Later On

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Archive for the ‘Guns’ Category

The Parentification of America

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Jessica Wildfire writes at OK Doomer:

It was kind of like being Cinderella, without the glass slipper.

Parentification happens when an adult places too much responsibility on a child. It’s a form of abuse. An adult might make them the primary caregiver of another family member. They might make them pay bills or get a job to supplement family income. They might confide in their child in ways they’re not prepared for. Meanwhile, the parent still tries to maintain the image of authority. The child might still have a curfew or a bedtime, even when they’re in charge of their mom’s medication, cooking dinner, or making sure their younger brother finishes their homework. Parentified children often deal with all the demands of adulthood, but none of the freedoms. As a parentified child, I know a little about that.

I’m not exaggerating when I say this:

We’re witnessing the parentification of America. We’re watching it play out on a national scale, as older affluent Americans shirk their responsibilities and fall back on childish logic to justify increasingly reckless, selfish, aggressive agendas. Teenagers are having to contemplate a sixth mass extinction happening in their lifetimes. Rather than help them develop the emotional tools to deal with that, most of the adults in their lives are telling them to pretend it’s not happening. They want them doing homework and chores, studying for tests, playing sports, filling out college applications, doing public service, and working jobs.

The perception is that young people are lazy or addicted to their phones. The reality is they’re doing more than ever. Among all the different articles out there on what teens and adolescents need, I almost never see this:

Give them a break.
Let them relax.
Let them sleep.
Listen to them.

Birthrates are declining. Rather than come up with sustainable solutions for managing America’s aging population, adults are telling young people, even 10-year-olds, they need to have more babies to keep the economy going. The far right in particular invoke innocence and purity as rationales for stripping rights away from everyone they dislike, while trying to give jobs to 14-year-olds to fill holes in the workforce, because America worked too many people to death during the pandemic. Meanwhile, they all try to present themselves as authorities, pushing pointless punitive laws for the supposed benefit of America’s youth, when they only seem designed to exploit everyone further.

Let’s look at what they’re doing to address the mental health crisis among young people. Have they . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

4 June 2023 at 11:42 am

Former Gun Company Executive Explains Roots of America’s Gun Violence Epidemic

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In an earlier post, I blogged an NPR interview with Ryan Busse, the subject of a ProPublica article by Corey G. Johnson:

From the movie theater to the shopping mall, inside a church and a synagogue, through the grocery aisle and into the classroom, gun violence has invaded every corner of American life. It is a social epidemic no vaccine can stem, a crisis with no apparent end. Visual evidence of the carnage spills with numbing frequency onto TV shows and floods the internet. Each new shooting brings the lists of loved ones lost, the galleries of their smiling photos and the videos of the police response. And each mass shooting brings another surge of national outrage.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, guns became the leading killer of children in 2020, overtaking car crashes, drug overdoses and disease for the first time in the nation’s history. Yet as the one-year anniversary of the massacre at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, passes, nagging questions loom.

Why haven’t lawmakers acted with forceful correctives? What will it take to regain a sense of safety? When will change happen? And how, exactly, did America end up here?

Ryan Busse, former executive at Kimber America, a major gun manufacturer, recently shared his thoughts on these questions with ProPublica. He was vice president of sales at Kimber America from 1995 to 2020 but broke with the industry and has become a gun safety advocate. He testified about mass shootings and irresponsible marketing last July in front of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform and authored the book “Gunfight: My Battle Against the Industry That Radicalized America.”

In June 2021, he became a senior adviser for Giffords, a gun violence prevention group led by Gabrielle Giffords, the former Arizona congresswoman gravely injured in 2011 during a mass shooting. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Where are we, as a nation, on guns? And where do you think we need to go?

I think we might be on the precipice of things getting much worse. I think this Bruen decision, the Supreme Court ruling, quite possibly will unleash so many lawsuits against so many counted-upon regulations that citizens may wake up to the equivalent of, like, no stop signs in their town anymore, except for it’ll be on gun regulation. [The Bruen decision has been called one of the court’s most significant rulings on guns in decades. It struck down New York’s concealed carry law as unconstitutional, saying it conflicted with the Second Amendment.]

What do you attribute this trend to?

As I write in my book, there was a time not that long ago, maybe about 15 to 20 years ago, when the industry understood a sort of fragile social contract needed to be maintained on something as immensely powerful as the freedom to own guns. And so the industry didn’t do certain things. It didn’t advertise in egregiously irresponsible ways. It didn’t put, you know, growth, company growth, above all other things. There were just these unspoken codes of conduct the industry knew not to violate. And those seem to have broken down. And now it’s kind of a victory at all costs. And sadly, I think there’s a lot of cost.

What do you say to people who make the argument that guns are protected by the Second Amendment and that yes, a deranged person here or there may do something bad, but is it fair to punish or penalize law-abiding gun owners with unnecessary or extra government intervention?

I am a gun owner. I hunt and shoot with my boys. I want to continue doing that. I believe and I think that I have a right to do those things. On the other hand, I do not believe that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

2 June 2023 at 11:49 am

In comparison to other wealthy countries, the US fails in keeping its citizens alive

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A country that does a poor job of ensuring that its citizens live is not a successful country on this basic and essential measure. In the Washington Post, Steven H. Woolf, professor of family medicine and population health at Virginia Commonwealth University, and Laudan Aron, a senior fellow in the Health Policy Center at the Urban Institute in D.C., write (gift link, no paywall):

Last fall, when federal statistics showed life expectancy had fallen for Americans in 2021 for a second year in a row, it was clear that the devastating covid-19 pandemic was the immediate cause. The coronavirus took the lives of more than 1 million Americans. Life expectancy fell by more than two years — and by twice as much among Hispanic, Black and Native Americans — setting the country back by two decades and producing the most abrupt decline in life expectancy since World War II.

But plotting life expectancy in the United States against that of other wealthy countries reveals three dark insights: Our life spans lag behind those of our peers; our life expectancy was already more or less flat, not growing; and most other countries bounced back from covid-19 in the second year of the pandemic, while we went into further decline.

Ten years ago, long before the world was hit by covid-19, we served as the chair and study director for a landmark report that warned about the “U.S. health disadvantage,” a gap in the health and survival of Americans relative to residents of other high-income countries. Released by a committee convened by the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, the report showed the United States had the lowest life expectancy among peer countries, and higher morbidity and mortality rates for dozens of causes. The disparity had been growing since the 1950s, by some measures, and was pervasive — affecting both sexes, young and old, rich and poor, and Americans of all races and ethnicities.

The committee examined five areas of relative deficiency that are likely contributing to the U.S. health disadvantage: (1) unhealthy behaviors, such as our diets and use of firearms; (2) inadequate health care and public health systems; (3) poor socioeconomic conditions; (4) unhealthy and unsafe environments; and (5) deficient public policies. The last category especially exerts a powerful influence on the other domains — and helps explain why other advanced democracies are outperforming the United States on almost every measure of health and well-being.

