Previous weeks’ news

December 7, 2016

Here it is, several weeks after our national election, past Thanksgiving, and ETM Now has lagged behind its normal update schedule. We apologize for that. Recent news that our national family holiday of Thanksgiving saw 526 shootings (excluding suicides) during a violent weekend of celebration snapped us back to attention.

We have some good news to report. In two states with background check citizens’ initiatives on the ballot, Nevadan voters  narrowly approved their measure and Maine voters turned down a similar initiative by a slim margin. For the first time, Washington State overwhelmingly accorded judges the right to deny gun possession to individuals such as domestic abusers ascertained to be dangerous. California now prohibits the sale of large-capacity ammo magazines and requires background checks for certain classes of ammunition buyers.

Now that we must anticipate all branches of our national government falling into GOP hands, with the added lollipop of a certain conservative Supreme Court appointment to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia, we can also expect a federal race to the bottom of state and local gun regulation. The NRA has long lobbied for national interstate reciprocity of gun licensing rules, a campaign that produced a 2015 “Senate bill would grant universal concealed-carry reciprocity in all 50 states.”

This bill may prove mild compared with what might be proposed, and passed, after January 20th, 2017. The NRA has been urging that any gun law of any state enjoy reciprocity in any other state so that, for example, concealed-carry statutes in Texas would apply in Massachusetts, California or Connecticut. Such proposals, of course, make total mockery of the “states rights” mantra so prized by the right-wing on issues that play to their preferences. At this writing, such a bill is under preparation for the new Congress when it reconvenes early in 2017.

Persuasive research exists demonstrating that states with the strictest gun regulation have far lower rates of gun deaths than the states with the laxest regulations. Among the six strictest states (HI, MA, NY, CT, RI and NJ) the gun death rate average per 100,000 residents in 2013 was 3.4. Among six of the laxest states (WY, AR, AL, MS, LA and AK), the rate was 17.9.  The distinction is anything but trivial. Moreover, a recent Boston University study reveals that fewer school shootings occur in states with more rigorous background check requirements.

Take the case of Utah as an example. Like Florida, Utautah-gunpermitsh issues permits to non-residents. Donald Trump’s fealty to the NRA’s insistence on lowest-common denominator interstate licensing could enable residents in strict regulation states to acquire out-of-state permits for ludicrously low fees ($47  in Utah) and to be governed by the Utah license, rendering impotent any stricter local measure. As the accompanying graphic from The Trace illustrates, Utah now issues far more gun permits to non residents than to its own citizens.

State initiatives designed to protect ordinary citizens from criminal gun violence could all be for naught, however, submerged by a policy axis involving executive and legislative branches of the federal government with the willing concurrence of the Supreme Court. Even now, the free flow of firearms across state lines obviates many state restrictions. Seventy-four percent of guns used in New York City crime, for example, originate in lax gun-law states to the South such as Georgia, Florida and the Carolinas.

Meanwhile, an increasing number of states are authorizing school teachers to carry arms. Our parents would have doubted the possibility of such a pass; our grandparents would have laughed in disbelief. Yet here we are, rearing our children in the belief that their country is an armed and dangerous camp, populated by evil-doers dedicated to doing them harm and preparing them for self-defense by allowing dealers and manufacturers to market guns to kids.

In our humble opinion, these are indicators of a culture gone madly off its rails.

September 19, 2016

We rail in anger and grief over atrocious mass shootings such as at Sandy Hook, Orlando and Virginia Tech, and rightfully so. But the water torture drip-drip-drip of urban killings in ones, twos or threes claim many more lives or catastrophically disabling injuries than the spectacular shootings that hit the news headlines. Most of those lives bloodily destroyed are African American.

preciouslandAmidst our justified laments against our national orgy of mass shootings, a recent New York Times article depicts the real human calamity caused by random gunfire in Chicago, the gunfire capital of America and hence the world, with the possible exception of Aleppo. This is a story about Precious Land, 26, mother of four small children, permanently maimed by a random bullet that sliced through her neck shortly after she had dropped her children off at a friend’s house.

This shooting occurred on Memorial Day weekend in Chicago, along with 64 other shootings in a City that appears now to be best defined by gun violence. During that bloody weekend that killed six other citizens outright. Chicago hardly stand alone as an urban exemplar of gun carnage. Baltimore, Detroit and Philadelphia follow this deadly procession not far behind Chicago. And so it goes elsewhere in our nation’s cities.

This story depicts a life of a young life effectively truncated even though the vital signs of vegetative life still register. The consequences of such incidents are more tragic than the horrific but sudden finality of an outright slaying. Families are torn apart, grandparents are rendered bereft and children are left parentless with a gruesome, dismal routine that offers no prospect of escape, for the direct victims or for our desensitized country as a whole.

Precious Land’s fate reveals a real, grim side of America, a nation with a persistent cancer of lethal violence lacking the leadership to address it with our vast national resources constructively, effectively or humanely. We just don’t seem to care very much about the human destruction that too many of us never bother to see and which our media rarely tell us about.

Here at ETM Now, we are rather tired of ranting against our morbid national obsession with guns, as we have been doing for years, because that is only a symptom of the underlying syndrome that haunts our entire body politic day after day, week after week and year after year.

August 15, 2016

Trump-ShootSomeone

“Boom … boom; such a beautiful sound,” intones The Donald, pointing his tiny index finger at the camera, with the full tank of insightful wisdom he has at his disposal. With the sad confluence of several untoward current trends, the current presidential campaign is taking a particularly lethal turn.

As the NRA seeks to enhance its political capital through sponsorship of Donald Trump’s cause, he cozies ever-closer up to what seems to be his lone remaining institutional supporter. (OK, I exaggerate; white supremacists, the KKK and David Duke remain squarely in The Donald’s camp.)

Into this toxic soup is mixed Trump’s endless hate fest targeting Mexicans and Muslims, his veiled threat to sick Second Amendment zealots on the life of his political opponent, and the recent gratuitous, cowardly murder of a New York City imam and his assistant. Two lives are senselessly taken. Police say that “there is no reason to believe the men were shot because they were Muslim.” But there was no robbery attempt nor any apparent motivation other than pure religious hatred, and we have a national role-model for that. A prime suspect, Oscar Morel, is now under arrest.

Months ago, we witnessed the ugliness of two Mexican-bashing bigots in Boston beating a homeless Hispanic with a pipe and urinating on his face, inspired by Trump’s malevolently demagogic venom. How do we know this? The perpetrators said so; The Donald inspired them with his “leadership.” Thank you, Mr. Trump!

Meanwhile in early August, from the dark security of his garage interior, North Carolina’s Chad Copley bravely stood his ground by fatally shooting an unarmed black youth out on the street whom Copley had gratuitously deemed a “hoodlum.” Before acting, Copley had told a 911 dispatcher,  “I am locked and loaded. I’m going outside to secure my neighborhood.”

Apparently Copley never made it outside the safety of his garage. Just another law-abiding white American citizen, standing his ground from inside his closed garage, exercising his constitutionally-endowed 2nd Amendment rights! How DARE Kouren-Rodney Bernard Thomas be in a place — any place — and black at the same time. Thomas’s family has angrily dubbed Copley “George Zimmerman 2.0.

We’re going to do a lot better because there’s going to be a shootout,” Trump blusters about every mass shooting at home or abroad that comes across his radar screen. There is no possible debate with anybody who pollutes a policy discussion about gun control with such words. None. Revolutionary hero Thomas Paine was prescient when he declared, “To argue with a man who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead.”

Trying to do so is analogous to persuading Stalin to take a softer line on his forced collectivization of agriculture in the late, unmourned Soviet Union. The only way to begin winning the GVP battles at the federal level is at the ballot box. The hour for debate has long since lapsed. “Boom … boom” goes The Donald. VOTE!

As John Cassidy recently opined in The New Yorker, Trump’s crazy talk has consequences. The consequences are playing out on the ground as his vitriol supercharges the nasty underbelly of his angry base. Regardless of our electoral outcome in November, it will take a good while to turn “Trump time” back. But we can start with our votes. VOTE!

Please help the President and Democrats up and down the ticket end America’s madness. VOTE!

July 29, 2016

DemPltfrm-GVP

July 9, 2016

Where to start after a few days of unspeakable carnage on American streets? Perhaps, as the petition plea from Newtown Action Alliance put it better than that while “African Americans are disproportionately impacted by gun violence and the use of deadly force by law enforcement …, [we] also cannot ignore the fact that law enforcement officers are in harm’s way in an armed society where weapons of war are easily accessible. We condemn the use of guns to resolve the issues facing our nation.”

The New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik stated the obvious by opining that “Guns are not merely the instrument; guns are the issue. The more guns there are, the more gun violence happens.” Once again, a grieving President Obama, his voice leaden with fatigue, condemns the senselessness of yet more American lives lost to violence. Innocent protesters flee the carnage. Police are suddenly tasked simultaneously with protecting civilians, confronting the shooters and protecting themselves.

All hell breaks loose, a uniquely incessant American hell. And through it all we contrast the aching grace of a grieving but angry President with the incomprehensibly obtuse demagoguery of the Lieutenant Governor of Texas, Dan Patrick, who channeled the divisiveness of his political Party, uttering the despicable words, “All those protesters last night, they ran the other way expecting the men and women in blue to turn around and protect them … What hypocrites!” As for Dan Patrick all we can say is, “What leadership!”

Across the nation, editorials decry a growing, persistent, gnawing national grief. Given the relentless mayhem of a yet-to-fully-unfold summer, Attorney-General Loretta Lynch expressed her concern about a “new normal” in America. Presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton asked white Americans to try walking in the shoes of fearful black citizens and for all Americans to appreciate the dangerously difficult work of law enforcement.

Donald Trump’s campaign Chairman for Virginia, Corey Stewart, blamed Hillary Clinton and other “liberals” who allegedly label police as racists for the Dallas slaughter. To his credit, Trump disavowed Stewart’s slander. On the GOP side, Donald Trump released a prepared video in which he declared that “Every American has a right to live in safety and peace.”

So the question is, when is Congress collectively going to grow a spine and other necessary body parts to address the numbing insanity that is gripping the nation in its morbid claws? How much death, how many mass massacres, how many lives destroyed, how much maiming does it take to break free from our partisan impotence in order to achieve something consequential?

How can we hope when 26 innocents in Newtown, 32 students and teachers in Blacksburg VA, 49 ordinary citizens in Orlando and countless others, everywhere in America, injured and scarred for life? What does it take our political leadership simply to stand up, take action and earn an honest day’s pay? It will take citizens voting their common-sense hopes over their fears.

July 2, 2016

Since our last post of June 13th, several congressional attempts have been undertaken to legislate modest measures of gun control, among them, halting all sales to people on the nation’s terrorist watch list, banning certain assault rifles and requiring background checks for all gun sales. No deal! In hock to the NRA and notwithstanding the Orlando carnage, Congress sits on its hands. This is to say the GOP side of Congress. This time, however, House Democrats stood tall for a change by sitting down on the House floor while Speaker Paul Ryan vainly tried to gavel the session back to order.

Since when has getting gun safety legislation “done correctly,” as Ryan intoned recently, been a credible mask for not doing anything at all? Ryan is in no rush to respond legislatively to yet another massacre ripping apart the American fabric of security — much less of a rush, apparently, than Omar Matteen’s furious pace as he hurried to murder in Orlando as may innocent Americans as possible in the shortest time frame available.

Aside from the gun industry’s persistent push to ramp up and enhance the prospect of even more mass carnage within our borders is the unsettling fact that the highly visible, heavily reported atrocities of Orlando, Aurora and Sandy Hook wrought by an obscene flood of lethal weapons spawns a spike in sales of more such weapons and hence the potential for even more mass mayhem. Moreover, the news-grabbing mass slayings overwhelm news of the really big numbers that accumulate, day after day, in the nation’s streets.

All of our nearly countless gun slayings represent a cynically-driven cycle of ever-increasing public assassination. The gun industry is deliberately promoting our national suicide spiral, abetted by a lunatic NRA and a Congress of Republican death toadies. Meanwhile, nothing constructive is likely to get done. The annual extermination of tens of thousands of citizens seems insufficient to prod legislators to address the madness that grips us so appallingly.

Because America has become so inured to the danger of random gunfire, Jeffrey Isquith, CEO of Ballistic Furniture Systems, Inc. has declared that “Security [from gunfire] is the big new frontier, if you will. It’s kind of sad to say…”. It’s not sad, Mr Isquith; it is a full-blown collective Greek tragedy defining the collective mental health of an entire culture so fully in thrall to death.

Rather than dealing with our sick, funereal death wish by controlling it at its source, we are clinging to imagined protection against the mayhem of “active shooters” by erecting false shields. Thus, we market bullet-proof furniture, clothing and office cubicles. We arm teachers, church pastors and mental health workers. We make profane the helping professions.

This is the world into which we now induct our children. What a morbid universe of dreary pessimism it is, for everyone but the NRA, the gun industry, congressional majorities and our home-grown squadron of angry 2nd Amendment zealots.

June 13, 2016

On the day of the Orlando carnage, President Obama delared “How easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon to shoot people in a school, or in a house of worship, or a movie theatre or in a nightclub. And we have to decide if that’s the kind of country we want to be.”

Actually, we’ve decided what kind of country we want to be. Poll after poll informs us of our decision. We have a self-serving Congress, however, that refuses to take action on that memo. November will give us the opportunity to vote for a new Congress with the backbone to carry out legislation that supports our clearly expressed sense, and to reject the simple-minded charlatan aiming for the Oval Office

On the following day, seemingly channeling Donald Trump, the New York Times Roger Cohen implied that yesterdays unspeakable carnage in Orlando was at least partly attributable to President Obama’s “weak” policy in the Middle East.

To turn the Orlando tragedy into an anti-Obama foreign policy critique not only ignores reality, it also plays into the Trump screed that Obama should resign the presidency because he has declined to feed Muslim rage by uttering the term “radical Islam,” as though that’s the REAL problem with our obsessive national psychosis about guns.

While doubling down on the ban against foreign Muslim entry into the USA, let’s ignore the inconvenient fact that Omar Mateen was not only a New York-born US citizen but also appeared to carry lifelong sociopathic traits

Do we truly believe that US intervention removing the Assad regime would have denied ISIS a Syrian stronghold? I don’t. Not for a minute. Quite the opposite.

So let us ask ourselves: Would the failure to say “radical Islam” have prevented:
•          Charleston?
•          Lafayette?
•          Colorado Springs?
•          Kalamazoo?
•          Roseburg?
•          Tucson?
•          Chattanooga?
•          Marysville?
•          Isla Vista?
•          Killeen?
•          Washington Navy Yard?
•          Santa Monica?
•          Huntsville?
•          Blacksburg?
•          Sandy Hook?
•          Brookfield?
•          Minneapolis?
•          Aurora?
•          Oakland?
•          Oak Creek?
•          Lafayette?
•          Binghampton?
•          Queens?
•          Seattle?
•          Las Vegas?
•          Manchester?
•          Seal Beach?
•          Troutdale?
•          Portland?
•          Houston?
•          Overland Park?
•          Santa Barbara?
•          Cobb County?
•          Hesston?
•          Columbine?
•          And so on, and so forth, etcetera, and woefully etcetera?

Very little of this mayhem is traceable to Muslim extremism. Some of it, in fact, can be ascribed to some adherence to the warped “Christianity” of madmen. Any doubts? Then watch this chilling video of a call to arms by a self-proclaimed man of God.

Was the Orlando carnage carried out on US soil because President Obama uses language other than “radical Islam” when he discusses terrorism? Of course it was! Impeach Obama!! Replace him with the demagogue!!! That will set things a-right.

May 18, 2016

We are struggling to come up with a theme for the May issue of End the Madness. We have already discussed the carnage of children and the carnage BY children resulting from our national obsession with the notion that any law or regulation promoting safety from firearms, even for children, run amok is an assault on our constitutionally guaranteed liberties. Well, do children have the right to protection from the lethality of instruments of death that they cannot possibly understand?

Inspired by a blatant untruth from the presumptive GOP presidential nominee that 81% of white American homicides are perpetrated by blacks, we considered an issue to address the unbalanced relationship between guns and race which shows that Donald Trump uttered pretty much the reverse of what is true; 84% of white homicide victims are in fact murdered by other whites. Just plain nuts! The craziness is so unremittingly widespread that we have decided simply to discuss the madness of the moment, across issues and across the states.

