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Smart Guns and the Right

Robert Slayton   |   May 19, 2014    3:26 PM ET

Read More: gun control, smart guns, nra, guns

Everybody's buying smart products. Smart phones, smart watches, with smart glasses on the way. So what about smart guns?

Armatix is marketing a German made pistol that has a unique feature. To fire the gun, you first punch a code into your watch. No code, the gun is locked. And cannot fire. Also, if the gun is moved more than 15 inches away from the transmitter in the watch, the same result.

There are a number of benefits to this system. It protects children, who occasionally experiment with what they find in the house. It prevents some suicides, by those who use someone else's gun to take their own lives. Above all, it will help police officers, who sometimes have their guns taken away in a fight, and then turned on them. Impossible with this system.

The Right, however, is dead-set against this idea. The NRA has labeled it as part of the "anti-gunner's agenda" to ban guns for everybody. On another forum, one person went much further, writing, "I have no qualms with the idea of personally and professionally leveling the life of someone who has attempted to profit from disarming me and my fellow Americans."

Let's take a look at some of the arguments against this technology. First, there's the concern that this will be the advance man for further gun control efforts. In fact, New Jersey passed a law requiring that once the technology was proven, all gun sales in the state would have to be smart. And then what?

So, how about another law instead, saying these guns will only be available to police officers? There are already a number of such laws in effect -- in many states you need a letter from the military or a law enforcement agency to purchase an automatic knife -- and they seem to be working reasonably well.

There is also the claim that 15 inches is too short. Will you exceed it by holding the gun over your head?

Okay, we'll make it 20 inches. Happy now?

The big one is that the gun will jam. In 1999 Colt tried to market the Z-40, with similar features. It didn't work very well. What if this new gun jams when you most need it, when your life depends on it?

First of all, technology has moved a long way since 1999. Remember what kind of cell phone you had back then? And what it could do? And not do? Today phones work well, networks perform, and you can call practically anywhere in the world quite easily.

But here's the big reality check. Guns jam. Even great guns. Especially when you're stressed or frightened.

It is absolutely true that guns are much more reliable than ever. Glock makes the best selling side arms sold in the United States because they can literally go tens of thousands of rounds without a stoppage.

But it does happen. Anybody who knows anything about pistols learns as one of the first exercises rack-tap-bang, the basic procedures for fixing a malfunction. Unlikely to be needed, but it's there when even the best gun has an off day. A friend of mine served on the police force of a local community. His duty arm was a Glock 21 in .45 cal. Yet he still received training on clearing jams.

NYPD detectives were known for the New York Reload: carrying multiple weapons. Mostly because it's quicker to grab a second -- or even a third -- gun compared to reloading. But also just in case your first pull balks, you're still in the fight.

Revolvers are still bought because, unlike automatic pistols, they are foolproof. Nothing can go wrong, unlike with an automatic pistol.

There are a lot of fans of the AR-15 platform today, of proven and demonstrated quality. One of the best versions of this is the one equipping the US military.

Despite this, our forces spend a lot of time making sure recruits know how to field strip their weapon in the dark, to clear a problem. Just in case.

Yes, this new pistol might jam. But so may an M4 or a 1911A1. Or any other weapon.

The reality is, opponents of these weapons really fear the possibility of further government intrusion. The NRA's position is that it, "does not oppose new technological developments in firearms; however, we are opposed to government mandates that require the use of expensive, unreliable features, such as grips that would read your fingerprints before the gun will fire. And NRA recognizes that the 'smart guns' issue clearly has the potential to mesh with the anti-gunner's agenda, opening the door to a ban on all guns that do not possess the government-required technology."

The paranoia goes further. Belinda Padilla of Armatix once testified before a UN panel on gun safety. She is frequently referred to as a stalking horse for efforts to impose UN gun measures on all Americans, and as a pawn of George Soros.

How about, just this once, we dial down the rhetoric, and try and protect some police officers? That just seems like a reasonable goal.

Reducing Gun Violence Isn't a Lost Cause

Elizabeth Evans   |   May 19, 2014    3:26 AM ET

I've seen real people have reasonable conversations about guns in America. I've even seen people who support gun ownership agree with those who don't, on some basic changes to how we provide access to guns in our country.

Not long after the Sandy Hook tragedy, I had the opportunity to work with teachers from across the country, who used innovations in technology to come together as a community of problem-solvers, and choose real, actionable solutions to the scourge of guns and violence in our schools. It was inspiring to see this group of more than 300 teachers, gun owners and gun control advocates alike, work together with passionate focus on how to make our schools safer. They agreed to disagree about letting teachers have guns in school, but they also resolved, firmly and clearly, on the need for more limits on weapons of war. They also called for necessary changes in the way we treat mental health and teach problem solving in school, the kind of social and emotional growth we nurture in our children, and even better ways to design and build schools.

