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Posted by on Feb 5, 2013 in Business, Crime, Featured, Guns, Politics | 7 comments

On Guns, Unfinished Business

Wolverton, Cagle Cartoons

WASHINGTON — The moment that most deserves to be remembered from Sunday’s thrilling Super Bowl came before the game, when Jennifer Hudson joined students from the Sandy Hook Elementary School in singing “America the Beautiful.” It was a heart-rending elegy for the fallen — and a stirring call to action.

The brave students, in khakis and white polo shirts, survived the unspeakable massacre in Newtown, Conn., that left 20 of their schoolmates dead, riddled with bullets from an assault rifle fired by a madman. Hudson, the acclaimed recording artist and Oscar-winning actress, lost her mother, brother and nephew to Chicago’s endemic gun violence in 2008 when a troubled relative went on a murderous rampage; she had to identify all three bodies at the morgue.

The performance brought tears to the eyes of some of the players — and, surely, many television viewers. It was a reminder that life goes on, but also that we must not lose sight of unfinished business: reducing the awful toll that barely regulated, insufficiently monitored commerce in powerful weapons takes on innocent victims, day after day after day.

Despite the best efforts of the National Rifle Association and like-minded groups to make sure this business remains unfinished, reducing gun violence remains stubbornly high on the nation’s agenda.

This is partly due to the ravings of Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s executive vice president and spokesman, who almost single-handedly, or single-mouthedly, is making the pro-gun argument sound even crazier and more irresponsible than it is. And that’s saying something.

On Sunday, LaPierre treated viewers of “Fox News Sunday” to some of his lunacy. Anchor Chris Wallace gave him the opportunity to disavow the NRA’s shameful ad accusing President Obama of hypocrisy for supporting gun control while his own family is protected by armed Secret Service agents. LaPierre stuck to his guns, such as they were.

The president’s daughters “face a threat that most children do not face,” Wallace pointed out.

“Tell that to people in Newtown,” LaPierre replied. He was about to continue in this vein before Wallace interrupted.

“Do you really think the president’s children are the same kind of target as every school child in America? That’s ridiculous and you know it, sir.”

LaPierre then went into an absurdist rant about how “all the elites and all the powerful and privileged, the titans of industry” have armed security and — in LaPierre’s fantasy — send their children to schools that are veritable bunkers. Wallace noted that he sent his children to the same school the Obama daughters attend, and there were no armed guards on campus.

“The idea of an elite class,” Wallace said, “it’s just nonsense, sir.”

When Obama unveiled his far-reaching proposals on gun violence, it appeared initially that the NRA was willing to compromise. NRA President David Keene seemed to indicate the organization would accept universal background checks for gun purchases while strongly opposing proposed bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. But LaPierre declared Sunday that that the NRA will resist (BEG ITAL)any(END ITAL) new legislation.

In Senate hearings last week, LaPierre portrayed life in the United States as one long horror movie. “What people all over the country fear today is being abandoned by their government,” he said. “If a tornado hits, if a hurricane hits, if a riot occurs, that they’re going to be out there alone, and the only way they’re going to protect themselves, in the cold, in the dark, when they’re vulnerable, is with a firearm.”

He left out the zombies.

With so many members of Congress already bought and paid for, it’s understandable that the NRA would feel a measure of confidence. But I believe the pro-gun lobby is seriously overplaying its hand, and that the wind has shifted.

Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords also testified at last week’s hearings; she spoke only briefly, because it is still difficult for her to form words after being shot in the head two years ago. The gunman was wielding a semiautomatic pistol with a 33-round magazine. No one can convince her that if we lived in the world the NRA would like to see — in which everyone is armed to the teeth with military-style guns and ammo — we would be safer. Nor can anyone convince the children of Newtown. Or Jennifer Hudson’s family.

The NRA is powerful but not omnipotent. Polls show that Americans favor sensible gun control; if Obama and other proponents of sanity keep the issue alive, we can achieve it. From sea to shining sea.

Eugene Robinson’s email address is [email protected]
(c) 2013, Washington Post Writers Group

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  • petew

    In the past weeks I have engaged other comenters about the rationale of insisting on owning semi-automatic weapons for either self defense, or for hobbies. Although they correctly point out that the types of weapons which a ban really is aimed at curtailing, are more properly called “semi-automatic” weapons—the difference being that assault weapons can fire a large number of rounds with just one squeeze of the trigger and have been regulated for almost 80 years, while the later fires only once for each time the trigger is pressed. But either way, semi-automatics are estimated to discharge up to, 45 to 50 rounds per minute in the hands of a knowledgeable gunman, and, when combined with high capacity ammunition clips like the one used in an Aurora Colorado theater which could fire up to 100 rounds, this is a recipe for disaster!

    Although I feel that firing a bullet with each squeeze of the trigger, instead of using bolt action type weapons, represents way too much advantage for a mass shooter, people like La Pierre have continued to insist that they are popular for both defense and target practice and, really posed little additional threat to the potential victims of mass shooting like the children in Newtown. But La Pierre should remember that Congresswoman Giffords shooter was tackled only after his large capacity clip jammed and provided an opportunity for bystanders to wrestle him down. So, this suggests that even the action of using lower capacity clips rather than condoning the longer firing period afforded by 30 plus ammo clip, could provide a precious few seconds to take defensive or evasive actions—even without the weapon jamming!

