Thoughts And Prayers Will Not Stop Shootings.

After Columbine, there were thoughts and prayers. There were more thoughts and prayers after Aurora, Sandy Hook, Charleston, San Bernardino, Orlando and, now, Dallas. After Eric Garner, after Michael Brown, after Timor Rice, after Ezell Ford, after John Crawford III, after Jonathon Ferrell, after Alton Sterling, after Philando Castile, and after the deaths of 5 Dallas police officers, there were more thoughts and prayers. Yet the shootings continue.

Obviously, thoughts and prayers alone aren’t working. They may make us feel better. But they do nothing to stop the shootings. And because the shootings continue to divide us, there will be many more thoughts and prayers.

What we need, instead, are common sense laws to improve gun safety. Ideally, that would mean banning military-style semi-automatic weapons and semi-automatic handguns. Unfortunately, that genie is out of the bottle. Even if we banned the sale of them tomorrow, there would still be millions in circulation. But what we can do is to repeal all open carry laws. Even in the Old West, open carry was banned in towns…in “polite society.” We can do that again.

We can pass laws for universal background checks on ALL gun sales to close the so-called “gun show loophole.” We can ban the sale of guns to those on the no-fly list until they can prove that they are not dangerous. We can ban the sale of guns to those who have been convicted of domestic assault or are under restraining orders. We can ban the sale of guns to those who have been convicted of any violent crimes. We can require gun safety training to those who have conceal and carry permits. And we can take the words of the Dallas Police Chief to heart and discourage people from carrying guns in public places.

We can, once again, ban silencers and large caliber sniper rifles…rifles so powerful that they can blow a sizeable hole in an engine block. We can ban large capacity magazines, except at gun ranges.

We can reinstate funding for the Center for Disease Control to study gun violence. And we can reinstate funding for services to help the mentally ill – one of the three largest groups of victims of gun violence.

We can increase budgets for police departments that will allow more training in the de-escalation of violent situations. We can make certain that our police know how to safely disarm those who are armed with weapons other than guns, such as clubs and knives. We can assess police officer candidates for personality traits so that we hire the best possible candidates and eliminate those who are racist or trigger happy. And since, we will demand more of the police, we can pay them appropriately.

There are many things we can do to help police and limit the number of senseless shootings. But, if we rely on thoughts and prayers alone, they are certain to continue.

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.

Guns In The Neighborhood.

I live in a small development near several tourist destinations in Arizona. There’s absolutely nothing remarkable about the neighborhood other than it is primarily populated by retirees from California and snowbirds from New England and the Midwest. The neighborhood has virtually no crime and has never experienced a home invasion. Despite this, I have to assume the majority of my neighbors are gun owners. Arizona, after all, is a gun-friendly state. Many people come here to get their cowboy on. And it seems that our legislature values guns more than people.

If that sounds crazy, I assure you that it’s not as crazy as some of our laws.

In Arizona, you can carry a gun virtually anywhere…in your car, to the shopping mall, to your church, even to the bar. The state has even made it illegal for cities to destroy guns that have been confiscated from felons or used in crimes. The cities are mandated to sell them.

As a result of our gun-crazy culture, Arizona has more than its share of gun hoarders…those who have convinced themselves that the government and/or the UN is coming to take their guns. There is also a large number of so-called “sovereign citizens”…those who refuse to accept the rule of government.

I have no idea how many of my neighbors fit into these categories, but I do know of two. One is a retired electrical engineer who owned a large collection of handguns, shotguns and assault rifles until he got drunk one afternoon and threatened to kill his wife and himself. The sheriff;s deputies confiscated the weapons and the neighbor is now serving time in prison for that and a variety of senseless crimes associated with his drinking. Another arsenal of handguns and assault weapons belongs to a neighbor whose love of high-powered weaponry is exceeded only by his love of alcohol.

How comforting!

Knowing that a few yards away there is a large arsenal in the possession of such an individual does not make me feel more secure. Neither does knowing that there are dozens more who have guns at the ready. These people are exemplified by a neighbor who was convinced to purchase a handgun by one of his gun-loving paranoid friends. He told me the first time he fired it, the slide nearly amputated his thumb. He’s still uncomfortable with it, but that doesn’t prevent him from keeping the loaded weapon on the nightstand next to his bed. Even more disturbing is the fact that he keeps a round in the chamber, which means he is more likely to accidentally shoot himself or a friend than any potential intruder.

Rather than make our neighborhood more secure, all of these guns make it more dangerous; more likely that there will be an accidental shooting; more likely that the guns will be used in a shootout between neighbors than to shoot an intruder. But most suggested changes for gun control would fail to weed out these people. They all passed background checks. They all supposedly took at least one firearm safety class. Yet they are all armed and dangerous to themselves, their families and their neighbors.

These people clearly demonstrate that the only thing that can reduce the number of nincompoops who own guns is to reduce the number of guns. Period.

How To Shut Up Teapublicans.

John Boehner, Ted Cruz, et al are fond of blaming President Obama and Sen. Harry Reid for the government shutdown. In doing so, they claim that the Democrats “refuse to negotiate.”

Negotiate what?

The only thing Teapublicans want to “negotiate” is the Affordable Care Act, a bill that was duly passed by both houses of Congress, signed into law by the President and found to be constitutional by the US Supreme Court. That simply cannot be negotiated. It can be repealed. But that would take an act of both houses of Congress and the signature of the President, and that’s simply not going to happen.

