Revisiting The Second Amendment And Gun Violence.

“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.”

I draw your attention to the full text of the amendment since the first 12 words are seldom mentioned. In fact, in the NRA headquarters, only the last half of the text is emblazoned on the wall. But, if you believe in the wisdom of the authors of our Constitution, you cannot parse the words to suit your own purposes. You must accept the document in its entirety.

We once had a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States who believed so. In a 1991 PBS interview, he stated, “The Gun Lobby’s interpretation of the 2nd Amendment is one of the greatest pieces of fraud – I repeat the word fraud – on the American people by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime. The real purpose of the 2nd Amendment was to ensure that state armies – the militia – would be maintained for the defense of the state. The very language of the 2nd Amendment refutes any argument that it was intended to guarantee every citizen an unfettered right to any kind of weapon he or she desires.”

The point is that the amendment was written to ensure for the defense of the US against foreign governments at a time when our nation had no standing army, no Navy, no Air Force, no Marine Corps, no Coast Guard. Instead, the nation’s defense relied upon state militias comprised of volunteers…what have, in effect, become our state governed National Guard units.

Now that we have the world’s most effective military, the 2nd Amendment is no longer necessary. Since our government is “of the people, by the people and for the people,” the military serves us. There is no longer a need for citizens to bear arms as part of a well-regulated militia. What about the potential for government tyranny? The current administration aside, that is a remote possibility. And even if the government decided to impose martial law on the land, no disorganized band of civilians armed with an arsenal of AR-15s and AK-47s will prevail against a well-trained government army with tanks, artillery, fighter jets and nuclear weapons.

That said, let’s talk about our gun problem and what can be done to reduce gun violence, including mass shootings.

There are an average of 297 shootings each day in the US – more than 108,000 per year! Those shootings result in 11,000 murders per year and an uncounted number of wounded – many with lifelong debilitating injuries. There are 20,000 suicides from guns each year, resulting in an annual total of 33,000 deaths from guns.

More than 2,600 hundred children are killed by guns each year.

The US averages more than one mass shooting per day (as defined by 4 or more victims per shooting). Since the mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School, there have been 1,500 mass shootings resulting in more than 1,700 people killed and more than 6,000 wounded (not counting those who were likely shot and killed today).

If you’re human; if you live in America, those statistics should frighten you! But before you run out and purchase a gun for self-defense, consider this: Guns are not defensive weapons. They are offensive weapons. In a gun fight, the first person to pull their gun usually wins. So, if someone points a gun at you, your own gun will do you little good. In fact, if you have a gun in your house, you’re 80 percent more likely to use it on yourself than any criminal.

To further debunk the “good guy with a gun myth,” consider the FBI analysis of 160 active shooter incidents between 2000 and 2013, excluding shootings related to gang or drug violence. Those incidents resulted in 1,043 casualties – 486 killed, 557 wounded. The FBI found that 1 in 5 were stopped by a potential victim at the scene and most of those were unarmed! Only 5 were stopped by “good guys with guns.” And, in 21 of 45 incidents that required law enforcement to engage the shooter, 9 officers were killed and 28 were wounded, despite their training and their body armor!

Do you still think arming teachers is the answer to school shootings?

Every independent study shows a clear connection between gun violence and the number of guns. Nevertheless, Americans now own more than 300 million guns. Despite the fact that the number of individuals who own guns is actually declining, the number of gun sales is increasing dramatically. That’s because 6 million Americans – mostly white men -now own 10 or more guns. There are studies that show many of those people have psychological problems. And there are additional studies that show a clear connection between gun violence and domestic violence or violence against animals.

The only apparent answer to our epidemic of gun violence is to treat it as we do other epidemics – with intervention, outreach, and education. We should institute universal background checks and a database of gun ownership. To make the ATF’s job easier, we should institute a waiting period for anyone wanting to purchase a gun. We should ban both open and conceal carry – going back to the policies before the lobbying of the NRA. We should ban all semi-automatics. Not just military-style weapons. That’s because most semi-automatics can be just as deadly. And bolt-action, pump-action and lever-action are perfectly acceptable for most hunters. We should limit magazines to 9 rounds. We should limit the quantities of ammunition sold. And we should take weapons away from violent felons, domestic abusers, animal abusers and the mentally ill who are diagnosed with violent tendencies – toward others or themselves.

