Tag Archives: gun control

‘Bump stock’ becomes new gun focus

Maybe it’s just me but I rather doubt many Americans had ever heard of “bump stock” before this past weekend when a madman opened fire on a crowd of 22,000 spectators attending a country music festival in Las Vegas, Nev.

A bump stock, we have learned, is a device that turns a semi-automatic weapon into a machine gun.

The shooter in Las Vegas had attached a bump stock to a semi-auto rifle and created an automatic weapon, a killing machine that took the lives of 58 people and injured more than 500 others.

Now the debate has been joined. And guess what: There seems to be some actual momentum building that could make bump stocks illegal. Congressional Republicans, who usually are allied with the National Rifle Association in opposing any effort to regulate guns in any fashion, now are calling for an examination of this device.

More good news? Sure. The NRA is softening its opposition, agreeing that Congress should debate the legality of bump stocks.

Hell has frozen over!

As The Hill reports: “The NRA believes that devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations,” NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre and executive director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action Chris Cox said in a joint statement.

Who would have thought such a thing could come from the NRA?

Might there be a gun law breakthrough?

I believe it’s a baby step toward taking some needed legislative steps regarding gun violence. I hope eventually that Congress will be able to be more comprehensive in its approach to curbing this kind of massacre. It likely will need some push from powerful public interests — such as the NRA.

If it’s against the law to own a machine gun, then how is it that bump stocks remain legal?

Parsing the founders’ language in the 2nd Amendment

Of all the amendments to the U.S. Constitution — all 27 of them — the one that gives me the most serious case of heartburn is the Second Amendment.

Here is what this amendment says. It’s brief, but it’s so damn confusing in my humble view: 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.

Americans are talking yet again about this amendment. Events in Las Vegas over the weekend have thrust this issue to the top of our minds once more. We’re talking about gun violence, gun control. We’re even debating whether we should be debating this issue at this time. I believe we should.

But I want to look at the Second Amendment’s sentence construction. I’ve read it thousands of times over my many years on this good Earth. I don’t understand what it’s saying.

The founders were smart men. They did a good job of developing a fairly cogent and concise bill of rights that are contained in the first 10 amendments to the Constitution. The Second Amendment, though, seems to make two points that are not connected to each other.

Indeed, the first 12 words preceding the comma seem to be lacking an ending. It refers only to a “well-regulated” militia and the necessity to have one to maintain “the security of a free State.” That’s it!

The following clause could stand as a complete sentence in that it contains a subject, some verbs and a predicate.

Those who favor stricter controls on firearms point to the first clause as their rationale. Those who oppose such controls look to the clause after the comma as their rationale.

My sense is that here is where the debate over this amendment seems to break down. Those on opposing sides of this mammoth chasm place their emphases on separate clauses. One means something different from the other one.

I know that courts have ruled countless times that the amendment means that Americans can own firearms, that it’s protected in the Constitution.

The Bill of Rights was ratified Dec. 15, 1791 and thus, the Constitution was established to form a framework for our representative democracy.

The founders got it mostly right when they crafted that framework. They wrote the Bill of Rights almost without exception with sentences that make sense; nine of the 10 amendments comprising the Bill of Rights were constructed in ways that make sense to laypeople such as yours truly.

The Second Amendment, though, gives me heartburn.

By all means, let’s talk about guns

Part of the debate in the wake of the Las Vegas massacre has spun into a discussion about the timing of a debate over gun violence and whether we need more laws to control the ownership of firearms.

Donald Trump believes it’s premature to talk about such matters.

The White House echoes the president’s view on the timing of that discussion.

Others, meanwhile, have kicked that debate into first gear and are shifting into higher gears quickly.

To be honest, I am with those who want to start the discussion now.

I am not dishonoring the victims of the gunman’s horrific act. I pray daily for the 59 people killed and for the 500-plus victims who were injured. I pray for our country and hope we can return to some semblance of sanity.

Moreover, I do believe we can enact some additional controls on the flow of firearms without dismembering the Second Amendment guarantees of firearm ownership. I won’t engage in that debate here.

I do want to deal briefly with the notion that we can have that discussion while mourning the loss of life in Las Vegas. It’s not too early. I am mystified at the idea that it is inappropriate to seek measures to protect us against this kind of heinous act.

TV talking heads are grilling politicians about gun control. Some of them are hedging. Others are willing to engage — right now — in that discussion.

The carnage that spilled on the floor in Las Vegas has prompted yet another national debate over how — or if — we can ever protect humanity from gun madness.

Do I have confidence that this moment will produce any action? Consider this: If the deaths of those 20 innocent children and six of their teachers, who were slaughtered in Newtown, Conn., couldn’t get politicians to budge, does anyone believe they’ll move as a result of the Las Vegas massacre?

Their likely refusal does not make a national discussion any less important.

This is the guy who’ll keep the WH stories straight?

