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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.

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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?

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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.

What Gun Advocates Should Remember: You'll Never Overthrow The Government and It Isn't Scared of You

H. A. Goodman   |   June 17, 2014    6:04 AM ET

When reading Raza Habib Raja's recent article in The Huffington Post, I was struck by the number of comments claiming that guns were needed "to keep a tyrannical government in check" and that guns were a "means to overthrow an unjust/tyrannical government." I was also embarrassed by the number of comments calling for Mr. Raja to head back to Pakistan, since as an American I welcome genuine and intelligent debate from anyone -- even if they're not a citizen. Although I disagree with Mr. Raja's views that an advanced nation shouldn't allow widespread gun ownership (the 2nd Amendment is an important aspect of American life), there was something unrealistic about the vitriol and contempt elicited from his article.

First, not everyone has the same definition of the word "tyranny." Some conservatives view Obamacare as tyrannical while many liberals view it as not going far enough in terms of nationalized health care. Furthermore, a law or tax viewed as despotic by some citizens might also be regarded as a necessity by the government. In the late 1700s, some Americans viewed the Founders in the same manner that many of us view Bush or Obama. Whether it was anger of taxes in the Whiskey Rebellion, or unfair treatment of veterans in Shay's Rebellion, armed Americans have never been able to overthrow their government, even in the early years of the country. In a Baltimore Sun article by Richard Brookhiser, the historian and senior editor at the National Review explains how Washington, Hamilton, and other Founders crushed two early insurrections:

Shays' Rebellion, an uprising of farmers in western Massachusetts in 1786, and the Whiskey Rebellion, a movement of frontiersmen in western Pennsylvania in 1794.

...The Massachusetts government mustered an army of 4,400 to put down Shays' Rebellion.

The Whiskey rebels held a meeting outside Pittsburgh that drew 7,000 people; to restore order, the federal government marched nearly 13,000 men over the Alleghenies -- five times as many troops as George Washington took across the Delaware in 1776.

"If the laws are to be so trampled upon with impunity," he [Washington] warned, "there is an end put at one stroke to republican government."

The Founding Fathers were concerned about law as well as order...If the laws turned out to be unpopular, they could be changed.

But they had to be repealed in the same way they had been passed -- by political effort and legislative action. Self-government is a responsibility, not just a right.

Therefore, whereas the Founders might have given citizens the right to bear arms, they viewed any rebellion to their authority as a mortal threat to the republic. Also, as Brookhiser states, it's the responsibility of citizens to vote or debate, not engage in violence in order to change legislation.

As for Shay's Rebellion, the insurrection helped convince the Founders that a stronger federal government was needed to keep order and preserve the nation. George Washington worried that future insurrections similar to Shay's would, "like snow-balls, gather strength as they roll, if there is no opposition in the way to divide and crumble them." In fact, Shay's Rebellion contributed to the creation of the Constitution and Washington's presidency. As stated by Mount Vernon.org, "The United States emerged after Shays' Rebellion a stronger nation, with a new Constitution and George Washington as its first President." As for the Whiskey Rebellion, PBS writes, "By the time the federal force arrived, the rebellion had collapsed and most of the rebels had fled...The fledgling federal government had proven it could keep order -- a necessity if the U.S. was to avoid instability." Unlike the belief of certain gun advocates, Washington and Hamilton were never frightened of angry farmers with muskets or maligned whisky traders.

Perhaps nothing exemplifies the government's willingness to keep states and citizens within a federal framework as the Civil War. The NRA is nothing compared to the Confederate military under Robert E. Lee, and even though it possessed knowledge of its terrain and highly skilled soldiers, the South lost its battle to secede from the Union. In all, about 750,000 Americans died in the Civil War, including over 23,000 dead Americans in one day at the Battle of Antietam. It's doubtful the NRA and "2nd Amendment option" people recall this day in U.S. history when claiming a well armed citizenry can frighten the government.

