In Shadow of Navy Yard Shooting, Maryland Shows Courage

concealed-handgun

Photo courtesy of Publik16 / Flickr

Photo courtesy of Publik16 / Flickr

There’s a certain type of bravery taking place in the nation’s 19th most populous state, whose border is about two miles from the Washington Navy Yard, scene of a horrifying mass gun attack.

A tough new gun law takes effect in Maryland Oct. 1. It’s not lip-service tough. Not politically-measured tough. This law is tough in a way that confirms the bravery of the state legislators who voted for it and Gov. Martin O’Malley who signed it.

The law should be a blueprint for the nation. Here’s what it says:

If you want to buy a handgun, you must be fingerprinted, take a safety test and get a $50 license. Even then, you may only purchase one such gun every 30 days.

If you want to buy an AK-47, AR-15 or any of 45 other semi-automatics and copycats, forget it. You can’t.

You also can’t buy a magazine that holds more than 10 rounds, and you can’t own the type of “cop-killer” bullets that have led to the deaths of at least 35 officers in the last decade.

There’s a lot more: a uniform procedure by which dealers and state police register firearms; a ban on those with criminal records or mental health problems from owning guns and all types of ammunition, and a new requirement for state police to shut down rogue dealers whose guns show up in a disproportionate number of crimes.

It’s tough. You know that because the NRA and a lot of its supporters here hate it.

And you know it has teeth because for the last month or so there’s been a run on handguns and automatic weapons at shops like Realco Guns here in District Heights. Statewide, gun sales in September have been about seven times the levels of a year ago.

That’s an unfortunate byproduct of the new law. Even more unfortunate is that until other states pass similar laws, and until the federal government deals more aggressively with Internet guns sales, Maryland’s efforts will only be partially effective.

“Our tears are not enough,” President Obama declared after 12 people were shot by a gunman at the DC Navy Yard. But the president’s own gun legislation has been blocked in Congress and has no chance in this session.

Also troubling is that firearms manufacturers remain exempted from the type of product-liability laws that govern so many other products. Indeed, since 2005 federal law has moved in the opposite direction by offering specific protection to gun makers in lawsuits and other claims.

Violent crime here in Maryland has already reached an historic low according to state figures. But Gov. O’Malley notes, “Just one life lost to senseless violence is one too many.” He correctly labeled the new law “a common sense approach” to dealing with the nation’s gun nightmare that has extended from Aurora, to Newtown, to the Washington Navy Yard — with many horrifying stops between.

Colorado’s lawmakers have also addressed the gun plague bravely, with new laws that expand the state’s background-check system to include private sales; keep guns out of the hands of criminals; limit ammunition magazines to 15 rounds, and prohibit domestic abusers from buying or keeping guns.

Which state’s lawmakers will be the next to show enough gumption to implement similar laws?

Here in Maryland, the man behind the counter at Realco Guns was struggling to serve a crowd of customers on a weekday morning, just a few days before the new law was to take effect. “We don’t give out information, we don’t do interviews, and we don’t answer questions,” he said.

Then, taking a quick step back, he added, “Unless you want to buy a gun.”

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Peter Funt

Peter FuntIn print and on television, Peter Funt continues the Funt Family tradition of making people smile – while examining the human condition.

After 15 years hosting the landmark TV series “Candid Camera,” Peter writes frequent op-eds for The Boston Globe and The Wall Street Journal as well as his weekly column distributed by the Cagle Cartoon Syndicate. His writing contains the same pointed social observations that have made “Candid Camera” so popular since its invention by Peter’s dad, Allen, back in 1947. His new book, "Cautiously Optimistic," takes America's temperature in six-dozen essays, guaranteed to make readers think and smile. It's available at Amazon.com and through CandidCamera.com.

Peter Funt actually made his first appearance on “Candid Camera” when he and the legendary series were each just three years old. Peter posed as a shoeshine boy who charged $10 per shoe! Since that time he has appeared in hundreds of “Candid Camera” sequences, hosted over 200 network episodes.

In addition to his hidden-camera work, Peter Funt has produced and hosted TV specials on the Arts & Entertainment and Lifetime cable networks. He also spent five years as an editor and reporter with ABC News in New York.

Earlier in his career, Peter wrote dozens of articles for The New York Times and TV Guide about television and film. He was editor and publisher of the television magazine On Cable. And he authored the book "Gotcha!" for Grosset & Dunlap on the lost art of practical joking.

Peter’s essay on the evolution of television is included in “The Story of American Business,” published in 2009 by Harvard Business Press.

Peter also follows in his father's footsteps as President of Laughter Therapy Foundation, a non-profit organization started by Allen Funt in 1982. Drawing from the Candid Camera library, Laughter Therapy sends special videos, at no charge, to critically ill people throughout the U.S.

Peter Funt received his degree in journalism from the University of Denver. In 2010 he returned to the Denver campus to be honored as a Master Scholar in Arts and Humanities.

He is a past winner of the annual Silurian's Award for radio news reporting, for his ABC News coverage of racial disturbances in Asbury Park, NJ.

