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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

Guns Must Be Debated - And Not On The NRA's Terms

Category: Guns
Posted: 12/15/12 10:51

by Dave Mindeman

OK - as the horrible reality of yesterday's shooting sinks in, the question becomes, what do we do?

Personally, I think we need to start a rational conversation on gun laws and start opeing a debate on the power of the National Rifle Association.

Any change to gun laws will ultimately go through the NRA and its political allies. We must not back down from that anymore.

The NRA has spent years and millions of dollars to force gun discussions to always be on their terms.

They have made themselves synonymous with conservative thinking and political contributions back it up.

They have convinced hunters and outdoor enthusiasts that they are always working in their best interest. The extreme in this regard is that hunters have supported repeal of the assault weapons ban. An absurd notion on its face.

In addition, they have cultured this "unholy" alliance with Christian conservatives that make following Jesus, the ultimate non-violent peacemaker, synonymous with supporting the violent gun cultlure.

In addition, they have fueled the fears and paranoia of the survivalists. Culturing that fear of the government (in any form) which produces a tacit authorization that we should be ready to overthrow the government at any time -- and that changes in gun laws is an "obvious" government attack on them.

The shootings like those in Connecticut and Colorado are not just a gun culture problem - it also is a mental health issue. These problems need to be addressed in tandem. But, to me, the mental health aspect can be approached rationally and from a medical point of view. Guns are another matter and will require a full change in how we think about guns as promoted by the NRA.

The idea of owning guns has been translated into protection and power. Thay you control you own destiny. Which is also false on its face.

We have had recent examples of how foolish this notion is in reality. A homeowner "executes" two teenagers for a break-in. A 4 year old finds a loaded gun in his home and shoots and kills his 2 year old brother. A grandfather shoots his granddaughter because he mistakes her as someone breaking into the house.

This shoot first, think later mentality is not protection. But what is more troubling is that the NRA supports laws (Stand Your Ground or Castle Doctrine) that would protect this type of behavior and even worse, promote it as normal.

The NRA wants guns off limits to any meaningful debate. They rise to objection when ever the smallest restriction on purchase and use is raised.

This has to stop. We must return to rational discussion and treat guns as a free market commodity, but one with rational restrictions for safety.

These debates are long overdue. We need to get started.
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There Are Common Sense Gun Restrictions - Yes There Are

Category: Guns
Posted: 07/21/12 23:57

by Dave Mindeman

I have been browsing some of the news stories about the Aurora tragedy and looking at some of the comments sections. The results are predictable. Gun lobby supporters sense trouble and are out in force to defend all manner of gun ownership....from the mundane to the absurd.

You know, really, I get it. Guns are the means not the cause. This guy in Colorado killed people and he used guns to do it. The person is the killer, not the gun. We shouldn't embark on some crusade to eliminate a bunch of firearms. I understand that.

But the intent of the NRA has been to forbid even a reasonable look at even the most practical regulations about guns. There is a certain lack of common sense that has permeated this argument.

Here are some thoughts on this subject.

I heard a number of people say that when businesses don't allow guns on the premises....that they disarm the conceal and carry patrons who could help "take down" the perpetrator before he gets too far. This is one of those absurd ideas. If you look at the facts about the Aurora incident, you know that the gunman had head to toe body armor. Anyone in that theatre that would have attempted to fire back would be excercising their own death warrant. Not only would our "hero" have had no effect, but he or she would almost certainly identify themselves as the next target. In addition, a dark theatre would most likely result in that return fire adding more victims.

Another thought. Why do we allow bulk sales of ammunition on the internet? Stores use purchase data to decide what kind of advertising will work best for a particular household. Well, then why can't 6,000 rounds of ammunition being purchased over a brief period, be a means to alert authorities to a situation that could use a little investigation? I realize gun advocates have their own paranoia about "big brother"watching them, but really, shouldn't red flags be allowed to pop up? What deer hunter or recreational shooter needs that kind of fire power?

And why shouldn't law enforcement be allowed to prohibit sales in situations that they deem a threat. For instance, domestic disturbances. Shouldn't people who use violence in relationships be barred from having weapons for a period of time? ---- Maybe psychiatrists should have the authority to put patients they deem a threat on a restriction list for purchasing firearms. There could be a way to do that without invading privacy issues. -----And shouldn't every person who purchases a gun have to prove that they have passed a use and safety check program? In Wisconsin they wanted to toss out a 4 hour firearm training requirement. They considered it too much of a 2nd Amendment restriction. Really?

