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Can Gun Control Advocates Ever Wield As Much Influence As The NRA? A Test Case

Mike Weisser   |   August 4, 2014    2:48 PM ET

Several months ago I wrote a blog in which I pointed out that Mike Bloomberg's access to media at all levels would make him a formidable opponent of the NRA when it came to talking to non-gun owners about guns. The NRA has a lock on communicating with the gun-owning community, but a majority of Americans don't own guns. So how do you engage this usually-silent majority to counteract the power and influence of the NRA? Well here was a good test case.

Last week the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on a bill introduced by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn) that more clearly defines domestic violence and strengthens what is already a federal prohibition against the purchase of guns by individuals convicted of misdemeanor domestic abuse. The NRA opposed it rather quietly, sending a non-public letter to some senators, but so far avoiding any public comment on the debate. They did get Joyce Malcolm, a law professor, to show up and lecture the Senate panel on the dangers of restricting the 2nd Amendment, but their stealth approach to this issue reflects the fact that they have been making a major marketing push towards women as owners and users of guns and opposing domestic abuse laws would, from the perspective of most women, put them on the wrong side. Even the NRA finds that 2nd Amendment "rights" take a back seat to marketing strategies.

It can't be said, however, that Mike Bloomberg shares the NRA's reluctance to make a lot of public noise over this issue. On the eve of the Senate hearing, Everytown ran a 30-second television spot in media markets covering territories belonging to Senators Kelly Ayotte, Jeff Flake and Dean Heller, three Republicans who last year voted against the Manchin-Toomey compromise after Sandy Hook and whom, it is felt, may this time with Klobuchar's bill, be swayed to go the other way. The ad is pretty dramatic and the Everytown website also contains a quick-click method to send a message to Ayotte, Heller and Flake.

Last month the Everytown group won a big one when their pressure pushed the mega-retailer Target to issue a public statement requesting that shoppers refrain from bringing guns into their stores. Target's decision was a slap in the face of the NRA which has been pushing a roll-back of gun-free zones as part of their strategy to widen the acceptance of concealed-carry laws. But the strategy used by Bloomberg's group against Target was, if you'll pardon the pun, a very targeted affair. Inviting local media to a picket-line around a store entrance is one thing; inundating elected officials with emails and calls is quite another. The latter tactic has always been seen as a major weapon in the NRA's arsenal for swaying votes. For the first time, the other side in the gun debate seems to be doing the same thing.

It's not really the number of phone calls or emails that makes politicians respond. It's a less tangible thing that we call the intensity of the folks sending their messages, a devotion to the cause that the NRA has diligently developed amongst its membership over many years. When something terrible and high-profile occurs like Sandy Hook, it's not very difficult to get a grassroots response from either side. But a Senate hearing isn't usually the stuff that makes for media buzz, so it will be interesting to see the degree to which Bloomberg's group can generate a grassroots response to their ad. If they do, the playing field that has been tilted for so long in the NRA's direction may just start moving back the other way.

What Women Think They Know About Gun Laws (And How They're Wrong)

Margie Omero   |   August 1, 2014    3:23 PM ET

It may be surprising to learn that many convicted domestic abusers are currently allowed to legally buy guns. Federal law prevents abusive spouses and co-parents from legally having guns. But convicted abusers of dating partners, those facing restraining orders, or convicted stalkers can currently pass a background check and legally buy an AR-15.

This is the reality, but it's not the perception. In Purple Strategies' recent survey of women voters, sponsored by Everytown for Gun Safety, majorities presumed these other types of abusers could not legally have guns. So not surprisingly, eight in ten women (81%) support Senator Klobuchar's (D-MN) proposal to expand the definition of abuser to include stalkers and abusers of dating partners. (Note: At Purple, I led this polling effort; this post reflects my own views.)

Support extends across party lines. The survey included an oversample of an additional 200 Republican and Independent women; over three-fourths (77%) of them support this proposal. Even 75% of women who own guns support the bill. This is consistent with this recent Huffington Post/YouGov poll, showing a majority of Republicans (of both genders) support this proposal.

Not only does the Klobuchar bill close a loophole most women are unaware even exists, most also feel it will make women safer. Over half (62%) say the law will make women safer, including 51% of Republicans and Independents.

Those who might know best say the law could be even more helpful. The 44% in our survey with personal experience with domestic violence or stalking, and the 25% with personal experience with gun violence, are particularly likely to feel the proposal will make women safer (64%, 70%).


Why is support so transcendent? Perhaps because three-fourths of women (and over two-thirds of Republicans an Independents) feel we can both protect 2nd Amendment rights while also keeping guns out of dangerous hands. Only a fifth (19%) say every gun law is an infringement on the 2nd Amendment.

And while many may think guns are a third rail of American politics, women say they will reward, not punish, a candidate for supporting this expansion of the definition of abuser. By 3-to-1, women say they are more likely to vote for a candidate with this view. Even among Republicans and Independents, more will reward a candidate.

