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.”


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



Dylann Roof Is America

To pretend to be surprised by his crime is to be complicit in it.

Source: AlterNet

Author: Kali Holloway

Emphasis mine

In so many ways, the story of Dylann Roof, the shooting suspect who allegedly killed nine people in an historic South Carolina black church, is a parallel to the story of America itself.

Who, at this point, can feign surprise at this latest massacre when it sits at the nexus of so much that is familiar and perfectly in line with the U.S. that we know? We are a country where mass shootings are weekly news, where gun violence is a fact of daily life, where there is a legacy of terror against black people and communities, where white racists have long targeted black churches, where African-American life is so devalued it can be taken with impunity.

If you are shocked by any aspect of Roof’s story so far—including that he is being described in news outlets as “quiet and soft-spoken” instead of as a terrorist—you are not only willingly obtuse but complicit in his crime. There is a single conclusion to draw in this moment, and it is that we are here again, because this is exactly who we are.

It seems likely to me that Roof had some sense of this, that his own knowledge and recognition of history helped guide him toward committing this horrific crime. Emanuel African Methodist Church is one of the oldest houses of worship in the South, and it has long served—like the institution of the African-American church itself in this country—as a sanctuary and safe haven for black people from white racism. Though the roots of the church stretch back to 1787, its foundation is more firmly pinned to 1816. Six years after its establishment, when a slave rebellion plot was tied to the church in 1822, accused leader Denmark Vesey—a free black man—and five alleged co-conspirators were hanged and the church burned down. The date of that rebellion was to be June 17, also the date Roof walked into Bible study at the church, pretended to worship with parishioners for an hour, and then shot nine people to death.

I would wager that Roof knew not just that bit of history, but understood in his own perverse way what it meant to kill—to literally hunt—black folks in a space they were hopeful enough to believe was safe, and that he recognized his place alongside white racist terrorists like those who carried out the 1963 Birmingham, Alabama, church bombing that killed four black girls. (Not to mention those I’ve just written about, who burned the church itself down nearly two centuries ago.) Roof adorned his car with the same Confederate flag that once flew over slaveholding states and today waves over the South Carolina statehouse. America may be unwilling to face its history, despite a mounting pile of black bodies that forces African Americans to reckon with it daily. But Roof is more honest than those—and there are so many—whose complicity lies in looking the other way, in denying the past, in pretending that each new murder is an isolated anomaly. As long as they are unwilling to admit to our past’s stranglehold on our present, Roof and others like him will continue to draw truth, and strength, from the legacy and reality of white terror and supremacy. The lies white America tells itself cost actual black lives.

Before he pulled the trigger, Roof allegedly said to his victims, “I have to do it.” He continued, “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.” At 21-years-old, Roof had fully absorbed the message his country has taught him, just like terrorists in every other country, in every other part of the world. He clung to the old American idea that white women are our most precious resource to be protected by any means, and felt it was his right as a white man to protect his birthright—this country and his privilege within it —which he saw as being taken from him. We are guns and violence and race hatred and systemic, codified, state-sanctioned terrorism against people of color and that is who we have always been. While our media is certain to attribute Roof’s heinous acts to mental illness (and the cops were careful to take him alive, which even the most innocent of black folks cannot count on), I consider him a particularly apt pupil. Just the latest of many. Though certainly not the last. 


What does GUN VIOLENCE actually cost?

Source: Mother Jones

Author: Ted Miller

Emphasis Mine

THE DATA BELOW is the result of a joint investigation by Mother Jones and Ted Miller, an economist at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation. Based on Miller’s work identifying and quantifying the societal impacts of gun violence, the annual price tag comes to at least $229 billion a year (based on 2012 data). That includes $8.6 billion in direct spending—from emergency care and other medical expenses to court and prison costs—as well as $221 billion in less tangible “indirect” costs, which include impacts on productivity and quality of life for victims and their communities. (See the rest of our special investigation here.)  gun violence costs charts

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gun violence costs charts

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gun violence costs charts
gun violence costs charts
gun violence costs charts




Everything I Thought I Knew About Our Right to Bear Arms Suddenly and Totally Changed

I used to think calls for gun safety reform were overblown. Then the world changed.

Source: Salon, via AlterNet

Author: Philip Gulley

Emphasis Mine

Noah Pozner did nothing to change my mind, except die. Before he died, I believed a few sensible gun laws could save children like Noah Pozner. After he died, after he and his Sandy Hook classmates were mowed down by a man with a gun, I changed my mind.


After he died, I realized an old custom had to die with him, so a nobler one could take its place.  Before Noah Pozner died, I thought there was nothing wrong with the Second Amendment a little common sense couldn’t fix.  After he died, I’ve come to believe “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms” no longer promotes our life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, but daily threatens them.  How free are we when more people are shot and killed each year in America than populate the towns in which many of us live?  How free are we when a backpack that unfolds into a bulletproof covering is a must-have item for schoolchildren?