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If the Mentally Ill Can Buy Guns, the Nation Is Crazy

Photo courtesy of Tony Bibbs / Flickr

Photo courtesy of Tony Bibbs / Flickr

This is a wholly subjective observation, but there appears to be far less shock and outrage over last week’s mass shooting at the Washington, D.C., Navy Yard than in previous mass-shooting incidents.

This is where we are as a nation: Seeking a useful metric for horror that we refuse to deal with otherwise.

What is the proper standard? The number of victims? The FBI defines “mass murder” as the killing of four or more people, not including the perpetrator, in a single incident. Mother Jones magazine has compiled a database of 67 such incidents in the United States since 1982, including five this year. By this standard, the Navy Yard incident, with 12 victims, is the worst this year.

But it hardly stacks up to the April 2007 incident at Virginia Tech University, which saw 32 innocent people killed. Factor in age, innocence and total abject horror, the worst was last December’s Newtown, Conn., shooting of 20 small children and seven adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

A dozen people dead at a military facility? Bad, but by this grim calculus, not Newtown-bad.

But of course it is. One death is as bad as 12 is as bad as 32. Stalin’s rule does not apply: “The death of one man is a tragedy, the death of a million is a statistic.”

Perhaps the Navy Yard killings don’t resonate widely because the incident does not fall into neat “I told you so” categories for either the right or the left. Outlawing handguns or assault weapons wouldn’t have helped; the shooter, Aaron Alexis, 34, used a Remington 870 — “America’s shotgun,” according to Buckmasters magazine. He may also have picked up a handgun from one of his victims.

Nor does the NRA‘s “only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” platitude apply. There were lots of good guys with guns around the Navy Yard, but they could not get to Alexis before he took his shotgun out of his bag, assembled it and began shooting.

So the reaction to the Navy Yard shootings has focused on two issues: One, the security failures that allowed someone with a history of mental illness to obtain a “secret” clearance to work as a contractor in a military installation, and two, how was someone with that kind of mental health history able to pass a federal background check when he bought his shotgun in Virginia?

These will be useful questions to answer, but make no mistake: Answering them will be fighting the last war. The profile of the next mass shooter — and there will be one — almost surely will not match Alexis’ profile, except for this: He will be out of his mind. One way or the other, mass murderers are always crazy.

The nation will never be able to keep all of its crazy people from acquiring weapons. They can steal them from their mothers, if necessary, as did Adam Peter Lanza, the Newtown shooter. But the nation ought to be able to come together around the proposition that people with a history of mental illness shouldn’t be able to buy weapons without a background check.

Federal law and some states have such laws, but most require a recent history of commitment for mental illness. There is now talk in Congress that the Navy Yard shootings create common ground not only for more stringent mental health background checks, but for more training in recognizing problems.

No laws will work if dots aren’t connected, as they were not connected in the Alexis case. And both sides of the gun control debate are wary. One side thinks it might foreclose the opportunity for broader background checks. The other worries that it would open the doors for broader background checks.

But it’s a debate worth having. If the nation can’t come together on the simple proposition that it should do everything possible to keep mentally ill people from acquiring or possessing weapons, then sanity has fled us all.

Republished from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, distributed by creators.com

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The UN Gun Control Treaty Is Bad for Gun Owners Everywhere

Photo courtesy of Adam Webb

Last time I checked, Americans were responsible for making our own laws. We do not invite foreign nations to have a say in how we govern ourselves within our own borders. Yet if you follow what’s been going on with the United Nations this year, you know that the USA came perilously close to having other countries dictate our gun laws. And the fight isn’t over yet.

The United Nations has been debating an arms trade treaty for nearly a decade now. Though the treaty is ostensibly focused on military arms, it has long been clear that the majority of U.N. delegates consider our personal firearms to be crying out for international regulation, as well. The focus of the treaty would be a demand that governments regulate the sale and possession of firearms worldwide — all of them, including yours and mine.

Though I believe that firearms should not be in the wrong hands, the proposed terms of this global gun control treaty would overreach wildly into regulating the sale of firearms to law-abiding citizens. In other words, the proposed treaty is a mechanism for Iran and other tyrannical powers to have a say in your gun ownership.

The George W. Bush administration wisely opposed this concept, asserting that any agreement to regulate private gun ownership would represent a threat to our Second Amendment freedoms. This proclamation was the death knell for the first U.N. gun control treaty conference more than 10 years ago.

But bad ideas at the U.N. never go away; they just fade until the political climate changes. Treaty discussions went underground for several years — until the Obama administration announced a willingness to consider a new treaty, as long as the parties operated under “consensus.”

The debate reached a fever pitch during a monthlong marathon negotiation session in July. The goal was to disgorge a treaty in time for the Obama administration to sign it before Election Day. The draft treaty was odious on its face. Among other things, it would have required the United States to “maintain records of all imports and shipments of arms,” register the identity of the “end user” of those firearms and then report the user’s information to a U.N.-based gun registry. In several drafts, the treaty would have mandated that every round of ammunition be tracked globally.

