Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “gun control”

Legitimate Gun Owners Vs. the NRA

Just as it is essential that we figure out how to separate actual small businesses from giant corporations when it comes to policy, it is now, more than ever, necessary to separate actual gun owners from the NRA (National Rifle Association).

The other day on TV, (I wish I could remember on which channel) I finally heard someone say what’s needed to be said for years: “The NRA is the lobbying wing of the gun manufacturers of America.” That summed it up, beautifully. The NRA does NOT represent the interests of most gun owners – hunters, target-shooters, or people interested in home-defense. Not remotely.

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It’s certainly true that a small fraction of gun owners have given themselves over to the ridiculous hype generated by the NRA – that President Obama is coming to take away everyone’s guns, or whatever nonsense, but their real benefits are not considered by the NRA in the slightest.

What the NRA cares about is money. They want their real bosses – Glock, Colt, Smith and Wesson, etc., to sell more guns and not to ever have to worry that those sales will slow down. And they want to keep on selling guns to people who buy them with the idea that they may want to kill someone for reasons other than self-defense. Their Strategy has worked well. Gun sales have soared.

Remember when someone created a way to identify what gun had fired a bullet found at a crime scene? The NRA had a sissy, hissy fit. They immediately created and released videos showing how to alter these guns in order to disable the identification mechanism. Why? If you’re going to use your gun for legitimate reasons, what have you got to fear?

The NRA works to convince its members that they need to buy as many guns as they can, before the coming war for freedom from our oppressive government. I’m not really sure what you do with 65 guns and only two hands, but that’s what your supposed to do – keep buying.

Most gun owners aren’t really all that complicated about the issue. They want to hunt and/or shoot targets or clay pigeons, they want to defend their homes or other property, they want to be able to defend their families against armed assailants… mostly pretty reasonable stuff (although I’m not a big fan of trophy-hunting). But a few have been driven to lunacy, mostly by the incessant fear-mongering of the NRA.

I really wish I had time to list all the ways this guy is delusional.

I’m not even sure HOW President Obama or anyone else would go about any attempt to ban guns, even if he wanted to do it. And I’m quite certain that the impossibility of such a task would stop the policy from ever being realized, anyway. In addition, Obama can hardly get anything done at all with all the Republican opposition. Remember the “fiscal cliff?” And now we have a huge fight coming up over his appointment of Chuck Hagel, a Republican, no less, as Secretary of Defense. Coming to take away your guns? I would much sooner bet on the Cubs to win the 2013 world series… AND the 2014 Stanley Cup.

One of the things that’s angered me about the news media, lately, is this: one of the worst crimes ever committed in the United states – the killing 20 children and 8 adults at Sandy Hook elementary school, has led to a huge bully pulpit for… the NRA. While most of us saw this horrible tragedy as at least an opportunity to finally impose some reasonable rules on the gun trade, people like NRA president Wayne Lapierre and NRA board member (and crappy rock star) Ted Nugent are all over TV, being legitimized in interviews on news programs.

As I always say, I’m all for a good debate. And some reasonable people are worried that gun-killing-control laws will go too far, infringing upon the rights of ordinary citizens. But the rantings of a man whose largest contribution to society was a song called, “Wango Tango,” don’t interest me at all. Ted Nugent strikes me as nothing but a meth-head, and Wayne Lapierre is nothing more than a corporate robot. Watch this to see how he’s flip-flopped, at the whim of his gun-manufacturing masters:

The relevant part starts at 2:03

and Ted Nugent at his finest:

I sure wish the voices of reason were the loudest in our country – even those voices that disagree with me. Instead, we have one lunatic fringe telling stories about the other side’s lunatic fringe (that really hardly exists) to scare the people in the middle that it HAS to be their way, or we will surely descend into tyranny. They say this in a tyrannical, ranting way, by the way.

We need to separate what it takes to make guns OK for the people who want to use them legitimately, while making it as difficult as possible for those who want to use a gun for illegitimate purposes. Legitimate gun owners do not fear this. In fact, they probably fear the lunatics as much as any of us do.

-Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

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The Gun Problem: Keeping It Simple – Roger Ingalls

Hand Gun Assault Rifle

Gun Suicides

Gun Murders

Little Crosses

This is the problem

Closing note: Since the 27 deaths at Sandy Hook elementary school forty-nine days ago, more than 1400 peopled have been killed in the US with handguns (28 deaths per day for 49 straight days). A lot of energy, money and politicking is getting spent on the relatively insignificant issue of assault weapon deaths while the real problem of handgun killings is ignored. Sadly, political and media sound-biting wins the day. Please spread the truth, maybe we can focus attention on the real issue.

It Takes An Unarmed Village

Kudos to President Obama. While everyone else is just talking (or blogging) about gun control, he decided to get the ball rolling with a package that overflows with common sense.

A month after we witnessed yet another horrific massacre, Obama challenged a cowering Congress to pass universal background checks and bans on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines like the ones used in the Newtown, Conn., school shooting.

imgres-3Fighting words or not, he knows that a deeply divided Congress is an integral partner to pass the most necessary and effective measures for preventing more mass shootings.

“To make a real and lasting difference, Congress must act,” Obama said. “And Congress must act soon.”

Already those brave souls in Congress are burning the midnight candle forcing the NRA to send rational leaders to participate in the debate and selling their shares in the pork industry, fearlessly risking their seats by taking on the special interest groups that put so many of them there in the first place.

Okay I apologize. You probably read that paragraph twice, rubbed your eyes, and vowed to  ditch the decaf and return to caffeinated coffee.

Immediately, the NRA was up in arms: ” “Attacking firearms and ignoring children is not a solution to the crisis we face as a nation. Only honest, law-abiding gun owners will be affected and our children will remain vulnerable to the inevitability of more tragedy.”

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus dismissed Obama’s measures as “an executive power grab.”

imgres“He paid lip service to our fundamental constitutional rights,” Priebus said of the president, “but took actions that disregard the Second Amendment and the legislative process.”

It seems to me that one of two things need to happen and they both require acts of courage by huge numbers of people.

The first is a mass movement of people who are willing to make this the focus of attention until the mid terms. I doubt this is sustainable. There are too many other issues that effect our pockets and we are simply too attention deficit and the media are too deft at facilitating this. 

The second involves an (unarmed) uprising within the NRA. I have already written about the NRA historically leading gun reform policy. The only way this is going to happen is if the moderate majority of NRA members make a stand:

I realize this hope contains too flaws: there might not be  a moderate majority and, even if there is, it might be too intimidated to stand up to the extremists. Secondly, it renders my blog title inaccurate.

As the President said: “Behind the scenes, they’ll do everything they can to block any commonsense reform and make sure nothing changes whatsoever, The only way we will be able to change is if their audience, their constituents, their membership says this time must be different, that this time we must do something to protect our communities and our kids.”

Here is something we can each do TODAY. Find a friend who is a member of the NRA and take them out for coffee. Invite them to raise their voice – make this about background checks and automatic weapons. Reassure them that the gun they feel they need to protect their family is not threatened.

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President Obama is not going to succeed alone. He needs his friends and he needs the moderate majority of the American people. 

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Alon Shalev is the author of three social justice-themed novels: Unwanted Heroes, The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Jewish Student Center, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

Back to Gun Control – Now

I have to admit that I feel a bit intimidated writing this post. The truth is that I started to write it shortly after the Sandy Hook Elementary School. My blog posts on gun control have elicited the most virulent responses, primarily from people who didn’t even bother to read the posts. 

But, as I watched the tragedy unfold on twitter, those who immediately ran to man the barricades shocked me. Most of us were just trying to glean information, to come to terms with what I hope we all see as a pointless and heart-wrenching tragedy.

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My first response to these tweets was that this was not the time: not for those who were inevitably going to call for gun control or those who would defend it. So I held off. In reality, I didn’t feel I could write something rational then either.

I am proud that there are NRA members who, while they disagreed with my previous posts, respected that I was not taking an extremist stand, and joined the debate. These are the rational members of the NRA and they have a voice that the rest of us need to empower so that others will allow them to be heard.

But we need to have the debate and it cannot be held under the shadow of a tragedy. In the same vein, we need to establish parameters for the debate. There are a number of points I wish to make:

1. Historically, the NRA was governed by brave leaders who saw a need for gun control and took the initiative to ensure their members were well represented in policy decisions. As such, they were often a rational and productive voice from within the organization. We need brave leaders in the NRA today. 

