Tag Archives: NRA

Gun Control – Apparently, There Is No Middle Ground

I posted an article on March 15th, asking the question if there could be middle ground on gun control.  Gun Control – Can There Be A Middle Ground?

I got the response that I pretty much expected, mostly from those that believe the 2nd Amendment is about protecting one’s home.  One person commented that he has the right to protect his family in the way he deems most effective and responsible and there is no debate about it.  He went on to say that the founding fathers understood the right of self-preservation.

The 2nd Amendment reads:  “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

It’s purpose was to prevent the New Federal government established in 1789 from disarming the state militias and replacing them with a federal army, a concern that was relevant for a few years during the birth of our country but is irrelevant in current times.

It’s more of a firewall to prevent anyone to take total control of the country in absolute power.

If there is one thing that I want to make clear here, it’s that I, in no way shape of form, want to repeal the 2nd Amendment.  In fact, keep your guns if you want to since most likely, the only way guns could be taken away are from your “cold, dead hands.”

A question I ask of every citizen of these United States, NRA members and anti-gun proponents, black, white, Latino and any other people I fail to mention is this:  Do you want to make schools and universities a safer place for this country’s upcoming generations?

I would expect that many of us would agree that all want to make schools safer.  Ok, we have a starting point.  However, the diverse directions that each side want to take to reach that goal is so far apart that it has caused a freeze in reaction…and kids in the schools are caught in the middle.

David Hogg, a survivor of the Stoneman Douglas High School Shooting in Parkland, FL, has become a gun control advocate and activist against gun violence since the shooting.  He has been targeted by several right-wingers such as Laura Ingraham (mocking Hogg for being rejected by several colleges for his GPA), Frank Stallone (saying Hogg is getting a little to big for his britches and that someone in his (Hogg’s) age group is dying to sucker punch him and perhaps most insulting was Ted Nugent’s rant in where he stated that Parkland survivors have no soul and are liars.

What I can glean from this is these people don’t want to try and find a solution to keep schools safer.  They are deflecting from the subject by making outlandish and insulting statements to muddy the waters.

This is not going to be an easy solution to come to.  Both sides have very strong arguments as to what needs to be done.  Some want to allow teachers to carry guns and others feel a ban on assault style weapons is in order.  Also, there are the lunatic fringes on both sides, those who want to have everyone carry a gun and those who think the 2nd Amendment should be repealed.

The NRA (National Rifle Association) calls itself the country’s longest-standing civil rights organization and are the proud defenders of history’s patriots and diligent protectors of the 2nd Amendment.  It’s a non-profit organization that is tax exempt, not a status that I feel for an outfit so closely tied to the firearms and ammunition industry.  And since they only specialize in 2nd Amendment issues, I find it hard pressed to consider them a civil rights organization.

I end this by saying I won’t see a solution to this in my lifetime.  Just like I doubt I will see racism in this country come to end or powerful lobbyists no longer controlling elections and political issues.

Gun Control – Can There Be A Middle Ground?

This isn’t going to be a rant about gun control nor is it going to be a rant about 2nd amendment rights.  It’s a fruitless argument since neither side is willing to compromise to come up with an equitable solution.

I am neither a proponent or opponent about one’s right to own guns.  But to be fair, I must point out that I do not own a gun and have no desire to.  I have lived a pretty good life without them and have never been in a situation that would be considered life threatening.

I have hunted…in fact there are many good memories going deer hunting with my father as well as pheasant hunting with my dog Snoopy.  Still, toward the end of my hunting phase, I began to feel that I had too much of an advantage over the animals that I hunted and decided that it just wasn’t fun anymore.  And that was my choice

Choice.  That word when it comes  to guns is a huge  obstruction when it comes to the issue of guns.

What brings me to voice an opinion about this was the mass shooting that took place in Parkland, Florida last month as well as the nation-wide walk out that elementary and high school students participated in.  As a sign of respect to the victims of the shootings, many of the protests lasted 17 minutes in deference to the 17 children that were killed.

What do the children want?  They want to be safe in their schools.  They want to know that there is little chance they could be killed.

Since 2013, there have been over 300 school shootings, about an average of one per week.  And while proponents of the 2nd Amendment and the NRA will try to point to mental health issues are the root cause of these shootings, the proponents of gun control will point to the availability of assault rifles to be the root cause.

As for arming teachers, my biggest fear in that came to fruition when a teacher discharged a weapon in a California classroom.  No one was killed but three students sustained minor injuries.  However, no call to a student nurse or paramedics took place and the teacher continued with his class.

