Postponed Hearing Says It All About Gun Violence And The GOP’s Everlasting Tolerance Of It

Yes, we live in strange times.

I just heard a gun-control advocate say on MSNBC that there was supposed to be a hearing today—today!—before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights. The hearing was titled:

“‘Stand Your Ground’ Laws: Civil Rights and Public Safety Implications of the Expanded Use of Deadly Force”

This hearing, which was to include as a witness Trayvon Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, obviously was inspired by the “deadly force” used against her barely 17-year-old son in Sanford, Florida. But, alas, the hearing has been postponed because of, well, because of deadly force used against 12 people at D.C.’s Navy Yard on Monday, just a mile and a half from where the Senate hearing was to convene. If that doesn’t perfectly sum up the problem we have with doing something about “the expanded use of deadly force,” nothing does.

I say we live in strange times. But more important, in some ways we live in increasingly dangerous times, too, And we owe a significant part of that increasing danger to the NRA and the Republican Party, a party whose members will gladly cite public opinion polls and constituency feedback on Syria policy—because it allows them to safely stick a political knife in the back of the President of the United States—but will ignore that same public opinion and constituency feedback when it comes to standing up to the NRA and at least supporting the expansion of background checks.

For the record, and not that it means a damn thing as long as Tea Party Republicans control the House of Representatives, here are the results of polling done after the Senate failed this year to pass a bill on expanding background checks on gun purchases:

expanded background checks polling 2013

senate judiciary hearing postponed

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“We All Go Through Something In Life”

That’s a good thing that you just giving up, and don’t worry about it. We all go through something in life.

—Antoinette Tuff, bookkeeper at Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy in Decatur, Ga., speaking to would-be mass murderer Michael Brandon Hill

while many news outlets are, rightly, focusing on the revelation that the National Rifle Association has secretly—I repeat: secretly—collected “information about gun owners from state and local offices and has built the country’s largest privately held database of current, former and prospective gun owners,” Clare Kim began an article on The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell blog this way:

A 20-year-old man who went to a Georgia elementary school with an AK-47 assault rifle and close to 500 rounds ammunition told a school clerk that he was prepared to die in the attack. But the woman calmly persuaded him to lay down his weapon. According to 911 tapes released Wednesday, Michael Brandon Hill said he didn’t care about dying and should have just gone to a mental hospital.

The details of this amazing story, a story that seems to contradict everything the NRA’s propaganda machine pumps out like a mass-murder unloading his AK-47 into innocent victims, I will let Lawrence O’Donnell present:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Our (!!!!) House Of Representatives At Work

I am happy to pass on a report that the U.S. House of Representatives, as part of its ongoing tribute to Tea Party-induced paranoia, has momentarily stopped its futile attempts to repeal ObamaCare and taken on a more important task: prevent the government from getting enough bullets to kill us all, or at least those of us foolish enough to pick a gunfight with the feds.

Via The Hill:

The House late Wednesday voted to stop the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from entering into new contracts to buy millions of rounds of ammunition until DHS reports to Congress on the need for the ammo, and its cost.

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) proposed an amendment to the DHS spending bill for 2014 that would require the report to Congress before it can pursue plans to buy 1.1 billion rounds of ammunition. Meadows said the speed bump is a necessary reaction to news of the huge purchase, which alarmed many Americans and prompted conservative groups to suspect that the government was stocking up on the rounds to fight citizens.

How ironic and delicious is the fact that House right-wingers are now afraid of the monstrosity—Homeland Security—that House right-wingers mostly created.

Congressman Meadows is one of those House right-wingers who believes that President Obama’s administration “has trampled on our Constitutional safeguards” and that “our Constitutional right to keep and bear arms is absolute.” Yep, alone among Americans, gun-toters have absolute rights.

Now, most readers of this blog, not being Obama-haters and not having the gun lust, may not know that across the country there has been a shortage of ammo. Some conspiracy-minded folks believe the government is stockpiling ammunition in order to have enough on hand to support Barack Obama, when he finally decides to take over the country by force—which could be any day now, given that Michelle has had it with hecklers.

Others, more sober-minded reactionaries, believe the President is hoarding the lead as part of an effort to make it more difficult for Ted Nugent to get rich selling the stuff.

The truth, though, is that fear and paranoia among gun freaks—much of it generated by Ted Nugent types—is mostly responsible for the shortage. Many of these fearful folks belong to a group of delusively vigilant Americans who call themselves “Oath Keepers.” Yes, that’s right. There are out there a lot of people who swear that when Big O decides to quit trampling on the Constitution and start trampling on people, they,

will not obey unconstitutional (and thus illegal) and immoral orders, such as orders to disarm the American people or to place them under martial law and deprive them of their ancient right to jury trial.

