Lauren Boebert, Congressional loon, now faces calls for resignation and pushback on her need to carry a gun in the Capitol

January 12, 2021 • 12:15 pm

Lauren Boebert is a political newcomer, an incoming Congresswoman representing the geographically large and conservative Third District of Colorado. She ran on what was largely a pro-gun platform, and she owned a pro-gun restaurant called “Shooters” in, of all places, Rifle, Colorado, where she encouraged her customers to “open carry.” (For you non-Yanks, that means you can tote your gun or rifle out in plain sight.) The waitresses all open carry as well.

Here’s Boebert open carrying in Shooters, handgun strapped to her thigh:

Boebert is a hyper-conservative who herself has open-carried for eight years. She’s also sympathetic to QAnon. As a New York Times article reported:

Appearing on a radio program last month, she said of QAnon: “I hope that this is real because it only means America is getting stronger and better, and people are returning to conservative values, and that’s what I am for.”

“If this is real,” she added, “then it could be really great for our country.”

If you know what QAnon is, you’ll realize what a loon she is.

So far she looks to be amusing, though possibly dangerous. She’s insisted that, for protection, she’s going to carry her Glock into the Capitol and into the House chamber. That’s apparently legal for concealed carry, as the news report below notes. Twenty-one Congressional Democrats have asked Pelosi to get guns banned from the Capitol, but even more of Boebert’s fellow Republicans have defended her “right” to carry guns. Such is America.

All in all, Boebert looks to be a cross between Wayne LaPierre and Sarah Palin.  It’s going to be an amusing two years—and let’s hope that’s her total tenure—with Boebert in the House. But perhaps it will be distressing as well, for several venues, including the Independent and Alternet (click on screenshots) have repeated accusations that Boebert was not only was in favor of the storming of the Capitol last week (she was one of the House Republicans asking for an “audit” of the election results), but was also tweeting out information where Nancy Pelosi was during the siege, ostensibly to help protestors locate the Speaker.

As for the accusations that Boebert was egging on, or at least sympathetic to, the demonstrators, we have this (from the Independent):

Just before the attack, Ms Boebert gave an impassioned speech in which she claimed some of her constituents were among the mob fighting the police on the Capitol steps at the time.

“Madame Speaker, I have constituents outside this building right now and I promised to be their voice,” Ms Boebert said while challenging the results of the election in Arizona. “It is my separate but equal obligation to weigh in on this election and object.”

Ms Boebert is no stranger to far-right extremist groups.

ABC News reported that her former campaign manager, Sherronna Bishop, had praised the Proud Boys, an SPLC-designated hate group that travels the country starting fights at protests and espouses a neo-fascist ideology.

The Proud Boys were among those who attacked the US Capitol.

. . . and a tweet that Boebert issued the morning of the siege.

Now what on earth did she mean by that? 1776 was the American Revolution, and did she simply think that the protest itself outside the Capitol was “1776”? That doesn’t make a lot of sense. Was she complicit in incitement? You be the judge.

As for the claim that she was helping the protestors locate Pelosi, I don’t see much evidence. What’s adduced is this pair of tweets:

Which gave rise to these accusations:

I can’t force myself to conclude that Boebert was using these tweets to help the insurrectionists find the Speaker. She could simply have been reporting what was going on with her group of fellow Representatives. But she really should have kept her fingers off the keyboard. You don’t tweet when a crazed mob is bent on breaking into your chambers. Clearly, like Trump, she’s going to use Twitter as a political weapon.

But this isn’t the last we’ll hear of Lauren Boebert. Trump may be on the way out, but we still have an unhinged government official with a love of tweeting running loose in the Capitol. And, unlike Trump, she has a Glock. I smell trouble.

_______________________

UPDATE: Boebert issued a statement in response to calls for her resignation, which you can read here. Note that she quotes Johnny Depp and Madonna as real instigators of violence.

UPDATE 2. One website says this:

Lauren Boebert has had numerous brushes with the law herself (pdf) for petty offenses including disorderly conduct, fleeing law enforcement, speeding and careless driving, driving with expired plates, failures to appear in court, and other offenses.

