By Emma Teitel - Monday, April 22, 2013 - 0 Comments
Shortly after the Tsarnaev brothers allegedly bombed their own city and a day before they took their armory to Watertown, the U.S. Senate defeated a bi-partisan gun control amendment that aimed to expand background checks for gun buyers. President Obama was furious. Vice President Joe Biden verged on tears, while Newtown families in Washington wept openly.
“We’ll return home now, disappointed but not defeated,” said Mark Barden, whose seven-year-old was one of 20 children shot and killed by Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012. “We return home with a determination that change will happen. Maybe not today, but it will happen. It will happen soon.”
Or perhaps not at all. In the wake of Boston some might see heightened hope for the gun control lobby. Paul M. Barrett at Bloomberg Businessweek sees the opposite:
“I’ll predict that the unrest emanating from Boston will benefit the National Rifle Association and its allies in their campaign for widespread individual firearm ownership. For better or worse, the pro-gun side thrives on heightened anxiety … As any gun manufacturer will tell you, the 9/11 attacks helped sales at firearm counters around the country and strengthened the NRA’s hand in lobbying against greater federal restrictions.”
Arkansas State Representative and long-time NRA member Nate Bell tweeted the following on the weekend: “I wonder how many Boston liberals spent the night cowering in their homes wishing they had an AR-15 with a hi-capacity magazine?” Cain TV —Herman Cain’s TV network—was equally subtle: “Just wondering: wouldn’t it be good right now if everyone in Boston had a gun?”
To follow the NRA’s logic—“the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun”—the more good guys with guns, the better. The more gun owners who are “law-abiding citizens”—to use the right’s new favourite expression (“job creators” is so 2012)–the less likely criminals are to shoot up the neighbourhood and hide in your boat. According to the NRA, merely following the law is proof you should have unlimited access to the tools most convenient for breaking it. The gun lobby doesn’t just thrive on fear mongering, or “heightened anxiety,” as Barrett calls it. It thrives on the myth that the law-abiding citizen will never cease to be one. And so its leaders ask, every time a new measure comes before the Senate, every time a violent tragedy strikes somewhere in their country:
Why should harmless, law-abiding citizens, be inconvenienced and insulted with extensive background checks when we have no reason to fear them?
The answer is simple: Until last week we had no apparent reason to fear a person like Dzhohkar Tsarnaev, the “popular” teenage wrestler, handsome stoner, and — at least as far as his father is concerned—“angel” on Earth. Until last week, the brothers Tsarnaev were seemingly harmless, law-abiding citizens. (The older brother’s rumoured domestic violence charge has not yet been verified and there’s nothing illegal about watching unsavoury YouTube videos.) Neither showed any desire to commit mass murder. Everyone’s query, now that four people are dead and nearly 200 are injured, about how two supposedly normal individuals could be capable of such atrocities, is in essence, an answer. It’s the answer to the gun-control, background-check debate: we never know, ultimately, who is capable of evil and who isn’t. We only talk about “root causes” once they’ve torn through the earth and fulfilled their twisted purpose. The Boston Marathon bombing isn’t proof that people need weapons to protect themselves from monsters. It’s proof that any one of us could be a monster. We are all law-abiding citizens until we aren’t.
Why shouldn’t “everyone in Boston have a gun?” Because until last week, Dzhohkar Tsarnaev was everyone. No one today would protect his right to forego an extensive background check on the purchase of a weapon. So why last week? Why ever?
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Thursday, April 18, 2013 at 12:29 PM - 0 Comments
The president says it’s only Round One.
As families of victims of the mass shootings in Newtown, Tucson, and Virginia Tech looked on yesterday, the most modest of the gun control proposals put forward in the U.S. Senate could not muster the 60 votes needed to get over Republican opposition. A bipartisan amendment that would have required background checks of all commercial sales of guns (aimed at closing the loophole that had excluded gun shows) was defeated on a vote of 54-46.
Polls suggest that an overwhelming majority of Americans support background checks, but that did not translate into more votes in the Senate where Democrats have a slim majority. Four Democrats from conservative states voted against the measure: Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Max Baucus of Montana, Mark Begich of Alaska, and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota. Heitkamp said in a statement that the background checks would “put an undue burdens on law-abiding North Dakotans” and said she would favor measures that focused on mental health policies rather than guns. “This conversation should be about what is in people’s minds, not about what is in their hands,” she wrote. (Majority leader Harry Reid of Nevada also voted against the measure, but for “procedural reasons” that will enable it be taken up again at a later time. See technical explanation here.)
Overall, the votes were a dramatic victory for gun rights and the National Rifle Association. Only 40 senators voted in favor of an assault-weapons ban, and only 46 voted in favor of limits on the size ammunition magazines. In contrast, 57 senators voted in favor of loosening gun restrictions by allowing people with concealed weapons permits to carry them in other states.
In emotional remarks from the White House Rose Garden, Obama called the outcome “a pretty shameful day for Washington” and vowed to press on. Mark Barden, whose 7-year-old son Daniel was killed in the Newtown shooting, also spoke:
“We’ll return home now, disappointed but not defeated. We return home with the determination that change will happen — maybe not today, but it will happen. It will happen soon. We’ve always known this would be a long road, and we don’t have the luxury of turning back,” he said.
Having learned in the first term the limits of his official powers when it comes to passing domestic legislation, Obama is trying a different approach. After his reelection, he launched a grassroots organizing effort called “Organizing for Action”, building on the infrastructure of his presidential campaign machine, aimed at mobilizing grassroots support for his legislative agenda. While some said yesterday’s defeat suggests the failure of his experiment, it’s simply too early to judge whether it will make an impact.