Finally, there is another argument made by gun advocates; one that states that had Jews been armed during the Holocaust, they could have protected themselves from the Nazis. First, it took the combined might of the USSR, U.S., Great Britain and other militaries to defeat Hitler, so even 1,000 NRA organizations would never have stood a chance in protecting the six million Jews and millions of other human beings murdered in the Holocaust. Why? The reason is because from the Armenian Genocide to Darfur, the mass extermination of human beings is planned and orchestrated by a superior military power. As stated by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, only the Allied victory ended the slaughter:

As Allied troops moved across Europe in a series of offensives against Nazi Germany, they began to encounter tens of thousands of concentration camp prisoners...

The Soviets liberated Auschwitz...

US forces liberated the Buchenwald...

British forces liberated concentration camps in northern Germany...

As illustrated by the end of the Holocaust, genocides end only when the murderers lose a war. Regimes from the Third Reich to the Khmer Rouge ended their slaughters because of advancing armies, not because of well armed citizens.

The 2nd Amendment might state, "A well regulated Militia," but in reality it doesn't mean a way to combat the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines. Guns might protect one's home, or enable one to hunt, or provide a symbol of freedom, but gun ownership won't overthrow the government or change laws. What is tyrannical to you might have been a necessary Whiskey tax to George Washington and Alexander Hamilton, and what is tyrannical to me might be your desire to wage a war overseas. When the word "tyranny" is subject to so much debate, it's best to let discourse, voting, and participation in government provide a means for change in our society.

Any illusion that owning one gun, or one hundred guns, would frighten or alter the way government behaves is not only unrealistic, but something George Washington would find unacceptable. The view propagated by the NRA that gun ownership keeps the federal government "in check" is not only historically inaccurate, but also contrary to the actions of our Founding Fathers.

Lastly, if gun advocates think that Mitch McConnell or Ted Cruz, or even new Tea Party star Dave Brat will defend one's right to "keep the government in check" through armed insurrection, just remember the treatment of a rancher in Nevada by a Republican media pundit. Sean Hannity's abrupt abandonment of Cliven Bundy should tell people exactly how the GOP establishment will respond to even the most loyal NRA members (pandered to by politicians espousing "2nd Amendment options") who become political liabilities.

Not only is the government unafraid of gun owners, but one political party will immediately distance itself from those who take its secessionist and firebrand rhetoric and hyperbole too seriously.

Ed Mazza   |   June 17, 2014   12:41 AM ET

An armed Michigan man who got into a tense standoff with police last month had his rifle taken away, but authorities gave it back to him the very next day.

Joseph Houseman, a 63-year-old "Open Carry" advocate, prompted multiple calls to 911 when he stood in front of a Kalamazoo Dairy Queen with a rifle and shouted at traffic and passersby.

At least one 911 caller was concerned that Houseman may have been intoxicated.

When police responded to the scene, they found Houseman wearing what appeared to be pajama pants and carrying a rifle. When they tried to talk to him, Houseman gave the middle finger to the officers, grabbed his crotch and shouted about revolution, according to video of the incident obtained by the Kalamazoo Gazette and placed online at MLive.com.

A police officer repeatedly asked Houseman to put down his gun so they could talk, but he refused and accused the cop of "acting like a prick" and being in a gang.

At one point, when asked his name, Houseman identified himself as "Joe Schmoe."

After 40 minutes, Houseman put down his rifle, which was then confiscated by police. He also offered his real name and said he was sorry.

"I apologize. I have a bad attitude because we're losing our rights," he said.

When Houseman refused a breathalyzer test, officers decided not to give him his gun back. Instead, he was told to come to the police station and claim it the next day. He did, and his gun was returned.

Although the incident occurred in May, the video of the standoff was just obtained by the newspaper under the state's Freedom of Information Act.

Michigan has "open carry" laws, and Houseman was not arrested or charged with any crimes as officials believe he was not "brandishing" the weapon, MLive.com reports.

