Gun Control Shouldn’t Be This Hard

November 16, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Before the gun lobby or its sycophants in Congress bring out their usual talking points for why we can’t ever have common sense gun reform, I’d like to shoot one of them down. No pun intended.

We just saw what happens when a bad guy with a gun is met by a good guy with a gun. In Sutherland Springs, Texas, when a mass shooter attacked churchgoers, he was eventually confronted by another armed civilian.

But before the good guy got there with his gun, 26 people were fatally wounded.

A Well-Regulated Militia Actually, hold the regulation please. (Khalil Bendib / OtherWords.org)

A Well-Regulated Militia – Actually, hold the regulation please.
(Khalil Bendib / OtherWords.org)

 

I’ve already heard discussions about fixing the problem by having more people bring guns to church, as the attorney general of Texas recently suggested.

What about other ways to prevent gun deaths? How about any solution other than “more guns”?

Every time I hear discussions about one reform or another — universal background checks, banning high capacity magazines, banning assault rifles, etc. — I hear the exact same talking point: Criminals can get around those rules.

You could ban assault rifles, or the high capacity magazines that allow people intent on mass murder to shoot more bullets before they need to stop to reload. Perhaps some criminals would just get them illegally.

Not all mass shootings could have been prevented by background checks. For example, the Sandy Hook shooter stole guns from his mother, who legally acquired them. Background checks wouldn’t have stopped him.

Here’s the thing: These hypothetical arguments don’t need to be hypothetical. We can study them and make an informed choice.

Which reforms will simultaneously preserve freedom for hunters, gun enthusiasts, and other law abiding citizens who want to own firearms while also keeping guns out of the hands of criminals?

If there’s any will at all to reduce the death toll from guns in this country — more than 33,000 deaths a year — no doubt the country that sent a man to the moon can figure out how to do it without violating citizens’ rights.

Furthermore, just because a law may not prevent all shootings doesn’t mean it won’t prevent some shootings.

I’ve even heard a gun advocate say that regulation won’t work because it would only stop people who are too stupid to get around them from obtaining a gun.

You know what? That sounds good to me. If we can prevent every single shooting perpetrated by a stupid person, I’m for it. That’s still fewer people dying overall. It won’t get us down to zero, but refusing to do anything just because it’s a partial solution is ridiculous.

Each little bit of progress we make is a human life saved. It’s an entire family whose lives aren’t torn apart and changed forever. It’s two fewer grieving parents and four fewer grieving grandparents. It’s more children who grow up with their parents alive.

I don’t have a stake in which method we use to reduce gun violence so long as we pick something that works. It would be nice if law-abiding gun enthusiasts would help.

So let’s actually look at the data to find out how it can best be done. In fact, let’s lift the congressional ban that’s prevented the Centers for Disease Control from examining a lot of that data for the last 20 years.

Preferably before another year passes and another 33,000 Americans are dead.

OtherWords columnist Jill Richardson is the author of Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It. Distributed by OtherWords.org.

 

Buying Guns, ‘High Capacity Ammo’ Would be Harder Under Prop. 63

November 3, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

California voters will decide Tuesday whether to approve a gun- and ammunition-control initiative, the provisions of which include prohibiting the possession of large-capacity magazines.

In addition to requiring the destruction or removal from the state of large-capacity ammunition magazines, Proposition 63 would also require most individuals to pass background checks and obtain Department of Justice authorization to purchase ammunition.

The measure also:

—requires most ammunition sales be made through licensed ammunition vendors and reported to Department of Justice;

—requires lost or stolen firearms and ammunition be reported to law enforcement;

—prohibits people convicted of stealing a firearm from possessing firearms;

—establishes procedures for enforcing laws prohibiting firearm possession by felons and violent criminals; and

—requires the Department of Justice to provide information about prohibited people to the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

Passage of the initiative would result in increased state costs in the tens of millions of dollars annually related to regulating ammunition sales, likely offset by various regulatory fees authorized by the measure, according to an analysis conducted by the Legislative Analyst’s Office and Department of Finance.

There would also be an increase in court and law enforcement costs, not likely to exceed the tens of millions of dollars annually, related to removing firearms from prohibited people as part of court sentencing proceedings. These costs could be offset to some extent by fees authorized by the measure, the analysis found.

There would also be a potential increase in state and local correctional costs, not likely to exceed the low millions of dollars annually, related to new and increased penalties, according to the analysis.

“The Safety for All initiative will save lives by making it much harder for dangerous people to get guns and ammunition in California,” said its author, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a 2018 candidate for governor.

