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This is what Australia thinks about Americans and Guns

This is what Australia thinks about Americans and Guns

Comedian Jim Jefferies riffs on Americans and how they love their guns, via Vox:

You have guns because you like guns! That’s why you go to gun conventions; that’s why you read gun magazines! None of you give a shit about home security. None of you go to home security conventions. None of you read Padlock Monthly. None of you have a Facebook picture of you behind a secure door.

Supreme Court actions suggest limits to concealed-carry permits constitutional.

Supreme Court actions suggest limits to concealed-carry permits constitutional.

Following their victories in the Supreme Court with the Heller and McDonald decisions in which the 2nd Amendment was interpreted (or misinterpreted) as giving the right for individuals to possess guns at home, the National Rifle Association and its minions have set their sights on  state and local regulation of firearms. Particular targets are state laws that restrict the issuance of concealed-carry permits – yes, some states and cities actually still do exercise some control over who can carry their arsenals around with them, believe it or not.

Illinois was the last state with a blanket ban on concealed carry permits, until it was ruled unconstitutional by a panel of the United States 7th Circuit Court in December 2012. Disappointingly, the state did not appeal.

Several other mostly Northeast states allow concealed-carry permits, but an applicant must be able to justify it based on a legitimate need. California had such a law which left it to counties to decide on appropriate restrictions until a panel of the US 9th Circuit recently ruled it unconstitutional. That decision may be appealed to the full appeals court.

The NRA threw its weight behind a challenge to New Jersey’s strict regulation of concealed carry permits by one John Drake and three other state residents, joined by the Second Amendment Foundation and the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs. Also supporting Drake’s suit was a group of trigger-happy states led by Wyoming with weak to non-existent concealed-carry restrictions who evidently felt threatened by New Jersey’s tougher laws; so much for states’ rights.

But a funny thing happened on the way to storming the barricades of sensible regulation of firearms outside the home. The NRA and its minions lost.

A panel of the 3rd US Circuit Court upheld New Jersey’s law. One interesting twist, as explained in this piece from The Daily Record:

In upholding the New Jersey law on a 2-1 vote, the Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the measure was valid even if the Second Amendment applies outside the home. The appeals court pointed to a passage in D.C. v. Heller, the 2008 Supreme Court decision that said some “longstanding” gun restrictions were “presumptively lawful.”

The panel said New Jersey has had the “justifiable need” standard in some form since 1924.

“New Jersey’s legislature, long ago, made the predictive judgment that widespread carrying of handguns in public would not be consistent with public safety because of the inherent danger it poses,” New Jersey officials, led by Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman, argued in court papers that urged the court to reject the appeal.

And following an appeal, the Supreme Court refused to intervene. The New Jersey law remains undisturbed. The Daily Record also notes that the US 4th Circuit Court’s decision to uphold Maryland’s restrictive concealed-carry law was also left intact by the Supreme Court in October 2013. This in turn followed a Supreme Court refusal to intervene to overturn New York’s strict concealed-carry law in April 2013.

One can hope that the full 9th Circuit Court in California is paying attention and will restore that state’s concealed-carry law.

So at least some sanity on the subject of firearms still prevails in America, at least for now. Sensible states can act in the public interest to limit a frightened segment of the population, namely gun owners, from jeopardizing the safety of the rest of us by carrying their arsenals around with them. That’s worth at least half a cheer.

Of course an important caveat is necessary. At some point the Supreme Court will likely take up the issue squarely to decide if the 2nd Amendment right for individuals to possess firearms extends beyond the home; clearly there are no guarantees on how the conservative majority on the Court will rule.

But its actions to date suggest that gun rights proponents are wrong to think that Heller and McDonald inevitably lead to overturning reasonable but robust restrictions on firearms by state and local authorities. Indeed, the Supreme Court to this point has sent a message indicating that even its conservatives may be gun-shy about usurping the right of those authorities to act in ways they believe advance public safety.

