Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Saturday, February 24, 2018 9:12 am

The kids are alright; or, finally getting some common-sense gun legislation

As I write, it’s been 10 days since the killing of 17 students at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. And to judge from social media, we’re still talking about that massacre in particular and gun legislation in general. That’s remarkable.

It’s remarkable because, after nothing happened in the wake of the Newtown slaughter of innocents, a lot of people resigned themselves to the inevitability that nothing would EVER happen to put a stop to mass killings in the United States. Now? Companies including several rental-car firms, Symantec, and the bank that issued NRA credit cards have dropped their affiliation with the NRA. And in a midterm election year that already was shaping up to be potentially a wave year for Democrats, gun violence has emerged as an issue that might finally drive a lot of blue voters to the polls.

There are a lot of reasons, but the single most important has been the determination of the Stoneman Douglas students themselves. They believe, correctly, that the older generation has been derelict in its duty to protect the younger. And, either already able to vote or on the cusp of being able to do so, they’ve decided to take matters into their own hands. From die-ins outside the Capitol to humiliating Fla. Sen. Marco Rubio on CNN, these young men and women have made it clear that they have decided to be the change they want to see. And it isn’t just Stoneman Douglas students; it’s high-school students nationwide (students at my own son’s high school walked out this week to protest gun violence). Former president Barack Obama acknowledged their leadership role in a tweet, adding that the rest of us should get behind them.

One beneficial consequence has been that we’re finally starting to talk about solutions. At least, the sane among us are. Obviously, that excludes the National Rifle Association.

In a generation, the NRA has mutated from sportsmen’s organization to industry lobbyist to batshit insane fascist propaganda outlet. Executive vice president and CEO Wayne LaPierre gave an unhinged speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) this week, insisting, despite the fact that exactly zero people in responsible positions are actually saying this, that there is a movement afoot to strip all guns from law-abiding citizens and warning of a “socialist agenda” intent on “eradicat[ing] all individual freedoms.”

The NRA’s solution to this is more guns: specifically, arming teachers. (If the NRA ever publicly agreed that global warming is a problem, its solution would be more guns. Its solution to global COOLING would be more guns.) But given the fact that well-trained, periodically retrained New York City police officers return fire accurately only 18% of the time (and open fire accurate only 30% of the time), it’s hard to picture teachers doing any better, to say nothing of the safety and liability issue of having a loaded gun in a classroom full of young kids.

(Also at CPAC, speaking of unhinged, NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch insisted:

Many in legacy media love mass shootings. You guys love it. I’m not saying that you love the tragedy, but I am saying that you love the ratings. Crying white mothers are ratings gold to you and many of the legacy media in the back [of the room].

(Here are the facts. Reporters cover mass shootings and other murders, as well as such other trauma as fires, wrecks, and industrial accidents, because people want to know about them and because, in many cases, it’s the only way the voiceless get a voice. Nobody loves it. In fact, quite a few public-safety reporters develop PTSD. But because the culture of most newsrooms is that it’s all part of the job and reporters just have to suck it up, most don’t get treatment for it and resort instead to self-treatment, often in unhealthy ways. For example, I dealt with mine for a long time just by drinking heavily. That Dana Loesch thinks reporters revel in this, or knows otherwise but is willing to lie about it, betrays a stunning depth of ignorance or depravity.)

Gun laws vs. gun deathsThe NRA’s protests to the contrary, the U.S. is alone among industrialized nations in its incidence of mass shootings. There are far more gun deaths in states without strong gun laws than in states with them (see chart at left). And getting military-grade weaponry out of the hands of civilians might be the single most important thing we can do to reduce the number of mass shootings.

Because here’s the thing: Well within the Second Amendment, we can absolutely have a rational conversation about what combination of objectively quantifiable qualities — caliber, muzzle velocity, magazine or clip capacity, reload rate, etc. — can provide sufficient stopping power for widespread gun ownership for self-defense or sport without putting military-grade hardware in the hands of crazy 19-year-olds like Nikolas Cruz, the Stoneman Douglas shooter. And if Democrats make big gains in this year’s elections, that conversation is going to start happening with or without the NRA at the table.

