Heather Whaley

U.S.A.

Tag: NRA

Quick Question

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You know how gun enthusiasts get all upset when we talk about universal background checks for all gun sales, and they say that the real problem is fixing our mental health system?  Do they mean that we need to cure mental illness, and only that will lead to reduced gun violence?  What about the neighbor who has been a responsible gun owner for years, but is experiencing the first signs of Alzheimer’s, or depression? If we could cure Alzheimer’s we would.  Do we have to just keep our fingers crossed and wait for science to provide the answer?  Do they advocate yearly mental health screenings for all citizens – including gun owners – as part of the sensible mental health system?  Because I knew a man who was sharp as a tack one year, and the next couldn’t recognize his own wife and thought she was an intruder.  What if he’d had a gun?  Would love an honest answer to my honest question.

A lot of the gun conversation in our country is actually detrimental to solving the real problem that we have, which is a lot of people dying, particularly children, by guns.  It’s a really shameful aspect of our nation, and one which we should be able to solve, but we are not going to do it with an us vs. them debate.  Don’t gun owners also want to reduce the number of people who die by gun violence?  I think so.  And don’t gun violence prevention activists enjoy the personal freedoms that come with being an American?  Yes.

Personally I don’t really care if you own guns or not, although I’d rather my neighbors didn’t own weapons that could shoot through their walls and mine.  I just care that you keep your guns safely locked up, and that they are not allowed into the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.  Which is actually what most people feel, too.

But look at Chris Christie, who just vetoed a ban on .50 caliber long-range rifles, that are capable of taking out a vehicle, and “will penetrate most commercial concrete and brick walls,” according to McMillan’s website.  How is that good for anyone?  If you keep a firearm at home to protect yourself and your family, how are you going to protect yourself against a guy with one of those, which are legal to own in every state but California?  Chris Christie was compelled to veto that ban because the NRA has dug in their heels against any gun reform whatsoever, and advocated a sort of “any gun for anyone” stance, and he’s not strong enough to stand up to the NRA.  If you do a search for this kind of ammo, you see a lot of “Zombie Apocalypse” references.  Seriously.   Where’s the sense in that?  Other countries with sensible gun laws have sport shooters, so it’s not a matter of “athletes” not being able to practice their sport.  Full disclosure: I don’t think golfers are “athletes” either.

What’s the answer?  Investing in Kevlar?  Living in an underground bunker?  I don’t know.  And of course any sort of sensible debate is predicated by the idea that both sides actually use sense.  Are we just too far apart in ideology to even recognize what sense is anymore?  Anyway, I’m confident that I will be able to outrun the Zombie horde.  Maybe these guys should buy some running shoes.

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What the fuck is going on?

When we lived in New York City I worried about my kids’ safety.  A lot.  The windows of our apartment used to frame the World Trade Center.  And then it was gone.  One minute there, the next, gone.  I was pregnant with my son on September 11th, 2001 and when he was born it was hard for me not to feel that something or someone could come and take him away at any moment. When he went to nursery school I would periodically look out my windows in the direction of his school to make sure I didn’t see a plume of smoke, ready to run and get him if needed.  I wrote about it here.  When my children went to elementary school, a public school in lower Manhattan, I worried about their safety more.  There was one security guard stationed at the front door, but she didn’t do anything aside from smile when you came in.  There was nobody checking identification, no need to prove you had business in the school, and I had seen delivery guys coming and going without being stopped.  It would be so easy for a terrorist to enter that school, I thought.  But like everyone else who lives in a big city that has been the target of terror, I hoped for the best and tried not to think about it too much.

When we visited the school where my children would enroll once we moved to Connecticut, my first thought was, “They’ll never find them here.”  The threat of terrorism was not at all a motivation to leave the city, but the germ of paranoia had embedded itself so deeply in my subconscious, the thought popped into my head totally involuntarily, just for a second, and was immediately replaced with wonder at how pretty the school was.   Surrounded by rolling fields, forsythia, and distant views, the little school is perfect.  And perfectly safe.  Of course seven months later twenty six people were murdered in a similar school the next town over.  There’s really no safe place.

At our former school in New York, the big one with no security, my son’s fourth grade class was studying the Civil Rights movement when Trayvon Martin was shot.  The teacher talked to the class about the case, and used it to enhance their Civil Rights curriculum.  They could all relate to Trayvon, even if it was just because they liked Skittles, too.  And then we moved.  We took the kids by the pretty school, we drove down rambling twisting country roads, past dairy farms and enormous yards where people kept alpacas and sheep, past fields of wildflowers, we took them to what would be our new home.  My son was quiet in the back of the car.  He had seen something that frightened him.  It was this.