Anthony Scaramucci has a law degree and a pretty hefty financial pedigree.

Somehow, though, he got himself appointed White House communications director over the vehement objections of former press secretary Sean Spicer.

As I scanned Scaramucci’s record, I got a glimpse into what might have prompted Spicer to quit after Donald Trump installed Scaramucci as communications director.

“Mooch,” as he is known, seems to have had trouble keeping his own stories straight.

He is known to support gay marriage and strong gun-control laws, two issues that are anathema to Donald Trump’s political “base.” He once raised money for Democratic presidential candidate Barack H. Obama. Mooch backed Scott Walker and then Jeb Bush in the 2016 Republican primary and then threw in with Trump’s transition after the president was elected.

He’s also said some highly critical things about Trump.

I must ask: This is the individual who is going to put the White House “on message” and seek to avoid the missteps, mistakes and misstatements that have poured out of Trump administration?

Chaos, meet confusion.

‘Gun cops’ are nowhere to be seen

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I am hurtling toward my 70th year on this Earth and for most of that time I’ve been fairly politically attuned to the various debates of the time.

One debate that seems to have outlasted many of the others has been about guns.

Gun violence breaks out and we hear the squeals of gloom and doom from the gun lobby that politicians are going to call on the cops to break down our doors and confiscate all our weapons. Those nasty pols simply hate the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and they’re going to do away with it. They’re going to steal our civil liberties and deny us the right to “keep and bear arms.”

Such nonsense came flying out of the mouth last night of Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump. The Democrats’ nominee, Hillary Rodham Clinton, wants to do away with the Second Amendment, he said, and by gosh-and-by-darn, he won’t let that happen.

The pro-gun-rights lobby has been saying the same thing about President Obama. They said it about the first President Clinton, and about President Carter, President Johnson and President Kennedy.

What do all these pols have in common? They’re all Democrats, the gun-hating, squishy liberal political party that wants to disarm Americans and leave us vulnerable to a government takeover of all our rights.

If any of that were true, wouldn’t any one of those aforementioned individuals have done so already?

Of course not!

They can’t. Congress won’t allow it. The gun lobby — which has sunk its teeth deeply into lawmakers’ necks — won’t allow it. The Constitution won’t allow it.

Yet the fear-mongering continues — as it did from the podium on the final night Wednesday at the Republican National Convention.

I do believe there are ways to regulate firearms a bit more tightly while remaining faithful to the Second Amendment. The merchants of fear, though — now led by Donald Trump — won’t allow it.

President speaks eloquently at memorial

memorial

President Barack Obama delivered a touching tribute today to slain Dallas police officers.

The president, along with Vice President Joe Biden and former President George W. Bush, was among the dignitaries lined up on the stage paying tribute to the men who were gunned down by the shooter this past Thursday.

He spoke of their dedication to duty, of their families’ bravery and of the officers’ devotion to protecting the very people who were protesting activities of their fellow brothers and sisters in uniform.

But then he veered briefly into a realm where I wish he hadn’t gone.

He talked about the ease of buying a Glock pistol.

Sigh …

I have noted in a couple of earlier blog posts that a memorial service paying tribute to the five brave police officers was not the place to politicize a message. I guess the president didn’t read my blog, let alone take my advice.

Did it diminish his tribute to the men who died in the line of duty?

Not to my ears — although I am absolutely certain more critical observers will say quite the opposite.

I get that Barack Obama has done this kind of speech-making too many times already during his presidency. I believe in the sincerity of his expression of grief over the victims of this kind of violence.

I also am glad he went to Dallas to hug the victims’ families, and to offer support for the beleaguered and grief-stricken city.

The healing of the city’s wounds, though, is just beginning.

Let it continue to restore a great American city’s sense of self.

Filibuster provides a rare Senate ‘victory’

Chris Murphy was incensed at his U.S. Senate colleagues.

Four years after his Connecticut constituents suffered the unspeakable grief from the Newtown school massacre, Congress hadn’t done anything to curb gun violence.

So, the Democratic lawmaker took the Senate floor the other day and began filibustering.

He was spurred to talk and talk and talk by the latest mass slaughter, of 49 individuals in Orlando, Fla., this past weekend.

I want to applaud Sen. Murphy for something he achieved from his 15-hour gabfest. He persuaded the Senate Republicans who run the place to hold votes on at least a couple of key bills that proponents say will help curb gun violence.

Hey, it’s a big deal. As big a deal is that it came about by a senator persuading his colleagues to schedule these votes by talking the issue to death.

Filibusters are unique to the Senate. The House doesn’t allow it.

A filibuster allows senators to talk about whatever they want. They can use the procedure to stall legislation. Some prominent lawmakers have used the filibuster to obtain legendary status. The late Sen. Strom Thurmond holds the record for non-stop Senate blabbing. My former senator, the late Wayne Morse of Oregon, was another well-known blowhard who knew how to use the filibuster to maximum advantage.

