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The NRA's Favorite Doctor Is At It Again

Mike Weisser   |   August 10, 2015    1:47 PM ET

It didn't take seventy-two hours following the publication of a reasoned and respectful JAMA editorial on physicians counseling patients about guns before the self-appointed NRA medical sycophant, Timothy Wheeler, issued his usual pronouncement that doctors represent the enemy when it comes to anything having to do with guns. Actually, I blame the Hospital and Health Networks blog for letting Wheeler crawl out from underneath his proverbial rock, because the truth is that to present him as some kind of medical authority on gun violence is to grant him a level of professional credibility that he doesn't deserve.

The JAMA editorial, co-authored by two noted gun researchers, Drs. Marian Betz and Garen Wintemute, represents a very important step forward in the discussion about doctors and guns. It follows from a "call to action" issued in April by eight professional medical organizations (plus the American Bar Association) that urged physicians to become more engaged in the issue of gun violence, notwithstanding the heavy-handed effort by the gun lobby to legally de-franchise medical professionals from any connection to this issue at all.

The NRA has been pissing and moaning about public health and clinical views on gun violence for more than 20 years, and Wheeler is often quoted whenever relevant research is published and, in time-honored fashion, the media needs a comment from the "other side." I wouldn't mind if Wheeler had ever conducted any research at all to justify his views on guns, but in fact he is a polemicist pure and simple whose pro-gun opinions come right out of the NRA playbook but are delivered with heightened authority because his name is followed by the initials 'M.D.'

His latest salvo, written in response to the JAMA editorial, asserts that, "Physicians get no training in firearm mechanics, safety, or tactics in medical school or residency. They simply are not qualified to counsel patients about firearms." There was a time when physicians didn't focus on health risks like obesity and tobacco companies routinely showed doctors inhaling a Lucky Strike cigarette in their ads. When the medical community decided that enough research had been conducted to classify obesity and tobacco as risks to health, doctors learned how to counsel patients by asking questions and, based on responses, dispensing appropriate medical advice. Wheeler has never attempted to deny the reams of medical research that shows that the risks of gun ownership far outweigh the gains. Instead, he pompously and falsely accuses physicians of using that research to promote a 'political' point of view.

What kind of advice does Wheeler feel is appropriate for doctors to share with patients about guns? You can find the answers in a book he published, Keeping Your Family Safe. Most of the book is devoted to a warmed-over version of NRA training materials that describe how guns work, how they should be cleaned and how they should be stored. Wheeler, incidentally, has absolutely no professional credentials in any of these areas, nor in self-defense laws and self-defense tactics, both of which are covered at length in this book.

I have absolutely no issue with anyone pushing guns as a means of self-defense; what offends me is the notion that guns represent the only or even the most effective way to respond to a possible or actual criminal event. It's not true, and there is no evidence-based research that proves it to be the case. In fact, the latest research demonstrates that using a gun for self-protection is not only a rare event, but is no more effective than other protective actions, such as running away or calling 911.

After medicine took the lead in anti-smoking campaigns, the end result was that one out of two adults who smoked dropped to one out of five. Imagine what would happen to the gun industry if gun ownership followed a similar trend. If Wheeler wants to save the gun industry, he should stop pretending to be a medical expert and do what he does best, which is to figure out ways to sell guns.

The Second Amendment Hatchet Issue

Robert J. Elisberg   |   August 6, 2015    2:17 PM ET

One of the old chestnuts we always hear from the corporate-owned NRA every time there's a mass gun-shooting tragedy is "Guns don't kill people, people kill people." After yesterday's incident at a movie theater in Antioch, Tennessee, however, we now have a far more clear picture of what the reality is.

In the two mass gun shootings at movie theaters in Aurora, Colorado, and Lafayette, Louisiana, there were a total of 14 deaths and 79 injuries. At the movie theater attack in Antioch, where a hatchet was used, a total of zero people were killed.

After most mass gun-shooting tragedies, we tend to hear someone say that "People could just as easily could have been killed with a knife. Or a baseball bat." I think we can now safely say that the phrase "just as easily" should never be used again in this connection.

The next time you hear someone fighting against controlling gun violence, just ask them simply if they would rather have been at the movie theater in Columbine, or the movie theater at Antioch. Or at the movie theater in Lafayette, or the one at Antioch. Or at Sandy Hook Elementary School, or at Antioch. Or inside Columbine High School, or wandering the campus at Virginia Tech, or at the movie theater at Antioch.

My guess is that you're not going to get an answer.

My guess further is that any response that you do get is almost certain to include the phrase, "Yes, but..." But that's just a rambling attempt to change the subject because there's no "Yes, but" here. The question being asked doesn't have any "Yes, but" to it.

The incident at the movie theater in Antioch was terrible. Thank goodness that none of the patrons inside were killed. Or even injured, unless you include being pepper-sprayed. But I'm sure those people count themselves incredibly lucky, given the usual pattern in movie theater attacks like this. However, I do think there is one good thing to come out of what happened yesterday. It's showed as clear as possible that in an incident where there is an attack against a group of people, it is far better if the perpetrator is using a hatchet. Or pepper spray. Or knife. Or baseball bat. Or really pretty much any weapon other than a gun or explosive device.