Obama has given every indication he will keep pushing to mobilize his supporters to put pressure on Congress. White House spokesman, Josh Earnest, said today: “I think we’re pretty close to a consensus on this just as about everywhere except in the United States Congress. And as the President alluded to yesterday, I think that is an indication of the pernicious influence that some special interests have in the United States Congress. And that is going to require a vocalization of public opinion to overcome it.”
But as he does so, Obama has to keep relations cordial with those same Republican lawmakers whose support he needs to pass his other domestic priority of his second term: immigration reform.
Yet it hasn’t been all defeat for the gun control lobby. Since the Newtown shootings, which left 20 children and six adults dead four months ago, four states have passed stricter gun laws. On the other hand, another twelve have loosened them.
By Matt Kwong - Monday, April 1, 2013 at 11:30 AM - 0 Comments
Welcome to Kennesaw, the Georgia hamlet that welcomes you—and your Colt .45 —with open arms
Gun control carries a double meaning in Kennesaw, Ga., a Southern hamlet where the mayor leaves his door unlocked, rocking chairs creak on pretty porches and locals enjoy the most fearsome gun laws in America.“You break into a house in Kennesaw, you might just end your life,” muses Lamar Cato, a regular at the Big Shanty barbershop on the city’s Main Street. “I know my rights. I use the motto, ‘shoot now, ask questions later.’ ”
Paradoxically, freedom-loving Second Amendment absolutists around town—the same folks who bemoan losing their civil liberties—also applaud Kennesaw’s unusual firearms regulations. Authorities don’t just expect residents to own guns. Legally, they demand it.
“Yes, sir, it’s the law,” says Fred Bentley, the 86-year-old lawyer who, in 1982, drafted the popular bill requiring all heads of household in the Atlanta suburb to pack a firearm with ammunition. “I got my 30-06 rifle, my double-barrelled shotgun, my six-shot revolver. We haven’t been robbed one single time, and we’ve been here 50 years.”
Supporters of the firearms mandate credit it for a 29 per cent drop in crime over 31 years, even as Kennesaw’s population grew to 33,000 residents from about 5,000 in the 1980s.“People are more aware we have this law on the books, and you might think twice before coming here to do something criminal,” Mayor Mark Mathews says.
As a national firearms debate rages in the U.S. after several mass shootings last year, the pro-gun lobby points to Kennesaw as a paragon of armed America. Police document just four gun-related homicides since 1980, making Kennesaw one of the safest communities of its size in the U.S., according to Lt. Craig Graydon of the criminal investigations unit.
“We’re not some crazy Wild West town,” Graydon says, noting the crime rate falls below half the national average. “Driving through, you might see some NRA bumper stickers, but you wouldn’t know there’s this gun law here.”
Graydon reckons half of homeowners actually comply. He doubts most newcomers realize the ordinance even exists. In his 27 years with the force, he’s never heard any fuss about repealing the policy.
The municipality adopted the law in March 1982 as a stand against the city of Morton Grove, Ill., which tried to outlaw civilian use of handguns the same year. While the Illinois ban was ruled unconstitutional, Kennesaw’s symbolic counter-law passed. Media quickly tagged the suburb, “Guntown, U.S.A.” “It was never intended to be an actual enforced law,” Graydon explains.
Many law-abiding Kennesaw residents don’t carry firearms openly. Some worry about being portrayed as redneck caricatures and distance themselves from hard-liners like Dent “Wildman” Myers, a gunslinging eccentric with a tangly beard and twin Colt .45 revolvers holstered, action-ready, to his hips.
Myers, 81, owns the Wildman’s Civil War Surplus shop. The red-brick landmark flies the rebel flag outside; indoors, Beethoven crackles on the stereo. For sale: KKK robes, white-power albums, Confederate accoutrements and Nazi literature. A bestseller is a T-shirt with crossed pistols and the slogan, “It’s the law in Kennesaw.” Orders come from across the country, Myers says.
The regulation has recently inspired four communities—in Georgia, Utah, Idaho and Maine—to model their own mandatory gun laws after Kennesaw’s. The Georgia city of Nelson, 40 minutes northwest and with a population of 1,300 and one sheriff, named its version the “Family Protection Ordinance.” The measure passed first reading and awaits an April 1 city council vote. Regional Tea Party chairman Bill McNiff, the Nelson resident who pitched the ordinance, wants the city to enact it “so the criminal element knows if you kick my door down, you better know what’s on the other side.”
And so as Washington spars over a proposed ban on assault weapons, community gun dealers like Adventure Outdoors in Kennesaw are selling out of AR-15s, the military-style semi-automatic that Adam Lanza used in the December Newtown school massacre. “People were buying them 10 at a time,” says William Boggs, a former marine who’s lived in Kennesaw for 15 years. “It’s like, get your hands on one before they make it illegal.”
By Alan Fram - Tuesday, March 19, 2013 at 3:51 PM - 0 Comments
WASHINGTON – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has decided that a proposed assault weapons…
WASHINGTON – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has decided that a proposed assault weapons ban won’t be part of a gun control bill the Senate plans to debate next month, the sponsor of the ban said Tuesday, a decision that means the ban stands little chance of survival.
Instead, Sen. Dianne Feinstein said she will be able to offer her ban on the military-style firearms as an amendment. Feinstein is all but certain to need 60 votes from the 100-member Senate to prevail, but she faces solid Republican opposition and likely defections from some moderate Democrats.
“I very much regret it,” Feinstein, D-Calif., told reporters of Reid’s decision. “I tried my best.”
