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Saturday, December 22, 2012

National Rifle Association don't do PR

Social media was awash with incredulity yesterday at the sheer crassness of the press statement from the National Rifle Association in response to the dreadful massacre of 20 first-grade children and six staff members in Newtown, Connecticut.

As the Guardian reports, the NRA's executive vice-president Wayne LaPierre finally broke his silence and delivered a defiant message to the nation that "The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."

Their solution is to put an armed guard in every school. arm the teachers and presumably arm the kids as well. That is going to work, not. The paper says:

His statement dashed hopes of gun control advocates that the NRA would be willing to engage in debate about tighter restrictions on gun ownership, such as a ban on assault weapons and large capacity magazines of the type used by Adam Lanza in Newtown. On Tuesday, an NRA statement promised the organisation would make a "meaningful contribution" to prevent mass shootings.

They continue: The NRA chief's unbending response to Newtown was delivered at a packed press conference in Washington that was disrupted twice by hecklers carrying banners that said "NRA: Killing Our Kids" and "NRA: Blood On Its Hands". In the course of about half an hour, LaPierre laid blame for the Sandy Hook massacre on several other parties including the media, politicians in favour of gun-free zones, the country's mental health services, gamers and the film studios that make violent movies – but brooked no criticism of the NRA itself.

He warned that there were "dozens, maybe more than 100 … monsters" out there already planning the next attack on an unprotected school. The only way to stop another gun rampage was to put guns in schools.

He said: "If we truly cherish our kids, more than money, more than our celebrities, we must must give them the greatest level of protection possible and the security that is only available with a properly trained – armed – good guy."

You do get the impression that these people watch too many John Wayne films. New York Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, sums it up. He called LaPierre's comments "a shameful evasion of the crisis facing our country. Instead of offering solutions to a problem they have helped create, they offered a paranoid, dystopian vision of a more dangerous and violent America where everyone is armed and no place is safe."

Obama has an uphill struggle to reform America's gun laws. Dinosaurs like LaPierre make it more difficult and almost make it certain that tragedies like Newtown and Columbine will happen again and again.
Whilst I do generally agree with greater gun regulation, there is a danger that reactionary legislation could make the situation worse rather than better.

The NRA's comments are indeed crass but within almost any organisation, however bad, there are grains of truth.

There are valid issues that have been raised, albeit ineloquently, about problems with increased regulation.

1) It is unlikely that the US will impose a total ban due to ideological, political and finacial interests from many powerful parties. Taking this into consideration, we are probably looking at a partial ban of sorts. We have to seriously consider if this would help.

I am of the view that it would hinder. The tragic truth is that these people single out places where there are site or regional restrictions. This is because most assailants are cowards and will take their legal arms into restricted areas where they know there will be no legitimate resistance before the police arrive.

So what I am basiacally saying is that although nationwide restrictions are the best option, the worst (and worryingly, most likely) option is a political fudge that makes the situation worse and that will further entrench both sides who will point at it as a failed option.
I guess Peter you have been to see what's it like in Washington, DC - this is not the UK, this is not Cardiff. Same goes for parts of Chicago (I only mention Chicago because I lived there for some years) - gun crime is a serious issue, kids get hold of guns and shoot other kids. The first apartment building I moved into in Chicago we had a shooting, a kid got into an argument with another kid - they were playing in the park opposite my building and one of the kids went to his bag and pulled a pistol and chased a kid into our apartment building and blew his brain matter all over the lobby near the front desk (where you go to pay rent, ask for repairs etc.) - a guy walked into a law firm I once worked at and shot the place up, three shot dead, one of them was a friend/mentor and client rolled up into one - now that office building has much better security to stop that happening.

It's a fact of life here, in some parts it is just VERY dangerous and ordinary citizens feel the need to carry a gun for self protection and protection of their family. It is not illegal here to shoot someone who enters your abode - you can shoot to kill if you feel your life or the lives of others are in danger. It is not manslaughter here, it is not murder here. So you are applying what you regard as cultural norms to the USA – the Midwest, South West are very much into the idea of carrying guns for self-protection. That isn’t going to change – it is their culture. You might think it is daft, but that’s the way it is there. And it is all very well for the Mayor of New York, New York to yap on about guns when he has a security detail guarding him that is armed to the teeth.

For example, I was shocked to my core that kids in Chicago often found and played with their parent's gun(s) and accidently shot themselves or their friends. In one weekend I recall there were several child deaths, the parent's actually had the guns loaded with ammo (I guess from one perspective this makes sense) and one bright kit removed the gun clip from his dad's hand gun and still shot his friend dead because there 'was one in the breech" or something like that. In Texas it is quite normal to have loaded guns in drawers in the kitchen. And they will be used to shoot burglars or anyone daft enough to go into someone’s house who ‘don’t belong there”. It is a way of life there. You don’t walk around to the back of someone’s house – because that would be very dangerous and you would never (unless you were blind drunk and didn’t know the gun culture there) bang on someone’s back door pleading to come in – yes, a Scot from Edinburgh did that, he was shot several times by the house owner who shot him through his back door – the Scot didn’t actually cross the threshold into the guy’s house – the home owner did not face trial – there was no case to answer. I felt that was wrong as the Scot had not crossed the threshold and could not have threatened the home owner or his family until he did, the Grand Jury didn’t agree with that theory and the home owner did not face trial.