Michele Hanisee, president of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys, said the initiative “seems designed to raise Newsom’s public profile, because in reality it will do nothing to prevent mass shootings in this state nor will it have any positive effects on the safety of California residents.”

“Since ammunition will still be legal to possess, albeit more difficult to acquire, the measure does nothing to stop criminals who commit murder, which, of course, is already illegal,” Hanisee said. “It will only affect the law abiding citizens.

“It is bad public policy to enact laws which the vast majority of Californians will simply, consciously, ignore. And it is worse public policy to enact measures which will not accomplish the goals they claim.”

Bring Back the Assault Weapons Ban

June 16, 2016 by · 1 Comment 

There are moments when as a member of the ethnic press we must leverage our collective voice, to push our nation’s leaders to act in the interest of the communities we serve. This is one of those moments.

In the early morning of June 12, a gunman in Orlando, Florida entered a gay nightclub and massacred 49 people in what is the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.

Most of the victims were still in the prime of their youth, individuals – many of them from the LGBTQ community – who represented the hopes and dreams of the diverse communities from which they came. Those dreams have now been cruelly snuffed out.

As the New York Times Editorial board put it, the United States is the only nation where the term “mass shooting” is preceded by the phrase “yet another.”

It need not be this way.

FBI authorities had tracked Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old Afghan American born in New York, months before the attack. He was nevertheless able to purchase a cache of weaponry including an AR15, an assault style rifle carried by members of the U.S. military, in the week prior to his killing spree.

The military-grade AR15 fires 800 rounds-per-minute or 13 rounds-per-second. The semi-automatic version carried by Mateen and other perpetrators of mass shootings has a magazine capacity of 30 rounds and can fire bullets as fast as the shooter can pull the trigger.
Assault style weapons like the AR15 have but one purpose, which is to kill en masse. They have no place on America’s streets.

Much has been made of Mateen’s professed allegiance to terror groups, his history of domestic violence, and his alleged homophobic leanings. All of these must be and indeed are being investigated as possible factors fueling his rampage.

But what made the Orlando tragedy all too possible – in fact likely – was the ease with which guns like the AR15 are bought and sold in this country.

Data show that up to a million AR15s are purchased every year by U.S. civilians. Estimates put the number of assault style weapons now in circulation as high as 8 million. A reporter in Philadelphia chronicled her experience in acquiring an AR15, noting it took all of 7 minutes between when she showed her driver’s license, passed her background check and walked out gun in hand.

Prior to Orlando, the AR15 – which the NRA has dubbed “America’s Gun” – was used by shooters in San Bernardino, California (14 dead, 22 wounded); Newtown, Connecticut (26 dead, 2 wounded); and Aurora, Colorado (12 dead, 70 wounded).

“We have to make it harder for people who want to kill Americans to get their hands on weapons of war that let them kill dozens of innocents,” said President Obama in televised remarks Tuesday. The president angrily noted that individuals who can be placed on a no fly list are able to purchase the kind of weaponry one normally associates with a war zone.

While an assault weapons ban will not prevent future tragedies, and while it will not address the daily violence that is a tragic hallmark for far too many Americans, it will help begin to turn the bloody tide of mass shootings that is all too quickly becoming the norm in this country.

Such bans already exist in California and several other states, though the lack of similar bans in neighboring states undermines efforts to curb their presence.

Which is why action is needed at the federal level.

Already leaders in Congress, including California Democrat Dianne Feinstein, are beginning to call for a return of the 1994 ban on assault weapons sales that was allowed to expire in 2004.

New America Media, which for more than two decades has worked with ethnic media to highlight the issues most important to America’s diverse communities, supports these efforts. We call on our leaders in Washington on both sides of the political aisle to come together and act now to pass sensible gun control.

Though Tempered, We Applaud Obama’s Action on Guns

January 7, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Judging by the reactions to President Obama’s new guidelines for tightening controls on gun sales from anti-gun control hard liners, you’d think he had just ordered the total confiscation of all guns from Americans: He didn’t.

Obama’s plan seeks to boost the number of firearm purchases that are recorded and speed up an improve background checks of gun buyers.

His plan falls short of closing a loophole that allows some gun dealers to not report gun sales at gun shows. Rather, the president’s plan calls for warning gun sellers that they could face prosecution if they don’t register with the government or fail to conduct background checks.

The president called for redefining who can be considered a gun dealer so that any person who transfers or sells a firearm to another person for profit must conduct a background check of the person who receives the firearm.

It also requires dealers to report lost or stolen guns.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan said Obama’s plan amounts to “intimidation” of the country’s law-abiding citizens. He said the president’s plan “undermines liberty.”

