Monthly Archives: December 2012

The Year in Politics and Sports

2012 had the distinction of being, it seemed a year where the worlds of politics and sports collided. While both keep score, they are normally isolated from each other, unless Congress decides to get into steroid use or corruption of the integrity of some favorite pastime or some sports star decides that his sports skills translate well in the body politic.

First, a look at the dead and wounded in the world of politics. We lost a mountain of political heavyweights this past year, from Watergate’s Charles Colson to political leaders George McGovern, Daniel Inouye, Warren Rudman, and Arlen Spector. Those who triggered political changes included Robert Bork – one of the first major Supreme Court nominee challenges, Rodney King who put a face on police violence and Philip Vannater who, at the OJ trail brought sloppy police procedures to the spotlight. The interactions of the political world were observed for us by titans Mike Wallace and Gore Vidal along with the often truth-free Andrew Breitbart. And of course, from America’s shadow government of the 2000s – President Bartlet’s secretary…Mrs. Landingham — Kathryn Joosten.

Wounded, by circumstances both external and self inflected…the Tea Party. From their cheers to the question “Let him die” during the Republican primary debates to the rejection of Tea Party candidates throughout the Republican race. Michelle Bachmann, Todd Akin, Richard Mourdock, Allen West. And with Dick Armey’s FreedomWorks only winning 24% of  their Tea Party backed candidates their $40Million investment failed. Doubling down on Armey was Karl Rove, whose American Crossroads PAC spent $390Million in the 2012 election…and the only thing to show for it was a live broadcast meltdown at his safe harbor, FoxNews on election night.

Even more telling, due to the realities of the 21st Century both tax Scrooge Grover Norquest and the leadership of the NRA are facing extreme political pushback from their core political supporters, unheard of even six months ago.

And of course the choice of the Republican Party…Mitt Romney whose tone-deft campaign, isolating and insulting nearly every constituency except affluent white voters came up with just 47%…ironically the same percentage number of Americans he insulted when he thought there were no cameras. That loss, made much more acute by fatally flawed echo chamber predictions that he would win, no matter what the rest of the political world was predicting.

It seemed this year that the national stage and its ever present political shadow overwhelmed much of the news. The Presidential election, and Barrack Obama’s second presidential victory may have been THE story of the year but violence in America, and more specifically in public places caused an endless staccato drumbeat of breaking news, each story fracturing the public psyche more than the last. Mass shootings in restaurants and cafes, at the workplace and home, in churches and temples, at malls and hospitals, theaters and finally the catalyst that brought the frustration of a nation to a boil…our schools. Oh, and over 500 have been killed by murder just in Chicago…and we only know the name Nathaniel T. Jackson because he was the ceremonial murder Number 500, killed two weeks after the shootings at Sandy Hook.

But the world is not just politics…sports had an outstanding run in 2012. Eli Manning and the New York Giants beat Bill Belichick’s hoodie and the NE Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI – where the Roman numerals make it important and we saw the bearded San Francisco Giants sweep the World Series. In tennis we watched the retirement of Andy Roddick and Kim Clijsters, swimming saw Michael Phelps and his cache of medals on his last podium, Pat Summitt and Jim Calhoun retired from coaching, and seven-time Formula 1 champion Michael Schumacher retired for the second time. But maybe what we remember most was Lance Armstrong having the titles taken away for his seven consecutive Tours de France and Bob Costas, just 12 days before Sandy Hook using his Sunday Night Football halftime slot addressing the murder/suicide of Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher and the culture of guns.

Also this year we watched Queen Elizabeth II and James Bond ‘chute into the extremely successful London Olympics, no matter the negative professional assessment of Mitt Romney. We watched the United States win 104 medals, we watched McKayla Maroney not be impressed and we watched most all of the London Olympics in time delay to make the broadcast for convenient for NBC’s ratings and so we could listen to the ever rambling Bob Costas fill time as they skipped through the parts not involving Americans.  Most of the American audience was with McKayla…we were not impressed with NBC.

In Kentucky sports and politics collided this year. Republican Lt. Governor candidate Richie Farmer, formally University of Kentucky Wildcat “Unforgettable” lost the election, his unemployment claim after his term as Agriculture Commissioner expired, his wife and his house. Only his mustache seems to have survived.  And in other news of the Big Blue Nation…UK won its eighth NCAA National Championship and put six members of the championship team in the NBA Draft, including Numbers 1 and 2. Also, UK superfan and sometimes actress and wife of three time Indianapolis 500 and four time Indycar champion Dario Franchitti Ashley Judd is being considered to run for the US Senate in 2014 against 30 year Senate veteran Mitch McConnell.

