Month: March 2013

The latest in gun control

What we need is big time gun control
There’s a hitch in the passage of gun control laws in the Senate with Republicans objecting to the Democrats who want some record keeping when it comes to passing a law to require background checks.  The Guardian reports that Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) wants private sales made at gun shows and through the internet, not only to be put through the FBI-maintained National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), but they also want such sales to be recorded.”  The GOP (and the NRA) says no.

The National Rifle Assn. (NRA) led by head gun fanatic Wayne LaPierre, has always been against any kind of registry of names on who owns guns fearing that once that is in place, the government will come into gun owning homes and take away their weapons.  “There absolutely will not be record-keeping on legitimate, law-abiding gun owners,” Sen. Tom Coburn, a Republican, said.  This kind of thinking should illustrate to the American public just what a group of gun worshipping maniacs LaPierre and his NRA minions are.

And Chris Matthews, progressive anchor for MSNBC’s Hardball, said: “Support Gun Control or an American President Could Be Murdered,” in a closing commentary in a show last week.  It is worth repeating, below:

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this: I was in a big city hospital recently and the issue of gun control, gun safety came up. The doctor said if I wanted to know the impact of guns, he could show me, take me down and show me. Look, gunshot wounds can be truly horrible. The reality justifies the discussion, today, about the need to try and do something about the proliferation of assault rifles, huge ammo magazines and the loopholes in the requirement that there be background checks. People have told us of the horrible sight of those young kids up in Newtown, Connecticut. I personally don’t want to be part of a movement to keep those semi-automatics flying into the hands of all sorts of people as they are today, the hoarders, the survivalists, the paranoid, the criminal and downright politically nutty.

Why? Because the next mass shooter could well emerge out of this pack. Check the shooters of John F. Kennedy and Jerry Ford, who got shot at twice. Look at the men that shot Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King and Malcolm X and George Wallace. They all had political motives and they all had guns. Got them easy and put them easily to use. And if you’re not against this movement, you’re with it. Write your congressman and say what you think and what you feel. Do it tonight before you go to bed. The address of Congress, for all the congressmen is Congress, U.S. Congress, Washington, D.C., 20515. That’s Washington, D.C. 20515. It will get there. And that’s Hardball for now. Thanks for being with us.

Well done!

Did you know that the United States, specifically Waikiki, Hawaii, is a haven for tourists who just want to shoot guns, all kinds of guns, because the gun laws in this country allow you to do pretty much anything you want with a firearm?  There are four shooting ranges along Waikiki’s Kalakaua Avenue where they learn how to shoot assault weapons.  A large majority of these tourists are Japanese, who are frequent visitors to Hawaii anyway, here because they can get their hands on guns they are not allowed to own in Japan.  There, only shotguns are legal.

USA Today says that, “…fewer than 1% of Japan’s population owns a gun and the death rate from gun-related violence is extremely low.”  There were only 19 gun-related homicides in Japan in 2010 and in comparing that with gun violence in the U.S., “47% of Americans own a gun, according to a 2011 Gallup poll, and 8,583 Americans were killed in gun-related homicides, according to the FBI’s 2011 crime report.”  It is pretty pathetic to think that tourists coming to America do it because of loose gun laws, which causes the gun carnage in the U.S.

But on a final note, at one of this country’s largest firearms manufacturers, Beretta USA, one of its lunatic executives, Jeffrey Reh, the company’s general counsel, is quoted in The Washington Free Beacon as saying, “Maryland Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley’s Firearm Safety Act of 2013 is ‘tantamount to a legislative effort to ban certain books.’”  Just when you think you’ve heard it all.  Wacky Wayne would be proud of this sycophant of the gun rights fruitcakes who probably, himself, has never read a book outside the law.  Amen

Gene said…Bob said…White House wins this one

Gene Sperling
Gene Sperling is President Obama’s economic adviser and Bob Woodward is an award winning journalist who works for the Washington Post and along with Carl Bernstein exposed the Watergate conspiracy.  There are sufficient credentials on either side of this supposed “disagreement,” and frankly, from what I have read, the whole thing was blown completely out of proportion.  I believe even Woodward made this comment, which was echoed by White House spokesman, Jay Carney.

In an exclusive, Politicoobtained and released the following emails between Sperling and Woodward:

From Gene Sperling to Bob Woodward on Feb. 22, 2013

Bob:

I apologize for raising my voice in our conversation today. My bad. I do understand your problems with a couple of our statements in the fall — but feel on the other hand that you focus on a few specific trees that gives a very wrong perception of the forest. But perhaps we will just not see eye to eye here.