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I explained that just because there was a neighborhood watch, it didn’t mean we had bought a house in a dangerous neighborhood.  But I didn’t get it.  He was afraid of the neighborhood watch.  He was afraid of George Zimmerman.  I explained Zimmerman was an angry man who unfairly targeted Trayvon Martin because of his own ignorance, and he had been arrested.  Now I’ve got to somehow explain to my son that the man who shot and killed a kid who was out buying Skittles, got away with it, that a jury found what he did wasn’t even against the law, and I don’t know how to do that, because I don’t understand it myself.

Stand-Your-Ground laws don’t make any kind of sense.  Nothing about George Zimmerman going free makes any kind of sense.  If he was worried about his own safety, why did he get out of his car?  Why did he stalk Trayvon?  If I saw someone in my neighborhood that frightened me, I wouldn’t get out of my car and chase them down to shoot at them.  Only a delusional madman would do such a thing.  Why was he allowed to carry a loaded weapon to begin with, given his prior arrest for assaulting a police officer, and the restraining order against him for domestic battery?  What the fuck is going on here?

We can all post support for Trayvon’s family on Facebook, sign petitions online, and take pictures of our kids wearing hoodies, but I don’t think that is going to make one bit of real difference. That’s not going to change laws.  The only thing that can fix the myriad problems we face as a nation is the one thing that matters most to most Americans.  Money.  I’m not talking about spending money to fix this.  I’m talking about NOT spending money, specifically in Florida, Texas, and all other states that continue to violate the rights of minorities, children, and women.  Other than that I’m at a loss.  Now I’ve got to go talk to my son.

Treason.

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A constant theme of the gun goons is that we don’t understand the Constitution.  They maintain that the Second Amendment was written so that the people could rise up and overthrow a tyrannical government.  That’s just simply not true.  Not true at all.  Not even a little bit.  The problem with the Constitution is that it is longer than the phrase “…the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”  In fact, the Second Amendment itself is longer than that.  Seriously!  Sorry, but you have to read a little more than what is printed on your NRA bumper sticker, or Oath Keeper t-shirt.  I know, what a drag!  Let’s take a look at Article 3, Section 3 of our Constitution:

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.

Now let’s define treason just to make sure everyone is on the same page:

trea·son

/ˈtrēzən/

Noun:

1. The crime of betraying one’s country, especially by attempting to kill the sovereign or overthrow the government.

2. The action of betraying someone or something.

Okay, so if the founders intended for you to be able to overthrow the government, WHY IS THE ONLY CRIME DEFINED IN THE CONSTITUTION THE ACT OF OVERTHROWING THE GOVERNMENT?

On a fifth grade field trip last week, I listened as a Colonial soldier (not a real one, naturally, but a man dressed as a Colonial soldier) explained that the soldiers had to have two teeth, one on top and one on the bottom, and also had to REGISTER THEIR GUNS.  In case Josiah Tanner, the boot maker, didn’t have a gun, and Samuel Smith, the blacksmith had two, he could loan one to Josiah.  These fifth graders know more about the origins of guns in America than most of today’s NRA leadership.

Colonial Soldier prepares for battle!

Colonial Soldier

These “Oath Keepers” screaming about “shall not be infringed” should spend a little more time doing their research.  It’s not lost on anyone that these people never wanted to overthrow the government which unjustly started two wars, who squandered our nation’s wealth and ran up our debt, who committed vast breeches of our civil liberties in the name of patriotism, who even tried to rename French fries, for crying out loud.  But when the man in office is a black man, they first try to dismiss his citizenship, and then prepare for war.  By the way guys, Ted Cruz wasn’t born in America.  That’s a fact.

Speaking of Mr. Cruz, if you are in NYC right now, you can pay him a visit. Show him some of that NYC hospitality.  He probably has no idea that we like our cowboys to sing in their underpants.  If you need some motivation, have a look at this clip where Cruz insults the intelligence and motivation of parents in Newtown.