Read the full report on the MLive website.

Forget Gun Control: Legislate for Mental Health and Substance Abuse Instead

Brian Ross   |   June 16, 2014    4:11 PM ET

The NRA has one on gun control advocates: Guns aren't a cause of violence. When used for non-sporting purposes, they're a symptom of emotional disorders.

Of fear amplified to irrational levels.

Of sadness and clinical depression so deep that there seems no way out.

Of anger and rage and hatred unchecked by the "filters" most of us have.

Shootings happen when mental self-control breaks down. Filters either organically not there because of some level of mental illness, from bipolarism to clinical depression to rage control issues, or because alcohol strips them away temporarily, impairing judgment.

They come out because we've institutionalized and legitimized fear as a means of allowing everyone from peace officers to the stand-your-ground crowd to take human life with little consequence or consideration.

There is a broad systemic mental health concern. America has a cultish obsession with guns and gun violence that accepts all of this killing as "normal."

We blanche at letting our children see a sex act on a television or movie screen, but the majority of adults, many parents, see little or no problem with them watching hundreds of people slaughtered brutally in a movie or television show, or slaughtering hundreds of people first-person in a "shooter" video game.

Guns touch on the third rail of our most primal fears, which is why the NRA remains so powerful.

They are the magical shield against otherism, Wheaties for those with irrational fears of black helicopters and "big brother" government, minorities, and others with guns in a neighborhood, or a family.

They are phallic power to the powerless: Status symbols of personal power and tribal strength in groups ranging from minority youth gangs to AK-47 toting white gun groups strutting into Starbucks.

Guns generate fear. Gun fear begets more guns.

"The number of privately owned guns in the U.S. is at an all-time high, upwards of 300 million, and now rises by about 10 million per year," said the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action in a firearms safety fact sheet released Jan. 17, 2013. - GUNFAQ

That's an average of about 90 firearms per every 100 residents in this country, according to the Geneva-based Small Arms Survey.

If 43.8% of gun applications are for rifles, 56.2% of gun permit applications tracked by the FBI are for handguns.

Fewer scared people are holding on to more and more firepower though, as gun ownership per capita has been declining.

While we focus on the deaths, more than 30,000 each year in the United States, if you count those wounded, the numbers skyrocket to epidemic levels.

The CDC reported that there were 73,505 non-fatal firearm injuries in 2010. There were an additional 13,851 non-fatal injuries from BB or pellet guns use.

In its third year, the American Gun Victims Wall, a project to chronicle every news report of a shooting in the United States, connects the dots. Those underlying mental illness issues are expressed in injury and death by firearms that stems from:

  • Mental Illness - (Across a whole range of disorders like bipolar, depression and rage control);
  • Crippling Stress - People in bankruptcies, divorces, relationship breakups, family disputes, or property issues with neighbors where stressers push reasonable people past their breaking point into temporary fits of rage or depression that clouds judgment;
  • Accidental Shootings - Poor weapons handling, poor storage, and bad judgment about leaving weapons in places where children can access them;
  • Substance Abuse - Alcohol and/or drug use that impairs judgment;
  • Low intelligence - People who are not high functioning enough to legally obtain a driver's license can still get a gun;
  • Failure to Comply - Police shoot people stopped for failure to comply 100% with their instructions even when there is no gun visible. The perception of a possible gun is enough to justify a shooting. A wrong motion by a suspect can end in death or injury.

All of which goes back to the root causes, and is why the NRA has been opposing Dr. Vivek Murthy as the Obama Administration's nominee for Surgeon General.

As Bill Moyers points out:

"Murthy's views represent a consensus among medical professionals that gun violence is a major public health issue. Gun violence, including suicide, kills some 30,000 Americans every year, about the same number as car accidents. Cars are highly regulated for health and safety; guns, barely. Accordingly, the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, among many others, have called for stronger gun safety laws. It would be surprising if, as a doctor, Murthy did not have concerns about gun violence and the strength of current regulations."