Sometimes senators’ use of the filibuster backfires. Ted Cruz of Texas sought to filibuster the Affordable Care Act to death in 2013. He failed.

Murphy, though, managed to get a vote on one of the knottiest issues of our time: gun control.

I am not sure where it will go. There are some interesting compromises to what Murphy favors, dealing with disallowing suspected terrorists from obtaining a firearm.

I won’t comment further here on the merits of what Murphy desires.

However, I applaud the senator for talking long enough to get the Senate leadership to at least put this issue to a vote.

A little self-awareness, please, Sen. Cruz

I cannot let this pass without comment.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, called the filibuster led by Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut a “distraction.” He said it’s a “game.” He labeled it “political gamesmanship,” which he said the public considers to be “ridiculous.”

Wow, dude.

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2016/06/16/cruz_senate_filibuster_a_distraction_political_gamesmanship.html

Filibusters by their very nature are meant to “distract” senators.

I believe I’ll now point to Sen. Cruz’s own game of “political gamesmanship” when he led a faux filibuster three years ago to defund the Affordable Care Act. The effect was to temporarily shut down the federal government as Cruz read passages from Dr. Seuss on the floor of the Senate.

He didn’t succeed in defunding the ACA, but he did succeed in making a fool of himself.

Of all the 98 remaining senators who could have spoken out against Sen. Murphy’s filibuster that he used to force a vote on gun legislation, why did it have to be Ted Cruz, the unofficial king of “political gamesmanship”?

 

Rewrite the 2nd Amendment? Just try it

The Orlando, Fla., massacre has ignited yet again — for the zillionth time — the debate over whether to enact tighter controls on the purchase of guns such as the weapon used by the monster who mowed down those innocent victims.

I don’t intend to enter that debate here. I do, though, want to introduce you to an idea that’s being kicked around: rewriting the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

I’ve long believed that of all the first 10 amendments, those that guarantee our civil liberties, the Second is the most horribly written of them.

It seems to contain two distinct references that appear to be at odds with each other.

“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.”

Are clear on that? Now? Forever?

Hardly.

Gun-control advocates glom onto the first part, the reference to the well-regulated militia; gun-owner advocates cling to the second part that refers to “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

The founders inserted a couple of commas in the middle of the text that seem — to my eyes, at least — to add to the confusion.

Mac McCann, a blogger for the Dallas Morning News, has posited the notion that the Second Amendment needs to be modernized. Will it happen? Sure, it’ll happen about the time both sides of the gun violence divide come together, lock arms and sing in perfect harmony.

http://dallasmorningviewsblog.dallasnews.com/2016/06/maybe-the-only-solution-is-to-rewrite-the-second-amendment.html/

McCann writes: “I hold the Constitution in the highest regard, and I’m naturally skeptical of government power. But I’m moved by Obama’s words: ‘to actively do nothing is a decision, as well’ — and clearly not a good decision.

“We need a text that reflects the will of the American people in today’s world — which, of course, is far different from the world the Constitution was written in.”

Of course, any effort to amend an amendment is going to be interpreted as repealing the original text. We’ve had discussion in the past about amending the First Amendment, too. Free-speech/freedom-of-religion/free-press purists such as myself, quite naturally, have opposed such a thing on its face. That puts us in a bind when discussions come up regarding the Second Amendment, which is held in equally high regard by purists interested in gun-related issues.

This notion of modernizing the Second Amendment, though, is a discussion worth having.

If only we can have it intelligently and without the demonization that is guaranteed to erupt.

Your thoughts? Talk to me.

 

Law-abiding gun owners can relax; your guns are safe

gun over american flag

I’m trying to wrap my mind around this notion.

The Second Amendment guarantees the right of Americans to “keep and bear arms.” It doesn’t say so explicitly, but my strong hunch is that the men who wrote that amendment intended for it to apply to law-abiding Americans.

Now we hear the president of the United States suggesting that we need to tighten laws in an effort to ensure greater gun safety.

He said clearly and unequivocally: We aren’t going to confiscate the guns of law-abiding citizens who have guns for the right reasons . . . to hunt or to shoot at targets.

The target — if you’ll pardon the intentional pun — are the criminals who are able to purchase guns through loopholes in current state and federal law.

Thus, President Obama has acted.

Measures outlined.

I’m certain I heard him say he believes in the Second Amendment. He noted that it’s written “on paper.” It’s on the record. His support of the amendment will stand forever.

He noted quite correctly that we register our cars. Why can’t we register our guns? he asked. If the law-abiding folks want to own guns, they are able to do so. No problem. No issue here.

Obama said he wants those who sell guns to go through extended background checks. He wants to hire more agents for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. He wants Congress to authorize more money for mental health care.

Does any of that suggest that the president is going to dispatch storm troopers across the land to take away the guns of those who own them, who use them properly, who want to defend themselves against those who would do them harm?

I do not believe that will happen.

Ever.