But I do truly believe you should rethink your comment about saying that Potus asking for revenues is moving the goal post. I know you may not believe this, but as a friend, I think you will regret staking out that claim. The idea that the sequester was to force both sides to go back to try at a big or grand bargain with a mix of entitlements and revenues (even if there were serious disagreements on composition) was part of the DNA of the thing from the start. It was an accepted part of the understanding — from the start. Really. It was assumed by the Rs on the Supercommittee that came right after: it was assumed in the November-December 2012 negotiations. There may have been big disagreements over rates and ratios — but that it was supposed to be replaced by entitlements and revenues of some form is not controversial. (Indeed, the discretionary savings amount from the Boehner-Obama negotiations were locked in in BCA: the sequester was just designed to force all back to table on entitlements and revenues.)

I agree there are more than one side to our first disagreement, but again think this latter issue is different. Not out to argue and argue on this latter point. Just my sincere advice. Your call obviously.

My apologies again for raising my voice on the call with you. Feel bad about that and truly apologize.

Gene

From Woodward to Sperling on Feb. 23, 2013

 
Gene: You do not ever have to apologize to me. You get wound up because you are making your points and you believe them. This is all part of a serious discussion. I for one welcome a little heat; there should more given the importance. I also welcome your personal advice. I am listening. I know you lived all this. My partial advantage is that I talked extensively with all involved. I am traveling and will try to reach you after 3 pm today. Best, Bob
 

From there on it’s ‘he said,’ ‘he said’ with Woodward commenting at one point, “I never characterized it as a ‘threat.’ I think that was Politico’s word.”  But Woodward at least implied that the “I think you will regret staking out that claim,” was a veiled threat and of course at that point it went viral.  It wouldn’t mean diddly squat had it been said by some lesser known journalist than Bob Woodward, especially with his connections to Washington and insight into Beltway politics.  It must have been a slow news day.

But the New Yorker had a different slant.  John Cassidy said, “The real rap on Woodward isn’t that he makes things up. It’s that he takes what powerful people tell him at face value; that his accounts are shaped by who coöperates with him and who doesn’t; and that they lack context, critical awareness, and, ultimately, historic meaning.”  Further, Joan Didion wrote:

“’…that “measurable cerebral activity is virtually absent’” from Woodward’s post-Watergate books, which are notable mainly for “a scrupulous passivity, an agreement to cover the story not as it is occurring but as it is presented, which is to say as it is manufactured.”

Cassidy states that in one of Woodward’s books about the Bush admin. he says that, “…President Obama bungled negotiations with congressional Republicans, and portrays him as overconfident, underprepared, and confrontational.”  Yet Ryan Lizza in a piece about Eric Cantor said, “…the House Republican virtually admits it was he who torpedoed the debt-ceiling negotiations.”  Cassidy confirms that Obama “was clear all along that, when it came to replacing the sequester, it would demand a balanced package of spending cuts and revenue increases.”


Cassidy added that Sperling’s history is a matter of record with “little to apologize for.”  But Woodward’s background is basically untarnished in a business that requires near-perfection in what you are doing.  Let’s just call it a draw and move on.

United Kingdom has right to criticize U.S. gun control laws

As far as I can see, gun control is going almost nowhere, at least with the momentum that has been created by the increased gun violence nationwide.  Perhaps we have concentrated too much on mass killings like Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.  Although this kind of carnage is horrific, it still represents but a small amount of the gun deaths that take place daily.  Apparently statistics like ‘there are some 300 million guns in American households’ or ‘88.8 per 100 households’ does not impress the public.  Hard to believe but true.

Or the fact that in a comparison of the rate of private gun ownership in 179 countries, the United States ranked No. 1, and with 10.3 gun deaths per 100,000 population they are much higher than the United Kingdom, Australia, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Spain, Sweden and the list goes on and on.  Could the fact that most of these countries have measurably stronger gun control laws than the United States have something to do with the results?  ‘Absolutely not’ would be the answer from wacky Wayne LaPierre, head of the NRA.

These are figures taken from GunPolicy.org, a non-profit organization reporting on international firearm injury prevention and policy.  If you have any doubts about my numbers I suggest you go to this site and do your own research.  If you come away without the opinion that America’s gun culture is completely out of control, then you are either a gun worshipper, completely apathetic over the issue, or you have a terrible problem with math.  The truth is in the statistics and in every case there is a monumental case for more gun control laws in the U.S.

