Tag Archives: 2nd Amendment

Hero of the Week Award: Sen. Chris Murphy

17 Jun

Chris MurphyThis has been an extraordinarily painful week for the LGBTQ community, in the wake of last Sunday’s massacre. If it is possible for something good to come from all of this hate, homophobia, and fear, I hope part of the healing will come from gun control reform.

Kudos to Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn), for leading the filibuster on the senate floor to expand gun control policies with two specific measures. Yes, this is the very least the senate can do in response to the massacre in Orlando. As a side note, I need to point out that this is also very tied into race, gender, homophobia, and misogyny. The Pulse was — and will be again — a safe space for LGBTQ people, mostly queer people of color. The United States seems to feel it is acceptable to regulate women’s bodies, why can we not regulate guns? Finally the NRA’s bedfellow, Mitch McConnell, has acquiesced and agreed to hold votes for the proposed amendment.

It grows ever wearisome to hear the call for prayers every time we have people murdered by guns. We do not need the prayers, we need gun control! Sadly, I have to offer a dishonorable mention to Florida Governor, Rick Scott, a.k.a Lord Voldemort. When reporters asked Scott if there was anything that could be done on a policy level to prevent future shootings like this, Scott (who has put forth enormous energy to relax gun control laws (there is no waiting period currently to buy the AR-15) replied: “We can pray for the victims, pray for the families and pray this never happens again.” How’s that working so far?

There are at least 27 reported gun deaths EVERY DAY in the United States. The AR-15 was used in the following massacres: Orlando, Florida–49 killed, 53 wounded; Aurora, Colorado, 12 killed, 70 wounded; Sandy Hook, Connecticut, 26 killed; Santa Monica, California, 5 killed, 4 wounded; Roseburg, Oregon, 9 killed; San Bernadino, California, 14 killed, 22 wounded. Maybe its just me, but prayers don’t seem to be doing much to change things. Maybe we need action, such as adopting expansive gun control measures? Want that to happen? Get out and vote!

In addition to Murphy, I want to acknowledge and give an honorable mention to the following Democratic Senators for finally creating significant resistance against the NRA and pushing for greater gun control policies: Richard Blumenthal, and Cory Booker (NJ),  Dick Durbin (IL), Bill Nelson (FL), Chuck Schumer (NY), Joe Manchin (WV), Ben Cardin (MD), Ed Markey (MA), Patrick Leahy (VT), Al Franken (MN), Patty Murray (WA), Gary Peters (MI), Bob Casey (PA), Ron Wyden (OR), Elizabeth Warren (MA), Jeff Merkley (OR), Bob Menendez (NJ), Jeanne Shaheen (NH), Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), Claire McCaskill (MO), Mark Warner (VA), Amy Klobuchar (MN), Barbara Mikulski (MD), Sherrod Brown (OH), and counting. Yes, I’m very glad to see that both of Oregon’s senators were on this list!

The constitution is a living document and the flaws of the second amendment seem glaringly obvious. Given that no women and no people of color had any representation or voice in drafting the original document, it would stand to reason that this document needs further tweaking to represent more voices.

If you do not see your senator on this list, please contact them and let your voice be heard. I wish everyone a Happy Pride Month and let us not give into fear but share our love and solidarity!

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Guns, Gun Culture, Starting a Dialogue…

13 Jun

Gun ControlThis has been yet another horrific week for schools across the United States.  Following the school shootings in Santa Barbara and Seattle, we lost two youth to a school shooting in Portland, Oregon at Reynolds High School.  If one calculates the average number of school shootings since Sandy Hook, we are averaging at least one school shooting each school week — 74 shootings and counting.

These school shootings take place against a backdrop of decreased gun restrictions and more aggressive gun activism. Consider the Open Carry Texas group, who are carrying guns into public places, including the Baby Toys departments at Target stores. Consider Cliven Bundy and his crew, arming themselves to defend his right to renege on a government contract. Consider the shooters in Las Vegas, who were too extreme for Bundy and one of whom trolled for guns on Facebook despite a felony conviction that prohibited his ownership of firearms.

I am inviting perspectives from all sides of this debate here, for I am truly nonplussed. With full transparency, I am not a proponent of guns and I am a strong supporter of gun control. With that being said, I am so very curious as to how people are not supportive of gun control? I am not passing judgment but I am confounded and horribly worried about youth being killed just attending school. How does the supposed right of a hunter or an antique collector become an imperative to proliferate arms?

