Rebecca Colaw Supports Background Checks. Her opponent didn’t say.

At a forum in Smithfield, Virginia, the candidates for Virginia’s 64th House of Delegates district were asked about their position on background checks. The Republican candidate Emily Brewer said that she supports the Second Amendment. She said that gun sellers have a right to refuse to sell to anyone they don’t want to. She said she supports the right to carry. She said nothing about background checks.

Rebecca Colaw, the Democratic candidate, was clear: She supports them. She said that as a lawyer, she knows where criminals get guns. They get them from gun shows.

In 2013, Emily Brewer tweeted her support for President Obama’s executive order on background checks, and now she won’t mention background checks while answering a question about them.

I find it disturbing when a politician who knows what’s right is afraid to say so.

Background checks won’t prevent every tragedy and won’t stop every criminal or mentally ill person from getting guns. But they’ll make it harder. Some will get caught using fake ID’s and some will get caught because their mental state prevents them from understanding the consequences of trying to get a gun. Others will have to work harder to arm themselves or supply guns to others.

Rebecca Colaw is a gun owning Democrat who believes in our right to bear arms and clearly states her support for background checks. Most Virginians support background checks, too. We should work to elect candidates who agree with us and aren’t afraid to say so.

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Your 2nd Amendment Rights are Protected in Waller County, Texas

It’s good to know that your Second Amendment rights are protected in Waller County, according to the home page of the Waller County Sheriff’s Department. But if Sandra Bland was removed from her vehicle for a minor traffic violation, beaten for speaking out, held in jail for 3 days over trumped up charges, and finally executed in her cell, then Waller County would seem weak on protecting some of those other rights.

I did a Google news search on Waller County, restricting the date range to before July 2015. Waller seems to have more than it’s share of corruption and misconduct. It’s not a scientific study, of course, but it seems a little high. I don’t know what the results will be of the investigation into Sandra Bland’s suspicious death. I suppose it’s possible that the seemingly normal, educated, and well loved woman who was in town to start a new career was inexplicably belligerent enough during a routine traffic stop to justify her arrest, then killed herself in her cell without leaving a note while nobody noticed. But whatever the results, it might be a good idea for the Sheriff to emphasize more than just the 2nd Amendment. Maybe if the website said, “All of your rights are protected in Waller County”, it would help foster a better attitude of public service.

Jeanne Assam was a Cop

Making rounds in the Internet is an image macro which describes how Jeanne Assam shot a church murderer in Colorado in 2007. The image praises her for pulling out her “legal, concealed gun”, then says you would never hear about her from the “Liberal Media, because she is an inconvenient fact in their war to disarm America”.

According to the image, the liars who take credit for it are TeaPartyCommunity.com.

They are lying only by omission when it comes to the shooting and the heroic take-down by Ms. Assam. They are leaving out one important fact: Jeanne Assam was a retired cop and she was on duty as a security officer when she pulled out her “legal, concealed gun”.

That’s a big omission, because the so-called liberal plan to disarm America would not have extended towards Jeanne Assam. Even people calling for tighter gun control generally aren’t saying we should disarm cops and qualified security guards. In fact the Colorado Springs shooting might be a perfect example of the point that Liberal America is trying to make: It should be harder for deranged lunatics to get guns, and guns belong in the hands of properly trained public servants.

Tea Party Community may be lying by omission about Assam, but they are lying directly about the media. The incident was covered at the time. In fact, the press coverage of Assam was extensive enough to be used as an example in this critique by NBC on the use of the word “exclusive”:

I’m tired of these fake so called exclusives wherein networks make us to believe that the only place to have a certain of information. If you’re watching cable news Monday night, you might have seen interviews with Jeanne Assam, the volunteer security guard who killed the gunman at the New Life Church in Colorado Springs. She was on CNN on Monday night as indicated in their exclusive banner and the next hour, she was on FOX News. If you tuned in to GOOD MORNING AMERICA on Tuesday morning, lo and behold, GMA exclusive.

And the website for Assam’s book has quotes from the press. Four years later Ms. Assam was in the spotlight again, when she said the church which she so bravely defended asked her to leave because she was gay.

So another right wing lie goes viral and those willing to take a little time to do some fact checking bang our heads in frustration.