What’s really ironic here is that the United States already has the most comprehensive system in the world for regulating international arms transfers. Other nations could achieve the stated goals of the treaty process by simply emulating our protocols. But the reality is that the treaty was actually intended as a mechanism to submit our unique Second Amendment guarantees to international inspection — and condemnation.

As I have mentioned, the treaty negotiations broke down this summer, and that is a good thing. But that doesn’t mean the U.N. is giving up the fight. It’s just reducing it into smaller pieces. In fact, in late August, an umbrella organization of 23 separate U.N. agencies, known as the Coordinating Action on Small Arms, adopted the first portion of International Small Arms Control Standards. The ISACS text is made up of 33 separate modules, some 800 pages in total. And they’re just getting started.

What can we do? We can ensure that we have a president who will not support the treaty and a Senate that will not ratify it. That’s not a one-time commitment. Remember that once a treaty is enacted, it can be picked up at any time by a president and Senate. There are smaller gun control treaties that have been floating around the Senate for ratification since 1998.

What can you do? You can make sure that you and every freedom-loving American you know is registered to vote. I’m proud to serve as the honorary chairman of Trigger The Vote, the National Rifle Association‘s nonpartisan campaign to register voters who support the Second Amendment. We’ve made it easy on our website; all the tools to register are there, at http://www.TriggerTheVote.org. If you’re already registered, you probably know someone who isn’t. Share the stakes with that person, and urge him or her to join the rolls of informed voters.

Throughout my life, I’ve been committed to preserving our freedom from threats, both foreign and domestic. This proposed U.N. global gun control treaty may not be an “invasion” in the classic sense of the word, but believe me; over time, it represents the potential for encroachment of the greatest kind. Protect your rights by registering to vote today.

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Chuck Norris, Creators Syndicate

Chuck Norris is one of the most enduringly popular actors in the world. He has starred in more than 20 major motion pictures. His television series “Walker, Texas Ranger,” which completed its run in April 2001 after eight full seasons, is the most successful Saturday night series on CBS since “Gunsmoke.” It is seen in more than 80 countries worldwide, ranking as one of the top U.S. shows in both sales and audience. A New York Times best-selling author of two books, including the 2004 autobiographical “Against All Odds,” Norris also has penned two books of fiction. Set in the Old West, the most recent installment of this series, “A Threat to Justice,” was published in September 2007. In 2006, he added the title of columnist to his illustrious list of credits with the launch of his popular Internet column on the independent news site WorldNetDaily.com. Norris’ commentaries have become so widely read that he was signed recently by Los Angeles-based Creators Syndicate to market his column to newspapers across the country

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Election 2012: Supreme Court Hangs in the Balance

Photo courtesy of Scott Robinson

I believe freedom is worth fighting for. I am committed to protecting the freedoms our forefathers guaranteed to us in our Constitution. There are many politicians who disagree with me, although they are loath to admit it, but their true colors show in voting records on critical legislation. And part of what makes America great is that every two years, we, too, cast our votes, rendering judgment on whether lawmakers have fulfilled their promises. And every four years, as in 2012, our opportunity extends to the highest office in the land.

Less than 60 days remains before Election Day. I don’t need to tell you how important this election is to the future of our country. The stakes are high, and that’s why I proudly serve as honorary chairman of Trigger The Vote, the National Rifle Association‘s nonpartisan campaign to register voters who support the Second Amendment. As a proud gun owner and defender of our Constitution, I am working within the system to make sure my voice is heard in Washington.

In the past several years, we have achieved great victories. In two rulings, the Heller decision and the McDonald decision, the Supreme Court has ruled that all American citizens, in every state and municipality, have the right to legally possess a firearm. Those decisions were a tremendous accomplishment, and they finally ratified what our Founding Fathers envisioned when they drafted the Second Amendment.

So those who wish to deny our freedoms have been vanquished, and all is settled, right?

Wrong. There’s a storm brewing on the horizon. Those who want to restrict our freedom have not surrendered. In truth, they are counting on this election to make their move. They are playing the long game, looking down the road to a day when one or more vacancies on the Supreme Court could upset the current balance.

The Heller and McDonald decisions were decided by razor-thin 5-4 votes in the Supreme Court. Those who want to overturn these decisions are betting on at least one of the nine Supreme Court justices to retire or otherwise leave service during the next four years. Some pundits have suggested that the number of Supreme Court vacancies filled by the next president could be as many as three.

Like all Supreme Court decisions, Heller and McDonald are not set in stone. If the balance on the court is shifted, a new challenge quickly can be mounted in the lower federal courts, eventually making it to the Supreme Court. Our freedoms hang in the balance by the thin gossamer thread of a single vote. If that vote turns, the victories we worked so hard to solidify could be reversed.

The threat is present not only at the Supreme Court but also throughout our federal judiciary. Right now, dozens of cases already are winding their way through federal courts to implement the Supreme Court’s rulings in Heller and McDonald. Those rulings were somewhat general in tone, and now their specific impact on existing gun laws is being defined through these cases.