We don’t see the problems Ryan and pro-guns allege.

These same people are often the first to support other restrictions on civil liberties and the right to privacy, saying that if you are not guilty, you should have nothing to worry about if the government decides to spy on you, monitor your movements, or subject you to other forms of intrusion in the name of security.

We believe it’s completely reasonable for persons wanting to buy a firearm, a potentially lethal weapon, to be subjected to a background check, and to restrict the mentally ill from purchasing firearms.

What’s unreasonable is to say that just because the checks will not identify every single person who may use the weapon to harm an innocent person, we should not do any checks at all.

We also want to congratulate Mr. Obama for his effort to get the country to accept his very tempered effort to stop the mass shootings, the large number of suicides and wounding of innocent bystanders.

Where is our compassion for the victims? Those already killed or wounded, and those who will be the victims of gun violence in the future?

Local Leaders Praise Obama’s Action on Guns

January 7, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Democratic leaders and local officials in Los Angeles hailed President Barack Obama’s executive gun measures Tuesday, saying policies to increase background checks for gun purchases and other steps will help reduce gun violence, while pro-gun groups called the actions an overreach
of presidential powers.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said she is “very pleased (the president) is using his authority to bring some sanity to our gun laws and keep guns out of the hands of criminals and other potentially dangerous individuals.”

The senator said Obama’s executive actions target “loopholes that allow felons and other prohibited purchasers to buy weapons at gun shows and online without background checks.”

While the executive policies will help, “we still need congressional action, and I very much hope that one day my colleagues will find the courage to do the right thing and stand up to the gun lobby,” said Feinstein, who has long pushed unsuccessfully to pass gun control measures.

Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Los Angeles, also backed more action by Congress, saying “the president is doing his job — it’s time for Congress to help.”

Rep. Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, said the executive policies, which include calling for better enforcement of existing federal laws that require gun dealers to perform background checks, “will simply save lives.”

Bass urged her Republican colleagues to also support other parts of Obama’s proposal, which include spending $500 million in federal funds on addressing mental illness, funding research on gun violence and supporting universal background checks.

“Overwhelming majorities of Americans — both Democrats and Republicans — are pleading with Congress to act,” Bass said.

Mayor Eric Garcetti and other Los Angeles city leaders also voiced support for the executive actions.
Garcetti said gun violence is an “epidemic” that has become “particularly devastating for cities.”

“By ensuring that gun buyers undergo basic screenings and seeking stronger enforcement of existing laws, we can begin to curb gun violence that devastates families and makes our communities less safe,” he said.

City Attorney Mike Feuer was in the audience for Obama’s White House speech announcing the policies, as part of a coalition of national prosecutors supporting gun control measures.

Feuer and his counterpart in New York, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., issued a joint statement saying the actions will “reclaim communities coast to coast from the bloodshed wrought by illegal guns.”

The prosecutors said they “know all too well that violent gun offenders routinely skirt background checks by obtaining weapons through ‘private sales’ at gun shows and online marketplaces.

“By contrast, traditional gun retailers have prevented more than two million prohibited persons from obtaining firearms through mandatory background checks of potential buyers,” Feuer and Vance said.

“Requiring more gun sellers to obtain licenses and perform these checks is a common-sense measure that will save countless American lives.”

But pro-gun groups said Obama overstepped his powers Tuesday and his policies may not actually reduce gun violence.

Craig DeLuz, a spokesman for the Sacramento-based Firearms Policy Coalition, said the executive actions are a “drastic overreach” because they sidestep the legislative process, and by extension the constituents who elect lawmakers to vet and create policy.

DeLuz said “the devil is in the details,” and without going through Congress, it is hard to know whether the policies will be more or less restrictive than those in California, which requires background checks in all gun sales, including transfers of personal guns between individual owners.

He added that “nothing that (Obama) is proposing would have done anything to stop any of the mass shootings.”

Sam Paredes, executive director of Gun Owners of California, a pro-gun political action committee, questioned parts of Obama’s policy that Parades said redefines who is considered a gun dealer. The policies are “shallow at best … and detrimental at worst,” he said.

Changes to the definition of a gun dealer are “ easily challengeable in the courts, in that standards have been set for years and now he’s going to change that,” Paredes said. “That’s not going to change anything, that’s not going to have an impact on anything, telling people they can’t sell their personal firearms at gun shows.”

Paredes said theft was a likelier way for criminals to get their hands on guns, and transfers “between Uncle Fred and Cousin George” should not be the target.

“It’s already illegal for people to derive a living off of selling firearms without a license,” he said, arguing it should not take executive action to improve enforcement of existing laws.