Here are the details:

DATE: Wednesday, May 29th

TIME: Protest starts at 5:30 pm and continues until 9 pm – feel free to come anytime during that time frame, and stay as long as you can

LOCATION: 122 East 42nd Street (across the street from the Grand Central Hyatt)

CONTACT: nyforgunsense@gmail.com

Not Your Grandma’s Gun Control

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Since becoming involved in the movement for gun violence prevention, I’ve been called a liar, an ignorant young mother, a stupid bitch, and mostly, a cunt.  I’m not really sure what the people who say these things are trying to accomplish.  Maybe their mommy used to cry when their daddy called her a cunt, but I don’t.  On the first day of eighth grade I walked into my metal shop class, one of only two girls who had opted for metal shop rather than sewing.  I took a seat in the front row, and a kid named Mark came up behind me, called me a cunt and sat in the seat opposite me.  That word hasn’t bothered me since.  In fact, one of my best friends in high school had so little patience for girls who couldn’t tolerate that word that she used it every chance she had, sometimes three or four times in a sentence. This was not some tough urban school, either.  My school was about as WASPy as they come.  And my friend with the potty mouth was a social register Laura Ashley-wearing good girl, now raising two girls of her own.  I’ve also been told that my kids should be taken away from me, and that I should kill myself.  A girl in fifth grade told me that she would make me so miserable that I would want to kill myself, and let me tell you, she was relentless.  This girl was a bully with manipulation skills that would be the envy of evil dictators the world over.  I spent a solid four months under a constant barrage of name calling and humiliation.  But I’m still here.  If that little psychopath couldn’t make a dent, some yahoo I’ve never met leaving nasty comments on this blog, or on their blog, or writing letters to my hometown paper about me, won’t make a dent either.

Today’s generation of moms are perfectly suited to take on the massive challenge of overhauling our nation’s gun laws.  It has to be moms.  For one thing, we have always had to fight harder to get what we want, that’s genetically wired into women at this point.  We recognize injustice when we see it, and are not too intimidated to fight against it – in fact for many of us it is a compulsion. We were raised by women who fought hard for equal rights, we were educated in colleges with Women’s Studies departments, we play football, kick box, kick ass and still make a killer cake for the bake sale.  The men I have encountered who are opposed to progress of any kind are no different from men fifty years ago. Look at the way Ted Cruz tried to dismiss Diane Feinstein, with his smug assertion that she didn’t understand the Constitution.  These are men who think nothing of verbally assaulting grieving mothers and traumatized emergency room workers.  I’ve seen it happen.  Again, Ted Cruz called the parents of Newtown “props” being used by the Obama administration.  As if they can’t make up their own minds about whether the weapons used to destroy their children should be in the hands of civilians, or in their community.

It’s archaic. It’s simple-minded. It’s bullying.  Moms today, because of the strong women who fought for us and who raised us, are not so easily intimidated.  Name calling?  We’re over it.  Our children should be taken away to a place where they are at greater risk of a violent death?  Get your head out of your ass.  We’re not as stupid as they would like to believe.  We do not ask politely for gun sense.  We demand it.  And we’re not going to stop until we get it.  You know how girls are.

Senator Corker Gets a Call

Here’s a little fun I had yesterday.  Notice how the woman on the phone admits Senator Corker seems to want mentally ill people to buy guns.  And that she does not agree with him.  Hmmm.

Someone is waiting to hear from you.

What a shameful day in America.  Today we saw a disgraceful display of cowardice by our US Senators.  Here are the office phone numbers of the Senators who voted no on background checks.   This is a big blow to our freedom, to our public welfare, and to America.  Give them a call, and tell them we will not give up, we demand change, we will not forget this vote and their days in the Senate are numbered.  You will enjoy this.

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Lamar Alexander, TN

Phone: (202) 224-4944

 

Kelly Ayotte, NH

202-224-3324

 

John Barrasso, WY

202-224-6441

 

Max Baucus, MT

(202) 224-2651

 

Mark Begich, AK

(202) 224 – 3004

 

Roy Blunt, MO

(202) 224-5721

 

John Boozman, AR

(202) 224-4843

 

Richard Burr, NC

(202) 224-3154

 

Saxby Chambliss, GA

202-224-3521

 

Dan Coats, IN

(202) 224-5623

 

Tom Coburn, OK

202-224-5754

 

Thad Cochran, MS

202-224-5054

 

Bob Corker, TN

202-224-3344

 

John Cornyn, TX

202-224-2934

 

Mike Crapo, ID

(202) 224-6142

 

Ted Cruz, TX

(202) 224-5922

 

Mike Enzi, WY

(202) 224-3424

 

Deb Fisher, NB

(202) 224-6551

 

Jeff Flake, AZ

202-224-4521

 

Lindsey Graham, SC

(202) 224-5972

 

Chuck Grassley, IA

(202) 224-3744

 

Orin Hatch, UT

(202) 224-5251

 

Heidi Heitkamp

(202) 224-2043

 

Dean Heller, NV

202-224-6244

 

