Category Archives: guns

THE SHOT THAT ECHOES STILL

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, fifty years ago this April, marked a blow to the struggle for racial equality from which the nation has still not healed. In an essay published in Esquire in April 1972, James Baldwin reflected on attending the funeral, and how King’s death signaled the end of civility for the civil-rights movement. At turns heartbreaking and hopeful, Baldwin’s words are as powerful—and urgent—as ever.

This year marks the 85th anniversary of Esquire. To commemorate this historical moment, each issue of the magazine in 2018 will feature a classic Esquire story written by an iconic Esquire author that feels as timely today as the year it was originally published.

An Introduction By Michael Eric Dyson

On April 9, 1968, thirteen hundred people filed into Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta for the private funeral of a man who, like his father before him, had once served as its pastor: the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. Attendees included Thurgood Marshall, Wilt Chamberlain, Marlon Brando, Dizzy Gillespie, Stokely Carmichael, and Robert F. Kennedy, who’d be killed less than two months later. The choir, 160 strong, sang sorrowful hymns. Ralph David Abernathy, cofounder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, officiated. A lone singer performed a devastating rendition of “My Father Watches Over Me.” But the most memorable speaker that morning—a haunting baritone piped out of tinny speakers that left his four children startled—was King himself.

James Baldwin

Getty

“If any of you are around when I have to meet my day, I don’t want a long funeral,” King pleaded posthumously in a recording from his “Drum Major Instinct” sermon given two months earlier and played at the behest of his widow, Coretta. He didn’t get his wish: The service lasted two hours, followed by a public, nationally broadcast funeral held that afternoon at King’s alma mater, Morehouse College. Such pageantry was a too-familiar vessel into which black pain was stuffed at moments like this, moments when suffering made no sense, moments for which we had no words. Yet the writer—especially one whose fiery style was forged in the pulpit of his church-bound boyhood—must have words. In “Malcolm and Martin,” as the essay was titled, James Baldwin recalled King’s funeral “the most real church service I’ve ever sat through in my life” and then grappled with the national undoing set loose by his death. Baldwin knew that America could survive only if it underwent an extraordinary social transformation—equality for all, hatred for none—that echoed the most noble ideals set out by our founding fathers. (That is, when they set aside their blinding bigotry.) But he also knew that King’s death, and Malcolm X’s in 1965, were signs the nation refused to acknowledge that the key to its salvation was held by those very people whom it had enslaved. The former quickly embraced pacifism; the latter was an advocate for black freedom at any cost. But the daily battles took a toll on both men, and their views had begun to converge—Malcolm mellowed; Martin grew more radical—so that, as Baldwin wrote, “by the time each met his death there was practically no difference between them.” Not that the country much cared about the particulars; the American experiment had once again bet against its redemption by black moral genius and lost.

America, Baldwin believed, was split in two—not between North and South but between the powerful and the disenfranchised. Racism, that scourge that beclouded our democracy, remained—remains—the nation’s greatest peril. But the powerful maintained the status quo by sowing discord among the disenfranchised. Poor white folk, rather than uniting with their socioeconomically oppressed brothers and sisters against the rich, trained their targets on poor black folk. They channeled their anxieties into a vengeance against blackness.

In this way, Baldwin predicted the forces that would one day lead to the return of xenophobic white nationalism, to the rise of Donald Trump. But to say Baldwin was ahead of his time is to miss his point: America will always need a prophet—a Malcolm, a Martin. The powerful will always seek to silence that prophet, instead trying to achieve the nation’s redemption on the cheap—not through self- correction but through crimson-stained violence that sacrifices the Other, whether black or brown or queer or immigrant. Fifty years after one lone prophet who didn’t make it to forty gave up the ghost on a bland balcony in Memphis, this essay is proof that King’s legacy, and Baldwin’s words, remain vital.


Since Martin’s death, in Memphis, and that tremendous day in Atlanta, something has altered in me, something has gone away. Perhaps even more than the death itself, the manner of his death has forced me into a judgment concerning human life and human beings which I have always been reluctant to make—indeed, I can see that a great deal of what the knowledgeable would call my life-style is dictated by this reluctance. Incontestably, alas, most people are not, in action, worth very much; and yet every human being is an unprecedented miracle. One tries to treat them as the miracles they are, while trying to protect oneself against the disasters they’ve become. This is not very different from the act of faith demanded by all those marches and petitions while Martin was still alive. One could scarcely be deluded by Americans anymore, one scarcely dared expect anything from the great, vast, blank generality; and yet one was compelled to demand of Americans—and for their sakes, after all—a generosity, a clarity, and a nobility which they did not dream of demanding of themselves. Part of the error was irreducible, in that the marchers and petitioners were forced to suppose the existence of an entity which, when the chips were down, could not be located—i.e., there are no American people yet. Perhaps, however, the moral of the story (and the hope of the world) lies in what one demands, not of others, but of oneself. However that may be, the failure and the betrayal are in the record book forever, and sum up and condemn, forever, those descendants of a barbarous Europe who arbitrarily and arrogantly reserve the right to call themselves Americans. The mind is a strange and terrible vehicle, moving according to rigorous rules of its own; and my own mind, after I had left Atlanta, began to move backward in time, to places, people, and events I thought I had forgotten. Sorrow drove it there, I think, sorrow, and a certain kind of bewilderment, triggered, perhaps, by something which happened to me in connection with Martin’s funeral.

King at a press conference in Birmingham, 1963.

Magnum​

 

When Martin was murdered, I was based in Hollywood, working—working, in fact, on the screen version of The Autobiography of Malcolm X. This was a difficult assignment, since I had known Malcolm, after all, crossed swords with him, worked with him, and held him in that great esteem which is not easily distinguishable, if it is distinguishable at all, from love.


There is a day in Palm Springs, shortly before I left there, that I will remember forever, a bright day. Billy Dee Williams had come to town, and he was staying at the house; and a lot of the day had been spent with a very bright, young lady reporter, who was interviewing me about the film version of Malcolm. I felt very confident that day—I was never to feel so confident again—and I talked very freely to the reporter. (Too freely, the producer was to tell me later.) I had decided to lay my cards on the table and to state, as clearly as I could, what I felt the movie was about, and how I intended to handle it. I thought that this might make things simpler later on, but I was wrong about that. The studio and I were at loggerheads, really, from the moment I stepped off the plane. Anyway, I had opted for candor, or a reasonable facsimile of same, and sounded as though I were in charge of the film, as, indeed, by my lights, for that moment, certainly, I had to be. I was really in a difficult position because both by temperament and experience I tend to work alone, and I dread making announcements concerning my work. But I was in a very public position, and I thought that I had better make my own announcements, rather than have them made for me. The studio, on the other hand, did not want me making announcements of any kind at all. So there we were, and this particular tension, since it got to the bloody heart of the matter—the question of by whose vision, precisely, this film was to be controlled—was not to be resolved until I finally threw up my hands and walked away.

As the original assignment card shows, Baldwin was living in Palm Springs, California, at the time.

