A Flea in the Fur of the Beast

“Death, fire, and burglary make all men equals.” —Dickens

Category: Gun Control

Newtown, One Year On

by evanmcmurry

My hometown paper’s front page perfectly captures our utter impotence in the face of the gun lobby:


Our problem with guns goes far beyond the laws that could potentially regulate them. BUT, to the extent that the gun lobby has mugged our words—defining “freedom” as the right to own a weapon, not the right to not be shot by it; “safety” as more guns, not fewer; “tyrant” as the imagined intrusions of government, rather than the ability for any gun-toting nut to be judge, jury, and executioner—a juridical response could at least establish a rhetorical zone in which we’re not held at gunpoint. Alas.

Today in Pointless Gun Deaths, Where’s Your God Now?!?!?!?1?! Edition

by evanmcmurry

I missed this one, but it has everything a pointless American gun death could want: an AR-15, an argument that would have ended in a fistfight at worst were it not for the ownership of an AR-15, video games, drugs, and GOD:

An Oakland man enraged by a friend’s attempt to disprove the existence of God reportedly retrieved his AR-15 assault rifle and fired several shots at the man, killing him instantly.

[snip] Yim, Phan, and a third friend, Paul Park, were drinking, smoking marijuana, and playing video game in Yim’s house in the early morning hours of April 2, 2011, when the ontological argument erupted.

[snip] According to Park, Phan had been teasing Yim about his religion, asking him where his God was every time he won the game they were playing.

Eventually, the debate escalated to name calling and Phan angered Yim by asking him where his God was when Yim’s father died of a stroke.

And the heartbreaking, perfect detail, straight out of a Benjamin Percy story or something:

A bullet also struck Park’s finger as he raised his hand to stop the shooting.

I like to think of that finger as the one he raised every time he made a point. More:

a) This guy totally needed an AR-15.

b) At least they weren’t arguing about Kant (or were they?!?)

c) This seems like an all-time refutation of my least favorite argument against atheism, namely that a belief in god, or more specifically a deity-ordained moral system, is all that keeps us secular beasts from murdering each other. Apparently the pious need background checks, too.

Guns and Suicides

by evanmcmurry

Richard Florida brings ye olde scientific method to bear on the recent surge in suicides and finds that the most readily available, obvious explanation—the economic downturn—doesn’t fly. Break the suicide rate down by state, and the highest increases occur in states with relatively stable economies, while states with harder-hit economies saw no surge in deaths.

What the increases do match is gun ownership. Across the fifty states, deaths by poisoning or suffocation are the same; states with high gun ownership, however, saw increases in suicides:

A Harvard School of Public Health study found gun ownership to be the overriding factor in accounting for state-by-state differences in suicide after controlling for mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse, and other factors. A website for a Harvard suicide-prevention campaign explains: “The higher suicide rates result from higher firearm suicides; the non-firearm suicide rate is about equal across states.” The Harvard School of Public Health News, which summarized the main findings of the study, notes that “in states where guns were prevalent—as in Wyoming, where 63 percent of households reported owning guns—rates of suicide were higher. The inverse was also true: where gun ownership was less common, suicide rates were also lower.”

This is yet another reminder of how little the “good guy with a gun/bad guy with a gun” pablum being paddled by Wayne LaPierre has to do with anything.

Behold The Only Anti-Gun Control Argument Remaining: Penises

by evanmcmurry

Because the gun debate wasn’t reprehensible enough, let’s add gender:

Screen Shot 2013-05-03 at 8.02.24 PM

Near as I can tell, this is in response either to Frum’s post about irresponsible gun owners (“It’s an empty compliment even to refer to ‘responsible gun owners’ – many of them are people who through good luck simply have not had their irresponsibility catch up with them yet”) or to his tweet about a six year old speaking at the NRA convention, an event that is sounding more and more like the Onion‘s mocking of it. But who the hell knows; could just be inchoate rage.

Combined with Matt Lewis’s calling Chris Hayes and others “effete liberal p*ssies“—his asterisk, because family values—for talking about the gun culture in which a five year old can accidentally shoot his own sister, and the “gun rights” lobby has officially degenerated into pulling out its own dick as an argument.

Note also that Matt Lewis thinks kids should have their own rifle, but not be able to see the word pussy.

The Changing Politics of Gun Control

by evanmcmurry

While Kelly Ayotte saw her approval ratings plummet and her townhalls go south following her vote against background checks, two red/swing state senators are benefiting from their vote for background checks:

45% of voters in the state say they’re now more likely to support Landrieu for reelection because she voted for background checks, compared to only 25% who say they’re now less likely to vote for her. Landrieu has also seen a 6 point improvement in her net approval rating from the last time we polled the state in February, from +2 then at 47/45 to now +8 at 49/41.

It’s a similar story in North Carolina. There 73% of voters support background checks with only 22% opposed. Again there is a strong consensus across party lines with more than 60% of Democrats (86/11), independents (67/28), and Republicans (61/34) all supporting them.  52% of voters say they’re more inclined to reelect Hagan next year because she voted for background checks, while only 26% of voters say they will be less likely to support her because of it.

Hagan and Landrieu are both faring a lot better on this issue than their Republican colleagues in these states. 50% of North Carolinians say they’re less likely to vote for Richard Burr in the future because of his opposition to background checks, compared to only 26% who consider his vote to be a positive. And in Louisiana 41% of voters say they’re less likely to vote for David Vitter in the future based on his vote on this bill, compared to just 25% more likely to.

Obvious disclaimers: the election is still eighteen months away, polling doesn’t really mean that much, credibility interval, etc.