Check out the rap sheet. Read about her husband, too, as there’s one funny quip about her future husband exposing himself in a bar (before they were married):

Two females described the incident to Garfield County Sheriff officers and signed witness statements leading to Jayson’s arrest. Jayson told the officers that he had “displayed his thumb pretending it was his genitals in a gesture of fun,” according to the report, but one of the victims wrote in her statement, “I know that wasn’t his thumb, because thumbs aren’t 6 inches long.”

h/t: Woody

Making America hate again: Gun sales way up during the pandemic

May 28, 2020 • 12:15 pm

Romper is a magazine for parents about how to understand and take care of their kids, and yesterday’s article (click on screenshot) emphasizes the huge increase in American gun sales during the pandemic. There’s no doubt that that’s true. But they also argue that there’s been a huge increase in unintentional deaths and injuries caused by children handling guns, an increase connected with the increase in sales. This is, as Romper calls it, a “hidden crisis.”  But the data they give about children-caused deaths are scant and unconvincing. The trend may well be real, but it’s not statistically demonstrable, and the article is a good example of how to mislead using statistics.

But let me back up. First, there’s no doubt that many people get killed by kids getting access to their parents’ firearms. This is a national scandal, and reflects both the pervasive ownership of guns by Americans and their failure to lock them up and store the ammunition separately. All I’m criticizing here are two statistics purporting to show a significant increase in child-caused deaths that went up with the increase in gun sales. That increase in sales is very real, and is really what I want to emphasize here.

A quote about gun sales, with the data shown below:

Within the COVID-19 crisis, another public health emergency is threatening our kids. Gun sales have surged during the pandemic, with an estimated 1.9 million more guns sold this March and April than during the same period last year. This spike in sales comes as kids and teens are home from school in states across the country, and many busy, distracted, overwhelmed parents try to balance work and homeschooling.

That data (see table below) seem sound, and this is really scary. More on that in a second.

But Romper adds this about 4-year-old Amir Jennings-Green, killed while playing with his cousins:

In an instant, Amir’s life was cut short in a tragedy that was preventable, one of at least 21 gun deaths that were the result of unintentional shootings by children in March and April of this year.

. . . All of these factors are increasing the risk that curious children and teens will get their hands on unsecured guns and hurt themselves or others. In March and April, unintentional gun deaths by children rose by a staggering 43%, as Everytown calculated, and unintentional gun injuries by children increased by 7% over the same period for the last three years. Those numbers could be even higher, as journalists struggle to cover the scope of gun violence while under lockdown orders.

In March and April of 2020, the peak months of the U.S. pandemic, there were 21 total deaths from guns handled by children, which is correctly represented as an increase of such deaths by 43%. That looks impressive, but the numbers are very small.

What it really means that there were 15 gun deaths caused by children the previous year. If we assume that there wasn’t a real increase, and the rate is about the same over time and can be estimated as the average value across both periods, we’d get an average of (15 + 21)/2 or 18 guns deaths expected each year. The numbers 21 and 15 are not significantly different from an expectation of 18, 18: the chi-square value is exactly 1, far from statistical significance. Although the difference may be real, one can’t demonstrate that it differs from a constant rate of children killing others that hasn’t changed between 2019 and 2020.  And certainly the 7% increase of “unintentional gun injuries” during that period cannot be statistically significant: it’s a difference between 33 and 35.

But if the numbers get even higher with a fuller accounting, then I’d be impressed.

It does seem likely that the more guns in homes there are, the more often we’ll have deaths and injuries. Regardless of the above, it’s clear that many more innocent people are killed and injured by home-stored or hand-carried firearms, or commit suicide when them, than are real malefactors like burglars and home invaders when guns are used in self defense. Ownership of guns, in net, takes more lives than it saves. That’s one reason why I favor a handgun ban, except, perhaps, for target shooting. (In that case, keep your guns locked up at the gun club.)

Well, enough of that; I expect the gun lovers will come out in force here to oppose me. But let’s just look at the increase in gun sales during the pandemic, which the Romper article breaks down by state (their link to the table below is here).

 

 

Just comparing March + April between 2019 and the pandemic period of 2020, we see that every state shows an increase save Hawaii, which reports no gun sales. That must mean that data aren’t available for the island state, as guns are legal in Hawaii and there are reports of a similar increase in sales there this spring.  Just scanning the data, I suspect that the rates are correlated with the “redness” of a state, but I’ll leave it to the readers to calculate such a correlation.

Overall, there was an 80% increase in sales between 2019 and 2020 during this period, and that is significant.

Why the increase? The Maui article above reports several causes:

All eight customers interviewed said they wanted to protect themselves and their families if coronavirus panic worsens and their safety is at risk.

“It’s not necessarily the virus that I’m worried about — it’s how people are reacting to the virus,” said one customer at the gun store, who asked for anonymity because her husband is a first-responder. “We’ve already had break-ins in our neighborhood. What if someone gets desperate and tries to steal supplies from our home?”

. . . “It’s combination of a few things,” Redeker said. “The virus thing is causing a lot of panic. That could explain the large numbers in a short time.”