The president also nominates judges for all levels of the federal bench. That is why we need to make sure we have a president whose nominees for any court — including the Supreme Court — will support the original meaning of our Constitution.

Every plan needs a backup, and this one is no different. We also need to make sure we have a U.S. Senate that is supportive of our fundamental freedoms, because the Senate votes to confirm new judges and justices. Several of the key Senate races are in highly competitive “battleground” states, and they may tip the balance of power in this country. If you live in these states, it’s important to make your voice heard.

And that’s why I am urging Second Amendment supporters nationwide to register to vote. If you’re already registered, you probably know someone who isn’t. Share the stakes of this election with that person, and urge him or her to join the rolls of informed voters. We’ve made it easy on our website; all the tools to register are at http://www.TriggerTheVote.org. After all, when it comes to defending yourself and your family, can we really afford to gamble here?

I’ve spent my entire life standing up for what is right and seeking justice. I sleep better at night knowing that I have registered and exercised my right to vote. I urge everyone who is eligible to vote to do so. Let’s make sure that the future of our country is in the hands of those who cherish freedom.

(Don’t forget: “Last Ounce of Courage,” the first theatrical motion picture to be awarded with my “Chuck Norris Seal of Approval,” opens nationwide Sept. 14, coinciding with the 9/11 commemoration of Patriot Day. Visit http://www.LastOunceTheMovie.com for more information, including where it is showing in your area.)

Follow Chuck Norris through his official social media sites, on Twitter @chucknorris and Facebook’s “Official Chuck Norris Page.” He blogs at http://chucknorrisnews.blogspot.com.

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Chuck Norris, Creators Syndicate

Chuck Norris is one of the most enduringly popular actors in the world. He has starred in more than 20 major motion pictures. His television series “Walker, Texas Ranger,” which completed its run in April 2001 after eight full seasons, is the most successful Saturday night series on CBS since “Gunsmoke.” It is seen in more than 80 countries worldwide, ranking as one of the top U.S. shows in both sales and audience. A New York Times best-selling author of two books, including the 2004 autobiographical “Against All Odds,” Norris also has penned two books of fiction. Set in the Old West, the most recent installment of this series, “A Threat to Justice,” was published in September 2007. In 2006, he added the title of columnist to his illustrious list of credits with the launch of his popular Internet column on the independent news site WorldNetDaily.com. Norris’ commentaries have become so widely read that he was signed recently by Los Angeles-based Creators Syndicate to market his column to newspapers across the country

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Fantasies of the Boys With Toys

Photo courtesy of myplates.com

There is a scene in the James Bond movie “GoldenEye,” where the Russian Defense Minister Dimitri Mishkin and 007 get into a testosterone-fueled shouting match, each trying to see who can outwit and intimidate the other. Finally, Natalya Simonova, a computer programmer and Bond’s eventual love interest, can’t take it anymore and yells out in frustration, “Oh, Stop it both of you! Stop it! You’re like boys with toys!”

Welcome to the angriest and loudest voices in response to the tragedy in Aurora, Colorado. The ones who tend to have absolutely no evidence to back up anything they say, except their own warped worldview of the coming apocalypse from their mom’s basement.

You know the guys I’m talking about. They drive pick up trucks with “don’t tread on me” decals and bumper stickers telling you to “choose life” next to ones helpfully reminding you that you’d have to pry their gun “from my cold, dead hands.” They see no irony in this, as critical thinking is not as key to their persona as say, a shaved head, a barbed wire tattoo or wife-beater t-shirt.

It is hard to have a debate in this country about an issue of national importance, without these overgrown petites showing up everywhere from press conferences to PTA meetings, talk radio to Twitter.

They don’t believe in government assistance—except for that from which they have all inevitably benefitted. They hate government spending—unless it is on things that go boom and are not even needed, according to our own military. And on the issue of gun safety, their Rush-fed anger and paranoia kicks up a level to just beyond (Gary) Busey and just below Bane.

What we have is a form of cultural cacophony that’s become demented by adolescent, male angst. Not most of us, mind you, just the loudest and most maladjusted voices by which we ultimately become defined.

The way most Americans—ones not bought off by blood merchant Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association (NRA)—react to a tragedy like the shooting in Colorado is to feel overwhelming sadness for the victims, and try to figure out how to stop future massacres. It is the least we can do in their memory, and is a reaction that befits a great nation that strives to be its best.

The way the our very own Boys of Brazil react, however, is to make patently absurd arguments that in a chaotic, noise-enveloped, pitch-black, theater if only everyone had a gun, problem solved. (I love the smell of Napalm in the morning!).

They fantasize and fetishize like little boys playing laser tag, not accepting reality, like those of us who’ve chosen to become adults. They threaten, bully and posture because deep down, as studies show, they are consumed by fear. They come up with conspiracy theories that the massacre was planned by our government to pass more gun control.

The NRA leadership counts on these guys to make them millions. With the vast majority of the NRA’s own membership overwhelmingly supporting common sense gun restrictions, they obviously don’t buy their leadership’s propaganda lock, stock and barrel. So here come their very own rough boys to the rescue—ready to occupy a comments section or social media account near you, trying to grapple with feelings of inadequacy, helplessness and rage.