In the years before the covid-19 pandemic, as life expectancy continued to increase in other countries, U.S. life expectancy plateaued and then decreased for three consecutive years. Researchers identified a key reason: U.S. mortality in midlife (ages 25 to 64) was increasing, a phenomenon not occurring in peer countries. This, too, became the subject of a landmark report, which cited drug overdoses, alcohol use, suicides and cardiometabolic diseases (e.g., obesity, diabetes, hypertensive heart disease) as leading causes. Enduring systemic racism and health inequities means that the U.S. health disadvantage is particularly acute among people of color, especially Native and Black Americans, whose life expectancy is far lower than that of White Americans.

With the arrival of the covid-19 pandemic in 2020, the long-standing U.S. health disadvantage only worsened. In 2020 and 2021, U.S. deaths were the highest of any country and among the highest per capita. All five domains we identified in the “Shorter Lives, Poorer Health” report contributed to the death toll: Health behaviors (e.g., resistance to masking and vaccinations) facilitated viral transmission and limited vaccine uptake; health-care and public health services were unprepared and rapidly overwhelmed; socioeconomic conditions further deteriorated, especially for poorer Americans, as the economy imploded; aspects of the physical environment heightened viral exposure; and the policy response to the pandemic was deeply flawed and highly politicized. Once again, people of color paid the highest price, with Native, Hispanic/Latino and Black Americans experiencing devastating losses in life expectancy, despite an interesting twist: In 2021, declines were higher among White Americans than in most other groups, perhaps because of greater resistance to vaccination and masking in conservative communities. . .

Continue reading. (gift link, no paywall)

And read the comments. Here’s one:

Notice that all the other countries that have surpassed the US in life expectancy have nationalized healthcare. We have a healthcare system grounded in pathological capitalism where it is more profitable to keep people in treatment than prevent or cure their illnesses. This happens in a fee-for-service system where more treatment means more profit and more testing means less likely litigation (defensive medicine). The US healthcare system itself is responsible for over 250,000 deaths a year as a result of iatrogenic mistakes and adverse reactions and the US is one of only two countries that allow prescription medicine to be advertised on TV. So if you aren’t one of the 45,000 people who die each year because you have no access to healthcare, you might be one of the 250,000 who do. America spends apron. $4 trillion annually on healthcare which is about 18% of the GDP, far more than any other industrialized country. We are not getting our money’s worth but the large corporations are!


Written by Leisureguy

2 June 2023 at 10:42 am

Gun Violence’s Staggering Economic Costs

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Ruth Ben-Ghiat writes at Lucid:

Glenda Prince no longer shops at her local supermarket near Austin, TX. Kayla Hyllested, who lives in Atlanta, has stopped going to her favorite bars and clubs. And Neil Patel, owner of a gas station in Philadelphia, now pays $750 per day for 24-hour armed guards. Fear of being a victim of gun violence has fueled these changes, all of which attest to the negative economic impact of shootings on local businesses.

We don’t hear enough about the economic costs of gun violence, which now add up to $557 billion total per year, or 2.6% of our GDP. This figure includes immediate costs, such as medical care at the scene of shootings; longer term physical and mental health care; earnings lost due to disability and death; criminal justice costs; and reductions in the quality of life of victims and their families.

Given the staggering waste of life and economic resources, we need to ask American businesses and financial institutions why they are willing to sustain such costs and why the economic ripple effects of gun violence are not discussed publicly.

A high-profile business summit on these issues could provide momentum to the gun violence prevention movement and a way out of the needless drain on profits and productivity.

Americans are killing each other in record numbers, causing unbearable levels of grief and fear. A new Fox poll finds that 61% of Americans support a ban on assault weapons. And yet we cannot expect any collaboration on this issue from Republican elites. They have made it clear that they will tolerate any amount of death to keep the blood money flowing to politicians such as Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), who has received $442,000 in gun industry donations since he took office in 2013.

As body counts have mounted, GOP lawmakers have become more eager to display their loyalty to arms dealers: they pose with those dealers’ products in campaign ads, and wear assault-rifle pins in Congress.

Individuals and civil society groups, along with the Democratic party, can collaborate with gun violence prevention organizations, building bridges with constituencies to let them know the tide of public opinion is turning on this issue. The financial and business sectors are an obvious group, given the losses they sustain.

Messaging matters in arguing the case for change. Focusing on outcomes and solutions to be implemented step-by-step may prove persuasive, as well as letting people know that a different reality is desired by millions of Americans. Communications strategist Anat Shenker-Osorio suggests a pitch: “Imagine  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

9 May 2023 at 5:26 pm

The blast effect: How bullets from an AR-15 blow the body apart

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The AR-15 was designed to be a military weapon: easy to learn and to use, capable of a high rate of fire and large-capacity magazines that holds ammunition designed to inflict maximum damage on opposing forces. Its lightweight, high-speed bullet tends to tumble. Traditional Army armorers didn’t like that: the Army prefers bullets that are accurate at long distances. But the AR-15’s design recognizes that the overwhelming majority of modern combat encounters — particularly in jungles as in Vietnam (when the rifle was introduced — are not fought at long distances over clear terrain — and a tumbling bullet does much more damage when it hits.

The idea of a military weapon is in part to kill, but if the target is not killed, it’s even better if he is seriously wounded, because a wounded soldier requires care and personnel to help him. A seriously wounded soldier is not only no longer a threat, the attention he requires diminishes the threat from his fellows.

IMO a military weapon is unsuited for civilian uses. A Washington Post article (gift link, no paywall) uses interactive graphics to show in detail what happened to two civilian victims in school shootings.

The scenes of chaos and terror are all too familiar in America.

The AR-15 fires bullets at such a high velocity — often in a barrage of 30 or even 100 in rapid succession — that it can eviscerate multiple people in seconds. A single bullet lands with a shock wave intense enough to blow apart a skull and demolish vital organs. The impact is even more acute on the compact body of a small child.

“It literally can pulverize bones, it can shatter your liver and it can provide this blast effect,” said Joseph Sakran, a gunshot survivor who advocates for gun violence prevention and a trauma surgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

During surgery on people shot with high-velocity rounds, he said, body tissue “literally just crumbled into your hands.”

The carnage is rarely visible to the public. Crime scene photos are considered too gruesome to publish and often kept confidential. News accounts rely on antiseptic descriptions from law enforcement officials and medical examiners who, in some cases, have said remains were so unrecognizable that they could be identified only through DNA samples.

As Sakran put it: “We often sanitize what is happening.”

The Washington Post sought to illustrate the force of the AR-15 and reveal its catastrophic effects.

The first part of this report is a 3D animation that shows the trajectory of two different hypothetical gunshots to the chest — one from an AR-15 and another from a typical handgun — to explain the greater severity of the damage caused by the AR-15.

The second part depicts the entrance and exit wounds of two actual victims — Noah Pozner, 6, and Peter Wang, 15 — killed in school shootings when they were struck by multiple bullets.

This account is based on a review of nearly 100 autopsy reports from several AR-15 shootings as well as court testimony and interviews with trauma surgeons, ballistics experts and a medical examiner.

