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Juan Carlos, King of Spain, Honorary President of WWF España, and Elephant Killer

Juan Carlos, King of Spain, Honorary President of WWF España, and Elephant Killer

When I pulled the trigger I did not hear the bang or feel the kick–one never does when a shot goes home–but I heard the devilish roar of glee that went up from the crowd. In that instant, in too short a time, one would have thought, even for the bullet to get there, a mysterious, terrible change had come over the elephant. He neither stirred nor fell, but every line of his body had altered. He looked suddenly stricken, shrunken, immensely old, as though the frightful impact of the bullet had paralysed him without knocking him down. At last, after what seemed a long time–it might have been five seconds, I dare say–he sagged flabbily to his knees. His mouth slobbered. An enormous senility seemed to have settled upon him. One could have imagined him thousands of years old. I fired again into the same spot. At the second shot he did not collapse but climbed with desperate slowness to his feet and stood weakly upright, with legs sagging and head drooping. I fired a third time. That was the shot that did for him. You could see the agony of it jolt his whole body and knock the last remnant of strength from his legs. But in falling he seemed for a moment to rise, for as his hind legs collapsed beneath him he seemed to tower upward like a huge rock toppling, his trunk reaching skyward like a tree. He trumpeted, for the first and only time. And then down he came, his belly towards me, with a crash that seemed to shake the ground even where I lay. – George Orwell

Not the kind of act you would expect from an Honorary President of the World Wildlife Fund, but that’s what Spain’s 74-year-old King Juan Carlos has done

He would have been able to keep his $60,000 elephant hunting trip on the down low had he not sustained a broken hip that landed him in the hospital. People like to know when their monarchs are in the hospital – especially the Spaniards who have been forced into draconian austerity measures by the EU and have a 24% unemployment rate. Spain’s school budget was cut by 30% while the Royal Palace’s budget was cut by a mere 2%. While regular citizens were suffering from severe cuts in government spendiing, the king had plenty of money to travel to Africa and have a grand time plugging elephants – well at least up until he broke his hip.

But that’s not all. King Juan Carlos, as I mentioned earlier, is the Honorary President of Spain’s chapter of the World Wildlife Fund. You know, the organization that exists to preserve wildlife – not destroy it. The WWF has asked to meet with the king to discuss this awkard news and is under great public pressure to dismiss him.

That’s still not all to the story. Just a few days before this story broke, Juan Carlos’s 13-year-old grandson Felipe Juan Froilan accidentally fired a shotgun into his foot. In Spain, it is illegal for children under 14 to possess or discharge firearms. Just another example of exceptional behavior set by the Royal Family.

One more thing:  At age 18 in 1956, Juan Carlos was handling a gun while vacationing in Portugal when it accidently discharged and killed his 14-year-0ld brother Alfonso.

The Tallest Man on Earth might wanna be the King of Spain, but I wouldn’t.

Concealed-Carry Combined with Stand-Your-Ground Means Big Trouble

Concealed-Carry Combined with Stand-Your-Ground Means Big Trouble

Earlier this year in Bremerton, Washington, an elementary school student was seriously wounded when a gun in her classmate’s backpack discharged. Just two weeks later in Marysville, Washington, a 7-year girl was sitting in the parked family car while her dad and mum were outside the vehicle when she was shot by one of her three younger siblings who had found their father’s gun. She later died. Her father is a police officer for Marysville, Washington. And within days, in Tacoma, Washington, an unsupervised 3-year old boy found his father’s gun in the family car and killed himself with it.

Meanwhile, across the country in Sanford, Florida, an unarmed black teenager, Trayvon Martin, was shot dead by the now infamous neighborhood watch volunteer, George Zimmerman.

The death of Trayvon Martin has, at least, stimulated a debate on Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which has been emulated entirely or in part by more than 30 states. However, what’s really needed is for that debate to extend to the whole concept of allowing firearms to be conveyed outside the home without any restrictions.

Four horrible incidents in a matter of a few weeks stand as testimony to the fact that too many Americans do not treat firearms with the care, respect and just plain seriousness they warrant. That fact when combined with the ease with which virtually anyone without a criminal record can purchase a firearm and, in most states, obtain a permit to carry (where a permit is even required) potentially endangers all of us. The “Stand Your Ground” nonsense is the icing on the cake. And if all this wasn’t bad enough, Congress is considering a law that would make it possible for the likes of George Zimmerman to legally take their guns anywhere in the country, even to states with restrictive concealed weapon and carry permit laws.