Asked about the decision, Reid, D-Nev., said he wanted to bring a gun bill to the full Senate that would have enough support to overcome any GOP attempts to prevent debate from even starting. Continue…
By Emma Teitel - Wednesday, February 13, 2013 at 9:57 AM - 0 Comments
I heard Fran Lebowitz speak at Massey Hall last week about how much she hates strollers, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg and audiences with low standards. She blames the latter on the Oprah effect—the impulse of the modern American audience to rise in applause of anything and everything. Nowhere in history (besides, perhaps, on the Oprah Winfrey show) was this phenomenon more pervasive than last night during Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address. Except for Ted Nugent or John Boehner, the live audience was perpetually on its feet. Even Paul Ryan couldn’t resist applauding this one liner — that or he really enjoys veiled digs at his own policy proposals:
“I am open to additional reforms from both parties, so long as they don’t violate the guarantee of a secure retirement. Our government shouldn’t make promises we cannot keep – but we must keep the promises we’ve already made.”
Three more observations about the State of the Union: Continue…
By John Geddes - Monday, February 11, 2013 at 5:30 PM - 0 Comments
There are cracks in the Harper government’s claim that it has stepped up the fight against gun smugglers
As Americans debate their culture of guns with unprecedented intensity, concern in Canada about the spillover of firearms across the border might be expected to heat up too. Even before the school-shooting carnage at Newtown, Conn., which prompted U.S. President Barack Obama to propose a raft of politically contentious new gun-control measures, Canadian federal politicians regularly talked tough about the scourge of U.S. handguns turning up on Canada’s city streets. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews may have dismantled the domestic gun registry, but he has also made a point of publicly praising Canadian border officials for “vigilance in detecting and disrupting” gun smuggling. And Justice Minister Rob Nicholson declared, in the wake of a fatal shooting in Toronto last summer, “We’ve cracked down on the importation of guns into this country.”
But measurable evidence of that crackdown, or of any extra spending targeted at stopping guns from crossing the border, is hard to come by. The Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, a branch of Statistics Canada, compiled a decade’s worth of data for Maclean’s on weapons trafficking cases that made it to court. From 2001 to 2011, the latest figures available, the centre’s data show no sign of any increase in the number of illicit gun dealers hauled into court and successfully prosecuted. In 2001-02, judges handed down 56 guilty verdicts to criminals who had illegally sold weapons, mostly guns; in 2010-11, 50 were found guilty. Over the 10 years reviewed, the annual number of convictions bounced around from 40 to 57. Most years, about the same number of charges were withdrawn after being brought to court. (Of cases pursued to a final verdict, however, very few ended in acquittals.) Overall, the stats show little change in the flow of charges laid and criminals convicted since the Conservatives came to power in 2006. Continue…
By Jaime Weinman - Monday, February 4, 2013 at 6:26 PM - 0 Comments
Unravelling ‘Skeetgate,’ one Conservative accusation at a time
The whole scandal started with a simple question put to President Barack Obama, and his equally simple answer. In a wide-ranging interview, New Republic writer Franklin Foer asked Obama “Have you ever fired a gun?” and Obama said “Yes, in fact up at Camp David, we do skeet shooting all the time,” adding that he had “a profound respect for the traditions of hunting that trace back in this country for generations.” It was the President’s attempt to prove that though he’s been talking about gun control, he still can connect with regular gun-toting Joes. And while he probably didn’t expect to convince many people, he probably didn’t expect the reaction he actually got: a new mini-movement of “skeet truthers,” who dispute the idea that Obama would ever fire a gun.
In the first stage of “Skeetgate,” Obama’s claim that he skeet shoots “all the time” was immediately taken up and mocked by conservative bloggers and pundits, who argued that this was clearly a lie or at least an exaggeration. Roy Edroso, who covers the conservative blogosphere for The Village Voice, rounded up examples of how bloggers “immediately and strenuously disbelieved” the assertion. One blogger pointed to a video where Obama looked nervous at hearing a shooting gun, proof that the President is unused to the sound.
Others allowed that perhaps he’s fired a gun once or twice, but is exaggerating about the “all the time” part: Fox News went to an anonymous source who, they claimed, “has been to the retreat on a half-dozen visits with Obama,” and who said that “the only time he shot skeet was for President’s Cup,” plus maybe one other time. “He couldn’t have been more uncomfortable,” the source said, reassuring Fox viewers that Obama is an anti-gun wimp who barely knows how to hold the thing. Marsha Blackburn, a conservative Republican representative from Tennessee, told CNN that she questioned the whole premise: “‘If he is a skeet shooter, why have we not heard of this? Why have we not seen photos? Why hasn’t he referenced this at any point in time?’”
The cries of skeet fraud became loud enough that the White House staff decided to do what they did with Obama’s birth certificate, and provide the evidence: they released a photo, taken at Camp David in August of last year, of the President wearing shades and earmuffs and shooting at what, presumably, are a bunch of offscreen clay pigeons. But this photo raised more questions than it settled. Press Secretary Jay Carney was asked about the timing: “Why did the White House decide to release the skeet shooting photos three days before this trip?” a reporter queried, referring to Obama’s upcoming tour to promote his gun-control plan. Even an Obama ally, his former campaign strategist David Axelrod, lamented that Obama “should have put the picture out earlier. I don’t know why they waited five days to put that out. It just rekindled the whole story.”
Especially because the photo created a brand-new story: charges of photoshopping and other photographic fakery. Bloggers took to the intertubes to advance various theories for why the gun wasn’t real and Obama was not the second, or even the first shooter. Michael Harlin of The American Thinker, a very conservative but verbose blog, explained that “the weapon is nearly level to the ground” and that in his 50 years of shooting experience, “I have never once seen a smoke pattern like that,” adding that “it is evident that the President has never shot a shotgun before as his stance is leaning slightly backward.” Blogger Pat Dollard pointed out that Obama was reportedly golfing on the very day the photo was taken, and obviously he couldn’t possibly go golfing and shooting in the same day.