The gun madness that surrounds us each and every day on so many fronts overwhelms consideration of any particular theme. Just recently, for example, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback signed into law legislation permitting public employees to pack concealed heat at work. We know public service. We have worked there. As with most workplaces, there are a few ripe lulus in the employee ranks. They can be dangerous. They should not be lethally armed. If you doubt this, ask the families of the San Bernardino shooting victims.

Missouri is on the cusp of passing Stand Your Ground (SYG) legislation mimicking Florida’s law that enabled the slaying of Trayvon Martin in 2012. Even if Democratic Governor Jay Nixon chooses to veto this legislation, it has been passed by a veto-proof majority and would become law with or without the Governor’s signature. In Florida, an angry Michael Dunn tried unsuccessfully to invoke SYG as defense for his fatal shooting of an unarmed Jordan Davis while murderer and victim sat inside their own cars.

Stand Your Ground offers a license to kill for “perceived” threats. The Michael Dunn episode was so outrageous that invoking SYG failed to work for him, but George Zimmerman, who shot Trayvon Martin, got away scott-free. Zimmerman is now trying to auction his murder weapon. At this writing, the opening bid is set at $100,000.

On May 6th a federal law enforcement officer was arrested just outside Washington, DC in Maryland a shooting spree that killed three innocent people and injured three more. This was the rogue act of a deranged man, not a police action gone wrong. It was the product of a national culture that urges deranged individual grievances, no matter how petty, to resolve them through firearms violence. This incident appeared rooted in a domestic dispute turned violent, another theme warranting its own treatment in a future issue.

This coming August, mandatory campus-carry laws are coming to public colleges and universities in Texas despite opposition from faculty, administrations and students statewide. Over protest from law enforcement personnel, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Idaho and Texas have relaxed restrictions on the open carry, and in some cases permit-less toting, of firearms in public. Because of Governor Bill Haslam’s failure to act, Tennessee has passed a law enabling higher education faculty and staff to arm themselves on-campus, an idea that rivals campus-carry for its brilliance.

Amidst the madness, small nuggets of sanity appear. In Georgia, Governor Nathan Deal vetoed campus-carry legislation passed by both legislative houses, declaring, “If the intent of HB 859 [the campus-carry bill] is to increase safety of students on college campuses, it is highly questionable that such would be the result.”

An effective measure of the gun madness afflicting the United States rests in comparisons with statistics from other countries. America leads the world (including countries like Yemen and Zimbabwe) by enormous margins in the private ownership of guns, homicides per unit of population, mass shootings, gun violence against children and women and a gruesome variety of other factors. For a more in-depth analysis of America’s global standing on gun violence, please consult the following NPR broadcast of WBUR’s On Point.

WorkdGunDeaths-OnPoint-Dec-12-2015

More guns mean greater safety from gunfire, so says the gun lobby. If this isn’t madness, then we cannot in our wildest dreams imagine what is.

April 5, 2016

For April, ETM Now focuses on the question: Are guns the problem in America or do we need to reform our approach to mental health? We fret, rightfully, about the profusion of mass shootings in America, but the numbers show an accumulation of smaller-scale urban carnage that dwarfs the Newtowns, the Chattanoogas, the Auroras, the Charlestons and the Virginia Techs of mass mayhem. Such scale isn’t possible in the absence of a massive national supply of free-floating firearms.

Let’s tackle the culture issue for a moment. Among the denizens of the gun rights community exist a sick sub-group of “hoaxers,” conspiracy theorists who either deny that the mass shootings in the press ever occurred or who disseminate such nonsense knowing full well the mendacity of it. Look under the damp rock of the comments under the photo essay of grief that followed Sandy Hook.  We tolerate the existence of cowards who skulk under the cover of night to deface and destroy memorials that honor the victims of mass gun violence.

We have become a nation obsessed with the “right” to kill other innocent people. We are hardly alone among countries where ordinary citizens own guns but we are unique in having infused our communities with such an armory of unmonitored firearms that we visit death and dismemberment upon our fellow citizens, so much so that we should brand our culture as terrorist.

We lose 33,000 Americans to gunfire every year. Among these are 6200 victims younger than 25 years-old lost to homicide or suicide by gun. We leave guns lying around our homes and cars unsecured so that children can kill other children and even their own parents. If this isn’t the definition of cultural madness, then somebody, please, tell us what is.

The problem is indeed guns and the culture that promotes their obscene profusion in our midst. There exist simply far too many firearms in a political climate that advances the absurd notion that our safety is best assured by still more guns. Research directly contradicts this assumption, which, if it were true, would make the USA the safest country in the world for gun violence. In fact, it is exactly the opposite. Home possession of firearms is directly and dramatically correlated with higher risk of suicide, homicide and violent domestic abuse. Guns do not protect homesteads; they endanger them

Local efforts to stem gun violence are moot however when anybody, criminal or mental health record notwithstanding, can purchase a gun, no background check and no questions asked simply by engaging with a private seller or trolling for firearms online. All that is required is the transportation needed to conduct a sales transaction. Domestic abuser? No problem. Convicted felon? No problem. Terrorist watch-listed? No problem, so long as the buyer can get to an unregulated gun vendor.

States where background checks are required for private gun sales are 46% less likely to suffer murders of women by partners than states with lax regulations. The issue is multi faceted. Not only should all reasonable measures be taken to prevent gun sales to known abusers, but such individuals should also be required to turn in the firearms and ammo they currently own until the danger they pose to victims is determined to be absent.

Although the gun homicide rate has declined since 1993, the suicide rate hasn’t changed very much. In certain cities, especially those in declining poverty and urban investment gun violence continues to surge. Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, Miami and St. Louis, for example, show substantially greater gun violence than, say, New York, Austin Greater Boston, San Diego or San Francisco where economic activity is innovative and urban development robust. This suggests that economic development might be more important than mental health reform, but the constant contributor is the profusion and easy availability of guns, notwithstanding local gun restrictions.

International comparisons are likewise sobering. Among economically-developed countries the US homicide-by-firearms rate in 2013 was seven times that of the runner-up country (Portugal), roughly the equivalent of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and greater than Sudan and Pakistan. Unintentional gun death rates in the US more than double the next western democracy (Greece). Comparing internationally, American gun possession looks like this:

Country-List

The USA is the only country in the world whose gun population outstrips that of its people. This is why the efficacy of local gun regulation is so limited. Through a well established, highly trafficked Iron Pipeline, guns can flow virtually without hindrance from any place in the country to any other place. Nor is airline security much better.

With 320 million Americans, including infants, children, the disabled and the elderly chasing 360 million guns, lethal accidents are simply out there waiting to happen. Chicago offers a gruesome case in point. Sections of that city have become a killing field of carnage. There are too many guns. A substantial proportion of them come from gun-lax next-door Indiana, just a stone’s throw away. Relatively few of the guns traced from Chicago’s chronic violence come from licensed urban vendors requiring background checks.

We are not doing rocket science here. More guns equal more lethality. That’s what guns are designed to be. More lethality enables more violence. More violence produces more injury and death. Injury and death devastate American families. This is simple arithmetic. There are way too many guns in America. It IS about the guns.

March 3, 2016

As we were preparing this edition of the ETMNow lead page, news from Kalamazoo came in. Yet again. Yet again. Yet again. Six innocent people slain; two more critically injured, apparently at the hands of a disgruntled Über driver who simply decided to drive out onto the streets and shoot people totally unknown to him at random. What was it, a boring evening’s entertainment? Who knows? The act defies human logic.

The perpetrator, James B. Dalton, who has admitted culpability has been charged with numerous crimes. Perhaps the authorities will discover a motive deeper than a banal urge to assassinate people. Maybe it’s a way of making your own movie. Whatever the motive turns out to be, the banality of driving an Über taxi, then sandwiching rides with several murderous shooting sprees, and then picking up passengers again explodes the brain.

We hadn’t yet settled back into our chairs when news erupted from Hesston, Kansas of another mass shooting by an apparently enraged man who had just been tagged with a court order restraining him from contact with a former girlfriend. The result? Four more dead and 14 wounded, some critically.

And then, within what seemed like minutes, four more family members were slain by man near Seattle who then shot himself to death outside his home after calling the police to inform them of his atrocity. Lost in the stream of news about mass killings came the next gruesome account of three young Muslim men assassinated, execution-style, in Fort Wayne, Indiana. For this, we may fairly attribute such bigoted violence to political figures who legitimize hatred for their own political gain.

Is our problem with guns? Well, yes and no. Citizens of other countries own guns, albeit hardly in the same scale as the United States but mass shootings, when they occur at all, are relatively rare. In America, they happen every day, or more. Here in our national back yard, 372 mass shootings were recorded in 2015.

Defining “mass shooting” prompts some argumentation, making international comparison particularly difficult. The FBI defines the term “mass killing” as three or more victims slain in a single public incident. One recent study tracked internationally comparative mass shootings from 2000 to 2014.

Let’s take a closest and culturally kin neighbor, Canada. During the time frame studied, using a common definition of “mass shooting,” Canada suffered 2% of the incidents shown for the USA. resulting in three deaths and 24 victims versus 487 dead and 992 victimized here in America. Canada’s population is roughly one-tenth that of the US.

ETMNow does not care much about the definitional details, especially because, by any definition, the victimization is obscenely high. The international comparisons put America in a dark league of its own not only against individual countries but also against whole baskets of economically advanced, prosperous, democratic systems of self-governance.

Jennifer Mascia, journalist for The Trace, formerly for the New York Times, has chronicled some grim statistics about the prevalence of femicide at the hands of romantic partners, putting a grotesque twist on that old favorite Mills Brothers tune, You Always Hurt the One You Love. Ms. Mascia bookends her report with several chilling stories about real women slain by abusers who were former husbands, live-in partners or boyfriends. We avoid using the term “lover” because it does not apply to people who take other people’s lives.

To the best of our knowledge, no song titled You Always Kill the One You Love has yet been written. If it were, it would be an American lyric. According to another New York Times report, in 2013 61% of women slain by gunfire died at the hands of a former “love” partner. In 58% of mass shootings, at least one victim was a partner or family member of the shooter. How do these known abusers acquire the guns that cause such mayhem?

Easily, that’s how. Although federal law prevents the ownership of firearms by persons convicted of domestic abuse against a spouse, loopholes large enough to accommodate an 18-wheeler remain. No federal law prohibits non live-in partners, individuals under restraining order nor stalkers from arming themselves as whim takes them. These legal blind spots are known as “the boyfriend loophole,” “the stalker gap” and “the restraining-order gap.” Indeed, even children can easily acquire guns with little restriction or parental knowledge

Whatever restraining order restrictions are in effect apply only to permanent restraining orders. Temporary orders are exempt. Several brave legislators (Amy Klobuchar, Debbie Dingell and Robert Dold) are trying to close these gaps but in today’s Congress this is like pushing a bus through the eye of a needle. The aftermaths of Sandy Hook, Charleston and San Bernardino demonstrate clearly that no legislation will be achieved to prevent gun violence until the legislative earth shifts in our Land of the Brave.

January 9, 2016

Muskets and Moppets in the Land of the Brave

As the American killing fields grow ever bloodier in our gun-obsessed culture, we are reminded of the terrible price families pay when important children or caregivers are ripped away from families by gunfire. We live in a country putting childhood so much at-risk for death by shooting that some kids are expressing fashion statements by selecting their caskets in anticipation of their own slaying.

According to The Trace, in Liberty City (Miami FL), shooting children is so common that residents have taken to leaving teddy bears on street corners where children are shot instead of candles or flowers. Trace reporter Jennifer Mascia reports that American children as young as five years-old bring guns to school almost every day.

How do we kill our children in the Land of the Brave? How do kids themselves become lethal gun-wielders? Let us count the ways.

  1. Kids find guns in the home, a car or carried by parents, accidentally discharging them, killing other children, adults or themselves.
  2. Some kids pre-meditate, plan and carry out killing of other kids at school.
  3. Kids are caught in the crossfire of random shootings, often involving gang warfare.
  4. Kids are simply murdered outright for no apparent reason by malevolent adults.
  5. Kids kill themselves. “Suicide is the third leading cause of death for people ages 15 to 24.” Most suicides are committed by guns.
  6. Kids are taken by their parents to firing ranges to fire powerful assault rifles kill adults or themselves.
  7. And so it goes ad nauseam; grimly, grotesquely and gruesomely.

The medical journal Pediatrics presented a study showing that approximately 10,000 children are killed or injured by gunfire each year. Of these, 7,000 are hospitalized before injury and 3,000 die before they even get to the hospital. Seven children die from gunfire every day. As for guns in the home, a Children’s Defense Fund 2014 Report indicates that home possession of firearms increases the risk of homicide by 200%, accidental death by 300% and suicide by up to 400%.

In 2002, the World Health Organization examined the scourge of interpersonal violence worldwide. Referring specifically to youth violence, the WHO Report declared that “With the notable exception of the United States, most countries with youth homicide rates above 10 per 100,000 are either developing countries or countries caught up in the turmoil of social and economic change.” Or, as the Children’s Defense Fund declared, “US children and teens made up 43% of all children and teens in these 26 [advanced democracies] but were 93% of all children and teens killed by guns.

How does our climate of gun madness affect the daily thinking of children? One response came from a 15-year-old in Oregon who mused about how she and her classmates are scoping out hiding places in the event of an anticipated mass shooting. In her own words, she mused “I would say I think about the possibility of a shooting in my life regularly…. People in my school talk about where you’re probably going to be safe and where you won’t be (you’re dead if you’re in the library…. Fire drills put everyone out in lines in the field like sitting ducks).”

In a recent article, the New York Times projected a national sense of anxious melancholy regarding the extent of gun violence involving children and those who care for them. Following the San Bernardino mass slaying, reporter Liam Stack asked readers how often they thought about the prospect of shooting in their daily lives. The responses were disturbing, especially from teachers and students. One college teacher expressed fear of gun violence at the hands of a deranged student disgruntled by a poor grade or a conflicting viewpoint.

Blunk-and-KidsIn the real world, this scene gets very personal: painfully and permanently. A former Navy SEAL, 26 year-old Jonathan Blunk, was killed trying to protect others from the raging gunfire of James Holmes in that ill-fated movie theatre in Aurora Colorado. At the time, his two surviving children were, respectively, two and four years old. Left with a lifetime privation of fatherlessness, Maximus and Hailey Blunk now struggle through a life of uncertain anxiety they care only now beginning to understand.

In 1989 a 10 year-old child, Sean Smith, accidentally killed his kid sister with an improperly secured gun in his home. Aside from the irreversible loss of his younger sibling, Sean has been paying a steep price ever since. In the months following his accident, Sean was bombarded by his own voice on a desperate 911 call broadcast as a cautionary public service announcement favoring safe gun storage. Struggling with pangs of guilt few of us could ever imagine, Sean has battled substance addiction through the birth of a son and a failed marriage.

Then, there’s the endless price that parents pay when they lose a child by gunfire as the experience of Newtown CT has amply demonstrated. In 2013, approximately 100 children under the age of 14 were unintentionally shot and killed. “About two-thirds of these unintended deaths — 65 percent — took place in a home or vehicle that belonged to the victim’s family.” Prominent faces of parental grief for slain children show through the activism of Richard Martinez and Andy Parker, both of whom lost their children to the senseless rage of gunfire in 2014 and 2015. Martinez and Parker may be strong enough to turn tragedy into constructive action but, as with thousands of grieving parents like them, the extreme pain of loss will endure for their lifetimes and beyond.

The consequences of violence experienced in childhood often perpetuate themselves, as Eric Schlosser described years ago in The Atlantic. Schlosser wrote, “Many studies have shown that children who are directly exposed to violence are much more likely to commit violent acts as adults,” going on to report a study finding in Washington DC that “31 percent of the city’s first and second-graders had witnessed shootings, and 39 percent had seen dead bodies.”

This is the future we are fashioning for ourselves, especially our children: fearful of being shot, surrounded by armed guards in schools, trained for lock-downs, burdened by “adult” debates over whether adults in their their lives should be packing heat, suspicious of their own school mates. Children lose parents and loved ones, leaving them economically bereft and emotionally damaged for their lifetimes. Parents lose their primary reasons for raising families. What a world! Writing in The Guardian, Ana Marie Cox declares “This is insanity.

