Friday, December 21, 2012

Left Side of the Aisle #87 - Part 1

[Welcome to Jon Swift Roundup 2012 readers. If you're curious about what other posts of mine I thought about submitting, my Top 10 list is here. Just FYI, the posts are titled as they are because many are taken from my weekly show in local access cable - which, if you want to see, can be found on YouTube here.]

Guns, gun nuts, gun violence, Second Amendment nonsense, and the bloody results

One week ago, I gave my first "Hero Award" to Jason Whitlock and Bob Costas for having the courage to speak out about our gun culture. Little did they or I know how appropriate their words were about to become.

On Friday, December 14, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, wearing combat gear and armed with two semiautomatic pistols and a semiautomatic rifle, killed 27 people - 20 of them small children - in an attack in Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Lanza was brutally efficient and chillingly accurate in his attack to the point of the evidence suggesting that the victims, including the children, were shot at point-blank range.

The names Sandy Hook and Newtown are now part of a grim and lengthening list that includes Columbine, Aurora, Virginia Tech, and dozens more names that now represent something other than mere geography.

The shock - especially the horror of six- and seven-year old children being methodically shot down - spurred the re-emergence of a phrase that has not been heard in the land for some time: gun control.

Gun control. The question is, are we going to get any of it. The answer is: Not if the right wingers and the gun nuts have their way.

It is worth noting that not a single pro-gun politician would appear on either Meet The Press or Face The Nation the Sunday after the massacre. The NRA - the Nutzoid Rabbit-brains of America - has been unnaturally and happily silent, with even its Facebook page taken down. They are supposed to be saying something later this week, after this show is taped (which occurs on Wednesday), but I don't expect it will be any different from the crap they have dumped on us for years.

Meanwhile, the other bozos have not been so reticent.

For example, Representative Mike Rogers says gun control is the "one thing I hope doesn’t happen."

Herman Cain, the man who proved that a black presidential candidate can be just as much a waste of air as a white one, declared himself "disgusted" by those who dared to suggest that golly gee whiz, maybe Newtown should make us think about, you know, guns 'n' stuff.

For his part, former Arkansas governor Mike HuckleberryHound insisted he knew why the massacre happened: It's because we have "systematically removed God" from public schools. "We don't have a crime problem, a gun problem or even a violence problem," he said. "What we have is a sin problem."

Rep. Louie Gohmert and Gov. Rick Perry, who together reduce the average IQ of Texas by 20 points, insist that they know that the answer to preventing future such massacres in the US is for more Americans to carry guns. Perry wants teachers and administrators to be able to carry concealed guns around school. Gohmert told Fox News - where else - "I wish to God" that Sandy Hook principal Dawn Hochsprung, who was killed while trying to rush Lanza, had had an M-4 in her office so that "when she heard gunfire, she pulls it out ... and takes him out and takes his head off before he can kill those precious kids."

Well, you know what? I don't want to hear it. I don't want to hear the gobbledygook, the nonsense, the lies, the garbage. I don't want hear to any of the noxious venom spewing from the fangs of the snakes at the NRA. I don't want to hear the slimy excuses, the shopworn slogans, the stale talking points obediently invoked by the gun nuts' bought off lackeys in Congress.

What's more, I also don't want to hear it from the Obamabots, the sycophants for who he can do nothing wrong and who will whine that he's doing the best that he can, what with those mean ol' Republicans - not when there are things he can do on his own, by executive order, without Congress, such as banning the import of assault weapons.

Which means I especially don't want to hear any of the mealy-mouthed blather from Mr. Nobel Peace Prize himself, President Hopey-Changey, who talks big about "meaningful action" after five years of doing absolutely nothing about guns - except expanding the areas where people can legally carry them. Thanks to legislation approved and actively defended in court by the glorious Mr. O, you can now transport a gun via Amtrak train. Even better, you can now carry a loaded, concealed gun around in a national park.

