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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.

dicks

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 ariweisbrot.com

Ask What You Can Do For Your Country

Marian Wright Edelman   |   November 22, 2013    8:23 PM ET

It should be clear by now that a nation can be no stronger abroad than she is at home. Only an America which practices what it preaches about equal rights and social justice will be respected by those whose choice affects our future. Only an America which has fully educated its citizens is fully capable of tackling the complex problems and perceiving the hidden dangers of the world in which we live.

These are words from President John F. Kennedy’s “Unspoken Speech” he was on his way to deliver at the Dallas Citizens Council’s annual meeting when he was assassinated in his motorcade on November 22, 1963.  

I was a brand new law school graduate in my first months of work with the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund in New York City on that fateful November day fifty years ago. I had begun the day visiting a young Black male death row client in a rural Georgia prison accused of killing a White farmer and had returned to Atlanta where I was sitting in a courthouse library researching how many Blacks and Whites had been executed in Georgia’s history. When a White man burst in grinning and shouting loudly, “Hot damn, they got him,” it took me a moment to realize he was talking about President Kennedy. I rushed with others to the nearest television set to see the news and could barely get away quickly enough from the hateful glee of some of the White citizens surrounding me. The memory of their celebration still makes me sick.

So much of the deep lingering sadness over President Kennedy’s assassination is about the unfinished promise: unspoken speeches, unfulfilled hopes, the wondering about what might have been. So many Americans felt inspired to do more and be better by the youthful optimism and challenges of the young President’s words, only to find him so incomprehensibly and suddenly silenced by violence and hate. I met President Kennedy only once, on the White House lawn in the summer of 1961 after my first year of law school when I and many other young leaders participating in Crossroads Africa, a precursor to the Peace Corps, gathered to hear him and Reverend James Robinson, Crossroads Africa’s visionary leader, give us a send off to a summer of service in Africa.

Although the kind of venom I witnessed in Atlanta surrounding his death was stunning, many Black Americans felt his loss especially deeply because it was hostility we recognized and had often felt in our daily segregated lives in the South. And as we have seen over and over, President Kennedy would not be the last leader or citizen who stood up for equal justice to be slain. His death and others that followed remind us that our dreams and commitment to justice cannot depend on a single leader or be destroyed if one, a few, or many are lost to acts of hate and violence. The Civil Rights Movement continued. We must always refill and ensure there is a critical mass of leaders and activists committed to nonviolence and racial and economic justice who will keep seeding and building transforming movements. When one leader passes many more must be ready to step up to the plate and keep working to ensure a more just America and world.

When President Kennedy was elected, many Black Americans, like so many Americans, were captivated by his youth and energy and promise and were especially hopeful that he might move the country in a new direction on civil rights. In an era dominated by the Cold War, the Freedom Rides and the Birmingham nonviolent direct action movement challenging racial apartheid in one of America’s toughest Southern cities seemed like a worrisome distraction to the new Administration. But President Kennedy grew as he saw the massive violent resistance to change of some Southern Whites unfolding before him that would not go away and realized that the pent-up demand for freedom also would not go away. The burning of a Greyhound bus in Alabama and attacks not only on Freedom Riders but on a federal government official forced his hand. And he, like so many other Americans, was repulsed by the scenes that flashed across television screens of police dogs and fire hoses attacking Black children and youths who challenged Bull Connor’s and the Birmingham establishment’s Jim Crow policies. We saw and must not forget how courageous and sustained actions from ordinary citizens fed up with injustice can inspire, provoke, and push political leadership at the top.

President Kennedy responded to the movement’s persistent and sacrificial actions with passion and major action of his own. He made an eloquent speech to the nation on June 11, 1963 and sent a landmark civil rights bill to Congress one week later. The nationally televised speech he gave introducing the bill once again inspired many Americans to share his vision that America could and must be better. His tragic death created a political climate that, combined with President Lyndon Johnson’s masterful political leadership, resulted in enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 -- the latter pushed by civil rights demonstrations in Selma.

