Tag Archives: guns

Guns–A Meditation

Once again, Americans are talking about guns in the wake of an unspeakable tragedy. There is little I can add to the outpouring of conflicting opinions, but after digesting a fair number of them, and for what it may be worth, I will share my perspective.

Bear with me.

  • There are 300 million guns in this country. We aren’t going to get rid of them–couldn’t if we tried. Furthermore, the vast majority of gun owners are responsible people–hunters, sportsmen, people hoping to protect their homes. It’s true that a significant number of the 30,000 plus gun deaths in America each year involve those responsible owners: suicides, domestic abuse, children accidentally shooting themselves or others. These deaths are tragic, but I’d draw an analogy to highway deaths–we don’t ban or confiscate cars because they can be lethal.
  • If we continue with the car analogy, however, there are lessons to be learned. We don’t let just anyone drive; in order to get a license you must pass a test. Your license can be revoked if you repeatedly break the rules. Academics study traffic deaths and issue recommendations for making our roadways safer–and legislatures, by and large, take those recommendations seriously. With guns, Congress has prohibited government from funding research on gun violence, and state lawmakers are constantly attacking and rolling back even the most reasonable firearm regulations. Congress even refused to pass a measure that would have prohibited individuals on the no-fly list–people with demonstrable connections to ISIS–from owning guns.
  • The history and interpretation of the Second Amendment has been twisted beyond recognition. If self-proclaimed “originalists” are really interested in the original meaning of the Amendment (I have my doubts), they might find this explanation by former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens edifying.
  • Stevens entire explanation should be read for a full understanding of the history of the Second Amendment and Supreme Court cases interpreting it, but a couple of paragraphs are illuminating.

For more than 200 years following the adoption of that amendment, federal judges uniformly understood that the right protected by that text was limited in two ways: First, it applied only to keeping and bearing arms for military purposes, and second, while it limited the power of the federal government, it did not impose any limit whatsoever on the power of states or local governments to regulate the ownership or use of firearms. Thus, in United States v. Miller, decided in 1939, the court unanimously held that Congress could prohibit the possession of a sawed-off shotgun because that sort of weapon had no reasonable relation to the preservation or efficiency of a “well regulated Militia.”…During the years when Warren Burger was chief justice, from 1969 to 1986, no judge or justice expressed any doubt about the limited coverage of the amendment, and I cannot recall any judge suggesting that the amendment might place any limit on state authority to do anything….

Thus, Congress’s failure to enact laws that would expand the use of background checks and limit the availability of automatic weapons cannot be justified by reference to the Second Amendment or to anything that the Supreme Court has said about that amendment. What the members of the five-justice majority said in those opinions is nevertheless profoundly important, because it curtails the government’s power to regulate the use of handguns that contribute to the roughly 88 firearm-related deaths that occur every day.

  • I am not and never have been a gun owner, so I will not attempt to respond to the gun lobby’s impassioned defense of an unrestricted and unregulated right to own any and all kinds of firearms. I will leave that defense to Trae Crowder, who is both more eloquent and more informed about “gun culture” than I am.

 

Liberal Redneck – On Guns

I sympathize with pro-gun people and always have. But at some point god damn enough is enough. Side note: Ignore the shirt, I just didn't have a plain black one and am dumb. That's all. Love y'all.

Publicado por Trae Crowder em Terça-feira, 3 de outubro de 2017

  • What I do know is that a mother should be able to take her daughter to a concert without worrying that one of them won’t live to make it home. I do know that a husband has a right to take his wife to a concert without having her die in his arms. I do know that constant, widespread anxiety about safety feeds social tensions and paranoia, and exacerbates the tribalism that is tearing this country apart.

Gun owners, please listen: Obama wasn’t going to “take” your guns. Hillary wasn’t, either. No one is suggesting the confiscation of 300 million firearms, or a law forbidding further gun sales. Funding research on gun violence, keeping guns out of the hands of people with a history of violence or mental illness, or people on the no-fly list, is not an infringement of anyone’s Second Amendment rights.

Requiring drivers’ licenses wasn’t a “slippery slope” toward the confiscation of cars, and restrictions on AK-47 ownership won’t lead to Armageddon.

 

 

A Definition of Insanity

John Hamilton is Mayor of Bloomington. This week, he had a heartfelt, frustrated–and frustrating–op ed in the New York Times.

Hamilton recounted two recent events from his city: an “open carry” parent swaggering around a municipal swimming pool, terrifying other parents; and a float in the annual Fourth of July parade “featuring armed men from a private firearms training center with military-style machine guns held at the ready, ammunition belts attached, atop a pickup truck.”

Both incidents generated unease and concern; both prompted calls for the Mayor to “do something” to ensure citizen safety. But, as Hamilton wrote, his inability to do anything–no matter how minor–has been assured by Mike Pence and Indiana’s legislature.

