Tag Archives: NRA

Another Day, Another Mass Shooting

3 Dec

The other day I was telling this kid about a dream that I have. The dream is to have access to a room with an exposed brick wall, a safety suit (including, but not limited to, safety goggles and heavy duty boots) and shelves full of different types of glass. Nothing too pretty. Bottles, mainly. Oh, and a cleaning crew on call that I would pay very handsomely.* The idea is that when I get really, really angry I can go to this room, put on my safety suit and throw glass forcefully against the wall. I imagine this would be very therapeutic. And then I would call the cleaning crew to clean up. Now, even in my dreams I am aware of the expense of having such a room, and so when I am not using the room (which would be often I hope) I would rent it out to other people. I think I would have to charge them a flat fee for the space itself but also a certain amount of money for each glass broken. Otherwise some asshole with a real rage problem could go in there, run his hand along a shelf and just knock all the glass to the floor, shattering it! And some more conscientious rage-a-holic would throw one or two glasses only more thoughtfully and end up paying the same amount. That would not be fair. And besides, it would not be a good business model to piss off people who get angry enough to hurl things against a wall and watch them shatter. I know. I am one. Anyway I told him this story and instead of getting the giggles that I anticipated (come on, it’s absurd!) I got the following question:

You get angry enough that you want to throw glass against the wall?

I was quiet for a second because, yea, I totally do.  But also,

Yea. You don’t? Do you read the news?

And that brings us here. To today. The day after yet another massacre in the United States, this time at the Inland Regional Center, a state-run facility for individuals with developmental disabilities. Many of us might, with disgust, realize that this is the second such massacre this week, the first one being in Colorado at a Planned Parenthood clinic. That, however, is incorrect. According to the New York Times, on average there is more than one mass shooting every single day.

On average there is more than one mass shooting every day in America.

So far this year, 462 people have died and 1,314 people have been wounded in attacks like the two that were publicized this week alone, attacks that oftentimes take place on streets and in public gathering places and universities. If we look at the number of deaths used by congressional researchers to categorize these events – 4 or more dead – the number of mass shootings does go down. But of course, the killing in Colorado would be left out of that measure because Robert Dear only managed to murder three people. Even without those shootings with less fatalities, the numbers are still harrowing. According to two databases that track all shootings with 4 or more fatalities — shootingtracker.com and gunviolencearchive.org, both unofficial — there have been 354 such shootings in 220 cities in 47 different states since January. According to the Times article,

“In November, six people were killed, five of them shot to death at a campsite in East Texas; 17 were wounded in a shootout as a crowd watched the filming of a music video in New Orleans; and four died, including twin five-month-olds, in an episode of domestic violence in Jacksonville, Fla. So far this week, five people were wounded Sunday morning in a shooting in Kankakee, Ill., and a shooting Wednesday, before the San Bernardino attack, left one woman dead and three men wounded in Savannah, Ga.”

Get ready for it though: it actually gets worse. According to Ted Alcorn who is the research director for Everytown for Gun Safety, a non-profit that advocates for gun control, we have a much bigger problem. It is, he acknowledges, a horrible tragedy that 14 people were killed in one day in California,

“But likely 88 other people died today from gun violence in the United States.”

Alcorn’s organization has studied shootings occurring between 2009 and mid-2015 that left four or more people dead and found certain patterns.

“In only 11 percent of cases did medical, school or legal authorities note signs of mental illness in the gunmen before the attack… Domestic violence figured strongly: In 57 percent of the cases, the victims included a current or former intimate partner or family member of the attacker. Half of all victims were women. More than two-thirds of the shootings took place in private residences; about 28 percent occurred in public spaces… More than 60 percent of the attackers were not prohibited from possessing guns because of prior felonies or other reasons.”