Reading the news about the student in Texas who was caught with an AK-47 and two handguns or the "Safe Carry Protect Law" enacted in Georgia, I think about those ordinary citizens who accomplish so much more than the talking heads in Washington. I can't help but react with the same internal monologue every time: All we need is a little more honesty. All we need is to listen a little harder, posture a little less, and be authentic. It's internal because it seems to me no one wants to hear anything about solving our problems with guns and horrible violence that kill too many American children -- whether they live in our worst pockets of poverty or our most placid communities. Sometimes, I don't see any reason to talk about it anymore.

In our connected world, points of view can be shouted and spread virally in the blink of an eye. But, is anyone actually listening? Is anyone interested in making change, or are we destined to an endless cycle of shouts and counter-shouts?

I think the vast majority of those of us living everyday lives in our neighborhoods would like to see change. Most of us, public servants included, are well intentioned and place more value on doing than on rhetoric and posturing. So, let's stop the cycle of spin and build networks for change. Technology gives us the tools, if we're each willing to do our individual part.

Isn't it time we all took a cue from those 300 teachers, and turned our attention to problem solving through careful listening?

The Kidnapped Nigerian Schoolgirls and What We Must Teach Our Daughters

Barbara Greenberg   |   May 15, 2014    3:04 PM ET

I have a confession. I have been up all night feeling sickened. I am sickened with worry about the plight of the hundreds of Nigerian schoolgirls who were kidnapped from their school-Chibok Government Girls Secondary School in Nigeria. A radical Islamist group known as Boko Haram has actually come forth and claimed responsibility for this act of terror that has the world reeling. The girls were not up to no-good as we are fond of saying, using drugs or doing any of the things that we as American parents worry about on a daily basis. Instead, they were at school to take exams. Imagine that. They, like millions of other girls and young women around the world were simply taking exams and getting an education. Or, so we thought and so they and their parents thought.

Instead on that night of April 14, 2014 the lives of these girls and their families would be irrevocably changed in the worst possible way. And, I look at my calendar for April 14th to see what I was doing on that day. I see that on that day that we will never forget I was preparing for a media appearance on a totally unrelated topic. I begin to feel queasy and even a bit guilty. I was preparing for a television segment on photo-shopping and across the world other mothers' children were literally being stolen. Suddenly my day's activities feel somewhat irrelevant and worthless. I do not, however, see myself as an irrelevant individual who is incapable of instigating thought and action. So, I am here with mothers everywhere to discuss the lessons that we must teach all of our girls no matter where we live.

I was particularly impressed and at the same time haunted by the comment of one Nigerian mother who as she was wailing about the fate of her kidnapped daughter had the wherewithal to ask "What Am I to Do As A Mother?" Yes, as mothers we struggle with this question way too frequently. As a clinical psychologist and a mother I would like to answer this question for you. I cannot of course answer the question about how to save the hearts and souls of the girls and their families in Nigeria but I would if I could. Damn right. I would if I could. Instead, I'll attempt to answer another question which is what we forget to teach our daughters. Keep in mind that I am in no way implying that the mothers of the kidnapped girls or the girls themselves are in any way responsible for what happened and is happening. I have never ever been one to blame the victim. Please understand that.

I suggest strongly that you teach your daughters the following:

1. To both pay attention to their intuition and to learn to trust it. The body often gives us cues that something is amiss.

2. To be both independent and to protect their peers. Way too often we suggest to our girls that they need to look out for themselves and we forget to teach them that they have responsibility for their peers as well. Look we are a community and we must act as such.

3. If our girls are in danger then they must and should raise bloody hell. There is nothing virtuous about remaining passive. Get your girls involved in self-defense classes. Help them find their speaking and screaming voices. As Dylan Thomas suggested we should not go gently into that good night. And, our daughters should not go gently into a situation where they may get raped or taken advantage of. Sometimes, of course, they may not have any choice especially when they are staring into the barrel of a gun.

4. Listen to your daughters when they are angry. Find out what they are angry about and validate their feelings if they seem to be on to something. They need to know that it is okay to feel anger and even to express it.

AND

5. Encourage your daughters to get all of the education that they can so that they can become powerful and influential in all kinds of positive ways. No one ever complained about having too much education.

Let us all join in the effort to do whatever we can to be a part of the international community. The Nigerian girls are our girls too. Yes you must tell your own daughters about the suffering of the Nigerian girls. Start teaching them that suffering occurs on many levels and that we as citizens of the world must support one another in both small and large ways.

  |   May 15, 2014    1:45 PM ET

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal judge has upheld the gun-control law in the District of Columbia, which bans assault weapons and large-capacity magazines while imposing registration requirements for handguns and long guns.

