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Sharp shooter: Brooklyn teen gives NRA a smart lesson in gun control

(Editorial on NY Daily News)

Of the many arguments that can and should be made for toughening New York‘s gun control laws, few match the simple power of what 17-year-old Kristine Arroyo of Brooklyn said and did yesterday in Albany.

Kristine was behind the microphone at a rally of 250 fellow high school students organized by New Yorkers Against Gun Violence. She was speaking from the heart about people she knew who had been shot to death, including a 17-year-old boy from Boerum Hill last weekend.

Then she noticed that a dozen or so National Rifle Association members – also in Albany to lobby – had stopped by to listen. Earlier, she had overheard one of their number saying that people like her need an “education” on the meaning of the Second Amendment.

So Kristine asked the mostly black and Latino kids in her audience to stand up if they knew someone who had been shot to death. About 200 rose to their feet, probably three-quarters of the crowd.

Row upon row of young people stood in somber testimony to the deadly havoc guns wreak on the streets of New York and other cities.

“I want everybody here to look,” Kristine said to the NRA supporters. “We don’t need to be educated.”

She’s right. The ones who need education are those who oppose common-sense gun controls.

Such as using microstamping technology so shell casings can be easily traced to the gun that fired them.

Such as putting an expiration date on gun permits so they are not good ad infinitum, as is the case across most of New York State.

Such as cracking down on the minority of gun dealers who flout laws and requiring background checks on their employees.

Well done, Kristine. New York could use more leaders like you.

Filed under: Editorial, , ,

Gun violence is more serious plague than swine flu scare

By Cynthia Tucker, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The deadly contagion is spreading, striking down young and old, well-heeled and downtrodden, sophisticates and illiterates. Last year alone, the affliction killed thousands in Mexico and even more in the United States.

Not swine flu. Gun violence. While federal and state authorities are preoccupied with preventing a swine flu pandemic from overwhelming the United States, the epidemic of gun violence rages on, unabated and little noted.

Last Saturday, George Zinkhan III, a well-respected University of Georgia professor, took two handguns to a community theater and killed his wife, Marie Bruce, and two of her theater colleagues while wounding two others, police said. Zinkhan left his 10-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son in his car while he went on his bloody rampage, according to authorities. Then, he dropped the children off at a neighbor’s house —- he explained he had an emergency —- and fled, police said.

Don’t expect that this latest mass killing will arouse any more outrage or prod any more public action than those that preceded it. In March and April, gunmen of curious motive and deranged sentiment opened fire in a nursing home, a community center, their own homes and public spaces, killing family, friends and strangers.

Among the lowlights of this savage spring were the murders of two children of Devan Kalathat, who shot them and three other relatives before he killed himself; the murders of five children of James Harrison, who killed them before committing suicide; and the murders of the daughter and nephew of Kevin Garner, who, similarly, killed his estranged wife, his sister and the children before turning his gun on himself, law enforcement officials said. The shootings produced outpourings of grief and outbursts of anger but few calls for tighter gun laws.

In fact, state legislatures in the South, including the Georgia General Assemly, have recently loosened laws that deal with weapons in public places. In Georgia, gun owners with concealed-carry permits may now take their firearms into state parks, onto public transit and into many bars and restaurants.

Moreover, the sales of firearms and ammunition have soared over the last several months, sparked by the election of President Barack Obama and the belief that Democratic control of the White House and Congress will lead to restrictions on gun ownership. It’s a strange notion with absolutely no basis in fact.

Witness Obama’s tepid response to Mexican authorities who pleaded for help in stopping the flow of deadly firearms from the United States into the hands of drug thugs.

After Attorney General Eric Holder suggested the Obama administration might push to reinstate the ban on assault weapons, which expired in 2004, the White House received a letter signed by 65 craven Democrats insisting that the president leave assault weapons alone. Obama agreed to do nothing.

We have an odd way of assessing risks. While swine flu may yet emerge as a full-scale pandemic, it hasn’t proved especially lethal so far. Even in Mexico, where public health facilities are not as well developed as in the United States, the death toll has crept past 150 but hasn’t claimed lives on the scale of drug-related gun violence.

Yet, swine flu has prompted the travel industry to brace for a panic; pharmacies report a run on supples of antivirals such as Tamiflu; and the news media have hurriedly produced new catchphrases for their round-the-clock swine flu reportage. President Obama has dispatched Cabinet-level advisers to assure Americans that his administration is doing everything necessary to prevent the spread of the disease.

If only we could muster half that hysteria over gun deaths.

Cynthia Tucker is editorial page editor. She can be reached at cynthia@ajc.com. See original editorial at ajc.com

Filed under: Comment on Gun Violence, Editorial

Threat of gunfire limits our liberty

by Mike Fox,  Letter to The Editor, Baltimore Sun

In response to Dan Rodricks’ column “On guns, we lost an opportunity” (April 21), I would say that as a nation and a people, we cannot be too vain or too fearful to address gun violence and find new ways prevent it.

The National Rifle Association and its allies would have everyone believe that any form of gun control is a slippery slope to banning guns entirely.

But are seat-belt laws and speed limits a slippery slope to banning cars?

The truth is that the NRA represents a small minority of American gun owners and that although most Americans support the right of law-abiding citizens to own guns, most also support tougher gun laws.

For all the banter about Second Amendment freedoms and gun rights, we are not truly free if we are not free from fear and free from violence in our communities and homes.Mike Fox

Filed under: Gun and liberty

NRA sues Pittsburgh mayor, council over gun law

PITTSBURGH, PA – The National Rifle Association has sued Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and the City Council over the legality of a city law requiring gun owners to report their lost or stolen guns.

The NRA says the law “severely restricts and/or infringes” on the constitutional right to keep firearms in homes. The NRA and four individuals also argue in the suit that the city does not have the authority to regulate the ownership of firearms.

The lawsuit was filed Friday in Allegheny County Court. The council approved the legislation in December, and it became law 10 days later without Ravenstahl’s signature.

The NRA also has challenged a series of gun-control measures passed by Philadelphia’s City Council.
Report from Philly.com

Filed under: News report, NRA, Pennsylvania

A Culture Soaked in Blood

By BOB HERBERT, NY Times Op-Ed —

Philip Markoff, a medical student, supposedly carried his semiautomatic in a hollowed-out volume of “Gray’s Anatomy.” Police believe he used it in a hotel room in Boston last week to murder Julissa Brisman, a 26-year-old woman who had advertised her services as a masseuse on Craigslist.

In Palm Harbor, Fla., a 12-year-old boy named Jacob Larson came across a gun in the family home that, according to police, his parents had forgotten they had. Jacob shot himself in the head and is in a coma, police said. Authorities believe the shooting was accidental.

There is no way to overstate the horror of gun violence in America. Roughly 16,000 to 17,000 Americans are murdered every year, and more than 12,000 of them, on average, are shot to death. This is an insanely violent society, and the worst of that violence is made insanely easy by the widespread availability of guns.

When the music producer Phil Spector decided, for whatever reason, to kill the actress, Lana Clarkson, all he had to do was reach for his gun — one of the 283 million privately owned firearms that are out there. When John Muhammad and his teenage accomplice, Lee Malvo, went on a killing spree that took 10 lives in the Washington area, the absolute least of their worries was how to get a semiautomatic rifle that fit their deadly mission.

We’re confiscating shampoo from carry-on luggage at airports while at the same time handing out high-powered weaponry to criminals and psychotics at gun shows.

There were ceremonies marking the recent 10th anniversary of the shootings at Columbine High School, but very few people remember a mass murder just five months after Columbine, when a man with a semiautomatic handgun opened fire on congregants praying in a Baptist church in Fort Worth. Eight people died, including the gunman, who shot himself. More on NY Times

Filed under: Comment on Gun Violence, Editorial

Who Will Face Down the Gun Lobby?

By E.J. Dionne Jr., Op-Ed of Washington Post

Try to imagine that hundreds or thousands of guns, including assault weapons, were pouring across the Mexican border into Arizona, New Mexico and Southern California, arming criminal gangs who were killing American law enforcement officials and other U.S. citizens.

Then imagine the Mexican president saying, “Well, we would really like to do something about this, but our political system makes helping you very difficult.” Wouldn’t Mexico’s usual critics attack that country’s political system for corruption and ineptitude and ask: “Why can’t they stop this lawlessness?”

That, in reverse, is the position President Obama was in last week when he visited Mexico. The Mexican gangs are able to use guns purchased in the United States because of our insanely permissive gun regulations, and Obama had to make this unbelievably clotted, apologetic statement at a news conference with Mexican President Felipe Calderón:

“I continue to believe that we can respect and honor the Second Amendment rights in our Constitution, the rights of sportsmen and hunters and homeowners who want to keep their families safe, to lawfully bear arms, while dealing with assault weapons that, as we know, here in Mexico, are helping to fuel extraordinary violence. Violence in our own country as well. Now, having said that, I think none of us are under the illusion that reinstating that ban would be easy.”