At the end of the year there is the Budget Bowl, in sudden death overtime with 4th and long and it looks like Congress and the President are executing their versions of a goal-line defense, each running often seen plays, the Xs and Os familiar to everyone who has watched either politics or Wile E. Coyote.  But I am not sure they realize the folks in the stands are not cheering…except for an occasional, but ever growing Bronx cheer.

2013 looks to be anything but boring. Tebow that it is better than 2012.

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Gun Violence: Facing Responsibility

Variations of the word responsibility come up often in the conversation about gun rights, gun control and gun violence. It is used to describe the “99% of gun owners who are responsible.” It is used by those demanding gun control to “make gun owners, gun manufacturers and the NRA responsible for their actions and policies.” It is used to question just what the responsibility of gun owners should be. And, unfortunately it is demanded, by the people to the judicial system to make those responsible for gun violence and death pay.

And then there is this…

In October 2008, in Massachusetts  EIGHT year old Christopher Bizilj, while shooting a fully automatic Micro UZI submachine gun blew himself away. He was at the Westfield Sportman’s Club at an event put on by the Pelham police chief, Edward Fleury. Christopher’s father Charles was fiddling around with his video camera when the incident occurred.

Those are the basic facts. The follow-up over the next three years defines “responsibility” in gun deaths. While not nearly as many deaths occurred as in Sandy Hook, and there was no flurry of media covering the story 24/7, it should be at the heart of any gun violence discussion.

In any incident like this the prevailing next step is lawsuits and charges…getting down to just who is responsible for such an egregious loss of young life…so the legal battles began.

Charles Bizilj sued the suppliers of the gun and ammunition they leased at the expo. They settled for $700,000.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts filed charges of involuntary manslaughter and three counts of furnishing machine guns to minors against Edward Fleury, police chief of Pelham and organizer of the C.O.P. Firearms and Training Machine Gun Shoot.

At the 2011 trial Edward Fleury was found innocent of all charges.

After Fleury’s trial the charges were dropped against Carl Giuffre and Domenico Spano, subcontractors to Fleury’s Machine Gun Shoot.

The 15 year old range supervisor who was the “handler” for Christopher’s shooting experience testified that he twice suggested the boy’s father pick a less powerful weapon for the boy to shoot. The father insisted.

It bears repeating…THE FATHER INSISTED

Back to responsibility…who was ultimately responsible for this very senseless act?

  • The Westfield Sportsman’s Club?
  • C.O.P. Firearms and Training owner Police Chief Edward Fleury?
  • Carl Giuffre and Domenico Spano, subcontractors to Chief Fleury?
  • Fifteen year old Michael Spano, son of Domenico Spano?
  • The insistent Charles Bizilj?

Apparently the answer is NOBODY. It, like hundreds of other “firearms accidents” that happen each year will be blamed on nobody except very poor luck. And there-in lays the problem in a world where nobody is adjudicated “responsible” for an EIGHT year old boy’s ability to play with firearms that were too powerful for his untrained mind and body. And he paid the price.

If gun owners and the NRA want to contribute to this conversation on gun violence, this is a really easy place for them to start. And for those who want to regulate guns, this example of avoidance of responsibility by society is a good place to begin to work at the edges of the gun violence problem.

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Gun Violence Part 5: My Thoughts on My Thoughts

Over the past two years I have gone over the issue of gun violence time and again…and referenced those headline grabbing stories from Congresswoman Giffords to Sandy Hook to the more common, more frequent, more deadly stories of children picking up their parent’s gun and killing themselves or others to the man who kills his entire family because he is paranoid about an uncertain future. I tend to write as a systems analyst, looking pragmatically at all sides of the issue, all causes from access to guns to the mental health and stresses that cause folks to go just that far over the line.

Now to a personal view… MY observations and solutions that I make from a position of being a long time gun owner and target shooter [over 50 years since I first learned to shoot and 40 years as a gun owner] AND a supporter of the need to solve the problems of gun violence.

The very first element of my solution is to honestly define the problem.  That means looking at everything that is in the swirl of the violence and what it will take to actively reduce the body count.  It also means not disrespecting the tens of millions of gun owners who are not violent, not unstable…not part of the problem.

