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A New Approach on Gun Reform -- Let's Get Started

Steven Fulop   |   December 11, 2013   11:51 AM ET

One year after Newtown, Congress has failed to enact a single reform that would make children safer from gun violence. This is a tragedy in every sense of the word -- for those who perished. And, for the living. It's also a tragedy for those who believe in public service because on all levels, Newtown, and indeed all mass gun violence, is the clear failure of government to protect the innocent among us.

We face an unacceptable situation and one that sadly seems unlikely to be altered anytime soon in Washington. Instead, change regarding guns must come on the local level. Incremental though it may be, it is a start and clearly we can no longer wait on Washington to change national policy.

That's why Jersey City will help start to transform the thinking about guns. Police departments are huge buyers of guns and ammunition but have not taken advantage of their power in the marketplace to demand change from gun manufacturers. This has been a missed opportunity that must be -- and will be -- reversed.

The Jersey City Department of Public Safety is issuing a bid specification to purchase new weaponry. It will also be what we believe is a first-of-its-kind policy statement for our expectations of what gun manufacturers owe the American people when it comes to their safety and the safety of their loved ones.

Jersey City will be asking all bidders the following six socially responsible questions:

- What do you do to combat illegal gun trafficking and illegal gun crime?
- Do you manufacturer and sell assault weapons for civilian use?
- Do you agree not to sell certain models of firearms for civilian use?
- Are you requiring your dealers to conduct background checks?
- Do you fund research related to gun violence and smart gun technology?
- Will you commit to prohibiting your brand name from being used in violent video games?

Gun makers are going to complain that Jersey City is overstepping its bounds and interfering with gun owners' rights. Unfortunately that's the typical response from an industry which has fiercely fought to protect its right to manufacture and sell guns and bullets yet shows almost no regard for what happens after they are purchased.

We have ever more security features in our streets, homes, offices and even toys. Yet, gun makers have resisted virtually all change intended to not only ensure their products more accountable but so are the people who use them.

Keep in mind, Cerberus Capital Management, the owner of Freedom Group whose Bushmaster rifle was used by Adam Lanza in the Newtown shooting, has been pressured by its investors since then to sell the gun maker but so far has been unable to find any buyers. It's a clear indication that gun makers should embrace corporate social responsibility like so many other American companies or face the wrath of shareholders.

When it comes to gun reform and protecting ordinary citizens, the failure of Washington to act is horrific. But that doesn't mean we give up. Today, American cities are the laboratory of change. It's famously said that there isn't a Democratic or Republican way to plow snow or pick up garbage -- just to get it cleared off the streets and sidewalks. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg got it right when he declared "The difference between my level of government and other levels of government is that action takes place n the city level."

Jersey City, NJ is going to play it forward. By making this stand today on gun reform, our City will become a little safer. Then other cities will follow. Soon maybe state governments and perhaps in a few years our national leaders will boldly step forward and bring about gun reform that a vast majority of Americans want.

Steven Fulop is the Mayor of Jersey City, NJ.

Support For Tougher Gun Laws Fades, Poll Finds

Emily Swanson   |   December 10, 2013    7:31 AM ET

WASHINGTON -- Support for stronger gun laws has dropped from highs in the weeks after last year's elementary school massacre in Newtown, Conn., even though other mass shootings have kept guns in the news, according to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll and others conducted over the past year.

Still, support for universal background checks for all gun buyers, including those at gun shows and in private sales, remains near its peak since the shooting. Seventy-seven percent of poll respondents said they favored such a requirement, while 16 percent were opposed. Americans were more divided over banning high-capacity magazines for semi-automatic weapons, with 48 percent in favor and 38 percent opposed.

According to the latest poll, 49 percent of Americans now want generally stricter gun laws, while 22 percent say they should be less strict and 23 percent want no change.

A HuffPost/YouGov poll conducted just after the Newtown shooting found support for stricter laws had jumped to 50 percent from 44 percent the previous summer. Subsequent surveys found gun control support climbing still higher -- as much as 60 percent in one YouGov/Economist poll conducted early in January.

Although that has now dropped to just below 50 percent, support for stronger gun laws remains higher than it was before the Newtown shooting.

Surveys released last week by CNN and in October by Gallup have likewise found support for stronger gun laws falling since the shooting.

The new HuffPost/YouGov poll found a partisan divide on the issue has increased over the past year.

According to the poll, support for stricter gun laws is as high or higher among Democrats as it was at the height of the post-Newtown bump in support. Eighty-five percent of Democrats now say that they want stricter gun laws, while 78 percent said so in the early January poll that represented the post-Newtown high for support overall.

Among both independents and Republicans, though, that support has fallen. Thirty-four percent of independents and 20 percent of Republicans now say they want stricter gun laws, compared with 56 percent of independents and 40 percent of Republicans who supported it when post-Newtown concern was at its peak.

Support for universal background checks, though remains high among all three groups. Ninety-five percent of Democrats, 68 percent of independents and 64 percent of Republicans said they favor universal background checks. Less than a quarter of independents or Republicans said they were opposed.

