Tag Archives: gun control

No Wonder Elected Officials are So Uninterested in Addressing Easy Access to Guns

It’s easy not to worry about the dangers posed by virtually unfettered access to guns when you live and work in a cocoon.

Visit the Capitol in Washington, D.C. or your own state’s capital or even your city or town hall and you’ll find those places crawling with police. Even so, you’ll usually have to pass through a metal detector to get into those buildings because cops aren’t enough for our elected officials: they want even more protection than that. Go into almost any public building these days, in fact, and you may have to pass through a metal detector – and if the alarm goes off, some oversized guy who can barely spell “gun” if you spot him the “g-u” will try to manhandle you to find out why you made his machine go beep-beep-beep.

Yes, public officials spend a lot of money keeping themselves safe, but what about the rest of us? What are they doing for us? On a proportional basis, federal financial support for law enforcement at the state level is down and state financial support for law enforcement at the local level is down. Spending to protect state and federal legislators? That’s up.

So if they’re not willing to spend the money, which is only because they don’t believe we’re worth it, why can’t they at least make it harder for the bad guys, and especially the crazy bad guys, to get guns?

Because our own elected officials don’t identify with the problem, that’s why. Despite all the mass shootings, they still don’t understand what all the fuss is about.

If they have a security problem where they work, they just ramp up the cop count. When congressman Steve Scalise was shot last year during a congressional softball game, the damage would have been greater if the participants hadn’t been accompanied by their own, special security detail – and once the ones who weren’t shot got back to the Capitol, there was already additional security staff there to protect them.

Wouldn’t it be nice if YOU could get that level of service from your elected officials?

The Curmudgeon has been thinking about this aspect of the gun issue for years but was inspired to write when he opened his newspaper earlier this week and read about a member of Pennsylvania’s state legislature who dated a fellow state legislator until that relationship went south a few years ago. The guy, it turns out, is violent and threatening and is known to carry a gun and intimidate people with it. When the woman went to court and got a restraining order because he apparently harassed, stalked, and menaced her, her colleagues in the legislature made it clear that they were going to go to any lengths necessary to protect her.

The Curmudgeon has no problem with an appropriate response to such a dangerous situation – but why don’t the rest of us get that kind of support when we’re endangered by crazy people with firearms? Why does this particular woman rate such special attention and special protection just because she happens to be an elected official?

In the long run, seeing one of their own threatened by an angry guy who’s known to carry a gun and known to threaten people with it isn’t going to persuade legislators that they need to do something – anything – about guns. In their minds, they’ve seen a problem and they’ve addressed it. Why should they do anything more, anything bigger, when they can simply abuse their power and provide special, expensive protection for their own, whether it’s a colleague, a friend, a family member, or an influential supporter?

And the rest of us? What about people who don’t have a personal relationship with a public official who can do things for them – things like protect them from someone with a gun and a grudge?

No, we’re on our own. Every time elected officials insist that guns aren’t the problem but that bad people with guns are the problem, they’re telling us that we’re on our own because they’re not willing to do anything to attempt to identify and help bad people and they’re not willing to do anything to prevent bad people from getting guns.

Every time they tell us they won’t lift a finger to make it harder for crazy people to get guns, they’re telling us we’re on our own.

Every time they tell us there’s no money for police, they’re telling us we’re on our own.

Every time they tell us there’s no money for cops in schools, they’re telling us we’re on our own.

What a lot of them are really telling us is that the best thing to do when we’re on our own is to go ahead and arm ourselves and fight fire with fire – hence, all this nonsense about arming school teachers. (The Curmudgeonly Sister: “Can you imagine ME on one of my bad days with my second-graders and a gun?”) After all, that’s what public officials do when they get extra security every time they feel threatened. Also, at least in Pennsylvania, state legislators are permitted to bring their own guns into the capital to protect themselves. Oh, technically it’s against the rules, but a number of them are known to do it and legislative leaders refuse to talk about it, so you know they’re doing it and doing it with the blessing of their leaders.

