Browsing the archives for the firearms category.

Free Speech and the Barrel of a Gun


Dahlia Lithwick and Christian Turner write about the meatheads armed citizens who met outside a Moms Demand Action meeting to bully mothers for a photo op.

Apparently such “demonstrations” are becoming more common. The gun-toters believe they are doing a public service by educating people.

But according to OCT [Open Carry Texas], they are neither intentionally nor knowingly attempting to cause alarm. They argue that intimidation is not a problem because “we are very clear that our objective is to educate, not alarm. In other words, we are only KNOWINGLY and INTENTIONALLY engaging in conduct meant to raise awareness and educate.” In their view, what they are doing is pure speech. If bystanders opt to be alarmed by it, well, that’s their problem. As OCT says on its website, its main purpose is to communicate. They seek only to “educate Texans about their right to openly carry rifles and shotguns in a safe manner” and to “condition Texans to feel safe around law-abiding citizens that choose to carry them.” It’s like Schoolhouse Rock for the Charlton Heston contingent….

…Gun-toting protestors of course claim that their speech is not about preparedness to kill but about changing that cultural reading: to show that good guys (and their children!) carry guns; that seeing a gun does not mean that someone is about to be shot; that you too can carry a gun in this way; that it’s your inalienable right to do so! The problem is that carrying a gun only says all these things if it also says that the carrier is prepared to kill someone. What open carriers hope to normalize, then, what they hope we all come to accept, is that having instant access to the means to kill is not a scary thing.

To which we say: Good luck with that.


Open Carry Texas sent MDA an email that read, “People are ‘getting used’ to seeing and being around guns and police have come to accept it and don’t even question us anymore. What we are doing is working and society is coming to view the sight of ‘military style rifles’ in public as just another normal thing. Isn’t that a good thing?”

OK, so my question is, on what planet would that be a “good thing”? And more important: What does the world look like from inside the head of someone who actually thinks living where everyone is walking around armed to the teeth is a “good thing”?


Because Stupid, That’s Why


According to this news story, the alleged Navy Yard shooter began the shooting with a shotgun purchased in Lorton, Virginia, “during the past week or so.” After beginning the shooting spree he seized two more weapons, a 9mm pistol and an AR-15 assault rifle, from victims.

According to the NRA, purchasing a shotgun in Virginia is way easy. No kind of permit or license is required.

No state permit is required to otherwise purchase or possess a rifle, shotgun or handgun. Virginia residents may purchase firearms from any licensed Federal Firearms Licensee, even if they are out of state. A criminal history record information check is required prior to purchasing any firearm, except for an antique or its replica. A fee of $2.00 will be collected for such a check. For non-residents it is $5.00.

I point this out because the usual cognitively challenged commenters are saying that DC has very restrictive guns laws already. So, obviously, gun control doesn’t work! When guns are criminal, only criminals have guns! Guns don’t kill people, people kill people! How many must die in gun-free zones before we learn?

Wait, what?

Yes, I’m learning from several right-wing sites that the Navy Yard was a gun-free zone, and everyone there was disarmed. Except, apparently, for whoever had the 9mm pistol and the AR-15 assault rifle.

I did some checking — military posts are not “gun-free zones.” Apparently there is a Clinton-era regulation saying that on military installations firearms can be carried on post only by “authorized” personnel, meaning security and law enforcement, but also anyone the base commander decides is authorized. So, apparently, some military installations are relatively lax about allowing non-security personnel to carry guns (see discussion at “The Firing Line”) and others are not. What the rules were at the Navy Yard I do not know. But the important point is that the regulations allow installation commanders considerable discretion regarding carrying of firearms. If some of them set pretty tight rules, they probably have good reason to do so. Like, experience dealing with a high concentration of testosterone-addled young men.

But in right-wing mythology, all military posts have been completely disarmed, and all the firearms are kept under lock and key and no one can use them, or something.

My other observation is that it ought to be obvious even to an imbecile that strict gun-control laws in DC will be compromised as long as any yahoo with money to burn can easily and legally purchase firearms in Virginia. Virginia is the chief supplier of firearms in New York City as well, I understand. But I’ve had this conversation with the, um, second amendment enthusiasts in the past, and they absolutely refuse to see this. There’s no point trying to reason with any of them about it.