Stand up to “Stand Your Ground” – Boycott Florida

Stand up to “Stand Your Ground” – Boycott Florida

Florida, Florida, the redneck riviera
Florida, Florida, there’s no more pathetic place in America
yes a man must make unpopular decisions, surely from time to time
and a man can only stand what a man can stand
it’s a wobbly volatile line
– Vic Chesnutt

Florida is not alone in allowing the concealed conveyance of loaded firearms, unfortunately. Although the United States Supreme Court has not ruled on the constitutionality of permitting restrictions, nearly all states allow concealed-carry with few if any impediments.

In addition, however, Florida is one of more than twenty states with a specific stand-your-ground law that imposes no duty on an individual to retreat before resorting to deadly force even in situations away from the home.

The result of this lethal combination has been a number of well publicized use of deadly force cases (the shooting death of Trayvon Martin on the street, the movie theatre shooting death of Chad Oulson and the fatal shooting of Jordan Davis while he sat in a vehicle in a convenience store parking lot) and a 200% spike in so-called justifiable homicides in Florida according to a comprehensive report released by Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

Even as the parents of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis lobby to repeal or at least weaken Florida’s stand-your-ground law, GOP legislators in the state seek to limit media scrutiny of SYG shootings following an unfavorable report on the law’s application and outcomes by the Tampa Bay Times.

The combined effect of an armed and carrying citizenry and an expansive stand-your-ground law is that Florida has become an increasingly unsafe place. Not only do we have to worry about criminals with guns – every state in the union has to worry about them thanks to our overall lax national gun laws – but in Florida we also have to worry about the trigger-happy, law-abiding gun carrier who no longer is legally constrained to act responsibly; instead, he now has a legal get-out-of-jail-free card to shoot anyone who pisses him off while claiming that he felt threatened.

It was lunacy for the people of Florida to elect NRA-lapdog loonies to govern them and pass such laws. So maybe it’s time for the rest of us to bring them to their senses. And the best way to accomplish that is via the pocket-book, by mounting a tourist boycott of Florida.

Not convinced? Well, picture this: You’re a British (or New York) wife and mother holidaying in Florida to see Disneyworld. Your husband or teenage son, who’s gone back to the rented car for his sunglasses, gets into an argument with some jerk in the parking lot. Maybe he’s complaining about the way your car is parked too close to his. The argument escalates. Your son or husband is big enough that they’re not easily intimidated. The jerk gets angry, pulls out his pistol and shoots your son or husband dead. There is no witness close enough to see or hear exactly what happened.

Under Florida law the shooter will claim he shot in self-defense because he felt threatened, and that he was not required to retreat before using deadly force. There are no witnesses to contradict his version of events, the putative threat to his life for example; and the fact that your husband or son was unarmed will carry little if any weight, nor the fact that the shooter instigated the confrontation, assuming he admitted as much. The burden of proof that it was not a justified killing has already shifted to prosecutors and away from the perpetrator of the shooting. The jerk in this scenario will walk, almost certainly without being prosecuted.

There are, of course, a million possible scenarios for someone to claim a justifiable homicide, but it will nearly always be with a firearm and rarely when the victim is also armed. And not only does Florida’s SYG law almost always favor the shooter, it has the effect, whether intended or not, of encouraging the gun carrier to kill rather than wound; after all, we don’t want police to hear an alternative version of events, do we?

It’s true that being black almost certainly increases your risk of being shot by both the criminal and law abiding gun carrier alike. But let’s not kid ourselves that the rest of us aren’t at risk. Just ask Chad Oulson.

Florida is no longer a fit place to visit. We should send a clear message to Floridians and their deeply misguided politicians by giving it a miss from our vacation plans.

GOP Filibuster Kills Bill to Expand Background Checks on Gun Sales

GOP Filibuster Kills Bill to Expand Background Checks on Gun Sales

We at harikari have written much about guns, gun control, and the need to enact laws that make it more difficult for criminals and mentally unsound people to purchase guns. After the Newtown tragedy, Americans seemed to have had enough of the bullying by the NRA and they called for the expansion of mandatory background checks for nearly all gun-sale transactions. The Manchin-Toomey background-check bill was supported by nearly 90% of Americans. Polls show that a majority of Americans also supported a ban on the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips.