We Oath Keepers have drawn a line in the sand. We will not “just follow orders.”

Our motto is “Not on our watch!”

These folks are serious.  They call themselves “Guardians of the Republic” and claim they “are in a battle for the hearts and minds of our own troops.” And, of course, God must be on their side:

Oath Keepers is a non-partisan association of currently serving military, veterans, peace officers, and firefighters who will fulfill the oath we swore to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, so help us God.

It is unclear how God will help these folks defend the Constitution, should the President declare war on Americans. Because, after all, God also has an obligation to Obama, since, as the Bible declares, Obama wouldn’t be president if it weren’t for the Almighty:

Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.

Whoops! Something has to eventually give here. Either God has to admit He made a mistake in appointing Barack Obama as the Commander-in-Chief, or He has to abandon the Oath Keepers and leave them to the mercy of Obama, after the President fires up those black helicopters and starts shooting.

Since God hasn’t admitted to a mistake since the sixth chapter of Genesis, I’m betting that He won’t repent of appointing Obama as president and that Ted Nugent and the Oath Keepers will have to handle the upcoming battle without the benefit of fire and brimstone from on high.

In the mean time, the Tea Party-dominated House of Representatives will do all it can to save the country from its government, a government once, now laughingly, characterized as “of the people, by the people, for the people.”

Why Can’t We Have Assault Rifles In The Halls Of Congress?

Monday night, Leah Gunn Barrett, Executive Director at New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, appeared on MSNBC’s “All In” with Chris Hayes. Barrett, whose brother was murdered in Oklahoma in 1997, had something interesting to say about the reluctance in Congress to do something meaningful in terms of reforming our gun laws:

If congressmen actually had to live in the gun-plagued areas of Washington, D.C., then they might change their tune. They don’t. They live in a bubble. You have to go through a metal detector to go into Congress. You can’t bring assault rifles into Congress. If they want assault rifles on the streets of America, then why can’t we have them in the halls of Congress?

When I first heard that, I thought it was a bit hyperbolic. Of course we can’t have assault rifles in congressional buildings. How crazy is that?

Then I tried to trace the logic that leads one to conclude that assault rifles or any other weapons have no place in Congress, especially assault rifles or other weapons carried by members of the public. The obvious trail of common sense leads to the idea that our legislators, performing public service out in public, shouldn’t be subject to worrying about folks, some of whom might not like some of the public service being performed, packing guns.

But then that logic led me to conclude that as public servants, legislators need to be exposed to the public in lots of public places, not just in the halls of Congress. Thus, once again common sense says that public servants shouldn’t have to worry about people packing guns anywhere in public. But of course in many parts of this country, they do have to worry about it. People can carry guns in all sorts of places, including in supermarket parking lots in Tucson, where Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and 18 others were shot and six were killed, including a nine-year-old girl who was there to see Giffords.

After considering all of that, I then tried to apply the logic of the gun fanatics—like those who run the NRA or unequivocally support it in Congress—to the case of packing guns in the halls or galleries of the United States Capitol. By their logic, there is absolutely no reason why folks shouldn’t be able to carry into congressional buildings any sort of legal weapon, including military-style assault weapons.

The logic of the fanatics goes like this: gun owners are overwhelmingly law-abiding folks and the rights of law-abiding folks ought not to be infringed, even if they want to observe their congressional representatives at work while keeping company with a Bushmaster AR-15, the same assault weapon Adam Lanza used to shoot into the terrified faces of six-year-old kids at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

And why should legislators, those who support the NRA’s fanatical logic, object to such a thing? Why shouldn’t they argue that we should open up the doors and let every gun-toter in the country walk into congressional buildings armed and ready?

Because although the gun manufacturer-protecting legislators may be NRA toadies, they are not nuts. They know that allowing folks with guns into their place of work would not have a happy ending. And thus we are back to the logic of Leah Gunn Barrett, who asked,

If they want assault rifles on the streets of America, then why can’t we have them in the halls of Congress?

We can’t have them in the halls of Congress because those in charge have a better grasp of reality relative to their small society of legislators than they have for our larger society of citizens. And as President Obama said in that amazing speech in Connecticut on Monday night,

…we’ve got to expect more from Congress.  We’ve got to believe that every once in a while, we set politics aside and we just do what’s right. We’ve got to believe that.