And it must. A lot of gun nuts (as opposed to sane gun-rights supporters) like to insist that AR-15s and similar assault rifles are a lot like other weapons. This account from a radiologist who helped treat some of the Stoneman Douglas victims gives the lie to that argument:

In a typical handgun injury that I diagnose almost daily, a bullet leaves a laceration through an organ like the liver. To a radiologist, it appears as a linear, thin, grey bullet track through the organ. There may be bleeding and some bullet fragments. …

The injury along the path of the bullet from an AR-15 is vastly different from a low-velocity handgun injury. The bullet from an AR-15 passes through the body like a cigarette boat travelling at maximum speed through a tiny canal. The tissue next to the bullet is elastic—moving away from the bullet like waves of water displaced by the boat—and then returns and settles back. This process is called cavitation; it leaves the displaced tissue damaged or killed. The high-velocity bullet causes a swath of tissue damage that extends several inches from its path. It does not have to actually hit an artery to damage it and cause catastrophic bleeding. Exit wounds can be the size of an orange. …

Handgun injuries to the liver are generally survivable unless the bullet hits the main blood supply to the liver. An AR-15 bullet wound to the middle of the liver would cause so much bleeding that the patient would likely never make it to a trauma center to receive our care.

After a mass killing in Australia in 1996, that country greatly restricted gun ownership. It has not had another mass killing since.

The Second Amendment would forbid measures as strict as Australia’s. But notwithstanding the lame protestations of NRA whores such as my own congresscritter, Ted Budd*, not only would a ban on military-style assault weapons be upheld as constitutional, we’ve already tried it and know that it works.

Congress enacted such a ban in 1994, with a 10-year sunset provision. It also banned magazines with a capacity of more than 10 rounds. What happened?

Compared with the 10-year period before the ban, the number of gun massacres during the ban period fell by 37 percent, and the number of people dying from gun massacres fell by 43 percent. But after the ban lapsed in 2004, the numbers shot up again — an astonishing 183 percent increase in massacres and a 239 percent increase in massacre deaths.

A ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines enjoys public support of 68 percent and 65 percent, respectively. Even among gun owners, almost half favor an assault-weapons ban.

We also could consider universal background checks for gun ownership (favored even by 87% of NRA members), excluding from ownership those with histories of domestic violence or mental illness as well as criminal records. We can raise the minimum age at which a civilian can buy certain kinds of weapons. We can require gun registration, gun training, and the purchase of liability insurance.

Those measures address gun violence more generally than they do mass shootings in particular. But with about 32,000 gun deaths (homicide, suicide and accident) per year, they’re worth pursuing anyway. It is true that most gun-owning Americans are law-abiding, but 32,000 deaths a year, many of them preventable, is unacceptable. And as any cops reporter can tell you, the American public is not, in any way, shape or form, a well-regulated militia.

We can’t continue to accept the status quo. And God willing, the kids are going to make sure we don’t.

*Ted Budd argues that the biggest problems with respect to gun violence are mental illness and radical Islamic terror, never mind the fact that mental illness exists in lots of countries without many mass shootings and never mind the fact that radical Islamism is implicated in passing few U.S. mass shootings. Budd must harbor an amazing contempt for his constituents’ intelligence to think these arguments persuasive.

 

 

 

 

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Thursday, May 1, 2014 8:30 pm

War, huh! Good God, y’all. What is it good for? Gun sellers’ bottom lines.

Well, that and right-wing seditionists.

At its convention in 1977, the NRA rejected its history as a club for hunters and marksmen and embraced activism on behalf Second Amendment absolutism. Rejecting background checks and allowing “convicted violent felons, mentally deranged people, violently addicted to narcotics” easier access to guns was, said the executive vice president that year, “a price we pay for freedom.” In 2014, 500 days after Newtown and after a year of repeated legislative and judicial victories, the NRA has explicitly expanded its scope to the culture at large.

The NRA is no longer concerned with merely protecting the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms – the gun lobby wants to use those arms on its fellow citizens. Or, as the NRA thinks of them: “the bad guys”.

It is useless to argue that the NRA is only targeting criminals with that line, because the NRA has defined “good guys” so narrowly as to only include the NRA itself. What does that make everyone else?