So while some wonder if stronger gun laws are too restrictive, or too controversial, remember most women assume the laws are stronger than they actually are. And remember this sobering reality: In the last decade, more women were killed by an intimate partner using a gun than troops killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. Come November, women across party lines may reward candidates working to solve problems, rather than leaning on partisan perceptions.

Samantha Lachman   |   August 1, 2014   10:59 AM ET

Supporters of Republican and former GoDaddy executive Christine Jones may want to give her a wide berth at the gun ranges she's been frequenting as she runs for governor of Arizona.

Jones told Phoenix television station KSAZ that she practices her aim in a potentially perilous manner: by shooting with her eyes closed.

"I don't change clothes. I don't change glasses," Jones told the reporter, who interviewed her at a gun range. "I often shoot one-handed. I often shoot with my eyes closed."

When the reporter asked her to clarify her last comment, Jones explained: "Because chances are if somebody attacks you it's gonna be in the night."

Jones has made her unambiguous support for the Second Amendment a distinctive feature of her campaign. A spokeswoman told The Huffington Post in June that at that point in the race she had met with supporters at nearly 20 gun stores across the state.

She is running against a handful of other Republicans in the race to succeed Gov. Jan Brewer (R), who can't run again because of term limits. Arizona State Treasurer and former Cold Stone Creamery CEO Doug Ducey is considered Jones' strongest rival for the Republican nomination.

(H/t Talking Points Memo)

The Real Enemy Isn't Undocumented Immigration, It's Rick Perry And Sean Hannity

Bob Cesca   |   July 31, 2014    4:08 PM ET

For the last several weeks, the following photo of Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) and Sean Hannity has haunted me. During the current unhinged freakout surrounding immigration reform and, specifically, the Central American teens and children being held by the U.S. after having entered the country via the Mexican border, I can't help but to the think that the true threats to the U.S. aren't undocumented immigrants, be they adults or children, but rather these dinguses:

When I see this photo, taken at the Texas/Mexico border and tweeted out by Hannity, I see more than just a pair of brainless poseurs whom William F. Buckley would've laughed out of his movement 40 years ago, yet who are now two of the standard-bearers of what's left of that movement. When I see this photo, I see more than a slack-jawed Southern governor and a paint-by-numbers Fox News polemicist. I see two men who are illustrative of everything that is, in Jon Stewart's words, "hurting America."

Just look at the photo again.

Beginning with the obvious, they're white middle-aged men. That right there is enough to raise eyebrows. As a middle-aged white guy myself, I don't mind indicting my own: yes, middle-aged white men are trouble. The reasons are self-evident. Toss into the mix the availability of a growing variety of pharmaceuticals and Cromagnon tire-flipping workouts designed to amplify the pseudo-dementia that accompanies being a white male in the throes of mid-life, and the trouble [cough] grows. But, really, are middle-aged white men annoying and obnoxious? Oh, yes. Are they dangerous on a macro societal level? Not quite, no, at least no more so than white men in general. But stay with me, there's much more to this puzzle.

Hannity and Perry are men of significant means: wealthy and privileged. This gives them fuck-you power. So, now, we see middle-aged white men with fuck-you power. The danger begins to gurgle to the surface.

Peel the onion a little further, and we recall that both Hannity and Perry are far-right conservatives. But not just any far-right conservatives. These two far-right conservative middle-aged white men comport themselves as hard-line ideologues, pandering to the very worst, most ignorant and intolerant instincts of the Republican base. I write "comport themselves as ideologues" because it's unclear whether either is sincere in his worldview beyond what it can achieve in terms of personal wealth and prestige. I don't think I'm the only one to notice how both Perry and Hannity never seem entirely sincere or authentic -- neither seems to particularly care much beyond careerism, higher office and ratings, and so they'll say and do whatever is necessary to stir up the misplaced nationalism and, in the case of this photo, the anti-immigrant bigotry of their most rabid disciples. Now we're getting into dangerous territory.

Let's talk about the paramilitary regalia. Here's that tweet again.

There's the trying-too-hard sunglasses on an overcast day (none of the border patrolmen is wearing shades), the khaki, the denim and why the hell is Hannity wearing what appears to be a Kevlar flack-jacket? I kind of understand that there might be a security issue with the governor, but Hannity had to dress up in body armor, too? Really? Taken as a whole, it's a lot of military dress 'em up for a guy who never served. Perry, on the other hand, served in the Air Force, so he gets to dress up in whatever fatigues he sees fit for a governor. But as we witnessed most recently with the Bundy Ranch fiasco, too many guys in the Perry/Hannity demographic (far-right, conservative, middle-aged, white, male) fancy themselves to be militias of one, stockpiling weapons from Dick's Sporting Goods and posting falsely-attributed Thomas Jefferson quotes on Twitter.

And right here we have a perfect example of this silliness: a pair of doughy white guys auditioning for Stallone's next Expendables sequel:

This, of course, leads us to the 5.56 millimeter elephant in the room. It's almost disgusting to see them grappled onto that locked and loaded weapon like the cast photo of a really douchey remake of Apocalypse Now. If you look carefully, Perry has one knee perched under the gun as if he's about to or just finished humping the thing. Seriously, though, they appear to be issuing a clear warning: if you, Pedro, try to cross the river from Mexico, this American-made motherfucker will blast you into hundreds of indistinct hunks of meat. So... go ahead, make my day.

