Richard Martinez’s son Christopher was among the six college students murdered this weekend in Isla Vista, California. It’s impossible to fathom the grief that Martinez must be experiencing right now, and the simple fact that he is upright and mobile is an act of tremendous courage. Which is precisely what makes everything else that he has done in the days since he lost his son all the more astounding.
From his first public statement — a blistering and emotional indictment of “craven” politicians who refuse to act on even moderate gun reform — to the tribute to Christopher he delivered Tuesday before a crowd of thousands, Martinez has been willing to show his raw and devastating grief to the world. He has made himself the gnarled and anguished face of our broken system — the lives that it takes and the lives that it ruins. His vulnerability and righteous, focused anger is unlike anything we’ve seen in response to a mass shooting.
And it should scare the shit out of the National Rifle Association, the gun lobby and the cowardly politicians who use these deadly weapons as literal and figurative political props.
It isn’t just the force of Martinez’s emotions or political conviction that make him powerful. He is currently shouldering the unimaginable grief of being yet another parent who has lost yet another child in yet another mass shooting. He has seen this happen before, he knows the political script that’s already playing out. He has listened as gun apologists — time and again — urge the nation not to “politicize” a national tragedy out of respect for the families, and then watched them turn on these same families in order to protect our deadly — and immensely profitable — culture of guns. And he’s using it. All of it.
Days after 26 people were murdered in Newtown, Connecticut, Wayne LaPierre denounced gun reform advocates for “exploit[ing] the tragedy for political gain.” Months later, Sarah Palin echoed the sentiment. ”Leaders are in it for themselves, not for the American people,” she told a crowd that summer, before effectively declaring how proud she was that her son Trig would grow up in a country where men like Elliot Rodger and Adam Lanza can buy guns and hoard ammunition without authorities batting an eyelash.
Martinez may be the single most powerful force we have against this kind of slithering political cowardice. He’s already familiar with the political dirty tricks and knows where the conversation will eventually turn — that the pro-gun crowd is going to come out hard against him, just as they have turned on other parents and survivors. “Right now, there hasn’t been much blowback from the other side,” Martinez noted during a Tuesday interview with MSNBC. “But I anticipate that once my grieving period is over, the gloves will come off. I don’t think it’s going to be easy. They are going to try to do to me the same thing that they’ve done to all of these people. But I have a message for them: My son is dead. There is nothing you could do to me that is worse than that.”
I can’t imagine a more direct rebuttal to the LaPierres and the Palins in this country. To the ridiculous rifle-holding Mitch McConnells and every other ludicrous coward currently walking the halls of Congress and state legislatures across the country. These are the people who — as Martinez has made explicit — are responsible for these terribly predictable and preventable tragedies. Because they have the power to implement sensible reform, but instead stand by and do nothing while more people die every single day.
Martinez also knows that while it’s the public’s job to hold our leadership’s feet to the fire, he’s not the one responsible for having all the answers. “Where’s the leadership on this? We elect these people and we give them power, and it’s just outrageous,” he said during the same interview. “My son just died a few days ago, and you expect me to have the answers to these questions? There are people out there who have the answers. Why isn’t our leadership rounding these people up?”
But Martinez’s grasp of the issue puts most of our elected officials to shame. “When you asked me about solutions, here’s what I’ve learned,” he explained. “This is a complicated issue, but there’s a certain commonality between these events. Typically, all of these incidents involved […] mental health issues, gun violence and violence against women. These three problems are almost always combined.”
Like other parents whose lives have been upturned by gun violence — women like Lucia McBath, the mother of Jordan Davis, and Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin — Martinez recognizes and is naming the pattern of violence in the most public way imaginable. But while Congress has so far been wildly successful at shutting down gun reform efforts, parents like Martinez, McBath and Fulton — who are electrifying the national conversation and building solidarity among other families forever changed by rampant access to deadly weapons — may be impossible for them to ignore. They are the most powerful messengers we could ask for.
Martinez is brave, destroyed, weeping, loud, furious and unpredictable in his grief. He is channeling all of that with a singular focus: Change. Or as he said that first day, introducing himself to the world as the grieving but determined father of Christopher Michaels-Martinez: “Not one more.”
“For me to live with this and honor his memory, I will continue to go anywhere and talk to anybody for as long as they want and are willing to listen to me about this problem. I’m not going to shut up,” he said Tuesday. He really seems to mean it.
A new web series for young people produced by the National Rifle Association is being widely panned by critics as a phony and out-of-touch attempt at messaging. And for good reason — the NRA’s Noir is really about the same themes the NRA has been ranting on for decades, that the NRA is the only group that can stand up for persecuted gun owners and save America in the face of machinations by anti-gun elites.
Recently launched on the NRA’s new “Freestyle” network, Noir promises to report on ”the latest on firearms, fashion, pop culture and other hot topics.” The show is hosted by NRA News commentator Colion Noir — best known for his bizarre claim Martin Luther King Jr. was a gun proponent — along with co-host Amy Robbins and is sponsored by gun manufacturer Mossberg.