It’s time to ignore the NRA and the GOP. It’s time to change!

The Reality Of Gun Violence In America.

As a long-time self-defense instructor, I taught students that the first rule of self-defense is situational awareness. I encouraged them to be aware of the world around them. In the US, that means being aware of guns.

So here’s the uncomfortable reality: Guns are everywhere in our country. One can assume that anyone you meet is potentially armed. There are guns concealed in waistbands, guns concealed in shoulder holsters, guns concealed in purses and guns concealed in cars. But most gun owners (and I used to be among them) never use their guns for anything other than hunting or target shooting. However, there are a few people who are compelled to harm others. It may be that they have been bullied and pushed to a point where they seek revenge. It may be that they have been filled with hate by some of our vile propagandists and political ideologues. Most are mentally unstable. But few are truly mentally ill.

With more than 33,000 gun deaths in the US each year, it’s clear that we don’t just have a gun problem. We have a political problem.

For example, the vast majority of gun deaths in this country are the result of white men…many of them with a history of domestic abuse. Yet we do little to track home-grown terrorists and domestic abusers still have ready access to guns. A substantial majority of gun owners in the US are right-wing conservatives – people who fear our government. They have been convinced that they need military-style weapons to defend freedom. Many of the most fervent gun owners are white supremacists who believe “the others” are coming for them.

Following the script provided by the NRA, GOP politicians say that guns are not the problem, the real problem is mental illness. But those same politicians have cut the funding for mental health programs and mental health institutions. Indeed, one of the current Congress’s first acts was to pass a law repealing a measure that made it easier to prohibit the sale of firearms to people deemed “mentally defective.”

The NRA and the GOP say, “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Yet, according to an FBI report which analyzed 160 mass shooting events between 2000 and 2013, only 1 in 5 active shooting incidents were stopped by a potential victim at the scene, and most of those were stopped by someone who was unarmed! Only 3 percent were stopped by “good guys with guns.” Further, the Violence Policy Center found that, over a 5-year period, guns were used by civilians to stop fewer than 1 percent of crimes.

In fact, those who carry concealed guns are highly unlikely to use their weapons to defend themselves or anyone else. They are far more likely to have their guns stolen or to have the guns used against themselves.

After each mass shooting, GOP politicians offer “thoughts and prayers” and say, “Now is not the time to talk about guns.” Then they do nothing. For example, after the Las Vegas mass murder, Congress proposed a ban on “bump stocks” to prevent gun owners from giving a semi-automatic rifle the capability of a machine gun. But the GOP blocked the bill in the Senate. And, in the days before the school shooting in Parkland, the GOP was pushing a universal gun bill that would negate state gun laws and allow owners to legally carry guns – even banned guns – across state lines.

NRA-backed politicians say that strict firearm legislation doesn’t work. Yet a study by Boston’s Children’s Hospital found that states with the most firearm legislation had a 42 percent lower overall firearm-associated mortality rate than states with the least legislation. In fact, after Connecticut passed the nation’s strictest gun laws in 1994, gun killings dropped by 40 percent!

The NRA says it stands between us and tyranny. Yet, allegedly, much of the millions it contributed to GOP candidates in the 2016 election was laundered for Russian oligarchs. How does helping a foreign enemy meddle in our elections protect our democracy?

The NRA says that, if guns weren’t available, the killers would find another weapon of choice, perhaps knives. But guns, especially military-style guns and semi-automatic pistols, allow murderers to kill more people in less time. How many people do you think would have died in the Parkland school, if the killer was armed with a knife or a six-shot revolver? How many of those who attended the Las Vegas concert would have been killed with a knife, a shotgun or a large caliber, bolt-action hunting rifle?

The fact is, firepower matters. And, in countries that have fewer guns, there are fewer gun deaths!

With 33,000 gun deaths in the US each year and at least 25 mass shootings already this year, it’s not hyperbole to say that the NRA leaders and the gun manufacturers they represent are accomplices to murder. So, too, are the politicians who receive large sums of money from the NRA.

Here’s another sad reality of gun violence: After each mass shooting, the sales of guns – particularly assault weapons – go up. A reality that only encourages NRA-backed politicians to continue to block common sense gun legislation.

What’s Really Behind America’s Gun Deaths?

