Friday, March 31, 2023
The epidemic of gun violence continues in the United States unabated. As of March 30th, 10,215 people have died from gun violence this year (4,341 homicides and 5,874 suicides). In addition, there has been 130 mass shootings (shootings in which at least four people were shot) -- the most recent being a school shooting in which three adults and three children (9 years old) were killed.
What is Congress doing about this? NOTHING! Too many of them (especially the Republicans) say nothing more can be done. And they come up with pathetic excuses for why it is happening, rather than admitting the real problem is too many guns and the ease with which dangerous people can legally buy any kind of gun they want.
In the Nashville shooting at an elementary school, the shooter was a person being treated for a mental illness -- and so dangerous that even her parents thought she should not own a gun. But she was able to legally buy 7 guns (3 of them assault weapons) from five different gun stores.
This gives those Republicans in Congress the ability to say the problem is not guns, but mental illness. But that is a poor excuse. If she had not been able to buy those guns, the shooting wouldn't have happened -- and three 9 year olds would still be alive and have a future.
Does the United States have more mentally ill people than other developed nations (who don't have this problem of gun violence)? No! The difference is that in those other nations it is not easy for the dangerously mentally ill to buy a gun.
Republicans also will tell you that the problem is a decline in religion (and prayer in school). That's also ridiculous. Most of the other developed nations are less religious than the United States, but they don't have a problem with gun violence.
Republicans also want to blame video games. But the other developed nations have the same violent video games, and they don't have the problem.
Perhaps the most pathetic excuse is that stricter gun laws would keep law-abiding citizens from owning or purchasing a gun. No one is trying to take guns like pistols, shotguns, or hunting rifles away from law-abiding citizens. And a law-abiding citizen could easily pass a background check to buy a gun.
We need to close the loopholes in the background check law. Currently, there are too many ways to avoid these background checks (gun shows, purchases from individuals, etc.), and this makes it easy for those who shouldn't have a gun to legally buy one (including assault weapons -- the choice of most mass shooters).
Refusing to pass a strict background check law doesn't protect the right of law-abiding citizens to purchase a gun -- because they could pass the background check. The people it protects are criminals, domestic abuser, terrorists, and the dangerously mentally ill -- the people who could not pass the background check.
A huge majority of Americans know this, and they want a strict background check law (even most gun owners). They also know that such a law would be constitutional.
Another excuse is that criminals will just buy a gun illegally if they can't get one legally. Sometimes that might be true. But it is difficult and dangerous to buy gun illegally, and very hard for most people to do -- and we could make it even harder to do. A strict background check law would keep guns out of the hands of many dangerous people.
It's time for Congress to stop making excuses and act to stem the gun violence in this country.
The Labor Department released its weekly unemployment report on Thursday. It showed that about 198,000 workers filed for unemployment benefits in the week ending on March 25th. Here is the official Labor Department statement:
In the week ending March 25, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 198,000, an increase of 7,000 from the previous week's unrevised level of 191,000. The 4-week moving average was 198,250, an increase of 2,000 from the previous week's unrevised average of 196,250.
A thought-provoking article from Robert Reich:
Last Saturday, at the first rally of his presidential campaign, in Waco, Texas, Donald Trump talked about the likely criminal cases being prepared against him as if they were being prepared against his supporters.
“They’re not coming after me, they’re coming after you,” he said, predicting that “you will be vindicated and proud.”
The wording was no accident. To Trump, there is no difference between himself and his supporters, and no difference between his supporters and the parts of the United States where they’re the majority.
This is key. Trump views himself, his supporters (whom he calls “my people”), and their domains as one and the same. Anyone who opposes him is “them” — outside the universe of his identity, past the places that embrace him, beyond the borders of his pathological ego.
Trump’s fusion of himself with his supporters galvanizes those who project onto him the power and status they feel they’ve lost in America — people who are mostly white, rural, and without college degrees.
But Trump is not engaging in this fusion as a means of being reelected president. In fact, even if it helps him win the Republican nomination, it will lose him the general election, because it will turn off all Republicans who are focused on real issues or who worry that he’s nuts, and it will cause independents to flee.
The dirty little secret of Trump’s third campaign for president — one that the media has so far ignored — is that he is not seeking to become president of the United States, at least not the United States as it is now organized. He is seeking to become president of a very different nation — overwhelmingly white, straight, Christian, and authoritarian.
The policies Trump promoted in his speech are designed to change America into that nation — featuring, for example, the “largest mass deportation in United States history,” along with efforts to reverse “declining fertility rates” (white-nationalist code for encouraging white couples to have more babies).
