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The lead editorials in this morning’s New York Times and Los Angeles Times are absolutely correct in their assessments of the insane gun carnage that grips our nation. This is the excellent conclusion of the NYT piece:

“Those who reject sensible gun controls will say anything to avoid implicating the growth in the civilian arsenal. The House speaker, Paul Ryan, for one, responded to the killings at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs with a call for better mental health care, and is supporting a new bill that sponsors said would expand services to provide earlier treatment so violent people might theoretically be intercepted. “For those with mental illness, what we ought to be doing is treating the mental illness instead of responding to the crime,” Representative Tim Murphy, a Pennsylvania Republican and a chief sponsor of the bill, told The Wall Street Journal in an interview on Tuesday.

This is the familiar line trotted out by Republican politicians after every massacre, as if unfettered access to high-powered weaponry — which they and the gun lobby have made possible — is not a factor in this national catastrophe. Congress’s Republican leaders are betting they can brazenly go through another election cycle without enacting gun safety laws.

Congress has allowed the domestic gun industry to use assorted loopholes to sell arsenals that are used against innocent Americans who cannot hide. Without firm action, violent criminals will keep terrorizing communities and the nation, inflicting mass death and damage across the land.”

The LAT puts it this way:

“Enough. This nation’s infatuation with guns — inflamed by the ludicrous stances of the NRA, and abetted by Congress’ fear of that powerful but irresponsible group — is suicidal. There are too many guns, too easily obtained. Often they are in the hands of those who should not have them at all, such as the mentally ill.

It’s absurd that one of the richest, freest, and most advanced societies in world history endures such a scourge with such equanimity. But there is hope. A Gallup poll in October found that 55% of Americans support stronger gun control measures, and other surveys have found that even a majority of NRA members support mandatory background checks — something the NRA itself has assiduously opposed. There is broad political support for stronger laws to address the nation’s gun addiction, but gun control advocates have so far been unable to counter the money and organizational heft of the NRA. It’s obscene that a single interest group is able to endanger an entire nation’s safety….

This crisis in American society must be combated through the ballot box, and through lobbying to loosen the iron grip the NRA holds on Congress and many state legislatures. That is where the pushback against this culture of death needs to occur. And it needs to occur now.”

Amen.

Commentary
Syrian refugee

Image: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

The common sense responses to the irrational fear-mongering taking place over Syrian refugees in recent days are so numerous and compelling as to leave any caring and thinking person shaking his or her head in embarrassment at the performance of public officials of both parties.

As one friend of NC Policy Watch wrote to us this week:

About one million people arrive in the US every day, by land, sea and air. (Yes, many are Americans; but many are foreigners who just show a passport and get waved through.)

Last year, for instance, there were 95,000 international arrivals among the 4.8 million people ‘deplaning’ at RDU.”

Meanwhile, our friend noted:

“The Governor is trying to create a national panic over a few thousand Syrian refugees, mostly women and children, who undergo several levels of vetting to be admitted to the US while also adamantly insisting that many thousands of persons be allowed to buy guns at gun shows with NO background checks. A terrorist’s dream!

In keeping with our friend’s take, here are some more actual details of the process that refugees must endure. As reporter Alicia Caldwell explains at Talking Points Memo, it is lengthy and thorough. This is from her article:

“Refugees who spent years waiting for approval to come to the United States said authorities asked detailed questions repeatedly in multiple interviews, including pressing them about their backgrounds and reasons for fleeing Syria. Nedal Al-Hayk, who was resettled in suburban Detroit with his family after a three-year wait, said officials interviewed him and his wife in separate rooms, asking repeatedly and in different ways where they were born, where their parents were born, what they did before and during the war or whether they were armed, part of a rebel group, supportive of the government or even politically outspoken.

Syrians initially file refugee claims with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which then refers them to the U.S. government. The process has no guarantee of approval and takes so long — Syrians wait nearly three years for approval to come to the U.S. — that experts said it would be a longshot for an extremist group to rely on the refugee program as a way to sneak someone into the United States. The Islamic State group has had far more success appealing to people already living inside the United States to commit or conspire to commit violence. Attorney General Loretta Lynch told lawmakers this week that roughly 70 people have been charged with crimes related to foreign-fighter activity and homegrown violent extremism since 2013.”

The bottom line: Of all the threats to domestic peace and tranquility in modern America, refugees are way, way down near the bottom of the list. Would that our quick-to-demagogue politicians were as concerned about the real threats (gun violence for example) as they are about the illusory ones. Read more on the vetting process that refugees must endure and who they are by clicking here.

Commentary

Emily Atkin of Think Progress has posted seven great questions put forth by progressives — including former Equality NC director Ian Palmquist — that ought to be posed of all presidential candidates, including the five Democrats who will debate on CNN tonight:

1)“What do you think are the top three things the next president needs to do in order to make sure fewer families have to go through the pain that mine has?” – Erica Lafferty Smegielski, daughter of deceased Sandy Hook Elementary School principal Dawn Hochsprung.