It wouldn’t be a problem if these outlier Tea-Party types didn’t influence a whole political party infected by the childish need to get everything or go home pouting; never to compromise for the good of the country, never caring a bit about 9-year olds in Tucson or 6-year olds in Aurora gunned down with impunity (in fact, blaming the victims themselves).

It should be no surprise that they’ve chosen the hilarious Mitt Romney as their leader, a man who goes to England and spends his first day trying to prove his manhood by denigrating their Olympic preparation and publicly discussing his meeting with their intelligence agency, MI6, which is never supposed to be publicly acknowledged (The Brits didn’t even acknowledge its existence until 1994). But, as they say, boys will be boys.

Batman, from what I’ve heard, is an excellent movie. And I love the Bond series. But they are films and this is real life. And in this life, in America, our silent majority must take our reality back from the fantasies of the boys with toys.

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Cliff Schecter

Cliff Schecter is an author, pundit and public relations strategist whose firm Libertas, LLC handles media relations for political, corporate and non-profit clients. In 2008, his first book, The Real McCain: Why Conservatives Don’t Trust Him—And Why Independents Shouldn’t, was published by PoliPoint Press and became a political (#2) and non-fiction (#17) bestseller at Amazon. As founder and President of Libertas, he has counseled Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG), Chaired by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and The Alliance For Climate Protection, run by former Vice-President Al Gore. Other clients have included IBM, The American Association for Justice (previously The American Trial Lawyers Association), Global Strategy Group, Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC, and the Earth Day Network. Schecter is a weekly columnist for Al Jazeera English, reaching almost 400,000 readers, 80% of which reside in North America. He is a contributor to The Guardian Online and Huffington Post. Previously, Schecter had columns syndicated nationally by United Press International and Knight Ridder Inc. His writing has been featured in the San Francisco Chronicle, Philadelphia Daily News, Miami Herald, USA Today, American Prospect, Salon.com and Washington Monthly Magazine. His ideas have been quoted in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Baltimore Sun, and he’s been profiled in U.S News & World Report, Wired.com and the Huffington Post. Over the past decade, Schecter has been a regular guest on PBS, MSNBC, CNN FoxNews, BBC and NPR. He was an on-air political analyst for the Sinclair Broadcast Network in 2004, syndicated on 60 local broadcast-news affiliates to 38 media markets around the country. He served in a similar capacity for Al Jazeera in 2008, with his analysis reaching countries spanning the globe. Currently he is a regular panelist on Your Voice, a Sunday morning public affairs show broadcast on Fox and ABC in the Columbus, Ohio area. Schecter is a graduate of the Columbia School of International and Public Affairs (MA), where he concentrated in International Journalism and Public Relations, the University of Pennsylvania (BA), where he studied American History and Legal Studies, and the Institut de Francais, where he received a French Immersion Certificate. He is ABD (all but dissertation) in his studies for his Ph.D. in American History from American University in Washington, D.C.

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Gun Control is Dead For Now

Photo courtesy of Al Hikes

What do conservative news baron Rupert Murdoch, The Weekly Standard‘s Bill Kristol, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and actor Jason Alexander have in common? They’re among the majority of Americans who want tougher gun control – an issue that has resurfaced in the wake of the Aurora, Colo. movie theater massacre.

But don’t hold your breath. It ain’t gonna happen. So expect the bloody cycle to continue – the shocking deaths; grieving families; the sadly familiar media coverage about the killer(s), their stunned families and the lives of victims who endured terrifying final moments; the memorial services – and the brief suspension of 24/7 partisan warfare that’s merely formalized during election year.

A Gallup poll found that only 44 percent of the public doesn’t want stricter gun control. But when did lopsided poll numbers ever stop powerful interests? California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein noted that this is an election year: “I think this is a bad time to embrace such a new subject,” she said on Fox News. “There has been no action because there is no outrage out there, people haven’t rallied forward.”

Indeed, nervous Democrats — including formerly staunchly pro-gun control President Barack Obama — aren’t making it an issue. Presumptive Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney thinks existing laws are just peachy. And some GOPers absurdly insist it might have been less of a tragedy if more people in the theater had only had more guns. Meanwhile, the NRA‘s feared political and financial clout gets an extra boost from Citizens United because even more money can now be funneled to defeat candidates who don’t vote as the NRA wishes.

The battle for gun control now resembles an old Wild West gunfight. Except in this one the NRA is armed and the gun-control guy has an empty holster.

Still, there have been surprising cracks in the anti-gun-control wall.

Murdoch Tweeted: “We have to do something about gun controls. Police license okay for hunting rifle or pistol for anyone without crim or pscho record. No more.”

And would you believe it? – no one on Fox & Friends said anything snarky about their boss or called him a liberal out to destroy America’s constitution.

Next came Bill Kristol, about as GOP establishment as you can get, who declared on Fox: “People have a right to handguns and hunting rifles. I don’t think they have a right to semi-automatic, quasi-machine guns that can shoot hundred bullets at a time. And I actually think the Democrats are being foolish as they are being cowardly. I think there is more support for some moderate forms of gun control.”

