We have crossed the line into an uncivil society

Rachel Alexander was one of the 102 victims of Sunday's massacre in Orlando. She faces mounds of medical bills.

Rachel Alexander was one of the 102 victims of Sunday’s massacre in Orlando. She faces mounds of medical bills.

Rachel Alexander is one of 53 surviving gunshot victims from Sunday’s massacre at Pulse, an LGBT nightclub in Orlando, Fla., and she has another problem — finding a way to pay what will be massive medical bills.

It wasn’t enough that she was targeted because she frequented a business that caters to LGBT people; now she faces lifelong debt or bankruptcy because the state where she lives has chosen to not expand Medicaid, and even if she does have insurance, the deductibles and co-pays will be massive.

In other words, not only can we as a nation do nothing about gun violence; we can’t do a damn thing about access to health care, either.

The money from the Gun Lobby has been used to bribe Congress into total inaction on access to guns, and the money from Big Pharma and Big Insurance has prevented adequate access to medical care for millions of Americans, especially in states like Florida.

The Affordable Care Act provided some badly needed insurance reform, but it left the insurance companies intact and still in charge. It provided insurance coverage to some 22 million Americans, but because the Supreme Court voted to reject the mandate for states to expand Medicaid, it left another 22 million Americans uninsured, and millions more with insurance plans they can’t afford to use because of high deductibles and co-pays.

If you’re in your mid-20s, as many of the victims were, and you work an entry-level job, that $5,000 deductible you have to meet before you start getting benefits might as well be $5 million.

The 102 people who were shot by a religious zealot (and, according to some, a self-loathing gay man), who despite being on the no-fly list was able to buy an AK-15, were victims of a society that cares not at all about human lives, and now the 53 survivors face choosing between a lifetime of debt and bankruptcy.

If you’re not outraged by this, you’re part of the problem.

If you think we don’t need to do something about access to guns, you have bought into the hate and malice being peddled by the NRA and others.

If you don’t want your tax money to go to paying for health care for everyone, and you consider yourself a Christian, a Muslim or a Jew, go back and read your scripture because all three sacred texts talk about loving and caring for each other. Nowhere do any of these texts tell us to adopt an I-got-mine-get-your-own attitude.

If your member of Congress is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Gun Lobby, Big Pharma and/or Big Insurance and you vote for him or her anyway, you are part of the problem. If you don’t vote, you are part of the problem.

We have crossed a line here, and I think it was after Sandy Hook, when we failed to do anything about access to guns. We are no longer a civilized society. We are devolving into chaos.

It’s long past time to fix this. We must pass sensible gun laws. We must offer universal access to health care.

To do this, people of conscience must vote. We must vote in every election, in every race. We must demand better or we never will return to being a civilized society.

If you want to help Rachel, you can visit her Go Fund Me account at www.gofundme.com/laurawillprevaill.  To donate to a fund for all the victims, visit www.gofundme.com/PulseVictimsFund.

If you don’t know how to reach your member of Congress, visit www.house.gov/representatives/find/.

Where do we go from here? Some thoughts on guns and zealots

shooting scene

I don’t even know where to begin. Fifty people dead at the hands of a religious zealot in Florida and everyone wondering how this could happen.

I do have some thoughts on how this came about, and what we might do as people of conscience.

First of all, understand that Muslims are not the only religious zealots. So-called Christian zealots who denigrate LGBT people are as much at fault as Muslim zealots.

Zealots of any stripe are dangerous. Timothy McVeigh was a terrorist and a “Christian.”

So this man was a zealot who happened to be Muslim. It is not a reason to hate all Muslims, and be assured that the majority of Muslims are not happy with this man, who, by the way, I refuse to name. He doesn’t deserve the publicity.

Next, every one of us who supports restrictions of any kind on LGBT people can share in the blame for this. Did you vote for Amendment One in North Carolina? That was a vote to deny LGBT people equal rights under the law. And if your religion is the reason you voted for Amendment One, you need to go back and read about the separation of Church and State in the Constitution.