I’m actually a gun guy. Grew up with long guns, did target shooting. Carried concealed earlier in my career when I was covering some people I was worried were serious bad guys, and I still support the right of law-abiding citizens to carry concealed — if they’ve been properly trained in the use of a firearm. Problem is, a serious percentage of gun-holding Americans either have not or have decided not to care what they were taught; as several years of covering the Knife & Gun Club for various newspapers taught me quite well, the American public is in no way, shape or form a well-regulated militia.

Now, that position puts me well to the right of pretty much all my liberal/Democratic friends and not even on the absolute left fringe of the pro-gun crowd. (Some people support gun ownership but want strict limits on concealed carry, for example.) But to Wayne LaPierre and his minions, it makes me the enemy, someone they’re trying desperately to find a way to shoot legally — not me personally, understand, but people like me, anyone who disagrees with them.

You can call that Second Amendment absolutism. You can call it fanaticism. You can call it irrationality. I call it batshit freaking insane, flirting with treason. And if you want to know why police chiefs historically have favored gun control, it’s because they have to clean up after the messes that the Wayne LaPierre disciples of the world, whether or not they are, in fact, NRA members, tend to create.

LaPierre has decided to use this nightmare apocalyptic vision he outlined in his speech at the convention to get people to buy more guns, grow more paranoid, be prepared to see any reversal as an existential threat, to be met with deadly force, even in the teeth of the lowest homicide rate in decades. This is the behavior of a man who is neither sane nor law-abiding, and more innocent Americans are going to die because of it.

Monday, July 15, 2013 6:42 pm

Quote of the Day, 2nd Amendment edition

Filed under: Sad — Lex @ 6:42 pm
Tags: , ,

Charlie Pierce at Esquire:

If there really were a national background check for mental stability before you could buy a gun, I’m not sure American Society could pass one.

Thursday, January 31, 2013 8:04 pm

Firearms and neurotransmitters

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns! — Lex @ 8:04 pm
Tags: ,

As I’ve said before, I grew up with guns, target shooting with .22 rifles and the odd .410 shotgun. I once carried concealed while covering the Klan in Iredell County almost 30 years ago. I favor the right to gun ownership and even concealed carry. But having spent a lot of time as a cops reporter, I also know that the “responsible American gun owner” is much more of a myth than the NRA, and even regular gun owners, want to let on. The bevy of “accidental” shootings at gun shows across the nation recently is just the tip of the iceberg.

In that light, I know just how high the bullshit level comes to in this essay by Walter Kirn on gun ownership in The New Republic:

Growing up around guns and owning them as an adult affords a person memories and experiences that strangers to guns may have trouble understanding. The divide is phenomenological, not political (or not political until it gets to be), like the gulf between those who’ve had sex and those who haven’t or those who smoke and those who’ve never lit up. Pulling a trigger and being prepared to do so cuts patterns in the self. Depending on the nature of your social life, which time around guns can shape and color in ways that I’ll describe, you might forget that these patterns are even there, because you’re surrounded by people who share them—until someone or some event challenges you to answer for your thinking.

Kirn gives us 3,300 words of anecdata, what-the-hell? analogies and magical thinking, best responded to by two contributors to No More Mr. Nice Blog, Aimai

If you want to make a Second Amendment absolutist argument be my guest — but if you want to make it on the grounds that your hazy memories of feeling safe pulling the trigger with daddy gives your gun ownership primacy over my hazy memories of being able to drop my kindergartners off for school well, [forget]  you.

… and Steve:

I’m tired of gun owners’ demands that I privilege guns’ effect on their neurochemistry over the safety of everyone else in the country — not just the thrill of the shooting but the delicious in-group joy of being part of the He-Man City Slicker Haters’ Club.

I’m not arguing that every gun-rights supporter falls into one of those two categories. Certainly I don’t. But a lot do, and, worse, they seem to expect us to try to make sane, constitutional policy on their basis. No. Sane countries do not allow themselves to be run by people who are not sane. Anyone who wants to argue to the contrary is not, by definition, a responsible American gun owner, no matter whether your people came here on the Mayflower and Miles Standish’s musket hangs over your fireplace mantel.