So don't expect me to get all gooey about Obama's supposed commitment to "meaningful action" - not when he has never been a leader on the issue of gun control. Not as a state senator, not as a US senator, not as president, and not as a candidate for a second term. In fact, during this last campaign he was faced with one question, just one question, about gun control. It was a question about a ban on assault weapons. He answered with pap about wanting to have "a broader conversation about reducing violence."

And especially don't expect me to get gooey when his press secretary, Jay Carney, is telling reporters that Obama does not want to politicize a tragedy. “There will be a day for discussion of the usual Washington policy debates, but today is not that day."

So what the hell day is the day?

How many more have to die before it's "the day?" How many more have to be shot down before it's "the day?" How many mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, wives, husbands, daughters, sons, have to lie in spreading pools of their own blood before it's "the day?" How many children have to cry out for mommy after a fall or a bee sting until someone has to gently as they can explain again that mommy is no longer there before it's "the day?" How many wives have to wake in the night and reach across the bed and have that moment of confusion before the pain of remembering - yet again - why there's no one there? How many parents have to suffer the repeated gaping empty ache of being in the grocery store and reaching for something before realizing - again - that they no longer have to buy that sort of cereal or that particular brand of peanut butter?

The days of those children, those spouses, those parents, are not measured in minutes but in pains; they are not marked by hours but by aches. So what day is the day? And why is today not the day?

So I don't want to hear it; I don't want to hear any of it. Not the time? Of course it's the time, it's way past the time. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, proving he's not a complete jerk, said that “Calling for ‘meaningful action’ is not enough. We need immediate action.”

Now Obama says he will support a bill to be introduced in the new Congress by Diane Feinstein to reinstate the ban on assault weapons. Well, whoop-tee-do. You'll "support" it. What are you going to do about it, Mr. President? What pressure are you prepared to bring? What political capital are you prepared to spend? Don't give me words, you've already given all of us lots and lots of words. Give me honest-to-gosh actions if you want me to take you seriously.

There are more than 310 million weapons in civilian hands in the US. That is about one-half of all weapons owned by civilians in the entire world.

There were 16,000 murders in the U.S. last year; 12,000 - three-quarters, 75% - were with guns. More than 60,000 more people were wounded, some of them permanently disabled mentally or physically. A gun in the home is 22 times more likely to be used in a homicide, suicide, or unintentional shooting than in self-defense. The US has a rate of 2.8 murders by gun per 100,000 individuals. That is the highest rate in the entire industrialized world and almost seven times higher than the next 22 countries combined. Compared to Great Britain, you are 100 times - remember, this is the rate, not the absolute number, it is the risk - you are 100 times more likely to be killed by a gun in the US than in Britain, which despite its strict gun laws and contrary to what the polluted fantasies of the gun nuts would predict, seems to have retained more than a modicum of political freedom.

Every day we wait, more people die, more people are murdered with guns.

There have been at least 62 mass killings in US over last 30 years. In at least 49 of those cases, the guns involved were obtained legally. Of the weapons used, 72%, nearly three-fourths, were either assault weapons or semiautomatic handguns. Oh, and by the way, do you know how many of them were stopped by some civilian who was packing heat and going "Make my day?" Zippo. Not one. It has never happened.

There have been 23 mass shootings in the US in the last six years - bear in mind that "mass shooting" is defined here as at least five people killed in a single incident. Let's go through that list:

February 12, 2007 - Salt Lake City, UT: An 18-year-old rampaged through the Trolley Square shopping center until he was killed by police. 6 dead, 4 wounded.

April 16, 2007 - Virginia Tech campus, Blacksburg, VA: Seung-Hui Cho, a senior at the school, shot and killed 32 of his classmates before committing suicide. 33 dead, 23 wounded.

October 7, 2007 - Crandon, WI: Tyler Peterson, 20, killed six people, including his ex-girlfriend, at a post-homecoming party. 7 dead, 1 wounded.

