Tag Archives: NRA

Assault Weapons – How to Ban from Civilian Use

I was surprised to see a full page of this past Sunday’s New York Times (Front Section at 10) devoted to the proposition that efforts to ban the civilian ownership of assault weapons have failed because gun manufacturers and gun owners can, with considerable ease, change the technical features of rapid/automatic-fire assault weapons to escape whatever technical restrictions are enacted into law. They use “modification kits” that apparently can be purchased on the open market to evade the rules that are written in terms of technical specifications.

Perhaps borne from my ignorance of such weapons, my immediate reaction to this was: if it’s that easy to evade technical specifications, stop writing laws and regulations that deal with how the gun is made and instead write the rules in terms of the outcome sought to be prevented. By perhaps too simple an analogy, we don’t try to stop speeding in automobiles by writing rules about how cars are built; we write rules about how they are driven – that is, rules that address the outcome of how they are operated. The obvious example is the “speed limit.” You may have a vehicle capable of going 110 miles per hour, but there is nowhere that you can lawfully operate such a vehicle except on a race track.

If the problem with rapid/automatic-fire assault weapons is that they can fire rapidly/automatically with one squeeze of the trigger, then ban the possession of any weapon, however constructed or described, that is capable of firing, at a rate of X. The rate of X can be calculated based on evidence of the uses to which such weapons may be legitimately put. I’m not clear what those legitimate uses are but I’m sure the NRA will suggest some. That is a debate that can be had, but once it’s done, the outcome would seem to be relatively straightforward.

I realize that some elements of the hunting community will argue that, in order to pursue their “hobby,” they must be able to fire rapidly and repeatedly at their live targets. I don’t know why that would be true. If it is necessary to use what amounts to a mobile machine gun to kill a deer, well, then either you need to practice more or, in the end, you will simply be an unsuccessful hunter. Life is full of disappointments and that one seems reasonably bearable.

Ah, but the NRA says that failure to be able to, in effect, machine gun an animal may result in wounded animals who will suffer terribly from gunshot wounds unless and until they are tracked down and finished off. I have to admit that might happen, but it’s an easy choice between (1) the suffering of the odd deer or other target of hunters who are poor shots versus (2) the regular slaughter of school children at the hands of disaffected young men (almost always) bearing rapid/automatic fire weapons and large magazines of ammunition.

As I suggested at the outset, I am no expert on the types of weapons addressed in the NYT article and here, so I’m prepared to be schooled by someone who can explain why directing gun regulations at the output rather than the input end of the weaponry in question would not effectively solve the problem of “modification kits.” Waiting.

It’s the Guns – It’s Always Been About the Guns

The New York Times ran a frontpage article today entitled “Many Gunmen in Mass Shootings Share a Hate Toward Women.” https://nyti.ms/2MTr2JC Curiously, the online version of the article appears under U.S. News near the bottom of the NYT website.

The article cites multiple incidents in which the shooter, through personal conduct and in online writings, had shown hostility toward women, often because the shooter’s sexual aspirations had been repeatedly spurned. A number of the men were described as “incels,” which in current parlance stands for ‘involuntarily celibate.’

The suggestion that male frustration with females is the root of the mass killings, which have sometimes involved female relatives or romantic targets of the shooter, rings true. This idea is, of course, part of the more general idea that “mental health” is the root of the massacre-by-automatic-weapon-fire phenomenon that uniquely afflicts the United States. The putative president of the United States has adopted the NRA-sponsored idea of “mental health is the real problem, not the guns.” Mental health is a convenient explanation for the gun lobby since it aligns cognitively with our intuition that anyone who would shoot groups of strangers, often including children, must be nuts. These acts are not those of “normal” people. And so on. And on.

The mental health “explanation” also aligns well with what is often regarded as the central organizing principle of the American brand of democracy and way of life: capitalism and free markets. That principle tells us that we should be able to offer for sale and, as consumers, should be free to buy whatever we want. Our wants do not have to be explained or justified to anyone. That’s how the capitalist system and “free society” work together to produce the greatest happiness for the greatest number. So the theory goes.