On Wednesday a bill to expand background checks was filibustered by Republicans, so it needed 60 votes to move forward. The senate voted for the bill 54-46. Yes, a clear majority of senators voted to move forward with the background-check bill but because of the Republican filibuster, the bill was killed. The senate also voted “down” the amendment to limit the capacity of ammunition clips 54-46.

90% of Democrats voted in favor of the bill, and 90% of Republicans voted against the bill that 90% of Americans supported.

For some smart commentary about how undemocratic the senate is and how the arguments of gun-control opponents are intellectually unsound, watch these two excellent segments from Thursday’s edition of The Daily Show.

First Jon,

and now John…

NRA and GOP demonstrate their paranoia on guns to the world.

NRA and GOP demonstrate their paranoia on guns to the world.

The United Nations General Assembly voted 154-3 with 20 abstentions for the first international treaty to regulate the global arms trade. The treaty is designed principally to curb the supply of arms to terrorists, rogue regimes and human rights abusers such as Assad in Syria, warlords such as the groups in Africa who kidnap young boys to become brutal soldiers, and organized crime.

The United States played a key role in shepherding the treaty through to a vote, yet will likely not ratify it, which requires a two-thirds majority in the US Senate, because of opposition from paranoid Republican lawmakers doing the bidding of the even more paranoid leadership of the NRA.

These paranoids, you see, continue to believe, against all the evidence and the credible assurances to the contrary contained in a definitive paper by the American Bar Association’s Center for Human Rights, that the treaty could be used to supersede their rights under the Second Amendment.

In opposing the treaty, the GOP and NRA zealots join such worthies as North Korea, Iran and Syria who all voted against it in the UN.

It should come as a shock that senior Republican senators would join the truly deranged people who lead the NRA to oppose a treaty whose only opponents in the UN were countries which have regimes we count among the craziest and/or most murderous in the world. It should, but of course it doesn’t.

NRA: Evolution from Avid Sportsmen to Paranoid Xenophobic Racists

NRA: Evolution from Avid Sportsmen to Paranoid Xenophobic Racists

As illustrated with magazine covers.

Here’s the NRA of 1969:

NRA 1969 Mags

Hunters and a marksman. Just men with their guns.

Here’s some covers from 1992 featuring a military leader and a caricature of Bill Clinton.

NRA 1992 Mags

Clearly starting to get a little political.

And here we have the issue that came out right before the 2012 presidential election.

NRA Paranoid Xenophobe cover sm

No gun at all on the cover, and it’s purely a political appeal to the small group of gun nuts who think the government is just one step away from confiscating their precious firearms.

And now the April 2013 cover.

NRA Obama HatersI think this one was aimed at the most ignorant fools in their target market that didn’t quite git that President Barack HUSSEIN Obama is a Muslim Kenyan Socialist and a LIAR! And he’s comin’ to git yer GUNS! So hop in yer truck right NOW and go buy yerself some more military assault rifles (you know how to turn ’em into full auto don’t ya?) and high-capacity magazines so ya can pretect yerself from his secret army of Kevlar-wearin’ Brady Bunch guvmint gun grabbers . And by golly, make sure them bullits ya load in yer mags are of the armor-piercin’ type.

HE’S COMIN’ TO GIT YER GUNS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Some beacons of light amidst the darkness on guns

Some beacons of light amidst the darkness on guns

Even as we lose our way at the national level in the quest for stronger firearm controls in the wake of the Newtown massacre and the appalling level of gun violence in America, the legislatures and governors of a handful of states have demonstrated political courage and leadership in passing sensible restrictions on military-style assault weapons, high-capacity magazines and tougher background checks on gun buyers.

Kudos to New York, Connecticut, Colorado, and Maryland (the latter’s to be signed into law shortly). All of them deserve enormous credit but Colorado, in particular, should be singled out for praise because, as the resident of another western state, I know how especially tough it is to overcome the opposition of gun zealots in this region. Here in Washington, for example, efforts to pass meaningful changes recently met with a dismal and shameful failure.

