Obama lays out solution for mass shootings while right-wing gun craziness continues

Source: Why Evolution is True


Emphasis Mine

Last night President Obama addressed the nation in the wake of the San Bernardino shootings. If you missed his twelve-minute talk, here it is:

In general I think he did the best he could given the circumstances, though, with the exacerbated calls for gun control, it sounded a lot like “we’ll do more of the same.” It was basically a Presidential attempt to calm the country down. Here are the good and not-so-good bits:

The good stuff:

  • The call for Congress to make it harder for Americans to buy assault weapons and a call to ban those on the terrorism watch list from buying any guns (Republicans recently voted down that law)
  • A review of the relatively lax “fiancee visa” regulations that allowed the female shooter in San Bernardino to enter the U.S.
  • A review of our policy about visa waivers
  • A refusal to put American forces in a ground war
  • A call for Americans to resist the demonization of Muslims, and an emphasis on our law-abiding Muslim citizens and residents, many of whom serve in the armed forces. Obama said that this demonization is exactly what ISIS wants, though I hear the trope about “not doing what ISIS wants” all the time, and I’m not sure what they really do want. We shouldn’t demonize Muslims, but not because it plays into the hands of ISIS, but because treating Muslims as equal citizens, and avoiding personal or legal discrimination against them on the basis of their faith, are simply the right things to do
    • An implicit emphasis on maintaining Englightenment values, i.e., a refusal to abandon American principles when combating terrorism (then we should close Guantanamo, for crying out loud!)

    The not-so-good stuff:

    • Obama’s emphasis that terrorists or members ISIS instantiate a “perverted interpretation of Islam” and that ISIS “does not speak for Islam.” Well, ISIS speaks for Islam just as much as Pat Robertson speaks for Christianity. But at least Obama said the “I” word.
    • The call for Congress to declare war on ISIS by authorizing continuing military involvement. I’m not sure exactly what that means, or how it would change our present strategy. I fear that American ground troops will eventually be involved, what with a Republican Congress in place and a more hawkish President, Hillary Clinton (or any Republican) in the wings.
    • The nod to God at the end: “God bless you and God bless America” (omitted in the video). The ritual invocation of the deity at the end of Presidential speeches is a relatively new development: the first President to use the phrase was Richard Nixon, during a 1973 exculpation speech on Watergate.  

    In general, though, the only real change that will result from this talk will be is a stricter review of the U.S. visa program. Our military strategy in Syria and Iraq probably won’t change, Congress won’t pass laws tightening gun restrictions, and God won’t bless America, because he doesn’t exist.

    But against the braying and braggadocio of the right-wing gun nuts, who use mass killings as a rationale for loosening gun regulations, Obama sounds like a saint. Here, for instance, is Jerry Falwell Jr., the son of the Matchbox and his successor as President of the fundamentalist Christian Liberty University, speaking at the University convocation. Fallwell fils called for more guns, implied he was carrying one in his back pocket, urged students to carry more legal, concealed handguns (nothing that the University has free courses on this), and added, “If more good people had concealed carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they, before they go out there and kill.”

    And listen to all those Christian students cheering Falwell on!


    Seriously “end those Muslims”?

    Finally, here’s Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican Presidential candidate, defending his vote allowing people on the “no fly list” to buy guns. His rationale: the majority of people on the list are there by mistake. This is of course a dismissal of President Obama’s statement, “Right now, people on the No-Fly list can walk into a store and buy a gun. That is insane. If you’re too dangerous to board a plane, you’re too dangerous, by definition, to buy a gun.”

    h/t: GB James, jsp


How Republicans Made Climate Change America’s Most Divisive Political Issue

GOP-led climate denial threatens the future of the entire world.

Source: AlterNet

Author: Reynard Loki

Emphasis Mine

“Human kind …cannot bear very much reality.” —T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton

It’s been over a year since polling data found that climate change has emerged as America’s most polarizing political issue. The survey, conducted by the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire, found that the divisiveness characterizing the climate debate is so strong it has eclipsed such longstanding hot-button issues as gun control, evolution, the death penalty and even abortion. And with President Obama recently making an historic visit to Alaska to speak about the urgency of acting on climate change just as Republicans strive to derail his climate agenda, there is little sign that the climate gap separating the nation’s two major parties will be bridged any time soon.

In 2009, the Pew Research Center surveyed Americans’ views about the state of science and its impact on society. They concluded that “the strongest correlate of opinion on climate change is partisan affiliation.” Two-thirds of Republicans (67 percent) believe that global warming isn’t actually happening — or if it is, it’s not from man-made causes. By contrast, most Democrats (64 percent) say the planet is heating up mainly due to humans.

Climate change should not be this polarizing: Last year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN’s climate arm, reported that scientists are more than 95 percent certain that the primary cause of global warming is human activity.

