Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson writes:
[T]hough it is hard to identify a distinctive Catholic voter, there is certainly a distinctive Catholic teaching on politics - a highly developed and coherent tradition that has influenced many non-Catholics, myself included. Human life and dignity, in this view, are primary.
Gerson never gets around to explaining what he means by human dignity, so it's worth remembering that Gerson (like so many Post columnists) defends the Bush administration's use of torture:
Gerson pays lip service to opposing what he tactfully calls "harsh interrogations," but when you get past the throat-clearing, Gerson argues that firm opposition to such tactics simply "is not an option for those in government." And he has bitterly denounced efforts to investigate Bush administration interrogation methods, using rhetoric Nathan Jessep would appreciate:And now Obama has described the post-Sept. 11 period as "a dark and painful chapter in our history." In fact, whatever your view of waterboarding, the response of intelligence professionals following Sept. 11 was impressive. ... Now the president and his party have done much to tarnish those accomplishments. So much for the thanks of a grateful nation.
Kelly O'Brien, whose fiancee was murdered in the Tucson shooting, appeared on Good Morning America to make the case that regulating high-capacity magazines made sense. O'Brien stated:
I absolutely support it...And it is so sad to see 19 people gunned down in just 15 seconds by one of these extended capacity clips
As you know Jared was stopped when he ran out of bullets. And I believe, even if not Gabe, other people could have been saved that day. And absolutely more people could have not had the injury and stuff that they had to sustain.
O'Brien's support for regulating high-capacity magazine follows similar calls from both Democrats and Republicans, including former Vice President Dick Cheney.
Even Robert A. Levy, who was co-counsel in the landmark legal case that established the Second Amendment as protecting an individual's right to bear arms, acknowledges that regulating high-capacity magazines would be constitutional. As reported by NBC:
Robert A. Levy, who served as co-counsel in the landmark Supreme Court case that established a Second Amendment right to bear arms, said there was no reason the court's decision in that case should apply to the purchase of high-capacity gun magazines.
"I don't see any constitutional bar to regulating high-capacity magazines," Levy said in an interview with NBC. "Justice [Antonin] Scalia made it quite clear some regulations are permitted. The Second Amendment is not absolute."
John Lott responded to a post here at Media Matters that debunked his assertions that, "Virtually no criminal guns are obtained from gun shows," and that "Background checks do not stop criminals from getting guns."
It is apparent from his history that John Lott does not understand the basic concepts of science,statistics or ethics, so it is not surprising that his latest post offers as "proof" only a reassertion of the debunked claims.
First is his attempt to reassert that background checks do not stop criminals from getting guns:
LOTT: "Background checks do not stop criminals from getting guns." These guys at Media Matters are pretty dense because they seem to believe that these initial denials are stops that involve criminals when in fact they are almost all false positives. Over 99.9 percent of those purchases initially flagged as being illegal under the law were later determined to be misidentified. Take the numbers for 2008 (http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/bjs/231052.pdf), the latest year for which data are available. The 78,906 initial denials resulted in only 147 cases involving banned individuals trying to purchase guns.
In our original piece we used FBI data that shows that the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) has in fact stopped 800,000 sales since 1998-- more than 600,000 of which involved convicted criminals.
Lott asserts that we must be pretty dense to think that these 800,000 instances "involve criminals." He states that "[o]ver 99.9 percent of those purchases initially flagged as being illegal" were later determined to be misidentified.
Lott is either willfully or ignorantly misunderstanding the background check system. The federal background check system prohibits certain buyers, such as convicted felons, anyone convicted of a crime of domestic violence, and other categories. The NICS system is set up to prohibit certain buyers from obtaining weapons, during the course of the background check sometimes the NICS system identifies persons who are then prosecuted.
M. Kristen Rand, Legislative Director for the Violence Policy Center explains further:
RAND: The act of trying to buy a gun when you are in a prohibited category is not a crime per se. The bottom line is that when Lott says "The 78,906 initial denials resulted in only 147 cases involving banned individuals trying to purchase guns," he is not accurately describing the category.
The 78,906 represents the universe of denials evaluated for referral for potential prosecution. Of those, 5,573 were referred to ATF field divisions for further review. Ultimately, the field offices referred 147 cases to prosecutors. This has absolutely nothing to do with whether the NICS accurately identified the 1 percent of people denied for being in a prohibited category, e.g. the system identifies that a buyer has a felony record and the transfer is denied. That person is a "banned individuals trying to purchase guns," as Lott describes it. The fact that that person is not later singled out for prosecution is irrelevant to the fact that he is in fact a prohibited purchaser.