And some people may fear that the government may try to take over during the pandemic, or there could be general civil unrest due to the disruption of society, and of course then the warm, living hands of Americans reach for their guns.

I’m ashamed to be living in a country so gun-happy, and once again I reiterate my call for not only greater gun control, but very strict gun control along the lines of England and especially Scotland. If guns don’t really protect you from the bad guys, and lead to more deaths of innocents than of malefactors, what reason is there to own them? The “militia” reason outlined in the Second Amendment is no longer valid.

 

h/t: Ken

Only in America: Paul Broun brandishes a semiautomatic rifle in his bid for Congress

April 13, 2020 • 1:15 pm

Paul Broun is a Tea Party Republican who was a state representative in Georgia until 2015; he lost in the Republican primary race for the U.S. Senate in 2014. He also lost in a 2016 Republican primary race for a seat in Congress.

He’s now running for Congress again this year, and here’s one of his campaign videos. Lest those of you who aren’t blessed enough to live in America think this is a fake, it isn’t. And in case you wonder what his gun is, an AR-15 is a semiautomatic weapon, classified as an “assault weapon.” These illegal in 7 states, though a few states allow ownership if you’re grandfathered in. Georgia, like all states south of Maryland, allows them.

Note the coded racism  (“looting hordes from Atlanta”, a largely black city), the characterization of socialism as satanic, and the reference to this gun as a “Liberty Machine.” He even offers to give one of those Liberty Machines to one “lucky person” who signs up for email updates from his campaign site.

This video could have been made by The Onion. But again—it’s real!

Wikipedia has a bit more on this ad:

A campaign video where Paul Broun offered to give away an AR-15 rifle to “to one lucky person who signs up for email updates” from his campaign website. The video showed him walking through grass and shooting a rifle. The video says that during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic that Americans might need an AR-15 to shoot “looting hordes from Atlanta”. Broun lives in Gainesville, a white majority city about an hour outside the state capital Atlanta, which is a majority African American city.

In a phone interview Broun said that the phrase “looting hordes from Atlanta” was “not racial”, saying “Only the liberal press would take that kind of position” and “There are a lot of white people in Atlanta as well.” Broun was dismissive of the idea that his rhetoric might concern Georgian African-Americans or that it might increase the risk of innocent African-Americans being shot in majority-white neighborhods, and claimed “it’s about black people having the means of protecting themselves just as much as white people or Hispanic people or Asian people”.

Watch and weep. 

The National Rifle Association uses the pandemic to promote the sale of guns

April 3, 2020 • 11:38 am

I’m just going to drop this here and leave, because it makes me sick. This NYT article shows the National Rifle Association, facing budgetary constraints and increasing calls for more gun controls, fighting to get gun stores classified as “essential services” that must stay open during the pandemic. Why? Because the NRA sees “the government’s coronavirus response as a threat to Second Amendment rights.” But why the threat, then? Because the NRA is fear-mongering: touting apocalyptic scenarios in which people need guns to defend their stuff against their neighbors—or against the government.

And so the organization is suing New York State, which has ordered gun stores closed as “nonessential services.”

Click to read:

An excerpt:

. . . demand for firearms has been surging as lines form at some gun stores during the pandemic, with background checks rising more than 40 percent in March from a year earlier, developments seen as an opportunity by the N.R.A.

“This has brought new people into the gun rights movement,” Mr. Arulanandam said. The surge in sales, he said, would “end up strengthening us.”

The group has been retooling its strategy. Many on the right played down the virus, including at the N.R.A. — Willes Lee, the board’s second vice president, called it an “election ploy.” But the organization itself has focused on the ramifications of the sweeping response in many states, sending out messages to its supporters with headlines like “COVID-19: Threat to Second Amendment” and “Pandemic Exposes Dangers of So-Called ‘Universal’ Background Checks.”

On Wednesday, the N.R.A. tweeted about the sharp rise in gun sales: “what do they expect when they are releasing inmates while closing gun shops during a pandemic.” The group has also circulated a video in which a disabled woman holding an assault weapon issues a warning to people buying extra food: “If you aren’t preparing to defend your property when everything goes wrong, you’re really just stockpiling for somebody else.”

Yes, this is just what we need: people shooting each other over their stocks of toilet paper.  I would think that the NRA’s self-aggrandizing behavior would turn people off, but look at the growing demand for guns mentioned above.

What a country!

Eighteen year old woman with AK-47 and shotgun threatens to shoot up her school

September 17, 2019 • 2:30 pm

From today’s Washington Post (click on screenshot), we have the story of Alexis Wilson, an 18 year old woman who was arrested because she told a friend she had guns, showed the friend a video of her firing the guns, said that she hated the people in her old high school, and then added that she wanted to ““shoot 400 people for fun.”