American Pipe Dream

When it comes to the general election, the climate issue poses an electoral problem for the Republicans: A majority of Americans say they are more likely to support political candidates who promise to tackle climate change, according to a recent poll. Conducted by the New York Times, Stanford University and Resources for the Future, the poll found that two-thirds of Americans say they would support candidates who promised to take action to combat climate change. Almost half of Republicans (48 percent) say the same thing. The poll also found that a solid majority of U.S. voters, 83 percent, believe global warming poses a serious threat to the world.

While there are climate deniers across the globe, this anti-science stance is a particularly American phenomenon. In the U.S., elected GOP climate deniers are commonplace; several of them are seeking the presidency. It’s a different story in other industrualized nations. “In Europe, climate change denial is seen as the preserve of the crackpot,” writes London-based finance and economics writer Imogen Reed. “Few political figures or members of the news media would dream of mentioning it, as doing so often receives the same contempt from the European public as denying the Holocaust.”

Even citizens of emerging countries are more attuned to the realities of global warming. The 2010 Pew Global Attitudes Project found that the majority of consumers in China (91 percent), India (73 percent) and South Korea (71 percent) are willing to pay higher prices to address climate change. Not so in America, where a mere 38 percent of consumers would do the same. “In this sentiment, people in the U.S. are out of step with the world,” the report’s authors write. “In most of the countries surveyed people are more likely than Americans to be willing to pay for efforts to slow global warming.”

“In this sentiment, people in the US are out of step with the world,” according to the Pew survey. “In most of the countries surveyed people are more likely than Americans to be willing to pay for efforts to slow global warming.”{4}  – See more at: http://www.justmeans.com/blogs/if-you-had-to-choose-solve-the-climate-cr…

The GOP’s climate denial, buoyed by a massive social, financial and political machine oiled by conservative think-tanks and activist groups, has created a potentially disastrous situation in which climate change — arguably the most pressing global issue of our time — has also become the most polarizing topic in the nation whose leadership is absolutely critical to finding a solution. While Obama committed to an 83 percent reduction in carbon emissions on 2005 levels by 2050, that goal faces a massive hurdle: a rich and powerful Republican machine that seeks to dismantle the president’s climate agenda. With the two major parties locked in a seemingly intractable adversarial stance on the topic, truly meaningful action seems almost like a pipe dream.

If it is a dream, it’s because the GOP refuses to accept reality. The Carsey poll found that party-line gaps on science-related questions “equal or surpass those of historically divisive social issues.” The division is primarily driven by the Republicans, 70 percent of whom don’t believe in global warming. This position stands in stark contrast to the world’s scientists, 97 percent of whom agree that global warming has occurred in the last century. Lawrence Hamilton, a sociologist at the University of New Hampshire who conducted the Carsey poll, wrote that the findings represent “a changing political landscape in which scientific ideas and information that are accepted by most scientists are, nevertheless, highly controversial.”

Media Misinformation

The controversy is fueled in part by misinformation coming from the media. Last year, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) released its analysis of 2013 climate coverage by the three major American cable news networks. The researchers confirmed what most environmentalists had already guessed: Fox News leads the pack in climate misinformation. The right-wing mouthpiece presented misleading statements in almost three out of every four (72 percent) of its climate-related segments. Bucking that trend is Fox News anchor Shepard Smith, who has acknowledged anthropogenic, or human-caused, climate change, though he is one of very few voices at the network to do so.

See: http://www.alternet.org/environment/climate-change-more-divisive-abortion-blame-republicans?akid=13476.123424._E9pRg&rd=1&src=newsletter1042399&t=2

Guns Don’t Deter Crime, Study Finds

Source: Live Science, via RSN

Author: Stephanie Pappas

Emphasis Mine

A high-profile shooting, like the June 17 crime that left dead nine members of a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina, is typically followed by calls for greater gun control, along with counter arguments that the best way to stop gun crimes is with more guns.

“The one thing that would have at least ameliorated the horrible situation in Charleston would have been that if somebody in that prayer meeting had a conceal carry or there had been either an off-duty policeman or an on-duty policeman, somebody with the legal authority to carry a firearm and could have stopped the shooter,” presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said in a Fox News interview on June 19.

A new study, however, throws cold water on the idea that a well-armed populace deters criminals or prevents murders. Instead, higher ownership of guns in a state is linked to more firearm robberies, more firearm assaults and more homicide in general. [5 Milestones in Gun Control History]

We found no support for the hypothesis that owning more guns leads to a drop or a reduction in violent crime,” said study researcher Michael Monuteaux, an epidemiologist and professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. “Instead, we found the opposite.”

More guns, more gun crime

Numerous studies have found that gun ownership correlates with gun homicide, and homicide by gun is the most common type of homicide in the United States. In 2013, for example, there were 16,121 total homicides in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and 11,208 of those were carried out with a firearm. (Gun suicides outpace gun homicides by far; in 2013, the CDC recorded 21,175 suicides by firearm, about half of all suicides that year. Contrary to popular belief, suicide is typically an impulsive act, psychiatrists say. Ninety percent of people who attempt suicide once will not go on to complete a suicide later, but a suicide attempt using a gun is far more lethal than other methods.)