2. I recognize the inherent need that many men and women feels to be able to defend themselves and their families. I believe this can be recognized and, as such, relieve much of the anxiety around gun control debates.

3. This debate should focus on automatic firearms (a weapon that will continue to fire bullets as long as the trigger is pressed and there is ammunition in the magazine). It would allay the fears of people who feel the need for a weapon in their house.

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There is room to prevent a person holding a gun that can deliver the carnage we saw in the last few tragedies. It is a beginning and part of a controllable process.

Let’s not wait for the next tragedy to debate whether we should debate gun control. Let’s do it now and come to the table in an environment of listening and willingness to compromise.

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Alon Shalev is the author of three social justice-themed novels: Unwanted Heroes, The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Jewish Student Center, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

Unwanted Heroes – Released Today In Ebook!

Now that’s what I consider a great Thanksgiving gift!

Three Clover Press announced that Unwanted Heroes is now available on Kindle and Smashwords. The paperback will be closer to the expected January date.

They generously agreed to price the ebook at $2.99 for the present. I would like to take the opportunity to thank Lloyd Lofthouse, a fine author and a war veteran, who personally deals with and writes about P.T.S.D on The Soulful Veteran blog. I am sure it was not easy for him to edit my novel.

Lloyd has overseen the project throughout the various stages and provided me with both honest feedback and tough love.

Here is a quick synopsis:

Unwanted Heroes brings together an old, battle weary Chinese American war vet and an idealistic and somewhat pretentious young Englishmen, who share a love for San Francisco, coffee and wine. They soon discover they share even more when repressed memories bring them together, finding in each other, an unlikely ally to free themselves from the tragic past that binds them both.

Set in beautiful San Francisco, this novel is a tribute to the city, its people and those who sacrificed so much to keep it and America free, as seen through the eyes of a young struggling writer from across the Atlantic, who brings more baggage than just his shiny laptop and romantic ideals.

Unwanted Heroes follows two other social justice-themed novels, The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale, that were both placed in my native England. This novel is the first of three that will be situated in San Francisco, the city I have grown to love and dare call my home. Unwanted Heroes focuses on the issue of how we treat our war veterans and the homeless. The two future novels will deal with other issues relevant to the US – gay rights and gun control. After that, who knows?

But right now, I am very proud to share Unwanted Heroes with you. If you would do me the honor of reading it, please take a few minutes to post a review on Amazon.com or Smashwords. Reviews are playing an increasingly critical role in guiding readers to purchase a book.

Thank you.

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Alon Shalev is the author of three social justice-themed novels: Unwanted Heroes, The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Jewish Student Center, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

Final Gun Post (for now)

I realize that I have become rather obsessed with the topic but I will try and make this the final post for a while. I have a feeling that I know on what social issue the next novel will focus.

Sifting through the material that I collected are five more excellent articles regarding gun control that have appeared in the Atlantic.

Light  Reading (not). Enjoy.

  • · The Story of a Gun (1993) Erik Larson traces the history of a particular gun that was used to commit a school shooting.
  • · The False Promise of Gun Control (1994) Daniel B. Polsby argues against gun control by pointing out that criminals will always be able to find guns, but honest people won’t be able to defend themselves if restrictions are tightened.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

NRA Supported Gun Control Pt. 3 of 3

This is the final part of a series from last week based upon a great article from The Atlantic by Adam Winkler  The Secret History of Guns. In the previous post, we discussed how the NRA have taken roles in the past to support gun control policy.

There are other historical examples of the NRA supporting gun control. In the 1930’s, the NRA endorsed the National Firearms Act of 1934, aimed at stemming the distribution of “gangster guns” like semi-automatic and sawed-off shotguns.

The NRA was not a blond supporter, objecting to including handguns, for example, but supported what Frederick defined as “reasonable, sensible, and fair legislation.”

In the aftermath of the tragic assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 the NRA again supported gun control. The assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, had purchased his gun from a mail-order advertisement in the NRA’s American Rifleman magazine. The NRA’s Executive Vice President, Franklin Orth, testified: “We do not think that any sane American, who calls himself an American, can object to placing into this bill the instrument which killed the president of the United States.”

