Guns Aren’t the Problem, The NRA is the Problem

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

In the wake of the horrible shooting in Aurora, Colorado, the battle over gun control has flared up again with predictable results. Gun control supporters repeat their long list of facts about how much gun violence there is in our country, where 34 Americans are killed every day with a gun, and call for stricter controls on gun ownership. The National Rifle Association (“NRA”) and other gun advocates argue that our society would be safer with more guns, and spin wild conspiracy theories about people coming to take your guns away. Meanwhile, with the exception of a few Democrats such as New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg and New York Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy, most politicians duck the issue, and most political commentators correctly predict that little progress will be made on protecting public safety from gun violence.

The question for us progressives is how do we break this logjam? Doing so will obviously be a long, hard battle, but I would recommend that a good starting place is to adopt and consistently repeat the slogan – “Guns Aren’t the Problem, the NRA Is the Problem.” What I mean by that is our goal as progressives should not be to ban guns. Instead, it should be to achieve common sense regulations of guns in order to protect public safety. The NRA, however, has blocked such common sense regulation of gun ownership every step of the way.

On the first part of the slogan – “Guns Aren’t the Problem” – the reality is that the Supreme Court has, for better or worse, settled the question of whether there is a 2nd Amendment right to own guns. In addition, the right to bear arms is quite politically popular, so eliminating it in order to ban guns would be virtually impossible as a matter of politics. While I don’t dispute that there are some progressives who want to ban guns, the vast majority of us do not seek to do so. So, we should stop letting our opponents frame us as if we are out to get people’s guns.

Instead, we progressives should be arguing that with the right to bear arms comes responsibility to make sure that guns are used safely, that they do not fall into the wrong hands, and that ownership of the most powerful weapons that are clearly meant for little else than killing people is restricted or forbidden. And that is why we advocate for mandatory background checks, closing the gun show loophole, banning cop-killer bullets and bullet clips that hold 100 shells, making it easier for police to trace guns that are used in a crime and to revoke the licenses of corrupt gun dealers, and making sure people on the terrorist watch list cannot buy guns. These are all common sense steps to protect public safety that can be achieved while not infringing on the right to own a gun that the Supreme Court found in the 2nd Amendment. And large majorities of Americans, even gun owners, support such common sense efforts to protect public safety.

The blocking point on these issues, however, is the NRA, which refuses to accept that with rights come responsibilities. Instead, the organization uses its $200 million per year lobbying budget to defeat even the most benign gun control regulations, and to falsely accuse even the mildest supporters of common sense gun control of being out to take away everyone’s guns. The NRA even goes so far as to use its lobbying power to muzzle efforts by government agencies to fund research into violence and ways to prevent it.

A fight against the right of Americans to own guns is one that almost certainly can never be won. But a concerted effort to make gun ownership safer by enacting and strengthening common sense efforts to protect public safety through, for example, closing the gun show loophole and banning bullet clips that hold 100 shells, can and must be won if we want to reduce gun violence in the US. And the way to win that fight is to paint the NRA, which takes advantage of its own members in order to promote a reactionary and dangerous agenda of turning the US into a version of the old Wild West, as the out-of-control villain that it is.

More, More, More, Part I: Guns

Sunday, July 29th, 2012

(By NCrissie B)

This week Morning Feature considers the curious conservative belief that the solution to many problems is more of the same problem. Today we look at their view on mass shootings. Next we’ll examine the Wall Street crisis and financial regulation. Then we’ll conclude with deficits and tax cuts.

A Failure of Gun Control?

“The government killed more people in Fast and Furious,” reads the subhead to Don Surber’s Charleston Daily Mail article headlined Gun control failed in Aurora, Colo. His source is a Mexican government claim that 150 people have been killed by weapons that were lost in the failed ‘Fast and Furious’ sting operation, where ATF agents attempted to catch Americans illegally selling weapons to Mexican drug gangs. Setting aside the dubious factual claim, let’s turn to the irony:

The theater in Aurora, Colo., is a gun-free zone, which means that even with a concealed weapons permit, no one was supposed to enter the theater with a firearm.

The city of Aurora has other restrictions on gun acquisition and use as well. The only legal firing of weapons can be done at a shooting range there.

Despite all that gun control, James Eagan Holmes shot the place up and changed hundreds of lives forever.

Laws did not prevent it.

The implicit argument is that had others in that theater had been armed, they could have stopped the carnage, an argument made explicit in this Investor’s Business Daily op-ed:

In December 2007, two church members were shot to death and three others injured after a gunman opened fire outside the New Life Church in Colorado Springs as Sunday services were wrapping up.

That tragedy could have been much worse, but the gunman was shot by a church security officer and was found dead when police arrived at the scene.

On April 22 of this year a just-released felon went to the New Destiny Christian Church in Aurora, Colo., and killed the mother of Pastor Delano Strahan before being killed himself by a congregant carrying a gun.

Unlike the tragedies at Columbine High School and the movie theatre in Aurora, there was someone at these venues willing and able to shoot back.

Other than the shooter, there was nobody armed in or at the Century 16 theater complex where 12 were killed and another 59 wounded, unable to exercise their right to self-defense.

Yes, the problem in the Aurora theater was not a man with a gun, but that there was only one man with a gun. By that logic, the ATF failed not by losing some weapons in the Fast and Furious operation, but by not losing even more weapons into Mexico. If they had allowed enough guns to cross the border, surely some would have ended up in the hands of civilians, who could then protect themselves from the criminals….

A tiny detail….

The stories of the church shootings are true, so far as they go, but each leaves out a tiny detail. Jeanne Assam, the “church security officer” who returned fire at the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, was a former Minneapolis police officer. And the “congregant” who returned fire outside the New Destiny Christian Church in Aurora was an off-duty Aurora police officer. In each case, lives were saved not by ordinary civilians with guns … but by trained law enforcement officers.