Looking at that information, this whole thing got a hell of a lot scarier. These mass shootings that are covered extensively by the news, are fucking horrifying and exhausting. But that isn’t even the half of it. If we treated domestic violence with the same disbelief that we react with every time there is one of these seemingly random shootings on a street corner somewhere — no, scratch that, if we acknowledged domestic violence as a huge problem at all — it would probably be hard to even leave the house. Just like date rape and intimate partner rape is not treated with the same seriousness as stranger rape, murder at the hands of an intimate partner or family member is not categorized as a public health crisis, or a violence problem, or as symptomatic of the patriarchy but as a private issue. That the victims are mostly women only makes that case stronger. But that’s not the point. A shooting is a shooting is a shooting, a murder is a murder is a murder. Which brings us to something interesting. Something we should perhaps remind those around us, mostly conservative, who pitch a fit every time we think about increasing gun control measures.

Your hero, the man you herald as the Conservative of all Conservatives, was a supporter of gun control. That’s right. The one and only Ronald Reagan, in an op-ed for the New York Times in 1991, said,

“Every year, an average of 9,200 Americans are murdered by handguns. This level of violence must be stopped.”

This, of course, was because Ronald Reagan, along with his press secretary Jim Brady, Washington police officer Thomas Delahanty and Secret Service agent Tim McCarthy, was the victim of a shooting. Reagan was convinced that this event — a mentally unstable young man opening fire with a .22 calibre that he obtained at a pawn shop — never would have happened had the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act (AKA the Brady Bill), named for Jim Brady, been law back in 1981 when the shooting occurred. The Brady Bill, signed into law by Bill Clinton on November 30, 1993, mandated federal background checks on gun purchasers in the United States and imposed a 5-day waiting period on purchases until the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) was started in 1998.

Obviously, the Brady Bill and NICS falls extremely short of actually limiting access of fire arms to people just in general. The proof, unfortunately, is in the pudding. And it doesn’t help that the National Rifle Association is run by money grubbing nutjobs who somehow manage to convince people they are fighting for the Second Amendment when in reality they are a lobby run by extremists who block safety measures in order to continue to line their own pockets with all the blood money that rockets in their direction. (It is worth noting, by the way, that the NRA was not always so fucking insane. It supported the first major federal gun law back in 1934 and backed the 1968 Gun Control Act. Oh, how far they’ve fallen.) But like, the fuck? When does it end? When do we take the power back? When do we say enough is enough? And when did Ronald Reagan seem like the only reasonable Republican out there?

So, yea, I am mad enough I could throw shit. Often. The question is: why aren’t you? And what the fuck are we going to do about it?

*This word is spelled so weird! It goes from hansom to handsomely! Two extra letters. Both silent!

Individualism and Abortion and Gun Rights, oh my!

4 Jan

Did you guys read this article in the New York Times from yesterday (January 3, 2014)?  It’s about abortion restrictions.  It’s basically like an abortion restriction round-up from the last two years AKA all the articles that made me and my friends REALLY mad (plus Wendy Davis!)* smashed up together into a two-page summary.  So, yea, if you need to be reminded of all the shitty things that happened in terms of women’s access to abortions, then read the article.  I mean, I know there is nothing I like better than reading about that shit first thing on a Saturday morning.  Anyway, I just have a few little things to say about it.

Just to get this one thing out of the way: it makes me so fucking angry.  I wish there was a way for me to record myself saying those words because there is an intonation that I think is incredibly important to really getting the message across.  You must seethe when you say it.