It's worth reiterating that this photo-op is in direct response to the current situation involving unaccompanied, undocumented kids entering the U.S. And these border patrol cosplayers decided to respond by posing with both heavily armed guards and a high-powered mounted rifle with action-hero scowls on their stupid faces (complete with TV makeup) -- you know, to intimidate Guatemalan children as if they're Vietcong guerrillas perched in the Shit along the banks of the Mekong Delta.

June 25, 2014: A group of immigrants from Honduras and El Salvador who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border illegally are stopped in Granjeno, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Talk about overcompensating.

Rather than projecting the rational idea of negotiating a reasonable immigration reform package, Hannity and Perry opted instead to suggest that a rifle loaded with rounds bigger than their penises is the only real way to deal with the border issue. That's not to say the border patrol should stand down, but wallowing in the militarism of it only makes matters worse, with the thumbs-up photos and the farcical notion that the president has to personally mime Hannity's hat-on-backwards rifle-boner pics or else it's his Katrina.

Given the choice between immigrants entering the U.S. with a path to citizenship or Hannity and Perry with their smirky, middle-aged white itchy trigger fingers, faux badassery and gun fetishes, I'll take the immigrants in a heartbeat. So should we all.

Cross-posted at The Daily Banter.

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

Gunplay on the Highway: You've Been Warned

Rick Horowitz   |   July 26, 2014    4:31 AM ET

Watch the latest news and you have to wonder: Is this what the future has in store?

The NRA's Most Ridiculous Video (So Far) Calls For Government Subsidized Free Ammunition

Bob Cesca   |   July 25, 2014    4:32 PM ET

The National Rifle Association (NRA) has been responsible for countless nonsensical, totally illogical and sadistically irrational pro-gun slogans. It's kind of what the NRA does. Its executive vice president and chief crackpot, Wayne LaPierre is a never-ending geyser of these easy-to-repeat yet easily debunkable slogans. So it came as no surprise when the NRA released a brand new YouTube video that literally makes no sense whatsoever -- on any level. In fact, it's so off-the-rails that it's difficult to imagine even the most loyal NRA automatons buying into what it says. Here's the video (via MMFA):

How can I make such a sweeping assumption about NRA loyalists? Mainly because the host of the video, NRA "commentator" Billy Johnson, isn't LaPierre or anyone who "looks" like your typical NRA goon. Not that they all look the same, but I've never seen any NRA people who look like the host of this video. Billy appears to be from the same casting agency that gave us the "Pajama Boy" and that leather-jacket hipster Millennial from a GOP video back in March. Put it this way, Billy looks less NRA and more PBR. Of course there's nothing wrong with casting Mr. Johnson, but it does, however, speak to the fact that the NRA is trying to look smarter and hipper. Unfortunately, the words coming out of Billy's mouth are just as ridiculous as if they came out of Ted Nugent's mouth.

Anyway, you might recall Billy's previous performance in which he suggested that we stop using the phrase "mass shootings" and the word "gunman" when events like Santa Barbara or Sandy Hook occur. Why? Because it makes guns, you know, look bad. If you think that's stupid, you ain't seen nothing yet.

1) The title is crazy. The video is titled "Everyone Gets A Gun." I won't even dig into the long list of ramifications commensurate with such an overly broad idea. No, not everyone gets to have a gun. Haven't LaPierre and the NRA been screaming about launching a mental health database accessible by gun dealers so mentally incompetent people can't buy AR-15s from Walmart? What about all those "bad guys with guns?" Should they be allowed to "get a gun?" Maybe I'm confused, but I thought the NRA was against giving literally everyone a gun.

2) Education, parks and jobs don't kill people. This part might take a while. Billy begins by telling us that the U.S. government has an education policy, a parks policy and a jobs policy, all of which are designed to increase access to these clearly beneficial things rather than to restrict access to them. See what he's getting at here? He continues by telling us that U.S. gun policy is all about restricting access, not increasing access in spite of the Second Amendment. So, in Billy's teeny-tiny hipster brain, guns are equivalent to education, parks and jobs. They're not. In any way.

He inexplicably admits with a sarcastic zinger that education doesn't harm anyone. "Perhaps we should think seriously about who we give access to knowledge. They could us it to do a lot of damage." Again, he's being sarcastic and doesn't really mean it. Which case, right! Education is harmless, unlike firearms, which are weapons used in tens of thousands of deaths every year. Show me one example in which a school has been used as a weapon to kill 10 out of every 100,000 Americans. The same goes for access to jobs or parks.

However, what Billy doesn't appear to grasp is that there are many laws -- useful ones -- that regulate education, labor and parks. Many National Parks charge admission. Other parks are closed during certain hours, or sections of the parks are restricted due to hazardous conditions. We also aren't allowed to run around a park and do whatever the hell we want. We can't vandalize the parks, we can't drive on certain terrain, we can't cut down trees or hunt animals without permission. As for labor, where do we begin? Labor regulations maintain a 40-hour work week; they prevent the exploitation of children; they prevent discrimination; they allow employers to not hire someone based on drug use or a criminal record. The list goes on and on. Something tells me Billy didn't fully think this through.

