Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Spy Who Came To All Our Dinners

The headline from Mother Jones is quite disturbing: There’s Something About Mary: Unmasking a Gun Lobby Mole. The story details Mary McFate, a prominent member of the gun violence prevention movement who, as it turns out, is also a spy for the NRA.

On an intellectual level I understand these things happen all the time. I even take some pride in thinking the organizations I am involved with are such a threat to the gun lobby they will pay someone to spy on us. And I hope they paid lots, and lots, and lots of money to their mole. I hope this duplicity cost them dearly.

But on an emotional level I am devastated. I have worked with Mary McFate for years. I go back over our encounters with the new knowledge that every interaction I had with her was a lie. I shake my head thinking of some of our conversations, remembering her probing questions, and wonder what really happened on her lobbying trips to Capital Hill supposedly on behalf of gun violence preventions groups.

This revelation has sent a shiver through many of our groups. Our coalition work requires a basis of trust and openness with each other. We will not let the likes of Mary McFate poison this foundation but we will look at new members with the seasoned eye of someone who has been terribly wronged.

I echo the words from the Mother Jones article: the McFate operation, says Miller, "would confirm for me the way that the gun lobby works, which is no rules, no question of fairness or honesty. Anything that they can do they will do to protect the profits of the gun industry."

Monday, July 28, 2008

All liberals should be killed

On Sunday, Jim Adkisson, a 58-year-old self-described “loner” walked into a church in Knoxville, Tennessee. He was carrying a guitar case and wearing a fanny pack. In the guitar case was a shotgun and in the pack more than 70 shells for the gun.
Adkisson targeted the Unitarian Universalist Church because of its liberal teachings and his belief that “all liberals should be killed because they were ruining the country, that Democrats had tied this country's hands in the war on terror and they had ruined every institution in America with the aid of media outlets."
Adkisson’s plan was to shoot until police arrived and shot him. "He certainly intended to take a lot of casualties," said Knoxville Police Chief Sterling Owen.
Fortunately, soon after Adkisson opened fire in the crowded church he was tackled by three church members who forced him to the floor. But not before his shotgun blasts had left two church members dead and several others wounded.
An acquaintance described Adkisson as someone who hates "blacks, gays and anyone different from him.” A 2000 Protection From Abuse order against Adkisson told of a threat he made to his wife to “blow her brains out and then do the same to himself.” A friend described an incident where Adkisson had been drinking heavily and then put a gun to his wife’s head.
Adkisson was a hateful, violent, dangerous man. Yet nothing in U.S. gun laws prevented him from obtaining the shotgun he used to kill two people on Sunday. How can that be?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Guns on campus? No, thank you.

There are more and more news stories about efforts to change state laws and allow concealed weapons on college campuses. Currently, Utah is the only state that specifically allows concealed weapons at public universities but bills to allow concealed handguns on campus have been introduced in 17 states. Thankfully, they have failed in 15 of these states (and have not been resolved in the remaining two).

Who are these undergraduates who harbor cowboy fantasies of triumphing in the big OK Corral shootout? They worry about being in campus “gun free zones” and grump about how they need their gun in order to protect themselves and feel safe. In reality, the guns these boys carry will never be used to stop a mass-shooting, chances are they will never be used at all. And if they are used, statistics show that they will almost certainly be used to harm the gun owner or someone he knows, not some faceless criminal.

There is no evidence that concealed weapons laws have made states safer. In fact, the evidence points the other way. Where there are more guns, there are more homicides. And as for the fantasy that one of these pistol packing pupils will stop another Virginia Tech from happening - adding more guns to a shooting incident will lead to more chaos, more chance for innocent people to be hit and greater confusion for law enforcement in sorting out who the criminal is. Highly trained police officers have a hard enough time hitting their targets in a gunfight, barely trained students would be a danger to everyone.

More guns on campus would undoubtedly lead to more gun suicides on campus. An in-depth study by Allan Schwartz in the May 2006 Journal of American College Health found that the suicide rate for college students has declined dramatically in the last 50 years, a direct result of “firearms having been effectively banned from campuses.”

Guns are not conducive for an atmosphere of open learning, most teachers and students would feel intimidated, not safer, knowing there was someone in the classroom with a concealed weapon. The presence of a gun may escalate an incident, especially when alcohol is involved. A September 2002 study in the Journal of American College Health stated: "Given that alcohol is widely thought to contribute to violent behavior generally and to a majority of college student suicides, rapes, and other violent crimes, we find it quite troubling that almost two thirds of students with guns at college report binge drinking." The study also concluded that "gun-owning colleges students are more likely to drink frequently and excessively and, when inebriated, to engage in activities that put themselves and others at risk, such as driving under the influence, vandalizing property, and having unprotected sex."

It really is simple – more guns will not make people safer.