The teacher was instructing the students about gun-safety and was about to show students how to disarm someone.  While I applaud the class, there are several questions that come to mind:  If a real gun was to be used, why would live ammunition be allowed?  In fact, why would the gun need to be loaded at all if this was a demonstration?

What I don’t understand is the attitude of gun owners about any of this.  They say it is within their right to own any type of gun they wish.  I don’t begrudge their desire to own guns.  But I think the interpretation being used is a little far-fetched.

The exact wording of the 2nd Amendment is:  A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. On December 15, 1791, the Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments to the Constitution) was adopted, having been ratified by three-fourths of the states.

Lets look at the phrase “well regulated militia” for a moment.  In the context of the 2nd Amendment, proponents of gun ownership use this loophole to own guns for the security of a free state.  It does not talk about security of one’s home nor does it talk about self-defense.  And in 1791, when the Bill of Rights were ratified, the founding fathers were taking into consideration the weapons current for that time.

Can there be middle ground when it comes to gun control?  I think the chasm between the two camps is too far of a gap.  The NRA, as the student demonstrations were taking place, posted on Twitter of a black rifle emblazoned with the American flag with the caption of “I’ll control my own guns, thank you.”  A pretty heartless indication of how the NRA feels about students getting killed.

The NRA, many of the Republican Party and owners of guns will try to tell you that many of the school shootings are a mental health issue.  Anti-gun groups and many Democrats will say that it is the availability of assault-type guns that are the culprit.

Why can’t both sides be right?  I think first and foremost, both sides can at least agree they don’t want to see students being killed.  The loss of a child is perhaps the greatest fear of any parent.

Not too long ago, there was a posting that came across my Facebook with a picture of an assault style rifle with the question “Why do you feel the need to own this type of gun?”  While I didn’t respond to the question, I did read some of the responses and many of them had the same sentiment.  It wasn’t a question of need as more of a question of want.  Others posted saying they wanted them for home protection.  Still others pointed to the 2nd Amendment said they could have them.  I really doubt the founding fathers took into consideration a weapon that has the capability of 12 to 15 rounds per minute.

All that is necessary to begin a discussion on this is for both sides to see there is a need for it.  Start with the fact neither side wants to see children killed in schools and go from there.  Both sides need to stop being blinded by what both sides perceive to be show stoppers in finding a resolution.

But most of all, no solution can be reached until both sides can agree to talk with each other.

Without a civil discussion, both sides are going to be at risk of losing what they hold dear.

Donald J. Trump: President or Dictator?

We are eight months in to Donald Trump’s presidency.

Can anyone dispute the fact that it has been, at best, a tumultuous eight months? Or do people really feel that his actions as a president is leading our nation in the right direction?

I don’t feel that President Trump is a president for all people…I firmly believe that he is a president for a select few: White, corporate businessmen that viewed the last eight years of President Barak Obama as a threat to their bottom line. Those that support the right blame, unjustly, that President Obama is to blame for the position they are currently in.

Fact of the matter is, you lost your job because those white, corporate businessmen aren’t in the business of your well-being, they are in the business of keeping Wall Street happy. And if that means that a few million people will lose their jobs to foreign countries, so be it. The investors get richer and the rest of the country be damned.

Now before the left and right start throwing the usual rhetoric, shut the hell up. Both sides are so angry and scared that neither can see the forest for the trees.

Leonard J. Pitts, Jr., one of my favorite opinion writers, had a great column that was posted in the Seattle Times on August 16, 2017. That column, “Sadly, clearly we are not ‘better than this’” points out just how meaningless that President Trump’s “Make America Great Again!” really is.

In this article, he talks about people’s reaction to acts of violence and hatred and racism which is a collective of “This is not America.”

How many of us have heard that as well a “we are better than this,” only to find out that we really aren’t. And let’s not delude ourselves into thinking this is just a current phenomenon. I’m not exactly sure any of us really knows what America is.

Republican Washington State Governor Dan Edwards, who served from 1965 to 1977, would be labeled today as a liberal Republican because of his liberal policies on environmental protection, strong supporter of higher education and supported a state income tax for the state of Washington.

In 1965, Governor Edwards told the Republican State Convention that “the Republican Party did not achieve greatness nor will it regain greatness by being the party of radicalism or of the lunatic fringe. Extremist of neither the right or left contribute to the strength of America or her political institutions. Both feed on fear, frustration, hate and hopelessness. Both have lost faith in themselves and in the American dream.”

If you look at the current situation today, can anyone deny that these words more than apply? I sure don’t. And damn us all for continually feeding into either side.

