Commentary

The downward spiral continues: House Speaker to host shooting range fundraiser in April at undisclosed location

GOP gun fundraiserJust when you thought things had reached their nadir…

For those who don’t follow a lot of the strange machinations of the conservative fringe, you may find it interesting to learn that it’s a common practice for far right groups with ugly histories and connections to hold events at unpublicized venues. A couple of years back, for instance, a group with longstanding connections to white supremacists known as the Council of Conservative Citizens held its national conference in “the Winston-Salem metro area.”

By not publicly identifying the actual hotel at which the event would take place, the organizers presumably spared the hotel of bad publicity and discouraged the news media, protesters and other interlopers who might have shined a light on the hate being spewed inside.

Now, amazingly, it appears that a similar tactic has been adopted by the Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives with respect to an event he has planned for next month.

As you can see from the announcement at left, the Speaker will host a big dollar fundraiser four days before the 2016 short session at “a local shooting range.” Rather than giving the address for the event — as is always done with these kinds of invitations (it’s usually a swanky private club) — the event informs the folks invited (most of whom will be lobbyists looking to bestow their last minute gifties prior to the ban that commences at the start of session) that “address and details will be provided upon RSVP.”

Now, in fairness, it seems unlikely that this event will be on the level of a Council of Conservative Citizens shindig and it’s at least possible that organizers haven’t finalized the details of the location yet. If that’s so, however, how can they be so sure of the timing?

The bottom line: By all appearances, the Speaker of the North Carolina House will be hosting a fundraiser for lobbyists next month at a shooting range and he plans to keep the location a secret. If nothing else, this is as depressing as heck and yet another symbol of how far our state has fallen.

Commentary

Sigh…NC voucher school benefits from assault weapons raffled off in February fundraiser

Smith & Wesson M&P15 Sport

Smith & Wesson “M&P15 Sport” assault weapon

Here’s some really encouraging news to wrap up your Tuesday. A self-described North Carolina “Christian school” that receives thousands of dollars in public taxpayer funds supplemented its income last month via a “gun raffle” that gave away two semi-automatic “assault weapons” along with 10 other guns.

According to the Facebook page for the event, the guns were given away as part of a raffle to benefit the Halifax Academy in Roanoke Rapids (which uses the tagline “A Christian School”) on February 2. No word on how much cash the event brought in, but it seems safe to say that it was probably substantial. The school in question looks to be growing and doing pretty well and the gun raffle also appears to be an annual event.

In the New York Times today, a conservative Republican penned an article about the current presidential race entitled “What Wouldn’t Jesus Do?” From the looks of things, he might want to turn his gaze to Halifax, North Carolina as well.

Commentary

Terrorism comes to North Carolina

Gun-violenceIt may not meet the definition typically associated with the word these days, but there should be no mistake that “terrorism” came to Lumberton, North Carolina yesterday.

Amazingly, however, it barely made a ripple in the news cycle. Raleigh’s News & Observer devoted all of a 130 words in a few buried paragraphs from A.P. to the genuine horror:

A 3-year-old boy has died after accidentally shooting himself with a handgun he found behind the counter of his father’s Lumberton convenience store.

Police Capt. Terry Parker told local media outlets that officers were called to the store around 11 a.m. Sunday.

Parker said the boy was at the store with his father, Manal Abdelziz of Laurinburg. The boy’s name was not released.

Parker said the boy found the gun under the cash register. He said the father’s attention had been diverted momentarily.

The boy was taken to Southeastern Regional Medical Center in Lumberton where he was pronounced dead.

Parker said the Robeson County District Attorney’s Office will decide whether charges are filed. It is illegal to have an unsecured gun in the presence of a child.”

Now, just imagine what the news coverage would have looked like if the child had been killed by someone who met the usual definition of “terrorist” — especially a “foreign terrorist.” There would be people in the street demanding vengeance, missile attacks, strategic bombings and perhaps even a declaration of war.

But, of course, here’s the remarkable truth: Since the end of the September 11 attacks in 2001, roughly 400 Americans have been killed in “terrorist” attacks. (The number balloons, of course, to 3,400 or so if you include the 9-11 horrors.)

During that same period, the number of Americans killed by gun violence is well north of 400,000. That’s more than 133 September 11 attacks! There were 372 “mass shootings” and 64 school shootings in the U.S. in 2015 alone. Gun murders in the U.S. occur at 30 times the rate in the United Kingdom.

Talk about terror. If Osama bin Laden were alive today, he’d no doubt be smiling at these data and the fact that American gun manufacturers and their apologists are taking on so much of the task he had assigned to himself and his followers.

Commentary

Stop the suicidal gun madness

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

Gun madness is so bad, we’ve almost stopped noticing

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.”