Monuteaux and his colleagues wanted to test whether increased gun ownership had any effect on gun homicides, overall homicides and violent gun crimes. They chose firearm robbery and assault, because those crimes are likely to be reported and recorded in the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Uniform Crime Report.

Along with that FBI data, the researchers gathered gun ownership rates from surveys in the CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, an ongoing, nationally representative survey in which participants answered questions about gun ownership in 2001, 2002 and 2004. Using those years and controlling for a slate of demographic factors, from median household income, population density, to age, race and more, the researchers compared crime rates and gun ownership levels state by state.

They found no evidence that states with more households with guns led to timid criminals. In fact, firearm assaults were 6.8 times more common in states with the most guns versus states with the least. Firearm robbery increased with every increase in gun ownership except in the very highest quintile of gun-owning states (the difference in that cluster was not statistically significant). Firearm homicide was 2.8 times more common in states with the most guns versus states with the least. [Private Gun Ownership in the US (Infographic)]

The researchers were able to test whether criminals were simply trading out other weapons for guns, at least in the case of homicide. They weren’t. Overall homicide rates were just over 2 times higher in the most gun-owning states, meaning that gun ownership correlated with higher rates of all homicides, not just homicide with a gun. The results will be published in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Pinpointing causation

The results do need to be interpreted with caution — this study method proves that more guns are linked to more gun crime and overall homicide, but not that access to guns directly causes this criminal uptick, said study researcher David Hemenway, the director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center.

“This study suggests that it’s really hard to find evidence that where there are more guns, there are less crimes, but you can easily find evidence that where there are a lot more guns, there are a lot more gun crimes,” Hemenway told Live Science.

It’s possible that people stockpile guns in response to higher levels of crime. The researchers tried to tease out whether this was the case by testing whether gun ownership levels were a prerequisite for crime or a response to higher crime levels. Though they still couldn’t prove causation, they did find that higher gun ownership levels preceded crime increases, not the other way around.

“It’s difficult to imagine how the hypothesis that increased ownership reduces criminal behavior could be valid, given our findings,” Monuteaux said.

Other researchers have tried to explore this question in different ways. Boston University researcher Michael Siegel and colleagues found in a 2013 study published in the American Journal of Public Health that over 30 years, gun ownership levels correlated with firearm homicides, such that the higher the gun ownership rate, the higher the firearm homicide rate.

However, Siegel said, it was possible that when people noticed the gun homicide rate going up around them, they went out to purchase guns for protection. To see if the idea held water, the researchers repeated the study, but differentiated between the stranger firearm homicide rate and the nonstranger firearm homicide rate.

They found something striking. Firearm ownership was not related to the number of stranger firearm homicides — cases where someone is killed by a stranger.

But when more people owned guns, the nonstranger firearm homicide rate rose — cases where someone is killed by someone they know.

“It wouldn’t make sense to argue that people only go out to buy guns if the nonstranger homicide rate goes up, but not if the stranger homicide rate goes up,” Siegel told Live Science. The data, he said, points to a picture in which confrontations between families, friends, bosses and acquaintances become lethal in the presence of guns.

“The types of fatalities that occur with nonstrangers are often situations where the presence of a gun makes all the difference in the world,” Siegel said. “Having guns available makes the difference between having a fatal confrontation and a nonfatal confrontation.”

Lingering questions

Despite the political firestorm over firearms, some questions about guns are settled science, Hemenway said. He’s made a side project of surveying active firearm researchers on the literature in an attempt to learn what areas of research have reached a consensus, and which remain open.

What’s known? One, the presence of a gun in the home increases the risk of suicide in that home. “That relationship we really know, no doubt about it,” Hemenway said.

Second, the research also confirms that more access to guns means more firearm homicides, Siegel added. Research on whether other weapons replace guns when guns are unavailable suggests that they do not: Overall homicide rates, not only gun homicides, creep up when guns are in the picture. A 2014 study published in the journal Injury Prevention, for example, found a 0.7 percent increase in overall homicides for every 1 percent increase in household gun ownership. [Fight, Fight, Fight: The History of Human Aggression]

The devil, however, is in the details, which often remain unexamined.

“We know so little about gun training, we know so little about gun theft, we know some about self-defensive gun use but not really much,” Hemenway said. He and his colleagues are working on studies about accidental gun deaths in children, about who kills police and whom police kill, and they’d like to research gun deaths in the elderly and gun intimidation events, in which a person brandishes a gun to scare another.

Also unclear are what policies work best to lower the number of firearms available, Siegel said. He and his colleagues are tackling that question now.

Another recent study highlighted just how little researchers know. In July 2013, researchers published a paper in the open-access journal PLOS ONE, attempting to mathematically model the trade-off between increased gun crimes with gun ownership and gun use for self-protection. Because the available data isn’t comprehensive enough, the researchers weren’t able to make specific policy recommendations, study researcher Dominik Wodarz of the University of California, Irvine, told Live Science.

“What this really does, this model, is it identifies what parameters are important, which should be measured,” Wodarz said. The hope is to motivate future studies on factors like how many people own guns legally versus illegally, how likely someone is to die if there is a shooting, and how many people carry their guns around on a regular basis.

“The model essentially said that reducing the amount of guns would be beneficial with the data we have, but this is not something that we say should inform policy,” he said.

How — or if — gun research will inform policy remains an open question. After federally funded research in the 1980s and 1990s began to reach a consensus that firearms in the home were linked to higher chances of violent death in the home, the National Rifle Association (NRA) lobbied successfully for an end to federal funding of firearms research. The prohibition had a chilling effect on the field. After the elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2013, President Obama issued an executive order lifting the ban on funding gun research, but little has changed in the two years since that order, scientists in the field say. Congress has to earmark the money for such research, and has not made that cash available to the CDC. The National Institute of Justice and National Institutes of Health have limited funding for gun research, but there is very little federal money available, Hemenway said.

Nor do decision makers necessarily care about science-based policy: Hemenway recalls presenting his research to a group of congressional representatives and having one declare that he didn’t care what the data had to say.

“One of the bad things the gun lobby has done is they’ve said, ‘it’s us or them, and you’ve got to choose sides,'” Hemenway said. “That makes it so people choose sides, and then they look for confirmatory data instead of trying to see what the world is really like.”

See: http://readersupportednews.org/news-section2/318-66/31162-guns-dont-deter-crime-study-finds

Here Are 11 Myths About the Future of Gun Control — Debunked After the Charleston Shooting

The problem is not an impossible one to solve, we only think it is.

Source: The Guardian, via AlterNet

Author: Dan Roberts, Sabrina Siddiqui / The Guardian

Emphasis Mine

Another mass shooting, another round of arguments about why gun reform is doomed to fail. Turns out, most of those arguments don’t hold up to scrutiny

Myth No1: Gun control would never pass Congress.

A majority of US senators voted for a package of gun control measures only two years ago. The 54 who backed the bill, which was written by Republican Pat Toomey and Democrat Joe Manchin, included three other Republicans.

But when four Democrats got cold feet about their electoral chances in the midterms, the legislation fell short of the 60 votes it needed to prevent a filibuster.

Heading into the 2016 election, however, there are many more moderate Republican seats up for grabs – and a meaningful opportunity for Democrats to take back control of the Senate.

A successful bipartisan Senate bill and more persuasive president could be enough to encourage a future House speaker to allow a vote, too. It might even pass if the House remained in Republican control.

Myth No2: Americans don’t want meaningful gun reforms.

Support for universal background checks skyrocketed after the December 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, with 90% of Americans behind the proposal at its peak. More than two years later, polls continue to show strong support for expanding background checks, averaging 80%.

As a successful 2014 ballot initiative in Washington state proved, if you leave the decision in the hands of voters, they are more likely than politicians to vote for universal background checks.

Ironically, when Congress was weighing airstrikes in Syria in August 2013, just four months after the failed background checks vote, one of the foremost reasons lawmakers cited in opposing the Obama administration’s plan was polling that showed 90% of Americans were against intervention. It was a classic example of how Congress selectively listens to the American people – as in, whenever it’s more convenient

Myth No3: Gun control won’t stop gun violence.

There are more than three times as many Americans killed by guns per capita than in any other wealthy nation, and more than ten times the rate in comparable larger countries such as Britain, France and Japan.

Many of these countries have similar problems with crime, drugs, urban deprivation and youth violence, others are more peaceful, but there is one simple thing that countries with less gun violence have in common with each other: they have fewer guns.

No one can predict the future of a more gun-constrained America with certainty, but the evidence from dozens of comparable societies points to a clear causal relationship between access to firearms and how often they are used.

Myth No4: Switzerland and Israel seem to do OK without gun control
Proponents of unfettered gun ownership often point to the example of Switzerland, which has a tradition of more widespread firearms ownership than most other European countries but is not known for its gun-ravaged inner cities.

One problem is the trend is not that different: more guns still lead to more shooting, just less so than in America. Switzerland is actually second among wealthy nations in terms of annual gun deaths (0.77 per 100,000 of population in one recent survey , versus 2.97 in the US and just 0.07 in England and Wales) but has barely half as many guns per 100 people (45.7 versus 88.8 in the US).

But even this comparison gets weaker if you look at the way the Swiss keep their guns, which stems from a tradition of military service that has been considerably tightened over the years. One US study by the National Institutes of Health points out that both Switzerland and Israel (another alleged exception to the rule touted as proof that guns don’t kill) actually limit firearm ownership considerably and require permit renewal one to four times annually.

Those are just the kind of gun control measures, in fact, that second-amendment fans in the US claim wouldn’t make any difference to gun violence.

Myth No5: Other countries are different

Further rejoinders to the international-comparison argument are less empirical still, tending to rely on a mixture of American cultural exceptionalism, pioneer spirit and a history of racial tension to explain why murder rates are so high without blaming gun ownership.

