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Emily Tess Katz   |   June 27, 2014   12:22 PM ET

While country superstar Miranda Lambert may not "preach guns," she certainly knows how to use them.

During a HuffPost Live appearance Thursday, Lambert talked about her experience shooting, which began at home during her formative years.

"My dad was a police officer my whole life," she told host Ricky Camilleri. "And so he'd come home and lay a gun on the coffee table, and he taught me early on what a gun is used for, how to use a gun."

Lambert recounted that she feels safe being around guns as a result of her early exposure.

"I had a BB gun when I was like, five. It's just part of our life," she said. "I never preach guns one way or the other -- this is the way I grew up."

And for those who were wondering, Lambert's been known to school husband and fellow country singer Blake Shelton when they head to the shooting range.

"I'm a better shot than Blake, I will say that," she laughed. "With a gun. He's better with a bow."

Watch Miranda Lambert's full conversation with HuffPost Live below:

  |   June 26, 2014    5:57 PM ET

A federal judge upheld gun restrictions in Colorado on Thursday, throwing out a lawsuit aimed at overturning the state's new gun laws, Fox 31 and the AP report.

U.S. District Judge Marcia Krieger upheld restrictions that limit the size of ammunition magazines and expand background checks on firearms sold online and between private parties, according to the AP.

Many of Colorado's sheriffs had refused to enforce the gun laws, despite a December 2013 ruling -- also from Krieger -- that said the sheriffs don't have legal standing to challenge the laws in their official capacity.

HuffPost reported earlier on the gun laws:

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) signed a package of new gun control measures into law in 2013, including universal background checks and the ammunition magazine limit. Support for the new gun laws resulted in the first-ever recall election in state history, which ousted two Democrats -- Senate President John Morse (Colo. Springs) and state Sen. Angela Giron (Pueblo).

A third recall effort against another Democrat, state Sen. Evie Hudak (Westminster), over her support of the gun control legislation, resulted in her resignation in November.

Below, more from the AP:

In a ruling Thursday, U.S. District Judge Marcia Krieger said both laws are constitutional and that they don't infringe on individuals' right to bear arms.

The judge further said that limiting magazine sizes doesn't obstruct individuals' ability to protect themselves and that the expansion of background checks "is no more severe" than the requirements already in place before the new law.

Democrats passed the laws last year without Republican support.

Gun rights advocates and county sheriffs filed the lawsuit.

Democrats passed the laws in response to mass shootings in 2012 at a suburban Denver movie theater and Connecticut's Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Let's Call 'Open Carry' Gun Gangs What They Are

Bob Cesca   |   June 26, 2014    3:27 PM ET

On Monday, the Houston chapter of Open Carry Texas had originally planned an armed march into the Fifth Ward, a predominantly African-American community. The group canceled the event because, they say, one of the members was committed to a previously scheduled event elsewhere.

Canceling the march was probably fortuitous because what could possibly have gone wrong? A gaggle of white, paleoconservative rednecks with military-style rifles strapped to their chests marching through an African-American neighborhood is never a recipe for harrowing consequences.

But seriously, while they're not in line with the traditional definition of "terrorists," the various open carry gangs popping up in shopping center parking lots, Target stores and all points in between need to face more intensive scrutiny for deliberately inciting fear among bystanders.

Imagine in the days and weeks following the Boston Marathon bombing, a group of self-proclaimed "constitutionalists" decided to exercise their right to assemble at a high school track and field event with backpacks filled with pressure cookers. There's nothing inherently illegal about it, is there? Or imagine if following 9/11 a group of Muslim citizens walked into a random public place carrying box cutters and shouting, "Allahu Akbar!" It's extraordinarily difficult to see the difference between these examples and, in the wake of ongoing mass shootings and other less heinous though still terrifying shootings in schools, shopping malls and movie theaters, groups of, shall we say, odd-looking white guys marching into department stores and Starbucks restaurants armed to the teeth with AR-15s, the Sandy Hook weapon. Really, is there any difference at all? It's doubtful the pressure-cooker or box-cutter "protesters" would be allowed to get away with such activities. So, why are the open carry gangs getting a free pass?


The First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees "the right of the people peaceably to assemble." Naturally, then, there's nothing wrong with peaceably assembling and protesting, but much like anti-abortion protesters gathered near a grade school playground with giant placards featuring images of aborted fetuses, or Code Pink protesters accosting public officials with blood-red hands and, inexplicably, giant puppets, there are some forms of protest that go too far.

