Gun Violence vs Democracy

“Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” are incompatible with a craven Supreme Court majority’s opening the doors to madness in 2008 by ruling in the Heller decision that the Second Amendment applies to individual gun ownership—in people’s homes. Many legal scholars question that interpretation of the Second Amendment, which ignores the reference to a “well-regulated militia.”

It’s been all down hill from there.

Today, if there were a Guinness Book of Shameful World Records, the US would be on top. We have more guns than men, women, children, and babies in this country. We are teetering between horror and numbness as mass shootings with weapons of war devastate one community after another. There seem to be few gathering places where “the unthinkable” is no longer unthinkable.

A reporter who was in Georgia to cover the latest murderous attack—in a Walmart—noted a general unease around him. Georgia, you see, is an open carry state, allowing people to purchase and carry a firearm without a permit or license.

So in the midst of the shock and horror of confronting this pre-Thanksgiving carnage, plenty of people were calmly walking around with their weapons in plain sight. The reporter, for one, found the sight of so many nonchalantly armed pedestrians quite disarming.

There are twenty-six open carry states at this point.

How did we reach this intolerable situation? The convoluted story’s beyond my summation in a blog post. But at the core are the gun manufacturers—draping themselves in patriotism–fronted by a willing National Rifle Association that has become more radical over the years, buying elected officials decade after decade.

The NRA has fallen into hard times. With their leader disgraced by revelations of his high living and poor marksmanship in trying to make an elephant into a trophy, the lobbyists filed for bankruptcy, then relocated to Texas after a New York judge said that filing was in bad faith.

But last year, they were still able to prevent President Biden from installing his Senate-confirmed nominee as head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). They vastly outspend all the gun safety organizations in lobbying and elections.

The NRA is “aided and abetted by an interlocking array of groups with lower national profiles,” according to The Daily Beast. The article described the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), which, with dreadful irony, has its headquarters two miles from the Sandy Hook school where first graders were massacred in 2012.

Before the November election, Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT), one of the foremost gun safety advocates in the Senate (who was a Congressman representing Newtown when the shooting occurred) warned that gun safety legislation was one of the critical issues on the ballot.

He was concerned that there wouldn’t be enough Republican Senators to push through the kind of meaningful legislation that was promised following the modest compromise law that was hailed as great progress in June of this year.

We accomplished a great deal in this midterm election, and democracy and abortion were very much on the minds of voters who turned back some scary trends. I don’t wish to sound flippant, but guns have so permeated our culture that our language reeks of them: just weeks ago, our democracy dodged a bullet.

In good measure, credit for that result goes to Generation Z voters, who are animated by reproductive rights and voting rights. Yet these young people are the generation whose school years have been marred by active shooter drills. Studies have been documenting the trauma these drills themselves create. Not surprisingly, sensible gun safety legislation is one of Gen Z’s core issues as well.

For such legislation, they—and we—will probably have to wait. Among the odious leaders of the incoming House of Representatives, we find the depravity of campaign photos and Christmas cards showing parents and their young children armed with long guns.

We’ve already seen the People’s House defiled by Kyle Rittenhouse, the young killer who was an invited guest and considers himself a Representative-to-be. Ashli Babbitt, the young woman insurrectionist who was shot and killed as she tried to storm the Capitol, is lionized, and there are plans to go after the government official who shot her while doing his job protecting the Capitol, its occupants, and the peaceful transfer of power.

Yet none of this is what the majority of Americans want. A Pew Research poll conducted after President Biden signed this year’s legislation found 64% approval of the law, with 32% expressing strong approval. Only 21% said they disapproved of the law; 11% strongly disapproved. (Fifteen percent weren’t sure.)

Notably, most Americans in this poll felt there was a need for more legislation, expressing concern the new law wasn’t enough to reduce gun violence.

“About six-in-ten Americans (63%) would like to see Congress pass additional legislation to address gun violence, although there are deep partisan divides on this issue. Roughly nine-in-ten Democrats (89%) say they would like to see another round of legislation, while just 32% of Republicans say the same.”