Of course, our society has long recognized that capitalism must sometimes be limited because some people are dishonest and misrepresent to a gullible public the properties of products and services they offer. Other people are simply careless or disinterested in the implications of what they do that could harm people or the planet. Companies that pollute the air and water are good examples where regulation is generally accepted as necessary, at least prior to the election of Donald Trump.

Look at any road and you’ll see the results of the intersection of capitalism and regulation. Automobiles are generally regarded as essential for the majority of the population to conduct their lives as they prefer. But we also recognize that automobiles are dangerous. They kill and maim people. So, we regulate them in multiple ways. They have to meet some semblance of limitations on air pollution, rules on the shatter resistance of windshields, air bag specifications and so on. AND, of particular relevance here, society demands limits on who can operate an automobile. You must have a license. As far as I am aware, every jurisdiction in America limits access to driver’s licenses to people of a certain age who have done at least some study and passed a driving test to show at least minimal skills at handling a dangerous instrument. No rational person sees these requirements as an inappropriate limitation on the “right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” which are “inalienable rights” stated in the Declaration of Independence. In order to operate even a small aircraft, one must have a pilot license. These rules are not seen as an infringement of the right to travel.

There are, of course, a multitude of other examples in which society generally insists on regulation of some kind to protect the public from the potential harm arising from the use of certain instrumentalities. Fireworks are one. Raising livestock and burning trash in urban environments are others, among many such examples.

Interestingly, no sane person argues that “cars don’t kill people, people kill people” so let’s stop intruding on car ownership and operation by regulating who can use them. No rational person argues that operation of any automotive vehicle by anyone at any time of their choosing should be permitted.

The gun lobby will no doubt reply that “no one has proposed taking away everyone’s car but that’s what the gun regulations threaten to do to our guns.” Add to that the “slippery slope” argument – first you’ll take the automatic weapons, then you’ll use that to justify taking others, and so on until we have full confiscation in violation of the Second Amendment.” Perfect.

Well, not quite. In fact, we have already taken away certain “freedoms” regarding automobiles – it is generally not permitted to drive Formula One racing cars on the public roadways. Those cars were designed for one thing only – to go as fast possible in a controlled track or road-race environment. Racing on the streets in fact is broadly prohibited by speed limits.

To return this to guns, I am aware of no one who seriously advocates confiscation of all guns. What is being advocated is that certain types of guns be removed from civilian society. The objective is to prevent or at least limit severely the use in civil society of automatic-fire weapons designed and intended for use by military forces in combat. It is these instruments of death that are the primary tool of the mass shooter and ending access to them should go a long way to reducing the lethality of attacks against the civilian population by disaffected people.

The gun lobby will retort that it is impossible to eliminate all the automatic-fire weapons. That is another way of saying, let’s let the impossible goal of the perfect defeat the achievement of the good. It’s a phony argument whose real purpose is to retain the status quo. The gun lobby doesn’t really care how many Americans are killed or maimed as long as their agenda is protected. For the rest of us, it is critical not to be misled by the suggestion that “mental health” is the real problem. As the NYT article noted near the end, “Misogyny – or other types of hatred – is not necessarily a diagnosable mental illness.” Quoting the vice chair of community psychiatry at the University of California, Davis,

what ties together many of the perpetrators is “tis entitlement, this envy of others, this feeling that they deserve something that the world is not giving them. And they are angry at others that they see are getting it.”

In the end, we simply must recognize that the gun lobby position can never, and should never, be implemented. Doing so would entail the largest intervention into the personal lives and mental states of literally millions of Americans. Does the NRA really want the government interrogating and testing the mental state of everyone that someone reports as “angry,” or “hostile,” or “isolated?” How would this work? Is that the kind of society we want to live in? It’s irony beyond understanding that the NRA’s supporters, including the Republican president, purport to be behind a regime that would create the conditions of Orwell’s 1984 in our lifetime, with the government probing into everyone’s private life for signs of disaffection that could lead to mass murder. This is unimaginable but the necessary outcome of the “mental health is the problem” argument.

The common denominator is the guns. Stripped of access to automatic-fire weapons, unstable individuals may well seek other ways to fulfill their angry impulses, but inevitably the death toll will be reduced, more will be detected in the planning stages and lives thus will be saved. We can’t prevent every angry individual from carrying out his disturbed grievances but we can make it a lot harder and limit the potential damage. What we must not do is buy into the argument that the if we can’t be perfect, we can’t be better either.