The poll found that nearly one-third of Americans, or 31 percent, said they think everyone who buys a gun at a gun show is already required to first undergo a background check, while 53 percent correctly said that's not true. That perception was highest among Democrats, 37 percent of whom said they think that's already a requirement.

And 17 percent of Americans think that Congress has already passed new gun laws since the Newtown shooting, although a much higher percentage (63 percent) said correctly that it has not. The belief that Congress has already passed stricter gun laws was most common among Republicans, 25 percent of whom said they believe it has.

The HuffPost/YouGov poll was conducted Dec. 5 and Dec. 6 among 1,000 U.S. adults using a sample selected from YouGov's opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population. Factors considered include age, race, gender, education, employment, income, marital status, number of children, voter registration, time and location of Internet access, interest in politics, religion and church attendance.

The Huffington Post has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov's nationally representative opinion polling.

HuffPost's Mark Blumenthal contributed.

ALAN FRAM   |   December 9, 2013    6:16 PM ET

WASHINGTON (AP) — Narrowly beating a midnight deadline, Congress voted Monday to renew an expiring ban on plastic firearms that can evade airport detection machines. But Republicans blocked an effort to toughen the restrictions — the latest defeat for gun-control forces in the year since the grade school massacre in Newtown, Conn.

President Barack Obama signed the law before midnight, using an auto pen as he traveled to Africa for ceremonies honoring the late South African President Nelson Mandela. The device Obama used to sign the bill has been used for the signatures of traveling presidents since the administration of President George W. Bush.

American Moms One Year After Newtown: No More Silence About Gun Violence

Shannon Watts   |   December 9, 2013   10:54 AM ET

Over the past year, I've introduced myself across the country again and again as an Indiana mom of five children who became an accidental activist on December 14, 2012. In just one year, what started out as a Facebook page put up the day after the tragic mass shooting in Newtown has become a national grassroots movement. Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America now has more than 125,000 members and a chapter in every state.

Why has our movement been so successful? Because as the events at Sandy Hook Elementary unfolded last year, I and the other mothers of America were given an ultimatum: Act now to reduce gun violence in America or sit by as these senseless tragedies continue to occur in our communities. We chose to act.

And despite what some pundits may say, 2013 was a watershed year for the gun reform movement because it was the year American mothers finally stood up and said, "ENOUGH." Mothers have often been catalysts of social change in our nation, encouraging and fighting for changes to our laws on suffrage, segregation, children's rights, and drunk driving. Reducing gun violence by changing our culture, our laws, and American business policies is the next major movement for American mothers.

Since December, our moms have worked tirelessly to make our legislators and leaders listen to us. We have held hundreds of rallies and marches across the country and at our nation's Capitol. We've held stroller jams, hosted lemonade stands, and told Starbucks to get some gun sense. And -- because of our pressure -- Starbucks, a worldwide business icon, recently reversed its policy and declared that guns are no longer welcome inside their stores.

Despite the Senate's astonishing inability to pass background checks in April, we also had some major wins at the federal level. We endorsed and voted in candidates with gun sense, like Sens. Ed Markey and Cory Booker, and Rep. John Tierney. We pushed for and got a director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives -- the bureau had been without a director for seven years. And, in August, Sen. Reid promised our moms over a glass of lemonade that there would be another vote on background checks before the mid-term elections.

At the state level, we helped pass sweeping gun reform legislation in Connecticut, Colorado, Delaware, Maryland, and New York. We had smaller victories in California and New Jersey. And we blocked bad gun legislation from passing in Missouri. Looking at 2014, we are hopeful that we can push background checks through state legislatures in Minnesota, Washington, Oregon, and other states. And we will fight for new state laws that hold adults accountable for safe storage of their firearms -- currently only 20 states have such laws in place. We want to change the national nomenclature -- there is no such thing as an accidental shooting involving a child who has procured an adult's gun. Such shootings are criminal negligence, plain and simple, and they are shockingly common occurrences in America.

The bottom line is that moms will keep the pressure on until we change America's gun laws and culture. As accidental activists, and as moms, we now realize we have the power to make our communities wake up; we can take ourselves to the offices of our legislators and our local businesses and demand action. We can rally in the streets of our cities and make our voices heard.

And we will make our voices heard again on Sat., Dec. 14 -- the one-year anniversary of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary. Moms across the country will gather in communities from coast to coast at more than 50 events to ring bells in a moment of "No More Silence." Our events across nearly 40 states will honor all victims of gun violence, and show that American mothers will never again be silent about gun violence.

We didn't get to where we are overnight -- it has taken the gun lobby decades to lead us to the edge of this cliff. But we don't have to go over -- we don't have to fulfill the their prophecy of an America where everyone is armed, where our children wear bullet-proof backpacks to schools protected by shields, and where the good guys shoot it out with the bad guys over our kids' heads.

I've heard many of our members say that the Sandy Hook massacre was like a 9/11 for mothers. The murder of 26 innocent first graders and teachers was a wake-up call for mothers -- we now realize how lax our country's gun laws and policies are, and our eyes are open to the human toll of our national gun violence epidemic. I truly believe it's up to the mothers of America to pull our country back from the precipice, and to demand a safer future for our children. The bell cannot be unrung.