Bottom line is that the NICS system and the background check system in place before NICS prevented1.9 million attempted gun purchases by prohibited persons, convicted felons, domestic violence offenders and other prohibited groups. So yes, in fact background checks do keep guns out of the hands of criminals.
Ann Coulter claims Tucson shooter Jared Loughner was at a "disadvantage" due the the 33-round high-capacity magazine he used:
In fact, high-capacity mags put a predator like [Jared] Loughner at a disadvantage because they are so long, unwieldy and difficult to conceal.
Coulter does not indicate whether she asked any of the people present when Loughner killed six people and shot 13 others if they thought he was "at a disadvantage" because of the "unwieldy" high-capacity magazine he used. I'll go ahead and assume she did not. For the record, Loughner was subdued when he eventually had to stop to re-load after firing 31 shots.
Coulter's rather odd views on guns are unsurprising when one considers the "experts" she relies upon:
There's only one policy of any kind that has ever been shown to deter mass murder: concealed-carry laws. In a comprehensive study of all public, multiple-shooting incidents in America between 1977 and 1999, the highly regarded economists John Lott and Bill Landes found that concealed-carry laws were the only laws that had any beneficial effect.
The "highly regarded" John Lott has been caught using fraudulent data (and lying about it to cover his tracks) in his concealed-carry studies. And the National Research Council's Committee to Improve Research Information and Data on Firearm said of its examination of research conducted by Lott and others on concealed-carry laws: "despite a large body of research, the committee found no credible evidence that the passage of right-to-carry laws decreases or increases violent crime."
Finally, Coulter appears unaware of actual public attitudes about high-capacity magazines:
During the presidential campaign, Obama said: "I don't know of any self-respecting hunter that needs 19 rounds of anything. You don't shoot 19 rounds at a deer, and if you do, you shouldn't be hunting." It would have been more accurate for him to end that sentence after the word "hunter."
It's so adorable when people who wouldn't know a high-capacity magazine from Vanity Fair start telling gun owners what they should want and need.
According to a recent bipartisan poll, a strong majority of Americans, and a plurality of those who live in households with guns, think the sale of high-capacity magazines should be banned.
At first glance, it might seem problematic that this Newsmax piece about gun regulations makes flat assertions about gun sales without referencing any data or citing any sources. But when you consider that the author of the post, John Lott, has been caught using fraudulent data, lying about it, and using a fake internet persona to tout his bogus work, the lack of specificity may actually be a positive: At least Lott didn't fake a study to support his assertions. Unfortunately, that appears to be the result of laziness rather than a newfound commitment to the truth.
Lott asserts "Virtually no criminal guns are obtained from gun shows." He offers no data or expert opinion to support this contention. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms, on the other hand, has concluded:
The access to anonymous sales and large numbers of secondhand firearms makes gun shows attractive to criminals. ... The access to anonymous sales and large numbers of secondhand firearms makes gun shows attractive to criminals. ... Firearms that were illegally diverted at or through gun shows were recovered in subsequent crimes, including homicide and robbery, in more than a third of the gun show investigations.
So, on the one hand, we have the unsupported assertion of a person who has previously been caught using fraudulent data about guns ... and on the other, we have a report by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms.
Next, Lott asserts: "Background checks do not stop criminals from getting guns." Again, Lott just expects readers to trust him. Now, just because Lott has previously used bogus data and lied about it doesn't mean he isn't telling the truth this time. Still, it's probably a good idea to check in with the FBI on this one. According to the FBI, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) has denied more than 800,000 sales -- more than 600,000 of which involved convicted criminals. Another 100,000 were either fugitives from justice or the subjects of restraining orders for domestic violence. So, John Lott, who has been caught using bogus data, says background checks don't stop criminals from getting guns. The Federal Bureau of Investigation says that has happened 600,000 times. Who to believe?
More Lott: "With all the delays found in background checks, this imposes a real cost on law-abiding citizens who need guns quickly for protection and a one, two or three day delay can take the prevent a sale from even taking place at a gun show." Again, Lott offers no data or citations. Contrary to his suggestion that background checks routinely involve onerous delays, the FBI says that more than 90 percent of NICS background checks are completed immediately -- while the seller is still on the phone. That's why they're called "Instant criminal background checks."
UPDATE 3/31/2011: from the author of the report titled, "Enforcement of the Brady Act, 2008: Federal and State Investigations and Prosecutions of Firearms Applicants Denied by a NICS check in 2008.", which Lott cites to justify the NICS inaccuracy claim.