I wonder why people feel they need access to guns? How does this promote a culture of peace? How does this promote a culture of non-violence? I hear people quoting the Second Amendment and I wonder if everyone has read the history of this particular amendment and how it has morphed, as living documents do. Strangely, the right to participate in a “well-regulated militia” has become something quite different. Since the NRA transformed from a hobbyist organization to a lobbyist for firearms manufacturers, its efforts have clouded the issue effectively. This has resulted in confusion over legal intent and such ready, under-regulated access to guns that schoolchildren find firearms drills routine — until the day that it turns out not to be a drill.

Where do we go from here? How do we respect individual rights but protect our most vulnerable and intentionally marginalized citizens? When is enough more than enough?

America’s Trigger Happy Traumas

14 Jan

880-from-my-cold-dead-handsToday marks the one month anniversary of  the tragic shootings in Newtown, CT, America seems poised to look at gun violence with fresh eyes. Vice President Biden is preparing to release a set of proposals from a panel he has led to discuss the issue this week. Gabby Giffords has founded a new organization to take a fair and balanced look at what weapons are reasonable and how they should be regulated. Media attention and statements from members of Congress seem focused on solutions rather than distracted by the insane posturing of the NRA. Perhaps, this time there is hope.

Or maybe not. The mere whisper of gun reform has the pry-it-out-of-my-cold-dead-hands crowd gnashing their teeth and rushing to the stores. Gun sales began to spike when President Obama was re-elected. Racists, home-grown terrorists, and conspiracy mongers — not at all a mutually exclusive list — took that as enough of a sign that their ability to fire off insane amounts of ammo in minutes might be curtailed. Sadly the deaths of 20 school children caused no reflection, just more fear.

Gun stores across the country have shut down online vending due to low inventory. Prices on high-capactiy magazines and semi-automatic rifles have more than tripled. Background checks for weapons purchases are up nearly 60% over a year ago. The arms race (predominantly white folk) is on, and the losers will be more innocent victims. Slate magazine is tracking gun deaths since Sandy Hook. Even with the necessarily incomplete information, over 800 people have been killed by guns — nearly 30 a day. Most of those deaths were caused by legally purchased guns. And yet there are those who maintain we have no problem and that military-style weapons belong in our homes and schools.

Perhaps the poster child for this mania is James Yeager, CEO of Tactical Response, a gun advocacy and training company in Tennessee. In a viral video, Yeager fretted about the government taking away his weapons, saying

I’m not going to let anyone take my guns. If it goes one inch further, I’m going to start killing people.

Yeah right, Yeager really needs to have a gun! Still think there is not a problem here? When asked to clarify his statements in an interview, Yeager maintained that he would open fire on anyone who entered his home if he thought they wanted his guns. Fortunately, the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security revoked his handgun carry permit, citing “material likelihood of risk of harm to the public.” Unfortunately, that just gives the NRA another martyr to the cause as paranoia and gun mania sweep the land.

Number 1 Bigot of the Year 2012: National Rifle Association

31 Dec
Number 1 Bigot of 2012

Number 1 Bigot of 2012

This year’s nominations for Bigot of the Year were pretty remarkable, as you have no doubt noticed over the past few days. Thanks again go to all the TSM readers who took the time to recommend their choices for awful behavior and social injustice. It was a bit of a surprise with all those great nominations to have someone come out of nowhere and grab the top spot. With the insane rantings of its VP Wayne LaPierre and its manic worship at the altar of firearms in the wake of Sandy Hook, however, the NRA managed to do just that.

The shooting tragedy in Newtown was among the worst in U.S. history. Children of 6 and 7 were being buried as LaPierre broke the NRA silence and made his now infamous speech.

The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

How about not letting the “bad guy” have a gun whose only purpose is to destroy human flesh? How about really enforcing the lamentably weak gun laws we already have? How about not using racism and class warfare to scare people into thinking they need to carry a gun wherever they go?

The NRA’s general behavior as one of the largest and most feared lobbying organizations was bad enough. Over the past year or so, however, they’ve upped the ante significantly. Apparently fearing action in the courts that might result in support for reasonable gun laws, the NRA has begun meddling in judicial appointments. Justices Kagan and Sotomayor are the first two ever “rated” by the organization, clearly targeting votes in their favor as being anti-gun, something many Senators fear. NRA operatives are also working hard to scuttle an arms trade treaty in the U.N.

They’ve also launched a sister organization, the American Silencer Association, to push sales of the one legal firearm enhancement that might have made Adam Lanza’s attack more devastating. The sales pitch? Silencers make guns safer for children’s hearing. Really.

Congratulations, NRA leaders. You’ve demonstrated such lack of compassion and judgment that LaPierre was billed on the New York Daily News as the “Craziest Man On Earth.” Sadly, far too many in power listen to the kind of crazy his money buys.