Let's Hold Off Celebrating America's (and New York's) Declining Murder Rate

Peter Dreier   |   December 9, 2013    9:50 AM ET

In its story on Friday reporting that Mayor Bill de Blasio had selected William Bratton to head the NYPD, the New York Times noted that Bratton's "biggest challenge" would be "keeping crime at historic lows -- just more than 300 murders so far this year."

The Times' statement reflects the widespread feeling that New York City has become a safe place. Indeed, the New York Post recently boasted in a headline: "NYC on Track to be the Nation's Safest City." Outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his police chief, Raymond Kelly, like to take credit for the drop in murders, claiming that it was the result of better policing, especially its efforts to prevent crimes rather than simply respond to them.

But before we celebrate too much, let's put the decline of murder in New York City -- and across the entire United States -- in some perspective.

In its article about de Blasio's hiring of Bratton, the Times reported that, "After riots in London in 2011, David Cameron, the British prime minister, publicly entertained bringing in Mr. Bratton to lead the police there." In 2011, England, with over 56 million people, had 540 murders -- a murder rate about one-fifth of the United States figure. In London, a city of 8.3 million people (the same size as New York City), 113 people were murdered that year. Even so, the Brits viewed it as a serious crisis. And last year a total of 99 people were murdered in London, the lowest figure since 1970.

The reality is that Americans accept as "normal" a level of murder than would be considered alarming in any other affluent nation. No other well-off, democratic society has a murder rate even close to that of the United States, even after more than two decades of steady drops in homicides.

No police chief in the United States, on his or her own, can reduce the murder rate down to the levels found in Europe, Japan, Australia or Canada. The number of homicides in the U.S. is the result of the deadly combination of inequality, poverty, and guns. Among the world's wealthy nations, we have the most unequal distribution of wealth and income, the highest poverty level, and the greatest proliferation of guns, especially the number of military-style assault weapons.

This year, New York City is on pace to see 335 murders if the trend for the first 10 months (279 murders) continues. This is less than a murder a day. With a population of 8.3 million, that computes to 2.9 murders per 100,000 residents, which is how criminologists and government agencies compute the murder rate.

The last time NYC's murder rate was that low was in the 1950s. At its peak, in 1990, 2,245 people were murdered in New York City. NYC has also been successful at reducing other violent crimes -- such as rape, robbery, and felonious assault. The number of rapes dropped from 1,630 to 1,092 between 2000 and 2011; robberies fell from 32,562 to 19,773 during that period; assaults declined from 40,880 to 29,829, although there has been a slight increase in the past two years.

Last year only two other cities among the 10 largest had murder rates lower than New York, according to FBI statistics. New York City's murder rate (5.1) was higher than San Jose (4.6) and San Diego (3.5), but lower than Los Angeles (7.8), Chicago (18.5), Houston (10.0), Philadelphia (21.5), Phoenix (8.3), San Antonio (6.4), and Dallas (12.4). Among the nation's largest cities, Detroit had the highest murder rate with 54 murders per 100,000 people, followed by New Orleans (53), St. Louis (35), Baltimore (34), and Newark (34).

Overall, the murder rate in the U.S. has been declining. In 1995, there were 21,606 murders, a rate of 8.1 murders per 100,000. Last year, the US had 14,173 murders -- a murder rate of 4.8 per 100,000. Among cities with over 250,000 residents, the murder rate was more than double (10.5) the national figure.

New Yorkers have every reason to feel safer than they did a year ago, 10 years ago, and 20 years ago. "City goes 24 hours without a shooting, stabbing or slashing for the second time in year," proclaimed a headline in the New York Daily News in November. According to its subhead: "For the second time this year, 24 hours have gone by in New York without a single person being shot or stabbed. On average 3.6 people are shot every day in the city."

For New Yorkers, and for all Americans, the declining murder rate is certainly good news. But the same statistics would be very bad news elsewhere, as we can see by comparing the murder rate in New York City, and that within the U.S. overall, with murder rate in other affluent countries.

The most recent comparative data, collected from national crime statistics by the United Nations, is for 2011. As can be seen in the table below, the murder rate in the U.S. (4.7 in 2011) is more the twice the size of the next most murderous nation, Norway (2.3). It is three times greater than the murder rate in Canada. It is almost five times larger than the murder date in Australia, England, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, the Netherlands, and Sweden. It is six times greater than the rate in Austria, Denmark, Germany, Luxembourg, and Spain. It is 15 times greater than Japan's murder rate.

Now that New York City has reached an all-time low murder rate (at least since it began collecting good statistics), let's compare murder in the Big Apple to countries of comparable size.