So, in the NRA‘s moments of deep reflection, what does the gun culture ask about a “civilized” nation’s murder of its own children? “The only way to stop a bad kid with a gun is a good kid with a gun?” Really? Madness; pure madness. Let’s end it now!

December 19, 2015

For an ETM Now holiday treat, we present a story written by a loyal follower about the nature of American childhood, past and present, against the nationally evolving backdrop of guns and innocence lost. The story features no Web links, no references. It’s a story. That’s all. We hope that you enjoy it.

Nobody Ever Told Me

Nobody ever told me in the 1940’s and 1950’s when I shot a .22 caliber rifle at a beer can in the back yard of our farm house that someday kids would be given those rifles for Christmas to play with. It never occurred to us kids that a rifle was a toy.

My father set up tin cans on apple boxes so we could have target practice. There were lots of rules about where to stand, taking turns, holding the gun pointing to the ground when not in use, preparing the rifle to shoot or not to shoot, only when an adult was there. Nobody ever told me that the rifle was for playing with, even though target practice was fun. My father was in charge of putting the rifle away in a safe place with the ammunition in another safe place.

My father used the rifle to shoot woodchucks in the apple orchard because they were pests, digging holes and eating the apples which we grew to sell. My father’s friends went deer hunting, and shot deer for venison meat, which I never liked, but was told it was our meat for supper. Nobody ever told me that guns for hunting deer were used for anything but hunting for food.

Nobody ever told me that when I grew up people would be shot in stores and theaters and schools and offices. Even though family members in my generation fought in WWII and used war guns and bombs and other dangerous weapons, they did not bring those weapons home with them after the war, or find places to buy them to keep at home. There were no guns at home for shooting people in our homes, in neighborhoods, in towns.

Nobody ever told me that when my granddaughter recently saw a gravestone of an ancestor who died in infancy she would say,” Maybe somebody shot her.” Children these days don’t think babies die of illness because it seems medicine can cure just about everything, but more likely because someone shot them. When I was six years old, I knew babies died because they were sick. It never occurred to me that someone would shoot a child.

Nobody ever told me that if I went to a movie or to a shopping mall or to a concert or a church, or to school, somebody might use a gun made for war to shoot people in the crowd. Going to a movie was fun! Going to a shopping mall was a chance to see more things to buy than I ever imagined. Going to a concert was to hear beautiful instruments or dancing music, or singing.

Going to church was where nearly everyone in our town went on Sunday. Going to school was where we had friends, and where there were teachers to obey, where we filled in notebook pages and put on plays and raised our hand to tell what we did at Thanksgiving. Nobody ever told me that someone might come into school carrying a gun that could shoot the students and the teachers. Bang ! bang! bang! bang! bang! Nobody ever told me that my grandchildren would know exactly what a lock down was, and that you practiced just like a fire drill, in case a mentally ill person or a terrorist went on a rampage in their school.

I always heard that America became a great country because people from all over the world came to this country fleeing war or starvation, or looking for freedom to talk and write and worship without being afraid, or to have a chance to work hard and make a better life for their family.

Nobody ever told me that people of different colors and religions and languages from countries all over the world would be dangerous people, and might be planning to kill people already in this country. Now my grandchildren might be told to fear a person of different colors and religions and languages, because some people say those people coming to America plan to shoot us with guns, guns that they can buy easily in this country.

When I lived in Finland several years ago, one of the first things my Finnish neighbor asked me was how many guns we had in our house in America. At first I did not understand her question. Guns? I told her we did not have any guns in our house, nor did I know anyone who had guns in their houses. She said she thought everyone in America had a gun under their pillow at night. Nobody ever told me that when I visited one of the most peaceful countries in the world, I would be asked how many guns I owned, just like asking how many cars we owned or how many pianos or televisions we owned!

Nobody ever told me that there would be more guns in American than people. Nobody ever told me that the time would come when people in America would be allowed to carry guns with lots of ammunition to use as weapons; to carry those guns into schools and parks, churches and theaters, offices and homes, on streets and in cars in order to kill lots of innocent people, quickly and all at once. Nobody ever told me because nobody saw it coming, and now it is almost too late to stop it.

December 2, 2015

Does hateful demagoguery stoke violent action in the homeland?

Amidst the noise about America’s response to the ISIS threat in the homeland following the San Barnardino atrocity comes a rather bizarre recent tirade by Liberty University President, Jerry Falwell, Jr. who intoned “If more ‘good people’ had concealed-carry permits, we could get ‘those Muslims’ before they walk in and kill us.

Brave words coming from a body part well south of the brain, but we might ask about mass shooters ripping up a church, school or clinic in the name of Christianity? Among the daily round of mass shootings now tearing our country apart, only a minuscule number are being perpetrated by Muslims or in the name of Islam.

President Obama has declared that the mass killing at a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs “is not normal“. It may not be normal in a normal country, but in exceptional America it is all too normal, and getting more so by the month. The President also said that “Enough is enough.” It’s just a hunch, but we’d bet that we’ll soon discover that no, indeed, the routinely macabre violence is not enough for the unsurpassed exceptionality of the United States.

Apparently we don’t yet know if the target of this mass shooting was Planned Parenthood. Therefore we can’t know if the entire GOP apparatus, which has made anti-Planned Parenthood rhetoric a central core of its bogeyman crusade, has innocent blood on its hands. That the Planned Parenthood facility was singled out for the Colorado Springs mayhem and that the alleged gunman said “no more baby parts” upon apprehension, and that such language comes directly from the GOP playbook of demagoguery might offer some very good clues.

It’s impossible to say the degree to which spiteful mendacity prompted by a partisan video filmed and edited by known ideologues makes “kill-PP” bandwagon leaders such as Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz culpable for this senseless massacre. So please let us hold judgment despite the vituperation that the GOP presidential convoy makes day-in and day-out about Planned Parenthood.

Let’s look at the things that our GOP presidential campaigns have actually said. Readers can decide for themselves whether such language is gratuitously inflammatory.

In September’s CNN GOP presidential debate, Carly Fiorina tendentiously claimed that videos on Planned Parenthood published by the so-called Center for Medical Progress included footage of “a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain,” suggesting that the footage depicted a PP operation, which fact-checking has proven it did not. Speaking on Fiorina’s behalf, her deputy campaign manager declared that “Planned Parenthood doesn’t and can’t deny they are butchering babies and selling their organs.”

Setting aside facts to the contrary regarding Planned Parenthood‘s “sales for profit,” Marco Rubio declared, “Now what you’ve done is [to create] an industry, now what you’ve done is [to create] an incentive for people to be pushed into abortions so that those tissues can be harvested and sold for a profit … ” This charge is not only flat-out false, it’s an affront to women and people who respect facts. Rubio is an intelligent enough man. He’s not kidding; he’s not deluded. He’s lying and he knows it.

Raising deception to an art form, Donald Trump is a loud, non-stop machine of bluster. About the Colorado Springs shooting, the shooter and Planned Parenthood, Trump opined that “I think he [shooter Robert L. Dear is] a sick person…. He was probably a person ready to go.” When reminded of Dear’s statement about “no more body parts,” Trump dug deeper into the septage by declaring “Well, I will tell you there is a tremendous group of people that think it’s terrible, all of the videos that they’ve seen with some of these people from Planned Parenthood talking about it like you’re selling parts to a car.”

Ben Carson considers gun rights more sacrosanct than human life. In October he indicated that “[he] never saw a body with bullet holes that was more devastating than taking the right to arm ourselves away.” Is he serious? Following the Planned Parenthood shooting he declared, “I think both sides should tone down their rhetoric and engage in civil discussion.” Both sides? Really? Where and when, on the “other” side have we heard phrases like “selling body parts,” “vast for-profit industries,” equating abortion with selling “car parts,” “butchering babies?”

Ted Cruz is now gaining better traction with his bid for the presidency. Cruz has trashed Planned Parenthood as a “criminal enterprise” (it is anything but). He has outlandishly suggested that the shooter is a “transgendered leftist activist.” This is from a man who has also said, without a touch of irony, “Now, listen, here’s the simple and undeniable fact: the overwhelming majority of violent criminals are Democrats.

“Establishment candidate” Jeb Bush must, despite his woeful campaign performance, be considered a viable GOP aspirant for the presidency. Although his rhetoric does not rise to the rant-rate of Fiorina, Trump or Cruz, he nevertheless boasts about shutting off Planned Parenthood funding in Florida while Governor, claiming that PP is “not actually doing women’s health issues.” Tell that to the nearly three million women and men nationally who annually receive PP care.

Fully legal abortion service comprises roughly 3% of all health services provided by Planned Parenthood. Among these services are cancer screening and prevention, STD treatment, contraception, adoption referrals, pre-natal care, pregnancy testing,  and family practice to men and women.

We could go on, down the baleful list of GOP candidates. For all its pro-life rhetoric, the Republican Party seems pro-death to us. Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal recently accepted prominent speaking roles at an event organized by a pastor who stridently and publicly advocates the execution of gays.

As a party, the GOP routinely trots out hate targets for demonization; Mexicans yesterday, Planned Parenthood today, “transgendered leftist activists” (whoever they are, Ted Cruz) tomorrow, women 24/7. By sliming whole populations of Americans with such gleeful venom, the Republican Party is not simply playing to the most bigoted elements of its voting base, it singles out victims for all manner of violent abuse outside the formal boundaries of electoral politics.

From the violence of extremism, children, spouses, family members and friends are left bereft of the figures they love and who care for them. The slain never come back, but the scars remain with their loved ones forever. What does this matter when there are political points out there to be plucked for partisan advantage?

October 22, 2015

Below the “Cojones for Congress” page fold, we outline the positions of today’s presidential candidates on guns and gun regulation. But first, as the annual firearms death toll mounts in America, let’s look at a run-down of a few statistical realities.

1. In the United States so far this year, there have been more mass shootings than days in the calendar (mass shootings defined as more than three deaths resulting from a single incident).

Yet we do nothing.

2, On a typical day in America, a person dies from gunfire every seventeen minutes resulting in ninety killings per 24-hour period.

Yet we do nothing.

3. Every week, more than 600 men, women and children die from firearms.

Yet we do nothing.

4. Each month the death toll approaches 2,600.

Yet we do nothing.

5. All of this adds up to roughly 33,000 slain per year, accidents and suicides included.

Yet we do nothing.

6. In a single American city, Chicago, approximately 2,300 shootings have occurred since the New Year. During one particularly gruesome recent weekend, eight people were shot to death and 45 others wounded, some critically.

Yet we do nothing.

7. In a single October 2015 week, Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff suffered THREE lethal campus shootings.

Yet we do nothing.

8. This year there have already been more than 45 mass shootings at schools.

Yet we do nothing.

9. Nearly 16,000 children were shot in the United States in 2010, nearly 3,000 of them killed.

Yet we do nothing.

10. American children are nine times more likely to die in gun accidents than children anywhere else in the developed world.

Yet we do nothing.

11. Children between the ages of 5 and 14 in the United States are 17 times more likely to be murdered by firearms than children in other industrialized nations.

Yet we do nothing.

12. The United States accounts for nearly 75 percent of all children murdered in the developed world.

Yet we do nothing.

13. Children from states where firearms are prevalent suffer from significantly higher rates of homicide.

Yet we do nothing.

14. In the United States, only motor vehicle crashes and cancer claim more lives among children than do firearms.

Yet we do nothing.

15. Among nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the US includes 30% of the OECD population, but 90% of its homicide by gunfire.

Yet we do nothing.

16. One gun is owned on average by every infant, adolescent and adult in America, for a total count exceeding 300 million.

Yet we do nothing.

17. Gun ownership is lopsided in America where six million private citizens each own ten or more guns.

Yet we do nothing.

18. In the year 2013, more than 500,000 years of life have been prematurely cut-down by gunfire according to commonly accepted actuarial calculations of human life span.

Yet we accept this as our blood red national wallpaper.

October 9, 2015

Another day, another mass shooting, more than one per day in 2015. We are digesting the carnage at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. Yet again! Yet again! Yet again! Yet again! In addition to the nearly 300 mass shootings in America so far this year, we also know that it is the 45th such slaughter to be perpetrated in a school. These are the morbid facts. Look them up.

Our uniquely American mayhem just never stops. As President Obama declared the day of the mass slaying, we have become numb to the repeated atrocity. As a nation we may indeed be as numb as we are dumb, but the victims of gun violence are anything but. This is what happens when bullets enter the body of a living human being. Death leaves no second chances, but sometimes surviving is hardly much better. We’re not discussing scraped knees here.

To satisfy ourselves that our national syndrome of massively lethal gun-slinging is simply about guns is like placing the blame for our poor educational outcomes solely on public schools. Such argumentation doesn’t hold water; it misses the point. It offers the calming inconvenience of holding ourselves to account.

On one point, we must give the NRA its due. The issue the nation confronts with the numbingly routine occurrence goes way deeper than guns. It is about what we have become as a community of citizens. It is about the growing alienation of vast numbers of citizens who perceive themselves as irrelevant to the control of their own country.

It is about the fear, loathing and anger stage-managed by self-serving cynics to demonize people with divergent views, who look different, who talk “funny,” who worship (or not) differently, who love whom they choose. It is about offering legitimate live-ammo target practice for angry white males who perceive diversity as existential threat.

Yes, we need to tighten the flow of firearms to reduce purchase by abusers, criminals and mentally wounded people. While such measures may only dent the superficial shield of our morbid insanity, so much more is needed to make us truly whole again. The US Congress merely reflects our collective character and the electoral choices we make. More is required of Congress and whoever follows the much-maligned black leader we now have as President. In the end, however, more is required of us.

Around and About, mid-eptember, 2015

As usual, mid-September brings bad news, good news, and insights into the grit of gun violence in our country. A recent New York Times editorial addresses the outsized role of guns in American suicides, explaining that approximately two-thirds of all annual gun fatalities are suicides, particularly afflicting the young. Roughly 85% of suicide attempts by guns are successful while only 2% of drug overdose attempts result in death. Most gun-enabled suicides occur because of unsecured firearms in homes.

Gun violence has hit a high-ranking officer in New York State’s government. State Attorney Carey Gabay (43) was stuck in urban crossfire and struck in the head while attending a West Indian community festival in Brooklyn. Several days after the shooting, Mr. Gabay remains in a coma with bleak prospects for recovery. Following this senselessness, NY Governor Andrew Cuomo has renewed his urge for sensible national gun regulation to prevent the unstaunched flow of firearms from control-lax states such as Georgia to stricter jurisdictions like New York.

At the state level, counterbalancing the grim news of open and campus-carry legislation in Texas and the abrogation of 48-hour waiting periods between gun purchase and transfer in Wisconsin, the State of Oregon has enacted legislation to require background checks on all gun purchases, regardless of sales origin. This may help reduce sales to buyers with criminal or documented mental illness, but can do nothing to stop the importation of guns acquired in non-background check states.

So, how does YOUR state rank for ease of gun access? Here’s where to find out.

August 28, 2015

In a recent New York Times op-ed, Ms. Zeynep Tufekci makes the point that re-posting the WDBJ-TV7 video of the murderous carnage that Vester Flanagan delivered on August 26th, or even worse his own gruesome “selfie” of the horror, serves only to grant him the stage he craved.

There are other sides to this argument. A different one is that the shock of the horror of the Roanoke TV station video could jolt voters out of their complacency about gun violence and encourage them to pressure their elected representatives and to vote for sanity. Dream on, we guess.

That said, ETM Now takes Ms. Tufekci’s point, with the studies she cites, that the suggestive copycat harm might outweigh any public benefit generated by the shock of witnessing horror. For this reason, we are removing the WDBJ-TV7 video from our home page, but leaving the link on a subsidiary page because we also feel that blog readers should have access to the video if they so choose.

Like Ms. Tufekci, we now feel that more people might be motivated than outraged. We thank her for her perspective. Her call not to re-post the horror is persuasively reinforced by The Boston Globe’s esteemed media critic, Ty Burr. We respectfully yield to their honest judgment.

A New York Times editorial declares, “We all know no change [in our congressionally-enabled gun culture] is likely.” This being so, what more is there to say or to write? What’s the use of editorials like this when our supposedly representative elected officials ignore the strong public sentiments of those who elect them?

Eighty-four percent of the voting American public favors mandatory background checks on all gun purchases. In 2011, nearly three-quarters of Americans favored purchase-to-transfer waiting periods so that the checking process can work; those favoring such a measure include 67% of gun owners and 47% of NRA members (almost half). So, if we’re going to focus on mental health, let’s start with members of Congress, the cynical enablers of the insanity that so grips our country in its icy clutches.