The Trayvon Martin case has focused, mistakenly in my view, on his race as the reason Zimmerman allegedly followed and then shot him during a struggle. I’m not convinced that racism was the primary culprit, even though there’s little doubt that black youths are more at risk than whites in situations similar to the one Martin encountered.

Yet the rest of us should take no comfort in the thought that our kids or husbands or fathers or brothers are safer from the George Zimmerman’s of the world. Instead, we should ask ourselves what gave Zimmerman the courage (for want of a better word) to follow the six-foot-plus Martin, instead of staying in his vehicle and letting the police do their job? The answer is his handgun and the knowledge that he could use it if he found himself overmatched; and the law or rather the lack of sensible ones that facilitated the confrontation.

Someone like George Zimmerman should never have been allowed outside his home with a firearm, and he should not now be able to legally cite self-defense as his justification for shooting Martin. The fact that he was and can should be a cause of deep concern to all of us. How can any of us feel safe when a confrontation between acquaintances or strangers over something quite trivial, can escalate into a shooting which can then be justified on the grounds that the shooter felt his life threatened – even when the threat came from someone who was unarmed.

In Florida shootings where self-defense was used as the justifications have spiked. The fact is there was a time when we could only imagine having our head blown off if we were dumb enough to break into someone’s home. Now it can happen in a public place if we exchange harsh words with someone who gets pissed off enough and has his gun with him. In addition to divisions between rich and poor and left and right, we have a new one developing between the armed and the unarmed. And which one do you think has the power?

It’s an issue that needs a healthy public debate and far more research on the effect of concealed weapon and Stand Your Ground laws. So far the NRA have had it all their own way in pushing the expansion of gun rights beyond what is sane and prudent because ordinary Americans have let them. It’s high time to take another look.

One of the more specious arguments advanced by the gun lobby is that the individual right to own a firearm is our protection against governmental tyranny. But tyranny comes in many forms. Just ask the parents of Trayvon Martin.

Santa’s Bag of Goodies is Stuffed with Machine Guns

Santa’s Bag of Goodies is Stuffed with Machine Guns

Christmas Machine guns

Santa with shotgun

So much for satire.

Gun Club’s Santa Delivers Machine Guns, Year After Year

From Fox News in Phoenix:

The Scottsdale Gun Club is inviting people to enjoy Santa and Machine Guns.

The family event allows people to take a holiday card picture with St. Nick — and a high-powered fire arm.

Santa poses against a backdrop of an $80,000 Garwood minigun.

Families can choose to pose with other firearms, ranging from pistols to modified AR15s.

They also get a chance to test out the machine guns.

Dress your kids up like little Christmas Soldiers

So dress up the kids in camo and hurry on down to the Scottsdale Gun Club’s Family Christmas Photo Special to get the perfect family photo for your Christmas card, because nothing says “Merry Christmas” quite like you and your family flanked by Santa and his machine guns.

Sitting on Santa's lap, pointing an assault rifle at your children's mother's head. CUTE!

Sarah Palin’s “Blood Libel” – Ignorance or Anti-Semitism?

Sarah Palin’s “Blood Libel” – Ignorance or Anti-Semitism?

Sarah Palin released a video today in response to the attacks on her and her infamous map with cross-hairs over congressional districts she posted prior to the mid-term elections.  Representative Gabrielle Giffords was one of the Democrats targeted by Palin.  Liberals have condemned her and others like her for creating a climate of hate that may or may not have influenced Jared Loughner’s decision to open fire at a Giffords forum outside a Safeway in Tucson on Saturday morning.

Sarah Palin said in her video statement:

“Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own,” Ms. Palin said in a seven-and-a-half minute video posted to her Facebook page. “Especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence that they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible.”

The term blood libel is generally used to mean the false accusation that Jews murder Christian children to use their blood in religious rituals, in particular the baking of matzos for passover. That false claim was circulated for centuries to incite anti-Semitism and justify violent pogroms against Jews. Ms. Palin’s use of the phrase in her video, which helped make it rapidly go viral, is itself attracting criticism, not least because Ms. Giffords, who remains in critical condition in a Tucson hospital, is Jewish.

Reaction to Ms. Palin’s video was swift.

Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Democrat of Florida, who is a close friend of Ms. Giffords, issued a statement condemning her use of the phrase “blood libel.”