The gun control lobby has locked in on assault weapons as their target for reducing gun violence because they're BIG violence, scary looking, and they think, rather wrongly, are enough to drive Americans to the polls and to their Congressmen demanding action every time a shooter pops up at a school or a movie theater intent on their own private Rambo moment of glory as their mental disease escalates to acting out on their impulses.

What to Do

There are new attempts at restricting gun ownership by the mentally ill floating around Congress in the wake of the latest spate of mad people on shooting sprees: Santa Barbara. Oregon. Las Vegas.

They all miss the mark, kowtowing to the powerful NRA lobby and chipping away at the edges of the problem rather than tackling it head on.

What do we need to end the epidemic of gun violence? Better mental health and social health policy:

  • Laws regarding mental health need overhaul to allow parents, family members, and caregivers of people with crippling emotional disorders more responsibility, with family court/judicial oversight, of the care decisions of those with mental illness.
  • Stabilizing medications and therapies, in some cases, should not be optional.
  • Appointment of social workers or NGO volunteers to serve as caregivers to advocate with mental health professionals and the mental health system for those whose families have abandoned them;
  • Police called out for domestic disturbances from suicides to family abuse to neighborhood disputes should be trained to make judgment calls, and temporarily cache weapons of a household at a secure location run by the police, write a citation, and allow a judge to review the continued permitting of the weapon in the household, its possible restriction to a firing range or secure hunting facility, or revocation of the permit;
  • Tougher penalties for failure to secure weapons in households to prevent children and teens from gaining access without parental supervision.
  • A federal convocation of state legislators whose committees regulate gun laws to establish uniform and consistent rules for dealing with gun law infractions. A woman in New Orleans does four years for child shooting that resulted from hiding a gun under her bed for "safety." A couple in West Virginia leave a loaded child rifle in an umbrella stand that results in a child shooting and receive a citation;
  • More federal dollars targeted to social welfare programs to improve family mental health to help those with rage and other spectral emotional disorders cope and de-escalate;
  • Get tough laws on carry under-the-influence of alcohol or drugs of any kind;
  • The ban of weapons within a wide radius of venues which serve alcohol. Many mass shooters keep guns in their cars in parking lots and on nearby streets, and return to bars with them to settle scores or perceived sleights.
  • Revocation of so-called Stand Your Ground/Castle laws;
  • Increased police training in less deadly use of force, with annual Justice Department reviews of shooting statistics by all law enforcement agencies to determine if possible intervention or criminal filings against those misusing their badge are warranted;
The Second Amendment stands. Americans have a right to own guns responsibly.

When they find themselves in situations of temporary or permanent mental distress, though, that makes that ownership a danger to themselves or others, the solution to the problem is better mental health, and more police/court intervention, not more people arming themselves to the teeth in the most gun-saturated country on planet Earth.

My shiny two.

The Tragic Results of Complacency, Wishing, Hoping & Praying Is More Dead Children

Jon Hotchkiss   |   June 13, 2014   11:48 AM ET

Anyone who tells you the words of the constitution are immutable... is a liar. Anyone who tells you that if the constitution gives an American a "right," there is absolutely nothing that the government can do to take it away, is also a liar. And, anyone who clings to only the strictest interpretation of the second amendment... is complicit in the murder of the 20 kids and 6 adults who have been senselessly murdered since the massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.

The Second Amendment to the US Constitution says: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

And yet, despite the constitution's language, Americans have their guaranteed rights infringed all the time.

Here's just a few examples:

The first amendment to the constitution says 'Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech.' "No law." It's pretty unambiguous. "No law." Not "a few laws." Not "some" or "one or two" laws. But rather, "no law." And yet... And yet!...there are dozens of laws that abridge a multitude of speech.

For example, it is against the law to:

1. Stand outside the White House and say: "I want to kill the President."
2. Call someone a child molester. If they are not, in fact, a child molester.
3. Hand out naked photos of yourself with a lasso lodged in your rectum.