While it is true that US history differs greatly from European history, this theory is less effective at explaining similar disparities with Canada and Australia.

Comparisons between similar large cities also belie the argument that there is something uniquely violent about America’s urban poor. London has gang violence, drugs and recent riots that make Ferguson and Baltimore look tranquil, yet the Metropolitan police estimate criminals have access to barely 100 guns in a city only slightly smaller than New York. Cities like Glasgow and Liverpool can be shockingly violent places but victims of knife attacks and beatings tend to survive.

It may be true that the link between guns and a culture of violence goes both ways, but that’s hardly a reason not to try tackle both at the same time.

Myth No6: US borders are too open

Amid widespread concern over illegal immigration, much attention has also focused on the unique geography of the United States. It is true that the country has among the longest land borders in the world and is a very open international trading nation.

It is hard to imagine, however, the weapons would be anywhere near as easy for criminals to obtain if they all had to be smuggled through ports, airports or across the Mexican border. Even a small reduction in weapons falling into the wrong hands would also reduce the incentive for homeowners to store guns for self-defense.

Whether US port security or land borders would really prove that much more porous than other countries with stricter gun laws is also open to question, but it is strange this argument is rarely offered as a reason to give up on drug interdiction, or intercepting terrorist bomb threats.

Myth No7: Guns are essential for self-defense.

The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun,” NRA president Wayne LaPierre infamously declared after the Newtown shooting.

According to the non-profit Violence Policy Center , there were just 258 “justifiable homicides” involving civilians using guns in 2012, as opposed to 8,342 criminal homicides committed with a firearm. “For every justifiable homicide in the United States involving a gun, guns were used in 32 criminal homicides,” the group said in a report, which is based on data from the FBI and Bureau of Justice.

And those figures do not even include an estimated 22,000 suicides and accidental shootings annually where guns are involved.

Myth No8: The NRA is invincible.

(Related: NRA blames Charleston victims as the mass shooting reaction echoes Newtown)

After Newtown, anti-gun violence groups actually raised more money. According to filings with the Federal Election Commission in 2014, gun control groups declared $21.3m in contributions since the November 2012 election, whereas gun rights’ groups raised $16.3m in the same period.

Americans for Responsible Solutions, the anti-gun violence group co-founded by former congresswoman Gabby Giffords, a Democrat who was shot in the head during the 2011 mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona, amassed a whopping $11 million in its first four months of existence.

Myth No9: Lawmakers will be voted out of office for supporting gun control.

In the 2014 elections, two governors who passed comprehensive gun control bills – Connecticut governor Dan Malloy and Colorado governor John Hickenlooper, both Democrats – were both re-elected despite the NRA’s best efforts to defeat them.

The gun control debate also had little effect on lawmakers who voted against stricter gun laws after Newtown. US senators Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Mark Begich of Alaska – two of just four Democrats who joined Republicans in blocking a Senate bill to expand background checks – both lost their re-elections anyway.

Despite its pledge to reward politicians who stood up for gun rights, the NRA did nothing to help either senator. Money and grassroots support is also now on offer from groups like those backed by former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg, that support gun control.

Myth No10: Mass shootings still happen in areas with strict gun laws, so gun control doesn’t work.

When a mass shooting occurred in Septemberg 2013 at the Navy Yard compound in Washington, one of the first arguments made by activists for gun rights was that gun control is clearly ineffective because DC has some of the strictest gun laws in the US.

A similar point has been made about Chicago, which has tough restrictions on guns but ranks among the country’s deadliest with respect to gun violence .

The problem with this theory is that criminals also have access to cars, and can easily obtain firearms in neighbouring states or counties.

In the Navy Yard incident, the shooter legally purchased firearms in neighboring Virginia despite a criminal record and mental health issues – exposing gaps in the current background checks system. And cities like Chicago are plagued by the illegal trafficking of firearms; there is no current federal law that defines gun trafficking or straw purchasing as a crime.

Myth No11: Universal background checks would create a federal database of gun owners.

One of the myths that ended the background checks bill in the Senate two years ago was the claim – perpetrated by the gun lobby and swallowed by most Republicans – was that it would create a national registry of gun owners. In fact, the Manchin-Toomey legislation

explicitly barred the creation of a federal database in its text, but opponents insisted it would infringe on the liberties of gun owners in America.

Aside from that being a false claim, it was notable that just a couple of months later, when it was revealed that the NSA was spying on millions of Americans, the same lawmakers were overwhelmingly supportive of far more intrusive data-gathering.

Dan Roberts is the Guardian’s Washington Bureau chief, covering politics and US national affairs. Previously, he worked as the national editor in London and was head of business.

Sabrina Siddiqui is a political reporter for Guardian US based in Washington DC. She previously covered US politics for the Huffington Post and worked with the White House team at Bloomberg News.