Wilson had a checkered history and other signs that she might have become a shooter. As the Post says,

The 5-foot-7, baby-faced teenager is an anomaly as a female suspect allegedly plotting a mass shooting, but police described her as a serious threat.

The high school she allegedly targeted had suspended her once for bringing a knife to school and again for displaying swastikas on her personal belongings, a school resource officer told the sheriff’s office. Her booking photo shows Wilson wearing a T-shirt referencing “The Anarchist Cookbook,” a 1971 book advocating for violent civil disobedience that has been found among the belongings of school shooters. On Facebook, Wilson had liked a documentary about the 1999 Columbine High School massacre.

“A female can pull the trigger just as easily as a male,” Morris told KTUL Monday. “It’s rare, it’s different. I don’t know that there’s been a female accused of this.”

. . . Stites and Jordan [police officers] collected an iPhone with a purple case, an AK-47 with six magazines and a 12-gauge shotgun with a stock sleeve for extra shells from Wilson’s bedroom.

. . . After she had been suspended in her freshman year, she said she completed a program at Thunderbird, a military academy in Oklahoma that advertises itself as an alternative option to public school. She said she tried to re-enroll at McAlester High afterward, but she hadn’t been allowed to start classes this fall. Wilson explained the alleged threat by saying she had been trying to convince her co-worker that “not everyone that owns a gun is a bad person,” the police report said.

. . .At the end of the police interview, Wilson told the officers that she used to feel “suicidal and borderline homicidal” toward her classmates at McAlester High because of the bullying she faced. Jordan asked her if she thought about hurting anyone at the school.

“Not recently, but she has in the past,” the report says.

Well, Wilson clearly needs therapeutic help, and I hope she gets it. I also think that yes, it’s okay for the police to arrest her, for she made a threat to her friend and there were other signs that she could have become a shooter. Too many of these signs have been ignored in the past—resulting in tremendous loss of life.

But what I want to know is this: how the bloody hell did Wilson get an assault weapon with magazines, much less a 12-gauge shotgun? Did she buy them legally, or borrow them from her parents? Either way, those guns shouldn’t have been available to her. If we went to the Scottish system of gun control, they wouldn’t have.

This won’t happen in my lifetime, but Wilson should not have been able to legally obtain any gun, much less an assault rifle that could kill lots of her ex-classmates.  I’m with Beto O’Rourke on this one: yes, let’s take the assault weapons out of the hands of Americans. They have no use except for mass killing of other humans. And that’s just a start in the banning and confiscation that should occur.

I’m just glad the cops arrested her (making a threat is a felony) before she was able to use those guns.

After two mass shootings, Texas loosens gun laws

September 2, 2019 • 9:00 am

Granted, the brand-new looser gun laws in Texas, which are almost ludicrous in how widely they permit the possession and carrying of firearms, are part of a series of bills passed before June. But in view of the two recent mass shootings in Texas—making it the state with 4 of the 10 deadliest mass shootings in modern U.S. history—the laws look especially ludicrous. Given that most of the American public wants stricter gun laws, but the Republicans (pressed by the NRA) apparently want every American to be armed with a semiautomatic rifle that they can carry to Starbucks, these laws make Texas look especially bad. I can only imagine how the rest of the world regards us now—now that we seem to have a mass shooting every two weeks.

And the solution to these murders? MORE GUNS, Texas tells us. CNN reports what the new laws are (click on screenshot):

Read and weep (from CNN).

House Bill 1143 says a school district cannot prohibit licensed gun owners, including school employees, from storing a firearm or ammunition in a locked vehicle on a school parking lot — provided they are not in plain view.

House Bill 1387 loosens restrictions on how many armed school marshals a school district can appoint.

House Bill 2363 allows some foster homes to store firearms and ammunition in a safe and secure place for personal protection. Proper storage must be followed, the bill says, including putting firearms and ammunition together in the same locked locations.

House Bill 302 bans homeowners or landlords of rental property from prohibiting residents from lawfully possessing, carrying, transporting or storing a firearm or ammunition in the property.

House Bill 1177 prohibits residents from being charged with a crime for carrying a handgun while evacuating from a state or local disaster area.

Senate Bill 535 clarifies the possession of firearms at churches, synagogues or other places of worship. It allows licensed handgun owners to legally carry their weapons in places of worship — and comes nearly two years after a gunman killed 26 people at Sutherland Springs church.

The news last night reported that, re the last bill, if a church chooses to prohibit the carrying of firearms, they can do so. Otherwise, we have to look forward to more guns in schools and churches, and even in Universities. Students at the University of Texas in Austin, for instance, can legally carry guns to class. What could go wrong with that?

