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Posts Tagged ‘NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION’

NRA: FEEL FREE TO INSULT DEAD GUN VICTIMS

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 9, 2019 at 12:11 am

“You know the great thing about the state of Iowa is, I’m pretty sure you all define gun control the same way we do in Texas—hitting what you aim at.

“My wife, Heidi, who is a petite, 5’2 California blonde, she was standing at the tripod unloading the full machine gun with a pink baseball cap that said ‘Frmed and Fabulous.’”

Yes, it was United States Senator Rafael “Ted” Cruz (R-Texas) on the prowl for laughs–-and votes—at a town hall meeting in Iowa.

Normally, Cruz would do his vote-hunting in Texas. But now Cruz had a bigger prize on his mind than simply being re-elected a United States Senator. Cruz wanted to be President in 2016.

U.S. Senator Rafael Cruz

And Iowa held its precinct causes on February 1-2, 2016.

Cruz’ jokes about gun control came on June 19, 2015, only two days after Dylann Roof, a white high school dropout, gunned down three unarmed black men and six black women at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. 

Dylann Roof

Following his remarks, Cruz headed to a shooting range, where he fired off rounds on a semiautomatic .223-caliber Smith and Wesson M&P 15.

Cruz’ remarks no doubt appeared insensitive to those who now mourned for the latest victims of gun violence. But Charles L. Cotton took insulting the dead to a whole new level. 

Cotton is a National Rifle Association (NRA) board member who also runs TexasCHLForum.com, an online discussion forum about guns and gun owners’ rights in Texas and beyond.

In a discussion thread on June 18, 2015—one day after the church slaughter—a board member noted that Clementa C. Pinckney, one of the nine people slain, was a pastor and a state legislator in South Carolina.

Cotton responded: “And he voted against concealed-carry. Eight of his church members who might be alive if he had expressly allowed members to carry handguns in church are dead. Innocent people died because of his position on a political issue.”

#NRA boardmember Charles L. Cotton: #Charleston tragedy could've been avoided if guns allowed in Churches.

That discussion thread has since been deleted.

During a subsequent phone interview, Cotton emphasized that he had been speaking as a private citizen—and not as an NRA board member:

“It was a discussion we were having about so called gun-free zones. It’s my opinion that there should not be any gun-free zones in schools or churches or anywhere else. If we look at mass shootings that occur, most happen in gun-free zones.”

If private citizens were allowed to carry guns everywhere, Cotton says, there will be fewer mass shootings because “if armed citizens are in there, they have a chance to defend themselves and other citizens.”

Cotton’s position—“there should not be any gun-free zones”—is exactly that of the NRA itself.

Under such circumstances, America will become a nation where anyplace, anytime, can be turned into the O.K. Corral.

Another point that Cotton didn’t mention: Dylann Roof did believe in concealed-carry–and it cost the lives of nine innocent men and women.

Finally, there is this: Even highly-trained shooters—such as those assigned to the United States Secret Service–don’t always respond as expected.

On May 15, 1972, Alabama Governor George Wallace was campaigning for President in Laurel, Maryland. He gave a speech behind a bulletproof podium at the Laurel Shopping Center. Then he moved from it to mingle with the crowd.

Since the 1968 assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy, all those campaigning for President have been assigned Secret Service bodyguards. And Wallace was surrounded by them as he shook hands with his eager supporters.

Suddenly, Arthur Bremer, a fame-seeking failure in life and romance, pushed his way forward, aimed a .38 revolver at Wallace’s abdomen and opened fire. Before he could be subdued, he hit Wallace four times, leaving him paralyzed for the rest of his life. 

Arthur Bremer shoots George Wallace

Nor was he Bremer’s only victim. Three other people present were wounded unintentionally: 

  • Alabama State Trooper Captain E. C. Dothard, Wallace’s personal bodyguard, who was shot in the stomach;
  • Dora Thompson, a campaign volunteer, who was shot in the leg; and 
  • Nick Zarvos, a Secret Service agent, who was shot in the neck, severely impairing his speech.

None of Wallace’s bodyguards got off a shot at Bremer—before or after he pulled the trigger.

On October 6, 1981, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat was reviewing a military parade in Cairo when a truck apparently broke down directly across from where he was seated. 

Anwar Sadat, moments before his assassination

Suddenly, soldiers bolted from the rear of the vehicle, throwing hand grenades and firing assault rifles.  They rushed straight at Sadat—who died instantly under a hail of bullets.

Meanwhile, Sadat’s bodyguards—who had been trained by the CIA—panicked and fled.

Sadat had been assassinated by army officers who believed he had betrayed Islam by making peace with Israel in 1977.

The ultimate test of the NRA’s mantra that “there should not be any gun-free zones…anywhere” will come only when one or more heavily-armed gunmen target an NRA convention.

It will then be interesting to see if the surviving NRA members are as quick to blame themselves for being victims as they are to blame the victims of other mass gun-slaughters.

JUDGMENT DAY FOR AMERICA’S DEATH-DEALERS: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 27, 2019 at 12:13 am

“The victims of the violence are black and white, rich and poor, young and old, famous and unknown. They are, most important of all, human beings whom other human beings loved and needed. No one—no matter where he lives or what he does— can be certain who will suffer from some senseless act of bloodshed. And yet it goes on and on.”

–Robert F. Kennedy, April 4, 1968

Senator Robert F. Kennedy announcing the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

What should the surviving victims of gun massacres do to seek redress?

And how can the relatives and friends of those who didn’t survive seek justice for those they loved?

As far back as 2012, this writer posed those questions. And offered the following solution.

But only now has a court—the Connecticut Supreme Court—made this remedy possible.

First, don’t count on politicians to support a ban on assault weapons.

Politicians—with rare exceptions—have only two goals:

  1. Get elected to office, and
  2. Stay in office.

And too many of them fear the economic and voting clout of the National Rifle Association (NRA) to risk its wrath.

Consider Republican Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney and then-President Barack Obama.