This missive addresses gun issues ONLY, please refer to other articles to address the multitude of causes of violence that need to be addressed to diffuse the other side of a shooter’s actions.

Personal Responsibility

Starting at the foundation means addressing personal responsibility to remove from the equation the senseless deaths of kids with their parent’s weapons and the 200,000 guns stolen per year that end up outside the system, more likely to be involved in crime.  That means a requirement to stow your weapons and further to maintain liability if your gun is stolen.

Stopping the ability of gun owners to buy/sell firearms without a paper trail must be addressed if a continuation of liability is to be achieved.

Government Intervention

From the perspective of regulations, I believe that a ban on 30+ magazines is reasonable.  They serve little purpose in the many legitimate uses of a semi-automatic rifle.  I do not believe a ban on future sales of semi-automatic assault weapons will work to solve the problem, it is more kneejerk than solution.

Chicago is looking at putting a tax on ammunition to pay for their ever escalating gun wound costs at their ERs.  While it affects the 99% of gun owners who do not contribute to the problem of gun violence, a reasonable tax on types of ammo has merit.

At some point there needs to be an enhancement of background checks at the point of purchase to insure that nobody who should not own a weapon slips through the cracks.  That means requiring states to include mental health evaluations into the NICS.  It will be costly, intrusive but can weed out some buyers.

Right now many prisons are revolving doors…those with violent tendencies are out well before their sentences demand.  We have to fund prisons to address convicted violent people and not let them back on the streets to get one of the many underground guns that are so available.

There are too many loopholes in current regulations, and many are not enforced due to budget considerations.  Among them, closing a loopholes that allows strawman purchases, that allows undocumented buy/sell of guns.

Will this stop gun violence…NO.  Will it  – along with addressing the causes that make a shooter pick up a gun – slowdown the gun violence and deaths…YES.

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Gun Violence Part 4: Missing the Target

In this new gun rights debate, triggered by 12 incidents of mass murder in 2012 we have seen, rather than the two polarized sides starting to come together we are seeing  an entrenching of position.  On the pro-gun side – the problem is everything except the guns, on the gun regulation side – the problem is nothing except the guns. Both positions are dead wrong – though each could provide an element of a comprehensive solution.

The pro-gun side of the conversation came out, after a week of reflection with an argument that declared that moving towards a police state, arming every school and teacher would solve the problem…reflective in their long standing view that we are in a dystopian society…flawed, crumbling and full of bad guys to the point that only armed response is the solution.

On the pro-regulation side the argument was stated from day one…it is only guns that are the problem, not mental healthcare issues [they are too complex], not desensitization by movies, TV or video games, not bullying, workplace stress or domestic violence — or gang violence.  Their solution was just access to guns by those who want to do harm.

Looking at both sides – yes, guns are the common denominator in the violence but no, they are not the cause…they are the very last domino in a long line.  But with modern weapons that have high capacity magazines that will deliver nearly 100 rounds of 223 ammo travelling 3200 feet per second with a muzzle pressure of 1500 foot pound of force all with two magazine changes or less, that last domino is an extremely potent, convenient, efficient killing machine.

So we have to look at the rest of the dominoes…and also look at the gun owners themselves. From that we get an extremely complex problem that doesn’t have a simple solution, from either side.

I have covered the rest of the dominoes repeatedly, and they are very well documented…mental health issues are a factor in the violence as are bullying, stress in the workplace and home. Movies, TV and video games have a provable desensitizing effect [a couple of studies can be found here and here ] Ignoring studies that prove those links by the pro-regulation folks is as disingenuous and damaging to their position as ignoring the mountain of studies that show guns can be a problem by the pro-gun folks.

If my message has not been clear enough over the past 60 days…let me boil it down. THE ANSWER LIES IN THE MIDDLE.  It is neither of the two polarized, opposing position.  And to get to a solution that serves a purpose beyond political posturing or confirmation of their previous position, both sides are going to have to co-operate and compromise.

As much as the NRA statement was a tone deaf, self serving response, so was the publishing of legal gun permit holder’s names and addresses in Westchester County, NY.  It was a lazy, irresponsible action that attempted to paint ALL gun owners [that 99% who are not criminal and never will be] with a single, very biased brush. Nether act served a purpose of moving the conversation forward; both were self serving to their positions.

Further to that point blogs, websites and media that are only willing to publish biased information, avoiding looking at solutions that distract from a preconceived “solution” damage their cause – nobody in that very large middle are willing to only listen to one side…one side that only offers pat, oft-repeated solutions that have fatal flaws.