As one does, I have been thinking quite a lot about individualism.  I think this country has gone absolute bat-shit crazy about individualism.  God forbid you mention the idea of relying on others and you’re a communitarian, or, as some would say, a socialist (although the two words actually mean different things).  Personally, I wear the badge of communitarianism happily and proudly.  I like it because it doesn’t completely dismiss the importance of the individual, but it says that traits held by individuals are largely formed by the community that surrounds them.  So like, I wouldn’t be me if I hadn’t grown up where I grew up and around the people whom I grew up around.  I think this is a belief that is held by most people if you ask them (as long as you stay far from words like ‘socialist’ and ‘collectivist’).  When you step up to the policy and governmental level, however, getting anywhere close to the idea of communitarianism is hugely problematic.  Remember the whole “you didn’t build that” fiasco with Obama and Romney during the 2012 campaign?  I think that Obama’s sentiment, that the business built by someone is reliant upon the foundation laid before them, is pretty much communitarianism.  It isn’t dismissing the importance of the individual’s contribution to society.  Instead, it emphasizes the fact that the opportunity to build the business wouldn’t have presented itself had the infrastructure — be that physical, political, or cultural — not been previously created.  We are all connected to what came before us and what comes after.  Basically, we don’t all start from scratch.  If we did we would just be running around and around on a defective hamster wheel, getting nowhere and seriously in need of WD-40.

This is all connected, I promise.  Just bear with me.  So we have, on the national stage, this ridiculous idea of the individual that is connected to the American Dream which, if you ask me, no longer really exists.  That unquestioned devotion to the boot-strappers mentality is part of the poison that has leached throughout our entire national conscience.  It’s like a fantasy to think that we live in a society in which someone can come and make something out of nothing.  And you know what?  Sometimes the fantasy is borne out.  But that story is becoming more and more rare.  Economic mobility in the United States is less likely than it was in previous generations.  According to a chart created by Miles Corak, professor of economics at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs in Ottawa, among “developed” nations, the United States has the highest level of inequality and one of the lowest earnings elasticity (or the lowest intergenerational mobility).  And yet we still cling to this idea of individual opportunity, that we all have a chance to better our lot, without paying any attention to the role played by opportunity.  Our parent’s wealth, our geographic location, the color of our skin, the levels of education attained by those before us, our debt loads.  These things all matter.  We do not each exist in some weird vacuum, unaffected by what came before and yet capable of achieving our wildest dreams if only we work hard for them.  Other things, things beyond our control, matter also.

So, now here we go.  Now this is where it all starts coming together.  We have this idea that we love, as a nation, of individualism and opportunity, except for when it comes to social issues and then we think, or at least some of us think, that what happens inside the body or home of our neighbors is our business.  Many of those same people who got mad at Obama for suggesting that infrastructure mattered to the success of the Republican candidate also think it is their moral responsibility to regulate what a woman decides to do with her own body, with her own pregnancy.  Many, though not all, of them are also the same people who cling crazily to their guns.  Not even literally, in some cases, but what the guns represent.  This idea of the rights of the individual and the need that each person has to protect him or herself from the government because the government, in all its lumbering bureaucracy, is coming for them.  Seriously, people, if we couldn’t manage gun control after Newtown, and if we couldn’t all laugh Wayne LaPierre off the stage for his suggestion that “the best way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” AKA lets arm guards at all school to protect the kids (with no real attempt to explain who in the world would pay for it) then the guns are safe.  But that’s not even the point.  Here’s the point.

I see a serious disconnect, as many people do, between gun rights and abortion rights.  I know that maybe this is like comparing apples and oranges, but it seems to me that a lot of the states that are protecting their guns and limiting women’s access to abortions are, well, the same damn states.  So let’s take one second here.  I read this article in the New York Times a few months ago about this face-off in Dallas between a group of three women associated with the gun control group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America having lunch and talking about stricter gun control and a large group of men and women, members of Open Carry Texas, standing outside the restaurant strapped with shotguns, hunting rifles, AR-15s and AK-47s.  The Open Carry people had no intention of hurting the women physically, what they did want to do was intimidate them.  Which they did because there were roughly 24 of them with long-guns strapped to their backs.  I don’t know anyone who would willingly, and without fear, walk out of a lunch meeting and then through a large, intimidating group like that.  Both groups, it can be argued, were exercising their various rights, but only one group had the ability to kill members of the other.  This is where individualism, I think, should be curtailed.  When your individual choice has the potentiality of impacting the individual choice of another person.  My ability to choose to have an abortion in no way impacts another person’s right to choose not to, but someone else’s decision to carry a gun could potentially end my life.