“A well-regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.”

While I concede that a well-regulated militia might be necessary to the security of a free state, that role is now ably served by our military, professionally trained and highly disciplined, drawn from the ranks of our families and friends, from whom we have nothing to fear. We no longer need Minutemen. The British have not surrounded Concord. This is not “Independence Day” and we’re not under alien attack. I cannot imagine any circumstance in which our government would urge us to arm ourselves in defense of our country. Our nation has outgrown its need for an armed citizenry. The disadvantages of widespread gun ownership far outweigh any perceived advantage. Ask the parents of Noah Pozner. Ask African-American residents of Ferguson, Missouri. Ask what America’s love affair with guns has meant to them.

The merit of a position can be gauged by the temperament of its supporters, and these days the NRA reminds me of the folks who packed the courtroom of the Scopes monkey trial, fighting to preserve a worldview no thoughtful person espoused. This worship of guns grows more ridiculous, more difficult to sustain, and they know it, hence their theatrics, their parading through Home Depot and Target, rifles slung over shoulders. Defending themselves, they say.  From what, from whom?  I have whiled away many an hour at Home Depots and Targets and never once come under attack.

They remind me of the Confederates who fought to defend the indefensible, sacrificing the lives of others in order to preserve some dubious right they alone valued. They would rather die, armed to the teeth, than live in a nation free of guns and their bitter harvest. You can have my gun when you pry it from around my cold, dead fingers, their bumper stickers read. How empty their lives must be if life without a gun is not worth living.

The first thing Hitler did was confiscate guns, the gun lovers warn, a bald lie if ever there was one. But let’s suspend reality and imagine it was true. Where is the Hitler in Canada, in England, in Sweden, in every other civilized nation whose citizens have resolved to live without guns? Let the NRA trot out its tired canard about the housewife whose husband thoughtfully armed her, who shot the intruder and saved her family. I will tell you about the father who mistook his son for a burglar and shot him dead, about the man who rigged a shotgun in his barn to discourage thievery and accidentally slew his precious little girl when she entered the barn to play with her kittens.

What drives this fanaticism? Can I venture a guess? Have you noticed the simultaneous increase in gun sales and the decline of the white majority? After the 2010 census, when social scientists predicted a white minority in America by the year 2043, we began to hear talk of “taking back our country.” Gun shops popped up like mushrooms, mostly in the white enclaves of America’s suburbs and small towns. One can’t help wondering if the zeal for weaponry has been fueled by the same dismal racism that has propelled so many social ills.

When I was growing up, our schools and colleges were unmatched, our medical care unrivaled, our infrastructure state-of-the-art, our opportunities unlimited. America set the gold standard. We can be great again, but not without addressing the fear and ignorance that feed our gun culture, for no nation can ascend until it cures the virus of violence. We cannot let the most fearful among us set our nation’s tone, lest we descend to that sorry state we labored centuries to rise above. It is time for America to grow up, to become adults, so that children like Noah Pozner have a fighting chance to do the same.

A Quaker pastor, author and speaker, Philip Gulley received his masters of divinity degree from Christian Theological Seminary, and is co-pastor of Fairfield Friends Meeting in Camby, Indiana. He is also the author of “Living the Quaker Way: Timeless Wisdom for a Better Life Today” by Convergent Books.




Mental Illness And Guns Have Created A National Epidemic

Source: National Memo

Author: Mary Sanchez

Before day’s end, 86 Americans who were alive yesterday will be dead from gun violence. One of us dies from a bullet every 17 minutes.

That statistic lends a certain futility to the anguished plea of Richard Martinez: “Not one more!” He made this appeal after losing his only son, Chris, in the shooting rampage last weekend in Santa Barbara, California.

On Tuesday, Martinez led more than 20,000 people chanting “Not one more!” at a memorial rally, and the slogan has since become a trending Twitter hashtag.

But in the three days between his son’s death on Friday and the rally, more than 250 Americans died from bullets. Let me tell you about one. Isaac Sims, 26, died during Memorial Day weekend in my hometown, Kansas City.

Police had been called to his family’s home after Sims fired shots, although he injured nobody. After a five-hour standoff with police, Sims emerged from the house brandishing a rifle and was shot down by police.

Sims’ death might appear utterly unrelated to the mass murder in Santa Barbara, but they do possibly share a common thread: mental illness.

I say “possibly” because there’s a lot we don’t know about Sims. What we do know is grimly familiar. He did two tours in Iraq, and in the week prior to being shot by police, he’d sought help from the local VA for what his family says was PTSD. There wasn’t bed space. He was told to wait 30 days. Treatment had been ordered for Sims through a special court set up for veterans; he’d pleaded guilty to domestic assault.