Yes, we have to believe that, even though it seems impossible to believe it at the moment.

ian and nicole hockleyAttending President Obama’s speech in Hartford was Nicole Hockley and her husband Ian. Their autistic son, six-year-old Dylan—“always laughing and smiling” Nicole said—was killed at Sandy Hook. Dylan was cremated and his urn sits “next to his picture in a cupboard in our bedroom on our dresser,” Nicole said. “Every morning I kiss him good morning and say hi, and he’s the last thing I kiss before I go to bed at night.”

The President referenced Dylan’s mom in his Connecticut speech, a speech that really was a call to citizen action:

I’ve heard Nicole talk about what her life has been like since Dylan was taken from her in December.  And one thing she said struck me.  She said, “Every night, I beg for him to come to me in my dreams so that I can see him again.  And during the day, I just focus on what I need to do to honor him and make change.” 

Now, if Nicole can summon the courage to do that, how can the rest of us do any less?  How can we do any less? 

You tell me.

Dylan Hockley

Dylan Hockley

Cruz And The Crude

It’s no secret that to many—many—on the right, the late Andrew Breitbart, who before his passing had become one of the crudest of the crude conservatives, is their folk hero, an anti-establishment crusader and truth-teller.

Now, Breitbart cultists have another hero and his name is Ted Cruz. And unfortunately for the country, Ted Cruz is a United States Senator.

Here is a headline from Breitbart.com on Thursday:

SUPERSTAR SENATOR CRUZ GIVES TRIBUTE TO BREITBART

At a party for right-wing bloggers, Cruz called Breitbart “a great and fearless leader.” Let’s pause here to remember what Breitbart, the great and fearless reactionary leader, said at a Tea Party event in September of 2011, about six months before he died:

I’m under attack all the time…the death threats and everything. And so, there are times where I’m not thinking as clearly as I should, and in those unclear moments, I always think to myself, “Fire the first shot. Bring it on.”

Because I know who’s on our side. And they know that. They can only win a rhetorical and propaganda war. They cannot win. We outnumber them in this country, and we have the guns. So — [Laughter.] I’m not kidding. They talk a mean game, but they will not cross that line because they know what they’re dealing with. […]

You know, these union thugs. These public sector union thugs — I’m just waiting — bring it on. […]

Katie Couric. What if we went to Katie Couric’s house? What if the tea party showed up at Katie Couric’s and scared the living crap out of her teenaged kids? And that’s what they do because they know the mainstream media won’t cover it.

And so, there’s just a part of me that wants them to walk over that line.

In the mind of Senator Ted Cruz, that passes for leadership, for “great and fearless” leadership.

As far as Cruz’s own leadership prowess, since he has been in the Senate—not yet three months—Cruz has managed to find communists at Harvard, has suggested that a former Republican Senator and now our Secretary of Defense traded his patriotism for thirty pieces of North Korean and/or Saudi Arabian silver, and most recently has argued that shutting down the government over the defunding of ObamaCare is a real possibility.

Now you can see why he admires Breitbart so much.

Cruz’s words at the right-wing bloggers’ party were short but inspirational for those gathered:

I want to collectively remember our friend, and a toast to Andrew Breitbart. [Cruz drinks from a beer bottle.] A great and fearless leader, and we all carry on with his unshakable, fearless spirit to speak the truth to power, and the more they quiver, the better job we’re doing. God bless you.

Quiver? The more they quiver? That’s not only directed at you and me, my progressive pals, that’s directed at the Republican establishment. The goal of Cruz is to make us all—those who don’t share the devolving vision of the Tea Party—think twice before crossing them.

As Breitbart said, they “have the guns.” Indeed, they do. And speaking of guns, by now you have all seen the encounter Ted Cruz had with Senator Dianne Feinstein on Thursday during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on a proposed assault weapons ban (which passed the committee, but only with Democratic votes).

Sen. Feinstein responded to Cruz’s juvenile demagoguery (for instance, comparing the banning of books with the banning of some assault weapons) with “I”m not a sixth grader, Senator,” and then, along with her Democratic colleagues, began to school the Harvard-educated lawyer from Texas, most notably with the following from Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Yale grad who earned his law degree from Thomas Jefferson’s University of Virginia:

It is hard to imagine that it would be a violation of the First Amendment for somebody to yell fire in a crowded theater but it’s not a violation of the Second Amendment to prevent somebody from bringing a hundred-round magazine into a crowded theater in a Aurora, Colorado.

Touché.