Both rushed to offer condolences to the surviving victims of the massacre at the Century 16 Theater in Aurora, Colorado, on July 20, 2012.

And both steadfastly refused to even discuss gun control—let alone support a ban on the type of assault weapons used by James Holmes, leaving 12 dead and 58 wounded.

Second, those who survived the massacre—and the relatives and friends of those who didn’t—should file wrongful death, class-action lawsuits against the NRA.

There is sound, legal precedent for this.

  • For decades, the American tobacco industry peddled death and disability to millions and reaped billions of dollars in profits.
  • The industry vigorously claimed there was no evidence that smoking caused cancer, heart disease, emphysema or any other ailment.

  • Tobacco companies spent billions on slick advertising campaigns to win new smokers and attack medical warnings about the dangers of smoking.
  • Tobacco companies spent millions to elect compliant politicians and block anti-smoking legislation.
  • From 1954 to 1994, over 800 private lawsuits were filed against tobacco companies in state courts. But only two plaintiffs prevailed, and both of those decisions were reversed on appeal.
  • In 1994, amidst great pessimism, Mississippi Attorney General Mike Moore filed a lawsuit against the tobacco industry. But other states soon followed, ultimately growing to 46.
  • Their goal: To seek monetary, equitable and injunctive relief under various consumer-protection and anti-trust laws.
  • The theory underlying these lawsuits was: Cigarettes produced by the tobacco industry created health problems among the population, which badly strained the states’ public healthcare systems.
  • In 1998, the states settled their Medicaid lawsuits against the tobacco industry for recovery of their tobacco-related, health-care costs. In return, they exempted the companies from private lawsuits for tobacco-related injuries.
  • The companies agreed to curtail or cease certain marketing practices. They also agreed to pay, forever, annual payments to the states to compensate some of the medical costs for patients with smoking-related illnesses.

The parallels with the NRA are obvious:

  • For decades, the NRA has peddled deadly weapons to millions, reaped billions of dollars in profits and refused to admit the carnage those weapons have produced: “Guns don’t kill people.  People kill people.”  With guns.

  • The NRA has bitterly fought background checks on gun-buyers, in effect granting even criminals and the mentally ill the right to own arsenals of death-dealing weaponry.
  • The NRA has spent millions on slick advertising campaigns to win new members and frighten them into buying guns.

  • The NRA has spent millions on political contributions to block gun-control legislation.
  • The NRA has spent millions attacking political candidates and elected officials who warned about the dangers of unrestricted access to assault and/or concealed weapons.

  • The NRA has spent millions pushing “Stand Your Ground” laws in more than half the states, which potentially give every citizen a “license to kill.”
  • The NRA receives millions of dollars from online sales of ammunition, high-capacity ammunition magazines, and other accessories through its point-of-sale Round-Up Program—thus directly profiting by selling a product that kills about 30,288 people a year.

  • Firearms made indiscriminately available through NRA lobbying have filled hospitals with casualties, and have thus badly strained the states’ public healthcare systems.

It will take a series of highly expensive and well-publicized lawsuits to significantly weaken the NRA, financially and politically.

The first ones will have to be brought by the surviving victims of gun violence—and by the friends and families of those who did not survive it. Only they will have the courage and motivation to take such a risk.

As with the cases first brought against tobacco companies, there will be losses.  And the NRA will rejoice with each one.

But, in time, state Attorneys General will see the clear parallels between lawsuits filed against those who peddle death by cigarette and those who peddle death by armor-piercing bullet.

And then the NRA—like the tobacco industry—will face an adversary wealthy enough to stand up for the rights of the gun industry’s own victims.

Only then will those politicians supporting reasonable gun controls dare to stand up for the victims of these needless tragedies.

JUDGMENT DAY FOR AMERICA’S DEATH-DEALERS: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 26, 2019 at 12:11 am

Weapons manufacturers are the only companies in the United States that cannot be sued for the deaths and injuries their products cause.

This is because The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, or PLCAA, immunizes the American firearms industry against lawsuits by victims of mass shootings and gun violence.

Rammed through a Republican-dominated Congress in 2005 by the National Rifle Association (NRA), it was signed into law by President George W. Bush. 

But on March 15, 2019, the Supreme Court of Connecticut ruled that families of schoolchildren gunned down in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre could sue Remington Outdoor Co Inc., over its marketing of military-style Bushmaster weapons to civilians.

The Court ruled that the victims’ families had the right to sue Remington under the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA).

Among the ads that Remington ran to promote its military-style AR-15 Bushmaster rifle: 

  • “Truly the most versatile and adaptive rifle ever conceived, it was born of a collaborative effort between Bushmaster, Magpul and Remington to create the ultimate military combat weapons system.”
  • A photo of a Bushmaster with its barrel facing the reader, with the caption: “CONSIDER YOUR MAN CARD REISSUED.” 
  • A photo of a Bushmaster, alongside the slogan: “Forces of opposition, bow down. You are single-handedly outnumbered.”
  • “ONE RIFLE. MANY MISSIONS. THE REVOLUTIONARY, FULLY MODULAR REMINGTON ACR (ADAPTIVE COMBAT RIFLE).”

Image result for Images of Remington AR-15 Bushmaster rifle

Remington AR-15 Bushmaster

“The defendants knowingly marketed, advertised, and promoted the XM15-E2S for civilians to use to carry out offensive, military style combat missions against their perceived enemies,” alleges the Newtown lawsuit.

And the Justices ruled that, “such use of the XM15-E2S, or any weapon for that matter, would be illegal, and Connecticut law does not permit advertisements that promote or encourage violent, criminal behavior.

“We are confident… that, if there were credible allegations that a firearms seller had run explicit advertisements depicting and glorifying school shootings, and promoted its products in video games, such as ‘School Shooting,’ that glorify and reward such unlawful conduct, and if a troubled young man who watched those advertisements and played those games were inspired thereby to commit a terrible crime like the ones involved in the Sandy Hook massacre, then even the most ardent sponsors of PLCAA would not have wanted to bar a consumer protection lawsuit seeking to hold the supplier accountable for the injuries wrought by such unscrupulous marketing practices.”