Chuck Michel, president of the California Rifle and Pistol Association, called the actions “ill-conceived” and a “presidential power grab.”

Such policies are “meant to keep people from realizing that the government cannot protect us from terrorist attacks by the lone wolf religious fanatics,” he said. “But people are increasingly realizing that more gun laws will not protect us from terrorists or violent criminals, and so are voting with their wallets, buying millions of firearms to protect themselves.”

Mass Shooting Stirs Fear: Are We All At Risk?

December 3, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

The second deadliest mass shooting since the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting spree in Newton, Connecticut that claimed 28 lives, including 20 students and the shooter, Adam Lanza, happened yesterday at a regional center providing services to the disabled in the City of San Bernardino, just 70 miles east of Los Angeles.

As of press time, 14 people were reported killed and 17 wounded.

Among the wounded is a relative of a member of the EGP family and native of City Terrace, Denise Peraza, who was thankfully able to call home and tell her family she’s going to be OK, at least physically.

There’s lot of speculation about the motive for the shooting, but two of the suspected shooters are dead and the investigation is ongoing, so it’s unclear when all is known.

What is clear is that the horrific shooting took place at a location where the mission is to assist people hard-pressed to help themselves leaves us wondering “where next?”

No words can adequately describe the terror the victims must have felt.

How can anyone explain why someone would do this to a fellow human being?

Has the time come for all Americans to accept that we may all be vulnerable? Do we all have to now learn ways to protect ourselves from mass shooters bent on killing innocent people to satisfy some notion of wrongdoing?

Will this country’s love affair with guns and hate speech increase these types of tragedies to the point of them becoming routine?

We should be asking ourselves these tough questions – and searching for the answers.

We pray and feel deeply for the people killed in San Bernardino and their families.

For their sakes and ours, we look forward to the day when these incidents move from being increasingly routine, to a time when they are rare.

Buy Today, Kill Tomorrow

December 3, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Good people can disagree about guns.

Though I’ve always leaned left in my political views, I believe that Americans have a constitutional right to keep and bear arms. I owned a gun for many years myself — at least until my conviction for blowing the whistle on the CIA’s torture program canceled my Second Amendment rights.

But there’s a problem that warrants immediate attention. You see, current law allows suspected terrorists, including those on the “No Fly List,” to legally purchase weapons.

That’s right. I can’t legally buy a gun. But suspected terrorists can.

Adam Gadahn, also known as Azzam al-Amriki, was an American citizen. Born and raised in California, he converted to Islam in 1995 and became a senior advisor to Osama bin Laden. Gadahn became al-Qaeda’s media expert, producing a slick magazine and videos to help the group recruit even more Americans to its cause.

Gadahn was killed in a U.S. missile strike in Pakistan earlier this year. But as early as 2011, he urged would-be American jihadists to buy weapons and turn them on their innocent compatriots. “What are you waiting for?” he asked. “Buy today, kill tomorrow!”

American intelligence and law enforcement agencies knew about this threat. So did Congress. And nobody did anything.

Indeed, at least 2,043 people on the terrorist watch list legally purchased weapons in the United States between 2004 and 2014. We know this because they actually filled out the necessary paperwork with gun dealers. What we don’t know is how many people on the list purchased weapons from private gun dealers or owners. They don’t have to keep records.

Who could possibly support this arrangement? Just a little outfit called the National Rifle Association.

Some members of Congress — and even officials in George W. Bush’s administration — recognized the potential disaster if homegrown terrorists could purchase weapons and use them in domestic attacks. Several lawmakers sponsored measures to put a stop to these purchases immediately.

But the NRA protested, saying that it would be unfair for any Americans improperly placed on the no-fly list to not be able to buy guns. Though government watch lists have been criticized for being overly broad, the NRA’s backers offered no compelling arguments for why travel rights and other freedoms should be restricted but not gun purchases. Nonetheless, the measures were killed.

There seems to be some new life in Congress to close this loophole. Senate Democrats Chuck Schumer, Cory Booker, and Robert Menendez vowed recently to “fight the NRA tooth and nail” on the issue and to prevent terrorist suspects from buying guns. That’s great.

But the NRA’s arguments carry a lot of weight in Congress. And a lot of conservatives apparently would rather risk an attack than impinge on the rights of anybody to buy a gun.

Maybe that attitude will change if there’s another deadly attack by suspected terrorists on U.S. soil. Maybe not. I for one don’t want to find out. We should fix this now.

OtherWords columnist John Kiriakou is an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and the winner of the 2015 PEN Center USA First Amendment award. OtherWords.org.

 

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