Saturday, December 22, 2012

Today, A Modest Holiday Wish

Today's daily double features NY Fishwrap Op-Ed pieces from [1] Andrew Rosenthal, the Fishwrap's editorial page editor and [2] regular columnist Timothy Egan. Rosenthal responds to the NRA-solution to gun violence in the USA: more guns. Eags reminds us that Grover Norquist sits on the NRA board of directors. So, in yoking the the NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre with Grover Norquist, the founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform, gives us a double-serving of stupidity today. These fools would perpetuate the madness of all of the gun violence. In the meantime, gun sales have skyrocketed because the gun-nuts fear federal confiscation of their beloved killer-weapons and killer-ammunition. If this is a (fair & balanced) wish for a pair of well-deserved funerals of (delicious irony here) two prominent gunshot victims, so be it.

P.S. Helpful hint from the blogger: click on the bracketed numbers below to hop from one item to another; click on "Back To Directory" to return to the starting point.

[Vannevar Bush HyperlinkBracketed NumbersDirectory]
[1] The "More Guns" Argument, Thanks To Andrew Rosenthal
[2] Paper Tigers And Glass-jawed Bullies, Thanks To Timothy Egan

[1]Back To Directory
[NY Fishwrap]
The "More Guns" Argument
By Andrew Rosenthal

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Of the many specious arguments against gun control, perhaps the most ridiculous is that what we really need is the opposite: more guns, in the hands of more people, in more places. If people were packing heat in the movies, at workplaces, in shopping malls and in schools, they could just pop up and shoot the assailant.

Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, which is like the National Rifle Association only nuttier, said the other day: “Gun control supporters have the blood of little children on their hands. Federal and state laws combined to insure that no teacher, no administrator, no adult had a gun at the Newtown school where the children were murdered.”

Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, echoed that sentiment this morning. “The only thing that will stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” he said.

I see it differently: About the only thing more terrifying than a lone gunman firing into a classroom or a crowded movie theater is a half a dozen more gunmen leaping around firing their pistols at the killer, which is to say really at each other and every bystander. It’s a police officer’s nightmare.

In the movies, the bad guys can empty 200 rounds at the Green Hornet and miss every time, while the good guys can knock a man off a fire escape from 200 feet with a rusty pistol, but here are a few facts from the real world:

In 1999, New York police officers who were actually trained to use their weapons when seconds count (i.e., unlike civilians), fired 41 shots at Amadou Diallo and missed 22 times.

Last August, two New York police officers fired 16 rounds in an altercation with an armed man outside the Empire State Building. Ten people were hit – the gunman and nine bystanders.

Does anyone think armed civilians without training would do better?

Apparently, Mr. Pratt does. “The only thing accomplished by gun free zones is to insure that mass murderers can slay more before they are finally confronted by someone with a gun,” he said.

And so does Michele Fiore, a Republican member of the Nevada Assembly who likes getting photographed with her piece on her hip. She believes her bill to “allow students and others with permits to carry concealed weapons on the campuses of the Nevada System of Higher Education” doesn’t go far enough. “[W]e might have to have an armed employee at the schools, that’s a measure,” she said.

(That’s actually a step up the logic food chain, believe it or not, from Charlotte Allen, who wrote in the National Review Online that we should all think of “what Sandy Hook might have been like if a couple of male teachers who had played high-school football, or even some of the huskier 12-year-old boys, had converged on” the killer. Answer: two dead teachers and some dead 12 year olds.)

Mother Jones reported the other day, based on a pretty thorough look at mass shootings, that “not one of the 62 mass shootings in the United States over the last 30 years has been stopped” by an armed civilian. In a couple of cases a bystander subdued the gunman after the fact. In a couple of other cases, attempted interventions went horribly wrong, with well-intentioned civilians shot dead or wounded by the assailants.

While other advanced countries have imposed gun control laws, America has conducted a natural experiment in what happens when a society has as many guns as people. The results are in, and they’re not counterintuitive. Ω

[Andrew Rosenthal is the editorial page editor of The New York Times. Rosenthal graduated from the University of Denver with a B.A. degree in American history. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.]

[2]Back To Directory
[x NY Fishwrap]
Paper Tigers And Glass-jawed Bullies
By Timothy Egan

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On Friday, after a week of hiding, the National Rifle Association will attempt to explain why it has spent more than two decades trying to ensure that weapons of mass murder are accessible to madmen. They will probably make pious remarks about the children slaughtered one week ago, divert attention to the moral rot of Hollywood and secular society, and throw out other distractions as part of their promised “contribution” to solving a uniquely American pathology.