The records and interviews show in stark detail the unique mechanics that propel these bullets — and why they unleash such devastation in the body. .. .

Continue reading. (gift link, no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

8 May 2023 at 1:17 pm

Conservative America has far more gun deaths than liberal America, study finds

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Matthew Rosza reports in Salon:

A horrific recent trend of mass shootings has severely polarized Americans on the topic of firearms. At the center of this heated controversy lies the policy question of gun control: Should the government impose restrictions on firearms and other dangerous weapons to protect the public?

Conservatives turn to the Second Amendment to argue that the Constitution’s right to bear arms is sacred; liberals will argue that conservatives are misinterpreting the Second Amendment and that gun control policies have been proven to save lives. The conservative rejoinder to gun control, of course, is that good people with guns can protect the public from bad people with guns.

Yet several recent studies have revealed the exact opposite: In regions dominated by pro-gun politicians, the number of gun deaths is far higher than in areas controlled by pro-gun control politicians.

Foremost among these studies is one produced by the Nationhood Lab at Salve Regina University’s Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy, and first reported on in Politico. After analyzing gun violence statistics from America’s different cultural regions from 2010 to 2020, the authors found that the areas with the highest rates of gun deaths were consistently those run by Republican politicians. Compared to a national rate of 11.4 gun deaths per 100,000 people, the Deep South had 15.6, Greater Appalachia had 13.5, New France (including the heavily French areas of Louisiana) had 19.8 and the Spanish Caribbean (the heavily Latino areas of Florida) had 11.6. Similarly the First Nation (referring to the heavily indigenous areas of Alaska) had 27.6 (by far the largest of any region studied) and the Far West had 12.2.

This is a stark contrast to those regions in the predominantly Democratic Northeastern, Mid-Atlantic and Midwestern states: Yankeedom, consisting of New England, upstate New York and the northern parts of the Midwest, has a rate of 8.6 gun deaths per 100,000 people; the “New Netherlands,” which consists of New York City and its metropolitan area, has a rate of 3.8; the Left Coast has 9; Greater Polynesia, or Hawaii, has 3.5; El Norte, or the American Southwest, has 10; and both the Midlands and Tidewater regions, which include the Delaware River valley and Chesapeake Bay areas as well as parts of Virginia, then stretching through the Ohio River Valley and other parts of the Midwest, have rates of 10.9. (It is important to note that some of these regions are much more highly populated than others.) All of those gun death rates are lower than the national average of 11.4 gun deaths per 100,000 people.

“The Deep South is the most deadly of the large regions at 15.6 per 100,000 residents followed by Greater Appalachia at 13.5,” explained Colin Woodard, director of the Nationhood Lab, in his Politico article breaking down the significance of the results. “That’s triple and quadruple the rate of New Netherlands — the most densely populated part of the continent — which has a rate of 3.8, which is comparable to that of Switzerland. Yankeedom is the next safest at 8.6, which is about half that of Deep South, and Left Coast follows closely behind at 9.”

The author also noted that the pattern of blue regions being safer than red regions held even when analyzing the two most common specific types of gun-related deaths, suicides and homicides. For gun-related suicides, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

8 May 2023 at 12:56 pm

The US now sees a mass shooting every 15 hours on average: not yet two a day — but three every two days — Updated: 1.9 mass shootings per day, one every 12 hours 24 minutes

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The terrorist mass shooting in a mall near Dallas today is the 199th mass shooting in the 126 days so far of 2023. That’s a mass shooting every 15 hours on average. The total to date is 14,600 gun violence deaths. Here’s the reference for shootings and the reference for deaths by gun violence.

Update: The number of mass shootings depends on how one defines “mass shooting.” Mass Shooting Tracker defines it as “a single outburst of violence in which four or more people are shot.” With that definition, as of 6 May 2023, there were 242 mass shootings. The period from 1 Jan 2023 to 6 May 2023 is 125 days — thus, 1.9 mass shootings per day. The US is about to reach 2 mass shootings a day. — and an update to that: Gun Violence Archive also tracks mass shootings, and they seem to have a rigorous methodology.

Heather Cox Richardson writes:

For years now, after one massacre or another, I have written some version of the same article, explaining that the nation’s current gun free-for-all is not traditional but, rather, is a symptom of the takeover of our nation by a radical extremist minority. The idea that massacres are “the price of freedom,” as right-wing personality Bill O’Reilly said in 2017 after the Mandalay Bay massacre in Las Vegas, in which a gunman killed 60 people and wounded 411 others, is new, and it is about politics, not our history.

The Second Amendment to the Constitution, on which modern-day arguments for widespread gun ownership rest, is one simple sentence: “A well regulated militia, being necessary for the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” There’s not a lot to go on about what the Framers meant, although in their day, to “bear arms” meant to be part of an organized militia.

As the Tennessee Supreme Court wrote in 1840, “A man in the pursuit of deer, elk, and buffaloes might carry his rifle every day for forty years, and yet it would never be said of him that he had borne arms; much less could it be said that a private citizen bears arms because he has a dirk or pistol concealed under his clothes, or a spear in a cane.”

Today’s insistence that the Second Amendment gives individuals a broad right to own guns comes from two places.

One is the establishment of the National Rifle Association in New York in 1871, in part to improve the marksmanship skills of American citizens who might be called on to fight in another war, and in part to promote in America the British sport of elite shooting, complete with hefty cash prizes in newly organized tournaments. Just a decade after the Civil War, veterans jumped at the chance to hone their former skills. Rifle clubs sprang up across the nation.

By the 1920s, rifle shooting was a popular American sport. “Riflemen” competed in the Olympics, in colleges, and in local, state, and national tournaments organized by the NRA. Being a good marksman was a source of pride, mentioned in public biographies, like being a good golfer. In 1925, when the secretary of the NRA apparently took money from ammunition and arms manufacturers, the organization tossed him out and sued him.

NRA officers insisted on the right of citizens to own rifles and handguns but worked hard to distinguish between law-abiding citizens who should have access to guns for hunting and target shooting and protection, and criminals and mentally ill people, who should not. In 1931, amid fears of bootlegger gangs, the NRA backed federal legislation to limit concealed weapons; prevent possession by criminals, the mentally ill and children; to require all dealers to be licensed; and to require background checks before delivery. It backed the 1934 National Firearms Act, and parts of the 1968 Gun Control Act, designed to stop what seemed to be America’s hurtle toward violence in that turbulent decade.

But in the mid-1970s . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

6 May 2023 at 8:34 pm

The smearing of Garrett Foster

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Radley Balko writes at The Watch:

Last week, an Austin, Texas, jury convicted Daniel Perry for the murder of Garrett Foster. In the summer of 2020, Perry ran a red light, then drove into a crowd of people protesting the murder of George Floyd.

Foster, who was open-carrying a rifle — which is legal in Texas — approached Perry’s car to stop him from driving farther. According to witnesses, Foster’s rifle was pointed down. A few seconds later, Perry picked up his own gun and shot Foster, killing him.

