Saturday, May 31, 2014


We see once again with more dead students, this time at the University of California, Santa Barbara, that gun violence in America is an epidemic.
This is a fact of life seen everywhere except the National Rifle Association, the most dangerous lobby in this country or any country, and by the elected officials who regularly pimp themselves out to it.

We are talking here about all those in the Senate and in the Congress who represent gun companies even more fiercely than they do their states or their districts, those who hide behind the Second Amendment, something conceived and written for a world of muskets, the way cockroaches hide in similar dark places.

These are people who do not only fight what they call “gun grabbers.” They also fight any legitimate research into the whole complicated subject of gun violence by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is only allowed to spend around $100,000 a year because the NRA and its tame politicians act as if education is some kind of threat to our basic freedoms, instead of a way to understand the connection between the insane number of guns in this country and the people who keep dying as a result of them.

Nobody is saying that the NRA, or legitimate gun owners — you must differentiate between them and the gun nuts who act as if the government is about to roll into their driveways with tanks and take their rifles — are responsible for what happened this weekend in Isla Vista, Calif., or at Fort Hood last month, or Virginia Tech, or Newtown. But to ignore the growing problem of gun violence, to resist thoughtful and scientific — and nonpolitical — research into its causes, is no better than looking away when more innocent people are gunned down.

It reminds you of the old story, told by Jimmy Breslin, about when F. Lee Bailey was defending a New Jersey doctor named Carl Coppolino, accused of murdering his wife. At some point in the runup to the trial, Coppolino told Bailey one day that he hadn’t killed his wife.
And Bailey said, “Well, yeah, Carl, but it’s not like you did very much to keep her alive.”

Now Sen. Edward Markey of Massachusetts and Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York are introducing legislation that would give the CDC $10 million a year “for the purpose of conducting support or research on firearms safety or gun violence protection.”

They will be fought, certainly, by the NRA and those in Washington who provide cover for the gun manufacturers and their lobbyists. We will once again be told they are just preserving and protecting the Second Amendment, even as these people constantly shame the Second Amendment, as if they’re all knuckle-draggers like Joe the Plumber. But it is Markey and Maloney who are fighting an honorable fight here, in the shadow of another mass shooting in America.

“In America,” Maloney said in a statement the other day, “gun violence kills twice as many children as cancer, and yet political grandstanding has halted funding for public research to understand this crisis.”

She is already being called a grandstander by the NRA and the bullhorn media that too often genuflects in front of it. So is Markey. But maybe this will be a time when they can actually get something done on responsible research into this subject for the first time in 20 years.

Reasonable people know enough to be afraid of a gun in the wrong hands in America. But ask yourself a question: Why is the NRA so afraid of research on gun violence unless it is afraid of what that research might tell us? Even since Newtown, any kind of gun control has been fought in Washington by gutless politicians, so many of them from the right. Now they act as if they have to go get a gun to protect themselves from research, in what is supposed to be the most enlightened country on Earth.

Just not when it comes to guns. Those who scream about gun grabbers aren’t protecting the Second Amendment, they are protecting gun money. They act like Americans who look in horror at the number of gun deaths in America are like tree huggers, or those who want to save the whales, or members of the Flat Earth Society.

We are constantly told by the people who think the current gun laws and gun culture are just fine the way they are that they need their guns to protect themselves. But more and more you wonder who protects the rest of us from them?

The Centers for Disease Control sponsors all sorts of programs to prevent injuries and diseases, spends money on cancer and HIV, on brittle bones for the elderly. Then they get shamefully nickel-and-dimed on studying an epidemic like gun violence. We know we’re afraid of guns. What are the gun lovers afraid of?

Read more:

Keep Handguns Away From Teenagers
By TERESA TRITCH MAY 30, 2014 4:23 PM 
In response to the Isla Vista rampage, legislators in California are introducing a bill that would let the police and private individuals ask a court for a restraining order to deny guns to those who pose a threat to themselves or others.

The bill would be an advance in gun-control legislation. Before now, the notion of gun restraining orders had mainly captured the attention of mental health experts and academic researchers, but not legislators.

Still, there is another step California has already taken to keep guns out of the wrong hands that should be emulated elsewhere: setting the age to buy and to own a handgun at 21.