The circumstances of his death raise the question of whether suicide was a motive. An estimated 22 veterans commit suicide daily. Had the despondent Sims, a trained marksman, wanted to harm someone else, he could have done it. But he was the only one who died that Sunday.

What if, when Sims approached the VA for help, a trained counselor had asked him whether he had firearms at home? What if, based on how he answered that question, he could have qualified for immediate admission to the hospital? Would he be alive today?

What if the sheriff’s deputies sent to visit Elliot Rodger, the Santa Barbara gunman, a month before his shooting spree had asked about his access to firearms? They had been sent to check on his well-being, prompted by the concerns of his mother and his therapist over videos he had posted. But in the 10-minute check, they didn’t watch the videos or enter his apartment.

Would it not have made sense for the deputies to determine what kinds of guns and ammunition he had access to?

Yes, it would have. At the very least, it might have been one way to assess his susceptibility to committing deadly violence. We actually don’t have good measures for predicting who will commit mass violence. That’s a subject that needs to be studied more.

And yet it is the kind of reasonable inquiry that the National Rifle Association conflates with privacy invasion, with an infringement on Second Amendment rights. Twenty years ago, the NRA began fighting to keep Congress from funding studies about gun deaths because initial research showed that having a gun in the home is linked to increased risk of homicide. Now, 19,000 Americans kill themselves with a gun every year. That’s an epidemic. But Congress idles, fearful of an NRA backlash.

Richard Martinez gets it. He understands that something can be done, and one of the signature moral failings of our Congress is that it has done nothing. Out of fear.

“Where is the leadership? Where is the friggin’ politicians that will stand up and say, ‘We need to do this. We’re gonna do something,’” Martinez pleaded to CNN.

He’s right. A few days before his son died, members of Congress waffled on moving forward with a bill that would have made it easier for people to be hospitalized for mental health care, sometimes even against their will.

Yes, each story of a gun-related death is complicated, with its own nuances. Solutions are not simple. But the recurring storylines cannot be ignored. In massacre after massacre, a severely troubled assailant is found to have acquired his guns and ammunition legally.

Solving this problem is not simply a matter of enforcing the laws “already on the books” more rigidly. We need to look deeply, scientifically, at our current gun laws and change them. And get ready, because the NRA will fight to the end to stop us.

(Mary Sanchez is an opinion-page columnist for The Kansas City Star. Readers may write to her at: Kansas City Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, Mo. 64108-1413, or via email at

Emphasis Mine



5 of the Most Dangerous Delusions of the Far Right

Conservatives are outdoing themselves with the crazy on issues like climate change and abortion.

Source: AlterNet

Author: Amanda Marcotte

That the conservative movement is built on a bunch of misinformation, strange fantasies and outright lies has been the subject of thorough documentation, particularly in the past few decades. Conservative leaders deny inconvenient facts, make up lurid tales to justify their beliefs, and outright lie, if it suits their agenda. But these lies and myths rarely just sit in amber. They tend to evolve and get stranger and more baroque over time. Just when you think conservative misinformation can’t get any weirder, it does. Here’s four topics where conservatives are taking the lies and denialism to the next level.

1) Climate change.The White House recently released a report on climate change outlining how climate change is no longer a “future” issue since it’s having an impact on the environment right now. Conservatives responded by abandoning all restraint. No longer content with the line that they are simply “skeptical” of the science, George Will and Charles Krauthammer (neither of whom are scientists) went on Fox News to “explain” how all this science stuff is hokum. Will basically accused scientists of making it all up for mercenary reasons, saying, “If you want money from the biggest source of direct research in this country, the federal government, don’t question its orthodoxy.” Why the federal government would make up climate change and then bribe scientists to lie about it was left unexplained.


But Michael Bresciani of the Christian Post may have come up with an even more entertaining, if still chilling way for conservatives to simply wave off the overwhelming evidence about climate change. Bresciani seems to accept that climate change is happening, but claims it’s for biblical reasons. “All that the Bible reveals about climate changed is part of the pre-millennial prophetic message. It does say that earthquakes and violent storms, fires and other natural disasters will occur with greater intensity and frequency as the ‘last days’ approach, but it clearly says these are ‘birth pangs’ for a planet about to meet its creator.” Instead of blaming carbon emissions, he blames “everything perverted, liberal and dehumanizing.”

So those are the two choices facing a forward-thinking climate change denialist these days: Either claim science is a lie or say climate change is real, but it’s caused by all the sex you perverts are having.