Following the most lethal mass shooting in US history, it’s once again time to take a serious look at the cause. By all accounts, the Las Vegas shooter was not a terrorist – at least not in the traditional sense. He was no Osama bin Laden. He was not a member of ISIS. Moreover, he had no criminal record. He had no history of mental illness. And he had no history of domestic abuse.

What he did have was a penchant for collecting a large number of military-style weapons and an enormous amount of ammunition. The shooter was one of a tiny minority of Americans with such stockpiles. According to a study by Northeastern University and Harvard University reported by the Guardian, 130 million of America’s guns are in the hands of just 3 percent of American adults. That means each of these Americans, mostly men, own an average of 19 guns!

For what purpose? Why do these people feel the need to own such an arsenal?

Certainly, a small percentage of these people are collectors of war memorabilia and antique weaponry. But what about the others? What drives them? 19 guns are 18 more than necessary for self-protection. 19 guns are at least a dozen more than necessary for the most avid hunter of game large or small. And 19 is many times the number of guns needed for target shooting.

So how do we explain the rest?

I believe these owners are driven by a combination of anti-government paranoia and a fascination with all things military. In other words, we have a number of apparent Seal team wannabes who have become convinced – likely by the NRA and right-wing conspiracy theorists – that the government is coming for their weapons; people who fear that the US will be taken over by the United Nations; who believe that immigrants – especially those of color – are coming for their jobs and wealth.

These are also men who were militarized from an early age; from the endless displays of military might; from the military flyovers before football games and other large events. Maybe they are motivated by the plethora of TV shows, movies and video games based on the military. If so, they aren’t be alone. Far too many Americans can only define patriotism in military terms.

Have you ever asked yourself why? Is there really no other way to share our love of country than to display weapons of war? To superficially thank veterans for their service? To adorn our homes with flags?

More to the point, why are military-style weapons in high demand when they are of little use for hunting or self-defense? Who but an assassin needs a .50 caliber sniper rifle? Who but a mass shooter or a criminal needs a device to make a semi-automatic weapon mimic the rate of fire of fully-automatic military assault rifles? Who but a law enforcement officer or a bodyguard would feel the need to carry a concealed gun? And what civilian other than a bully or someone with a very small penis would want to strap a gun over his shoulder or onto his hip to intimidate those around him?

Why do so many of our citizens think education and health care are too expensive for our government to afford, yet think nothing of spending many times more money on new military weapons systems? Have we become so affected by right-wing propaganda that we think the military is the answer to every conflict? Horrifyingly, a large percentage of our population – mostly Republicans – now believe a military takeover of our government could be a good thing in certain circumstances.

Can you imagine the reaction of our founders if they were alive to see that?

Admittedly, there are far more questions than answers; questions that everyone should be asking of themselves and those around them.

If we are to ever end the outrageous number of gun deaths in the US, we need to regulate the number of guns and limit their firepower. But that alone won’t end the shootings. We need to transform our collective psyche from one that celebrates violence and war to one that celebrates life and accomplishments. That doesn’t require our nation to weaken our military. It simply means that we put violence in perspective as a last resort…a necessary evil that is only rarely necessary for survival. Not as something to be used whenever it serves our purposes; to bully others into deferring to our wishes.

The reality is that guns aren’t the cause of our mass shootings. They’re the means. They’re also a symptom of a much larger problem.

Now Is Exactly The Time To Talk About Guns.

Each time there’s another mass shooting event, the GOP is quick to say, “Now is not the time to talk about politics.” In other words, “Let’s address the symptoms, but not the cause.” That happened after Columbine, after Sandy Hook, after Charleston, after Orlando…after every single mass shooting.

The motive, of course, is to delay discussion until memories of the event become faded – only to be replaced with the trauma of the next shooting.

It is precisely the result of this strategy that more than 15,000 people died in 2016 as the result of gun violence; a figure that does not even include suicides. And that’s why 2016 saw more than one mass shooting per day (a mass shooting defined as events during which at least 4 people are injured or killed).*

Republicans must not be allowed to get away with it this time!

And it’s not just the inaction of Republicans that has allowed the gun violence to continue. It’s also their collusion with the gun lobby which has resulted in easy access to weapons of ever-increasing lethality. Thanks to the GOP and the NRA, people have been allowed to purchase weapons of war. They have made it legal for virtually anyone to carry a semi-automatic handgun without obtaining a license. They have made it legal to purchase .50 caliber sniper rifles that can blast a hole through a vehicle’s engine block at a distance of hundreds of yards.