Not only are those examples of speech against the law, but anyplace south of Hoboken, NJ, the punishment for taking Lynard Skynard's name in vein is... the firing squad. In San Francisco, after you say "NPR," you must make the sound of a choir of angels. And you will be beaten to within an inch of your life if you are within 500 yards of Madison Square Garden and you even whisper "Rangers Suck."

But wait! There's still more! It's against the law to incite people to riot. Meaning, your speech may not create a clear and present danger.

Neither slander nor libel are permitted, either. Meaning, there are criminal penalties for knowingly lying about someone in either print or verbally.

"Fighting words" also don't have the protection of free speech. Meaning, it is criminal to say something to someone that would reasonably result in violence. For example, if you walk up to say Chuck Liddel - the former Ultimate Fighting champion, and shout in his face that his mother is a whore... the law will not protect or replace the lungs Chuck Liddel rightly reached into your chest and mercilessly yanked out.

Obscenity is also illegal.

Plus, at the start of a civil or criminal proceeding, the judge in the case may impose a "gag order" on the participants in order to more likely guarantee a fair trial.

And it's not just the first amendment where our guarantees have been limited.

The Eight Amendment says that "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted." And yet, capital punishment is an option in 32 US states. Perhaps by firing squad. Or electric chair. Or more likely, a Rube Goldberg type electronic contraption with the sophistication of a Hillbilly moonshine still will automatically pump three types of sedatives into the arm of a convicted felon...after-which, he'll quietly go to sleep. Forever. That is, unless the drug companies that sell the sedatives refuse to supply it to prisons... and you have to buy them from less reputable European sources... after-which the guy struggles in pain for 30 minutes before finally dying.

That form of death appears to meet the definition of both "cruel and unusual."

Then there's the Fourth Amendment, which says "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated," and yet the NSA has been collecting meta-data on millions of Americans phone and internet use without justification or a warrant.

Then there's the limitations placed on some people who are supposed to be protected by the 5th Amendment, which says "No person shall...be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law;" and yet, thousands of Americans are on a "no-fly" list which both prevents them from leaving the US... or returning to it, despite the fact that they have not been convicted of a crime. Let alone charged with one.

I don't profess to know what new gun laws will help keep more kids alive... nor do I know which new procedures or treatments or interventions will result in better care for the mentally disturbed or the better discovery of the radicals and zealots determined to start a "revolution" by shooting up a Wal-Mart.

HOWEVER - I thing I am 100% certain of, is this: Complacency is no longer acceptable. Praying is no longer the answer. Wishing is pointless. Hoping is a fool's errand and the absolute guaranteed results of continued complacency, praying, wishing and hoping is... many more dead kids.
___________
Jon Hotchkiss is the creator of This vs That, a new science series hailed as "revolutionary" and "hilarious." He invites you to see the 60 minute series premiere, FREE.

Dominique Mosbergen   |   June 13, 2014    1:51 AM ET

Two years after her 13-year-old daughter was shot and killed inside a school bus, a Florida mother faced her child's killer in court this week and did something so profound, it stunned everyone gathered: she approached the young man, and hugged him.

“In 20 years, I’ve watched human tragedy unfold in this courtroom,” Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Ellen Sue Venzer said, per the Miami Herald. “I could have never imagined a victim’s mother embracing her child’s killer.”

The teenager responsible for the girl's death, 16-year-old Jordyn Howe, is said to have been overcome with emotion as his victim's mother held him in her arms. “I’m sorry,” Howe is quoted as telling the woman, while fighting back tears.

In Nov. 2012, Howe accidentally shot 13-year-old Lourdes "Jina" Guzman-DeJesus while they were both riding on a South Miami-Dade school bus. According to the Associated Press, Howe had taken his stepfather's pistol and brought it to school. He had reportedly been showing it off to his friends when the weapon discharged, shooting Lourdes in the neck.