To those two sides…Christmas is over.  If you didn’t get your biased, polarized solution for Christmas…it ain’t happening. It’s time to pony up to the table and get ready to do some very hard, complicated work to find a solution.

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“Yippee-ki-yay, Motherf…” – John McClane

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The question is unbelievably simple…”Why does everyone believe that THEY would have saved the day with a gun?”

John McClane.  The everyman hero from the Die Hard series who, no matter the problem, the odds, how beat down he was, we knew he would rise to the occasion.

“If only one person with a gun had been there, this tragedy would not have happened”.  We heard it after the theater shootings in Aurora, the volume has increased after Sandy Hook.  Everyone who argues the anti-regulation side of the gun violence debate says…declares…demands “if only one person with a gun…”.  Because with John McClane, as long as he had a gun he ended the violence of those with bad intentions. When asked why he does it he says:

“[I do this] because there is nobody else to do it right now. Believe me if there was somebody else to do it, I would let them do it. There’s not, so [I’m] doing it. That’s what makes you that guy.” – Live Free or Die Hard

And that is what guys are taught from the time they are old enough to play…to be “that guy”.  To be the guy who will step up.  And there is nothing wrong with that…NOTHING.  But, when you add in an element that guns are a big part of the solution it changes. Psychologist Abraham Maslow said in his book The Psychology of Science, “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.”  It is the Law of the Instrument.  And with those defending the gun culture, the gun is that hammer.  The point of the Law of the Instrument, use the BEST tool for the job, not just the one in which you are most familiar.  When addressing gun violence creeping into public venues…there are many tools to address the problems – NOT just the gun. And certainly those with an interest in protecting the gun culture do their best to make the gun the best tool, the only tool in which to solve the problem.

John McClane is a simple guy…he has simple solutions. And he has stunt men, staged fights and a script that guarantees that, in the end, though bruised and beaten, he is still the victor. That philosophy of the everyman hero, and the desire to emulate him has not changed since John Wayne in the 1950s and Dirty Harry Callahan in the 1970s.

“If only one person with a gun had been there, this tragedy would not have happened”.  But history says no.  At Columbine there were experienced, trained, armed guards at the school. By the time the one responding guard was at a point to engage the shooting had already begun.  And he didn’t stop the shooters…they stopped themselves when they were done.

History points to the four fully armed, fully trained cops in Lakewood WA in November of 2009 who were, while at work killed by a single gunman. Or the FIVE cops who have been killed by gunfire SINCE Sandy Hook, just nine days ago or the other 250 cops killed by gunfire in just the past five years. They were all armed, on duty, trained…DEAD.

At the shooting rampage at the Tucson Congressional Meet and Greet where there were six killed and 13 wounded, including a US Congresswoman there was that guy, the “one person with a gun” – Joe Zamudio.  But there were a couple of problems.  As he came around the corner to intervene he saw a man with a gun.  Zamudio demanded he “drop the weapon”.  Problem was the man with the gun had just taken it from the shooter who was now on the ground.  Besides not being EXACTLY in the right place at the right time he very nearly killed the man who disarmed the shooter.

Sometimes the right tool for the job is the gun…sometimes arming teachers or installing guards at ever door of every school is the right answer.  But history, and the ever growing pile of evidence shows that it is not the only solution.  Besides looking at reactive solutions [a guard, teacher, or concealed carry civilian waiting to react] we have to go to the roots of the problem.  The roots are many…they include addressing mental healthcare, bullying, workplace violence, domestic violence and external stimuli such as First Person Shooter video games…AND, specifically that one common denominator in all of these mass murders…the gun.

Yippee-ki-yay, motherfu…

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Shooting Off Inside an Echo Chamber.

I have been working on the issue of gathering a national conversation about gun violence since January of 2011 when Congresswoman Giffords was gunned down at a Tucson Congressional Meet and Greet. Since that day this country has had 12 events that meet the FBI definition of mass shooting – four victims [not including the shooter].  Of those, EIGHT were with variations of the AK-47 or AR-15, civilian semi-automatic versions of either the Russian military AK-47 or the M16/M4 that the US military and police use. In those 12 mass shootings 99 people were killed and another 102 were wounded.