Ben Goldstein

I very much wanted Billy Dee for Malcolm, and since no one else had any other ideas, I didn’t see why this couldn’t work out. In brutal Hollywood terms, Poitier is the only really big, black, box-office star, and this fact gave me, as I considered it, a free hand. To tell the bitter truth, from the very first days we discussed it, I had never had any intention of allowing the Columbia brass to cast this part: I was determined to take my name off the production if I were overruled. Call this bone- headed stupidity, or insufferable arrogance or what you will—I had made my decision, and once I had made it nothing could make me waver, and nothing could make me alter it. If there were errors in my concept of the film, and if I made errors on the way to and in the execution, well, then, I would have to pay for my errors. But one can learn from one’s errors. What one cannot survive is allowing other people to make your errors for you, discarding your own vision, in which at least you believe, for someone else’s vision, in which you do not believe. Anyway, all that shit had yet to hit the fan. This day, the girl and Billy and I had a few drinks by the swimming pool. The man, Walter, was about to begin preparing supper. The girl got up to leave and we walked her to her car and came back to the swimming pool, jubilant.

The phone had been brought out to the pool, and now it rang. Billy was on the other side of the pool, doing what I took to be African improvisations to the sound of Aretha Franklin. And I picked up the phone.

It was David Moses. It took a while before the sound of his voice—I don’t mean the sound of his voice, something in his voice—got through to me.

He said, “Jimmy? Martin’s just been shot,” and I don’t think I said anything, or felt anything. I’m not sure I knew who Martin was. Yet, though I know—or I think—the record player was still playing, silence fell. David said, “He’s not dead yet”—then I knew who Martin was—“but it’s a head wound—so—”

Top, left: Members of the press corps stand on a crane-held platform to better photograph King’s casket at Morehouse. Top, right: Coretta King and Harry Belafonte at the service. Middle: A small group of the more than 150,000 people who lined the four-mile stretch from Ebenezer Baptist Church to Morehouse College, where a public ceremony was held. Bottom, left: Coretta King consoles their daughter Bernice. Bottom, right: James Baldwin and Marlon Brando.

Ben Goldstein

 

I don’t remember what I said; obviously I must have said something. Billy and Walter were watching me. I told them what David had said.

I hardly remember the rest of that evening at all, it’s retired into some deep cavern in my mind. We must have turned on the television set if we had one, I don’t remember. But we must have had one. I remember weeping, briefly, more in helpless rage than in sorrow, and Billy trying to comfort me. But I really don’t remember that evening at all. Later, Walter told me that a car had prowled around the house all night.

I went to Atlanta alone, I do not remember why. I wore the suit I had bought for my Carnegie Hall appearance with Martin. I seem to have had the foresight to have reserved a hotel room, for I vaguely remember stopping in the hotel and talking to two or three preacher-type-looking men, and we started off in the direction of the church. We had not got far before it became very clear that we would never get anywhere near it. We went in this direction and then in that direction, but the press of people choked us off. I began to wish that I had not come incognito and alone, for now that I was in Atlanta I wanted to get inside the church. I lost my companions, and sort of squeezed my way, inch by inch, closer to the church. But directly between me and the church there was an impassable wall of people. Squeezing my way up to this point, I had considered myself lucky to be small; but now my size worked against me for, though there were people on the church steps who knew me, whom I knew, they could not possibly see me, and I could not shout. I squeezed a few more inches, and asked a very big man ahead of me please to let me through. He moved and said, “Yeah. Let me see you get through this big Cadillac.” It was true—there it was, smack in front of me, big as a house. I saw Jim Brown at a distance, but he didn’t see me. I leaned up on the car, making frantic signals, and finally someone on the church steps did see me and came to the car and sort of lifted me over. I talked to Jim Brown for a minute, and then somebody led me into the church and I sat down.

Esquire’s October 1968 cover captures the fatal outlook of a country rocked by a half-decade of assassinations.

Esquire

The church was packed, of course, incredibly so. Far in the front, I saw Harry Belafonte sitting next to Coretta King. Ralph David Abernathy sat in the pulpit. I remembered him from years ago, sitting in his shirt-sleeves in the house in Montgomery, big, black, and cheerful, pouring some cool, soft drink, and, later, getting me settled in a nearby hotel. In the pew directly before me sat Marlon Brando, Sammy Davis, Eartha Kitt—covered in black, looking like a lost, ten-year-old girl—and Sidney Poitier, in the same pew, or nearby. Marlon saw me, and nodded. The atmosphere was black, with a tension indescribable—as though something, perhaps the heavens, perhaps the earth, might crack. Everyone sat very still. The actual service sort of washed over me, in waves. It wasn’t that it seemed unreal; it was the most real church service I’ve ever sat through in my life, or ever hope to sit through; but I have a childhood hangover thing about not weeping in public, and I was concentrating on holding myself together. I did not want to weep for Martin, tears seemed futile. But I may also have been afraid, and I could not have been the only one, that if I began to weep I would not be able to stop. There was more than enough to weep for, if one was to weep—so many of us, cut down, so soon. Medgar, Malcolm, Martin: and their widows, and their children. Reverend Ralph David Abernathy asked a certain sister to sing a song which Martin had loved—“Once more,” said Ralph David, “for Martin and for me,” and he sat down.

The long, dark sister, whose name I do not remember, rose, very beautiful in her robes, and in her covered grief, and began to sing. It was a song I knew: My Father Watches Over Me. The song rang out as it might have over dark fields, long ago, she was singing of a covenant a people had made, long ago, with life, and with that larger life which ends in revelation and which moves in love.

He guides the eagle through the pathless air.

She stood there, and she sang it. How she bore it, I do not know, I think I have never seen a face quite like that face that afternoon. She was singing it for Martin, and for us.

And surely He

Remembers me,

My heav’nly Father watches over me.

At last, we were standing, and filing out, to walk behind Martin home. I found myself between Marlon and Sammy.

Top, left: In 1956, King was arrested for his involvement in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. It’s unknown who scrawled the notice of death, or when. Top, right: King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech to 250,000 people during the March on Washington in August 1963. Bottom: Newspapers around the world led with the news of King’s death. Meanwhile, riots broke out in dozens of cities throughout the country; 58,000 soldiers from the Army and the National Guard stepped in to quell the uprisings.

Ben Goldstein

 

I had not been aware of the people when I had been pressing past them to get to the church. But, now, as we came out, and I looked up the road, I saw them. They were all along the road, on either side, they were on all the roofs, on either side. Every inch of ground, as far as the eye could see, was black with black people, and they stood in silence. It was the silence that undid me. I started to cry, and I stumbled, and Sammy grabbed my arm. We started to walk.

I don’t think that any black person can speak of Malcolm and Martin without wishing that they were here. It is not possible for me to speak of them without a sense of loss and grief and rage; and with the sense, furthermore, of having been forced to undergo an unforgivable indignity, both personal and vast. Our children need them, which is, indeed, the reason that they are not here: and now we, the blacks, must make certain that our children never forget them. For the American republic has always done everything in its power to destroy our children’s heroes, with the clear (and sometimes clearly stated) intention of destroying our children’s hope. This endeavor has doomed the American nation: mark my words.

This photo, published in Esquire’s August 1968 issue, shows mourners at King’s burial.