She later died at the hospital.

Howe pleaded guilty Tuesday to manslaughter with a deadly weapon, possession of a firearm by a minor and carrying a concealed weapon.

In an incredible gesture of forgiveness and selflessness, Lourdes' mother, Ady Guzman-DeJesus, agreed to a plea deal for Howe which will allow him to avoid prison time. According to the AP, Howe will be attending a juvenile rehabilitation academy and later, the teen -- with Guzman-DeJesus by his side -- will speak at schools about the dangers of guns.

“We can make a change to help other children,” Guzman-DeJesus told reporters after Howe's hearing Tuesday. "[Howe] was Jina’s friend, too, and I know she wouldn’t want the worst."

Ed Mazza   |   June 12, 2014    1:21 AM ET

When Dad threatens Mom with a gun, who should a child turn to for help? According to Pat Robertson... don't call the cops!

A child wrote to the "700 Club," the televangelist's show on ABC Family:

“Whenever my parents fight, my dad threatens my mom with his gun. Fortunately, this now means nothing to my mom, and she never goes nuts about it; she is very calm. But as a child, I get nervous and worried when this happens. Even my younger brother saw this incident. What should we do about it and him?”

"You don't want to get your father busted... but you could," Robertson answered in a clip posted online by The Raw Story, before suggesting that the child talk to mom instead of "busting" dad.

"Say, 'Mom, this thing is scaring me and I ask you, please, to get my father to have some help,'" Robertson said.

Despite the questionable advice, Robertson isn't entirely ignorant of the dangers.

"One day he's gonna pull the trigger. It doesn't take too much if you've got a loaded weapon and you're brandishing it around, 'I'm gonna kill you,' and the next thing you know the thing goes off. Maybe accidentally, but the mother will wind up dead," he said. "You need to do something to intervene but you're a kid, what do you do, y'know? Your mother ought to take care of that."

According to Opposing Views, American women make up 84 percent of all female gun victims in the developed world.

Kids (and adults) who witness domestic violence, including threats and intimidation, should call 911. For advice and assistance, call the National Domestic Violence hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (TTY: 1-800-787-3224) or visit them online.

(h/t The Raw Story)

Concealed Carry Laws Don't Decrease Gun Violence -- But The NRA Continues To Say The Opposite

Mike Weisser   |   June 10, 2014   11:57 AM ET

The NRA and its academic acolytes like John Lott have been tirelessly promoting the idea that guns protect us from crime, which is another way of saying that everyone should carry a gun, which is another way of saying that we should all buy more guns. And the proof that more guns equals less crime comes in the form of a report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, which shows that over the past twenty years, violent crime, particularly gun crimes, have fallen by more than 50 percent. Since it's over the same two decades that every state has adopted some form of concealed carry weapons (CCW) law, the gun lobby argues that the reason we are a much safer country is because everyone's walking around with a gun. Now if we could get rid of those unhealthy gun-free zones, right?

Another, much more troublesome report was issued in January with data and conclusions that the NRA chooses to ignore. The report was based on a study of 6,300 patients admitted to a Level 1 trauma center in Newark suffering from gunshot wounds between 2000 and 2011, a time when, according to the FBI-UCR data, overall violent crime in Newark dropped by 22%. Actually, the murder rate during that period increased by nearly 60%, but since we're only talking about less than 60 dead bodies lying around, we'll leave that one alone.

Getting back to the gunshot wounds, the physicians who conducted the research found that the number of patients didn't significantly change, notwithstanding the alleged drop in gun violence everywhere else, and the severity of the wounds substantially increased. Despite the fact that Level 1 trauma centers utilize the most advanced life-saving skills imaginable, the mortality rate from gunshot wounds climbed from 9% to 14%, the number of spinal cord and brain injuries nearly doubled, and the incidence of multiple bullet wounds increased from 10% to nearly 25%.