You [Media Matters] asked me if it was accurate for an article to state that "Over 99.9 percent of purchases initially flagged as being illegal under the [Brady] law were 'false positives' - law-abiding citizens incorrectly identified as banned individuals." That statement cannot be supported by statistics on Brady Act background checks that have been collected since 1999.
A person whose firearm transfer application is denied by a background check pursuant to the Brady Act may appeal the denial. Statistics on appeals of denials have been collected since 1999 in a series of publications entitled Background Checks for Firearm Transfers, and are summarized in Trends for Background Checks for Firearm Transfers, 1999-2008. During that ten year period, nearly 1.5 million firearm transfer applications were denied and nearly 237,000 of those denials were appealed. Over 86,000 appeals resulted in a reversal of the denial, which would calculate to about 6% of the 1.5 million denials. Some of the reversals may have occurred because a person was mistakenly identified as being prohibited; however, no data is available on the reasons for reversals. The URL for Trends for Background Checks for Firearm Transfers, 1999-2008 is http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/bjs/grants/231187.pdf.
Ed Whelan has posted his second attack on judicial nominee Caitlin Halligan for supposedly having a record that suggests she is "hard left." Previously, Whelan tried (but failed) to paint Halligan as outside the mainstream on the issue of same-sex marriage. His new attack is that she is too far left on national security issues. Unfortunately for Whelan, her position on one of the issues he highlights is the same as that taken by Justice Antonin Scalia.
Whelan argues: "The NYC Bar report maintains (p. 110) that the congressional Authorization for Use of Military Force (enacted September 18, 2001) does not authorize indefinite detention of enemy combatants." He paints this as out of the mainstream because a majority of the Supreme Court held in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld that the Authorization of the Use of Military Force did allow such detentions. Be that as it may (and the majority opinion in that case did not support the Bush administration's detention policies), four justices disagreed with that holding, and one of those was Scalia (the judge for whom Whelan clerked).
Scalia -- in an opinion joined by Justice John Paul Stevens wrote:
Where the Government accuses a citizen of waging war against it, our constitutional tradition has been to prosecute him in federal court for treason or some other crime. Where the exigencies of war prevent that, the Constitution's Suspension Clause, Art. I, §9, cl. 2, allows Congress to relax the usual protections temporarily. Absent suspension, however, the Executive's assertion of military exigency has not been thought sufficient to permit detention without charge. No one contends that the congressional Authorization for Use of Military Force, on which the Government relies to justify its actions here, is an implementation of the Suspension Clause. Accordingly, I would reverse the decision below.
Justices David Souter and Stephen Breyer also dissented from the view that the Authorization for Use of Military Force authorized the detention in Hamdi's case.
One final point: Whelan attempts to buttress his argument by saying that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, the court to which Halligan has been nominated, has "adopted that broad construction" of the Authorization for Use of Military Force. However, Whelan cites only cases dealing with detainees at Guantanamo, and the report Halligan signed explicity said: "a large group of alleged 'enemy combatants' seized abroad is being held at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba (see p. 29, above), detentions which present distinct issues not addressed in this report."
So, in essence, either Whelan is providing evidence that Scalia is "hard left" or it's a bogus argument against Halligan. I suggest it's the latter.
Here is Pat Gray, the Hobbes to Glenn Beck's Calvin, outlining his position on torture:
BECK: Look, here's the thing: if you're gonna torture somebody. Every single American -- And this includes you, Pat, because I know you're like, "I just don't wanna know about it."
BECK: If you say you're for torture, you have to put yourself in a frame of mind where you could walk into a room where torture is happening and then watch it and walk out -- not necessarily do it -- but watch the whole thing and walk out and put your hand on the shoulder of the guy who did it and say, "Whew. One of the worst experiences of my life just watching you. But thank you, it had to be done." If you can't see it being done, if you can't-- if you couldn't put yourself in there, then you should never allow yourself to ask somebody else to do it for you. It's like war.
GRAY: That's why I love my position of, uh-- I've never said I'm for torture, because I'm not. I just don't wanna know.
BECK: Yeah, I know, I know. You just don't wanna know.
GRAY: Just don't tell me about it. I don't wanna know.
BECK: See, that's the bad thing. That's why we get into bed because of people like Mubarak.
Fox News has debuted a new segment called "Taking Liberties" in which it purports to investigate "challenges to the individual's constitutional rights." In its first installment, Fox took the side of a right-wing activist group that is representing a mother in a divorce dispute, repeating its false claim that she was deemed "too religious" to home-school her daughter; Fox all but ignored the father's side of the case.