This is all happening in Indiana, with a governor, Mike Pence, who has long fought against any reasonable restrictions on guns. His extreme views on this, and other issues, are apparently one reason Donald J. Trump chose him as his running mate. The nation as a whole will now get a better look at the kind of attitude on gun laws that has earned Governor Pence an A rating from the National Rifle Association — and has made it harder for me to do what my constituents want when it comes to making them safe.

As Hamilton points out, his constituents aren’t anti-guns, or anti- Second Amendment.

They just don’t want handguns carried around at their public pools. They don’t want machine guns in their parades. Nor does my Police Department. Nor do I.

And in fact, my city used to have reasonable restrictions in place on the possession of firearms in parks, city facilities and at City Council meetings.

But five years ago the State Legislature prohibited cities from enforcing virtually any individual local regulation of firearms, ammunition or their accessories. The statehouse said we couldn’t restrict what kind of guns or ammunition can be carried, displayed, worn, concealed or transported, with a few very limited exceptions like courtrooms and intentional displays at official public meetings.

The state did nothing to fill this vacuum it created. It did create one exception to protect itself — prohibiting anyone but officers, legislators or judges from carrying guns in the statehouse. And in one more technical twist, the state said if any city ever tries to restrict firearms or ammunition, it would be subject to paying triple the lawyers’ fees for anyone who sues us.

So despite what a vast majority of Bloomington wants, we can’t ban a handgun from a public pool or a machine gun from a parade float.

Polls routinely show large majorities of Americans favoring reasonable restrictions on guns. Until we vote out the politicians who have been bought and paid for–or cowed–by the NRA, however, responsible public officials will have no option but to stand by and watch childish, macho displays of….what?

What is the psychology of a parent who parades around a municipal swimming pool packing a pistol?

In an era where police are rightfully concerned about being targeted by mentally unstable individuals, why on earth would we encourage citizens to walk around brandishing weapons?

How do they–or the rest of us– distinguish the “good guy” with the gun from the disturbed guy looking for provocation?

This is nuts.

Guns, Gays and Greenhouse Gases…Welcome to Indiana’s Legislature

I don’t know about the rest of you, but when Indiana’s (mercifully part-time) legislature is in session, I tend to break out in hives. Thanks to our massively gerrymandered election map, a number of people who get elected to that august body tend to advocate measures that don’t reflect the opinions of most Hoosiers.

It’s hard to escape the conclusion that, in many cases, Indiana’s lawmakers’ actual constituencies are the special interests–the NRA and gun manufacturers, the Christian Right, Big Agriculture….

A quick look at some of the bills being considered this year may illustrate the point:

Let’s start with guns. Every year, guns kill some 33,000 Americans. The Indiana General Assembly isn’t deterred by that number, or by repeated massacres of children and innocents. No siree. This year, bills have been introduced 1) to get rid of Indiana’s requirement of a license to carry a handgun, 2) to allow guns at public universities and state office buildings, and 3) to make it easier for repeat alcohol offenders to get a handgun license.

What could possibly go wrong?

I’ve posted previously about the reluctance of our lawmakers to just bite the bullet and admit that LGBT folks are citizens and taxpayers entitled to the same civil rights protections that apply to women, racial minorities and religious folks. (Although it has been sort of enjoyable to watch the discomfort of legislators who are used to doing the bidding of both the Religious Right and business interests—constituencies that are on opposite sides of this issue.)

Survey research has uniformly found a solid majority of Hoosiers favor adding “four words and a comma” to the state civil rights statute. Employers large and small are lobbying for that approach, and significant numbers of clergy and other representatives of faith communities have come out to support it–but our lawmakers have thus far been reluctant to incur the wrath of the small (but shrill and intensely homophobic) Christian Right.

Then there’s HB 1082, authored by Representative David Wolkins. Dubbed the “no more stringent than” bill, it would forbid Indiana agencies from making or enforcing any environmental rule that is more stringent than those established by the federal government. As the Palladium-Item noted

Indiana consistently ranks near the bottom of the states regarding environmental quality. If State Rep. David Wolkins, R-Winona Lake, has his way, Indiana will stay there.

As the Hoosier Environmental Council points out, the situation in Flint illustrates precisely those gaps in federal regulation that Indiana would be prevented from addressing under HB 1082: For example, under federal regulations, drinking water systems can continue to deliver lead-tainted water to households and businesses for up to 24 months while a variety of fixes are attempted. In 24 months, children’s health and cognitive abilities can be permanently damaged.

In fact, there are a number of areas where EPA regulations are considered weak, among them pollution from fracking, factory farm manure pits, and outdoor wood boilers. There are probably others.

Why would we want to prevent Indiana from addressing areas where federal regulations may prove to be inadequate for our needs? It isn’t as if the absence of a “no more stringent” bill would require the state to act. Why tie the hands of those charged with citizens’ public health and safety?

I’m sure a closer examination of the bills that have been introduced would uncover still others belonging to the category that I call “good god, what were they thinking?”

Maybe I should just drink until they go home….

I Can’t Wrap My Head Around This….