Ben Goldstein

Malcolm and Martin, beginning at what seemed to be very different points—for brevity’s sake, we can say North and South, though, for Malcolm, South was south of the Canadian border—and espousing, or representing, very different philosophies, found that their common situation (south of the border!) so thoroughly devastated what had seemed to be mutually exclusive points of view that, by the time each met his death there was practically no difference between them. Before either had had time to think their new positions through, or, indeed, to do more than articulate them, they were murdered. Of the two, Malcolm moved swiftest (and was dead soonest), but the fates of both men were radically altered (I would say, frankly, sealed) the moment they attempted to release the black American struggle from the domestic context and relate it to the struggles of the poor and the nonwhite all over the world.

To hold this view, it is not necessary to see C. I. A. infiltrators in, or under, every black or dissenting bed: one need merely consider what the successful promulgation of this point of view would mean for American authority in the world. Slaveholders do not allow their slaves to compare notes: American slavery, until this hour, prevents any meaningful dialogue between the poor white and the black, in order to prevent the poor white from recognizing that he, too, is a slave. The contempt with which American leaders treat American blacks is very obvious; what is not so obvious is that they treat the bulk of the American people with the very same contempt. But it will be sub-zero weather in a very distant August when the American people find the guts to recognize this fact. They will recognize it only when they have exhausted every conceivable means of avoiding it.

In the meantime, in brutal fact, all of the institutions of this nation, from the schools to the courts to the unions to the prisons, and not forgetting the police, are in the hands of that white majority which has been promising for generations to ameliorate the black condition. And many white Americans would like to change the black condition, if they could see their way clear to do so, through the unutterable accumulation of neglect, sorrow, rage, despair, and continuing, overriding, totally unjustifiable death: the smoke over Attica recalls the bombs of Birmingham and the liberal Mr. Rockefeller reveals himself as being even more despicable than his openly illiberal confreres further down.

But it is not important, however irresistible, to accuse Mr. Rockefeller of anything. He is just another good American; one of the best. It is unlikely that any Western people, and certainly not the Americans, have the moral resources needed to accomplish the deep and mighty transformation which is all that can save them. Such a transformation involves unimaginable damage to the American ego; would reduce all the American religious ceremonies, including the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving, to the hypocritically bloody observances many of us have always known them to be; and would shed too unsparing a light on the actual dimensions and objectives of the American character. White Americans do not want to know what many nonwhites know too well, e.g., that “foreign aid” in the “underdeveloped” countries and “anti-poverty” programs in the ghetto are simply a slightly more sophisticated version of the British policy of Divide and Rule, are, in short, simply another means of keeping a people in subjection.

Since the American people cannot, even if they wished to, bring about black liberation, and since black people want their children to live, it is very clear that we must take our children out of the hands of this so-called majority and find some way to expose this majority as the minority which it actually is in the world. For this we will need, and we will get, the help of the suffering world which is prevented only by the labyrinthine stratagems of power from adding its testimony to ours.

Baldwin’s first Esquire story ran in 1960; his ninth, and last, ran in 1980. In an interview for the July 1968 issue, conducted two days after King’s funeral, Baldwin grapples with the growing violence in the fight for equality.

Esquire

No one pretends that this will be easy, and I myself do not expect to live to see this day accomplished. What both Martin and Malcolm began to see was that the nature of the American hoax had to be revealed—not only to save black people but in order to change the world in which everyone, after all, has a right to live. One may say that the articulation of this necessity was the Word’s first necessary step on its journey toward being made flesh.

And no doubt my proposition, at this hour, sounds exactly that mystical. If I were a white American, I would bear in mind that mysteries are called mysteries because we recognize in them a truth which we can barely face, or articulate. I would bear in mind that an army is no match for a ferment, and that power, however great that power may consider itself to be, gives way, and has always been forced to give way, before the onslaught of human necessity: human necessity being the fuel of history.

If my proposition sounds mystical, white people have only to consider the black people, my ancestors, whose strength and love have brought black people to this present, crucial place. If I still thought, as I did when Martin and Malcolm were still alive, that the generality of white Americans were able to hear and to learn and begin to change, I would counsel them, as vividly as I could, to attempt, now, to minimize the bill which is absolutely certain to be presented to their children. I would say: if those blacks, your slaves, my ancestors, could bring us out of nothing, from such a long way off, then, if I were you, I would pause a long while before deciding to use what you think of as your power. For we, the blacks, have not found possible what you found necessary: we have not denied our ancestors who trust us, now, to redeem their pain.

Well. Baby, that’s it. I could say, and they would both understand me: Don’t you think Bessie is proud of Aretha?

Or: Do you think that Americans can translate this sentence both out of and into the original? My soul is a witness for my Lord.

By James Baldwin/Esquire

Posted by The NON-Conformist

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House passes 50-state gun carry permit reciprocity, intensifies nat’l background checks

Both pro and anti-gun control advocates are unhappy with a bill the US House passed to allow permitted gun owners to carry concealed handguns across state lines and also enhances the national background check system.

The House bill passed Wednesday, 231-198, and follows two of the deadliest mass shootings in modern US history. The largely Republican-backed bill was supported by six Democrats, and 14 Republicans voted against it.

The bill is seen as a win for the National Rifle Association, which has long pushed for Concealed Carry Reciprocity (CCR) – the standard term for allowing people with permits for concealed weapons to carry guns over state lines.

However, Gun Owners of America, which calls itself “the only no compromise gun lobby in Washington,” opposed the bill because of its element of gun control. The gun policy was originally two separate bills, one of which was the FIX NICS Act of 2017.

The conservative House Liberty Caucus also voiced opposition.

VOTE ALERT: HLC statement on , House leadership’s anti-Second Amendment legislative package

 

Moms Demand an End to Gun Violence (MDEGV) opposed HR83 too, calling it a “dangerous policy that would gut every state’s gun laws and make our communities less safe.”

Shannon Watts, founder of MDEGV, spoke against the bill at the US Capitol ahead of the vote.

There has been renewed support for enhancing background checks in the wake of the Sutherland Springs, Texas church shooting that left 26 people dead, including the shooter Devin Kelley. The Air Force said it failed to follow Pentagon guidelines for alerting federal law enforcement about Kelly’s violent past during his service.

READ MORE: FBI issues over 4,000 gun seizure orders for failed background checks – report

While the legislation passed the House, is it likely to face heavy opposition from senate democrats who oppose the concealed-carry measure. However a bipartisan coalition would have enough votes to break a filibuster on enhancing background checks.

From RT

Posted by The NON-Conformist

American Hyper-Capitalism Breeds the Lonely, Alienated Men Who Become Mass Killers Despair, rage and lack of human connection among white men are key culprits in America’s mass shooting epidemic.

Economically, he was one of the growing millions without a secure, meaningful, socially approved, well-paid job. He had previously amassed money by buying and selling real estate, but had no ongoing job. He lacked the relationships that flow from working with others to accomplish a shared goal where each person has a part to play. The stability of a daily job and the people to whom that job connects you are bulwarks against loneliness and mental instability.