Image result for Images of Connecticut Supreme Court Building

Connecticut Supreme Court Building

Said David Wheeler, father of a Sandy Hook victim: “There is a reason why this particular consumer product is the one that is used by people who want to inflict the most damage, and we have seen it time and time again since my son and his classmates were killed. That reason very likely potentially resides in the documents that we have been unable to look at until now.”

“The families’ goal has always been to shed light on Remington’s calculated and profit-driven strategy to expand the AR-15 market and court high-risk users, all at the expense of Americans’ safety,” said Josh Koskoff, one of the lawyers for the victims’ families, “Today’s decision is a critical step toward achieving that goal.” 

“This is a landmark and potentially historic ruling,” said Adam Winkler, a UCLA Law School professor who specializes in constitutional law. “While all this decision does is allow a case to go forward, in broader terms it really opens up a new avenue for holding gunmakers responsible.”

More importantly, the ruling could spur similar suits in other states. “This could prompt further such suits not only for cases of mass shootings, but individual ones as well,” Winkler said.

The decision by the Connecticut Supreme Court wasn’t unanimous. Three of its seven justices dissented.

The case now goes back to the lower court for further proceedings and a possible trial.

Opinion remains divided over its chances for success.

According to National Public Radio: “The suit is a high-stakes challenge to gun companies, which have rarely been held liable for crimes committed with their products, and could mark a new front in the battle over gun regulations and corporate accountability.

“An eventual ruling against Remington could establish legal precedent, opening doors for more lawsuits against gun manufacturers, and expose the company’s communications about its marketing plans.” 

Noted The Root: “While federal judges remain split on which laws apply to firearm manufacturers, Connecticut judges have drawn a line in the sand. While U.S. Supreme Court intervention on behalf of Remington is a distinct possibility, Connecticut’s decision could inspire lawmakers and lawyers to take a hard look at PLCAA.”  

“The larger implications of this are that the Connecticut Supreme Court has just blown a giant hole in the PLCAA and in federal immunity for firearms manufacturers,” said Timothy Lytton, a law professor at Georgia State University.

Lytton predicted that the United States Supreme Court would be likely to take up the case: “What we’re talking about here is the interpretation of a federal statute and that falls squarely in the jurisdiction of the [United States] Supreme Court.”

A spokeswoman for the National Rifle Association declined to comment. 

JUDGMENT DAY FOR AMERICA’S DEATH-DEALERS: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 25, 2019 at 1:38 am

It had happened before—all too often before:

  • Midnight vigils for the victims of yet another spree-killer.
  • Makeshift memorials of flowers, candles and teddy bears.
  • Grief counselors for students at elementary, junior high and high schools.
  • And, of course, the inevitable question: “Why?”

Americans had seen it all before—too many times before: 

  • After the San Ysidro McDonald’s shootings, 1984: 21 dead, 19 wounded.
  • After the 101 California Street shootings in San Francisco, 1993: 9 dead, 6 injured.
  • After the Columbine High School shootings in Colorado, 1999: 15 dead, 21 wounded.
  • After the Virginia Tech shootings, 2007: 32 dead, 23 wounded.
  • After the Tucson shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, 2011: 6 dead, 13 wounded.
  • After the massacre at the Century 16 Theater in Aurora, Colorado, 2012: 12 dead, 58 wounded.

And then, on December 14, 2012, Adam Lanza, a mentally unstable, 20-year-old gunman, shot and killed his sleeping mother, Nancy, as she lay in bed at home.

Then he drove his mother’s car to Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Connecticut, and slaughtered 20 school children aged six and seven and six adult staff. 

His weapon of choice: A Remington AR-15 Bushmaster rifle, a semi-automatic civilian version of the U.S. military’s M-16.

A fanatical gun collector, Nancy Lanza had turned the house she shared with her son into a virtual arsenal:

  • Izhmash Saiga 12-gauge semiautomatic shotgun
  • Bushmaster Model XM15-E2S .223-caliber semiautomatic rifle
  • Glock 20 10mm semiautomatic handgun
  • Sig Sauer P226 9mm semiautomatic handgun 
  • Savage Mark II bolt-action .22-caliber rifle
  • Enfield Albian bolt-action .323-caliber rifle
  • Volcanic .22-caliber starter pistol. 

Of the firearms listed above, Lanza used the first four (italicized) to carry out the Sandy Hook massacre.  

Stockpiles of ammunition for all of these weapons were later found by police as they searched the house. 

Related image

Adam Lanza

Yet Adam Lanza’s mentally unbalanced condition should have barred him from possessing even a single firearm.

A report issued by the Office of the Child Advocate in November, 2014, noted that Lanza had Asperger’s syndrome. As a teenager he had suffered from anxiety, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

The report concluded: “His severe and deteriorating internalized mental health problems…. combined with an atypical preoccupation with violence….(and) access to deadly weapons…. proved a recipe for mass murder.”

On the day of the massacre, Adam Lanza chose his firearms with care. 

He shot his defenseless mother four times in the head with a Savage Mark II .22-caliber rifle, a bolt-action firearm that can accept a 10-round magazine. But for his planned massacre at Sandy Hook, he chose semiautomatic weapons with detachable ammunition magazines. 

Of all the weapons Lanza carried to Sandy Hook, the Bushmaster XM15-E2S proved the most lethal: A semiautomatic rifle that can be equipped with 30-round magazines, which allows the shooter to cut down on the number of times he has to reload.

In the past, countless Americans had responded to the latest gun outrage with “sending thoughts and prayers.” 

But, this time, there would be a different response to this latest slaughter.

In February, 2014, nine families of the victims in the Sandy Hook massacre filed a lawsuit against the gun manufacturer, Remington Outdoor Co Inc., over its marketing of military-style Bushmaster weapons. 

In October, 2016, the Connecticut Superior Court dismissed the case based on a federal law that protects the gun industry from liability.