The GOP made it illegal for the Centers for Disease Control to track gun deaths. The GOP made it illegal for physicians to discuss gun safety with parents. And the GOP made it illegal for the gun registry to create an electronic database for guns. That means the registry will have to sort through hundreds of thousands of paper documents to track the sale of the guns used by the Vegas shooter.

More recently, Trump repealed a rule designed to prevent certain mentally ill from buying guns. After all, who would want to deny the mentally ill their 2nd Amendment rights?

Even as the shooting in Las Vegas was unfolding, the GOP Congress was preparing to vote on a bill that would legalize the sale of silencers and armor-piercing ammunition! For what purpose?

Imagine if the shooter holed up in the Mandalay Bay Hotel had access to silencers. Instead of taking 15 minutes to locate and disrupt the shooter, it may have taken 2-3 times as long. How many more people would he have been able to kill in that time? How many of the SWAT team would have died as the result of the ammo penetrating their body armor?

The GOP and its NRA sponsors must not be allowed to ignore the impact of their actions any longer. They must not be allowed to continue to place profits above lives. It’s long past time for common sense gun legislation for universal background checks; to implement a one-week waiting period for all gun purchases; to create an electronic gun registry; to ban large capacity magazines; to limit the quantity and type of ammunition; to ban the open carry of guns.

This mass shooting is the fault of the shooter, the NRA and the GOP. If we do nothing, the next mass shooting will be our fault.

*Statistics from the Gun Violence Archive

Our Racist-In-Chief.

Unfortunately, the hatred and bigotry that claimed the national spotlight on Saturday was highly revealing.

President Trump’s tepid condemnation and initial refusal to call out the hateful groups responsible for the violence in Charlottesville called attention to the White House’s deep ties to the “alt-right.” Indeed, Trump has a long history of racism. His parents were members of the KKK. His father taught him the importance of breeding, likening humans to race horses. Early in his business career, Trump Management Corporation was sued by the Department of Justice for refusing to rent to non-whites in violation of the Fair Housing Act of 1968. Later, he ran a full-page ad that many saw as racist. In it, he called for the return of the death penalty for five non-whites accused of raping a woman who was jogging in Central Park. (The men were later cleared of the charges.) And, of course, he was the most prominent leader of the racist “birther” movement, calling Obama an illegitimate president.

Trump began his campaign for president by making racist claims about Mexicans and promising to build a border wall that would be paid for by Mexico. For a campaign slogan, he chose Make America Great Again, which in itself was a clarion call to racists. And the racists responded. The KKK endorsed Trump for president. Numerous other racist groups, such as Vanguard America, were formed as a result of Trump’s campaign. (The alleged driver of the car which killed one and injured at least 19 others in Charlottesville was photographed wearing a Vanguard America uniform and holding a Vanguard America shield.)

An examination of Trump’s voters is more telling. 62 percent of non-college educated white women voted for Trump. 56 percent of college-educated white women voted for Trump. And 63 percent of white men voted for the Donald. As a result, for the first time in generations, we have a white supremacist in the White House. And Trump is not the only one.

His chief strategist, Steve Bannon, is largely responsible for making Breitbart News “the platform for the alt-right” – a virtual megaphone for bigots and neo-Nazis. The White House is also the workplace for at least two other racists. Steven Miller is Trump’s senior adviser for policy and Sebastian Gorka serves as a deputy assistant to Trump. Not coincidentally, both have gone on record denying the threat of domestic terrorist groups.

Want more proof of Trump’s connections to the alt-right?

He appointed Jeff Sessions as US Attorney General, who in 1986 was denied a federal judgeship when his former colleagues testified that Sessions used the n-word and joked about the Ku Klux Klan, saying he thought its members were “okay, until he learned that they smoked marijuana.”

In almost every conceivable way, not the least of which is color, Trump is the polar opposite of his predecessor. He is clueless and classless with no discernible redeeming traits. Indeed, he is the anti-Obama. Obama entered office saying, “There is not a liberal America and a conservative America – there is the United States of America. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America – there’s the United States of America.” President Obama reached across the political divide to appoint 18 Republicans to his administration. He repeatedly called for unity. By contrast, Trump has done nothing to reach across the divide. In fact, he has deepened the chasm and widened it. He verbally attacks anyone who disagrees with him. And his furor isn’t limited to Democrats and liberals. He has repeatedly assaulted the media and virtually everything his opponents hold dear. He has continued his assault on immigrants, on the environment, on regulations designed to protect citizens, on health care…he has even attacked the law and the Constitution.