Do you support the bathroom restrictions in North Carolina’s Hate Bill 2? Then you support singling out people who pose no threat. You also support further marginalization of an already marginalized group of people and you target them for harm by making them “less than” or “other.”

These kind of actions feed the hate of zealots, makes them feel more comfortable in their hate, and in their mind, justifies it.

My late sister was married to the love of her life, who also happened to be a woman. Her marriage in 2007 was one of the happiest days of MY life because it allowed her the protections that come with legal marriage. She deserved that as much as any straight person I know.

Next, let’s talk about support of the NRA and its extremist agenda of assuring unfettered access to guns for everyone.

Not everyone should have a gun. Mandatory background checks and regulations specifying who can not have a gun are a necessity if we are going to keep people safe.

The man who killed 50 people and injured 53 more in Orlando was on the no-fly list because of suspected terrorist leanings, but he was able to buy a gun capable of that carnage. A friend on Facebook asked why this guy wasn’t on the FBI’s radar, but he was; he was just able to buy that gun because the NRA has bribed so many members of Congress that we can’t even have a law denying a gun to suspected terrorists.

And please don’t give me crap about Second Amendment rights because you’re probably one of those people who voted to restrict the rights of LGBT people to marry, and that’s a violation of their First Amendment rights. You can’t worship the Constitution in pieces — you either want the rights it conveys or you don’t.

You also need to realize that the Second Amendment conveyed the rights of gun ownership within “a well regulated militia,”  not unfettered access to every weapon ever devised.

Perhaps we need to start listening to reason. Perhaps we need to start showing respect for each other and listening to real concerns on both sides.

I don’t want to take everyone’s guns away. I choose not to own one, but if you are a law-abiding citizen who wants to hunt or who wants to own a gun for personal protection, I don’t have a problem with that.

I do, however, have a problem with semi-automatic weapons.

I do have a problem with people being able to buy a gun without a background check.

I do have a problem with a suspected religious zealot being able to walk in and get a gun even though he is considered too dangerous to get on an airplane.

We have become a circus in this country. A crazed, insane, zealot-run circus. We refuse to talk to each other and what’s worse, we refuse to listen to each other.

These 50 people are dead because we can’t get Congress to pass a law denying guns to suspected terrorists.

These people are dead because we allow the vilification of innocent LGBT people without challenge under the guise of “religious freedom.”

Well, your freedom of religion should not restrict the rights of others. That’s what freedom of religion means. You worship in your way and you don’t get to impose your beliefs on me. You don’t get to have a theocracy that aligns with your beliefs.

It’s time to start having a real and reasoned conversation in this country, about guns and about religion.

Let’s lock out the NRA and other powerful, moneyed hate groups and start to talk to each other, and more importantly, to listen, with respect, to people’s concerns.

 

 

 

 

 

We live in a war zone

By my friend and former colleague, cartoonist Matt Davies.

By my friend and former colleague, cartoonist Matt Davies.

Another 14 dead and 17 wounded, this time at a center for people with developmental disabilities.

No place is safe in America. No person is safe.

This isn’t true in other industrialized countries. That’s because they have laws restricting access to guns.

We don’t have that because we have the NRA, one of the most powerful lobbies anywhere, any time.

It doesn’t even matter when people with guns shoot innocent school children, we can’t pass any restrictions on people’s access to guns and ammo.

A few days ago, a pro-gun person suggested on Facebook that, according to Freud, I must be sexually repressed because I think we need common sense regulations on guns. I replied that Freud also said I was envious of his penis, which made Freud wrong on two counts.

I suppose that’s proof that some of us equate guns with penises, and penises are pretty important to some men’s view of themselves.

But that’s not what’s keeping us from sensible gun regulation. What’s keeping us from passing any laws at all is the money paid out by the NRA to legislators.