Fifty years later, and after the deaths of Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael Schwerner, and countless other nonviolent warriors for justice, the fight against intolerance, violence, and hatred in America is far from over. It’s not over for children who are killed or injured by guns every half hour, or Black boys like Trayvon Martin who can be felled simply for walking while Black, nor for our youngest who can be slain as they sit in their classrooms or even bedrooms. But the message President Lincoln, President Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and many others have given their lives to ensure is that America can and must become the nation envisaged in the Declaration of Independence sullied by Native American genocide, slavery, and exclusion of all women and non-propertied men, even White men, from the democratic process.

So I hope, as we remember a young President who asked us not to ask what our country can do for us but what we can do for our country, that we will renew our commitment to building with urgency and persistence a just America where every child is valued and enabled to achieve their God given potential regardless of the lottery of birth. And we must determine not to let our children and grandchildren have to fight again the same battles for the soul and future of America that earlier generations did. We must join together to squash the resurging racial and economic apartheid that threatens to slide us backwards into a second post Reconstruction Era. And we must rededicate ourselves to move America forward to realize our founding principles that all men and women and children are created equal. Our true remembrance to President Kennedy is in our actions to honor the unspoken words and finish the unfinished work today and tomorrow and for as long as it takes.

SUSAN HAIGH   |   November 22, 2013    2:24 PM ET

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The gun industry's national trade association and lobbying organization considered moving its offices from Newtown, Conn., after last year's mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the president and CEO of the National Shooting Sports Foundation said in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press.

With a handful of the nearly 50 foundation employees confronted by angry neighbors, as well as protesters appearing outside the foundation's headquarters, Steve Sanetti said he had to look at the situation from "a strategic standpoint" and determine whether having the name of Newtown associated with the organization would affect its mission to promote hunting and shooting sports.

Shooting After Shooting, Congress Does Nothing Towards Gun Control

Jose Aristimuno   |   November 20, 2013    4:04 PM ET

How many shootings must we endure before Congress acts on gun control?

Just this year, tragedies such as the Navy Yard shooting in Washington D.C. and the recent scare at a New Jersey mall proved that the conversation of gun control in this country should continue.

And if that wasn't enough, in 2012, over four mass shooting rampages occurred. The Newtown tragedy last December re-opened the narrative that is far too common in this country. A tragedy occurs in which innocent victims are targeted, the American public mourns the dead of the innocent and demand gun reform to be implemented, Congress ignores them, and nothing gets done.

I find it deeply implausible to comprehend how members of Congress, especially Republicans, are unwilling to do the job they got elected to do. According to a Washington Post-ABC News poll, 9 in 10 Americans support expanding background checks on gun purchases. That is an extraordinary level of agreement on a political issue.

This is an issue that gathers support among gun owners and non-gun owners alike, Democrat or Republican, and even members of the National Rifle Association.

How is it that with something that carries such a heavy amount of support gets zero traction in Congress? How many more shootings must we endure? How many more innocent victims need to die before Congress does its job and passes a series of commonsense, bipartisan legislation that the American people are demanding?

Bipartisan solutions such as closing background check loopholes to keep guns out of dangerous hands, banning military-assault weapons and high-capacity magazines are just some of the things that Congress could be signing into law.

It's obvious at this point that the gun lobby is doing everything in its ability to kick the can down the road. But as we have seen, time and time again, the issue is not going anywhere.

As each day goes by, and shootings continue to happen, we will continue to have this conversation. But the time for Congress to act is long overdue.

The truth is that no one wants to take away or limit our second amendment rights. The series of proposals previously mentioned are commonsense and are seriously needed. And whoever says otherwise has not done their homework.

Right after the horrific events that occurred in Sandy Hook Elementary, President Obama appointed Vice President Joe Biden to lead an initiative to tackle gun violence from a policy perspective. However, despite the administration's willingness to tackle the issue, including the president's willingness to take action and sign over 20 executive orders to tackle the issue of gun control, nothing got done in Congress.

Part of this is due to politicians in Washington who are unwilling to compromise in order to try and score political points instead of doing what the majority of the American people have been demanding for quite some time.

It's a shame that despite the wide approval from the American people when it comes to the importance of expanding background checks for gun purchases, the gun control bill fell short of passage in the U.S. Senate last April by only 6 votes. In large part, this was due to the pressure that gun lobbying groups placed on congress to stop this bill from becoming law.