Don’t Be Fooled by Republican Talk of Serious Gun Control Legislation

The New York Times has published an article entitled “Trump Weighs New Stance on Guns as Pressure Mounts After Shootings.” The article suggests that the “divisive politics of gun control appeared to be in flux” because, wait for it, “Trump explored whether to back expanded background checks” and Mitch McConnell said he was “open to considering” expanded background checks. So, “exploring” and “open to considering.” We have been here before. And before. And before.

To be fair to the authors of the NYT article, the next paragraph goes on to admit,” It is not clear that either the president or Mr. McConnell will embrace such legislation, which both of them have opposed in the past and which would have to overcome opposition from the National Rifle Association and other powerful conservative constituencies.”

There is nothing new here. We’ve seen it all before, followed by the equivocating, delays and then … nothing. It’s not a question of “clear” or “not clear.” McConnell has refused to call the Senate back into session in August, saying that doing so would just lead to legislators making political points and nothing substantive would happen. We’re being played. Pure and simple.

I am sitting before a TV watching an NRA member on CNN equivocate when asked a direct question about banning assault rifles, arguing that we need to deal with the “easy” issues and the most popular solutions, like background checks, first. She believes that because the claimed Second Amendment “right” to own guns of one’s choosing is the preeminent concern, we should address “crime control” rather than “gun control.” For her, the Second Amendment comes first and lives of innocent people come second because, in part, she believes background checks and “red light laws” can solve most of the problems by themselves and virtually overnight. And blah, blah, blah. Talking the good talk while making it clear that she can use clichés (enough is enough) as well as the next person, but really doesn’t think this is a big deal.

So, with all the handwringing, all we really have from the leadership of the Executive Branch and the Senate are posturing. The NRA has already declared the prospect of enhanced background checks “dead on arrival.” If history is any guide, and it usually is, the NRA resistance will strike terror in the hearts and minds of Republicans. According to a report from Politico, Sen John Barasso has basically said “forget about it.” Barasso is more concerned about “constitutional rights” than the deaths of hundreds of citizens at the hands of, usually, young white men armed with military grade, automatic-fire rifles.

The authors of the NYT article make much of Republicans beginning to support so-called “red-flag” legislation that “would make it easier to seize firearms from people deemed dangerous.” Imagine what is going to ensue if the federal government passes a law that permits the seizure of weapons from people “deemed dangerous.” How does the process of “deeming” occur? How many lawsuits and appeals will be filed and how many years will pass before even that most obvious of solutions can actually have an effect while free access to military grade weapons continues?

The real deal here is revealed by Trump’s recent Twitter activity saying he had been “speaking to the NRA, and others, so that their very strong views can be fully represented and respected.” Read between the lines. When Trump refers to NRA’s “very strong views” that must be “respected,” he is sending the message that, as usual, NRA will prevail and nothing meaningful will be enacted on his watch.

The NYT article reports that Trump is behaving like he always does, chaotically flailing in all directions with no intention to achieve an outcome.

“In private conversations, Mr. Trump has offered different ideas for what action on gun safety might look like. With some advisers, he has said he thinks he can get something done through executive action. With others, he has said he prefers legislation. With still others, he has said he would like a political concession in exchange for doing so. And he has insisted that he would be able to convince his most ardent supporters who favor gun rights that the moment for a change has arrived.”

McConnell, ever the reliable toady for Trump, said that Trump “very much open to this discussion.” History teaches that Trump is open about many things until he’s not. Nothing he says about gun control can be trusted. Nothing. He talks a lot, then usually does nothing, certainly nothing that he believes the NRA and his political base of ultra-conservative white men would oppose. Consider that Trump, quietly for him, reversed President Obama’s executive order allowing Social Security records to be used to identify people with mental health issues that would prevent their owning guns. Is it plausible to believe that Trump, who has the empathic level of a rattlesnake, has changed his view that the so-called right-to-keep-and-bear-arms prevails over everything?

