Heather Whaley

U.S.A.

Tag: NRA

A Cry for Help

Chief of Police Doug Fuchs demonstrates features of the AR-15.

Chief of Police Doug Fuchs demonstrates features of the AR-15.

Last night my town held a meeting with our state representatives and officials from our federal representatives, in order to hear their opinions on the issue of gun violence.  I helped to organize the meeting.  It was my sincere intention to try and find some common ground between NRA members who are feeling under attack, and those of us who want meaningful change.  I believed that “responsible gun owners” should be the ones to lead the way in terms of what needs attention in our current gun laws.  However, “responsible gun owner” does not equal “reasonable gun owner.”

Last night we heard from a man who claimed he was worried that if the magazine capacity is lowered to seven rounds, all of his guns — which he told us were firearms and not weapons — would be obsolete.  I’m no dummy.  The same way gun manufacturers altered assault rifles to make them commercially available under assault weapons bans, they will manufacture clips for this man’s weapons that can hold the regulated seven rounds.  For some reason I thought maybe he didn’t know that.  For some reason I thought that I might give him some peace of mind if I let him know that his firearm collection, which is no doubt valuable both financially and personally to him, would not be obsolete.  So I told him.   Turns out he doesn’t care about that at all — that you can already buy magazine clips that are “California compliant” he just doesn’t want to.  Then his buddy chimed in that he doesn’t want anything less than sixteen round magazines.  I asked why.  I genuinely wanted to know what the reasoning was.  He said that he does not feel safe.  He actually said that he does not feel safe at the mall with less than sixteen rounds loaded into his weapon.  You know, just in case.

My ten year old son loved that.  He asked me, “Which part of the mall is the most dangerous?  Is it Yogen-Fruz?”  It is beyond my ability of understanding, of ration and reason, to justify anyone walking around a mall with sixteen rounds loaded into their weapon.  For whom are these vigilantes working?  Certainly not me.  I don’t want them shooting anyone on my behalf.  Imagine the scene at the mall in Oregon where a shooter opened fire with an AR-15, if the other shoppers had all been carrying sixteen rounds.  How many people would be have been killed by these vigilantes?  Lots.  This is madness.

I realized last night that — like  these people have been telling me — I am ignorant.  I am naive.  I thought we could have some measure of reasonable debate, a confluence of ideas.  That’s not going to happen.  The NRA has dug their heels in so strongly against any change to our gun laws that their members aren’t concerned with ration or reason.  I simply do not believe anyone is that afraid to go to the mall.  I don’t buy it.  That’s just a smoke screen.

UNLESS…

These people really don’t feel safe without  sixteen rounds loaded into their guns at all times.  Maybe that’s why they keep screaming about mental health.  Maybe it’s a cry for help.

NRA, Defenders of Mothers’ Rights, and Other Bullshit

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I was in Newtown on Wednesday night as the Connecticut Legislature’s Task Force heard testimony from parents, first responders, and other Newtown residents.  It was riveting, heartbreaking, and at times infuriating.  The shock and grief of parents who lost their children that day is still unimaginable.  The courage it took for them to stand before this legislative body is profound.  Unlike the Monday hearing in Hartford, most of the testimony was strongly and unequivocably in favor of stronger gun laws, including a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines and assault rifles.  The NRA and the CCDL will tell you that assault weapons are already banned in Connecticut.  But that’s not really the whole story.  When they banned assault weapons, the gun manufacturers just altered them to get around the ban by not allowing them to spray bullets.  The NRA says that the rest of the features are just to make it look cool. The reality is that every feature of that gun has a purpose, to make it more accurate and efficient.  If they wanted it to look cool it would come in different colors.

There were a lot of good ideas mentioned in the testimony.  In my town there is a budget hearing next week to allocate over $300,000 toward new security measures for our schools, including the hiring of two full-time police officers to be stationed in the school buildings.  There are about 9,000 people in my town.  There are about 5,000 guns in my town, too.  On Wednesday in Newtown a father stood before the task force and said, “The Right to Bear Arms is the best marketing slogan of all time.”  Then he went on to say that increased security measures should be paid by the gun manufacturers.  This is just about the best idea I have heard.  Increased security is the price we pay for living in a society teeming with guns.  Alternately, just as the NRA gets a dollar each time a gun is purchased, schools could get a dollar.  Or tax the permits, so that the money is staying in the community where the guns are held.

