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NRA Liars and Congressional Cowards

8:09 am in Uncategorized by brasch

 

 

by Walter Brasch

 

President Obama cast off his “No Drama Obama” garb, and became the fiery leader of hope and change that Americans first elected in 2008. At a speech in Hartford, Conn., the President, frustrated by Republican obstructionism, demanded of his audience, “If you believe that the families of Newtown and Aurora and Tucson and Virginia Tech and the thousands of Americans who have been gunned down in the last four months deserve a vote, we all have to stand up.” He demand, “If you want the people you send to Washington to have just an iota of the courage that the educators at Sandy Hook showed when danger arrived on their doorstep, then we’re all going to have to stand up.”

He wanted the people to let Congress know it was “time to require a background check for anyone who wants to buy a gun so that people who are dangerous to themselves and others cannot get their hands on a gun.” He wanted the people to let Congress know, “It’s time to crack down on gun trafficking so that folks will think twice before buying a gun as part of a scheme to arm someone who won’t pass a background check.” He asked the people “to tell Congress it’s time to restore the ban on military-style assault weapons, and a 10-round limit for magazines, to make it harder for a gunman to fire 154 bullets into his victims in less than five minutes.” He pleaded that the people “have to tell Congress it’s time to strengthen school safety and help people struggling with mental health problems get the treatment they need before it’s too late.”

But, what he really wanted was a vote. A simple up-or-down vote. The people, said the President, at the very least “deserve a vote” not more obstructionism. 

Smirking with NRA drool slathering his five-term Senate body, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) wasn’t about to let that happen. He didn’t want a vote, even a watered down version that would have all the ferocity of a baby canary.

McConnell said he would filibuster all proposed legislation.

The Senate Republicans, who believe they’re the “law and order party,” have rolled over and allowed the NRA to pet them on their pork-bellied tummies. For more than three decades, the NRA and explosives manufacturers successfully lobbied Congress the to prohibit the use of taggants in explosives. These taggants would identify bombs before detonation and enable agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and explosives (ATF) to trace manufacturer and sale of the explosives after explosion. For six years, the NRA blocked the appointment of any nominee to head the ATF. With NRA paranoia guiding their own actions, the Republicans have also forbidden the ATF from creating a computerized database to better analyze and evaluate applications for firearms, and have left the ATF underfunded and undermanned. This would be the same ATF that, with fewer resources, now plays a major role in the Boston Marathon murders.

Five weeks after the murders in Newtown, the McConnell for Senate campaign told the voters they were “literally surrounded” by those who want to take their guns away. In a robocall to his constituents, he parroted the NRA erroneous claim that, “President Obama and his team are doing everything in their power to restrict your constitutional right to keep and bear arms.”  This would be the same senator who, in 1991, supported Joe Biden’s bill that led to a 10 year ban on semi-automatic and automatic weapons. This is the same senator who, in 1998, voted to support Barbara Boxer’s bill that required trigger locks for the purchase of every hand gun. In less than a decade, McConnell turned to the extreme Right and became little more than an NRA lackey, willing to wrap himself in a faulty interpretation of the Second Amendment and block the will of 90 percent of the American people, including a majority of all NRA members and gun owners.

Republic political strategist Karl Rove told journalist FoxNews reporter Chris Wallace, “People want this issue to be discussed, they want it to be decided and we don’t need to block everything in the Senate.” By a 68–31 vote, with 16 Republicans joining 52 Democrats, the Senate agreed to allow discussion on proposed gun control bills.

The first of several Senate bills, Wednesday, resulted in a 54–46 vote to expand background checks for gun purchases to include all internet and gun show sales, strengthen penalties for gun trafficking, and help fund additional school security. The bill, known as a compromise proposal, was sponsored by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), both of whom carry “A” ratings by the NRA. Five Democrats voted against the bill; four Republicans voted for it.  However, because of the 60-vote rule invoked by the NRA-fed obstructionist Republicans, and agreed to by the Democrats, it failed. The NRA, exercising its usual fear-mongering tactics, spread a $500,000 robocall campaign the day of the vote, and claimed the bill would lead to a national gun registry; provisions in the bill specifically excluded that possibility. President Obama would later say that the “gun lobby and its allies willfully lied about the bill.”