I think we must put that “deep partisan divide” into perspective. The poll found strong support among all racial demographic groups, with Asian Americans, the fastest growing demographic, at 75%. And we know from this election that pollsters have been over-representing Republicans in their samplings, while the numbers of Democrats and Democratic-leaning Independents outnumber them in the electorate. Without gerrymandering and voter suppression, I see reason to conjecture that Americans are less divided on this issue than that poll suggests.

There are two issues that gun safety advocates believe could make a big difference: expanded background checks and a ban on assault weapons. According to an NPR report, polls show that 90% of Americans support expanded background checks. A Public Policy Polling survey found that 83% of gun owners support them, including 72% of NRA members.

Everytown for Gun Safety cites an article in The Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery that concluded

“Researchers estimate that if we still had a federal Assault Weapon Ban, we’d see 70 percent fewer mass shooting deaths.”

Following the horrific Uvalde shooting, when armed law enforcement officers stood outside while children begged for help and their small bodies were later found decimated by firepower, I was struck by the request from Texas officials that all parents should routinely provide a DNA sample of their children for identification purposes.

If that doesn’t move people to insist that their legislators enact a ban on these weapons, I don’t know what would.

What is the law enforcement community’s position on this issue? The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) issued a Firearms Policy Position Statement in 2018 outlining what it called “common sense policies that would assist in reducing gun violence, while upholding the second amendment.”

This document appears to me to be completely aligned with the goals of sensible gun safety legislation that has received legislative consideration, though rarely action.

Here’s what the IACP says about Semi-Automatic Assault Weapons:

Criminal Use of Semi-Automatic Assault Weapons

“First passed in 1994, the assault weapons ban required domestic gun manufacturers to stop
production of semi-automatic assault weapons and ammunition magazines holding more than ten rounds except for military or police use. While the ban was in place, it was remarkably effective in reducing the number of crimes involving assault weapons. In the period of the ban, (1994-2004) the proportion of assault weapons traced to crimes fell by a dramatic 66 percent.

“Semi-Automatic assault weapons are routinely the weapons of choice for gang members and drug dealers. They are regularly encountered in drug busts and are all too often used against police officers.

The IACP has been a strong supporter of the assault weapons ban since 1992, and our membership has approved several reauthorizations of support in the years since. The membership took this action because we, as law enforcement executives, understand that the criminal use of semiautomatic assault weapons pose a grave risk to our officers and the communities they are sworn to protect.”

Chris Brown, President of the Brady Campaign, has said that expanded background checks and an assault weapons ban could be passed during this lame duck session of Congress. If they aren’t, we can foresee the rising toll of death and grievous injuries in the next two years of inaction at best, or even further shredding of our gun safety laws.

President Biden said on Thanksgiving that he is counting the votes for a federal assault weapons ban because

“the idea we still allow semiautomatic weapons to be purchased is sick…It has no social redeeming value, zero, none. Not a single, solitary rationale for it.”

I know this lame duck session has a crowded calendar, including important bills regarding the Debt Ceiling and the Electoral Count Act. Nevertheless, on Monday, I plan to call my member of Congress and two Senators to urge them to do their best to pass the following pieces of legislation before this session ends: further funding for Ukraine; additional funds for Covid to replace the government’s dwindling resources; and passage of expanded background checks and an assault weapons ban.

All three are life and death issues. If enough of us exercise our democratic rights now, can we make a difference?

We won’t know if we don’t try.

Annie

46 thoughts on “Gun Violence vs Democracy

  1. Several points…
    1) Though most Police Orgs. speak for “common sense policies that would assist in reducing gun violence, while upholding the second amendment.” their are too many who focus on “upholding the second amendment” over “common sense policies that would assist in reducing gun violence”.
    Much like the dishonourable scotus focused on Right to bear arms while ignoring “for a well regulated militia”. Not to mention ignoring 200 years of gun policy that saw it as a communal not a individual right.
    2) The so called “constitional sheriff” nutcases. Who maintain that elected sheriffs (county) are the final arbitors of what is legal or not. Specific example is Colorado has a “Red Flag” law that allows police to seize wepons from people who have shown themselves to be a probable threat to themselves or others. But the local county sheriff has publically stated that he will NOT enforce that law. Basically he seems to beleive gun ownership stands on the same level as the right to breath. Waiting for his office, or better him personally, being sued for liability of Club Q shooting for jis failure to enforce the law. (shooter threatehed people with bomb whicch required SWAT and other police to be called out but no conviction)