Including the guy a fellow legislator needed to seek protection from through a court order.

But do they give the same right to other people who work in that building? To the people who work for the people who carry the guns? To the building maintenance people? To the folks who work in the cafeteria?

Can YOU bring a gun to work if you feel threatened in some way?

Of course you can’t. But they get to make the rules and they get to give themselves a level of protection that they begrudge us.

No, they’ll take care of their own and we’ll just have to suck it up and figure out a way to take care of our own, too – because when it comes to such matters, our government just doesn’t care, doesn’t care because it doesn’t feel our pain, doesn’t feel the sense of personal jeopardy and peril we feel because they’ve granted themselves the resources – our resources, by the way – to deal with any such problems they might personally face. Empathy means a lot, and when it comes to the threat posed by guns, there’s nary a shred of empathy in legislative bodies because the people there live in protected cocoons.

Take away their own security, though, remove the metal detectors and the protected parking, the extra police, and the personal, armed guard escorts to parking lots after dark, let them feel as vulnerable as the rest of us, and maybe then – maybe then – they’ll take seriously the idea of changing gun laws to protect people. That will only happen, though, when they see themselves as “the people,” too – and clearly, they don’t right now. Let’s see them experience the same vulnerability that the rest of us now feel. Until then, though, their focus is on helping themselves and when it comes to the cost of doing so, the sky’s the limit.

And we all know what will happen until this changes.

Parkland will happen again.

Orlando will happen again.

Las Vegas will happen again.

Sandy Hook will happen again.

Columbine will happen again.

Those who have the power to do something about it won’t, because they can’t be bothered, because they don’t think it’s a real problem.

And those of us who don’t have the power will just have to cross our fingers and hope we don’t end up in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Because we’re sure not going to get any help from the people we elected to help us.


Shooting at Members of Congress

Republican members of Congress and their staff were on the receiving end of a hail of bullets yesterday morning while playing baseball in a park in Virginia.

The same Republican members of Congress who resist every even modest attempt to limit easy, unfettered access to guns.

In response to this shooting, members of Congress are receiving extra police protection both in and around Washington, D.C. and in their home districts.

That’s great for them, but…

What about the rest of us?  What additional protection from omnipresent guns do WE get?

U.S. Gun Deaths

gunWhile not an advocate of totally banning guns, The Curmudgeon has been pretty clear about his belief that something needs to be done about how easy they are to get and how easy it is for the bad guys get them.

So now he’d like to turn the floor over to another writer: Aaron Sorkin, through his West Wing character Toby Ziegler.

See what he/they have to say here.

Background Checks for Gun Purchases

Extremists misinterpret the constitution and insist that even background checks prior to gun purchases violate individuals’ second amendment right to bear arms. That right, us non-extremists know, is not absolute, just as we know that our first amendment right to freedom of speech comes with limits.

Struggling to justify their insistence that background checks not be permitted, they sometimes suggest that such checks don’t make a difference.

They’re wrong.

gunsConsider this, from a New Yorker magazine article:

In 2007, Missouri eliminated a decades-old system under which every handgun buyer had to obtain a permit and undergo a background check. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that the firearm-homicide rate increased by thirty-four per cent in the first year after the repeal and remained significantly higher than it had been, while the rate of homicides committed with other weapons did not change. Studies of this type don’t prove direct cause and effect, but this one is powerfully suggestive. The researchers controlled for other potential explanations, including changes in policing levels and incarceration rates, and the sharp increase was unique to the region and out of keeping with crime trends nationally. The firearm-suicide rate rose, too. Meanwhile, according to a study published last year in The American Journal of Public Health, a 1995 Connecticut law that did more or less the opposite—enacting the kind of permit system that Missouri dropped—was associated with a forty-per-cent reduction in firearm-homicide rates.

Background checks DO make a difference, and that’s why every state should require background checks for EVERY gun purchase – and that includes guns sold at gun shows, which have been scooting around background check laws in many states for years.