NRA Congress (www.nracongress.com) posted a list of members of Congress who have received money from the NRA, along with the amount each has received, and whether each of the members of Congress has identified himself or herself as “pro-life.”

Here’s what I came up with, based on that list:

  • The NRA has spent $3,781,769 on current members of Congress.
  • All but six states (Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont) have some of these people in Congress now.
  • Of the 231 members of Congress receiving money from the NRA, all but five are Republicans.
  • Fifty-three Senators and 178 Representatives are on the list.
  • Of the 231, all but 10 define themselves as “pro-life.”
  • Texas, with 24 Congress people receiving a total of $144,538, is the state most beholden to the gun lobby.

And this is why we can’t get anything through Congress, even though some 90 percent of Americans want sensible gun laws. Nothing matters more to Congress than money, and the NRA has a lot of it to spread around.

So, people who shouldn’t have guns have little trouble getting them. And the rhetoric stirred up by the right has people angrier and angrier — at Planned Parenthood, at Muslims, at anyone other than the NRA.

When an angry American shoots up a place, he (and nearly all of them are men) is called mentally ill, and we all shake our heads and say what a shame it is that people with mental illnesses can’t get proper treatment.

The problem is that angry people can get guns and ammo. And they can commit acts of terror.

After yesterday’s shooting of more than 30 people in California, the FBI and the police kept repeating that they don’t know whether this was a terrorist act. Of course it was a terrorist act. It doesn’t matter whether the people involved were Muslim, Christian or atheist. What matters is that they took high-powered weapons and killed 14 people and injured 17 more. That in itself is a terrorist act.

As for mental illness, I have long been an advocate for adequate diagnosis and treatment. Yes, most of these shooters have a mental illness — no healthy person would take a gun and shoot strangers because he’s angry that they can get an abortion or for any other reason.

The problem is that these people can get guns. There are huge loopholes in the few regulations we do have, and we can’t get Congress to pass any more.

The Second Amendment has been twisted and perverted to fit the desires of gun manufacturers, and the rest of us have no protection from these organizations. We don’t need more “good guys with guns;” we need fewer bad guys with guns.

Perhaps we need to call the NRA and gun manufacturers out as the terrorist organizations they are. And yes, I do consider them terrorist organizations because they support domestic terrorism with their refusal to accept any regulations of the deadly weapons they make and promote.

It’s time to tell the truth: The Second Amendment was never intended to allow unfettered access to guns and ammo, and the NRA is a terrorist organization.

 

 

 

 

No more prayers, no more promises. Act now on guns

I took this off of Facebook this morning because it is so powerful.

I took this off of Facebook this morning because it is so powerful.

Ten more people.

Ten human beings.

Ten more corpses.

Ten more bereaved families.

When does it end?

When do we as Americans rise up and tell our legislators that we have had enough?

Something was supposed to happen after Sandy Hook, but nothing did. And the members of Congress who did nothing weren’t fired in 2014. We let them get away with it.

Instead, we blame mental illness.

Well, we’re not doing anything about mental illnesses, either.

Here in North Carolina, our legislature just cut another $310 million out of the mental health budget over the next two years.

So, people who need treatment are getting nothing. But they can get guns.

And not just guns that are good for hunting, either; they’re getting assault weapons, weapons that can kill a dozen people in a few seconds.

The meaning of the Second Amendment has been twisted beyond recognition, thanks to the NRA and gun manufacturers and their purchase of our members of Congress, and we have allowed it to happen.

I say that because I’ll bet not 5 percent of constituents have written to their members of Congress to demand something be done. I say this because these accessories to murder keep being returned to office.

If you’re fed up with hearing the lists of the dead, if you’re fed up with footage of funerals and memorials, if you’re fed up with having to teach your children how to try to stay alive during a shooting, stop voting for people with blood on their hands.

Stop voting for candidates who try to place the stigma on people with mental illnesses when the stigma belongs on them — the people who refuse to outlaw assault weapons, the people who refuse to require universal background checks.