Those who didn’t smell a conspiracy at least saw the photo as a staged opportunity to fool the public into thinking Obama likes guns, when he clearly hates them and wants to pry them from your cold dead hands. The blog Five Feet of Fury summed it up: “Why is Obama shooting skeet with a rifle, why an ‘assault’ model, and why is he aiming so low (while wearing mom jeans)?” The “mom jeans” comment caught on enough to make Obama’s pants almost as much an object of mockery as the oversized gun itself.
If one offhand comment and one skeet-shooting photo can create a whole new flood of conspiracy theories and conservative memes, there’s no telling what we may be in for during the next four years. But the controversy seemed to make it clear what will happen every time Obama tries to prove he’s not so different from the people he once described as “cling[ing] to guns or religion.” It’s probably never going to work. Because as NRA spokesperson Andrew Arulanandam said to CNN, “One picture does not erase a lifetime of supporting every gun ban and every gun control scheme imaginable.” Arulanandam’s tack may be the simplest and most effective one—don’t dispute that the photo is real or that Obama shoots skeet, just say that it doesn’t matter as long as he’s coming for your guns.
By Brian Bethune - Monday, February 4, 2013 at 3:00 PM - 0 Comments
In conversation with Brian Bethune
Tom Diaz, 72, is one of the most prominent gun control advocates in the United States. A former senior policy analyst at Washington’s Violence Policy Center—which considers firearms violence to be a public health issue rather than criminal issue—Diaz wrote Making a Killing: The Business of Guns in America in 1999. It explored the links between political lobbying by the National Rifle Association (NRA) and gun manufacturers. Last year, dismayed by a decade of increasing gun violence and what he considers political indifference to it, Diaz wrote—before the Newtown, Conn., school murders—The Last Gun: How Changes in the Gun Industry are Killing Americans and What It Will Take to Stop It.
Q: You were an NRA man years ago, someone who grew up with guns and was comfortable around them. What changed your thinking?
A: I ended up on the staff of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Crime and Criminal Justice, and I was the only staffer, literally, on that committee who knew anything at all about guns, so they said, “Okay, now you’re going to do the gun legislation.” And a couple of things then snapped me out of my comfortable gun world, especially a hearing about the impact of firearms on children. I interviewed kids and it shocked me what 10-, 11-, 12-year-old kids were talking about—one had actually seen her best friend shot down in the street. And, you know, we thought it was bad then, but it was really only the beginning of the trend in the U.S. The kids’ testimony rolled me back; I thought, “This is not the gun world I grew up in. This isn’t target shooting. It’s not even hunting, it’s just killing machines.” And so, like Saul on the way to Damascus, I suddenly became a convert to gun control. Continue…
By Emma Teitel - Monday, January 28, 2013 at 12:30 PM - 0 Comments
Emma Teitel on who needs military assault weapons
In place of a Second Amendment, Canadians have collective head-scratching about why it isn’t obvious that an assault rifle doesn’t belong in the hands of an ordinary citizen. “Who needs that?” is the typical Canadian question. “Nobody,” is the typical refrain. And yet it seems that a lot of people do “need that,” or claim to. This month—in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., massacre, and which saw another school shooting, this time at Lone Star College in Houston—the National Rifle Association added more than 200,000 Obama-wary members to its four-million-plus ranks. And last weekend, Guns Across America—an online community of American gun enthusiasts—drew thousands of people in state capitals to protest President Obama’s new gun-control proposal. Obama’s inauguration this week followed a series of proposed congressional actions that would, among other things, reinstate the Clinton-era ban on assault weapons and limit legal ammunition magazines to 10 rounds. According to a new poll by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal, 41 per cent of Americans are fond of the NRA—loony Wayne LaPierre and all—meaning 41 per cent of Americans are also fond of military assault weapons. Who needs that? Apparently, they do. Continue…
By John Parisella - Thursday, January 17, 2013 at 4:29 PM - 0 Comments
Why Obama’s tougher gun laws are likely to get watered down
The parents of a murdered seven-year-old boy were interviewed by CBS journalist Seth Doane this week, one month after the Sandy Hook shooting. It was a heartbreaking interview where the father, Mark Barden, described his late son Daniel as an optimist. The mother, Jackie Barden, speaking and holding back the tears, admitted that the pain was unbearable and conceded that there was little likelihood she will feel better for some time to come.
The interview came after both parents had a conversation with Vice-President Joe Biden and they said they were hopeful that new measures restricting easy access to guns would eventually come to pass. Jackie also confided to Doane about her recent efforts to purchase a kitten. An elaborate background check and a request for a series of references led her to complain that it was “easier to buy a gun than a kitten in the U.S.” It was also easier to get a gun than to get a driver’s license, she said. Continue…
By macleans.ca - Wednesday, January 16, 2013 at 12:30 PM - 0 Comments
NRA gears up for a fight, new ad targets the president’s children
U.S. President Barack Obama has unveiled details of his proposed legislation for gun-law reform Wednesday, in the wake of the deadly shootings in Newtown, Conn. in December.
The proposal comes after a month of consultation after the December shooting, which left 28 dead, 20 of them children.
