have combined both into one great new business that offers both viral marketing and quality firearms from one place. We are FPS Industries Global LLC, a type 10 Destructive Device Manufacturer and Viral Marketing superpower on YouTube and Facebook.” 
Every life is precious, even those who glorify violence.  Ratliff leaves behind a wife and young daughter, who greatly misses her daddy.  It’s a shame he made a “life of loving firearms” and glorifying his “type 10 destructive devices” … to the grave.

[this post is part of an ongoing series of people being shot to death or attacked despite being armed (and sometimes because they are armed)]

Monday, January 7, 2013

Armoring Our Children In School?

One of the armored backpacks being sold.
(UPDATED -- see below)

Ever since the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, there have been a number of news articles reporting a drastic increase in sales of armor – yes, armor! – for children attending school.  Namely, we are talking here about bulletproof jackets and bulletproof linings in backpacks to use as shields. 

My initial reaction to the first news report about armored backpacks was, "Has it really come to this??"

One company that makes armored backpacks, BulletBlocker, reports “a 300% to 400% increase in sales since the tragedy.”  More from that article:

The idea for BulletBlocker was sparked after the 1999 Columbine shootings. Creator Joe Curran wanted something to protect his school-age children.

“Then he started sharing them with friends who had kids,” Uy said. “Our company is basically built around a single child’s backpack.”
Combat apparel company Amendment II, based in Utah, says their sales have also skyrocketed — at least 500% since Friday.

"(Bulletproof backpacks) were kind of a niche product before that shooting," co-owner and sales director Derek Williams told the Daily News.

"When we're selling a few a week, it doesn't take many to increase your sales," he said. "But yesterday we had over 200 requests for products."

Most were for bulletproof backpacks or backpack shields.
Child protective vests manufactured in Columbia

A company in Columbia that sells bulletproof vests, with bright colors in pink and blue and looking much like normal kids jackets and vests, will now market to the U.S.  They typically sell their products in violent Central American countries, but now, sadly, see the United States as a good market, and are producing these products with the U.S. in mind now.  From that article:

Products include child-sized armored vests, protective undershirts and backpacks with ballistic protection that can be used as shields. 
The products are designed for children ages 8-16 years old and cost $150-$600 depending on the complexity of their construction. Each piece weighs 2-4 pounds. 
"The products were created with the American market in mind, not for the Latino market," said Caballero. "All the designs and colors, everything is thought out with them in mind." 
Caballero performed a test on a pink-and-yellow striped bulletproof backpack attached to a pale blue protective vest, firing a 9mm pistol and a machine gun to show it could withstand a barrage of bullets. 
He said the backpack-vest combo and other protective gear have already been ordered by a U.S. distributor, although he would not identify it.

Of course, many countries in Latin America are extremely violent, thanks to the drug trade.  Adding armed guards in every school, office, and even ATM hasn’t stopped the violence there, proving beyond a reasonable doubt the foolishness of the NRA’s suggestion of militarizing school campuses to keep kids safe.

I’m not going to argue against the purchase of these armored vests and backpacks, really.  Unlike the preposterous idea of arming teachers or having armed civilians to guard the schools, no one is likely to get hurt by having bulletproof clothing or backpacks, unless you consider that these kids now have to lug around more weight all day.  I remember how very heavy my backpack was in school.  The thought of adding a thin steel plate to that would have made me more than a little incensed.

Of course, it’s really more of a feel-good option.  The ammo and AR-15 used by Adam Lanza in Newtown likely would have punched right through these vests and backpacks.  Plus, the kids in Newtown were sitting at their desks, not wearing coats or backpacks, and were shot at extremely close range, often in the head and extremities (as reported by the mother of one young victim at Sandy Hook).

And, though last year I know of at least 37 school shootings in the U.S., schools are still statistically havens of safety (thank you, gun-free zones!) compared to the communities around them. 

All in all, American schools remain extremely safe places for children, especially elementary-school students. Children in school are statistically safer, on average, than in the homes in which they live or the vehicles in which they ride. That space heater [PDF] you've been meaning to replace, that annoying car noise or fluid leak you haven't gotten around to fixing, or the cup of coffee in your SUV console as you fumble for the radio station while backing out of your driveway are more likely to be the cause of injury or death to a child than the rampage of some marauding psycho, especially at a school. Sadly, child victims of homicide are most often killed at or near home, by a family member or peer, or collateral to gang violence.Inside school is far, far safer for children than outside -- as Bill Clinton would say, it's just arithmetic -- and all the compiling and reciting of lists of violent school incidents or public mass murders in the U.S. doesn't change that.

The saddest part here is that people feel unsafe in their community, to the point that they would over-react and armor their children as a result, as well as arm themselves with concealed handguns, or suggest, as the NRA and other extremist have, arming teachers with assault rifles or having “armed volunteers” to patrol the schools (as the extremist and racist Arizona sheriff, Joe Arpaio, has now done in Arizona using armed volunteers, some with criminal backgrounds. Imagine J.T. Ready or Shawna Forde guarding your school!).  Those are just over-reactions. 

And, let’s not forget, the kids themselves will know they are armored.  Alarming my children about the insignificantly tiny chance of a school shooting will only alarm them unnecessarily, potentially affecting their performance and willingness to be there (simply having security guards in school have shown this to happen).

There are ways to make our community safer, and one way is to put sensible restrictions in place to keep guns out of the hands of madmen (or mad children) to begin with (such as mandatory background checks for all gun sales, banning assault rifles and high-cap ammo mags, and better mental health reporting), not proposing shoot-outs to deal with the aftermath of lax gun regulation.  Treat the causes, not the symptoms.

I, for one, won’t be armoring my kids when I pack their lunches and drop them off at their school. 

UPDATE (8/22/13):  These armored backpacks and whiteboards get low marks from actual school security analysis experts.  From an article:
Safety consultants say these items might give educators and pupils greater peace of mind but are unlikely to be the difference between life and death. 
"There's feeling safer and then there's actually being safer," Trump said. 
"In the past five years we’ve seen draconian cuts to school security and emergency planning programs," he added. 
"Schools have limited resources and they ought to use that money very wisely, put it into an additional school psychologist or a school police officer, train your staff and work with first responders. The most valuable school security tools are invisible." 
Dorn said instead of buying shields, schools can improve security by revamping their drills so that staff members beyond the principal are involved in decision making and doing something as simple as making students line up in double rows when they move through the building. 
"We know if you put kids in in double rows and practice a brisk walk with them, you can reduce the time of evacuate and shelter by 30 percent," he said. "You can do that in the largest schools in the nation for less than the cost of one security camera." 
Gregory Thomas, who used to run security for New York City schools and now heads Alan Thomas Security, said "feel-good" solutions like armored book bags don't hurt anything but the wallet. 
But for his money, an ounce of prevention — particularly training school staff about the warning signs of violent students — is worth a lot more than any piece of polyethylene designed to absorb a gunshot. 
"You need to start with seeking out and identifying the kids that are likely to do these shootings before it happens," he said.