2) “Will you engage in aggressive litigation against the fossil fuel industry’s conspiracy of climate denial, as the Clinton administration did against the tobacco industry?” – R.L. Miller, president of Climate Hawks Vote.

3) “What would you do to prevent the racially charged attacks on the right to vote?” – Sean McElwee, research associate at Demos.

4) “When you step into office, will you commit … [to use] your authority to immediately end leasing of public fossil fuels in the U.S.?” – Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth Action.

5) “What will you do to ensure that young people maintain access to critical healthcare services despite growing conservative attacks on birth control, abortion, and other services?” – MS Keifer, policy analyst at Advocates for Youth.

6) “Will they work to eliminate all mandatory minimum drug sentences? And how would they allocate federal funds and specifically design programs to prevent recidivism?” – Zellie Imani, Black Lives Matter activist and New Jersey teacher.

7) “What would your administration do to make sure young LGBT youth are getting education, not incarceration?” – Ian Palmquist, director of leadership programs for Equality Federation.

Click here to read the entire article and the full explanations of each question.

Commentary

Gun-violenceThis morning’s “Monday numbers” column by Chris Fitzsimon reminds us yet again of how out of control America’s gun madness has spiraled. Not only does the easy availability of killing machines to the mentally ill continue to result in regular mass murders (1,000 just since the Sandy Hook tragedy!), but the mass shootings are coming so fast now that many don’t even make front page news, except perhaps in the communities in which they take place. Add to this the strange form of mental illness that afflicts our nation’s political leadership (clinical name: NRA-phobia) and the situation is rendered even more troubling.

And still sane voices continue to speak out. This weekend, a lead editorial in Greensboro’s News & Record put it this way:

“The United States should do better. This should not be a country that accepts so much death by firearms.

It’s not just mass shootings that should concern us. Shootings are commonplace in every American city, including Greensboro, and in many small towns and rural communities.

We can’t say there aren’t tough gun laws. Crimes committed with firearms are punished, usually with long prison sentences. Many offenders serve hard time for possession of a firearm by a previously convicted felon. Continued efforts are needed to keep guns out of the hands of people with histories of committing crimes. Liberals and conservatives should agree on that point.

Where else can common ground be found? On the idea that there are other people, those with mental health issues, who should not be allowed access to guns.”

The editorial concludes with this eminently reasonable take:

“All firearms purchases should require background checks — a position strongly supported by public opinion — but more evaluation is needed. In North Carolina, sheriffs grant pistol permits. This is a good precaution on the theory that a sheriff may have information about domestic abuse, personal feuds or other signs of trouble indicating that a gun should not be added to the equation.

Law-abiding citizens are entitled to keep guns for personal protection, for sport or for collecting. They aren’t the problem, as long as they keep their weapons secure from children and thieves. But so many shooting deaths prove absolutely that something is terribly wrong in our country. Surely, there are effective, acceptable remedies that can save innocent lives without compromising anyone’s legitimate rights. Let’s find them.”

Commentary

The good people at the online news site known at The Trace are out with an excellent new article today on the efficacy of sensible gun laws and the demonstrable benefit they provide in lowering crime and violence. Here’s the introduction to “Gun-Rights Advocates Claim Criminals Don’t Follow Gun Laws. Here’s the Research That Shows They’re Wrong. How the right kind of regulations deter criminals from getting guns”:

“Despite the fact that mass shootings are predominantly an American phenomenon, gun advocates are quick to insist that there is nothing we can do to prevent them. Instead, they suggest these murders could only be reduced by having more armed civilians — aka  “good guys with guns” — roaming the streets, a solution that inevitably involves fewer gun regulations and more gun ownership. Reducing gun violence through straightforward policies of the sort implemented in virtually every other industrialized nation is regarded as a chimera by the National Rifle Association. After all, criminals don’t follow laws, so what would be the point?

John R. Lott, the author of More Guns, Less Crime, recently evoked a version of this slogan in a piece for The Daily Caller, arguing that closing the loopholes in the background check system would not have stopped the Charleston mass shooting from happening. The alleged killer’s record included an admission of drug use that should have blocked the purchase when he bought his Glock from a licensed dealer, but an FBI examiner didn’t catch it in time and the sale was allowed to go through by default. Even if had been denied, Lott reasoned, “[i]t seems hard to believe that he couldn’t have figured out some way of obtaining a gun.”

It turns out, however, that the scientific evidence suggests precisely the opposite: criminals routinely respond to incentives, and policies such as background checks and permit-to-purchase requirements demonstrably save lives by reducing criminal access to firearms. The problem, these studies show, isn’t that criminals don’t follow laws, but rather that criminals aren’t dissuaded by weak laws. And gun laws in all but a few states are decidedly weak.”

Click here to read the rest of this compelling explanation of why tougher gun laws make us all, on the whole, much safer.