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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

Sensible Gun Laws - Now

Category: Guns
Posted: 10/03/17 14:45

by Dave Mindeman

Whenver I talk about guns, the gun nut trolls are usually all over it. And they never argue about the policy - no, they concentrate on my lack of technical expertise about guns. It seems that only those who subscribe to Guns and Ammo are allowed a voice at the table. Because we have to know the difference between automatic and semi-automatic weapons...about trigger locks...silencers...range...caliber...that sort of thing.

Well, I don't have that expertise. Never owned a gun in my life and I don't intend to...and I am not going to waste my time delving into the gun nut world of gadgets and gizmos.

All I care about is that guns in the hands of any one person can make a decision to kill other human beings. Yes, the gun is only an object...and it is harmless unless used for harm. But the gun culture created in this country is toxic. I keep going back to the fact that no other industrialized country has the level of gun problems that we do. And it doesn't have to be that way.

The 2nd Amendment does not have to be repealed. It doesn't need to be changed. But it does need to have appropriate, common sense gun laws associated with it. There is no Constitutional obstacle to gun restrictions. Gun use has to be defined for the purposes of public safety. We do not have the right to shoot anybody. There are laws regarding self defense, but they vary from state to state. You have the right to own a gun. You have the right to use it for self defense - but you are also obligated to adhere to the rules of public safety as legislated.

But we also have to deal with the ugly truth that gun laws are always under attack and are always granted loopholes that gun manufacturers work for and exploit.

This latest incident in Las Vegas should incite national outrage. The shooter modified his weaponry....

The speed, pattern and inconsistent rate of gunfire heard in videos of the Las Vegas shooting indicate the suspect could have used cheap and legal modification devices to accelerate the firing of a semi-automatic weapon to almost 700 rounds a minute. And the kinds of devices that would make that possible are readily available -- relatively cheaply on the internet -- even to people who can't qualify to buy an automatic weapon.

This is ridiculous. The gun industry finds mechanical methods to make firepower more lethal and cause more deaths. Deaths that are a direct result of gun manufacturer obsessions with circumventing legal gun restrictions.

It is also disturbing that gun manufacturers and their lobbying arm, the NRA, use hunters and sportspersons as virtual human shields for their non-sports firearms and the resulting carnage from misuse.

They convince the recreational hunter that any gun restriction is a slippery slope into regulations that will take away their right to own a gun and hunt. That is a bald face lie and they know it. They count on recruiting hunters into their membership to pick up this false narrative and strengthen their lobbying position.

There are some basic gun regulations that make common sense - will not damage the second amendment - and can make us all safer. But we have to directly take on the gun lobby to make it happen. That is hard but it is also a moral imperative.

For example- Universal background checks gets high marks in public polling. Yet, we cannot get this passed without loopholes. It should be a no-brainer that any gun sale (and I do mean ANY) should require a background check on the purchaser. And by that I mean any on-line sale, any gun show sale, and any sale to Uncle Bob or Grandpappy Amos. Any sale anywhere is not legal without a certified background check.

Is that so hard to understand? Do I have to know about the caliber of a firearm to support background checks?

As for these gadgets that increase firepower for legal weapons.... why can they just be sold without some kind of review from a panel of gun experts? Why is this kind of loophole sanctioned? Everything to do with a gun should be subject to a consumer test - to make sure it is useful and not lethal.

Background check information needs to be upgraded with more sophisticated systems. To be made as error free as possible. And the data base must be current at all times.

The biggest fear of the gun nut is the idea of some kind of universal government registry. Although that would be useful, an argument can be made that the 2nd Amendment might restrict that kind of use. Other countries do not have to worry about this - just us. But we don't need a universal registry - what we do need is a means to keep guns out of the hands of people who will do themselves harm or harm to others.

This doesn't have to be hard, but it is. It is an American tradition to make gun arguments impossible to resolve. Gun toters, by nature, seem to be susceptible to any kind of conspiracy theory imaginable. The gun industry depends on it, because they make half of them up.

But if we are to find a way to reduce the level of violence in this country, then responsible gun laws will have to be fought for at every government level.

No matter how hard it will be - we must begin - now.
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An Historical Look At The 2nd Amendment

Category: Guns
Posted: 10/02/17 22:08

by Dave Mindeman

Guns in America is one very complicated topic. But this complexity only seems to appear here. Other Western countries don't have mass shootings as a matter of course. They still happen, but are unique in that they are so rare in places like Denmark or England or Australia.

Other countries also do not have a 2nd Amendment ensnared in their Constitutions and when gun situations turn massively violent, they address it with solid, specific legislation.

We do not have that luxury.

Gun manufacturers have weaponized this part of our Bill of Rights. And over time the Supreme Court has been deciding cases in favor of gun rights activism. The NRA and gun lobby have amassed fortunes in political capital meant to ram their legislative agenda through a Congress beholden to them.

The Second Amendment was clearly controversial right from the beginning. In 1788, Congress was debating how it would maintain a national army, and having just overthrown the yoke of a repressive England, Patrick Henry made the following argument:

"Let me here call your attention to that part [Article 1, Section 8 of the proposed Constitution] which gives the Congress power to provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States. . . .