The day of the shooting, I was in a store talking to a woman behind the counter, who believed nothing can be done.

“Regulating guns worked in Australia,” I said.

“That’s not the United States,” she replied. “It can’t work here.”

“So, you’re saying we should do nothing?” I asked.

“No, I think we all should arm ourselves.”

I politely disagreed with her and left the store.

I don’t want to live without hope that we can manage to do anything.

Something needs to be done and we have to stop being distracted by talk of mental illness, because that’s not the cause of mass murders.

The cause of shooting sprees is guns. It is the nearly unfettered access to guns, all kinds of guns — handguns, shotguns, semi-automatic guns — by anyone who wants them. It is the expansion of open-carry rights to the point that we can’t even feel safe in restaurants, stores and parks in our own communities.

Legislators are in the pockets of gun lobbyists, and they’re making our country more dangerous every year.

Now we have mass shootings almost every week, and the response is always the same: The victims and their families are in our thoughts and prayers.

Well, here’s what’s in my thoughts and prayers: We must get rid of the murdering thugs who have done this to our country. We must all wake up and let our legislators know we’re done allowing this perversion of the Constitution and that we will vote against them, no matter what their stands are on anything else.

We want an assault weapon ban now. We want universal background checks now.

No more posturing, no more pandering to the gun lobby.

We are done. If this crop of legislators won’t do anything about it, we will send men and women who will to Washington and to our state capitols.

No more shootings. No more bodies. Do something or go home.

We need to bring the light

cop shot

The two cops who were brutally murdered this week in New York City are just the latest victims in what is starting to look like a civil war among ourselves.

They are as much victims of this mess as are the African-Americans murdered by white police officers.

The real perpetrators are the gun manufacturers and the rest of the war machine. They’re getting filthy rich off the arming of America’s citizenry and the militarization of our police forces.

Fox News whips up fear among those who watch and believe, and while we the people are distracted, the 1 percent pick our pockets by convincing us they need more. It’s never enough. When you have that much the greed becomes pathological.

It doesn’t matter how many of us die, just so long as there are enough people to labor on their machines, fight their wars and tend to their desires.

I know this is radical thinking, but it becomes increasingly obvious that we, the working class, are losing.

People are so distracted by threats of terrorism and Ebola that they don’t see their rights being plucked away, bit by bit. “Oh, sure, demanding an ID before someone can vote isn’t a bad idea,” you might think. Then they convince you people who can’t pass a literacy test shouldn’t have a say in electing a government.

Young, unarmed African-American men, even boys, are shot down in the street, choked, attacked, beaten, frisked for no reason, and too many of us listen to those who call them thugs and say they deserve to die.

Poor people live on the streets, many of them in need of treatment for psychiatric illness or addiction, and we listen to the people who call them bums and try to run them off by passing laws criminalizing giving them food.

The War Machine wants us to be scared enough to follow the call to war anywhere, any time. We say “no more boots on the ground,” but then we always seem to cheer on our troops when we become convinced we need boots on the ground.

When we have sent these men and women into combat five, six, eight times and they have become too debilitated to be of any further use to the machine, we discard them.

So much for honoring the troops, although we still are called to glorify the military, to say thanks to a soldier as we vote for the people who will strip away more of their benefits.

After World War II, we prosecuted Germans and Japanese for doing exactly what we did to people under the guise of fighting terrorism, and more than 50 percent of Americans think that’s OK.

We’re the frog put into a pot of cool water and heated ever so slowly until we’re poached. We don’t see it coming until it’s too late, and it’s getting damn close to too late.

What we’re seeing right now is only the beginning, and unless we see substantial wage increases, fewer tax breaks for the super-rich, a cease of the attack on women’s and workers’ rights, and improvements to the things we need and use every day — our nation’s infrastructure — we’re cooked.