Just for the sake of perspective, whenever I hear someone say that guns don't kill people, people kill people, I always make sure to correct them and say that the proper phrase is actually, "Guns don't kill people, people with guns kill people."

Because it's clearly a whole lot more difficult with a hatchet.


*

To read more from Robert J. Elisberg about this or many other matters both large and tidbit small, see Elisberg Industries.

Learning to Eat What You Hunt

Bil Hitchcock   |   August 4, 2015    8:11 AM ET

Like most of us I have read about the brave dentist, Walter James Palmer from Bloomington, MN who paid $50,000 to shoot Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe.

It made me think about my father and his parents on an April morning in 1938.
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Daddy grew up on a farm in Louisville, GA. Like a lot of boys who grew up in the rural South, he was given his first shotgun at age 11...April 6, 1938.

For a young boy in the South, this was a coming of age event...a step towards manhood...because guns were needed on the farm.

He knew roughly what he was getting...he and his dad, Gilbert Bell Hitchcock, the man in this picture, a man I called Papa, had visited a store in Louisville, Daddy had looked at various shotguns with him...they had discussed the merits of different models....so he knew he was getting one, just not which one.

April 6th, his 11th birthday dawned. My grandmother, whose first name was Marie, which for some reason was the name Daddy called her, as did I....possibly the best cook in the Southeast, made homemade yeast biscuits so light that they would nearly fly off the plates for every meal. Every meal.

So she had prepared a wonderful breakfast and the three of them sat down to eat and Daddy was presented with his brand-new shotgun. I can picture him, thrilled to be getting it....while Papa explained the rules.

"A gun is a responsibility. When we go in the woods and look for something to shoot, this is something we will be eating. You don't just go out and shoot anything that you see."

Daddy nodded his head. He understood...he really did. He finished breakfast, went outside in the side yard and promptly shot a blue jay. My grandfather, hearing the shot only a couple of feet from the table where he was finishing his breakfast walked outside. There stood Daddy with his new gun...and a blue jay at his feet.

Papa picked the blue jay up.

"Good shot Billy, you have learned well." Papa took the blue jay with him, along with Daddy's new shotgun.

Marie, used to serving just about anything on the table in those dark days of the Great Depression.....rabbits, squirrels, all sorts of birds, often almost anything that could be found in the woods... had never dressed and cooked a blue jay before. But she did it.

Daddy was outside in the barn doing some chores when he was called inside to lunch. Marie had outdone herself with fried chicken, those wonderful biscuits and all sorts of vegetables grown there on the farm. The smells were wonderful and Daddy was starved.

At his plate was the blue jay that he had shot. Fried.

Papa spoke. "That really was a good shot Billy. I am surprised you were able to hit him the very first time you used your new gun. I hope you enjoy lunch."

And so Daddy ate the blue jay, along with a lot of crow, but he had learned a lesson, one that took so well that he told me the story I now tell you many times. Sport hunting is not for real boys or men...you hunt to live, you hunt to put food on the table, and you eat what you shoot. That was the last blue jay Daddy ever shot...and he was a good shot, and helped put many things on his parents' table that they did eat.

It's too bad that Walter James Palmer didn't have parents like Daddy did.

The South Carolina Tragedy, Common Ground, the Entrenched Mind of the Gun Debater and the Path Forward

Eric Korn   |   August 3, 2015   11:32 AM ET

The profane and painful events that occurred in Charleston recently once again bring the issues of firearms rights and appropriate public policy into the forum of public debate, and not without good reason. The crime was senseless, tragic, and horrific. At moments like these we wonder how members of our city on a hill are capable of such atrocities. We blame those with opposing ideological viewpoints for the role that their beliefs played in what we see as a broken system. We create cognitive defenses around our own world-views to defend our closely held, and occasionally incorrect, assumptions about the way the world works. Most saliently, we go on the attack. We simplify complex issues into single-solution silver bullets that are easily consumable on social media, and we fire those simple solutions at all opposition. We consume media that fits our view of the world to the exclusion of differing points of view that may contain more truth than our own, and we commiserate with like-minded compatriots to build defensible cognitive battlements in a vacuum. This pursuit gives us comfort, but it does little to provide durable solutions to complex problems. The tragedy in Charleston is nothing if not societally complex. The relevant dynamics include firearms rights and laws, race relations, issues of mental illness, religion, civil liberties, and a host of other topics on which our fellow citizens are deeply divided. At the center of the debate is the senseless loss of life and a passionate need to pursue policy changes that prevent these types of occurrences in the future.

Full Disclosure

It is worth stating that I am the CEO of one of the larger firearms training organizations in the country, a firearms safety trainer, and a person who carries a firearm for self-defense regularly. This being said, I am also a social scientist who is dedicated to help craft policy that fosters a society where the use of firearms against others is far less necessary. I believe that there are significant areas of commonality that can move the conversation forward, rather than leave us bickering at the same intersection with so much at stake.