  • New York has 8.3 million residents. It is likely to have 335 murders this year.
  • In 2011, Austria, with 8.4 million residents, had 71 murders.
  • Switzerland has 7.9 million residents and 46 murders.
  • The Netherlands, with 16.7 million people - more than twice the population of New York City - had less than half the number of murders (144) in a year.
  • Or, put differently, if New York had the same murder rate (0.8) as Germany, Austria, and Spain, there would have been only 67 murders this year - slightly more than one each week.
  • Toronto -- a city of 2.8 million residents -- had 55 murders in 2012, a rate of 1.9 per 100,000 people. That year Chicago, a city with a similar population size, had 506 murders. Detroit, a city of 701,475 people just across the river from Toronto, recorded 411 homicides last year. Chicago's murder rate was almost 10 times larger than Toronto; Detroit's was about 28 times greater. Detroiters and Chicagoans are so used to the epidemic of killings that they often go unreported in the local media. In Toronto, almost every murder is a front-page story and a topic of public soul-searching.

Using slightly different data than the FBI, the federal Centers for Disease Control calculated that in 2011 there were 15,953 murders in the U.S. and that 11,101 (30 a day) were caused by firearms. (Suicides and unintentional shootings account for another 20,000 deaths by guns each year. Of course, many more people are injured -- some seriously, and permanently -- by gun violence).

The U.S. ranks first in the world -- by a wide margin -- in gun-related civilian deaths and injuries.

Compared with every other democracy, we have the most guns and the weakest gun laws.

Most gun-related deaths are committed by people who purchase their weapons legally. Others purchase or steal them illegally, but their ability to get access to guns is due to our lax laws on gun ownership.

America's outrageous murder rate is not inevitable. Other societies have much lower rates. We can reduce ours if we address the problems of inequality, poverty, and the easy availability of guns.

America's widening income gap and the persistence of poverty (almost 50 million Americans live in poverty) can't be solved quickly, but we know what works. Addressing the proliferation of deadly guns is something we can do quickly, if we can muster the political will.


Data collected from the United Nations

Peter Dreier is the E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics and director of the Urban & Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College. His latest book is The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame (Nation Books, 2012). A third edition of his book Place Matters: Metropolitics for the 21st Century, coauthored with John Mollenkopf and Todd Swanstrom, will be published next year by University Press of Kansas.

ALAN FRAM   |   December 9, 2013    4:56 AM ET

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Senate vote to renew an expiring ban on plastic firearms capable of evading metal detectors and X-ray machines is shaping up as a bittersweet moment for gun control supporters, days before the anniversary of the deadly mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

Monday's vote to extend the prohibition on plastic guns for another decade responds to a growing threat from steadily improving 3-D printers that can produce such weapons. But gun control advocates seem sure to lose an effort to impose additional, tougher restrictions on plastic firearms — a harsh reminder of their failure to enact any new federal gun curbs in the year since 20 first-graders and six educators were murdered in Newtown, Conn.

ADAM GELLER   |   December 7, 2013    2:35 PM ET

In the moment, Newtown's children became our own.

Staring at photographs of their freckled faces, hair tucked into barrettes and baseball caps, a country divided by politics, geography, race, class and belief was united in mourning. And as their deaths confronted Americans with vexing questions about guns and violence, there were calls to turn that shared grief into a collective search for answers.

Chris Gentilviso   |   December 6, 2013   10:02 AM ET

Former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.) has taken another step forward on her new political action committee dedicated to gun control.

Politico reported Friday morning that Giffords is moving $300,000 from a closed congressional campaign to Rights And Responsibilities. The first politicians who will profit from those funds supported April's bill on gun background checks, headed by co-sponsor Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.).

The move comes a little more than two weeks after Giffords changed the name from Gabby PAC to Rights And Responsibilities. According to Roll Call, the PAC had receipts of $20,193 and cash on hand of $14,980 in the first half of 2013. As a traditional PAC, direct donations can be given to specific candidates.

As USA Today noted in late November, Rights And Responsibilities PAC will be separate from Americans for Responsible Solutions, a gun control super PAC run by Giffords and husband Mark Kelly. Standing as a super PAC, that unit can accept unlimited money from corporations, unions, associations and individuals, and then use it to advocate for or against candidates of their choosing. Direct donations to candidates are prohibited.

Guns as Dangerous and Privileged Products

Tom Harvey   |   December 5, 2013    2:32 PM ET

There are many special laws that give firearms special privileges compared to anything else in our society. One of the worst is the exemption from ordinary safety regulation by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Gun lobbyists being such as they are, it's not easy to find this loophole slipped into Consumer Product Safety Act. In a list of items defined as not being consumer products and identified by name and the section of law where another agency has jurisdiction for safety, there are only two items which have no safety regulating agency. These are tobacco products and "articles subject to the tax imposed by section 4181 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986." In case you didn't know off the top of your head, section 4181 imposes a tax on guns and ammunition.

If we restore sanity and the CPSC begins to regulate firearms, then the fears of the gun manufacturers that most of their products will need revision are realistic. The number one change and the recall that we most desperately need concerns semi-automatic pistols and rifles that can fire a round remaining in the chamber when the magazine is removed. It's often laughed off saying 'everyone knows removing the magazine is not the same as unloading the gun.' But many people have died or killed others because they didn't know or in some state of confusion, emotion, boredom or inebriation forget this basic fact. It's just common sense that removing the magazine unloads a gun and makes it safe, and it's just wrong. There is a saying for such a weapon -- it's "as dangerous as a cocked gun."

A gun should be safe against accidents in all of the situations that might occur. Not just when in the hands of a trained owner in a calm controlled setting such as a range or training class, but safe when in the hands of the same person when scared, sleepy, startled or just in a careless mood. We know from sad experience that people spend a lot of time playing with guns even loaded guns and guns with a finger on the trigger. Safety is needed for a gun not just in the hands of the owner, but in the hands of anyone who might get to it. This includes children -- two or three year-olds who don't really know what a gun is -- six year-olds who are amazingly capable but don't know about playing for keeps -- and teenagers who think they can get away with anything. These are the same teenagers who, when left alone, have almost magic powers of finding the hidden and getting past locks. You can teach kids not to handle guns and they won't do it in front of you. This will also make guns irresistible when kids are in groups and adults aren't present.

You can see the pattern if you look at any of the websites that compile lists of gun accidents reported in the media. Some of these are: GunFail or Another Day in the (Gun Crazy) U.S.A at Daily Kos, The Gun Report at the New York Times and Slate's gun death tracker. You don't need to read a lot because the common kinds of accidents occur every week and just about everything happens in any given month.

Glock pistols get a special mention for not having an external safety. This means that there is no button or slide which puts the loaded gun into a state where it cannot be fired. There are three features built in to prevent the gun from discharging unless there is a finger on the trigger. But, even if those systems work perfectly all of the time, they miss much of the point of having this standard feature. Of course you shouldn't leave the gun under the bed where the kids can find it, but people do. It should at least be possible to put it in a state where a trigger pull doesn't set it off. And what about the people mentioned above playing with the gun? If you twirl a Glock on one finger like they do in the movies will it go off? Or if you grab for it and forget and put your finger in by the trigger, what can go wrong? Glock calls this a feature, the gun is always ready to fire -- you bet it is.

If we're really ready to find ways to make guns safe, then the CPSC would probably look for more advanced solutions. The CDC figure of 606 (2010)accidental firearm deaths is a big number and if the New York Times is correct the official count of 62 deaths of children per year is a serious underestimate and the real number is about double that. Many of the reasons for under-counting apply to adults as well. Far fewer fatalities have completely changed the designs of other products. In 2011 two million baby cribs were recalled on the basis of reports of 16 entrapments and no deaths, CPSC data showing approximately 2 deaths per year of children trapped by the suction of pool drains resulted not only in redesign of these drains but the adoption of a specific federal law -- the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act. These more comprehensive measures could include things like personalized guns that can't be fired by anyone other than the owner. If done effectively that would take a bite out of the much larger number of deaths by homicide from stolen guns.

We need to roll back this and all of the special privileges for guns. We need to open up data on gun deaths, injuries, and commerce. We need to fund academic and public health research. We need to remove the immunity that gun manufacturers have from responsibility for the design and the marketing of their deadly products. And apply the measure that I spend most of my time studying, insurance that makes every gun owner responsible when they let a firearm loose from their control. In any other activity with a built in risk, the government regulators lead the way in demanding safety, but critical work in developing, following up and applying safety measures comes from insurers.

Second Amendment: Redux

Mona R. Washington   |   December 5, 2013   11:46 AM ET


American One Concerned, gun weary, shell shocked, patriotic-centrist, and parent
American Two Concerned, gun weary, shell shocked, patriotic-centrist, and parent

Now. A weekday afternoon. On a comfy porch, somewhere in the United States of America where reason still exists. AMERICAN ONE and AMERICAN TWO sip coffee, talk, and wait for their kids to come home from school.

AMERICAN ONE: They're late.

AMERICAN TWO: Only fifteen minutes. Relax.

AMERICAN ONE: You're right. I just...those poor people in Connec-

AMERICAN TWO: Not gonna happen here.

AMERICAN ONE: No one ever thinks it will. I can't even keep up with these mass shootings.

AMERICAN TWO: I know. They're all running together.

AMERICAN ONE: It's like one a week.

AMERICAN TWO: It's not that bad.

AMERICAN ONE: It's not good if it's once a year.

AMERICAN TWO: You're right.

AMERICAN ONE: And the news media doesn't help. I'm almost afraid to watch the news.

AMERICAN TWO: Turn off the television. That's not news.



AMERICAN ONE pours AMERICAN TWO more coffee.



AMERICAN TWO: We could stop these mass shootings and rein those guns in. There's just no will.

AMERICAN ONE: You can't see it, that's all. People are fed up. There's more opposition than you think. It's hard to organize against the NRA's money and their lobbyists.

AMERICAN TWO: No problem.

AMERICAN ONE: Puh-leeze. They're organized everywhere.

AMERICAN TWO: Not in inner city neighborhoods. They're not organizing young Black and Brown men.

AMERICAN ONE: That's true. Hhhmm, I wonder why.


AMERICAN TWO: Really, the NRA isn't a problem.

AMERICAN ONE: Because they don't recruit everyone?

AMERICAN: Because they're short sighted. We should do what the conservatives did with abortion.

AMERICAN ONE: Kill people who make guns?


AMERICAN ONE: You know. Those people who killed abortion providers.

AMERICAN TWO: No. And that wasn't conservatives killing abortion providers, that was the cray-cray nutbars.

AMERICAN ONE: I never thought I'd hear you take up for conservatives.

AMERICAN TWO: I'm not. But all these labels aren't solving anything. I didn't mean conservatives. I meant the rabid, anti-choice types.

AMERICAN ONE: What are you saying? Sell fake bullets, like those fake abortion clinics that are really anti-choice fanatics? Maybe fake bullets would be good.

AMERICAN TWO: I hadn't thought about that. Good idea, but impractical.


AMERICAN TWO: Because lies create more lies. And, we don't need to be devious. Let people have their guns.

AMERICAN ONE: You're serious aren't you? No gun control at all?

AMERICAN TWO: Let people have guns, just make them get up early every weekend to drill and march. Make them take target practice, and add some administrative layers--special licenses for each type of weapon.


AMERICAN TWO: People would have to be competent cleaning and caring for their weapons. We could have tests, like driving tests but more difficult. Make them regularly demonstrate that they're ready for an invasion, at a moment's notice. You know, so that all gun owners are part of the Second Amendment's 'well-regulated militia.'

AMERICAN ONE: That'll go over well.

AMERICAN TWO: It's better than nothing.

AMERICAN ONE: I'm not so sure. You know the lunatic fringe is just waiting for a little encouragement. They'll show up with bells on.

AMERICAN TWO: A few might. But I think they're outweighed by the people who want guns, but who also want to see their kids play soccer on Saturday, and watch football on Sunday. Some people work. Or, maybe people will chill or meditate.


AMERICAN TWO: Yeah. Meditate, or whatever. This is America. Hell, some people want to relax and catch up on their sleep.

AMERICA ONE: Or go shopping at the mall, without fear.

AMERICAN TWO: Right. Or go shopping. That's about all I've got. You?

AMERICAN ONE: I think we need something stronger than this coffee.

AMERICAN TWO: We need something.

The End?

  |   December 5, 2013   10:59 AM ET

Thousands of Americans die from gun violence each year. But what happens to those survivors who sustain gunshot wounds? We speak with victims about the physical, emotional and financial challenges they still endure.

Mark Bowes   |   December 4, 2013    9:28 AM ET

Virginia gun sales set a new high for Black Friday as the number of firearms sold statewide continues to soar and is just days away from setting an annual record.

Gun transactions in Virginia totaled 3,902 on Black Friday, a 1.2 percent increase over the previous record of 3,856 transactions on the same day in 2012, according to the latest Virginia State Police figures of mandatory criminal- background checks of gun buyers.

The Black Friday numbers helped boost Virginia's overall gun transactions to 429,154 through the end of November, or 17.5 percent more than during the same period last year, Virginia Firearms Transaction Center data show.

With an additional 2,539 transactions processed during the first two days of December, Virginia will easily surpass last year's record of 432,387 transactions. As of Monday, the state had processed 431,693 transactions, just 694 shy of the record.

"Seeing a slight increase in gun sales over the Black Friday weekend from 2012 to 2013 is not surprising given the pattern of increasing gun sales we've seen over the past six or seven years," said Thomas R. Baker, an assistant professor at Virginia Commonwealth University's L. Douglas Wilder School of Government Affairs who specializes in research methods and criminology theory.

But referring to 2013's annual total, Baker said that "the pace of the increase seems to be slowing from what we saw from 2010 to 2011 and from 2011 to 2012."

Baker said it will be interesting to see if concerns about gun control have subsided after the defeat of the national gun legislation proposed this year, and if that "will lead to smaller increases of annual gun sales in years to come."

However, Baker noted that the election of Democrat Terry McAuliffe as governor could be a driving force for additional year-end gun sales in Virginia.

"If McAuliffe proposes any state- level gun legislation, we could see another surge in sales similar to those in response to fears about national gun control legislation," Baker said.

Black Friday was "a very good day" for Colonial Shooting Academy, where general manager Ed Coleman oversaw increased sales of firearms and patrons' use of the company's facilities on West Broad Street in Henrico County.

"The ranges were incredibly busy, and the retail floor was very busy," Coleman said. "It was equal to last year, if not better."

Coleman said gun sales at Colonial have leveled off since the booming months of January and February, "but there's still more people buying firearms than ever have before," he said.

Virginia set records in January and February, processing 58,760 and 54,896 transactions, respectively, for those months, compared with 27,226 and 39,624 for January and February 2012.

Gun dealers have cited President Barack Obama's re-election last year and the fears of increased gun restrictions after last December's Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Connecticut as the driving forces behind the leap in gun sales from December 2012 through March 2013.

"The end of the election, the inauguration and Sandy Hook contributed to a real panic-buy situation that went on for several months," Coleman said.

Virginia firearm sales started to slow somewhat in April, records show, but the state still set monthly records in nine of the past 11 months.

