Bob Schwartz

Tag: guns

March for Our Lives

And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They’re quite aware of what they’re goin’ through
David Bowie, Changes

To the NRA, the politicians in their pocket, Fox News and all the others who bully and lie as a regular self-serving practice:

These astonishingly active and articulate children you dismiss as naïve pawns of special interests are anything but. They are smart and caring voters and voters-to-be, they are inspirational organizers, they are brave warriors for peace, common sense and truth.

They are the edge of a wave of American humanity that will wash you away. If you believe your own nonsense and are too stupid to be afraid of being sidelined and replaced, you should be very afraid. Nothing happens without struggle, and you may think this is a struggle that you are bound to win. But if you are students of American history, you know how this eventually goes. If you are students of history, watching (or more likely ignoring) this extraordinary moment, you would know that you are history. The arc of history is long, MLK said, but it bends toward justice.

And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.
Bob Dylan, The Times They Are A Changin’

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Rosanne Cash: Country Musicians, Stand Up to the N.R.A.

The wonderful and gifted musician Rosanne Cash, daughter of Johnny Cash, wrote an eloquent and stirring piece in the New York Times, Country Musicians, Stand Up to the N.R.A.  It is addressed to her fellow country artists. In part:

For the past few decades, the National Rifle Association has increasingly nurtured an alliance with country music artists and their fans. You can see it in “N.R.A. Country,” which promotes the artists who support the philosophical, if not economic, thrall of the N.R.A., with the pernicious tag line “Celebrate the Lifestyle.”

That wholesome public relations veneer masks something deeply sinister and profoundly destructive. There is no other way to say this: The N.R.A. funds domestic terrorism…

A shadow government exists in the world of gun sales, and the people who write gun regulations are the very people who profit from gun sales. The N.R.A. would like to keep it that way.

The stakes are too high to not disavow collusion with the N.R.A. Pull apart the threads of patriotism and lax gun laws that it has so subtly and maliciously intertwined. They are not the same.

I know you’ll be bullied for speaking out. This is how they operate. Not everyone will like you for taking a stand. Let it roll off your back. Some people may burn your records or ask for refunds for tickets to your concerts. Whatever. Find the strength of moral conviction, even if it comes with a price tag, which it will. Don’t let them bully you into silence. That’s where their power lies — in the silence of rational voices and in the apathy of those who can speak truth to power.

In case you don’t visit the NRA Country site, here are the citizens of NRA Country that Rosanne Cash is talking to.

WWJDAB: What Would Jesus Do About Guns?

If Jesus returned, and found America flooded with guns, and saw so many people drowning in that flood, what would he do?

A lot of people claim to speak for Jesus, but I am not one of them. Still, I have a guess, or maybe just a hope. Jesus would make the guns disappear. He might—might—later give them back to some who were hunting to put food on their table. He might not give them back to those who use them for sport, explaining that golf is more challenging and that far fewer people are killed by golf balls and golf clubs.

Almost immediately, Jesus would be criticized for taking away a God-given freedom. God blessed the world with America, God blessed America with a Constitution, and God blessed the Constitution with a Second Amendment. Jesus might reply that he had a better idea of what God blessed and what God had in mind. And that what he didn’t have in mind was millions of people running around with deadly weapons and often wantonly shooting thousands of others. God also isn’t keen on Kindergarten teachers packing heat while shepherding five-year-old children. Jesus would close by reminding folks that it is the peacemakers who are blessed, not the gun makers.

By then, it would be too late. Nobody would be listening. As if they ever did.

Oregon College Shooting: Republican Debate to Move to Umpqua Community College

How many shot dead today in Roseburg, Oregon? How many more injured?

We will soon have an exact body count. But while we wait for the numbers, here’s another big question: What is wrong with us?

I now hear that certain Second Amendment-loving, NRA-fearing presidential candidates are tweeting messages of sympathy for the community and for the families of those affected.

So here’s the next questions: Are you kidding me?