It’s a win-win solution: we keep guns out of the hands of people we really, really don’t want to have them and individuals’ right to own handguns is respected after appropriate investigation. It’s a fair, albeit only partial solution to the terrible problem of people who shouldn’t have access to guns doing terrible things with them.

If Not Now, When?

Across the country, people – okay, let’s be more specific, conservative people – are protesting the politicization of last week’s act of domestic terrorism at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado.

The Tea Party did it.

Fox News did it.

Various conservative web sites did it.

The publisher of the Roseburg (Oregon) Beacon went so far as to declare that President Obama isn’t welcome in his town because he’s politicizing the shooting.

And Ben Carson, a doctor who lacked the courage of his convictions to state simply on national television that childhood vaccinations are safe and a good thing, had the audacity to criticize President Obama for politicizing the shooting.

To all these criticisms The Curmudgeon simply offers this:

“Yeah, so?”

If not now, when? If a man opening fire on a Planned Parenthood clinic, killing three and wounding nine others, doesn’t make this an appropriate time to launch a discussion about the easy availability of guns then when, please tell us, is a more appropriate time?

When it happens again?

And again?

And again?

How many times must it happen before some people will concede that it’s finally an appropriate time to talk about it?

And in this particular situation, wasn’t this politicization of the gun issue the direct – direct – result of the politicization of the fabricated controversy surrounding Planned Parenthood?

You know, Planned Parenthood: the organization that hasn’t done anything illegal?

The organization that helps women obtain a service that many oppose on understandable moral grounds but that is nonetheless entirely legal in this country?

The organization that has been attacked based on skillfully edited and misleading videotapes that, even at their worst, don’t even remotely suggest anything approaching illegality or wrongdoing?

And hasn’t the emergence of this matter as a major political issue constituted the politicization of women’s access to health care, including access to a service that, while many oppose it on understandable moral grounds, is nonetheless entirely legal in this country?

And wasn’t this shooting also the result of the politicization of the Planned Parenthood issue in states that have threatened to prohibit Planned Parenthood from providing any Medicaid-covered services – states like Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, and Ohio?

Abortion is legal in this country as the result of a series of political processes over the years and as a result of judicial actions that are the product of political processes. Those who disagree with what those political processes and judicial actions have produced have every right to seek to reverse them. To do so, they must politicize the issue – as they have been doing for many, many years. This is their right.

Possessing a gun is legal in this country as the result of political processes over the years and as a result of judicial actions that are the product of those political processes. Those who disagree with what those political processes and judicial actions have produced have every right to seek to reverse them. To do so, they must politicize the issue – as they have been doing for many, many years. This is their right, too.

So it is certainly within the rights of those appalled by yet another mass shooting in this country to point to yet another mass shooting as further proof that something must be done to curtails easy access to guns. That is part of the political and governmental processes in this country.

And no one – no one – has the right to tell them that now, or any time, isn’t the right time to attempt to address this or any other issue.

In this particular situation, moreover, there’s no better time, and no more appropriate time, to call this to the attention of our fellow citizens than when one of those fellow citizens picks up a gun, regardless of the reason, and decides that he’s going to shoot and kill people and when we are still grieving over the senselessness of this unconscionably violent act.

Politicize the recent events in Colorado Springs?

Damn right.

If not now, then when?

How many times do we have to go through this before it becomes the right time to talk about it and consider doing something about it?


Guns Don’t Kill; People Kill

Some interesting facts and figures about Americans and their guns, courtesy of Mother Jones magazine.

Think life is safer in states like yours where it’s easier to get a gun?  Think again:  the gun murder rate is 114 percent higher in states with the highest gun ownership rates.  In other words, the more guns, the more gun murders.  Seems logical, doesn’t it?

Disturbed by aggressive driving?  You shouldn’t be disturbed – you should be scared.  Drivers who carry guns are 44 percent more likely to flip you the bird and 77 percent more likely to follow you aggressively.