That said, Code Pink and the anti-abortion groups aren't (necessarily) armed.

However, carrying loaded -- or even unloaded -- military-style weapons that are intentionally designed to look like props from a Michael Bay movie goes light years beyond peaceably protesting and merges into being ominous, sneering intimidation of innocent people, shoppers and so forth. There's absolutely nothing "peaceable" about assembling while armed with weapons of death. If the only thing keeping intact the peaceable aspect of the open carry protests is that they haven't yet discharged one or more of their AR-15s into a crowd, I'm not so sure the First Amendment protects the open carry gangs.

What we're witnessing from these groups should absolutely be considered a form of "terrorism," thinly disguised as a defiant protest in support of the Second Amendment. Make no mistake, like the Bundy radicals, they're itching for a fight. They want to be arrested. They want a nation in which the open carrying of deadly weapons is commonplace -- with the critical downside that once the guns are accepted fashion accessories and the public is desensitized, actual homicidal mass shooters can more successfully blend into crowds without having to conceal a damn thing.

It defies reason that in the wake of these mass shootings gun laws continue to become more permissible, rather than more restrictive. More astonishing is the reality that open carry gatherings in public places, especially in locations where the open carriers aren't welcome, isn't a more contentious issue. The logical endgame here is a society in which every third or fourth white guy you bump into at McDonald's is armed with a retail product that can kill you on the spot. It's growing into a Mad Max movie with fewer shoulder pads and more corporate gathering places. Wait, come to think of it, firearms were banned inside Bartertown. So the metaphor doesn't totally hold up, but you know what I mean.

As with the conspiracy theory nutbars, there's an opportunity to marginalize the open carry gangs before their ridiculous "cause" balloons into societal regularity. There's an opportunity to shame them as extremists who are slowly transforming our public places into Tombstone, Arizona.

Oh, dammit, that's right -- guns were banned in Tombstone, too.

Cross-posted at The Daily Banter.

Click here to listen to the Bubble Genius Bob & Chez Show podcast. Blog with special thanks to Shawn Sukumar.

  |   June 25, 2014    3:06 PM ET

By Mary Wisniewski

CHICAGO, June 25 (Reuters) - The Chicago City Council on Wednesday unanimously approved a law that would allow the resumption of gun sales in the city but with restrictions that require videotaping of purchases and limiting sales to one per month per buyer.

Forty-eight council members voted to approve the ordinance proposed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel after a federal court invalidated the city's long-time ban on gun sales in January.

The law also requires a 72-hour waiting period to purchase handguns in the nation's third largest city and a 24-hour waiting period to purchase rifles and shotguns.

Chicago has been plagued by a gun-related homicide rate that is three times higher than New York's and twice that of Los Angeles.

The court order had given the city six months to come up with its own gun store policies.

Under the new ordinance, gun store employees have to undergo background checks and sellers need to prepare quarterly inventory audits and make store records available for police inspection. Gun sales are prohibited within 500 feet of schools.

Emanuel called the ordinance "tough, smart and enforceable."

Emanuel has stressed the need to strictly control gun sales within the bounds of the court order.

"The level of violence is unacceptable in this city," Alderman Bob Fioretti said in support of the ordinance.

The Illinois State Rifle Association, a gun rights group, has said the restrictions will make it too difficult for anyone to open a Chicago gun store. (Reporting by Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Jim Loney and Bill Trott)

8 Things Guns Compensate For (Besides Your Penis)

The Second City Network   |   June 24, 2014    7:13 PM ET

By John Loos

It's hard out here for a P.I.M.P.H. (person inclined to be macho and pack heat). You love your gun more than you love Christmas, and your nontraditional love is protected by the Second Amendment, yet it seems like everyone hates guns and hates you for owning them -- that and it feels like every other day Obama is launching elaborate, highly coordinated, perfectly acted false-flag mass shootings to trick the public into thinking we have a gun problem (this from the same government that misspells both your first and last name on your tax return, Bolb Johnqson).

Let's face it: Guns are used for a lot of valid reasons: hunting, protecting the homestead, protecting yourself, party tricks at your Uncle Carl's house, backing you up in case you run into trouble in that strip-mall Chipotle full of middle-school cheerleaders.

