Thursday, August 27, 2015

Time To Get Control Of The Gun Insanity

"There is evidence that if guns weren't so widely available.... if  we could just put some space - a time out - between the person that's upset  because he got fired, or after the domestic abuse or whatever other motivation may be working on someone who does this...maybe we could prevent this kind of carnage." - Hillary Clinton yesterday

Alison Parker (24)  and Adam Ward  (27)) were two up and coming stars, reporters for their Roanoke, VA station  WDBJ- 7. They were in the middle of an interview of the head of the Chamber of Commerce when an unhinged nut, Vester Flanagan, opened fire at 6:45 a.m. with 14 shots, killing both. Yet another tragedy,  now after Charleston, Newtown, Aurora and Virginia Tech. When does this insanity end?

Of course you can expect the usual chant from the NRA gun lobby and its assorted followers, to wit:

"Guns don't kill people. People kill people".

But they totally ignore the corollary:

"People wouldn't kill as many people if killing with guns wasn't so easy"

That's the core of it: the ease of killing another with a weapon that doesn't even require you get up close and personal, like using a machete or knife.  If gun sales and distributions were as limited in this country as they are in others, Flanagan might not have been able to carry out his foul deed - say if he only had access to a knife. Yes, he'd likely have inflicted damage but there would at least have been time for the two others shot to react - if only to dodge the knife thrust  which, let's face it, is a lot slower than a bullet traveling at hundreds of feet per second.

All this is firmly supported by a new study from the American Sociological Association just out this week which shows:

- Despite only having 5 percent of the world's population the U.S. has had 31 percent of all mass shootings since 1966

- The U.S. is also first in the world for civilian gun ownership with 88.8 firearms per 100 people. (The next highest rate is Yemen at 54.8 per 100 people)

The other canard that the gun nuts will offer  is that well, it's nuts doing most of the shooting and hence all the gun laws in the world won't stop it but will stop law abiding citizens from the freedom to own Glocks, AK-47s and AR-15s as well as Bushmaster .223s.  But this is false.  The unholy truth is that most shootings are  NOT ideological or random but rather domestic (in people's homes) - either suicides or one spouse (usually male) killing the other after a fiery argument.  Again, the availability of guns makes it easier to solve disagreements in the most expedient and catastrophic way.

This was documented last night on Chris Hayes' All In. Melissa Jeltsen of the HuffPo affirmed we are missing the big picture, especially on mass shootings, but also regular shootings.  She noted the reason our perceptions are distorted is because most mass shootings we hear about happen in public. Hence, we believe the greatest risk is in public spaces - whether schools, theaters or malls. But this is false.

Assaying all mass shootings between 2009 and 2015, she found that 70 percent occurred in the home. Of these, 57 percent involved a family member or current or former intimate partner. 81 percent of the victims were women and children. These killings were not done by 'crazies' but usually normal people who simply lost it in the midst of a heated argument and reached for the weapon nearest and dearest - a gun. Maybe the perp was a gun collector or maybe he just owned one for "protection" - but ultimately it was turned not on an intruder but on his own loved one.

This is the lie we need to expunge - that shootings are only 'random' and done by psychos - in order to pass more rigorous gun control laws including demanding a fully 30 day waiting period for detailed NSA, FBI background checks. If we can do it for terrorists, we can do it for potential gun owners whose killings now vastly outnumber those of terrorists.

Apart from these sociological findings, a historical perspective on the 2nd amendment and gun ownership is also useful.  In a worthwhile book entitled 'Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right To Bear Arms in America', a professor of constitutional law at UCLA - Adam Winkler- has masterfully documented how guns were regulated from the earliest days of our Republic. As an example: laws that banned the carrying of concealed weapons were passed in Kentucky and Louisiana in 1813, in Indiana in 1820 and in Tennessee and Virginia in 1838. Similar laws were later also passed in Texas, Florida and Oklahoma.

The then governor of Texas in 1893 was heard to proclaim:

"The mission of the concealed weapon is murder. To check it is the duty of every self-respecting, law abiding man".

WOW! How times have changed!

Meanwhile, Winkler showed that congress passed the first set of laws regulating, licensing and taxing guns in 1934. Though the law was challenged and wound up in the Supreme Court, in 1939, the crazies lost. FDR's Solicitor General framed the argument correctly to the Court:

"The Second Amendment grants people a right that is not one which may be utilized for private purposes but only exists where the arms are borne in a militia or some other military organization provided by law and intended for protection of the State."

The SC decision was unanimous.

While this sane and sober take prevailed for several more decades, it started to unravel by the 1970s as various Right wing (wouldn't you know?) groups coalesced to challenge gun control based on spurious "private gun ownership" interpretations, and successively overturned laws in state legislatures - much like the abortion opponents are now doing (as in Virginia, where its AG Cuchinelli 'read the riot act' to state health clinic administrators ordering them to cooperate with a new state edict to limit safe abortions, "or else"). But we need to know this is how these vipers succeed.

Undissuaded by the gun crazies' arguments, especially that the 2nd amendment granted every man the right to keep and bear arms on his own, Chief Justice Warren Burger responded that this interpretation was "one of the greatest pieces of fraud on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime."

Well, it's good Justice Burger didn't live long enough as to see the arrival of automatic weapons and the claim that the 2nd amendment provided for the ownership of those too!

Finally, kudos to Walmart for formally ending sales of all military-style assault rifles in U.S. stores. You don't need a damned assault rifle to hunt, and if you do need one - you shouldn't be out hunting but strapped down in a psycho ward, on thorazine and lithium.

See also:

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