Congress has shamefully caved in, yet again, to the gun lobby and abandoned the effort to grant the long-suffering District of Columbia a voting representative in the House. Hopes for passage were high this year, until the historic measure was poisoned in the Senate with an amendment to strip the district’s government of its power to enact responsible gun control laws.I keep promising myself not to post on this topic, and then events take place in the news or commentary is written that make this issue impossible to ignore.
Sadly, the district’s need for strong controls was dramatized Wednesday when a man the authorities identified as a white supremacist opened fire with a rifle and killed a guard at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
The gun lobby galvanized anti-gun control Republicans and timorous Democrats in both houses to stop the representation bill in its tracks. Pleas from district officials about public safety drew no interest from the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi likewise failed to sway Democrats too cowardly to stand up to the gun lobby in next year’s elections.
Most disappointing, President Obama showed no appetite to confront the gun lobby and campaign for a clean bill. He had already signaled his weakness when he signed a credit card reform law that included another senseless gun lobby diktat — to allow people to carry loaded guns in national parks.
Representative Steny Hoyer conceded on Tuesday that the votes for passage had evaporated. He noted disagreement among city officials. Some wanted acceptance of the amended measure because the city’s chance for a voting representative was unlikely to occur again soon.
The net effect is to maintain the district as a laboratory for Congress’s plantation whims. And also, of course, to add swagger to the gun lobby. It does not have nearly the Election Day clout that its supporters, and those who cower before it, fear — but is now free to attach its repressive District of Columbia measure to the next bill that comes along.
All Americans, not just residents of the nation’s capital, should worry that an obeisant Congress and administration has proved no test for the gun lobby’s agenda.
Before I say anything, though, I should state that I’m not going to use James von Brunn as a launching point for any anti-gun remarks. Yes, his instrument of death was purchased illegally, but he was a product of domestic terrorism, and I think his commitment to kill was such that he would have used any instrument at his disposal to do so (knife, dirty bomb, screwdriver, poison…you name it). Also, Scott Roeder’s affiliation with the “pro life” craziness of Randall Terry and Operation Rescue is the matter at fault in his case.
Maybe I should “back up” first, though, to earlier in this week and communicate the following.
On Tuesday, I put together a post over at the Wordpress site that really wasn’t much of anything, linking to a column by Bob Herbert from April and an article in last week’s People Magazine citing gun violence statistics (Herbert’s column states as follows)…
There is no way to overstate the horror of gun violence in America. Roughly 16,000 to 17,000 Americans are murdered every year, and more than 12,000 of them, on average, are shot to death. This is an insanely violent society, and the worst of that violence is made insanely easy by the widespread availability of guns.Well, as a result, I received a trickle of comments from gun supporters citing this case for a supposed justification for the claim that the federal government cannot impinge on their personal rights (more from lawyer Adam B here at The Daily Kos; I’ve managed to read about this some more since everything has calmed down for the moment based on what I will describe shortly, though how anyone can claim that a case involving the slaughter of over 100 African Americans by a white mob absolves their actions is something I can’t completely comprehend).
Homicides are only a part of the story.
While more than 12,000 people are murdered with guns annually, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence (using the latest available data) tells us that more than 30,000 people are killed over the course of one typical year by guns. That includes 17,000 who commit suicide, nearly 800 who are killed in accidental shootings and more than 300 killed by the police. (In many of the law enforcement shootings, the police officers are reacting to people armed with guns).
And then there are the people who are shot but don’t die. Nearly 70,000 fall into that category in a typical year, including 48,000 who are criminally attacked, 4,200 who survive a suicide attempt, more than 15,000 who are shot accidentally, and more than 1,000 — many with a gun in possession — who are shot by the police.
The medical cost of treating gunshot wounds in the U.S. is estimated to be well more than $2 billion annually. And the Violence Policy Center, a gun control advocacy group, has noted that nonfatal gunshot wounds are the leading cause of uninsured hospital stays.
The toll on children and teenagers is particularly heartbreaking. According to the Brady Campaign, more than 3,000 kids are shot to death in a typical year. More than 1,900 are murdered, more than 800 commit suicide, about 170 are killed accidentally and 20 or so are killed by the police.
Another 17,000 are shot but survive.