I’m not sure what the path would be to combat the increased violence, and the increased tolerance of it. I guess we each have to stand up for what we believe is right. We have to reject the violence and hatred. We have to be constructive and not destructive.

I guess what I’m saying, is that in this season of darkness, we have to bring the light.

Blessed be, as my Pagan friends say. Happy Hanukkah. Merry Christmas.

 

Living in a police state

ferguson

Looking at the photos and footage of Ferguson, MO., reminds me of a war zone — almost any war zone. Tanks, tear gas, smoke bombs …

I remember the uprising in Hungary of 1956. I was 4, but I remember the tanks rolling down the streets toward unarmed civilians. I remember my mother crying because the US wouldn’t intervene. It is one of my earliest memories.

In Ferguson, it started with the murder of an unarmed 18-year-old. Would he have been slain if he was white? I doubt it.

Police say he went for the officer and tried to take his gun; a witness said his hands were in the air when he was shot.

Michael Brown was two days away from starting college. He was not a thug.

When people came out to protest, they were met with police in riot gear, police who assumed they would be violent, and when people became combative, they were met with military force.

The mayor has refused to identify the police officer who shot Michael Brown, fearing for the officer’s safety. Well, what about the safety of our teenagers?

Oh well, it was a mistake. Why is everyone so upset?

It upsets me because of the frequency with which black men are shot, choked and beaten by white police officers.

It upsets me because the media always look for the least flattering photo of the person who was killed.

Oh look. He’s wearing a hoodie. Guilty!

It upsets me when people who knew and loved him become outraged and demonstrate against the police tactics and they are met with a full-on war machine.

This isn’t the billy clubs of the 1968 Democratic Convention; these are tactics used in combat.

The county’s police chief trained in anti-terrorist tactics in Israel in 2009. What he learned and what his happening is war waged against citizens.

According to reports, police fired tear gas and rubber bullets near a crew from the TV network Al Jazeera America. In a statement, the network said that “Al Jazeera is stunned by this egregious assault on freedom of the press that was clearly intended to have a chilling effect on our ability to cover this important story.”

Two reporters were arrested while they were in a McDonald’s. They later were released without charges being filed, but the police got what they wanted out of it: fewer reporters on the scene to witness and tell the world what’s happening.

I had the privilege to hear the Rev. Dr. James Cone speak a few weeks ago. Cone is the “father of Black Theology,” and he was speaking about his latest book, “The Cross and the Lynching Tree.” 

As I listened to Cone and as I read his words, I come to understand that lynchings are still going on in this country, and I have begun to call the deaths of unarmed black men just that.

As I participate in Moral Mondays and develop close friendships with people of color, I become more aware of racism in our society. I see how my friends are treated. I hear what people say.

I realize I have been insulated, even though I thought I was aware of the racism around me before this last year. I saw the institutional racism and the injustices in our “justice” system. But I know now it goes deeper than I ever imagined.

Old friends tell me I am being radical, but I disagree. Black men are shot, strangled and beaten by police at an astronomically higher rate than whites. A few months ago in Durham, NC, police claimed that a young black man who had been searched and was handcuffed in the back of a police car, had shot himself in the head. When people turned out to protest, they were met with police in militarized riot gear.

Last week, a middle-aged African-American man with asthma was choked to death when he tried to stop police from beating another man. I saw that one because somebody videoed it.

I saw video of police beating two men on private property because they were videoing the officers with their cell phones.

The police are supposed to be there to protect us, but now they are working to silence us and to hide their own actions.

I understand that police have to prevent violence from spreading, but maybe they could prevent it by not killing innocent black men and boys.

Maybe if police told the truth from the outset. “Yes, it appears an innocent person was shot and killed. The officer is under arrest.”

Would people be as quick to riot then?

Yesterday on Facebook, a white man commented on a thread that black people should understand that justice will prevail.

It’s nice to be white and believe that, but if you’re not white and/or wealthy, there is little justice for you. And if you protest, you will be met by military force.