But still: all available evidence indicates that gun control, or at least a cautious, moderate version of it, is no longer a suicide pill for Democrats, even in swing states. The recent failure of any gun control measure to pass the Senate looks on the surface like a stinging defeat, but the politics shifted during the debate: the NRA wildly overreached, public opinion moved considerably more toward center, and most important, the so-called “enthusiasm gap”—the theory, true until now, that gun owners overwhelmed with intensity any possible majority on gun control issues—is beginning to close. The Newtown families’ admirable and forceful lobby work on the issue is giving a new ferocity to gun control arguments.

Two of the possible outcomes: the Toomey-Manchin bill comes up again—they’ve both pledged it’s not done—and other senators take note of the outcome from the last vote and switch. Or senators who voted for the background check see a benefit in 2014, and revise the truth that a gun control vote is suicide.

Expanded Background Checks Won’t Pass

by evanmcmurry

Welp, background checks was the best we could do, it was pretty pathetic (as we had to loosen some other gun restrictions to get them) and we still couldn’t do it.

Despite 90% of support of the public, including overwhelming majorities from Republicans and independents, a compromise from two Senators with A ratings from the NRA, lobbying from families of the Newtown shooting, and lobbying from Gabby Giffords, a congressional colleague shot in the head, background checks won’t even get an up or down vote in the Senate.

Sargeant deserves a full quote here:

If Manchin-Toomey dies, there also will be a lot of chatter to the effect that this was inevitable, that the NRA’s grip on Congress is invincible, and that it was naïve to imagine that anything could happen, even after Newtown. This is all just wrong, and indeed, it lets culpable Senators off the hook. If the proposal goes down, it will be because a few Senators did the wrong thing. It was not at all inevitable that a half dozen Senators who were genuinely undecided voted one way and not the other. The death of this proposal will be on them.

Let the GOP Intraparty Gun Control Squabble Commence

by evanmcmurry


The Republican conflict came to the fore last week during a closed-door luncheon for Senate Republicans, when Susan Collins, eyes blazing, stood up and complained about a series of attack ads that she was facing back home from a gun-rights group with deep ties to Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky.

Ms. Collins, who faces re-election next year, said the gun ads were an example of the kind of internal Republican warfare that has hindered the party in Senate races the last two elections.

[…] Then Mr. Paul, feeling attacked, stormed out.

More from Sargeant on the group:

The group, the National Association for Gun Rights, has also run ads against other Republicans — such as Reps. Eric Cantor and Scott Rigell — that show these Republicans morphing into Obama, simply because they embraced the most modest of Obama’s gun reforms, such as making gun trafficking a federal crime and improving state data sharing with feds on the mentally ill, while rejecting virtually all of the other major items on it. Now Collins is a target.

When Eric Cantor is too compromising for you…

Newtown Families Now Worse Than NRA

by evanmcmurry

Pierce excoriates Politico for its article about the Newtown families’ political skills in lobbying Congress. Sample graph:

With access to money and media, they’re using persistence, visibility – and, most all, their unique moral authority – to help prod Senate action. They also have their own lobbyists – several of them, in fact…They gently say they could not have imagined themselves in this position, but they’re doing it to honor the memory of their children. They say they’re supporters of the Second Amendment, and just want to have a conversation. But there’s nothing subtle about the way some of them conclude their visits: by leaving behind a color card with a photo of their slain relative. 

To quote Pierce, “fk you.” But here’s the worst line of all:

What started as a support group is now a lobbying force unlike any other to descend on Capitol Hill. 

Really? I think I can name a three-lettered lobbying group currently in the gun debate that still has ’em beat. What a strange world, in which the parents begging their representatives for a change in the laws that helped kill their children are callow lobbyists, but the political arm of the gun industry is fighting for freedom.

Your Depressing Gun Control Update

by evanmcmurry

The compromise between Toomey and Manchin on background checks, which is supposed to break the impasse on the only facet of gun control that stands a chance of passing, also includes the following:

The agreement also contains provisions expanding firearms rights, and that concerns gun control supporters. Some restrictions on transporting guns across state lines would be eased, sellers would be shielded from lawsuits if the buyer passed a check but later used a firearm in a crime and gun dealers could conduct business in states where they don’t live.

And so our response to Newtown has become a loosening of gun laws. This is part of securing a “compromise” for background checks, which 80-90% of Americans support, depending on the poll. And the families of Newtown will be lobbying legislators just to pass this. And it still might not pass.

Here’s the relevant part of Obama’s response:


To which Charles Pierce rejoinds:

To belabor the obvious, any compromise brokered on the issue of gun control between Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey is not “bipartisan” just because one of them is a Democrat and the other is a Republican…on this particular issue, there isn’t enough room between Manchin and Toomey to shine a flashlight. To call the deal struck today “bipartisan” is to fetishize the adjective into virtual uselessness.

Back to your regularly scheduled program of wondering whether you might be shot today.

The Craziest Anti-Gun Control Amendment Yet

by evanmcmurry

Soon guns will have more rights than you do:

Senators voted 50-49 in favor of an amendment by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, to establish a two-thirds requirement for the passage of any gun control legislation in their chamber. While the budget resolution is nonbinding and the amendment did not win the 60 votes needed to be adopted, the outcome underscores how many senators strongly support gun rights, just as the chamber prepares to debate the biggest package of gun control measures in nearly two decades.

[…] Lee’s amendment sought to require a 67-vote supermajority for Senate passage of all future restrictions on firearms and ammunition, and it used a broad definition of the term “gun control.” For example, beyond requiring the heightened vote threshold for a proposed ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, the amendment also would have required it for any bill that “requires background checks through a federal firearms licensee for private transfer of firearms.”

Gay marriage should just get categorized as a firearm, then it’d be set.