That tiny detail matters, of course. Like military service members, law enforcement officers have extensive training with firearms. That training includes not only how to load, fire, and maintain a weapon, but also how to use it in confusing and stressful situations. I dare say even the most fervent gun control advocate wishes an off-duty cop had chosen that night to attend that movie at that theater.

But that’s very different from wishing average citizens had been carrying guns. One such average citizen might have made a difference, had he or she responded perfectly, with no training, under the worst possible conditions. This was no planned trip to a well-lighted shooting range with a marked lane and a paper target. No one expected any gunfire except on the screen. The room was dark, and the shooter began his attack by throwing a smoke grenade and firing at the ceiling with a shotgun. He then began firing at people as they panicked and ran. And he was wearing body armor. To believe an untrained civilian could have found a clear path for a perfect head shot through a panicking crowd is sheer fantasy.

And what if there had been more than one untrained civilian with a gun? Would the second, third, or fifth untrained civilian drawing a weapon in a dark, smoky, crowded theater have returned fire at the original shooter or – far more likely – at the nearest other person with a gun?

Put another way: would you rather try to escape from a movie theater in which one person was shooting into the crowd, or from a movie theater in which several people were shooting at people they thought were shooting into the crowd?

Color me crazy, but I think my chances are better trying to escape the lone shooter. I’m allergic to crossfire.

By the gun advocates’ logic, theaters should issue a weapon to everyone on their way in. “Here’s your ticket stub and your Glock, ma’am. You may want to tuck it in your waistband, so you have both hands free for the tub of popcorn and jumbo soft drink. Enjoy the movie and thanks for coming to the O.K. Corral Theater.”

More, more, more….

(Crossposted from Blogistan Polytechnic Institute (BPICampus.com))

It is Not Just Wisconsin – We Need to Fight For Public Sector Employees in Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee, and Elsewhere

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

As we discussed yesterday, Wisconsin is the epicenter of the fight by progressives to halt right wing attacks on public employees and their labor unions.  Winning this fight is critical, because such public sector union jobs are some of the last stable middle class jobs left in our country, and because public sector unions are some of the few remaining organized groups fighting for the middle class and working class in America.

Wisconsin is far from the only state where the battle to support public employees and their unions is occurring.  Below is a guide to seven other states where we need to engage the battle, and links to help you to do so.   If you don’t live in one of these states, you can still help win this fight by contacting your own state legislators and writing a letter to the editor of the your local newspaper in support of the rights of public employees to collectively bargain over their wages, benefits, and working conditions.

If you know of any other states where there are attacks on public employee unions occurring, please let us know at our Facebook page, and we will update this list.

Ohio: Senate Bill 5 would eliminate collective bargaining rights for public employees in the state

Contact Ohio state legislators

Contact Governor John Kasich – (614) 466-3555

Write a letter to your local newspaper editor – links to newspapers available here

Indiana: A string of bills targeting public employees, including limits on teachers’ ability to collectively bargain and a permanent ban on the ability of future governors to allow for collective bargaining with state employees.

Contact Indiana state legislators

Contact Governor Mitch Daniels – 317-232-4567

Write a letter to your local newspaper editor

Minnesota: Legislation is pending that would eliminate vital portions of the state’s Public Employment Labor Relations Act, and freeze wages of state employees

Contact Minnesota state legislators

Contact Governor Mark Dayton – 651-201-3400

Write a letter to your local newspaper editor – links available here

Tennessee: Legislation to abolish the rights of teachers to collectively bargain has passed a state Senate committee and could be voted on in the full state Senate as early as February 23.

Contact Tennessee state legislators

Contact Governor Bill Haslam – (615) 741-2001

Write a letter to your local newspaper editor -

Colorado: Legislation to reverse former Democratic Governor Bill Ritter’s executive order allowing collective bargaining has been stopped so far.  Ultimately, however, the issue is expected to come down to how hard new Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper is willing to fight for public employees and their unions.

Contact Colorado state legislators

Contact Governor John Hickenlooper – (303) 866-2471

Write a letter to your local newspaper editor – links available here

South Dakota: Republican legislators are considering introducing legislation that would bar local government from negotiating collective bargaining agreements, which would effectively prevent teachers and other public employees from collectively bargaining.

Contact South Dakota state legislators

Contact Governor Dennis Daugaard – (605) 773-3212

Write a letter to your local newspaper editor

Nebraska: A bill pending in Nebraska’s legislature would ban the state from collectively bargaining with public employee unions, and would abolish the state Commission on Industrial Relations, which oversees such collective bargaining.  A second bill would ask state voters to pass a constitutional amendment barring collective bargaining by state employees.

Contact Nebraska state legislators

Contact Governor Dave Heineman – (402) 471-2244

Write a letter to your local newspaper editor

Colorado Newspapers

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

Here are links to the letter to the editor email addresses and websites of Colorado newspapers.  Keep your letter to under 150 words.  Make sure to include your name, address, and telephone number as the paper will want to contact you to verify that you wrote the letter.

Please send us an email if any of these links are broken or if you’d like to suggest a Colorado newspaper to add to the list.

Aurora Sentinel

Boulder Colorado Daily

Boulder Daily Camera

Colorado Springs Gazette

Colorado Springs Independent

Denver Post

Durango Herald

Durango Telegraph

Fort Collins Coloradoan

Glenwood Springs Post Independent

Grand Junction Free Press

Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

Greeley Tribune

Gunnison Times

Longmont Times-Call

Loveland Reporter-Herald

Montrose Daily Press

Pueblo Chieftan

Rangely Herald Times

Rifle Citizen Telegram

Trinidad Times Independent