Edit 2015/6/21: The Snopes article originally failed to mention Jeanne Assam’s police background, but has been updated, so I removed this paragraph: Sadly, Snopes has the misleading image macro in an article which explores the question, “Was a church shooting foiled by an armed woman in the congregation?”. Indeed the answer to that question is “yes”, but Snopes, like Tea Party Community, fails to mention that Assam was an ex-cop and a security guard, and the use of the image in that article strongly suggests that the words in the image are true.

I Clicked to Joe the Plumber’s Website

I had to visit Joe the Plumber’s website because despite the write ups in Raw Story, Huffington Post, Salon, and others, I still had trouble believing that he actually wrote, in an “open letter” to families of Elliot Rogers’s murder victims:

I’m sorry you lost your child. […] But: As harsh as this sounds – your dead kids don’t trump my constitutional rights.

Joe the Plumber's Website

Joe’s words go nicely with these gems from Todd Kincannon:

No idea how my son will die, but I know it won’t be cowering like a bitch at UC Santa Barbara. Any son of mine would have been shooting back.

It’s too bad that the gun rights arguments are so dominated by chimp-brained Right Wing thugs like Joe Wurzelbacher and Todd Kincannon because not every argument for gun rights is wrong.

Technically, what Wurzelbacher wrote is true, but the fact that he doesn’t have enough normal brain cells in his head to realize how wrong it is to publicly berate a crying man less than a week after his son was murdered makes him and others like him an embarrassment to the people and the arguments he should be supporting. In fact, they’re an embarrassment to the nation.

I wouldn’t want the Left to win every gun control argument. Some of my fellow Liberals want to go a lot farther with gun control then I feel comfortable with. The Second Amendment must be interpreted by people who can read at an adult’s level of comprehension (who don’t think “shall not be infringed” means any weapon carried by any person in any location”) but it can’t be interpreted away as if it didn’t exist. If it were, we would effectively nullify the Bill of Rights and perhaps be in more danger than we are now with our heavily armed criminals.

We should have intelligent conversations about gun control, with Lefties admitting that the 2nd Amendment, like it or not, dictates that their will be more guns, more gun violence, and more gun accidents than they’ll comfortably accept and Righties accepting that even in the early days there were gun control laws so the 2nd Amendment doesn’t necessarily mean what they think it means.

To give credit where credit is due, Open Carry Texas asked it’s members and supporters to stop carrying long guns into business where they’re not invited to do so. We Liberals, justifiably, had a field day laughing at their failure, but we should acknowledge that at least somebody in the group had enough sense to eventually realize that acting like stupid, violent thugs isn’t the right way to win support.

I guess Todd and Joe didn’t get the memo.

This is Embarrassing: Man with Illegal Gun Released Due to Stand Your Ground

A lot of comments on my post about stand your ground laws, in which I wrote “Gun ownership is much higher among White people than Black people, so stand-your-ground laws do not provide equal protection,” where suggestions that I forgot about all the Black people with illegal guns. My answers to those comments were that some people have a very inflated sense of how many Black people are illegally holding guns, and that those illegally gun-toting Black people don’t count towards what I was writing about.

The two reasons I felt the illegally gun-toting Black people didn’t count were because I was writing about how stand your ground laws unequally affect law abiding citizens (not criminals), and because stand your ground laws don’t protect people with illegal guns.

Well maybe I was wrong about my second reason. Apparently, somebody with an illegal gun can get away using stand your ground in Florida. 17 year old Tyrone Pierson will not be charged with murder for killing Julius Jerome Jacobs, who threatened him with a stick, even though he shot his assailant with an illegal gun. The reasoning, as explained on Talking Points Memo was

… even though the famed Stand Your Ground provision passed by the Florida legislature in 2005 prohibits those who are engaged in “unlawful activity” from claiming Stand Your Ground immunity, that another provision amended at the same time authorizes the use of deadly force in similar circumstances with no explicit exception for “unlawful activity.”

The primary focus of laws requiring retreat where possible is to protect innocent people. In Pierson’s case, there were witnesses, and perhaps evidence, to convince prosecutors that Jacobs was the aggressor, but without those witnesses or evidence all we would have is a dead guy and another guy saying, “He started it”. Requiring people to retreat where possible would reduce the amount of people killed, some of whom would be innocent.