John Hoeven, ND

202-224-2551

 

James Inhofe, OK

(202) 224-4721

 

Johnny Isakson,  GA

(202) 224-3643

 

Mike Johanns, NB

(202) 224-4224

 

Ron Johnson, WI

(202) 224-5323

 

Mike Lee, UT

202-224-5444

 

Mitch McConnell, KY

(202) 224-2541

 

Jerry Moran, KS

(202) 224-6521

 

Lisa Murkowski, AK

202-224-6665

 

Rand Paul, KY

202-224-4343

 

Rob Portman, OH

202-224-3353

 

Mark Pryor, AR

(202) 224-2353

 

James Risch, ID

202-224-2752

 

Pat Roberts, KS

(202) 224-4774

 

Marco Rubio, FL
202-224-3041

 

Tim Scott, SC

(202) 224-6121

 

Jeff Sessions, AL

(202) 224-4124

 

Richard Shelby, AL

(202) 224-5744

 

John Thune, SD

(202) 224-2321

 

 

David Vitter,  LA

(202) 224-4623

 

Roger Wicker, MS

(202) 224-6253

Most Likely to…. Reduce Gun Violence

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There is a book out called, Reducing Gun Violence in America: Informing Policy with Evidence and Analysis by Daniel W. Webster and Jon S. Vernick.  It came about through a symposium at the Center for Gun Policy and Research at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.  It begins with a startling statistic.  “On January 21, 2013, President Obama took the oath of office for his second term.  Unless we take action, during those four years some 48,000 Americans will be killed with guns.”

The authors explain their motivation thusly:

One month—to the hour—after the harrowing and unfathomable massacre of 20 children and 6 adults in a Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school, Johns Hopkins University convened a summit that brought together preeminent researchers on gun violence from across the country and around the world. This was a moment when advocates, lobbyists, and politicians on both sides of the gun-control debate were beginning to mobilize and spar. In this unruly mix, Johns Hopkins seized the opportunity to discharge a critical role of research universities and provided principled scaffolding for the debate. We wanted to use the opportunity to cut through the din of the shrill and the incendiary, the rancorous and the baseless, and provide rigorous, research-based considerations of the most effective gun regulations and the appropriate balance between individual rights and civic obligation. 

So what did they find out?  Turns out, quite a lot.  They consulted the best research on the subject, compared what worked and what didn’t work in past policy.   It’s quite good.  I think a lot of people will be surprised that their recommendations are not already in place.  Most people don’t know that even if you have a restraining order against you, in some states you can not only keep the guns you have, but you can buy more.  If you’ve been convicted of stalking, you can buy a gun under current law in many states.  This is what we mean by COMMON SENSE GUN LAWS.  It’s unimaginable to me that our legislators are struggling with the idea of background checks for all gun sales.  They’re not even bothering with private sales – which means that I can buy any number of guns, and sell them privately to whomever I choose whether they be a gang member, terrorist, or depressed housewife, with no check whatsoever.  That doesn’t make sense.  I recommend you pick up a copy, but I have provided here the recommendations they put forth that are, “the most likely to reduce gun violence in the United States.”

Background Checks
Fix the background check system by doing the following:

  •  Establish a universal background check system, which would require a background check for all persons purchasing a firearm (with an exception for inheritance transfers).
  • Facilitate all sales through a federally licensed gun dealer. This would have the effect of mandating the same record keeping for all firearm transfers.
  • Increase the maximum amount of time for the FBI to complete a background check from 3 to 10 business days.
  • Require all firearm own ers to report the theft or loss of their firearm within 72 hours of becoming aware of its loss.
  • Subject even those persons who have a license to carry a firearm, permit to purchase, or other firearm permit to a background check when purchasing a firearm.

Prohibiting High-Risk Individuals from Purchasing Guns
Expand the conditions for firearm purchase:

  • Persons convicted of a violent misdemeanor would be prohibited from firearm purchase for a period of 15 years.
  • Persons who committed a violent crime as a juvenile would be prohibited from firearm purchase until 30 years of age.
  • Persons convicted of two or more crimes involving drugs or alcohol within a three-year period would be prohibited from firearm purchase for a period of 10 years.
  • Persons convicted of a single drug-trafficking offense would be prohibited from gun purchase.
  • Persons determined by a judge to be a gang member would be prohibited from gun purchase.
  • Establish a minimum of 21 years of age for handgun purchase or possession.
  • Persons who have violated a restraining order issued due to the threat of violence (including permanent, temporary and emergency) would be prohibited from purchasing firearms.
  • Persons with temporary restraining orders filed against them for violence or threats of violence would be prohibited from purchasing firearms.
  • Persons who have been convicted of misdemeanor stalking would be prohibited from purchasing firearms.