I think it's also fair to acknowledge that guns have a huge symbolic significance for many owners. They're not only a weapon; they're a lifestyle choice, a tool to help compensate for things we may be personally lacking.

The joke is that the bigger the gun, the tinier the penis, and while that may be absolutely, 100-percent true in every single case, there are other things guns compensate for. Here are eight of them.

8. Your lack of claws, sharp teeth, and the ability to run faster than your prey.

Humans are oh-so-weak. Even Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson would lose in a fight with a really small lion. Your fingernails can't even pick old Scotch tape off the wall, let alone rip the throat out of a deer. Your teeth bother you when the coffee is too hot or the Chunky Monkey is too cold. And the last time you ran more than eight steps, it ended it a gnarly calf cramp and vomit tinged with Jalapeño Popper Doritos. We can't kill shit without guns. Guns help us kill animals! Top of the food chain! Rarrr!

7. The fact that Rhonda took everything.

That she-demon from hell took the house, the Dodge Ram, the first four seasons of NCIS, the kids, your cat Buckshot, the grill that she never used once, your pride, your confidence, your goddamn soul, your manhood (which she kept in a jar on top of the fridge for the duration of your marriage), and the Pampered Chef pizza stone. Rhonda fucked you over big-time and left you a hollow shell of a man with a card table for a coffee table in your small-town apartment.

But she didn't take your gun.

"You're a child!" she said. No, you're a stud. Bang, bang, bang, Clint Eastwood, bang, bang, stud. Look how strong you look while you're brandishing your gun for your latest YouTube video about being a stud! One hundred six views! Rhonda can't take those away from you!

6. The fact that no one thinks you are special.

Man, these days it seems like everyone except straight white men is being celebrated: gays, racial minorities, trans individuals. Has everyone forgotten how bad-ass straight white men are? Does the name Rowdy Roddy Piper mean nothing anymore?

Maybe your gun will remind them how powerful you are. Yeah, you were in the driver's seat for several millennia, at the expense of everyone else. And yeah, racial minorities have had a few decades of perceived equality, and gays a few years, and trans folk about 11 days. But they've had enough fun. It's your turn again, damnit!

5. The fact that you can't do a pull-up.

Why would you need to pull yourself up to an iron bar when you can just shoot it off the wall and let it fall down to you? That's how a real man exercises.

4. Your laziness.

Back in the day, to stand your ground and kill someone, you had to get up, walk over to them, shove some heavy iron blade into their body five or six times, go wash off all the blood in a stream half a mile away, and then spend hours resharpening your blade. That was effing exhausting.

Now you can just drive by someone's house and take care of business while one hand's wrist-deep in a bag of pork rinds. Guns make you a bad-ass with as little effort as possible, which is what being an American is all about. The only way you'd give up your gun is if someone invented a button on your remote that immediately made your enemies and minorities who frighten you explode.

3. Your demeaning job at a big-box store.

Let's review: You can't do a pull-up, Rhonda took everything, you hate leaving the couch and you work for minimum wage in the warehouse of an exploitative big-box store, moving bulk tampons and adult diapers back and forth, because the steel mill in your small town closed and took all the good jobs to China. Your horrible job is absolutely antithetical to being a Man. Your boss is even a Hispanic woman, which is clearly Obama's fault. You need something to remind yourself that you have a big, hairy, low-hanging sack and are the manliest thing to happen since Charles Bronson last took a shit. Guns? Guns.

2. The fact that you played a cumulative 47 seconds in four years of high-school football.

Yet this week alone you've played 47 hours of Call of Duty. #WarIsSoF*ckingHotOhGodI'mGonna... #EverybodyAintAble

1. The fact that you can't find the can opener.

Gotta get that can of baked beans open somehow, right, Uncle Carl? Stand back and watch this!

This post originally appeared on The Second City Network.

Gun Owners Ease Off Buying Binge, Not So Worried About Washington Anymore

Marina Fang   |   June 24, 2014    3:35 PM ET

WASHINGTON -- Gun nuts are calling the National Rifle Association's bluff.

After a year and a half of stockpiling weapons and ammunition, a buying binge that sent gun company stocks soaring, weapons enthusiasts seem to have realized that President Barack Obama and his allies in Congress are not, in fact, going to take away their guns.