The State of Crazy

firearms, Health Care, Obama Administration, Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

Recently several state governments have been outdoing themselves to prove they are buggier than an ant farm. Now my state-of-origin, Missouri, has upped the crazy ante and made some moves that could shove it ahead of even Texas, Florida, and the Carolinas for the honor of leading the Barking Moonbat Parade.

First, the legislature passed a bill nullifying all federal gun law, and even making it a crime for a federal agent to enforce federal gun law. A Missouri citizen could sue a federal agent who arrested him for violation of federal law.

The Democratic governor, Jay Nixon, vetoed the law last month. But the legislature is expected to override the veto when it meets in September.

In the House, all but one of the 109 Republicans voted for the bill, joined by 11 Democrats. In the Senate, all 24 Republicans supported it, along with 2 Democrats. Overriding the governor’s veto would require 23 votes in the Senate and 109 in the House, where at least one Democrat would have to come on board. …

… What distinguishes the Missouri gun measure from the marijuana initiatives is its attempt to actually block federal enforcement by setting criminal penalties for federal agents, and prohibiting state officials from cooperating with federal efforts. That crosses the constitutional line, said Robert A. Levy, chairman of the libertarian Cato Institute’s board of directors — a state cannot frustrate the federal government’s attempts to enforce its laws.

Seems to me what Missouri is doing borders on sedition. And yeah, the New York Times seriously did attempt a “both sides do it too” move by bringing up state marijuana laws.

Gary Marbut, a gun rights advocate in Montana who wrote the Firearms Freedom Act, said that such laws were “a vehicle to challenge commerce clause power,” the constitutional provision that has historically granted broad authority to Washington to regulate activities that have an impact on interstate commerce. His measure has served as a model that is spreading to other states. Recently, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit struck down Montana’s law, calling it “pre-empted and invalid.”

If firearms, which easily move across state borders all the time and are even sold on the bleeping Internet, do not fall under the Commerce Clause, nothing does.

And what about the supremacy clause that says federal law is the supreme law of the land?

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.

The Tenth Amendment Center finds an out in the words “in pursuance thereof.” Legal experts say that “in pursuance thereof” means that U.S. law is supreme if the law falls within the federal government’s constitutionally enumerated powers. But the Tenth Amendment Center argues, in effect, that states can interpret the U.S. Constitution any way they like. Taken to logical extremes, this means states may respect federal law only when they’re in the mood to do so.

And, anyway, state representative Doug Funderburk says that what Missouri is doing isn’t nullification at all.

“What the bill does is positions Missouri to have standing to protect all Missourians, should the federal government decide to go down the course of people who literally just want to take your guns away,” he said in an interview. “It does nothing to intervene with reasonable regulations.”

But if the bill does nullify all federal gun law, and makes it criminal for federal agents to arrest anybody, this suggests to me that they think no federal regulation is reasonable.

Charles Pierce:

When we talk about modern conservatism’s being the province of reckless vandalism, this is what we’re talking about. Nullification has been tried several times in the country’s history. (During the nullification crisis that marked his presidency, Andrew Jackson called an aging Mr. Madison out of retirement to knock it down.) It always ends badly. The Supremacy Clause is as much a part of the Constitution as the Second Amendment. This is not government by principle. This is government by don’t-give-a-fk.

But there’s more. Missouri also is trying to nullify Obamacare. John Perr writes,

An estimated 877,000 people in Missouri are currently uninsured. But despite Gov. Nixon’s best effort, Republican legislators block the expansion of Medicaid, leaving 267,000 in Missouri stuck in the “coverage gap.” All told, some 5.5 million people in GOP-dominated states, McClatchy explained, will find themselves trapped in “a bureaucratic twilight zone where people with poverty-level incomes don’t qualify for Medicaid and can’t get tax credits to help buy coverage on the new insurance marketplaces.”

But in Missouri, things will be even worse. Republicans there didn’t just refuse to accept billions in federal Medicaid dollars or set up their own state health care exchange. They are actively undermining any outreach or customer service for Show Me State residents seeking information about or help enrolling in new insurance plans made possible by the Affordable Care Act.