Yet Trump has been reluctant to say anything negative about Nazis and racists.

Only when he was backed into a corner did he tepidly denounce the support for his campaign by David Duke, former Grand Wizard of the KKK. And only when there was a near universal outcry following the violence in Charlottesville did he finally, and hesitantly, call out the alt-right groups that fomented the violence. Even the Nazis and white supremacists didn’t believe he was sincere in his denunciation. Indeed, David Duke was quoted as saying, “He has our back.”

By failing to wholeheartedly condemn Nazis and racists, there is reason to wonder if Trump is trying to give the alt-right what it wants – a race war. It doesn’t take much of an imagination to realize that increased violence would give Trump the opportunity to do what the dictators he seems to idolize (Putin, Duterte, Erdogan, et al) have done and declare martial law.

Yet, as Trump has willingly become a symbol of racism in America, a bigger problem is the racists next door who enable him. They are your neighbors and your family members. They are students, laborers, truck drivers, farmers, realtors, lawyers, business executives, police officers, sheriffs, border patrol and many others. Their racism is seldom obvious. They don’t bother to wear sheets and hoods. They rarely gather to burn crosses.

Instead, they gather on websites like Breitbart, the Drudge Report, Fox News, and the Daily Stormer. They listen to hate-filled radio programs hosted by Alex Jones, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, Laura Ingraham and dozens of others. Like the man in the White House, they choose to bully and threaten from afar. They troll social media like Facebook and Twitter.

More worryingly, they hoard high-powered weaponry and ammunition. Many are members of the NRA. Many belong to militias such as the Oath Keepers and the Border Guard. Others are sovereign citizens who refuse to follow laws or to pay taxes. And they have been placed on alert by Trump with his warnings that his “enemies” are trying to steal his office.

It is the people who support Trump despite his overt bigotry, his birtherism and his dismissal of all Latinos as rapists and “bad hombres” who allow the alt-right to exist. It is the people who cheer Trump’s bluster and verbal attacks against the media and his political opponents who are responsible for the extreme divisiveness we face. It is the people who politely laugh when they hear racist jokes; who are willing to look the other way when they see examples of bigotry who are just as responsible for racial violence.

If we are ever to heal the divisions – racial and political – in this nation, we must be willing to call out violence and bigotry whenever we see it or hear it. We must put humanity, compassion and kindness above self. We must elect politicians who will put an end to policies that have resulted in economic inequities based on color, gender, sexual orientation or religious beliefs. We must encourage everyone to vote and remove from office those who try to suppress minority votes. We must put nation above tribal politics. And we must call out all those who refuse to do so.

What Is The Real Goal Of Trump’s Rallies?

Almost immediately after his inauguration, Donald Trump filed the paperwork for his 2020 campaign. And with the election barely over, he has continued to campaign. For what reason?

Some believe that he is simply addicted to the adulation of crowds. But every president draws crowds. And every president benefits from Americans’ respect for the office. (At least every president until now.) I believe the real reason for the rallies is more sinister than mere narcissism. I believe he is trying to further divide the nation; to destroy any remaining credibility for the mass media; to create a personal army of supporters that is immune to the facts; to create an army that is loyal to him, and him alone.

One need only listen to his rhetoric and read his tweets to see his plan in action. He continues to call any news stories that are not complementary to him “fake news.” He calls the Mueller investigation a “witch hunt.” And he continues to foment fear and violence. At his latest rally in front of an adoring West Virginia crowd, he accused his “enemies” of trying to steal his office, asking if they are just going to stand by and watch. That leads me to wonder what he suggests as an alternative to watching. Violence?

Those around him certainly think so.

Trump’s supporters continue to chant “lock her up” in reference to his former election rival. If you dumpster dive (or should I say, Trumpster dive) into the posts of his followers on Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere on the Web, you will see numerous threats of violence toward Trump’s political opponents, especially from the so-called “Alt-Right” trolls. White House subordinates like Stephen Miller verbally berate anyone who dares to question or challenge Trump’s political pronouncements. Often they go further.