It contains three main planks:
- A ban on assault weapons
- A limit on high-capcity magazines
- Expanded background checks for the purchase of a new weapons
The legislation also includes changes to mental health services and school safety. Continue…
By David Newland - Tuesday, January 1, 2013 at 8:26 AM - 0 Comments
‘Going postal’ is the tip of the iceberg. The larger problem lies beneath the surface
‘Going postal’—committing mass murder in a public place—seems to have become a horrifying symptom of our times. The latest example, the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, has left Americans divided as to how to proceed. Recent data on mass shootings compiled and released by Mother Jones shed some new light on the issues.
The data refer to gun homicides in the U.S., during the past three decades, committed at a single time, away from home, and involving four or more victims. What’s fascinating in these numbers, grim as they are, is that they are often merely the tip of the iceberg: the larger truth lies beneath the surface.
Number of mass shootings in the United States since 1982: 62.
That’s a startling number, to be sure. But what’s truly startling is that despite their dramatic nature, mass shootings together account for “only” 1,007 deaths over 30 years. To put that in perspective, more than 11,000 Americans were killed by guns in 2009. In Chicago alone in 2012, 500 people have been killed in homicides. In the week after Sandy Hook, 100 Americans were killed by guns.
U.S. mass shootings since 1982 in which the shooter, or shooters were men: 61.
Is anyone surprised that the majority of mass shooters were male? Probably not. But that only one of the killers was female must surely be cause for serious consideration. Gun ownership among women in the U.S. as of 2005 was roughly 13 per cent; for men it was 47 per cent. Perhaps more important though, is how likely women are to be victims of gun crime. Harvard Injury Control Research Centre puts it this way: more guns = more female violent deaths.
U.S. mass shootings since 1982 involving semiautomatic or assault weapons: 58.
All but four of 62 shootings included one or more semiautomatic handguns, or one or more assault weapons, or both. There’s a widespread belief that the Second Ammendment to the U.S. Constitution, commonly known as ‘the right to bear arms’, gives carte blanche to gun owners.
Perhaps not: the Supreme Court in District of Columbia v. Heller in 2008 affirmed “The Second Amendment right is not a right to keep and carry any weapon in any manner and for any purpose.” Hence, a ban on semiautomatic and assault weapons might not be in violation of the Second Ammendment.
U.S. mass shootings since 1982 in which shooters used weapons obtained legally: 49.
This figure does not include the two semi-automatics Adam Lanza used in the Sandy Hook shootings. They’re considered to have been illegally obtained because Lanza apparently stole them from his mother—who obtained them legally, and taught him to use them. (An important fact not dealt with in the popular ‘I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother’ post by Liza Long.) In five of the 11 cases of illegally obtained guns in the Mother Jones data set, the weapons were stolen from family members.
Incidentally, in 2004, the makers of a Bushmaster assault rifle similar to the one Adam Lanza stole were sued for allowing their product to fall into the wrong hands after it was used in the Washington, D.C. shooting spree. Since then, the NRA lobbied for, and got Congress to pass a law that protects gun manufacturers from lawsuits seeking to hold them liable for gun crimes.
U.S. mass shootings since 1982 that ended as murder-suicides: 36.
This number may be even higher, because in seven instances, the shooters were ultimately killed by law enforcement officers in scenarios viewable as suicide by cop. For obvious reasons, a lot of attention is being paid to firearm homicides. But did you know firearm suicides are more common?
U.S. mass shootings since 1982 in which shooters had shown signs of mental illness: 40.
This should be the place where gun advocates, and gun control advocates can find common ground. Responsible gun dealers must want to eliminate those who are mentally ill and at risk for violence from their pool of potential customers. But that’s not always possible right now. A mere 12 states account for the vast majority of queries to the FBI database set up for the purpose. Nineteen states have submitted fewer than 100 records each to the FBI database.
One challenge in focusing on mental illness will be not stigmatizing mentally ill people. It’s been duly noted that most mentally ill people don’t commit violent crimes. But it’s also true, as one pundit put it, that “anyone who goes into a school with a semiautomatic and kills 20 children and six adults is, by definition, mentally ill”.
U.S. mass shootings that have occurred since 2006: 25.
Gun ownership is up, way up, in the U.S. since 1982, having outpaced population growth during the period reported by the survey. There are now nearly as many guns in the U.S. as people, which means there’s more than one for every adult American. At least 118 million of those are handguns, according to Mother Jones. And recent mass shootings have caused spikes in gun sales. As gun sales have gone up, so have mass shootings. Coincidence?
U.S. mass shootings since 1982 prevented or ended by armed bystanders: 0.
The NRA’s notion, that schools should be armed to prevent massacres like the one at Sandy Hook, is not borne out by the record. Mother Jones found that an armed bystander played a role in only one of the 62 mass shootings examined—by shooting the perpetrator after he had already fled the scene.
Politically, the issue of mass shootings is a highly visible, volatile one, for obvious reasons. No one wants another Sandy Hook, any more than anyone wanted another Aurora, another Virginia Tech, another Columbine. People keep “going postal,” and the horrifying results are plain to see.
But “going postal,” however common it appears, however visible its impact, remains relatively rare—mass shootings account for a tiny fraction of the deaths associated with guns in the United States today.
Put bluntly, mass shootings are not the problem. They are a symptom of the problem. The problem is as simple as the numbers; the solution is as complicated as the politics that surround it.
By Nick Taylor-Vaisey - Thursday, December 27, 2012 at 4:45 PM - 0 Comments
When The Journal News published the identities of handgun permit owners in two New York counties a few days ago, its reporters and editors must have known their handiwork would be torn apart by gun-rights advocates.
So it wasn’t at all surprising that, during an interview on CNN, National Rifle Association president David Keene called the Journal News‘ maps pinpointing pistol and revolver permit locations in Westchester and Rockland counties “unconscionable.”