Nobody says you can’t defend yourself if you have to. Most claims of self defense seem to go just the way the Zimmerman case went, with the killer being dismissed or acquitted because there isn’t enough evidence to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the killer wasn’t in fear for his life.

Even without SYG, Pierson might not have been charged with murder, but he might have been charged with something related to his failure to retreat. The possibility of such a charges would save lives.

It Only Takes One.

Interesting to see a company with a gun-loving clientele help dismantle the far-right’s strongest argument against magazine limits.

My Gun Control Listicle (mine goes to 11!)

Perhaps I’m not as internet savvy as I think I am, because I didn’t know what a “Listicle” was when my wife asked me. She saw it in a Mother Jones article. Apparently listicles are all the rage.

Here’s my top 11 gun control misconceptions and lies, which even includes a couple from the Left.

1: The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

Here’s one example of why this zombie lie should be dead, dead, dead: Loughner, the monster that shot Gabby Giffords and killed a nine year old girl and others wasn’t stopped by a good guy with a gun even though there was a good guy with a gun in the area. He was stopped by unarmed people. While he was reloading. There are other examples. The biggest problem with this silly meme is the word “only”.

2: You can’t fight tyranny because governments have tanks and airplanes.

relief drawings of advanced military machinery on one side and a few rifles and handguns on the other

A spirited population can fight tyranny with sticks and stones. But the better armed they are, the better their chances. The goal isn’t necessarily to destroy the tyrant, but rather to be too much trouble to oppress.

3: Collective rights.

To review,

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.

“The People” is used several times in the Constitution, as in “the right of the people peaceably to assemble”, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons”, and “chosen every second Year by the People of the several States”, and it always means a bunch of individuals. It doesn’t always mean every single individual with no exceptions, but it certainly doesn’t mean a representative authority

4: What part of “Shall Not Be Infringed” Don’t You Understand?

It’s not “Shall Not Be Infringed” that’s so complicated. It’s everything else. First of all, “Bearing arms” might be a phrase that means something other than the sum of its words, like “breaking bread”. Even “bearing gifts” doesn’t simply mean “carrying presents”. “Bearing arms” probably means “soldiering”. But even if that’s true it doesn’t answer all of our questions. Hand to hand combat could be considered soldiering but probably not bearing arms. So the meaning of the Second Amendment isn’t necessarily as easily understood as someone with a third grade reading level might think.

And don’t sell the Founders short on possibilities of what they could have meant by “arms”. They saw advances in firearms and probably could have imagined that guns would get more accurate and easier to fire. But they also knew something about biological warfare, and I doubt that the Framers meant we can carry around body parts infected with black death (though that might be a very literal interpretation of “bearing arms”). So at the very least, unless you disagree with my black death conclusion, the right to keep and bear arms doesn’t mean you can have any weapon you can get your hands on. So does it mean any gun? Well that’s what we’re arguing about, isn’t it.

5:a) I need a large magazine because it can take a lot of bullets to put down an attacker.
5:b) Limiting magazines won’t do anything because an attacker can change clips in a split second.

Pick one.

6: We don’t need the 2nd Amendment because we don’t have tyrannical leaders.

My son is a bodybuilder. He’s as big and strong as an ox. He was once talking to a guy about going to the gym and the guy said, “You don’t have to go to the gym. You’re so big!”
William, from the back, at the gym
Cause and Effect. Get it?

7a: Guns don’t kill people.
7b: Guns save lives.

Pick one

8: Criminals don’t obey laws

Well call me a “special kind of stupid” but the more I think about this one the more I realize that criminals actually do obey laws. Not all of the time, of course, but most obey laws when they think they’ll get caught if they don’t. That’s why you slow down when you see a police car in the bushes. It’s why most of us don’t drive as fast as we’d like to even when we don’t see the the police car. And it’s why gang bangers usually don’t have fully automatic weapons.

9: Gun Control Increases Crime

That lie about Australia’s crime rate was debunked a long time ago by Snopes, Yanks. But like a good zombie lie, it’s still not quite dead. Similar examples, like Britain’s crime rates, are harder to prove or disprove.