But Democrats, independent voters and others calling for gun control aren’t as cushioned from counter attack as the NRA-friendly Murdoch and Kristol. My own modest website The Moderate Voice had some posts calling for tougher laws, which led to a Tweet claiming TMV “only wanted the government to have guns.” There, in a nutshell you have how the debate plays out: if you seek tougher laws they charge you’re trying to take all guns away. N-o-p-e.

After Alexander advocated tougher laws in a Tweet and was inundated with angry responses, he wrote a longer form answer that, in part, said:

“So, sorry those of you who tell me I’m an actor, or a has-been or an idiot or a commie or a liberal and that I should shut up. You can not watch my stuff, you can unfollow and you can call me all the names you like. I may even share some of them with my global audience so everyone can get a little taste of who you are. But this is not the time for reasonable people, on both sides of this issue, to be silent. We owe it to the people whose lives were ended and ruined [in Aurora] to insist on a real discussion and hopefully on some real action.”

A real discussion? That assumes being honest. Even a porcupine knows the founders didn’t write the second amendment with AR-15 assault weapons in mind. As satirist Andy Borowitz notes: “When the 2nd Amendment was written the most lethal gun available was the musket.”

A real discussion will wait a while. Future horrors, tears, and grief won’t.

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Joe Gandelman

Joe GandelmanJoe Gandelman spent many years as a freelance writer overseas and full-time reporter on the staffs of two newspapers — and as a professional ventriloquist. He is Editor-In-Chief of www.themoderatevoice.com, one of the Internet's biggest and fastest growing moderate weblogs. CNN's John Avlon named him as one of the Top 25 Centrist Columnists and Commentators.

Gandelman interned on The Hindustan Times in New Delhi, and wrote for various newspapers including the Chicago Daily News he Christian Science Monitor from New Delhi, India, Madrid, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress. His work also appeared on National Public Radio's All Things Considered, and in the Argus South African Newspapers, Baltimore Sun, Miami Herald, Winnipeg (Canada) Free Press , Sydney Morning Herald (Australia), Aftenposten (Norway), and Haartez (Israel), among others.

He was also a staff reporter on Knight-Ridder's Wichita Eagle-Beaon and later on the San Diego Union, where his beats included Ronald Reagan's amnesty program, Tijuana, Baja California and other topics. Gandelman received a B.A in Political Science from Colgate University and a Masters in Journalism from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

In 1990 left the newspaper world to become a full time ventriloquist. His ventriloquism site is www.familiyentertainer.com . He performs at fairs, festivals, schools and corporate events across the country and is included in the nationally distributed The Great Ventriloquists trading cards and was seen on NBC TV's show "Spy TV" and on Margaret Cho's VHI reality show "The Cho Show."

In his role as a writer, blogger and commenator, in 2004 he appeared on MSNBC and has appeared often as a pundit on an independent voter analyst panel on CNN.

 

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Texas Inmate Garners 70,000 Votes in WV Presidential Primary

Photo by Marc Sellers - used by permission

A Texas inmate on Tuesday picked up a surprising 41 percent of the vote in the West Virginia Democratic primary against President Obama, who finished with 59 percent. His surprising popularity has generated national media attention, but it’s hardly the first political rodeo for the federal inmate.

Keith Judd, 53, an inmate in Texarkana’s Federal Correctional Institution, garnered more than 70,000 votes from West Virginia voters, compared with Obama’s 106,000 and outpolled the president in eight of the state’s 55 counties. Judd is serving 17 and a half years for making threats at the University of New Mexico in 1999.

Judd has run for president every election year since 1996, and he ran for mayor of Albuquerque and governor of New Mexico in the 1990s, according to his profile on VoteSmart.org. His profile also says his affiliations include “founder, World Peace Through Musical Communications Skills, 1963-present” and, in the past, the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Rifle Association.

Judd was also on the Democratic presidential primary ballot in Idaho in 2008 and picked up 1.7 percent of the vote behind Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Judd made the West Virginia ballot thanks to the state’s liberal ballot access laws, according to The Charleston Gazette, having filed the $2,500 fee and completed a notarized form. By earning more than 15 percent of the vote, Judd is entitled to one delegate from West Virginia, but no one has so far stepped forward to attend the Democratic National Convention on his behalf. State Democratic officials are looking into whether he will be awarded any delegates.

West Virginia has been hostile territory for Obama. He lost the Democratic primary there in 2008 to Clinton by 41 points and lost the general election to Sen. John McCain by 13 points. The most recent state-by-state Gallup poll showed Obama’s approval rating in West Virginia at 32.7 percent.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/texas-politics/2012-presidential-election/4-10-w-va-voters-pick-texas-inmate-over-obama/.

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Minjae Park, The Texas Tribune

Minjae Park writes for the Texas Tribune.

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Chuck Norris: Obama Triangulates on Gun Control

Loyal readers will recall that I warned last year of the perfect storm approaching on gun control. Now, with the Tucson, Ariz., tragedy as a steppingstone and with eyes firmly focused on his re-election, President Barack Obama has opened a campaign to appease his base on the polarizing issue.