Rammed through a Republican-dominated Congress by the National Rifle Association (NRA), the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, or PLCAA, was signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2005. Since then, it has armed the American firearms industry with immunity against lawsuits by victims of mass shootings and gun violence.

But on March 15, 2019, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that families of Sandy Hook victims could sue Remington Outdoor Co Inc.

The families asserted that Remington, along with a gun wholesaler and local retailer, were partially responsible for the carnage because they marketed the weapon based on its militaristic appeal.

For the first time in American history, victims of gun violence have won the legal right to hold gun makers accountable for the devastation caused by their products.

“The perception for the gun industry is: ‘We can’t get sued,’” said Josh Koskoff, a Connecticut attorney representing families of the Newtown massacre. “‘We can be as unethical and as wild and aggressive in the marketing as we want.’”

The families had sued Remington by citing the legal doctrine of negligent entrustment. This has been used in such cases as when someone lends a car to a high-risk driver who then causes an accident.

But the Supreme Court rejected that theory. Instead, it ruled that the families could bring their claims under the consumer protection statute. 

The court said that state unfair-trade-practices law allows anyone who’s suffered a financial loss from such activities to sue “regardless of whether they had a business relationship with the person or entity that engaged in the prohibited practice.”

“Once we accept the premise that Congress did not intend to immunize firearms suppliers who engage in truly unethical and irresponsible marketing practices promoting criminal conduct … it falls to a jury to decide whether the promotional schemes alleged in the present case rise to the level of illegal trade practices and whether fault for the tragedy can be laid at their feet,” the judges said.

USING RELIGION TO EXCUSE GUN VIOLENCE

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on November 28, 2018 at 12:07 am

Barack Obama was right.

As a 2008 Presidential candidate, he famously (or infamously) said about small-town Right-wing voters across the Midwest:

“You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them.

“And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not.

“And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

At the time that Obama made that remark, he was seeking the 2008 Democratic nomination for President.

His opponents—both Democratic and Republican—quickly attacked him as elitist and anti-Second Amendment.

Democratic New York United States Senator Hillary Clinton—his chief rival for the nomination—said: “I was taken aback by the demeaning remarks Senator Obama made about people in small-town America. His remarks are elitist and out of touch.” 

Obama survived the firestorm and won the Democratic nomination—and the Presidency.

Since then, the truth of his widely-criticized remarks has been repeatedly proven by his Republican adversaries.

On June 17, 2015, Dylann Roof, a white high school dropout, gunned down three black men and six black women at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

At 21, Roof was unemployed, dividing his time between playing video games and taking drugs.

Dylann Roof

The signs of Roof’s malignant racism were evident long before he turned mass murderer:

  • He had posed for a photo sitting on the hood of his parents’ car—whose license plate bore a Confederate flag.
  • He had posed for pictures wearing a jacket sporting the white supremacist flags of Rhodesia and apartheid South Africa.
  • He told a friend that he hoped “to start a civil war” between the black and white races.
  • Roof reportedly told friends and neighbors of his plans to kill people.
  • In the midst of his massacre of unarmed worshipers, he told one of his victims: “You’ve raped our women, and you are taking over the country.” Then Roof shot him.

The evidence makes clear that Roof’s slaughter was racially motivated. Yet no 2016 Republican Presidential candidate dared acknowledge it:

  • Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida:  “I don’t know what was on the mind or the heart of the man who committed these atrocious crimes.”
  • Rick Santorum, former United States Senator from Pennsylvania: “You talk about the importance of prayer in this time and we’re now seeing assaults on our religious liberty we’ve never seen before.  It’s a time for deeper reflection beyond this horrible situation.”
  • Bobby Jindal, former governor of Louisiana: “I don’t think we’ll ever know what was going on in his mind.”

On October 27, 2018, another worship-services slaughter occurred. The target was the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Eleven people died in a hail of bullets fired by anti-Semetic Robert Bowers, 46.

Two days later, on October 29, White House Counselor Kelleyanne Conway offered a unique reason for the massacre:

“The anti-religiosity in this country that is somehow in vogue and funny to make fun of anybody of faith, to constantly be making fun of people that express religion—the late-night comedians, the unfunny people on TV shows—it’s always anti-religious.

“These people were gunned down in their place of worship, as were the people in South Carolina several years ago. And they were there because they’re people of faith, and it’s that faith that needs to bring us together. This is no time to be driving God out of the public square.” 

No Republican in 2015 dared to blame the shooting on Right-wing hatred and/or ready access to high-powered firearms by the mentally disturbed. And, three years later, the situation remained the same.

Someone who has dared to tell the truth about guns and the carnage inflict is Chief Edward Flynn of the Milwaukee Police Department.

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Chief Edward Flynn

On the August 4, 2015 edition of The PBS Newshour, Flynn said: Certainly, one of the things we have seen is a dramatic increase in the use of firearms, particularly semiautomatic pistols, in our violent deaths.

We have seen that our shootings are up significantly, our homicides are up dramatically. Over 85% of our homicides are committed with firearms, and, of those, over 85% are committed with semiautomatic pistols.

Another truth-teller is Colonel Sam Dotson, Chief of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.  Interviewed on the same Newshour program, he said: 

I’m seeing exactly the same thing that they’re seeing in Milwaukee, the availability of guns. I’m seeing exactly the same thing, high-capacity magazines, a willingness to use the guns, and a judiciary that sometimes doesn’t follow through on the prosecution. 

Police Chiefs Edward Flynn and Samuel Dotson bluntly stated the devastating results of unrestricted access to high-powered firearms. And they offered a concrete solution: Drastically restrict that access.

The “solution” offered by Kelleyanne Conway comes down to: “America needs to pray.” It’s a “solution” that appeases the religious Right—and doesn’t infuriate the National Rifle Association.

And it won’t prevent a single murder.