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, on behalf of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, representing more than 900 American cities, called out the 46 senators who voted against the bill. “Today’s vote is a damning indictment of the stranglehold that special interests have on Washington,” said Bloomberg. “More than 40 U.S. senators would rather turn their backs on the 90 percent of Americans who support comprehensive background checks than buck the increasingly extremist wing of the gun lobby.” Gov. Dan Malloy (D-Conn.) said the minority “who voted against this proposal should be ashamed of themselves.” aid the Senate had “ignored the will of the American people,” adding that those senators who voted against the expanded background checks chose to “obey the leaders of the powerful corporate gun lobby, instead of their constituents.” Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who has spent two years in recovery from an attempted assassination, said the failure to pass meaningful legislation was “based on political fear and on cold calculations about the money of special interests like the National Rifle Association.”

In rapid succession, a ban on assault weapons, a ban on high-capacity gun magazines and a bipartisan compromise to expand background checks for gun purchasers all failed to get the 60 votes needed. Even a bipartisan amendment to impose stiff penalties on gun traffickers was defeated, receiving 58 votes.

New York, Colorado, and Maryland have all recently passed common-sense gun safety reforms without violating anyone’s Second Amendment rights. The people of this democracy demand better controls over who can own guns. But until the members of Congress develop that one iota of courage that President Obama asked for, the United States will continue to have the highest number of guns per population of 178 countries—and also rank among the world’s top 10 countries in the rate of deaths per population from guns.

[Walter Brasch’s latest book is Fracking Pennsylvania, an in-depth investigation of the health environmental, worker safety, and economic impact of fracking.]

 

by brasch

The No News News Media

8:55 am in Uncategorized by brasch

by Walter Brasch

 

There was a lot of news this past week.

Ostli News

News

Some of it was even reported by the news media.

First, there was a football player from Notre Dame who either did or didn’t know that his girlfriend was or wasn’t real, but died sometime during the season. Six column headlines for several days announced the fraud. Network news and talk show hosts rehashed it almost daily.

Two weeks ago, Lance Armstrong admitted he was a dope. Or maybe he just took dope. The news media kept sending urgent flashes all week of what he was going to tell Oprah. And then he told Oprah, and now we’ll be reading stories about it until Schwinn adds a jet engine to a 3-speed.

Subway is accused of making foot-long hoagies that are 11 inches, a problem that the executives wisely didn’t say was due to shrinkage in cold weather. The media seized this major fraud and, ignoring anything Congress or Wall Street was doing, slathered layers of hype on a story that should have died with three paragraphs in one day.

Of course, there was the inauguration. That became another way for bloviators and pretend-journalists to push their own agendas. They told us how unpopular this President is—attendance was way down from the first inauguration. Only 500,000 attended.  They didn’t tell us that second inaugurations always have much fewer people watching them in person than first inaugurations. And, that figure of 500,000? A little short of the actual number of one million. They said the inauguration was over-long and overpriced, although most of it was paid for by private donations. Something they didn’t mention was that the costs and day’s activities were about the same as for the previous president, and most presidents of the latter 20th century—Democrat or Republican.

Some of these pundits suggested that the President didn’t have a mandate, although he easily won by more than five million votes, and a near landslide in the Electoral College. A few of the more extreme even suggested he had stolen the election—how else could he have won over the nice businessman who bought and sold companies and helped improve the economy of Switzerland and the Canary Islands?

For the rest of the networks, the focus was on a constant blather of what would Michelle Obama be wearing. Whose dress? Whose gloves? This, of course, was mixed into all kinds of gushes and comments about her new ’do. You know, the one that had bangs. The day after the inauguration, the media was all over the story of the Beyoncé kerfuffle. Did she or didn’t she lip synch the National Anthem? Truly great news coverage there.

Hillary Clinton testified before the Congressional Inquisition of Televised Republicans trying to make their bones to either enhance their own chances for re-election or to block what they think may be her plan to run for the presidency in 2016. This would be some of the same people who thought she was faking a concussion to avoid testifying in the first place.

The Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show, scheduled for Harrisburg, Pa., Feb. 2–10 was cancelled this past week. The Expo is the largest in North America, but the organizers decided that in the wake of the Newtown murders, they would put a temporary moratorium on the sale of military-style assault weapons because they believed “the presence of MSRs [military style rifles] would distract from the theme of hunting and fishing, disrupting the broader experience of our guests.” Only a dozen or so of the 1,200 vendors were affected; most were selling clothes, rifles, turkey calls, tents, and anything related to outdoor sports. But, one by one vendors, the media, and dozens of celebrities—all with NRA encouragement and support—decided not to attend, somehow believing that a hunting and fishing exhibition that didn’t allow the purchase of assault weapons was somehow anti-American and gave a message that those who did attend were opposed to the Second Amendment. The Harrisburg Patriot-News reported that the cancellation led to a loss of $43 million in the local economy.