The answer is not better mental health oversight, treatment and identification, although that would be nice. The answer is not more guns, guns for everyone, so that the supposedly mentally ill shooters will rationally think twice about being gunned down themselves by a teacher or other student.

The answer is as few guns as we can manage to get along with, day after day. Which should be a lot fewer than we have, according to practically every other civilized country in the world. (Of course, those are ordinary countries, as opposed to exceptional America. Exceptionally absurd numbers of mass shootings, that is.)

The answer is to moderate a gun culture that is out of control. One way to do that is to…reduce the number of guns. Anyone who thinks that the current number of guns is a good idea, or that even more guns would be better, because that is what our Constitutional fathers wanted, is not mentally ill. They are historically, politically, and morally ill.

I am not going to cast too broad a net by suggesting that all the current Republican presidential candidates are strong and unconditional supporters of the NRA. But I think that may be true. In that case, I suggest that instead of holding the next Republican debate at the University of Colorado, they move it to Umpqua Community College. There they will be free to peddle all their NRA talking points nonsense to an audience filled with hundreds, thousands of people who understand all too well what the Second Amendment really and tragically means.

The Eulogy

Obama Charleston Eulogy

Almost always, the great speech is also the right speech.

President Obama’s eulogy for Rev. Clementa Pinckney and the eight other victims in Charleston was great and right.

We are accustomed these days to speeches from leaders and wannabe leaders that are mediocre and content-free, and if there is content it is calculated, self-serving, and passion-free. Welcome to this or mostly any other presidential contest.

Of course, Barack Obama is the exception to the run of the political mill. In fact his sometimes supernatural rhetoric ended up being a burden, as some wondered whether he was all talk and no action. Without getting into the measure of his still unfinished presidency, which this week looks pretty good, remember that under the right circumstances talk is also action, when action means talking about the thing that needs doing.

One remarkable aspect of the eulogy was the President’s use of pronouns. We and our, he repeated, and he did not mean we Americans. He meant we black Americans. In a situation that called for the highest leader and a black man, it so happens that the highest leader is a black man.

I’ve written before about my beloved Barbara Jordan, maybe the greatest American orator of the late 20th century, with multiple entries on the list of all time speeches. Before the eulogy, it may not have been clear where and if Obama belonged in that pantheon. If it wasn’t before, that has now been settled.

The eulogy was everything it could and should have been. It was a painting of a significant scene by a skilled and inspired artist. Like a great painting, it is more than even the greatest photograph can show us. Look here, he said, think about this, remember this, all the while appealing to the heart and soul of his audience and of the nation. We have watched hours of news coverage of the events in Charleston, reviewed and analyzed and opined upon. But the magic of a speech or a painting is that by adding words and pictures, the obstacles to our really seeing are removed, the scales fall away, and we look as if for the first time. And with that vision, maybe move on to act wisely and appropriately.

Shoes Required and Guns Permitted in Stores

No Gun

Target today “respectfully requested” that customers not bring guns into their stores, even where it is permitted by law. It joins other shops and restaurants in responding to new state laws that are allowing firearms, including automatic weapons, to be carried just about everywhere in public.

Every day at Target, in everything we do, we ask ourselves what is right for our guests? We make all of our decisions with that question in mind. Questions have circulated in recent weeks around Target’s policy on the “open carry” of firearms in its stores. Today, interim CEO, John Mulligan, shared the following note with our Target team members. We wanted you to hear this update from us, too.

The leadership team has been weighing a complex issue, and I want to be sure everyone understands our thoughts and ultimate decision.

As you’ve likely seen in the media, there has been a debate about whether guests in communities that permit “open carry” should be allowed to bring firearms into Target stores. Our approach has always been to follow local laws, and of course, we will continue to do so. But starting today we will also respectfully request that guests not bring firearms to Target – even in communities where it is permitted by law.

