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No time for guns, except when marketing them

Gabby Giffords gave the opening statement at todays Senate hearing on gun violence. It will be interesting to see whether she can help counter the revitalized campaign of inaction. Though Newtown has helped keep the issue in the foreground for muchlonger than Aurora or Virginia Tech, an increasing number of legislators are trotting out the strapped-for-time excuse in explaining why they cant think about the common-sense restrictions that most Americans favor, not right now.The latest is Senator Marco Rubio, who says the legislative docket is just too full to accommodate any debate on gun control, thus joining Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in citing the crowded calendar. Majority Leader Harry Reid had previously tipped his hand in telling reporters that an assault-weapons ban would have a hard time getting through Congress (and now has officially declined to endorse a proposal from colleague Dianne Feinstein), while Democratic senators from a number of states have also been making lets-not-rush-into-anything noises.Its likely, though, that some of those same legislators will find the time to fight President Obamas call to reinstitute funding for Centers for Disease Control research into gun violence as a public health threat, which the gun lobby has blocked for seventeen years. Mixing inaction with obstructionism is not a new form of legislative maneuvering, but for it to be so nakedly embraced on an issue that unites more Americans than it divides is more dispiriting than usual. Especially as doing nothing in this case really amounts to doing somethingmaintaining if not accelerating the pace of firearm proliferation.The makers and marketers of weapons show no such fecklessness. A recent New York Times story details ramped-up efforts by the gun industry, working in tandem with the NRA and the National Shooting Sports Foundation (based in Newtown),to woo junior shooters by selling shooting as a family activity thats fun and teaches life skills, and by marketing affordable military-style rifles directly to kids. Some of the recommendations come from an industry report on recruitment and retention that focuses on children as young as eight. Larry Fink, the editor of a magazine called Junior Shooters, is quoted as saying that all youth shooting activities are critical to the survival of the gun industry, even those using semiautomatic firearms with magazines holding 30-100 rounds. He explains as well that children should know how to handle a semiautomatic, since its not a weaponjust a tool, not any different from a car or a baseball bat. Video from todays Senate hearinghere.  

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Dominic Preziosi is Commonweal’s digital editor.



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Its likely, though, that some of those same legislators will find the time to fight President Obamas call to reinstitute funding for Centers for Disease Control research into gun violence as a public health threat, which the gun lobby has blocked for seventeen years.

I don't follow but maybe this is the fiscal conservative in me. Why doesn't the CDC just reallocate research dollars (which I am sure they have discretion with) and fund research into this question? If it is a pressing health issue, and I agree it is, then it should be made so by the CDC and they can allocate internal resources accordingly. They have had 17 years!! Most research takes 1 - 3 years to complete. I am sure they have a line for this and freedom to allocate within the resources they are provided.

George D --I read somewhere recently that the NRA got Congress to pass a law *forbidding* the CDC from researching ways to eliminate gun violence. Outrageous? You bet. The article went on to say that the CDC, though its studies of the causes of automobile deaths, has been instrumental in finding ways to curb death on the highways drastically.The indifference to human suffering of the NRA is unbelievable. And the rest of us put up with it! budget provision concerning the NCIPC's research into firearms-related injiries still stands, some 18 years later. It's interesting to note that Jay Dickey, the pol who drafted the provision in the first place, no longer agrees with it.

(Point being, the CDC doesn't have discretion in terms of earmarking research)

In the mid-90s, as the CDC began confirming data linking guns in households to significantly increased risk of homicide or suicide by family member or acquaintance, the NRA began to lobby first for eliminating the CDC's Center for Injury Prevention and Control, and when that failed, for revising the appropriations process. From this New York Times piece ( "The N.R.A. denounced the research as 'political opinion masquerading as medical science,' and in 1996, Congress took $2.6 million intended for gun research and redirected it to traumatic brain injury. It prohibited the use of C.D.C. money 'to advocate or promote gun control.' Since then, similar prohibitions have been imposed on other agencies, including the National Institutes of Health."

I wonder if the CDC could accept a private grant?

"He explains as well that children should know how to handle a semiautomatic, since its not a weaponjust a tool, not any different from a car or a baseball bat. Strains credibility.

If a semiautomatic is a tool like a car, then maybe it should be subjected to the same intensity of regulation as motor vehicles.

I wonder how involved in working for common sense gun laws one of these legislators would become if a member of their families was killed in an incident similar to Newtown, Aurora, etc.?It's always amazing how a little personal involvement tends to change one's perspective on some things.

And there are regulations on the materials, length and weight of baseball bats, not to mention the application of pine tar (cf. George Brett).