More than 32,000 will die from gun violence by the end of the year, according to the Brady Center. This past week, 78 Americans, including four pre-teens, died from gun violence. And, during this past week, as has been the case for hundreds of previous weeks, the NRA leadership, with the egos of a gang of schoolboys who overdosed on testosterone, continue to defy all attempts to reach sensible solutions to allow the purchase of guns, yet reduce the violence.

A 38-year-old sergeant died from wounds received near Kabul, Afghanistan. The U.S. had invaded Afghanistan to find Osama bin Laden, but he became a lower priority less than a year later. The Bush–Cheney administration almost abandoned the war in Afghanistan and turned to Iraq. More than 7,600 American and allied soldiers were killed, and more than 50,000 wounded in both wars. President Obama, fulfilling a campaign promise, ended the war in Iraq and is months from ending the one in Afghanistan.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) who numerous times promised to reign in the abuse of the filibuster that blocked any meaningful legislation or presidential appointments, turned wimp this past week. He and minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who once vowed his top priority was solely to prevent Barack Obama from serving a second term, may have been last seen hugging, kissing, and preparing to be married in Massachusetts.

This past week, the stock market hit new records, and it looks President Obama may receive some of the credit for helping to stop the Great Recession, something that upsets Republicans, delights Democrats, and has no meaning to anyone homeless or unemployed.

Yes, there was a lot of news this past week. Some of it may some day actually be reported.

Dr. Brasch’s latest book is Fracking Pennsylvania: Flirting With Disaster. It is available from www.greeleyandstone.com at a pre-publication discount.]
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by brasch

A Brief Review of 2012: The Gun Culture of America

8:03 am in Uncategorized by brasch

 

by WALTER BRASCH

 Jan. 8, 2011, Tuscon, Ariz.:  A man had gone to a political town meeting at a supermarket, with the intent to murder Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. He killed six and wounded 14, including Giffords, who was shot in the head. On Jan. 25, 2012, Giffords, still in recovery from the shooting, walked onto the House floor to a standing ovation. Congress and the President have no plans to restore the assault weapons ban that expired under the Bush–Cheney Administration or to tighten gun laws.

April 2, 2012, Oakland, Calif.: A 43-year-old former nursing student entered a classroom at Oikos University, killed seven and wounded three. The suspect used a .45 caliber semi-automatic handgun. There are more than 310 million weapons in civilian hands in the U.S. That is about one-half of all weapons in the world owned by civilians. There have already been more than 17 million applications for gun ownership this year. The NRA claims the Second Amendment allows unlimited gun ownership, and viciously attacks any form of licensing. It doesn’t see the reality that there are hundreds of restrictive laws, all meant to protect the public health. At the annual meeting this  month, the executive director claims the NRA is the “human engine of freedom,” and that his organization “represents the very best of America’s character and strength.”

July 8, Dover, Del.: Three persons walked onto a soccer field, killed the tournament organizer, the father of six children, and a 16-year-old player who was a straight-A student. Two persons were injured by random gunfire. There were 15,953 murders in the U.S. last year; 11,901 were from firearms, according to the Centers for Disease Control. More than 60,000 were wounded, according to the Brady Center. The NRA says “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” What it refuses to recognize is that people with guns kill people. According to data compiled by the Brady Center, a “gun in the home is [22 times] more likely to be used in a homicide, suicide, or unintentional shooting than to be used in self-defense.” The U.S. has a rate of 2.8 murders by gun per 100,000 individuals. This is the highest rate of the G12 industrialized nations. It is also almost seven times higher than the next 22 countries combined. The lowest rate is that of the United Kingdom, which has a death by gun rate one one-hundredth that of the U.S. The UK has gun controls.

July 17, Tuscaloosa, Ala.: A gunman with a military-style assault rifle went to the house of a man who he believed knew someone else, shouted a racial slur, and shot that man, and then walked into a crowded bar and began shooting. Seventeen were wounded from gun fire, shrapnel, and shattered glass. The suspect had a history of violence. Several states permit persons to carry concealed weapons into bars, unless specifically prohibited by that particular business. The NRA says students should be allowed to carry weapons on college campuses. Five states currently permit college students to carry weapons onto campus. Mixing alcohol and guns, as anyone who watches movie westerns knows, has never been a good idea. About 700,000 assaults a year are committed by college students who have been drinking, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports at least 40 percent of all college students binge drink at least once a month.