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    1. My reason for citing the IACP policy wasn’t to pat police on the back unreservedly, anynameleft. It’s clear we need lots of training on deescalation and restraining their tendency to “shoot first…” and must weed out the paramilitary zealots. But that Assn brings valuable credibility to the argument for an assault weapons ban. I’d like to hear their position cited more often and more widely.

      I agree the “constitutional sheriffs” are a scary lawless bunch, and making a few of them liable for the carnage they make possible would be valuable. It was weird to watch the officials in Colorado Springs dancing around what they said in advance would be “unsatisfactory” responses to questions about the red flag law with regard to the killer.

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      1. ” But that Assn brings valuable credibility to the argument for an assault weapons ban”
        I agree but (always is one) I question the memberships committment to common snse laws v. 2nd amendment rights.
        The IACC is a “political” organization, and such orgs. have been known to issue statements with loopholes for purely political purposes.
        Also, on this I plead ignorance, how many non US Polic Chiefs (The I in IACC) are members? and from where? does that statement truly represent US police chiefs opinions or is it weghted by non US police. I.e. I could well see British, Canadian and Australian police chiefs pushing to support common sense hile Us Chiefs pushing to protect the 2nd amendment.

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      2. You raise a good question, which I’ll respond to first. Though the IACP is an international group, I had always heard what I felt were enlightened Americans as its representatives. I checked: it’s clearly US-dominated, based in Arlington, VA; its meetings are held in American cities; far more of its chapters are in the US than in any other country.

        I view its positions on firearms—not just assault weapons—as enlightened self-interest. These powerful arms (and body armor, which they also discuss) are a threat to police officers. Obviously, those who are insurrectionist-oriented are operating under a different mindset.

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      3. In response to Annie. “I checked: it’s clearly US-dominated, based in Arlington, VA; its meetings are held in American cities; far more of its chapters are in the US than in any other country.”
        So “international” in the same sense that the US baseball finale is the “World” series?
        And what of the rank and file?
        Forgive me I appreciate the political assistence they bring to the issue but I fear getting in harness with those who only agree on this one issue.
        Much like the Temperence league joining forces with the Klan to get Prohibition passed.
        Or more recently in England the Lib. Dems selling out to the Tories under Cameron (2010-2016) and in doing so lost creditability, support and seats in parliament.

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      4. Anynameleft: I am simply suggesting that legislators seeking to persuade their peers of the merits of an assault weapons ban would do well to cite the IACP as a credible source. I am not advocating “getting in harness” with them—though if you take the time to read their positions on arms, you’ll see this isn’t the only gun safety item that’s reasonable. I’m sure the rank and file views are mixed, with some understanding that these positions are in their self-interest and others disagreeing. I hear you and think we’ve covered this aspect enough.

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  2. Way back when, I remember doing duck and cover exercises in school in case New York was hit by a nuclear weapon. Of course, crouching under my desk was not going to protect me from an atomic attack. But the exercise was kind of fun because it distracted from schoolwork, and such an attack seemed unlikely. Today’s active shooter drills are quite the opposite—an armed murderer invading a classroom is indeed a possibility. And it’s horrific that the NRA and it’s minions are able to quash legislation needed to subdue gun violence. Numerous statistics indicate that gun violence in the U.S. far exceeds that of other high-income nations. Perhaps the only thing that will lead to meaningful gun-control legislation is if an active shooter invaded the Senate or House. Not that I’m rooting for such an invasion, but it’s frightful that nonstop mass shootings still have not led to meaningful anti-firearms legislation.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. We came close to having active shooters (pl) in the Capitol, Gail, but it seems that certain legislators either forgot how terrified they were or were comfortable with the invaders. I sure hope the Jan 6 Committee is planning to address this issue in their final report. I wish they’d done so publicly. But maybe they will…

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    1. I’m so sorry, ali. This was Annie the Optimist surveying a dark environment and trying to encourage people to seize an opportunity to make it better. I do think we’ll have more sensible gun laws after the next election, when an even larger Gen Z moves into the electorate.