The excuse for this shameful behavior is the usual: Americans need more guns to protect themselves against the bad guys. As CNN reports: “‘We have learned many times over that there is no such thing as a gun free zone. Those with evil intentions will violate the law and carry out their heinous acts no matter what,’ state Sen. Donna Campbell, co-sponsor of the bill, said in a statement. ‘It makes no sense to disarm the good guys and leave law-abiding citizens defenseless where violent offenders break the law to do great harm’.”

NBC News, in a press conference I watched, reports the Texas governor making the same justification:

In a press conference Sunday, Gov. Abbott insisted the new laws will protect Texans, pointing to the law which allows more school marshals to have guns in schools. “Some of these laws were enacted for the purpose of making our communities safer,” Abbott said.

That’s about as lame as you can get. Yes, perhaps the laws were enacted with that intention, but do they actually yield those results? Apparently not. It seems as if more innocent lives are lost when criminals use guns (many of them obtained legally) than when guns are used for self-defense. From the Violence Policy Center (VPC):

The main argument used to advance these policies is that guns are a common and effective tool for self-defense. This argument is false.

A series of VPC studies on guns and self-defense thoroughly disprove the NRA myth. These studies analyze national data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program’s Supplementary Homicide Report (SHR) and the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). Among the findings of the most recent edition of the study are the following:

  • In 2016, the FBI reports there were only 274 justifiable homicides involving a private citizen using a firearm. That same year, there were 10,341 criminal gun homicides. Guns were used in 37 criminal homicides for every justifiable homicide.
  • Intended victims of violent crimes engaged in self-protective behavior that involved a firearm in 1.1 percent of attempted and completed incidents between 2014 and 2016.
  • Intended victims of property crimes engaged in self-protective behavior that involved a firearm in 0.3 percent of attempted and completed incidents between 2014 and 2016.

Here are the graphic data on that survey provided by The Washington Post:

Even just considering guns kept in the home, those guns are far more likely to be involved in accidental shootings, criminal acts, and suicides than in justifiable incidents of self-defense. Here’s a survey from 1999 published in the Journal of Pediatric Surgery (my emphasis):

Determine the relative frequency with which guns in the home are used to injure or kill in self-defense, compared with the number of times these weapons are involved in an unintentional injury, suicide attempt, or criminal assault or homicide. We reviewed the police, medical examiner, emergency medical service, emergency department, and hospital records of all fatal and nonfatal shootings in three U.S. cities: Memphis, Tennessee; Seattle, Washington; and Galveston, Texas. During the study interval (12 months in Memphis, 18 months in Seattle, and Galveston) 626 shootings occurred in or around a residence. This total included 54 unintentional shootings, 118 attempted or completed suicides, and 438 assaults/homicides. Thirteen shootings were legally justifiable or an act of self-defense, including three that involved law enforcement officers acting in the line of duty. For every time a gun in the home was used in a self-defense or legally justifiable shooting, there were four unintentional shootings, seven criminal assaults or homicides, and 11 attempted or completed suicides. Guns kept in homes are more likely to be involved in a fatal or nonfatal accidental shooting, criminal assault, or suicide attempt than to be used to injure or kill in self-defense.

Given this balance, what’s the justification for allowing people to keep guns in their homes?

The NRA responds that people wounded in acts of self defense and who escape are not reported by gun owners for fear of police investigation. But I strongly doubt that even if this underreporting exists, it can redress the balance of innocent lives lost versus successful defenses against criminals.

A 2015 paper in Preventive Medicine says pretty much the same thing: self defense gun use (SDGU) is not associated with reduced risk of injury to the people defending themselves, while use of any weapon, not just guns, reduces the likelihood of property loss.

Finally, a Pew Survey published in 2013 shows that the percentage of people who own a gun for protection has gone up dramatically since 1999 (“constitutional right” is a mere 2%)

My own view, which I’ve discussed before, is that the U.S. needs the same laws as Scotland, which has pretty much the same strict gun laws as the UK but with even stronger provisions:

Gun laws in Scotland differ in some details from those in the rest of the UK. However, in terms of licensing they are, currently, identical to the rest of Great Britain. A firearms certificate is required to purchase firearms, and a separate shotgun certificate is required for shotguns. The guiding laws for firearms in Scotland are the Firearms (Scotland) Rules 1989 and the Firearms Act (1968). All handguns, semi-automatic and pump-action non-rim-fire rifles are prohibited. A few pistols are licensed on a Firearm Certificate for exactly the same reasons as the rest of Great Britain. There are only 566 licensed handgun owners in Scotland.