Myths About the Gun Community

As a member of the gun community, I can confidently say that no person, even the most staunch firearms supporter, ever wants a situation to arise in which they are forced to use their firearm in self defense. In fact, most of us who carry daily do so because we value our personal security and tend to be far more cautious than the general population about placing ourselves in situations that may require the use of deadly force. We are far from the oft-slanted public perception of the reckless, gun totin' survivalist. More often, we are your mechanic, attorney, nurse, or restaurant owner who is willing to bear the significant burden of carrying a loaded firearm in order to protect ourselves, and those around us.

The Gun Problem

One of the simple scapegoats at a time like this is always the gun. An easy, early thought is "If the perpetrator had not had access to a firearm, surely this horrible course of events would not have happened." It is a simple but powerful argument against private firearms ownership that, when spoken amongst the ideologically congruent, becomes a rallying cry for the pursuit of well-meaning policy change. While this sentiment is not without merit, it fails to give credence to the complexity of the issue. "Let's do away with all the firearms" prematurely ends a needed conversation with the proffering of a nearly logistically impossible task, instead of furthering movement toward a more harmonious dynamic.

Take Away the Guns

There are currently over 250 million firearms in the country, making a broad effort to take them out of private hands nearly impossible. Further complicating any logistical issue is the paradox of the criminal. If measures to collect and destroy firearms were implemented, only the law-abiding element of society would comply en masse. Firearms belonging to criminals would slowly find their way in to the hands of law enforcement, but the process would likely take a hundred years if not more. Even with the goal of taking the amount of firearms in private hands to zero, the criminal element will likely still find ways to manufacture and steal the guns they desire to make their ill mark. The criminal element has always found a way, even in areas with moratoriums on private ownership. If demand were to spike due to sweeping policy that outlawed private ownership of firearms, those desiring to commit crimes for which a firearm would aid them will get what they need by stealing or manufacturing them themselves. What you end up with is a disarmed law abiding populace and a still-armed criminal element.

The Police Will Protect You

With very few exceptions, police forces in the United States are competent and well trained. Mistakes are made, and occasionally systemic issues do arise, but the overwhelming majority of citizens live in jurisdictions where they feel they can trust those that protect them. Without question, it is the goal of every sheriff and police captain to bring crime rates down to zero in their areas of responsibility, however our system is not designed (or budgeted) to allow this to happen.

Police officers operate as a deterrent to crime through their presence, and a solution backed with deadly force when necessary. Their mission is not to protect the singular person, but rather to protect all people under their jurisdiction. The protection of the individual is limited to those who can afford private security and public figures. According to American Police Beat, the average police response time in the US is around ten minutes, while situations when an individual's life is threatened frequently unravel in less than one.

Although very capable, police assistance is frequently too late, assumes that the individual who needs help is able to call for it, and requires that the officers not put themselves in harm's way to assist. Furthermore, reliance on others for protection assumes equal treatment by law enforcement to all races in all areas, an assumption that has come under fire in recent months. As with one's health, or financial well-being, or professional growth, the first line of responsibility for safety has always been, and will always be, oneself. It is not that those tasked with defending you are not willing and able; in most cases they are. The issue is that modern police forces are not funded or designed to protect the average individual at every hour of every day. If they were, civil liberties would be severely constricted, and citizens would be heavily taxed to support a one-to-one ratio of police officers to citizens.

The Common Ground

It is at this point in the evolution of our culture that we need to find what the political parties and media have worked so doggedly to hide from us, our common ground. We agree more than we think we do, and there is too much at stake to give up and walk away.

Passionate partisan bickering in the last two decades has slowly displaced thoughtful public conversation on the topic of firearm rights in the United States. The battle lines are drawn, and entrenched parties who irresponsibly and knowingly dole out inaccurate information in order to defend their position fuel the debate. We are all guilty of reading an irresponsibly written article that points a finger at the other side and allowing it to anger us, despite it being completely wrong or unrepresentative of actual events. Unfortunately, very little thought is given to the significant areas of common ground that exist on the topics of firearms. From both sides of the ideological spectrum, there are commonalities providing confidence that the issues plaguing our society can be dealt with as we move forward.

Unquestionably, individuals on both sides of the aisle agree that mass shootings are intolerable, and need to stop. Additionally, all agree that we wish using firearms in self-defense was unnecessary. Nearly all also agree that firearms are useful in the correct context, but shouldn't be in the hands of individuals intent on committing crime. Finally, nearly all agree that because firearms are to be present in the US, gun safety training is important, whether as an informal passing of knowledge from mother to daughter, or in demonstrable coursework from qualified professionals.

Toward the Solution

It is my sincere desire to live in a society where the individual does not need to be vigilant about their personal safety, but we do not. In fact, one has never existed. We learned as children that it was important to defend ourselves, and the lesson is no less important as adult members of this great society. To move toward a solution where the tragedies such as recently occurred in Charleston happen far less often, we need to strip away the ideological flights of fancy that result in prematurely ending the conversation and talk logically about solving the issue. There are several places to continue the dialogue.