In what has become an all too predictable reaction, the far right has since turned Perry into a martyr. Fever swamp personalities like Mike Cernovich and Tucker Carlson quickly advocated for a pardon, while far right personalities while calling Foster “terrorist,” a “rioter” a member of Antifa, and a “BLM boogaloo member.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who has already a shown a willingness to take marching orders from Carlson, quickly jumped into the fray, stating that he looks “forward to approving the board’s pardon recommendation as soon as it hits my desk.”

(Abbott can’t do anything without the pardon board’s recommendation.)

The entire horrific incident is now firmly enmeshed in the culture war, so no amount of truth is going to burst the Fox News bubble. But it’s important to understand why these particular lies about this particular incident are especially dangerous. So let’s break all of this down . . .

The jury’s verdict was both reasonable and consistent with Texas law

Let’s start with what we know to be true about the incident:

— According to multiple witnesses, Perry ran a red light, then accelerated directly toward a group of protesters. He could easily have driven around the protest. He did not.

— According to multiple witnesses, Perry’s car nearly struck Foster’s fiancée Whitney Mitchell and the man who was pushing her wheelchair. (Mitchell is a quadruple amputee. Not related, but also awful — year later, an Austin police officer would dump her from her wheelchair during a protest.)

— According to multiple witnesses, protesters then surrounded Perry’s car, some of them kicking or slapping at the outside of it. Foster stood next to the car, holding his rifle. Multiple witnesses say Foster never pointed his rifle at Perry, though it’s worth noting that these witnesses were protesters, and thus hostile to Perry. The only photo of the incident is ambiguous.

— Perry himself initially said Foster never pointed the rifle at him. During his police interrogation, Perry said, “I believe he was going to aim at me. I didn’t want to give him a chance to aim at me.” If someone is holding a rifle in your general vicinity, but not pointing it at you, you do not have legal cover to kill them.

— According to multiple witnesses, Foster also gestured for Perry to move on. He also instructed Perry to stay in his car to avoid any further confrontation. Neither is consistent with someone who presented an immediate threat to kill or harm Perry.

— Despite claims from right wing personalities, Foster never fired his gun.

— Even if Foster had pointed his gun at Perry, he would not have been in violation of Texas law. Based on Perry’s actions — running a red light toward a group of protesters — Foster had good reason to believe that Perry was attempting to harm Foster and those around him. He had the right to use lethal force to defend himself and others.

— At Perry’s trial, a defense expert testified that Foster could have raised his rifle and shot Perry in well less than a second. This is irrelevant. Texas is an open carry state. Anyone openly carrying a rifle could, in theory, point, aim, and kill someone in a fraction of a second. If what Foster did justifies lethal self-defense, you could plausibly argue the same about anyone carrying a rifle in public, particularly at a protest, or at any tense situation where there’s the possibility of conflict.

There is ample evidence that Perry intended to harm the protesters

Under Texas law, if Perry presented a reasonable threat of death or grave bodily harm to Foster or those around him, Foster could legally use deadly force to defend himself, and Perry would no longer be able to claim killing Foster was self-defense. This would also renter moot the dispute over whether Foster pointed his gun at Perry.

Perry’s attorneys argued that he didn’t drive into the protest intentionally. Instead, they argued that he inadvertently ran a red light and into the protest while texting.

The jury clearly thought otherwise, and there’s ample evidence for them to have done so. First, . . .

Continue reading.

It seems obvious to me that Perry premeditated his murder and thought out how he would carry it out and justify it.

Written by Leisureguy

11 April 2023 at 12:22 pm

No product recall for defective handgun that spontaneously fires with no finger near the trigger

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Centered, a photo of the SIG Sauer P32, a compact automatic handgun. At the top, two photos of victims, a woman and a man, of the handgun's malfunction, and at bottom photos of two more victims, both men.

Champe Barton and Tom Jackman report in the Washington Post:

One warm afternoon in May, Dwight Jackson was getting dressed for a visit to his favorite cigar lounge. He slipped his holstered SIG Sauer P320 pistol onto his belt, put on a button-down shirt and leaned across his bed for his wallet. Suddenly, he said, the gun fired, sending a bullet tearing through his right buttock and into his left ankle.

“I heard ‘bang!’” said Jackson, 47, a locomotive engineer who lives in Locust Grove, Ga. “I looked down and saw blood.”

His wife heard the shot from down the hall and screamed. She called an ambulance while Jackson hobbled toward the front door, painting a trail of blood over the hardwood floors.

At no point, Jackson later told police, had he touched the gun’s trigger.

The P320 is one of the nation’s most popular handguns. A variant of the weapon is the standard-issue sidearm for every branch of the U.S. military. Since its introduction to the commercial market in 2014, manufacturer SIG Sauer has sold the P320 to hundreds of thousands of civilians, and the gun has been used by officers at more than a thousand law enforcement agencies across the nation, court records show.

It has also gruesomely injured scores of people who say the gun has a potentially deadly defect.

More than 100 people allege that their P320 pistols discharged when they did not pull the trigger, an eight-month investigation by The Washington Post and The Trace has found. At least 80 people were wounded in the shootings, which date to 2016.

“The number and frequency of injuries are strongly suggestive of a design flaw versus a human performance error,” said Bill Lewinski, a behavioral scientist, executive director of the Force Science Institute and one of the nation’s leading experts on accidental shootings. “What we’re seeing is highly unusual.”

The injured included both casual and expert firearm owners whose guns fired in their homes and offices and in busy public places like casinos and parking lots. In two cases, the guns went off on school grounds.

Interviews with more than a dozen victims, video recordings, and a review of thousands of pages of court documents and internal police records reveal a pattern of discharges that were alleged to have occurred during routine movements. These have included the holstering or unholstering of the P320, climbing out of vehicles and walking down stairs. In several cases, records and videos show, the gun fired when a victim’s hand was nowhere near it.

Navy veteran and former gunner’s mate Dionicio Delgado said his P320 fired a bullet through his thigh and into his calf after he holstered it during a training session at a gun range in Ruther Glen, Va. Michael Parker, a welder, said his holstered P320 fired a bullet into his thigh as he removed the holster from his pocket while in his car in St. Petersburg, Fla. Police officer Brittany Hilton said her holstered P320 fired while inside her purse as she walked to her car in Bridge City, Tex. The bullet entered her groin and exited her back just inches from the base of her spine.

In a written response to questions, SIG Sauer, based in Newington, N.H., denied that the P320 was capable of firing without a trigger pull and cited accounts of unintentional discharges with other firearms as evidence that such issues with the P320 are neither uncommon nor suggestive of a defect with the gun. . .

At least 33 officers at 18 law enforcement agencies have been injured by P320 discharges, according to court records and interviews. At least six agencies removed the P320 from service over concerns about the model’s safety, records show. . .

Continue reading.

The company’s statement shows that it plans to do nothing about the dangers the firearm presents. But, you may say, the public can be protected against uncaring manufacturers because the government can mandate a recall of unsafe products, as it has done for cars, baby seats, supplements, foods, appliances, and so on.