Be aware also that, as the NYT reported,

“Part of the challenge for lawmakers seeking action is that the White House is divided — as is often the case. The hard-liners and Mr. Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., who is close to pro-gun activists, are uneasy about angering the president’s heavily white and rural base by pursuing gun control measures ahead of 2020.”

Based on the reports of unidentified “Republican officials,” the NYT reports that Ivanka Trump has been “aggressively lobbying the president to take action.” You will have to look long and hard to find any evidence that Ivanka’s “lobbying,” hard or otherwise, has materially influenced he father’s agenda on anything. The greater truth is here:

“Regardless, senators of both parties are deeply skeptical that Mr. McConnell will bring any sort of gun control measure to the floor unless the president demands it.”

“There’s no way Republicans are voting for a background check bill unless Trump comes out in favor of it for more than a couple of hours,” said Senator Christopher S. Murphy of Connecticut, recalling that Mr. Trump also voiced support for strengthened background checks following the massacre in Parkland, Fla. “I’ve been to this rodeo before.”

And this is the final reality:

“On Thursday, more than 200 mayors, including the mayors of Dayton and El Paso, signed a letter demanding that Mr. McConnell bring the Senate back from its August recess to consider the House-passed legislation. “There’s no sense that the gun that the shooter used in Dayton — it was completely legal, he broke no laws to get it here,” said Mayor Nan Whaley of Dayton. “And so here we sit, nine dead and 27 injured in Dayton. All we’re asking is for Congress to do its job.”

Don’t count on it.

Sean Hannity’s America –Apocalypse Here

This blog post was originally intended to be a satirical sendup of Sean Hannity’s televised statement set out below:

“I’d like to see the perimeter of every school in American surrounded, secured by retired police…military …. Add a metal detector …. have one armed guard on every floor of every school, all over every mall, the perimeter and inside every hall of every mall.”

[Sean Hannity, Fox News, following the Dayton and El Paso slaughters]

I was dissuaded by the better judgment of my wife that this was not a time for comedic treatments of the horrors of gun massacres even if satirically directed at people like Hannity.

I will therefore just address the Hannity prescription for solving the gun problem directly. It is a gun problem despite all the Republican/NRA/Trump blather about mental health, video games and all the other excuses. Other countries have all those same activities/conditions in one form or another but only in the United States are high-capacity, military-grade weapons freely available to almost everyone and only in the U.S. are the slaughters of multiple people a daily occurrence. Guns are the root of the problem, regardless of the motivation behind the people who use them to massacre innocent people. Sane or insane, angry or delusional, hurt, frustrated, whatever the “inspiration,” the fact remains that without high-capacity magazines and weapons capable of automatic fire, the death toll would be dramatically reduced.

It is particularly troubling to hear Republicans argue that we need to solve mental health problems in the U.S. first. Virtually everyone would agree that’s a worthy goal, but even if a national program of some type were adequately funded and initiated tomorrow, the problems of mental health are not going to be resolved in any foreseeable time frame. To argue, therefore, that “solving mental health” is the way to end gun violence is to argue for a solution that has no realistic chance to change the death toll any time soon. This argument, like the “restore God to his/her rightful place in society” is a prescription for failure, a program to do nothing while the slaughter continues unabated.

Now let’s look more closely at Hannity’s “solution.” Even though it is so stupid as to defy comprehension, it deserves some attention because Hannity enjoys a national audience from his perch atop the parrot house known as Fox News. Many people actually believe what Hannity says and are incapable, it seems, of thinking through the implications of his commentary.

Stop for a moment then and picture in your mind the school nearest to where you live. Now imagine that the school entry doors are set up like the security areas at the airport. This would be necessary because most of the students typically arrive at the same time to start classes every day. The security system therefore must be prepared to handle a large volume of kids with backpacks, book bags, jackets in winter, and so on, just like at the airport. Hannity’s proposal thus requires x-ray scanners, metal detectors and the security machinery used at airports where similar circumstances prevail.

Moreover, we know from occasional incidents at airports that metal detectors inside the building would not stop an incursion by a student armed with an automatic rifle and willing to sacrifice himself for whatever “cause” is motivating his killer impulses. Therefore, to achieve Hannity’s “solution,” security must be moved out from the school building to the perimeter of the school property. This would keep a shooter as far away from the cover of the school building as possible.