Notwithstanding citizen opinion on gun violence, more and more mayhem abounds in our exceptional land; three deaths, one serious injury. Roanoke must be the first place in America where a mass shooting has been documented with a selfie. Never let it be said that America has lost its zest for innovation.

ETM Now is a blog that advocates for what ought to be obvious change in America: the institution of simple sanity to confront our out-of-control spiral of gun madness. This blog is a one-person operation, so the time available for updating it is limited. Our intention is to address issues thoughtfully. Written reflection takes time. Reflective thought, however, is now routinely interrupted at a sickeningly increasing pace by breaking news of killing after incomprehensible killing.

On August 26th, two TV journalists and the killer gunman were slain for no real cause. The unfortunate interviewee, Ms. Vicki Gardner, is expected to survive, but she may be disabled for the rest of her life. For Alison Parker and Adam Ward, two promising lives have been prematurely robbed, leaving another trail of tears in the wake of senseless carnage.

This is our American culture of madness. By the same token our lawmakers are feckless, fearing the impact of the gun lobby on their political prospects more than they fear the murder and maiming of their own constituents. The madness must stop now. In a sane culture it would never have started.

Around the states

From around the states there is good news and bad. On the beneficial side, the State of Oregon has recently enacted legislation expanding its background check law to include private sales of firearms, meaning gun show, Internet and other person-to-person transactions would be subject to monitoring.

Not so sweet, the State of Maine has enacted legislation that will soon allow citizens to carry concealed weapons without a permit. Ostensibly, this move will relieve “law-abiding” gun owners from the burden of license applications to carry lethal weapons. What next? Will Mainiacs be given total rein to drive cars license-free?

As for the rest of Maine, citizens will no longer enjoy the security of eating out of taking in a movie assured that any and every stranger might be armed, and off-meds. Meanwhile in Boothbay Harbor, in early July a deranged man slew his wife, adult son, then himself.

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo recently walked back his signature SAFE Act for gun control, enacted shortly after the Sandy Hook massacre of 2012. By this Memo of Understanding with Albany’s GOP Senate President, John Flanagan, funding for the creation of a database on all in-state ammunition transactions is withheld. Such a move essentially aborts implementation of this key element in the SAFE Act.

In Texas, university campus-carry is on its way. New legislation would enable students over 20-years-old to obtain concealed-carry licenses after a short gun safety course. This measure, billed as “student protaction,” has been opposed by University of Texas Chancellor William McRaven, former Special Forces Navy Admiral who, we might safely presume, knows a thing or two about guns.

Ever keen to pander to the extreme right-wing, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is poised to sign legislation that would eliminate a two-day waiting period for handgun purchases. As in Maine, the rationale is to grease the skids for lawful gun acquisition, removing state government from the business of checking the backgrounds of would-be purchasers.

There’s better news in Kansas, where Elizabeth Shirley won a fair settlement in a negligence lawsuit against two gun dealers who sold the murder weapon that killed her 8-year-old son, Zeus, ten years ago. Ms. Shirley’s then-estranged husband sent his grandmother into the gun shop to purchase the gun to kill Zeus, then himself. Thanks to the Brady Campaign’s effort, gun dealers will be held accountable for straw gun purchases.

August 17, 2015

Every day. It happens every bleeding day. Just a few days ago we were writing that preceding paragraph to roll-out the latest ETMN update when news of another Brooklyn shooting arrived, this time in the Red Hook area. Five people were injured, two critically, including a 19-year-old pregnant woman who lost her fetus to the carnage. Yet we have an entire national political party that pontificates opportunistically about the sanctity of embryonic life, while conspiring with the gun lobby and the NRA to enable the flow of firearms to malefactors who would take those lives, born and unborn, away.

Should it be called a mass shooting? Early August in New York City saw two back-to-back shootings in a single day. As a result, eleven people were injured and one killed. Since mass shootings are defined by the number of slain, a number that must exceed three in a single incident to qualify, On that date, NYC failed to achieve the high carnage standard of Charleston SC or Chattanooga TN for the honor roll of American mayhem. Of course that one murdered NYC victim isn’t any less dead than the Charleston 9 or the Chattanooga 5. For Louisiana lovers, sorry, three dead in Lafayette at the hands of John R. Houser didn’t even make the carnage cut.

In Lafayette, perhaps we thought that we had left movie theatre shooting behind us for a breathing spell. No such luck! According to Canada’s CBC News, in Nashville, Tennessee, “Vincente David Montano, 29, was shot dead inside the movie theatre after he stormed into a screening of Mad Max: Fury Road wearing a surgical mask and wielding an axe, a pellet gun and pepper spray.” Only the potential shooter was felled. One dead, a mere trifle, but wholly emblematic of our terminal national disease. At a hip-hop concert in northern New Jersey, two were injured by gunshot, fortunately nobody slain.

Lest we feel soothed by the scarcity of news by the absence of news about children shot or actually shooting, this gruesome story of an 11-year-old Detroit boy slaying a 3-year old girl with a gun found in his father’s dresser drawer should rouse us from any complacency. As children grow into gang membership vintage, the killing fields expand, as in the Boston area where, on the night of August 12th, five youths were slain in what seemed like the blink of an eye.

The pressure inches forward for greater sanity in the manner that America manages its relentless gun flood, perhaps not enough to create much change, but adding another building block to the quest for sensible control in the longer run. Senator Chuck Schumer and his comedienne niece, Amy Schumer, have teamed up to exert congressional pressure for reform. Good luck to them during this current Congress. This Congress will not last forever, however. The seeds of reform must be planted even when the immediate prospects seem doubtful.

July 27, 2015

Where to start? After just over five weeks, three incidents, seventeen deaths and who’s counting the injuries of carnage-by-mass-shooting in the killing fields of America, ETM Now has no idea how to launch this update. Just hours before the Lafayette carnage, President Obama declared in a BBC interview, “If you look at the number of Americans killed since 9/11 by terrorism, it’s less than 100. If you look at the number that have been killed by gun violence, it’s in the tens of thousands.”

The gun lobby tells us that US citizens need ever more guns (more than one, on average, for every man, woman, child and infant in America) to protect against terrorists, criminals, “big government,” Democrats, and suspicious persons of swarthier complexion and non-Anglophone origin. By such logic, we are literally killing ourselves in droves to protect against the occasional shooting. This is not merely misguided policy; it is outright lunacy. Notwithstanding “The Donald’s” rabid racism and Fox News’s insinuation few, if any, mass shootings on American soil (that is to say most of them worldwide) have been perpetrated by illegal immigrants.

Following the Charleston 9 murders by America’s mass-shooting-of-the-week through the month of June, we were considering the right theme for late July along came the Chattanooga 5. The deadening drumbeat of violent death has begun to sound like the most recent sports scores:

  • Charleston, 9 – Chattanooga, 5
  • Virginia Tech, 32 – Sandy Hook, 27
  • Binghampton, 13 – Fort Hood, 13
  • Columbine, 13 – DC Navy Yard, 12
  • Aurora, 12 – Kinston, 10
  • Oakland, 7 – Isla Vista, 7
  • Columbine, 13 – Lafayette, 3

and, sickeningly, so on and so forth. Tie scores are broken by additional number of people not slain but permanently disfigured or otherwise disabled. Careers ruined and families rent asunder earn bonus points. And now, we have Lafayette, Louisiana as further proof to the world that the USA has taken complete leave of its senses.

So it is in our exceptional land. The American League of Gun Death standings put Aurora and Virginia Tech with the most points of the current mass killings class. Hurray! Sorry, not enough innocent folks injured, but not slain, at Sandy Hook to place near the top. In Newtown, thanks to the US Congress (both houses) and the NRA, only death reigned supreme that awful day in December 2012.

The loss of the Chattanooga 5 provided fodder for our current theme that real people and their families are altered in a profoundly cruel manner when devastated by bullets from guns so easily accessed by the most fearful, angry, conspiratorial elements in our culture that has now elevated the virtually unrestricted right to tote weapons of mass destruction (for that is what they are) without regulation or licensing.

On July 25th, CNN reported that Lafayette killer, John R. Houser acquired his semi-automatic handgun legally. NO HE DID NOT! Federal Law prohibits firearms sales to individuals with records of involuntary commitment to mental health treatment or with prior domestic abuse restraining orders. Mr. Houser carried both red flags on his record. Similarly, the documented warning signs for Dylann Roof and Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez were legion. Yet they still obtained guns. Here In the USA, any and everybody can.

The Second Amendment of the US Constitution does not allow and never intended such a thing. How can we know this. Well, we have read the Amendment. The nation’s founders did not endorse the notion of arming individual frat party goers, terrorists, racial supremacists, people known to have severe mental illness, yet the NRA has vehemently resisted measures to control for firearms flow to such lost and wayward people who, armed and dangerous, threaten everybody else’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Looking at the carnage in Chattanooga and Lafayette, here is a brief run-down of the resulting human devastation: young families left fatherless, life dreams shattered, careers ended and hopelessness spawned. One would think that politicians who fulminate about the sanctity of family values might find the wanton, unnecessary destruction of such families unacceptable. Yet they do not, at least not when the knotted fist of the NRA comes a-knocking at their doors with offers they cannot refuse. Then, campaign coffers trump constituent family survival, hands-down, every time.

BuzzFeed editor Rachell Zarrell recently stirred-up a firestorm by tweeting on July 23rd, “Don’t pray. Push for gun control.” The right-wing blog, The Federalist Papers Project is livid with outrage that such vile “libby-rulls” could possibly be against prayer, but ETMN thinks she meant that words are cheap and empty prayers are cheaper. The only thing that truly counts is action, and there’s none in-sight.

In the hands of feckless elected leaders, it’s action that isn’t happening, and it’s not happening on the parts of sanctimonious hypocrites who enshroud themselves in the mantle of Turin as they toady-up to the gun lobby while men, women and children are mowed down, singly and in massive killing fields. Here’s the real outrage; pretending to pray with fingers crossed behind one’s back.

In Lafayette, the senselessly slain Jillian Johnson, 33, was an owner of a printing shop and, with her husband, owned a boutique that specialized in gifts. Mayci Breaux, 21, a small-town beauty queen who “was named ‘most beautiful’ by her [high school] senior class and was a co-captain of her cheerleading squad.”

By the time of the Chattanooga mass killing spree, more Marines were killed in that single event than in all of Afghanistan throughout 2015. Here’s who perished, with a few snippets of data showing the depth of personal, family and community loss. In Chattanooga, it IS personal.
  • Sergeant [Carson] Holmquist, 25, was married and had a 2-year-old son…. He joined the Marines in 2009, and deployed to Afghanistan twice.
  • Sergeant [David] Wyatt, who was 37 and originally from Arkansas, joined the Marines in 2004, and deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. He was the father of two young children.
  • Lance Corporal [Squire] Wells, known as Skip, [was] a fun-loving, popular student who played clarinet in the school marching band.
  • Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan was in the Marine Corps for 18 years, survived truck bombs and a rain of mortars during one of the biggest assaults of the Iraq war, earned a Combat Action Ribbon and two Purple Hearts.
  • US Navy Petty Officer Randall Smith who was shot in the liver, colon and stomach. He was a married father of three girls.

June 20, 2015

As Brian Malte of the Brady Campaign put it, America’s gun death rate continues to spiral like a mutant odometer so out-of-control that the numbers whiz by in an imperceptible blur. From Boothbay Harbor in Maine comes yet another needlessly tragic loss of life involving the double murder-suicide of a 71-year-old man who slew his wife and 40-year-old son. At this moment, nobody can know the back story to this atrocity, but our gruesome national odometer keeps spinning its murderous count.

Just a few days earlier, on July 2nd, we were just getting ready to summarize the fall-out from the murderous hate crime in Charleston, SC when — bang! bang! bang! — news broke about a second shooting at the Washington DC  Navy Yard. Happily, this turns out to have been a false alarm, but it isn’t hard to see why folks on the scene were skittish after the twelve deaths at the hands of an severely unstable, but nonetheless armed, Aaron Alexis in 2013.

Would that the fateful and initially peaceful evening of June 17th in Charleston had turned out so inconsequentially. It became, however, a sickeningly and infuriatingly real nightmare. Mere weeks after the police slaying of the unarmed, fleeing Walter Scott, this beautiful city was even more traumatized by the mass shooting at an Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal prayer meeting. Whether or not perpetrator Dylann Roof committed a hate crime against innocent worshipers on June 17th, he had long put his venom on display on social media. His racist vitriol was well-known. So, a gun for Dylann? No problem in our national sieve of gun regulation.

Understandably overlooked in the wake of Charleston is the atrocious murder a mere five days earlier of 20-year-old Andrea Farrington, a children’s museum receptionist in Coralville Iowa. A deranged former security guard, Alexander Matthew Kozak was apprehended shortly after the assault. Although Kozak had not yet compiled a criminal record, Farrington had filed a complaint about his sexual harassment. Since July 2014 Kozak carried a gun permit, valid throughout Iowa.

Not surprisingly, the Charleston 9 massacre resurrected our unproductive national debate about gun control. In contrast to President Obama’s and Hillary Clinton’s renewed calls for sensible measures to regulate the floodwater of firearms distribution, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker responded by eliminating his State’s 48-hour wait period for handgun purchases. You pays yer munney; you takes yer choice. NRA Executive Board member Charles Cotton weighed in with a particularly repugnant (even by NRA standards) screed blaming the slain Pastor Clementa Pinckney for his own execution. So execrable was his remark that Mr. Cotton himself was embarrassed enough to rescind it.

Like Newtown, Aurora,Tucson, Isla Vista, Columbine and on, and on, and on, and …, as Charleston fades from the national consciousness the policy chatter will fade everywhere, except in the US Congress because, there, debate failed to start in the first place. Among our fearless lawmakers, we heard such feeble rationales for silence as their profound respect for the victims and their families. Let us hope that such respect might some day extend to the American people and the constitutionally-sanctioned right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Oh yes, House Speaker John Boehner led a bipartisan delegation to Charleston “to pay respects”. THAT should pretty much cover the problem squarely.

Around the states

Sadly, the recent news is not so good. Awaiting Texas Governor Greg Abbot’s signature, concealed carry is about to grace the campuses of Texas post-secondary education this coming August. Gun activists are nonetheless very unhappy because the bill currently awaiting Abbot’s signature carries a lower age limit of 21 and restricts the “campus carry” right to those holding handgun permits.

Against almost unanimous campus leadership opinion among administrators and students, Texas will soon join Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, Utah, and Wisconsin in permitting on-campus carry. Such policy promises to liven-up booze-drenched weekend frat parties, not to mention skyrocketing insurance and security costs in campus-carry states. Not satisfied with one superb policy initiative, Governor Abbot is primed to sign a companion measure into law: open carry of holstered handguns in any and all public places. YEE-HAW!

Perry-BoysWillBeBoys_June5-2015The man who would be President!

Meanwhile in Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker (another man who would be President) recently signed into law a measure removing the State’s 48-hour wait period to purchase handguns. Additionally, Walker approved legislation allowing retired police officers to carry concealed firearms in public schools. One can only presume that Governor Walker’s attention span is too short to remember back to January 2014 when a retired cop in Tampa Bay FL shot a fellow movie-goer to death and injured the man’s wife, all for texting during the pre-feature previews. Naturally, the ex-cop invoked Florida’s Stand Your Ground law to justify the homicide. The case remains to be settled but the septuagenarian perpetrator remains free on-bail. If this is good for film buffs, it would be even better for grade-schoolers.

What is it about the Palmetto State, home state of the victimized Charleston 9? There, State Rep. Alan Clemmons filed legislation that, if enacted, would require all grade levels of all SC public schools to devote three weeks per year of mandated curriculum about the 2nd Amendment. The SECOND AMENDMENT, for the love of Larry!

Never mind the incalculable complexities of American constitutionality, this NRA-backed proposal would devote 36 weeks of any student’s overall schooling, grades 1-12, EXCLUSIVELY to the misinterpreted right to bear arms. Leaving aside the curricular absurdity of this proposition, it would mandate more than 75% of a typical school year of 180 days to ONE American constitutional Amendment.

January 17 – into the sunset

Three corpses here; two more there, all in 48 hours of life and death in one American city. Another child in ICU. It’s not much, barely warranting a wink and a nod before we move on to other critical issues like whether or not the New England Patriots deflated their game footballs. In Queens, a father slew his own children and their mother, while critically wounding another child. At a Home Depot in Chelsea, another two were shot dead at the hands of a crazed gunman.