I was doing a post-doc at Bath University when the news came in that children were shot in a school in Scotland - 16 were shot dead along with their teacher, so I can't say I like guns of any type. Like ‘what she wrote’; I have lost a dear friend to gun violence – just yards away from where I used to live (in Presidential Towers) just across the street from my work place – my building had 24 hour security – again: 24 hour security. Without it a lot of folks would be reluctant to live there; I moved there after the shooting in my former apartment building which lacked security.

Anyway, my law school buddies politely listened and one pointed out a few home truths.

(1) felons are already banned from owning or carrying a gun especially concealed guns - but felons are not known to obey the law (hence why they are felons) and use/carry them when they want to;

(2) there are literally millions of guns already in circulation in the USA and there is no way, no how these guns would ever be rounded up even if they were banned - it would lead to civil war in some states, and more people would be shot to death while refusing to hand over their guns;

(3) those that denigrate those that want to keep their guns for self-protection often rely on guns for their own self-protection - it is well known that film/pop stars who say they are against guns have body guards who carry concealed weapons;

(4) the U.S. Supreme Court has consistently (so this is the law of the land - i.e., in the USA) overturned over-regulation of gun ownership - two recent cases come to mind: Washington, DC toughened their regulations on the issue of permits to carry a gun and did so to cut down on gun ownership - the US S. Ct. said regulation is OK, but not when the purpose is to deny gun ownership to law abiding citizens - in Chicago the city stopped issuing gun permits for concealed weapons (simply a gun in a holster out of plain sight) and this was overturned by the US S. Ct.;

(4) the U.S. Constitution speaks to the right to bear arms and this has been interpreted as a right to own a gun for self-protection and to challenge an overbearing government;

(5) the reason why gun ownership got its boost in the USA was because of a certain dictator who insisted that people living on this side of the pond were British citizens - this led to serious issues, including search and seizure without a warrant, confiscation of property at the point of a gun, etc. This is also provided the motivation wherein the US Constitution states that anyone born in the USA is automatically a US Citizen - to counter the British claim as to the nationality of children born to subjects of the British Monarch - that all children born to a father who was British defined them as British citizens;

etc. etc.

I don't like guns, I don't own a gun etc. etc.

Btw, schools in Washington, DC already have armed guards along with metal detectors - many students refused to go to school absent such measures in place in their school - also, there is a duty of care to the staff – as explained above, kids get hold of guns (e.g., from their parents) and take them to school (absent such measures) to show off or to play with them or to attack another student.

Apart from the building I first moved into where a teen shot another teen to death - yes, where I lived, a former employer's place was shot up - three shot dead, secretaries I personally know traumatized, one shot through the foot, so I'm no fan of guns - but it is a fact of life here, and people want to carry for self-protection. I figure that probably leads to more gun suicides - but hey, people will commit suicide anyway. Even with He.

^sorry, I clipped off a paragraph - the list of "home truths" was something I learnt when I moved to the USA. I argued like a typical Brit: that the solution was ABC - i.e., dead easy, that ALL GUNS SHOULD BE BANNED - including those already in legal ownership - I argued this position with my class mates at law school in downtown Chicago - they listened politely but bit by bid demolished my Brit-logic.

For example, felons are already banned from owning or carrying concealed weapons but DON'T OBEY THE LAW.

That there are literally tens of millions of guns already in legal ownership; I read that the figure now is over 100 million guns.

In some states (some much larger than the UK) gun ownership is essential in some parts of the state. For example, Alaska - bears turn up in people’s back yards, in parking lots - the locals (unless they are out hunting bear) don't harm bears until they threaten them, you can't live in 'the outback' or in small towns in Alaska without having a gun to hand - the wildlife can be very dangerous. So how is that going to be handled under Federal law?

One Federal law for one state, another Federal law for another state?

That’s not how Federal law works.

That’s why gun regulations are typically state-specific, i.e., each state (even DC, which is not a state) has its own gun regulations – the United States of America is essentially 50 different countries (plus Washington, DC, which already has armed guards and metal detectors in its high schools) - each state has its own state law, its own State Senators voted for by the people of that state – President Obama was a State Senator in Illinois before he became a (Federal) Senator in Washington, DC. Brits often forget or are unaware that each state has its own state legislature, state politicians, state troopers (police) etc.

So it’s not ABC as I thought: ban all weapons. It just isn’t that simple. It took me two years of living/working full time/ and attending law school part time to learn that gun ownership issues are very complex here and don’t lend themselves to the UK answer: ban all guns from civilian hands.

So please explain how exactly is Federal law going to accommodate the different hunting issues in different states? These is obviously best handled at state level – but see Peter, it is a LOT more democratic here than in the UK, here state governments listen to their voters and if they want to hunt then state Senators (many of whom are hunters themselves) will not ban guns.

Again: this is not the UK, this is not Cardiff – it is DIFFERENT here.

This is a HUGE country made up essentially of 50 different countries (states) with their own state laws governing guns. Hunting is a common past time here. Gun ownership at family level is not uncommon.

No one is saying put armed guards in every school – which anyway is not possible to enforce as each state has its own laws and gun regulation is typically a state level issue – so this is a red herring. Those that propose such ideas forget that each state has its own state law. And some municipalities

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