      But this is a big issue that will require a big effort to change hearts and minds over time. And I don’t know how we reconcile the wrongly interpreted Second Amendment with the American “frontier spirit.”

      Liked by 2 people

      1. It’s tough to get even reasonable people who don’t allow firearms in their own homes to understand that sensible control doesn’t mean totally disarming the general public. I didn’t mean to rain on the parade-I love your blog! We’ll do it, and I know we’ll all do all we can as long as we can so the ‘kids’ don’t have to do it by themselves.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thank you, ali. I wasn’t offended, but I was a bit uncomfortably aware as I was writing that I might be including too much of the misery. Your comment validated the inner censor I brushed aside.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. It’s a shame, but some are not as fully informed, and that’s a service you provide! You do it very well, too. It is a lot, but it’s not too much, if that makes sense.

        It’s just so maddeningly sad.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. I’ve suspected that most Americans are in favor of expanding background checks and banning assault weapons. Thanks for confirming this as well as the possibility that we are less divided than the poll (and mainstream media) suggests.

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  4. Powerfully argued Annie, and to anyone outside of the culture which spawned this extremism irrefutable.
    The roots of gun ownership in the USA are deep planted from the seed of constant frontier existence, fed by a distrust of a central and alleged intrusive government, the latter a reaction to generations of Europeans quitting their monarchist rulers; the feeling that an individual, a community is always under threat from violence and thus should be prepared to react accordingly.
    Somewhere along the road of the Nation’s history that mindset allowed a blight to infect the growth which then morphed into a symbiotic relationship as more enlightened views grew in the same soil. Racial Equality, Gender Toleration and Fluidity, movement away from the perceived Christian Faith, all seen as threats to the White Abrahamic and Essentially Male Ethos and its line of defense Gun Ownership.
    The current arguments for proliferation have nothing to do with the Constitution as it was drafted, only to ensure a continuation in the supremacy of, to use the now old term, WASP grouping. This has developed into a cult like quality, relying on Conspiracies which decades back would have been marked down as embarrassing for a major political official to hold. They are locked into this mindset and will hijack and twist anything to suit the purpose. And of course, there are always those willing to make money out of any movement.
    Salutary point though, one of the fastest growing groups of gun ownership are Black and Latino women, all for reasons of self-defence, aside from any violence in their own communities, the sight of Whites parading around with ‘their guns’ is bound to be a factor. And going back to the original statements of this reply to your post, is the kind of irony History often throws up.
    What the fundamentalist white gun owner locked into aggressive ownership doesn’t really appreciate is that by their actions and words their fears may well become self-fulfilling prophecies, and it will be groups of white men walking about with guns who will become targets, for someone hidden. Ask anyone who has served in Iraq or Afghanistan, a group of you, even trained in urban warfare and carrying the best of weaponry is no guarantee of survival.
    And innocents always get caught in the crossfire.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And this, my friend Roger, is why I said I find your comments so valuable. You’ve filled in much of the history I skipped and added perspective I would have failed to include.

      I’ve read that purchases of guns by Black people and women generally have increased; I assume your observation about Latina gun buying is also true.

      (I saw a photo of a very fit-looking young woman holding a long gun that was captioned: “If women decide to protect their uteruses, men will immediately ban assault weapons.”)

      Sadly, though this gun-buying trend is understandable, I worry it will increase accidents and simply feed into the manufacturers’/NRA’s goals to arm everybody. It also fuels the white supremacists’ hopes for a civil war.

      My hope is that we can at last get gun manufacturers into the position of the auto industry that fought seat belts and the tobacco industry that fought regulation. They’ve avoided liability long enough. An aroused citizenry can make them pay for the havoc they create.