Friday, December 14, 2012 7:55 pm

On today’s Connecticut massacre; or, PARTS of the Constitution are a suicide pact

Commenter Kurt Weldon at Pierce’s place:

When the Patriot Act was thumbing its nose at the First Amendment, we were told “the Constitution is not a suicide pact.” And yet, when the Second Amendment is discussed, the Constitution is very much a suicide pact. The First Amendment is phrased as an absolute. We treat [it] as conditional. The Second is phrased conditionally. We treat it as an absolute.

Words matter, and history’s greatest clusterflocks are, to a one, tagged with the shattered remains of people who believed otherwise, the destruction not distinguishing in many cases between the merely ignorant and the guilty as sin. Are we really going to continue to treat as rational actors the kinds of public figures who argue, in effect, that if we give each kindergartner her own Glock, this crap won’t ever happen again?

However, lest I be accused of looking at the world only through shit-colored glasses, let me pass on, via commenter Patrick Myers on the same thread linked above, an observation — and, perhaps, instructions for you if you’re wondering what to tell your kids about what happened today — from Fred Rogers. Yeah, that Fred Rogers:

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.

Among those helpers today were cops, firefighters and public school teachers — the same cops, firefighters and public school teachers the Republican Party and its sponsors, the Koch Brothers and ALEC, have been demonizing so loudly and publicly for so long. Bad as today was, but for some of those teachers it could have been far worse.

My aunt is a retired public school teacher in Connecticut. Her older daughter’s husband is one today.

No, I don’t believe in banning individual gun ownership. But I also don’t believe for a goddamn second that the American people currently constitute a well-regulated militia, and anyone who claims otherwise, including a majority of the current Supreme Court, apparently, is batshit insane. I believe in the Constitution, but I have never signed a suicide pact and I don’t know another soul in America who has. Maybe I just need to get out more.

Saturday, May 8, 2010 12:36 pm

If Joe Lieberman gets any stupider, we’ll need to water him twice a week.

Sen. Joe Lieberman has proposed that people on a terror watch list be stripped of their citizenship — unilaterally, by the State Department, with no trial and no appeal.

That’s dumb enough, and anticonstitutional enough, on its own. And, certainly, we have learned over the years that expecting Lieberman’s proposals to be neither dumb nor anticonstitutional is like waiting for Godot when Godot has been buried in potters’ field for a couple of decades.

But wait! There’s more! The reason Lieberman wants to do this is to make it easier from a legal standpoint for President Obama to use drones to call in Hellfire missile attacks on people we think are terrorists. See, assassinating U.S. citizens without due process is illegal and unconstitutional and therefore almost as bad as lying about receiving oral sex from someone to whom one is not married. But if the victim isn’t a citizen any more, then the killing becomes simply Another Bold Strike in the War on Terror.

Of course, were Obama ever to be impeached on these charges, Lieberman, being All About Joe and a hypocrite besides, would no doubt vote to convict.

UPDATE: People on the terror watch list may be stripped of their citizenship, but it’s still OK for them to buy guns:

According to new statistics compiled by the Government Accountability Office and exclusively obtained by the Huffington Post, individuals on the terrorist watchlist were involved in firearm or explosives background checks 1,228 times in the past six years — and 1,119 of those transactions were allowed to proceed.

Less than 10 percent — only 109 — were denied.

Three of those matches involved the purchase of explosives, and all of those sales were allowed to proceed.

So: People on the terror watch list should be stripped of their citizenship. And a lot of people who support this think the Bill of Rights should not apply to noncitizens. Except for the Second Amendment. Wait … what?

Friday, August 21, 2009 8:01 pm

The kid is alright, or, Say hello to the Boomstick, hellbeast!

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 8:01 pm
Tags:

A friend of mine from high school, now living alone in the rural South, reports being female, liberal and armed:

My therapist had been encouraging me to buy a shotgun for years, because he didn’t like my living out here without some form of protection. (You KNOW you are doing okay, mental-health-wise, when your therapist is urging you to buy a gun.) … You can snicker at its small size, but loaded with 000 buckshot, it should serve my needs just fine, unless wild elephants overrun Mississippi.

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