The first conversation concerns the care and custody of the mentally ill. Our growth as a society toward caring for those with psychological struggles has only barely reached its adolescence. We must retool the legal system, which underpins the ability (and financial means) for authorities to retain custody of citizens who are a danger to themselves or others. Our lack of understanding of the treatment of the mentally ill has led our society to simply give up the fight, to the detriment of us all. I don't have all the answers, but I'm sure there are those in the field of mental health care with better solutions than simply giving up on the mental well being of those who need help, many of whom come from the most vulnerable subpopulations in the country. Our system is currently structured to err on the side of the rights offered in the Constitution, and rightfully so, however public policy has not kept up with gains in our ability to determine who among us is a threat to law abiding citizens. An individual willing to commit mass murder upon strangers would almost certainly rise to the level of defined anti-social behavior, although a causal link between mental illness and mass murder with firearms continues to elude researchers (Metzl & MacLeish, 2015). What we know is that many who perpetrate random murders with firearms are mentally ill, but most mentally ill individuals do not commit such acts. This makes it a challenge for us to adopt policy that keeps firearms out of the hands of those who have a high likelihood of using them to commit violence. We could do better, and understanding the mediating social variables present will almost certainly help us get there. More research by our best and brightest, and better access to raw data are necessary, but I am confident that better understanding will help lead to better public policy.

The second conversation regards firearms access, specifically the proper storing of firearms to protect them from those who may use them for criminal reasons. This issue relates to those who gain access to firearms through legal means, such as acquiring them from a friend or family member. We can do a better job of restricting access. To deter individuals from acquiring firearms from familiar sources, gun owners should bear more liability when their gun is used in a crime. If a crime is not committed in order for an unauthorized person to gain access to a firearm that is then used in a crime, the legal owner should then share some of the culpability for the crime. More specifically, unauthorized users should virtually have to commit a crime to gain access to the firearm. If this is not the case, and access is easy, the legal owner should share some of the culpability for the crime. We in the gun community should be responsible for what our firearms are used for unless a crime is committed to gain access to them.

Closing

It is my belief that the vast majority of those on both sides of the firearms argument are far closer to workable solutions than we give ourselves credit for. We will find a solution that makes occurrences like the Charleston tragedy a less common occurrence, but the lines of communication and logical public discourse must remain open.

Appeals Court Gives Gun Industry Reason to Celebrate

Mike Weisser   |   August 2, 2015    8:50 PM ET

It's a red-letter day for the pro-gun community and boy, are they celebrating the news out of the 11th Circuit. From the NRA to the red-meat blogs, let the word go out: Gun owners don't need to worry any more about those 'nosy' doctors taking away their guns. According to the majority decision written by a judge who was appointed to the Federal bench by Richard Nixon, if a physician in Florida asks a patient whether he owns guns, the physician is violating not only the patient's privacy, he's also not delivering "good medical care."

I thought that how a doctor figured out what to do or say to a patient only became a legal issue if the patient's condition following medical treatment turned worse. And if anyone, including a Federal judge, thinks that a physician can get around the privacy injunctions of HIPAA compliance, better the judge should be laying brick.

Want to make a million dollars in the gun business? Start with two million. The only time gun sales ramp up is when a high-profile shooting creates talk about gun control which provokes all the gun nuts to run into gun shops and buy more guns. Am I saying that the gun industry needs a Sandy Hook from time to time to promote sales? That's exactly what I'm saying. If gun violence really disappeared, the NRA would have a hard time selling the idea that every attempt at reasonable gun restrictions was an attack on our God-given right to defend ourselves with a gun.

The Florida gag law is nothing more than an extension of the attempt to push physicians out of the gun debate because their views on the medical risks of guns were cited by supporters of the Brady bill in 1994. Payback was the NRA's attack on CDC-funded gun violence research, a cynical attempt to silence a professional community whose commitment to patient health required speaking out about the risks of gun access, notwithstanding the fact that patients are always free to reject a physician's advice on any issue related to their health. Judge Tjoflat's statement that a patient is "relatively powerless" and "must submit to a physician's authority" may have been true when he was appointed to the Federal bench 45 years ago, but it's utter crap to promote such nonsense in the current digital age. Or perhaps Tjoflat's never heard of Facebook, Twitter or healthgrades.com.

The 11th Circuit's opinion also refers to the issue of privacy, as if asking a patient about guns is a greater threat to personal well-being than asking about using drugs or tobacco at home. All of a sudden, the NRA-supported dopes who go parading around Starbucks with AR rifles in full view suddenly become so reticent when a physician asks them to talk about their guns. And of course the same jerk who doesn't want to disclose gun ownership to a physician will expect, in fact demand, the right to protect himself from being attacked in the physician's office by bringing along his gun.

The leading medical organizations plus the American Bar Association believe that "deaths and injuries related to firearms constitute a major public health problem in the United States." This consensus is not going to change because some judge thinks that doctors should avoid the issue of guns. It took fifty years to reduce smoking from nearly one out of two adults to one out of five. And along the way there was plenty of talk that tobacco wasn't injurious to health. We hear the same nonsense about guns from the NRA and many well-meaning people believe it to be true. Only it's not, and sooner or later, like the Martians in Area 51, the so-called benefits of gun ownership will be understood for what they are -- nothing other than a way to sell more guns.