In a ruling Thursday, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg said the city seeks to combat gun violence and promote public safety and that the current law does so in a constitutionally permissible manner.

The District of Columbia previously had one of the most strict gun control laws in the nation, but it was struck down in 2008 when the Supreme Court concluded that that the Second Amendment protects handgun possession for self-defense in the home.

The law upheld Thursday seeks to accommodate that constitutional right while also protecting the community from gun violence.

View the ruling below:

Dc Gun Control Ruling

Alex Lazar   |   May 14, 2014    3:58 PM ET

Oklahoma GOP gubernatorial candidate Chad Moody has a catchy slogan that he hopes will get voters talking: "God, grass and guns."

"I tried a few different slogans and then that one flashed in and I was pretty certain that was it," Moody told KOCO 5 News. "Most political campaigns start out as something serious and turn into a joke, this kind of started out as a joke and it's turned into something serious."

The "grass" part of the slogan comes from Moody's view that non-violent offenders who are in prison for smoking marijuana shouldn't be cooped up there.

"The department of corrections hides how many people are in there for marijuana," Moody said. "It's all about money and it's all about a private prison industry that is the modern-day slave trade."

He is also advocating for allowing law-abiding citizens to carry guns without a permit or license.

Moody has posted his slogan on billboards across the state, some of which have cost him up to $800, he said.

Moody faces incumbent Gov. Mary Fallin and Dax Ewbank of Guthrie in the Republican primary on June 24.

  |   May 8, 2014    7:34 AM ET


TOKYO, May 8 (Reuters) - A 27-year-old Japanese man was arrested on Thursday for illegally possessing handguns made by a three-dimensional printer, media said, marking the first such case in Japan, a country that takes pride in its low crime rate.

Police in April found five plastic guns and a 3D printer at the suspect's home in Kawasaki, south of Tokyo.

Two of the handguns were later proved capable of killing or wounding people, although no bullets were found at his home, public broadcaster NHK said.

Police also found blueprints for manufacturing guns stored in the suspect's personal computer. The blueprints were believed to have been downloaded from the Internet, NHK said.

"I made the guns by the 3D printer at home. I did not think it was illegal," the suspect, a college employee, was quoted by NHK as telling police.

A spokesman at Kanagawa Prefectural Police, which covers Kawasaki, declined to comment.

The suspect has frequently made Twitter entries aimed at justifying possession and manufacturing of guns and once said on the Internet "Gun restrictions are violation of human rights," NHK said.

Jiji news agency reported the suspect also possessed 10 toy guns. (Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Divest Now: Clayton Williams, the Oil Corporation That Loves the NRA (Even More Than its Own Shareholders)

Naomi Seligman   |   May 7, 2014    2:01 PM ET

Co-authored by Nick Guroff, Corporate Accountability International

The independent Texas oil and gas corporation, Clayton Williams Energy, will no doubt be riding high when it hosts its annual shareholder meeting today. Profits and revenues are up, thanks in part to the corporation's fracking activities. Meanwhile, the corporation's stock price is hovering near its all-time high.

But all that glitters is not gold. Shareholders -- in particular big public pension funds and socially responsible institutional investors -- have reason to be not only wary and angry, but to threaten divestment from the corporation. Why exactly? For starters, the energy corporation has, for years, been abusing their trust to make undisclosed political donations to the National Rifle Association (NRA).

As illuminated in a recent report by our two organizations, the Gun Truth Project and Corporate Accountability International, the corporation has been quietly donating millions to the NRA over the past couple of election cycles. Although the exact figure is unknown, it is the NRA's largest non-firearm-related corporate donor. And, anyway you slice it, the contributions are bad news for shareholders, the public, and even NRA members. Such contributions, on the one hand, may explain why the NRA supported legislation to open public lands that hunters and sportsmen cherish to energy development. On the other, they may have nothing to do with the corporation's business interests and everything to do with the political leanings of its founding chairman and chief executive, Clayton Williams Jr., a one-time Republican candidate for Texas governor who has boasted that "the enemies of the National Rifle Association are enemies of mine."

That's not a line likely to resonate with the many teacher pension funds with sizeable stakes in Clayton Williams Energy -- among them the California, Texas and Florida state teachers' retirement funds and TIAA-CREF. They are more likely to think back on the unspeakable mass school shootings that have plagued this country, from Columbine to Newtown, and the NRA's vehement opposition to even modest attempts at legislation to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill.