At his rally last Saturday, Trump claimed that the greatest threat to the United States was “not China or Russia” but the people in the “Department of ‘Injustice,’” and “high-level politicians that work in the U.S. government, like McConnell, Pelosi, Schumer, and Biden.”
When he was president, Trump expressed admiration for Putin and Xi. Presumably, the reason he admires them is that both have fused their personal identities with the identities of their countries (and along the way eliminated all opposition). The greatest threats to Trump’s attempt to accomplish the same in the United States are his domestic opponents, along with Republicans (like Mitch McConnell) who fail to give him full-throttled support.
Similarly, when he spoke last Saturday of “demonic forces” trying to demolish America, he was referring to demonic forces trying to demolish him — and, by implication, his supporters and their America.
For Trump, every major challenge facing America is a major challenge to Trump, and vice versa.
Last Saturday, he called the “weaponization of our justice system” the “central issue of our time.” During last year’s midterms, he tried to make his lies about fraud in his 2020 election defeat the most pressing issue facing the nation.
In his mind, the two are linked. He is now recasting the January 6 attack on the Capitol as an act of patriotism by those who view the 2020 election as illegitimate. The Waco rally even featured singing by men who were imprisoned for their part in the attack. A massive screen flashed images of the January 6 attack while Trump recited the Pledge of Allegiance.
He still has not accepted the result of the 2020 election, because it was the product of people who voted against him, and Trump never considered himself president of people who reject him. Following the same sociopathic logic, he will not accept the result of the 2024 election if he is not elected. His mind is incapable of accepting it. The fusion of himself, his followers, and America renders such an outcome impossible, just as the 2020 outcome was impossible.
Yet in fact he will not be elected — unless the U.S. economy is by then in a deep recession, or Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, has a serious health problem.
Brace yourselves. We have been here before. It culminated on January 6, 2021. The angry, xenophobic, misogynistic, racist, antisemitic, conspiratorial forces Trump unleashed then are still very much with us. And they are now more entrenched in Congress and state legislatures than they were then. By November 2024, they will be ready for a second attempted coup.
Trump wants and expects a civil war over himself, a final clash between Americans who love him and Americans who loathe him — between his egomaniacal views of good and evil. A civil war is unlikely, but the next year and a half is likely to be fraught — another stress test of American democracy.
Last Saturday was only Trump’s first campaign rally. It will not go up from here.
Thursday, March 30, 2023
The following is most of an editorial by the editorial board of The Washington Post:
Three adults and three children have been killed in a Nashville school shooting by a 28-year-old assailant with three guns, including at least one AR-15-style rifle.
These attacks are always heart-wrenching. But they’re not surprising anymore — neither the massacres themselves nor the weapons used to carry them out. Ten of the 17 deadliest mass killings in the United States since 2012 involved AR-15s. The names of the towns and cities where these tragedies took place have become familiar: Newtown, San Bernardino, Las Vegas, Parkland, Uvalde and beyond. The Post chronicles the journey this now-iconic rifle took from military-issued firearm to off-the-shelf bestseller, and underscores the danger in the public’s embrace of a weapon the Defense Department once lauded for its “phenomenal lethality.”
“I don’t know why anyone needs an AR-15,” President Donald Trump reportedly told aides in August 2019 after back-to-back mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso. There’s no good answer. The AR-15 was designed for soldiers, yet its associations with warfare eventually became a selling point for everyday buyers. “Use what they use,” exhorted one ad displaying professionals wielding tactical rifles. Now, about 1 in 20 U.S. adults own at least one AR-15. That’s roughly 16 million people, storing roughly 20 million guns designed to mow down enemies on the battlefield with brutal efficiency. Two-thirds of these were crafted in the past decade — and when more people die, popularity doesn’t fall. Instead, it rises.
The AR-15, The Post explains, is materially different from traditional handguns. The rifle fires very small bullets at very fast speeds. The projectiles don’t move straight and smooth through human targets like those from a traditional handgun. Their velocity turns them unstable upon penetration, so that they tumble through flesh and vital organs. This so-called blast effect literally tears people apart. A trauma surgeon notes, “you don’t see the muscle … just bone and skin and missing parts.” Another mentions tissue that “crumbled into your hands.”
A Texas Ranger speaks of bullets that “disintegrated” a toddler’s skull.
This explains the lead poisoning that plagues survivors of the shooting in Sutherland Springs, Tex.; David Colbath, 61, can scarcely stand or use his hands without pain, and 25-year-old Morgan Workman probably can’t have a baby. It explains the evisceration of small bodies such as that of Noah Pozner, 6, murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary, and Peter Wang, 15, killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High. The Post examined the way bullets broke inside of them — obliterating Noah’s jaw and Peter’s skull, filling their chests with blood and leaving behind gaping exit wounds.