The point of what Cruz did, as intellectually inept and dishonest as it was (he knows that Antonin Scalia’s opinion in the Heller case completely supports what Democrats are trying to do), was to scare the kakashka out of Republicans who might be thinking about voting for any of the gun legislation percolating in Congress.

And scared they are. Because of the filibuster in the Senate and the Tea Party in the House, it is unlikely that any major new gun laws will get passed. Which, wherever Andrew Breitbart is resting or roasting, will bring at least a momentary smile to his bloodless or blazing face.

Finally, because I am such a fan of the comment section of the various right-wing sites, I want to present to you some comments I found on Breitbart.com related to its coverage of the Cruz-Feinstein exchange. These commenters are why Ted Cruz and other right-wing demagogues can have such $ucce$$ doing what they do, and why they won’t $top doing it. You really should read them all to get an understanding of how far right, not to mention unhinged, the core of the Republican Party is:

breitbart comments

Guns And Planks

Look at this headline from a couple of weeks ago:

Mexico: Towns Arm Themselves For Self-Protection Against Organized Crime

From the story:

While the argument that American citizens will take up arms against its government, or create militias to patrol unsafe streets seems like something out of a science fiction novel, but Mexican citizens in small towns in Mexico are doing exactly that.

Now, we can look down our collective noses at a country in which its citizens feel the need to take the law into their own hands, but consider the following headlines from today’s news across our own country:

At least 1 shot outside Texas courthouse

Teen Who Performed At Inaugural Events Fatally Shot

Alabama school bus shooter is a survivalist with anti-government views

Police searching for suspect who shot 3, killing 1 in Arizona office building

6 wounded in shootings overnight across Chicago

And here is an outrageous headline and lede from here in Missouri:

Dan Brown, Missouri State Senator, Wants Gun Education In First Grade

A Republican state senator in Missouri has proposed legislation that would make gun safety a mandatory part of the first-grade curriculum.

And, perhaps most outrageous of all, the following story aired on NPR this morning:

Milwaukee Sheriff: ‘You Have A Duty To Protect Yourself’

A top law enforcement official in Wisconsin is urging people to arm themselves for their own protection.

Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke is airing a new public service announcement telling residents that due to budget cuts, calling 911 for help is no longer their best option.

I will leave you with some wisdom from Jesus of Nazareth as applied to American civilization:

How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?

 

Know Your NRA History

Via a comment on “Why The NRA Is Different From You And Me,” Writer89 sent me a link to an AlterNet piece by political writer Steven Rosenfeld titled, “The Suprising Unknown History of the NRA.”

This was the second time a commenter referenced the NRA’s interesting history (John McNight did so earlier), a history that will shock you, given what the organization is today.

I urge anyone interested in the gun control debate going on right now to read in its entirety Rosenfeld’s short piece, but if you don’t, at least absorb this from the article:

It is hard to believe that the NRA was committed to gun-control laws for most of the 20th century—helping to write most of the federal laws restricting gun use until the 1980s.

As with so many organizations on the right these days—including the Republican Party—the NRA has become radicalized in ways unimagined by the people who founded it. And for the NRA, or its congressional allies like Sen. Rand Paul, to insanely attack those who are proposing modest measures to regulate guns in America, is to insanely attack its own history.

“We Don’t Benefit From Ignorance”

President Obama’s remarks today on the “common sense” things that need to be done “to help prevent mass shootings” and “reduce the broader epidemic of gun violence in this country” included simple quotations from selected kids, followed by these declarative statements:

This is our first task as a society, keeping our children safe. This is how we will be judged. And their voices should compel us to change.

This generation, of course, will be judged for what it does or, more likely, for what it doesn’t do, in response to what we have seen so many times, most recently in Newtown, Connecticut.

Only the most unrepentant reactionary would reject the idea that we need to change, to change our approach, to change our thinking, to ultimately change our laws to confront the violent reality we see.

Not only did President Obama propose legislation — “a universal background check”; “a ban on military-style assault weapons and a 10-round limit for magazines” — he also signed directives that will help professionals make us a little safer.

All good, all necessary. But what may have the most long-term effect, in terms of reducing the violence we have seen, and what I have yet to hear anyone discuss, is found in these remarks by the President:

And while year after year those who oppose even modest gun safety measures have threatened to de-fund scientific or medical research into the causes of gun violence, I will direct the Centers for Disease Control to go ahead and study the best ways to reduce it.

And Congress should fund research into the effects that violent video games have on young minds. We don’t benefit from ignorance. We don’t benefit from not knowing the science of this epidemic of violence.