Free Speech Is No Threat to Gun Ownership

Howard Simon   |   July 31, 2015    6:14 PM ET

Doctors and medical personnel throughout Florida will soon be under new orders: Talk to your patients about gun safety and risk losing your right to practice medicine.

Two federal judges, who last year ruled that "patient-privacy" and gun ownership trump freedom of speech, again upheld the gag order on doctors and medical personnel that will go into effect on August 4 -- unless a further appeal is filed.

The "Florida Firearms Owners Privacy Act," signed by Gov. Rick Scott, directs medical personnel to refrain from asking patients about firearm ownership; entering information about firearm ownership into the patient's medical record; "discriminat[ing]" against a patient on the basis of firearm ownership, or "unnecessarily harass[ing] a patient about firearm ownership." Violation is grounds for disciplinary action by the Department of Health, including fines, suspension or even revocation of a medical license.

The Legislature passed the Act, strongly supported by the National Rifle Association (NRA), in response to one complaint from a constituent who said her doctor asked questions about firearm ownership and safety she didn't want to answer.

This law was challenged by a number of prominent physicians. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida, representing several county medical societies and child welfare organizations, supported the challenge. We argued that the law unconstitutionally restricts free speech, hampering the ability of medical personnel to protect the health and safety of patients and their families. The District Court declared the law unconstitutional, but, in a 2-1 decision, the same appellate judges who issued this week's ruling overturned the lower court.

This cannot be the end of the story.

Florida legislators have lost their way on the issue of guns. There is a constitutional right (both state and federal) to own a gun. I get it! But the Second Amendment doesn't trump the First Amendment: The two are not even in conflict.

This is a conflict contrived by the NRA. They should be as strong on gun safety as they are on defending the right to own and possess a weapon. Talking about gun safety is no threat to gun ownership.

Guns, especially in a home with children, are a public health concern. Doctors need to encourage their safe storage to protect families. Given the number of accidental shootings when a child finds an unsecured gun or even brings the weapon to school, offering advice on firearm safety is the duty of every medical practitioner.

It is sad that two of the four federal judges who have looked at this law are so stuck on the gun ownership issue they can't appreciate the public safety concern.

The NRA's claim that doctors are exercising an anti-gun "political agenda" is an insult to every member of the medical profession. It is the duty of physicians to nudge you about any behavior that could cause harm to you -- or your children. When a doctor meets new patients, there are questions that are routinely asked: Do you use a child safety seat? Do you have a fence around your pool to prevent accidental drownings? Do you smoke in the presence of children, inflicting second-hand smoke on your children who then may end up tethered to an oxygen tank in 20 years with COPD?

"Do you safely store guns out of the reach of children?" is as much a part of the routine public health and safety concerns of doctors as any of these.

If this law is not struck down and actually inhibits doctors from advising patients on keeping weapons safely out of the reach of children, it could be dangerous -- especially for the children of Florida.

Shooting Our Mouths Off

John A. Tures   |   July 30, 2015    3:06 PM ET

Nationwide, we mourn the victims of the Lafayette Theater shooting. It is a particularly sad time for people in West Georgia and East Alabama who knew the shooter, and have to come to grips with someone they know perpetrating such a deed.

Yet some want to keep the hate that helped fuel Rusty Houser going.

I received an email from a person that came from a nationwide source today. The nationwide sender, obviously, hasn't received the memo yet that words are being used to fuel lone wolf terrorism actions. He wrote:


Many consider government bureaucrats the most serious issue confronting us because they make regulations that are tantamount to laws, they're like a cancer that grows and consumes to exist, they're almost impossible to "kill" (thanks to public service unions which makes it almost impossible to fire one of them), and a host of other reasons.

Bureaucrats may be a lot of things, positive and negative, but never a "cancer" that needs to be "killed." If you disagree, it's time to examine your rhetoric.

Hate led Dylann Roof to the Confederate flag, posing with it (as well as South African and Rhodesian apartheid regimes) before announcing he was trying to start a race war by killing a pastor and state legislator, as well as a bible study group.

The killer of the Chattanooga military recruiters was fueled by online Islamic hate groups, who are no more representative of Islam as a whole than Roof is of most groups that support keeping the flag at Civil War memorials and battle sites.

And hatred drove Houser, with many antigovernment rantings, a charge of arson involved with trying to stop pornography theater, and a loathing of liberals, to kill two females at a Hollywood comedy aimed at women, after calling America a "filth farm."

Now most of you are thinking this is an anti-conservative rant. It isn't. Sure Houser tried to associate himself with local conservative groups. But that's nothing like how local conservatives have acted toward me; they treat me with respect. I was even invited to moderate a TEA Party debate for an open state legislator seat, which I did. It's the way things should be.