I understand that the Gifford's et al will start an anti-gun lobby donation drive.. With some big money Lets primary the weakest GOP and Dems who will not vote for universal background checks and a 10 bullet limit on magazines. Expose these candidates as the 'guns for protection from the Gov's black helicopters' crowd.

A few days after Newtown I faxed a letter on gun control to my 3 congressional representatives. Two have responded (both Democrats), agreeing that something must be done. Precisely what that something is, remains unclear. Over six weeks later, the third, a senator who preens himself on being an "independent," though he caucasses with the Democrats, has yet to answer. New question, for those who have connections at Fordham: some time ago I heard a Fordham prof (sociologist???) interviewed on NPR about all this, and he concluded pretty firmly that the main reason for gun violence was not mental health, or any of those other problems, but simply the overwhelming presence of vast numbers of guns. Not a very startling conclusion, perhaps, but it sounded rather as if he'd done or taken part in a study coming to those findings. If so I'd like to look it up, if it rings any bells.

It's but 47 days post-Newtown and, as Dominic notes, there is already a "revitalized campaign of inaction." Sad, very sad.

"[G]un violence in America never takes a break."According to the linked story, which in itself is extremely sad, 1,400 people have died of gun violence in the U.S. since the Newtown tragedy.

Gayle Trotter, Washington lawyer, gave testimony seated beside Wayne Lapierre, against a proposed ban on assault weapons, which she claims would "disarm" vulnerable women and "put them at a severe disadvantage" in fights with multiple criminals. Her narration of the story about a young mother protecting herself and her children against criminals who broke into her home was riveting. An assault weapon in the hands of a young woman defending her babies in her home becomes a defense weapon, said Trotter, a mother of six. And the peace of mind she has ... knowing she has a scary-looking gun gives her more courage when she's fighting hardened violent criminals. I guess the "young" woman never heard of Home Security Systems.Oh, by the way, Trotter blogs at First Things, whose purpose is to advance a religiously informed public philosophy for the ordering of society.

For the record, Wayne LaPierre is a graduate of Siena College founded by the Franciscans.

@ Jim McCrea: did Ronald Reagan's brush with death ever prompt him to join Sarah Brady's group? I don't think so.@ Helen: interesting that LaPierre is a chickenhawk, who loves his guns, but not enough to have carried a weapon in defense of his country.

Let's hope that one of Trotter's six kids doesn't get hold of her gun and accidentally shoot a sibling.Saw my eye doctor last week. He asked me if I had a gun in the house. Maybe things will improve after all.

The NRA excuse keeps saying there are 300 million guns out there already. A NEW supply of guns can be limited by universal background checks and therefore stopping the straw buyers from bringing them from near by states into the urban areas. i.e.Chicago/New York/Oakland. These urban areas already have strick gun laws. Gun violence will go down because we can count on the gangs and criminals with an addiction to lazyness... to not keep their guns clean. A non cleaned gun rots into junk quickly. The by-backs are almost all non-cleaned wrecks..

OT, but...Ed "The Ed Show" Schultz pointed out that Gov. Bobby Jindal is slashing Medicaid funds in Louisiana. Not mentioned by Ed--not tonight, anyway--is that Jindal is also pushing a plan to abolish the state income tax and replace it with a higher sales tax, which will fall disproportionately on the poor of his state.Where, oh where, is the priest or bishop who will withhold the Eucharist from the Catholic Jindal for his conspicuous failure to do "for the least of My people"? If Jindal were outspokenly pro-choice, it would be a no-brainer.

Angela: I would not hold up RR as an example of someone who was influenced by facts or reality. Alzheimer's, even early stage, can do that to you.

It's about time we marched on Washington to show those bozos who owns this country. We want it back from greedy groups like the NRA. The spineless wimps are more worried about getting re-elected than saving lives. It doesn't matter who gets shot -- Ronald Reagan, John Lennon or innocent school kids -- the godless NRA will roll on. But God is watching and knows what is in the politicians' hearts. They think they're fooling us but we aren't stupid. Just vote them out of office.

Courage. This is a last ditch effort on the part of the gun lobby to control congress and intimidate the president. One should note that the NRA has common cause with the tea party and with almost every ultra conservative group in the USA. Almost no gun vendors will be harmed by a ban on assault weapons and extra capacity magazines. Almost no gun buyers will be harmed by more stringent background checks and requiring checks at gun shows. In California, the Attorney General reports over 20,000 guns including 1,600 assault weapons are 'registered' and in the hands of prohibited users such as felons, mentally ill, and people with restraining orders for domestic violence. The gun lobby naturally opposes any funding for investigation and confiscation of these illegal gun holders. Soon, I predict the wide majority of people will begin to pressure their representives to control and restrict these weapons. They deserve our encouragement and support.

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