We don’t benefit from ignorance.” No, as a society, we don’t benefit from ignorance. But some among us do benefit from it, like, say, manufacturers of assault weapons sold to the public or purveyors of ridiculously violent video games. And that’s why some oppose using science — the only reliable guide we have to problem solving — to try to find out what causes so much of the violence we see in our culture.

As a civilization, science is our friend, ignorance our enemy. But as we shall soon see when Congress takes up legislation to make us a more sane, more civil society, ignorance has many friends.

Close Encounters With Second Amendment Nuts

It occurred to me that if Second Amendment zealots applied their constitutional logic to the First Amendment, they would be demanding that folks be allowed to yell, “Fire!” in a crowded theater, no matter how many people would get hurt in the stampede.

By God!” the zealots would say, “If we can’t yell what we want when we want, what’s next? Joe Biden telling us we can’t call turkeys in the fall?

By now most of you have heard about the Tennessee man (who happens to be a CEO of a company that trains people “to prevail in a violent confrontation“) who said he would fire the first shot in a civil war over unfettered gun rights. Here is his contribution to American civilization—WARNING: He uses the F word:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

There he is, James Yeager, in all his tattooed, guns-over-country glory.  This is what we are up against, my friends. And we’re also up against the following, which is a rather frightening anecdote submitted by a good guy, Michael Barrows, on my “Holy Second Amendment Remedies” post:

I would like to share my recent encounter with the Second Amendment. I apologize for the length.

Keep in mind that I reside in Kansas, a state that has decided that smoking in certain public venue presents more danger to the occupants than concealing a firearm in that same venue would. On the weekend before Christmas, a friend and I decided to visit a local bar and catch-up with some old friends. Towards the end of the evening, the conversation, as many of late have, turned to gun control and the government. One of the people in the conversation told all of us at the table that “we wouldn’t have to worry about anything happening to us, he has his concealed carry license.” Shortly after that statement, and much to my surprise, his gun ended up in my lap. I believe my remark was “nice gun, here ya go” and quickly returned his firearm, about the same time he tells me that it doesn’t have a safety, “ya know, for quicker response time.”

Thankfully, he and the group that was with him, decided to leave shortly after that. But once they reached the sidewalk a distinctive ‘pop, pop’ sound could be heard from inside the bar. I went outside to see the group heading to another bar, with gun owner lowering the gun from the above him, after shooting it in the air.

Later that evening he fired two more shots into the air, outside of another bar, and was arrested.

Is this the type of person who is supposed to protect me from the government?

Yes, Michael, he and James Yeager will protect you from the government for about, oh, ten minutes on a good day. So, you’d better have some backup.

Make America Safer: Get Rid Of Bob Costas

Bob Costas, renowned sports broadcaster, is under fire from outraged conservatives for daring to speak out on NBC’s Sunday Night Football, mostly using the words of Kansas City sports writer Jason Whitlock, about the easy availability of guns in our culture, following the murder and suicide involving a Kansas City Chiefs football player.

And, you know, conservatives must be right. Who really cares that another black kid will grow up without parents? Who really cares that an athlete, for whatever reason, chose to solve his problems with NRA-sponsored warfare?

Antonin Scalia has spoken for the Supreme Court; no, he has apparently spoken for America, and told all who will listen that a laissez-faire reading of the Second Amendment trumps common sense, at least 21st-century common sense.

Conservatives must be right because the NFL and the Kansas City Chiefs chose to play a football game the day after an elite athlete killed his girlfriend and himself, the latter act done in full view of his coach and the general manager of the Chiefs, who were about a first down away from the killer.

Yes, Bob Costas was wrong to speak up. He was wrong to make people think that the game, a simple NFL football game, was less important than a family tragedy, and a larger all-American family tragedy.

Just who does he think he is reminding us how primitive we are? Especially before a football game. Doesn’t he know that Americans watch football to escape reality?  And there he was, in front of the camera telling us,

Handguns do not enhance our safety. They exacerbate our flaws, tempt us to escalate arguments, and bait us into embracing confrontation rather than avoiding it.

Yet, we know that handguns do enhance our safety. We know that because conservatives, with the NRA’s moral and financial blessing, tell us that. Republican politicians, married to and constantly getting banged by the gun lobby, won’t dare tell us anything else, lest the NRA turn its guns on them and end their political careers.

Now, there is an effort to boycott NBC until Costas is gone. Good. That will do the trick. Get rid of him. We don’t need anyone reminding us, especially before a head-banging football game, how goddamned much we love violence.

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