Of course, in both urban and suburban environments, this “solution” would push the security perimeter into the surrounding neighborhood, with untold disruptions to the comings and goings of the people who live or work there. To meet the threat of a shooter with an assault rifle, the people manning these security positions would have to be armed and equipped with bullet-resistant vests.

The space between the security “gates” would, of course, have to be closed off so that no one could evade security by simply going around the gates. Razor-wire coils might work. How is that going to go over in the neighborhood?  Moreover, a secondary armed force would be necessary in case someone did find a way into the protected zone. Since Hannity also proposed having armed security on each floor of a school, perhaps those folks could stand watch during the entry period in the morning. But they would actually have to be looking out for incursions all day long, because the reality of school life is that some kids arrive at odd hours, due to medical appointments, cars that don’t start or other interruptions to planned living. At the end of the day, the school would have to be “swept” by the security force to be sure no one remained inside.

I could go on with this, but I think the implications of the Hannity proposal for school security are obvious, unworkable and absurd. His suggestion to convert schools and malls into war zones is just another Fox News attempt to inflame the Trump right-wing political base with a simplistic approach that, upon even mild reflection, cannot possibly accomplish the job for which it is allegedly intended.

It’s actually a good way to complete the destruction of the public-school system that the Trump administration has been working to undermine through the policies of Betsy Devos and, while they’re at it, to destroy the economics of the shopping malls that already face enormous challenges from Internet competition. Maybe in the end all the right wingers want to do is replace all the civilian jobs with retired police and military armed with weapons of war, spending all day waiting for some fool to challenge them. The cost of this would be staggering and the impact on education stultifying. But the National Rifle Association will be happy and, therefore, so will the Republican leadership in Congress that toes the NRA line. If the Republican leadership has rejected Hannity’s insanity, I haven’t seen it.

Hannity’s vision of an America of armed camps we once called ‘schools’ and ‘malls’ should repulse every true American. That vision is not patriotism. It’s the kind of world envisioned by the likes of Adolf Hitler. And, apparently, also by Donald Trump.

United Airlines Does Something Right

People familiar with my professional history of conflict with the airlines may find it surprising that I would come to the defense of the CEO of United Airlines in its latest dustup. But here I go.

Oscar Munoz, the UAL CEO, was verbally challenged by a person described as an “activist investor” at its recent annual shareholders meeting because the airline, following the Parkland Florida high school massacre, ended its discount program for members of the National Rifle Association. The “investor’s” objections were reported by, among others, inc.com at https://bit.ly/2s4fQ1h and Bloomberg at https://bloom.bg/2s8mnaw.  the story line being that some/many UAL employees were equally unhappy with Munoz’ statement that the NRA decision was made for “personal” reasons, namely, that a child of a United pilot had been killed in the Parkland shooting.

That decision was latched onto by the objector who was in fact not just a “lawyer with” the National Center for Public Policy Research but was in fact NCPPR’s General Counsel. His employer is a “conservative think tank” in Washington parlance, a tax-free organization, contributions to which are tax-deductible, despite its mission statement of

communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.

 The NCPPR was set up in 1982:

to provide the conservative movement with a versatile and energetic organization capable of responding quickly and decisively to fast-breaking issues. Today, we continue to fill this critical niche through a top-flight research and communications operation driven by results and the bottom line. In the 1980s, The National Center helped change public opinion through vocal national campaigns aimed at supporting Reagan administration initiatives concerning the USSR, arms control, Central America and human rights. [emphasis added]

https://nationalcenter.org/about/

Before going further, I note for the record that I am one of those very liberal people that recognizes that the true and authentic conservative point of view regarding economics, the role of government and similar things is a responsible, if usually erroneous, alternative to the views of liberals who think like I do. Many intelligent and thoughtful people share some or all of the conservative philosophy and make rational arguments in support of that viewpoint. The sitting president and most of his enablers in the White House and Congress do not satisfy that definition, but that is for another day.