Houser clearly didn't find a lot of local sympathy for his extreme message of hate. But there's plenty out there nationwide. A leading Jade Helm 15 protester announced he can't wait to "kill thousands of liberals. An extremist pastor (better described as an "Internet personality") called for Christians to use guns to fight gay marriage, a decidedly un-Christian sentiment. Ted Cruz said of the Iran deal "If this deal goes through, the Obama administration will become the leading financier of terrorism against America in the world." Mike Huckabee said Obama was leading Jews to concentration camp ovens, according to Igor Bobic with the Huffington Post.

When someone, liberal or conservative, uses language that directly calls for killing someone, or makes an inappropriate analogy, that could be used by someone to justify a terror attack, we need to say "sorry, but that's not who we are."

John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga. He can be reached at jtures@lagrange.edu.

Mollie Reilly   |   July 29, 2015   12:40 PM ET


Los Angeles’ City Council voted Tuesday to ban the possession of gun magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition, mirroring similar legislation in San Francisco and Sunnyvale.


The ban, first proposed by Councilman Paul Krekorian in 2013, passed unanimously. Under the new legislation, possessing a firearm magazine that can hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition will be a misdemeanor. Once the ban is in effect, Los Angeles residents will have 60 days to comply with the new law either by turning in the magazines to police, legally selling them or removing them from the city. Law enforcement, service members and firearm dealers are exempt from the ban.




Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said he plans to sign the ordinance.


The measure is expected to face a legal challenge from the National Rifle Association, which criticized the proposal ahead of Tuesday’s vote.


“Criminals will certainly not respect and obey these flawed ordinances,” read a statement from the gun rights group’s lobbying arm. “The only people who will be affected by these misguided anti-gun ordinances are the law-abiding gun owners whose Second Amendment rights and inherent right to self-defense are being infringed by them.”


The legal threats, however, do not faze Krekorian.


“If the NRA wants to sue us over this, bring it on,” the councilman said, according to the Los Angeles Times.


While California largely bans the manufacturing and sale of high capacity magazines, possession is still legal in most of the state. But with gun control legislation languishing in Congress, cities like San Francisco, Sunnyvale and now Los Angeles have taken the issue into their own hands, passing bans on high capacity weapons. The ordinances in Sunnyvale and San Francisco have both been held up by courts.


According to a 2013 analysis by Mother Jones, more than half of mass shootings between 1982 and 2012 involved high capacity magazines. Advocates of the Los Angeles ban argue the measure will help prevent such incidents.


“The step we’re taking today is not a wild step,” Krekorian said during a rally before the city council’s vote, according to the Guardian. “People who want to defend homes don’t need a 1,000-round drum magazine to do so.”


Also on HuffPost:


Does Posting Trespassers Will Be Shot Signs Give You Freedom to Do So?

  |   July 28, 2015    2:21 PM ET

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People With Mental Illness Should Not Be Denied the Right to Bear Arms

Paul Heroux   |   July 27, 2015    5:47 PM ET

In the wake of the awful shooting in Chattanooga that claimed the lives of five US servicemen, several media outlets are quickly rushing to point to drugs and mental illness are behind the Chattanooga shooting.

Cable news might lead you to think that someone with a mental illness is likely to be violent. The fact is that people living with a mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence than to commit violence, and they are generally no more likely to be violent than someone in the general population.

There are several salient aspects of Mohammod Abdulazeez. He was male, young, Muslim, had spent time overseas in Muslim countries, and was thought to be suffering from mental illness. The FBI has not found any ties to ISIS. We are left focusing on his mental health status. This is often looked at first as a reason for why someone goes on a shooting rampage. While this may be a factor, it is important to keep in mind that:

  • Most people living with a mental illness are no more likely to be violent than the general population.

  • People living with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence than to be violent themselves

  • People living with mental illness may become violent because of the way they are improperly treated; it may be a reaction. Other times, a medication may be responsible for a difference in rates of violence in people with mental illness.

Too often we hear about a high profile shooting; but it is important to remember that high profile events are high profile precisely because they are unusual and unlikely. However, in recent years, there has been this seeming demonization of people with mental illness. We too often hear "Don't give the mentally ill a gun!" But what does that even mean?

First, we do not say "the blacks; the Muslims; the women; or the diabetics." We should not refer to anyone as "the mentally ill." Second, to vilify and talk about people with mental illness in a way that implies we should be worried about them for our own sake misses the point that we are not thinking of them for their sake. Third, what DSM diagnosis would disqualify someone from a firearm: post-partum depression, ADHD, PTSD, bipolar disorder, depression, etc.? Does it matter if the person successfully manages the disorder? The standard should be if they are going to be a threat to the self or others, not the presence or absence of a mental illness.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health website, over a 12-month period of time, more than 25 percent of people may have suffered from a mental illness at one point or another, and 46 percent of people have suffered from a mental illness at least at one point in their life. Whether you like guns or not, do we start to exclude 46 percent of the population from any Constitutional right because that had a mental illness at some point in their life? I say no.

In our society, we don't ask about mental illness, and we don't tell anyone about mental illness for fear of being thought of defective. The next time you hear of someone afflicted with a mental illness, remember to be compassionate and understanding -- they didn't ask to be afflicted with an illness. And their challenges are everyday just like yours or mine, but they also have to have more strength than we do to also overcome an added burden.