Harry J. Enten writing in the UK Guardian says, “Americans want gun control, but not badly enough.”  His point one, “Most Americans don’t see gun control as the most significant way to prevent mass shootings.”  Once again, mass gun violence, but it is obvious that Enten has zeroed in on where the American focus is.  He quotes, “only 25% of Americans believe that stricter gun control laws and enforcement would be the key to preventing massacres.“  Further, CBS News found, only 21% feel stricter gun control would prevent gun violence by much.

In point two, he laments that the subject of guns just isn’t a high priority for most Americans.  A tragedy when you consider the daily reporting of people shot and killed with guns, others injured, some seriously.  In the latest CBS News poll, only 4% listed guns at the top of their list.  50% chose the economy, jobs or the budget deficit.  It will be interesting in the future to learn what the impact of continued and escalating gun violence will have on the country’s economy and its overall well-being.  If as bad as it looks, then it will be too late.

 
Point three, most in the U.S. doesn’t feel gun control legislation is a priority in 2013, only 46% according to Pew Research.  With all the shootings and mayhem nationwide connected to guns on the street, the American public says, mañana.  Go figure.  And in point four, the public’s obsession with gun violence will eventually dwindle, meaning, if we don’t do this in 2013, we’ll never do it.  And as my headline indicated, the UK can criticize the United States because they have done what we cannot seem to accomplish due to the gun lobby.  Gun laws in the UK:

They have a gun registry

Firearms are restricted

Right to gun ownership not guaranteed by law

Assault weapons are banned

Handguns are banned

Background checks required

Number of guns and amount of ammunition owned is restricted

As a result of the above regulations, below are comparisons between the United States and the United Kingdom in gun violence:

                                                                                                US                   UK

All gun deaths per 100,000 population                                   10.3                 0.25

Gun homicides per 100,000 pop.                                            3.6                   0.04

Handgun homicides per 100,000 pop.                                    2.0                   0.01

Gun suicides per 100,000 pop.                                               6.3                   0.18

I rest my case.

Concealed carry firearms not protected by 2nd Amendment…says Denver federal appeals court

What is more important right now?  Whether we ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines, make universal background checks the law, eliminate straw purchases, concentrate on improving investigations into and sharing of mental health data, create a registry of firearms or other gun control legislation being proposed, there is an even more pressing problem to be reckoned with.  It is what do we do with about 8 million cowboys and cowgirls walking around American streets with either a concealed weapon or one in a holster at their side?

I did a post in 2011 that questioned whether or not these people should be allowed to openly take their weapons all around town, even the whole country, if the National Rifle Assn. (NRA) has its way.  In Arizona, with the country’s loosest gun laws, they can even take a gun into a bar, and the state might soon be arming teachers in schools.  Right now I am fine with having a firearm at home for protection but that is where it should stay.  Many of these carriers have no real weapons training and I don’t want them protecting me anyway.  Leave the gun at home.

When I wrote the earlier post, the U.S. House had OKed a bill to allow concealed guns to cross state lines.  That means someone from Arizona, where all you basically need to buy a gun is a warm body, this person could carry his or her weapon into states like California, New York and Illinois where they have much tougher gun laws.  Thankfully this legislative idiocy has been tabled for the time being but always in the back of the minds of the gun nuts.  But there is other news for changing the concealed carry laws in the future that might involve the Supreme Court.

Although one year old, The Young Turks attack concealed carry laws:

Forbes did a recent piece with concern over the fact that new verdicts from Federal Appeals courts could be harmful to the gun industry.  “In Denver, the court decided that concealed-carry firearms aren’t protected by the Second Amendment,” the magazine reported.  In opposition, “…in Chicago, the court reached a different decision. It declined to reconsider a ruling that found that state’s ban on concealed carry unconstitutional.”  And in a New York federal appeals court, the fact that concealed carry applicants must prove “proper cause” to carry was upheld.

Two out of three sounds like momentum for gun control advocates and although this issue isn’t on the White House’s agenda, there are many who feel reevaluating this right, along with state laws re. self-defense use of guns when challenged is ripe for the picking.  The question that is never asked in polls on gun violence is: “Do you favor banning concealed weapons for anyone but law enforcement and authorized users?”  As an example, in a reaction to teachers carrying guns, the New Yorker found the idea “confounding.” 