Now that my bona fides are declared, I return to the matter at hand. I understand the point of view that the primary job of a private business is to produce profits from its activities as a reward to risk-taking shareholders that have provided it with capital through stock purchases. But producing profits for shareholders is not, I suggest, the only function of private businesses which, broadly speaking, enjoy the benefits of public services, the protections of laws designed to prevent larger firms from conspiring against them, etc. They are permitted, sometimes subject to regulation, to consume vast amounts of public space, to exploit resources belonging to the entire nation and generally benefit from government support of their franchise. While there is tension about the amount and nature of regulation, there is, in short, a public dimension to the business of private enterprise that must be accounted for in any rational view of the role of corporations in American life.

So, what was the beef with United’s making a policy decision regarding how it would manage the discount component of its business? According to the reports, the NCPPR attorney said:

“I suppose you are ignoring the fact that the NRA had nothing to do with what happened in Parkland …. But, hey, congratulations on your virtue signaling. What exactly did investors get out of that?”

At least two observations are warranted.

First, the asserted “fact” that the NRA had “nothing to do with what happened at Parkland” assumes away the issue of responsibility for Parkland as if the truth of the matter were handed down on stone tablets. In reality, of course, a good case exists, and has been made repeatedly, that the gun culture promoted by the NRA and NRA’s success in preventing even the study of gun impact issues are elements in a direct line to the events at Parkland and the other mass shootings before and since. The NCPPR should save its smug presumptuousness for something else. The known facts about gun violence do not support their protestations of innocence.

Second, there is, of course, a potentially legitimate debate about whether private business corporations should ever do or say anything related to “political” issues. At least two points are relevant here.

One is that there is an inherent inconsistency between “keep businesses out of politics” and the “the free market rules and corporations should be able to do whatever they want, including risking the ire of customers and stockholders when they believe the public or their private interest warrants it.” Those positions are inconsistent.

Second, there is another fundamental structural inconsistency and incoherence in the “conservative” position that private business should stay out of politics. Many private businesses are perfectly fine being in politics as long as no one knows what they are doing, as in their role in funding SuperPacs under the aegis of the Supreme Court’s opinion in the Citizen’s United case. And when “conservative values” are at stake, as they allegedly are when NFL players kneel during the National Anthem, the Grand Ole Party is right there to tell those businesses to actively support the “conservative” position by punishing those players. Or else. So much for keeping businesses out of politics.

The inc.com article says that, based on emails received, the employees are against the NRA discount decision by 4 to 1, one retiree is quoted as saying that the “[A]irlines are very leftist.” That will come as a great shock to the airline managements that spend so much time and treasure in Washington railing against any form of regulation designed to protect consumers from deceptive price advertising. That is a subject for another day also, but the notion that the airlines are part of a left-wing political cabal is laughable. I will now laugh.  Then I’ll cry at the staggering ignorance that pervades our political life and public discourse.

A trend now clearly exists toward corporate responsibility and, whether the NRA and its enablers approve or not, the practice is likely to have staying power over the long term. See, for example, “8 Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Trends To Look For In 2018,” by Susan McPherson in Forbes, https://bit.ly/2GKeFJ7. Even some Republican businessmen who supported Trump in the past are now threatening to pull donations if the DACA program is not extended. https://politi.co/2klgIui

The NRA is, once again, on the wrong side of history on the issue of businesses in politics. UAL’s CEO Munoz has some good company and should … dare I end with this … stick to his guns.

NRA, Fear Emma Gonzalez

If you didn’t march with the kids today in the March for Our Lives, the loss is yours. My wife and I participated in New York City, where the turnout exceeded estimates by many multiples. We did not hear the speeches live because the crowd was so large. The starting point was West 72nd Street at Central Park West but we were directed by the police to go to 86th Street before being allowed to turn and join the main group of marchers. If you have not heard Emma Gonzalez speech, witnessed her extraordinary poise and maturity, you owe it to yourself to watch it in its entirety. Here is the link: https://bit.ly/2pBSuz8 Do not turn it off during the long, most extraordinary pause in her address to the assembled marchers.

