Tag Archives: gun violence

‘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?

Let’s get real: mend, not end, 2nd Amendment

I’m hearing a lot of chatter throughout my social media network about how the United States should end the carnage of gun violence.

Las Vegas’s tragedy has awakened us yet again to this horrifying aspect of modern American society. Fifty-eight victims, all attending a music festival, were shot to death in an act of insanity by a monster perched on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino. Five hundred-plus more were injured; some of them are in critical condition.

The debate has been joined throughout many social and other media.

I am hearing significant chatter about how Australia managed to clamped down on firearm ownership in the wake of a 1996 mass shooting. The Aussies have been massacre-free ever since. Other countries prohibit the purchase of firearms. Let’s model our firearm policy after those countries, the argument goes.

I happen to believe in the Second Amendment, awkward phrasing and all. I believe it says that Americans have the constitutional right to “keep and bear arms.” I get that.

However, I also believe there must be a solution to improving the Second Amendment. How can we preserve its principle while legislating within its framework stricter laws that make it illegal for civilians to own fully automatic assault weapons like the one used in Las Vegas by that madman? Isn’t there a solution to be found somewhere, somehow, by someone smart enough to draft a law that maintains the Second Amendment principle of keeping and bearing arms?

As my friend Jon Mark Beilue has noted in a wonderful column published today in the Amarillo Globe-News, other amendments in the Bill of Rights have limitations. He cites the First, Fifth and Sixth amendments. The Second Amendment, though, remains untouchable mostly because of entrenched political interests groups — I’m talking about you, National Rifle Association, among others — who bully and pressure members of Congress to keep their hands off that amendment.

Check out Beliue’s essay here.

Can we get past the overheated rhetoric that flares up when these tragedies strike? If we can, then perhaps we can find a solution to mend the Second Amendment. Don’t tell me that such a reach is beyond our collective grasp.

President delivers consolation

Dear Mr. President …

There. That’s how you do it, sir. You go to a stricken community and you speak solemnly and you offer words of comfort, sorrow and support.

The residents of Las Vegas, indeed the entire nation, are grieving. You spoke to our collective grief today in the wake of the madman’s onslaught Sunday night.

Yes, you surely heard the criticism of your Puerto Rico visit, where millions of other Americans also are grieving — although for entirely different reasons. They faced nature’s wrath in the form of Hurricane Maria. They are hurting, but your remarks there seemed strange, petty and callow. A couple of those photo ops seemed, uh, rather weird. You might want to consider explaining what the paper towel-tossing event was supposed to symbolize.

You then had the chance today deliver another message to our fellow Americans in Las Vegas. I am heartened that you stepped up and said what needed to be said.

I’ll give you a pass for not talking about gun control today. That wasn’t your mission and I understand that. I hope you get around to engaging seriously with all Americans on this matter, even as many of them already have begun debating that issue among themselves.

Today was your time to fulfill your role as comforter in chief. You did that today in Las Vegas. You were right to say, “We cannot be defined by the evil that threatens us or the violence that incites such terror.” Mr. President, we can be defined instead by the heroes of all stripes who rushed to the aid of others stricken by the madman’s evil act.

This is what presidents do, sir. Circumstances sometimes compel you to perform these extraordinary duties. You did so today, Mr. President.

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.

‘Even the loons’ deserve to have guns?

Bill O’Reilly isn’t on TV much these days but he still has quite a following around the nation.

I feel the need, therefore, to challenge an assertion that the former TV host made in a blog post he wrote about the Second Amendment, the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of Americans to “keep and bear arms.” He said the Las Vegas massacre this weekend is the “price of freedom” and said the “Second Amendment is clear that Americans have a right to arm themselves for protection. Even the loons.”

Even the loons?

No, Bill. The loons might have that right currently, but they do not deserve the same rights to own firearms for protection.

This cuts pretty close to the heart of a debate that’s going to rage across the nation in the wake of the Las Vegas massacre that killed 59 people and injured more than 500 others. The gunman opened fire from the 32nd floor of a hotel onto a floor filled with concert goers who were listening to a concert performance by country music star Jason Aldean.

The debate over the Second Amendment has commenced, despite what White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said today about it being “too early” to have this national discussion.

Price of freedom?

I have no specific answers to the changing the status quo. I do believe in the Second Amendment. I believe Americans’ right to own firearms should remain. However, I continue to believe that there must be some additional controls placed on those who purchase firearms to do something to keep them out of the hands of people like the Las Vegas gunman.

There are limits on certain elements of the First Amendment; you can’t yell “fire!” in a crowded theater, nor can you slander or libel someone. Yet, there are those who contend that the Second Amendment must remain untouched from what the founders wrote in the 18th century. 

I won’t accept that notion. Surely there can be a way to craft reasonable restrictions on the purchase of firearms that seek to keep them from nut jobs like the guy who opened fire in Las Vegas.

And, no, I am acutely aware that no additional law is going to deter every single monster from obtaining a weapon, just as laws against murder haven’t eliminated that crime from occurring.

As we move forward with this discussion, my hope is that we can find a way to keep this debate as calm as possible and look as dispassionately as we can at alternatives to the status quo.