The push to expand background checks for gun purchases, launched after the massacre of children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012, fell short in the Senate and was never taken up in the House, but it helped fuel the buying binge, which continued with the news that former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg planned to spend millions to push gun control. The paranoia was stoked by the NRA and the gun industry itself, which benefited from fears that the Second Amendment was in peril.

But even the most paranoid gun buyers are starting to understand that Washington will be unable to do anything anytime soon to stem the flow of school shootings -- of which there have been 74 since Sandy Hook.

Now, a leading gun manufacturer's stock is sliding as the demand for guns is expected to decline.

In its financial report released last Thursday, Smith & Wesson reported a 4.6 percent decline in profits for its fourth quarter, compared to last year. The company is also predicting lower demand for the coming year.

According to, financial analysts think that fears of tighter gun legislation have stalled, which is leading to fewer people buying guns.

"Demand for modern sporting rifles has fallen off significantly following the post-Newton [sic] legislation-driven demand and the ensuing post-surge period," said Chris Krueger, an analyst at Lake Street Capital Markets, in a note to clients. "Long gun sales will decline about 25 percent in FY2015 and become a smaller percentage of Smith & Wesson's sales."

Dean Lockwood, a weapons systems analyst at the market research firm Forecast International, told The Huffington Post that gun owners "have gotten over the panic buying stage and are back to a more normal level."

"Because of all the political furor, there was a huge spike in purchases in guns and ammunition. There were major retailers who could literally not keep things on the shelves -- people were buying things as soon as they put them out there. And that has since eased up. I don't know if you want to say people have gotten their fill, but the panic has subsided somewhat," he said.

Lockwood noted that gun sales are typically volatile based on political conditions.

"We're starting to see the ebb in the ebb and flow of sales. The gun industry is especially susceptible, given the politics of it, and you will see spikes and then it will ease off, spikes and then it will ease off," he said.

"It doesn't take much for another spike, another panic," Lockwood added. "You could have one announcement -- boom, we're right back. It's that sort of situation. Don't think of it as a rounded bell curve. Think of it as [a] spike and then gradual valley from there, because that's the way it tends to run."

However, he noted that the gun industry also relies on brand loyalty, which can help stabilize the market. In that sense, he thinks Smith & Wesson's sales decline is fairly inconsequential and "a blip on the radar in the grand scheme of things."

"Smith & Wesson knows that they'll have customers who will always buy Smith & Wesson. It's that sort of loyalty that drives them and sustains them. As long as they can maintain the quality of their products, there's going to be a market," he said.

Smith & Wesson reported record profits for fiscal year 2014, and overall its stock has risen dramatically over the last year. The company's financial success has been bolstered by rising handgun sales for self-defense purposes and an increase in state concealed-carry legislation. According to The Wall Street Journal, the company has been focusing on a new line of lightweight pistols that can be stowed inside a small purse or a pocket.

Georgia Gun Carry Law

Jeff Danziger   |   June 23, 2014    1:21 PM ET


Why Don't Physicians Talk About Guns? It's Not Only About NRA Intimidation

Mike Weisser   |   June 23, 2014   11:25 AM ET

The NRA decided years ago that there's no seat at the table for physicians when the committee hearing or the funding agency gets together to talk about guns. They don't even want physicians talking to their own patients about guns and they certainly don't want the Surgeon General ever to say anything about guns. But while such aggrieved nonsense may play well with the NRA faithful, particularly repeated by a putative presidential candidate, those who live in the real world know that we all need a physician when it comes time to make critical decisions about our health.

One of the critical health decisions for which people might need medical counsel is whether or not to carry a gun. Now I know that the pistoleros who spend every vacation sharpening their skills at shoot-em-up amusement parks like Gunsite or Thunder Ranch don't need help deciding whether their eye-hand coordination will let them emerge victorious from the fray, but there must be plenty of people among the eight million Americans now holding Concealed Carry (CCW) privileges who don't have the physical or mental dexterity that handling a lethal weapon requires.

Even though a majority of now states issue CCW on a "shall" (required) rather than a "may" (discretionary) basis, there are hardly any states that do not grant the official issuing CCW the authority to deny a permit if the applicant, regardless of legal background, might use a weapon to endanger himself or someone else. The NRA would probably say that one of their local members should be consulted in cases like this, but you and I know that the licensing authorities will turn to a physician because a doctor is the only professional they can really trust.