So how about this? What if Obama and Reid offer to delay some aspects of the Affordable Care Act for a year in exchange for Teapublican agreement to pass a strict gun control bill that will ban all semi-automatic weapons and a bill to provide federally-funded abortions for any woman who needs one? I’m sure a majority in the Senate would agree to that, as well as the President.

What’s that you say? That’s unreasonable? Really?

It’s no more unreasonable than what Teapublicans are asking. So tell you what. When Teapublicans finally decide that they want to negotiate the federal budget in good faith, they should pass a temporary funding bill to restart the government. Then they should sit down with Democrats to discuss the budget like adults. That means both sides need to compromise.

Until then, the President and Senator Reid should stand pat.

How Many Mass Shootings Will It Take?

Recent polls have shown that, after being mired in continuous conflicts for the past 12 years, Americans seem to have lost their appetite for war. Various polls found that more than 6 in 10 Americans were against any form of military action in Syria.

But we’re in the midst of our own war right here at home.

Monday’s shooting at the Washington, DC Navy Yard is just the latest in a long line of mass shootings in America. There has been an average of one a month since early in 2009! The victims have included theater-goers, citizens visiting with their congressional representative, elementary school children…even dozens of military and military contractors. In addition, there are many individual gun homicides – more than 11,000 per year according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The reaction from the NRA and other ideologues is to fight any form of common-sense measures such as universal background checks and bans on high-capacity magazines which allow mass shooters to fire up to 100 rounds as fast as they can pull the trigger without the need to reload. In order to intimidate anyone contemplating such measures, the NRA and other gun nuts targeted two of the Colorado legislators who actually had the intestinal fortitude to help pass such legislation. That may intimidate politicians, but it shouldn’t intimidate the majority of Americans who favor universal background checks.

After all, we’re the ones who elect these people.

Of course, the NRA responds to each shooting by first saying, “This is not the time to discuss gun legislation.” Then, after the shock from each event dies down, they come out with another lame statement such as that following the Sandy Hook massacre. “The only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

Obviously, that is utter nonsense.

At both the Navy Yard and Fort Hood, there were dozens, if not hundreds, of armed and trained guards in the immediate area.  At Fort Hood, 13 were killed and 32 were wounded before the armed good guys could stop the shooter. At the Navy Yard, at least 12 were killed before the shooter was stopped.  Those numbers are not significantly different from the mass shootings in which victims were unarmed.

By comparison there were 13 fatalities at the Columbine High School, 6 at the Tucson “Congress on Your Corner” event, 12 at the Aurora, Colorado movie theater, and 26 at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. (The number of deaths at Sandy Hook likely had more to do with the size of magazines used by the shooter and the ages of the victims.)

Moreover, the most thorough study to date on the availability and presence of firearms by Professor Michael Siegel and two coauthors at Boston University clearly shows that more guns equal more gun deaths, either by suicide or homicide.

In other words, good guys with guns do not diminish gun homicides.

As for the NRA’s fear that universal background checks will lead to a national gun registry, there is already a gun registry. Not by the government. By the NRA!

Another specious argument by the NRA and its cowboy wannabes is that gun ownership is the only deterrent for a tyrannical government. That presumes that hunting rifles, shotguns, handguns and semi-automatic assault weapons could deter a government military with tanks, fighter jets, bombers, attack helicopters and drones. Besides, if you’re so fearful of our democratically-elected government that you’re watching the skies for the black helicopters, you should just go ahead and join the Sovereign Citizens movement, renounce your US citizenship and move abroad. You’re too paranoid and too dumb to remain in the US!

It only took 17 mass shootings in Australia before the Australian government banned semi-automatic weapons and most other guns. We have nearly that many mass shootings a year and we can’t even pass universal background checks. Are we that much different than our Aussie friends?

Scandalrama!

As the Teapublican House, led by witch-hunter-in-chief, Darrell Issa, looks under every rug and in every nook and cranny for dirt on Fast & Furious, Benghazi, Tea Party applications for non-profit status, the NSA, and anything else that can be used as a hammer against the Obama administration, the real work of Congress languishes.

The House still has not resolved the federal budget and the debt ceiling. It has not yet brought sanity to the nonsensical sequester cuts. It has not proposed a single bill to create jobs and lower unemployment. It has not proposed a bill to rebuild and modernize our infrastructure. It has not yet passed a bill to reduce or eliminate the waiting time for veterans’ benefits. It has not yet passed an immigration bill.

The House has not considered tax reform to eliminate loopholes that would prevent multinational corporations to stash cash in offshore tax havens. It has not passed a bill to end the senseless gun violence. It has not passed a bill to close loopholes in background checks or to control the straw buyers who provide guns to gangs and drug cartels. It hasn’t even proposed a solution for climate change caused by increasing CO2 emissions.

Teapublican congressional representatives have largely ignored all substantive issues. Instead, they have focused on trumped-up “scandals,” the repeal of “Obamacare” and a myriad of restrictive social issues all revolving around women’s vaginas. As always, they seem fascinated by the “evils” of sexual orientation and the rights of the unborn.

Meanwhile, they ignore the rights and the needs of the already living.