But the government cannot issue a recall for an unsafe firearm. Later in that report:

Firearms are one of the few products that are exempt from federal consumer product safety regulations. No regulatory body has the power to investigate alleged defects or impose a mandatory recall of guns. As thousands of P320s circulate in the civilian market, waiting for buyers, SIG Sauer faceslawsuits from at least 70 peoplewho allege the company is selling a defective product.

. . .The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has required recalls of candles whose flames burn too tall, fleece pajamas shown to cut infants and classroom chairs with loose welding.

But it has never ordered a recall of a gun because it does not have the authority to do so, even if it explodes in someone’s hand or spontaneously fires a bullet.

The omission is the result of an amendment written by Rep. John D. Dingell in 1972, when the agency was created by Congress. Dingell, a Democrat from Michigan who was also a gun rights supporter and who sat on the National Rifle Association’s board of directors, would later describe efforts to allow the CPSC to regulate firearms as “outrageous” and “harassing the firearms manufacturers.”

Critics said the result of this political deal has endangered gun owners.

“These are products that pose a greater safety risk if they malfunction than a bike or a toaster,” said Teresa Murray, director of the consumer watchdog office at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a consumer advocacy nonprofit. “The consumer is paying the price.”

Without federal oversight, gunmakers are left to investigate reported defects and inform consumers of potential issues with their products. On multiple occasions, manufacturers have opted to ignore long-standing problems, taking action only when facing pressure from lawsuits or bad publicity.

So firearms present an ideal Libertarian example: the government cannot intervene, and the solution to the problem will be found by the exercise of the market. That is, the manufacturer can continue to sell the unsafe product until people finally refuse to buy it.

That does not strike me as a good solution. One of the primary missions of the Federal government as stated in the Preamble to the Constitution (the mission statement for the Federal government) is “to ensure the public welfare.” Allowing the sale of an unsafe firearm contradicts that goal.

Do read the whole report to see whether you’re happy with relying on the manufacturer’s good will.

Written by Leisureguy

11 April 2023 at 9:56 am

Gun deaths among U.S. children

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I do understand that the Republican party views this as an acceptable cost of having firearms freely available, but I think it’s too high a price to pay. John Gramlich reports at Pew Research Center:

The number of children and teens killed by gunfire in the United States increased 50% between 2019 and 2021, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of the latest annual mortality statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic, there were 1,732 gun deaths among U.S. children and teens under the age of 18. By 2021, that figure had increased to 2,590.

The gun death rate among children and teens – a measure that adjusts for changes in the nation’s population – rose from 2.4 fatalities per 100,000 minor residents in 2019 to 3.5 per 100,000 two years later, a 46% increase.

Both the number and rate of children and teens killed by gunfire in 2021 were higher than at any point since at least 1999, the earliest year for which information about those younger than 18 is available in the CDC’s mortality database.

The rise in gun deaths among children and teens is part of a broader recent increase in firearm deaths among Americans overall. In 2021, there were 48,830 gun deaths among Americans of all ages – by far the highest yearly total on record and up 23% from the 39,707 recorded in 2019, before the pandemic.

The total number of gun deaths among children and teens in 2021 includes . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

9 April 2023 at 2:07 pm

More Guns Do Not Stop More Crimes, Evidence Shows

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Credit: Jen Christiansen; Sources: “Gun Ownership as a Risk Factor for Homicide in the October 7, 1993; “Suicide in the Home in Relation to Gun Ownership,” by Arthur L. Kellermann et al., in New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 327, No. 7; August 13, 1992; “Homicide and Suicide Risks Associated with Firearms in the Home: A National Case-Control Study,” by Douglas J. Wiebe, in Annals of Emergency Medicine, Vol 41, No. 6; June 2003

Melinda Wenner Moyer wrote in Scientific American in 2017:

  • The claim that gun ownership stops crime is common in the U.S., and that belief drives laws that make it easy to own and keep firearms.
  • But about 30 careful studies show more guns are linked to more crimes: murders, rapes, and others. Far less research shows that guns help.
  • Interviews with people in heavily gun-owning towns show they are not as wedded to the crime defense idea as the gun lobby claims.

Editor’s Note (6/23/22): The Supreme Court has ruled that a New York State law that restricted individuals from carrying concealed guns in public without “proper cause” is unconstitutional on the grounds of the Second Amendment. The decision comes amid a debate over gun control on the heels of multiple mass shootings in the country.

After I pulled the trigger and recovered from the recoil, I slowly refocused my eyes on the target. There it was—a tiny but distinct circle next to the zombie’s eye, the first bullet hole I’d ever made. I looked down at the shaking Glock 19 in my hands. A swift and strong emotional transformation swept over me. In seconds, I went from feeling nervous, even terrified, to exhilarated and unassailable—and right then I understood why millions of Americans believe guns keep them safe.

I was standing in a shooting range 15 miles south of Kennesaw, Ga., a place known as “America’s Gun City” because of a law requiring residents to own firearms. It was day two of a four-day road trip I’d embarked on to investigate a controversial and popular claim made by the gun lobby: that more guns protect more people from crime.

Guns took more than 36,000 U.S. lives in 2015, and this and other alarming statistics have led many to ask whether our nation would be better off with firearms in fewer hands. Yet gun advocates argue exactly the opposite: that murders, crimes and mass shootings happen because there aren’t enough guns in enough places. Arming more people will make our country safer and more peaceful, they say, because criminals won’t cause trouble if they know they are surrounded by gun-toting good guys.

After all, since 1991 Americans have acquired 170 million new guns while murder rates have plummeted, according to the National Rifle Association of America (NRA). Donald Trump, when running for president, said of the 2015 shooting massacre in San Bernardino, Calif., that “if we had guns in California on the other side, where the bullets went in the different direction, you wouldn’t have 14 or 15 people dead right now.” Mike Watkins, a cop–turned–firearm instructor at the Kennesaw range, put it this way: “If I’m a bad guy, and I know this place has guns, it’s not a place I’m obviously going to want to go and do something bad.”

Is there truth to this claim? An ideal experiment would be an interventional study in which scientists would track what happened for several years after guns were given to gun-free communities and everything else was kept the same. But alas, there are no gun-free U.S. communities, and the ethics of doing such a study are dubious. So instead scientists compare what happens to gun-toting people, in gun-dense regions, with what happens to people and places with few firearms. They also study whether crime victims are more or less likely to own guns than others, and they track what transpires when laws make it easier for people to carry guns or use them for self-defense.

Most of this research—and there have been several dozen peer-reviewed studies—punctures the idea that guns stop violence. In a 2015 study using data from the FBI and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for example, researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard University reported that firearm assaults were 6.8 times more common in the states with the most guns versus those with the least. Also in 2015 a combined analysis of 15 different studies found that people who had access to firearms at home were nearly twice as likely to be murdered as people who did not.

This evidence has been slow to accumulate because of restrictions placed by Congress on one of the country’s biggest injury research funders, the CDC. Since the mid-1990s the agency has been effectively blocked from supporting gun violence research. And the NRA and many gun owners have emphasized a small handful of studies that point the other way.

I grew up in Georgia, so I decided to travel around that state and in Alabama, where the belief that guns save good people is sewn into the fabric of everyday life. I wanted to get a read on the science and listen to people with relevant experience: cops, elected officials, gun owners, injury researchers and firearm experts such as Watkins, who stood by my side as I pulled the Glock’s trigger. . .

Continue reading. It’s interesting.

Written by Leisureguy

31 March 2023 at 11:28 am

Republicans seem to *want* school shootings

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That seems harsh, but consider. When questioned after any of the continuing series of school shootings, Republicans say that the issue is not the ready availability of guns in the US. The issue, they say, is actually a mental-health issue, though of course, those suffering from mental illness are no more common in the US than in other countries they do not have school shootings (and also do not have so many guns floating around).

But taking them at their word — that they truly believe the cause of school shootings is that the US does not adequately address mental-health issues — then what conclusions do you draw from this vote:

An image from C-Span showing the vote in the US House of Representatives on School-Based Mental-Health Services, Hr 7780:

Democratic  Yea 219 Nay 0 Pres 0 NV 2
Republican Yea 1 Nay 205 Pres 0 NV 6

Written by Leisureguy

30 March 2023 at 2:13 pm

James Fallows: The AR-15 Is a Weapon of War

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3 men in religious robes, wearing crowns and white gloves, stand solemnly, grasping tightly their AR-15 rifles.
Worshipping the AR-15, at a ceremony in Pennsylvania in 2018. The man who designed the weapon, Eugene Stoner, intended it for maximum killing power in combat but thought it was strictly for military use. (Don Emmert / AFP via Getty Images .)

At Breaking the News, James Fallows has a good article on the AR-15. He writes:

This week the Washington Post has done something exceptional, controversial, and strongly in the public interest.

It showed exactly how human bodies, including the torsos and heads of little children, are blown apart by bullets from AR-15 rifles. That is in the Post’s online graphic feature, here, which went up two days ago. It includes detailed animations of the series of wounds that killed two students, six-year-old Noah Pozner in Newtown CT, and 15-year-old Peter Wang in Parkland FL. These careful recreations, based on autopsy and forensic reports, were shown with the families’ permission.

The print version of this feature occupies most of the newspaper’s front page today, along with several other stories about the AR-15.

There has long been debate about whether to show the results of the gun slaughter that uniquely plagues the United States.

—Is this exploitative, cruel, a form of violence-porn?

—Or is it a necessary reminder of what is happening, the realities of America’s unique tolerance of weapons of war?

The Post decided on the latter. They are right. They, and the families they worked with, have taken an important step.

Soon after the story was published, I got this message from a long-time reader who is a lawyer in a very conservative part of the country:

The horrors of gun violence will not be stopped until the media allows Americans to be horrified….

Children will continue to die by AR-15s in school shootings until Americans are brought to tears and haunted as they try to sleep by bloody images from the slaughters of our society’s most innocent….

Showing the carnage is necessary to stop the carnage….

I hope you will favorably compare the brave families of Noah Pozner and Peter Wang with the courage of Mamie Till.

Mamie Till was of course the grieving mother who decided in 1955 that the world needed to see the mutilated body of her 14-year-old son, Emmett, after he had been captured, tortured, and lynched in Mississippi.

Here is a screen-capture image from . . .

Continue reading.

A gift link to the WaPo article (no paywall).

Written by Leisureguy

29 March 2023 at 11:38 am

Law-writing exercise

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Qasim Rashid, a lawyer, suggests a law-writing exercise:

Imagine writing a law in 2023, with only 27 words, to regulate weapons built by future generations in 2255—despite your zero knowledge of tech 232 years in the future—and no other context is available.

That’s how absurd it sounds when people today claim a 1791 Amendment encompasses all weapons in 2023 and cannot be questioned in any capacity.

The comments that follow his post are also worth reading.

Written by Leisureguy

28 March 2023 at 6:55 pm

More on guns in the US

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In 1988, the federal government banned metal-tipped lawn darts because a single child died from one.

A cartoon titled "America reacts." In the center is a newspaper on the floor, with a headline "Sandy Hook Massacre." On the left, a woman with a fearful expression hugs a child. On the right, a man with a fearful expression hugs an AR-15.

Written by Leisureguy

28 March 2023 at 2:50 pm

The AR-15 was made for war, the goal being to inflict death or traumatic injury. It is not a civilian weapon

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James Fallows has written some good articles describing how the AR-15 bullet was designed to tumble and rip apart flesh to increase the damage of the wound. It is a war weapon, not a hunting weapon. Update: And see also his article in Breaking the News, “The AR-15 Is a Weapon of War.”

N. Kirkpatrick, Atthar Mirza, and Manuel Canales have a well-illustrated article (gift link, no paywall) in the Washington Post about the weapon Republicans want the public to have. It begins with illustrations; the text starts:

The scenes of chaos and terror are all too familiar in America.

The AR-15 fires bullets at such a high velocity — often in a barrage of 30 or even 100 in rapid succession — that it can eviscerate multiple people in seconds. A single bullet lands with a shock wave intense enough to blow apart a skull and demolish vital organs. The impact is even more acute on the compact body of a small child.

“It literally can pulverize bones, it can shatter your liver and it can provide this blast effect,” said Joseph Sakran, a gunshot survivor who advocates for gun violence prevention and a trauma surgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

During surgery on people shot with high-velocity rounds, he said, body tissue “literally just crumbled into your hands.”

The carnage is rarely visible to the public. Crime scene photos are considered too gruesome to publish and often kept confidential. News accounts rely on antiseptic descriptions from law enforcement officials and medical examiners who, in some cases, have said remains were so unrecognizable that they could be identified only through DNA samples.

As Sakran put it: “We often sanitize what is happening.”

The Washington Post sought to illustrate the force of the AR-15 and reveal its catastrophic effects.

The first part of this report is a 3D animation that shows the trajectory of two different hypothetical gunshots to the chest — one from an AR-15 and another from a typical handgun — to explain the greater severity of the damage caused by the AR-15.

The second part depicts the entrance and exit wounds of two actual victims — Noah Pozner, 6, and Peter Wang, 15 — killed in school shootings when they were struck by multiple bullets.

This account is based on a review of nearly 100 autopsy reports from several AR-15 shootings as well as court testimony and interviews with trauma surgeons, ballistics experts and a medical examiner.

The records and interviews show in stark detail the unique mechanics that propel these bullets — and why they unleash such devastation in the body. . .

Continue reading. (gift link, no paywall) The illustrations are worth viewing.

Republicans have strongly stated that not only will they take no action to regulate these guns — in fact, they are doing the opposite. At the state level, Republican legislators have passed laws so that anyone 18 years of age or older can purchase an AR-15 and carry it in public with no training required. The victims of this war are the public. Schools in the US routinely have active-shooter drives because the threat is everywhere all the time. Republicans do well when the public lives in fear.