FROM THE NRA’S MOUTH TO TRUMP’S EAR—AND MOUTH

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on October 29, 2018 at 12:13 am

On Saturday, October 27, 11 people were killed and six injured in a shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Robert Bowers, 46, of suburban Baldwin, faces 29 charges in connection to the rampage. He is charged with 11 counts of using a firearm to commit murder. And he faces multiple counts of two hate crimes:

  1. Obstruction of exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death, and
  2. Obstruction of exercise of religious beliefs resulting in bodily injury to a public safety officer.

He could face the death penalty if convicted.

And how did President Donald Trump respond to the massacre?

Exactly as the National Rifle Association (NRA) would have him respond: “If there was an armed guard inside the temple, they would have been able to stop him,” he told reporters before boarding a flight to an Indiana campaign rally later in the afternoon. 

That, of course, is the standard mantra of the NRA, which lavishly bankrolls the GOP.

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Donald Trump

And this, of course, ignores two major truths:

  1. The killer used an AR-15 assault rifle—the go-to firearm for heavy-duty massacres. It can fire 150 rounds in 15 seconds and about 600 rounds per minute; and
  2. Four of the wounded were police officers—who did have firearms.

In 2016, the NRA spent more than $36 million on elections. Donald Trump proved the largest beneficiary—netting more than $21 million. 

The organization is certainly getting its money’s worth.

But: Is it true that “the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is for a good guy to have a gun”?

On July 7, 2016, five Dallas police officers were shot and killed by a disgruntled ex-Army Reserve Afghan War veteran named Michah Xavier Johnson. Another seven officers and two civilians were wounded before the carnage ended.

The shootings erupted during a Black Lives Matter protest march in downtown Dallas.

Texas has long been an “open carry” state for those who want to brandish rifles without fear of arrest. And about 20 people wearing “ammo gear and protective equipment [had] rifles slung over their shoulder,” said Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings.

“When the shooting started, at different angles, [the armed protesters] started running,” Rawlings said, adding that “open carry only brings confusion to a shooting scene.  What I would do [if I were a police officer] is look for the people with guns,” he said.

“There were a number of armed demonstrators taking part,” said Max Geron, a Dallas police major. “There was confusion about the description of the suspects and whether or not one or more was in custody.”

A 2012 Mother Jones article on “More Guns, More Mass Shootings—Coincidence?” offered a striking finding: After analyzing 62 mass shootings over a 30-year period, the magazine determined: “In not a single case was the killing stopped by a civilian using a gun.”

So much for the ability of gun-toting, untrained amateurs to “stop a bad guy with a gun.”

But even highly-trained shooters—such as those assigned to the United States Secret Service—don’t always respond as expected.

On May 15, 1972, Alabama Governor George C. Wallace was campaigning for President in Laurel, Maryland. He gave a speech behind a bulletproof podium at the Laurel Shopping Center. Then he moved from it to mingle with the crowd.

Since the 1968 assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy, all those campaigning for President have been assigned Secret Service bodyguards. And Wallace was surrounded by them as he shook hands with his eager supporters.

Suddenly, Arthur Bremer, a fame-seeking failure in life and romance, pushed his way forward, aimed a .38 revolver at Wallace’s abdomen and opened fire. Before the Secret Service could subdue him, he hit Wallace four times, leaving him paralyzed for the rest of his life.

 Arthur Bremer shoots George Wallace

Nor was Wallace Bremer’s only victim. Three other people present were wounded unintentionally:

  • Alabama State Trooper Captain E. C. Dothard, Wallace’s personal bodyguard, who was shot in the stomach;
  • Dora Thompson, a campaign volunteer, who was shot in the leg; and
  • Nick Zarvos, a Secret Service agent, who was shot in the neck, severely impairing his speech.

None of Wallace’s bodyguards got off a shot at Bremer—before or after he pulled the trigger.

On October 6, 1981, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat was reviewing a military parade in Cairo when a truck apparently broke down directly across from where he was seated.

Anwar Sadat, moments before his assassination

Suddenly, soldiers bolted from the rear of the vehicle, throwing hand grenades and firing assault rifles. They rushed straight at Sadat—who died instantly under a hail of bullets.

Meanwhile, Sadat’s bodyguards—who had been trained by the CIA—panicked and fled.

Sadat had been assassinated by army officers who believed he had betrayed Islam by making peace with Israel in 1977.

The ultimate test of the NRA’s mantra that “there should not be any gun-free zones…anywhere” will come only when one or more heavily-armed gunmen target an NRA convention.

It will then be interesting to see if the surviving NRA members are as quick to blame themselves for being victims as they are to blame the victims of other mass slaughters.

THE GOOD GUN MAKES US WHAT WE ARE

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on October 9, 2018 at 2:07 pm

On February 14, 2018, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz slaughtered two faculty members and 15 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

His weapon of choice: An AR-15 assault rifle, often favored by gun massacre killers.

Eight days later, on February 22, Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, attacked those he held responsible for the series of massacres plaguing American schools.

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Wayne LaPierre

And it wasn’t crazed gunmen armed with automatic weapons designed for military use. 

With funerals still being planned for some of the victims, LaPierre blamed “the elites,” “saboteurs” and “new European-style socialists” for this and other gun massacres.

He did so at the Conservative Political Action Conference (C-PAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.

“They hate the NRA, they hate the Second Amendment,” said LaPierre, like an Old Testament prophet addressing his fanatical congregation.

“They hate individual freedom. In the rush of calls for more government, they have also revealed…their true selves.

“The elites do not care about America’s schoolchildren. If they truly cared, they would protect them. For them, it is not a safety issue. It is a political issue. 

“Their goal is to eliminate the Second Amendment and our firearms freedoms, so they can eradicate all individual freedoms.”

His C-PAC congregation gave him a wild ovation. 

He then outlined his solution for protecting America’s schoolchildren: Turning schools into virtual concentration camps patrolled by heavily-armed security guards. 

And he accused the Democratic party of being “infested with saboteurs who do not believe in capitalism, do not believe in the Constitution, do not believe in our freedom, and do not believe in America as we know it.”