Let me completely disclose my position: I am a strong Second Amendment advocate. I believe in protecting our fundamental rights, including our Second Amendment rights, through the political process. To that end, I serve as honorary chairman of the “Trigger The Vote” voter registration campaign.

That campaign is funded by the National Rifle Association‘s Freedom Action Foundation. We work in every election cycle to register gun owners and hunters to vote and add them to the ranks of millions of grass-roots voters who have established Second Amendment issues as the new “third rail” of American politics. Those voters and the newly registered voters we can add to their ranks between now and November 2012 will have their job cut out for them in the next election cycle.

The 2012 election now looms large for this administration. Even while the president’s top aides are deserting the White House to staff up his campaign office, those left behind seem to be working from a mandate to begin patrolling the divided Democratic base.

Up until now, the Obama White House had given a wide berth to the gun control debate, abandoning campaign promises to pursue new restrictions on our gun rights. This avoidance does not reflect any shift in position; it is merely recognition of the political reality that most members of his party have no interest in having yet another political loser of an issue crammed down their throats.

At the same time, those in Obama’s liberal base have grown restless and rancorous over his first two years in office because he hasn’t done everything they’ve wanted, at least regarding more restrictions on our Second Amendment rights. They resent the president’s avoidance of fulfilling his campaign rhetoric.

Gun control groups have thrown tantrums for months that Obama wouldn’t champion their agenda, with one group resentfully awarding him an F. So only now is Obama sticking his toes into the swirling currents of the Second Amendment debate.

His campaign kicked off in the Arizona Daily Star, with a subtle op-ed that was intentionally vague. The words could be read as a broad endorsement of proposed gun control measures; they also could be read as embracing the NRA mantra that enforcement of current laws is what’s needed. But Obama’s attempt to place himself at the center of an ideological divide over guns is pure political positioning, and it comes with the rank odor of cold, crass calculation. One can almost hear the tearing of another page from the Clinton playbook.

One thing he definitely got wrong, however, was his arrogant statement that he had “expanded” the rights of gun owners. The Bill of Rights is guaranteed and can’t be “expanded” by government, as it contains fundamental natural rights. Those rights can, however, be restricted by illegitimate government fiat, which is why the clear language of the Second Amendment prohibits even “infringement” upon it. But infringement is clearly on the agenda, despite Obama’s rhetorical vacillations.

Implementation of the goals set out in his article came via phone calls from Justice Department operatives seeking to arrange a series of “active listening” meetings for groups on both sides of the gun control debate, as well as industry companies and groups. The proposed meetings were intended to develop an agenda of new legislative and regulatory proposals for the White House to embrace and push in Congress.

Let’s tally the results thus far.

First, my friends Wayne LaPierre and Chris Cox at the NRA not only declined the invitation but did so in the form of a strong letter that gave lie to many of the article’s core assertions.

Second, gun control groups eagerly attended their meeting, reporting on the process in glowing tones, which must have brought a rosy glow to the White House operatives assigned to the realignment of the political base. They continue their private muttering about a “lack of leadership” from the White House.

Third, the media panned the Obama strategy and operation. The White House must have been particularly stung by criticism from the editorial board of the Arizona Daily Star itself.

The meetings with other groups will continue. You can bet that we haven’t heard the last of this issue. But so far, all that Obama has proved is this old political adage: The only thing accomplished by sitting in the middle of the road is that you can be hit from both sides.

 

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Chuck Norris, Creators Syndicate

Chuck Norris is one of the most enduringly popular actors in the world. He has starred in more than 20 major motion pictures. His television series “Walker, Texas Ranger,” which completed its run in April 2001 after eight full seasons, is the most successful Saturday night series on CBS since “Gunsmoke.” It is seen in more than 80 countries worldwide, ranking as one of the top U.S. shows in both sales and audience. A New York Times best-selling author of two books, including the 2004 autobiographical “Against All Odds,” Norris also has penned two books of fiction. Set in the Old West, the most recent installment of this series, “A Threat to Justice,” was published in September 2007. In 2006, he added the title of columnist to his illustrious list of credits with the launch of his popular Internet column on the independent news site WorldNetDaily.com. Norris’ commentaries have become so widely read that he was signed recently by Los Angeles-based Creators Syndicate to market his column to newspapers across the country

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NRA Has Blocked New Gun Laws After Tragedies Like Tucson

The killing spree by an Arizona man wielding a semiautomatic pistol with a high-capacity magazine raises the prospect of a fresh debate on whether the country needs tougher gun controls.

But if history is any guide, the National Rifle Associationwill successfully fight stronger gun controls. The NRA’s influence stems from the grassroots clout of its 4 million members and the tens of millions it has spentover the last two decades on campaign contributions and lobbying.

For instance, Congress passed an assault weapons ban in 1994 over the NRA’s strong objections, but the powerful pro-gun lobby managed to thwart its renewal in 2004. Significantly, the 1994 ban had a provision barring the manufacture or sale of new high-capacity magazines — like the one used in the Arizona rampage — which enable a gun to fire a fusillade of shots very quickly without pausing to reload.