But this brings up a little problem. Because it turns out that many physicians don't trust themselves to make competency decisions about whether people should own or carry guns. The American College of Physicians conducted a poll which revealed that two-thirds of its members didn't counsel their patients on firearms because they didn't know enough about how to treat patients at risk for misusing their guns. A similar poll conducted by the American College of Emergency Physicians in 2013 said the same thing.

We now have a new poll that asked physicians in North Carolina whether they felt comfortable responding to requests from county sheriffs who needed to verify the physical or mental competency of someone wanting to carry a gun. This poll, of whom one-third of the respondents indicated they owned guns, found that 60 percent of the physicians did not feel they could "adequately assess" whether their patient was physically capable of carrying and using a concealed gun, and nearly 50 percent felt they could not determine CCW competency on mental grounds. As for those who think that the medical profession has been cowed into submission by the lunacies of a self-certified Kentucky opthamologist and a small, pro-gun fringe, a majority of the respondents did not believe that the doctor-patient relationship would suffer if they didn't certify the patient as being fit to carry a gun.

The real knowledge deficit created by defunding CDC gun research is not whether guns are a medical risk. The bigger issue is the fact that, when confronted with a patient possibly at risk to commit (or be the victim of) gun violence, many physicians don't know what to say or do. Now that the American Medical Association has just endorsed the idea of medically-accredited gun violence education, perhaps the gap will begin to close. And if anyone out there thinks their physician is now their enemy because he wants to talk about guns, perhaps you should make an appointment for your next checkup with Doctor Rand Paul.

Andres Jauregui   |   June 22, 2014    9:09 AM ET

Florida Governor Rick Scott signed into law Friday an extension of the state's controversial "Stand Your Ground" law, which would cover warning shots.

According to Newsy, the bill was written with the case of Marissa Alexander in mind. Alexander, 33, was found guilty of aggravated assault and sentenced to 20 years in prison after firing what her defense claimed was a warning shot at the husband during a domestic dispute. An appellate court later overturned her conviction and ordered a retrial.

In a statement, Alexander's lawyers said they "are grateful for the governor's actions," according to ABC News. Prosecutors say the law won't help Alexander because it won't be applied retroactively, and there's evidence that suggests the shot she fired was not a warning.

"The new law, as it stands now, allows you to claim immunity from prosecution if you used or threatened deadly force," Attorney Anthony Rickman told WTVT. "The problem was that under Florida's Stand Your Ground laws, as it was originally, it only allowed you to use that defense if you used actual deadly force."

But gun owners interviewed by the station expressed concern that the law will allow people to pull out their guns and start shooting whenever they feel threatened.

"Bullets have to go somewhere," Jason Collazo told WTVT. "It's going to endanger people whether they're firing into the air, into the ground, at a tree, they don't know if that surface is going to ricochet, so it's just not well thought out."

Alexander is awaiting a retrial.

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Igor Bobic   |   June 21, 2014    3:06 PM ET

On Friday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) signed a bill that prohibits schools from disciplining students who play with simulated weapons, The Miami Herald reported.

Lawmakers approved the so-called "Pop-Tart" bill after an 8-year-old Maryland boy earned a suspension for biting a Pop-Tart into the shape of a gun last year.

The boy later received a lifetime membership to the National Rifle Association, which supported the legislation.

State Sen. Greg Evers (R), who sponsored the legislation, said it would prevent situations "where you chew a Pop-Tart into the shape of a gun and you are expelled" from school, according to the Herald.

Asked if any similar incidents had occurred in Florida, Evers cited a student who was expelled in his district.

"Two kids were sitting down reading a book and there was a picture of a Wild Wild West show and one person has a gun," he told the Herald in April. "One student tells another student that he's got a cap gun at home that's the same as the one in the picture. The teacher sent him to the principal and he was expelled."

Why Parents Should Always Ask If There's a Gun in the House

Ashlyn Melton   |   June 21, 2014   11:43 AM ET

My son Noah was a social butterfly. Everybody knew who he was, and he loved everybody. If a teacher got a new car, or someone was dating or breaking up, Noah knew. People just shared information with him. And he loved having friends over and spending the night at friends' houses.

He would have been 16 this past Wednesday. We visit his grave on his birthday and have pizza and cake.