And, foolishly, I responded to a Wordpress-post comment in the Cruikshank case, as well as a study by someone named Gary Kleck claiming that there are about 2 million instances a year of people defending themselves from criminals with their guns (I found a link debunking the study which I published, though another commenter added somewhat testily that further evidence had supported Kreck, though of course there was no link provided to his new evidence; I'm not providing links to this stuff here because it's not my point to rehash this stuff all over again).
I say “foolishly” because, even though I was trying to help the commentary along by saying something about Cruikshank (which was dumb also because I’m hardly a legal expert), the post was about the statistics, and I was expecting a response about that, totally forgetting the “black and white” world in which most gun rights advocates live (based on my experience – probably goes for some gun control supporters also). Basically, the people who comment at the WP site (and mostly here also) on this topic care about absolutely nothing except their right to have any gun they want whenever they want.
Also in response to a comment, I said something along the lines of “don’t bother using these justifications the next time a cop is killed in the line of duty or a child is killed in a schoolyard by stray gunfire from drug dealers.”
And then what happened after that was “through the looking glass.”
One of the commenters must have entered a chat room and told his fellow travelers about the Wordpress post (probably something along the lines of “hey, this anti-gun nut just criticized us; let’s ‘rattle his cage’”) because I noticed that the site hit count skyrocketed (about 400 hits in one hour). I’d like to think that it rose because, spontaneously, huge amounts of people suddenly came to appreciate my brilliant prose, but I know better.
And before I knew it, I had at least 15 extensive comments citing everything from a study in Great Britain about supposed relaxed gun ownership that increased public safety, to Cruikshank again, to other legal minutiae that supposedly enshrined the Second Amendment in their favor (an army of John Lotts, springing up, if you will). There was no possible way I could properly respond to all of the comments (with the tone of them being pretty damn haughty along the lines of “you must not care about public safety,” “funny that you don’t know this,” etc.). And again, since none of them had a damn thing to do with the original post, I just gave up and deleted the post (prompting another round of ad hominem attacks, which I should note that, while also demeaning in their tone, were not actually filled with profanity, so that’s progress of a sort anyway).
(Also, I started getting particularly wingnutty comments to other WP posts, including one about Obama that mentioned his possible assassination. At that point, I shut off comments to all new posts over at WP; I think a “cooling off” period is wise at this point.)
Why exactly am I telling you all this?
Because I’m really fed up with posting on this topic and receiving virtually no support, that’s why.
Bob Herbert and the New York Times editorial board (as well as the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News on occasion, truth be told) deserve credit for “beating the drum.” And PA State Representative Dwight Evans does also, as well as Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, for trying to enact sensible gun laws in this area (update: forgot to mention Governor Rendell also). I firmly believe that Pennsylvania should allow Philadelphia the right to regulate usage of firearms within its boundaries, as well as other municipalities in this commonwealth.
And as far as I’m concerned, law enforcement and emergency medical personnel should be leading the call for common-sense gun reforms, and, with the notable exception of Philadelphia DA Lynne Abraham, all I hear on that end is the sound of crickets (any reason why Abraham, Evans and Nutter aren't arguing for more guns, if they thought that would ensure the safety of the citizens of Philadelphia, as well as the police to a greater extent than now?).
Also, forget the politicians on this, except Evans and Nutter. Just forget them. The only other person who has any guts at all on this is U.S. House Rep Carolyn
And by the way, don’t even imagine that you’ll be able to leave a comment here supporting gun rights (“criminals don’t obey the law,” “judges should pass harsher sentences,” etc.). The purpose of this post is not to argue pros and cons. That's already occurred on numerous occasions here and at the WP site. I know how I feel and I know how the “pro gun” people feel. I’m not going to change their minds (maybe some discussion about stuff "in the margins" like the Tiahrt Amendment, but that's it), and they sure as hell aren’t going to change mine.
So the next time the media tells us about an incident of gun violence that accidentally takes the life of a promising young scholar or a young cop who is married with three kids and his whole life ahead of him also, just ignore it. There’s no point in shedding tears or feeling any sense of remorse.
It’s just the price tag for living in the United States of America.
Update 6/18/09: And I can hardly wait for John Lott's next Op-Ed in the Inquirer telling us that MORE Uzis would make us safer, in response to this (h/t Atrios).
Update 6/19/09: Progress of a sort anyway (here - registration req'd for this also)...
Update 6/6/11: Thanks for helping the terrorists, wingnuts (here).