Currently, federal law and most states  let 18-year-olds purchase and own handguns. That flies in the face of research and common sense.  Studies have documented the prevalence of heightened risk-taking among teenagers.  Statistics show  that homicide rates risein the late teens and peak at age 20. A Justice Department studyfrom 2012 found that many young gun offenders incarcerated in states with the weakest gun control laws would have faced bans on gun ownership in states with the strongest controls.

Raising the handgun ownership age would not apply to rifles and shotguns, and would not prohibit parents and children from going hunting together with a long gun. (Most of the states that limit handgun sales to those 21 and older allow 18-year-olds to buy and possess long guns.) Handguns, however, are the weapon most often used in gun shootings and deaths.

Pro-gun lobbyists will invariably point out that rampages like the one in Isla Vista have been committed by people over the age of 21. That is willfully off-point: The idea that gun control shouldn’t respond to obvious gun dangers because they didn’t play a central role in a particular crime amounts to fatal abdication of adult responsibility.

They also say that setting the age at 21 for handguns, as California, New York, New Jersey, and 10 other states have done, punishes law-abiding 18- to 20-year-olds for the transgressions of the few. But all 50 states have set the drinking age at 21 out of concern for increased risk-taking by teens and the threat that poses to them and the public. The same concern applies to gun ownership, and the solution is the same. Raise the legal age for handguns to 21 in every state.

To the Editor:

In “Why Can’t Doctors Identify Killers?” (Op-Ed, May 28), Richard A. Friedman argues that it’s extremely difficult for prospective mass murderers to be identified and stopped before they kill.

Although Dr. Friedman presents a convincing case, the regular occurrence of horrific killings cries out for drastic changes in the way the psychiatric community and the public treat even the slightest oddity in behavior that they observe that might signal a proclivity toward violence.

Virtually every mass killing has been carried out by angry young men, thus significantly limiting in scope the population of people who need to be identified.

The nightmares of Columbine, Aurora, Newtown and now Isla Vista require a nationwide effort to train thousands of people in ways to identify these angry young men and report them to local authorities before they kill more innocent people.

Nothing less is needed if this spate of murders is to be stopped before these mentally ill men kill again.

Woodcliff Lake, N.J., May 28, 2014

To the Editor:

Re “Campus Killings Set Off Anguished Conversation” (front page, May 27): Counteracting misogyny is a very worthy goal, but it is not likely to have a direct impact on mass shootings and gun-related violence in the United States — nor will the intense focus on one individual’s psychopathology.

The best predictor of violence is a history of violence, and a recent study by Mayors Against Illegal Guns finds a strong correlation between mass shootings and domestic violence. Of the 93 mass shootings between 2009 and 2013 in the United States, 57 percent involved the killing of a spouse, family member or intimate partner, and in at least 17 instances, the shooter had a prior domestic violence charge.

Closing loopholes in current laws prohibiting gun sales to people convicted of domestic violence, as proposed in a bill by Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, would be one small but useful step in reducing gun-related killings.

Cazenovia, N.Y., May 27, 2014

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


Chicago Mayor Proposes Restrictions on Gun Sales


CHICAGO — Calling gun violence Chicago’s “most urgent problem,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel outlined a proposal on Tuesday that would make it harder to buy firearms in the city.

The proposal would restrict gun purchases for individuals to one a month and would mandate that all gun sales be videotaped, an effort to deter buyers from using false identification. Under the proposed ordinance, employees in gun stores would be required to undergo background checks and complete training to help them spot the common signs of gun traffickers. Retailers would be subject to a quarterly audit of inventory in an effort to reduce theft. In addition, the plan would impose a 72-hour waiting period to buy handguns and a 24-hour waiting period to buy rifles and shotguns.

Mr. Emanuel planned to introduce the report at a City Council meeting Wednesday morning.

“Chicago’s violence problem is largely a gun problem,” the report said. “Every year, Chicago police officers take thousands of illegal guns off the street. But, despite these efforts, it remains far too easy for criminals to get their hands on deadly weapons.”

The proposal is the latest attempt by the mayor to restrict firearms in the city, a response to intractable gang-related violence. In January, a federal judge ruled that an outright ban on gun shops in Chicago was unconstitutional, citing “the right to keep and bear arms for self-defense under the Second Amendment.”

Mr. Emanuel has tried to tamp down violence in Chicago since taking office in 2011, pushing for tougher rules on gun retailers and stronger federal laws on firearms. Chicago’s rate of gun-related violence is three times that of New York.

