Loopholes

After traveling in Greece, I am recovering from jet lag and getting back to my life. Nothing stopped in the U.S. while I was gone of course. The Mueller report was released with all of the concomitant and expected chaos and controversy. The weather was awful in Minnesota while I was gone. Actually the weather was cool and a bit rainy in Greece for the first part of our trip and our guide explained that the snow capped mountains we saw were very unusual for April in Greece. In a normal year, there is not snow on the mountains in April there. But this was not a normal year.

Clearly it is not a normal year in the U.S. A President and presidency is run amok. The Mueller report revealed that there were enough instances of obstruction of justice to make us all know that this is not normal. And there is no excuse for calling it not normal because what is happening is frightening and dangerous to our democracy. But never mind, the President and his sycophants carry on as if there is nothing to see here even though it is as obvious as a large wart on someone’s nose that we have a serious crisis on our hands.

Speaking of crises- the coverage of the NRA convention, going on as I write, has been amusing and interesting. It reveals an organization also run amok.

From the article:

Turmoil racking the National Rifle Association is threatening to turn the group’s annual convention into outright civil war, as insurgents maneuver to oust Wayne LaPierre, the foremost voice of the American gun rights movement.
The confrontation pits Mr. LaPierre, the organization’s longtime chief executive, against its recently installed president, Oliver L. North, the central figure in the Reagan-era Iran-contra affair, who remains a hero to many on the right.
Behind it is a widening crisis involving a legal battle between the N.R.A. and its most influential contractor, Ackerman McQueen, amid renewed threats from regulators in New York, where the N.R.A. is chartered, to investigate the group’s tax-exempt status. With contributions lagging, the N.R.A. is also facing an increasingly well-financed gun control movement, motivated by a string of mass shootings.

Count me as not sad about this state of affairs. The NRA has stopped common sense gun legislation for way too long for its’ own financial and political purposes. They are not considering the loss of life in increasingly large numbers, spewing hate and paranoia instead of working with us to find solutions to our national gun violence epidemic. It’s time for a reckoning. They have wielded undue influence and money for decades as the bodies pile up. The American public is against what they are doing but some of our lapdog politicians are too afraid to stand up. That is changing though as the U.S House passed several gun laws in the new Congress to keep people who could be dangerous with guns from getting them. The Minnesota House is poised to do the same and other states have passed recent laws to make their residents safe from shootings.

The second amendment is NOT sacrosanct as we are finding out. Laws have passed in spite of the now weakened NRA. The organization has veered off course and they are eating their own. The NRA allegedly took money from the Russians. That is a scandal worth investigating. They have misused their non-profit status over and over again. We all know about the money they take in from gun manufacturers and now, possibly foreign countries.

And meanwhile, during the now controversial and as usual, hateful NRA annual convention, Maria Butina, Russian operative(?) was sentenced to 18 months in prison. She tried to claim she was not a spy. If that is true, pigs will fly. Butina’s job was to get to the Trump campaign via the NRA which the Russians knew could happen. Because of course, the NRA gave more money to Trump’s campaign than has ever been given to any other campaign.

They exploited campaign finance loopholes and now they are getting caught. As is explained in the above article Giffords is taking them on in a lawsuit. It’s about time for accountability:

The worst news for the NRA, however, may be a new lawsuit filed against the Federal Exchange Commission. The FEC is being sued by nonprofit group, Giffords, for failing to uphold financial laws allegedly broken by the NRA.

Back to the second amendment, misusing its’ meaning is ripe for those who are true believers in the hype about an amendment written in the late 1800s when powder guns were the norm. Look, for example, at an article about a Minnesota teen ( 16 years old) who wore a shirt to school displaying the American flag with bullets and handgrenades instead of stars of stripes. Patriotic? NOT. Considering the number of school shootings and lockdowns that our kids must endure, this is plain and simply provocative and meant to be so. From the article:

Valerius said he wore the sweatshirt as a show of support for the Second Amendment, and feels that there should be a “loophole” in the dress code for that type of expression. He wore it to school again Friday.

A loophole? Let’s talk about loopholes that allow anyone, even domestic abusers, teens, felons and those adjudicated mentally ill to purchase any kind of gun they want and then use it to kill people. That is a loophole.