“These are all upstanding citizens who’ve passed rigorous tests and owned their firearms legally,” said Keene, who warned that information published so publicly could pose a risk to public safety. ”If you’re a criminal looking for a gun, you’ve just been handed a map,” he said. “You have, in essence, a catalogue.”
By Emma Teitel - Friday, December 21, 2012 at 3:41 PM - 0 Comments
Are you a deranged young man living in the United States who fantasizes about shooting up your former school, but you’re worried that Joe Biden and his gun control “task force” will rob you of your assault rifle or subject you to endless background checks at the next gun show? Well have no fear, because there’s someone looking out for you. That’s right…
Thanks to insufficient mental health resources (chances are nobody knows just how deranged you are, or can’t afford to help you even if they do) and the new NRA-sponsored “operation school shield program” you may just get to keep your guns forever. All of them.
By Paul Wells - Friday, December 21, 2012 at 1:38 PM - 0 Comments
It’s hard to know where to begin making sense of the NRA’s news conference this morning, in which the leading U.S. gun lobby called for a massive federal program, run by President Barack Obama and his socialist hordes, to finance a constant armed state presence in every neighbourhood in America. I’d have thought conservatives would be against that sort of thing. How will your Arm-a-Care officer get to your neighbourhood school? In a black helicopter?
There is a kind of logic in Wayne Lapierre’s argument. It’s not as though the nearly half-million armed men and women who would flood America’s 98,000 public schools — here I figure two shifts of two snipers each for each school — would be the first firearms a virginal American public ever saw. To quote Lapierre:
Think about it. We care about our money, so we protect our banks with armed guards. American airports, office buildings, power plants, courthouses — even sports stadiums — are all protected by armed security.
We care about the President, so we protect him with armed Secret Service agents. Members of Congress work in offices surrounded by armed Capitol Police officers.
Yet when it comes to the most beloved, innocent and vulnerable members of the American family — our children — we as a society leave them utterly defenseless, and the monsters and predators of this world know it and exploit it. That must change now!
Lapierre’s logic would be bulletproof, so to speak, if U.S. airports, office buildings, courthouses and Presidents had a spotless record free from armed assault. Or if the correlation between armed protection and safety in any of those venues, worldwide, were clear. But, yes, since America is already armed to the teeth, fully arming the teeth does make a kind of sense, if one is in a generous mood. Continue…
By Amanda Shendruk - Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 5:42 AM - 0 Comments
It’s not surprising that talk turns to firearm legislation in the wake of such tragedies as devastating shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Calls for greater gun controls stem from a genuine belief and hope that improved laws will mean less gun violence. The sentiment is understandable: bettering firearm laws could prevent horrors like Newton, Aurora and Colombine, right? Well, don’t be so sure.
Despite what most people accept as truth, there appears to be no (or very little) significant relationship between the overall strength of gun legislation and firearm homicides.
Consider the chart below: You’ll notice no discernible correlation between gun laws and gun murders in the United States. I have graphed state gun murder rates (per 100,000 people) against the Brady Rankings (along the bottom). The Brady Rankings (released by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence) assess the strength of state gun laws using a variety of criteria. Basically, the higher the ranking, the better the state’s gun legislation. Note: This graph charts gun murders, not all gun violence.
Of course, the story is never so simple, and there may be situations where firearm laws work to combat gun murders, but current firearm legislation in the U.S. does not appear to influence gun homicide rates the way we think it should.
(For some interesting reading on the topic, check out an article published in the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, entitled “Would Banning Firearms Reduce Murder and Suicide? A Review of International and Some Domestic Evidence.”)
Yet, the question remains: What is required to decrease the number of firearm homicides and general gun violence in the United States? The answer isn’t straightforward; however, while legislation may not strongly influence the rate of gun murders, something else certainly does — poverty.
The graph below charts gun murder rates and the percentage of a state’s population living in poverty. Notice that as poverty rates increase, there is a corresponding increase in firearm homicide rates. (Colours correspond to whether the state voted Republican (red) or Democratic (blue) in their last national election).
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, December 19, 2012 at 1:23 PM - 0 Comments
The Liberal leadership candidate considers a ban on semi-automatic weapons.
The Montreal MP said Tuesday he’d look at banning semi-automatic weapons, like the military-style, .223-calibre Bushmaster used in last week’s massacre.
“There is absolutely no reason that anybody can vote to say that that kind of weapon, that can fire off great numbers of rounds like that, is necessary,” Garneau told The Canadian Press. ”That kind of weapon, to me, definitely — well, it is (already) a restricted weapon but one should look at not allowing those things.”
By The Canadian Press - Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 11:49 PM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – Just as the Bushmaster AR-15 rifle has become a grim household name…
OTTAWA – Just as the Bushmaster AR-15 rifle has become a grim household name in the U.S. after the Sandy Hook massacre, a pair of semi-automatic firearms evoke similar memories — and debate — in Canada.
In the 1989 massacre of 14 women at the Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal, Marc Lepine used a Ruger Mini-14 rifle, at the time equipped with a substantial magazine.
And in 2006, Kimveer Gill used a Beretta Cx4 Storm to shoot 72 rounds at Montreal’s Dawson College, injuring 16 and killing student Anastasia DeSousa.
Neither the Ruger Mini-14 nor the Beretta Cx4 Storm are prohibited in Canada, despite the outcry from victims and their families, the occasional political grumble, and a pointed coroner’s report in Montreal.
The Ruger Mini-14 is also not restricted, and since the death of the long-gun registry last spring does not need to be registered outside of Quebec.