Emma Gonzalez and her generation are the next great wave of voters. Many are already old enough or will be by the 2018 mid-term elections. They have had all they are going to take of excuses from the likes of Sen. Marco Rubio with his “let’s all get together on a compromise because some people don’t think gun control will be effective.” An overwhelming majority of Americans in poll after poll say that the time for action is now, not some vague point in the distant future. The young people of Emma Gonzalez’s generation and the ones behind them are motivated to compel change through the ballot box and there are many of them. NRA money can’t buy them. They are not afraid of a government takeover or other paranoid delusion spread by the gun lobby. They are afraid of being massacred next week or next month in their schools, like so many of their friends. Yes, NRA, you should fear Emma Gonzalez more than anything else. She sees you for what you are and she, and her friends are going to remove from office the sycophants that have taken NRA money and done its bidding for too long. Time’s up.

Here is a selection of photographs I took during today’s march in New York City. For context, the photos start as the huge group of marchers moves uptown from the 79th Street subway station toward 86th. It is worth noting that the NYPD we encountered were uniformly helpful in answering questions. The “show of force” near the end of the photo set is simply the police trying to move the marchers off of 6th Avenue onto the exit at 44th Street. The pictures close with a chanting session near Times Square where the kids attracted a large crowd of supporters. These amazing young people are not going away.

#MarchforOurLives

What It Must It be Like to Fear Your Own Government

One of the big National Rifle Association arguments in favor of free access to weapons of all kinds is the alleged Second Amendment right to bear arms as a deterrent and/or defense against the government of the United States.  According to the NRA and extreme gun rights advocates, this “right” springs from the fear that the Founding Fathers justifiably had about strong governments taking away the rights of the people. After all, that is essentially why the Revolutionary War was fought — to end the tyranny of the King of England over the colonies.

Fast forwarding to the present, these folks appear genuinely to believe that there is reason to fear that the federal government, which through the President, commands one of the most powerful military forces in the world, may someday during their lifetimes turn on the people, confiscate their weapons under color of some gun control law or the other, and enslave everyone.

Call it paranoia, call it wacko, call it what you will, many of our citizens appear to deeply fear that scenario. Some of them have acquired arsenals of semi-automatic rifles with high-capacity magazines with which to resist forcibly the imagined takeover. Some of them apply camouflage coloring to their faces, like the real military they’ve seen on TV and, deep in the remote woods of (mainly) the south, practice drills, running and shooting at stationary targets and so on. This activity, they believe, will prepare them to defend hearth and home against an invading army of United States Marines, Army soldiers, perhaps aided by the local police and National Guard (who would most certainly be called up during a takeover) equipped with tanks, true tactical training and supported by the most advanced and fearsome combat aircraft on the planet.

Of course, those guys, mostly guys, running around in the woods are shooting at stumps and cardboard figures that don’t shoot back. One must wonder how would perform in the face of a squad or two of U.S. Marines in full battle gear. But, hey, they’ll go down fighting which seems to them like the best alternative to the imagined takeover and the dystopian Hunger Games-like life that would ensue. Living with such fear must be a terrible burden to carry through life.

The more one thinks about this scenario, the more ridiculous it seems, putting aside the idea that the government could or would actually try this. I suppose that if you watch enough conspiracy movies, in which a handful of military people secretly agree to order the U.S. military to attack the citizenry, striking at the TV stations, electric grid and internet server farms to gain instant control over communications, you could come to believe such a thing is possible in the United States. Then again, when you consider the physical scale of the country, the complexity of its physical infrastructure, the ubiquity of the internet, the certain massive resistance by the majority of the population and the awareness that the failure of such an enterprise would be conviction for treason punishable by death, is it even remotely plausible that a federal takeover using the military could occur here?

In my mind, to ask the question of plausibility is to answer it, but I must recognize that no matter how implausible the scenario is, there are many people who apparently live in constant fear that the federal government is about to enslave everyone. Curiously, many of these same people are the most ardent supporters of the current president who, among all modern presidents, is the most likely to attempt to subvert the country into a totalitarian regime. This irony is missed by all of those who live in fear and claim that the Second Amendment somehow gives them the protection they require.

I get the argument that “anything is possible” but when considering that, why can’t these people see that the “possible turned reality” is already here in the form of irregular but recurring slaughters of children in schools, not to mention the thousands of others who die by gunshot every year. American exceptionalism, of which that crowd seems so certain and so proud, has placed us high in the world in gun-related deaths, especially among countries with significant socioeconomic success. http://n.pr/2BrbmUh

You don’t have to imagine any conspiracy to understand this; just open your mind to reality.