The gun lobby could (and will) ignore these numbers were it not for the fact that the national picture for the trend gunshot wounds is roughly the same as what happened in Newark. According to the CDC, the rate of intentional gun injuries per 100,000 was 17.25 in 2000 and 17.83 in 2011, holding steady nationally just like the researchers in the case of Newark's University Hospital found over the same eleven years. That being the case, how does one reconcile those numbers with the BJS report that the NRA uses to bolster its claim of such a dramatic decrease in the criminal use of guns? The BJS report shows a decline in the gun homicide rate from 7 per 100,000 to less than 4 from 1993 to 2011, and a decline in nonfatal gun victimizations from above 7 per 1,000 persons to less than 2. So who's right?

They're both correct except that virtually the entire decline in gun violence occurred between 1993 and 2002, while since the latter date the gun violence rate, including both fatalities and injuries, has stabilized or slightly increased. This stabilization of the number of admissions for gun violence is exactly what was reported by the medical team at University Hospital in Newark, even while the severity and cost of injuries continues to climb.

Meanwhile, for all the talk about good guys with guns protecting us from bad guys with guns, the "decrease" in gun violence ended in 2002, while the number of states that now issue CCW has roughly doubled since 2002. The NRA's notion that we are a much safer country now that residents of every state can apply for CCW falls flat on its face, even when we look at the data that the NRA uses to prove its own case.

Do Something for Gun Safety

Madeleine M. Kunin   |   June 9, 2014   12:10 PM ET

"Why did Chris die?" Richard Martinez asked all of us after the shooting death of his son and five other students on the University of California, Santa Barbara campus.

I cannot get his anguished voice out of my head. It was a mixture of anger, grief and despair that cried out. What if it had been my son? What if it had been your son or daughter?

Richard met the enemy straight on. "They talk about gun rights but what about Chris's right to live? When will this insanity stop?" After receiving phone calls from California politicians, he exclaimed, "I don't care about your sympathy. Go to work and do something!"

Yes, do something. I admit, when I was running for office I did not speak up for gun control. I didn't have the courage. I would today after a series of mass shootings. Time has passed since 1990 when the NRA defeated an incumbent Vermont Congressman, Republican Peter Smith, largely because he came out in favor of gun control. His opponent, Bernie Sanders, gained the support of the NRA. This year, Burlington voters overwhelmingly passed common sense gun safety measures but the legislature has steadfastly ignored them.

The words "gun control" continue to paralyze politicians. Any proposal for safety is considered a slippery slope leading to the confiscation of guns. Therefore, the only answer from the NRA and the gun industry that supports it, is to oppose it.

It's time to rephrase the question - these bills are not a matter of "control" they are a matter of gun safety.

We could begin by supporting legislation requiring safe storage of guns to keep them away from children. A bill in the last legislative session to that effect died without a hearing.

A second common sense step would be background checks - once given weak support by the NRA, but no more. I fully support the right to bear arms for hunting, for sport, but I cannot support access to deadly guns for people who have criminal records, who are guilty of domestic violence, or who are dangerously mentally ill.

To answer Richard Martinez, lawmakers and their constituents will have to relinquish the notion that any form of gun safety legislation will force law abiding citizens to give up their guns. There is no evidence to support that view. But there is evidence that easy access to guns will continue to be a potential threat to all families and a time bomb for family members who are suicidal or mentally ill.

After too many mass vigils like the one that followed the Sandy Hook massacre, we have learned that while sympathy is well meant, it does not lead to action. Courage does. If enough citizens heed a father's cry, and "do something," we can protect the safe right to bear arms, and our children's right "to live."

What War Are We Fighting Here?

K. Ford K.   |   June 9, 2014   11:40 AM ET

I still remember the day my father taught me how to shoot a gun. We walked into the woods behind our house and he balanced a .22 rifle on my shoulder. He showed me how to aim it at an old tomato juice can. Then he helped me pull the trigger. The noise in my right ear terrified me and as the bullets blasted holes in the can, I remember how the red label peeled away in strips. I was four-years-old.