So let's not wait for another shooting or another innocent death, before something gets done in Washington.

And if congress does not act, then it is time for voters to replace those members who are being obstructionists and unwilling to pass common sense legislation.

I Have a Right to Hate Guns

Tom Harvey   |   November 18, 2013    7:42 PM ET

I'm not sure that I do; it's not that simple; but I certainly have the right and plenty of reason. I shouldn't have to hide my position. I should be free to state it clearly, directly and simply and say:

• It's much too easy for people of bad will or unstable emotions to become armed and dangerous and we should take the strong action needed to stop it.
• It is the responsibility of gun owners to prove that their activities do not create a danger to the public and submit to whatever regulation is needed to enforce that.
• Unless one has an exceptional need, the risks of having guns far outweigh the benefits, making gun possession unwise for nearly everyone.
• Notwithstanding Antonin Scalia's bogus logic, the Second Amendment only establishes a collective right.

There is nothing in those statements that goes beyond the normal limits of polite discourse--no threats, nothing racist, no advocacy of the violent overthrow of the government; but the leaders of public opinion who understand in their hearts the truth of such statements have absorbed the drumbeat of demands from gun rights advocates and choke on the thought of uttering their real opinions. This is tragic because guns don't have rights--people have rights ". . . and among these rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Where is life for those killed by guns? Where is liberty for those constrained by their injuries from guns? Where is the pursuit of happiness for those who have lost the ones they love to guns?

I understand when some politicians place the highest priority on giving this tool to the people that they do value if their whole understanding of human existence is as a struggle against a fraction, perhaps the major fraction in their eyes, of the people who are beyond redemption and of no value. But those who believe that all "are endowed by their Creator" with the rights above must find the courage to say so. I am disheartened when the very people who are devoting their energy and influence to bring us to safety feel obligated to demonstrate that they really like and appreciate guns. I gasped in disbelief when I saw Gabby Giffords--one of the most courageous and admirable people of our time--go and place herself in front of cameras at a firing range. Office holders and candidates who appear not to know which end of a cartridge goes to the front of the gun set up photo-ops hunting with friends. And everyone is a supporter of the second amendment.

The extreme of this viewpoint comes when a person in the gun industry breaks the line and makes a suggestion, even a tiny indirect suggestion, that some regulation of firearms might be appropriate in a rational society. Recently we had a column from Dick Metcalf of Guns and Ammo making such a suggestion; he was fired. And, his boss was fired apparently at the demand of two gun manufacturers. Prior to Sandy Hook in September the editor of Recoil Magazine was fired for saying that a totally outrageous mini-assault weapon was properly limited to sales to law enforcement. A major sporting show with 1000 exhibiters which banned assault weapons collapsed under the onslaught of gun defenders in January. The new show for this year is sponsored by the NRA. This is not new in 2007 Jim Zumbo of Outdoor Life and The Outdoor Channel was fired for blogging against the use of military type [assault] rifles for hunting.

Many people put a great amount of energy into their hobbies, people with deep resentments about things they cannot change displace their hostility into the channel they can find, and companies with a financial interest pour resources into the advancement whatever they profit from. Three sources of energy make a trifecta, a hat trick, a perfect storm. The issue of what to do about guns is controlled by those filled with that energy.

We must wrest control from that group of people. There is hope because they are few in number. These are not typical gun owners. Typical gun owners are people who have had a few long guns for years and would like to do some hunting if they had the time or people who have bought a handgun for protection at the urging of someone else. We need to make these more numerous gun owners aware of the dangers that come from guns to all of us. We need to get them to weight the dangers against the specific need for guns. We need to get them to accept regulations, limitations and responsibilities that are required have a safe society.

If we cannot do this then it adds up to an impossible task for those trying to move to safety. The only allowed solutions are tiny changes which must create no inconvenience for the acquisition, possession or use of guns. We take baby steps after huge struggles and debates at intervals of decades and interspersed with almost as many back steps. The burden must be reversed; those who want to subject society to this danger must provide us with the way of doing it safely. There are such ways and it's the job of the gun advocates--not the gun safety advocates--to find them. If they continue to say that the only answer to the gun violence problem is more guns, as does the NRA, this suggestion should be rejected as ridiculous leaving as the remaining answer: "No Guns."