Note that handguns were banned in the UK after the 1996 Dunblane School massacre in Scotland. That is a sane mentality, and the opposite of the craziness in the US, where after a mass shooting many legislators and NRA crazies call for more guns, assuming that people need to protect themselves from mass shooters. But mass shooters are nearly always taken down not by private citizens with guns, but by the police. And, as we’ve seen, having a gun in the home doesn’t make you safer; in fact, it leads to more deaths of innocent people.

The result: we have a gazillion mass shootings and accidental shootings in the U.S., and there are virtually none in the UK.

Finally, the whole “right to bear arms” issue, which some people—especially Republican legislators and the NRA—use to justify widespread ownership of handguns, is based on a Constitutional provision, the Second Amendment:

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.

That seems pretty clear to me: the amendment is there to allow the existence of a militia to keep the people from being oppressed by the arms of the government. Well, we don’t have militias any more, and armed private citizens are no longer a match to government weapons. Garry Wills, in an excellent article in the New York Review of Books, makes (to me) a persuasive case that the Second Amendment was not intended to justify the willy-nilly ownership of guns, even with the intention of self-defense. His piece ends like this:

The recent effort to find a new meaning for the Second Amendment comes from the failure of appeals to other sources as a warrant for the omnipresence of guns of all types in private hands. Easy access to all these guns is hard to justify in pragmatic terms, as a matter of social policy. Mere common law or statute may yield to common sense and specific cultural needs. That is why the gun advocates appeal, above pragmatism and common sense, to a supposed sacred right enshrined in a document Americans revere. Those advocates love to quote Sanford Levinson, who compares the admitted “social costs” of adhering to gun rights with the social costs of observing the First Amendment.  We have to put up with all kinds of bad talk in the name of free talk. So we must put up with our world-record rates of homicide, suicide, and accidental shootings because, whether we like it or not, the Constitution tells us to. Well, it doesn’t.

Sadly, the Supreme Court doesn’t accept Wills’s argument; and since most of them are conservatives, they won’t any time soon. I have little hope that the gun epidemic in our country can be stemmed. We may get a few more regulations and background checks, but in my view we should adopt the UK/Scottish system, along with severe increases in legal penalties for committing crimes with guns. But of course that’s a pipe dream.

 

Biden in NYT: Ban assault weapons

August 12, 2019 • 8:00 am

Uncle Joe has a leading op-ed in today’s New York Times:

A quote:

In Dayton, where the police responded immediately and neutralized the shooter within about 30 seconds, he was still able to massacre nine people and injure more than two dozen others because he carried an AR-style weapon with a magazine capable of holding 100 rounds.

We have to get these weapons of war off our streets.

Nearly 70 percent of the American public support a ban on assault weapons — including 54 percent of Republicans.

When you have that kind of broad public support for legislation that will make everyone safer, and it still can’t get through the Senate — the problem is with weak-willed leaders who care more about their campaign coffers than children in coffins.

The 1994 assault weapons and high-capacity magazines bans worked.

And if I am elected president, we’re going to pass them again — and this time, we’ll make them even stronger. We’re going to stop gun manufacturers from circumventing the law by making minor modifications to their products — modifications that leave them just as deadly. And this time, we’re going to pair it with a buyback program to get as many assault weapons off our streets as possible as quickly as possible.

I won’t stop there. I’ll get universal background checks passed, building on the Brady Bill, which establishing the background check system and which I helped push through Congress in 1993. I’ll accelerate the development and deployment of smart-gun technology — something gun manufacturers have opposed — so that guns are keyed to the individual biometrics of authorized owners.

Of course I agree with him, but I’d go even further and follow the UK’s example: banning handguns nearly completely and putting the strictest control on all guns. Here’s the UK laws taken from Wikipedia (my emphasis):

The UK increased firearm regulation through several Firearms Acts, leading to an outright ban on automatic firearms and many semi-automatic firearms. Breech-loading handguns are also tightly controlled. Firearm ownership usually requires a police-issued Shotgun Certificate (SGC) or Firearm Certificate (FAC). The applicant must have: no criminal convictions; no history of medical condition including alcohol and drug-related conditions; no history of depression, mental or nervous disorder, or epilepsy; and a secure gun safe to store firearms. The FAC additionally requires demonstrating a good reason for each firearm the applicant wishes to own (such as hunting, pest control, collecting, or target shooting). Self-defense is only accepted as a good reason in Northern Ireland.

An SGC allows the holder to purchase and own any number of shotguns, so long as they can be securely stored. Shotgun magazine capacity is limited to two rounds. For weapons covered under an FAC, police may restrict the type and amount of ammunition held, and where and how the firearms are used. Aside from Northern Ireland, private ownership of most handguns was banned in 1997, with exception for section 5 firearms licenses, which are only generally issued to maritime security personnel, and those under police protection.