One woman on Wednesday night said, in a very soft voice, “A mother bear has claws to protect her young.  A mother tiger has teeth.  Please don’t take away the one means of defense I have to protect my children.”  During her testimony people near where I was sitting were visibly disgusted, and many of them left.  This is an argument we have begun to hear over and over.  For example, from “independent woman” Gayle Trotter at the Senate hearing, we heard this:

On Monday in Hartford I heard so many stories of home invasion and rape that I lost count.  I’m not sure where those people were from, but according to them there are places in Connecticut where each night your home is more likely to be invaded than not.  These stories are meant to do one thing – frighten us into buying more guns.  Specifically, to frighten women into buying more guns.  It is your DUTY as a mother to buy a gun.  And because you are small, and fragile, and unable to shoot properly, you’d best get yourself a nice Bushmaster because you’re going to be shooting all over the place, and you’ll need a high-capacity magazine of at least thirty rounds so that hopefully one of them will hit your target.  Don’t worry your pretty little head about where all those other bullets are going.  Just make sure your kids are behind you.

I find this so outrageously offensive.  Does the NRA really think women are so stupid and weak?  I can just imagine the meeting where they came up with this crap.  A bunch of men sitting around a table, saying, “Okay, we’re looking like the bad guys here.  How can we make us the good guys?  I know!  Women.  They’re so naive and impressionable – we’ll just tell them a whole bunch of stories about scary bad guys busting down the door, and how women were able to defend themselves.  We will turn this from a debate about how to prevent a classroom full of children being slaughtered, to a quest for women’s rights – mother’s rights!”  It makes me sick.

You know another mother who had guns in her house?  Nancy Lanza.  Her face was blown off.  You know the rest.

Gun Violence Prevention Committee Hearing, Hartford, CT 1/28/13

Yesterday I testified before the Connecticut State Legislature Subcommittee on Gun Violence Prevention.  When I arrived at 10 am, the line was already very long, it was snowing, and I was really regretting that I hadn’t taken the extra five minutes to find my missing glove.

This is just the back half of the line.

This is just the back half of the line.

There were a lot of moms there – not nearly as many as NRA members, and most had to leave in time to get their kids off the bus.  The rest of us were in it for the long haul.  How long?  I sat down at about 1:00 PM and got up at 3:45 AM.  In the hearing room we were outnumbered by at least 40 to 1, which is a shame as it does not reflect the feeling of the majority in the state or the nation on this matter.  Here’s a photo of the number of people calling in to the Legislative Office in support of new gun regulation on the right, and those opposed on the left, to give you an idea of how mobilized they are.

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Calls placed in opposition to gun regulation on the left. Calls for new gun laws on the right.

What I heard, over and over, from the members of the NRA and CCDL, which is like a local NRA, is that these people are terrified, and I can’t say I blame them because according to their testimony, they have each been the victim of three or four home invasions, and they know for a fact that the government, including the tyrannical subcommittee itself, is coming to take away their guns and force them into concentration camps.

There were a few voices of reason, like the Skeet Shooting instructor worried that his team won’t be able to use the weapons required for their sport, and the gentleman who questioned why it is that when a young black man shoots someone, he’s thrown in jail, but when a young white man commits the same crime he must be “mentally ill.”

In truth, I don’t know how we are going to solve this mess.  I feel responsible that we let it get this far.  Where was I in 2004 when the assault weapons ban expired?  See what happens when we get complacent?  I didn’t take to the streets when Al Gore was fighting for the presidency, and look where that apathy got us – Iraq, The Patriot Act, financial collapse, an expired assault weapons ban, too many shameful legacies of George W. Bush to name in my current state of exhaustion.  My point is that I listened to hours of testimony from people who are genuinely terrified to not have these weapons.  Gun control?  How could we have let it get this far out of control?  I will write more after I’ve had a few hours of sleep.

Here’s my testimony: