Posts Tagged ‘gun violence’

A 2013 Wish List

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

By Jean Webster

With the departure of the god awful 2012 – Hurricane Sandy and its disastrous meeting with the nor’easter, the tragedy at the Sandy Hook School, two severe snowstorms – I am hoping to conjure up some magic by putting my 2013 wish list out there.

1. I wish that our Congress people – whether Democrat, Republican or Independent – could forget their differences, and work for the good of the country and the people who elected them. This means putting the welfare of the country ahead of people with special interests who treat our representatives as their personal “fixers.”  We have gone from a great country to a one where too many people are without jobs and security. Where the homeless population has outgrown our ability to help them. Where families are making their homes in shelters. Where schools are in financial trouble – unless they are charter schools and financed with public money, or by parents or by large corporations. Where the richest get richer and the poorest have no health care, and are blamed because they don’t have jobs. A vicious cycle.

2. I wish people would show more respect for teachers and the work they do under circumstances that become more difficult every year. In the past, teachers were respected for their knowledge, their work for students, the hours they spent in and after school. Parents believed that if a child got into trouble, it was because she or he had misbehaved. Today, that feeling has turned around and many parents believe that when something goes wrong it’s the teacher at fault, not their child. Teachers should be paid a salary commensurate with their education and the marketplace. Many communities vote on local school budgets, and townspeople believe they can save money by keeping teachers’ salaries low. But higher pay would result in more community respect. We admire and appreciate professional ball players and movie stars, and aren’t they among the highest paid workers in this country?

3. Remaining in the classroom mode, I wish that Governor Paul LePage would openly support schools and teachers here in Maine. In the fall, he said that students from Maine schools do not get into good colleges because of the poor education they get. The response came from many graduates, and it was dramatic. Their letters to LePage and to newspaper editors, informed him that many have gone on to higher education within the state, and beyond.

More recently, LePage said, “If you want a good education (K-12), go to a private school. If you can’t afford it…tough luck! You can go to public school.” How can a governor dis his own state’s education system without offering ideas for improvement?

4. Finally, like other Americans, I wish we could solve the gun control problem. On Christmas Eve, just days after the slaughter in Connecticut, a man carrying a semi-automatic weapon walked the streets in Portland, Me., ending up on Back Cove, a popular walking trail. Sixty-five people called the police. The man said, “I’m not making a statement.” He said that the gun was a tool to defend himself. A veteran of the war in Afghanistan, he admitted having bad memories. But, without going into detail about one man with a gun, it’s clear there is a culture of gun violence in the United States. Maine has one of the lowest crime rates in the country, but in the 11 years since we moved here, I’ve seen a marked increase in gun violence. Just this week, an older man shot his tenants over the matter of parking in the driveway during a snowstorm. What to do? Gun enthusiasts and Second Amendment followers won’t like it. Guns kill. Why have a gun in your possession unless you plan to kill someone? Maine, like much of our country, has a tradition of hunting. But, what can you hunt in a city or town that’s far from the woods? I can understand people enjoying sharp shooting as a sport. But, in either instance – hunting or target shooting – your gun should be locked up when not in use.

I don’t really believe in magic. But, you never know. My wishes might join with others’ and result in solutions.



NRA on Gun Problem: More Guns

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

By Jeffrey Page

He spoke 2,100 words and took no questions as he educated the nation about how best to prevent gun violence in the schools. Arm the schools, said Wayne LaPierre with a straight face. He is the chief spokesman of the National Rifle Association

And to prove the NRA’s deep and abiding concern about mass shootings, LaPierre informed a news conference that the organization remained silent in the wake of the Newtown Massacre out of respect to the parents but now was forced – forced! – to weigh in. Why? Mostly because of “all the noise and anger” being directed at the NRA itself in the days after the murders of 26 children and staff at the Sandy Hook School.

LaPierre wants a cop in every school. And if there aren’t enough police, he said, there are “millions” of retired police, “security professionals,” firefighters and others ready to take protective action. I get nervous when an expert tries to prove his point by citing nothing more specific than “millions.”

But back to the NRA’s proposal to turn our schools into armories. LaPierre wants changes, and he wants those changes right now, which sounds like a courageous, square-chin position until you consider some facts. LaPierre chose not to deal with the facts.

There are 132,270 public and private elementary and secondary school buildings from one coast to the other, according to the National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities, based in Washington. In those buildings on a typical school day are 55 million students, plus 4.7 million teachers and other staff. LaPierre may want action right now, but he made no reference to how he would proceed to fill those schools and protect those kids and teachers.

Here are some points I would ask LaPierre to consider:

–Let’s end NRA grandstanding and get down to protecting children from armed angry lunatics. Specifically let’s take automatic weapons off the civilian market. The NRA should stop its Second Amendment handwringing and concede once and for all that the nation’s founders had no concept of automatic weapons, assault rifles and large-capacity magazines when they came up with the oddly worded right-to-bear-arms business in the Bill of Rights.

–In his news conference LaPierre never discussed how easy automatic weapons and large magazines make the work of mass killers. No loading one round at a time, just shove the magazine in and you’re set for action. As a result, LaPierre never acknowledged one of the findings in an informative story in Mother Jones Magazine on the history of gun violence in America over the last three decades. Mother Jones documented 62 mass shootings in the United States between 1982 and 2012. In those sprees, gunmen proved assault weapons and semi-automatic handguns to be the weapon of choice for mass killings: 103 people were shot to death by men with assault rifles and semi-automatics, while 39 died at the hands of killers with slower loading revolvers and shotguns.

–Let’s finally get real and acknowledge that the only use for automatics and assault weapons is to kill people.

–We need to make it much more difficult to get guns. In those 62 incidents, 49 of the murder weapons had been obtained legally by the killers. Only 12 were illegally obtained.

LaPierre ignored all that during his news conference and called for the nice-and-easy (read: simplistic) way to deal with gun violence in the schools. That is, to increase the number of guns in the schools so that the cop on duty can fight back when a killer shows up at the front door. LaPierre didn’t touch the question of a group of killers confronting the one cop on duty.

Nor did LaPierre address the fact that innocent people have been killed in places other than schools. A man walked into a McDonald’s in San Ysidro, Calif., in 1984 and shot 22 people to death and wounded 19 others. Should we station cops next to the griddles in the 12,000 McDonald’s restaurants? What about Burger King?

There are about 7,000 movie houses in the United States including the one in Aurora, Col. where 12 people were killed and 58 injured last summer. Armed police at the popcorn machine won’t help if a killer starts his work in the men’s room.

We need to have a serious discussion about revising the Second Amendment to limit the availability of weaponry by placing automatics and assault weapons where they belong: In the hands of the military and the police.