Since that time I have actively engaged in conversation, from obviously liberal gun control fora to, on the other side many of the gun fora that populate the internet.  I have done so for a couple of reasons…first, to glean the opinions and “pulse” of the various groups, second to enter the conversations and have constructive, often hard open dialog with the participants and third, to enter the idea that, for a realistic solution that both fully addresses the proliferating gun violence but also respects the rights of the 99% of gun owners who are not part of the problem compromise will be required.  In all cases on various fora I introduced a very simple cut and pasted suggestion [written January 12, 2011] so that I would insure that my intent was clear.

What is it going to take for the national debate to begin in earnest to address gun violence that is permeating our culture?  Is it going to take the rising middle of America, those neither wed to the hard-line dogma of the two opposing sides – those demanding absolute gun control or libertarian freedom from all regulation – to shape this argument?  And what event will it take to trigger that middle to demand change? An assassination? Another Columbine type school shooting?  Another Luby’s Cafeteria or McDonalds restaurant shooting? A disrupted sporting event?

The two sides of the debate have to be willing to come together, to compromise to a 21st Century solution that is constrained by violence on one side and an 18th Century philosophy on ownership on the other. If they don’t the middle of the bell curve, that very wide middle made up of non-committed Americans will force the politicians to act.  THEY will write the solution, not those with vested interest.

It seemed simple enough…it seemed to lack offense, it seemed to be neutral in the questions that it asked. Boy, was I wrong.  From this simple opening I have been called a Socialist, socialist, communist, gun-grabber, gun nut, murderer, libtard, moron, and assailed by both sides with “you can’t fix STUPID”.  Yes, both sides used the exact same phrase, including capitalization as a response to defense of that paragraph.

With just one exception I was either banned from the forum, asked to leave, defriended, blocked, told that I was a troll, edited or simply assaulted with a Tourette’s level of juvenile obscenity laced vitriol from the members – without a single instance of the forum moderator asking their majority opined members to “tone it down”.  The irony of being banned from a firearms forum, attempting to void my 1st Amendment rights in order to protect their 2nd Amendment rights was not only humorous but has provided a oft used example of the irrational lengths folks will go to defend dogma.

BUT, I sure got my answer.  From both sides I saw a complete intractability to changing their position, willingness to compromise, to even hearing views that did not dovetail exactly with theirs. Even more scary I saw many forum members articulate the common observation “[fill in the blank group] morons don’t have a clue as to what they are talking about.” In other words, their opinion was valid, had merit and backed by overwhelming evidence and the opposition was dumber than a box of rocks.  And by “their opinion” I mean both sides.  Both gun control liberals and pro gun conservatives.

So, besides having a set of disparate causes to gun violence, whether it is mental health issues, bullying issues, video games, violent TV or job stress or domestic strife all tied together by access to guns we have to look at extreme polarization in the national conversation.  More to the point…how do two sides come to the table when both think those on the other side are F’ing Morons™?

To add to the list of causes of gun violence…let’s add extreme obstinance…the unwillingness to even consider the opposite view of a problem.  This problem will never go away as long as the two fringe positions refuse to act like responsible adults.

The lesson I learned from this…shooting off in an echo chamber is deafening.  But I also learned much of how to frame the national conversation on gun violence.  Unfortunately it involves ignoring the fringes and looking to pissed off Middle America that is tired of their workplaces, restaurants, malls, streetcorners, theaters, churches and schools being places of violence.  They come from the conservative, moderate and liberal pools. They will define the parameters of the issues and they will push the politicians past their lobbyists toward a package of solutions.

And maybe that’s not so bad.

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Lawyers, Guns and Money

As the conversation heats up regarding the spread of gun violence back into our schools, malls, restaurants, theaters, there will be two voices in direct opposition on the subject…On one side the folks who support the need to look at regulations, to consider whether all types of weapons really make since in a 21st Century reality and, on the other side gun owners who don’t want complications in the pursuit of their hobby and the big dog in the argument – the Gun Lobby. In the past 13 years the Gun Lobby has spent $73MILLION dollars in lobbying to Congress.

Many of the same folks who so quickly give to the NRA and the GOA are the very same folks who line up against lobbying of the financial sector, automobile manufacturing sector, Wall Street.

The gun lobby is usually thought of by the general public as the NRA…they are the most vocal.  But behind the scenes there are more organizations that promote the gun culture.  And they have deep pockets.  Let’s review the players.

The NRA

With between 2 and 4.5 million members [depending on which part of the NRA’s website you read], and a leader with a love of the camera, the NRA is the most visible face of the Gun Lobby.