“Palin’s comments either show a complete ignorance of history, or blatant anti-Semitism,” said Jonathan Beeton, Ms. Wasserman Shultz’s spokesman. “Either way, it shows an appalling lack of sensitivity given Representative Giffords’s faith and the events of the past week.”

Given the intellect Palin has shown in the past few years, I am going with complete ignorance. Even Sarah Palin, had she known the origins of the term, couldn’t be so politically tone deaf to use “blood libel” in a statement meant to clear her gun-centric campaign rhetoric and graphics from any culpability for the senseless shooting of a Jewish Democrat by a schizophrenic psychopath.  Seems like anyone with a bit of compassion and some political sense could pull that off, but she blew it.

It’s going to be very difficult for her to recover from her blunder, and that’s a good thing for all of us.

Man Shoots his Rocks Off

Man Shoots his Rocks Off

A lot of attention has been paid recently to “Rocks Off,” the opening track of the recently remastered Stones album, Exile on Main Street.

Well there’s getting your rocks off Mick Jagger style,and then there’s shooting your rocks off Plaxico Burress style

From today’s Seattle Times:

A man accidentally shot himself in the testicles at Lowe’s Home Improvement store in Lynnwood Sunday afternoon, police said.

The man’s handgun, which was in the waistband of his pants, went off at about 12:30 p.m. — an apparent “accidental discharge,” according to Shannon Sessions, a Lynnwood police spokeswoman.

“It made a loud noise and scared a lot of people in the store,” Sessions said. “I believe he shot himself in the testicles and he also had some injuries to his leg and foot.  He was obviously in shock.”

Ouch.  

Lesson:  Never stick a loaded gun in your waistband pointed at your man parts.  Like you didn’t know that already.

UPDATE:  from The Seattle Times, June 4th.

“He says, ‘It was in my waistband, and I felt it starting to slip, reached for it, and I must have positioned my finger so the trigger went off,” Fischer remembered Thursday.

A Lynnwood police report about the incident says the gun was a Glock 30, a compact pistol described by the manufacturer as “the legendary .45 caliber.”

The man had a concealed-weapons permit to carry the gun, said Shannon Sessions, spokeswoman for Lynnwood police.

The Times is not naming the man because no crime was committed.

The report says the man was “joking with staff members” at Harborview Medical Center after medics took him there.

But on Wednesday afternoon, back at his apartment after being released from the hospital Tuesday, he wasn’t in much of a joking mood.

“I’m up. I’m walking. I’m good. I don’t want to talk to you,” he said.

Alabama Geometry Teacher Plots Angles for Obama Assassination

Alabama Geometry Teacher Plots Angles for Obama Assassination

Story from The Birmingham News:

A Jefferson County teacher picked the wrong example when he used assassinating President Barack Obama as a way to teach angles to his geome­try students.

Someone alerted authorities and the Corner High School math teacher was questioned by the Secret Service, but was not taken into custody or charged with any crime.

“We did not find a credible threat,” said Roy Sexton, special agent in charge of Birmingham’s Secret Service office. “As far as the Secret Service is concerned, we looked into it, we talked to the gentleman and we have closed our investigation.”

The teacher was apparently teaching his geometry students about parallel lines and angles, officials said. He used the example of where to stand and aim if shooting Obama.

“He was talking about angles and said, ‘If you’re in this building, you would need to take this angle to shoot the president,’ ” said Joseph Brown, a senior in the geometry class.

Superintendent Phil Hammonds said the teacher remains at work, and there are no plans for termination.

“We are going to have a long conversation with him about what’s appropriate,” Hammonds said. “It was extremely poor judgment on his part, and a poor choice of words.”

That is a very bad example to use in a geometry lesson, but a very good example of extremely poor judgment.  If the Alabama teacher really wanted to use the killing of a black political figure to teach shooting angles, he probably should have used an historical example, not a hypothetical example using President Obama as a target.

Update: 

[The teacher] has been placed on paid administrative leave and faces possible termination, Superintendent Phil Hammonds said today.

Hammonds said his office has been flooded with phone calls from all over the nation since The Birmingham News reported that Corner High School geometry teacher Gregory Harrison used the assassination example while teaching.