In many cases, gun control is a reaction to a rising crime rate which continues to rise after gun control is enacted. But that doesn’t mean gun control isn’t helping. And it’s hard to enforce gun control in a city when the surrounding areas have lax gun laws. Right wingers often point to Chicago and Washington DC as failed attempts at gun control, but if you live in either of those places, you can easily get a gun outside of the city.

If everyone else has a gun then it’s understandable why you might want to have one yourself. Ill-conceived and improperly enforced gun control certainly gives advantage to the criminals, and lax gun laws provide an incentive for law abiding citizens to arm themselves. But fair, properly enforced, and strict gun control would make us all safer. But if they’re too strict then they violate our rights.

If you want to be honest about your reasons for opposing gun control, stop citing misleading statistics and bullshit propaganda, and stick to arguments other than crime rates.

10: Obama is a Black Hitler

*sigh*. Hitler took a majority race army, with the support of the majority race population, and oppressed and murdered ethnic minorities. Obama is half Black. (People keep forgetting how White he is). Who’s he going to oppress, White people? Black people? And with what army? (sadly, there are fools dumb enough to answer that question)

And the line about “the first thing Hitler did was grab the guns” is not true. With the support of his ethnic majority, Hitler took guns away from “enemies of the state”, but relaxed gun control for everyone else.

11: The NRA

There are wingnuts who feel the NRA has sold out to the left. Leftists see the NRA as a pack of cold-hearted right-wing loonies. The NRA is really an organization that once promoted safe gun sporting but now promotes gun sales, represented by a flip-flopping chicken-hawk liar with a nervous disorder.

Check, Please

After I wrote,

I am loosing tolerance for the idiotic reasoning that criminals will get firearms anyway.

Lawrence Kennon wrote,

The argument is not that one should not make laws because criminals will disobey them. The real argument is that often the proposed law will negatively affect the rights or the law abiding without have much material effect on the non-law-abiding. It is basically an argument of unintended consequences.

He has a point, which I acknowledged. But then I heard this, from Kevin Starrett of the Oregon Firearms Federation on NPR:

Obviously, people who commit crimes with guns are not going to subject themselves to the background check. So who is it having any impact on? It’s having an impact on the people who are willing to obey the law, who wouldn’t do anything bad in the first place.

Keven Starrett seems to think that criminals will have an “opt-out” button that they can use to avoid subjecting themselves to background checks. That’s not how it works. Universal background checks will close off paths that criminals currently use to obtain weapons while still keeping those avenues open to law abiding citizens. They will force people who shouldn’t be buying guns to turn to illicit means of acquiring them. That won’t stop all criminals from getting weapons, but it will stop a lot of them.

A background check probably would have prevented this and many other tragedies like it:

Zina Daniel took out a restraining order against her husband after three years of abuse. The restraining order should have prevented her husband, Radcliffe Haughton, from buying a gun. Regardless, Haughton was able to skip a background check by buying a gun on the internet, which he used to shoot 7 people the very next day.

You can make all of the “criminals don’t obey laws” comments you want, but 100 percent background checks will prevent some people with violent records from obtaining guns. Some of them will find it too difficult or too risky, and others will get caught trying.

The beauty of 100% background checks is they don’t leave law abiding citizens unarmed while allowing criminals to easily get guns. Mr. Kennon argued that unless background checks are 100% accurate and nearly immediate, they’re a violation of our rights. I disagree. And so does the NRA.

Until recently, the NRA supported “mandatory instant criminal background checks for every sale at every gun show. No loopholes anywhere for anyone.” So is the NRA saying, “We used to support violating the 2nd Amendment but now we don’t”? It’s hard for me to imagine that the NRA had a genuine reversal of their interpretation of the Second Amendment. The 2nd Amendment didn’t change since Wayne LaPierre spoke clearly and strongly in support of 100% background checks and neither did LaPierre’s position at the NRA.

Nothing changed except an opportunity for the NRA to increase its popularity by obstructing the Obama administration, and gun sellers discovering that paranoia is good for sales. Gun organizations have been boasting about it. And the NRA can’t maintain lucrative gun grabber paranoia and hatred of Obama while supporting the administration on any gun control legislation, even if it’s legislation that the NRA strongly supported and even if it’s what over 90% of the American people want.

