Tag Archive for guns

Living in a police state

ferguson

Looking at the photos and footage of Ferguson, MO., reminds me of a war zone — almost any war zone. Tanks, tear gas, smoke bombs …

I remember the uprising in Hungary of 1956. I was 4, but I remember the tanks rolling down the streets toward unarmed civilians. I remember my mother crying because the US wouldn’t intervene. It is one of my earliest memories.

In Ferguson, it started with the murder of an unarmed 18-year-old. Would he have been slain if he was white? I doubt it.

Police say he went for the officer and tried to take his gun; a witness said his hands were in the air when he was shot.

Michael Brown was two days away from starting college. He was not a thug.

When people came out to protest, they were met with police in riot gear, police who assumed they would be violent, and when people became combative, they were met with military force.

The mayor has refused to identify the police officer who shot Michael Brown, fearing for the officer’s safety. Well, what about the safety of our teenagers?

Oh well, it was a mistake. Why is everyone so upset?

It upsets me because of the frequency with which black men are shot, choked and beaten by white police officers.

It upsets me because the media always look for the least flattering photo of the person who was killed.

Oh look. He’s wearing a hoodie. Guilty!

It upsets me when people who knew and loved him become outraged and demonstrate against the police tactics and they are met with a full-on war machine.

This isn’t the billy clubs of the 1968 Democratic Convention; these are tactics used in combat.

The county’s police chief trained in anti-terrorist tactics in Israel in 2009. What he learned and what his happening is war waged against citizens.

According to reports, police fired tear gas and rubber bullets near a crew from the TV network Al Jazeera America. In a statement, the network said that “Al Jazeera is stunned by this egregious assault on freedom of the press that was clearly intended to have a chilling effect on our ability to cover this important story.”

Two reporters were arrested while they were in a McDonald’s. They later were released without charges being filed, but the police got what they wanted out of it: fewer reporters on the scene to witness and tell the world what’s happening.

I had the privilege to hear the Rev. Dr. James Cone speak a few weeks ago. Cone is the “father of Black Theology,” and he was speaking about his latest book, “The Cross and the Lynching Tree.” 

As I listened to Cone and as I read his words, I come to understand that lynchings are still going on in this country, and I have begun to call the deaths of unarmed black men just that.

As I participate in Moral Mondays and develop close friendships with people of color, I become more aware of racism in our society. I see how my friends are treated. I hear what people say.

I realize I have been insulated, even though I thought I was aware of the racism around me before this last year. I saw the institutional racism and the injustices in our “justice” system. But I know now it goes deeper than I ever imagined.

Old friends tell me I am being radical, but I disagree. Black men are shot, strangled and beaten by police at an astronomically higher rate than whites. A few months ago in Durham, NC, police claimed that a young black man who had been searched and was handcuffed in the back of a police car, had shot himself in the head. When people turned out to protest, they were met with police in militarized riot gear.

Last week, a middle-aged African-American man with asthma was choked to death when he tried to stop police from beating another man. I saw that one because somebody videoed it.

I saw video of police beating two men on private property because they were videoing the officers with their cell phones.

The police are supposed to be there to protect us, but now they are working to silence us and to hide their own actions.

I understand that police have to prevent violence from spreading, but maybe they could prevent it by not killing innocent black men and boys.

Maybe if police told the truth from the outset. “Yes, it appears an innocent person was shot and killed. The officer is under arrest.”

Would people be as quick to riot then?

Yesterday on Facebook, a white man commented on a thread that black people should understand that justice will prevail.

It’s nice to be white and believe that, but if you’re not white and/or wealthy, there is little justice for you. And if you protest, you will be met by military force.

 

I stand with Richard Martinez

Richard Martinez holds a picture of his son, who was killed by a gunman over the weekend.

Richard Martinez holds a picture of his son, who was killed by a gunman over the weekend.

You might think your vote doesn’t matter, but it does.

When you stay home instead of going to the polls, the lobbyists and the big corporations get the people they want — people who won’t pass ANY gun safety laws; people who support fracking; people who will slash basic safety net programs and who refuse to expand Medicaid.

Yesterday, Richard Martinez, the father of a young man who was killed by an angry young man with three legally obtained semi-automatic weapons, said he will spend the rest of his life working for change.

He choked through tears that he wants this gun madness to stop, and he said, “My son is dead and there is nothing they could do to me that is worse than that.”