    For this reason I would like to see both semi-automatics and large clips removed from the market place. This along with truly effective background checks and registrations may truly bring positive reductions in gun violence.

    Yes, there are relatively few mass shootings like the one at Sandy Hook, when compared to all gun crimes. But the ones we have seen lately are much more horrible to comprehend and, kill many more children and other innocent victims at once. While, disturbingly, semi-automatics like the AR-15 and ones like it, are often the preferred choice of mass shooters.

    The NRA has consistently claimed that such weapons have been unfairly and deliberately referred to as assault rifles, to scare the public—even though they have no fully automatic functions, but, my research has uncovered a counter argument which makes more sense:

    The term “assault weapon” was given to semi-automatics by the gun industry itself—apparently this name, along with physical features closely resembling actual military assault weapons, were intended to stimulate gun sales by presenting semi-automatics with a greater tough, bad-ass image. Just think about it! It is the manufacturers who engineered many similar physical feature into their guns. So called, “gun grabbers,” or anti gun advocates, have nothing to do with choosing the physical features of weapons, but rather,have only referenced such previously erroneous definitions. When the NRA tries to pin the blame on anti-gun activists, for designating them as assault weapons, they are only avoiding the fact that such names have successfully boosted the profits of manufacturers. What possible reason would those in favor of freely using AR-15s and similar weapons, want to make them similar in appearance to assault weapons if not to enhance industry sales-power?

    Some comenters have pointed to the many studies that would indicate that easing gun restrictions actually lowers gun crimes, but upon examination there are many reasons why such studies are not accurate. A “Study” done by Dr. Gary Kleck and Professor Marc Gertz, involves little more than a telephone poll which gleaned very few actual respondents, and a poll, or a study, does not represent statistical reality. Dr. Kleck and his associate merely interviewed 222 respondents and then projected those findings Nation wide, coming up with the figure of 2.5 million DGUs or Defensive Gun uses, each year in America. A blog called “The Propaganda professor” exposes the inherently flawed and downright impossibility of these figures with simple reason and mathematics. I would recommend all comenters on TMV to read it. Here is a link:

    This article, along with more scholarly works done by Daniel Webster, ScD, MPH of John Hopkins university and, Jen Ludwig, PhD, of Georgetown University examines the reasons that Kleck and Gertz’s study contained many statistical flaws that were not controlled for—thus yielding inaccurate results. One of the most obvious involving the fact that “correlation is not causation,” and, drawing conclusions that, it is, are not usually valid where statistical studies are concerned. An example is that, while when most people begin to write much better as they grow older, they would also tend to wear progressively larger shoes while growing older. But large shoes, cannot be directly attributed to causing superior penmanship. Their study can be found by Googeling: Myths about Defensive Gun use and permissive gun carry laws.

    So my personal searching has lead me to believe that, since many loopholes exist that enable the NRA to circumvent solid reforms and restrictions, and because, statistically speaking, it is very difficult to study this problem with great accuracy, that, What Eugene Robinson concludes is basically correct—that the main motive for allowing the widespread use of weapons often used in mass shootings, is basically economic, and the NRA and gun manufacturers are moving in lockstep in order to preserve the lucrative business of selling dangerous semi-automatics. The money motive plays all to much of an important part!

    Users may also consider them fun and/or useful, but a mere hobby or, convenience, is not adequate justification for risking that they might fall into the wrong hands. Only effective gun regulations can do that!

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    Hi Petew.

    You have not heard much from me (if it matters) because I realize that it is probably getting old, tiresome, to see my “Amen’s” and “that-a-boy’s” on your extremely thoughtful, well-written and well-supported comments and rationale.

    But here I go again: Well-said and Amen!

  • SteveK

    Thanks Petew… Again. I second all that you (and Dorian) have said.

    In watching the pro-gun crowd’s argument decimate to “I can… You can’t stop me… I don’t care…” makes me even more appreciative of your patient and well organized comments.

  • zephyr

    He left out the zombies.

    From the perspective of a Wayne LaPierre there is probably little difference between zombies and the people who populate his paranoid fantasies.

  • slamfu

    If Wayne LaPierre is your spokesman, I want you the hell away from any decision making process that might affect me. You are obviously not someone of sound judgement.

  • petew

    Thanks Dorian and SteveK,

    I appreciate the that-a-boys, but I really hope that many TMV comenters will check out the link I provided. It is just a blog, but it is written with some real knowledge and some very solid reasoning. Well worth the effort it you haven’t already checked it out! Thanks!

  • bigpartymaker

    One thing to examine in this debate is the sale of guns right now. I know several people who have bought guns recently “before Obama takes them away.” I bet sales are at an all time high.
    I am a gun owner, but gun owners are really annoying me lately. You should see the propaganda I receive from gun shop email distribution (these emails are supposed to just inform the customer about products that are in stock, but now they are all about protecting our rights and contacting senators). I feel like the NRA is a domestic terrorist front. So I guess my address will be printed on their website next.

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