Dishonorable mention goes to the NRA’s partners in tastelessness. Mike Huckabee already came in at #5 for the year, partly on the strength of his screed about putting “God back in schools” to avoid another Sandy Hook. The American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer gets a nod for similar words, delivered in his own inimitable crazed style. Last but by no means least, the National Review for its misogynistic editorial that just having more men in schools would butch them up enough to stop potential killers. Let’s try to learn from the real lessons of Sandy Hook, and not from these ranters and opportunists.  Now is the time to look at gun control, racial profiling, and angry white men.

Bigot of the Week Award: December 21, The National Review with a Shot of NRA

21 Dec
Bigots of the Week

Bigots of the Week

Yes, this is the first time in TSM history we actually have a tie for BWA, but WOW! we got some dirt and hate that just won’t wash clean.  In the wake of the Newtown tragedy, the response from The National Review (also known as the “He Man Women Haters Club”) and the behavior of the NRA have just about pushed me over the edge of civility.  Yes, there are some folk I would just love to slap bald, in my best pacifist way of course.

The National Review published the most toxic misogyny as an opinion piece about the shootings. I’ll let them speak for themselves:

There was not a single adult male on the school premises when the shooting occurred. In this school of 450 students, a sizeable number of whom were undoubtedly 11- and 12-year-old boys (it was a K–6 school), all the personnel — the teachers, the principal, the assistant principal, the school psychologist, the “reading specialist” — were female. There didn’t even seem to be a male janitor to heave his bucket at Adam Lanza’s knees. Women and small children are sitting ducks for mass-murderers. […]

[An elementary school is] in general, a feminized setting is a setting in which helpless passivity is the norm. Male aggression can be a good thing, as in protecting the weak — but it has been forced out of the culture of elementary schools and the education schools that train their personnel.

I don’t know where to start. How about saying that male aggression is a good thing when all 28 dead are the victims of that very thing? How about maintaining that women are weak and defenseless and must have men around to protect them? How about ignoring the bravery and sacrifice of the women who ran that school, some of whom died facing male aggression? This writer automatically gets a nomination for Bigot of the Year. (As an added bonus, many of the basic facts of the article were simply wrong, including the fact that one of the staff — the janitor in fact — was male. Facts don’t matter when there’s hate to spew!)

Meanwhile, the NRA spent most of the week in its camo fatigues. Trying to ignore the fact that its lobbyists made it possible for Adam Lanza to get his hands on the weapons he used to butcher children, the usually loud gun group was suspiciously silent. They took down their Facebook page and their usual fusillade of tweets was stilled. When they finally had something to say, it was tepid.

Out of respect for the families, and as a matter of common decency, we have given time for mourning, prayer and a full investigation of the facts before commenting. The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.

Followed by a defensive statement by NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre.

I think an unprecedented attack on the Second Amendment is going to come hard, I think it is going to come fast, and I think it is going to come soon.

Yeah, that sure sounds like a “meaningful contribution” to changing the status quo. The NRA is almost solely responsible for the fact that most Americans can buy automatic weapons whose only conceivable purpose is to maim and kill other human beings. Once those weapons have been purchased, they can easily fall into anyone’s hands. In what world does that make any conceivable sense? Massacres like Sandy Hook are impossible without this kind of firepower. Let the NRA feel like the victim here; it’s about time they understood how the thousands of families that suffer gun violence every year feel.

Don’t forget, TSM is still taking nominations for Bigot of the Year Award.

UPDATE: By now everyone is probably aware that since they won the BWA this week, the NRA has jumped the shark. LaPierre — looking like a tired and seedy televangelist — presented the organization’s “meaningful contribution.” After this stereotypical representative of the aging white male power structure blamed Hollywood, the media, and video games for the violence, he offered a two-pronged solution. First, stigmatize the suffering by creating a mental health registry; the weapons don’t matter, after all, it’s just those crazy people! (Pot, meet kettle.) Second, put an armed guard in every school and eliminate gun-free zones around schools so potential killers won’t know where to find lots of easy victims. The NRA used to be an organization for gun owners; it has fully transformed into a lobby for weapons manufacturers and a haven for extremist white paranoia. How sad.

God, Guns, and Gays…

17 Dec

palin-gun-100309National tragedies provide us with many kinds of opportunities. As the country joins the people of Newtown, CT in mourning, we also celebrate the quiet heroism of the teachers and staff who helped keep the carnage from being any worse. Some paid for their bravery with their lives; others survived to help with the healing.