Mental Health

  • Focus federal restrictions on gun purchases by persons with serious mental illness on the dangerousness of the individual.
  • Fully fund federal incentives for states to provide information about disqualifying mental health conditions to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System for gun buyers.

Trafficking and Dealer Licensing

  • A permanent director for ATF should be appointed and confirmed.
  • ATF should be required to provide adequate resources to inspect and otherwise engage in oversight of federally licensed gun dealers.
  • Restrictions imposed under the Firearm Own ers’ Protection Act limiting ATF to one routine inspection of gun dealers per year should be repealed.
  • The provisions of the Firearm Own ers’ Protection Act which raise the evidentiary standard for prosecuting dealers who make unlawful sales should be repealed.
  • ATF should be granted authority to develop a range of sanctions for gun dealers who violate gun sales or other laws.
  • The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, providing gun dealers and manufacturers protection from tort liability, should be repealed.
  • Federal restrictions on access to firearms trace data, other than those associated with ongoing criminal investigations, should be repealed.
  • Federal law mandating reporting of multiple sales of handguns should be expanded to include long guns.
  • Adequate penalties are needed for violations of the above provisions.

Personalized Guns

  • Congress should provide financial incentives to states to mandate childproof or personalized guns.
  • The Federal Consumer Product Safety Commission should be granted authority to regulate the safety of firearms and ammunition as consumer products.

Assault Weapons

  • Ban the future sale of assault weapons, incorporating a more carefully crafted definition to reduce the risk—compared with the 1994 ban—that the law would be easily evaded.

High-Capacity Magazines

  • Ban the future sale and possession of large-capacity (greater than 10 rounds) ammunition magazines.

Research Funding

  • The federal government should provide funds to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Institute of Justice adequate to understand the causes and solutions of gun violence, commensurate with its impact on the public’s health and safety.
  • The Surgeon General of the United States should produce a regular report on the state of the problem of gun violence in America and progress toward solutions.

The Vote.

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I went to Hartford yesterday to watch as the CT gun violence and school safety bill was voted on in the legislature.  I arrived at 11:30 and the galleries in the Senate were already full.  I waited outside to see what would happen, and when I might be allowed inside.  The CCDL was there in full effect, and I guess they all decided on the bus ride over that yesterday they were going to try to TALK with us.  There is a stereotype of an NRA member, orange neon hat, work boots, OATH KEEPER sweatshirt, beer belly, mustache, you get the picture.  But that’s not the whole story.  There were also families there – not many, actually I saw only one, but they had two little girls.  It is hard for me to understand the culture of guns, because I was not brought up in it.   I was, however, brought up skiing, and spent many happy days skiing with my family.  People die or get hurt skiing all the time, but it’s usually people who are skiing a trail that is too difficult for them, or in a dangerous manner – usually.  There are, of course, tragic accidents, too.  Maybe that’s how these people feel about guns.  To them guns are sport, family, tradition, and a way to enjoy the outdoors.  If someone told me they were going to ban skiing I’d be pretty upset about it, and sad that I wouldn’t be able to create memories with my own children the way my parents did.  It is extremely hard for me to make the correlation between skiing and shooting animals, or blasting away at targets, but I think I’m right.

The first guy who approached me yesterday said, “I don’t agree with you guys, but I admire you.  You fought for what you believe in, even though I think you’re wrong.”  This turned out to be a tactic because he turned right around and asked me how I felt about ruining our Second Amendment.  The thing these guys all forget is that the Second Amendment does not begin with the words, “the right to bear arms.”  It begins with “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state.”  So I asked this guy if he was part of a militia.  He looked confused.  I said, “If you believe whole heartedly in the Second Amendment, as it was written, and you own guns, it must be for the purpose of forming a well-regulated militia, right?  Did you muster?”  Now I really didn’t want to get into it with this guy, I promise.  He tried to tell me about the need to overthrow a tyrannical government, and that’s when I said, “Look, I know you’re upset, and I don’t really want to have this conversation.”  Then he asked me, “How would you feel if a family member had purchased these firearms as an investment?”  I answered honestly, “I would feel they had made a bad investment.”  That’s the truth.  Invest in something else, like Apple or education.  He seemed very irritated, grabbed his jacket and walked off.

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Woman tells off NRA member. You go girrrl!