Don’t expect any concessions on their most illogical claim: that arming kindergarten teachers, movie-theater ushers and shopping-mall Santas will make us all safer. But whatever they say, let’s be clear about what’s happening in the early days of a possible holiday miracle: The all-powerful gun lobby is in retreat, its ideas exposed, by events, as fraudulent constructs.

At the same time, the N.R.A.’s partner in political obstruction, Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, is on the run as well. (Norquist, who famously said he wants to drown government in the bathtub, is also on the N.R.A.’s board.) After getting nearly every Republican politician to make a pledge to him to never raise taxes, Norquist this week waved it off — with a flimsy excuse that a tax increase, but only on millionaires, would be O.K. After all the sermons on virtue, you can be half-pregnant!

When the Berlin Wall fell 23 years ago, what started with a couple of hammer swings against an irrational barrier quickly became an irresistible force. At such moments in history, the impossible is self-evident.

So it is in the first cracks in the two most formidable obstacles to progress on guns and taxes. Every valid poll shows that a majority of Americans favor bans on high-capacity ammunition clips and military-style assault weapons. A huge majority — 74 percent in a recent Washington Post/ABC News survey — also say it is “acceptable” to raise taxes on those making more than $250,000 a year. Yet the will of the people has been consistently thwarted. Why? Because, for a representative democracy, we’ve ceded an inordinate amount of power to a pair of unelected lobbies.

By threat and force, the gun and anti-tax extremists have been able to stop every sensible plea for reform. And by sensible, I mean a tax increase that is still less than the one Bill Clinton put through to great prosperity, and gun restrictions favored by presidents like Ronald Reagan.

Bullying is the favorite tactic of these political thugs in K Street suits, but as the last week has shown, they are also cowards. Wayne LaPierre of the N.R.A. was quick to rush to the airwaves a few weeks ago after a pro football player shot his girlfriend and himself.

“The American public is disgusted,” he said. “The American public has had their fill of what happened last night.” The violence? No. He was condemning the sportscaster Bob Costas for daring to suggest that we have a conversation about what it means to live and die in the most armed society in history.

If only, he said, gun victims had weapons of their own. Sadly, Nancy Lanza was armed to the teeth, but it couldn’t save her from her own son. The Greek tragedy of Ms. Lanza’s supplying the weapon for her murder proved once again what all the empirical evidence shows: that if you have a gun at home it’s most likely to be used on a family member or someone you know.

The N.R.A. went dark in the week after the school massacre not out of some respect for the dead children, but because it could not make, with a straight face, the absurd argument that if only little kids had been armed they could have saved themselves.

It was left to the politicians owned by the gun lobby to have us view the carnage as the price of freedom. “There’s nothing you’re going to do to prevent evil from occurring,” said Representative Virginia Foxx, a Republican of North Carolina.

So the first things to go in the crumbling of these two special-interest titans are their core arguments. Newtown is wretched proof of the utter vacuity of the gun lobby’s excuses, but every comparison to other industrial nations makes the case as well.

On the tax side, it couldn’t be more perfect that Grover Norquist ended up making the argument against himself. For a quarter-century he’s latched the Republican Party to an iron-clad pledge that any tax increase is bad. And then, in a last-minute bit of theater on behalf of the chronically inept House speaker, John A. Boehner, on Wednesday, Norquist caved — and said Republicans who voted to let taxes rise on millionaires could do so without consequence.

The second thing to fall — and it’s coming down as quickly as the policy foundations — is the myth of the reach and power of the gun and anti-tax lobbies. In the last election, the N.R.A.’s return on investment was almost as bad as Karl Rove’s, losing six of seven Senate races where they spent more than $100,000.

Norquist has faced significant deserters among a small number of Republicans, most notably Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, who said, “I’m not going to be beholden to any third party.”

But should other politicians remain beholden to these spent forces, they would do so at their peril. A fresh CNN/ORC poll finds that, for the first time, a majority of Americans view the Republican party as “too extreme.”

The party leaders can follow their captors to the edge of irrelevancy, or make a fresh break. Either way, they should not look back, as Satchel Paige said, because something might be gaining on them — the future. Ω

[Timothy Egan writes "Outposts," a column at the NY Fishwrap online. Egan — winner of both a Pulitzer Prize in 2001 as a member of a team of reporters who wrote the series "How Race Is Lived in America" and a National Book Award (The Worst Hard Time in 2006) — graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in journalism, and was awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters by Whitman College in 2000 for his environmental writings. Egan's most recent book is The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America (2009).]

Copyright © 2012 The New York Times Company

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