Early reviews of Noir report that it reeks of inauthenticity. Indeed the 16-minute premiere episode is rife with product placements and lame pop culture and sports references, all awkwardly interspersed between features on high-powered, expensive-looking firearms.
In one cringe-worthy moment, Noir complains that the cardboard box his $5,000 rifle came in looks like “a Build-A-Bear beginning set of a homeless guy’s apartment.” During a glowing review of a compact Smith & Wesson handgun, Noir analogizes the pistol to Denver Nuggets guard Nate Robinson: “Sure he is small and unimposing, but the moment you drop your guard he will tear your ass up.” There is also an obligatory twerking reference.
This fakery led Gawker’s Adam Weinstein to describe the show as “hilariously bad poser garbage.” Writing for Vocativ, Mike Spies summed up the show as “public-access television: Think Wayne’s World, but with a focus on sleek weapons” and concluded that “NRA employs millenial-friendly tropes to attract younger members — and fails miserably.” While Spies imagined the show being “produced by aliens who spent an hour studying American pop culture,” Weinstein poked fun at “the cringe-inducing ‘urban’ script copy dropping out of Noir’s mouth like it was written by a white Mitch McConnell intern on summer break from Liberty University.”
Beyond the widely noted production and messaging problems, the NRA has failed to create a different message that can resonate with young people with Noir. The NRA must realize that young people are unlikely to embrace the bombastic paranoid rants of its executive vice president Wayne LaPierre. But as the video below shows, Noir is more of the same from the NRA, only delivered with a less abrasive tone and buried between pop culture references.
Ain’t No Party Like An NRA Party ‘Cause At An NRA Party People Wave Guns Around Like A Bunch Of Jackasses, And Other Gun News
A round-up of the National Rifle Association’s annual convention in Indianapolis.
Over the weekend the National Rifle Association held its annual Gun Fetishization and Circle Jerk for Dim-Bulb Paranoids. The lucky host city was Indianapolis, which saw itself invaded by 70,000 armed lunatics for three days of strutting jingoism and fear-mongering. Ghoulish death-head Wayne LaPierre showed up to give the very same speech that he gave at CPAC last month, which seems appropriate, since the NRA convention is basically CPAC with weaponry. Towards the end of the speech, LaPierre showed a television commercial that has to be seen to be believed (It starts at about 17:05 in the above video). As a bonus, it stars Wonkette favorite Mr. Colion Noir, who we are sad to see has yet to find a director who can get him to tone down the overly dramatic line readings.
Did you feel it? Do you believe in America again?
After LaPierre, the usual band of shitwitted politicians took to the podium to pander to this armed band of donkey-fucking nut bags. Mitch McConnell popped by, though apparently he left the Revolutionary War musket he showed off at CPAC at home. Quite a few of the potential losers to Hillary Clinton in 2016 made speeches, including Mike Pence, Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum and Bobby Jindal, because when you think of manly gun-toting tough guys, you definitely think of the Hindu version of Kenneth the Page.
The greatest speech of the weekend belonged to Sarah Palin, the Dipshit of Denali herself, who popped by to tell everyone that if she were in charge, “waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists.” Remembering that she is not in fact in charge of anything, sphincters across the country immediately unclenched.
One 72-year-old heartbeat away from the presidency. John McCain should never be allowed to make any decision about anything ever after that one. Cindy shouldn’t even let him decide what flavor pudding he gets to gum down for dinner.
We wonder if it occurred to even one of the 70,000 barking seals in attendance that the NRA convention is basically just a big weekend for gun manufacturers to separate even more of the rubes from even more of their money. Wrapping it in a veneer of rah-rah patriotism about taking back the streets from the thugs and criminals, or taking back the country from the people who gave us Solyndra and Benghazi (no really, those were mentioned) does not change that.
For an example of what the NRA hath wrought after years and years of this paranoid insanity, we look no further than a story out of Georgia last week. It seems that one patriot, excited over the state’s passing that “Guns Everywhere” law, couldn’t wait to tell all his liberal fascist neighbors that he would now be strapped all the time, so stick that in your pipes and smoke it, libtards! For an extra soupcon of dickishness, the Georgia man decided to make sure all the small children at the neighborhood Little League field knew it too.
“Anyone who was just walking by – you had parents and children coming in for the game – and he’s just standing here, walking around [saying] ‘You want to see my gun? Look, I got a gun and there’s nothing you can do about it.’ He knew he was frightening people. He knew exactly what he was doing,” said parent Karen Rabb.
All together now: he seems nice.
Back in Indianapolis, a small group of protestors affiliated with Moms Demand Action and Everytown, which is Michael Bloomberg’s new gun control group, bravely put in an appearance outside the NRA convention. This was very upsetting to the gun fondlers, who fear the radical Moms Demand agenda of background checks, suicide prevention, domestic violence and safe storage of guns so that fewer toddlers will keep shooting each other. Advocating for such issues is apparently considered “bullying” by the gun nuts. Which we find hilarious, considering the above story from Georgia or this one about a sales executive in L.A. trying to sell a line of so-called “smart guns.” Her efforts to sell guns that can only be fired by their actual owners have led to a campaign of harassment that includes posting pictures of the address where she keeps a P.O. box online.
The unarmed are always bullying the armed. Everyone knows this.
The gun nuts were also very contemptuous of Moms Demand Action founder Shannon Watts, who apparently had an armed security detail with her, which apparently makes her a hypocrite. Yr Wonkette thinks that if we were going to advocate for gun control in the middle of 70,000 armed, easily angered jerks, and if we had been the target of the kind of invective that has been hurled at Watts since she founded her group, we would want armed security as well. That doesn’t make Shannon Watts a hypocrite. It makes her smart.
In Indianapolis, Watts had a run-in with howling rage harpy Dana Loesch, of whom she has run afoul for a variety of reasons, including apparently calling Loesch a “paid shill” of Magpul Industries, the gun manufacturer that fled Colorado last year after that state imposed some new gun-control laws. Loesch claims she has never been employed by Magpul and has been after Watts for months demanding an apology for this vicious lie. What yr Wonkette finds entertaining about this little argument is that last summer we wrote about a rally Magpul participated in just before Colorado’s new laws went into effect, at which the company handed out hundreds of its 30-round magazines that were about to become illegal. Magpul flew these magazines to the rally by helicopter, along with a noted anti-gun-control advocate by the name of…Dana Loesch! Dana even took two of Magpul’s magazines home with her and named them “Piers” and “Morgan.” Most parents would just get their kids a couple of goldfish.
Anyway, we suppose any appearance fee paid to Dana came from the rally’s organizers and not from Magpul. Or maybe Dana didn’t get an appearance fee at all so she could remain a pure and uncorrupted spokeswoman for her civil right to stroke a gun anywhere and anytime she wants. Yr Wonkette is of the opinion that flying into a gun rally with several crates of Magpul products, speaking at that rally and then taking two of the products home and bragging about them meets the definition of the word “shilling.” And also that Dana Loesch is dumber than a bag of gun hammers.
So you hang in there, Shannon Watts and Moms Demand Action. If you’ve got the gun nuts frothing at the mouth this hard, you must be doing something right.
Everytown for Gun Safety has released a report titled Not Your Grandparents’ NRA that highlights a simple fact: the NRA that was created after the Civil War to promote hunting, marksmanship, and safety training — and that supported common sense gun laws — no longer exists. Today’s NRA would be unrecognizable to the founding members of the organization.
Today’s radicalized NRA was born in 1977 when its newly elected leader Harlon Carter rejected calls for background checks, saying that allowing “convicted violent felons, mentally deranged people, violently addicted to narcotics people to have guns” was simply the “price we pay for freedom.”
The report highlights some of the extreme positions the NRA has taken and some of the tactics it uses to subvert public safety and advance its agenda, including:
- Fighting to allow felons and terrorists to buy and own firearms;
- Campaigning to put guns in places like bars where they are at high risk of being misused, despite the documented dangers of mixing guns and alcohol;
- Promoting gag orders to block pediatricians and military commanders from discussing gun safety with parents and at-risk service members;
- Endangering law enforcement and hobbling their efforts to fight gun crime by sabotaging the introduction of proven, innovative gun-tracking technology;
- Handcuffing communities beset by gun violence by thwarting their efforts to tailor gun laws to local conditions; and, finally,
- Blacklisting individuals and private sector companies that buck NRA orthodoxy or offer any measures to reduce gun violence or mitigate its costs.
Click here to read the full report.
The 1977 Cincinnati NRA convention is responsible for the major shift in the direction of the organization, as was the rise of deranged idiot Wayne LaPierre.
The gun industry lobby issued a “special alert” to members on Wednesday with a call to action in bright red: “Please call your U.S. Senators and Ask Them to Oppose the Confirmation of Vivek Murthy for U.S. Surgeon General.” The group provided a phone number for members to call their representatives.
The group reaffirmed its previously stated beef with Murthy, specifically that he has supported gun control measures such as a ban on semi-automatic assault weapons and limits on ammunition purchases. The NRA also claims his characterization of gun safety as a public health issue makes him a “gun control activist” with a “radical anti-gun agenda.”
Proponents of gun control are furious.
“The NRA is unconscionably putting the country’s health at risk by attempting to prevent Dr. Murthy’s approval,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) told TPM. “He is eminently well-qualified, with strong support from leading medical and hospital groups and prominent professionals.”
The action alert came after TPM and other outlets reported that Senate Democrats were well short of the 50 votes they needed (after eliminating the filibuster last November for most nominations) to confirm Murthy. One top Democratic aide said the party was eight to ten votes short after members bolted over the NRA’s letter last month coming out against Murthy.
So, why is the NRA fighting a battle that it appears to have already won?
An NRA spokesman declined to comment. One plausible reason is that the group wants to deliver a knockout blow in order to scare Democrats out of considering the nomination after the 2014 elections, where vulnerable members in pro-gun red states are defending their seats.
But there’s a more overarching goal. The aggressive pro-gun lobbying group has crushed its gun control opponents over the last two decades, racking up victory after victory in Congress and the Supreme Court. With lawmakers on their side, and the courts on their side, the logical next step is to go after public servants who dare to cross them. It never hurts to find new ways to excite members and keep the funds flowing, even if it means extending their tentacles into unchartered waters. Without new ways to instill fear that the government is coming for peoples’ guns, member enthusiasm wanes and fundraising slows down.
Attacking a nominee to a post that lacks any ability to vote on gun laws is a curious move on its face. But it serves a dual purpose for the NRA: it keeps the pro-gun community energized and sends a message that the NRA will target anyone hoping to serve in public life if they voice support for gun control, even if their influence over the matter is tenuous.
Blumenthal, who stepped up his support for gun control in the wake of the horrific Newtown, Conn. shooting in December 2012 that left 20 children dead, said Murthy was “fully appropriate in addressing gun violence as a public health issue.” The senator added that “[i]n his confirmation hearing, he indicated clearly that his focus will be on obesity, mental illness, tobacco-related disease and other public health issues unrelated to gun violence.”
h/t: Sahil Kapur at TPM
1. America is becoming too dangerous for children to play outside.
2. Americans are buying guns because of “reckless government actions” and because the “entire fabric of society” is in “jeopardy.”
3. The national media is one of America’s “greatest threats.”
4. “Knockout game” and “haters” are just two reasons we need unlimited rifles, shotguns, and pistols (Bonus part: “waves of chemicals” could collapse society at any moment).
5. There is a “bare-knuckled street fight” with the opposition to the NRA. But the NRA “will not go quietly into the night.” (Bonus: this is from the movie Independence Day).
Watch the full speech here.
There are few regular CPAC speakers who can match the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre when it comes to peddling wholesale paranoia and nightmarish visions of the future as he did while speaking today when he warned that neighborhood streets that were once filled with laughter and freedom now sit ominously silent because Americans are in fear for their lives, which is why they are loading up on all the ammunition and weapons they can get.
"In the world that surrounds us, “he proclaimed, “there are terrorists, and there are home-invaders, drug cartels, car-jackers, knockout gamers, and rapers, and haters, and campus killers, airport killers, shopping mall killers, and killers who scheme to destroy our country with massive storms of violence against our power grids or vicious waves of chemicals or disease that could collapse our society that sustains us all.”
"Do you trust this government to protect you?" LaPierre asked the crowd, which responded with a resounding "no!"
"We are on our own. That is a certainty"
h/t: Kyle Mantyla at RWW
Conservative website The Daily Caller published in its entirety an over-the-top fundraising pitch from National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre that suggested the only way to save America is to buy an NRA membership.
The March 3 column posted in the Caller’s “Guns and Gear” section included the phone number for an NRA membership hotline and a link to a website where Caller readers can purchase a discounted NRA membership:
Like other material published by the NRA at the Caller, the fundraising pitch was filled with paranoid rhetoric based on the conspiracy theory that the Obama administration is plotting to confiscate privately owned firearms.
Warning that “2014 could be remembered as the turning point in the loss of your Second Amendment rights,” LaPierre urged readers to buy or upgrade NRA memberships, and wrote, “your NRA membership may be the only thing that can stop the Obama-Biden-Bloomberg gun-ban bulldozer.”
LaPierre continued: “Right now, President Obama is on the verge of putting together a royal flush — an unbeatable, winner-takes-all hand in poker — in his drive to ‘transform’ American society by disarming the American people.”
The fundraising pitch also included one of the NRA’s more outlandish conspiracy theories, the claim that the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty — an effort to crack down on the diversion of weapons to human rights abusers — “could set the stage for a national gun registry, to be shared with foreign governments.”
The reprinting of LaPierre’s fundraising pitch follows what is already an unusual relationship between a supposed journalism outlet and an advocacy group. Since its launch in December 2011, the Caller’s “Guns and Gear” section has frequently republished press releases from the NRA’s lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action, and op-eds from members of NRA leadership. The NRA has also bought advertisements on the site.
The special membership price offered for Caller readers is also evidence of the NRA’s never-ending use of fearmongering about manufactured Second Amendment crises for fundraising purposes. The current offer includes the exact same language from a 2012 membership special for Caller readers: “There has never been a more important time to join the NRA! … Remember: NRA is the ONLY firewall standing between your firearm freedoms and those who would take them away.”
Newtown Anniversary: Daily Drumbeat Of Child Homicides Gets Little Notice, With 170 Children Under The Age of 12 Dying From Gun Homicide In America Since The Sandy Hook Shooting
ABOVE: Just in the year since the Newtown school shooting, at least 173 children under age 12 have died from gunshots in the U.S., according to original reporting and research by NBC News. Click on the photo for a timeline of the 173 deaths. From left to right, from top: Alton and Ashton Perry, Leonard J. Smith Jr., Aaron Vu; Middle: Trashawn Jaylen Macklin, Tiana Ricks, Mia Lopez; Bottom: Antonio Santiago, Jaidon Dixon, Madison Dolford.
To mourn the 20 children and six educators killed a year ago at Sandy Hook elementary, residents of the Connecticut suburb of Newtown will take a quiet action on Saturday: placing candles in windows to remember the lives lost.