July 20, Aurora, Colo: A man with full body armament entered the Century Movie Theater, killed 12 and injured 58. He used a 12-gauge tactical shotgun, a Smith & Wesson M&P 15-round semi-automatic rifle with a 100-round drum, and a Glock .22 pistol. Within the previous two months, he had bought more than 6,000 rounds of ammunition. “Gun-rights” advocates claim if even a few people in the theater were armed the tragedy could have been averted. Apparently, they naively believe that a concealed handgun would stop an attack by a maniac in full-body armor, carrying assault weapons. They also must have believed there would not be additional panic, and the killing of innocent bystanders by those with the guns who might be see flashes elsewhere in the theater and fire back. Of the previous 62 mass shootings, not one was stopped by a civilian with a gun.

Aug. 5, Oak Creek, Wisc.: A white supremacist entered the Sikh temple and killed seven people. He used a 9-mm. semi-automatic pistol. By fear and intimidation, the NRA has blocked federal legislation, and has used money as its weapon of choice. This year, the NRA contributed about $17.6 million to campaigns, most to Republican candidates or for ads opposing Democratic candidates who believed in reasonable legislation. The NRA refuses to even acknowledge that there can be sensible laws that meet the requirements of the Second Amendment.

Aug. 13, College Station, Texas: A 35-year-old man, who proudly proclaimed himself to be a gun enthusiast, killed a constable and a passerby, and wounded four others, before police killed him. Mitt Romney says there should be no changes in current gun laws.

Oct. 9, northern Mexico: The Mexican Navy captured the leader of the notorious Zetas drug cartel, believed to have killed an innocent American two years earlier. Mexico’s drug cartels provide about 90 percent of all illegal drugs to the U.S., according to the Congressional Research Service. Most of their weapons of choice, according to data compiled by the Latin America Herald-Tribune, are guns from the U.S, bought online, by gun-runners, or at gun shows. The “gun show loophole” allows unlicensed dealers to sell guns to whomever they want, without background checks. The ATF says between 25 and 70 percent of all dealers at gun shows are unlicensed. There are more than 4,000 gun shows a year, where “lie and buy,” mixed with a heavy dose of greed, is more common than good sense.

Oct. 21, Brookfield, Wisc.: A man walked into a spa, killed his wife and two other women, and wounded four before killing himself six hours later. The NRA says the U.S. should just enforce existing laws, but has actively opposed giving higher budgets or personnel authorization to police and federal agencies. The NRA is on record as having called the ATF a “jack-booted group of fascists,” and that police are “agents wearing Nazi bucket helmets and black storm trooper uniforms.” The extreme right-wing, with survivalist delusions, believe civilian possession of assault weapons will “protect” them against an “invasion” by the U.S. military (or, perhaps, space aliens) against homeowners.

Nov. 22, Black Friday: A shrill paranoid NRA had declared that if Barack Obama is re-elected, “Every freedom we cherish as Americans is endangered.” More guns were sold on this day than any day in U.S. history. Virginia, which had a one handgun per month limit, repealed its law in July, although the Virginia State Crime Commission concluded, “law-abiding gun purchasers in Virginia are not unduly burdened by Virginia’s one-gun-a-month law.” More than 40 percent of all guns used in murders in New York City came from Virginia, according to ATF data. The I-95 corridor along the east coast may be the most open channel for drug and gun traffic. The NRA wants open sales and to eliminate the Brady Law database on background checks.

 Dec. 14, Newtown, Conn.: A 20-year-old man kills his mother, breaks into a school, and murders 20 six-and seven-year-old children, and six adults defending them, and then commits suicide. The killer had a 10mm Glock handgun, a 9mm SIG Sauer handgun, and a .223-caliber Bushmaster AR-15 rifle, which can fire 45 rounds a minute. Three other guns were at his home. All guns were legally purchased by his mother. More than three-fourths of all weapons used in murders were legally purchased. President Obama said on the day of the massacre, “We’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.” The NRA remains silent.

There were 12 mass murders so far this year. There will be 33 more deaths from gunshot wounds today. There will be 33 more tomorrow. And the day after that and the day after that. And there will be 33 murders by guns on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

The man known as the “Prince of Peace” probably doesn’t care what the NRA believes.

[Walter Brasch, who shoots trap, believes in responsible gun ownership and, more important, responsible laws. His latest book, Before the First Snow: Stories from the Revolution, looks at violence in America.]