On the flip side, semi-automatic rifles such as the Ruger Mini-14 are widely used by Canadian hunters and in rural areas. Semi-automatic weapons can fire off rounds in quick succession without reloading, but unlike an automatic weapon, the trigger mechanism must be re-engaged each time.
“Firearms owners would say it’s a matter of freedom. If we’re going to restrict everything that has any possibility to do us harm, then the government’s going to be pretty busy,” said Alan Voth, a firearms forensics expert and retired veteran of the RCMP.
“It’s not the gun, it’s the person. Why would we want to go around chasing our tails, trying to chase something that is not the problem?”
Semi-automatics were banned in Australia in the wake of a 1996 mass murder in Tasmania. The United Kingdom has more stringent restrictions on semi-automatics than Canada, in the wake of its own tragedies.
“Australia is a safer country as a result of what was done in 1996,” former prime minister John Howard wrote last August.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper defended Canada’s gun control system in an interview with Quebec’s TVA network broadcast Tuesday.
“First, the most important thing to remember is that Canada has a gun control system that is much more strong and strict than the Americans,” Harper said.
“We will not change the basis of this system. Actually, we have reinforced certain parts. We abandoned the long-gun registry because it was veyr costly and there we didn’t see any benefits, but we are keeping a licensing system for owners, a registration system for handguns and (restricted) firearms, and we will keep this system that works.”
But some critics say the system has not screened out what are essentially combat-style weapons.
In the case of the Ruger Mini-14, dubbed the “poor man’s assault rifle” by opponents, Lepine used 30-round magazines that are now banned in Canada. Today, the largest magazine allowed holds five rounds.
The Ruger Mini-14 was one of the weapons legally obtained and used by Anders Breivik to kill 77 in Norway last year.
Former Liberal justice minister Irwin Cotler suggested in a 2005 letter that he’d like to ban the Ruger Mini-14, but later said it was a “mistake” following opposition from Canadian gun owners.
The Canadian Association of Police Boards passed a resolution at its conference earlier this year to reclassify certain firearms, including the Mini-14, as restricted.
The Beretta CX4 Storm used in the Dawson shooting is a less powerful weapon, called a semi-automatic carbine, with a trigger that resembles one on a pistol. It is more compact than the Ruger, and the cartridge reloads behind the trigger.
Montreal coroner Jacques Ramsay said in his 2008 report on the shooting that semi-automatics such as the Storm should not be available to the public and should be prohibited outright. Gill was able to obtain one as a gun-club member.
“It’s a lighter rifle, it’s easier to manoeuvre, but it is still very precise,” Ramsay said at the time.
Former public safety minister Stockwell Day mused in the days following the Dawson College shooting about restricting firearms such as the Storm, but that did not happen. The Ottawa Citizen reported 46 new registrations for that model of gun in the month after the shooting, compared with just 16 the month before.
Heidi Rathjen, one of Canada’s foremost gun-control advocates, says she and others have not called for a ban on all semi-automatics — just some of them.
She says the federal government has not reviewed or updated its list of restricted or prohibited firearms since 1996, and many out on the market are basically assault weapons masquerading as hunting gear.
“Ban military assault weapons, ban weapons designed to kill people in combat situations for civilian use,” said Rathjen, spokesperson for Poly Se Souvient.
“They haven’t done that. In fact, they’ve gone in the opposite direction by ignoring new assault weapons coming on the market and allowing many of them to stay even unrestricted so they’re not even registered anymore outside of Quebec.”
But Voth says there really is no substantial difference between the Ruger Mini-14, and other semi-automatics that are used frequently by hunters.
Even the Bushmaster AR-15, restricted in Canada to gun club enthusiasts with tight licensing requirements, only looks more menacing than other weapons that are unrestricted, he says.
“The ability to do a lot of damage with a firearm exists even with something as archaic as the Old West double-barrelled shotgun, which is limited to two shots,” said Voth.
“It’s absolutely unbelievable how fast a skilled operator can shoot and load something like that and the number of shots they can fire in a limited amount of time. The difference between that and a semi-automatic for the purposes of mass murder is inconsequential.”
The RCMP did not respond to a series of questions about restrictions on firearms.
Harper said during the interview with TVA that he was greatly affected by what he saw on the news out of Newtown, Conn.
“It’s very sad. As a father, it’s very difficult to watch these images of children who were killed,” said Harper.
“Over the weekend, in the end, I stopped watching. It’s almost impossible to imagine how someone could do something like that to children. It’s a great tragedy, and we’re using the opportunity to remind our children of our love.”
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 12:01 PM - 0 Comments
There is pattern to these things: A deranged individual goes on a shooting spree and America mourns the loss of innocents. Some voices raise the subject of gun control; others say “this is not the time” for such discussions. And then national attention moves on. (For example, a federal assault weapons ban passed by Congress in 1994 was allowed to expire under the Bush administration.) Meanwhile, the National Rifle Association continues to raise money, lobby, and make massive campaign contributions to candidates who receive high grades on its voting report cards. The NRA spent $24 million in the last election cycle — more than 4,000 times the amount spent by the leading gun control advocacy group, according to the Sunlight Foundation.
Could this time be different? Before the attacks of September 11, 2001, there was the bombing of the USS Cole, and before that, the 1993 truck bombing of the World Trade Center. But it took the scale of the 9/11 devastation to transform the nation’s view of the terrorist threat and to respond with action. Continue…
By Emma Teitel - Friday, December 14, 2012 at 6:13 PM - 0 Comments
Twenty-seven people shot to death–20 of them children–at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut today, which means that Americans can count on one thing in the aftermath of this tragedy and it probably isn’t stricter gun laws, or in the very least, greater access to mental health care. It’s statements like these…
Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert on this summer’s Aurora, Colorado shooting:
“Well it does make me wonder, you know with all those people in the theatre, was there nobody that was carrying that could’ve stopped this guy more quickly?”