 

I stand with Richard Martinez

Richard Martinez holds a picture of his son, who was killed by a gunman over the weekend.

Richard Martinez holds a picture of his son, who was killed by a gunman over the weekend.

You might think your vote doesn’t matter, but it does.

When you stay home instead of going to the polls, the lobbyists and the big corporations get the people they want — people who won’t pass ANY gun safety laws; people who support fracking; people who will slash basic safety net programs and who refuse to expand Medicaid.

Yesterday, Richard Martinez, the father of a young man who was killed by an angry young man with three legally obtained semi-automatic weapons, said he will spend the rest of his life working for change.

He choked through tears that he wants this gun madness to stop, and he said, “My son is dead and there is nothing they could do to me that is worse than that.”

I’ve been saying that since my own son died from neglect because he couldn’t get access to health care, and I have worked for expanded access to health care.

Now Richard Martinez will work for sensible gun laws, and I am with him. He said he fears nothing because the worst thing that can happen to anyone has happened to him.

But every time it looks as though we might get just one piece of sensible legislation through, it falls flat.

What do get passed are laws allowing guns anywhere — in malls, in parks, in fast-food restaurants. And as soon as those laws are passed and signed, we see semi-automatic weapons strapped to people in line at Chick-fil-A and Sonic. A woman was shot at a Walmart when someone’s gun went off accidentally, although I hardly think of it as an accident when someone purposely takes a loaded gun shopping.

I am tired of the pro-gun talking points:

“Guns don’t kill people; people do.”

Answer: People with guns kill more people than anything else. In domestic disputes, if there’s no gun handy, it rarely ends in murder. If people with active mental illnesses couldn’t gain access to semi-automatic weapons, Richard’s son still would be alive, as would all the children in Newtown, Conn., not to mention the people who were in the theater at Aurora, Col., the people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin and on and on and on …

“Well then, why don’t we outlaw knives and cars? They kill people too.”

Answer: First of all, they don’t kill nearly as many people as guns do, and secondly, they have other uses; they are not manufactured solely for the purpose of killing people.

“I have a Second Amendment right to my guns.”

Answer: Not so much. The Second Amendment has been interpreted — after much lobbying by the gun industry — as meaning we all can have as many guns as we want, but the the amendment reads: 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.

That part about the well regulated militia? I don’t often hear mention of that when people argue the amendment gives all of us unfettered access to whatever guns we want to play with. The amendment was adopted because the United States had no standing army at the time and George Washington didn’t want one. The amendment should have been repealed when we established a standing army.

“We just need to keep guns out of the hands of people with mental illnesses.”

The young man who killed Richard’s son was deeply troubled. His family tried to intervene, but to no avail. He wanted to stop taking his medications, so he did. He was over 18 so no one could force him into treatment. And despite the young man’s history, he was able to buy three semi-automatic weapons. Maybe we could keep them out of the hands of people who have psychiatric issues, but we don’t.

The lack of willingness on the part of Congress to pass any kind of gun safety legislation because of their fear of the NRA and gun manufacturers speaks loudly about how important it is that we get out and vote for people with the guts to stand up to these greedy bastards.

I have said it again and again: I don’t object to people who want to hunt or target shoot owning guns, but I do want to see someone charged with murder every time a child is killed while playing with a gun. It’s no accident if there’s a loaded gun in the house and a child is killed while playing with it; the charge should be manslaughter, if not murder.

One final talking point:

“You’ll have to pry my gun out of my cold, dead hands.”

Answer: OK.

 

 

Four dead, three troopers hurt

A protester at Wayne LaPierre's press conference Friday injects a little truth into the proceedings.

A protester at Wayne LaPierre’s press conference Friday injects a little truth into the proceedings.

It’s what you call irony.

National Rifle Association lobbyist Wayne LaPierre was still talking, telling us we need more, not fewer guns, that armed teachers are the solution to mass shootings in schools, as a man walked up and down a street just outside of Altoona, Pa., shooting people, killing four, according to early reports.