While we're here, it doesn't hurt to mention how the largely pro-gun right has been trying to restrict access to birth control, affordable college educations, reproductive healthcare and even voting.

3) Read a newspaper, Billy. I'm not sure where he's getting his news, but this is just wrong: "We don't have a U.S. gun policy. We have a U.S. anti-gun policy." Baffled? I am. "What if we were to design policy around the assumption that people need guns?" Seriously, what the hell is he talking about? Since the Sandy Hook massacre alone, far more pro-gun laws have been passed than anti-gun laws. Here are a few headlines that Billy clearly missed.

Michigan: Update on Pro-Gun Reforms in Lansing

Massachusetts: Senate Strips Gun Control Language From Gun Bill

Kentucky: Comprehensive Pro-Gun Reform Legislation Takes Effect Tomorrow

"Why Not One? Why Not Zero?" Gov. Christie Vetoes N.J. Magazine Ban

West Virginia: Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Expands to Nebraska

Missouri: Governor Signs Pro-Gun Bill, Another Awaits his Signature

Kansas: Two Pro-Gun Bills Take Effect Today

Idaho: Concealed Carry Expansion and Youth Hunting Laws Effective Today

Georgia: Comprehensive Pro-Gun Law Takes Effect Today

Virginia: New Pro-Gun/Pro-Hunting Laws Go Into Effect Tomorrow

Mississippi: Important NRA-Backed Laws Take Effect Tomorrow

Tennessee: Pro-Gun/Pro-Hunting Bills to Take Effect Tomorrow

Maryland: Multiple Pro-Hunting Bills to Take Effect Tomorrow

Indiana: Pro-Gun Legislation Takes Effect Tomorrow

Pennsylvania: Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Expands to Utah

These are all following the cold-blooded murder of two dozen children and teachers at Sandy Hook -- wait. Strike that. Correction. Sadly, these headlines are all from the last 25 days! And in case you're worried the articles might be sourced from the pesky liberal media, I gathered the headlines from the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action website. Not only is there no such thing as a sweeping "anti-gun policy" here, but Billy doesn't seem to be familiar with headlines that have appeared on one of his own affiliated websites.

Toss into the mix the brutal reality that even after the AR-15 was used in numerous mass shootings, most notably at Sandy Hook and Aurora, it continues to be the most popular firearm in the U.S., with gun groups and even sitting congressmen giving them away as coveted prizes. Not a single law has been passed to ban such weapons in spite of the ongoing mass shootings in which ARs were used; nor have pro-gun activists carrying loaded AR-15s at protests and in public places been routinely arrested simply for carrying one.

4) "Guns make people's lives better." Oh please. At the very most, guns might help someone who relies upon wild game to survive. And, when used by the police or the military, there's a conceivable benefit in terms of safety. But owning a gun doesn't inherently improve one's life. For most people, it's like buying an expensive retail product, then sticking that product in the closet. We might need it some day, but chances are we won't ever actually use it.

Billy continues by saying that U.S. gun policy should encourage people to buy guns and "even reward those people who use them." Yeah, that's a fantastic idea. We totally need to incentivize gun usage because it just doesn't happen often enough. "What if instead of gun-free zones, we had gun-required zones?" Like where?! I have an idea: why not make the neighborhood where Billy lives a "gun-required" zone. What could possibly go wrong?

Okay, enough of this. There are a couple more minutes left in the video, but it's getting to be unfairly easy to destroy it. Suffice to say, in the remaining moments, Billy suggests federally-subsidized firearms and "yearly allotments of free ammunition." His justification? We subsidize healthcare and education, so why not? Wait, does that mean the NRA supports government subsidies in these areas? Interesting. Maybe they're not all bad. Ah, what am I saying? Of course they're all bad.

Cross-posted at The Daily Banter.

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

ReThink Review: The Purge: Anarchy -- An Unlikely Allegorical Franchise

Jonathan Kim   |   July 25, 2014    2:58 PM ET

In 2013, The Purge surprised the movie industry by making almost $90 million at the box office -- a feat made even more impressive (and profitable) considering the film's $3 million budget. A possible reason for the film's overachievement might have been that The Purge, while marketed as a horror film, was actually a lean, scrappy political allegory about an alternate universe/not-too-distant future where the US government sanctions a yearly 12-hour orgy of no-holds-barred violence to supposedly cleanse the nation's soul of its citizens' violent desires, but with ulterior motives that seem more racist, classist, and politically conservative. While the first film took place almost entirely in a large house, The Purge: Anarchy plays out in city streets, showing you how different types of people experience the Purge in a franchise that continues to surprise and impress. Watch the trailer for The Purge: Anarchy below.