Evans had developed a criteria for any group that the Republican Party would embrace. I think it’s time the Republican Party asks these questions of the Trump administration and look inward to see if they meet the criteria:

  1. Does it operate publicly or secretly? So far, the Trump administration is operated in secret with President Trump being as vague as possible on anything you ask him or his administration. He rarely gives any speeches to outline his plan and those serving in his administration have to be frustrated when they release a crafted message and then he tweets the opposite. He thrives on conflict and relishes pitting people that work for him against each other.
  2. Is it motivated by faith and hope or by fear? No question that the Trump administration is motivated by fear. His attacks on Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and most recently, John McCain puts him in the light of being a bully. I don’t know about you, but him messing around with North Korea and basically daring Kim Jong-un to fire nuclear weapons at us borders on lunacy. And what does that make the rest of the country feel? Afraid, very afraid.
  3. Does it use the tools of truth or lies? Well now, that is a pretty loaded question for the Trump administration, isn’t it? How many times has President Trump been caught not quite telling the truth about things? Take for example his response to the Barcelona attacks. His latest referral to how General John J. Pershing and the tactics he used in the Philippines executing Muslim insurgents by dipping bullets in pig’s blood before killing them is just a small example of how he gleams to only certain parts of statements to suit his needs. The fact of the matter is, that never happened. And Mr. Trump, might I point out that just because you say something is true or is fake, doesn’t make it so. You have told so many lies in your lifetime, you couldn’t recognize any truth if it hit you in the face!
  4. Does it teach trust in our established political institutions or does it teach distrust? Without a doubt, Donald Trump trusts no one but himself. His chief-of-staff, General John F. Kelly, is frustrated and dismayed at attempting to contain Trump who is a bull in a China shop. Kelly’s attempts to keep President Trump on a crafted message regarding Charlottesville went out the window as Trump showed in an impromptu and combative news conference. He compared the actions of white supremacists with the counter-protesters who opposed them. Kelly’s frustration underscores the challenges in instilling a sense of order around Trump, whose first instinct is to lash out at those who disagree with him. Many of his own aids and confidants were appalled at what he said and much of it led to the dissolution of his business advisory councils as those chief executives are distancing themselves from Trump.
  5. Within its own organization, does it follow democratic procedures or militant authorization? Is this a trick question? Trump, in his many years as a business executive, was militant and dictatorial. And he is attempting to run this country the same way. He believes that he has total and absolute power but thankfully, the Constitution prevents him from being able to act as he truly wants to. The founding fathers knew they needed three branches of government so that neither one party nor one person could rule. The checks and balances they put in place 230 years ago is the only thing that is currently holding this country together…by a thread.
  6. Do its people understand the art of political compromise or do they deal in unrelenting absolutism? This goes straight to the Republican Party as well as the Trump administration. They are hell-bent to erase the eight-year presidency of Barack Obama, starting with the Affordable Care Act. Twice they have attempted to repeal the ACA and replace it with a plan that will give tax cuts to the upper class and leave nearly 20 million people without health-care. Instead of looking to the Democrats, who have admitted the ACA isn’t perfect, they chose to start over…and after failing two times, they are only now reaching across the aisle to take another look at the ACA and fix what’s wrong with it…which they should have done in the first place.

We the people need to stop being afraid. Diversity is what will make this country great again, not any one race or culture. White supremacists (and any race that calls themselves superior is certainly inferior) are afraid of being displaced by minorities.

I say, so what?! Go anywhere in the world, and there are four facts that cannot be disputed:

  1. Every person in the world, regardless of race, has one heart, two lungs and red blood. Put any person in the world in an x-ray machine and I dare you to tell me what the color of their skin is.
  2. Every person in the world, regardless of race, is taught how to hate. It’s learned behavior. There are people that I don’t like but it’s not based on the color of their skin. It’s based on their stupidity of how they treat people. And I am trying, desperately trying not to hate these people because for the most part, they were taught how to treat people. And a lot of those teachings are handed down from one generation to the next.
  3. Every single person in the world, regardless of race, falls under one species: Homo sapiens. All of us have roots extending 200,000 years to the emergence of the first modern humans in Africa and back more than 6 million years to the earliest human species in Africa.
  4. Every single person in the world, regardless of race, need food, water and shelter to survive. Which is why America has been considered so great because anyone who chose to live here could have the opportunity to have just that. Unfortunately, when those cannot make it, most of America turns their back on them. I can only hope that one day, we start getting better at lending a helping hand to those that need it instead of treating them like failures. I can’t imagine anyone being in that position actually wants to be there.

America, not just the Republicans or just the Democrats, needs to start the healing process. President Trump isn’t the man to lead us in that direction and I don’t know who would be able to…and perhaps it isn’t a man, perhaps it’s a woman who leads us there.