"What most people don't take into consideration is that over the last several years, firearm sales have been steadily going up right along," Coleman said.

Total firearm sales in Virginia rose a staggering 101 percent from 2006 to 2012, according to federally licensed gun dealer sales estimates. Similar figures for 2013 are not yet available.

There is not a one-to-one correlation between background checks -- the data provided Tuesday by state police -- and the number of guns sold because some customers buy multiple firearms and some of the checks involve people reclaiming a firearm they previously had pawned. Also, about 1 percent of the background checks in Virginia typically result in people being denied permission to buy a weapon.

The background check figures also do not reflect activity between private parties, such as family members or collectors at gun shows, because federal and Virginia laws require background checks only for sales from commercial dealers with a federal firearms license.

Exact sales of firearms in Virginia are neither reported nor recorded. But the background check records provide a rough estimate, and the gun dealer sales measures, compiled separately, provide an even better estimate of the number of firearms sold for each category of weapon -- pistol, revolver, rifle and shotgun.

What lies ahead for the rest of December is speculative, but observers say it will be difficult to match December 2012.

Gun transactions last December leaped 79 percent over the same month in 2011 -- 75,120 from 41,957. It was the largest month-over- month increase in the history of Virginia's background check system, which was implemented in 1979.

Much of that increase occurred after the Sandy Hook massacre in which 20 students and six adults were killed, one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history. The next day, Dec. 15, the state recorded a single-day record of 4,166 transactions.

But that was surpassed twice in the week that followed, when Virginia processed 5,003 transactions on Dec. 21 and 5,145 the following day. ___

Gun Sales Have Become A New Black Friday Tradition Because, America

Kim Bhasin   |   November 29, 2013    9:34 AM ET

Every year on Black Friday, shoppers across the United States brave crowds to battle each other for door-buster sales on flat-screen TVs, video games, Uggs and the hottest toys.

But other bargain hunters are out stalking a different sort of discounted prey: firearms. And they should find plenty of deals. Gunmakers are marketing aggressively, trying to revive sales that have slowed a bit after a flurry a year ago.

Gun-buying after Thanksgiving is becoming something of a holiday tradition. In each of the past two years, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has reported a record number of calls for background checks for gun purchases on the Friday after Thanksgiving. A flood of 154,873 calls on Black Friday in 2012, nearly three times the daily average that year, caused outages at some of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System's call centers.

The FBI does not track actual firearms purchases, and customers can buy multiple guns at one time, suggesting the total number of weapons sold on Black Friday could be even higher than the number of background-check calls. The bureau has reported 17,238,102 background checks this year through Oct. 31.

Last year's gun fever was due in part to worries that the reelection of President Barack Obama could lead to stricter gun-control legislation. The December massacre of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., only exacerbated those fears, keeping demand for guns high into early 2013.

Since then, gun sales have cooled off. Top executives at the major outdoor recreation retailers Dick's Sporting Goods and Cabela's have each said on recent calls with analysts that firearms sales have "slowed" as of late.

Gun-sellers aren't expecting to match last year's sales numbers through December and January, but retail chains are determined to try. Promotional offers for rifles, pistols and shotguns are easy to find ahead of the Black Friday rush.

Bass Pro Shops has deals on semi-automatic rifles such as a Bushmaster M4 Carbine, along with an assortment of handguns and shotguns.

bass pro shops

Dick's Sporting Goods is touting sales on all of its guns Thursday through Saturday.


Cabela's is even giving away guns as part of a Black Friday contest, offering a Browning X-Bolt Medallion rifle among the mystery prizes its first 600 customers can win on Friday morning.

cabelas guns

Walmart, the nation's largest gun-seller, is featuring a Black Friday "Manager's Specials Sale" that promises 20 percent off select long rifles and shotguns at stores licensed to sell firearms.

walmart guns

When reached for comment, a Walmart spokeswoman pointed to existing Black Friday ads as confirmation of its sales plans. Bass Pro Shops, Dick's Sporting Goods and Cabela's did not respond to requests for comment.

Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, a national gun-rights organization, said the primary reason for the annual rush for firearms is that gun-owners are "nervous" about Obama attempting to take away their weapons.

Even as gun ownership per household has decreased over the last four decades, according to data from the research center NORC, that declining popularity hasn't translated to a drop in sales. Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a gun control advocacy group, attributes that trend to aggressive promotion from gun lobbyists looking to capitalize on tragedies like Newtown and other mass shootings.

"The reality is that in America, fewer people are owning more guns," said Watts. "They have to keep marketing to [gun owners] to buy more weapons."

Point and Shoot: The Lies of the Gun Lobby

Ari Weisbrot   |   November 27, 2013   12:34 PM ET

Antiq Hennis was shot to death last month in Brooklyn. He didn't do anything wrong. He was not a gang member or a drug dealer. He wasn't involved in a drunken argument over which New York football team is worse. He was not the victim of mistaken identity or a tragic hunting accident. He was sitting outside his apartment complex on a warm September afternoon watching a neighbor's dog. And, the bullet hit him in the face. He died instantly.

He was 16 months old.