I was soon joined by another man, this one older.  He wanted to have a little chat about self-defense.  He told me that he’s not going to feel safe with only ten rounds.  I told him that I felt sorry he lived with such fear.  He said that he’s always got a firearm so he’s not afraid.  Now, I lived in the East Village of Manhattan for about ten years in a rickety old building with an even more rickety old fire escape that led right up to my window.  Never did I feel a gun would make me safer.  What I did was close the curtains – thick velvet curtains from Pottery Barn that were a gift.  You could not see through them, and my logic was that if someone wanted to break in, they would probably pick an apartment where they could see what was going on inside.  So when this man told me that he needs all those bullets at the grocery store, I couldn’t really relate to that.  He admitted he’d never had to use his gun in self-defense.  Nobody had broken in to his house, or attacked him.  I asked if he took his guns into the shower, because they won’t help you in a home invasion if they’re in the other room.  He said, not the shower, but the toilet.  He brings his gun when he’s on the toilet.  He told me he hopes that nobody ever attacks me, because I will be unable to defend myself.  I told him I hope he doesn’t shoot his foot off and we left it at that.

There were some very tense moments.  One guy tried to talk to a mother from Newtown.  She told him to back off, which he did not.  She let him have it.  This issue is so fraught with emotion on both sides, but really, when kids are dead – especially if you knew and loved those kids, that grief and anger is the strongest emotion on earth.  The anger of not being able to buy another assault rifle is no match for that grief.

After about an hour I got inside.  Each State Senator gave a speech saying how they were going to vote, expressing how shocked and horrified they were on December 14th.  Most said the bill didn’t go far enough – either far enough toward addressing mental health issues, and so they were going to vote “no,” or not far enough in the ban on high-capacity magazines, so they were going to vote “yes” with the understanding that this is not the end of the road.  Some proposed amendments to the bill, none of which passed.  There was a moment of levity when one Senator said his daughter suggested that all guns be made by Nerf.  He voted against the bill.

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My State Senator Toni Boucher. She speaks very quickly and looks just like my mother-in-law. She was a “yes” vote.

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Not sure if you can tell, but on the top is Senator Cathy Osten. She is checking her Facebook. She voted against the bill.

The opposite gallery.

The opposite gallery.

The guy in front of me.  My daughter was texting from home and asking for pictures.

The guy in front of me. My daughter was texting from home and asking for pictures.

After more than six hours, the television cameras started being set up, and Blumenthal and Murphy were there, so I knew it was almost over.

After more than six hours, the television cameras were set up, and Senators Blumenthal and Murphy were there, so I knew it was almost over.

The bill passed.  I went home, tired and famished, and watched the rest of the proceedings on television with a cocktail in my hand like a civilized person.  I was very surprised that my representative John Shaban, of whom I have been critical for his lack of candor, voted in favor of the bill, while Dan Carter, who has been very accessible, voted “no.”  Dan Carter represents part of Newtown.  He said in a statement that he was “deeply concerned the over-reaching nature of the bill and the constitutional implications will continue to promote the growing rift between those that own guns and those that do not, especially in the Newtown community.”  I don’t support his rationale at all.

The final tally.

The final tally.

It is done.  For now.  I’ve been very emotional today.  Of course, I’m happy this bill passed.  I’m also heartbroken for the families in Newtown.  Completely devastated and achingly sad, especially today.  The real problem, and what I did not realize before I got into all this, is just how many guns are out there.  Guns take what might be a fist fight and turn it to murder.  The reason the UK has a higher rate of “violent crime” is that in the UK guns are tightly regulated.  Here in the US, what might otherwise be a “violent crime” is often murder.  It’s not just mental health.  It’s our culture.  We have to change the culture.  It’s a much harder job, because you can’t pass a bill that makes it uncool to fire guns.  But once upon a time smoking was cool, and people once refused to wear seat belts.  It will happen.  I’m hoping that the Connecticut Effect does just that, and that it is contagious.

To that end, a group of us here in town have organized an awareness campaign aptly called Connecticut Effect.  Our goal is education, discussion, and the promotion of common sense, progressive ideas.  Our first order of business is a screening of the film Living for 32, a documentary about Colin Goddard, survivor of the Virginia Tech shooting.  The film portrays the inspiring story of how Goddard’s life was forever changed on that day, and his determination to make a difference through his work with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.  There are two screenings, one on THURSDAY, APRIL 25  at 7:00 PM at the BETHEL CINEMA.  The other is at JOEL BARLOW HIGH SCHOOL on SUNDAY, APRIL 28 at 4:00 PM.  If you live in CT or feel like a road trip I hope you will make it to one of the screenings.  If not, come find us on Facebook, or email ConnecticutEffect@gmail.com for more information.