The high-capacity magazine provision refers to guns that hold over 10 rounds. Jared Lee Loughner, the 22-year-old accused in the shootings, used a Glock 19 pistol that he bought for $500 and two high capacity 33-round magazines. In a matter of seconds, he killed six people and wounded 14, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who is fighting for her life.

The NRA’s success in blocking the renewal of the assault weapons ban was notable because then-President George W. Bush supported it. The Senate voted to extend the ban but the House never voted on the measure.

The NRA’s influence in Washington and many states is legendary. In recent elections, the gun rights lobby has spent tens of millions to back members, both Republicans and moderate Democrats who side with its anti-gun control agenda, through a mix of PAC contributions, independent expenditures and other campaign tools.

In the 2009-2010 election cycle, the National Rifle Association of America Political Victory Fund, the NRA’s major campaign spending vehicle, spent $12.2 million, with almost $1.4 million in direct contributions to candidates, according to CQ MoneyLine.

Over the last two decades, the NRA has directly donated more than $18 million to members of Congress, with GOP members raking in about 82 percent of that total, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

For the first nine months of last year, the NRA spent just over $2 million on lobbying, the Center said.

The NRA did not return a reporter’s phone calls on Monday. But the gun lobby released a statement that read, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of this senseless tragedy, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and their families during this difficult time. We join the rest of the country in praying for the quick recovery of those injured.”

In the wake of the Arizona bloodbath, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., and Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., began working on legislation that would renew and strengthen the provision in the expired ban that bars the manufacturing and sale of high-capacity magazines. McCarthy’s husband was killed and her son wounded in a 1993 gunman’s attack on commuter train passengers in New York.

Lautenberg said in a statement, “The only reason to have 33 bullets loaded in a handgun is to kill a lot of people very quickly. These high-capacity clips simply should not be on the market.”

Gun control advocates point out that the NRA’s ability to influence lawmakers could make it very tough to pass the measure.

“Historically the NRA has stymied any effort to pass new gun control legislation in the wake of the most horrible shootings,” said Kristen Rand, the legislative director at the Violence Policy Center.

Rand said that typically after high-profile shooting rampages, the NRA tries to delay action on legislative proposals. The NRA often argues that tragedies like the Tucson shootings shouldn’t be exploited for political ends and stresses that “it’s time to mourn, not to pass legislation to prevent future tragedies,” Rand said.

Still, Rand added that the latest tragedy may spur policymakers to be bolder. “I think the dynamics of this event could create enough momentum for modest gun control legislation.”

Further, it’s unclear what the Obama administration would do to help. During his 2008 campaign, President Obama backed renewing the broader assault weapons ban. But since taking office, Obama hasn’t prodded Congress to take action. Over the years, public opinion has gradually moved away from stricter gun laws. According to Gallup, 78 percent of Americans said gun laws should be stricter in 1990; by last November, it had fallen to 44 percent.

Giffords, a self-described gun owner, has received generally poor ratings from pro-gun groups. Gun Owners of America gave her a D in their 2010 candidate rankings, while the NRA gave her a D+ in 2008. At the same time, Giffords supported the NRA’s amicus brief regarding the Washington, D.C. gun ban. After the ban was overturned, she described the Supreme Court ruling as “a common sense decision that reaffirms the Constitutional right — and Arizona tradition — of owning firearms. I commend the Court for ruling in favor of restoring our right to bear arms.”

Tying gun control regulations to crime rates is difficult at best. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence regularly scores states on more than a dozen regulations, including guns in public places, background checks, and firearm trafficking. For 2009, only Utah ranked lower than Arizona in the Brady scores.

In its Uniform Crime Report, the FBI tracks murders committed with firearms. For 2009, the data showed Arizona with 3 firearm-related murders per 100,000 people. That’s very close to the national rate of 3.1 per 100,000 and ranks Arizona 23rd among the states.

David Donald, data editor for the Center for Public Integrity, contributed to this report.

This article was republished by permission from the Center for Public Integrity. It originally appeared at http://bit.ly/gd8vL4.


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Peter Stone, The Center for Public Integrity

For the last two decades, Peter Stone has covered a wide array of lobbying and campaign finance issues in Washington. At National Journal, where he spent almost 18 years, Stone broke several scoops on the Jack Abramoff influence peddling scandal. He came to Washington to work for Legal Times in 1990 where he helped lead the paper’s reporting on the BCCI lobbying scandal. Prior to Washington, Stone did a three year stint at The Hartford Courant reporting on insurance and banking, and spent a decade in New York freelancing for papers such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Newsday and magazines including The Atlantic, The Nation, and New Times. He started his career at the late muckraking magazine Ramparts, where he was one of the editors in the early 1970’s. Stone is the author of the recently released paperback Casino Jack and the United States of Money about the Abramoff scandal (this is an expanded and updated version of his 2006 book Heist). Stone studied modern European history at the University of Chicago.

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