Stephen Paddock’s last family contact was with one of his brothers whom he telephoned three years before the shooting. He had not contacted other family members for 20 years. He and his live-in girlfriend kept their blinds closed. They socialized with no one.

Paddock had been told throughout his life that the U.S. was a special place, an exceptional place. Each generation, if its members studied and worked hard, would live better than the one before. Progress and prosperity awaited him. He would raise a family and provide his wife and children with more than had been provided to him and to his family of origin. Both of his marriages soon ended in divorce.

As millions of secure jobs disappeared, especially after the 1970s, Paddock became unemployed often for long periods. He became a real estate dealer buying and selling buildings for profit. He amassed some wealth, an American dream most men do not achieve, but it did not connect him to other human beings. Paddock had failed to achieve the promised dream of the connections and family that money was supposed to accompany. He lost his moorings.

Even when he managed an activity that brought him money, it tended to be in areas not associated with hard work in connection with others. From making money speculating in real estate he moved on to solitary gambling at casinos. He had no place in the socially approved work and life images he had grown up to value, expect and seek as markers of his success as a human being.

Mental health can be likened to a table resting on four legs. One leg is an intimate relationship with a partner, friend or relative to whom one can intimately connect when the need arises. A second leg is a wider circle of people with whom one shares friendly connections. They may be work colleagues or a circle of casual friends or relatives whose company you enjoy. It may even be close Facebook friends, but you see them less frequently than your intimate connection(s). A third leg is a group to which you connect in a limited but shared activity. That may be a team sport, a volunteer effort, a PTA, or political organization whose members develop the solidarity of working together. A fourth leg is connection to one’s nation and the world through political activity, engagement with media covering major current events, and sharing opinions, ideas or petitions online. A table can be sturdy and stable with at least three strong legs, but only two or one does not suffice.

Americans have become frighteningly disconnected and alone. There are fewer Americans active in any group than there were in bowling leagues alone in 1970. The many millions of loners accumulating in the U.S. since the ’70s tend to experience and define their disconnection as personal. Many think it is their fault that they cannot occupy a happy place of connection in the America they imagine is still there. They imagine that other people continue to find ways to connect. They feel adrift. They can come to resent those from whom they are slipping away.

American white men once received two wage supplements in what was a sexist and racist labor market. One wage supplement was for whiteness and the other for maleness. With the resulting “family wage” generally paid to white men, they could support a woman working full time at home, providing full maid service, sexual labor, child care, and the emotional labor of making social connections to engage the whole family with friends and relatives. With white men’s family wage now largely gone, most women are now employed outside the home. They cannot, in addition, do all the housework, childcare, etc., that they did before. They want their men to share emotional and domestic burdens in the home. Yet many men want extra services at home to compensate them for their lower pay and lower status outside the home. Household tensions rise. Women are abandoning those men who cannot support them yet still demand a range of household services that employed women cannot and do not want to perform. American white men have been disempowered. They are hurting.

The family wage for white men evaporated as modern jet travel and telecommunications enabled U.S. capitalists to relocate production overseas where wages are much lower. Simultaneously, computers enabled an intensification of automation. Capitalists stopped worrying about living, no less family, wages, safety standards, benefits, or ecological safety measures. Where once capitalist profit-seeking produced a family wage, post-1970s profit-seeking took it away.

Gender plays its own role in white men’s pain and their coping mechanisms. Men’s emotions are constrained. They have to “man up” even in the face of devastating, real losses. Sex remains a key need allowed both for and within a widespread male stereotype. Likewise, anger remains an emotion permitted and often celebrated as manly and powerful.

Many men look to recoup their lost powers. They become especially vulnerable to advertisements for products promoted as conveying power. Nothing illustrates this better than some ads for Bushmaster automatic weapons. They ask, “Does your wife or girlfriend make more money than you? Revoke your man card. Do you prefer tofu to meat? Revoke your man card.” After such questions, the Bushmaster automatic rifle is celebrated with the statement “Reinstate your man card.” That ad was pulled after many protested and after the Bushmaster was used by Adam Lanza in the Sandy Hook mass shooting that killed 20 elementary school children and six staff members.

In stark gender contrast, women often find primary feminine identity in close friendships with other women or in connection to relatives and children. Their identity allows a wide range of vulnerable needs and emotions. Women are far less frequent gun users. Women also do not appear on the roster of mass shootings.

Often, disempowered people—particularly white men—are tempted to search for and find scapegoats to blame for their disenfranchisement and loneliness. Cues from political leaders seeking votes can point them to certain social groups. For example, Trump and many Republicans make none too subtle negative comments about immigrants, women, minorities and a government they denounce for privileging those groups at the expense of white Americans, etc.

The liberal U.S. media often blame angry, disempowered white men and their spokespersons for being politically incorrect and boorish. Those media rarely if ever analyze the role of capitalism in denying white men their family wages and the American dream. Capitalism—the profit system—is thereby rendered innocent while angry white workers are deplorably prejudiced. Men versus women, white against non-white, immigrant against native: a divided mass of people (mostly employees) get caught up in conflicts as while capitalists accumulate wealth and capitalism evades criticism.

Americans do not have a mass party or organized voice to help people understand that capitalist profiteering motivated those who took their family wages and jobs. Many are thus left with hatred for other people. That seldom works to overcome or end loneliness.

Americans have found still other ways to cope with their loneliness and disconnection: they medicate themselves against personal pain with alcohol and painkilling drugs. Self-medicating is a now an epidemic. Fully 64,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2016. In this drug refuge, capitalist profit also shows its hand. Most U.S. drug deaths are caused either by opiates (natural substances like heroin) or opioids (synthetic painkillers like Oxycontin, Vicodin, Percocet and Fentanyl). Doctors are paid well to keep prescribing by the supremely profitable pharmaceutical industry. Alcohol is legal and also affords a personal escape from the misery of losing family wages. An estimated 88,000 people (approximately 62,000 men and 26,000 women) die from alcohol-related causes annually. Food is also a comfort for loneliness. One in three American adults and at least one in ten U.S. children are obese. Loneliness is an epidemic in America.

Work is a central activity for most adults. The more speedup is installed by employers, the more employees are prevented from connecting at work. The less people are employed together, the lonelier they are. As the gig economy and part-time and temp work situations multiply, so does loneliness. Most men’s only emotionally close relationships are tied to their work or sex partnerships. With work relationships ever more fragile and temporary, much the same happens to sexual connections. Meanwhile, marriages are being undermined by that same erosion of the family wage. For the first time in U.S. history, a majority of people 35 and under are now unattached.

One out of four Americans has no one to talk to even in the worst emergencies. Most of those people are men. For deeply disconnected and resentful men, social norms can fade; angry shooting at random others becomes possible. This is an especially American phenomenon. In 2017 so far, we have had 152 mass shootings. No other developed nation has had anything remotely like that. Why? One reason is that all other developed nations have gun controls and none have an unchecked gun industry that relentlessly equates guns with manhood. Another reason is that other developed nations have powerful unions and political movements that direct people’s anger about the pain in their lives toward its social causes and especially the inequality and instability of capitalist systems. They connect people to change those social and economic conditions together.