National Shooting Sports Foundation

Less well known is the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the collective of the gun manufacturing industry.  They are the folks who, while much quieter speak for manufacturers and have a vested interest in a wide open gun market. An interesting bit of IRONY…their national headquarters are located just a bit over a mile away from the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.

Gun Owners of America

While the smallest, this group is also the least flexible, representing the most libertarian wing of gun owners. When asked “So how would you use your Second Amendment rights if you didn’t like the way your congressman or senator is representing you? GOA Executive Director Larry Pratt suggested that gun owners should use their weapons when the government steals elections, when “they” define tyranny to mean a position to which they don’t agree.

A Note:

This article is a work in progress, it will change over time as I dig through details of these organization.

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Shooting Holes in NRA’s Post School Shooting Proposal

The response from the NRA today provided a telling view of their position.  They blamed any and everything for the violence that visited Sandy Hook except the reality that guns were there.  They only acknowledged that “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”  So it is only the response of “more guns” that would have saved the children at Sandy Hook…or Aurora…or Virginia Tech…or Foot Hood…or the Luby’s Cafeteria…the beat goes on.

If only one person with a gun had been there…”

But let’s look at history, the reality of the issue.  And to do that, let’s look at two incidents, though there are more.

In April of 1999 13 people were killed by two gunmen, students at the school.  Could they have been saved by that one guard that the NRA wants us to believe is the solution?  Well, there was an armed guard, a 15 year veteran of the Sheriff’s department.  And he responded, and he returned fire.  He called the Sheriff’s office for backup.  Yet, with both an armed security guard on site and backup coming in by the minute the two shooters, who started their rampage at 11:19am continued until THEY ended it at 12:08 p.m with their own suicides.  They left 13 dead and 21 injured in the wake of that 49 minute attack.

In March of 2005 a 16 year old shooter killed his grandfather, a deputy sheriff, took his guns including two handguns and a shotgun and vest and went to Red Lake High School in his grandfather’s police vehicle.  The first person he killed was one of the school’s two security guards at the door. He went on to kill five students and a teacher at the school wounding at least a dozen more before ending his own life.
The NRA solution 100% in place with 100% failure.

Ten years after Columbine, in a coffee shop in Lakewood, Washington, on November 29, 2009 four police officers were sitting down before starting their shift.  They used the coffee shop as a meeting point prior to their shift and were killed by a single gunman who walked into the coffee shop and executed them while they worked on their laptops at the table.  They were well armed, they were well trained and they had the situational awareness to perceive threats.  Within seconds they were all four dead.

The NRA solution is to place armed guards at schools to “stop” the potential for mass violence.  Yet, in two schools, each employing that very plan the death toll is 23, the injured number over 30.  And when we include the police killings in Washington, four well trained, well armed professionals…the glaring weakness of the NRA’s proposal becomes abundantly clear.

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Panic And Blowback: the Gun Community Taxes Itself

Sandy Hook has brought two new phrases to the conversation about gun violence…”Paradigm shift” and “Watershed moment”. They are not thrown out as media sensationalism…they are being used to describe the much different reaction to this senseless massacre. And they don’t come from just the media, they come from the business of guns and from the gun community. THAT is the change and that is how we can understand that things are forever different.

The panic set in first with the gun community. The NRA shut down its Facebook site and went dark for five days. They now suggest they will “offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again”. My guess is they heard from that majority of their own members who say they are for some new gun regulations. Time will tell.

The most visible sign of panic came, not from the gun lobbyists but from gun buyers.  They flooded gun shops and, over a four day period cleaning out most every AR-15, AK-47, every high capacity magazine capable semi-automatic pistols currently on the market.  The decision seems to be driven by the expectation that the Assault Weapons Ban will be reenacted, limiting  handguns to 10 rounds [as opposed to the current 15-17 rounds. And then there was the ammo…it’s gone. And gun owners found out something about their local gun shops this week…they don’t care about the gun owners, they care only about their profits, raising prices [adding a Panic Tax?] on AR-15 type weapons, more than doubling the price of high capacity magazines and increasing the price of affected ammunition.

And now the supply is near zero. What will be next for the gun community now that they have cleared stock from stores and distributors? We have a clue. In 2008, when the gun manufacturing and gun stores got together with gun fora and bloggers to launch the most successful marketing campaign in their history [Obama’s Gonna Get our Guns!!!] a similar panic set in. And it did not stop. Using AR-15 ammunition as an example, I followed prices for Remington XM 193 prices from 2004 [$.175/round] to today [$.444/round] and more important…it is completely out of stock.