The Purge: Anarchy, which was naturally filmed in Los Angeles, follows a mother and teenage daughter (Carmen Ejogo, Zoë Soul) and movie history's most boring couple (Kiele Sanchez, Zach Gilford) who band together to survive the night while their heavily-armed protector, Sergeant (Frank Grillo), is hell-bent on vengeance for an unknown offense. As the five attempt to cross town to a safe apartment, they encounter several types of purgers, including hillbillies in ATVs, masked kidnappers, wealthy thrill seekers, and a suspiciously well-equipped paramilitary group. But one of the best things about The Purge films is that anyone, no matter how normal or friendly they seem, could be a potential killer.

When I first reviewed The Purge, it ended up being a two-parter because I had so much to say about the film's political aspects, and Anarchy takes those ideas even further. While the fact that the poor suffer the most during the Purge is only implied or briefly alluded to in the first film, Anarchy puts it front and center by taking you out of the gated communities and mansions of the original and putting you in the world of those who don't have the money to safely wait out the Purge behind expensive security systems or intimidating weaponry, where the less-than-privileged can't stop people from invading their homes as the homeless -- who are the main target of purgers -- attempt to hide in underground tunnels.

The shadowy leader of an anti-Purge resistance group (Michael K. Williams) makes clear that the Purge isn't about the ritual purification of the nation's soul, but is instead a way to keep the disenfranchised scared, weak, and poor as the rich consolidate their power with the money that would otherwise go to creating a more equitable society. In a movie where anyone could be a murderer, it's the rich who are painted as the film's biggest villains as they wait in fortified mansions and fancy ballrooms for mercenaries to deliver fresh victims whose lives will be bought or auctioned off to the highest bidders.

Some commenters criticized my review of The Purge for claiming that the film is a critique of conservative ideology by taking it to its logical, inhumane conclusions. But Anarchy should put those objections to rest with its depiction of the 1% living in their bubble of wealth while using their quasi-religious worship of the Purge and the New Founding Fathers who created it as moral justification for their own greed, cruelty, racism, and classism. On the flip side, we also see a stockbroker who was murdered as retribution for swindling people out of their savings.

And to rile Republicans more, I'd say that Anarchy also takes a shot at the right's obsession with guns and their belief in their magical problem-solving abilities. In the first film, guns are both the cause of and solution to the dangers the main characters face. That's still true in Anarchy, but there's more of a sense that the presence of guns, poor decision-making, and the ability to kill without consequences leads to no one ever being safe, even when you're amongst those closest to you. When non-rich would-be killers point their guns at the main characters proclaiming "It's my right", I not only hear gun owners explaining why they should be able to own all the assault rifles they can afford, but also wanna-be tough guys in states with Stand Your Ground laws justifying why they might blow someone away for the slightest of perceived offenses. It's the talk of people not cleansing their sins, but lashing out because of frustration, desperation, entitlement, and a perverted sense of justice -- all hallmarks of the Tea Party.

A lot of critics, including myself, felt that The Purge had interesting ideas but ultimately failed as the horror film it was marketed as. But with Anarchy, the pretense of being a horror movie seems to have been abandoned, leaving something pretty unique: a political allegory dystopian action thriller that slyly attacks conservative ideology as the true motivations behind the Purge are slowly revealed across multiple films. I can't think of anything out there like it, and while neither film is great, Anarchy (like its predecessor) succeeded in leaving me hoping that the next sequel will expand the scope and depth of the Purge concept. And if the filmmakers continue their strategy of making The Purge films lean (in terms of budget) and mean (in terms of violence), who knows where this unlikely franchise could lead -- and what it might say?

  |   July 24, 2014    1:25 PM ET

In an effort to keep arms away from Russian-backed rebels in Ukraine, the United States may have kicked off something of an arms race back home.

The Obama administration last week announced a new round of sanctions against Russia that it says are intended to discourage Russia from continuing to support rebel groups in eastern Ukraine. Companies blacklisted by the U.S. include Russian banks, energy firms and eight weapons manufacturers -- including Kalashnikov Concern, a maker of what is arguably the most popular weapon in the world, the AK-47.

The move sent American gun buyers into a frenzy, seeking to buy the AK-47s that are already for sale in the U.S. While there’s no hard data showing an uptick in Russian gun sales, gun sellers around the country say they’re seeing big business in AK-47s and other Russian firearms.

Blaine Bunting, president of Maryland gun distributor Atlantic Firearms, said Tuesday that orders for their AK-47-style rifles and shotguns have "tripled, if not quadrupled" since Obama announced the sanctions.

"We have 15 employees here, and yesterday we started at 7:30 in the morning and didn't leave until eight at night," he said. After selling more than 400 Russian guns in just a couple days, Bunting said, Atlantic Firearms is sold out. Its website has a notice to buyers warning that the import ban may cause delayed shipping times:


Last week in Nampa, Idaho, the gun store Armageddon Armory bought 60 Saiga semi-automatic shotguns, which are made by Kalashnikov. They were gone in just a few days, according to the shop’s manager, David, who refused to give his last name, citing store policy.

"We sold out of them instantly," he said.

Right now, Saiga shotguns cost $800 to $900, David said, estimating they would double in price within six weeks because of Obama’s executive action.

The Treasury department says people and businesses who own Kalashnikov guns can still sell them in the U.S. as long as the Kalashnikov company doesn’t benefit from the transaction.