My first thought, after seeing the story buried 20 minutes into the nightly news, was to grab the remote and rewind the DVR. I couldn't believe my eyes. "I know that prosecutor!" I told my wife, excitedly. I then launched into a memory from my days as an Assistant District Attorney. She quickly fell asleep. Neither of us offered Antiq a second thought.

We are now a society where one dead child is insufficient to muster more than a disinterested shrug. Hell, 20 dead kindergartners only boils our blood for a few weeks. Then, we move on the much more important matters. Like the latest iPhone. We can expect approximately one mass killing per year. Then, we can check them off like a shopping list. Virginia Tech. Sandy Hook, Killeen, Aurora, Columbine, Foot Hood, Red Lake, and on and on. It is much easier to remember the venue than the victims. And, when the dust settles, what do we do to avoid the next chapter? Exactly nothing.

Why? Because 10,000 gun murders each year is merely collateral damage to our freedom and liberty. We have an inalienable constitutional right to bear arms. But, here is the unspoken truth: we are literally the stupidest society in history. Is there another culture that would defend its miserable failure to protect our children from violence because of an imaginary right to carry weapons? Twenty children died in Sandy Hook. Eighty percent of Americans supported a complete overhaul of gun laws. Nothing was done. Nothing changed.

So, let me set the record straight. We have the right to free speech and assembly. The Bill of Rights offered no limitation on those fundamental manifestations of freedom. But, even those unambiguous rights were circumscribed by the Courts to ensure the safety of its citizens. You know why you cannot yell "fire" in a movie theater? Because someone might get hurt. If any idiot dared demand the right to yell "fire" in a movie theater, you would lock him up, because this is someone who presents a clear and present danger to the rest of us. In our upside down conscious, a man in a crowded dark movie theater is more dangerous with his words (unconstitutional) then the guy carrying an assault rifle into that same theater (constitutional).

And, yet, our founding fathers did not offer the same blanket endorsement of guns. Unlike any other fundamental right, the right to bear arms has a restriction that seems to have been omitted from the NRA charter. Here is what the Bill of Rights says: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." No right to assault weapons. No right to hunt. Nothing about defending your home or women. The right to bear arms is specifically limited to the formation of a militia necessary to the security of the State. That's it. Ironically, if you tried to form an armed militia, you would be promptly arrested and prosecuted -- and, yet, that is the limit of the constitutional right to bear arms. It is the one thing the constitution permits, and it is probably the only thing our current law prohibits.

Does anyone really think that Thomas Jefferson intended to guarantee every American (white, male), the inalienable right to carry an AK-47, but not the right to food, water, or medicine? You do not have any constitutional right to eat or receive medical attention. You have no right to work or have children. But, you definitely have the right to walk around with a rifle in your jacket.

Therein lies the fundamental mistake (or fraud) perpetrated by the gun lobby. The right to bear arms is not a personal right. It was a communal measure designed to protect society as a whole.
200 years ago, guns were single shot muskets and blacks were considered 3/5ths of their white neighbors. Subsequent leaders and judges recognized that the ancient wisdom relating to blacks was misguided, unfair, and dangerous. And, they changed it for the betterment of our society. We did that even though blacks had not actually changed at all. It was our perspective and wisdom that expanded. Any argument that the constitution is unassailable -- even in the face of 200 years of improvements in weapons, and the mass murder they cause -- is not being intellectually honest.

Don't tell me guns save lives. That's another lie. The United States, with our right to bear arms, suffers 2.97 gun murders per population of 100,000. Japan, where guns are illegal, sees .01 gun death per 100,000 citizens. France, .06. England, .07. We have 42 times more gun deaths than England -- where guns are illegal. We have has many gun death per capita as the Gaza Strip - - where everyone has a gun. Take a look at the statistics: Countries with the least gun control suffer the highest rates of gun violence.

But, the NRA will assure us that the only defense to a bad man with a gun is a good man with a gun. You know who they are talking about? George Zimmerman. They will never admit it, but a guy patrolling the neighborhood armed with a firearm, seeking out ne'er do wells, is a "good guy with a gun." Yet, since killing an unarmed black teenager, George Zimmerman has been arrested three times for threatening someone with his gun. When he finally kills an innocent man, no one will be particularly surprised. Because he is a good guy with a gun. And, anyone with a gun is bound to shoot it. And, when a gun gets shot, someone might get killed. This is not what our brilliant, racist, elitist founding fathers wanted to protect, along with life and liberty. It has no basis in the bible or the Hammurabi code. No person in history was granted the unfettered right to carry a weapon with no purpose other than to injure other living things.

We are victims of a fraud. People like to carry guns. People like to shoot guns. They will rely upon any justification they can find. But it is a canard. It has no basis in the constitution. It is a right that serves no one but the nuts with small guns who feel that carrying a weapon somehow makes them a man. This will never change. It is too controversial, too misunderstood to justify a change. Meanwhile, thousands of children will be killed in the cross fire. It is a huge price to pay and should be rejected by all civilized persons who understand that we are defending the very existence of our society.

Ari Weisbrot's popular and record-breaking blog can be found at