The finding that the AR-15 rifle was being actively selected for premeditated indiscriminate mass killings in 2012 fundamentally changes the debate regarding Senator Feinstein’s Assault Weapons Ban. Not only does this finding take this weapon and mass shootings beyond anecdotal observations, it has predictive value. We now know with certainty that there will be another horrific premeditated and planned mass killing involving this weapon or another having similar rapid fire and high capacity capability. And it will be difficult to defend against as we cannot predict the timing, the venue, or the selected targets. It is clear that both the weaponry and background checks on all buyers should be addressed to reduce the opportunity for, and carnage of, future premeditated indiscriminate mass shootings. This should become a fundamental part of the upcoming debate on the Senate floor. Should meaningful gun control legislation fail in the Senate, for those senators who opposed there is little doubt that some would have swallowed a ‘poison pill’ regarding their political career.
A total of four independent, premeditated and indiscriminate mass shootings occurred in the latter half of 2012. There was no connection between the shooters and the victims, and no reason was established in the selection of victims other than inflicting mass casualties. An AR-15 rifle was the weapon used in all four of these events. The odds of this particular weapon being selected for all four of these independent events simply by chance was estimated to be less than one in a million using two different approaches. The intentional selection of this firearm is additionally supported by the behavior of all four shooters. It is felt that this finding fundamentally changes the assault weapon debate. It is not that this weapon was simply being used at these events, there is little if any doubt that it was being intentionally selected as a weapon of choice in those premeditated indiscriminate mass killings. As this weapon is being actively sought for these events, leaving it unregulated and expanding public availability could only increase the opportunity for its use in future mass shootings of the nature we witnessed in 2012.
With 11 of the 18 Senate Judiciary Committee members benefitting from gun lobby financial contributions, the impartiality of both their opinion and eventual votes is drawn into question. The Newtown incident has laid bare, as no other has in the past, the inherent conflict lawmakers face regarding their obligation to legislate in the public’s best interest versus special interest pressures that threaten their ability to retain office. This current debate has morphed into something larger than regulating the gun market. It provides clear evidence that our Congress needs to fundamentally change the way it operates.
Had a corporation in an industry federally regulated for safety been aware of a high level of product-related death and injury in children, obstructed attempts to look into the matter, obstructed dissemination of information about the matter, impeded the work of local, state and federal law enforcement, while continuing to increase public exposure to more powerful versions of the product that claimed multiple other young lives, those involved would have faced criminal prosecution. Yet our own lawmakers are so engaged while keeping firearms unregulated for safety and pocketing backdoor money from the gun industry through the NRA. The double standard is staggering. The behavior is reprehensible if not scandalous. Our free press should step forward, as only it can, to explore this issue.
Despite Information being available for at least 15 years showing that US children experience a grossly disproportionate loss of life from gunfire as compared to other wealthy industrialized countries, Congress has acted to obstruct both the generation and dissemination of such information while allowing increasingly more powerful weaponry onto the market. This while accepting NRA financial contributions derived, in part, from the very industry that financially benefits from its actions. It is argued that Congress, by its lack of intervention and obstructionist behavior, is complicit in contributing to the high level of gun-related death in America’s children. The Second Amendment was never intended to justify such a disparate loss of young life.
Examination of raw data as well as multiple academic studies support the link between widespread gun ownership and increased gun violence across both countries and states. The US exhibits by far the largest per capita gun ownership and gun-related death rate of any other industrialized Western democracy. With US citizens already in possession of nearly 300 million firearms, the current debate should include the broad-based interpretation of the Second Amendment, promulgated by the gun lobby, regarding our country’s current size, urbanization, and technological advancements in weaponry.
The Newtown, CT massacre of 20 young children and six school staff by a gunman at their school has reignited the gun debate. Will the endpoint of proposed legislation be to reduce the frequency of mass killings and/or limit the carnage from such? Or should it be to bring the grossly disproportionate loss of life in US children from gunfire to parity with that from other industrialized nations. The two are different.
The extremist position the NRA leadership takes in opposing virtually all gun control regulation, along with its associated anti-diversity rhetoric, has placed it at odds with the majority of gun owners, including its own membership, as welll as an increasingly diverse America. It is only a matter of time before politicians will find it necessary to distance themselves from the organization to keep or achieve political office. A multi-pronged political approach now exists that can compel lawmakers into taking action to curb gun violence in America.
Although individual groups representing blacks, Hispanics, and women have called for stricter gun control measures in the past, none of them have carried enough clout at the polls to effect legislative change. But what we just witnessed in this past general election is a game changer.
Despite claims that “there have been no problems” with concealed weaponry in eating establishments (including those those that serve alcohol), an examination of non-self defense killings by CCW permit holders between May 2007 and May 2012 revealed multiple instances of such killings at establishments that serve food and beverage.
Did NC lawmakers knowingly put a law into effect that violates legal obligations the US has accepted under an international treaty to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination? Additionally, the deleterious effects of racial discrimination and political marginalization on longevity, health, and childhood development are well-publicized. Did lawmakers knowingly put a law into effect that could only help to sustain, and even create, conditions that contribute to premature death and a host of serious health problems in African-Americans, including impaired childhood development? With our current knowledge base regarding the millions of lost and damaged lives due to the deleterious effects of racial discrimination, laws like NC’s Voter ID law should be viewed as something far more serious than just an obstruction of a civil right.
The estimated six year shortfall in life expectancy between African-Americans versus white Americans, largely attributable to disproportionate adverse socio-economic conditions created by over two centuries of racist portrayals and discriminatory legislative/policy actions, results in 240 million lost years when applied to a population of nearly 40 million African-Americans (2010 census). The estimated premature loss of life in just the existing African-American population of today totals into the millions of individuals and is conservatively estimated to easily exceed at least ten percent of that population. In considering the potential cumulative loss of life since the beginning of the 20th century, it becomes apparent that the United States is in the midst of an ongoing and prolonged human rights atrocity of considerable magnitude, in direct contrast to our country’s position of being a standard bearer of human rights in the international community. Recent restrictive Voter ID Laws, such as North Carolina’s, that disproportionately disenfranchises the African-American poor, can only work to maintain the adverse conditions that contribute to premature death in a historically discriminated population. The concerns expressed here extend into other political actions such as gerrymandering along racial lines that effectively reduces African-American representation. Further, these concerns are held to represent serious human rights issues that violate at least three treaties both signed and ratified by the United States.
As laws like NC Carolina’s recently enacted Voter ID Law can be tied to a long history of discriminatory treatment of African-Americans that in turn create or sustain adverse socio-economic conditions directly tied to premature death, the issue becomes whether such laws should be viewed as something far more serious than an obstruction of civil rights.
The GOP’s decision to reinstate tax cut policy in 2001 exposed their hand. It was not about deficit reduction, growing the economy, or job creation. It was about ideology and, no doubt, special interests. It was a backdoor approach where government revenue was cut in an attempt to curtail spending on popular programs they otherwise could not take head-on. This while obstructing the work of Congress, spinning a web of deceit about the benefits of their policy, and weakening our country’s financial standing. It’s time to play hardball during ‘fiscal cliff’ negotiations and force them to be specific about what spending cuts they are talking about to offset the tax benefits they wish to preserve for the wealthiest. They wouldn’t have the nerve.