Guns manufactured by Kalashnikov and other Russian companies make up only a small part of the U.S. gun market: Only about 200,000 Russian guns were imported to the U.S. in 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. That same year, the agency says, U.S. gun makers produced more than 8.5 million guns, not including guns produced for the military. They also imported around 4.8 million more from other countries.

Firing Line in Wyandotte, Oklahoma, has been inundated with callers trying to buy Kalashnikov guns, even though the store currently doesn't sell them. North Raleigh Guns, a small gun retailer in Raleigh, North Carolina, has had a surge in the past few days of customers coming in to ask about Kalashnikovs.

"The simple thing is, people want what they can't have," said Ben, North Raleigh Guns assistant manager, who asked that his last name not be published.

At Carolina Gunrunners, also in Raleigh, sales on all kinds of guns have risen since Obama announced the sanctions, said store owner Jim McComas. McComas said just having guns in the news is enough to get customers knocking down his door. This has certainly proven true in the past: Criminal background checks, one of the most reliable ways to gauge gun sales nationwide, surged after Obama’s 2012 re-election and the 2012 Newtown shooting. The increased sales were believed to be driven by people fearing more government regulations and outright weapons bans.

An AK-47 is a gas-operated 7.62 caliber assault rifle. It was invented in 1947 by the Russian general Mikhail Kalashnikov for use in the Soviet Army, but later became popular partly because of its simplicity and reliability. AK-47s have been used throughout the world by national armies, revolutionaries, guerrillas and paramilitary groups, among others. There are believed to be about 100 million in circulation worldwide.

AK-47s and their variants are also manufactured in countries like Poland, Hungary and Bulgaria. A handful of U.S. companies also make AK-47-style firearms. One is Atlantic Arms Manufacturing, a sister company of Atlantic Arms, Bunting says. Another is I.O., Inc., a small firearms manufacturer in Florida that says it sells its 100 percent American-made AK-47-style guns for $400 to $600.

Aside from just wanting what they can't have, people may be snatching up Russian AK-47-style guns as an investment.

"People will buy them like any other commodity because they think the value is gonna go up,” McComas said.

But it also may just be that the Russians make a good gun. "The Russian AK-47s are known to be the best of the best," said Firing Line's Terra Burke.

"The Russian AK-47 is one of the highest quality AKs out there," said Ben, from North Raleigh Guns. "It's been around forever. The ammo is affordable. Plus, it's really fun to shoot."

In the Gun Debate, Mental Illness Doesn't Predict Dangerousness

Paul Heroux   |   July 21, 2014   12:29 PM ET

Fear-mongering masquerading as informed concern is what most politicians and pundits do when it comes to the discussion of mental illness and dangerousness. The new focus on mental illness as the principal culprit behind gun violence is not only without merit, it is discrimination.

A handful of high-profile shootings America has turned the gun debate focus to mental illness. This is absurd. There are 10,000 homicides with a firearm every year in America. Only a small fraction of these are done by people who had mental illness as a factor. Over one recent weekend, more than 60 people were shot in Chicago alone. The media is rightly not focusing on mental illness because it is not a primary factor in gun violence.

The Science

People living with a mental illness are generally no more likely to be violent than someone who does not have a mental illness. And people who are living with a mental illness are more likely to be victims to violence than they are to perpetrate violence.

The times that people with mental illness may become violent may not be too different than when people who don't have mental illness become violent. There are a few exceptions to this, which include when a medication contributes to someone becoming irritable, or when someone doesn't take their medication. Other times, as with paranoid schizophrenia, someone may be acting as they believe in their own self-defense and not as an intentional act of aggression or premeditated malice or forethought.

Politics in Science

There is a lot of legislation that is seeking to keep guns out of the hands of the so-called mentally ill. But who are the mentally ill? Are they people who have anything listed in the DSM? If that is the case, that would include ADHD, learning disorders, or intellectual disorders. It would also include people with a clinical disorder, which is often a temporary disorder (Axis I), or a personality disorder or intellectual disability, which is often a lifelong disorder (Axis II).

  • Do we want to prohibit someone who has PTSD from a firearm? What if it is a war veteran who hunts for food, common throughout the country?
  • Do we want to prohibit someone with postpartum depression from a firearm? How do we monitor that? What if she no longer has it? Should she have to be subjected to increased scrutiny to the point of discrimination or harassment?

The issue that we should be concerned with is not whether or not someone has or had a mental illness. We should be asking: Is the person is a danger to him or herself or to others if he or she had a gun? That is the question. The notion that we can use mental illness as a way to determine that someone is somehow more dangerous is just ill-informed.

The National Institute of Mental Illness estimates that in the past year 26 percent of the population have suffered from a mental illness in one form or another, and about 45 percent have suffered from mental illness at some point in their life. This equates to millions of people who had or have a mental illness. Mental illness as a disqualifying factor to obtain a gun is going to 1) discourage people from seeking treatment for fear of losing their Second Amendment rights, and 2) would exclude and disqualify a lot of people from firearms, which is akin to disarming the citizenry.