Making policy based on high profile events is a surefire way to overreact and make inefficient and, worse, ineffective policy. In short, a high profile event is good time find out where a shortcoming or loophole might reside, but a high profile event is not what policy should be based on. Doing so would result in the majority of cases being marginalized and a strategy designed around an unlikely event.

Paul Heroux is a State Representative from Massachusetts on the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security. He previously worked for a jail and a prison, and he has a Bachelor's in Psychology from USC, a Master's in Criminology from the University of Pennsylvania and a Master's in Public Administration from Harvard. Paul can be reached at paulheroux.mpa@gmail.com.

Charlotte Alfred   |   July 27, 2015    8:04 AM ET

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- The weapons of Afghanistan's long decades of war can be seen almost everywhere, from the burned-out hulks of Soviet tanks to the Kalashnikov assault rifles slung over policemen's shoulders and helicopter gunships roaring overhead.

It should be no surprise then that young children play "police and Taliban," chasing each other around with toy guns and weaponry designed to mimic the real thing. And like the real war, there have been casualties.

At least 184 people, nearly all children, suffered eye injuries over the recent Eid al-Fitr holiday from toy weapons that fire BB pellets and rubber shot, health officials said. In response, authorities have banned toy guns.

"The Afghan Interior Ministry orders all police forces to confiscate toy guns, which can lead to physical and psychological damage to people," the order read.

It didn't elaborate on what psychological damage the toy guns can cause. The noise of gunfire is almost unmistakable to most Afghans, and unlike in the U.S., there have been no prominent cases of police officers here killing children brandishing toy Kalashnikovs or plastic pistols.

Afghans have grown familiar with firearms over long decades of war, from the 1979 Soviet invasion and the resulting insurgency to the civil war and the rise of the Taliban in the 1990s. The U.S.-led invasion in 2001 after the Sept. 11 terror attacks introduced the population to a new host of armaments, from the M4 rifles carried by American soldiers to the heavy-duty armored vehicles known as MRAPs chugging down city streets.

The toy guns come mostly from China and neighboring Pakistan, and many were given to young boys as gifts during the recent Eid, or festival, that marks the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. Authorities had tried to warn parents about the dangers the guns pose before the holiday. 

 

"An awareness video was prepared as an initiative to inform people how much these toy guns can be dangerous," said Dr. Abdul Rahim Majeed, the program manager for the public Noor Eye Hospital. "Unfortunately, the families did not take it seriously and didn't pay attention to this important message and it caused many people to get injured and come to hospitals for treatments."

Majeed said many of those injured by toy guns came to Noor, which treated 116 cases during this most recent holiday - double the number from last year. He said the national figure of those injured likely was higher, as some may have not sought treatment or gone to private clinics.

Since the ban went into effect, police have been told to search shops and seize toy guns from children, but the Interior Ministry could not offer any statistic for the number confiscated.

Parents like Shakib Nasery, a 38-year-old father of two, welcomed the effort to destroy the toy guns. Any reduction of violence in the insurgency-wracked country - even if just children's play - would be good, he said.

"It is not good for a society to have kids with such mentality of using guns or playing gun battles," Nasery said. "Unfortunately, this is the negative impact of an ongoing war in our country."

Marina Fang   |   July 26, 2015    6:33 PM ET


Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) claimed that if people could bring their guns to the movies, they could have prevented the movie theater shooting in Lafayette, Louisiana, Thursday evening.


"These concepts of gun-free zones are a bad idea. I think that you allow the citizens of this country -- who have been appropriately trained, appropriately backgrounded, know how to handle and use firearms -- to carry them," he told CNN’s Jake Tapper Sunday. “I believe that, with all my heart, that if you have the citizens who are well trained, and particularly in these places that are considered to be gun-free zones, that we can stop that type of activity, or stop it before there's as many people that are impacted as what we saw in Lafayette."


Such a provision “makes a lot of sense” under the Second Amendment, the 2016 presidential hopeful said.


When Tapper asked if that solution would be more effective than strengthening gun control laws, Perry pushed argued that the problem in Lafayette and the recent shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, is a lack of enforcement.


“We need to enforce the laws that are on the books,” he said. “Somebody didn't do their job in the standpoint of enforcing the laws that are on the books."


Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) similarly called for better enforcement of gun laws, stressing that John Russell Houser, the shooter who had a history of mental illness, should not have been able to obtain a gun.


"Every time this happens, it seems like the person has a history of mental illness. We need to make sure the systems we have in place actually work," he said on CBS’ "Face the Nation." “We need to make sure that background system is working. Absolutely, in this instance, this man never should have been able to buy a gun."


Houser legally purchased the gun used Thursday at a pawn shop in Alabama last year, according to law enforcement officials. He had previously been denied a pistol due to a prior arrest and reports of domestic violence.