What’s with Northern Ireland?

Of course all the Democrats will rush to play catch-up, trying to outdo themselves in proposing gun restrictions, but to my mind that’s great. The important thing is to get a Democratic President elected, get both houses of Congress majority Democratic, and then perhaps we can start enacting sensible gun control.

In the meantime, kudos to Joe. (He’s still my favorite Democratic candidate, but I do worry about his gaffes, which are more frequent than ever. I’m not worried about his age, except insofar as it’s correlated with any decline in cognitive facilities. I put Elizabeth Warren right up there with him as a favored candidate, though I worry whether she could beat Trump, something I don’t worry as much about with Biden. But I’d gladly vote for either of them as President.

Anyway, something is very wrong with this country when people can march into a McDonald’s with a handgun or a rifle slung from their bodies.

Here: this is “open carry” of semiautomatic weapons at the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland:

 

Gun violence in Chicago spiked last weekend

August 7, 2019 • 9:30 am

If you live in Chicago, you’re constantly reminded of the huge number of homicides in the city, many of them gang-related, most gun-related, and the largest proportion of identified victims African-American. According to the Chicago Tribune, which tracks these data, in the last 365 days there were 547 homicides. Of these, 314 involved guns, 209 had unknown causes, 19 involved stabbings, and 5 involved other causes. That is, of all homicides in which the cause could be ascertained,  93% involved guns.

Among the victims, 281 were African-Americans, 224 were not known, 34 were white, 5 were Hispanic, and 3 were Asian. That is, of all homicides in which the race of the victim could be ascertained, 87% were African-Americans. But only 30.5% of Chicago residents are African-American. The age of homicide victims spikes at about age 25. This is a terrible waste of young lives.

The peak of gun violence, as we all know, is in the summer, and I’ve heard gunshots in summer. Granted, the rate of gun deaths is down 11% from last year, but, as you see below, it’s still higher than in the years from 2013-2015. Whether this is a permanent decline in our city remains to be seen, but we still have about 1.5 homicides per day, most by guns. The U.S. and Latin America lead the world in gun deaths, and you can see the death rates of different countries caused by firearms in this chart on Wikipedia. The U.S., for instance, has 12.2 fire-arm related deaths per 100,000 population per year, while Britain has 0.23—a 53-fold difference.

Last weekend we had the biggest spate of gun violence this year, as the New York Times reported in the article below. Seven were killed and 52 wounded in 32 episodes, with more than 300 homicides this year.

An excerpt:

CHICAGO — While much of the nation’s attention was focused on the gun massacres in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, last weekend, Chicago was convulsed by its own burst of violence — the worst weekend the city has seen so far in 2019.

It was an extreme example of the routine but devastating gun violence, often related to gang conflicts, that cities like Chicago, Baltimore and St. Louis experience on a regular basis. The police said seven people were killed and 52 wounded by gunfire throughout Chicago from Friday evening to Sunday, including a 5-year-old boy who was shot in the leg while sitting in a car.

Early Sunday, 17 people were shot in a period of two hours in a small pocket on the city’s West Side, turning residential blocks into chaotic scenes of ambulances, grieving family members and cars pockmarked with bullets.

There were 32 separate shooting incidents throughout the weekend, the police said.

. . .Gun violence in Chicago tends to peak during the summer months, when school is out, the temperature is high and residents spend more time outside at social gatherings, which can be a magnet for conflict. Shootings and homicides have decreased in 2019, but there have been at least 300 homicides this year and 1,600 people shot, according to The Chicago Tribune.

Data from the Chicago Tribune:

Yes, America, we have a gun problem (the NRA would call it a “criminal problem”, but without easy availability of guns, does anybody doubt that homicides would drop?). My solution, which some readers oppose, is to impose extremely stringent controls on guns; in fact, I’d like to see them banned completely except for target practice or, in rare cases, pest control. My position is extreme, but I think it would save lives.

As an aside, Ivanka Trump tweeted about Chicago’s gun violence this week, and, although she got the total numbers right, she got the circumstances wrong, saying that all the deaths and injuries occurred in one incident:

Well, I can excuse that error, though the “violence faced by inner city communities” seems a bit racist, as there are plenty of homicides outside of the inner city. But her message is in the right direction: we have to do something about gun violence.

But because she is a Trump, that message was completely obscured by her mistake, and so HuffPost jumped on her. Rather than highlight the epidemic of gun violence in Chicago, they prefer to bash Ivanka for her mistake. To wit:

From the reportage:

According to Chicago Tribune, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot was “livid” about Trump’s error-filled tweet.