The barriers to health insurance erected by Republicans are staggering in their size and scope. Last year, the Washington Post reported, “voters approved a ballot initiative barring state and local government officials from helping to implement the law.” Along with Arizona, Alabama, Oklahoma, Texas and Wyoming, Missouri is refusing to enforce the ACA’s new insurance reforms and prohibitions, such as refusing to cover those with pre-existing conditions, using “rescission” to drop coverage for those who become sick, discriminating against women and setting annual or lifetime benefits caps. And while Colorado, California, Oregon and other blue states are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to fund thousands of customer service “navigators,” in Missouri “local officials have been barred from doing anything to help put the law into place.”

Maybe the feds should stop worrying about Syria and pay attention to Jefferson City instead.


A Data Base Is a Data Base


My dad was an intelligent, honest, sober, hard-working man who loved his family fiercely. I want to make that clear, because in the cosmic father lottery I think I got lucky.

Dad’s biggest weakness was for conspiracy theories. Once on a trip across several states (he wouldn’t fly, but that’s another story) at every gas station he would loudly tell the attendant that this newfangled unleaded gas thing was part of a communist plot to gum up all of our car engines. My mother and I would cower in the car and pretend we were with somebody else.

I inherited my love for a good argument from him. He and I had epic arguments. I remember — this must have been fifty years ago, give or take — arguing with him that all firearms should be registered. And his response was that if all guns were registered, then when the communists took over (you may see a pattern here) they would know where to go to confiscate everyone’s guns. So I said they don’t need the government for that; they can take over the NRA headquarters and find the membership list. (Score!)

I thought of Dad this morning when I saw this article — How The NRA Built A Massive Secret Database Of Gun Owners.

… the sort of vast, secret database the NRA often warns of already exists, despite having been assembled largely without the knowledge or consent of gun owners. It is housed in the Virginia offices of the NRA itself. The country’s largest privately held database of current, former, and prospective gun owners is one of the powerful lobby’s secret weapons, expanding its influence well beyond its estimated 3 million members and bolstering its political supremacy.

That database has been built through years of acquiring gun permit registration lists from state and county offices, gathering names of new owners from the thousands of gun-safety classes taught by NRA-certified instructors and by buying lists of attendees of gun shows, subscribers to gun magazines and more, BuzzFeed has learned….

…The NRA won’t say how many names and what other personal information is in its database, but former NRA lobbyist Richard Feldman estimates they keep tabs on “tens of millions of people.”

So, if you are a gun owner, the NRA is watching you. And when the UN Agenda 21 infiltrators take over America, they can go straight to the NRA headquarters and know where to find you.

The article says gun owners are unlikely to care, because the data base isn’t in the hands of the government. But how do they know the NSA hasn’t hacked it already? Hmmmmmmm?

For that matter, how do we know the NRA isn’t a communist plot? Makes as much sense as anything else these days …


This Is Not What Freedom Looks Like

firearms, Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

Via Charles Pierce — A small town Pennsylvania police chief made a video threatening “libtards” that went viral. The video got him a 30-day suspension from his job, but many people in the community wanted him gone permanently.

However, Kessler became a hero to gun rights activists. At a public hearing a week ago, gun guys from several states showed up in force to support the sheriff. Things got a bit hairy.

Many in the gun-toting crowd, which seemed to out-number the considerable media and the sparse towns folk, seemed to agree. Some bearing arms said they were there to protect Kessler, who has claimed to have received multiple death threats in wake of the Internet firestorm. Some said they were providing “security” for the meeting.

When it came time to open the small borough building for the public meeting, these armed men blocked the doors and prevented people from going inside. The mayor hand-selected members of the media who were granted access. Gilberton residents were admitted first.

It’s a pro-gun crowd that goes on about United Nations code No. 7277, which Zangaro said declares international law intended to restrict and register weapons.

Signs in the flag-waving crowd read, “Impeach Obama, Mark Kessler for President” and “Legalize the Constitution.”

No police were present at the meeting.

And while Kessler enjoyed his share of support from those who hail his Second Amendment leadership and vigorous video defense, the chief had detractors among some residents brave enough to speak out.

“He was way across the line,” said Wade Greg Necker, who lives just outside the 700-resident borough. “He’s a nut. I do not feel safe with him around at all.”

“He should have been fired,” added life-long Gilberton resident Pete Kostingo, addressing the borough council. “He used the position, and he abused the position.

Another citizen, speaking at the meeting, called for the county district attorney to investigate Kessler and his actions.