After Newtown, anti-gun violence groups actually raised more


See: http://www.alternet.org/here-are-11-myths-about-future-gun-control-debunked-after-charleston-shooting?akid=13232.123424.nl2iwN&rd=1&src=newsletter1038135&t=15

America Is Exceptionally Dumb When It Comes To Guns

Source: National Memo

Author: Cynthia Tucker

While Americans typically laud our national “exceptionalism” — a sense that the trajectory of history has bestowed greatness upon the United States — there are a few of our distinctive characteristics that don’t deserve celebration. On the subject of firearms, for example, the United States is exceptionally irrational. No other nation has set guns aside as an object of worship.

We have let a blood-soaked gun lobby dictate our laws and regulations on firearms; we have passed “stand your ground” laws that allow violent and angry men to murder unarmed people; we have given the mentally unstable the ability to buy military-style assault weapons with which they wreak havoc on crowds. Last week, Georgia governor Nathan Deal signed a bill into law that would allow denizens of his state to carry firearms into government buildings, bars and, God help us, churches.

In addition, we have allowed the gun lobby to suppress research into the public health consequences of our firearms-worshipping culture. Indeed, U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) — running in a crowded GOP primary for a U.S. Senate seat — has recently reversed himself, going back on an earlier pledge to support such studies. It hardly gets any loonier than that.

In the 1990s, the National Rifle Association successfully stymied public health researchers who wanted to study the causes and consequences of gun violence. According to ProPublica, a nonprofit news organization, “funding for firearms injury prevention activities dropped from more than $2.7 million in 1995 to around $100,000 in 2012.”

However, after the Sandy Hook atrocity in December 2012, it appeared that the dead bodies of 20 small children — and six adults — might be enough to finally restore some sanity to the national conversation. President Obama issued a presidential memorandum ordering the CDC to “research the causes and prevention of gun violence.” The National Rifle Association didn’t immediately object, since it recognized the fraught politics of that grief-laden moment.

Some of the NRA’s supporters, too, were muted, seemingly willing to consider modest measures to improve public safety. Kingston was among those willing to support more research on gun violence, saying, “Let’s let the data lead rather than our political opinions.”


The gun lobby clearly fears that science will discover that guns are dangerous and that, well, more guns are more dangerous. (To quote that famous philosopher Stephen Colbert, “Reality has a well-known liberal bias.”)

At a Savannah, Georgia, gathering shortly after Sandy Hook, he said: “You have to be a pretty sick person to squeeze a trigger on a human being, particularly unarmed children at a school. I think if we focus and keep beating up on the weapon as the problem, we are missing the big picture of mental health that we can come together on as Democrats and Republicans. I spoke with the head of the CDC last week. I think we can find some common ground.”

But Kingston now finds himself in a GOP primary in which some of his right-wing opponents have tagged him as a RINO (Republican In Name Only), despite his solidly conservative credentials. That has left him desperate to court the crazies among his constituents, lest the “fire-at-will” crowd doubt his fidelity to the notion that every American should own his own shoulder-fired missile launcher.

So Kingston has dutifully signed up to block Obama’s request for CDC funding for gun violence research, telling ProPublica recently that “the president’s request to fund propaganda for his gun-grabbing initiatives through the CDC will not be included” in the next appropriations bill.

That means that some of the questions we desperately need answered won’t get the inquiry they deserve: Do background checks deter gun violence? How many mass shooters had a detectable mental illness? What is the link between suicide and gun ownership? Even Kingston’s question about a possible link between violent video games and mass shootings won’t be studied.

That’s just nuts, a reminder of our willingness to be exceptionally dumb about some things.

(Cynthia Tucker, winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a visiting professor at the University of Georgia. She can be reached at cynthia@cynthiatucker.com.)

Photo: USDAgov via Flickr


Emphasis Mine


5 Things Conservatives Lie Shamelessly About

Source: AlterNet

Author: Amanda Marcotte

Mark Twain once famously said, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” Twain wasn’t praising lies with this comment, of course, but modern-day conservatives seem to think he was dishing out advice instead of damning the practice of dishonesty. Conservatives have figured out a neat little rhetorical trick: One lie is easy for your opponents to debunk. Tell one lie after another, however, and your opponent’s debunkings will never catch up. By the time the liberal opposition has debunked one lie, there’s a dozen more to take its place.

Science educator Eugenie Scott deemed the technique the “Gish Gallop,” named for a notoriously sleazy creationist named Duane Gish. The Urban Dictionary defines the Gish Gallop as a technique that “involves spewing so much bullshit in such a short span on that your opponent can’t address let alone counter all of it.” Often users of the Gish Gallop know their arguments are nonsense or made in bad faith, but don’t particularly care because they are so dead set on advancing their agenda. Unfortunately, the strategy is so effective that it’s been expanding rapidly in right-wing circles. Here are just a few of the most disturbing examples of the Gish Gallop in action.

1. Creationism. It’s no surprise creationists inspired the coining of the term Gish Gallop, as they have perfected the art of making up nonsense faster than scientists can refute it. The list of false or irrelevant claims made by creationists, as chronicled by Talk Origins, numbers in the dozens, perhaps even hundreds, and more are always being spun out. Trying to argue with a creationist, therefore, turns into a hellish game of Whack-A-Mole. Debunk the lie that the speed of light is not constant, and you’ll find he’s already arguing that humans co-existed with dinosaurs. Argue that it’s unconstitutional to put the story of Adam and Eve in the science classroom, and find he’s pretending he was never asking for that and instead wants to “teach the controversy.”

