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July 27, 2009

Mightier Than the Sword

The recent defeat in the U.S. Senate of the "Thune Amendment" was a rare victory for proponents of sensible gun legislation. If this amendment were signed into law, concealed handgun (CCW) permit holders from states with lax standards would be allowed to carry guns through and into other states with tough and more restrictive CCW laws.

Although we can celebrate the fact that the amendment fell two votes short of the 60 required for passage, we must be mindful that 58 Senators voted for this dangerous and unprecedented legislation. This underscores the disproportionate support that the gun lobby has in the Congress of the United States at this time.

Conventional political wisdom has it that Democrats are convinced that gun control is a losing issue. The converse of that argument is that the supporters of stronger gun regulation will not hold their elected officials responsible for ignoring or voting the wrong way on the issue. Some years ago, there were polls conducted which showed that for gun control advocates, the issue ranked #5 on a list of issues about which they cared the most. For gun rights advocates, however, the issue ranked in their top two. This “commitment factor” helps explain why many elected officials feel they can ignore the wishes of gun control advocates, who vastly outnumber pro-gun advocates.

Some Members of Congress have been recently asking, "What has happened to the voice of supporters of sensible gun legislation?” Editorials in newspapers across the country have wondered, "Where is the outrage at the recent spate of gun violence in this country?" In defeating the Thune Amendment, we stood together and began to answer those questions, but more needs to be done.

The Congress will soon be taking their August month-long recess. They will be heading home to take the temperature of the voting public in their respective districts and states. There are two things you can take for granted: 1) The economy and health care will be the top items on everyone's agenda, and; 2) The pro-gun lobby will be well organized to see that their voice is heard.

Will you be equally committed to sharing your concerns about—and support for—sensible gun legislation? If you do not speak up this August, the voice of the NRA and its ilk will be the only voices heard and the prospects for saving lives in the future will be diminished. Remember, 58 Senators voted for the Thune Amendment because they think you aren't paying attention, or just don't care. Let's tell them otherwise.

As a sage once put it, you should always carry a pen because you never know when you will meet someone with a sword.

July 20, 2009

A Modest Proposal

Dear gun rights activists,

As you know the National Rifle Association and other gun lobby groups have been very successful in expanding the easy availability of firearms and curtailing restrictions on who can carry guns and where they can carry them. You are also aware that gun sellers are reporting great increases in the volume of their sales.

You may have seen the news reports recently that many hospitals, emergency rooms and trauma centers across the country are running low on—or are out of—critical blood supplies needed to treat the victims of gunshot wounds. A large number of these victims are teens and younger.

Might it not be a good PR gimmick for you and your fellow activists to organize blood donor drives to restore some of the much-needed blood bank base in our nation’s emergency and trauma units? After all, we all know that "freedom isn't free." Freedom requires responsibility and sacrifice.

By donating blood to ensure there is enough in supply, the life you save may be your own.

Donating blood is easy, painless, and only takes about an hour of your time. Read more about donating in the "Donating Blood" section of the Red Cross website and call your local blood center today to schedule an appointment to donate.

July 13, 2009

Nominating Dictators

So what else is new?

Given the recent activities of many its Members, a May poll revealed that the Congress of the United States is held in low esteem by much of the public.

In Walt Whitman's political tract, "The Eighteenth Presidency," an attack on the dreadful state of American governance in 1856, he trained his sights on the "nominating dictators" of American political life. “Who are they?” he asked. The answer:

"Office-holders, office-seekers, robbers, pimps, exclusives, malignants, conspirators, murderers, fancy-men, post-masters, custom-house clerks, contractors, kept-editors, spaniels well-trained to carry and fetch, jobbers, infidels, disunionists, terrorists, mail-riflers, slave-catchers, pushers of slavery, creatures of the President, creatures of would-be Presidents, spies, blowers, electioneerers, body-snatchers, bawlers, bribers, compromisers, runaways, lobbyers, sponges, ruined sports, expelled gamblers, policy backers, monte-dealers, duelists, carriers of concealed weapons, blind men, deaf men, pimpled men, scarred inside with the vile disorder, gaudy outside with gold chains made from the people's money and harlot's money twisted together; crawling, serpentine men, the lousy combings and born freedom sellers of the earth."

Americans have been having fun looking at their political leaders ever since. Long may we look with a critical eye at the shenanigans of the kept editors [Did someone say "fair and balanced"?] and lobbyists for carriers of concealed weapons.

July 6, 2009

Some Things Never Change

Some years ago the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence used to issue an annual award to highlight the many ridiculous ways guns are misused in this country. We never wanted for candidates for this dubious honor.

In today's internet world, we have been taken over and expanded by the Darwin Awards. The stated mission of the Darwin Awards is "to salute the improvement of the human genome by honoring those who accidentally remove themselves from it."

In case you missed them, here are some of the nominees making the rounds these days. These are supposedly true stories culled from daily newspapers:

  • An unidentified man, using a shotgun like a club to break a former girlfriend’s windshield, accidentally shot himself to death when the gun discharged, blowing a hole in his gut. (San Jose Mercury News)

  • Ken Charles Barger, 47, accidentally shot himself to death in December in Newton, North Carolina. Awakening to the sound of a ringing telephone beside his bed, he reached for the phone but grabbed instead a Smith & Wesson 38 Special, which discharged when he drew it to his ear. (Hickory Daily Record)

  • Just as squirrels bury their acorns to protect them from predators for later use, a man from Howard, Wisconsin, put his ammunition and three handguns in a safe place before he and his wife departed on vacation. He wanted to be sure they would be there when the couple returned. But just as squirrels frequently forget where they buried a particular acorn, the man forgot that his hiding place was the oven. When they returned from their trip, his wife turned on the oven to prepare dinner. Shortly afterward the couple had to duck behind the refrigerator as the bullets began to explode like popcorn. The husband used a fire extinguisher to put out the fire the bullets started in the oven. No humans were hurt, but the prognosis for the oven was grim. (Associated Press)

I know that gun violence is not a laughing matter, but sometimes I have to shake off the grim reality and marvel at the many ridiculous and deadly ways that guns are misused daily in our nation. And if humor can help people take notice of the importance of handling firearms safely in all situations, all the better.