But whomever that person is, he or she cannot be in the pockets of any interest group. He or she cannot be controlled by Wall Street, the NRA or Big Pharma. He or she must have the strength to lead all of America and not just a portion of it.

And sad to say, if that person is out there, I don’t think he or she is electable because unless he or she has the support of business, not the general population as everyone is led to believe, there is no way he or she could win a presidential election.

So what’s the answer? First thing, we the people need to start treating each other better. And it doesn’t need to be complicated. A simple hello to another person goes a long way.

Secondly, we the people need to hold our elected officials accountable to make sure they truly represent us. We need to make sure they know they work for us, not that we work for them nor do they work for any special interest groups that manipulate messages to get them elected.

Thirdly, we need to become way more tolerant and accepting of each other. I’m not saying that we need have a Kumbaya movement since that isn’t ideal either. However, to be able to live and work together without profiling each other is a huge first step. And let’s not kid ourselves, we all profile each other and it’s got to stop.

Small steps can lead to great things…I’m willing to take that first step with everyone in this country, are you?

America Isn’t The Greatest Country In The World – But It Can Be

American Flag

My wife and I started to watch the fine HBO, Aaron Sorkin series, The Newsroom. We had seen it before but with the television season in a downtime and nothing really good on TV, we decided to watch it again from the beginning.

And how poignant that we did so. The opening scene where the main character, Will McAvoy (played by Michigan’s own Jeff Daniels) rants during a college panel, even though this first aired in June of 2012, rings even more true today.

The question a college student asks of all three guests is “What do you think makes America the greatest country in the world?” One guest, far left liberal Democrat, states “Diversity and Opportunity.” The other guest, a far right conservative Republican says that “Freedom and Freedom” is what makes America great.

McAvoy, who really didn’t want to delve into it, agreed with both guests. However, the moderator wouldn’t let him off the hook.

Finally, he lets loose with perhaps one of the best rants that couldn’t ring more true then and now.

Some of the highlights:

  • We’re (America)seventh in literacy, 27th in math, 22nd in science, 49th in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, third in median household incomes, number four in labor force and number four in exports.
  • America leads the world in only three categories: number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real and defense spending, where we spend more than the next 26 countries, 25 of whom are allies.
  • Not that this is the fault of a 20-year-old college student, but you are, without a doubt, a member of the WORST.GENERATION.EVER.

After he calms down and gets everyone’s attention, he continues. More highlights:

  • We sure used to be.
  • We stood up for what was right. We fought for moral reasons; we passed and struck down laws for moral reasons.
  • We waged war on poverty, not poor people.
  • We sacrificed. We cared about our neighbors, we put money where our mouths were and we never beat our chest.
  • We built great things, made ungodly technological advances, explored the universe, cured diseases and cultivated the world’s greatest artists and the world’s greatest economy.
  • We reached for the stars and we acted like men.
  • We aspired to intelligence, we didn’t belittle it; it didn’t make us feel inferior.
  • We didn’t identify ourselves by who we voted for in the last election, and we didn’t scare so easy.
  • We were able to be all these things and do all these things because we were informed. By great men, men who were revered.

The final line that he gives should be a message to everyone under the sun: “The first step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one – America is not the greatest country in the world anymore.”

I don’t even suggest that we take direction to make right in the world from a television show. However, media does have a responsibility to inform the American people of what the problem is.

I can remember when the Fourth Estate, did inform the people of issues without bombastic tirades and blame. They reported the facts so that voters could make informed decisions on candidates and issues that affect their lives.

No more. We have stations to the far right and left that seem to think they need to have Jerry Springer like shows to keep audiences enthralled as to what could be said next…and wait, fricking wait to have these shows tell them what to do. How is that allowing any of us to come to our own decisions?

The Fourth Estate is a shell of what it used to be. There are still some sane voices out there, like Leonard Pitts that attempt to be voices of reason. But they are vastly out-numbered, sad to say.

One journalist that I truly miss is Jon Stewart. Yes, the same Jon Stewart on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show. He pointed out so many pit falls of both the Democratic and Republican parties that it almost wasn’t funny anymore….almost.

At one point, The Daily Show was one of the most watched shows in a demographic that all news shows want: Ages 18-34. In 2006, Indiana University attempted to compare the amount of information of the Daily Show against network news broadcasts. It concluded there was little difference between the Daily Show and other news outlets. Imagine that, a comedy show that informs people just as well as news outlets.

Even more astounding is that in 2009, Jon Stewart won Time Magazine’s Most Trusted Newscaster poll with 44%, 15 points ahead of Brian Williams. Just think about that for a second: A comedy show host was America’s Most Trusted Newscaster.