We’ve listened carefully to the nuances of this debate and respect the protected rights of everyone involved. In return, we are asking for help in fulfilling our goal to create an atmosphere that is safe and inviting for our guests and team members.

This is a complicated issue, but it boils down to a simple belief: Bringing firearms to Target creates an environment that is at odds with the family-friendly shopping and work experience we strive to create.

Let’s not talk about whether the legal situation, or messages such as Target’s, or video of people walking around American cities gleefully brandishing semi-automatic rifles are insane. There are plenty of other places where ordinary citizens are walking around exactly the same way. Think Syria. Think Iraq. Think dozens of other countries which we aspire to emulate.

Let’s talk about the fact that across the country, virtually all establishments reserve the right to refuse you service and ask you to leave if you show up without a shirt or shoes. Yet some of the biggest businesses in the country are having trouble telling some customers to leave if they show up with weapons. Now that is insane.

But also rational. This is business. If even a small number of Second Amendment zealots turn their sites on a chain, there is no doubt it will hurt the bottom line. The shoeless and the shirtless have no lobby. The gun advocates do.

Maybe what’s needed is another line item added to the classic “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service” sign. Or maybe stores will choose to engage a little more forcefully than a simple respectful request.

Online Gambling and Real Life Guns: It’s About The Children

sheldon-adelson-615cs013012
A team of highly-paid ex-politico lobbyists are out there arguing against proposed bills in Congress to allow Internet gambling. Under one of these bills, a 12% tax would be shared between the federal and state governments, 4% and 8% respectively. That would be a lot of revenue in these hard times.

Gambling is an American and ancient tradition. Lotteries helped fund the American Revolution, which makes them practically sacred. In this case, the main opponents of digital gaming for money are the wealthy owners of real-world casinos and establishments, most visibly billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who helped bankroll Mitt Romney’s quest for the Presidency. No surprise there. The practice of online gaming, which already goes on with offshore sites, would expand dramatically, leaving bricks, mortar and showgirl spots with a severely reduced market.

Some of the arguments against the bills are, on their own terms, not entirely unpersuasive. Gambling does support hospitality and tourism, and if the already declining dollars drop further, there are going to be folks who lose their jobs in this challenged economy. It’s not clear that the entrepreneurs getting rich off this have the will and creativity to come up with substitute businesses that would replace those jobs. Gambling is also already a social problem, damaging lives and families, and what is bad gets worse with increased volume. The final big argument is, naturally, about “the children.” No matter what we try to do, the online environment is notoriously freewheeling, and there is no question that underage players would find a way to play, just as they get cigarettes and alcohol.

On the tourism question, cultural and social trends have always left some forms of entertainment and diversion behind while other new or more appealing ones prospered. Either you believe overall in the free market or not. People who say that government shouldn’t be picking winners and losers shouldn’t be telling the government to pick winners and losers.

Out of control gambling can be pernicious, no doubt about it. But the argument, one actually made, that the poorest in society would be unfairly burdened by the attraction of online gambling is under current realities absurd. First, because it is not clear that all the opponents of online gambling care so very much for the lower tiers of American society. Second, because government already endorses, promotes and profits from easy-access gambling that does weigh on the most vulnerable—the lotteries. With all the strains on government budgets, it is unimaginable what state some states would be in without those gaming dollars.

Then there is the ultimate trump card: the children. That score is easy to answer. On the scale of things kids shouldn’t be allowed to do, alcohol is number 2, tobacco is a close number 3, and then comes gambling. Number 1 is easy. Children should not have guns, should not live in an environment where guns are widely available and acceptable, and where guns are regularly used to shoot, injure and kill innocent people—including children.

So if you happen to see or hear any of those lobbyists shilling for Sheldon Adelson and his ilk, talking about how it is about “the children” and how we must protect them from the evils of playing online poker or placing a digital bet on an NFL game, ask them if guns aren’t a tad more dangerous, and ask them what they’ve done to seriously reduce the ubiquity of those guns and to eliminate the personal and social costs that those guns have inflicted on all of us.