The NRA did not favor stricter proposals such as a national gun registration, but did support the Gun Control Act of 1968.

What we learn from this historically is that the NRA and Republicans in general, do not have to automatically fight every attempt at gun control.

The US Supreme Court in 2008 clearly defined the Second Amendment as guaranteeing the rights of the individual to bear arms. However, Justice Antonin Scalia, pulled on this past realism when he wrote: ” should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”

While the Founders did impose their own form of gun control, no law of their design compares to Scalia’s list of Second Amendment exceptions. “They had no laws banning guns in sensitive places, or laws prohibiting the mentally ill from possessing guns, or laws requiring commercial gun dealers to be licensed. Such restrictions are products of the 20th century. Justice Scalia, in other words, embraced a living Constitution.”

Ironically, in this lies our hope for a consensus. If Justice Scalia sees the need for limitations, then he is only following a long line of conservative, responsible thinks that include leaders of the NRA, Ronald Reagan and the Republican Party, and maybe even the Founding Fathers.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

 

Secrets of Gun Control 2 of 3

This is a continuance of Monday’s post based upon a great article from The Atlantic by Adam Winkler entitled The Secret History of Guns.

Hard-line gun-rights advocates portray even modest gun laws as infringements on that right and oppose widely popular proposals—such as background checks for all gun purchasers—on the ground that any gun-control measure, no matter how seemingly reasonable, puts us on the slippery slope toward total civilian disarmament.

From the other side of the street, those who advocate for gun control, claim that the Second Amendment was intended to insure a militia that could protect the people from interior or exterior threats.

We  will never know the intentions of those who wrote the constitution, but what is historically proven is that the Founding Fathers put into place gun laws and limitations that would probably see their NRA membership revoked today.

True, preventing slaves and free blacks access to arms was clearly to uphold a racist regime, or law-abiding white men who refused to swear loyalty to the Revolution, is hardly the kind of gun control that many of us seek. (I couldn’t find if women were allowed to carry arms, and if not then, when. Anyone know?).

What I also found interesting is that the Founders had their own version of “individual mandate” (and I thought you were being original, President Obama with your health-care-reform law). The Founding Fathers “actually  required the purchase of guns. A 1792 federal law mandated every eligible man to purchase a military-style gun and ammunition for his service in the citizen militia. Such men had to report for frequent musters—where their guns would be inspected and, yes, registered on public rolls.”

After a famous public altercation in February 1967 (in Oakland, Left Coasters) between a lawyer for the Black Panthers and a police officer, “Republicans in California eagerly supported increased gun control. Governor Reagan told reporters that afternoon that he saw “no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons.” He called guns a “ridiculous way to solve problems that have to be solved among people of good will.” In a later press conference, Reagan said he didn’t “know of any sportsman who leaves his home with a gun to go out into the field to hunt or for target shooting who carries that gun loaded.”

While the NRA is the clear leader against gun control it was not always so intransigent. In fact, throughout the 1920’s and 30’s the organization often led gun control legislative initiatives.

“The organization’s president at the time was Karl T. Frederick, a Princeton and Harvard-educated lawyer known as “the best shot in America”—a title he earned by winning three gold medals in pistol-shooting at the 1920 Summer Olympic Games. As a special consultant to the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, Frederick helped draft the Uniform Firearms Act, a model of state-level gun-control legislation.”

This included:

1. No individual could carry concealed in public without a permit from the local police. Such a permit could only be received by a “suitable” person with a “proper reason for carrying” a firearm.

2. Gun dealers were required to report to law enforcement every sale of a handgun.

3. A two-day waiting period on handgun sales was to be strictly adhered to.

In 1934 Frederick stated that he did “not believe in the general promiscuous toting of guns. I think it should be sharply restricted and only under licenses.” Milton A. Reckord, the organization’s executive vice president told a congressional committee that the NRA was “absolutely favorable to reasonable legislation.”

On Monday, we shall see how the NRA continued to be an active partner in the passage of gun control.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

Gun Control Part One

In my numerous discussions about gun control over the past month, I have felt that the arguments have been emotional (though there is nothing wrong with this) and somewhat lacking in any historical perspective. I am frustrated by the extremism displayed on both sides. This series of posts on gun control is a reflection of my own lack of knowledge. I found a great article from The Atlantic by Adam Winkler. The Secret History of Guns is possibly the most comprehensive and lucid article I have read on the topic. I certainly learned a lot. All quotes, unless otherwise attributed, are his.