But who will put a candle in the window for the hundreds of American children each year killed in everyday violence, closer to home, usually by someone they knew?
The nightmare gripped parents across the nation after the pop-pop-pop of gunfire on a crisp December morning: a stranger in a school with guns. Although mass killings are watersheds in the American consciousness, it’s easy to forget that more than 900 children in the U.S. die in homicides each year. And most of them perish at the hands of a relative, according to an NBC News analysis of 25 years of homicide reports submitted by police to the FBI. Only seven of every 100 child homicides are committed by strangers. See the patterns in child homicides.
"The high profile tragedies that glue us to the TV screen are a very small part of the overall problem, and they’re not representative of it," said Garen Wintemute, a professor of emergency medicine and director of the Violence Prevention Research Program at the UC Davis School of Medicine. "If you take Sandy Hook and the Oak Creek Sikh temple shooting and Aurora and Virginia Tech and Columbine, 95 people were killed in those shootings. And each of those deaths is horrific. But we lose on average 88 people per day to firearm violence."
As part of its coverage of the Newtown anniversary, NBC News examined the broader patterns in homicides of children and spoke with researchers about the changes that could save young lives.
Just since Newtown, at least 173 children under 12 have died from gunshots in the U.S., according to original reporting and research by NBC News. Explore a timeline of their deaths with details on each case: The US children shot to death since the Sandy Hook massacre.
The people of Newtown have decided against having a public memorial service on the Dec. 14 anniversary, but have asked residents to put a candle in the window to show their commitment to a year of public service, kindness and compassion. Families of victims have a new website, My Sandy Hook Family, for remembrances of those lost in the shooting at the neighborhood elementary school.
The patterns in homicides of children
NBC News took a fresh look at killings of children, using detailed homicide reports submitted to the FBI by police departments across the nation from 1987 through 2011, the most recent available. The FBI records, for all ages, include 549,020 incidents with 574,774 victims. NBC focused on the homicides of 17,650 victims under age 12.
Scott Olson / Getty Images file
Guns, homicide and America’s children: Explore 24 years of FBI data on victims, killers, circumstances and weapons. Click on the photo to open.
Four patterns emerge:
- Few of the killers are strangers. Family members account for 51 percent of the killers. Other people known to the victim account for another 28 percent. Strangers are only 7 percent. And 13 percent of cases, the relationship status couldn’t be determined.
- Few killings of children happen during “street crime” or “gang violence.” Arguments and home violence are far more deadly for children than getting caught up in a crime unfolding. Police reported only 13 percent of the homicides as happening during commission of another felony.
- Guns are used in about one in four homicides of children under 12. Guns are not the No. 1 weapon in homicides of younger children. Why? Because so many of the children killed are very young. Babies rarely get shot, but they do get strangled or shaken, so the most often used “weapon” is hands or feet, at 34 percent. Next are guns, at 23 percent. The picture changes rapidly as one moves up the age range — older children can fight back or run away. By the time children are 3, the most common weapon in homicides is a gun. For all age groups, including adults, guns are used in 66 percent of homicides.
- Most of the guns that kill children are handguns, which are far more commonly used than all other types of guns combined. The same pattern holds for adult victims.
Explore details of the homicide data, with state-by-state breakouts of age, sex, race and other characteristics: What 25 years of FBI data show about child homicides. See the box below, “About the data,” for details on the analysis.
Putting school shootings in perspective
America’s schools and streets are safer than Americans know.
An average of 23 youths per year were the victims of homicides at elementary or secondary schools or on the way to a school event, from 1992 to 2011, according to the most complete federal study, by the U.S. Department of Education and the Bureau of Justice Statistics. And those deaths include all kinds of homicides — drug deals gone bad, fights over a girl — in a nation with 130,000 schools and more than 50 million students in grades K-12.
School violence is decreasing, just as the general crime rate has decreased steadily over the past 20 years. With the focus by the news media and public on crime, particularly gun crimes, the public is largely unaware that the gun homicide rate is down 49 percent from its peak in 1993. Most of the public believes incorrectly that gun crime is higher than two decades ago, according to a study from the Pew Research Center.
Every spike in homicides grabs public attention, but the general decline is little noticed, as few news stories reflect more than a single month or year. Consider Chicago, which is often cited by gun-rights activists as proof that gun-control laws do not work, because of its strict law and its spike in homicides in 2012. Did you know that this year Chicago is on track for its fewest homicides since 1965, continuing the general trend of fewer homicides in that city? The number of homicides in Chicago was consistently above 800 a year in the early 1990s, but has steadily dropped to below 500 recently, according to the Chicago Police Department.
Still, no one is arguing that the number of deaths is low enough. A child aged 5 through 14 in America is about 13 times more likely to be murdered with a gun than children in Japan, Italy or other industrial countries, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. (Watch the Harvard forum on gun violence.)
Ways to bring down gun violence
Is it possible to bring down the number of homicides of children without talking about guns?
From a gun-rights perspective, the National Rifle Association argues that guns make America safer, that the crime rate and the murder rate have been dropping — precisely because more people own guns and more states permit the carrying of concealed weapons.