Indeed, the backlash has already begun. Scott Stringer, the New York City Comptroller whose own public pension fund has more than 25,000 shares in Clayton Williams Energy worth more than $3 million, wrote a letter last month asking for a full accounting of the corporation's NRA contributions. "Absent a compelling corporate rationale," he wrote, "such payments would exacerbate longstanding investor concerns regarding the ability of... the board of directors to exercise independent oversight of Mr. Williams."

Williams is an unusual boss for a public corporation in that he retains personal control of a majority of the shares and, according to his own corporate literature, plays a "significant" role both in business strategy and daily operations.

Even though Williams has a sizable personal fortune and could easily donate to the NRA from his own funds, he has directed his corporation to give millions to the NRA and more since 2010, according to his own public statements, NRA documentation and SEC filings.

Shareholders should follow Stringer's lead by scrutinizing Clayton Williams lobbying and demand full transparency. As our report puts it:

"While there is no obligation for public companies to spell out their spending on political lobbying, [Williams] is doing a disservice to his shareholders by not keeping them fully informed on such a sensitive issue... This information gap constitutes a breach of trust."

And transparency is only the half of it. What we already know about how this corporation subsidizes the NRA's anti-gun safety lobby is sufficient grounds for divestment.

There is every indication public pension funds are inclined to agree. In the wake of the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, which left 20 children and six teachers dead, both the California public employees' pension retirement fund (CalPERS) and the state teachers' retirement fund (CalSTRS) divested from the gun industry. CalSTRS further leveraged its investment in the private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management to pressure Cerberus into selling its stake in the gun manufacturer Freedom Group.

They should use similar leverage with Clayton Williams Energy now, and for the same reasons. The NRA's insistent lobbying to put more guns in the hands of more people, regardless of the consequences, has put it out of step with mainstream opinion, including a majority of gun-owning Americans. Opinion polls have shown overwhelmingly support for a loophole-free system of background checks, yet the NRA has used its lobbying power to stop the requisite legislation from passing in Washington.

Clayton Williams Jr. is, of course, under no obligation to change his opinions. But he has no business using his publicly traded corporation to further his political agenda -- and to use the corporation's financial muscle to lobby against the public interest. His shareholders would do well to voice their disapproval loud and clear, and dump their stock today.

Do Bullied Youth Really Carry Weapons to School?

Deborah Temkin   |   May 7, 2014   11:54 AM ET

Bullying Victims Bring Weapons to School!

So reads the latest headline heralding new research on bullying and weapon carrying. This finding certainly sounds plausible -- we know bullying is a common factor in many school shooting incidents (though, like suicide, bullying alone is likely not causal), but what does the data really say? As a trained researcher, I wanted to dig deeper beyond the news reports and went searching for the study. Imagine my surprise when the only published mention of this research was a 500-word abstract for a conference poster presentation that contains little information about their methodology and statistical analysis, and which has never been reviewed by fellow researchers, i.e. "peer reviewed." Peer review helps ensure that studies' data, methods, and conclusions are valid before entering the research literature and influencing further efforts on a given topic. Without peer review, we must question the findings of this study, especially given other research on this issue that shows quite the opposite -- bullied youth actually decrease their weapon carrying over time.

First and foremost, the authors report that 50 percent of youth participants on the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey administered by the CDC reported being victims of bullying. The CDC's own analyses of this data show a much lower rate at 20 percent. This huge discrepancy no doubt affects the interpretation of these findings. It is also unclear whether the researchers controlled for contextual factors known to influence weapon carrying such as the presence of gangs, overall rates of weapon carrying in particular schools and communities, and previous aggressive behavior. The authors also fail to report gender, race, and grade difference which almost certainly impact weapon carrying rates.

Though theirs may be the first to garner headlines, the authors' assertion that their study is the first to explore the connection between weapon carrying and peer victimization, is simply inaccurate. A 2011 longitudinal study from Dijkstra and colleagues published in the peer-reviewed journal, Journal of Adolescent Health, found that weapon carrying only increased for victims identified by peers as also aggressive. Aggressive youth, generally, were more likely to carry weapons over time. Those who self-identified as victims actually had a reduction in weapon carrying. As Dijkstra and colleagues conclude:

... Weapon carrying as a purely defensive response without engagement in problem behaviors may be uncommon. The finding that peer-reported victimization increased the likelihood of weapon carrying for highly aggressive adolescents underlines that experiences of victimization may prompt weapon carrying only among adolescents with a history of aggression. (pg. 375)

The differences between this published study and the one that made headlines this week are striking, yet no news reports covered the release of Dijkstra's work.