December 5, 2007 - Omaha, NE: Robert Hawkins, 19, went on a shooting spree at the Westroads Mall, killing eight people and then himself. 9 dead.

February 7, 2008 - Kirkwood, MO: A gunman opened fire on a public meeting in the city hall, killing six people before he was shot and killed by police. 7 dead, 1 wounded.

February 14, 2008 - DeKalb, IL: A former Northern Illinois University student, 27-year-old Steven Phillip Kazmierczak, opened fire on the campus, killing five people then himself. 6 dead, 21 wounded.

June 25, 2008 - Henderson, KY: After an argument with his boss at the Atlantis plastics plant, Wesley Higdon, 25, killed five colleagues and then himself. 6 dead, 1 wounded.

March 10, 2009 - Geneva County, AL: A 28-year-old man killed his mother then drove ten miles to kill several members of his extended family, neighbors and a bystander. The victims ranged in age from 18 months to 74 years old. 11 dead, 6 wounded.

March 29, 2009 - Carthage, NC: A gunman opened fire on a nursing home, killing seven residents and a nurse. 8 dead, 3 wounded.

April 3, 2009 - Binghamton, NY: Jiverly Wong, a naturalized immigrant from Vietnam, gunned down students and employees at the American Civic Association, where he had been taking English lessons. 14 dead, 4 wounded

November 5, 2009 - Fort Hood, TX: In the deadliest shooting to ever happen on an American military base, an Army Major serving as a psychiatrist went on a shooting spree that killed 13. 13 dead, 30 wounded.

November 29, 2009 - Parkland, WA: A Washington man walked into a coffee shop and shot four police officers execution-style. 5 dead.

August 3, 2010 - Manchester, CT: A driver for Hartford Beer Distributors killed eight people and then himself in a workplace shooting. 9 dead, 2 wounded.

January 8, 2011 - Tucson, AZ: Jared Lee Loughner, 22, opened fire in a Safeway parking lot, killing six people and injuring others including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head at point-blank range. 6 dead, 14 wounded.

September 6, 2011 - Carson City, NV: Eduardo Sencion opened fire in an IHOP and then shot himself. 5 dead, 7 wounded.

October 12, 2011 - Seal Beach, CA: Scott Evans Dekraai, 41, stormed a hair salon where his ex-wife worked and killed eight people. 8 dead, 1 wounded.

February 22, 2012 - Norcross, GA: A man shot and killed two of his sisters and their husbands and then himself in a Korean health spa. 5 dead.

April 2, 2012 - Oikos University, Oakland, CA: 43-year-old One Goh, a former student at the largely Korean Christian campus, entered the school and opened fire. 7 dead, 3 wounded.

May 31, 2012 - Seattle, WA: A man opened fire in a cafe, fatally wounding four people, then killed another in a carjacking before killing himself. 6 dead.

July 20, 2012 - Aurora, CO: During a midnight screening of "The Dark Knight Rises," a gunman opened fire on the suburban Denver movie theater, killing 12 and injuring dozens of others. 12 dead, 59 wounded.

August 5, 2012 - Oak Creek, WI: White supremacist Wade Michael Page entered a Sikh Temple, opening fire on congregants. He later shot and injured a police officer responding to the scene. 7 dead, 4 wounded.

September 27, 2012 - Minneapolis, MN: Andrew John Engeldinger, a recently laid off employee of Accent Signage Systems, entered the office building and opened fire. 7 dead, 2 wounded.

December 14, 2012 - Newtown, CT: The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary was the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history, leaving 27 dead - including 20 young children. 27 dead.

And that's just the mass shootings. Here are six more shootings from just this year that didn't make the cut because fewer than five people were killed.

July 8 - Dover, DE: Three persons walked onto a soccer field and killed the tournament organizer and a 16-year-old player. Two persons were injured by random gunfire. 2 dead, 2 injured.