2) Abortion.Abortion has always been a topic that causes conservatives to spin off into fantasyland, but lately it just seems to be getting worse. Unable to admit out loud that they want to ban abortion to punish women for having sex, conservatives have taken to spinning fantastical tales of how abortion is an “industry” that deliberately tricks women into having abortions in order to make money. (Never mind that many abortion clinics are non-profits.)

But even that lurid fantasy is apparently not satisfying enough. Carol Everett worked in abortion clinics three decades ago and now makes a living as an anti-choice activist, and there’s no tale too tall for her to tell. Recently, LifeSiteNews, without an ounce of skepticism, printed some of Everett’s claims about how the “industry” supposedly tricks young women into having sex, by letting them know that it exists. “We had a goal of 3-5 abortions from every girl between the ages of 13 and 18,” she told the unbelievably gullible audience at an anti-choice function. She then explained that abortion clinic workers supposedly sneak into schools and trick kids into getting abortions by teaching them the name of their genitals. Knowing your genitals have a name apparently puts them straight on the road to having sex, something she seemingly believes teenagers would otherwise have no interest in.

“My goal was to get them sexually active on a low-dose birth control pill that we knew they would get pregnant on,” she triumphantly concluded. There you have it: Anti-choicers have taken to practically arguing that feminists invented sex so they can trick women into having abortions. It makes perfect sense if you’ve been knocked on the head in the past five minutes. (Research shows that contraception use is linked to lower, not higher, abortion rates.)

3) Gun culture.The great myth the right has pushed for decades is that people need guns for personal safety, to protect against home intruders who are bent on raping and murdering them. It’s hard to deny the right to self-defense, but the tactic is fundamentally dishonest because having a gun in the home significantly raises the likelihood you’re going to be murdered. But no longer content simply to lie to people about guns, right-wing media has upped the ante, now arguing that a little pre-emptive murder of teenagers who are not actually out to murder you is good for overall safety and security.

You see it with the attempts to turn George Zimmerman into a hero, even though it’s indisputable that he chased down and shot an unarmed Trayvon Martin. Sean Hannity recently experimented with pushing the envelope even further, by championing the cause of a man who entrapped his victims with the intent to kill them for stealing from him. Byron Smith knew that his victims—Haile Kifer, 18, and Nick Brady, 17—had no intention of harming anyone with their admittedly stupid teenage stunt of breaking into houses to steal stuff. That’s why he set up an elaborate ruse to trick them into thinking his house was empty (including driving away and sneaking back into his dark house on foot) for the sole purpose of shooting them dead. Smith was found guilty of murder.

But Hannity couldn’t resist trying to turn him into a hero, claiming it was somehow self-defense because the kids “broke into the guy’s house.” This goes well beyond the lie that guns make you safe. The argument here is that pre-emptive vigilantism and the summary execution of people guilty of nothing more than petty crime is somehow “self-defense.”

4) Terrorism. Your average conservative is deeply committed to the idea that the Republicans are better on security issues than the Democrats. Of course, now they have to contend with the fact that President Obama presided over the killing of Osama Bin Laden. How better to go about this than just go big when rewriting history?

During a recent discussion of terrorism, Fox News host Eric Bolling said, “America was certainly safe between 2000 and 2008. I don’t remember any attacks on American soil during that period of time.” No one bothered to correct him, even though the biggest terrorist attack in American history happened during Bush’s presidency, on September 11, 2001. Perhaps you remember it.

5) Benghazi. Fox News and various conservative pundits are notorious for going on and on with this hazy conspiracy theory trying to blame Hillary Clinton for an attack on an embassy in Benghazi that led to the deaths of Americans. But now it’s gotten to the point where every news story imaginable is being somehow linked back to “Benghazi,” no matter how tenuous the connection.

Recently, this trend reached a new low: Trying to use the kidnapping of hundreds of school girls in Nigeria by an Islamist cult to push the Benghazi hoax. Benghazi is a city in Libya, and is nearly 3,000 miles away from Nigeria. This did not stop Laura Ingraham on Fox News from implying that the embassy incident in Benghazi somehow caused the kidnapping. “I think part of the problem here is that we have a dead American ambassador,” she said, going on to suggest that the ambassador’s death emboldened Boko Haram to kidnap the girls.

Allen West went in a different, though no less disgusting, direction. Calling the attention paid to the Nigeria story “fishy,” West argued that the story is just a distraction from “all the scandals facing the Obama administration, especially Benghazi and the Select Committee.” The possibility that people might actually care deeply about what happens to innocent young girls is clearly implausible to him.

None of this should be surprising. Once the right embraced dishonesty as a favorite tactic, there’s no reason not to give into the urge to make the lies more elaborate and fantastical, all of which gets them more attention and gins up more hatred for their opposition. The lies are just going to get nuttier, as there’s very little reason for conservative pundits not to keep pushing and seeing how far they can go.

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.”

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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, 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.”

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