These “saboteurs” were “new European-style socialists.”

Which was ironic: In 2016, the NRA spent $30 million to elect Donald Trump—who fiercely defends Russian Communist dictator Vladimir Putin against the FBI, NSA and CIA.

But perhaps the highlight of LaPierre’s speech came at its close: “And there is no greater personal, individual freedom than the right to keep and bear arms, the right to protect yourself, and the right to survive.

“It is not bestowed by man, but granted by God to all Americans as our American birthright.”

Anyone who’s seen the 1970 sci-fi movie, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, remembers the final scene: Where seemingly normal underground dwellers strip off their human face masks and reveal themselves to be radiation-scarred mutants.

They wear white robes, and stand silently during a sermon or shout “Amen!” in what is clearly a dark parody of a religious service. It’s immediately clear what they are worshiping: An atomic bomb standing upright.

Image result for Images of bomb worshipers in Beneath the Planet of the Apes

And they pay tribute to the engine of obliteration that has destroyed human civilization and brought about a world ruled by apes.

Their leader, Mendez, chants:

“Glory be to the Bomb, and to the Holy Fallout. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. World without end. Amen. 

“His sound has gone out to all lands, and his light unto the end of the world.

“Almighty and everlasting Bomb, who came down among us to make Heaven under Earth. Lighten our darkness. O instrument of God—grant us thy peace!”

Reading Wayne LaPierre’s eulogy to the Gun and his passionate invoking of God, it’s easy to re-imagine his giving a slightly altered version of the sermon offered in Beneath the Planet of the Apes. It’s also easy to imagine this taking place during an NRA convention.

WAYNE LAPIERRE: The heavens declare the glory of the Gun. And the body-count showeth His handiwork.

NRA CONGREGATION: His sound is gone out to all lands; and his Light unto the end of the world.

WAYNE LAPIEREE: He descendeth from the outermost part of Heaven; and there is nothing hid from the lead thereof. There is neither speech nor language after His voice is heard among them.

NRA CONGREGATION: Praise Him! Praise Him! My Strength and my Redeemer!

WAYNE LAPIERRE: Glory be to the Gun, and to the Holy Bodycount! As it was in the Beginning, is now and ever shall be, massacres without end. Amen!

NRA CHORUS: Amen! Amen! Amen! Amen!

WAYNE LAPIERRE: Almighty and everlasting Gun, who came down among us to make Heaven unto Earth. Lighten our darkness with your muzzle flashes. O instrument of God, grant us They peace.

NRA CHOIR: Almighty Gun, who destroyed all men—to create corpses! Behold His glory!

WAYNE LAPIERRE: Behold that Truth that abides in us. To reveal that Truth unto that Maker.

WAYNE LAPIERRE AND NRA CONGREGATION:  I reveal my inmost self unto my God.

NRA CHORUS (singing): Unto my God!

NRA CONGREGATION (singing):

All guns bright and beautiful. All creatures dead with lead.

The good Gun makes us what we are!

He takes out eyes to see with, and lips that might yet speak. How great the Gun Almighty, who has made all things dead. Amen!

WAYNE LAPIERRE: May the Blessing of the Gun Almighty and the fellowship of the Holy Bodycount descend on us all, this night and forevermore! 

* * * * * *  

In 2012, a psychotic gunman slaughtered 20 first-graders and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Since then, at least 1,862 mass shootings have erupted nationwide,with at least 2,071 killed and 7,852 wounded.

THE PARKLAND SCHOOL MASSACRE: WHERE BLAME REALLY LIES

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 28, 2018 at 12:08 am

On February 14, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz slaughtered two faculty members and 15 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

His weapon of choice: An AR-15 assault rifle, often favored by gun massacre killers. 

Since then, the National Rifle Association (NRA), President Donald Trump and their shills (paid and unpaid) have sought to distract attention from the reason for the massacre: Easy access to military assault weaponry by virtually anyone. 

Among those they have blamed:

  • “The elites” (who, says Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s executive vice president, “don’t care about America’s schoolchildren”);
  • Unarmed school teachers (who should have been armed);
  • Cruz’ neighbors and classmates (who didn’t report his obsession with violence to police);
  • The media (who “love mass shootings,” according to Dana Loesch, the NRA’s spokeswoman);
  • The FBI (which fumbled tips that Cruz was a live grenade waiting to go off). 
  • Scot Peterson (the armed school resource officer who stayed outside the school as the shooting unfolded).

According to a series of police reports, Cruz suffered from mental illness and was on behavioral medication. The records described fights at home—and his mother’s fear that Cruz was out of control even as an adolescent.

Nikolas Cruz

Even so, it was not mental illness that made it possible for Cruz to slaughter 17 innocent students and faculty.  

It was his access to military-style firepower.

Without that, all he could have done was fantasize about inflicting torment on others. Having access to that firepower allowed him to make his fantasies come true.

And who made it possible for Cruz to obtain that firepower? Those Republicans who are literally on the payroll of the NRA. 

To start at the top: President Donald Trump. In 2016, the NRA spent more than $30 million to support him and defeat his opponent, Hillary Clinton.

Donald Trump

And that investment has already paid off: In February, 2017, Trump signed a bill making it easier for the mentally ill to buy guns. This repealed an Obama-era regulation that restricted the rights of seriously incapacitated people to own death-dealing firepower.

In fact, during the 2016 election, the NRA and its affiliate, the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, spent a total of $54 million. The vast majority of these monies went to support Republicans or oppose Democrats.

Even so, the NRA has been willing to open its pocketbook to Democrats willing to toe the organization’s line. Rep. Sanford Bishop, of Georgia, has received about $47,000 during his tenure in Congress. 

From January 1 to mid-February, 2018, the NRA has spent absolutely nothing to support Democrats, and $337,000 to oppose them.