Here are the GOP legislators who get the most cash from gun rights groups — not bribes, exactly. “Campaign contributions.”

Written by Leisureguy

28 March 2023 at 1:19 pm

How the NRA Rewrote the Second Amendment

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Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law and author of The Second Amendment: A Biography, has a good article — presumably an extract from his book — in Politico:

“A fraud on the American public.” That’s how former Chief Justice Warren Burger described the idea that the Second Amendment gives an unfettered individual right to a gun. When he spoke these words to PBS in 1990, the rock-ribbed conservative appointed by Richard Nixon was expressing the longtime consensus of historians and judges across the political spectrum.

Twenty-five years later, Burger’s view seems as quaint as a powdered wig. Not only is an individual right to a firearm widely accepted, but increasingly states are also passing laws to legalize carrying weapons on streets, in parks, in bars—even in churches.

Many are startled to learn that the U.S. Supreme Court didn’t rule that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual’s right to own a gun until 2008, when District of Columbia v. Heller struck down the capital’s law effectively banning handguns in the home. In fact, every other time the court had ruled previously, it had ruled otherwise. Why such a head-snapping turnaround? Don’t look for answers in dusty law books or the arcane reaches of theory.

So how does legal change happen in America? We’ve seen some remarkably successful drives in recent years—think of the push for marriage equality, or to undo campaign finance laws. Law students might be taught that the court is moved by powerhouse legal arguments or subtle shifts in doctrine. The National Rifle Association’s long crusade to bring its interpretation of the Constitution into the mainstream teaches a different lesson: Constitutional change is the product of public argument and political maneuvering. The pro-gun movement may have started with scholarship, but then it targeted public opinion and shifted the organs of government. By the time the issue reached the Supreme Court, the desired new doctrine fell like a ripe apple from a tree.

The Second Amendment consists
of just one sentence: “A well regulated militia, being necessary for the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” Today, scholars debate its bizarre comma placement, trying to make sense of the various clauses, and politicians routinely declare themselves to be its “strong supporters.” But in the grand sweep of American history, this sentence has never been among the most prominent constitutional provisions. In fact, for two centuries it was largely ignored.

The amendment grew out of the political tumult surrounding the drafting of the Constitution, which was done in secret by a group of mostly young men, many of whom had served together in the Continental Army. Having seen the chaos and mob violence that followed the Revolution, these “Federalists” feared the consequences of a weak central authority. They produced a charter that shifted power—at the time in the hands of the states—to a new national government.

“Anti-Federalists” opposed this new Constitution. The foes worried, among other things, that the new government would establish a “standing army” of professional soldiers and would disarm the 13 state militias, made up of part-time citizen-soldiers and revered as bulwarks against tyranny. These militias were the product of a world of civic duty and governmental compulsion utterly alien to us today. Every white man age 16 to 60 was enrolled. He was actually required to own—and bring—a musket or other military weapon.

On June 8, 1789, James Madison—an ardent Federalist who had won election to Congress only after agreeing to push for changes to the newly ratified Constitution—proposed 17 amendments on topics ranging from the size of congressional districts to legislative pay to the right to religious freedom. One addressed the “well regulated militia” and the right “to keep and bear arms.” We don’t really know what he meant by it. At the time, Americans expected to be able to own guns, a legacy of English common law and rights. But the overwhelming use of the phrase “bear arms” in those days referred to military activities.

There is not a single word about an individual’s right to a gun for self-defense or recreation in Madison’s notes from the Constitutional Convention. Nor was it mentioned, with a few scattered exceptions, in the records of the ratification debates in the states. Nor did the U.S. House of Representatives discuss the topic as it marked up the Bill of Rights. In fact, the original version passed by the House included a conscientious objector provision. “A well regulated militia,” it explained, “composed of the body of the people, being the best security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, but no one religiously scrupulous of bearing arms, shall be compelled to render military service in person.”

Though state militias eventually dissolved, for two centuries we had guns (plenty!) and we had gun laws in towns and states, governing everything from where gunpowder could be stored to who could carry a weapon—and courts overwhelmingly upheld these restrictions. Gun rights and gun control were seen as going hand in hand. Four times between 1876 and 1939, the U.S. Supreme Court  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

22 March 2023 at 8:35 pm

How big Christian nationalism has come courting in North Idaho

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Jack Jenkins reports at Religion News Service (with audio at the link):

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho (RNS) — Earlier this month, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Georgia Republican, addressed the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee, whose purview runs from this small resort city up along the Washington state border. Before she spoke, a local pastor and onetime Idaho state representative named Tim Remington, wearing an American flag-themed tie, revved up the crowd: “If we put God back in Idaho, then God will always protect Idaho.”

Greene’s remarks lasted nearly an hour, touching on a range of topics dear to her far-right fans: claims about the 2020 election being “stolen,” sympathy for those arrested for taking part in attacking the U.S. Capitol and her opposition to vaccine mandates.

She then insisted that Democrats in Washington have abandoned God and truth — specifically, the “sword” of biblical truth, which she said “will hurt you.”

The room of partisans applauded throughout, sometimes shouting “Amen!”

The event may be the closest thing yet to Greene’s vision for the GOP, which she has urged to become the “party of Christian nationalism.” The Idaho Panhandle’s especially fervent embrace of the ideology may explain why Greene, who has sold T-shirts reading “Proud Christian Nationalist,” traveled more than 2,300 miles to a county with fewer than 67,000 Republican voters to talk about biblical truth: Amid ongoing national debate over Christian nationalism, North Idaho offers a window at what actually trying to manifest a right-wing vision for a Christian America can look like — and the power it can wield in state politics.

North Idaho has long been known for its hyperlibertarians, apocalyptic “preppers” and white supremacist groups who have retreated to the region’s sweeping frozen lakes and wild forests to await the collapse of American society, when they’ll assert control over what remains.

But in recent years, the state’s existing separatists have been joined by conservatives fleeing bluer Western states, opportunistic faith leaders, real-estate developers and, most recently, those opposed to COVID-19 restrictions and vaccines. Though few arrived carrying Christian nationalist banners, many have quickly adopted aspects of the ideology to advance conservative causes and seek strength in unity.

The origin of North Idaho’s relationship with contemporary Christian nationalism can be traced to a 2011 blog post published by survivalist author James Wesley, Rawles (the comma is his addition). Titled “The American Redoubt — Move to the Mountain States,” Rawles’ 4,000-word treatise called on conservative followers to pursue “exit strategies” from liberal states and move to “safe havens” in the American Northwest — specifically Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and eastern sections of Oregon and Washington. He dubbed the imagined region the “American Redoubt” and listed Christianity as a foundational pillar of his society-to-be. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

22 February 2023 at 6:21 pm

Stop Pretending Clarence Thomas Can Read the Framers’ Minds

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Heidi Li Feldman and Dahlia Lithwick have a good article in Slate that begins:

The majority of our current Supreme Court justices worry that the Second Amendment does not get the respect it deserves. They claim modern gun control laws wrongly prioritize efforts to curb gun violence over the individual’s right to bear arms, impermissibly relegating that right to a “second-class” status. To ensure that legislatures and lower courts properly honor the Second Amendment, the high court last year announced a new test for the validity of laws regulating gun possession and carrying. In New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, the court declared that modern gun control laws must hew tightly to the Anglo-American tradition of firearms regulation as that tradition stood in and around 1791, the year the Second Amendment was ratified.