There likely won’t be a good answer, at least not one that isn’t laced with equivocation, hypocrisy and protests of irrelevancy. It is relevant. Ask them to put the two side by side, the harm to children from online gambling and from guns, and tell them that the billionaires are free to make billions more on their casinos—just as soon as the guns get put away.

Some Republicans Want to Kill the Dog

National Lampoon - Kill the Dog
It is as famous and funnily outrageous as any magazine cover ever: the January 1973 National Lampoon that threatened “If You Don’t Buy This Magazine, We’ll Kill This Dog.”

That, in a nutshell, is the Republican threat in Congress: agree to every piece of legislation we’ve been unable to pass over the past few years, or we will kill the country—by not passing a budget resolution or not raising the debt ceiling or both.

National Lampoon wasn’t serious, which is what made it funny. If it was a real dog, a loaded gun and a crazy shooter, it would be a crime and a tragedy. Especially if we didn’t buy the magazine and the dog was actually killed.

Some Republicans aren’t exhibiting any sense of humor about this—or sense of perspective or history or citizenship. There is a loaded gun and there is a serious intention to pull the trigger, despite any likely harm. Which would be a crime and a tragedy and not very funny at all.

TMFG: Too Many F***ing Guns

.TMFG

People are dying from politeness about guns.

We are a nation of laws, and especially of constitutions, so we talk and write about the Second Amendment. Rich, smart and safe people debate in really fancy buildings, but nothing gets done about guns. The Naval Shipyard shooting, for example, is supposed to demonstrate problems with our mental health system, or with our veterans affairs system, or with a lack of communication between our law enforcement agencies.

But we are also a nation of plain talk. Just ask Joe Biden and others. So it is time for polite and respectful people to speak openly and plainly. Constitutional arguments and political realities have their place, but so does this: There are too many f***ing guns. That is why and how too many are killed and injured—in our homes, on our streets, in our schools, in our movie theaters, in our military facilities.

Feel free to engage in extended discussion and political action; that is what we do in a democratic society. But sometimes, it can be therapeutic to speak truth to nonsense.

Four words. Four letters. TMFG. If you believe it, say it.

What Sorts of Weapons Might George Zimmerman Now Carry?

Bandolier
Robert Zimmerman says that his brother George will now be “looking over his shoulder.” There has been plenty of angry and overheated rhetoric aimed at George Zimmerman in the wake of the not guilty verdict in the case of his killing Trayvon Martin. Whether or not he needs to be in fear of his safety and life, that is something he is going to have to reasonably decide—a decision he has experience with.

In case he does decide he needs extra protection, Florida statute gives him lots of options:

Title XLVI, Chapter 790
WEAPONS AND FIREARMS

790.06 License to carry concealed weapon or firearm.—
(1) The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is authorized to issue licenses to carry concealed weapons or concealed firearms to persons qualified as provided in this section. Each such license must bear a color photograph of the licensee. For the purposes of this section, concealed weapons or concealed firearms are defined as a handgun, electronic weapon or device, tear gas gun, knife, or billie, but the term does not include a machine gun as defined in s. 790.001(9). (emphasis added)

So now that George has gotten his handgun back, he doesn’t have to stop there. He is free to add a bigger handgun, a Taser, a tear gas gun, a knife or billie club—or all of them. This is Florida, right on the edge of the subtropics, so it is almost literally a jungle out there. If he chooses not to stay in Florida, which he might deem a good idea, he may feel more comfortable out West, where there are states with conceal carry laws even more accepting of the Zimmerman philosophy, and where standing your ground while armed to the teeth is historically a way of life on the frontier. He might begin a new career writing cowboy fiction, where phrases like “you got me!” would not be out of place.

That was the 19th century, of course, and this is the 21st, but unfortunately for the sometimes glacial advance of civilization, some things never seem to change. If anything, they can look like they are moving backward.