For 150 years from 1820 to 1970, every generation of families led by white men did better economically than the generation before them. Even in the Great Depression of the 1930s prices fell faster than wages; employed men even then earned more than their predecessors. That historical process of improvement stopped in the 1970s. The belief in American exceptionalism did not stop with the changed reality. That left American white men with self-blame for their economic difficulties and the resulting psychic pains. Worse still, it left them with the idea that they could individually overcome their intolerable situations.

What we need in order to stop the carnage of mass shootings is a social movement that articulates a social analysis of America’s problems and is unafraid to put the capitalist system at the core of those problems. We also need a social movement committed to social changes that include going beyond the capitalist system. If people could join together, face that their lives are plundered in order for capitalists to increase profit, and face that gender stereotypes distort our shared humanity, then together we can change the conditions of despair, rage, and loneliness that generate mass shootings.

By Harriet Fraad, Richard D. Wolff / AlterNet

Posted by The NON-Conformist

The FBI Is Once Again Profiling Black Activists Because of Their Beliefs and Their Race Being upset that police kill black people could get you labeled a “black identity extremist.”

Janine Jackson: Demonstrations continue in St. Louis, Missouri, over the acquittal of former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley of first degree murder charges in the 2011 killing of Anthony Lamar Smith. Very likely some protesters would tell you they are distraught and angry, not just about this case, but about the undeniable fact that US law enforcement rarely pay any penalty for murdering black people, whatever the circumstance. According to an FBI intelligence assessment recently leaked to Foreign Policy, that may make those people “black identity extremists.”

The report, written up by Foreign Policy’s Jana Winter and Sharon Weinberger, was dated August 3, nine days before the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The report assesses that

it is very likely black identity extremist (BIE) perceptions of police brutality against African-Americans spurred an increase in premeditated retaliatory lethal violence against law enforcement, and will very likely serve as justification for such violence.

If that sounds to you like a set-up — a pretense by which anyone protesting police brutality is ipso facto guilty of extremism that calls for action by the “counterrorism division” of the country’s most powerful law enforcement — well, you aren’t alone with those concerns.

Nusrat Choudhury is senior staff attorney at the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program. They’re pursuing the issue. She joins us now by phone. Welcome to CounterSpin, Nusrat Choudhury.

Nusrat Choudhury: Thank you so much for having me.

What can we say about how the FBI seems to be defining “black identity extremists,” and the vagueness of that term, that we’re all sort of laugh/crying about, could that be the point of it, in some way?

Well, the report is disturbing on so many levels, not the least of which is that it’s a red flag that the Bureau is once again profiling black activists because of their beliefs and their race. And we know that there’s a long history in this country of the FBI using the fear of threats, real or perceived, as a cover for profiling black people, and in particular black civil rights leaders and activists. This report doesn’t make sense, and it raises that red flag that this is happening, yet again, to today’s modern-day black civil rights movement leaders.

I’m going to ask you a little about that history, but what, on the face of it, is what they’re calling evidence for the existence of — I mean, the assessment says, we’re talking about criminal activity; that’s different from protected activity, but what is their evidence for the existence of a “black identity extremist” movement, and then the definition of that as a violent movement?

Right. So the definition is so confusing that it’s really hard to discern, but it seems to be circular. The FBI talks about six separate violent incidents in this internal report, and then appears to assume, it literally “makes a key assumption,” that those incidents were ideologically motivated. And then it even contradicts itself to acknowledge that those six incidents appear to have been influenced by more than one ideological perspective. Yet it concludes that there is some kind of unitary “black identity extremist” threat, I would say a so-called threat.

And what this does is raise lots of questions from the public, from black people, black activists, and certainly the ACLU, and that’s why the public needs to know: What does this term even mean, what’s the basis for it, and what’s the FBI doing after creating this designation? That’s why we have joined with the Center for Media Justice in filing a Freedom of Information Act request, seeking all documents that use this term, as well as other terms that have historically been used as a guise for surveilling black people and black activists.

We know that the general public responds differently when you label something “terrorism,” when you label something “extremism,” and that that impact is meaningful. You know, this sounds like kind of Alice in Wonderland: “If I stab you and you object, you are an anti-stabbing extremist.” But we know from history that a tool doesn’t have to be precise to be used: You don’t have to sharpen a knife if you’re going to use it as a club. So what are the concerns about the way this new designation — even if everybody kind of scoffs at it — how do we think it might potentially be used?

The FBI, when it releases a report like this internally, that kind of labeling of a so-called threat can be the basis for additional surveillance, investigations and law enforcement activity. So creating this new label, even on the basis of these flawed assumptions, these conclusions that don’t make sense on the face of the report, could lead to further surveillance and investigative activity, not just by the FBI, but even by other federal, state and local law enforcement who share information with the FBI.

So for good reason, black people and especially black activists are really concerned. They want to know what this is being used to do, and they have really good reasons to fear that it’s going to be used to promote further law enforcement scrutiny of their First Amendment–protected activities, and even potentially result in racial profiling.

You mentioned the relevant history here. Can you tell us some of that history, which doesn’t go — it starts in the past, but it continues up to the present. What is some of the FBI’s history in this regard, that raise questions for folks?

The federal government and the FBI in particular kept files on civil rights and anti-Vietnam War activists in the 1960s and ’70s. We know that even more recently, since 9/11, that the federal government, including the FBI, kept information on American Muslim civil rights leaders and academics. As recently as 2005 and 2006, state law enforcement were exposed for infiltrating and monitoring peaceful political protests.

So there’s this history of targeting people because of their race, as well as because of their beliefs, and often at that intersection are black activists, more recently also American Muslim leaders and activists. This is a history we know so well, and the exposure of this report needs to be a catalyst to get more information, and really just to demand that this stop.

And I know folks will be thinking COINTELPRO, which is, of course, a program against black activists in the ’50s and ’60s and even into the ’70s, most famously known for targeting Martin Luther King, but also taking aim at other civil rights organizations.

Absolutely. And that history is a long, sordid one; it has been exposed. It involved extensive surveillance of people who were deemed “black extremists” or “black nationalists” in that covert FBI COINTELPRO program. But creating a new label and just extending that type of surveillance to the modern day, we know what the harms are, and that’s not what the federal government should be doing.

We also know that people within federal, state and local law enforcement have been raising concerns about far-right violence, and about violence by white nationalists and white supremacists, those types of threats. So at a moment when there are many people in the intelligence community stating that those threats are on the rise, why is the FBI creating a new designation for a so-called threat of “black identity extremists,” without sound methodology or conclusions that the threat even exists?

I certainly see the problem that a lot of folks are pointing out, saying that they’re lumping together various groups. And I also, though, appreciate the comments of Hari Ziyad on Afropunk. They talked about our desire to find a meaning in the violent/nonviolent distinction, and they said — one of the cases that the assessment cites is Micah Johnson, who killed police officers. And Ziyad says:

Because there aren’t too many Micah Johnsons, we reason, “extremists” like him can continue being unethically bombed by robots as long as we don’t get bombed too. But black people always get bombed, literally and figuratively, in an anti-black world, and no amount of distance between us and black “extremists” will change that.