America is in shambles right now. We don’t trust each other. We are suspicious of people of color. We are suspicious of people who look like us because we feel we are always a target. We have no direction and no one in this country that can get us headed into one.

We turn our noses at our Veterans who sacrificed so much for a country they love.

We have little respect for police because across the country, the police have made terrible, terrible mistakes…and so have the people that reacted badly to those mistakes.

We cheat our children by making teachers one of the lowest paid professions yet requires years and years of school and a Master’s degree. And the teachers at the most critical developmental stages, 6-12 and 13-18 often have to take second jobs and work thru the summer to make ends meet as well as purchase items for their classrooms. We over-burden them with huge classrooms and quite often, can’t give the shy, unassuming kid in the back that doesn’t seem to have any friends and struggles to learn.

So these candidates that want to hold the highest office in the land, being President of the United States, whom ever gets elected has a long, hard hill to climb.

And even if that person was the smartest and most common sense person in the world, the people that we elect to represent us, our congresspersons and senators, have their own agendas on how they want to shape America…forgetting to listen to us.

And therein lays the rub: Congresspersons and senators should not have their own agendas…or more specifically, they shouldn’t have the agendas of deep-pocket special interests groups such as the NRA, Tobacco, Big Oil, Auto Companies and Big Pharma dictate how they govern and allow the interests of these special interest groups come before their constituents.

These special interest groups hold a unique position in politics. They don’t vote congresspersons or senators into office, we do. However, they do contribute to politicians who need funding provided they follow directions on certain bills that are up for voting to be passed as law.

The power of government is no longer for the people or by the people…and anyone out there who thinks otherwise is just fooling themselves. The power of government is greed and information. Media experts who craft a message those candidates repeat ad-nauseam regardless of what question is put to them.

Political debates? The Republican debates that took place were a sideshow and bad ones at that. The Democratic debates, slightly more interesting but still, candidates really never answered questions. Each time, they went back to the crafted message that was beat into them like a drum and stayed on message regardless of the question.

While Donald Trump may not be presidential material, one has to agree that he more than likely told his advisors to stick where the sun don’t shine, I’m gonna say what I want! I may be fearful of him being elected president but I have to give him his props, misguided as they may be.

America isn’t the greatest country in the world…hasn’t been for a while. There are so many issues put there and no campaign slogan is going to make them go away. It is going to take a fearless leader, one who is compassionate, non-judgmental and intelligent to lead us back to greatness…check that, lead us into a different type of greatness, one that has America leading the fights in racism, poverty and illness.

We also need a leader that recognizes that we need to take care of our own first before we can start helping others. Because right now, we are weak because we have all of this bickering, finger-pointing waste of time and energy draining petty crap that just isn’t that important.

Most importantly, that leader, whomever that may be, needs to trust us as much we need to trust him or her.

We cannot expect our hope to have all America’s problems solved in one fell swoop. It is a continuous process that needs to have consistency from president to president, from Senate house to Senate house, from Congress to Congress. We can’t have problems worked and then re-worked and then re-worked again just because a Democratic congress started it and a newly elected Republican congress gets elected.

We must also set expectations for our leaders, make them accountable for what they promise us as we elect them. Special interest groups may have the greed and money to sway elections but they do not hold the most powerful tool that we the people have…and that’s the right to vote.

Realistically, I don’t see America building great things, making ungodly technological advances and exploring the universe in the near future. We cannot reach for the stars just yet. We need to build a solid foundation to allow future generations to make America the greatest country in the world…my vision that would make America great?

It would be a country that revers in its diversity, making it our strength instead of being afraid of it. It would be a country that shares and is cooperative with other countries in science and medicine. It would be a country that is tolerant of all races, all genders and all religions and allow all of these different people to come together to just talk with each other.

I swear that if America had the biggest block party in the world, where everyone pitches in and brings their favorite food and drink, people would begin to trust each other again.

Is it so hard to say hello to someone? Is it so hard to hold a door open for anyone? Is it so hard to offer a helping hand to someone who is down? Is it so hard to show an iota of respect to others regardless of their race, creed, sexual orientation or religious beliefs?

And this is for us men: Being abusive toward women does not make us superior to them…in fact, each time an offense is done to a woman, it demeans the male side of the population. It doesn’t make you strong, it makes you weak. You want to be a “real” man? Then show some damn respect to women, they deserve it…for if not for them, we wouldn’t last very long as a species. Get it? Good, be a man and protect and respect these women for they are the most precious gift we can ever get. They are not property and they are certainly way the heck smarter than we are. SO GET WITH THE DAMN PROGRAM!

America isn’t the greatest country in the world – But it can be.