Thursday, June 23, 2016


Political Mayhem Thursday: The Congressional Sit-In

I was going to write about the usual: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton yelling about things and at each other. Have you noticed how they both sound like they are yelling all the time? Romney and Obama weren't like that in 2012. But this year, they both sound like they have been shouting all day, like crazy people.

Then something genuinely interesting happened: Democrats in Congress (including Rep. John Lewis, shown in my dad's portrait of him here) began a sit-down protest in Congress. They are objecting to the failure of Congress to consider and vote on any anti-gun legislation in the wake of the most recent mass shooting with an assault rifle, this time in Orlando.

Republicans are calling it a "publicity stunt." What do you think?

I love the portrait.

At first blush I would say "publicity stunt' is too kind. More like a shameless and tone deaf example of demagoguery at its worst. On the other hand, Progressives are always motivated by the belief that government can and should make life better for people. They are generally sincere and big-hearted (within the confines of their world view). So, I would say it is definitely a publicity stunt--but in service of a point they honestly believe is salient and in aid of government action they see as a necessary way station to a much bigger agenda to promote "public safety."
Military assault rifles and handguns make up the vast majority of sales for weapons peddlers. This is a new norm and results in the the deaths of 10s of thousands of Americans.
This is a senseless and shameful display of the power of money over reason.

Until we eliminate all military use weapons sales completely we will be complicit in all the deaths from these weapons. Their only purpose is to splatter human flesh. I have deep admiration for anyone who stands up, sits down or speaks out. Especially, the politicians who face the wrath of the gun industry.

Thanks to gerrymandering it is a publicity stunt. Unless and until more pro gun control advocates are elected to Congress, nothing will happen. The vast majority of Anti-gun control Republicans have safe seats.

MAYBE this will sway a few votes. But not enough. And that makes me sad.
Love your dad's painting! Make sure Darden sees it--John Lewis is one of his heroes.
Publicity stunt. However, the dozens of votes to rescind the ACA- that's good governance!
Why conservatives often view all this as misdirected albeit well-intentioned demagoguery?

CDC Stats from 2013. Deaths in America (selected highlights):

2,596.993 TOTAL Americans deaths (from all causes) in 2013.

614K Heart Disease

35K motor vehicle deaths
30K deaths from falls
38K poisonings
46K drug-induced
30K alcohol intoxication related

33K TOTAL deaths resulting from firearms
--500 accidental firearm deaths
--21K suicides (out of 41K total suicides)
--11K homicides by firearm (out of 16K total homicides)*

CDC does not break out firearms deaths by mass shooting (the definition of which is the subject of controversy), but the GUN VIOLENCE ARCHIVE lists out 210 deaths this year from mass shootings (including Orlando).

*9945 out of the 11,208 victims of homicide by firearm were male; 5732 of the homicide by firearms victims were non-Hispanic black males.

So, in a nation of 310,000,000+ persons (and many more than 300,000,000 firearms) and somewhere in excess of 100,000,000 law-abiding gun owners, we circle back around after every mass shooting and have this same discussion in which folks who are skeptical of gun control legislation they see as not relevant to real-world statistics and problematic in many other aspects are characterized as dupes of the gun peddlers and complicit in the gruesome deaths of our fellow Americans.

I have no financial interest in gun manufacturing. I am open to reason. I have entered objective facts into evidence. Feel free to convince me to your point of view.

I am not an attorney. That said, it seems that those who want to refuse gun sales to the people on the no- fly list have confused "suspected" with convicted. That list is notoriously inaccurate. It seems a bit iffy to deny a suspect any ctizen's rights without due processs.

The Orllando shooter had been vetted twice by the FBI and cleared. This is much more than any proposed background check

There are uses for AR-15s Feral hogs are a very dangerous varmint. They wreck ecosystems, kill native animals, and will attack humans. AR- 15s are one of the few weapons that will kill them. They breed so rapidly that trapping, etc doesn't even slow them down. In addition,these rifles are used for hunting, competition shooting, and other activities. They are tools - any tool can be misused.

The current hysteria is not a good climate for rational discussion.


PS: I am not an NRA member.
Amen to thr Waco Farmer!! Facts - not hysteria and political posturing - is needed.

WF-- How does this jive with your support for more restrictive voting laws? Certainly, there is not a significant problem with voting fraud, especially if we use the kind of analysis you employ above. And voting is certainly as much a constitutional right as gun ownership...
Hi Mark. I think my positions jive pretty good. I will remind you that I have not made a constitutional argument for gun ownership. Just between you and me, I actually think the Second Amendment argument is sort of murky. Much like the right to vote, in fact, gun rights have evolved over time and is now mostly with us as a result of Supreme Court jurisprudence as well as a vague sense that it is somehow a core American value. But I defer to you on the constitutional interpretation, as I am not anxious to get into a constitutional argument with a person who has won a Supreme Court case. Mostly I am entering into the conversation regarding "common sense" gun laws that I keep hearing we should have. Frankly, the Second Amendment is a trump card I find a bit heavy-handed and imprecise in this debate.

In closing, I will quibble with your characterization that I support more "restrictive" voting laws. By that I suspect you mean my sympathy for Voter ID requirements, which request folks show ID to vote (much like when you fly, or visit the White House, or buy Sudafed). As long as this requirement not prove onerous or a tool to discriminate on a basis prohibited by law, it seems like "common sense" to me as well as comfortably within the latitude given states to conduct elections. Of course, it is also worth noting that gun laws are designed to be much more restrictive than anything any state has proposed for voting.
A couple of brief reactions:

1. I think the Dems' sit-in was first an action taken out of principle and frustration, and (because it was unprecedented) inevitably a publicity stunt. I hate that they used the sit-in to encourage fund-raising, even while it was happening. But no other measures to get minuscule pieces of incremental gun-safety legislation passed has worked, and the whole country (supposedly) is sick of people dying in mass shootings and all kinds of gun violence.