I acknowledge that Lawrence Kennon’s argument against background checks is not “idiotic”. But I can’t find a better word to describe Starrett’s statement that background checks don’t affect criminals because they won’t “subject themselves” to them. And I can’t abide the NRA’s reversal of a position they once so strongly supported, without changes in the facts on the ground other than the political landscape.

With overwhelming support among the American people for legislation that keeps firearms out of the hands of criminals while allowing law abiding citizens to keep and bear arms, defeating this legislation will not be a victory for the 2nd Amendment. It would be a victory for a small group of powerful lobbyists in their effort to circumvent the will of the people and put profits ahead of the lives of law abiding citizens.

Update April 6: I originally wrote that the facts on the ground hadn’t changed except the party of the current administration. That was a mistake since Clinton was in office while LaPierre was promoting universal background checks

100% Background Checks: Constitutional and Vital

I’m neither a linguist nor a constitutional scholar, but I have this to offer:

United States Constitution Article 1, Section 2:

The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.

“the People” here refers not to every person, nor every citizen. It doesn’t even refer to every White man. In the early days, only White, male property owners could vote. This single fact proves that the Framers of the Constitution allowed exceptions when they used the phrase, “the People”.

I get angry at anyone who sarcastically asks what I “can’t understand”. If those ignoramuses would take their heads out of the darkness they might realize that the Framers did not write the Constitution for children and the words therein don’t necessarily mean what a second grader might understand them to mean.

Thankfully, we corrected Framers’ errors (they were mortals, after all), by issuing amendments declaring men and women of all races and economics statuses full rights under the Constitution. But that doesn’t change the fact that “the People” was a term that included the possibility of exceptions. In fact, our entire criminal justice system depends on the possibility of exceptions.

Exceptions to the People who’s right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed would include Robert Wigg, who murdered his wife Deborah with a 9mm which the state of Virginia, thanks to the strong gun lobby here, allowed him to keep despite the restraining order resulting from the first time he tried to kill her. The Framers would not have objected to such an exception.

Furthermore, the Founding Fathers would not object to the government knowing where the guns are. The armed citizenry was their volunteer army, and our early leaders conducted counts of firearm ownership at various times throughout history.

There is neither a valid constitutional argument against background checks nor a public safety argument. I am loosing tolerance for the idiotic reasoning that criminals will get firearms anyway. The logical conclusion, (for those capable of drawing such conclusions), would be that no law should ever be made because criminals will disobey it. To give credit where it’s due, there is a difference between that argument as applied to background checks and the same argument as applied to disarmament, such as the D.C. gun law overturned by Heller. Regional disarmament and background checks both impede access to firearms, but disarmament affects the law abiding more greatly than criminals, while background checks does the opposite.

Remember the word’s of the NRA’s Wayne LaPeire, before he proved himself a psychopath and a liar by saying the opposite a few years later:

We think it’s reasonable to provide mandatory instant background checks for every sale at every gun show. No loopholes anywhere, for anyone,”.

Anyone who still holds loyalty to that double-speaking draft dodging monster should be ashamed. It’s one thing to change your mind – in fact the biggest failing of extremists is the inability to change their minds even when proven wrong – but it’s another thing to change your mind and whip up murderous hatred against people who still believe the words you used to say. Wayne LaPierre has no values other than a willingness to say what he’s paid to say by people who profit from violent fantasies and paranoia.

The only people against 100% background checks are gun sellers worried about loosing sales and the Orcs who they’ve whipped into a frenzy with paranoid delusions about national disarmament and uninformed interpretations the Constitution. If you’re one of those Orcs, you’re essentially supporting murder for profit and doing no good whatsoever for the Constitution or for the People of the United States of America.

Update, Mar 24 I’m not changing the text above but I should have avoided words like “idiotic” (as I usually do). Here’s a post proving you can disagree without being an idiot.

Universal Backround Checks

Various surveys indicate that at least 80% of Americans support universal background checks for gun sales. Many surveys, including the Quinnipiac University survey cited by the Obama administration, show support above 90%.

There are plenty of issues about the latest push to reduce gun violence on which the population is divided. Background checks is not one those issues. The only division is in Congress, between those members who represent their constituency and those who represent other interests.

Obstructing this legislation impairs the credibility of other arguments. Congress should pass legislation for background checks, and then move on to debate issues which are actually debatable.