ACTION ALERT: The GOP the NRA and Mass Murder: The Proven Solution in Gun Control
February 20, 2018
Robert Reich & Dan Rathert & YES! Magazine & VoteVets
This week, 17 teachers, students, and visitors died in a Florida high school, in a country where mass shootings have been devastatingly routine. Background checks and gun control have proven effective at reducing gun suicides and domestic shootings (both very worthwhile goals), but not the gun homicides or mass shootings such remedies are invoked to redress. But the last 25 years have seen massive declines in gun homicides in New York, California, and Texas -- all states with strict gun-control laws.
When Will This Nation Wake Up?
Robert Reich / Robert Reich's Facebook Page
(February 18, 2018) -- Wednesday's attack at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida, in which 17 people were killed, was the eighth school shooting this year that has resulted in death or injury. And, remember, the year began less than 6 weeks ago.
According to local police, the Florida shooter was armed with an AR-15 assault-style rifle. It's the same type of gun that another shooter used to kill 26 children and staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in December, 2012. The AR-15 assault rifle fires bullets that can penetrate a steel helmet from a distance of 500 yards. The bullets don't merely penetrate the human body; they tear it apart.
Why are such weapons allowed to be manufactured and purchased in America? I have always assumed that the minimal responsibility of government is to protect its citizens from deadly violence.
Law and order, safety and security, is the bedrock campaign slogan of the Republican Party. Yet, as John Cassidy points out, when it comes to mass shootings, the Republican Party falls back on constitutional arguments that have no proper basis in history, and it refuses to budge from this stance. Nothing can shift it -- not Sandy Hook, not the Orlando nightclub shooting, not the Las Vegas massacre, not weekly shootings in schools. The Democrats have not been without fault when it comes to controlling gun violence, but the GOP's lack of integrity on this issue is beyond the pale.
The crisis is getting worse. When will this nation wake up? What do you think?
10 Questions in the Wake of the Parkland Shooting
Dan Rather / Dan Rather's Facebook Page
(February 17, 2018) -- Will this time be different?
Will there be marches in the streets?
Will a silent majority of Americans rise up and confront those who offer bromides in the face of bloodshed and excuses in the face of the inexcusable?
Will there be a new movement of parents, teachers, and children -- especially children -- arguing that our schools not be a place for Russian Roulette?
And if such a movement does materialize what might the elected officials bolstered by the NRA say?
Will the response still be there is nothing we can do?
Will they continue to say now is not the time to politicize this issue?
And if there is a groundswell of activists this time, and the answers they get are the same ones they always get, will the response be loud enough to finally break this circular dynamic?
Will there be retribution at the ballot box?
When did all this become the American way?
Gun Violence Has Dropped Dramatically
In Three States With Very Different Gun Laws
Mike Males / YES! Magazine
To have an honest, nonpartisan
discussion about gun violence, we must look at
what happened in New York, California, and Texas
(February 17, 2018) -- This week, 17 teachers, students, and visitors died in a Florida high school, in a country where mass shootings have been devastatingly routine. This was followed by another day of despairing, angry furor over guns, schools, and shootings that replayed the same reactions from dozens of past shootings.
Once the warring factions settle into their talking points and scapegoats, the debate rages on for decades with little sign of progress. America's gun debate is like a Greek tragedy, with predetermined lines plodding to inevitable doom.
The Right, represented by the National Rifle Association and Republicans, shows no interest in reducing the gun killing epidemic beyond prayers that the "good guy with a gun" (who never seems to be around) will save the day when a "bad guy" opens fire.
Liberals' dishonesty is more nuanced. Background checks and gun control have proven effective at reducing gun suicides and domestic shootings (both very worthwhile goals), but not the gun homicides or mass shootings such remedies are invoked to redress.
On both sides, destructive scapegoating of young people, whether they are suburban school shooters or immigrant gangsters, present blatant falsehoods. FBI tabulations show half of active mass shooters are 35 and older, a large majority are white, and nearly all are men.
One middle-aged white shooter murdered more people in Las Vegas in 10 minutes than the best available count of documented murders over the last 15 years that have been attributed to the Latino MS-13 gang, a favorite target of President Donald Trump.
We can keep on quarreling over myths and prejudices, or we can start looking for new approaches, as many communities are doing in the face of national default. The hopeful thing is there is plenty new to say -- if anyone is willing to say it.
Let's begin with one of the most hopeful and obvious: the massive decline in gun homicides in the nation's three biggest states, concentrated among young people and urban residents all sides claim to be concerned about -- so long as the discussion doesn't challenge pet positions.
Over the last 25 years -- though other time periods show similar results -- New York, California, and Texas show massive declines in gun homicides, ones that far exceed those of any other state. These three states also show the country's largest decreases in gun suicide and gun accident death rates.