Adam Winkler is professor of constitutional law at UCLA law school. Much of this research can be found in his book:  Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America.

Winkler eloquently describes how the real struggle for modern gun control began:

“The eighth-grade students gathering on the west lawn of the state capitol in Sacramento were planning to lunch on fried chicken with California’s new governor, Ronald Reagan, and then tour the granite building constructed a century earlier to resemble the nation’s Capitol. But the festivities were interrupted by the arrival of 30 young black men and women carrying .357 Magnums, 12-gauge shotguns, and .45-caliber pistols.

The 24 men and six women climbed the capitol steps, and one man, Bobby Seale, began to read from a prepared statement. “The American people in general and the black people in particular,” he announced, must take careful note of the racist California legislature aimed at keeping the black people disarmed and powerless Black people have begged, prayed, petitioned, demonstrated, and everything else to get the racist power structure of America to right the wrongs which have historically been perpetuated against black people The time has come for black people to arm themselves against this terror before it is too late.

Seale then turned to the others. “All right, brothers, come on. We’re going inside.” He opened the door, and the radicals walked straight into the state’s most important government building, loaded guns in hand. No metal detectors stood in their way.

It was May 2, 1967, and the Black Panthers’ invasion of the California statehouse launched the modern gun-rights movement.”

While this story is historically fascinating, it is the next part that really caught my attention. The Second Amendment, contrary to everything I have understood up until now, does not clearly state that the individual has a right to bear arms. It doesn’t discuss the right to walk around in public with a gun, or whether that gun can be loaded. In fact, to again quote Mr. Winkler: “The Second Amendment is maddeningly ambiguous.”

The actual wording is: “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.”

 A well-regulated militia is a far cry from an individual concealing a weapon. Yet to many, and possibly through a well-orchestrated campaign by the NRA, this assures an individual the right to bear arms and outlaws most gun control.

What is particularly dangerous with this approach is the perception that any law, for example one that might prevent guns reaching the hands of terrorists, criminals, people with mental instability, is the beginning of a slippery path to disarming people.

I have already suggested that such extreme posturing (and on the other side, those who want a total ban on guns) has led to a chasm that we are going to have difficulty bridging. On Wednesday, we will see how often the gun lobby has been a partner in creating legislation.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

NRA: An Advocate for Gun Control

You write about the National Rifle Association and you will hit a nerve as I did last week. But I remain fascinated with the organization and found this article.

Mike Dendinger claims that the NRA has been a consistent supporter of methods to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. It has also supported responsible supervision whenever children or the untrained are allowed access to guns. In fact, the NRA adversarial stance is more a response to, or at least parallels, the rise of the liberal anti-gun platform.

“The NRA’s opposition to other forms of gun control appears to have coalesced in the 1970’s, when the idea of gun confiscation first started to appear in the philosophy of the American left. At that point, the NRA seems to have evolved to oppose any form of gun control that would allow the government to maintain databases of gun owners and their guns. Because such databases would facilitate government confiscation of firearms (as subsequently happened in Canada), they were anathema to NRA members.

Prior to the ’70’s, the NRA was not perceived as opposing gun control simply because there wasn’t much to oppose. In the twenties, civilians could buy Thompson submachine guns and Browning Automatic Rifles via mail order. The National Firearms Act of 1934, contrary to popular belief, did not prohibit civilians from owning fully automatic weapons, but instead imposed formidable licensing requirements. The camel’s nose poked a little farther into the tent with the Gun Control Act of 1968, passed in response to the terrible string of political assassinations in the ’60’s. The GCA imposed severe restrictions on the sale and/or transfer of firearms, especially in interstate commerce. It was in the decade following the GCA of 1968 that the NRA became more active in opposing gun control.”

This historical perspective suggests that there might be more common ground between two seemingly polemic stances, one that might facilitate a safer society. Perhaps we don’t need to agree on everything to facilitate a safer environment.

Once we stop posturing and begin to establish common ground, who knows where it might take us?

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

 

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