This is an important issue to address because people across America, people who should know better, Democrats and Republicans, people who are pro-gun and anti-gun all make the same mistake in stigmatizing against people with mental illness.


Mental illness is an easy villain for both sides of the issue to demonize. The folks on the right see it as a way to shift the focus of gun violence away from the gun and to the person with mental illness and say keep the guns out of "their" hands. Meanwhile, folks on the left seem to think they are more enlightened in their understanding of mental illness and the need for treatment.

The public tends to view anything they don't understand as dangerous. The fear of the unknown is hardwired into our survival instincts. This non-adherence to the facts about the probability of violence in people with a mental illness hurts people who have mental illness. There seems to be this sentiment that we need to be afraid, to be very afraid of "them." This is beneath the dignity of an enlightened and informed society.

While it is true that our prisons are filled with people who are suffering from a mental illness, many of these people are incarcerated for reasons that could have been avoided had they had the proper support and treatment. And there are nearly 20,000 suicides with a firearm every year. This may be a legitimate place to be concerned about depression, bipolar disorder or other similar mental illnesses and access to a firearm. But relatively few people who are depressed or who have bipolar disorder actually commit suicide.

We need to realize that high-profile events are high-profile because they are unlikely. And trying to stop an unlikely event is very difficult if not impossible. Predicting a school shooting or when someone who has or had a mental illness is going to shoot someone is a bit like predicting where lightning is going to strike the ground. There are some generic indicators but little that can act as an actual alarm bell.

There are things that can and should be done to reduce gun violence, but focusing on people with a mental illness is not one of them.

Paul Heroux is a state representative from Massachusetts on the Joint Committee on Mental Health & Substance Abuse. Paul has a bachelor's in psychology and neuroscience from USC, a master's in criminology from the University of Pennsylvania, and a master's in public administration from Harvard. Paul worked in jail and prison before becoming a State Rep. Paul can be reached at or 508-639-9511.

Dear NRA

Tami Shaikh   |   July 19, 2014    4:13 PM ET

Dear People of the NRA,

I have a few questions for you. Please don't take offence to any of this, as I am writing to you as a mother and a teacher. Why do you believe it's OK to make guns available to everyone? There is only one purpose to use a gun -- that is to kill a human being or an animal. In my mind, they are both huge offenses.

Guns are created to kill and laws are supposed to be made to protect people and govern actions that are allowed in a democratic society. Why, then, do you guys push for "gun laws," which basically means "to give someone the right to kill," in my opinion?

Don't you have families? Doesn't it bother you when you read about gun violence in schools and colleges? I know that you have to run your businesses, but have you ever thought of what happens when people who don't know how to use these guns get a hold of them?

In our society, parents and teachers are usually the first people that children feel comfortable and safe with, and so we have a great responsibility. When you put guns and rifles in the hands of people who are not mentally stable or who are underage, you make our jobs more difficult. Our children feel unsafe in their own schools and homes. If you look at the map above, you will see what I'm talking about.

On June 10, a school shooter attacked Reynolds High School in Portland, Oregon. This is the 15th school shooting since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.

My question to you is this: Do our children deserve this? I was talking to an acquaintance who didn't agree with my view on gun control and they said, "Well people can die in natural disasters too." My answer to that is that as parents, we send our kids to schools thinking they are safe. Natural disasters can't be avoided, but gun deaths can. We trust these educational institutions, whether they are elementary schools or universities, and then you, Mr. NRA, put guns in the hands of people who aren't mentally stable enough to know the difference between killing human beings and hunting for ducks. (Which, if you ask me, isn't right either)

As a teacher, I can't even comprehend the impact school shootings have on these children. The trauma and devastation it causes, not just to the ones who physically witness the shooting, but the ones that are watching it on TV. Our nation that works so hard to make sure we live in a safe environment is tormented because our gun controls laws aren't strict enough? We send our military overseas to make sure we are safe, yet we allow this epidemic of gun violence to increase.

I believe that humans were put on this earth to live in peace and harmony, not to kill each other. The impact of these guns in schools, in my opinion, will cause long-term negative effects on our children. We used to have fire drills and earthquake drills; now we have lockdown drills.

You say on your website that "The National Rifle Association is America's longest standing civil rights organization"; can I please ask you how? How can you call it a Civil Rights Organization, when so many innocent civilians die every year because of the misuse of these guns?

All I'm saying is that don't just think of making money selling these guns to the wrong people. Think about the larger impact on the world. Parents are losing children, children are losing their families and friends are losing friends and siblings. Is this really OK to you? Do you want our children to grow up with a sense of insecurity? We say we are the land of the brave, are we allowing our next generation to be brave or are we making them feel insecure and unsure of their surroundings.


A concerned mom

Samantha Lachman   |   July 18, 2014   12:35 PM ET

U.S. Capitol Police arrested Rep. Tom Marino's (R-Pa.) press secretary on Friday after he allegedly attempted to bring a handgun and magazine into a House office building.

Roll Call first reported that Ryan Shucard was arrested after the police found a Smith & Wesson 9mm and magazine during the routine search required for entry into the Cannon House Office Building, according to Capitol Police spokeswoman Lt. Kimberly Schneider.