Another, Gregory Grove, said his wife lives in fear of the chief. “She’s afraid of him,” he told council. “Kessler is a detriment to this borough.”

Michael Morrill, with Keystone Progress, delivered a petition bearing 20,000 signatures calling for Kessler’s firing….

But Morrill said the group purposefully declined to mobilize its own set of protesters, fearing an altercation with the gun-carrying crowd. As it was, Morrill was shouted down, including by someone with a bullhorn.

This is not what freedom looks like. Charles Pierce wrote,

The Republican party, a number of timid Democrats, and the conservative “movement” have played footsie with dangerous woodland characters for far too long. This stuff can be used, but it cannot be fully controlled. This is not political debate. This is empowered, enabled paranoia, with firearms. This is not an exercise in democracy. This is a little touch of Munich, 1923 come to the forested exurbs. This stuff can be used, but it cannot be fully controlled, and something very bad is going to happen.

And Pierce is not the sort to evoke Godwin’s Law lightly. Anyway, it was at this hearing that Kessler got his 30-day suspension, and later he complained he’d been the victim of a “kangaroo court.”

But dude — sounds like the kangaroos were on your side. And they were armed.

The most recent wrinkle is that residents of the community have started a “We the People” White House petition to send National Guard to protect them from Kessler and his “fans.” I believe it would be more correct to petition the governor of Pennsylvania, who commands the Guard within his state. But the governor is a Republican, so he won’t respond.

Also, a solicitor for the town wants Kessler to account for all the weapons his department has bought and sold over the years. Apparently the rifles he fired in his videos belonged to the town, not to him. Officials may suspect Kessler has been using department firearms as his own personal arsenal. Kessler responded through his lawyer that if the town fires him, he will sue.


Fear Itself

firearms, Obama Administration

In spite of a recent uptick in violent crime rates in urban areas, around the country rates of violent crime have been dropping for several years. In 2011 it had reached all-time lows

Murders are at the lowest point in 40 years. Violent crime, according to the FBI, includes murder, rape, robbery and assault. …The peak of violent crime and property crime came in the early ’90s. The 2011 report represents a 30.6 drop in property crime since 1991, and a 38 percent drop in violent crime since 1992.

(And before anyone suggests this is because of “concealed carry” laws, note that similar drops have been going on i other countries without concealed carry laws.)

Why, then, have so many people become so fearful that they cannot leave their homes without a firearm? Charles Blow writes,

Gun sales have surged. And our laws are quickly being adjusted to allow people to carry those guns everywhere they go and to give legal cover to use lethal force when nonlethal options are available.

This is our America in a most frightful time.

When Illinois — which has experienced extraordinary carnage in its largest city — enacted legislation this month allowing the concealed carrying of firearms, it lost its place as the lone holdout. Now “concealed carry” is the law in all 50 states.

And as The Wall Street Journal reported this month, “concealed carry” permit applications are also surging while restrictions are being loosened. Do we really need to have our guns with us in church, or at the bar? More states are answering that question in the affirmative.

And now that more people are walking around with weapons dangling from their bodies, states have moved to make the use of those guns more justifiable.

And, of course, the answer is twofold. The firearm industry is ginning up fear to push gun sales, and right-wing politicians and gun-rights groups are ginning up fear because it raises money.


Two Questions


So I stop keeping track of the news for a couple of days, and now Syria and Egypt Israel [sorry, shouldn't blog before coffee] are trying to get into a war with each other. When will people learn to behave when I’m not keeping an eye on them?

Elsewhere, I see that some genius affiliated with the NRA is advising parents to store their home defense arsenal in their childrens’ rooms. The reason for this is that parents will naturally run their when gangs of Bad People break into their homes to murder them. What could possibly go wrong?


Can’t Get More Wrong


Here’s another heartbreaking story about children shooting children; in this case, a five-year-old shot and killed his two-year-old sister. What makes this case particularly horrible is that the gun belonged to the five-year-old.

Yes, there are people in this world so demented they would give a .22 caliber firearm to a five-year-old.

No, wait, that’s not quite right. The story says the boy got the rifle as a present last year, meaning he may have been four at the time.

Cumberland County Coroner Gary White identified the girl as Caroline Starks.