"When the wolves can’t distinguish the lions from the lambs, the whole flock is safer," wrote Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president and CEO of the NRA.
From a public health perspective, the American Psychological Association released a report Thursday on preventing gun violence, calling for actions based on scientific evidence, not politics.
"The prevention of gun violence might include efforts focused on guns — because guns are such a powerful tool for violence — but should also include other strategies such as conflict resolution programs and improved mental health services," the APA urged. "Measures to keep prohibited persons from accessing firearms, such as licensing handgun purchases, background checks for all gun sales and close oversight of gun retailers can reduce the diversion of guns to criminals."
Emergency physician Wintemute argues that the first step to protecting children is to shed the assumption that homicides are inevitable, that America has a uniquely high share of wolves. If one ranks the 36 developed nations on the rates of violent assault, he says, America is third from the bottom, relatively safe.
"What makes us unique is not our violence rate but our homicide rate," Wintemute said. "We add firearms to the mix."
Wintemute said research on homicides with guns supports the following suggestions for parents and policy makers:
- "Don’t bring a gun into the home. It’s counterproductive, increases your risk, to have a gun at home."
- "If you have a gun, and you’re going to keep it, store it safely. Store it locked up. Better yet, locked up and unloaded."
- "Keep high-risk adults from having access to firearms," particularly those with a history of violence or crimes involving alcohol abuse, which is closely associated with homicide.
- Teach kids, especially in high-risk populations, alternatives to violence for solving problems.
Not only homicides, but also suicides and accidental deaths, could be reduced by such steps. Suicides by gun are twice as common as gun homicides, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control. Most suicide attempts with a gun are successful, while most suicide attempts by other means are not, according to a Harvard School of Public Health study. In 2010, the latest year with final statistics, the CDC counted 19,392 suicides using guns, 11,078 homicides with guns, 606 accidental gun deaths and 252 gun deaths with undetermined cause. These figures don’t count the 31,672 injuries with firearms.
Each of these recommendations provokes a Second Amendment rebuttal. Wintemute found in a survey, for example, that a majority of gun sellers support tougher background checks and bans on purchases by people with histories of violence, mental illness or alcoholism-related crimes. That study, however, was opposed by the NRA, which sent out an email discouraging its members from participating. Wintemute received a copy of the email, because he’s an NRA member.
A group of parents of Sandy Hook victims has tried to make its voice heard in this debate. They formed a group called Sandy Hook Promise, which is focusing on breakthroughs in research and new technologies, such as smart guns, which render a gun useless to anyone other than the owner or authorized user.
The NRA says it doesn’t oppose such technology — so long as governments don’t require its use. “NRA does not oppose new technological developments in firearms,” the NRA’s lobbying group said in a recent news release. “However, we are opposed to government mandates that require the use of expensive, unreliable features, such as grips that would read your fingerprints before the gun will fire. And NRA recognizes that the ‘smart guns’ issue clearly has the potential to mesh with the anti-gunner’s agenda, opening the door to a ban on all guns that do not possess the government-required technology.”
Optimism or pessimism for action?
Gun-control advocates have expressed their disillusionment with the inability of the Obama administration to get Congressional backing for changes such as background checks and limits on high-capacity magazines.
But Wintemute , who has researched gun violence for 30 years, said he is more optimistic.
"Washington is not the only place that change can happen," he said. "Change can happen in the home, in a doctor’s office, in a state legislature. Lots of people are talking. There are an array of organizations committed to making change happen, and that’s never happened before."
Wayne LaPierre, Vice President of the National Rifle Association, blamed this week’s shooting at the Navy Yard on a shortage of firearms. Speaking with David Gregory on Meet the Press, LaPierre charged that the base was “completely unprotected” when Aaron Alexis entered, and called for even more armed guards than were already on duty.
Gregory questioned this logic, pointing out that this attack occurred at a military facility with a heavier armed guard presence than most other places.
GREGORY: This is similar. After Newtown, you were outspoken in saying more security was the answer…This was the Navy Yard. There were armed guards there, Mr. LaPierre. Does that not undermine your argument?
LAPIERRE: No, the whole country knows the problem is there weren’t enough good guys with guns! When the good guys with guns got there, it stopped. […]
GREGORY: “Can it be the sliding scale where, you do have armed guards there, but now there’s not enough armed guards? And when it comes to schools, if only we had an armed guard, and then if we had teachers with weapons, then we could stop it. I mean, where does it stop?”
In reality, police were on the scene within two to three minutes of the shooting, and security guards had already gone after the gunman. Even in those few minutes, the gunman had manage to shoot several people and then had an all-out gun battle with law enforcement, wounding one internal security guard and one Metropolitan police officer. Most gunmen in recent years have needed only a few minutes to wreak havoc. The 2009 shooting at the Fort Hood army base in Texas happened in four minutes, despite heavy security. The deadliest school massacre in U.S. history, at Virginia Tech, took just nine minutes.