Growing up, guns were a part of everyday life. We had hand guns, antique guns, rifles leaning against corners in the closets, my brother's BB guns left all over the house along with discarded board games and building blocks and the silver, toy pistol I cradled like a doll when I was two. We all admired my uncle who invented guns for Browning. I learned that guns were for hunting, self-defense and defending liberty long before I learned how to read. But by the time I turned 21, I knew three people, two of them children, who had been shot and killed in gun-related accidents. My belief in that old-west, American tradition was beginning to unravel.

I certainly understand the principle of defending liberty, but the practice of it has steadily evolved beyond all reason. With so many innocent Americans dead, what war are we fighting here? Why are Americans killing Americans?

The number of American soldiers killed in both the Afghanistan and Iraq wars since 2001: 6,500 souls

The number of American citizens killed in gun violence since 2001: approximately 390,000 souls

The number of American civilians killed defending their political liberty since 2001: 0

This situation is a distinctly American dilemma that exists no place else on the globe. Why is America so different? Why do some of our citizens fear the government and feel they need to purchase as many guns as possible? Why do they feel the need to protect their own liberty from a government that has sworn to uphold their liberty in the first place? Is this war about fear? Fear of what? And why are we a breeding ground for troubled young minds who kill out of revenge? Revenge for what? Is that what this war is about?

Any discussion of the culture of violence in America must include the bullying, rejection and abuse that the shooters in mass shooting cases have all experienced. Violent movies and games may make the situation worse, but bullying, rejection, loneliness, isolation, paranoia and abuse are the seeds of violence in America's bloody, homegrown war against the innocent and the blameless.

We need to act as a nation, for 'We the People' are the United States government. We need to bring about change that will stop the bloodshed. We need increased compassion for the innocent thousands who are murdered in cold blood. But we also need to find some compassion for the shooters who were innocent up until the moment they decided to pull that trigger. The shooter's problems are our problems as a nation. We must find and help these troubled people long before they buy their first gun.

It doesn't have to be the way it is now. We can change as a society, but it will take a radical shift in the way many Americans feel about guns and gun ownership. When I turned twenty-five, my father gave me three guns as a birthday gift but when I moved to Japan, I left them behind. In Japan, private citizens are prohibited from owning guns. In part, this is due to the Japanese constitution, which was drafted by the Americans after WWII. Their constitution prohibits the development of a Japanese military, and the ban on civilian weapons was a logical next step. As a consequence, Japan has very little crime or violence. During the years I lived there, Japan averaged two gun-related deaths a year. It was a wonderful relief to walk the Tokyo streets and take the trains at night without fear for my own safety. For the first time in my life, I had no fear of being attacked or shot.

When I returned home to visit my father, a lifelong NRA member who had just been elected president of the local gun club, I gave my guns back to him. "Guns create more problems than they solve," I told him. He was shocked, but he was a reasonable man and he respected my decision.

My decision to give up my guns was a personal decision. I'm not advocating a no-gun policy in the United States but we need to look at the situation rationally. It was Thomas Jefferson who said,

"Rightful liberty is unobstructed action, according to our will, within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others."
Jefferson knew that it is impossible to talk about liberty without also talking about the equal rights of others. Never forget that our basic right as Americans is the right to live. In order for this undeclared, bloody, American war to end, rightful liberty and equal rights must both be protected, never one at the expense of the other. As American citizens, we are all entitled to both.

  |   June 7, 2014    3:55 PM ET

Read More: hawaii, guns

Nearly half the guns Hawaii criminal investigators traced in 2012 came from other states, according to data compiled by ProPublica.

The nonprofit news organization used information from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms that analyzed gun traces authorities ran while investigating crimes.

Good Guy/Bad Guy

Jonathan Richards   |   June 6, 2014    9:24 PM ET

Read More: gun control, open carry, nra, guns

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