He said the children’s mother was at home when the shooting occurred, and the gun was a gift the boy received last year.

“It’s a Crickett,” he said. “It’s a little rifle for a kid. …The little boy’s used to shooting the little gun.”

White said the gun was kept in a corner, and the family did not realize a shell had been left in it.

He said the shooting will be ruled accidental.

“Just one of those crazy accidents,” White said.

Yeah, just one of those crazy accidents. I mean, what responsible adult would have thought to not allow a five-year-old own a gun?

in other gun news, last week the Republican senators from Oklahoma, Inhofe and Lucas, introduced a bill that

… would ban federal agencies, excluding the Pentagon, from buying more ammunition during a six-month period if it currently possesses more than its monthly averages during the Bush administration.

The conspiracy theory that incubated the bill is that the Obama administration is trying to buy up bullets so ordinary Americans have less access to them in the marketplace.

As the news story says, even the NRA isn’t buying that one.


Guns in the News


Joe Nocera has a new Gun Report up, and it begins this way –

Every day, when Jennifer Mascia and I compile this report, we are stunned at the number of children who are accidentally shot — and often killed — because a gun-owning adult in their household has put a loaded gun someplace where they can get their hands on it and shoot it. We have three such examples in today’s report, one of which resulted in the death of a 4-year-old in Houston. Other nations mandate that gun owners keep their firearms in safes bolted to the floor. Why don’t we?

And the answer is that Gun Absolutists fight such restrictions tooth and nail. I have had this conversation in online forums, many times — I’ll begin by saying that anyone who keeps a loaded gun where a child could reach it is a fool. This will be followed by X number of Gun Absolutists saying that if they followed recommended protocol — unloaded gun and ammunition separated and both locked up — then they won’t have access to their guns fast enough when Bad People break through the door to kill them. And they have a right to protect their families.

They also assure me that their kids have been/will be taught not to mess with Daddy’s firearms, so there’s no problem. This tells me the writer either has no children, or else his wife is doing all the child-raising. Either way, he seems to have no real-world experience raising children, because even the “best” child will do things they know they are not supposed to do. And very small children (like a four-year-old) are often not mentally organized enough to grasp (or long remember) what they are being told.

The father of the four-year-old was arrested, btw, but not because his carelessness caused the death of his child. He was arrested for possessing a stolen gun.

Elsewhere, men standing in line outside a gun shop in Lubbock, Texas, got into a disagreement as to who was where, and one of them pulled a gun and threatened to shoot. The men were in line to buy ammunition, waiting for the store to open.

Shiplord Kirel comments:

These lines form outside every large ammo retailer when word spreads that the store has received a new shipment. The panic-crazed mob then cleans out the newly arrived inventory in a matter of minutes. My brother says he has seen the same thing in Colorado Springs and guns have been drawn there, too.

They’re going to obtain the means to defend themselves or die trying, I guess.

Also, there are updates on the status of George Zimmerman; see Mark Follman at Mother Jones and Judd Legum at Think Progress.


Stuff to Read

firearms, Health Care

It’s a long article, and I haven’t finished it yet, but do read “Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us” by Stephen Brill in Time. In short, the reason medical stuff costs so much is that a large part of the Health Care Industry is getting away with outrageously high profit margins and is bleeding the economy dry.

Recchi’s bill and six others examined line by line for this article offer a closeup window into what happens when powerless buyers — whether they are people like Recchi or big health-insurance companies — meet sellers in what is the ultimate seller’s market.

The result is a uniquely American gold rush for those who provide everything from wonder drugs to canes to high-tech implants to CT scans to hospital bill-coding and collection services. In hundreds of small and midsize cities across the country — from Stamford, Conn., to Marlton, N.J., to Oklahoma City — the American health care market has transformed tax-exempt “nonprofit” hospitals into the towns’ most profitable businesses and largest employers, often presided over by the regions’ most richly compensated executives. And in our largest cities, the system offers lavish paychecks even to midlevel hospital managers, like the 14 administrators at New York City’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center who are paid over $500,000 a year, including six who make over $1 million.

Of course, the answer to this problem is to let the Holy Free Market (blessed be It) reign unfettered. (/snark)

Elsewhere — lawmakers in several states want to make gun owners buy liability insurance. And “Governors Fall Away in G.O.P. Opposition to More Medicaid.”

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