LaPierre, who also called for arming teachers after the Newtown shooting, seems to believe that arming every single person at military facilities and in schools would stop the now regular occurrences of fatal gun violence in the U.S. However, even when responders to violence are trained, more guns in a tense situation often hurt more than they help. Just this week, New York police officers accidentally shot two bystanders while pursuing a disoriented, unarmed man. Last year, police shot nine bystanders while confronting the Empire State Building gunman.
National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre baselessly warned that proponents of stronger gun laws could implement a firearm “confiscation scheme” in his latest unhinged column for The Daily Caller.
Despite LaPierre’s warnings of a draconian gun registration and confiscation scheme that he wrote “could happen to us if we fail to stand and fight,” the plot LaPierre described is illegal under current federal law, has not been proposed by the supporters of stronger gun laws LaPierre singled out in his column, and would likely violate the United States Constitution.
LaPierre’s column was published on August 19, the day before BuzzFeedreported that the NRA itself uses a variety of data collection methods to gather information on gun owners. In an article that described myriad ways the NRA collects data on gun owners, BuzzFeed contributor Steve Friess noted the tension between the NRA’s warnings about government gun owner databases and the gun rights organization’s own actions:
The National Rifle Association has rallied gun owners — and raised tens of millions of dollars — campaigning against the threat of a national database of firearms or their owners.
But in fact, the sort of vast, secret database the NRA often warns of already exists, despite having been assembled largely without the knowledge or consent of gun owners. It is housed in the Virginia offices of the NRA itself. The country’s largest privately held database of current, former, and prospective gun owners is one of the powerful lobby’s secret weapons, expanding its influence well beyond its estimated 3 million members and bolstering its political supremacy.
That database has been built through years of acquiring gun permit registration lists from state and county offices, gathering names of new owners from the thousands of gun-safety classes taught by NRA-certified instructors and by buying lists of attendees of gun shows, subscribers to gun magazines, and more, BuzzFeed has learned.
LaPierre’s Daily Caller column is demonstrative of the outlandish gun registration and confiscation plots the NRA warns of while apparently simultaneously collecting information on gun owners for its own purposes.
The Firearm Owners’ Protection Act of 1986 provides that it is illegal for the federal government to create a database of gun owners. In order to enforce this provision, the federal government destroys within 24 hoursinformation it collects about gun owners in order to perform background checks. Despite the NRA’s misinformation, a failed Senate proposal to expand background checks would not have changed how the federal government handles and disposes of gun owner information.
The scenario LaPierre describes, where membership in the NRA could serve as grounds to deny gun ownership, would also almost certainly be unconstitutional under the 2008 Supreme Court decision District of Columbia v. Heller, which guarantees the right of individuals — who are not subject to “longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms” — to keep a handgun in the home for self-defense.
HOUSTON (AP) — The incoming leader of the National Rifle Association has a long history with the powerful gun rights lobby and a penchant for bold statements that are sure to enflame an already explosive national debate over gun control.
James Porter, an Alabama attorney and first vice president of the NRA, assumes the presidency on Monday after the group’s national convention wraps up in Houston. He didn’t wait until then to ignite a new furor over gun control, telling the NRA grass-roots organizers on Friday they are the front line of a “culture war” that goes beyond gun rights.
“(You) here in this room are the fighters for freedom. We are the protectors,” Porter said.
Porter, 64, whose father was NRA president from 1959-1961, is part of the small, Birmingham, Ala., law firm of Porter, Porter & Hassinger. The firm’s website notes its expertise in defending gun manufacturers in lawsuits.
Porter takes over the organization as the NRA finds itself in a national fight over gun control in Washington, D.C., and state capitols around the country. The NRA had a major victory regarding gun control with the defeat in the U.S. Senate of a bill that would have expanded background checks for gun sales. But it lost ground in some places as several states passed laws expanding background checks and banning large ammunition magazines after December’s mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school.
Porter has called President Barack Obama a “fake president,” Attorney General Eric Holder “rabidly un-American” and the U.S. Civil War the “War of Northern Aggression.” On Friday, he repeated his call for training every U.S. citizen in the use of standard military firearms, to allow them to defend themselves against tyranny.
Gun control advocates say Porter makes outgoing NRA President David Keene look like a moderate on gun issues, even though Keene had said the NRA would try to punish lawmakers who voted in favor of expanded background checks and other gun control measures.
Keene had worked to offer a softer, if equally staunch voice for the gun lobby’s ideas when compared with Wayne LaPierre, the fiery executive vice president who remains the NRA’s most prominent voice on the public stage.
Porter as president, “pulls (the NRA) more into the extremist camp,” said Josh Horwitz, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. “With Jim Porter, they’ve gone full crazy.”
New President, same extremist agenda at the NRA.
For much of its more than 140-year history, the National Rifle Association promoted gun ownership, shooting, and hunting as good, clean, constitutionally-protected fun. That changed in the past four decades as the NRA transformed into a hardline group closely allied with the gun industry and the conservative establishment whose only solution to gun violence is ever more guns. Watch the shift unfold in this collection of ads promoting the organization from the early 20th century to the present.
1920: “Rifle shooting is a mighty fine sport.” This Remington ad in Boys Life declared that the NRA was “a United States Government organization.” It wasn’t, but that gives you a sense of just how tight the gun group and the government once were—before the NRA entered its current state of perpetual freak-out about the feds coming for Americans’ guns.