Laudable as the efforts of individual states are, however, they cannot substitute for tougher national regulations and here the picture is bleak and becoming bleaker. In the US Senate, the bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines are unlikely to even get a vote, but are dead anyway whether they do or not. The expanded background check’s fate is uncertain but the NRA’s opposition to even that commonsense measure means it faces an uphill fight.

In fact, if any bill at all emerges from the Senate, it’s likely to be so watered down and toothless as to be virtually worthless. And then the GOP-led House will probably kill or change it so drastically that it will make things worse rather than better.

By acting in a meaningful way, New York, Connecticut, Colorado and Maryland have remembered and honored the victims of gun violence in America, including the small children and their teachers of Sandy Hook Elementary whose awful deaths were the catalyst for change. Shame on Congress for its failure to do the same.

Write your US Senators about keeping Mandatory Background Checks in the Gun Control Bill

Write your US Senators about keeping Mandatory Background Checks in the Gun Control Bill

I read an article in The Washington Post today that explains the differences in the gun bill yet to be resolved by the Chuck Schumer, representing the Democrats, and Tom Coburn, representing the Republicans. It all gets down to the issue of keeping records of background checks. Without a requirement to keep the background checks on file, how would we know that anyone actually complied with the law? How would law enforcement be able to track guns used in crimes?

Fear mongerers like Wayne LaPierre say that if people keep records, then the government will collect all the records and eventually send armed government agents to the homes of gun owners and confiscate all their guns. No rational person actually believes that – not in this gun-culture country.

To me the recordkeeping requirement is no different than the law that says when I go to a pharmacy to buy cold pills like Sudafed that contain ingredients criminals can extract to make meth, I have to show my ID, provide my address, and sign a purchase log at the pharmacy. The government doesn’t collect information about every transaction. If there is a crime and the police need to investigate the distribution of pills used to make meth, then they go to pharmacies and look at records. Same thing is true if I purchase a keg of beer. I have to provide the same information, but the police don’t bother with collecting the data from stores unless they bust a party where the beer in the keg I bought was served to minors. Then they want to know who bought the keg.

The Democrats believe that background checks must be done for all gun sales, and records of the checks and sales must be kept on file. Otherwise the law is absurd and useless.

So let your senators know that no matter what the NRA or Ted Nugent says, you think background checks must be required for all gun sales.

If you aren’t sure what to write on their contact pages, well here’s what I wrote, and you are free to use it and edit it to fit your own personal style.

Senator [insert name here],

I read today how Senator Schumer and Senator Coburn are at an impasse in moving a gun-control bill forward because many Republicans have the completely irrational idea that a law requiring the keeping of records of background checks for gun purchases would enable the government to collect all the data and send armed government agents to the homes of law-abiding citizens to confiscate their lawfully procured firearms. Really that’s what they think because that’s what Wayne LaPierre tells them to think. Well they are so wrong it’s not even worth discussing but, being a US Senator, I guess you have to. So please speak clearly, often, and loudly about how background checks would be used to keep firearms out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them, and that law-abiding citizens are in no danger of having their guns confiscated by government agents no matter what Wayne LaPierre or Ted Nugent says.

It is of utmost importance that our country adopts reasonable, rational laws to try and prevent as many people who should not have firearms because of criminal records or known mental problems from obtaining them.

And yes I know that banning assault weapons again is just crazy, because everybody should be allowed to own whatever kind of gun they want. That’s the American way! Right? No it’s not. You know it and I know it, and we both know that a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammo clips that are designed to kill the most people in the most efficient way won’t get through the current congress.

So let’s start with background checks and let’s stand OUR ground.

Cheers,

[Your Name here]

GOP is no more serious about curbing gun violence as it is in addressing the nation’s other problems.

GOP is no more serious about curbing gun violence as it is in addressing the nation’s other problems.

Four bills that seek to curb gun violence in America made it out of the Senate Judiciary Committee where they confront an uncertain fate in the full body. It is unclear which, if any, will prevail in an up or down vote even if Republicans don’t decide to filibuster.