Among the injured are three —armed — state troopers. These are people whose job it is to stop people with guns and he shot three of them. We don’t know yet whether any of the dead are troopers.

It seems to me that something is trying to tell us that LaPierre and his ilk are full of shit. More guns is not the solution to gun violence.

Do we put guns on school buses next? Do we arm crossing guards? Remember, this latest shooting was a man walking up and down the street.

Where does the arming cease? Do we provide Sunday school teachers with an arsenal, just in case?

I’m tired of the killing, aren’t you?

I don’t think we should spend another moment listening to the NRA. I don’t even care of you’re a responsible gun owner who loves target shooting and hunting. If you believe more guns will stem the violence, you are wrong. Period.

I have tried to respect other opinions because I have a lot of friends who are responsible gun owners, but we need to control guns. We need to stand up to the bullies in the NRA and tell them where they can put their guns and ammo.

I have listened to the “other side” of the gun debate and I have reached the conclusion that they no longer deserve our time and respect. The NRA represents gun manufacturers, not gun owners. I don’t even care of we repeal the damned Second Amendment. Our gun “laws” now have nothing to do with the founders’ intentions anyway.

We have the Second Amendment because George Washington didn’t believe we needed a standing army; that well-regulated militias would suffice. It wasn’t meant for every person to have an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. That was the totally twisted interpretation by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

As my husband says, “Piss on your Second Amendment rights! What about the rights of innocent people to live their lives?”

It’s time to regulate guns. It’s well past time, actually.

To those who disagree that increased regulation will help stem the tide of violence, with all due respect, piss off. I’m tired of listening to it as people die by the tens of thousands in this country.

 

Bob Costas was right

Let me start by saying I don’t want to take away everyone’s guns. I’ve been target shooting and had a good time. I approve of hunting as long as the hunter uses the animal for more than a trophy.

But the United States has an appallingly high murder rate and it’s because guns are so readily available.

Someone who has had domestic violence charges against him (or her) should not have a loaded gun in the bedside table drawer. Someone who has committed a violent crime of any sort should not have access to a gun.

For someone with anger issues, a gun is just too handy, and Jovan Belcher’s actions followed the classic profile of an abuser. He snapped, killed his girlfriend and then felt so guilty he killed himself.

According to the National Coalition against Domestic Violence, there are 16,800 homicides and 2.2 million (medically treated) injuries due to intimate partner violence each year, and the cost is $37 billion.

According to the Violence Prevention Center, “an analysis of female domestic homicides (a woman murdered by a spouse, intimate acquaintance, or close relative) showed that prior domestic violence in the household made a woman 14.6 times more likely, and having one or more guns in the home made a woman 7.2 times more likely, to be the victim of such a homicide.”

In other words, if abusers didn’t have guns (and federal law prohibits anyone with an order of protection filed against them because of domestic violence to have a gun), the murder rate among women would go down dramatically.

I’m really, really tired of hearing that guns don’t kill people; people do. People with ready access to guns kill some 10,000 people in this country every year. The only countries that rank higher in gun deaths are South Africa, Colombia and Thailand. Even Mexico ranks below us.

The United States leads the world in gun ownership, with 88.8 guns per 100 people, and 34 percent of Americans owning guns. That includes collectors, many of whom own antique guns that no longer work. But it also includes people who think they need an arsenal of guns to battle the United Nations’ black helicopters.

In terms of gun homicide rate (per 100,000 population), only eight nations — Colombia, Guatemala, Paraguay, Zimbabwe, Mexico, Costa Rica, Belarus and Barbados — beat the United States, which registers 2.97 homicide gun deaths per 100,000 people.

Most other developed nations run just a fraction of our per capita gun death rate:
Switzerland (0.56), Canada (0.54), Germany (0.47), Finland (0.43), Ireland (0.32), Denmark (0.26), England (0.12), Australia, Japan, Korea? way, way below us, and Singapore at 0.02 and Hong Kong at 0.01 barely even register.