I have known a lot of hunters and sportsmen who love the outdoors. I personally have never understood the fascination, but I don't begrudge the use of rifles and shotguns for "recreational" pursuits. Even the occasional handgun for "protection" is OK in my book as long as it is obtained in the proper way. But why does anyone need a dozen rifles....or a dozen hand guns... or my favorite -- an assault weapon. Why? It just doesn't meet the common sense test.

I understand that we won't be able to prevent all of these kind of tragedies. There is always a way around it for people determined to kill. But what if we can prevent one or two or three of them....or even just one?

Is there any room in the minds of the gun lobby for common sense gun laws? Any room at all?
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Let's Talk About Guns

Category: Guns
Posted: 07/20/12 23:30, Edited: 07/20/12 23:57

by Dave Mindeman

I don't want to talk about the 2nd Amendment, per se, in the wake of Aurora's tragedy....but I do want to talk about guns.

Whenever tragic events of gun violence occur, we are not allowed to talk about it in any intelligent way. The NRA goes into full alert looking for the proper talking points that can steer us clear of any substantive discussion on firearms....putting all emphasis on protecting the rights of American citizens to buy any type of lethal weapon they choose.

The Second Amendment protections have been warped into absurd dimensions. The implications range from kill or be killed protection of property to absolute overthrow of any government entity.....with little allowance for any middle ground of any kind.

But as we look to Aurora, I am not convinced that gun rights extend to the legal purchase of multiple weapons in a few weeks time. Or to the purchase of 6,000 rounds of ammunition on the internet. Or to the purchase of semi-automatic or automatic weapons of any sort. Or the purchase of head to toe body armor.

I want there to be a discussion of why, in America, that is all possible.

I also want to know a few other things. First I have to say that the Aurora police captain and his squad were phenomenal in this situation. At his press conference, the chief noted that he had dozens of officers on the scene in a matter of minutes. I don't think the response time could have been any better under the circumstances. But knowing that, how can we allow the legal purchase of a type of weapon that in the span of those same minutes, would allow a lone gunman to kill or wound 70 people. One out of every three people that were in that theater was shot. One out of three!

Obviously this person was disturbed. He wanted to create a horrific scene. But do we have to make it easy for such a person?

We used to have an assault weapons ban. It was passed in 1994 under the Clinton administration. But in order to garner enough support, it had a 10 year sunset provision. The NRA and its sympathizers made that 10 year limit stick and any attempt to renew it nurtured the wrath of the all weapons lobby.

I don't wish to throw out the 2nd Amendment. Can't. Guns will be legal....I have accepted that. But this ridiculous frenzy of expanding the allowance and the use of any and all weapons has got to end. We will never end gun violence, but we can put rational and reasonable restrictions on what can be bought and who can buy it.

I am not naive enough to think that restrictions are going to stop gun purchases. Illegal sales will always have their day. But we are moving into a frightening world of 'why bother with illegal'. Everything that anyone wants to puchase is sitting in a glass case in some retail outlet, just waiting for your cash and maybe a quick permit.

I am also not naive enough to think that people who want to kill other people can be stopped by gun restrictions. I know that is not likely. But it will stop some. Think about Aurora. If that gunman could not purchase an automatic weapon, how many people would have been spared? If he had only had a revolver, maybe the police would have gotten to the scene quickly enough to minimize the carnage. Restrictions won't stop the violence, but it could reduce the destruction. At this point in time, maybe that is all we can do. But then we should do it...not look for excuses to avoid a hard subject.

We have had way too many tragic events like the one in Aurora. Virginia Tech. Columbine. Tucson. We only need to speak of the location. We know what happened.

Each time we mourn. We say sympathetic words. And each time we avoid the hard truth. Each time we avoid the subject until time has moved on.

We shouldn't let that happen again. There needs to be a discussion. A rational and realistic discussion. These tragic events need a conversation that leads to some kind of resolution...even if only a partial one.

Let's finally talk about guns. For real.

Note: Yes, I will take the flak from those who believe any discussion is too soon. It will always be too soon. Healing takes time. But there needs to be justice as well. And purpose. These things must end and the dialogue must begin despite attempts from the gun lobby to silence us all.
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