“Teaching the controversy” is a classic Gish Gallop apology. The conservative wants to make it seem like he’s supporting open-minded debate, but instead he just wants an opportunity to dump a bunch of lies on students with the knowledge that they’ll never have the time and attention to carefully parse every debunking.

2. Climate change denialism.This strategy worked so well for creationism it makes perfect sense that it would be imported to the world of climate change denialism. Climate change denialists have many changing excuses for why they reject the science showing that human-caused greenhouse gases are changing the climate, but what all these reasons have in common is they are utter nonsense in service of a predetermined opposition to taking any action to prevent further damage.Skeptical Science, a website devoted to debunking right-wing lies on this topic, has compiled a dizzying list of 176 common claims by climate denialists and links to why they are false. Some of these lies directly contradict each other. For instance, it can’t both be true that climate change is “natural” and that it’s not happening at all. No matter, since the point of these lies is not to create a real discussion about the issue, but to confuse the issue so much it’s impossible to get any real momentum behind efforts to stop global warming.

3. The Affordable Care Act. It’s not just science where conservatives have discovered the value in telling lies so fast you simply wear your opposition out. When it comes to healthcare reform, the lying has been relentless. There are the big lies, such as calling Obamacare “socialism,” which implies a single-payer system, when in fact, it’s about connecting the uninsured with private companies and giving consumers of healthcare a basic set of rights. In a sense, even the name “Obamacare” is a lie, as the bill was, per the President’s explicit wishes, written by Congress.

But there are also the small lies: The ACA funds abortion. Under the ACA, old people will be forcibly euthanized. Obamacare somehow covers undocumented immigrants. Congress exempted itself from Obamacare (one of the lies that doesn’t even make sense, as it’s not a program you could really get exempted from). Healthcare will add a trillion dollars to the deficit.

The strategy of just lying and lying and lying some more about the ACA has gotten to the point where Fox News is just broadcasting lies accusing the Obama administration of lying. When it was reported that the administration was going to hit its projections for the number of enrollments through healthcare.gov, a subculture of “enrollment truthers” immediately sprang up to spread a variety of often conflicting lies to deny that these numbers are even real. It started soft, with some conservatives suggesting that some enrollments shouldn’t count or arguing, without a shred of evidence, that huge numbers of new enrollees won’t pay their premiums. Now the lying is blowing up to the shameless level, with “cooking the books” being a common false accusation or, as with Jesse Watters on Fox, straight up accusing the White House of making the number up. Perhaps soon there will be demands to see all these new enrollees’ birth certificates.

4. Contraception mandate.The ACA-based requirement that insurance plans cover contraception without a copay has generated a Gish Gallop so large it deserves its own category. Jodi Jacobson of RH Reality Check chronicled 12 of the biggest lies generated by the right-wing noise machine in just the past couple of years since the mandate was even announced. It is not “free” birth control, nor is it “paid for” by employers. The birth control coverage is paid for by the employees, with benefits they earn by working. The mandate doesn’t cover “abortifacients,” only contraception. No, birth control doesn’t work by killing fertilized eggs, but by preventing fertilization. It’s simply false that the prescriptions in question can all be replaced with a $9-a-month prescription from Walmart, as many women’s prescriptions run into the hundreds and even thousands a year. No, it’s not true that the contraception mandate is about funding women’s “lifestyle”, because statistics show that having sex for fun instead of procreation is a universal human behavior and not a marginal or unusual behavior as the term “lifestyle” implies.

5. Gun safety. The gun lobby is dishonest to its core. Groups like the NRA like to paint themselves like they are human rights organizations, but in fact, they are an industry lobby whose only real goal is to protect the profit margins of gun manufacturers, regardless of the costs to human health and safety. Because their very existence is based on a lie, is it any surprise that gun industry advocates are experts at the Gish Gallop, ready to spring into action at the sign of any school shooting or report on gun violence and dump so many lies on the public that gun safety advocates can never even begin to address them all?

A small sampling of the many, many lies spouted by gun industry advocates: That guns prevent murder, when in fact more guns correlates strongly with more murders. That gun control doesn’t work. That gun control is unpopular.  That any move to make gun ownership safer is a move to take away your guns. That a gun in the home makes you safer when it actually puts your family at more risk. That guns protect against domestic violence, when the truth is that owning a gun makes abuse worse, not better. Even the standard line “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” is a distracting bit of dishonesty, since most gun deaths aren’t murders but suicides.