Shucard, who was being processed at Capitol Police headquarters at the time of the Roll Call report, is being charged with carrying a pistol without a license, which is a felony.

The press secretary was placed on unpaid leave from the representative's office.

"That will last until we know more about the situation," Marino chief of staff Bill Tighe told Roll Call.

Tighe said Capitol Police had told his office that Shucard appeared to have accidentally brought the gun with him to the building and had no intention to use it maliciously. They said the weapon Shucard was carrying was not loaded.

Shucard joined Marino's office in May, according to his LinkedIn profile. He worked as a staff assistant for Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) for nearly 18 months beginning in October of 2011.

The incident has a precedent: a staffer for former Sen. James Webb (D-Va.) was arrested for trying to bring a loaded weapon belonging to Webb into the Russell Senate Office Building in 2007.

BEN NUCKOLS   |   July 16, 2014    7:13 PM ET

WASHINGTON (AP) — If House Republicans have their way, District of Columbia residents won't be allowed to walk the streets with a joint in their pocket, and they will be allowed to carry a semi-automatic rifle.

The GOP-controlled House approved a spending bill Wednesday that would undo the District's strict gun-control laws and its law decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana. The fate of the spending bill and the amendments will likely depend on negotiations between the House, Senate and White House.

Robbie Couch   |   July 15, 2014    7:03 PM ET

After her mother, father and four siblings were brutally killed July 9, an outpouring of public support for Cassidy Stay is keeping a smile on the brave teenager's face.

As of Tuesday evening, more than $325,000 had been raised via a GoFundMe page created by community members. All donations made through the page will go toward a trust fund for the 15-year-old, who "will no doubt need major financial support in the future" without her parents.

Last Wednesday, alleged shooter Ronald Lee Haskell, 33, entered the Stay family's suburban Houston home posing as a delivery man, police said. Haskell was searching for his former wife, the sister of Cassidy's mother. He shot and killed Cassidy's family, according to authorities, and is now being charged with capital murder.

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The Stay family home in Spring, Texas.

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A photograph, flowers and candles left on the Stay family's porch.

Cassidy, who survived the incident by pretending to be dead after being shot by the alleged gunman and has since made a full recovery, spoke outside Lemm Elementary School on Saturday, just three days after the shootings, Click2Houston reported.

"'Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light,'" Cassidy quoted from a "Harry Potter" novel, which she said she has drawn strength from, according to Click2Houston. "I know that my mom, dad, Bryan, Emily, Becca and Zach are in a much better place and that I'll be able to see them again one day."

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Ribbons placed on trees near Lemm Elementary School in honor of the shooting.

More than 6,000 people from around the world have donated to Cassidy's fund as of Tuesday evening.

Jody Dellinger, who established the GoFundMe page alongside Sgt. George Beck -- a first responder to the Stay family's crime scene -- said he's been overwhelmed by the community's reaction.

"We had no idea that it would be the official site for the family," Dellinger told Community Impact News. "The outpouring just dumbfounds me when you have a tragedy like this."

If you'd like to donate to Cassidy, visit her GoFundMe page.

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  |   July 14, 2014    9:13 PM ET

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed legislation Monday that would have allowed specially trained teachers to carry concealed guns, asserting that the move could jeopardize student safety in public schools.

The veto by the Democratic governor sets up a potential showdown with the Republican-led Legislature, which could override Nixon if it gets a two-thirds vote of both chambers during a September session.

Nixon announced the veto with a written statement on the deadline day for him to take action on bills passed earlier this year.

"Arming teachers will not make our schools safer," he said. "I have supported and will continue to support the use of duly authorized law enforcement officers employed as school resource officers, but I cannot condone putting firearms in the hands of educators who should be focused on teaching our kids."

The Missouri legislation called for allowing public school districts to designate certain teachers or administrators as "school protection officers," who would undergo special training to carry concealed weapons.

Supporters contend that armed school personnel could save students' lives by responding to an attacker without waiting precious minutes for police to arrive.

"I am disappointed this governor, who was all but absent during the process, has chosen to veto a bill designed to protect our children," said sponsor Will Kraus, R-Lee's Summit.

The Legislature began considering the measure after the deadly 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. At least nine states passed bills last year authorizing armed school personnel and more than a dozen introduced similar measures this year.

The Missouri legislation also lowered the minimum age required to get a concealed weapons permit to 19 from 21 and allows permit holders to carry guns openly, even in cities that ban open carry. In addition, health care professionals could not be required to ask whether a patient has access to guns, and public housing authorities could not ban tenants from possessing firearms.

The bill passed the Missouri House in May by a 111-28 vote, two more than would be required for a veto override. The Senate's 21-7 vote fell two votes shy of that threshold, but three Republicans were absent.

With another veto Monday of legislation that would have barred minors from buying electronic cigarettes while also restricting further regulation, Nixon has rejected 33 bills approved by lawmakers this year, the most in one year since he took office in 2009 and among the most ever by a Missouri governor in a 12-month span.