We need to have a conversation. This is not about Obama coming to take your guns, it’s about making guns a little less available to people who use them to kill other people. It’s not about whether Bob Costas was out of line when he talked about the Jovan Belcher murder-suicide, it’s about starting a serious conversation.

We don’t need assault weapons. We don’t need guns that shoot a hundred shots a minute. We don’t need guns in every home.

Bob Costas was talking truth when he quoted Fox News columnist Jason Whitlock. And since Costas often offers up commentary during football halftime, his words were not inappropriate.

The National Rifle Association has turned the conversation from responsible gun ownership and reasonable regulation to advocacy for a free-for-all that’s just short of anarchy.

It’s time to steer the conversation back to a reasonable course. Remember, the Second Amendment talks about “a well regulated militia,” not about every home having an unregulated cache of assault weapons.

 

Trayvon Martin belongs to all of us

"Whatever you do to the least of these, you do also to me." Trayvon belonged to all of us, and his death diminishes all of us.

Florida’s Stand Your Ground law means that Trayvon Martin’s killer likely won’t be punished for his deed.

The law was written by ALEC (the Koch Brothers and NRA-funded American Legislative Exchange Council) and the gun lobby to enhance the sale of guns. The NRA long ago stopped lobbying for gun owners; now it represents the gun lobby, especially gun manufacturers.

This no longer is about the Second Amendment; it is about selling guns to frightened citizens. Hey, if someone like George Zimmerman were following me, I’d need a gun to protect myself.

Here’s the deal, though: If all the African-Americans in Florida got guns because of the Stand Your Ground law, it would be repealed pretty quickly. I’m certain that if the roles had been reversed and Trayvon Martin had felt threatened and shot Zimmerman, young Trayvon would be sitting in jail charged with murder.

Zimmerman had no reason to feel threatened. He didn’t live in the gated community where he shot and killed Trayvon Martin, and his 911 call that night was not his first; in fact, there were more than 90 such calls to police in the year leading up to the murder, and most were about suspicious looking African-American males.

A newer photo shows Trayvon looking a little less saintly than the one most widely circulated. It is next to a photo of Zimmerman in a suit and tie and it claims media bias because these aren’t the images we see the most. Frankly, I don’t care about the image. Trayvon was a kid who had Skittles and iced tea in his hands. He committed no crime; he died because he happened to walk across the gun sight of George Zimmerman, a stalker who was, and is, dangerous.

I know a little bit of what Trayvon’s mother feels like, having lost a son who should still be alive. But my son was killed by a broken health care system, not a hate-filled vigilante; I at least got to say goodbye.

Trayvon Martin belongs to all of us. He was our child.

When Emmett Till was murdered by a racist gang of white men in Mississippi in August 1955, his mother said that the act that killed her son diminished us all, and that is true of this case. We live in a society where people tout the Second Amendment as an excuse to allow the murder of an innocent 17-year-old.

In my mind, there is no excuse. Laws like Florida’s Stand Your Ground law exist in 23 states, including North Carolina, where I live. That’s nearly half the nation. Could an African-American kid walking through my neighborhood be shot in cold blood and his killer get away with it?

The Second Amendment doesn’t give us the right to murder children who make us nervous.

Zimmerman said in his 911 call that the kid was wearing a hoodie. Hell, I wear hoodies, and I’m hardly a threat. In fact, I wore a pullover with a hood to church yesterday.

A lot of homeless people wear hoodies to keep themselves warm. Does that make them expendable?

These same people who scream that any control of firearms is unconstitutional are the same ones who claim to be pro-life, who believe they have the right to shoot to kill  someone who makes them nervous.

You can’t have it both ways, people.

I’m OK with the Second Amendment, but not with the length to which it has been interpreted to mean we deserve a free-for-all gunfight whenever someone makes us nervous.

 

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