At last.

Phillip W. Mauriello, Erin Nikitchyuk

Last Thursday I was at home, trying to do some laundry, as people do, when there was a knock at my door.  It startled me, and my dog.  Looking out the window I saw a man.  My first thought was, “This guy is here from the NRA to kill me.  I wish I had a Bushmaster.”  No, I’m joking.  The man explained that he was from CT News 12 and asked if he could talk to me about my views on gun control.  Naturally I told him to hang on so that I had time to Google him and make sure he wasn’t actually a maniac.  The guy checked out, and he and his nice cameraman came in and we had a chat.

He was there because Thursday had been declared a “Day of Action” in the Gun Violence Prevention movement, and despite my kids’ pleas to go to home and do NOTHING that afternoon, we went to Newtown for a little rally in front of the NSSF.  It was actually fun.  There were a bunch of NRA members there, but aside from one rude man who insisted on smoking a cigar right next to us, everyone was polite.  The kids had fun getting cars and trucks to honk for common sense gun reform.  My daughter was even interviewed for television, granted it was German public television, but still.

Kids are on the front lines of gun violence.  Whether it’s being afraid of violence occurring every day in your own neighborhood, or hiding in classroom closets for lockdowns, they suffer all the repercussions.  As I said back in December, my children are the entire reason I’m involved in this.  I just could not see something so out of balance, so out of control, and not try to change it. When I was a sophomore in high school a woman came to lecture us on environmental protection and said, “This is going to be your responsibility.  You will have to change this.” I remember thinking, “I’m fifteen.  Why don’t YOU do something about it NOW, so it’s not an even bigger mess by the time I’m able to be responsible for anything?  Where is your responsibility?!”  Maybe it’s the same now.  I’m the adult.  I have to right what is wrong.  Not later.  Now.

We had a quick dinner, and again to my kids’ dismay we headed to the library where our local state representatives, Toni Boucher, Dan Carter, and John Shaban were holding a town hall meeting regarding the upcoming legislative session.  There were about thirty people in attendance, including one gentleman wearing a sandwich board reading, “I’m a law-abiding gun owner, so why am I the bad guy?”  The conversation finally got around to guns and one young man asked Rep. Shaban why his views on gun violence prevention were not profiled in a news story entitled, “Where They Stand” or something.  I missed that story, but he explained that every state representative had answered a set of questions regarding which new legislation they supported.  Rep. Shaban said that he didn’t answer their questions, but instead had written his views, or something.  It was unclear.  So he was asked to clarify.  I have heard State Senator Toni Boucher speak many times, and she is fairly straight forward about her views.  Likewise I have had many conversations with Representative Carter, and while I disagree with him on many counts, he is always forthcoming and open to discussion.  I have not heard Rep. Shaban once say where he stood, aside from a vague, “We shouldn’t just do something symbolic that’s not going to lead to a decrease in violence,” or words to that effect.  So when directly asked last Thursday what his views were, I sat up in my chair.  “I think we need stronger gun laws,” he said.  I think he was just going to leave it at that, but I asked, “Could you be more specific?” He said that he supported enhancing our assault weapons ban.  I asked, “Do you mean taking the legal limit of characteristics similar to an assault weapon from two to one?”  And he said, “…Yeah, I guess that’s what we’re talking about.”  So, there it was.  He went on to say that he’s in favor of a ban on high-capacity magazines.  But when I asked about possession, he said no.  I pointed out that there is no way to enforce that sort of law, and that each of them knew there was no way to enforce that, so what they were doing was, in effect, nothing.  They did not argue.

Which brings us to today.  It was announced yesterday that the CT State Legislature had reached an agreement, and a bill would be voted on on Wednesday.  This bill is the strongest gun legislation in the country.  It includes many good things, a ban on assault weapons, the creation of a gun violence offender registry, a ban on high-capacity magazines.  But it grandfathers in the assault weapons already possessed, as well as high-capacity magazines already possessed.  At the very least those magazines have to go.  As was stated in an Editorial in the Hartford Courant, “Just ban them.”

Tomorrow many of us will go back to Hartford.   I imagine it will be a celebration of sorts, because we will get so much of what we wanted.  But the work is far from over.  The Connecticut Effect is just getting started.

Warning: This May Irritate You

Free-Clipart-of-Hammer

Last Wednesday I had the opportunity to meet with Representative Larry Cafero.  Mr. Cafero is the Minority Leader in the Connecticut House of Representatives.  A group of us sat with him around a table and he told us of his desire to ban “all these guns once and for all.”  He held up several sheets of paper with colorful images of rifles printed on them.  He said that he’s “not a gun guy” and can’t understand why anyone needs these weapons. He was saying all the right things.  Until we started asking questions.