For example, Trump ally, Roger Stone, recently tweeted: “Robert Mueller plans a takedown of @realDonaldTrump based on trumped up charges but sadly will only begat extreme violence and his own take-down…”

Mueller, Congress, Democrats and the media should take such threats with some seriousness. Many of Trump’s supporters are, after all, heavily armed – many of them are members of the NRA. They are the same kind of bullies who stood behind Cliven Bundy just itching for an excuse to fire on federal officers who were in the process of executing a lawful court order.

If they’re willing to do that for a deadbeat rancher like Bundy, imagine how they’ll react to the sight of the fear-monger-in-chief being led out of the Oval office in handcuffs.

They’ll almost certainly be ready for war, which is likely what his orangeness is counting on. In fact, he is acting exactly like hundreds of despots before him – creating enemies both external and internal; turning citizens against one another; raising doubts about the Constitution; creating distrust of our institutions including the media, the courts and Congress; telling his followers that the “elites” are against them and only he can be trusted to fix things.

I believe Trump presents a very real threat to the future of our nation and the planet.

Now, I expect that many of you will consider this to be hyperbolic. But we’ve never had a president like this before. Yes, we’ve had candidates like George Wallace, David Duke and other equally despicable people. But, though virulently racist, even they seemed more principled than Trump. (They weren’t serial liars and they didn’t look to use the government for personal financial gain.) More to the point, they were soundly defeated. Yet just because our nation has survived other serious challenges is no reason to take this threat lightly. You need only look at the alarm sounded by the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect which draws parallels between Trump and Hitler, noting that Trump has created his own media, exploited youth at a rally, endorses police brutality, demonizes people who believe, look or love differently, stripped vulnerable people of their families, jobs and ability to live, and believes Congress should change its rules to give him more power.

And, if that’s not compelling enough, consider the current sorry status of Venezuela, a nation that modeled its constitution and government after ours. In Venezuela everything changed as the result of a financial crisis and a constitutional convention. (By the way, a Koch brothers’ effort is nearing the number of states required to call for a constitutional convention in the US.)

If dictators can take control in democratic countries such as Venezuela, Philippines and Turkey, a prospective dictator – even one as stupid and outrageous as Donald Trump – could take control here.

How Has Racism Plagued The Obama Administration? Let Me Count The Ways:

I have conservative friends who deny that President Obama has been treated any differently than previous presidents. Setting aside the prolonged fishing expedition to find dirt on the Clintons and the natural reaction to a stolen election and the lies told by the Bush administration to justify its invasion of Iraq, (yes, I proudly wore an “Impeach Bush” button) let’s look at the conservative response to the nation’s first African-American president.

Even before he was nominated, Obama was beset by claims that he was not an American citizen. For the first time in US history, the political opposition demanded to see a presidential candidate’s birth certificate.

On the day of his inauguration, in the midst of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, GOP leaders met to formulate a strategy to make him fail. At so-called Tea Party rallies, protestors carried racist images of Obama. They also showed up at presidential speeches armed with loaded guns and threatened to “exercise their 2nd Amendment rights.” At the same time, rednecks all over the South dug out their Confederate battle flags, planting them in their yards, on their houses and flying them in the back of their pickup trucks. Many covered their vehicles with stickers that read “NObama,” “One Big Ass Mistake America” and more blatantly racist slogans.

The Secret Service saw a dramatic increase in threats on the President’s life. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) noted a dramatic rise in hate groups. At the same time, rightwing radio hosts and the NRA claimed that Obama was “coming for your guns,” which, in turn, dramatically increased gun sales.

When Obama prepared a video to encourage students to work hard and stay in school (something that other presidents have routinely done), conservatives howled, claiming that Obama was going to “indoctrinate” their children. They also ridiculed the First Lady for encouraging students to move for fitness and to make more nutritious choices for meals.

When Obama first addressed a joint session of Congress, a racist congressman openly shouted “You Lie.” In another joint session, conservative Supreme Court justices visibly shook their heads in disgust at the President’s justifiable criticism of the Citizens United ruling. (At least in my long lifetime, such displays of disrespect for the president have never previously occurred.)