How do you fight the Gish Gallop, when trying to debunk each and every lie is so overwhelming? There are a few tactics that help, including creating websites and pamphlets where all the lies can be aggregated in one place, for swift debunking. (Bingo cards and drinking games are a humorous version of this strategy.) A critical strategy is to avoid lengthy Lincoln-Douglas-style debates that allow conservatives to lie-dump rapidly during their speaking period, leaving you so busy trying to clean up their mess you have no time for positive points of your own. Better is a looser style of debate where you can interrupt and correct the lies as they come. I’ve also found some luck with setting an explicit “no lies” rule that will be strictly enforced. The first lie receives a warning, and the second lie means that the debate is immediately terminated. This helps prevent you from having to debunk and instead makes the price of participation a strict adherence to facts.

Amanda Marcotte co-writes the blog Pandagon. She is the author of “It’s a Jungle Out There: The Feminist Survival Guide to Politically Inhospitable Environments.”

Emphasis Mine

See: http://www.alternet.org/5-things-conservatives-lie-shamelessly-about?akid=11677.123424.pmD4Yc&rd=1&src=newsletter978221&t=2

The Science of Guns Proves Arming Untrained Citizens Is a Bad Idea

Source: Scientific American

Author: Michael Shermer

(N.B.: Consider the source)

“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 31,672 people died by guns in 2010 (the most recent year for which U.S. figures are available), a staggering number that is orders of magnitude higher than that of comparable Western democracies. What can we do about it? National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre believes he knows: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” If LaPierre means professionally trained police and military who routinely practice shooting at ranges, this observation would at least be partially true. If he means armed private citizens with little to no training, he could not be more wrong.

Consider a 1998 study in the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery that found that “every time a gun in the home was used in a self-defense or legally justifiable shooting, there were four unintentional shootings, seven criminal assaults or homicides, and 11 attempted or completed suicides.” Pistol owners’ fantasy of blowing away home-invading bad guys or street toughs holding up liquor stores is a myth debunked by the data showing that a gun is 22 times more likely to be used in a criminal assault, an accidental death or injury, a suicide attempt or a homicide than it is for self-defense. I harbored this belief for the 20 years I owned a Ruger .357 Magnum with hollow-point bullets designed to shred the body of anyone who dared to break into my home, but when I learned about these statistics, I got rid of the gun.

More insights can be found in a 2013 book from Johns Hopkins University Press entitled Reducing Gun Violence in America: Informing Policy with Evidence and Analysis, edited by Daniel W. Webster and Jon S. Vernick, both professors in health policy and management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. In addition to the 31,672 people killed by guns in 2010, another 73,505 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for nonfatal bullet wounds, and 337,960 nonfatal violent crimes were committed with guns. Of those 31,672 dead, 61 percent were suicides, and the vast majority of the rest were homicides by people who knew one another.

For example, of the 1,082 women and 267 men killed in 2010 by their intimate partners, 54 percent were shot by guns. Over the past quarter of a century, guns were involved in greater number of intimate partner homicides than all other causes combined. When a woman is murdered, it is most likely by her intimate partner with a gun. Regardless of what really caused Olympic track star Oscar Pistorius to shoot his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp (whether he mistook her for an intruder or he snapped in a lover’s quarrel), her death is only the latest such headline. Recall, too, the fate of Nancy Lanza, killed by her own gun in her own home in Connecticut by her son, Adam Lanza, before he went to Sandy Hook Elementary School to murder some two dozen children and adults. As an alternative to arming women against violent men, legislation can help: data show that in states that prohibit gun ownership by men who have received a domestic violence restraining order, gun-caused homicides of intimate female partners have been reduced by 25 percent.

Another myth to fall to the facts is that gun-control laws disarm good people and leave the crooks with weapons. Not so, say the Johns Hopkins authors: “Strong regulation and oversight of licensed gun dealers—defined as having a state law that required state or local licensing of retail firearm sellers, mandatory record keeping by those sellers, law enforcement access to records for inspection, regular inspections of gun dealers, and mandated reporting of theft of loss of firearms—was associated with 64 percent less diversion of guns to criminals by in-state gun dealers.”

Finally, before we concede civilization and arm everyone to the teeth pace the NRA, consider the primary cause of the centuries-long decline of violence as documented by Steven Pinker in his 2011 book The Better Angels of Our Nature: the rule of law by states that turned over settlement of disputes to judicial courts and curtailed private self-help justice through legitimate use of force by police and military trained in the proper use of weapons.”

This article was originally published with the title Gun Science.

Emphasis Mine

see: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=gun-science-proves-arming-untrained-citizens-bad-idea&WT.mc_id=SA_CAT_BS_20130510

He was able to buy a gun!

The first issue which must be addressed in this tragedy is why Jared Loughner – with a history of mental illness  – was able to walk into a store and – with no background checks – buy a gun.  In addition, he was – thanks to the expiration of the assault weapons law in 2004 – able to buy an extended magazine holding thirty rounds of ammunition, which he emptied on the victims.   In Canada, for example, there is a 28 day waiting period before one can purchase a handgun.  No one needs thirty rounds in any weapon to hunt animals, nor do they need thirty rounds for self protection.

The claim that “people kill, guns don’t”, does not excuse allowing an unstable or unqualified person to buy or own a gun.