I’ve been saying that since my own son died from neglect because he couldn’t get access to health care, and I have worked for expanded access to health care.

Now Richard Martinez will work for sensible gun laws, and I am with him. He said he fears nothing because the worst thing that can happen to anyone has happened to him.

But every time it looks as though we might get just one piece of sensible legislation through, it falls flat.

What do get passed are laws allowing guns anywhere — in malls, in parks, in fast-food restaurants. And as soon as those laws are passed and signed, we see semi-automatic weapons strapped to people in line at Chick-fil-A and Sonic. A woman was shot at a Walmart when someone’s gun went off accidentally, although I hardly think of it as an accident when someone purposely takes a loaded gun shopping.

I am tired of the pro-gun talking points:

“Guns don’t kill people; people do.”

Answer: People with guns kill more people than anything else. In domestic disputes, if there’s no gun handy, it rarely ends in murder. If people with active mental illnesses couldn’t gain access to semi-automatic weapons, Richard’s son still would be alive, as would all the children in Newtown, Conn., not to mention the people who were in the theater at Aurora, Col., the people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin and on and on and on …

“Well then, why don’t we outlaw knives and cars? They kill people too.”

Answer: First of all, they don’t kill nearly as many people as guns do, and secondly, they have other uses; they are not manufactured solely for the purpose of killing people.

“I have a Second Amendment right to my guns.”

Answer: Not so much. The Second Amendment has been interpreted — after much lobbying by the gun industry — as meaning we all can have as many guns as we want, but the the amendment reads: 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 part about the well regulated militia? I don’t often hear mention of that when people argue the amendment gives all of us unfettered access to whatever guns we want to play with. The amendment was adopted because the United States had no standing army at the time and George Washington didn’t want one. The amendment should have been repealed when we established a standing army.

“We just need to keep guns out of the hands of people with mental illnesses.”

The young man who killed Richard’s son was deeply troubled. His family tried to intervene, but to no avail. He wanted to stop taking his medications, so he did. He was over 18 so no one could force him into treatment. And despite the young man’s history, he was able to buy three semi-automatic weapons. Maybe we could keep them out of the hands of people who have psychiatric issues, but we don’t.

The lack of willingness on the part of Congress to pass any kind of gun safety legislation because of their fear of the NRA and gun manufacturers speaks loudly about how important it is that we get out and vote for people with the guts to stand up to these greedy bastards.

I have said it again and again: I don’t object to people who want to hunt or target shoot owning guns, but I do want to see someone charged with murder every time a child is killed while playing with a gun. It’s no accident if there’s a loaded gun in the house and a child is killed while playing with it; the charge should be manslaughter, if not murder.

One final talking point:

“You’ll have to pry my gun out of my cold, dead hands.”

Answer: OK.

 

 

Four dead, three troopers hurt

A protester at Wayne LaPierre's press conference Friday injects a little truth into the proceedings.

A protester at Wayne LaPierre’s press conference Friday injects a little truth into the proceedings.

It’s what you call irony.

National Rifle Association lobbyist Wayne LaPierre was still talking, telling us we need more, not fewer guns, that armed teachers are the solution to mass shootings in schools, as a man walked up and down a street just outside of Altoona, Pa., shooting people, killing four, according to early reports.

Among the injured are three –armed – state troopers. These are people whose job it is to stop people with guns and he shot three of them. We don’t know yet whether any of the dead are troopers.

It seems to me that something is trying to tell us that LaPierre and his ilk are full of shit. More guns is not the solution to gun violence.

Do we put guns on school buses next? Do we arm crossing guards? Remember, this latest shooting was a man walking up and down the street.

Where does the arming cease? Do we provide Sunday school teachers with an arsenal, just in case?

I’m tired of the killing, aren’t you?

I don’t think we should spend another moment listening to the NRA. I don’t even care of you’re a responsible gun owner who loves target shooting and hunting. If you believe more guns will stem the violence, you are wrong. Period.

I have tried to respect other opinions because I have a lot of friends who are responsible gun owners, but we need to control guns. We need to stand up to the bullies in the NRA and tell them where they can put their guns and ammo.

I have listened to the “other side” of the gun debate and I have reached the conclusion that they no longer deserve our time and respect. The NRA represents gun manufacturers, not gun owners. I don’t even care of we repeal the damned Second Amendment. Our gun “laws” now have nothing to do with the founders’ intentions anyway.

We have the Second Amendment because George Washington didn’t believe we needed a standing army; that well-regulated militias would suffice. It wasn’t meant for every person to have an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. That was the totally twisted interpretation by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

As my husband says, “Piss on your Second Amendment rights! What about the rights of innocent people to live their lives?”

It’s time to regulate guns. It’s well past time, actually.

To those who disagree that increased regulation will help stem the tide of violence, with all due respect, piss off. I’m tired of listening to it as people die by the tens of thousands in this country.

 

Bob Costas was right

Let me start by saying I don’t want to take away everyone’s guns. I’ve been target shooting and had a good time. I approve of hunting as long as the hunter uses the animal for more than a trophy.

But the United States has an appallingly high murder rate and it’s because guns are so readily available.

Someone who has had domestic violence charges against him (or her) should not have a loaded gun in the bedside table drawer. Someone who has committed a violent crime of any sort should not have access to a gun.

For someone with anger issues, a gun is just too handy, and Jovan Belcher’s actions followed the classic profile of an abuser. He snapped, killed his girlfriend and then felt so guilty he killed himself.

According to the National Coalition against Domestic Violence, there are 16,800 homicides and 2.2 million (medically treated) injuries due to intimate partner violence each year, and the cost is $37 billion.

According to the Violence Prevention Center, “an analysis of female domestic homicides (a woman murdered by a spouse, intimate acquaintance, or close relative) showed that prior domestic violence in the household made a woman 14.6 times more likely, and having one or more guns in the home made a woman 7.2 times more likely, to be the victim of such a homicide.”

In other words, if abusers didn’t have guns (and federal law prohibits anyone with an order of protection filed against them because of domestic violence to have a gun), the murder rate among women would go down dramatically.

I’m really, really tired of hearing that guns don’t kill people; people do. People with ready access to guns kill some 10,000 people in this country every year. The only countries that rank higher in gun deaths are South Africa, Colombia and Thailand. Even Mexico ranks below us.

The United States leads the world in gun ownership, with 88.8 guns per 100 people, and 34 percent of Americans owning guns. That includes collectors, many of whom own antique guns that no longer work. But it also includes people who think they need an arsenal of guns to battle the United Nations’ black helicopters.

In terms of gun homicide rate (per 100,000 population), only eight nations — Colombia, Guatemala, Paraguay, Zimbabwe, Mexico, Costa Rica, Belarus and Barbados — beat the United States, which registers 2.97 homicide gun deaths per 100,000 people.

Most other developed nations run just a fraction of our per capita gun death rate:
Switzerland (0.56), Canada (0.54), Germany (0.47), Finland (0.43), Ireland (0.32), Denmark (0.26), England (0.12), Australia, Japan, Korea? way, way below us, and Singapore at 0.02 and Hong Kong at 0.01 barely even register.

We need to have a conversation. This is not about Obama coming to take your guns, it’s about making guns a little less available to people who use them to kill other people. It’s not about whether Bob Costas was out of line when he talked about the Jovan Belcher murder-suicide, it’s about starting a serious conversation.

We don’t need assault weapons. We don’t need guns that shoot a hundred shots a minute. We don’t need guns in every home.

Bob Costas was talking truth when he quoted Fox News columnist Jason Whitlock. And since Costas often offers up commentary during football halftime, his words were not inappropriate.

The National Rifle Association has turned the conversation from responsible gun ownership and reasonable regulation to advocacy for a free-for-all that’s just short of anarchy.

It’s time to steer the conversation back to a reasonable course. Remember, the Second Amendment talks about “a well regulated militia,” not about every home having an unregulated cache of assault weapons.

 

Trayvon Martin belongs to all of us

"Whatever you do to the least of these, you do also to me." Trayvon belonged to all of us, and his death diminishes all of us.

Florida’s Stand Your Ground law means that Trayvon Martin’s killer likely won’t be punished for his deed.

The law was written by ALEC (the Koch Brothers and NRA-funded American Legislative Exchange Council) and the gun lobby to enhance the sale of guns. The NRA long ago stopped lobbying for gun owners; now it represents the gun lobby, especially gun manufacturers.

This no longer is about the Second Amendment; it is about selling guns to frightened citizens. Hey, if someone like George Zimmerman were following me, I’d need a gun to protect myself.

Here’s the deal, though: If all the African-Americans in Florida got guns because of the Stand Your Ground law, it would be repealed pretty quickly. I’m certain that if the roles had been reversed and Trayvon Martin had felt threatened and shot Zimmerman, young Trayvon would be sitting in jail charged with murder.

Zimmerman had no reason to feel threatened. He didn’t live in the gated community where he shot and killed Trayvon Martin, and his 911 call that night was not his first; in fact, there were more than 90 such calls to police in the year leading up to the murder, and most were about suspicious looking African-American males.

A newer photo shows Trayvon looking a little less saintly than the one most widely circulated. It is next to a photo of Zimmerman in a suit and tie and it claims media bias because these aren’t the images we see the most. Frankly, I don’t care about the image. Trayvon was a kid who had Skittles and iced tea in his hands. He committed no crime; he died because he happened to walk across the gun sight of George Zimmerman, a stalker who was, and is, dangerous.

I know a little bit of what Trayvon’s mother feels like, having lost a son who should still be alive. But my son was killed by a broken health care system, not a hate-filled vigilante; I at least got to say goodbye.

Trayvon Martin belongs to all of us. He was our child.

When Emmett Till was murdered by a racist gang of white men in Mississippi in August 1955, his mother said that the act that killed her son diminished us all, and that is true of this case. We live in a society where people tout the Second Amendment as an excuse to allow the murder of an innocent 17-year-old.

In my mind, there is no excuse. Laws like Florida’s Stand Your Ground law exist in 23 states, including North Carolina, where I live. That’s nearly half the nation. Could an African-American kid walking through my neighborhood be shot in cold blood and his killer get away with it?

The Second Amendment doesn’t give us the right to murder children who make us nervous.

Zimmerman said in his 911 call that the kid was wearing a hoodie. Hell, I wear hoodies, and I’m hardly a threat. In fact, I wore a pullover with a hood to church yesterday.

A lot of homeless people wear hoodies to keep themselves warm. Does that make them expendable?

These same people who scream that any control of firearms is unconstitutional are the same ones who claim to be pro-life, who believe they have the right to shoot to kill  someone who makes them nervous.

You can’t have it both ways, people.

I’m OK with the Second Amendment, but not with the length to which it has been interpreted to mean we deserve a free-for-all gunfight whenever someone makes us nervous.

 

A mad dash to the right

The NC legislative session isn’t even finished yet and I feel like I’ve been run over by a truck. As the effects of this disastrous session begin to be felt across the state, I’m sure other North Carolinians will feel the same way.

Across the state, thousands of classroom personnel — teachers and teacher assistants, will lose their jobs, even though the Republican leadership denies it’s happening. As usual, if they say something isn’t real, then it must not be happening. That’s what you get when you live in your own little bubble where you don’t have to have compassion for anyone else.

Women who seek to end their pregnancies will have to listen to an anti-abortion lecture and wait 24 hours, even if they’re pregnant by an abusive partner who would beat the crap out of them if he found out. It’s as though we shouldn’t be allowed to make decisions about our own bodies unless the right agrees with those decisions.

The new “austerity” budget, which contains deep, deep cuts to education and health care programs, wasn’t about money, according to Rep. Tim Moffit, whose district includes Arden and Candler, “it’s about policy.”

Well, policy follows the money. Your priorities are where you put — or take away — the dollars, and it’s clear that this legislature prefers corporations to humans and right-wing “moral” values to compassion.

Medicaid will lose some of its “optional” services, such as specialized housing and other necessary services for people with severe disabilities. Instead of living in intermediate care facilities, they will be moved to nursing homes, where they won’t get the occupational, physical and speech therapy and other amenities that make their lives worth living. They’ll be warehoused.

People on Medicaid will lose their eye and hearing care. No glasses, no hearing aids.

I don’t see these things as optional, but the people in the North Carolina General Assembly do.

They have gutted environmental protections and made it harder for the state to collect taxes from corporations.

They have made it harder to vote, eliminating same-day registration, shortening early voting and requiring a photo ID from every voter. These measures affect poor and minority populations the most — those who would be most likely to vote against the right.

And if you get really pissed off and want to yell at one of these cads? Well, they’re trying to pass a law that allows them to carry guns into the legislative parking lot, so you don’t want to make them feel threatened.

But you don’t have to vote for them again. Remember this session come Election Day, and you might want to shoot an e-mail to your representative and senator to let him or her know you’ve been watching.

 

 

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