I know, I know, people are going to say that I am choosing to end the life of whatever is growing inside my body. Honestly, I am more concerned with myself, or with other women, than I am with a ball of cells.  Maybe that is heartless but it’s true.  I am more concerned with the life that is as opposed to the life that may be.  I guess all of this is to say that I am confused.  Why are your guns okay but my morals are not?  Why can you build an empire without any consideration of those who paved the way for you because you are an individual and therefore the only unit of import, and yet you can regulate what I do within my own womb?  Why are you as an individual more important than me?  And how does my decision to end a pregnancy impact your life in any way?  The answer:  it doesn’t.  You don’t get to have your cake and eat it too.  You want to argue individualism and rights?  Fine.  But be consistent.  Don’t be so arrogant as to think you know what is better for half the population.  And while I am at it, if you are going to try and regulate abortion access, why do it across class lines?  The result of the way the “right to life” people have approached this issue is to make access more difficult for those women living in rural areas, for those with full time jobs, for those with limited money and transportation opportunities.  Jennifer Dalven of the ACLU said, “Increasingly, access to abortion depends on where you live.  That’s what it was like pre-Roe.”  I would argue that it also depends on what you have, or don’t have.

Listen, if people are going to argue that the American Dream is still around, that we all have the ability to achieve whatever it is that we want, stop erecting roadblocks for women, and specifically for poor women, and more specifically for poor women of color.  Either that or just come out and say it:  you want a country in which only people that look like you can achieve the American Dream because, from where I sit, that is exactly where we’re headed.

*Did anyone else stay up really late during Davis’ filibuster in the Texas Senate?  Seriously, having live feeds of Senate buildings is genius.  Also, I cried.  Just in case you were wondering.  I was so impressed by her and her colleagues, so speechless by the tens of thousands of people watching and so excited to be Twitter communicating with other people who were watching it I really just couldn’t even stand it.  Who knew government could be so engaging?

I Think the NRA is Missing Something with this “National Model School Shield Program” Thing

2 Apr

On December 14, 2012 I walked into the laundry mat near my house and was faced with the same gruesome news report that people all over the country, the world even, were greeted with: the deaths of 20 first graders and 6 educators at the hands of a 20-year-old man suffering from a mental disorder who then, as is the norm it seems, killed himself.  And all this after he had put a bullet in his mother’s head. It was horrific.  It was one of those days that really just makes you wonder what is wrong people that they are capable of such atrocities.  It makes you question the idea of ever having children if having them means they will to enter a world in which this sort of event happens.  It was heartbreaking and nauseating and continues to be so today, 3 1/2 months after the event itself.  It also spurred those words that I have begun to hate so much for their lack of meaning:  never again.  It’s almost like that’s the thing politicians have to say to make the public believe they are actually going to aggressively go after an issue, and the comment they can reflect back on when they try to convince themselves and the country that their completely impotent, sorry excuses for policies that in reality do absolutely nothing were worth the months of useless, partisan conversation we had to endure.  And so here we are again.

I honestly am at a loss today.  I have reflected back on Newtown and the idea that maybe we need to consider the state of our mental health infrastructure and the way in which we have been raising our boys here.  And then I talked a little bit about gun control legislation here.  And so now today I am going to do what I should have done months ago when Wayne LaPierre made a statement regarding Newtown following a week of complete and total silence from the NRA. (Silence which, by the way, he claimed was out of respect for the victims and their families but really, I would venture to make a guess, has more to do with benefiting the NRA than anything else.) For those of you who aren’t masochistic and didn’t listen to the entire press conference the day it was given, and for those of you who can’t, or won’t read the complete transcript I linked above, I will give you a series of small quotes from which you can glean the basic gist:

“How do we protect our children right now, starting today, in a way that we know works?… 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…The only way to stop a monster from killing our kids is to be personally involved and invested in a plan of absolute protection. The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun…. With all the foreign aid, with all the money in the federal budget, we can’t afford to put a police officer in every school?… I call on Congress today to act immediately, to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every school — and to do it now, to make sure that blanket of safety is in place when our children return to school in January.”