July 17 - Tuscaloosa, AL: A gunman with a military-style assault rifle went to the house of a man who he believed knew someone else and shot that man. He then walked into a crowded bar and began shooting. 17 wounded.

August 13 - College Station, TX: A 35-year-old man, a self-proclaimed gun enthusiast, killed a constable and a passerby, and wounded four others, before police killed him. 3 dead, 4 wounded.

August 24 - New York, NY: Ten people are shot, 2 fatally, by a disgruntled former employee named Jeffrey Johnson in a shooting outside the Empire State Building. 2 dead, 8 wounded.

October 21 - Brookfield, WI: A man walked into a spa, killed his wife and two other women, and wounded four before killing himself. 4 dead, 4 wounded..

December 11 - Portland, OR: A gunman wielding an assault rifle opened fire in a mall crowded with Christmas shoppers, killing two people and sending at least one person to a hospital before being found dead from apparently self-inflicted wounds. 3 dead, 1 wounded.

Did that list seem long, seem tedious? Imagine how it seems to the families and friends left behind, a list that is not words but real people, a list written not with type but with blood. And every day we delay, the list of the dead grows longer.

Oh, yes, we're told, it's unfortunate, it's terrible, but it's the price we pay for freedom! The freedom we are guaranteed by the Second Amendment, the Amendment that itself guarantees our freedom!


I'm going to have to get a little legalistic on you, but it's necessary because you can be damn sure that the gun nuts are going to trot out the Second Amendment argument over and over, the argument that goes "I can have my guns - the Constitution says so!" First, let's be clear on what the Amendment says: "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

The first important Supreme Court decision about the Second Amendment was Presser v. Illinois, which was decided in 1886. In it, the Supreme Court found that the Second Amendment limited only the power of Congress and the national government to control firearms, not that of individual states. States could essentially put on whatever restrictions they wanted. That decision was affirmed in Miller v. Texas, decided in 1894. Now, this was before the idea of incorporation, the idea that the protections of the Constitution extend to the states as well as the federal government, became commonplace, so these decisions are not truly relevant the legal situation we face to today. But they do mean that right away this idea that the Founding Fathers wanted everyone to be able to own whatever and however many guns they wanted is totally bogus.

The next big case, the important one, was United States v. Miller. This was in 1939 and it concerned the National Firearms Act of 1934. That Act required that certain types of weapons be registered and taxed. A unanimous Court upheld the law, saying there was no conflict with the Second Amendment. The Court found that:
In the absence of any evidence tending to show that possession or use of a [weapon of the sort involved in the case] has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia, we cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear such an instrument. ...

With obvious purpose to assure the continuation and render possible the effectiveness of such forces the declaration and guarantee of the Second Amendment were made. It must be interpreted and applied with that end in view.
The syntax is rather stilted, but the meaning is clear enough.

For 69 years, that was precedent, relied on by all lower Courts and occasionally referred to by the Supreme Court itself. For 69 years, the legal standard was that states and the federal government were within their legitimate powers to regulate sale and possession of weapons which were not related to maintaining "a well-regulated militia" - which, in the absence of state militias (except to the degree that the National Guard could be considered such), pretty much meant any weapon at all.

Put another way, the guarantee under the Second Amendment was not an individual right but a collective one: It applied to the people as a whole, not to discrete individuals.

After 69 years, the narrowest majority of the Supreme Court, 5-4, decided to ignore those decades of precedent, or more to the point, to regard them as irrelevant. In 2008, in the case District of Columbia v. Heller, the Court ruled for the first time that the Second Amendment does provide an individual right to own a gun for "traditional lawful purposes," such as self-defense within the home. This decision only applied to federal enclaves - such as the District of Columbia. However, two years later, in McDonald v. Chicago, the Court ruled in another 5-4 decision that the finding in Heller applied to the states as well.