Yesterday, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights released its report on its year-long investigation into the right-wing media's ridiculous claim that the Department of Justice's handling of alleged voter intimidation by members of the New Black Panther Party indicates racially-charged corruption on the DOJ's part. Unsurprisingly, given the commission's conservative activist composition and its previous flawed draft report, the report largely adopts the right-wing media's storyline as its own.
The three commissioners who opposed the release of the report are not happy with the investigation's direction or the report's conclusions, and are making their feelings known.
Republican Vice-Chair Abigail Thernstrom - who has called the case "very small potatoes" and said that the USCCR majority's investigation "doesn't have to do with the Black Panthers, this has to do with their fantasies about how they could use this issue to topple the [Obama] administration" - wrote in her dissent:
This investigation lacked political and intellectual integrity from the outset, and has been consistently undermined by the imbalance between the gravity of the allegations and the strength of the evidence available to support such charges. Some commissioners offered serious, principled critiques of the process, and questioned the evidentiary record. Their views were contemptuously ignored by the commission's majority.
Likewise, Democratic commissioners Arlan Melendez and Michael Yaki slam the investigation as "a tremendous waste of scarce government resources" that "squandered" the commission's reputation. They also criticize the USCCR majority and the pseudoscandal's chief promoter, Fox News, for having "given the NBPP more media attention than it ever could have garnered or purchased on its own." From the dissent:
The Commission's investigation into, and this Report concerning, the New Black Panther Party ("NBPP") have been a tremendous waste of scarce government resources. They have wasted our own resources at the Commission but those of the Department of Justice as well. In addition to squandering time, money and attention, the majority has further squandered the reputation of the United States Commission on Civil Rights as it spent more than a year on an Ahab-like quest to hobble the Obama Administration and to attempt to rehabilitate the disgraced record of the previous Administration's Department of Justice.
Our dissent does not attempt to make definitive claims about the motives or actions of the United States Department of Justice ("Department") past or present. We have no special insight into the hearts or minds of the people working at the Department. Where we differ from our colleagues is that we did not enter into this investigation having already made up our minds that there was wrong-doing by the Department. Therefore, we did not interpret all evidence in light of any foregone conclusions or ignore any evidence that flatly contradicted any conclusions.
Our dissent should also not be read as a defense of the NBPP. The NBPP is a hate group whose views are as ugly as they are outlandish. We would not even bother to include this disclaimer were it not for the fact that a good deal of this Report relies on sources who maintain absurd beliefs in the out-sized significance and influence of what is in reality a tiny fringe group. Among the many ironies surrounding this NBPP hullabaloo is the fact that the NBPP's exaggerated sense of its own importance (or menace) and its conspiracy theory mentality is matched (or even exceeded) by the Commission's majority and its ideological allies in the news media and in government. A further irony is the fact that, but for the constant promotion of this partisan investigation by FOX News and the USCCR, the NBPP might well have vanished into even further obscurity these last two years. We must posit that the USCCR majority has given the NBPP more media attention than it ever could have garnered or purchased on its own.
After reading today's article in County Fair by David Holthouse about the 2011 SHOT Show, Josh Sugarmann the executive director of the Violence Policy Center sent us the following comment:
Most Americans would be shocked at what the gun industry has become. Firepower and immense ammunition capacity define today's increasingly militarized gun industry. In America today, virtually anyone with a clean record, a credit card, and grudge can set up their own army.
The Violence Policy Center is a national non-profit organization that works to stop the annual toll of death and injury from gun violence through research, advocacy, and education.
From the January 25 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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"Our dual tube feature maximizes operator lethality," said sales representative Chad Enos as he brandished a floor model of the KSG 12-gauge, a new pistol-grip shotgun produced by the American firearms manufacturer Kel-Tec. "This bad boy looks like it shouldn't be legal. But it is."
"Glass reinforced polymer grip and stock assembly with hardened steel tube magazines," said Enos. "Twenty-seven inches muzzle to stock with an 18-inch barrel, so it's just as compact as legally possible."
The Kel-Tec display area was packed during the 2011 SHOT Show, held January 18 to 21, the largest annual gathering of firearms makers and dealers in the United States.
The KSG was one of the hottest guns to debut. As demonstrated by Enos, a selector switch enables the shooter to alternate between two seven-shot magazines. This means the KSG holds 15 rounds, with one chambered. A standard police-issue shotgun holds six.
This was the 33rd annual SHOT Show. It was the biggest show in SHOT history and drew roughly 50,000 attendees who reveled in the firepower displayed by around 1,600 exhibitors spread across more than 650,000 square feet of total exhibit space -- five times the size of the casino floor at Caesar's Palace.