Nothing like a Smith & Wesson in the glove compartment to give a guy a little courage.

But the National Rifle Association helps address problems like these through extensive training of gun owners – something it’s long claimed to be one of its most important missions.  Well, if the NRA is so good at what it does and so dedicated to training gun owners to be responsible, how come 43 percent of homes with guns and kids have at least one unlocked gun?

Looks like the NRA needs some remedial gun education itself.

The NRA also points to video games as a cause of gun violence.  If that’s true, how come the Japanese spend more per capita on video games than Americans ($55 to $44) and there were 11,030 gun murders in the U.S. in 2008 and only eleven – that’s ten plus one – in Japan that year?

That’s all fine and good but you’ve got a gun and you know, absolutely, that having it makes you safer.  The thing is, what you think you know and the facts aren’t necessarily related; in fact, it turns out they’re not even kissin’ cousins.  A study in Philadelphia, for example, found that if you’re an assault victim carrying a gun, you’re four to five times more likely to get yourself shot and more than four times more likely to get yourself shot and killed than if you were unarmed.

So much for your gun protecting you.

But ladies, surely you’re safe if the man in your life has a gun, right?  Actually, that would be wrong:  you’re six times more likely to be shot by that same gun-totin’ husband, boyfriend, or ex than you are by a total stranger.

With friends like these, who needs enemies?

The NRA spends a lot of time and a lot of money telling us – and telling us and telling us and telling us – how things should be, so maybe it just ran out of energy when it came to giving us the complete picture:  like how 74 percent of gun owners support background checks for all gun buyers; like how 67 percent support background checks for ammunition buyers; like how 55 percent support a ban on high-capacity clips; like how 45 percent support a ban on assault weapons; and like how 30 percent take a dim view of the NRA.

And finally, for you gun owners out there who are worried about the government coming to take your guns – you know, the latest NRA/Fox News-fueled craze – worry not:  you’ve got the government seriously, seriously outgunned.   The government – including all four branches of the military and all police departments – has about four million guns; youse guys – you god-fearing, flag-waving, gun-toting, second amendment-defending civilians – have 310 million.

Yeah, guns’ll keep you safe.

Or maybe not.

Reverse Gun Control

In the wake of the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, gun control is on the minds of a lot of people these days.  The Curmudgeon is a bit ambivalent:  he thinks that other than police officers and legitimate, licensed hunters, no one has any reason to own or possess a gun under any circumstances.  While not exactly a constitutional scholar, The Curmudgeon’s reading of the constitution is that it guarantees the right to bear arms for citizens who are members of a government-endorsed militia.

Seen any government militias lately?

Still, The Curmudgeon recognizes that if you make it impossible to buy guns through legal means, the bad guys will still find a way to get them and then it will be the armed bad guys versus the unarmed good guys.  It’s not a problem that lends itself to easy solutions.

But the real gun nuts are not giving the issue nearly as much thought – or perhaps we should say not nearly as much intelligent thought.

The Curmudgeon says this because into the fray rides Pennsylvania state representative Jeff Pyle, who clearly is in the “put guns in the hands of everyone” camp with his new proposal to establish one day every year on which Pennsylvanians not only can buy guns but also can buy them without paying any sales tax.

In other words, make it easier, not harder, for people to get guns.

According to the online publication PA Independent,

Pyle said his legislation could be a way for Pennsylvania to get their attention as a “Second Amendment-friendly” state.  “I’m throwing a flare into the air and telling them we’re open for business,” Pyle said.

Wonderful.  It’s not bad enough that Pennsylvania has its own gun nuts.  Now, Rep. Pyle wants to invite other gun nuts to the state – to throw his flare into the air, whatever that means.

That’s Representative Jeff Pyle of Armstrong County, Pennsylvania – you know, the “Pennsyl-tucky” part of the state.

Seems more like Gomer Pyle to The Curmudgeon.