      That’s not all we must do, but it could make a big difference.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It is a campaign worth the effort Annie, currently gun ownership does seem locked into that ‘Arms Race’ mentality.
        Truth be known if we moved to the USA one of the first things I would do is make enquiries about gun owning and training in the use of – as a protection against ‘those white crazies’ (low blow I know- but it has to be said).
        I love that photo and caption!
        The Terminal Stupidity of the White Supremacists is predictable.
        1. The obvious fact being they aren’t the only ones ‘packing’.
        2. They have obviously never read into the history of the long Northern Ireland civil war, and that’s one of the more low key examples.
        3. When a Democracy is attacked it buckles at first, then settles down and can be far more ruthless and determined than the initial aggressors – see WWII, or American Civil War.
        4. Last comment on the subject and a real
        low blow to any White Supremacist ‘Cemetry Ridge baby. Cemetery Ridge’.
        (Although you run the risk of a long tirade against General Longstreet).
        Keep on keeping on Annie

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  5. Banning guns will result in the very same situation as banning marijuana. A gun is a worthless piece of metal no match for a well-built nightstick. It is the fire that creates the danger. I quit carrying when Ohio passed it’s conceal carry law. It should fall under the duties of congress to properly define “well regulated militia”. A concurrent opinion of Heller should be disqualifying as who cannot understand the difference between individual and collective. With a proper definition of militia and logical control of “cartridge ammunition” which was unknown in the Founder time. It is not even a hard problem. Who thinks that the human detritus the likes of Kyle could even load a cap and ball pistol? The problems are not guns but ineffective laws and a Supreme Court that seems determined to destroy all societal progress. I do not and will not tolerate bullies and even in the shower I have not been unarmed for a very long time. Arms and guns are not the same things and to think so causes muddled and ineffective solutions.

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    1. I think there’s a huge distinction between guns used for target shooting—even for sport, though that’s tough for me to ponder—and weapons that have no purpose other than to quickly decimate large numbers of people.

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      1. Very true but they are hard to control under current interpretation of the 2nd. Plus no effect on rifles used on JFK. Control of cartridge ammunition would fix both.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You called me impressive because I have not lost a friend to politics or religion. This is a much harder nut. Whenever two points appear a line can be created. My point on this particular line is owner of around 35 projectile launching tools five that throw little wooden sticks. (forgot slingshots: 10 but only one could be picked up and used immediately) I also own 50 plus hammers.
        Illegal does not enhance control it just adds to the chaos. Tools should not and cannot become the problem since we are the animal that makes tools.
        Automobiles (well regulated by the way, still nearly 1.25 million people are killed in car accidents each year) propelled with gas are helping to kill the ecosystem in play. Good luck banning them. So we are in the slow (corporate headwinds) process of converting to electric. Won’t need gas and my friend will still be able to drive his classic Ford-T without fear of confiscation.
        I want EFFECTIVE gun control. I can buy a Thompson sub-machine gun on E-bay right now and take possession in about six months to a year after health issues, insure storage and monetary risks mitigated and pass an on site inspection. All something this anti-authoritarian contrarian finds completely reasonable. Confiscation is a total dead end waste of time if I know my fellow Ohioans. Apologies to anyone hurt by my comments but a line has been drawn and a place upon it must be found.

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      3. We could start by requiring guns to parallel automobiles: ownership, possession and use require licensing and insurance; manufacturers must meet specific safety minimums and be held responsible for poor quality or products that don’t meet national standards.

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  6. I have had “discussions” on other websites about this issue. I have learned that many gun owners think that no one can get a gun without a background check. They have been propagandized to think that the federal laws apply to all gun sales. They don’t. Federal laws only apply to LICENSED gun dealers. In many states (example: Mississippi) state laws permit individual sales with no background checks or waiting periods. They permit easy sales at gun shows,with no ID even needed. That is why the gun problem in NYC and Chicago are caused by guns brought in from out of state. Indiana has loose laws so bringing a gun to Chicago is easy. NYC suffers from a pipeline of illegal guns from the south. It is quite hypocritical of some in our government to harp on gun violence in “Democrat cities” when those cities have good gun laws but cannot stop the inflow from other states. Until we have a universal, no loophole system we will not stop the violence. Another point. We focus on a few mass shootings but the real problem is the everyday individual violence which contributes much more to the problem. An assault ban would be nice, but it is just a band aid.