Sadly, too many of the usual suspects are clamoring to appropriate the suffering for their own nefarious purposes. Displaying his ususal KKKristian charity, American Family Association spokesman Bryan Fischer blamed our constitutionally decreed religion-neutral society. Saying — without a hint of irony — that God is a gentleman who “will not go where he is not wanted,” Fischer claims that public school prayer and religious instruction would have resulted in the almighty stopping this tragedy in its tracks. Nor is he alone. Failed Presidential candidate, false compassionate conservative, and rightwing radio blowhard Mike Huckabee jumped on the same bandwagon.

We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we have systematically removed God from our schools. Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage?

Perhaps more to the point, why would we expect a narrowminded, violent Old Testament version of god to protect anyone? To wit, the loathsome legion from Westboro Baptist. Always willing to blame the LGBT community for, well, everything, they plan to picket around Sandy Hook Elementary, labelling the senseless slaughter of 26 innocent women and children as the “glory of God’s work in executing his judgment.” Nice choice of words, as always.

As those on the right rattle their sabers for God, the gun lobby tells everyone that now is not the time for politics, wanting to let the memory of this tragedy fade before we try to engage in a rational discussion about what kinds of weapons belong in the hands of everyday citizens. Over the past 15 years America has suffered far too many of these kinds of incidents — Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora, now Sandy Hook — and each time there’s a brief flare of “somebody ought to do something” followed by silence and inaction. Let us not forget about Gabrielle Giffords and the shootings in Arizona–Sarah Palin and her hungry gun culture ilk certainly have blood on their hands.

When a mentally ill man can grab legally purchased guns from his mother’s home and fire multiple rounds into the bodies of six- and seven-year-old children, there is something seriously wrong. USA Today published a powerful editorial that pointed out three things we need to look at quickly and carefully.

  • How do we enforce the laws that already exist to minimize the risks and damage?
  • What commonsense restrictions on automatic weapons and military style ammunition do we need to put in place?
  • How can we strengthen the safety net for the mentallly ill to provide them the support they need to minimize the risk of this kind of break?

We cannot let these deaths, adding to the tragic and rapidly mounting toll, be in vain. We must have hard conversations and take decisive action.

UPDATE: As the details roll in and the country continues to mourn the devastating and horrifically violent deaths, the call for sensible revision of gun laws is heating up in the nation’s capital. President Obama wisely noted

We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true. No single law, no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society, but that can’t be an excuse for inaction. Surely we can do better than this.

The NRA and other guns and ammo groups, meanwhile, remain silent, at best offering tepid sympathy for the families.

Staunch gun supporter Sen. Joe Manchin (D – WV), a lifetime member of the NRA, is also pushing for change.

I just came with my family from deer hunting. I’ve never had more than three shells in a clip. Sometimes you don’t get more than one shot anyway at a deer. It’s common sense. It’s time to move beyond rhetoric. We need to sit down and have a common sense discussion and move in a reasonable way.

Incoming Senators Heidi Heitkamp (D – ND) and Joe Donnelly (D – IN), also supporters of gun rights, are vowing to help change laws to protect the innocent when they are sworn in in January. They’ll join longstanding advocates of gun control like Charles Schumer (D – NY) and Dianne Feinstein (D – CA). Let’s hope they can build the momentum to transform tragedy into action.

A Country in Mourning…

21 Jul

Today our nation awakes in confusion and sadness as we mourn the loss of 12 of our brothers and sisters in Colorado, with dozens more injured and in pain. Our hearts are  heavy with grief and we all wear a veil of bewilderment.  At moments like this, I wonder when we — as a nation — will finally have a candid conversation around gun control, masculinity, sexism, and racism.

This latest shooting by a white man also stirred up anger, frustration, and disappointment in the unbalanced conversation about violence in our country. Media blowhards and misguided authorities regularly vilify Muslims and disproportionately police African-American men when we seem to ignore the pattern of white male terrorists. I think about Timothy McVeigh, Ted Kaczynski, Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold, and Scott Roeder of Operation Rescue, just to name a few. I also look at the case building against George ZImmerman and have to say that I’m much more fearful of young white heterosexual men than any other population.

Our obsession with guns is more than just a little disturbing, as many hide behind the false cloak of the 2nd Amendment. The number of online references to the potential to save life by walking armed in the wake of Aurora truly baffles and saddnes me. I have to wonder how many lives we could save if we made a real effort to manage what kinds of weapons really belong in the hands of the average citizen. We control drugs, alcohol, medicine, and access to health care but not devices of destruction that can, in minutes, change hundreds of lives?

My heart goes out to all of the families impacted by the tragedy in Aurora and I can only hope we evolve as a nation and work together to stop this pattern.

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