The report blamed states with weaker gun laws for most of the illegal guns in Chicago, saying that from 2009 to 2013, 60 percent of guns used to commit crimes in the city were originally bought out of state, mainly in Indiana, Mississippi and Wisconsin.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

What Did the Framers Really Intend?

I hope that New York Times columnist Joe Nocera wins a Pulitzer Prize someday for all his hard work regarding gun violence in the United States.  Here is his column published on May 26, 2014.

Three days after the publication of Michael Waldman’s new book, “The Second Amendment: A Biography,” Elliot Rodger, 22, went on a killing spree, stabbing three people and then shooting another eight, killing four of them, including himself. This was only the latest mass shooting in recent memory, going back to Columbine.

In his rigorous, scholarly, but accessible book, Waldman notes such horrific events but doesn’t dwell on them. He is after something else. He wants to understand how it came to be that the Second Amendment, long assumed to mean one thing, has come to mean something else entirely. To put it another way: Why are we, as a society, willing to put up with mass shootings as the price we must pay for the right to carry a gun?

The Second Amendment begins, “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,” and that’s where Waldman, the president of the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, begins, too. He has gone back into the framers’ original arguments and made two essential discoveries, one surprising and the other not surprising at all.

The surprising discovery is that of all the amendments that comprise the Bill of Rights, the Second was probably the least debated. What we know is that the founders were deeply opposed to a standing army, which they viewed as the first step toward tyranny. Instead, their assumption was that the male citizenry would all belong to local militias. As Waldman writes, “They were not allowed to have a musket; they were required to. More than a right, being armed was a duty.”

Thus the unsurprising discovery: Virtually every reference to “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms” — the second part of the Second Amendment — was in reference to military defense. Waldman notes the House debate over the Second Amendment in the summer of 1789: “Twelve congressmen joined the debate. None mentioned a private right to bear arms for self-defense, hunting or for any purpose other than joining the militia.”

In time, of course, the militia idea died out, replaced by a professionalized armed service. Most gun regulation took place at the state and city level. The judiciary mostly stayed out of the way. In 1939, the Supreme Court upheld the nation’s first national gun law, the National Firearms Act, which put onerous limits on sawed-off shotguns and machine guns — precisely because the guns had no “reasonable relation” to “a well-regulated militia.”

But then, in 1977, there was a coup at the National Rifle Association, which was taken over by Second Amendment fundamentalists. Over the course of the next 30 years, they set out to do nothing less than change the meaning of the Second Amendment, so that its final phrase — “shall not be infringed” — referred to an individual right to keep and bear arms, rather than a collective right for the common defense.

Waldman is scornful of much of this effort. Time and again, he finds the proponents of this new view taking the founders’ words completely out of context, sometimes laughably so. They embrace Thomas Jefferson because he once wrote to George Washington, “One loves to possess arms.” In fact, says Waldman, Jefferson was referring to some old letter he needed “so he could issue a rebuttal in case he got attacked for a decision he made as secretary of state.”

Still, as Waldman notes, the effort was wildly successful. In 1972, the Republican platform favored gun control. By 1980, the Republican platform opposed gun registration. That year, the N.R.A. gave its first-ever presidential endorsement to Ronald Reagan.

The critical modern event, however, was the Supreme Court’s 2008 Heller decision, which tossed aside two centuries of settled law, and ruled that a gun-control law in Washington, D.C., was unconstitutional under the Second Amendment. The author of the majority opinion was Antonin Scalia, who fancies himself the leading “originalist” on the court — meaning he believes, as Waldman puts it, “that the only legitimate way to interpret the Constitution is to ask what the framers and their generation intended in 1789.”

Waldman is persuasive that a truly originalist decision would have tied the right to keep and bear arms to a well-regulated militia. But the right to own guns had by then become conservative dogma, and it was inevitable that the five conservative members of the Supreme Court would vote that way.
“When the militias evaporated,” concludes Waldman, “so did the original meaning of the Second Amendment.” But, he adds, “What we did not have was a regime of judicially enforced individual rights, able to trump the public good.”

Sadly, that is what we have now, as we saw over the weekend. Elliot Rodger’s individual right to bear arms trumped the public good. Eight people were shot as a result.