In the Senate, the GOP blocked the President’s initiatives with a record number of threatened filibusters. Republicans also blocked a record number of administrative appointments and a record number of nominees for federal courts. And Obama’s most recent nominee to the Supreme Court has been waiting for a vote for a record length of time as a result of the GOP attitude that, with nearly a year left in office, Obama was to be considered a “lame duck.”

There have been a record number of conspiracy theories surrounding President Obama, including the lunacy surrounding the military exercise known as Jade Helm. There have been claims that he would declare martial law or, worse, declare Sharia law. Conservatives have claimed that he is a secret Muslim at the same time they have accused him of following a radical Christian pastor. They blamed him for the national debt, for shipping jobs overseas, for abandoning Iraq (even though our departure was negotiated by the Bush administration) and the creation of ISIS.

They accused him of coddling terrorists; of selling out Israel by negotiating an end to Iran’s nuclear program; of bowing to foreign leaders; of “selling out” to the communist Castro regime by normalizing relations with Cuba. They accused him of failing to secure our borders despite a record number of arrests and deportations. And, for the first time in US history, the GOP Congress invited a world leader (Netanyahu) to speak to a joint session without following protocol and going through the executive branch and the State Department.

Conservatives have circulated false emails and social media memes that falsely claim that Obama ordered crosses removed from military cemeteries, banned prayer at the military academies, and worse. They have compared the Obamas to gorillas. They have boldly stated that the First Lady is transgender and called for the Obama’s beautiful daughters to be raped.

At the same time, conservatives have not given Obama any credit for the good things he has done. They would have you believe that he only got Osama bin Laden based on previous efforts by the Bush administration. They have not credited him for trying to nominate a record number of members of the opposing party to his cabinet. They have not credited him for saving the US auto industry. They have not credited him for arresting the precipitous slide of our economy or for policies that have caused the stock markets to soar to record highs. They have not credited him for cutting the national deficit faster than any previous president. They have not credited him for preventing health insurance companies from exempting people for pre-existing conditions. And, instead of congratulating him for making health care available to millions of Americans, they have voted to repeal “Obamacare” dozens of times.

They have called President Obama the “food stamp” president, the “Imperial” president, the anti-gun president, a socialist, a fascist, and a n***er. They have blamed him for the gang violence in Chicago and violence against the police. They even blame him for the shootings of unarmed black men by police.

Finally, in a stunning show of hypocrisy, they actually have the chutzpah to blame him for increasing racism in the US! And the presumptive GOP presidential nominee who should never again be named is running on the slogan “Make American Great Again” – a dog whistle call to racists that may as well say “Make America White Again.”

Has The Democratic Party Awakened From Its Coma?

The recent filibuster calling for a vote on common sense gun safety gives me hope. It forced a vote which will put each member of Congress on record and make them accountable to their constituents instead of the NRA. After all, a whopping majority of Americans favor universal background checks. And an even greater majority favor blocking the legal sale of guns to potential terrorists who have been placed on the no-fly list.

That offers hope. But will Democrats show the same intestinal fortitude on other critical issues? Will they stand for income and wealth equality, including a living wage for all workers? Will they stand up for racial justice? Will they fight for equality of all people, regardless of gender, color or sexual orientation? Will they stand against Republicans who want to take food away from impoverished children? Will they stand up to the fossil fuel industry to address climate change? Will they stand against voter suppression? Will they stand against the corruption and waste of military contractors? Will they stand up for a woman’s right to control her own body?

Certainly, Democratic politicians have long given lip service to such issues. But they have seldom shown the courage of their convictions – to fight the good fight even if it risks their re-election.

This timidity has been used against them for decades. Republicans have long realized that Democrats can be steamrolled; that they’re willing to compromise, even if it means compromising their strongly-held beliefs. It has caused them to lose the respect of many voters who view them as spineless and weak – unable to get things done.

You see, many voters don’t look at the reasons behind legislative failures. They don’t understand the power of the filibuster and the willingness of Republicans to block Democratic initiatives even if it means damaging the nation. The voters only see failure. They see a party unable to keep its promises.

Hopefully, the Democrats’ strong stance on gun safety will mark a change that will benefit us all.

Mass Shootings Now Define Our Civilization.