So what can we actually say about the current headlines? Media plays a valuable service in translating bullying research for the general public. Most research is cost prohibitive to access without academic credentials and can be difficult to interpret without a trained eye. Yet, the news is selective about what research it reports, often focusing on those studies that reinforce preconceived notions about bullying and those that may cause scandal, regardless of their validity. For these reasons, we must be critical consumers of all research-turned-news stories. Although peer review cannot guarantee validity in all cases (see, for instance, the since debunked vaccines-cause-autism research, where the research fabricated results) or quality studies and conclusions (see my blog on the "anti-bullying programs don't work" paper), it is at least a clue as to whether a paper is ready to be considered on a wide scale. Do bullied youth carry weapons? I'll wait to read the peer-reviewed paper.

What Do We Need to Do About Gun Violence?

Mike Weisser   |   May 6, 2014    4:33 PM ET

According to a recent report issued by the Center for American Progress, of everyone killed by guns each year, one in five was 24 years old or younger, making gun death the second most common form of morbidity for this age group, surpassed only by motor vehicle accidents. The Center is hardly the first to draw parallels between the number of automobile fatalities versus the number of gun deaths each year. But beyond the similar number of deaths in both categories (roughly 30,000+) the comparison, in terms of what it means from a public policy or public health perspective, means nothing at all.

The fact is that nearly everyone who gets killed on our highways never imagined that this would be the result of getting into their car. The fact is that just about everyone who used a gun to kill themselves or someone else picked up the gun for that reason and that reason alone. Since we know that most fatal vehicle accidents occur because people drive too fast, or drink too much, or do something else that they shouldn't do, we pass DUI laws, we set radar traps on major roads, and we even make the vehicles more crash-proof and mandate seat belts to bring down fatalities even more. But even though scores of peer-reviewed articles confirm Walter Mosley's comment that "if you carry a gun, it's bound to go off sooner or later," we make it pretty easy for most Americans to walk around with a gun. And despite NRA bombast to the contrary, the majority of gun deaths each year were committed by people who either could or had legally acquired the gun.

Given the above, it seems to me that when we look at the issue of gun violence, it gets down to choosing from one of three options:

1. We agree that 30,000+ gun deaths per year is a small price to pay for the existence of the 2nd Amendment and leave it at that.

2. We engage from time to time in a loud and basically unproductive national debate about a new gun law which, even if it were enacted, would probably do little to change the current state of affairs.

3. We try to figure out the points of contact between people at risk for using guns and those professionals who might appropriately intervene, then give the latter the necessary resources to initiate the intervention process and monitor the results.

In the case of suicides, we know that most victims saw a mental health professional within the 30 days prior to the suicide act itself. In the case of homicides, more than 75% grow out of long-standing disputes and arguments, many of which resulted in non-fatal injuries before one or the other parties yanked out the gun. Whether it was a counselor, an ER physician, a teacher or other professional, most people who shoot themselves or someone else presented symptoms or testimony that needed to be followed up. A mental health worker who alerts the police to a patient's suicide plan with a gun isn't infringing on anyone's 2nd Amendment rights. An ER physician who's told by a patient that "I'm not going to let him beat me up again" has a Hippocratic responsibility to inquire about the existence of a gun.

Despite what Rand Paul says, gun violence has been recognized as a public health issue since 1979. It is the only public health issue registering significant morbidity for which medical professionals do not have any best practices from which they can receive guidance either for identifying or treating at-risk patients who might otherwise hurt themselves or someone else with a gun. Let's be honest: the discussion and development of best practices to deal with gun violence is long overdue.

Post-Sandy Hook Active Shooter Training Has Already Saved Lives, Says FBI Director James Comey

Ryan J. Reilly   |   May 2, 2014    4:41 PM ET

WASHINGTON -- The active shooter training that the FBI has been giving to local and state law enforcement officials across the country in the wake of the Sandy Hook killings has already saved lives, FBI Director James Comey told reporters Friday.

Comey said the chief of police in Murrysville, Pennsylvania "wanted to make sure that I knew that the FBI's training had saved children" when a student stabbed 25 people at Franklin Regional High School last month.

"One of the pieces of training we've been pushing out is tell responders to be sure to keep a path clear for ambulances," Comey told reporters. "One of the things we've learned from examining past incidents is the law enforcement responders race up, park their cars at all sorts of angles and race towards the building, completely blocking the roads."

"So one of the things we've been teaching is race up, but somebody needs to take command and keep one road clear," Comey continued. "And the chief wanted me to know that kids lived who would otherwise have bled out and died that day because he had gotten that training and he insisted that a lane be kept clear, and the ambulances got right up, grabbed the kids that were bleeding badly and got them out and saved their lives."

Comey also said that the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit is regularly working with state and local law enforcement to address concerns about individuals who might be plotting a violent attack.

"We've put the word out to all of our partners -- if there's a troubled person in your community, [a] troubled student, anybody you worry about, you can bounce it off us and consult with our experts down at Quantico and they'll offer you advice on how you should think about the risk," Comey said.