The Dems used up a bunch of their political capital (or something . . .) on that action, but on the whole it was inspiring, to me. Recently I considered going to a big protest and civil-disobedience action at the NRA headquarters here in Northern Virginia. I've always thought I'd be willing to get arrested in a civil-disobedience action that was effective at making its point. So I did a lot of reading on the most effective civil-disobedience actions. The most effective are those are are directly disruptive of a practice that the protesting group sees as unfair, or as blocking their access to something.

I see the Dems' action as a form of civil disobedience; surely that was the model John Lewis had in mind.

2. I'm wondering how, Waco Farmer, you would measure who is a "law-abiding gun owner." How do measure those 100,000 who are law-abiding?

The notion of a "responsible" gun owner is nebulous to me, as I don't see that gun owners are asked to have any responsibility at all, once they buy a gun. And I think ownership of a lethal weapon requires more than just the honor system to ensure that people don't cross over from "responsible" and even "law-abiding" to using the weapon out of passion or fear.

Hi Amy. I define law-abiding gun owner as a person who obtained a gun legally and goes about his or her daily business within the confines of the law. In terms of "measuring" (if I understand your meaning correctly), generally, I assume fellow citizens are law abiding until they are convicted of breaking a law.
I am not a member of the NRA. I find this political stunting to be an abomination and an attempt at fund raising at the expense of great tragedy.

I would strenuously object to my government tying gun ownership to the No-Fly list which has no oversight and from which there is no appeal, and virtually no administrative remedy when errors are made. Pretty soon we will find all of us on a no-fly list except perhaps the 535 elected members of government and their armies. It would be a pretty clever way around the 2nd amendment and we would be well on our way to a suppressive government. There are reasonable approaches to gun control, but we will never find them when it is driven by political hysteria instead of rational debate.

What about mental health issues? Educational issues? Signage for the 30,000 people who fall to their deaths, or alcohol related deaths. There are all sorts of things that should occupy our legislative attention, but never surface because their remedy falls outside the election cycle or is not compelling enough to solicit campaign funds.

I might appreciate this sit-in a little more if I felt that any of these protesting law makers were more serious about affecting change than getting re-elected. My disdain for this generation of professional politicians only grows deeper with these disingenuous displays of civil caring. It doesn't seem to matter from which side of the aisle they spring, re-elected politicians seem to have shed the character and resolve that motivated them to run in the first place and replaced it with the hunger for absolute power and money. They have no shame, and no way to feel it if they did.
HI Waco Farmer--Thanks for clarifying. I'd read your post too quickly. I meant to say: How is it possible to count the number of gun owners (since there's no national database), and how do we actually know that they are all law-abiding, all the time?

I suppose I'm quibbling with your use of "law-abiding" at all, to describe gun owners, because it seems to me an assumption, a descriptor, unnecessarily attached to a data point.

For me, the point is the guns themselves and what they are capable of. My bias is that any gun owner who's law-abiding can become law-breaking too easily, even unintentionally, because of the nature of the weapon. (And beyond that, my reasoning gets muddy and my emotion takes over on this topic . . .)

Thank you, Amy. I hear you on that number. Frankly, it has bothered me as well for the same reason. While true there is no national data base, there have been some attempts to come up with a number (see below for an NBC News report on one of those studies). Usually, these instruments come up with somewhere between 25 percent to one third of Americans owning guns ( 80,000,000 to 105,000,000). I went high because 100,000,000 was a nice round number that makes math easier for me. Again, I don't like going high. Let's be conservative and say 80 million. Or let's be really conservative and say 75 million. My point: this a HUGE number (especially compared to the number of Americans committing crimes with guns).

As for our assumptions, I am assuming these gun owners are mostly not criminals, do not have criminal records, and are not currently engaging in gun crimes for which they have escaped justice.

I appreciate your push back on this assumption. According to recent reports, the percentage of Americans who drag around criminal records is very high and growing: maybe as high as 70 million. The Brennan Center asserts that 1/3 of all Americans will be arrested by the age of 23. These statistics are highly disturbing on every level, but they might also explain in part the decreasing level of legal gun ownership in America. That is, as the pool of legally eligible citizens decreases, legal gun ownership decreases in turn. And, as most of these gun ownership surveys suggest, while the total amount of legal gun owners decreases, the "law-abiding" gun-owning population steadily becomes more white and more affluent.

As for your assumption that guns in themselves are the focus of crime--and the potential for guns themselves to incite demons within the hearts of otherwise good people--there I suppose is the national debate in a nutshell. While seemingly, necessarily true on its face (at least for some people in possession of a gun), the "pro gun folks" (who are also emotional in their defense of their perceived "rights") would argue that the vast majority of "law-abiding" gun owners are actually quite passive and self-defense oriented (and perhaps they have the numbers on their side: approx. 8,000-10,000 criminal homicides per year among 80,000,000+ gun owners--an incidence of .000125 percent).

Thank you again, Amy. These are tough questions completely lacking in simple answers (or even simple mutually agreeable frameworks in which to craft complicated solutions). But I really do appreciate your thoughtful and considerate engagement. Your questions are provocative and push me to think deeper.

"One in Three Americans Own Guns; Culture a Factor, Study Finds"

"Just Facts: As Many Americans Have Criminal Records As College Diplomas" (Brennan Center For Justice: NYU Law School):
Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?