More Guts Than You or Me

Robert Slayton   |   November 18, 2013    7:10 PM ET

There has been a lot of talk recently about the cowardice of American politicians to take up the issue of guns in American society. There are just a handful, sadly, willing to go into the broad public arena and discuss this, despite widespread public support for sensible restrictions, according to polls.

So how much guts does it take, instead, to have a column in one of this country's leading gun magazines, and rationally discuss this topic? More than 99 percent of our political leaders, I'd argue, and more than a hell of a lot of Americans too.

Dick Metcalf wrote for Guns & Ammo. First published in 1958, the publication has a circulation of 137,648, making it one of the most popular firearms publications in America.

Most of the magazine is devoted to discussing, well, guns and ammo. Politics comes in, but does not dominate. Responsive to its membership, it is adamantly pro Second Amendment. Charlton Heston authored a gun rights column for the magazine titled "From the Capitol" until 2007.

One of their long term writers was Dick Metcalf. Metcalf is a hunter, outdoorsman, and all around gun guy, with sterling credentials in every one of these fields. He also wrote a column "Firearms Law" from 1976 to 1990, and worked with legislators and the National Rifle Association to draft the 1986 Vollmer-McClure Firearm Owners Protection Act.

A little while ago, however, he was given a special task. The last page of the magazine is called "The Back Stop," kind of an extended column for a member of their editorial staff to hold forth on anything they want. A couple of months ago Metcalf got this plumb assignment, and became the last name as you finished reading the periodical.

But then, in the December issue, he broke ranks with his piece, "Let's Talk Limits". Not that he challenged the right of Americans to keep firearms, he simply added some common sense observations.

He started with the Second Amendment itself, of course, but offered powerful, dead on analysis: noting that the amendment reads, "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," he commented, "Note carefully, these last four words say 'shall not be infringed.' They do not say 'shall not be regulated.' Well regulated is, in fact, the initial criterion of the amendment itself."

What a revelation! Are gun limits constitutionally permitted? Of course they are; it says so in the firearms amendment itself! Any use of guns, whether by civilians or by the militia, must be "well regulated". I must sheepishly admit that despite the innumerable times I've read the Constitution, I missed that.

Metcalf didn't stop with that bombshell. He then pointed out that no amendment is unrestricted in its application, bringing out the old chestnut that freedom of speech does not permit one to yell "Fire" in a crowded theatre, as well as examples using other amendments.

It turns out Metcalf is also a strong advocate of enhanced concealed carry laws on the state level. While this is anathema to the left, it has also led to vehement attacks from the right, who feel that no such law is necessary, that "the Second Amendment is all the authority we need to carry anywhere we want to", that, "the government doesn't have the right to tell me whether I'm qualified to carry a gun". To the folks who feel this way, carry laws are just a distraction from standing up for a more fundamental right.

As if he was a character out of a Norman Rockwell painting, Metcalf has no truck with this nonsense. The gun writer observed, "I wondered whether these same people believed that just anybody should be able to buy a vehicle and take it out on public roadways without any kind of driver's license, test or license."

Anticipating the counterargument, he explained that while driving a car is not a right protected by a constitutional amendment, "to me the basic principle is the same.. I firmly believe that all U.S. citizens have a right to keep and bear arms, but I do not believe that they have a right to use them irresponsibly. And I do believe their fellow citizens, by the specific language of the Second Amendment, have an equal right to enact regulatory laws requiring them to undergo adequate training and preparation for the responsibility of bearing arms."

A couple of weeks after his piece hit the stands two major firearms manufacturers told the magazine, in Metcalf's words, that they would place no more ads under the publication's "present personnel structure". Management fired the columnist, and editor Jim Bequette left as well. Metcalf wrote in reply, "If a respected editor can be forced to resign and a controversial writer's voice be shut down...simply because they dared to open a discussion or ask questions...then I fear for the future of our industry, and for our Cause. Do not 2nd Amendment adherents also believe in Freedom of Speech?"

Politicians refuse to speak out even when they have more than three quarters of the population supporting them. Dick Metcalf went into the lion's den, risking his employment at a top gun magazine, to stand up for a rational view of firearms. That took enormous courage, and far more guts than I've got.

  |   November 18, 2013    8:56 AM ET

ALBANY, New York (AP) — As the technology to print 3-D firearms advances, a federal law that banned the undetectable guns is about to expire.

Sen. Chuck Schumer says he's seeking an extension of the law before it expires Dec. 9.

He said the technology of so-called 3-D printing has advanced to the point anyone with $1,000 and an Internet connection can access the plastic parts that can be fitted into a gun. Those firearms can't be detected by metal detectors or X-ray machines.

Schumer says that means anyone can download a gun cheaply, then take the weapons anywhere, including high-security areas.

The Democrat is pushing the extension along with Sens. Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Bill Nelson of Florida. The effort was announced Sunday.

The technology has recently advanced to create handguns capable of shooting several shots, rather than just one, before it ceases to function. Schumer also says the guns can now be made with all plastic parts, and no metal.

A blueprint for one such firearm was recently downloaded more than 100,000 times, Schumer says.

"We are looking at a world in which anyone with a little bit of cash can bring an undetectable gun that can fire multiple bullets anywhere — including planes, government buildings, sporting events and schools," Schumer said. "3-D printers are a miraculous technology that have the potential to revolutionize manufacturing, but we need to make sure they are not being used to make deadly, undetectable weapons."

100 and Counting

Jim Worth   |   November 14, 2013    6:10 PM ET

It hasn't been 100 days, or 100 years, or even 100 victories.

But each one has been a victory even though it's not tied to seasons, or sobriety, or jail time. It's not historical or record-breaking, but each is painstakingly researched, often prescient, generally significant, and usually relevant.

What, then, is it?

It's more than 80,000 provocative and carefully chosen words.

It's 100 of my blog posts accepted and published by The Huffington Post over the past three-plus years, beginning with, "A Small Business Dilemma: Survival," in August of 2010. Most have been about politics or the economy, but a few have addressed the media, and sports.

What's next?

The possibilities are endless, with the unparalleled insanity in politics, the absurdity of the media, greed in the financial world, undeterred gun violence, the fragile world economy, and growing wealth disparity.

Hopefully, I'll be able to create 80,000 more words trying to bring clarity and integrity to a nation and world mired in hypocrisy and afflicted with declining morality and intelligence. A nation and world in need of rebalancing, in need of honest and strong leadership, in need of compassion and understanding -- someone or someones who understand the pain and suffering the people and our planet are feeling, who will take up the challenge and fight the battles they are unable to fight for themselves.

I've written 100 posts pointing out the corruption, arrogance, failures, and intransigence of Congress. Challenged corporations, administrations, the media, politicians, and financial institutions. I've written about our social net, war, healthcare, elections, taxes, voter suppression, guns, conventions, Supreme Court decisions, and the Tea Party.

There have been critiques of presidents, members of Congress, candidates, the wealthy, big banks, and corporate executives.

I've been harshest on Republicans but they can be a very ripe target: inept, arrogant, ignorant, bigoted, dangerous to democracy, and even certifiable.

Over the last 14 or more years, an uninformed electorate has elected members to Congress that are serially incapable of being there -- returning the same incompetent individuals to Washington election after election.

The Huffington Post has afforded me an opportunity to write, but the words that flow from my judicious, analytical, and sometimes acrid pen -- formulated from events, actions, crises, and situations that present themselves everyday -- are my own.

Motivated to write because of the failure of members of the 4th Estate the edgy, sometimes caustic tonality and righteous indignation that is evident throughout my 100 posts, is spawned from the ugliness around me, pervasive throughout the world, a world tainted by those that could make a difference but refuse to.

It is increasingly necessary to counter the dogma from the right-leaning, monetarily driven media like Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, The Weekly Standard, The Daily Caller, and others, each of whom abandon the canon of ethics for Murdoch or Koch brothers dollars. To overcome the dissemination of misinformation from organizations like Americans for Prosperity, Crossroads GPS, the Heritage Foundation, the Chamber of Commerce, ALEC, the NRA, Christian Coalition; organizations that manipulate and convince Americans to vote against their own self-interest.