Then there are Florida’s Republican legislators. All of the following received contributions from the NRA during the 2016 election cycle: 

  • Rep. Gus M. Bilirakis: $2,000 
  • Rep. Carlos Curbelo: $2,500 
  • Rep. Ted Yoho: $1,000 
  • Rep. Daniel Webster: $1,000
  • Rep. John Rutherford: $1,000 
  • Sen. Marco Rubio: $9,900 
  • Rep. Dennis Ross: $2,000 
  • Rep. Tom Rooney: $2,000 
  • Rep. Bill Posey: $2,000 
  • Rep. Brian Mast: $4,950 
  • Rep. Matt Gaetz: $1,000 
  • Rep. Neal Dunn: $1,000 
  • Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart: $2,000 Rep.
  • Ron DeSantis: $1,000 

Then there is Florida Governor Rick Scott

In 2014, Scott won the praise of the NRA’s Political Victory Fund: “Rick has signed more pro-gun bills into law in one term than any other governor in Florida history.”  All of this resulted in his getting an “A+” rating from the organization. 

Image result for Images of Rick Scott

Rick Scott

And what has all this highly-paid political influence bought? 

  • An AR-15 rifle—designed to kill the maximum number of people—is legally easier to obtain than a handgun. 
  • Federal law requires gun buyers to be 21 before buying a handgun. But in Florida, an AR-15 can be purchased at age 18.
  • Residents aren’t required to register their gun.
  • But Floridians must be 21 to buy an alcoholic beverage.
  • No permit or license is needed to buy a gun.
  • No permit is needed to conceal carry a rifle or shotgun; one is required to conceal carry a handgun.
  • The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is required to issue a concealed carry permit to anyone who desires one, as long as: S/he is an American citizen; 21 or older; without a felony conviction; and can prove that s/he is competent with a firearm.
  • Floridians can buy as many guns as they want at one time.
  • Florida does not regulate assault weapons, .50-caliber rifles and large capacity ammunition magazines.  
  • Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law allows for the use of deadly force without any obligation to try to avoid violence.  

And when criminals and/or the criminally insane turn the weaponry they have legally purchased onto scores of defenseless men, women and children, the NRA again benefits. 

For example: One week after the mass slaughter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Florida legislators voted 71-36 against a measure to consider a ban on semi-automatic weapons. 

Yet they declared pornography a public health risk. The bill “recognizes public health risk created by pornography & acknowledges need for education, prevention, research, & policy change to protect citizens of this state.”

Almost all the lawmakers who voted against an assault rifle ban have an “A” rating from the NRA.

Watching in stunned disbelief and outrage were 100 Marjory Stoneman High School students. They had traveled 400 miles from Parkland to the state capital in Tallahassee, hoping to speak with legislators and Governor Scott.  

GIVE ME THAT GUN-TIME RELIGION

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on February 27, 2018 at 12:12 am

On February 14, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz slaughtered two faculty members and 15 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

His weapon of choice: An AR-15 assault rifle, often favored by gun massacre killers.

Eight days later, on February 22, Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, attacked those he held responsible for the series of massacres plaguing American schools.

Image result for Images of Wayne LaPierre

Wayne LaPierre

And it wasn’t crazed gunmen armed with automatic weapons designed for military use. 

With funerals still being planned for some of the victims, LaPierre blamed “the elites,” “saboteurs” and “new European-style socialists” for this and other gun massacres.

He did so at the Conservative Political Action Conference (C-PAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.

“They hate the NRA, they hate the Second Amendment,” said LaPierre, like an Old Testament prophet addressing his fanatical congregation.

“They hate individual freedom. In the rush of calls for more government, they have also revealed…their true selves.

“The elites do not care about America’s schoolchildren. If they truly cared, they would protect them. For them, it is not a safety issue. It is a political issue. 

“Their goal is to eliminate the Second Amendment and our firearms freedoms, so they can eradicate all individual freedoms.”

His C-PAC congregation gave him a wild ovation. 

He then outlined his solution for protecting America’s schoolchildren: Turning schools into virtual concentration camps patrolled by heavily-armed security guards. 

And he accused the Democratic party of being “infested with saboteurs who do not believe in capitalism, do not believe in the Constitution, do not believe in our freedom, and do not believe in America as we know it.”

These “saboteurs” were “new European-style socialists.”

Which was ironic: In 2016, the NRA spent $30 million to elect Donald Trump—who fiercely defends Russian Communist dictator Vladimir Putin against the FBI, NSA and CIA.

But perhaps the highlight of LaPierre’s speech came at its close: “And there is no greater personal, individual freedom than the right to keep and bear arms, the right to protect yourself, and the right to survive.

“It is not bestowed by man, but granted by God to all Americans as our American birthright.”

Anyone who’s seen the 1970 sci-fi movie, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, remembers the final scene: Where seemingly normal underground dwellers strip off their human face masks and reveal themselves to be radiation-scarred mutants.

They wear white robes, and stand silently during a sermon or shout “Amen!” in what is clearly a dark parody of a religious service. It’s immediately clear what they are worshiping: An atomic bomb standing upright.

Image result for Images of bomb worshipers in Beneath the Planet of the Apes

And they pay tribute to the engine of obliteration that has destroyed human civilization and brought about a world ruled by apes.

Their leader, Mendez, chants:

“Glory be to the Bomb, and to the Holy Fallout. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. World without end. Amen. 

“His sound has gone out to all lands, and his light unto the end of the world.

“Almighty and everlasting Bomb, who came down among us to make Heaven under Earth. Lighten our darkness. O instrument of God—grant us thy peace!”

Reading Wayne LaPierre’s eulogy to the Gun and his passionate invoking of God, it’s easy to re-imagine his giving a slightly altered version of the sermon offered in Beneath the Planet of the Apes. It’s also easy to imagine this taking place during an NRA convention.

WAYNE LAPIERRE: The heavens declare the glory of the Gun. And the body-count showeth His handiwork.

NRA CONGREGATION: His sound is gone out to all lands; and his Light unto the end of the world.

WAYNE LAPIEREE: He descendeth from the outermost part of Heaven; and there is nothing hid from the lead thereof. There is neither speech nor language after His voice is heard among them.