An example of this wonderful loophole in our gun laws is the vigilante extremist who was arrested at the New Mexico border with Mexico for essentially kidnapping asylum seekers. He was a felon with a gun. Where did he get the gun? Easy enough in America. From the article:

Hector Balderas, New Mexico’s attorney general, said federal agents had arrested the leader, Larry Mitchell Hopkins, who had been operating under the alias Johnny Horton Jr. Mr. Balderas said in a statement that Mr. Hopkins was arrested on charges of firearms possession by a felon.

Sigh. Innocent people are terrorized every day by gun extremists. We have our very own home grown terrorists who think they can do anything with their guns and their rights. Only in America.

Trump has been busy encouraging this danger by speaking total falsehoods, fear and paranoia at the NRA convention. It was sickening, actually, to watch and hear but the gun toting crowd loved it. Er, uh, oops- they can’t carry their guns at NRA conventions because……?

Trump also announced during this crazy speech that he would make the world less safe by refusing to sign on to the U.N. Small Arms Treaty which NRA lapdogs in Congress and now the Presidency claim will take away gun rights in America. I like this reasoning from the article quoted from the Protect Minnesota Facebook page because it explains the second amendment and gun rights nonsense so well:

” 1) The NRA, on behalf of gun manufacturers, gets Trump to revoke the small arms trafficking agreement. 2) Arms manufacturers get rich selling guns to gangs in countries like Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras. 3) Armed gangs make life unbearable for the citizens in those countries. Thousands are forced to leave and walk across a continent to “safety” in the US. 4) Trump convinces Americans the these asylum-seekers are dangerous criminals. 5) Frightened Americans buy more guns to protect their families. 6) Arms manufacturers get even richer. The NRA has done its job.”

This is the fact checking of his speech which is always necessary because Trump never tells the truth while speaking to his base:

Members of MS-13, a violent street gang, are a tiny fraction of the number of people apprehended while trying to illegally cross the southwestern border.
In the 2019 fiscal year thus far, border officials apprehended more than 360,000 people trying to illegally cross the border. Of those people, 221, or 0.06 percent, were MS-13 members.

(See above statement from Protect Minnesota)

(…) The 2014 Arms Trade Treaty regulates international sales of conventional weapons (like tanks, combat vehicles, warships, missiles and firearms). It does not “surrender American sovereignty” over gun laws to the United Nations or hand enforcement powers over guns to “foreign bureaucrats.”
The United States was a signatory to the treaty, but did not ratify it as 101 other nations have. Mr. Trump withdrew the United States’ signature during his speech.
The treaty aims to establish international norms for regulating arms sales between countries and addressing illegal arms sales. It prohibits selling weapons to nations that are under arms embargoes or will use them to commit genocide, terrorism, war crimes or attacks against civilians. (…) “It has absolutely no effect on U.S. domestic gun laws,” said Daryl G. Kimball, the executive director of the Arms Control Association, which supports the treaty.
Adam Winkler, a Second Amendment expert at the University of California, Los Angeles, agreed and noted that withdrawing the United States as a signatory would have very little impact given that the Senate never ratified the treaty. What Mr. Trump is relinquishing, Mr. Kimball said, is a seat at the international table to set global standards and better enforcement in countries most affected by the illegal arms trade. (…)

You can watch a video of his entrance when someone in the audience throws a cell phone at the President. Thank God no guns are allowed inside of the convention.

Well, back to loophole nonsense. Why would the NRA want to have this woman teaching gun safety to others? She shot an unarmed person and got away with it- another loophole. From the article:

A former Tulsa police officer acquitted in the shooting death of an unarmed man is expected to teach a National Rifle Association course next month.

I want to end with where I began- with our trip to Greece where the origin of the phrase “Molon Labe” began:

Today is the anniversary of the Battle of Thermopylae (480 BC), one of the most famous battles in history . King Leonidas of Sparta said the phrase Molon Labe (means “Come and take them” in ancient Greek) to Xerxes I of Persia 2492 years ago when the Persians asked the Spartans to lay down their arms and surrender.

The second amendment apologists have misused this one as well. We visited the site where the battle of Thermopylae took place and where this phrase was used in its’ original context.

The “second amendment” folks claim this phrase for their own purposes which is to let people know that they will resist any attempts to take away their guns or their rights as if that is going to happen. It is yet another loophole in language that has been exploited for political purposes.

The photo shows the famous statue of King Leonidas.