Invoking the litmus test laid down by Bruen, a panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently invalidated a federal law aimed at keeping guns from those adjudicated to be domestically abusive to their intimate partners. According to the appellate judges in U.S. v. Rahimi, this law is too unlike any laws from the late 18th century to survive constitutional review.

These decisions and the reasoning that guides them are frightening and oppressive. They seem to force us to look down the wrong end of a temporal telescope so that we can see only the narrowest version of what the Framers might have demanded of us. The Bruen approach further assumes that had those same Framers had the ability to look ahead across time to our world, they could imagine only the most cramped future possible. But that is an interpretive choice, not an unassailable presumption. On closer examination, Rahimi itself ultimately reveals that judges can legitimately choose to see both our past and our present from a far more generous perspective, one the Framers themselves might well have approved.

Picking up a term that peppers Bruen, the Rahimi judges approached their job by asking whether this modern law, stripping adjudicated domestic abusers of their right to possess and carry weapons, would seem like an “outlier” to our ancestors. To fashion a reply, they undertook a survey. They diligently identified features of historical laws and features of the modern law. They itemized the features of the old laws missing from the current one and features of the new law absent from the old ones. From this inventory, the panel concluded that our ancestors would have deemed the current law an outlier.

In essence, this panel performed an observational experiment. They collected and classified information, organizing what they observed. Then they looked for patterns in the data points. Their taxonomy made features of the current gun control law look like wild outliers compared to features of historical laws. But another experimenter, operating with another, equally reasonable taxonomy, might have classified the laws’ features without yielding any outliers whatsoever.

If, then, we are substituting judgment and reasoning for raw historical imitation, we should consider more broadly how our forebears from 1791 would have approached the question of whether a law regulating gun possession is an outlier compared to the laws of their time. We might even find ourselves able to imagine ratifiers of the Second Amendment, gazing forward through the correct end of the telescope, envisioning a future in which laws precluding alleged domestic abusers from possessing firearms actually fit squarely within their vision of the amendment.

Let’s play it out. Hypothesize that one of our ancestors is presented with the contested domestic abuser provision of the federal Gun Control Act. To parse the law’s features, she might first want to understand what an “intimate partner” is; why in our day we have legal procedures by which a person threatened by and afraid of an intimate partner might obtain a court order restraining that partner from contacting or coming near them. She might want to know how easily obtainable guns really are in America today; how much and what kinds of gun violence are perpetuated mostly by men. Our hypothetical ancestor might also find it useful to know about the decadeslong drive by the gun industry and gun enthusiast organizations to ensure that state and federal governments would protect gun manufacturers from the reach of ordinary tort law, and how these organizations marshaled resources to persuade courts to reinterpret the Second Amendment as creating an individual right to own and use guns for personal self-defense. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

16 February 2023 at 11:52 am

The Long Descent to Insurrection

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Jacob Glick writes in Lawfare:

The release of the final report of the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol was the culmination of a yearslong sprint to uncover the facts behind the attempted insurrection. The committee’s top-line conclusion has been well established by now: Donald Trump’s authoritarian obsession with retaining power resulted in a multipronged assault on American democracy that reached its bloody climax on the steps of the Capitol. By exposing that truth, the committee accomplished its most urgent task, which was to warn the public about the dangers of Trump and his coup-enthusiast lackeys.

But that story is only one piece of a broader constellation of evidence assembled by the committee, including an unprecedented inside look at the coalition of domestic violent extremists who answered Trump’s call to upend the rule of law. I was part of a small team of investigative counsels who were responsible for interviewing members of the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, and other individuals associated with far-right extremist groups. This evidence we collected should be a warning to the general public that the Jan. 6 assault is part of a broader threat of paramilitary violence and its intersection with electoral politics, which began long before the day of the insurrection and has endured far after it was quelled, as former Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Mary McCord and I wrote in Just Security.

However, this evidence can also be studied in order to reshape public perceptions of the underlying dynamics that made the Jan. 6 attack possible in the first place. The committee’s report and investigation rightly focused on the immediate lead-up to Jan. 6, particularly by zeroing in on the importance of Trump’s tweet from Dec. 19, 2020, as a rallying call for extremists to come to D.C. But the larger universe of evidence released by the select committee shows that there was a much longer run-up to the attack that stretches back to at least the beginning of 2020, if not earlier in Trump’s term.

Depositions with Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, QAnon adherents, and others revealed how extremist mobilization did not begin with Trump’s call to his supporters to come to D.C. or even with his refusal to concede the election. The committee uncovered a monthslong trend toward political violence by these groups spurred on by pandemic-related health restrictions and, later, Black Lives Matter protests. Our evidence shows that the violent energy that burst forth on Jan. 6 had been cultivated during the tumultuous months prior, including in the most fascistic fantasies of Oath Keepers’ leader Stewart Rhodes and chief Proud Boy Enrique Tarrio.

In many instances, the right-wing extremists we deposed pointed to a clear throughline between the perceived tyranny of Democratic politicians’ imposition of coronavirus safety measures in the spring of 2020, the alleged “riots” that occurred in left-leaning areas during the summer, and those same cities allegedly manufacturing ballots and enabling shadowy forces to steal victory from President Trump in the autumn. Beyond revealing the racist heart of the “Big Lie,” this narrative arc shows why paramilitary groups like the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, Three Percenters, and others were so ready and willing to answer Trump’s command to “stop the steal.” To them, it was the natural extension of what they had been preparing for all year long—often at Trump’s urging—as they grappled with what they saw as an extended crisis that required a vigilante response.

The Trigger of the Coronavirus

As our team conducted depositions with assorted far-right extremists, I was at first surprised by how consistently the onset of the pandemic was cited as the genesis of their engagement with domestic violent extremism. But as we conducted more and more interviews, it began to make sense that the society-altering fallout of the coronavirus would have also had a strong impact on the evolution of the Jan. 6 coalition, because it provided an unprecedented opportunity for paramilitary extremists to join forces with others on the far right in a joint effort to target the government, which would lay the groundwork for the type of coalition that was eventually mustered on Jan. 6.

Perhaps the most consequential example of this phenomenon was Kellye SoRelle, lawyer for the Oath Keepers and close confidante of Stewart Rhodes as he plotted his seditious conspiracy.  SoRelle said her desire to fight back against the coronavirus public health measures initially led her to engage with the Oath Keepers. She testified that a “ragtag” association of groups had private militias—including Rhodes and the Oath Keepers—that acted as security for anti-lockdown activists who challenged restrictions in Texas.

In context of these anti-lockdown protests, SoRelle described the Oath Keepers’ mission as one of . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

15 February 2023 at 10:43 am

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