That is what the gun nuts now rely on, that is what they now argue: "Can't have gun control. Second Amendment. Supreme Court has ruled. Debate is over." The first thing is to ask those wackos if at any time during those 69 years that the Court said otherwise, in all that time did any of them just say "the Court has ruled, the debate is over." Of course they didn't. So don't expect us to do it now.

The other thing is more important: Those nuts - and, in fact, a lot of gun control advocates - don't know what Heller and McDonald actually said. I'm not going to discuss all the logical convulsions (the word is chosen deliberately) the majority had to go through to claim that the first half of the Amendment, about a militia, is completely disconnected from the second half, about bearing arms. The thing is, I don't have to.

In Heller and reasserted in McDonald, the majority of the Supreme Court actually embraced the concept of the 1939 Miller decision that the federal government and the states have the authority to regulate firearms and then argued that the Second Amendment only applies to weapons "in common use for lawful purposes." In fact, the Court said the ruling, quoting here,
should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.
The majority also said that other existing or potential prohibitions, such as banning concealed weapons or the carrying of "dangerous and unusual weapons" were unaffected by the decision.

In fact, here's the real kicker: In these decisions the Supreme Court said that the Second Amendment provided an individual right to possess a gun for "traditional lawful purposes," such as self-defense within the home. In other words, under this decision, you have an absolute right to have a gun in your house - but not necessarily anywhere else.

So the gun nuts who claim that the Second Amendment gives them the right to have pretty much any kind of gun they want and as many of them as they want wherever they want are, happily, completely wrong. Heller and McDonald are far more limited than gun nuts hope and control advocates fear.

Carrying concealed guns can be banned. Carrying guns into schools or government buildings - or, for that matter, on Amtrak trains or in national parks - can be banned. Assault weapons can be banned. Semiautomatic handguns can be banned. High-capacity magazines can be banned. Safety locks can be required. "Dangerous and unusual" ammunition such as hollow-point bullets and armor-piercing rounds can be banned.

Will any of that happen anytime soon? Maybe - I doubt it given the gross cowardice of too many supposed liberals in DC, but maybe, at least some of it. The shooting in Newtown has touched a national nerve in a way few things have of late.

But here’s one last thing, a bottom line: Based on current jurisprudence, the truth is that pretty much any kind of gun other than basic hunting rifles, shotguns, and ordinary handguns could be banned outright.

And dammit, they should be - ban them all. You want to hunt? Go with a basic rifle. Don't even try to tell me that you need an AR-15 to go after deer. In fact, why don't you use a bow? Or is the extra effort involved in having to track the deer to get close enough to take it down with a bow instead of dropping it from a couple of hundred yards away with your manhood too much for you?

You want to target shoot? Use a pellet gun. Yeah, yeah, I know they can be dangerous blah blah blah - but don't even try to tell me you need a Glock to shoot out a paper bulls-eye.

Ban them all. I know that's not going to happen. I know there is no chance of that in my lifetime and probably much longer, if ever. But it's not going to stop me from saying it and from wanting it - and as long as I am 100 times more likely to be killed by a gun here than in the UK, I'm going to keep on saying it and keep on wanting it.



Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

It's depressing- our society really has a deep-seated sickness rooted in fear. There are reports that Nancy Lanza was a "prepper"- obviously her preparations included preparing to kill large numbers of "those" people who she was afraid would come after her stuff.

Fear, rage, violence... there has to be a point where we decide as a society to jettison this fatal negativity.

Lotus said...

"Sickness" is a good word for it. We, so many of us, live in a constant state of fear, of stress, of fear of how the world is changing, fear for our futures, fear that the world no longer makes sense, fear that we no longer have any autonomy - all of which turns naturally into fear of, as you say, "'those' people," of "them," of "the other," who are coming to take not just our "stuff," but our selves (written as two words deliberately), our self-respect, our sense of worth.

I always maintain hope - hope and anger are the only things that keep me going - but I am also cynical, and I think it will get worse before it gets better.

Thanks for commenting.

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