Since the tragedy at Columbine, I have written blog posts calling for common sense gun safety. I have written and called my congressional representatives asking for universal background checks. I have taught self-defense classes debunking the notion that guns are a defensive weapon. I have demonstrated that carrying a gun does not protect you against an armed assailant who has the advantage of surprise. I have explained that being in a crowd of armed people makes you less safe. I have passed along academic studies that show that more guns equal more gun violence. I have tried to debunk the notion that an assault weapon is good for anything other than killing people. And millions of like-minded people have spoken out against gun violence.

None of it has worked.

Since Columbine, we have seen an average of more than one mass shooting (defined as incidents in which at least 4 people are killed or wounded) per day in the US. We’ve seen more than 100,000 shootings in our nation each year. We have seen lunatics with legal access to guns kill men and women. We’ve seen them murder theater-goers, church-goers and party-goers. We’ve seen them target black people, brown people, white people and gay people. We’ve seen them shoot doctors, nurses, lawyers, judges, teachers, government workers and a congresswoman. We’ve even seen them murder school children!

Over all that time, I’ve seen people use the 2nd Amendment to defend the rights of any individual to gain access to weapons of war. I’ve seen the NRA bribe legislators and congressional representatives to create even greater access to such weapons. I’ve heard political leaders foment hate, then call for national prayer when people act on that hate. I’ve heard so-called religious leaders (and I use the term loosely) claim that mass shootings are God’s vengeance for abortions, for accepting gays, for legalizing gay marriage, for allowing transgender people to use the bathroom. I’ve heard friends and relatives claim that mass shootings are merely the price we pay for freedom.

For whatever reason, we’ve been convinced to view gun violence as a matter of politics; as a matter of religion or policy. It is not. In fact, it’s the very essence of who we are as individuals. It defines our society.

If you think discrimination against others for any reason is acceptable, you cannot call yourself religious. If your pastor damns any group of people – whether they are people who look different, pray differently, love differently or have different beliefs – you do not belong to a church. You belong to a cult of hate. If you support politicians who privately accept money from the NRA to vote against gun safety bills then publically pray for the victims of gun violence, you are an accessory to murder. If you think someone who performs a legal medical procedure should be stopped at any cost, you do not understand what it means to be an American, because you neither believe in democracy nor in the rule of law. If you think those who speak in favor of discrimination and hate speak for you. If you are someone I know who actually believes any of these things; if you prefer to embrace hate rather than kindness, I cannot call you a friend.

I’m not even certain that I can call you human.

Do Facts Still Matter?

Based on statements by the Republican Party’s presumptive presidential nominee, one would have to say no. (More than 90 percent of Trump’s statements have been rated untrue.) Moreover, the voting record of Republican congressional representatives consistently shows that, on most issues, they base their votes more on ideology that on facts, or even the majority opinion of the people.

How else can you explain Republican opposition to expanding background checks on gun sales despite the fact that the vast majority of Americans support them? How else can you explain the fact that our Republican-led Congress refuses to act on climate change in direct opposition of the overwhelming majority of the world’s scientists, the majority of the nation’s leading research institutions, the Department of Defense, NASA, even the world’s religious leaders?

The list of public-supported issues that are consistently blocked by Republican representatives is a very long one. Yet the public has voted for a Republican majority in Congress. They have voted for a depressingly large number of Republican gubernatorial candidates. And they have voted for an even more depressing number of Republican legislative candidates.

This phenomenon can only be explained by the following:

Psychological studies have shown that conservatives and Republicans base their political decisions on faith. Not facts. Similarly, studies of media habits have shown that Republicans limit their exposure to media that are ideologically aligned, while Democrats seek out media that present various opinions. Worse, conservatives believe that any facts that don’t align with their strongly-held beliefs are bogus. They refuse to trust Democrats, the so-called “lamestream” media, or even their own government.

They are utterly and completely immune to facts.

Keep that in mind as we approach this coming election. Go ahead and confront your conservative friends and relatives with the facts. Encourage them to learn the facts from books such as “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks” by Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein, “That’s Not What They Meant!” by Michael Austin or “Antidote to Fact-Free Politics” by yours truly. At least you can feel that you’ve tried to expose them to the truth.

But don’t expect to change their minds.

Still, knowing that you tried to make a difference may help preserve your sanity when you learn that they voted for a lying, misogynistic, self-aggrandizing, tantrum-throwing, fact-denying, mob-connected, tax-evading billionaire bully who will almost certainly act against their interests.