Only one of them received significant GOP votes in committee, a relatively non-contentious bill that would increase funding for school safety measures. The most muscular bills, to expand background checks to private sales and a reinstatement of the assault weapon ban which includes curbs on large capacity magazines, received no Republican votes and face a particularly hard struggle.

The story has been the same in states such as Colorado, Connecticut, New York, Oregon and Washington State where gun control legislation proposed by Democrats has won minimal to non-existent support from Republicans. Some such as New York, Connecticut and Colorado have managed to pass meaningful and commonsense restrictions regardless, or seem close to doing so. In Oregon the struggle goes on. And in Washington, my home state, the effort failed.

Most states of course aren’t even bothering to try to strengthen their gun laws and, truth be told, while state laws are laudable and worthwhile, they cannot substitute for tough national laws. And the NRA has little to fear on that score, not with a GOP essentially in its pocket and a Democratic Party still fearful of the gun lobby’s power.

The ultimate responsibility for the looming failure in the other Washington, however, rests with the people of this nation. Even in the wake of the most horrendous mass shooting in our history, we have failed to generate the outrage and demand for action that is surely warranted. No political or electoral consequences will accrue to Republicans and the handful of Democrats who will, shamefully, join them, who will tow the NRA line to defeat even the most sensible restrictions such as banning military-style semi-automatic rifles and high capacity magazines that afford a deranged gunman or criminal inordinate firepower, or a universal background check.

We will prove to the world once again that we are a dysfunctional nation that has lost the ability to agree upon much less address our greatest problems, whether it is the budget, health care or our stunning level of gun violence.

Fault for this lies in part with arcane senate rules that require super majorities to get anything done and a GOP willing and able to abuse those rules to an unprecedented degree. And thanks to a supine United States Supreme Court, the GOP’s gerrymandering ways have managed to win them a 33-seat majority in the House of Representatives despite the fact that they lost the popular vote.

However, it is also true that we have become a nation tyrannized by a minority of fanatics whether it is the Tea Party who dominate today’s GOP or the NRA and fellow gun-zealots, whose power to paralyze our public policy apparatus is disproportionate to their numbers but highly destructive to the nation’s well-being.

Unless and until we are willing to confront and defeat the extremists in our body politic, we will never make this a better country for our children.

Tyranny of the Gun Toting 34%

Tyranny of the Gun Toting 34%

In the wake of the mass shooting of primary school children in Newtown, Connecticut, we were told that legislative reforms of our gun laws would be hard given the 47% of households with firearms.

It turns out that this number was inaccurate and that the correct figure is 34%. Interestingly the percentage has declined from 50% in the 1970s and has been particularly marked in southern and western states where the gun culture is strongest.

This means that 66% of households in America don’t have a gun of any sort, yet their voice in the gun-control debate is all too often drowned out by the screams, squawks and histrionics of the gun zealots.

Now it’s true that not all of the 34% are as unreasonable as the NRA leadership and the more fanatical elements of the gun lobby, and are open to some new restrictions. Similarly, there are undoubtedly some among the 66% who do not own firearms who nonetheless oppose government regulation.

Nonetheless, we hear way too much about the rights of the 34% and too little about the effect of lax regulation of firearms on the lives of the 66%. The Second Amendment is not an absolute right, and the gun lobby will be sorely disappointed if they believe even this conservative Supreme Court will set aside laws aimed at curbing the firepower of deranged gunmen or criminals and making it more difficult for them to arm in the first place.

We should applaud the political courage of legislators in New York who passed tough new common-sense restrictions, and the continuing efforts of legislators, in Connecticut, Colorado, Oregon and Washington State. We should also salute the ongoing efforts in the United States Senate. In all cases, it is Democrats who are striving to bring at least some sanity to this issue and Republicans providing the head wind as lapdogs of the NRA gun-zealots.

But when the next mass-shooting massacre happens as it surely will, which side will be able to look in the mirror and honestly say they did their best to prevent it?