Some have disagreed with me on various subjects and various positions, but few have challenged my facts or my premises.

So, why do I write?

As long as there are people and organizations who wrongly attack the poor; who wield their power without compassion; who deny seniors a life of dignity; or deny children food to fuel their potential; who strip students of the opportunity to a quality education, or good, hard-working Americans quality health care, who prey on the weakest in our society, I will write to defend their honor and expose those that do not deserve the power to make choices, nor the freedoms of democracy.

I genuinely hope more of the next 100 articles will be of healing and recovery, of good health and well-being, of opportunity and changed lives, of symbiosis and cooperation -- for the better.

But, as long as there are people who lie, cheat, or sacrifice their integrity to attain power, money, or political clout at the expense of those that are most vulnerable, I will write.

As long as an organization like The Huffington Post or another news agency allows me to write about the injustices of this world and gives me the opportunity to rebalance it with my voice and pen, I will continue to do so.

One hundred and counting and I'm not done yet -- I'm just beginning!

Ishita Singh   |   November 14, 2013    4:07 PM ET

On Christmas Eve almost 16 years ago, Ann Marie Crowell's 12-year-old son Brian was playing at a friend's house. The boys found a gun, and Brian was accidentally shot in the neck. Crowell joined HuffPost Live to discuss how families cope when they lose a child to a firearm accident.

She told host Marc Lamont Hill that Brian had been on the phone with his sister when his friend brought out the gun. "His friend had recently found that his mom had a gun, and he wanted to show it to Brian," Crowell said. "So while he was on the phone with his sister, the boy took the gun. And he thought he emptied it and put the bullets on the nightstand, and started to do 'click, click, click,' waiting for Brian to hang up. And as Brian hung up the phone, that third click of the gun, a bullet came out of that gun and hit Brian right in the neck."

"The last words he said to his friend was, 'I can't believe you shot me!' as he tried to run out of the house, but he only made it down the stairs to the living room, where he collapsed on the floor."

Brian was rushed to the hospital, but his injuries were too severe. "They did try to do surgery for about two hours, and the doctor came out and said that the bullet had entered through his neck and gone down his chest and basically exploded everything in there. And they allowed us to be with him for his last breath. And he passed away that evening."

Following her son's death, Crowell began to actively work against gun violence. She reached out to the Boston-based organization Stop Handgun Violence, and five months after the incident, spoke at a press conference advocating for new gun control laws.

Despite her grief, Crowell never lashed out at Brian's friend or his mom. The families still live around the corner from each other, though they do not keep in contact.

"When it first happened, the next day actually, Christmas Day when we were at the funeral home trying to make funeral arrangements, I did get a call from the mom, who took full responsibility being [that it was] her gun and it was left accessible, and if there was anything she could do for us. She was not going to contact us to make anything harder for us," Crowell explained.

"I don't know what to say to the woman. She has her own things that she has to work through, knowing her son killed someone with a gun that belonged to her. So they're dealing with their new life as we're dealing with ours."

Watch the full conversation on HuffPost Live.

Alexandra Schuster   |   November 14, 2013    3:24 PM ET

"The last words he said to his friend were, 'I can't believe you shot me.'"
-- Ann Marie Crowell whose son was shot and killed by his friend on Christmas Eve in 1997

"The boys were playing, and as I understand it... trying to figure out if the gun was loaded. And the gun went off while they were trying to figure that out, and my brother was shot in the head and killed right away."
-- Simon Frankel whose brother was shot and killed at 12 years old while vacationing on a ranch in Wyoming in 1973

"The funeral itself, there were over 5,000 people who came."
-- Dr. Danny Dwyer whose five-year-old grandson was killed by an accidental gunshot in 2006

These are the voices of family members who have lost children, grandchildren and siblings to accidental shootings. To shed light on the stories of lives unnecessarily lost by gun violence, HuffPost Live assembled a panel of experts and family members affected by these tragedies.