Even thinking about these injuries is horrifying, so much so that crime scene photos are often kept confidential. But the gruesome reality of what an AR-15 can wreak poses an argument in itself: There is no excuse for the widespread availability of these weapons of war.
Wednesday, March 29, 2023
The following post is by Robert Reich:
A woman armed with assault rifles entered a Christian school in Nashville and fatally shot three nine-year-old children and three staff members before she was shot and killed by the police.
It makes me weep. It’s happening gain and again and again. Our children.
President Biden renewed his call for Congress to reinstate the Assault Weapons Ban, but with Republicans in control of the House there’s little to no chance.
So far this year, there have been 129 mass shootings in the United States.
Ten of the 17 deadliest U.S. mass shootings since 2012 have involved AR-15s. In a review of the history of the AR-15, the Washington Post reports that it was originally designed in the 1950s as a soldiers’ rifle. “An outstanding weapon with phenomenal lethality,” according to an internal Pentagon report. It soon became standard issue for U.S. troops in Vietnam (where the weapon was called the M16).
Few gunmakers envisioned that ordinary people would buy the semiautomatic version, which didn’t seem suited for hunting and appeared overkill for home defense. The National Rifle Association and other industry allies focused on promoting traditional rifles and handguns.
Today, the AR-15 is the best-selling rifle in the United States, owned by about 1 in 20 U.S. adults, or roughly 16 million people. It dominates the walls and websites of gun dealers. (Republican Rep. Barry Moore of Alabama has even introduced a bill to declare the AR-15 the “National Gun of America.”)
What accounts for this dramatic change? Follow the money. The early 2000s were a tough time for the firearms industry. Gun sales had been flat for several years. But after the Assault Weapons Ban ended in 2004, gun manufacturers saw a chance to ride a post-9/11 surge in military glorification. As America soldiers were seen in Afghanistan and Iraq wearing tactical gear and holding M16 and M4 carbine rifles, gunmakers used the conflict-zone images to market AR-15s.
“We made it look cool,” said Randy Luth, the founder of gunmaker DPMS, one of the earliest companies to promote AR-15s. “The same reason you buy a Corvette.”
One Smith & Wesson AR-15 ended up in the hands of Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager who fatally shot two people and wounded a third during 2020’s racial justice protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin. As Rittenhouse explained during his trial, he chose an AR-15 because “I thought it looked cool.”
Another AR-15 was alluring to the gunman who killed 10 Black people at a supermarket in Buffalo in May 2022. “The AR-15 and its variants are very deadly when used properly,” he wrote in a manifesto filled with racial vitriol. “Which is the reason I picked one.” Ten days later, 19 schoolchildren and two adults were shot to death in Uvalde, Tex., with another AR-15.
The string of attacks prompted President Biden, who as a senator had strongly supported the 1994 assault weapons ban, to promise a renewed effort to stop the sale of military-style weapons. Last year, the Democratic-led House passed a new assault weapons ban on a tight party-line vote of 217-213 — the first time the measure had been voted on in nearly three decades. But the Senate, also run by Democrats, never took action.
When Bill Clinton signed the original Assault Weapons Ban in 1994, he was widely condemned by Republicans and gun owners. The Democrats’ subsequent losses of the House and Senate in the 1996 midterm elections were partly blamed on the ban. But it saved lives.
The 10-year length of the ban has allowed researchers to compare mass shooting deaths before, during, and after the ban.
Before: From 1981 (the earliest year analyzed) until the ban went into effect in 1994, the proportion of deaths in mass shootings in which an assault rifle was used was lower than it is today, and the average number of yearly deaths attributed to mass shootings was 7.2.
During: In the years after the assault weapons ban went into effect, the average number of yearly deaths from mass shootings fell to 5.3. Even including 1999’s Columbine High School massacre (the deadliest mass shooting during the period of the ban), the 1994 to 2004 period saw lower average annual rates of both mass shootings and deaths resulting from such incidents than before the ban’s inception.
After: In the years after the assault weapons ban expired in 2004, the data shows an almost immediate – and steep – rise in mass shooting deaths to an average of 25.
Researchers have calculated that the risk of a person in the U.S. dying in a mass shooting was 70 percent lower when assault weapons ban was in place than it is today.
Facts, data, logic, analysis — do they play any role in what our government decides? The Republican Party in particular no longer listens, or thinks. It is owned — lock, stock, and barrel — by the gun industry.
You might think that preventing young children from being murdered in random mass killings by assailants with assault weapons would be a goal shared by all lawmakers. But you’d be wrong.
The Assault Weapons Ban must be reinstated — the greed of gun manufacturers be damned.