Mounting a small form of protest over shooting violence

My head continues to spin. My gut continues to roil in the wake of the Las Vegas massacre.

I have no answers. I have no solutions. Plenty of questions abound. They are overwhelming. The nation faces yet another daunting task in debating and discussing how to end this spasm of gun violence.

My own recourse is limited. I run this blog. I use it to comment on issues of the day. I also am able to use it to mount a form of protest.

I continue using High Plains Blogger to offer a voice against gun violence.

Some time ago, probably two or three gun massacres ago, I decided to quit referencing shooters by name. I’m doing so with the Las Vegas madman. Yes, the shooter is dead; he killed himself as police were closing in on his Mandalay Bay hotel room.

My protest of omission won’t affect this monster. He is burning in hell somewhere, along with the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter, the Columbine High School shooters, the University of Texas Tower gunman, and any of the other seemingly countless list of mass murderers. When the Army major who killed all those folks in Killeen, Texas, or when the Charleston, S.C., church murderer get put down, they’ll join them all in hell.

My type of protest won’t solve any problems. It won’t bring any solutions. It only gives me a tiny scintilla of satisfaction that I won’t publish their names here, committing them to some form of blogosphere immortality.

Another tragedy likely to ignite another debate on guns

Americans awoke this morning to horrifying news.

At least 58 people are dead, hundreds more injured and a nation is shaken to its core because of gun violence. This time is occurred from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nev.

A gunman opened fire with a fully automatic rifle from high over the ground floor where revelers were enjoying a country music festival.

What in the name of all that is supposed to make sense do we think about this?

The shooter is dead; he reportedly took his own life as police were closing in on the room where he was holed up. The FBI is assisting local police in investigating what drove this monster to do what he did. The president of the United States, Donald Trump, called this an act of “pure evil,” which it most certainly is.

Somehow, in a macabre sort of way, any discussion of what to call this dastardly act seems pointless so early as we have become consumed by our national grief. I’ll call it what I believe it is: an act of domestic terrorism. I will let others debate how this should be labeled; I won’t join that debate.

Make no mistake, too, that this act is going to spawn yet another “national conversation” about gun violence and how — or if — we can ever enact reasonable, tighter gun control laws that do not infringe on people’s constitutional guarantees to the ownership of firearms.

I’ve long believed the Second Amendment is not wholly sacrosanct. I believe there can be restrictions placed on weapons of the type used in the Mandalay Bay massacre. That debate will be joined in due course.

Meanwhile, I am going to collect my breath and say my prayers for a nation that has been thrust into mourning once again by the insane act of a gun-toting madman.

U.S. gives up title of ‘Beacon of Hope’

Let’s ponder this for a moment.

This United States of America used to be seen around the world as the place where everyone wanted to go. To visit. Or … to live.

It didn’t matter from where you came. You saw the U.S. of A. as the international beacon of hope. We have that statue in New York harbor that welcomes the poor and dispossessed.

That’s all changed, according to the current president of the United States. Donald J. Trump says if you come from certain countries and perhaps adhere to a certain religion, you are no longer welcome. The welcome mat has been rolled up, the door has been slammed shut and we won’t answer the bell when you ring it.

How in the world does this happen?

International terrorists? They’re to blame? No. We’ve had them in our midst for decades, if not centuries. Terrorists reside here at home, too. The president and his team say they want to protect us from those who would do us harm.

Really? What about the crazed corn-fed American-born morons who open fire in movie theaters, or at night clubs, or — for God’s sake! — in elementary schools! Or, say, the anti-government sociopath who blew up that federal courthouse in Oklahoma City.

The Trump administration has pushed the panic button. It has elevated the fear factor to new levels by excluding refugees from several Muslim-majority nations. But the president insists he isn’t invoking an anti-Muslim policy.

Well, Mr. President, it doesn’t look that way to me.

What’s next? Will he now send crews into the NYC harbor to remove that inscription on the statue?

We still have our guns … imagine that

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Plenty of doomsday scenarios were put forward by Barack Obama’s enemies when he became president in 2009. Most of them made no sense. One of them was particularly absurd.

I refer to politically active groups, such as the National Rifle Association, which fomented fear among the ranks of gun owners that the president was going to order federal agents to disarm us all. He would flout the Second Amendment and push legislation through Congress that would deprive of us of our constitutional right to “keep and bear arms” … they said.

Do you remember all that crap? I do.

It was all meant to scare the daylights out of us, to suggest that this president — who really isn’t one of “us,” if you’ll recall that other “birther” baloney as well — was hell bent on coming after our guns.

One of the social media themes that made the rounds not long ago was that the president had endorsed the Australia law that essentially took away everyone’s gun. The result of that law was a precipitous decline in gun violence Down Under; Obama thought that was a good result.

That never happened. It won’t happen, either, as long as we have a Constitution that includes the Second Amendment.

What the gun-owner-rights fearmongers ignored, too, was that the president lacks absolute power to impose his will over the nation. I hope the new president understands that, too. The president has that other co-equal government arm with which he must deal: Congress, which is populated by members who get lots of campaign dough from the gun lobby.

I mention this — as we draw closer to the end of President Obama’s time in office — to remind us all of the fearmongering that at times can overcome reasonable discussion of serious public policy issues.