As noted by Dr. Judith Palfrey, past President of the American Academy of Pediatrics and former Executive Director of President Obama's "Let's Move" campaign, gun violence "is a preventable cause of death."

Highlighting the duality of the issue, Palfrey added, "... gun violence is a very serious cause of mortality in our country for children."

As such, gun-related injuries accounted for 6,570 deaths of children and young people (ages 1 to 24) in 2010, according to the New England Journal of Medicine. When considering death by gun violence in the broader spectrum, NEJM cites, "Gun injuries cause twice as many deaths as cancer, five times as many as heart disease, and 15 times as many as infections."

According to a New York Times review of child firearm deaths, accidental shootings occurred roughly twice as often as records indicate.

These statistics come to life through the stories of Ann Marie Crowell, Simon Frankel and Dr. Danny Dwyer, all of whom have lost loved ones to an accidental gunshot resulting in fatality.

As The Huffington Post continues its series on gun violence in America, we want to hear from you. If you or someone you know has been affected by gun violence and would like to share his or her story on HuffPost Live, please e-mail hplsegments@huffingtonpost.com.

To hear their stories, watch the full segment below.


JOHN CHRISTOFFERSEN   |   November 14, 2013    9:20 AM ET

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) — A grass-roots group involving several people who lost loved ones in the Newtown school shooting is launching a new campaign to address gun violence, reaching out to parents around the country after seeing its push for new federal legislation fall short in Washington.

The group, Sandy Hook Promise, formed shortly after the Dec. 14 massacre of 26 people at the Sandy Hook Elementary School with the goal of turning the tragedy into a moment of transformation for a horrified nation.

Brady Bill Was Just the Beginning

Rep. Charles Rangel   |   November 13, 2013    6:39 PM ET

I still remember March 31, 1981, when a deeply disturbed John Hinckley Jr. took aim at President Ronald Reagan and fired shots that hospitalized the Commander-in-Chief and two others, and left his Press Secretary James Brady paralyzed for life. The outrage we felt as a nation and the efforts of Mr. Brady and his wife, along with the National Council to Control Handguns, led to the passage of the bill bearing his name to help prevent guns from ever reaching the hands of criminals or the mentally ill. Since then over two million gun purchases have been blocked thanks to background checks, half of those attempted purchases made by felons. The National Council continues on as The Brady Campaign, continuing work to keep our communities safe from gun violence. We are safer today because of the Brady Bill, but there is still a lot of work to be done.

Today, every day in America guns are used in 32 murders, 51 suicides, and 45 accidental shootings or deaths. Our rate of homicides by firearms is 20 times that of the next 22 nations with similar wealth and populations - combined. An average of eight children and teenagers are shot every day, and gun violence is second only to car accidents in causing the deaths of our children. The costs of medical expenses and criminal prosecution, as well as other costs from gun violence, total up to $100 billion a year. This cost in human life is simply unacceptable.

After so much loss and sadness in just this year alone, it could not be clearer that Congress must take action. We must urge a national dialogue on better methods of curbing preventable gun violence, and address the need for mental health awareness and access to psychiatric services in this country. So many deaths could be prevented if measures were implemented to expand background checks and keep individuals like John Hinckley from ever buying firearms in the first place. Recently we have seen national tragedies at the supermarket, mall, movie-theater, elementary school, and even at the Navy base, perpetrated by severely disturbed individuals who never should have had access to guns. Supporting mental wellness is crucial to any goal of decreasing gun violence in America.

There has been a lot of progress in twenty years, but it has been a long, tough road and there is a lot more to do further left to go. I am working right now on passing The Enforce Existing Gun Laws Act (H.R. 1728), a bill that would lift restrictions placed on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) regarding how it can keep track of firearms and share information with law enforcement. But enforcing our existing gun laws has to go hand in hand with working to make sure the mentally ill have access to treatment, not firearms.

We have taken a good first step with the Affordable Care Act and its new provisions for mental health coverage. Now it is incumbent upon Congress to finish what we started. Whatever one's stance on gun control is, I know everyone can agree that we should not rest until America becomes a place where families never have to worry about their loved ones being shot by a crazy gunman. We in Congress must continue the work we started a generation ago, and make a safer country for every generation to come.

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