Looming over the main entrance to the Sands Expo & Convention Center was a massive banner of a leering Grim Reaper with glowering red-eyes, wielding a scythe. It advertised a laser scope called the Eliminator.
Death personified also symbolized the timing of SHOT, which began just 10 days after Jared Loughner opened fire on a crowd in Tucson, Ariz., killing six people and wounding 13, including U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords. Loughner used a Glock-19 handgun, the same gun used in 2007 by Virginia Tech spree shooter Seung-Hui Cho to kill 32 people and wound 17. Lougher's Glock-19 was equipped with a 30-round magazine. Cho's held 15 bullets.
The manufacture for sale in the U.S. of handgun magazines holding more than 10 rounds, known as "high-capacity" magazines, was prohibited under the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban (AWB). That law expired in 2004. Attempts to renew it have been thwarted by the National Rifle Association, aided by legions of firearms industry lobbyists.
The self-defense applications of high-capacity handguns that fire 15, 30, or 50 rounds without reloading are dubious at best. Yet since the expiration of the AWB, high-capacity magazines have become integral to the core marketing strategies of most firearms manufacturers whose products are designed first and foremost to kill people, not for hunting or precision target shooting.
Unlike televisions or blue jeans, firearms don't wear out in a matter of months or years. Gun ownership has been in long-term decline over the last 40 years. The industry experienced a brief resurgence in 2009 after President Obama's election stirred fears of new gun control laws. However, that buying surge has evaporated and left the industry reeling as many recent buyers have sold their firearms, flooding the secondary market.
To lure repeat buyers, increased lethality has become the nicotine of the firearms industry. Every year gun makers roll out new lines of assault rifles, tactical shotguns and handguns that hold even more bullets, or fire even faster, or boast new gadgetry that supposedly enables their user to kill other human beings more efficiently than ever before.
At SHOT, the guns on display at the Smith & Wesson exhibit made for a Darwin-chart of the evolution of the modern handgun from the straightforward, Wild West-style, six-shot revolver to new-fangled guns like the Smith & Wesson M&P 15-22P. It's all curves and serrations, equipped with a 25-round "banana clip" magazine, a muzzle flash suppressor and a "ported" barrel with holes to lessen blowback and heighten control during rapid fire. The M&P 15 is part of Smith & Wesson's popular "Military & Police" line of firearms that, despite their branding, are perfectly legal for civilians to purchase.
Glock, the maker of the gun used in the Tucson shootings, went big at SHOT with one of the largest and most luxurious exhibits. It resembled the waiting lounge in a five-star hair salon, with plush silver carpeting and shiny black logo towers proclaiming "25 years of perfection." Placards trumpeted ergonomic features "resulting in reduced recoil and faster follow-up shots."
It's not just firearms manufacturers rolling out new, more deadly products every year at SHOT. Ammunition-makers likewise promote new bullets designed to heighten the damage they cause to the human body. For example, this year the Nebraska-based handgun ammunition manufacturer Hornady, one of the leaders in the industry, introduced .44 Special and .45 Colt caliber rounds to its popular Critical Defense line of "personal defense" hollow-point handgun rounds. (Hollow point bullets expand or "mushroom" when they enter a human body, amplifying tissue damage, blood loss and shock.)
"The only problem with typical hollow-point rounds is that when they travel through heavy clothing, the tip of the bullet tends to clog up, which doesn't allow the bullet to fully expand," explained Hornady salesman Tom Mills. "The Critical Defense line bullets solve that problem by having a flexible tip that allows for maximum penetration and maximum expansion." Mills holds up a gleaming Critical Defense .45 Colt round. "This offers 13 inches of penetration into ballistic gel [which simulates human tissue] when fired through the standard FBI heavy clothing protocol. In other words, 'Hasta la vista, baby.'"
From the January 21 broadcast of Premiere Radio Networks' The Glenn Beck Program:
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In a January 19 post on National Review Online, Daniel Foster attempted to defend former Nevada Senate Candidate Sharron Angle's famous "Second Amendment remedies" line by saying she was only warning that "we're a few awful bills away from folks starting to seriously consider revolution. From the National Review Online:
I didn't think Angle was an ideal candidate, but I think it's clear from context that what she was saying was more along the lines of "Winning this election is important because things are so bad we're a few awful bills away from folks starting to seriously consider revolution."
One thing she was certainly not saying is that the Second Amendment legitimizes political assassinations. If only it were obvious to liberals that conservatives would not endorse, even in principle, the right of a John Wilkes Booth to afford himself of "Second Amendment remedy."
From the January 19 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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