“It wasn’t a playground, it was a park. It wasn’t seven dead. It wasn’t 52 wounded in one incident, which is what this suggests. It’s misleading,” Lightfoot said. “It’s important when we’re talking about people’s lives to actually get the facts correct, which one can easily do if you actually cared about getting it right.”

Lightfoot said her focus was to protect and run the city, and she wouldn’t allow herself to be distracted by “nonsense tweets from people who don’t know what they’re talking about.”

Our new Mayor, Lori Lightfoot, was all over the news last night—not calling attention to the gun violence, which on a yearly basis far exceeds deaths by mass shootings, but going after Ivanka Trump for her mistake about the circumstances.  In this case, contra Lightfoot, the circumstances of the shootings aren’t nearly as important as the constant toll of gun-related homicides. But such is the hatred of Trump (a hatred I share), that every issue somehow gets turned into a criticism of the President (even via his daughter).

Let’s forget Ivanka: we have to do something about guns. But, as I’ve said before, the cry for gun control—and most Americans favor stricter regulations—goes up right after mass shootings (we’ve had three lately), but over time dies down, and business gets back to normal. You can still order assault-style rifles online, which is a travesty. And, of course, the carnage leads to stuff like this, which is about the saddest sign of our problem that I can imagine:

An unwise tweet by Neil deGrasse Tyson, and some statistics on gun deaths

August 5, 2019 • 9:00 am

I guess Tyson was trying to make a point about data and how we receive it when he issued the tweet below yesterday, but it was surely ill-timed—and also somewhat misleading.

It clearly looks crass and uncaring. SFgate discusses some of the pushback, including this tweet from a lawyer and writer:

I was curious about this disparity, so I looked up the data. It turns out that, according to FiveThirtyEight, there were 33,000 gun deaths per year in America in 2015:  about 90 per day or 180 every 48 hours. Of these, two-thirds are suicides and 1/3 are homicides, so at a minimum there 60 homicides every 48 hours and, in that period, 120 suicides committed with guns. So Tyson was close to the mark, while Vanderpool lumped suicides and homicides as “people killed with guns.” That’s true, but killing oneself differs in several ways from killing somebody else, and lumping them is misleading.

But even if Tyson’s data be correct, it’s simply insensitive to try to make a point like this when hundreds are people are grieving over the three mass shootings we’ve had in the last week. Further, as Vanderpool notes, there are powerful lobbies—most notably the National Rifle Association (NRA)—trying to keep guns, including assault rifles, in the hands of Americans.

In contrast, there are no lobbies trying to promote sloppy medical practice, increase the amount of flu (except, perhaps, for anti-vaxers) or encourage more car accidents. In other words, perhaps the issue of gun deaths is more easily prevented, at least in theory, by direct action—banning or severely restricting gun ownership. Reducing car accidents and medical errors is much more difficult. (Further, restricting the availability of guns would surely cut down on the number of suicides, which give people an easy and quick way to kill themselves on impulse. I have no doubt that strong restrictions on gun ownership would drastically cut back the number of suicides: those who in a moment of depression grab a gun may be less likely to use other methods like taking pills, jumping in front of trains, or leaping off a bridge.)

I say, “in theory” above because while a gun ban is easy to craft, there are too many Americans who love and cherish their guns, and the NRA lobby is too powerful, to help us get strong and sensible gun restrictions. I myself favor a system along the lines of what they have in Britain, with a ban on private ownership of handguns and very strict ownership of rifles.

What makes me sad is that each time there’s a mass murder with guns—and now we’ve had three in a row—there’s a temporary uproar and call for bans or restrictions on guns. But in two weeks or so it all dies down and we’re back to being gun-loving America.

To be fair, this morning Tyson apologized for his unwise tweet on his Facebook page:

That’s a decent apology, but Tyson, like many people on Twitter and other social media, should have thought before he tweeted. Anyone could have told him that the tweet above would not be received lightly, and that the point it was supposed to make wasn’t really worth making. Given the difference in reasons for gun deaths in America on one hand, and medical errors and car crashes on the other, I’m not sure how helpful his tweet was in “saving lives in America.”

Another mass shooting, this time in Texas

August 3, 2019 • 2:21 pm

UPDATE: The news now says that at least 19 people are dead and 40 injured; the gunman, now in custody, is a 21-year-old man who used a semiautomatic, assault-style rifle. The motive is still unknown.

___________________

From CNN, a bulletin (click on screenshot). So far news is scanty.

How many deaths will it take till we know
That too many people have died?