In other words, the supposed safety that we’re offered, if we are not like those extreme black people, doesn’t exist. And it seems to me an important point, because I think, again, those who are not immediately impacted may buy the idea that they aren’t going after black people, they aren’t going after black activists, only violent people, and that seems an important distinction to kind of play with, or to at least interrogate.

I think that’s right, and the public wants safety; people want law enforcement to focus on true threats, and true threats of violence, right? But what the FBI is doing is talking about “extremism,” and what is that? People are allowed to have beliefs, and there’s a lot of evidence out there that just having a radical or extreme idea does not show that people will actually engage in violent conduct. But using that label with broad brush strokes, and linking it to black identity, is exactly the kind of overbroad categorization that can lead to racial profiling, and targeting people because of their beliefs.

Finally, you note that the ACLU, along with the Center for Media Justice, have filed a FOIA request, a kind of what-the-heck-is-going-on-here request. What are you hoping to learn, and what’s our way forward?

This FOIA is a tool really for the public. And the Center for Media Justice, which consists of black activists and folks who are really at the forefront of doing that protest work, they are partners with us in this effort. We’re hoping to get documents that will shed light on exactly how this term is being used, how often it’s being used, what other types of investigations or surveillance have been conducted as a result of the creation of this kind of designation.

And in the past, similar FOIA efforts have shown that the FBI has mapped racial and ethnic communities, and given more insight into exactly what the FBI is doing with the dramatic and vast tools at its disposal. So we’re hoping to get that information. If we don’t, we will push for that information, using the tools that the Freedom of Information Act provides.

We’ve been speaking with Nusrat Choudhury from the ACLU Racial Justice Program. You can follow their work online at ACLU.org. Nusrat Choudhury, thank you so much for joining us today on CounterSpin.

Thank you so much for having me.

By Janine Jackson / FAIR

Posted by The NON-Conformist

JFK files: Trump teases release as deadline arrives

Trump plans to release classified JFK documents

Washington (CNN)More than 50 years after President John F. Kennedy was killed, Americans on Thursday may finally get the US government’s full accounting of his assassination.

That’s if President Donald Trump doesn’t do anything.
The White House has yet to signal whether Trump would allow the full release of the government’s classified documents on the assassination or instead elect to keep some files secret.
 As the deadline nears, the White House did not respond to multiple requests for comment asking whether Trump planned to invoke his waiver privilege to keep some of the documents secret, as some members of the US intelligence community have privately requested. A decision to withhold even a sliver of the documents could give conspiracy theorists more fodder to propel their claims.
J. Trump ✔ @realDonaldTrump
The long anticipated release of the #JFKFiles will take place tomorrow. So interesting!
3:56 PM – Oct 25, 2017
Trump could block the release of certain documents if he finds “an identifiable harm to the military defense, intelligence operations, law enforcement or conduct of foreign relations” and if “the identifiable harm is of such gravity that it outweighs the public interest in disclosure,” according to the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992.
The deadline comes 25 years after the enactment of that law, which mandated the release of all government documents related to the Kennedy assassination in an attempt to quell conspiracy theories that have long swirled around the assassination.
Historians who have closely studied the Kennedy assassination have said they do not expect the documents to reveal any bombshells or to contradict the conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald was solely responsible for killing Kennedy. Still, the files will give Americans a fuller picture of how the 35th US president was killed and the ensuing investigation into his assassination.
“There’s going to be no smoking gun in there,” Gerald Posner, the author of “Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK,” told CNN’s Michael Smerconish on Saturday. “Anybody who thinks this is going to turn the case on its head and suddenly show that there were three or four shooters at Dealey Plaza — it’s not the case.”
“Oswald did it alone,” Posner continued. “But what the files are doing and why they’re important to come out is they fill in the history of the case and show us how the FBI and CIA repeatedly hid the evidence.”
The CIA and FBI documents could also shed new light on Oswald’s mysterious trip to Mexico City weeks before the assassination. The files could also reveal new details about US involvement in attempts to assassinate Cuban President Fidel Castro, notably the CIA’s alleged ties to the mob as part of that effort.
Trump has been encouraged allow the full release of the files by several Republican figures in the lead-up to the document dump deadline.
Grassley ✔ @ChuckGrassley
25 yrs ago Cong said all gov records abt JFK assassination shld b released this month unless Pres blocks No reason 2 keep hidden anymore 1/3
6:46 PM – Oct 4, 2017
“No reason 2 keep hidden anymore,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, tweeted earlier this month. “Time 2 let American ppl + historians draw own conclusions.”
The President’s longtime political adviser Roger Stone, an avid JFK assassination conspiracy theorist, also privately urged Trump to allow the full release of the documents.
By Jeremy Diamond/CNN
Posted by The NON-Conformist

Exhuming William Borah

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.
Dwight D. Eisenhower

Stephen Paddock’s brother called him “just a guy”, and indeed he was. His well-planned, perfectly orchestrated antics in Las Vegas were really nothing out of the ordinary. Another broken record for Guinness, he simply raised the bar for the next aspiring civilian mass-murderer on U.S. soil, and pushed the privatization of war to a whole new level. No surprises here. What else would be expected from the most warlike Empire in history? Welcome to The United States of America. We’ve been perfecting war for profit for more than 241 years now. Rough figures I’ve compiled indicate that the U.S. Military has been busy on battlefields for a total of over 460 years, fighting somewhere in the neighborhood of 106 separate wars. Obviously there’s been considerable overlap, lots of simultaneous fighting, and very little down time.

Through the end of the nineteenth century, the U.S.A. busied itself with nation-building. There were millions of inconvenient Indigenous impediments to eliminate, and covetous European countries to conquer. Manifest Destiny required rivers of blood. From 1900 until present day, with most borders firmly established, the U.S. Military has busied itself with the tremendous task of controlling world resources, managing trade, and taming rogue nations who sought to play outside the established rules of what would become the world’s most powerful and feared superpower by mid-twentieth century. For Empire’s citizens, war is, and has always been the norm. Just business as usual. We are assured that our bravest and best in the world military fights our battles so we can enjoy our freedom. Little children learn to stand in reverence, pledge allegiance to the Stars and Stripes, and aspire to wear the uniform of the beloved fighting man. Their fondest dreams include firing the next generation of assault rifle at some, yet to be determined, enemy. Toy manufacturers have long made those dreams come true with authentic plastic replicas, complete with everything but real bullets, blood, and guts.

If “Happiness is a warm gun.” as the Beatles told us, tongues in cheeks, U.S. citizens must have about the happiest trigger-fingers on earth. With the N.R.A. owning the souls and reelection hopes of nearly every U.S. Senator and Congressman, talk of gun control never takes a serious turn. The most we can expect from our lawmakers is a basket load of bogus prayers and crocodile tears. Every time another aspiring mass-murderer takes to the streets, self-proclaimed Liberal voices meekly propose Band-Aid fixes. Mandatory gun registration, assault weapon bans, closing the gun show loophole, no open carry, background checks, and on, and on, and all I’m hearing is blah-fucking-blah. And why? Because every human being on earth is capable of murder, and guns are the easiest, most efficient means to kill. Each one of us teeters on the breaking point. Some much closer than others. I decided at a very young age, never to allow guns in my house, because if I had access to them, I’d surely be wasting away in prison by now. Case in point: I can think of nearly 600 people in Washington, D.C. alone, without whom this country and the planet would be better off. Too bad Paddock wasn’t about 2400 miles east of Vegas when he snapped, went off his rocker, and rat-a-tat-tatted his way into history.