On the night of December 30, 2011, Noah was shot and killed by his best friend with one of the four guns the friend had laying in his bedroom. They were not locked. The friend picked up the gun and was "playing" around and pulled the trigger. That "playful" action destroyed my life and created a sorrow in me that will never go away.

I'm not even sure that other people completely understand what it feels like to bury your child. Especially when it wasn't because of anything he did or anything you did. It was because of someone else's irresponsibility and poor judgment.

Here's how I found out. I got a call in the middle of the night to go check on the boys. I didn't know that meant something bad had happened until I got closer to the house and saw the yellow caution tape, the ambulance and the police officers out front. I went into shock, which is a good thing, since I couldn't absorb all of the trauma at once. Instead, my body and my mind slowly became aware that I was getting the worst news of my entire life.

...Continued: Read the rest of this post on, where it first appeared.

Ashlyn Melton's 13-year old son, Noah, died in 2011 from an unintentional shooting. She is a spokesperson for the ASK Campaign, Asking Saves Kids, a campaign created by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence in collaboration with the American Academy of Pediatrics. National ASK Day is June 21 and reminds parents and caregivers of the importance of asking if there are unlocked or loaded guns in the homes where children play.

Samantha Lachman   |   June 19, 2014    3:46 PM ET

Clint Didier, a tea party-backed Republican and former Washington Redskins player, announced Thursday that he would be giving away three guns to raise his profile among a crowded field vying to succeed retiring Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.).

Didier, who has support from the National Republican Congressional Committee, is tapping into one of this cycle's hottest conservative campaign gimmicks with his contest.

Many of the Republicans who have raffled off guns seemed to relish the opportunity to tout their Second Amendment rights in the wake of shootings in Aurora, Colorado and in Newtown, Connecticut.

However, the email-grabbing tactic isn't terribly successful at the ballot box: neither state Sen. Lee Bright (R-S.C.) nor Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) won their respective Republican Senate primaries.

Below is a round-up of some of the current (and former) candidates using guns to attract new supporters.

Guys With Guns

John Feffer   |   June 19, 2014    9:07 AM ET

Back in the 1950s, the far right-wing John Birch Society worried that Communists were secretly behind the fluoridation of the American drinking water. This particular conspiracy theory probably would have vanished into collective amnesia if it hadn't been so pointedly satirized -- and thus immortalized -- in the film Dr. Strangelove.

I have to say, however, that I am tempted by such crackpot notions when confronted by the heart-breaking headlines these days. The violence that is escalating all around us seems to defy explanation. All I can think is that someone has dumped a different substance, testosterone, into our drinking water. How else to explain all the recent shootings, including ones by a frustrated virgin at UC Santa Barbara, an extremist couple in Las Vegas, and an ultra-religious teenager outside of Portland, Oregon?

According to the FBI, the United States experienced five mass killings a year between 2000 and 2008. Since 2009, however, we've gone up to 16 such killings a year. The FBI defines a "mass killing" as an incident in which more than four people are killed. The Las Vegas and Portland killings don't even qualify.

Since the shooters all seem to act from different motives, it's hard to come up with a single explanation for this rising tide of violence. Perhaps it's just the convergence of massive amounts of weaponry, loose gun laws, a broken mental health system, ultraviolent video games and TV shows, and rising anti-government sentiment. Perhaps by some law of conservation of violence, the United States draws down its large-scale military engagements overseas and the aggression rises on the home front. Perhaps it's just the copycat element.

But there's considerable appeal in a crackpot theory that allows you to believe that everything is fine with society, except for one evil group of people (the Koch brothers), one malign institution (the NRA), or one dastardly act (pumping a male sex hormone associated with uncontrollable anger into the drinking supply).

Of course, it's not just the United States. Someone has obviously been putting something into the water in eastern Ukraine as well. There was a striking photo in The Washington Post a few weeks ago. It showed a group of pro-Russian sympathizers at a rally in eastern Ukraine. There wasn't a woman in sight. And nearly all the men had the same male-pattern baldness -- characteristic of high levels of testosterone.

Perhaps Russian President Vladimir Putin himself, who seems to have a private stash of the stuff, ordered the male sex hormone to be dumped into the drinking water of eastern Ukraine (along with dispatching mercenaries, materiel, and money to help the separatists). What started out as an almost comical uprising of the disgruntled has turned into a bloody civil war.