The anecdotal stories coming from gun fora tell the same story.

“I went to my local reloading store Saturday to get a new set of dies. Bob, told me they had done $27,000 in sales (@4:00 pm). Avg. for a “normal” Saturday is around $2,000.” East Texas forum user on smith-wessonforum.com

“People were upset that they couldn’t buy three or four AR’s and 20,000 rounds of ammo.” relayed quote of a Western Pennsylvania dealer on smith-wessonforum.com.

The most compelling post from the gun fora community was not about the massacre, not about panic buying, not about the politics of gun violence.  It was closer to home.  It was the rejection of a gun owner by his wife…she had, as he explained “always been a supporter of me and my shooting, guns, all that. Until now. Last Friday, and the ensuing media blasting and mass hysteria/grieving she has taken a complete 180deg turn…My wife is normally a very unemotional, rational thinker. So for her to get this worked up, I can’t imagine what “normal” people are going through.” NORMAL?

Beyond the lobbyists and the gun community, gun related businesses are reassessing their policies. Dick’s Sporting Goods, with over 500 stores has pulled all “assault weapons”, now known as “sporting guns” from their shelves. It is not known if this is a permanent policy or for the “mourning period” that gun lobbyists defined. On television the Discovery Channel has cancelled American Guns, a reality show based around a family owned gun shop in Colorado…but you can still see photographs of the 16 year old daughter Paige Wyatt modelling firearms on the Discovery website. http://dsc.discovery.com/tv-shows/american-guns  Further, the Discovery Channel has also cancelled Ted Nugent from their programming.  These are just two of the 21 gun related shows on Cable TV.

Blowback continued as Cerberus Capital Management dropped their investment in Freedom Group, the corporate family that includes Bushmaster, Marlin and Remington. Also on the financial front, Smith Wesson stock [SWHC] initially plunged from its pre Sandy Hook price of $9.94 to $7.67 two days later.  Ruger [RGR] prices also dropped, from $47.30 to $40.08.  Both are beginning to recover.

You can tell when a problem is extreme when politicians begin to find the nearest microphone to change their position on an issue.  The blowback from Sandy Hook has been no different.  From Joe Scarborough’s emotional announcement to Sen. Marco Rubio’s office which released the statement “[Rubio remains a] “strong supporter of the Second Amendment right to safely and responsibly bear arms. But he has also always been open to measures that would keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill.” And West Virginia’s Sen. Joe Manchin tweeted “”This awful massacre has changed where we go from here. Our conversation should move beyond dialogue.”

Decades of intractable attitude by the gun community has left them in an untenable position…change attitudes to reflect the realities of the 21st Century or stand on the sidelines as Middle America, that group that is neither pro or anti gun makes the decisions.

The gun community, as early as 2008 began taxing themselves with panic and hoard buying of guns, ammunition and high capacity magazines causing a constant escalation of prices due to supply and demand.  They did so on the fear that “Obama is going to get our guns”.  36 mass murder events, the killing of over 600 police officers, the over 2000 children under 12 killed by guns since has redefined the worry.  It is not Obama that is going to limit their gun choice, it is other citizens, armed with the frustration of too many killings of too many people that have nothing to do with hunting, nothing to do with self defense, nothing to do with the hobby of target shooting or collecting.  THEY have asked their political leaders to step up and make a change.

That is the ultimate blowback of too many years of intractability.

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Mutual Assured Destruction: Now in Convenient Pocket Size

In the wake of Aurora’s theater slaughter the crime tape had not even come down when folks on the Pro-Gun side of the conversation about gun violence started filling the fora of the Internet with claims that “if only one person in that theater had been armed this would not have happened”…It was not a new offering, but with the size of the headlines and the spotlight on the gun enthusiast community, it was louder.  We don’t know if anyone in the theater was armed…and maybe chose to not draw or didn’t have a clear shot in the panic…but the drumbeat continues…”If only…”

One further point on “if only one person had a gun, this would not have happened.” In November 2009, in a suburb of Seattle four Lakewood Police officers were shot and killed as they began their shift. They had guns, they were trained, they were on duty…they were dead.