The Las Vegas Massacre was nothing special. In Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, similar violence against a civilian population would barely make the news. Ours is a violent society. We think nothing of bombing foreign humans into oblivion. Unquestioningly we watch as our leaders send the U.S. Military into combat zones across the earth, creating chaos wherever it goes. We thank those who wear the uniform of death for their service. We love having the baddest, meanest armed force in history, and our violent mindset spills easily and naturally into our everyday lives. Americans love their guns. They love the power, they embrace their collections of steel phalli, and if you even suggest disarmament, they’ll blow your sorry ass into next week. U.S. citizens won’t voluntarily buy into any form of gun control, for any reason, any time in the foreseeable future, no matter how many of their friends, neighbors, and relatives are slaughtered. Savagery is embedded in the National Genome.

There will be no meaningful domestic gun control until the day we eliminate war as a means for settling disputes, gaining new national boundaries, and controlling foreign national resources. Which brings us to US. Senator William Edgar Borah. Idaho elected Borah to office in 1907, and kept him there until his death in 1940. The highest mountain in the state is named Mount Borah, and Senator Borah’s ideas may yet help mankind find a high point in history. In 1923, still haunted by the carnage of World War I, Senator Borah introduced a resolution in the Senate, which announced and defined the desire of The United States to abandon the war system in favor of strict adherence to world law. The following is an excerpt from The Borah Resolution:

…be it resolved, that it is the view of the Senate of The United States that war between nations should be outlawed as an institution or means for the settlement of international controversies by making it a public crime under the law of nations and that every nation should be encouraged by solemn agreement or treaty to bind itself to indict and punish its own international war breeders or instigators and war profiteers under powers similar to those conferred upon our Congress with the power to define and punish offenses against the law of nations; And be it resolved further that a code of international law of peace based upon the outlawing of war and on the principle of equality and justice between all nations, amplified and expanded and adapted and brought down to date should be created and adopted.

Stephen Paddock was just a guy. Like your neighbor, your friend, your brother. We won’t stop the next escapade by requiring registration, background checks, or limiting the size of the tools of the trade. The terror of mass murder is the direct result of the acceptance of war. The United States of America is a runaway train, loaded to overflowing with atomic bombs, bunker-busters, cluster bombs, landmines, tanks, fighter jets, missiles, rockets, and munitions of every caliber, shape, and size. It is on a collision course with all the hopes and dreams of our children, and has trashed any semblance of freedom, safety, or happiness anywhere on earth with the endless specter of war.

I’ve climbed countless mountains in my lifetime, but Mount Borah presents by far the greatest challenge. The actual mountain has a direct and easy route to the summit, but Senator Borah’s resolution never got off the ground. Too many profiteers had made their fortunes through the bloodshed of World War I. If he were alive and pushing his resolution today, Borah would likely be laughed right off the Senate floor. Ending the cycle of violence appears to be an impossible chore. My friend John Rachel has a plan, and what I believe to be a viable one. It offers substantial monetary rewards for those who sing the song of peace on earth. If it caught fire, The Peace Dividend would insure the ouster of N.R.A. whores in Congress, replace them with peace candidates, and put an end to war. This would signal a final and welcome end to the Dark Ages, and pave the road to total disarmament, both militarily and publicly.

And if I hear even one of you Second Amendment jackals out there whining about your God-given/Constitutional right to own guns, I’m going to buy myself a Glock, shove it in your mouth, and blow your pea brains into the next county. And that, my friends, is why nobody can be trusted with a gun. Each one of us teeters on the breaking point. Some much closer than others. Don’t make me come over there!

By John Rohn Hall/DissidentVoice

Posted by The NON-Conformist

The Rules of the Gun Debate The rules for discussing firearms in the United States obscure the obvious solutions.

A parable:

A village has been built in the deepest gully of a floodplain.

At regular intervals, flash floods wipe away houses, killing all inside. Less dramatic—but more lethal—is the steady toll as individual villagers slip and drown in the marshes around them.

After especially deadly events, the villagers solemnly discuss what they might do to protect themselves. Perhaps they might raise their homes on stilts? But a powerful faction among the villagers is always at hand to explain why these ideas won’t work. “No law can keep our village safe! The answer is that our people must learn to be better swimmers – and oh by the way, you said ‘stilts’ when the proper term is ‘piles,’ so why should anybody listen to you?”

So the argument rages, without result, year after year, decade after decade, fatalities mounting all the while. Nearby villages, built in the hills, marvel that the gully-dwellers persist in their seemingly reckless way of life. But the gully-dwellers counter that they are following the wishes of their Founders, whose decisions two centuries ago must always be upheld by their descendants.

The deadliest mass shooting in American history has restarted the long debate whether something can be done to impede these recurring slaughters. That debate is conducted pursuant to rigid rules.

Rule 1. The measures to be debated must bear some relationship to the massacre that triggered the debate. If the killer acquired his weapons illegally, it’s out of bounds to point out how lethally easy it is to buy weapons legally. If the killer lacked a criminal record, it’s out of bounds to talk about the inadequacy of federal background checks. The topic for debate is not, “Why do so many Americans die from gunfire?” but “What one legal change would have prevented this most recent atrocity?”

Rule 2. The debate must focus on unusual weapons and accessories: bump stocks, for example, the villain of the moment. Even the NRA has proclaimed itself open to some regulation of these devices. After the 2012 mass shooting in an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater, attention turned to large capacity magazines. What is out of bounds is discussion of weapons as in themselves a danger to human life and public safety.

Rule 3. The debate must always honor the “responsible gun owners” who buy weapons for reasonable self-defense. Under Rule 1, these responsible persons are presumed to constitute the great majority of gun owners. It’s out of bounds to ask for some proof of this claimed responsibility, some form of training for example. It’s far out of bounds to propose measures that might impinge on owners: the alcohol or drug tests for example that are so often recommended for food stamp recipients or teen drivers.

Rule 4. Gun ownership is always to be discussed as a rational choice motivated by reasonable concerns for personal safety. No matter how blatantly gun advocates appeal to fears and fantasies—Sean Hannity musing aloud on national TV about how he with a gun in his hands could have saved the day in Las Vegas if only he had been there—nobody other than a lefty blogger may notice that this debate is about race and sex, not personal security. It’s out of bounds to observe that “Chicago” is shorthand for “we only have gun crime because of black people” or how often “I want to protect my family” is code for “I need to prove to my girlfriend who’s really boss.”

These rules are powerful, and I myself have sometimes played the game according to them. I suggested here in The Atlantic back in 2015:

A requirement that gun owners carry insurance would not only protect potential accident victims—including gun owners, since many gun accidents are self-inflicted—against economic loss. An insurance requirement would create incentives for more responsible gun behavior. Just as insurance companies offer better rates to those who install burglar alarms, so they might offer better rates to those who install secure gun safes. Just as a prior accident raises the future cost of car insurance, so careless gun owners will be encouraged to exercise better care in the future.