With the death toll rising into the hundreds, the new Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko has vowed to pursue peace negotiations with the rebels. But first he wants to secure the borders. Russia has offered its own ceasefire plan at the UN. And on the ground, fighting has damaged a pumping station in Donestsk, threatening the water supply to 4 million people. Whatever's in the water, there might be a whole lot less of it very soon, precipitating a humanitarian crisis.

All along the Russian-leaning separatists in Ukraine have called into question the legitimacy of the government in Kiev. When they occupied buildings in eastern Ukraine, they compared their actions to what the protestors in Kiev had done to oust the corrupt president, Viktor Yanukovych.

This is a false equivalence. Among the many differences between what is taking place now in eastern Ukraine and what took place back in February in the capital city, the biggest has to do with gender and guns. The Euromaidan protestors included a large number of women -- older women holding signs that read simply "Mama," younger women who took to Twitter and YouTube to build support, even a women's self-defense unit -- and it was predominantly (though not exclusively) non-violent. The separatists in the east are armed, and they are predominantly men.

The imbalance is only growing. Women and children are fleeing the fighting in eastern Ukraine. It's not so easy for the men to go, however. "It's hard for the men to get out," one of the escaping women told The Washington Post. "The Donetsk People's Republic say women and children can go. But they pull men off the buses and say they should stay to protect Slovyansk."

Meanwhile in Iraq, the guys with guns are really going at it. The extremist group ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and Levant -- elsewhere rendered ISIS, for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) has taken over a large swath of northern Iraq and begun to merge it with the sections of Syria that it controls. These particular militants are purists on the issue of gender and violence. The Sunni gunmen of ISIL are exclusively male and committed to using violence to secure as much territory as possible for their mini-caliphate. According to the rules ISIL has disseminated, women must stay at home, unless absolutely necessary. Shia militias have quickly mobilized volunteers to defend Baghdad and other Shia-dominated areas as Iraq finally fractures along sectarian lines. Expect a stalemate as one set of guys with guns squares off against another set of guys with guns.

And the biggest guy with a gun of them all, the U.S. government, is contemplating air strikes against ISIL. An aircraft carrier is in position, and the Pentagon can draw on air power at bases in Qatar, Kuwait, and elsewhere. Although ISIL is a horrifying group of guys with guns, air strikes will likely be ineffective. It's very difficult to attack a group of irregulars who can blend in with the population. So, air strikes will likely result in large numbers of civilian casualties, which would only swell the number of potential recruits for ISIL.

It's always tempting to drink whatever they're drinking -- but the Obama administration should just politely refuse. Defining ISIL not as terrorists bent on attacking the United States but, rather, a "sectarian militia waging a civil war, puts the emphasis on where it needs to be: finding an integrated political-military solution to the internal Iraqi problems that sparked the civil war," writes Kenneth Pollack at Brookings. "And that is a set of problems that is unlikely to be solved by immediate, direct American attacks on the Sunni militants."

Sending more guys with guns into a situation dominated by guys with guns is a recipe for failure, as the military interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq have amply demonstrated. The Obama administration seems to have learned that lesson to some extent. No U.S. ground troops are slated for Iraq or Ukraine (though Washington is sending a contingent to protect the U.S. embassy in Baghdad and has promised more military presence in Europe as a deterrent). But the administration must endure the pleadings from both right and center to "do something." Diplomacy is never seen as doing something. Doing something almost always seems to involve guys with guns.

As with gun violence on the home front, the United States should be pursuing an obvious policy: reduce the number of guns going into the hands of guys. But the obvious policy is not so obvious to those in power (or, in the case of the arms lobby, those with power). The best we've managed are some regulations that affect the flow of arms in marginal ways. At home, you have to go through a background check -- though people who would obviously fail such a check can just go to a gun show in most states and buy a weapon there.

Abroad, we have the Leahy Law, a 1997 initiative to stop the flow of U.S. arms to known human rights violators. The law is an admirable effort to apply a kind of background check to all the many would-be purchasers of U.S. weapons. It has only been successfully applied to a minority of cases -- less than 1 percent of all candidates for assistance.

As with domestic gun control legislation, even the modest Leahy Law has generated pushback from the suppliers. The latest case involves the Nigerian army, which the Pentagon wants to help go after that other group of guys with guns, Boko Haram, the extremist organization that continues to hold on to a couple hundred schoolgirls it abducted more than two months ago. Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Ed Royce recently called for a waiver of the Leahy Law so that the United States could provide more assistance to the Nigerian military. He cited the U.S. military's complains of the law's restrictions. The Pentagon replied that it was actually criticizing the Nigerian military's human rights violations. But the uncomfortable fact is that the Pentagon has indeed publicly complained over having its hands tied.