Oh Alabama.
Can I see you
and shake your hand.
Make friends down in Alabama.
I’m from a new land
I come to you
and see all this ruin
What are you doing Alabama?
You got the rest of the union
to help you along
What’s going wrong?
 – Neil Young

Right Wing Wackos Want to Kill Democrats

Right Wing Wackos Want to Kill Democrats

A while back we had a post about how far-right wingnuts want kill President Obama.  Well now they are pissed off at the Democrats in congress, and they want to kill them too.  MSNBC reports:

At a news conference in Washington, Hoyer said people have yelled that Democratic lawmakers should be put on firing lines and posters have appeared with the faces of lawmakers in the cross hairs of a target.

Gun imagery was used in a posting on the Facebook page of Sarah Palin urging people to organize against 20 House Democrats who voted for the health care bill and whose districts went for the John McCain-Palin ticket two years ago.  Palin’s post featured a U.S. map with circles and cross hairs over the 20 districts.

In audio recordings of voice messages obtained by NBC News and other networks, one caller repeatedly tells Stupak “I hope you die.”

“There are millions of people across the country who wish you ill,” another caller says. “And all of those thoughts projected on you will materialize into something that’s not very good for you.”

A fax with the title “Defecating on Stupak” carried a picture of a gallows with “Bart (SS) Stupak” on it and a noose attached. It was captioned, “All Baby Killers come to unseemly ends Either by the hand of man or by the hand of God.”

And the Washington Post reports that in addition to the fax, Stupak also received a voice mail threatening his life:

…and an anonymous voice mail saying: “You’re dead. We know where you live. We’ll get you.”

And as if that’s not enough,  The New York Times reports:

Representative Louise M. Slaughter, a senior Democrat from New York, received a phone message threatening sniper attacks against lawmakers and their families.

Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, the highest-ranking black lawmaker in the House, said he received an anonymous fax showing the image of a noose.

The Washington Post also reported

Some Democrats, sensing a political opportunity, suggested that Republicans were fanning the anger with their fiery comments in recent days. Several GOP lawmakers stood on the speaker’s balcony at the Capitol overlooking a tea party protest last weekend holding up signs that read “Kill the Bill.” Below them, protesters were yelling “No! No! No!” and “Nancy, you will burn in hell for this!”

And now I must give credit where credit is do.  Some of the Republicans heeded the call and denounced the violence and threats perpetrated by their followers, including House Minority Leader John Boehner:

“…violence and threats are unacceptable.  That’s not the American way.  We need to take that anger and channel it into positive change.”

Maybe he said that because he meant it, or maybe he said it because he is a media whore and he wanted to make the papers and be on TV again.  Ugh.  If he’s on again tomorrow morning, I am going to puke up my yogurt.

Jesus Disciples with Rifles

Jesus Disciples with Rifles

One might think that a Christian church would be a relatively safe place to visit – that it wouldn’t be full of people carrying guns.  That’s probably true for most churches, but not this oneThe New York Times reports:

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Ken Pagano, the pastor of the New Bethel Church here, is passionate about gun rights. He shoots regularly at the local firing range, and his sermon two weeks ago was on “God, Guns, Gospel and Geometry.”  And on Saturday night, he is inviting his congregation of 150 and others to wear or carry their firearms into the sanctuary to “celebrate our rights as Americans!” as a promotional flier for the “open carry celebration” puts it.

“God and guns were part of the foundation of this country,” Mr. Pagano, 49, said Wednesday in the small brick Assembly of God church, where a large wooden cross hung over the altar and two American flags jutted from side walls. “I don’t see any contradiction in this. Not every Christian denomination is pacifist.”

The bring-your-gun-to-church day, which will include a $1 raffle of a handgun, firearms safety lessons and a picnic, is another sign that the gun culture in the United States is thriving despite, or perhaps because of, President Obama’s election in November.

Mr. Pagano said the church’s insurance company, which he would not identify, had canceled the church’s policy for the day on Saturday and told him that it would cancel the policy for good at the end of the year. If he cannot find insurance for Saturday, people will not be allowed in openly carrying their guns.

…John Phillips, pastor of the Central Church of Christ in Little Rock.  In 1986, Mr. Phillips was preaching in a different church there when a gunman shot him and a parishioner. Both survived, but Mr. Phillips, 51, still has a bullet lodged in his spine.

In a telephone interview, he said he found the idea of “packing in the pew” abhorrent.

“There is a movement afoot across the nation, with the gun lobby pushing the envelope, trying to allow concealed weapons to be carried in places where they used to be prohibited — churches, schools, bars,” Mr. Phillips said.

“I don’t understand how any minister who is familiar with the teachings of the Bible can do this,” he added. “Jesus didn’t say, ‘Go ahead, make my day.’”