We rang out the old year with a rather gruesome children’s story. It seems that a two-year-old in a shopping cart being wheeled around a Blackfoot, Idaho WalMart found a cocked, loaded handgun in his mother’s handbag and shot her to death. How do we reduce such an unacceptable risk? Easy, according to the NRA; develop and market bra holsters that children can’t reach. Oh really? Surely the problem cannot be the mother’s astonishingly poor judgment in carrying around a loaded firearm in the first place or the NRA‘s adamant refusal to consider sensible preventative measures.

This tragedy was but one of a series of recent gunfire deaths involving children. In a column castigating gun manufacturers, dealers, policy-makers and self-serving lobbying groups, The New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof chronicles a grim trail of tears and outrage caused by or for kids with access to guns. That the toddler shot his own mother is more than tragedy enough, but the unintended target could have been anyone in the store: another shopper, a child, a cashier, anybody.

The NRA claims that civil society has no stake in preventing such atrocity, but it does. Clearly, the public safety of children is placed directly in harm’s way across our culture of guns anywhere and everywhere if kids are killing other kids and their own family members, as Mr. Kristof so persuasively affirms.

The new year started much as the old year ended: with a multiple homicide of innocent people in a public place and in broad daylight. This time, the action venue was Moscow, Idaho near the Washington State border where a gunman went on a spree killing three individuals including his own adoptive mother. A fourth victim was critically injured. Very little is known about the gunman, John Lee, 29 but there is no doubt about the senseless death of three people.

Gun safety advocates are ramping up their pressure on public officials to respond to citizen demands for action to reduce the sway of gun mania that so mindlessly grips our nation. A group of Newtown Connecticut parent-victims have filed a lawsuit against Bushmaster Firearms International which makes and markets the AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle used by Adam Lanza to slaughter 26 defenseless people, 20 of them very small children.

All we can say to the grieving Sandy Hook parents driving this lawsuit is “good luck with that,” especially because the NRA managed to persuade an obedient, captive Congress to penact legislation in 2005 to immunize gun manufacturers and distributors from legal liability for the harm caused by products that perform as designed and intended: to kill many — and very fast.

Adam Gopnik of The New Yorker illustrates this corruption of the legislative process by writing, “If a car maker made a car that was known to be wildly unsafe, and then advertised it as unsafe, liabilities would result. The gun lobby is, or believes itself to be, immune.” Let’s consider this. A car manufacturer is held responsible if one of its products fails in some critical way. The danger is in the failure. The danger of a gun, on the other hand, lies in its success. Gun “safety” depends on product malfunction. It is therefore an astonishing exercise in logical acrobatics to hold manufacturers legally harmless from the grievous injury caused by products that perform precisely as intended and as advertised.

We’re talking about rapid-fire, quasi-military assault weapons (AWs) here. Proponents of their profusion are fond of reminding us that the former (1994-2004) national ban on assault weapons was proven ineffective because it failed to produce a drop in crime or gun-inflicted casualties. Of course it was ineffective because it was designed to fail! The loopholes in the law loomed large enough to drive a tank through. No controls on private sales, no gun show restrictions and grandfathering of all exiting AWs.

Anybody: felon, mentally deranged, person under restraining order, could – as they now can – buy firearms, no questions asked. No weapons ban could possibly work under those circumstances. As the Clinton-era AW ban was approaching the end of its life span, The Harvard Crimson editorialized, “But the existence of loopholes is not an argument for throwing out the ban altogether; it is an argument for strengthening the law to close the loopholes.”

Speaking of “Felon, get your gun” follies, recent news recounts a recent threat issued on US House Speaker John Boehner’s life. The alleged assassin, Michael Hoyt, had declared that he “thought the Ohio Republican was the devil. He blamed Boehner for the Ebola outbreak. And…, he thought the speaker was mean to him.” Police tracking the case affirmed “that Hoyt had been treated for a psychotic episode about two years ago” and that they had “seized guns and ammunition from the man’s home.” Does anyone besides ETMNow find anything unsettling about who has access to guns in this story? Speaker Boehner thanked police and the FBI for their protection – protection that is in no way enabled by his own GOP Party’s platform on gun legislation.

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Here’s what “states rights” by the Gospel according to Saint Sam Brownback (he, of fiscal sanity fame) can do for you, your family and your friends!

The State of Kansas has led the national nullification crusade against federal gun legislation by its 2013 enactment of the “Second Amendment Protection Act,” a law that, according to the Brady Center “claims to void federal gun laws in Kansas. The next time you hear the gun lobby claim that they want to ‘enforce the laws on the books,’ remind them of what they’ve done in Kansas. It’s not enough that they circumvent and corrupt our nation’s gun laws – now they want to ignore federal gun laws altogether!

If fully enforced, this law would…

  • …declare that any gun made and kept in Kansas is not subject to ANY federal law, regulation or executive action.
  • …subject federal officials to felony charges for enforcing federal gun laws in Kansas.
  • …allow the sale of handguns to people aged 18-21.
  • …allow dangerous people, including violent domestic abusers, to buy and possess guns.
  • …allow gun makers to manufacture guns without serial numbers, making them completely untraceable.

Worst of all, this law could PROHIBIT BACKGROUND CHECKS for guns made in Kansas! That means ALL prohibited purchasers, including convicted felons, domestic abusers and the dangerously mentally ill could buy Kansas-manufactured guns with NO QUESTIONS ASKED at ANY level of authority.”

The irony here is that many cities and towns are equally passionate about nullifying state laws that encourage the flow of firearms into local communities — like the District of Columbia. The irony seems utterly lost on gun absolutists.

December 18-January 15

Happy New Year!

Celebrating this season of joy is the sudden injection of fortitude that possessed the Democratic Party as it pushed through the Senate confirmation of Dr. Vivek Murthy as the nation’s Surgeon General. It’s just amazing the spine that a crushing electoral defeat can implant. But first, we mustn’t forget to thank US Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) for his selfless grandstanding that provided the procedural wiggle room that greased Dr. Murthy’s skids. Thanks, Ted!

December 14th marked the 2nd anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre which took the lives of 20 innocent primary school children and six more adult teachers and staff entrusted to their care. Newtown Connecticut, home of the Sandy Hook elementary school continues to struggle with the massacre’s fall-out. Recently, the Town purchased the Lanza home where the mentally disturbed Adam grew up.

In a grim reminder of Sandy Hook, yet another school shooting has occurred in Portland Oregon. Including the shooter, four teenagers were injured, one critically and two seriously. We first heard about it in a Canadian news source, the Globe and Mail. Several hours later, a report appeared in the New York Times. In American outlets, news such as this has become so commonplace that there seems to be no rush to carry it. Ho-hum!

Since none of the victims has yet died, the shooting cannot be termed “mass” by the FBI standard which required a minimum of four deaths to qualify. Police work so far suggests that this particular incident resulted from a gang dispute gone awry. The school where it occurred is a special needs institution specializing in children expelled or suspended from other schools.

To recognize the grim atrocity of Sandy Hook, the Newtown Action Alliance teamed up with Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence for a national vigil in Washington DC not only to remember the fallen victims of Newtown but also the nearly countless child casualties that have occurred since Sandy Hook, not only in schools but on our streets and public parks every day.

Only a few short weeks ago, the US was in near panic about the prospect of an Ebola pandemic. The reality produced two deaths on American soil, both of which resulted from illness contracted in West Africa. By contrast, on any given two days, roughly 165 Americans die from gun fire.

Get ready for some sports news! At the current pace the Ebola death rate in America will remain at two by year’s end, rendering an annual score in 2014 of:

  • Gunfire 30,000 – Ebola 2. (Death by gunfire wins in a shoot-out!)

Yet we got our knickers all in a twist over Ebola in the homeland, partly because the scare offered a handy cudgel, among many others, to blame our President in the run-up to the 2014 mid-terms. Go figure!

A disturbing new Pew Research Center poll indicates that a majority of Americans now believe that protecting Second Amendment rights trumps common-sense gun safety legislation in the public perception of public safety. This is disturbing because it flies in the face of scientific evidence, domestic and international that tells us exactly the opposite.

It is hard to get one’s mind around the argument that America needs more guns in their homes, places of worship, schools, restaurants, public parks – any and everywhere – for self-protection against all the threatening guns out there. Too many guns? Let’s protect ourselves by flooding the country with even more guns. As one alert ETM Now Commenter pointed out, the Pew Center loaded their gun regulation question by linking it to an abrogation of constitutional rights, a debatable link at best.

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From around the states we see, as usual, bad news and good news. Here’s a fantastic report from Virginia. Following through on a campaign promise, Governor Terry McAuliffe has proposed state legislation that would restore a limit on handgun purchases, mandate universal background checks on all gun sales, close the gun show loophone allowing sales with no background vetting and prohibit any gun sale to individuals under active citation for domestic abuse. Blunting these good holiday tidings is the bleak reality of a GOP-dominated State Legislature.

From New Jersey, the Brady Campaign has just announced a court victory that should terminate state-level foot-dragging on a 12-year-old law, labeled Assembly Bill 700, requiring the State to implement measures to make all handguns childproof. How this victory will turn out remains anybody’s guess, but the judicial screws are turning toward gun sense on the Jersey Shore.

In Texas, gunnies are wrangling over wording about liberalizing “open carry” legislative proposals. Should AR-15s be permitted in maternity hospital wards or only in dentist’s waiting rooms? Should dentists add AK-47s to be incorporated into their surgical toolboxes. We dunno! Read about it here.

November 25-December 15

For the current 2-3 weeks. ETM Now takes inspiration from the Brady Campaign’s “Talk Turkey” notes on the myths versus the reality on guns in America. Drawing from several sources, we offer a deeper perspective on what research tells us, beyond the oppositional talking points — better we should say “shouting points” — from the NRA and its 24/7 violence-feeding fellow travelers.

Let’s start with women, not Romneyesque binders-full perhaps, but women all the same. The eponymous Wayne LaPierre, poster boy for under-medication, has stated that “the one thing a violent rapist deserves to face is a good woman with a gun.” Arm all women, he urges, to make them self-secure. Evidence, however, points to just the opposite conclusion. In a recent Atlantic.com article by Evan deFilippis, a meta-analysis conducted by the American College of Physicians concluded that “women with access to firearms become homicide victims at significantly higher than men.”

No only do American women, representing 32% of an overall population, account for 84% of all female gun victims in the developed world, they also die at higher rates in “guns anywhere all the time” states than in states with gun regulation. A frightening proportion of these deaths occur at home, too often at the hands of intimate males. Here in the Land of the Brave, more than two-thirds of adult female shooting deaths result from the violence of an intimate male partner. More chilling is the evidence that the ratio of male-female gun homicide to female-male is 83:1. What the research seems to suggest is rather than arming women with more guns, we should disarm some men to fewer guns.

Another study by the Children’s Defense Fund, The Truth about Guns, reported that roughly 50% of youth suicides committed in America were enabled by guns found in their own homes, usually owned by a parent. The same Report reveals federal law forbidding CPSC product protection for gun and ammo products. Baby cribs and cuddly stuffed toys are federally regulated, but neither lethal firearms nor their associated products, like bullets. In homes with guns, homicides are three times more likely, accidental death four times more and suicide five times more than in homes without guns.

Americans rightfully abhor mass school shootings such as the atrocity at Sandy Hook, Columbine, and far too many colleges and universities. Less well recognized, however, is the fact that our country suffers the numerical equivalent of a Sandy Hook massacre every three days. Each year, nearly 3,000 teens and tots die from gunfire. Ana Marie Cox writes in The Guardian that American kids face 17 times more death from gunfire than in a basket of 25 other developed countries combined. Young Americans representing 43% of a high-income country population made up 93% of children slain by gunfire.

The World Health Organization puts this child carnage in a different light, reporting that the United States stands alone among wealthy nations with a youth homicide rate higher than 10 per 100,000 of national population. In this regard, we journey with the likes of Syria, Iraq, Nigeria, Russia and Ukraine as our peer nations.

Each lethal shooting of a child or a woman, counted in ones, twos or threes barely registers any longer on our national media barometer, perhaps a brief mention in a local newspaper or “Eyewitless News” broadcast. Not much more than that; soon forgotten in our trash pile of desensitization.

With the little research conducted on gun violence in America, the conclusions are stark. The NRA mantra that more guns make the nation safer flies in the face of overwhelming evidence. What do America’s gun worshipers offer for countervailing evidence? Read the user post at the top of the comments section for insight into the sophistication of their argumentation. Switch a consonant here, a vowel there and, presto! They’ve made their case as clear as a four-letter word.

Meanwhile, Members of Congress including some Democrats, stonewall the appointment of Dr. Vivek Murthy as US Surgeon General. Unfortunately, the recent mid-term election results give us little hope that this unnecessary log-jam will be broken any time soon. Meanwhile too, Congress castigates the President for his allegedly failed response to the Ebola scare. Go figure.

ETM Now asks you to join with Credo and sign a petition urging Congress to remove its roadblock to the appointment of Vivek Murthy as Surgeon General of the United States. Here we are struggling with our response to Ebola on American soil and the NRA commandeers Congress to prevent the appointment of a highly qualified figure because he once tweeted that the inconvenient truth that gun violence is a public health issue in America.

After the new Congress is sworn in next January, any such confirmation will be impossible. Enough already. Appoint the #@&^%# Surgeon General now! This will require the US Senate to grow grapes. (Ah, but we dream!)

Around and about the states? Nothing much these days. Oh sure, a few killings here and some lifelong disabilities there, but nothing to generate more than passing mention in the national media.

In Brooklyn NY, a man cleaning his gun shot his own 9-month-old daughter in the hip, sending her to intensive care where she is struggling to recover. Thankfully, she is expected to survive. Who knows if she’ll ever walk normally. This incident brings to mind the Brady Campaign’s current campaign drawing attention to the question of secure gun storage in homes. Congress is looking for something to ignore. We’re sure they’ll ignore this issue with the courage and conviction for which they’ve become so famous.

Elsewhese in Brooklyn, 13-year-old innocent bystander, Gama Droiville, struggles to adjust to his newly-compromised life after losing his right eye in gang-related crossfire. As he enters high school, he deals with classmate shunning as a result of his prosthetic eye. He didn’t lose his life, Mirabile Dictu, but senseless gun violence has gifted Gama a lifetime disability.

On November 20 at Florida State University alum and lawyer, Myron May, shot three innocent people in the main University Library including 21-year-old student, Ronny Ahmed, who suffered severe spinal damage that will likely keep him paralyzed from the waist-down for the rest of his life. The shooter, Mr. May, carried a long medical record of unstable mental health. Yet he had no trouble lethally arming himself. He was shot dead by campus police minutes after the first 911 call was received, but still too late to save Mr. Ahmed from lifetime disability.

As for inner city firearms mayhem, who’s keeping track? It happens all the time. In Ferguson, MO it seems to have gotten tragically out-of-hand.

November 5-20, 2014

Boy, do we feel hung-over! In the aftermath of the 2014 mid-term elections, folks of the progressive persuasion (many readers of these pages, we imagine) are wondering where we can put our political trust with any hope of a positive outcome. As discouraging as the results were for a Party that ran away from its own platform, several points of light shone.

The hangover is fading, however, with news from the gun sanity front that earlier Colorado recalls of gun-sense state senators John Morse and Angela Giron were reversed in the 2014 mid-term election. The two seats formerly held by Morse and Giron were regained by Democrats Michael Merrifield and Leroy Garcia by substantial margins. Colorado enjoys an unusually high rate of voter turn-out, due partly to state voting laws that encourage, rather than suppress, citizen voting.

Jean Shaheen retained her Senate seat in New Hampshire. Coloradans sent John Hickenlooper back to his executive office. Tom Udall and Jeff Merkley won in New Mexico and Oregon, respectively. Gary Peters took Michigan. Other states performed pretty much as expected in the last few days leading up to the election.

Kay Hagan’s defeat in North Carolina was disheartening, but she lost key elements of the crucial Obama constituency by turning her back on the President. It’s hard to know what lessons were learned from this election but one that occurs to us is that if you came to power on the President’s coat-tails, it doesn’t work to ditch the President and try to keep riding those same coat-tails.