Another effort to rein in guys with guns has been to reduce the prevalence of wartime rape. A number of world leaders, including Secretary of State John Kerry, convened last week in London to talk about how to prevent rape in conflict. Organizers want, among other things, to establish an international protocol for documenting and investigating sexual violence in conflict zones.

But Musimbi Kanyoro and Serra Sippel, writing in Foreign Policy In Focus this week, point out that the U.S. government can address the problem right away by changing or repealing the Helms amendment, which has been used to prohibit any U.S. funding for abortions overseas. "As a result, most organizations that rely on U.S. aid too often turn their backs when pregnant rape survivors ask for help," they write. "Those health providers are afraid to lose their funding and therefore avoid abortion services and referrals altogether."

Aside from the relatively modest fixes -- strengthen the Leahy Law and deep-six the Helms amendment -- what can the United States do to address all this violence?

We've had wars on drugs, on poverty, on cancer. We've had so many such wars that even our metaphors are now locked and loaded. Meanwhile, the guys with guns continue to wage their very real wars at home and abroad. Before we retire "war as metaphor," however, we should wage one last conflict: a war on guns.

If we can have zero tolerance for poverty, surely we can mobilize the public behind zero tolerance for assault weapons. We won't be able to eliminate murder -- Cain didn't need a semi-automatic to kill his brother -- but we'll surely reduce mass murder. Even if someone does manage to slip steroids into the water supply, male rage will not result in large-scale, indiscriminate killing. The same should apply to our arms export policy. The government should be making it more difficult to sell weapons overseas -- not facilitating those exports, as the Obama administration has done.

Our bodily fluids are indeed precious, as General Jack D. Ripper says in Dr. Strangelove. It's just too bad we've made it so easy to acquire the guns that can be used to spill those fluids.

Crossposted with Foreign Policy In Focus.

You Have Seconds to Decide: Is the Guy With the Gun a Danger to Your Family?

Jeri Bonavia   |   June 17, 2014    5:44 PM ET

The sun is shining and you've decided to soak it all in at the local public park. Maybe you're in the mood for grilling out or for taking your dog on a walk. Or maybe, like thousands of families across Wisconsin and throughout America, you're bringing your child to the park to play on the swings and slides, just like you did as a kid.

That sounds like the perfect summer afternoon. Until you see one of these guys.


One of them is wanted for shooting and killing three police officers. The other is just parading around with a gun because he can -- because current law allows him to bring loaded, military-style assault rifles almost anywhere he wants.

How do you know who's who? The blunt truth is, you can't know. And in the time it takes you to evaluate the danger, the gunman could open fire just like we've seen recently in Santa Barbara and Las Vegas.

Across Wisconsin, and around the country, people are faced with this terrifying situation because more and more extremists, armed to the teeth, are showing up everywhere from our parks and playgrounds to coffee shops and Target stores.

But the problem gets worse. Even if these are just "good guys with guns," you're not safe, and no child playing nearby is either.

Sure, responsible gun owners believe they pose no threat. But accidents happen. Mistakes happen. And when guns are involved, accidents and mistakes can lead to tragedy.

Within the last few weeks, a man in Janesville, Wisconsin didn't realize he had dropped his gun in a softball field at a park. A child found the loaded weapon. And a woman, walking her dog at a dog park in Jefferson County, Wisconsin, was wounded when she accidentally fired her gun while tucking it back into her waistband. As more guns are allowed into more public spaces, this certainly won't be the last accident, and it won't be the worst.

Knowing that a simple mistake could be deadly, would you want your child sharing the playground with this man?


My childhood memories of summer are about family cookouts and games of catch. My parents didn't have to worry about protecting us from senseless and preventable shootings. That's how it should be.

No child should have to share the playground with grown, armed men, and no parent should have to worry and wonder if the guys with the guns are good or bad, responsible or reckless.

For Wisconsin, and for our entire country, this should be a no-brainer: Guns simply don't belong on our playgrounds and in our parks. If you agree, stand up and say so. Tell your legislators to stop pandering to gun rights extremists and start protecting our kids.