NRA CONGREGATION: Praise Him! Praise Him! My Strength and my Reddemer!

WAYNE LAPIERRE: Glory be to the Gun, and to the Holy Bodycount! As it was in the Beginning, is now and ever shall be, massacres without end. Amen!

NRA CHORUS: Amen! Amen! Amen! Amen!

WAYNE LAPIERRE: Almighty and everlasting Gun, who came down among us to make Heaven unto Earth. Lighten our darkness with your muzzle flashes. O instrument of God, grant us They peace.

NRA CHOIR: Almighty Gun, who destroyed all men—to create corpses! Behold His glory!

WAYNE LAPIERRE: Behold that Truth that abides in us. To reveal that Truth unto that Maker.

WAYNE LAPIERRE AND NRA CONGREGATION: I reveal my inmost self unto my God.

NRA CHORUS (singing): Unto my God!

NRA CONGREGATION (singing):

All guns bright and beautiful. All creatures dead with lead.

The good Gun makes us what we are!

He takes out eyes to see with, and lips that might yet speak. How great the Gun Almighty, who has made all things dead. Amen!

WAYNE LAPIERRE: May the Blessing of the Gun Almighty and the fellowship of the Holy Bodycount descend on us all, this night and forevermore! 

* * * * * *  

In 2012, a psychotic gunman slaughtered 20 first-graders and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Since then, at least 239 school shootings have erupted nationwide, killing 138 people and wounding 438.

THE MOST DANGEROUS THERAPY

In History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 26, 2018 at 12:10 am

Chris Kyle was an American patriot—serving four tours of duty in Iraq. 

And he was a killer: From 1999 to 2009 he recorded more than 160 confirmed kills as a sniper—the most in U.S. military history. Iraqis came to refer to him as “The Devil” and put a $20,000 bounty on his life.

Chris Kyle January 2012.jpg

Chris Kyle

He was an expert on firearms: After leaving combat duty, he became the chief instructor for training the Naval Special Warfare Sniper and Counter-Sniper team. And he authored the Naval Special Warfare Sniper Doctrine, the first Navy SEAL sniper manual.

He was a successful writer—author of the 2012 bestselling American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History.

In 2013, he wrote the equally bestselling American Gun: A History of the U.S. in Ten Firearms.

He created a nonprofit company, FITCO Cares, to provide at-home fitness equipment for emotionally and physically wounded veterans.

In 2014, his autobiography, American Sniper, became a major film produced and directed by Clint Eastwood. The movie portrays his work as a SEAL marksman in Iraq and his struggles to be a good husband and father during his tours of duty.

And Kyle was a mentor to veterans suffering from PTSD—Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

It was this last activity—and, more importantly, his approach to therapy—that cost him his life.

On February 2, 2015, Kyle and his friend, Chad Littlefield, died in a hail of 13 bullets fired by a semi-automatic pistol.

The murderer: Eddie Ray Routh, an Iraqi war veteran reportedly suffering from PTSD, while the three visited a shooting range in Glen Rose, Texas.

Routh, of Lancaster, Texas, a former corporal in the Marines, had been deployed to Iraq in 2007 and Haiti in 2010.

His motive:  “I shot them because they wouldn’t talk to me. I was just riding in the back seat of the truck and nobody would talk to me. They were just taking me to the range so I shot them. I feel bad about it, but they wouldn’t talk to me. I am sure they have forgiven me.”

Eddie Ray Routh

On February 25, 2015, a jury convicted Routh of double murder and sentenced him to life in prison without parole.

Kyle’s believed that shooting could prove therapeutic for those suffering from mental illness. And it was that belief that ultimately killed him.

According to Travis Cox, the director of FITCO Cares: “What I know is Chris and a gentleman—great guy, I knew him well, Chad Littlefield—took a veteran out shooting who was struggling with PTSD to try to assist him, try to help him, try to, you know, give him a helping hand, and he turned the gun on both of them, killing them.” 

Chris Kyle was a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association (NRA), whose stance on firearms is best described as: “The more guns, the better.”

The NRA:

  • Opposes background checks for firearms owners.
  • Opposes any waiting period for the purchase of a firearm. 
  • Opposes banning the ownership of military-style, “high-capacity” firearms.
  • Opposes any limits on how many firearms a person may own.
  • Supports legislation to allow virtually anyone to carry a handgun—openly or concealed—even in bars and churches.
  • Has successfully pushed “stand-your-ground” laws in more than half the states. These allow the use of deadly force in self-defense, without any obligation to try to retreat first.
  • Has steadfastly defended the right to own Teflon-coated ”cop killer” bullets,” whose only purpose is to penetrate bullet-resistant vests worn by law enforcement officers.

Chris Kyle was undoubtedly one of the foremost experts on firearms in the United States. Few knew better than he did the rules for safe gun-handling.

And yet he broke perhaps the most basic commonsense rule of all: Never trust an unstable person with a loaded firearm. 

And it was the breaking of that rule that killed him.

Even worse, he knew that Routh was unstable. During the drive to the shooting range, he texted Littlefield: ‘This dude is straight-up nuts.”

Kyle, who was 38, was survived by his wife, Taya, and their two children.

Kyle was undoubtedly sincere in wanting to help his fellow veterans who suffered from PTSD.

But he could have offered them different—and far safer—forms of help, such as:

  • Urging veterans such as Routh to get psychiatric counseling.
  • Suggesting that they find purpose in a charity such as Habitat for Humanity, which is devoted to building affordable housing for the poor.
  • Helping them find mental healthcare through the Veterans Administration.

Instead, he chose “gun therapy” as his preferred method of treatment. 

Kyle was an expert on using firearms in self-defense. But that knowledge proved useless when he allowed his empathy to overrule his common sense. 

Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president of the NRA, has repeatedly asserted: “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun.”

But the death of Chris Kyle raises a question that the NRA has yet to answer: If a certified weapons expert can’t protect himself against a psychopathic gunman, how can the rest of us?

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