Well that’s his opinion, but the congregation of the New Bethel Church knows:


Seriously though, this story reads like an open invitation to a gun nut with a death wish.  I hope it doesn’t turn out that way but, if it does, no amount of insurance will be enough to cover the damage.

America Held Captive By the Gun Nuts

America Held Captive By the Gun Nuts

It’s not like the United States alone in the industrialized world has suffered the tragedy of gun violence such as we experienced recently at Virginia Tech. 

On a spring day in 1996 in Dunblane, Scotland, a former shopkeeper and scout leader, Thomas Hamilton, entered the gymnasium of the elementary school and opened fire.  He was armed with four legally obtained and owned handguns and he shot and killed fifteen children aged 4 and 5 along with their teacher.  One child survived.  Outside he fired on other school buildings and wounded more children and staff before returning to the gym and shooting himself.  One of the wounded children died on arrival at the hospital.  For the sheer horror of it, this incident stands out as the very worst of its kind.

Other countries such as Canada, at the Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal, 1989, and Australia in Port Arthur, Tasmania, in the same year as the Dunblane massacre, have experienced national trauma because of deranged men with guns.  In the Montreal incident fourteen female students were murdered by a man with a legally obtained assault rifle. In the Australian example, where thirty-five tourists at a resort were shot to death by an assailant armed with two assault rifles, the weapons were not legally owned.

What sets America apart from the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada, however, is not merely the frequency with which these events happen, but the responses to them.  After Dunblane, the UK to all intents and purposes banned the private ownership of handguns.  Australia and Canada have  implemented more stringent controls to register firearms, and to regulate their purchase  and storage.  None of these countries has suffered another incident on the same scale.        

Yet in America in the wake of multiple mass shootings at schools, shopping malls and various workplaces, the regulation of firearms is, if anything, weaker now than it was ten years ago.  The National Rifle Association and its supporters love to say that with 14,000 gun laws on the books America doesn’t need any more and that they are, in any case, ineffective except to impede law-abiding gun owners.  The reason, however, is that the vast majority of the laws that are on the books (which presumably counts every state, county and municipal law that relates to guns in the country) are toothless. 

What we need in this country are some tough but fair national laws that mirror the approach of Canada and Australia.  The emphasis should be on putting barriers in place to prevent the acquisition of guns by criminals and nutcases.  This inevitably means some inconvenience, God forbid, to the rest of us.  For example, since we are talking about a lethal weapon here, I see no reason why a potential gun owner should expect to be able to go home with it the same day as though he were buying a lawn mower.  Instead, prospective gun owners should not only be more thoroughly vetted with enhanced criminal and mental health record checks, but should also have to provide character references.  A waiting period should be mandatory.  And if a gun-owner brandishes or uses his (or her) weapon irresponsibly, the privilege of gun ownership should be suspended, in the same way that we might withdraw a motorist’s driving privileges if he has behaved recklessly or dangerously.   

We should more strictly regulate who is authorized to legally sell firearms.  One obvious starting place is to ensure there will be no such thing as the gun show loophole.  And there should be regulation of where and how a firearm can be stored.  One of the reasons it’s so easy to obtain a gun illegally is because huge numbers are stolen every year.  We could at least make it harder for burglars to steal weapons by mandating that they be stored in tough-to-break-into lockboxes.

All of this is pie-in-the-sky of course.  With my British sensibilities, it took me years to realize that a rational debate on common-sense measures to control America’s gun plague is simply impossible here.  The NRA and its sister organizations (some of which, for example the truly wacky Gun Owners of America, are even more fanatical, however impossible that may seem) are part of the reason. 

The American political system gives inordinate power to a well financed one-issue constituency than does a parliamentary democracy.  It’s why we have such a bizarre national policy towards Cuba, driven as it is by right-wing Cuban exiles in the key electoral state of Florida; and it is why in America people who say that the answer to the Virginia Tech tragedy is to arm the students and teachers are actually taken seriously.  The answer, in other words, to America’s awful gun violence is, yes, more guns. 

Nowhere in the industrialized world is it as easy to acquire a gun as in this country. If owning guns made us all safer, you’d think this society would have the lowest homicide rate in the industrialized world rather than highest by a mile.  Well, there we go again, trying to inject rationality into the debate.

Other countries react to mass shootings such as the one at Virginia Tech by actually doing something meaningful to prevent the next one.  How quaint of them.