In other words: Our president can deal with all manner of big problems, but the American gun lobby is just too strong to let him push a rational and limited gun regulation through Congress.

It’s particularly infuriating that Obama offered this statement of powerlessness just a few days before today’s 10th anniversary of the massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado — and just after a spree of mass homicides across the United States took the lives of least 57 people.

No other democratic country in the world has the foolish, ineffectual gun regulations that we do. And, unfortunately, what Obama said is probably true.

Earlier this year, when Attorney General Eric Holder called for a renewal of the ban on assault weapons — he was only repeating a commitment Obama made during the presidential campaign — the response from a group of 65 pro-gun House Democrats was: No way.

Their letter to Holder was absurd. “The gun-control community has intentionally misled many Americans into believing that these weapons are fully automatic machine guns. They are not. These firearms fire one shot for every pull of the trigger.” Doesn’t that make you feel better?

Those Democrats should sit down with Gov. Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania. “Time and time again, our police are finding themselves outgunned,” Rendell said in Harrisburg last week. “They are finding themselves with less firepower than the criminals they are trying to bring to justice.”

The Democratic governor told his own state’s legislators that if they didn’t support such a ban, “then don’t come to those memorial services” for the victims of gun violence. “It’s wrong,” he said. “It’s hypocritical.”

And why can’t we at least close the gun show loophole? Licensed dealers have to do background checks on people who buy guns. The rules don’t apply at gun shows, which, as the Violence Policy Center put it, have become “Tupperware Parties for Criminals.”

But too many members of Congress are “petrified” of the gun lobby, says Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.), a crusader for sane gun legislation ever since her husband was killed and her son paralyzed by a gunman on the Long Island Rail Road in 1993.

Family members of the victims of gun violence, she says, are mystified by Congress’s inability to pass even the most limited regulations. “Why can’t you just get this done?” she is asked. “What is it you don’t understand?”

Obama, at least, should understand this: He was not elected by the gun lobby. It worked hard to rally gun owners against him — and failed to stop him.

According to a 2008 exit poll, Obama received support from just 37 percent among voters in households where guns are present — barely more than John Kerry’s 36 percent in 2004. But among the substantial majority of households that don’t have guns, Obama got 65 percent, up eight points from Kerry. Will Obama stand up for the people who actually voted for him?

Yes, I understand about swing voters, swing states, the priority of the economy and all that. But given Congress’s default to the apologists for loose gun laws, it will take a president to make something happen.

Filed under: Editorial, Gun politics

Have We Reached the Tipping Point on Guns?

By Cenk Uygur, Host of The Young Turks

How many shootings do there have to be in the news before we wonder about the wisdom of allowing just about anyone to get a gun in America? Our gun culture is completely out of control.

In just the last two days we have had 13 people killed in Binghamton, NY with a 9 mm and a .45-caliber, three police officers shot and killed in Pittsburgh with an assault rifle and two other guns, and a five children killed with a shotgun in Washington at the hands of their own father. How many will it take before we say enough is enough?

How about the eight people killed in a nursing home in North Carolina a couple of days before these shootings? How about the ten killed in Alabama a couple of weeks earlier? Is there any point when gun rights advocates would admit that we have too much gun violence in America? What will it take for them to acknowledge the most obvious thing in the world?

Of course, their answer is that we don’t have enough guns in the country. If we just allowed concealed weapons at schools, nursing homes, work, bars, airports and just about anywhere else you can imagine, then we would have less gun violence. Yes, maybe in bizzaro world, but in this world the more guns we have had in this country the more people have been shot … with guns.

The Washington case is a good example. Would that father really have been able to kill his four young daughters and his young son without a shotgun? Maybe, it’s happened before. But it would have been a hell of a lot harder and hell of a lot less likely. And what would have been the NRA alternative fix here – arm the kids?

I know it’s a political impossibility, but we need to reign in the permissive gun culture in America. I’ve gone to a shooting range several times. I get the allure of it. It’s fun and empowering. Until someone gets their head blown off. It’s madness that almost anyone can stroll into a Wal-Mart and walk out with a deadly weapon. Guns should be the hardest things to get in America, not the easiest.

So, will a sizeable group of politicians have the courage to step up and demand tighter regulations of firearms in this country after all of these shootings? Have we reached the tipping point? And if not, what will it take? How many more mass murders do we have to go through before we realize how crazy this is?

Filed under: Comment on Gun Violence