Local and state law enforcement are regularly taking advantage of the program, Comey said. He added that an individual who was believed to have been plotting a mass shooting was sent to a mental health unit within the last week after local law enforcement intervened based on the BAU's recommendation.

Special Agent Ann Todd, an FBI spokeswoman in Quantico, told The Huffington Post that the bureau could not offer any details on the case because it was ongoing.

Is It Time to Update the Second Amendment?

Sanjay Sanghoee   |   May 2, 2014    3:07 PM ET

As Winston Churchill famously said, "You can always count on Americans to do the right thing -- after they have tried everything else." It was a backhanded compliment about our ability to find the courage to do what is necessary, and time and again, Americans have risen to the challenge.

Except on gun control.

It should dismay us greatly that even after the Newtown tragedy, which claimed the lives of 20 young children, and the countless gun related deaths since -- including this week when a gunman went on a rampage at a FedEx facility in Georgia, we have been unable to enact stronger laws to prevent the reckless marketing and sales of guns by manufacturers and dealers. Even basic measures such as expanded background checks and restrictions on the sale of assault weapons have failed in Congress, and we seem to be no closer to making progress on this issue than before Newtown.

When even the massacre of children doesn't move us, it is time to ask why we have become so ineffectual and unable to do the right thing. A big part of the answer lies in our blind adherence to the Constitution, and more specifically, the Second Amendment, which codifies the right to bear arms. Even gun control advocates who recognize the urgent need to do something are so scared of appearing un-American that they routinely sidestep the core issue of whether the Second Amendment makes sense anymore and even wind up bolstering the other side's cause in some cases.

This, of course, is exactly what gun companies and the National Rifle Association count on to continue their policy of bullying America into submission on guns. As long as we are afraid to question the sacred cow of the pro-gun movement, there cannot be meaningful progress on gun control.

So does the Second Amendment really serve a useful purpose in modern society and should it be modified to suit our times?

The answer to the former depends on whether you imagine that the Second Amendment somehow protects Americans from a tyrannical government. It does not. No matter how many weapons private citizens stockpile or even what type of guns they own, a private militia can never match the firepower of the U.S. government. Simply put, if our government ever decides to suppress the citizenry by force, privately held guns won't be the factor that makes a difference.

With this in mind, the central purpose that the Second Amendment once served is no longer applicable, and therefore neither is the Amendment in its current form. Even gun control advocates are not opposed to private citizens keeping a handgun at home for personal protection or hunters owning a rifle, but those exceptions can be covered without the overarching sweep of the Second Amendment.

Also, as much as the pro-gun movement would like you to believe, there is no real evidence that more guns in the hands of private citizens protects society from violence. The popular idea (amongst some people) that if every person was armed, criminals could be neutralized more easily or be less likely to commit crimes in the first place is absurd and more the result of an effective media campaign by the NRA than a real fact. The presence of more guns in society simply raises the danger of more people being hurt and we don't need statistics to recognize that.

Ironically, the problem with the Second Amendment is that by being so broad, it actually makes it vulnerable to interpretation and sets up the conflict between the right to bear arms (reasonable) and the ability to pose a serious threat to civilized society (unreasonable). Limiting its scope, therefore, could strengthen the spirit of the Amendment by removing its undesirable consequences.

Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens recently suggested adding the words "when serving in [the militia]" to update the Second Amendment but that won't necessarily work either since the definition of 'militia' itself is debatable. It's time to stop quibbling over words and make the Amendment as specific as possible to avoid subjective interpretations leading to deadly consequences for our nation.

To summarize, if we want meaningful gun control in America, we first need to remove the all-encompassing shield of the Second Amendment that the multi-billion dollar gun industry and its lobbyists routinely hide behind to ply their weapons. Only without that artificial protection can we begin to have a real debate about the type of gun laws we need.

I know that many will bristle at the notion of modifying our Constitution but as an evolved nation with civilization and peace as our guiding principles, we are actually obligated to rethink anything that derails those principles - no matter how appropriate the Second Amendment may have been when it was adopted in 1791. If the essence of America is freedom, then we also need to be free of blind ideology, needless paranoia, and the fear of questioning our Constitution - which was written by free-thinking Americans who had no problem questioning their own status quo.

One such free-thinking American today is former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a long-time advocate of gun control, who recently pledged $50 million of his personal capital to take on the destructive influence of the NRA. Predictably, the NRA is trying to use that to make Americans afraid of what could happen to their guns, but let's not be fooled by them.

Support Mr. Bloomberg on his mission instead.

Sanjay Sanghoee is a writer and commentator. He has written extensively about gun control since the Aurora, Colorado shootings and is the author of two books. Follow him @sanghoee.

Better Love It or Leave It, Because We Cling to Guns

Allen Schmertzler   |   May 2, 2014   10:07 AM ET

2014-04-29-clivenbundycopy.jpg


The times they have a changed. I remember when the extreme right-wing nuts were social pariahs. No mainstream politician or national media organization would openly embrace or advocate for them. They were either percolating as white supremacist racists, shamed KKK holdouts, Hell's Angels road bandits, or grouped into a category labeled "survivalists." They were all armed and willing, had caches of enough weapons and supplies sometimes hidden in bunkers, and they were going to save America. We knew they existed, sometimes gave them some thought, but mostly ignored them as pesky bugs that one just has to monitor and avoid as best as possible, because there was a powerful sense that the rightness of the American Dream machine would prevail.

This was also a time when America's youth were "crusaders" against government over-reach. Despite their being armed only with the first amendment, idealism, and organizing peaceful and mostly non-violent protests, a majority of Americans angrily called them unpatriotic and yelled for them to "love it or leave it!" Odd to realize now how that slogan was never aimed at the right wing nuts.

During the same period of social discontent when the Black Panthers "stood their ground" armed with the second amendment, the FBI and all shades of law enforcement agents either killed many of them in shoot-outs or imprisoned others. Americans, in the mid-west, and from coast to coast supported the government and its agents with patriotic fervor for ridding society of those illegal treasonous Hanoi Jane and black militant types. The chaotic unrest of the '60s and '70s faded as the social crusaders donned work suits and NBA team uniforms and assimilated back into the melting pot.

Fast forward to Cliven Bundy's "home on the Nevada range," where the big ugly truth stood its ground that America is still a Civil War house divided across one hundred fifty plus Aprils. What first appeared to be a resurgent state rights sagebrush rebellion on steroids took a prickly cactus turn.

There was the usual and now quite predictable circus of "Republican" characters that jumped on this event to spin the narrative, score political points, spend Koch brother monies, stoke the base, create another poster child victim of Obama's illegal government over-reach, and gain another propaganda win.

The shocking surprise was the turnout of "first responders." The neo-minutemen and women that flocked to the Nevada "Concord" from other states, forming a volunteer armed citizenry, that took up sniper positions, and were ready to place women as the first receivers of bullets against federal agents enforcing the law against the cattle welfare queen, Cliven Bundy. This group was more than ready and desirous of martyrdom to bring about their larger cause, the overthrow of the evil empire.

Just when did it become fashionable and acceptable, and not punishable for armed treason against the government? That is exactly what occurred there. No one was saying, "love it or leave it" to this posse, because they cling to guns, because they have become embedded into a way larger fabric of American society than their predecessors were able to. I wonder if the gush of the Republican power elite somehow legitimized and thus emboldened these folks? Could this have become the first shots of the rewriting of the Civil War?

Thankfully, the same guy that started this defused the standoff. Cliven Bundy talked. No longer an obscure desperate lone ranger, Cliven had the embrace and love from the Republican machine that empowered him to spew his Civil War era racism. The same machine that gaveth him a platform, now couldn't find enough cactus, sagebrush, or moral platitudes to distance themselves fast enough. Oh well, no one promised unconditional love.

It is beyond me why the extreme right wing Republican power machine doesn't do a better job vetting the Cliven Bundys. Does so much power and money breed such stupidity? I guess in their mind they won anyway. They know the hatred is still out there waiting for the next crusade, and it isn't the sort of group that anyone other than me might politely ask of them, but here goes, please, "America, love it or leave it!"

Ed Mazza   |   April 30, 2014    4:14 AM ET

Sarah Palin is at it again, this time saying that if she was in charge, waterboarding would be "how we baptize terrorists."

On Tuesday night's "Daily Show," Jon Stewart said Palin's speech was tailor-made for an Al Qaeda recruitment video -- or maybe part of a new series of speeches called the "HUH?! Talks."

"They're like TED Talks, except they make no sense," Stewart said.

Watch the segment above for more on Palin.

The former vice presidential candidate and Alaska governor was speaking at an NRA meeting in which guns were the implied solution to a long list of cultural problems.

"The NRA convention is like a fortune cookie game in bed, except here the answer is always 'you need a gun,'" Stewart said. "It's a hilarious and incredibly misguided game... like tennis darts."

For more of Stewart's take on the convention as well as new gun laws, see the clip below.

As a Future Seminarian Headed to Georgia, I'm Scared About the 'Guns Everywhere' Law

Richard M. Weinberg   |   April 28, 2014    4:00 PM ET

I'm both excited and scared to be headed to Atlanta in August to attend Candler School of Theology at Emory University. Excited because moving anywhere from Washington, D.C. -- and the Northeast in general, where I've lived my entire life -- is a welcome change. But, I also have not just a few hesitations about being a liberal Northeastern gay Episcopalian in the South at a Methodist seminary -- this despite friends assuring me that Atlanta is different than the rest of the South.

Atlanta may be different, but it's still in Georgia, where last week Governor Nathan Deal signed into law the so-called "guns everywhere" bill, officially named the Safe Carry Protection Act of 2014. As someone about to become a seminarian in the state, I can't quite wrap my head around the idea that while receiving Communion on Sunday, one of my fellow congregants might be packing heat.

Thankfully, both bishops in my denomination, the Rt. Rev. Robert C. Wright, bishop of Atlanta, and the Rt. Rev. Scott Anson Benhase, bishop of Georgia, issued a joint statement opposing the bill.

This bill solves nothing, and it only creates the potential for more gun violence, not less, to say nothing of increasing political polarization in Georgia. Our state's current gun laws are already quite fair to gun owners, adequately protecting their rights. All the citizens of Georgia have rights as well. We have a right to keep guns out of our houses of worship and our schools,

the statement said. (So I assume the Episcopal churches I'll be frequenting will opt for a "no guns, please" sign at their entrance.)

My direct involvement in advocacy related to curbing gun violence has come in the past year-and-a-half. Following the horrific shootings at Newtown, my boss, the Very Rev. Gary Hall, dean of Washington National Cathedral, entered the public debate on gun violence head-on, making headlines with a rousing sermon in which he famously quipped, "The gun lobby is no match for the cross lobby." Since December 2012, our work at the Cathedral has included organizing two annual Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath weekends, hosting a vigil service on the one-year anniversary of the Newtown shooting, marching for commonsense gun laws and working with faith-based coalitions across the country to reflect the overwhelming majority view of people of faith who are opposed to the epidemic of gun violence in America.

Now I have a confession to make. Just about a week ago I was out to dinner with one of my best friends. He wanted me to come meet his younger sister and brother-in-law. My friend had warned me many times that his family is conservative, but hey, so are a number of my family members. Quite unexpectedly, at one point near the end of the meal, the conversation turned to their respective love of guns. Comparisons on who owned what ensued, and to a degree I was comfortable with the "hunting" talk for the most part and decided to keep quiet.

But then the conversation took a turn when my friend's brother-in-law expressed his concern over efforts to limit the sale of high-capacity magazines. Rather than speak up and risk an uncomfortable confrontation with my friend's family, I excused myself quickly as we were paying the check.

The following day I apologized to my friend explaining that I felt I had missed an opportunity to express my views from my Christian standpoint. I wish I had told those at the dinner table about my co-worker whose cousin Alex Sullivan died in Aurora, or about the interviews I conducted with family members of gun violence victims, including Scarlett Lewis, the mother of Jesse, a six-year-old boy who died at Newtown or Ann Wilson, whose son Daniel and husband James died within five years of each other at the ages of 20 and 50, respectively, in Washington, D.C. Listening to the heartbreaking stories of those who have suffered such loss was a challenge and a privilege, and what was inspiring was the resilience of their faith. It made it personal for me.

Now, I don't know what my dinner table companions' reactions would have been had I entered the conversation. And I know that gun enthusiasts are not in favor of gun violence and wouldn't not share empathy toward victims. But it seems to me that people on polar opposite sides of the gun debate come to the conversation from completely different places. On the one side, Second Amendment advocates just like guns, believe in their right to have them, and oppose any legislation that would seek to limit their lawful access to them. On the other side, gun control advocates are mindful foremost of the violence illegal guns cause and rally around the notion that commonsense measures to prevent guns from falling into the wrong hands are appropriate for the well being of all citizens. One of those measures -- universal background checks -- is even supported by more than 80 percent of Americans.

What's to be done? Well, for one thing, those of us who believe that gun laws save lives have to speak up and not be silent like I was at dinner the other week. Respectfully engaging in conversation around the culture of guns, listening to one another -- either about a passion for hunting, concern for the ability to defend one's home or about the stories of some of the 30,000 annual victims of gun violence and the ways we can protect gun owners' rights while also protecting innocent would-be victims, would be meaningful conversations to have.

It would seem when I move to Georgia in August that I'll be afforded more opportunities to engage with those I disagree. As a Christian, I follow one who died at the hands of extreme violence. And I'm confident of my calling to condemn violence of any kind that would cause such tremendous loss of life. If the Holy Spirit can aide us all in open conversation that would lessen the polarization of our political discourse, then come Holy Spirit, I pray: fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in them the fire of your love. Amen.