Most thrilling is the victory of the universal background check citizens’ initiative in the State of Washington, I-594, along with the defeat of the NRA-backed spoiler initiative, I-591. As a result of the 20-point landslide favoring I-594, all firearms sales in this State will henceforth be subject to background checks. With NRA permission, perhaps the federal government through its non-partisan public health research organs can conduct some research on the consequences of this public health question.

This victory portends future difficulty for the NRA which, while spectacularly successful at cowing national and state legislators of both major parties, faces a steeper challenge intimidating ordinary citizens who, time and again, have exhibited disgust at their representatives’ cowardice regarding gun sense.

Propelling the I-594 victory are the national gun sense organizations depicted by their icons near the top of this page: Americans for Responsible Solutions, The Brady Campaign, Everytown for Gun Safety, Moms Demand Action and the Newtown Action Alliance. Without the strategic, tactical and financial support of these organizations, I-594 may well have gone down in this GOP-wave election.

These organizations deserve our thanks and our support. Send them a note of appreciation. Make a donation. Volunteer to help. Without them, progress is impossible.

In a recent New York Times column, Joe Nocera (remember him of “The Gun Report” fame?) wrote about a Massachusetts gun broker, Mike Weiss, who actually favors sensible gun laws. Weiss writes a gun blog for The Huffington Post under the pseudonym Mike the Gun Guy. He takes the gun sense community to task, but not for the obvious reason. He believes the gun control advocates are too meek, especially in the face of NRA propaganda.

Weiss has particular passion for his advocacy of doctor-patient counseling on gun safety. He deplores measures in Florida and Missouri that prohibit such private interaction in the name of patient safety and public health, noting that two-thirds of all gun deaths in America are acts of suicide. Who knew? Not us until now. Physician bans against gun-related patient counseling are utterly absurd. How such laws could withstand court action on First Amendment grounds is a mystery. We wonder if these baleful measures have ever been challenged in court? Stay tuned; we shall try to find out.

Meanwhile, Members of Congress including some Democrats, stonewall the appointment of Dr. Vivek Murthy as US Surgeon General. Unfortunately, the recent mid-term election results give us little hope that this unnecessary log-jam will be broken any time soon. Meanwhile too, Congress castigates the President for his allegedly failed response to the Ebola scare. Go figure.

ETM Now asks you to join with Credo and sign a petition urging Congress to remove its roadblock to the appointment of Vivek Murthy as Surgeon General of the United States. Here we are struggling with our response to Ebola on American soil and the NRA commandeers Congress to prevent the appointment of a highly qualified figure because he once told the inconvenient truth that gun violence is a public health issue in America. After the new Congress is sworn in next January, any such confirmation will be impossible. Enough already. Appoint the #@&^%# Surgeon General now! This will require the US Senate to grow grapes. (Ah, but we dream!)

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Recent news from cities and states offer glimmers  of hope. Nationwide, urban prosecutors in cities as diverse as New York and Houston have launched a bipartisan, cross-regional alignment of resources and forces to combat senseless gun violence stemming from gang warfare, domestic abuse and street crime.

In the State of Washington, still reeling from the Marysville massacre, the universal background citizens’ initiative, I-594 flew past the gate in a romp. Under massive negative public pressure, the Texas Alcohol Beverage Commission (TABC) backed away from its own proposal to allow liquor sales at gun shows. Even gun show operators, apparently, opined that mixing alcohol with guns ‘n ammo failed to make much sense. Bravo Texas! ETM Now hopes for the moment to keep you in the great Union of fifty states. Shame on us but, frankly, we hadn’t expected such a hopeful outcome in the Lone Star State.

There’s equally good news from California. Governor Jerry Brown recently signed legislative proposal AB 1014 into law. The Act emerged from the outrage expressed statewide following the May 2014 massacre in Isla Vista when law enforcement was obstructed from taking preventative measures against the slayer despite the fact that his parents had informed officers of their concern about the dangerous mental health status of their son.

According to a Brady Campaign press release, this law “will allow family members or law enforcement to petition a court to remove firearms from someone temporarily if they believe there is a possible risk of injury or death” to self or others. AB 1014 follows three other gun sense measures signed into law by Governor Brown this year. The New York Times applauded California’s initiative in giving families a voice for gun control when they suspect mental health issues threatening mass carnage, as in Isla Vista, Tucson and Newtown.

October 28-November 5, 2014

Here’s what school days increasingly look like for America’s kids. It’s a fine way to grow up, is it not, in a civilized country? Kids just being kids? And here we Americans obsess about Ebola. One Ebola death has occurred so far on American soil. Hundreds are gunned-down every day.

So much is happening and the world watches, stunned as we shoot one another, including children, to death or permanent disfiguration. American voters also watch and wait for their chance to vote. Because the 2014 mid-term elections are just about upon us, let’s look at the stance taken by several congressional candidates on gun safety.

Speaking of the mid-terms, so many senators and representatives are salivating or cowering at the dog whistle of NRA reaction to just about everything on the 2014 political landscape. The NRA has trained its lethal sights on senatorial candidates Kay Hagan, Alison Grimes, Mark Udall, Michelle Nunn and Colorado gubernatorial candidate, John Hickenlooper. Fomenting fear and loathing against a backdrop of menacing sounds and music, the NRA TV ad attacking Mary Landrieu of Louisiana offers a glimpse of the NRA’s nationwide electoral fear-mongering.

On October 24, 2014 America’s gun culture graced the nation with a fresh installment from its morbid giftbags in Columbine CO, Troutdale OR, Isla Vista CA, Seattle WA, Las Vegas NV, Manchester IL, Portland OR, Tucson AZ, Aurora and Monument CO, the Washington DC Naval Yard, Overland Park KS, Santa Barbara CA, Virginia Tech VA, Cobb County GA and Sandy Hook CT. Have we missed any? We suspect so and apologize for our poor attention to detail.

This time,  the lethal madness leapt from the shadow near Seattle. There, without warning in Marysville WA an ostensibly healthy and happy 14 year-old freshman stood up during lunch at his high school cafeteria and opened fire on his own friends and relatives, killing two at last count (oops, now three dead and still counting). The handgun that he used was acquired legally, begging the question of how a 14 year-old can “legally” acquire a gun with live ammo that he then brings to school for yet another installment of scholastic carnage?

It has been a rotten week for staying alive, especially for the young – the very folks we Americans can least afford to lose. In Anaheim CA, a 9 year old girl was slain by a stray bullet that apparently went whizzing around her neighborhood as they so often do. Her name? Ximena Meza. Her crime? Playing outdoors near her home. Elsewhere that same week in northern California, two county sheriff’s deputies were gunned to death by a rampaging gunman from Salt Lake City.

As backdrop to these grisly October tales of senseless death and disability, we offer news of Anita Sarkeesian, a prominent advocate for controlling gratuitous violence in video games. OK, OK, this is a blog about gun sense, not video games, but it occurs to us that our neighborly gunnies on the fringe behave similarly to gamers who catch wind of anybody calling into public question the wisdom of unquenched violence-mongering.

Directly and vicariously we have experienced the brunt of gunnie anger upon viewing something as innocuous as a bumper sticker bearing the message “End the Madness.” Ms. Sarkeesian was forced to cancel her appearance at Utah State University resulting from a threat of mass gun and bomb carnage if her event were to go forward.

Gutsy fellas, our gun ‘n game guys in the Land of the Brave!

September 29-October 15, 2014

We’re well aware of the expression “what goes around comes around.” When it comes to gun violence in America, we are fast learning “what goes around keeps going around, again … and again … and again ….” It’s enough to put a sensible American back to bed, head covered with blankets, never to get up and smell the gunpowder.

Last week,  yet another little publicized story of mass murder by shooting spree hit the newsstands, perpetrated this time (surprise!) in Florida. A 51-year-old man with a documented record of crime, domestic violence, and gun violations dating back more than a decade fatally shot his own daughter and six grandchildren before turning the gun on himself. Eight people, seven of them total innocents – were slain senselessly before you could bark “ready, aim, fire!” Already this story has dropped clear out of news-cycle sight. It’s almost as though it never happened.

The man, Don Charles Spirit, had called local police to announce his intent to commit mayhem, but the cops arrived too late to prevent it. They found, in addition to the bodies of Spirit and his 28-year-old daughter, six children ranging from two months to eleven years old. These were not the first fatalities inflicted by Mr. Spirit. In 2003 he was convicted for a firearms violation after shooting his own son to death in what was called a “hunting accident.” At the time of his suicidal assault in Florida, Mr. Spirit had compiled a substantial record of domestic violence. Yet despite his long criminal record he had no difficulty arming himself.

Beyond the sick feeling of senseless loss afflicting innocent children, the main issue for ETM Now focuses on how little attention this story has generated in the national media. Such tragedy has become so commonplace that the country brushes it off with a hearty ho-hum. Why was this man armed? How did he obtain his lethal firearm? Why wasn’t he closely monitored as a mental health threat to his community? Is this just another item of bad news, so routine in today’s America that it was virtually forgotten within 24 hours by everyone except the victims’ loved ones?

Speaking of  “going around keeps going around, again … and again … and again …,” a recent New York Times editorial cited an FBI study (a rare phenomenon given the NRA’s lock-out of federally-supported research on gun violence) showing nearly a three-fold increase in multiple casualty mass shootings between 2000 and the present. Citing the FBI Report, the Times declared that “the average annual number of shooting sprees with multiple casualties was 6.4 from 2000 to 2006. That jumped to 16.4 a year from 2007 to 2013, according to the study of 160 incidents of gun mayhem since 2000.” Sobering stuff indeed in a nation of too many gunaholics.

On America’s firearms sick-o-meter comes another Associated Press story of the auctioning the gun used in the infamous 1966 University of Texas clock tower shooting rampage. Back then, such events were relatively rare, so the story received deep national coverage. Bids open at $25,000. In our gun-addicted culture, someone will doubtless pony-up well above that figure to own this “historical treasure.” Upon learning of this sale, a victimized family member declared “I can’t imagine who would want that or who would do that [auction such a ghastly memento of mass murder].” But the auctioneer offered the assurance that “We’re not capitalizing on the horrific part…. This is strictly for collectors, for its historic value.”

Right! This sounds a little too much like “It’s not about the money.”

September 5-18, 2014

Please let us be clear. ETM Now doesn’t want to put its hands on your guns. We don’t want to handle ANY guns, yours or our own. We respect your right to hunt, to protect your families, to keep yourselves safe. If, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, you feel that keeping firearms in your homes or on your person makes you and your loved ones safer, by all means, go for it. But get them licensed. Keep them concealed. Lock them away from unintended child play.

Own the guns you think you need but keep assault rifles out of restaurants and grocery stores. Keep them away from families with children. Keep your children away from gun shows and shooting ranges where they might maim or kill themselves or others. The country abounds in idiocy that, notwithstanding gruesome and graphic evidence to the contrary, holds that callow pre-teens are just fine handling submachine guns designed for warfare and that barely teens should strut around supermarkets bearing loaded AR-15s.

But lock them up. Keep them secure from unwitting children. Evidence shows that some of you fail to protect your own kids and the daughters and sons of your neighbors, your friends and your extended family. Too many of them are disabled or die as a result. Look it up. A democratically-elected state has a legitimate interest in protecting these vulnerable citizens. If citizens signal through their votes that they demand protection from gun violence, then citizens are sending a message through their constitutionally-sanctioned votes. This is not some noxious governmental “tyranny.” These voters are not traitors; they are citizens.

As for assault rifles, tell us what you need them for. To hunt? Nope. To protect yourselves and loved ones? Doesn’t fly. To strut in-your-face arrogance in the deluded notion that open-carry of AR-15s somehow protects a grossly misinterpreted constitutional right? Now we’re getting somewhere. Rights carry responsibility. Assault rifle-toting in your local Kroger’s of Hardee’s is, in our opinion, anything but a responsible exercise of a sacred right.

Last week presented us with a depressing re-visit to the insanity of taking small children to a shooting range that lets them fire powerful military-style assault weapon. Readers may recall from 2008 Massachusetts story that an 8-year-old boy, Christopher Bizilj shot himself to death with a micro-Uzi submachine gun with a massive recoil, capable of shooting 20 rounds per second. Someone supplied that battlefield gun to a small child. The show’s organizer failed to regulate his premises to prevent such a tragedy. Yet, despite months of courtroom trial, nobody was held to account, not even for negligence.

Well, history repeats itself. In Arizona near the Nevada border a 9-year-old girl at a gun show was given a Uzi that she couldn’t handle. This time, her instructor was fatally shot, a life senselessly terminated and an impressionable child no doubt emotionally damaged for her lifetime. Do we ever learn? Not in America. Not when it comes to gun behavior that borders on madness. Will anybody be held accountable for yet another senseless slaying. Don’t count on it. As one social media commenter put it, “What in the name of Jesus is wrong with us, Americans? Automatic weapons as toys?

August 16- September 4, 2014

ETM Now’s recent lead video featuring an NRA television spot castigating Michael Bloomberg as an “elitist liberal” has been moved to the the Fame ‘n Shame page of this blog to make way for the more recent, blood-chilling video of a 9-year-old girl losing control of a Uzi submachine gun after her adult instructor apparently switched the weapon from single-fire to repeat-fire mode.

A small girl was unable to control a recoiling submachine gun automatically firing 20 rounds per second and the instructor was accidentally hit and slain. The girl now carries a life-long scar of bitter memory as a result of this entirely preventable, stupid accident. One day after this accidental atrocity, “NRA Women” tweeted a link to a Web site extolling 7 ways children can have fun at the shooting range.

You just can’t make this stuff up.

It’s not as tough we had no way of knowing better. In 2008 a similar incident occurred in Massachusetts when an 8-year-old boy similarly shot himself fatally in the head with an Uzi permitted to him at a gun show, ostensibly by adults including his physician father.

PageFold

What more can advance the cause of random death and injury by firearms than legislation that allows the open or concealed carry of unloaded firearms anywhere and everywhere except the venues where state legislation is enacted, as in Georgia. It’s hard to guess, but the state of Texas is about to solve this puzzle. Texas proposes to amend its Alcohol Beverage Commission regulations to permit liquor sales at gun shows. This is even better an idea than allowing guns in bars and licensed restaurants; better still than permitting open carry of assault rifles in grocery and toy stores or pharmacies.

But here’s a real kicker: a proposal advanced, apparently with a straight face, by the NRA to extend Second Amendment rights to blind people. Iowa and Texas have led the way by enacting such an astonishing proposal. Here’s how the NRA promotes such a measure. You’d think it’s satire but it’s not.

Please don’t get ETM Now wrong. We have no prejudice against the visually impaired. Such unfortunate people should have every reasonable right accorded to any other American citizen. But when it comes to the right to carry loaded weapons in public, we’re sorry; such a right makes as much sense as issuing drivers licenses to people who cannot see.

All of this gives us a hint into the mindset of madness that “elitists” like Michael Bloomberg, Gabby Giffords, Mark Kelly and Shannon Watts confront when they attempt to persuade NRA bankrolled luggage carriers who lack so much as a smidgen of courage or common sense in their rhetoric and their action.

That is why it is incumbent upon all of us who advocate and beg for sensible gun regulation to support with money and action the hard, persistent work they undertake to make America a safer place. Please help them in any way you can!

Now, some good news from the states. Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts has recently signed into law a comprehensive gun safety measure to strengthen that Commonwealth’s already robust firearms controls. Long overdue, Massachusetts now joins the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Additionally, it adds rifles and shotguns to the current jurisdiction accorded to local police chiefs to seek court order prohibiting gun sales or ownership for individuals deemed too dangerous to be armed.

The Gun Owners Action League of Massachusetts (GOAL), an NRA affiliate, complained about its exclusion from the recent State House bill signing. GOAL had helped to craft then supported the compromise legislation. Here, the GOAL-keepers have a point.

August 4-15, 2014

Last week the US Senate Judiciary Committee held hearings concerning the relation between domestic violence and unmonitored access to guns by, well, anyone who wants one, or ten, or 100 irrespective of criminal history, restraining order, prior mental health or whatever. If last week’s gruesome story about the Haskell family in Spring, Texas fails to make your blood freeze (or boil,) then you have Prestone running in your veins.

The Senate hearings are good news, especially because legislative debate about America’s running rampage of rage is so rare. On the other side of the ledger, however, we see a federal appeals court upholding the constitutional abridgement of medical practitioners’ First Amendment right to ask patients about domestic gun possession in order to advise about safe home practices, particularly sane and simple measures to protect innocent children.