Concealed carry weapons including small, compact pistols and revolvers produce big money for gun manufacturers.  And women have become a prime market for these firearms in one of the industry’s fastest growing segments.  Some even come with pink grips.  So companies like Sturm, Ruger and Smith & Wesson aren’t likely to give in to curtailment of the concealed carry laws without a fight, no doubt led by wacky Wayne LaPierre and his NRA gun worshippers.  Of course those cowboys and cowgirls will certainly have their say in the matter.

Forbes predicts these contradictory appeal decisions (above) would make it more likely that the Supreme Court would have to settle the matter.  Two earlier SCOTUS cases come to mind immediately.  In 2008 the “District of Columbia v. Heller, upheld many 19th century prohibitions on concealed weapons, but also acknowledged that the Second Amendment protects a right to own guns.”  Then in 2010, “McDonald v. Chicago, established that state and local laws should also recognize the right to own firearms.”  But the Supremes also put a fly in the ointment.

McDonald v. Chicago stated that there is a right for gun owners to have a weapon in their home for protection, which leaves open the premise that the high Court just might place restraints on the concealed carry law.  It is possible that eventually concealed carry permits may be available in all states.  To give you an idea of the popularity, the 8 million concealed carriers are almost twice the NRA membership which is 4.5 million.  It would be interesting to know what percent of these faux vigilantes are trained.  Regardless, I want them all off the streets. 

Congress…and the President now…are losing the American public’s trust

With two-thirds of the public disapproving of the way Congress is handling the federal spending issue and only 26% on their side, you might think the blame lies squarely on the backs of the congressional leaders whose overall ratings are even worse.  Not so.  52% disapprove of the way President Obama has managed the issue but with 43% that do approve.  The latter is a lot better than Congress but David Gergen says right now this country is “leaderless.”  That is frightening when you consider the major issues facing the United States today.

Other than the lately infamous term, “Sequester,” also on the table is gun control legislation, immigration reform and taking the leadership on improving the environment.  This country cannot remain as a world leader without tackling and solving all four of these problems.  The typical Washington charade recently that is supposed to be governing is considered farcical by many throughout the free world.  In another poll, “…Americans are divided over whether Obama is emphasizing unifying the country or taking a partisan approach.”  That’s not good.

CNN Polling Director Keating Holland commented, “It looks like this could turn into a “lose-lose” scenario for both sides, although the Republicans appear to have more to lose than Obama.”  But the President’s advantage has been diminishing over the last two months, according to CNN’s Political Editor, Paul Steinhauser.  DavidGergen on CNN was much blunter: “In times past, a president has usually risen to the demands of leadership when a Congress has stubbornly resisted tough choices…”  Gergen added:

“That’s what Lyndon Johnson did in persuading key Republicans to help pass the civil rights bills of 1964 and 1965. And that’s what Bill Clinton did in working with a Republican House led by Newt Gingrich. People forget how hostile House Republicans were to Clinton — hell, they impeached him — but he nonetheless worked with them to pass four straight balanced budgets and an overhaul of welfare.”

Excellent definition of sequester by The Young Turks:
 

It seems to me that it all boils down to the art of negotiation, which I emphasized in a recent post.  Sam Rayburn was a master, as was Lyndon Johnson, both from Texas.  Bill Clinton had this knack and even Barack Obama has exhibited moments of proclivity in bringing the two sides together as he did in passing the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare.  Negotiation is defined simply as a “mutual discussion and arrangement of the terms of a transaction or agreement.”   It means that both sides must give a little and take a little.  Is that so hard?

Well, apparently it is, because David Gergen says that both Congress and the White House are neglecting their responsibilities of bringing this country together.  And if there is no real leadership on either side, the USS America is basically sailing without a rudder.  Gergen continues, “One of the foremost duties of Congress is to pass a budget: It has failed for four straight years. Republicans, especially in the House, have continually refused to meet the White House halfway.”  My question is whether House Speaker John Boehner is still in control.

Americans have now become apathetic about the sequester with only 18% of the U.S. who say they understand “very well” what happens when it goes into effect.  I am frankly not sure whether or not enough of those in Congress and the White House honestly know the outcome following today’s deadline.  The fact of the matter is that some feel the President should have more power on deciding where the cuts should be made and Barbara Mikulski, D-MD, and Jim Inhofe, R-OK, are working on a bill right now to address that issue.


Whatever happens today, this Congress, and partially Barack Obama, will have to shoulder the blame for the fact that the greatest nation in the free world could not bring together its two main political factions in an agreement to keep its democratic government functioning normally.  Just the idea of the bickering that has been going on for the last 12 years is enough to turn your stomach.  But the idea of putting ideology before your country is unforgivable.  Enough is enough.