As if the ongoing disaster that is the Republican presidential clown car wasn’t doing enough damage to the image and prospects of the once-Grand Old Party (not to mention the country), I recently came across two articles about the party’s lawmakers that made me ask not “what were they thinking?” but “was anyone thinking?”

Last week, Congressional Republicans passed a measure that would have blocked EPA enforcement of the Clean Water Act. The President vetoed it, but I remain absolutely stunned that—in the midst of the disaster in Flint, Michigan, and the national outcry over that massive failure of government oversight—such a bill would even be introduced, let alone passed.

Unsurprisingly, the effort unleashed headlines like “As Flint, Michigan Suffers from Contaminated Water, Republicans Attack Clean Water Act.”

Thanks to an ill-conceived effort to save an estimated $100 per day (followed by 18 months during which the Governor’s office responded to complaints from citizens by telling them the water was just fine although they knew it wasn’t), Flint’s children now face impaired cognitive development, behavioral problems, and nervous system damage. Meanwhile, estimates of the costs to correct the entirely man-made problem run into the billions.

And yet.

In the midst of this crisis, and just days before the state of emergency was declared, Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan wrote an op-ed attacking the EPA’s Clean Water Rule. In the op-ed, Ryan declares that the stricter rules (finalized by the EPA this past summer which gives the agency authority to regulate smaller bodies of water to limit pollution) are a prime example of government overreach and that the only goal of the agency is to micromanage how citizens use water.

There is a yiddish word for this behavior: chutzpah. (Look it up.)

You might think that nothing could top this particular display of tone-deaf arrogance, but you’d be wrong.

Whenever another mass shooting brings calls for better background checks or other modest gun-safety measures, the NRA and its enablers always respond by insisting that the problem is a lack of mental health screening and treatment. So Senator Al Franken has sponsored a bill to improve those services.

The Franken Bill would provide much needed mental health services and tools for police and the courts to address deficiencies in the nation’s mental health system. The legislation should be uncontroversial, but Mike Lee and Tom Coburn adhere dogmatically to an anti-government ideology that would even deny combat veterans and others suffering from mental illness, access to critical services.

So Coburn and Lee have blocked the bill.

Franken’s bill does have support from several less-crazy Republicans, but increasingly, GOP policy is in thrall to people like Lee, Coburn and the Governor of Texas, who recently vetoed a mental health bill in that state because—wait for it—he doesn’t believe mental illness is real. (Can I offer you a mirror, Governor?)

Speaking of cognitive impairment…Just how many Americans have been drinking Flint’s water, and for how long?

 

What is with the Fixation on Potties?

Oh, Indiana! You have so many virtues….and so many legislators with questionable reasoning abilities. The legislative session that just began promises to be a bonanza for those who enjoy black comedy and unintentional irony.

For those of us who want adult government, not so much.

A major focus of the upcoming session will be the effort to add four words and a comma to Indiana’s existing civil rights law.  In the aftermath of last year’s RFRA debacle, business and civic organizations have partnered with LGBT organizations and faith communities to lobby for the addition of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the existing list of things (race, religion, gender, etc.)that Hoosiers can’t use as reasons to discriminate against other people.

All of these characteristics should be totally irrelevant to an individual’s right to rent an apartment, enroll in an educational institution or buy goods and services in the marketplace.

Four words and a comma. It’s not rocket science.

Lawmakers who really do want to discriminate but want to pretend otherwise have come up with all manner of convoluted bills to allow disparate treatment to continue. Others have simply abandoned the pretense, offering proposals that, if passed, would tell the world that Hoosier Hospitality is a highly selective concept.

And the world has noticed. This is from Talking Points Memo:

An Indiana rep recently proposed a bill that would hit transgender individuals with a Class A misdemeanor if they used a public restroom that doesn’t conform to their gender at birth.

I can see the signs now: Before using this potty, please deposit your DNA sample with the attendant…..

The whole potty fixation is a mystery to me. I was just in New York—I know, a den of iniquity—and most of the public restrooms I used were “one at a time” facilities available to either gender. (If you’re really worried about who uses which toilet, I have a suggestion: Get a life!)

This bill should die a quick death. Last year, similar bills failed to pass in Kentucky, Florida, Nevada and Texas (hardly liberal bastions), and the Department of Justice has declared that restricting transgender students’ access to public restrooms amounts to sex discrimination under Title IX, but hey–this is Indiana.

Even Georgia doesn’t want to be “the next Indiana.” 

For a legislature dominated by self-described proponents of “limited government,” the bills submitted thus far certainly are a mixed bag. On the one hand, our “small government” Christian conservatives are proposing a bill that would effectively  outlaw abortions (no terminations after a heartbeat is detectable–about the same time most women find out they’re pregnant). On the other hand, it’s hard to square that “pro life” position with the bill allowing habitual drunks to buy guns, the bill removing the need to license guns, the bill to allow guns on college campuses…

Maybe they want to be able to shoot people they think are using the wrong potty?

In any case, if the “wrong toilet” and gun bills pass, I’m moving to a saner state….Evidently, there are a lot of them.