The Lafayette Theater Shooter Was Another Domestic Terrorist

John A. Tures   |   July 25, 2015    1:56 PM ET

A Fox News host speculated the Lafayette Theater shooter was a member of ISIS at first. The 700 Club said that they were "searching for answers" and merely described the shooter as a "drifter." But Houser was no ordinary drifter. He's simply the latest in a string of lone wolf domestic terrorists like Dylann Roof, the Charleston shooter, with a strong political agenda.

Shortly before I arrived in LaGrange, Georgia, John Russell "Rusty" Houser had a bar on Main Street in town, before he was busted for selling alcohol to minors. After he lost his liquor license, he displayed a swastika on a sign that said "Welcome to LaGrange," according to the LaGrange Daily News.

It was hardly an isolated incident. He actually had a history of political activism, attending public meetings, grilling local officials, and advocating all kinds of hate speech. He expressed admiration for shooters of the Knoxville Unitarian Universalist Church, the Kansas Jewish Community Center, and backed the Westboro Baptist Church.

He took his own life, so we don't know exactly why a political ideologue would shoot several women at a Hollywood theater featuring a sex comedy.

But we do know his wife sought a restraining order against him, fled from him and took his guns, after he threatened his daughter for getting married "too young" (at age 23, to a 26 year old). He refused to pay his female landlord rent for two years, and came back to ruin the house and attempted to mess with the gas line. He booby-trapped the house as well. There's even an arson charge from way back. But like many domestic terrorists, he was able to purchase a gun legally, from a pawn shop in Alabama.

A journalist familiar with Houser from his numerous political appearances said to me that he felt there were a lot of public officials shaking when they remembered his presence at public events, and how he could have easily carried out the shooting in Georgia.

Of course, not all domestic terrorists are like Houser. Some, like the shooter of the Chattanooga military personnel at recruiting stations, gravitate toward other hate groups, like ISIS and al-Qaeda, despite being born with plenty of life's advantages. But the Chattanooga, Charleston and Lafayette shooters often come from good backgrounds, fail to find a steady place in life, seek to channel their hatred towards some group to blame, and get plenty of online encouragement that they never get from the overwhelming majority of society.

Houser was from a political family, and had educational opportunities. But when business ventures failed, brushes with the law became frequent, and he found few in-person allies in his community (in West Georgia, most folks don't agree with his brand of politics), he began his radicalization, the same way Roof did in South Carolina, who both admired white supremacist regimes and illegal drugs. In addition to the so-called "lone wolf" domestic terrorists Houser admired, there's also the Sikh Temple shooter from Wisconsin.

If Roof and Houser changed their names to Middle East sounding names, we'd have no trouble labeling them domestic terrorists. If they were undocumented immigrants, we would have immediate Congressional hearings on changing our border policy. But the threat these lone wolf individuals pose is no different from the one we get from ISIS and al-Qaeda every day.

John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga. He can be reached at jtures@lagrange.edu.

Another Week, Another Mass Shooting

Lev Raphael   |   July 24, 2015    9:14 PM ET

I keep getting comparisons in my Facebook feed between the U.S. and Australia when it comes to gun control and calls for us to follow their example. Noble idea. Flawed logic.

We can't and we won't, despite the fact that there are claims Australia "in some ways shares the United States' frontier mentality and history" since it was also ruled by Great Britain. But what happened there after a decade of gun violence left 100 people dead couldn't possibly happen here, even though it's resulted in a decline in suicides and a possible decline in murders (analysts dispute the results).

Australia's reform was radical: "The law banned semi-automatic and automatic rifles and shotguns. It also instituted a mandatory buy-back program for newly banned weapons." Does anyone see a U.S. buyback of millions of guns ever happening?

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Serious gun control efforts in the U.S. are doomed and always have been -- and not just because of the power of the NRA or because of the Second Amendment. Guns are so enmeshed in American history, so much a part of our cultural DNA, that there will never be truly meaningful gun control in the U.S. Advocates of gun control don't seem to understand that and don't seem to appreciate the continuing, cross-generational impact of our founding national story.

One main reason we rebelled against the British was their attempt to take away our guns.

In 1774, the British only had 2,000 troops in heavily-armed and seething Boston, and the British response was to take control of the powder house, which meant that Bostonians wouldn't be able to use their guns. The British also started searching for guns and ammunition without warrants. And to suppress a rebellion against their rule, the British effectively began embargoing exportation of guns and ammunition to the Colonies.

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The very first battles at Lexington and Concord between Americans and the British took place because British troops were coming to seize an American arms cache.

So there you see guns galvanizing us before we had a flag, a Declaration of Independence, a government, a national anthem, before we had anything that truly united us. Guns, and holding on to our guns.

Every time there's a mass shooting like the one in the Louisiana movie theater, we see news conferences and petitions and TV panels and pinion pieces engaged in soul-searching -- but repeated efforts at gun control have failed miserably for decades and they'll keep failing no matter how much anguish we suffer. Citing gun control in other countries like Australia is pointless, because no other country has our unique history with guns and what they inescapably mean to us. Tragedies like the one this past week in Louisiana will keep happening, and so will the laments about the need for change -- but our history can't be re-written.

Lev Raphael is the author of 25 books in many genres which you can find on Amazon and B&N.