1970: “Hunters Beware!” Sounding more like the contemporary NRA, this ad warned about “powerful forces—possibly well-intentioned but ill-informed—working eagerly yet relentlessly to curb and eventually abolish the hunting rights, privileges and freedoms you enjoy today.” Bonus: A guest appearance by future pro football Hall of Famer Chris Hanburger.
1982: “I’m the NRA” This famous campaign, launched in 1982, was intended to demonstrate the NRA’s broad appeal. Ads included kids (such as eight-year-old BB-gun enthusiast Bryan Hardin), women, African Americans, cops, and clergy. A more recent version of the campaign has featured NRA celebrity board members Tom Selleck and Karl Malone.
Late 1980s: “Why can’t a policeman be there when you need him?” Fears about violent crime fueled these ads promoting concealed-carry laws. The notion that gun laws are ineffective because criminals break them remains a core NRA argument, as does the idea that armed citizens routinelyfend off attackers.
1995: Bill Clinton is “daffy.” With the number of hunters on the decline, you’d think the NRA would embrace high-profile recreational shooters. Yet in this poster sold to its members, the NRA unintentionally distanced itself from its longtime stance that hunting was central to gun rights, declaring that “Mr. Clinton, the Second Amendment is not about duck hunting.”
1997: “Gun rights are lost on our kids.” Heston promised to lead a $100 million, “three-year crusade…to restore the Second Amendment to its rightful place as America’s First Freedom.” For the kids, of course.
2013: “Are the president’s kids more important than yours?” All the anti-government paranoia, fear-mongering, and liberal-baiting of the past few decades culminated in this video, produced in the wake of the Newtown massacre. By opposing putting armed guards in every school in America, Obama proved himself to be “just another elitist hypocrite” whose kids are protected by the Secret Service.
H/T: Mother Jones
Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy (D) tore into the National Rifle Association during an appearance on CNN’s State Of The Union on Sunday. The NRA this week introduced its legislative response to the massacre in Malloy’s home state. Its plan focuses on arming school staff.
Malloy specifically called out NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre for his absolute opposition to commonsense gun regulations, including the new gun law just enacted by Connecticut. After watching a clip of LaPierre mocking Connecticut’s new law, Malloy shot back, “Wayne reminds me of the clowns at the circus. They get the most attention”:
MALLOY: That’s what he’s paid to do. But the reality is is that the gun that was used to kill 26 people on December 14th was legally purchased in the state of Connecticut even though we had an Assault Weapons Ban. But there were loopholes in it that you could drive a truck through. This guy is so out of whack, it’s unbelievable. 92% of the american people want universal background checks. I can’t get on a plane as the Governor of the state of Connecticut without somebody running a background check on me. Why should you be able to buy a gun? Or buy armor-piercing munitions? It doesn’t make any sense. He doesn’t make any sense. Thus my reference to the circus.[…]
Bring it back to reality. Why are they against universal background checks when 92% of the American public is in favor of them? If they can’t answer that question — and they can’t, Candy — What this is about is the ability of the gun industry to sell as many guns to as many people as possible even if they’re deranged, even if they’re mentally ill, evening if they have a criminal background, they don’t care. They want to sell guns.
NRA leadership demonstrated yet again last week just how low they are willing to go in their unconscionable effort to block any and all common sense, life saving gun violence legislation. Their most recent repugnant tactic—repeated robo calls to Newtown families—mocks and betrays the courage and compassion demonstrated by the Newtown community just barely three months after one of the world’s most horrific acts of gun violence seized 26 beautiful and heroic young lives.
Less than two months ago at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on gun violence, I asked NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre if he would join the tens of thousands of people around the world in taking the Sandy Hook Promise. The Promise is a very simple message. It asks its followers to honor the 26 lives lost at Sandy Hook Elementary School by promising to do everything possible to encourage and support common sense solutions to make our communities and country safer from similar acts of violence. “I promise this time there will be change,” the Promise concludes. Wayne LaPierre agreed to the Promise that day, yet every minute of everyday since then, he and his organization have poured countless amounts of time, money and effort into making that simple promise harder and harder to achieve.
In its relentless effort to defeat the Sandy Hook Promise and block common sense, life saving gun violence legislation, NRA leadership has shown no boundary it will not cross—including injecting its fear-based messages into the homes, the sanctuaries, of a grieving community.
What NRA leadership simply refuses to acknowledge is that, despite their hopes and efforts, the Connecticut effect is not going to fade. In fact, it is growing, and it will not go away until we get the weapons of war off our streets, provide law enforcement the tools they need to enforce the laws on the books, improve the safety of our schools (and I don’t mean vigilante dads and teachers with guns), and strengthen our mental health system. With or without the NRA, we will act.
My message to NRA leadership: Stop these invasive, unconscionable calls. Join the vast majority of Americans and Newtown residents in supporting common sense measures to stem and stop gun violence.
If you agree, join me in urging NRA leadership to cease and desist these inhumane calls by calling them at 1-800-672-3888.