Apparently “more quickly” is the best America can hope for, nevermind altogether–which is what zero guns would accomplish. Pro-gun control blogger Baldr Odinson does an excellent job disputing the NRA’s popular vigilante argument (a survivor of a shooting himself, he knows a little more about this than, say, Ted Nugent does.)
So far, Republicans (even Nugent) have refrained from “politicizing” the Newtown tragedy, but history–very recent history–tells us that it’s only a matter of time before they do, before the if-the-victims-had-guns-they-wouldn’t-be-victims argument rears its ugly, stupid head. And that’s a good thing, because then, perhaps, president Obama will be forced to respond with more than just platitudes.
By macleans.ca - Friday, December 14, 2012 at 1:59 PM - 0 Comments
News-Times journalist Libor Jany on the horrifying scene in Newtown
By The Canadian Press - Thursday, December 6, 2012 at 3:56 PM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – Prime Minister Stephen Harper says his government is unhappy with recommendations from…
OTTAWA – Prime Minister Stephen Harper says his government is unhappy with recommendations from its firearms advisory committee that would further relax the gun laws.
Documents obtained by the Coalition for Gun Control reveal the committee advising Public Safety Minister Vic Toews wants some prohibited weapons, including hand guns and assault rifles, reclassified to make them more easily available.
It is also pushing to make firearm licences good for at least 10 years, rather than the current five — a measure opposed by police groups who say the five-year renewals are a chance to weed out unstable gun owners.
Harper is telling the House of Commons the Conservatives have no intention of weakening the categories for prohibited weapons.
And he said he’s very concerned by some of the committee’s recommendations.
His comments followed those of Conservative MP Eve Adams, who said on the anniversary of the Ecole Polytechnique massacre that there’s no connection between violence against women and changes to the gun-control laws.
By Emily Senger - Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at 7:10 AM - 0 Comments
The Pixels for Pistols program is bringing in a lot of firepower and dishing out cameras in return
Winnipeg police are trading guns for digital cameras. In a program dubbed Pixels for Pistols, anyone who turns in a working firearm to police gets a Lumix DMC-FH8 digital camera and a gift certificate for photo classes, both donated by Henry’s, a Canadian camera chain. As an added bonus, anyone who surrenders a gun during the four-week amnesty period won’t face criminal charges for possessing an unregistered firearm.
This isn’t the first gun amnesty in Canada. Under the now-defunct federal long-gun registry, gun owners were immune from criminal charges for possession of unregistered non-restricted rifles and shotguns, but the federal government certainly wasn’t handing out cameras. And the cameras seem to make a difference.
In 2008, the Toronto Police Service offered its own Pixels for Pistols program. It was deemed a success, netting 1,897 guns, 304 non-firearms (including pellet and replica guns) and 1,486 boxes of ammunition in just over a month. During that program, a surrendered gun was good for a Nikon Coolpix P60, and there was a bonus—a higher-end Nikon Coolpix S52—for a handgun, machine-gun or assault rifle. The program was repeated in Halifax in 2009, when police collected more than 1,000 weapons.
Winnipeg’s gun amnesty is off to a strong start, says Sgt. Geordie MacKenzie. By the fifth day of the month-long program, Winnipeg police had already collected 105 non-restricted firearms, seven prohibited weapons (mainly old handguns) and 5,000 rounds of ammunition. During Winnipeg’s last gun amnesty in 2010, there was no incentive involved and police collected 300 guns in a one-month period. “If, in three or four days, we’re at what took half a month last time, clearly the incentive must be what the difference is here,” says MacKenzie.
By Emma Teitel - Thursday, August 2, 2012 at 10:21 AM - 0 Comments
Gun control isn’t about fulfilling a utopian fantasy, an all-or-none sum game. It’s about harm reduction.
Politicians are experts at ambiguity. But one of those experts—President Barack Obama (remember his ever-“evolving” position on gay marriage?)—surprised us this week when he made an entirely unambiguous statement about the controversy of the day: gun control and the right to bear arms in America. In the aftermath of the horrific Aurora, Colo., movie-theatre shooting, Obama made his stance explicitly clear: Americans should continue to have the right to bear arms, he stated, but it was worth asking what kind of arms that entailed. “I think that a lot of gun owners would agree,” said Obama, “that AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not criminals—that they belong in the battlefields of war, not on the streets of our cities.” Policy steps to reflect that perspective, he continued, “shouldn’t be controversial, they should be common sense.”
Would that common sense was bipartisan: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney made his own statement about gun control this week (hint: he’s not a fan). “We can sometimes hope,” he said, “that changing a law will make all bad things go away. Well it won’t.” What can? “Changing the heart of the American people,” said Romney.
Let’s forget for a moment the fact that President Obama—a man consistently referred to as soft and weak by his opponents, offered his people a policy-driven, tough-on-crime solution to gun violence, and Mitt Romney—the man who’d like to unseat him—offered his nation what could be the tag line of the Oprah Winfrey show. And let’s look instead at Romney’s initial statement, the one about wishing laws would “make all the bad things go away,” with a particular emphasis on the word “all.” Why? Because that little word reveals one of the most glaring fallacies in the anti-gun-control argument: their apparent belief that gun-control advocates are hopeless idealists, under the impression that stricter gun legislation will eradicate gun violence forever. Of course, it won’t. What it might do, however, and what the pro-gun-control lobby actually thinks it might do, is mitigate some of that violence. Some. Not all.