Okay.  So, we all laughed and we all thought he was crazy, but in the back of our minds we were thinking, well, I was thinking anyway, what if this idea gets some traction?  What if people actually think this is reasonable?  And, surprise!  Today the New York Times published an article entitled “Under Heavy Security, N.R.A Details School Guards Plan.”  This plan is a 225-page document full of proposals to improve school security, including the suggestion by LaPierre —  who, by the way, was not present at the press conference — to have security stationed at schools.  At this conference, for “safety,” was a bomb-sniffing yellow lab and a dozen officers in both plain clothes and uniform, one of which admonished photographers to “remain stationary” until the press conference was over.  (Sounds to me like a little paranoia if I’m being completely honest.)  Is this what they want for our schools? Is this what they want for our students?  For our children?  I think that even in the effort to theoretically make our children more safe, the presence of all of this fire power and all of this assumption of danger makes for a slightly scarier, more sinister learning environment.

But let’s just say that we say, yes!  Let’s put guns in the schools!  But then we would have to ask the smart Mr. LaPierre where all that money would come from.  It’s true, the US does spend a considerable amount of money, about $50 billion annually, on foreign aid.  And guess what countries receive the lion’s share of aid.  Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, Mexico and Columbia.  Thinking about what we have put those countries through in the last decade or so with our preemptive actions and our wars on drugs, we owe them a few billion easy.  And all the money in the federal budget? I’m pretty sure we’re actually in a situation where we have to decrease our budget by something like $1.6 trillion.  In order to do that do you know what’s getting cut?  Are we significantly going to cut our defense budget?  Are we going to raise taxes considerably on the richest Americans?  Are we going to deal with the expensive and unfair add-ons to so many bills that make their ways through congress?  I’d venture a guess and say no.  What we are going to do is cut down on social spending.  We’re going to pull money out of welfare, infrastructure, Medicare and Medicaid, the US Postal Service and, you guessed it, education.  So then what are we supposed to do?  Not buy new books, cut teacher’s salaries, get rid of free busing?  Or are we going to put it on the school district itself to decide whether and how to employ these security guards at schools?  And if we do that, what happens is that the wealthiest neighborhoods that, normally, don’t experience violence on a regular basis are going to have security guards and schools in neighborhoods in places like Chicago’s south side,* districts that lose students to shootings every single year, will likely go without.  So if we do go ahead and support this plan, which I personally think is an insultingly obvious play by the NRA to increase its own power and revenue, what we will end up with is a ridiculously classist and racist band-aid response to an issue that really should have spurred an assault weapons ban, a limit on magazine size, a discussion about mental health in this country, an understanding of how our gendered approach to, well, everything is incredibly damaging to both men and women and how our capitalist system has resulted in an incredibly individualistic culture that just exacerbates all the problems I just listed.

Or we can just take the easy way out and do absolutely nothing of any significance, like usual.  Never again my ass.

*Probably some schools in this neighborhood actually do have security given the recent history of gun violence in the area but a very brief search on the topic yielded no definitive information.  The point is that if the onus of responsibility for providing armed security lies on the schools, then many schools with less available funds will opt not to provide it.  For those that do, it necessarily means that the money has to come from somewhere else.  Schools in inner city areas, ie schools in areas with lower property values and therefore lower taxes, tend to have lots more students and much less funding than public schools like the one I went to in New Jersey, and so if they do opt for security the money that they do allocate for that purpose has a bigger impact because there was no extra money to begin with.  So access to money for, well, teaching significantly decreases.