Resisting common sense and any attempts to keep the rest of us safe from danger and shootings by exploiting the meanings of language is disingenuous at the least. They are like the goats ( in photo from my trip taken on the Greek island of Kefalonia) who take risks, follow the ersatz leader and sometimes do dangerous things that could hurt the herd.

Working together works out better in the end for all of us. In Greece and in most other democratized countries, they think the U.S is just crazy when it comes to guns. Our guides told us that in Greece, it is very hard to get a gun of any kind. They are only used for hunting and not much for that , as it turns out. When it comes to semi-automatic assault rifles, they proclaimed their dangerousness and surprise that in America, just about anyone could have one. They don’t believe that guns are necessary for much of anything in Greece and their gun death rate , among the lowest in the world, proves that they have common sense. The ancient Greeks were very wise as are the modern Greeks that we encountered on our trip.

And so it is always instructive to travel for many reasons but getting a perspective on what’s going on at home is useful and mind expanding. We are a country unto our own when it comes to loopholes and gun laws.

A Scarlet Letter

letter A in flamesThe novel, The Scarlet Letter, is a poignant reminder of how public shame can change everything. Even public shame isn’t working for the NRA lapdogs who lap at the feet of an organization that has kept the nation from doing anything about the school shootings, the mass shootings, the domestic shootings, the suicides, the “accidental” shootings, police shootings- you get the picture.

Students from Parkland, Florida, tried to see Florida Governor Scott when they visited Tallahassee but naturally, Scott did not have the courage to see the faces of anguished students demanding action. They started chanting, “shame, shame, shame.” Though the Governor was at the funeral of one of the slain students, one does have to wonder if he would have met with these students. Time will tell. What we know is that Governor Scott has taken a lot of money from the NRA. Many in Congress are in the same group who should wear the letter A on their chests.

A rating of A or A+ means something to the 1.5% of Americans who happen to be NRA members. That’s it folks. A tiny tiny sliver of Americans and gun owners care about the rating from the NRA. So why do our leaders even listen to them?

The times, they are a changing.

We’re not buying it any more.

Governor Scott and many others, are reconsidering their allegiance to the NRA. Are they finally getting it? Time will tell.

Scott has done the bidding of the NRA for years, listening to the strident voice of Marian Hammer, NRA lobbyist who has worked for decades to make Florida one of the most gun friendly states in the country.

It has been suggested that the politicians who receive an “A” rating from the NRA should wear it like a scarlet letter of shame:

I’m not opposed to the Second Amendment (do read the article in today’s Commoner Call on the actual history of the amendment. It ain’t what you think it is). I am a gun owner. I am even a long ago former member of the NRA. And I support those courageous and morally clear high school students demanding reform and sanity. Any democrat — office holder or member — who refuses to stand with those students against the attacks of the right wing extremists and shun the NRA and their dirty money should leave the party. They are beneath what the party should be about. Really, if the party ever wants to rise to power again they have to stop renting out its soul for dollars.

Shame on them all for persisting with their nonsensical, fact-free assersians and fear mongering after 17 students were hunted and massacred like animals in Parkland, Florida. Even their own mouthpiece, Dana Loesch, was no match for those students and parents  who didn’t get the message that we should be polite to these people who have been so responsible for the carnage in America. From the article:

Exactly one year ago, the National Rifle Association excitedly announced that it had tapped Dana Loesch, a conservative commentator and radio host, to serve as its spokeswoman. She had all the right chops for the job: razor-sharp public speaking skills, a devoted online following, and, most importantly, an extensive track record of fervently defending the Second Amendment, which guarantees the right to bear arms.

Long respected in conservative circles for her brash political commentary and unapologetic gun rights advocacy, Loesch gained broader attention last year with a pair of inflammatory NRA ads that critics said could incite violence against the organization’s perceived opponents.

But it wasn’t until Wednesday night that Loesch’s role as the public face of the country’s preeminent gun rights organization was truly put to the test. (…)

But her advocacy often spirals into extremes. Her book compares gun control efforts to Nazi and Stalinist propaganda, and she inveighs against what she calls “the tragedy caucus,” a broad assortment of liberal “gun grabbers” who, in her eyes, exploit mass shootings “as a tactic to take away law-abiding citizens’ guns.”