"By this, sir, you see that their control over our last and best defence is unlimited. If they neglect or refuse to discipline or arm our militia, they will be useless: the states can do neither . . . this power being exclusively given to Congress. The power of appointing officers over men not disciplined or armed is ridiculous; so that this pretended little remains of power left to the states may, at the pleasure of Congress, be rendered nugatory."

Henry argued that neglect of this Congressional power could leave the various states defenseless. Thus the idea of state militias was brokered as a means to ensure defense of the people.

However, Henry then went on to reveal the real reason for state "protection"....

"In this state (VA)," he said, "there are two hundred and thirty-six thousand blacks, and there are many in several other states. But there are few or none in the Northern States. . . . May Congress not say, that every black man must fight? Did we not see a little of this last war? We were not so hard pushed as to make emancipation general; but acts of Assembly passed that every slave who would go to the army should be free."

Henry argued that, under the right circumstances, southern blacks could be emancipated by drafting them into the national army and leave the states no choice to object and without their own defense if other slaves decided to rebel.

Henry also had other fears...

Patrick Henry was also convinced that the power over the various state militias given the federal government in the new Constitution could be used to strip the slave states of their slave-patrol militias. He knew the majority attitude in the North opposed slavery, and he worried they'd use the Constitution to free the South's slaves (a process then called "Manumission" ).

In other words, the south was worried that a national army would not be incentivized to put down slave insurrections.

So, once the Constitution was completed - the Bill of Rights included that 2nd Amendment provision to ensure slavery would not be interfered with and give states the right to maintain their own methods of enforcement.

Of course, the original thought process has been lost to the ages. And gun lobbies have placed their own interpretation over and above the arguments of the Founding Fathers.

Madison's first draft of the 2nd Amendment was worded this way...

"The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; a well armed, and well regulated militia being the best security of a free country: but no person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms, shall be compelled to render military service in person."

But George Mason and Patrick Henry insisted on a language change - and thus the final 2nd Amendment appeared...

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

And all of those gun rights trolls were born.
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Are Officer Involved Shootings Exacerbated By Public Gun Access?

Category: Guns
Posted: 07/21/17 13:09

by Dave Mindeman

This chart shows the number of individuals killed by police officers year by year...


As you look at it, consider this:

The Federal Assault Weapons Ban (AWB) -- officially, the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act -- is a subsection of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, a United States federal law that included a prohibition on the manufacture for civilian use of certain semi-automatic firearms it defined as assault weapons, as well as certain ammunition magazines it defined as "large capacity." The ten-year ban was passed by the U.S. Congress on September 13, 1994, following a close 52-48 vote in the Senate, and signed into law by then President Bill Clinton the same day. The ban only applied to weapons manufactured after the date of the ban's enactment, and it expired on September 13, 2004, in accordance with its sunset provision.

It is hard not to notice the graph. In 1994, there begins to be a precipitous drop in officer involved fatalities. Conversely, in 2004, there is an upward climb in these incidents. In the 10 years in-between which correspond to the tenure of the ban, the graph tends to hold in a range pattern.

Is this just a coincidence?

The job of being a police officer is a very difficult one. And we expect them to be making fast paced life threatening decisions at any moment.

But what about outside influences? What have gun laws in the United States done with the police officer's state of mind?

The prevalence and easy accesibility of guns, forces police officers to assume that anyone they encounter is armed. And with the demise of the assault weapons ban, they may have to assume that they are out gunned in many respects. And arguably have to act faster and with potentially more force.

Couple that with racial bias or rookie officers or hair trigger responses and you have a lot of the ingredients for tragedy.

Too many times we have had to discuss officer involved fatalities. Way too many. And it is time that we have a serious discussion about ALL the factors involved.

Race is obviously a key. Police Chief Jane Harteau first statement on the recent police shooting of Justine Ruszczyk was that "it should not have happened." Very true. But no such statement came from law enforcement on the death of Philando Castile. Which arguably also should not have happened. It seems difficult for police officials to maintain an even depiction of an officer shooting when different races are involved. The police are more willing to admit wrongdoing when a white person is shot and apparently afraid of the racial explanations and implications when a black person is killed.

That should not be.

But let's address the other elephant. Guns. Too many damn guns. It is tragically ironic that this Australian women died at the hands of a gun in the United States. This probably would not have happened in her home country of Australia. The Australian government dealt with their gun issue. They restricted access and got rid of the numbers. This is something that could never happen in the US, but we can, at least, look for common sense ideas that can reduce the outrageous prevalence of firearms in America.

Police officers have to assume that guns are everywhere. And they are. The first action an officer takes is often to draw their weapon. That was not always the norm. In the past, many would have time to assess the situation critically before feeling threatened. But now, the threat level is immediate. And guns are the cause.

The above chart does not definitively prove any kind of relationship involving the assault weapons ban. But it should at least open the conversation.

Frankly, we have to do something about all of this...and soon.
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