Censorship of doctors goes far beyond “the protections of the Second Amendment,” impinging generally not only upon reasonable freedom of expression but also upon good professional practice and simple common sense. Doctors deserve and need the freedom to practice medicine as they deem professionally fit. Otherwise they become tools of misguided state pressure. Patients too delicate to handle such questioning are in no way barred from shopping for another provider.

Here’s a video of one invited witness at the hearing. She’s a former boxing champ who suffered near-fatal injury at the hands of her abuser. Her story is a reflection of too many other similar tales of gun-enabled victimization. No law, no regulation will stop all events of this type, but if only one such incident were short-circuited prior to perpetration, any sensible law would be worth the political courage to enact it.

Last week also brought attention to two competing ballot initiatives in Washington State, with Initiative 594 calling for the expansion of background checks on the sale of all firearms including those transferred at gun shows, online and between individuals. Among others, Bill and Melinda Gates, Michael Bloomberg and James Sinegal support Initiative 594. The competing Initiative 591 would prohibit state-level background checks unless they comport with federal standards. Allied with pro-gun maven Alan Gottlieb, the NRA is pouring funds into the 591 campaign. At this moment, both dueling measures are on-track to pass. If both were to become law, resolving the unresolvable would present an unprecedented conundrum to the good State of Washington.

Gun rights advocates dwell proudly in the vanguard of conservative action, crying “tyranny” at every political move they do not favor and claiming states rights for just about everything else. The glorious principle of local autonomy, however, seems to stop at the state level of public authority. Apparently cities, towns, counties and other local levels of government are denied the autonomy demanded for states. This accounts for the loud cheering heard when a federal court upended DC’s strict controls on public handgun wielding. In the nation’s capital, apparently, pistol-packing is especially sacred to the cause of halting government “tyranny” dead in its tracks.

This is not about government tyranny, however. It is about a nation’s citizenry demanding its elected representatives to enact legislation that holds citizens, corporations, small businesses and organizations responsible for their own actions. If up to 92% of voting Americans in a democratically elected government demand government action to secure their legitimate liberty to preserve life and pursue happiness, then a public response to such a demand is hardly tyranny; it is democracy.

The 92% are not interested in taking away guns or preventing firearms ownership. These citizens DO, however, mean to hold the enablers of lethality accountable for their parts in America’s grim chain of carnage. The gun rights crowd asks why should “law-abiding, gun-wielding citizens be punished” for the misdeeds of criminals? The fact is that they are no more penalized than law-abiding drivers are penalized for the minor inconvenience of registering their vehicles, subjecting to examination of prior driving history and securing drivers’ licenses. When it comes to the distribution of lethality we, as law-abiding citizens, demand that our elected bodies protect OUR bodies, and those of our friends and family, by asking gun owners no more than what is required to drive a car, truck, bus or motorcycle.

This brings us to the Second Amendment. Too often we have heard the “gun rights” argument advanced by Congressman Tim Huelscamp (R-KS) that the Second Amendment is non-negotiable. This Amendment is what it is and it says what it says, they claim. They will not compromise a single inch on the clear Second Amendment language prohibiting government infringement on their right to bear arms. Then they proceed to ignore the critical, clear introductory clause concerning the “well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state.” The gun absolutists are correct about one thing. The Second Amendment was indeed drafted as a barrier to government tyranny, but the tyranny envisioned was that of an unrepresentative, colonial occupying power, not a duly elected government of, by and for the people that gunslingers happen to detest.

July 15-22, 2014

Last week, ETM Now turned its attention to guns and children – more particularly to the kind of country we want our children to imagine and expect as they grow up and take over the reins of national leadership. As classrooms are turning into panic rooms and schoolyards into firing ranges, we have been troubled.  So has the American Psychological Association. Growing up is hard enough without the threat of death or injury a constant presence in the minds of impressionable children who cannot yet fully grasp the nature of a society that their elders are laying out for them.

Just days ago (July 10, 2014) in the community of Spring, Texas, four children and two adults were slain, execution-style, by an estranged former husband disguised as a FedEx delivery driver. The fifth victim, a 15-year-old girl was critically injured by a gunshot wound to the head. According to local media outlet KHOU.com, this killer has a long-standing court history of domestic violence which includes restraining orders against him filed not only by his former wife but also by his own mother and sister. He is clearly an enraged, dangerous, unbalanced man with a long, transparent record of violent abuse.

HaskellFamily-SpringTX_Jul-14The Haskell family of Spring, Texas

Yet this killer had no problem securing a firearm and ammo to carry out his premeditated mass atrocity. State of Kansas Governor Sam Brownback signed into law a measure explicitly enabling such perpetrators as young as 18 access to guns. The Brady Center is suing to rescind the Kansas nullification statute. A similar law in Montana was recently struck down by a federal appeals court. Such lawsuits might or might not have stopped the specific carnage in Spring, Texas but that is hardly the point. If they succeed in diverting gun acquisition from ONLY ONE psychopath, they are well worth pursuing. Everytown for Gun Sense offers some chilling research about the consequences of gun-enabled domestic violence for America’s families.

Rather than reducing the distribution of lethal, automatic firearms in schools, 2nd Amendment zealots instead urge policy aimed at assault-proofing children rather than preventing mass shooting in the first place. Under such a worldview, schools become armed fortresses bristling with armed guards, administrators, staff, parents and among the higher grades and college, students themselves. Children learn that they are thus inducted into a fearsome, fearful world without the joys of intellectual discovery, independent play and good, innocent fun.

Such exhortation promotes kiddie Kevlar clothing, comfort blankets and, yes, even bullet-proof building walls. We can’t wait for Wayne LaPierre to intone “the only way to stop a bad child with a gun is a good child with a gun!” All the other kids, we guess, should don the Kevlar. As for adults, we seem to be teaching our children that armed authority figures, schools turned into bunkers and kiddie Kevlar constitutes “normal” American social behavior.

On this train of discourse, our attention was drawn to a cogent, serious, research-driven article by Evan DePhilippis in the Boston Review prompted by the misogynistic Santa Barbara mass shooting last May. In it, De Philippis shreds NRA argumentation that the solution to such carnage is to legitimize gun carrying among students and faculty on campus.

His argumentation hardly needs research backing, however. Common sense tells us it is pure madness to suggest that loaded weapons at a Saturday night frat party where alcohol, property damage and sexual assault occur with sickening regularity would be rendered safer by more guns.

In today’s national culture, however, madness reigns. In the face of madness, knowledge could be a powerful tool if policy-makers would only pay the slightest attention. Here, academic and professional associations are urging America to ramp-up its research on the causes and consequences of gun violence. The American Medical Association has joined the American Pediatric and the American Psychological associations to take a stand for better research-driven knowledge.

Happily, advocates for gun sanity are upping their own political game. Everytown for Gun Safety has recently announced that it will poll incumbent candidates for US congressional seats about their positions on measures like background checks on gun purchases. Such a measure has consistently enjoyed 90+% voter poll support since Newtown. Individually, how do we stack-up on this poll? Here’s where to find out.

July 6, 2014

Happy Independence Day, 2014! May America gain a new independence from the fear of gun-enabled mayhem and in-your-face assault rifles openly carried in restaurants and department stores throughout “gun country.”

First, a word about women and guns. The Daily Beast reports that among developed nations, by a factor of eleven times compared with an international average, America is the most dangerous place on earth for the victimization of women by guns. This finding dovetails nicely with research finding that “women in the United States account for 84 percent of all female firearm victims in the developed world, even though they make up only a third of the developed world’s female population” reported in a recent issue of Atlantic.com. Domestic possession of firearms makes American homes more dangerous, not safer, for women. It’s small wonder that the NRA remains so implacably hostile toward scientific research on the proliferation of guns. Knowledge is power for the sane and the curious but anathema to the NRA.

The past week has presented us with good news and not-so-good news from the states and across the country. In Colorado, home state of local hero, former State Senate President and law enforcement officer John Morse, the state Supreme Court upheld recent gun laws passed under his leadership before his recall. In California, Richard Martinez has affiliated with Everytown for Gun Safety to lend his powerful voice to Everytown’s “Not One More” Sisyphean campaign to move recalcitrant legislators to sensible action at state and national levels.

Out West, a group calling itself Nevadans for Background Checks has filed a citizens initiative petition which, if enacted, would require background checks for virtually all gun sales within the State. Because this imitative could eventually go to a statewide ballot question in 2016, chances for passage are decent. The father of the Isla Vista mass slayer, Elliot Rodger, Peter Rodger has created the Web site AskForHelp.org to help other responsible adults recognize and identify mental illness markers that might signify potential lethality. Here we must give a nod to the NRA. Indeed, America needs better and more humane protocols to identify, track and treat severe mental illness before more innocent victims are needlessly killed or maimed by gunshot.

In America’s shooting range of “freedom,” however, every silver lining has a cloud. Recently, the Construction Cone Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, vetoed state legislation that proposed to limit ammo magazine clips to ten rounds. He called the proposal “trivial” after having refused to meet with Newtown parents who wished to point out that mass murderer Adam Lanza would have wreaked much less havoc had he not been armed with 30-round clips.

In northern Illinois a 12-year old shot his 15-year-old brother in the abdomen with a 22-calibre rifle, apparently and thankfully not to death. Who says that the public has no valid interest in preventing such lethal incidents involving minors? Is this a rare occurrence? Hardly. Everytown for Gun Safety has recently published the appalling results of its study, “Innocents Lost” on the epidemic of preventable, accidental child shooting deaths in this country. Read it and weep! Don’t weep for long, though, because it’s time to act. Supporting Everytown is a good place to start.

Florida remains on-track in its race to the bottom of gun madness. From a population of approximately 20 million, the Sunshine State now boasts nearly 1.3 million concealed-carry permit holders or almost 7% of its citizens, children and elderly included. Florida gun rights groups are now rallying for open-carry liberalization (sorry, conservatives) prompting the Miami Herald to probe the deep philosophical question: Do open-carry restrictions give gunny absolutists crazy or make crazies into absolutists? We’ll need to get back to you on that one.

In Vermont, the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus quotes former Justice Warren Burger’s recommendation for returning the 2nd Amendment’s meaning closer to what he believed was its obvious original intent, namely, “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms when serving in the militia shall not be infringed (emphasis ours)”

On the national front, we can report two bright star of optimism. Google has declared its refusal to carry “advertising of firearms, ammunition, and gun paraphernalia” according to a conservative online publication called New American which labels this policy “Google’s War on Guns.” Of course, conservatives are fond of the corporate right to refuse contraception coverage to woman workers. We don’t call this the Hobby Lobby war on women even though that’s exactly what it is. In view of the recent Supreme Court decision to deny contraceptive coverage, it’s hard to understand objection to Google’s First Amendment right to publish whatever advertising it chooses.

After weeks of foot-dragging marked by the presence of armed assault gun-slingers in the shopping aisles of Target, that particular store chain has at last joined Starbucks and other refreshment franchises in banning open carry of firearms. Moms Demand Action played a major role in bringing on the necessary pressure. Target CEO John Mulligan said “Bringing firearms to Target creates an environment that is at odds with the family-friendly shopping and work experience we strive to create.” You can thank Target for its good sense right here.

Gun rights activists are now calling Everytown for Gun Safety a pack of liars for publishing the reality of “one school shooting per month” since Newtown. How do they accomplish this? Easy peasy; fudge the math and call a school shooting by another name and PRESTO, the incidence rate plummets. It’s magic! Apparently, the Brady Campaign has an alternative perspective as shown in its video of congratulations to the nation’s school graduates of 2014.

Moving along the “keeping ’em stupid” front, rather than reducing the distribution of lethal, automatic firearms away from schools, 2nd Amendment zealots instead urge policy aimed at bullet-proofing children rather than preventing mass shooting. Such exhortation promotes kiddie Kevlar clothing, comfort blankets and, yes, even bullet-proof building walls. We can’t wait for Wayne LaPierre to intone “the only way to stop a bad child with a gun is a good child with a gun!” All the other kids, we guess, should don the Kevlar. As for adults, we should teach children that armed guards and kiddie Kevlar constitutes “normal” social behavior.

June 25, 2014

Yikes! One more voice of sanity slides into the trash bin. Recently we discovered in Boston.com that the New York Times has shut down its Gun Report project which, since the Newtown massacre, has appeared daily in its online editions under the by-line of op-ed columnist Joe Nocera. The actual research, culling and reporting, however, was undertaken by editorial aide Jennifer Mascia.

According the The Times, the utility of the Gun Report has outlived its usefulness. The Editor in charge of the Gun Report blog, Mr. Nocera, found refuge in blaming its demise partially on his readers’ comments which, apparently, had failed to find sufficient “common ground” to satisfy his standard of solving a particularly vexing political problem. In fact, the Gun Report is needed now more than ever.

Here is our “uncommon ground” response to Mr. Nocera’s announcement of the blog’s cancellation. “[We] cannot overstate the respect and admiration [we] have developed for Jennifer Mascia for her dogged work on the sickening, endlessly dull “thump” of yet more news about the senseless gun violence that wracks America on a daily basis. What made her work powerful is that it sustained public awareness of the scope and tragedy of this national outrage.  

Ms. Mascia wrote powerfully, with objectivity enhanced by a restrained phraseology, typically starting with child shootings that prompted tears of sadness and screams of anger. She taught us the tragic lesson that weekends in America have morphed from happy family recreation to a macabre dystopia of child-slayings.  America needs to keep track to persuade a feckless Congress to make itself accountable to the People, not the gun lobby.

And to be blunt, Mr. Nocera, suggesting that the demise of this journalistic gem is the fault of reader comments that failed to find “common ground” is a cop-out whose fecklessness approaches that of the US Congress.  The Gun Report has done anything and everything but outlive its usefulness. As our pathological, self-inflicted national mayhem continues festering without resolution this blog is needed more than ever.  

Jennifer, you go girl! Wherever your diligent work finds the fresh air of publication.

PageFold Not long ago, the redoubtable NPR car guys, Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers, used to characterize blatant ignorance with the phrase “non impediti ratione cogitatonis” (unencumbered by the thought process) which, of course, is what we get when we stop asking questions about what makes our society tick and fail to undertake research that might give us some useful answers.

Thus, we noted with a mixture of disbelief and dismay Georgia GOP Representative Jack Kingston’s inflammatory declaration about the prospects for the restitution of publicly funded research on the health consequences of American gun violence. Kingston’s name-calling tone typifies the “gun rights” argumentation. Labeling the President as “gun grabbing” for seeking legislation to assess the causes of our country’s spiraling gun carnage, Kingston’s off-the-charts polemic about America’s gun-related violence is both tendentious and flat-out incorrect.

Last week we witnessed three multiple-casualty shootings (outlined in the ETM Now news archive) and likely several more that never hit the media headlines. As for America’s more routine daily murder-suicide rate, week-by-week casualty calculations remain obscure, but year after dismal year we know that the grim aggregation totals somewhat north of 30,000 deaths and who knows how many more catastrophic injuries. Many victims are innocent; more still are children.

This accumulation gravely troubles Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), herself the widow of a mortal gun-assault victim. Representative Maloney is outraged at our currently obstructive Congress of NRA toadies refusing to countenance any kind of federal role in targeted public health research on gun violence. As a result, she has introduced fresh legislation in the US House of Representatives (H.R. 4707) to fund new research on the conditions, causes and cures for our endless mayhem involving guns.

This past week we’ve enjoyed at least one point of light under our knowledge-free blanket of intellectual darkness. On June 15th, according to the New York Times, “By a 5-to-4 vote, the [Supreme Court] allowed prosecution under a federal law that requires gun buyers to disclose that they are making their purchase for someone else, even if both the straw buyer and the real one are eligible to own guns.” As usual, Justice Anthony Kennedy was the swing vote, creating a “sanity majority” for a 5-4 decision.

As for Rep. Kingston’s allegation of a “gun grabbing” President Obama, neither the President nor any of the major institutional players in the movement for American gun sanity, cited below, advocates a comprehensive confiscation of guns or anything like it.

June 14, 2014

We had hoped for a clean week with no further bulletins of multiple shootings since the previous weekend. Silly us. No such luck. It’s shootin’ time in America, anywhere, anytime! Ask NRA-sponsored Georgia Governor Nathan Deal.