States with the Largest Drop in Gun Homicide Rates
(2014-16 compared to 1990-92)
New York: -- 80%
California: -- 61%
Texas: -- 60%
All Other States: -- 25%
Sources: CDC (2018), American Journal of Public Health (2017). YES! infographic.
These major states containing seven in 10 of the country's largest cities once had gun homicide rates far above the national average; now, their rates are well below those elsewhere in the country.
The declines are most pronounced in urban young people. Among ages 15-24, gun homicide rates are down nearly 80 percent in cities of 500,000 or more in the three largest states, led by declines -- approaching 90 percent in New York City's central boroughs, more than 80 percent in Los Angeles, and 74 percent in Dallas.
Isn't this what all sides have claimed to want: big reductions in gun killings, especially among young people? Why, then, aren't researchers flocking to our three biggest states and their major cities to analyze what happened there -- or, at least, talking about their stunningly hopeful trends?
Anyone familiar with the gun debate will see the political problem right away. California and New York have the nation's strictest and fifth-strictest gun control laws, respectively, in the country, earning "A-" ratings from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, and low rates of gun ownership.
So, gun-rights conservatives don't like to talk about successes in those states -- nor about the fact that those declines in violence correspond with an increasingly racially diverse young urban population, driven by Latino, Asian, and African immigration.
On the other side, Texas has among the weakest gun laws in the country ("open carry" is its most recent gun-rights salvo, earning an "F" grade) and some of the highest rates of gun ownership. Gun-control lobbies are loath to acknowledge any success in Texas. So, we have to look beyond current gun politics and commentary to community-based initiatives.
Most major cities have gun violence prevention programs, but if these deserve some credit, we would need to study why they worked so much better in New York City, Los Angeles, Dallas, San Diego, and El Paso than in Chicago, Miami, or Philadelphia. If young Texans can show large declines in killings without tough gun controls, we need to understand what forces are at work in its cities.
Rather than jockeying for political advantage, we need to acknowledge young people of all races, who as a generation have sharply lower levels of gun ownership and numbers of gun killings despite continued high rates of poverty.
White, Black, Latino, and Asian youth (Native American numbers are too small to determine accurate trends) each show much faster declines in gun homicide rates in the three largest states than do their national counterparts.
The pattern suggests a generational trend in the three major states' cities -- and to a lesser extent, nationwide -- that urgently needs scrutiny.
When youth homicide arrests in the city of Los Angeles fall from 680 in 1990-92 to 104 in 2000-02 to 17 in 2014-16, and the number of teenage girls murdered falls from dozens in the early 1990s to zero in the last 12 months ending February 15, 2018, it's time to shake up everyone's frozen thinking.
Gun violence indeed remains an unspeakably tragic, American epidemic, but there is no excuse for recycling old futilities when dramatic and hopeful new information is at hand.
ACTION ALERT: Arming Teachers Is a Dumb Idea
Tell Congress that arming teachers is a terrible idea
that will only result in more dead students and teachers
Jon Soltz / VoteVets
(February 19, 2018) -- I've heard a lot of crazy ideas about how to stop future mass shootings, but yesterday morning I went on MSNBC to talk about maybe the craziest: giving firearms to teachers.
Let me tell you something: it takes a tremendous amount of training -- repetitive training -- to be able to carry a weapon in the military and in law enforcement. If you think your 3rd period Social Studies teacher with a handgun in his desk and a few days at the range is going to stop a mass shooter with an AR-15 and an extended magazine, you are wrong. Mr. Smith is going to die as well.
What's more, a barely trained teacher with a firearm is more likely to hurt students fleeing the terror -- it increases the chances of accidental shootings at schools, and further, imagine a scenario in which law enforcement and SWAT arrive and see a bunch of grown ups with guns drawn and firing. It's not going to end well for anyone.
This ridiculous idea of arming our teachers needs to go away, and the voices of veterans, military family members, and our civilian supporters are important in that debate.
Wayne LaPierre likes to say that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun. I have a better idea: let's expand background checks to keep criminals and the dangerously mentally ill from buying weapons, and let's ban assault weapons so our law enforcement aren't outgunned when they arrive at the scene of these tragedies.
Arming Teachers is a Terrible Idea
This ridiculous idea of arming our teachers needs to go away, and the voices of veterans, military family members, and our civilian supporters are important in that debate. Add your name:
Sign VoteVets petition: arming teachers is not the answer to stopping the next mass shooting. It is only a recipe for more dead bodies. We oppose this idea totally and completely.
ACTION: Sign VoteVets petition: arming teachers is not the answer to stopping the next mass shooting. It is only a recipe for more dead bodies. We oppose this idea totally and completely.
Jon Soltz is an Iraq War Veteran and Chair of VoteVets
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