Fast forward five months and, before the first media special that capitalized on Sandy Hook Elementary School’s massacre the same voices were expounding on the same solution…”If only a teacher had been armed this senseless tragedy would have been avoided.” But this time the solution had been amp’ed up, this time the solution was to have ALL teachers arm themselves. A Maginot Line of teachers, stretching across 100,000 public schools and 30,000 private schools to become the first and last line of defense against danger. Four Million or so teachers protecting 76 Million students.

At no point as this solution is being marketed do the folks who are selling it provide the details, the functional tasks necessary to make that happen. Liability insurance, on-going training and certification, proper stowage of firearms while in the school to protect against theft and prying little hands, and most important a re-prioritization of teacher duties. Instead of first protecting the children by getting them out of Harm’s Way, the first task would be to retrieve their weapon and maybe then look to get the children out of the line of fire. It might work flawlessly…it might fail completely.

Back in the late 1940s the United States and the Soviet Union began an arms race to both intimidate the opposition and to protect their own borders. Every time one side raised the ante…the other side matched that bet and raised. The forty-five year policy became known as Mutual Assured Destruction [MAD].  You kill us, we kill you back. Nobody wins.

While the doctrine did work as planned – we had zero nuclear exchanges throughout the history of the Cold War it came at a cost…constantly escalating weapons technology and growing numbers of weapons. And along with that came an increased chance for error.

And that brings us back to the present and the raised ante of weapons being used against schools. Extremely efficient killing machines allow those who want to kill to do so quickly, with extreme power and, because the newest generation of high powered weapons can accommodate magazines of 30-100 rounds before reloading, the death tolls can escalate quickly. As people across the country find that their schools, theaters, malls, cafes, and hospitals are not safe they demand a solution. Arming teachers, citizens, mall employees is proposed. But armed with what? Many gun enthusiasts would not go into a gun battle against an assault rifle with a pistol any more than they would “take a knife to a gunfight.” So that brings us to HOW to arm the Maginot Line of teachers. Easily concealed revolvers?  High capacity pistols?  Equal AR-15 semi automatic assault rifles? Mutual Assured Destruction. As an perceived attacker’s weapon changes…should the teachers and clerks and part time theater employees escalate?

An alternative solution is one that builds a cadre of guards and metal detectors to envelop our schools, shops, entertainment complexes.  As we saw at Sandy Hook, where the doors were locked and security in place, a gunman with intent can blow through doors and begin his slaughter before guards or police or even teachers can be called to defend…two minutes is a long time to shoot, not a long time to react, unless the guard happens to be at the right place at the right time.

And there is the cost. For the 100,000 public schools, with one guard that is paid $30,000 the cost would be $3,000,000,000.  And those same 100,000 schools would have to buy $4,000 metal detectors…for each door. $1,200,000,000 for schools with just three doors.  And right now teachers have to buy their on teaching aids because school districts can’t raise taxes to fund schools properly. So add $3Billion per year for a guard and $1.2Billion for metal detectors to the already strapped budgets.

If only there were other solutions besides making teachers and civilians the last line of defense against those who want to harm their charges, their clients, their patrons. Well, there are…but they require changes in how we think about guns in the 21st Century while having our decisions constrained by those who firmly grip an 18th Century philosophy.

Mutual Assured Destruction. Currently the main argument for keeping semi automatic assault rifles available to the general public is 1) because Constitution, 2) protecting the home against marauding hordes, 3) to stand against a “tyrannical government.” And tyrannical government is loosely defined as “any government different than my personal political views.” It is possible that there is a fourth, 4) defense from zombies – but that is still up in the air.

To the reality of Mutual Assured Destruction, every 30 round magazine for semi automatic assault rifles [or as the National Shooting Sports Foundation lobbyist like to call them “sporting rifles”] across the nation sold out in the three days since Sandy Hook.

In case you are keeping score of this “sport”, this year the score is 48 killed/82 wounded in just six major attacks and ZERO maundering hordes, tyrannical governments or zombies stopped.

About the element of mental health in this escalating violence. Whenever the shooter is white, and even better – affluent the discussion always moves to addressing mental health care in this country.  If the shooter is black, Hispanic or Middle Eastern, we NEVER hear the concept of mental health brought up. Yes, mental health care needs to be addressed as one element of solving this extremely complicated puzzle. But it needs to be addressed for everyone…and that brings us to costs. We have been systematically cutting mental healthcare budgets for years. We have to decide just how important they are.

As we wade through this myriad of options to define solutions for mass shootings, let’s see if we can’t avoid the Destruction part of MAD. We have to get this right, for everyone, not just the fringe elements of the conversation.

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