She pretended to be empathetic on the CNN town hall meeting but the very next day, here is what the real Dana Loesch told ardent supporters at the CPAC meeting:

“I want to make this super obvious point,” Loesch said. “The government has proven that they cannot keep you safe. And yet, some people want all of us to disarm. You heard that town hall last night. They cheered the confiscation of firearms. And it was over 5,000 people.”

“I had to have a security detail to get out,” she said of the Sunrise, Fla. event. “I wouldn’t be able to exit that if I didn’t have a private security detail. There were people rushing the stage and screaming burn her. And I came there to talk solutions and I still am going to continue that conversation on solutions as the NRA has been doing since before I was alive.”

Really Dana Loesch? More hyperbole and blame. That is the game they play and they play it well. But we aren’t buying it.

E.J Dionne, columnist for the Washington Post says it just right:

How come only one side of the supposed culture war on guns is required to exude respect for the other? Because the culture-war argument is largely a gimmick pushed by the gun lobby as a way of demonizing its opponents. None of us who endorse stronger gun laws wants to disrupt anybody else’s way of life. And none of the measures we are proposing would do that. (…) What truly alarms the gun lobby is that many steps to curb the scourge of gun violence enjoy broad support, from those who own guns as well as those who don’t. A Quinnipiac poll released on Tuesday, for example, found that 97 percent of Americans favor background checks for all gun buyers. While the survey showed the highest level of approval for background checks in some time, it is not an outlier. Background checks have long been embraced by 85 to 95 percent of us. Quinnipiac, by the way, also showed that 66 percent of voters support stricter gun laws, up from 47 percent in December 2015.

We aren’t buying the BS any more. Things are changing.

Yesterday I attended lobby day and a rally at the Minnesota state legislature as a member of Protect Minnesota and the Brady Campaign. It was one of the largest rallies held in recent years at the Capitol. The energy and commitment to change were palpable. Over 1000 people came to our rally and chanted and demanded action. It was reflective of the mood of the general public. Our legislators knew we there as we walked the halls in our orange shirts and visited our legislator’s offices. The day was inspiring for many and most especially for those who had never attended an event like this or darkened the doors of the Capitol.

Two days before our rally 300 Moms Demand Action members had a lobby day. Between us, the message was clear. We aren’t buying the NRA talking points and the BS any more.

Schools all over Minnesota have received threats on social media including my own grandson’s school. This is not OK. This is not normal. One school district was on lock down as they dealt with a threat. How frightening for the students and parents. Even though the threats were not credible, there were a lot of frightened parents and students. Why? Because we all know that the next school shooting is just around the corner at a school near you.

The idea that kids can buy AR-15s, knock off military style weapons is horrifying. It has been for decades but now the tide is turning. The public is fed up and understands the true nature of these weapons. They are not meant for hunting or self defense. Don’t believe the gun lobby or the gun extremists when they tell you that. #WeCallBS. They have gotten away with this for far too long. Their time is up.

The NRA is becoming less relevant as well it should be. Companies are cutting off business ties with this national organization of terror and fear mongering. Soon enough, an organization that represents a tiny tiny proportion of NRA members and gun owners, will fade to exist. We will be better off for it.

Follow the money. For way too long, the NRA’s deceptive claims and partnerships with the gun manufacturers has resulted in their ability to influence public policy about gun violence and kept the country from being able to save the lives of our children.

They can try to blame the “socialists” as did NRA’s Executive V.P at CPAC yesterday. Why listen to this lunatic? Who is he anyway? He represents power and influence which is fast fading away.

But we aren’t buying it.

And our very own President mimics the ludicrous arguments that, in his own estimation ( not based on anything) that 20-40% of teachers should now carry loaded guns in our schools. Where did that come from? And then he amazingly and stupidly pronounced at a meeting at the White House that all of those retired Marines who are teaching in our schools should be armed. Seriously? He is dead wrong. Who are all of these retired Marines? There may be some retired or discharged military members teaching in our schools but I doubt the numbers are what Trump pulled out of his empty hat.

Craziness is all around us.

And we’re not buying it.

Where is common sense? It’s in the halls of our legislatures. It’s in Parkland, Florida. It’s all over our media sources and it’s in American homes and schools. It’s all around us. It will be on March 14th when students will walk out of classes. It will be on March 24th when students will March their lives in DC and all over the country. It will be on April 20th. It will be everyday.

We want action NOW. Not yesterday or tomorrow- NOW.

We’ve had #Enough.

#WeCallBS

#NeverAgain