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    1. Since childhood we have been taught that with a band aid, a loving kiss and your good to go.
      Painful as it is we must recognize that modern Americans have the attention span of a gnat. Put a band aid on and put it to bed. The wound will continue to fester and only get worse. (there is a “new” gun coming that will shrink the AR-15 punks like a dip in a cold pool)

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      1. According to a Linked In site, the gnat has an attention span of ZERO. The human attention span has dropped 50%since 2000. From 12 seconds to 8 seconds. The attention span of a goldfish is 9 seconds. I have no idea of how this research was done. I was going to read more but the article couldn’t hold my attention. And no goldfish were available to clarify.

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    2. It is indeed hypocritical to blame blue cities for gun violence—especially because the violent crimes—murder and rape—are highest in the red southern states that have the weakest gun safety laws.

      I disagree that an assault weapons ban would be “nice,” but “just a bandaid.” While it is true that hand guns kill more people than assault weapons, and that suicides kill more people than homicides, these attacks on innocent people are acts of terrorism that have an enormous impact on our national psyche and are within our control to reduce. We know that from the previous ban. It is incumbent upon our government to make them illegal. We must do more, but surely we can remove easy access to weapons of war.

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  7. Passion does not equal a plan. Putting the paste back in the tube is not going to work and is a waste of resources. This nut has been polished enough, I don’t wish to crack it. Sorry you didn’t like my ideas. I disagree with nothing you have stated yet we appear to be at some odds? Many things I don’t understand.

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    1. Richard, is this comment directed at me? If so, I don’t understand either. I think I’m more inclined to think legislation is important and workable, but I don’t feel we’re at odds. We don’t have to agree on every aspect.

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    2. Ryinger. Passion does not equal a plan, but without passion nothing gets done. Take Jim Crow laws. On the books for over 50 years. It was not until the passion of the Civil Rights movement that the government finally took action and outlawed them.
      You don’t have to put the toothpaste “back in the tube”. Instead, you create a more sensible container. So if too much comes out, you can still preserve it.
      The gun problem is massive, no doubt. That is no reason not to tackle it and make inroads. The perfect is the enemy of the possible. We can’t get caught in the “it will never change” loop. Decent people working to change laws can have an impact. Yes, some laws are merely band aids. But a band aid can at least temporarily stop the bleeding . Have to start somewhere.

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      1. No argument from me on the passion or even the band aid. Previously I pointed out that people, even professionals, have a tendency put a band aid on it an move on. By all means stop new assault weapons and try to claw back the low ball 20 million in the US alone.
        I’m sure this will pause most of the shootings since “new” weapons are the most prevalent. Except that over the last 50 years (33% since 2010) the majority of mass shootings (4+ victims) involved hand guns not rifles, ever single shooter had had a recent personal trauma, most signaled their intention and none have been known to reload their own ammunition.
        I get the low hanging fruit thing but that harvest leads to complacency. A ten day waiting period between purchase and possession on all sales with all sellers held responsible with unambiguous consequences. As long as the concentration is on an inert tool instead of the tool wielder no real progress will occur. Progress into a wind requires tack.

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  8. He is the hero of Colorado Springs. I’d link it but I don’t really want to know how. His suggestion is to start with kindness. Worth a view just to see a motivated man of action.
    I’m not optimistic. The vote out of Uvalde County was gobsmacking. They don’t care about their own children. How much do they care for ours?

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    1. I did see interviews with him—lovely man—heroic and kind. I thought you had heard something about guns per se.

      As for Uvalde, I’m skeptical about that vote. I think there was a huge gulf between the victims/families and the Republicans running the town.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. A warrior.
        Challenging. Living in a community who are sorry your kids are dead but not willing to find out why, watched over by heavily armed cowards.i

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  9. The Czech Republic has a constitution in which citizens are guaranteed the right to own a gun. HOWEVER… They have to pass a 30 ( ? ) question written test,based on information they can read ahead of time. Then, if they pass the test they go on to phase 2.
    In phase 2 the person must demonstrate safe handling and proficiency with the weapon.
    Only then are they allowed to won a gun.

    Liked by 2 people

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