On Thursday June 5th, a lone gunman killed one student and injured three others at Seattle Pacific University. Only alert, courageous action by a student worker prevented more catastrophic carnage. He was a good guy without a gun. With a gun, who knows what additional mayhem might have ensued from that already-atrocious incident? On Sunday, June 8th came news of another indiscriminate firearms assault in Las Vegas. This time? “Only” three fatalities, two of them cops. On June 10th, we heard of yet another school shooting, this time in Oregon: two dead and one wounded. One of the murdered was a student whose crime, apparently, was to attend school that day. The murderer was also a freshman student who should not have attended school that day but more to the point, should never have had access to an AR-15 assault rifle and more than 100 rounds of ammo.

Guns anywhere, anytime means guns everywhere, all the time. So declared Stephen Colbert. Thus our grim national death-dealing-by-gun continues its ugly march, undeterred by political courage or simple humanity. The carnage in Seattle, Las Vegas and Troutdale OR fail to qualify as “mass shootings,” so media coverage is scant. For elevation to “mass murder” status, at least four fatalities are required. The FBI established this “four or more” benchmark. We reckon the number matters nary a rotten fig to the victims or those survivors left behind to clean up the messes.

Speaking of sanity, this past week the NRA suffered a brief attack of good judgment when it flirted with the obvious by declaring that members of Texas Open Carry brandishing assault rifles in the faces of family restaurant customers might be “downright weird and scary.” Shortly after this display of uncharacteristic reason, NRA President Chris Cox did a head-spinning about-face, throwing an allegedly “rogue” NRA staffer under the bus for having had the gall to tell the truth. This internecine NRA squabble reminded us of Siamese twins bickering about holiday destinations and very cranky about the dispute.

National hero Shannon Watts, founder and leader of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense issued a plea to policy-makers and department store owners to bar the open-carry of firearms. In this case Target was her target, resulting from the discovery of a loaded handgun in a Myrtle Beach SC Target toy department. This video shows Ms. Watts in an interview about the topic.

Predictably, the all-guns-all-the-time, anywhere and everywhere crowd complained about Ms. Watts “lying.” Apparently the loaded firearm found loose in the Target kiddies department was a handgun, not an “assault weapon” as Ms. Watts alleged. Anyone who knows guns, they said, knows the distinction between the two gun types. Watts therefore must have willfully lied by mixing-up the terms. Anyone who knows how to speak English, the favorite and typically only language of American gun enthusiasts, knows that all guns are assault weapons, so they must be lying when they accuse Ms. Watts of the same misdeed. And so this purposeless “he said – she said” tangling goes round and around while children’s lives are endangered or snuffed out on a deathly carrousel.

We know it sounds crazy, but another national hero can be found in the US Congress. He is none other than Congressman David N. Cicilline (D-RI) who has  recently filed federal legislation to expand the definition of “mentally ill” beyond its current straightjacket of involuntary institutionalization to include individuals “if a mental health professional determines that the individual is likely to cause serious harm to themselves or others.” It also incentivizes states to participate fully in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). If you care to thank Rep. Cicilline for his initiative or to support him, here’s your chance.

June 5, 2014

Increasingly, ETM Now is coming around to the NRA playbook script, even though we’re embarrassingly late getting there. Take, for example, Executive Director Wayne LaPierre’s unambiguous declaration on May 28, 1999 “We think it’s reasonable to provide mandatory instant criminal background checks for every sale at every gun show. No loopholes anywhere, for anyone.” No second-guessing that one. Wayne was early coming around to our viewpoint. Why the about-face in the intervening 15 years? Today, the gun lobby hammers home the theme that today’s American landscape scenery of slaughter is not about guns.

Reluctantly we agree that the debate is only partly about guns. It’s even more about what We the People do with these most lethal instruments of death, and the laws that drive the regulation of such prevalent, uniquely American behavior. As the firearms lobbyist/apologists point out, guns don’t kill people; people do. Do cars kill people? No, cars are merely instruments of the people who drive them. So what do we do collectively to manage errant and aberrant driving?

CarsDontKillPeople

We require automobiles and their drives to be licensed, and we keep strict track of both. Therefore, as a result have we seen Hitler-saluting jackbooted “car police” swooping down to confiscate our treasured means of transportation? No. Is getting a driver’s license and registering a car such a terrible burden on law-abiding drivers? No. Have “drivers’ rights” hordes  been breaking down the doors of state vehicle registries or family restaurant chains, armed with cars and trucks, in protest? No. So thank you, NRA, for setting us straight on this persistent, irritating conundrum.

Last week generated much discussion about America’s gun-enabled killing spree in Isla Vista CA. Arguably, the greatest impact was provided by Richard Martinez, the father of Chris, one of the fatally gunned-down, totally innocent victims to this now infamous incident. Mr. Martinez decried “craven politicians” and the NRA for their cynicism, greed and spinelessness by failing to take – or even support – measures to stem the carnage.

Mr. Martinez’s public cry of anguish generated a lot of blowback from the usual suspects. Such notables as Fox’s psychiatrist-in-residence Keith Ablow called anyone, including Martinez, advocating more effective gun control following this carnage “reprehensible creatures … willing to sacrifice the lives of Americans to advance their disempowering agenda.” Renowned sociologist Erick Erickson intoned that “Elliot Rodger lived the very lifestyle the cultural left thinks men should live.” (We think we live a style that “the left” might approve. Trust us, it is nothing like anything we’ve discovered about Elliot Rodger.)

Fox’s convicted perjurer of O.J. Simpson trial infamy, Mark Fuhrman, opined that an effective solution to gun violence is simply to lock-up mentally ill people. Institutionalize or jail them? “It doesn’t make any difference” to Fuhrman. CNN’s Deborah Feyerick quite astonishingly compared Rodger’s “Manifesto” to Charles Dickens’s David Copperfield. Funny, we would have chosen War and Peace, without the “Peace.”

The ripe plum of backlash, however, goes to (yes, he’s ba-a-a-a-ck!) Joe the Plumber whose sympathy card to Mr. Martinez and his fellow victimized families declared “Your dead child doesn’t trump my constitutional right.” Nice!

Predictably, too, the recent turmoil in America’s killing fields focused renewed attention on our constitutional 2nd Amendment which reads “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The opening clause of the 2nd Amendment seems not only to confer upon the public, through its duly elected representatives, the right to regulate the private distribution and use of firearms, it REQUIRES appropriate public regulation according to the founders’ intent and the citizenry’s will which, in present circumstances, favors more stringent control over the distribution of firearms.

Good news. National restaurant chains Chili’s and Sonic have joined Starbucks, Jack-in-the-Box and Chipotle in banning openly flaunted guns at their eateries. Apparently callow, obviously untrained teen-somethings brandishing AR-15s in the faces or other customers who, with their children, families and friends were kind of set on-edge. If such hi-jinks weren’t so potentially lethal, this video would be downright hilarious, showing one such “Cavalier of the Bushmaster” admitting that he was, indeed, a “dumbass.” Another cavalier complains “Nobody likes us.”

Things are hopping in Massachusetts. Please stay tuned for more but, for now, the Massachusetts Catholic Conference has signaled its full support of stringent new gun control legislation in the Bay State. Blunting the celebration, however, is the nagging reality of more lenient gun laws elsewhere, gun shows and online sales. Let’s take joy where we find it. Massachusetts is, at long last, moving toward full participation in the FBI’s National Instant [Criminal] Check System (NICS). Stay tuned.

May 30 2014

No human being should have to suffer the lethal consequences of the mindless violence of which this grieving father, Richard Martinez, speaks. Yet we have created a political zoo on a killing field that makes The Hunger Games look sane by comparison. The weekend news brought us, and particularly the grieving Isla Vista families, the benefit of Joe the Plumber’s vast constitutional wisdom with the astute observation that “Your dead children don’t trump my constitutional rights.” Here’s the full text of Joe the Plumber’s open letter.

Here’s who died in this year’s edition of Memorial Day carnage. Young folks on the cusp of adult life with the potential for who-knows-what contribution to their communities, their families and themselves. The macabre drumbeat rattles on, chronicled by the dismally repetitive Gun Report blog by Jennifer Mascia and Joe Nocera of the NY Times. Here’s their latest installment at the end of another bloody Memorial Day weekend in America.

The California mass shooting seems to have spawned several additional commentaries. The NY Times’ Joe Nocera reviewed Michael Waldman’s recent book on the history and interpretation of the 2nd Amendment. Jennifer Medina discusses the question of misogyny-fed violence against women in the context of this latest outrage. Adam Gopnik of the New Yorker applauds the straight talk of Richard Martinez, victim Chris’s crushed and bereaved Dad.

On Saturday, May 24th The New York Times was scooped for several hours by the Toronto Globe and Mail on the Santa Barbara mass shooting. Not that this matters much in face of the repetitive horror that seems to resurface routinely in American venues. Despite the human consequences for innocent victims, death and maiming by bullets has become monotonous as we receive news from the Web or newspapers of a new “mass-murder-of-the-week.” (Fourteen casualties, seven dead.)

Usually, intervals between mass shootings in America offer a little breathing space. Not this time. Just hours after Isla Vista, news outlets around the country carried the story of another multiple gun slaying in Myrtle Beach SC. Three are dead; one injured.

As shown in this New York Times report, even states with exceptionally strict controls on gun distribution are helpless in face of lax federal regulation rife with loopholes and exceptions on the flow of firearms to anybody and everybody, criminal or law-abiding, mentally ill or healthy. Yes, authorities in California may have failed their reasonable duty on the Santa Barbara incident, but Mr Elliot Rodger would have found multiple pathways through the federal sieve of regulation to fulfill his dark vision of death.

An archival video dating back to 1999 of NRA Executive Director Wayne LaPierre recently came to our attention. (“Ah, but he was so much older then. He’s younger than that now.”) An evidently more mature, appropriately sedated Wayne is on-record as having declared, “We [the NRA] think its reasonable to provide mandatory, instant background checks for every sale at every gun show. No loopholes anywhere for anyone.” How could Mr. LaPierre possibly be more clear about this? Why has he done a 180-degree about-face?

Back then, Mr. LaPierre would have been sentimentally in-sync with the vast majority of today’s voters in GOP states and districts. Ranging from the high 70s to the 90%+, polling shows strong support for universal gun purchase background checks, even “at every gun show [with] no loopholes anywhere for anyone” (to quote Mr. LaPierre). And here, we are talking about red voting districts, not the “people’s republic” blue territories (har!) that Republicans love to mock.

Let’s not all be gloomy gusses simply because America’s gun-lusters are posing death threats to dealers daring to offer a few newly-minted smart guns for sale. Let’s not cry over the death of a child having found and fatally examined a loaded handgun in a favorite uncle’s closet. Smile! There’s a shred of humor in everything. Take, for example, Jon Stewart’s take on the NRA’s new passion to shut down development and distribution of all things safe for firearms. It’s a (s)hoot!

May 22, 2014

Good news! New policy from Chipotle reads “We are respectfully asking that customers not bring guns into our restaurants, unless they are authorized law enforcement personnel.” Please support Chipotle which, along with Jack-in-the-Box and Starbucks, is keeping their eateries safer for their customers, friends and families.

A recent Wall Street Journal Washington Wire news headline blares “Poll Shows Why Gun Control Looks Impossible.” Beneath the headline is the news that “vast majority of all Americans … favor expanding background checks,” and that a substantial majority favor “government regulation of gun purchases.” Impossible? Go figure!

The profound hypocrisy of today’s burgeoning “guns everywhere” legislation (AR, IN, GA, NC, OK, SD, WV) was recently called-out by GOP Mayor Danny Jones of Charleston, West Virginia. Decrying the inherent contradiction between allowing guns in — say — bars, churches, restaurants and schools but disallowing them in state capitols, Mayor Jones declared, “They did it [guns everywhere legislation] everywhere but where they are…. The road to power is paved with hypocrisy (emphasis ours).”

On the brighter side, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports “Ceasefire Week,” a gun buyback program where repurchased guns will be melted down for re-fabrication into garden tools. The program is supported by private donations and in-kind business assistance. No city taxpayer money is involved in the buyback.

A recent NY Times report described a quintessentially free-market American innovator, Belinda Padilla, who has drawn the wrath of NRA bullies not for any role in promoting government tyranny, but for investing, developing and marketing owner-recognition technologies for safer guns; guns, for example, that would fail to fire if a small child found one in an unlocked cabinet.

What we find disturbing is not so much the malign absurdity of the gun lobby which is sparing no effort to shut Ms. Padilla down commercially, but by the orchestrated campaign of personal threats against her and any dealer daring to by-pass NRA orthodoxy. For this is how the gun lobby “debates:” using intimidation willfully to trample her 1st Amendment rights and her human right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” as a businesswoman and a citizen. In this baleful tale, Ms. Padilla is the true American hero. Here’s more about the NRA’s war on safe gun technology. And … here’s still more. Yuk, sigh.

Let’s end this current discussion with another opinion poll summary. Earlier this year The Onion reported on state-by-state attitudes toward banning the possession of handguns. The results are shocking, even more so if you have a sense of humor.

May 15, 2014

A recent NY Times report described a quintessentially free-market American innovator, Belinda Padilla, who has drawn the wrath of NRA bullies not for any role in promoting government tyranny, but for investing, developing and marketing owner-recognition technologies for safer guns; guns, for example, that would fail to fire if a small child found one in an unlocked cabinet.

What we find disturbing is not so much the malign absurdity of the gun lobby which is sparing no effort to shut Ms. Padilla down commercially, but by the orchestrated campaign of personal threats against her and any dealer daring to by-pass NRA orthodoxy. For this is how the gun lobby “debates:” using intimidation willfully to trample her 1st Amendment rights and her human right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” as a businesswoman and a citizen. In this baleful tale, Ms. Padilla is the true American hero. Here’s more about the NRA’s war on safe gun technology. And … here’s still more. Yuk, sigh.

Small victories for sanity are in-play among several states. Mainstream Georgia pastors are resisting that State’s new “guns everywhere” law, urging their parishioners to leave their firearms at home, in the name of the teachings of Jesus himself. Minnesota, Louisiana, Wisconsin and Washington have passed legislation prohibiting gun sales to convicted domestic abusers. Of course, these laws do little or nothing to stem sales at gun shows or on-line.

This week we recount a tragic tale of idiocy resulting in the shooting death of a child. The gun-toting uncle of an 11-year-old boy in Pennsylvania was numbskull enough to have pointed his Glock 40’s laser sight at the middle of the boy’s forehead resulting in a bullet tearing into the boy’s brain just above an eye. Isolated event? Not exactly. 

But Mr. Chad Olm’s imbecility pales in comparison to our own, a stupidity that has sold-out national policy on gun safety to the gun lobby, manufacturers and dealers. We allow this to happen. As a result we systematically cull our child population by firearms execution. This not only defines us as stupid; we also seem to be criminal. Mr. Olm now faces a charge of homicide along with several other crimes. Maybe we should join him under lock-up, led by the US Congress.

May 6, 2014

Two things caught our attention last week. Former GOP Virginia Attorney General is leading a national movement of lawyers to sell gun shooter insurance. The idea is to provide legal protection on-retainer for people who shoot other people. Such service-for-fee might be considered as a security blanket, not for shooting victims, but for victimized shooters. The deal is beautiful in its simplicity as elaborated by The Daily Show’s Jordan Klepper.

Out West, armed unregulated militia mercenaries corralled by the notable Cliven Bundy have set-up checkpoints on public Nevada highways, demanding driver ID but only apparently for “probable cause.” Probable cause? Probable cause to commit what imagined crime? “Transgression” determined by whom? How would you feel about being pulled over by an overweight rogue militiaman in combat fatigues armed with an AR-15? Here is the odd story about the struggle on behalf of a land-thieving bigot against the tyranny of a popularly-elected government.

Let’s end this current discussion with another opinion poll summary. Earlier this year The Onion reported on state-by-state attitudes toward banning the possession of handguns. The results are shocking, even more so if you have a sense of humor.

May 1, 2014

Good news-bad news. First, the best news of all! Gabby Giffords, gun control’s face of courage, continues her remarkable recovery toward better health. See the video above. While Washington State passes a bill to disarm domestic abusers, a federal court panel rules California’s strict law regulating concealed-carry permits unconstitutional. In Georgia, Governor Nathan Deal signs a law permitting gun-carry basically everywhere in his State except where he works. Meanwhile at the national level, the GOP has launched gun give-away sweepstakes as a nifty campaign tactic to attract votes and donations.

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