How does he feel about strengthening the assault weapons ban – “I’m all for it!” he declared.  But then he began to refer to his pages, telling us, “You see, what you want to do is ban this one and not that one, and you can’t tell me what the difference is between them.  That’s where you lose your argument.”  I asked Cafero who had provided him with those pages.  “Ah, I don’t know,” he said.  “The NSSF or something?”  He said this as if he was unsure who or what the NSSF is.  So I told him, just to make sure he was aware of who had provided him with his gun education – or, rather, to make sure that he knew that WE knew who the NSSF is.  They are the lobbying arm of the NRA.  And, I went on to tell him, the gun you are pointing to is not a derivative of a military assault weapon, and the other one is.

You see, Connecticut already has an “assault weapons ban.”  When it was enacted, the gun manufacturers simply modified the weapons to get around the ban.  So basically, the difference between an assault weapon made for our troops and one made for your neighbor is that your neighbor can’t attach a flash suppressor or a bayonet to the end of theirs, and a soldier can.  Also your neighbor can’t adjust the stock to make it longer or shorter, and a soldier can do that – very efficient for either shooting someone far away, or in a tight space.  Also a soldier can “spray” bullets, so that with one squeeze of the trigger, many shots can be fired very rapidly, whereas your neighbor can only fire one shot per squeeze of the trigger, which, unless they are arthritic can be quite a lot of bullets per minute.

“Listen,” he said, “You guys are going to get everything you want.  Assault weapons ban, high-capacity magazine ban – not possession, but the sale of high-capacity magazines, done.”

That’s a really, really important point right there.  Ammunition magazines are not date-stamped, they aren’t marked or tracked in any way.  You don’t need to register them or prove what state you live in to buy them.  There would be no way to track if your neighbor purchased her 30 round magazines before the ban, or just brought them home from her trip to Maine along with her blueberry waffle mix and LL Bean boots.  So it’s easy for someone like Mr. Cafero to say, yes! ban the high-capacity magazines! because unless you ban their possession it is a totally unenforceable law.  It is a bit of nothing.  And still, Mr. Cafero can go home to Norwalk and tell his constituents, and those elsewhere when he runs for governor, that he voted for the ban.  Because either way, banning the possession of high-capacity magazines, or merely their sale, the headline will be the same.  The truth is a vastly different story, and Mr. Cafero was counting on us not being as clever as he thought he was, which is really very irritating.

A ban on the sale and possession of high-capacity magazines is really the crucial issue.  It happens all the time, a shooter opens fire either in a school, a movie theater, a shopping mall.  When that shooter stops to reload, someone takes them out with a concealed weapon, by tackling them, or simply gets up from the floor of the theater and runs for their life.  In Sandy Hook, six children ran out of their classroom when he stopped to reload.  He shot 152 bullets in five minutes.  Imagine if his magazines could each only hold ten bullets.  How many more children would be alive?

Last Thursday the CT State Legislature held yet another hearing, this one for the Public Safety Committee, which I am told, is where gun bills go to die.  Colt gave their workers the day off, even paid them to show up in the capitol building, holding signs and wearing NRA stickers.  There was one moment during the testimony that really made me very angry.  A woman, whom I know, was testifying when Representative David Yaccarino from North Haven, asked her, “Do you know how many people are killed by hammers each year?  Six hundred!”  Let’s pause while I bang my head against the wall.

Okay, hammers have other, useful purposes.  You can build a house, hang pictures, build furniture, all with a hammer!  If you are using a hammer as it is intended, you will build something – or remove an unwanted nail, or pry something open.  If you use an AR-15 as it is intended, you will KILL SOMEONE.  Comparing gun violence to hammers, or kitchen knives, as he went on to do, is the most idiotic obfuscation I have heard.  And I hear it over and over.  We aren’t talking about hammers.  We are talking about guns.  There is no massive, well-organized, highly funded hammer lobby, or you can bet Yaccarino wouldn’t mention hammer deaths.  If Adam Lanza had walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School with a hammer, someone would have taken it from him.  On the same day as the shooting in Newtown, a mentally ill man in China went on a stabbing spree at an elementary school.  Here’s the difference between an AR-15 and a kitchen knife:  In China, NOBODY DIED.

Here’s a video that shows the difference between the damage done by a handgun, and by an AR-15.  You can see the results starting at 2:20.