I still think this is a good idea. But I’ve come around more and more to the gun advocate point of view that there is something artificial and even dishonest about the technocratic approach to gun control. There’s nothing wrong with, say, Nick Kristof’s list of ideas in an October 2 New York Times column of proposals such as

Limit gun purchases by any one person to no more than, say, two a month, and tighten rules on straw purchasers who buy for criminals. Make serial numbers harder to remove.

But once you have accepted that it’s reasonable for citizens to accumulate firearms at the rate of 24 a year, it’s hard to imagine that there is really anything else you can do that will prevent a lot of gun deaths. Americans die from gunfire in proportions unparalleled in the civilized world because Americans own guns in proportions unparalleled in the civilized world. More guns mean more lethal accidents, more suicides, more everyday arguments escalated into murderous fusillades.

It’s of course imaginable that by undertaking a vast network of ultra-intrusive interventions into family and personal life, a society could reduce those negative outcomes even without reducing its arsenals of firearms.

Leah Libresco, in a much praised article in the October 3 Washington Post offered just such an alternative.

Instead, I found the most hope in more narrowly tailored interventions. Potential suicide victims, women menaced by their abusive partners and kids swept up in street vendettas are all in danger from guns, but they each require different protections.

Older men, who make up the largest share of gun suicides, need better access to people who could care for them and get them help. Women endangered by specific men need to be prioritized by police, who can enforce restraining orders prohibiting these men from buying and owning guns. Younger men at risk of violence need to be identified before they take a life or lose theirs and to be connected to mentors who can help them de-escalate conflicts.

There are many ways to describe such a project, but “narrowly tailored” is not it. There are some 23 million American men over age 65. Identifying which of them are depressed—and then providing access to mental health for that subgroup—would be a social intervention of a very large scale. Even more impressive though is the project to identify young men at risk of violence and then to dissuade them from it. Since one of the most powerful indicator of that risk is race, undertaking such a project while also complying with civil rights laws will be more daunting yet. It is as if we decided that rather than crudely require airline passengers to wear seatbelts during turbulence, we instead would take the “narrowly tailored” approach of mapping all the air pressure variations throughout the planet’s atmosphere in order to pilot around them.

There are subtle, sophisticated, and nuanced approaches to the gun problem that balance the rights of gun owners against the imperatives of gun safety. They may well even make some difference at the margin. But they are unlikely to make any significant difference. Americans debate these approaches not because they are likely to be effective, but because the methods that will work—that have worked in every other advanced society—are here politically taboo.

Was there one legal change that could have thwarted Stephen Paddock? Probably not. But the reason crimes like his are so common here, and so rare in western Europe, is not that we are afflicted with more Stephen Paddocks than they, but because their Stephen Paddocks find it so much more difficult to obtain guns, and especially large quantities of guns. It is not impossible there either of course. The jihadist terrorists who killed 130 people in November 2015 carried rifles, as did the Charlie Hebdo killers.

But a society is in a much better position to stop shooting deaths when it can tightly regulate the buying and carrying of weapons long before they are ever used to murder anybody. In all but a half dozen American states, it would be perfectly legal for people like the Charlie Hebdo killers to walk to the very front door of their targets with their rifles slung over their shoulders, lawful responsible gun owners to the very second before they opened fire on massed innocents.

Like the villagers in the flood plain in my parable, Americans are unlikely to see much benefit from their ingenious technical solutions to gun violence so long as guns are easily available to just about everyone who wants them.

So in a limited sense, the gun advocates are right. The promise of “common sense gun safety” is a hoax, i.e. Americans probably will not be able to save the tens of thousands of lives lost every year to gun violence—and the many more thousands maimed and traumatized—while millions of Americans carry guns in their purses and glove compartments, store guns in their night tables and dressers. Until Americans change their minds about guns, Americans will die by guns in numbers resembling the casualty figures in Somalia and Honduras more than Britain or Germany.

It’s truly hard to imagine that this change will be led by law. Guns are inscribed into the Constitution of the United States and the individual states. On the other hand, it’s also in most states legal for a parent to strap her child into a car seat, roll the windows up tight, and smoke a pack of cigarettes in the vehicle.  Parents almost universally refrain, not because they are compelled, but because they love their children and will not willingly expose them to acknowledged dangers.

Maybe the most decisive first step toward a safer society is to think less, for now, about (comparatively rare) mass shootings—and think more instead about (horrifyingly commonplace) everyday tragedies like this one in Tampa, Florida, on September 21: “A 4-year-old Florida girl has died after accidentally pulling the trigger of a gun when she reached into her grandmother’s purse for candy.”

Or this one, September 29, in Dearborn, Michigan: Two three-year-old children have been shot by another toddler at a home daycare facility in the US state of Michigan.” Or this, from Kentucky on August 1:Police said a 2-year-old died Monday after being shot in the head in his Louisville home. … [T]he boy and his 3-year-old brother found the gun in the top of a closet.”

The adults who exposed those children to death and injury surely thought they were doing the right thing by having guns in their home. But they were wrong, dead wrong. As Melinda Wenner Moyer writes in the current issue of Scientific American: “The research on guns is not uniform, and we could certainly use more of it. But when all but a few studies point in the same direction, we can feel confident that the arrow is aiming at the truth—which is, in this case, that guns do not inhibit crime and violence but instead make it worse.”

And the surest sign that gun advocates know how lethal the science is for their cause is their determination to suppress it: since the mid-1990s, Republicans in Congress have successfully cut off federal funding for non-industry gun-safety research.  That’s not what you do when the facts are on your side.

Gun safety begins, then, not with technical fixes, but with spreading the truthful information: people who bring guns into their homes are endangering themselves and their loved ones.

Such a change would not in itself prevent massacres like that in Las Vegas, any more than relocating the village in my parable would stop all drownings. Creeks course down hillsides as well as through valleys. But in an America where guns were viewed as they are in Australia or Canada, the project of moving two dozen of them into a hotel suite would likely be detected somewhere along the way. The person moving those guns would find himself in trouble—not for murder—but for some petty gun infraction. His weapons might be confiscated, or he himself sent to prison for some months. His plan would be interrupted very likely without anyone ever imagining what had been contemplated. Mass shootings so seldom happen in other countries not because they have developed carefully crafted policies against shootings, but because they have instituted broad policies to restrict guns.

Those countries do not restrict gun ownership to zero. According to the Swiss-based Small Arms Survey, rates of gun ownership in Switzerland and Finland are more than half the US rate; in Canada, France, Norway, and Sweden more than one-third the US rate.

But those countries do tightly regulate the movement of guns from place to place. Because they regard gun ownership as a privilege rather than a right, they screen much more carefully not only for criminal records, but for histories of addiction, mental health treatment, and domestic violence. They test whether applicants for gun licenses can in fact, and not just in self-assessment, handle their weapons responsibly. They protect against major gun crime with the same “broken windows” policing philosophy that Americans used to secure their cities in the 1990s: lawbreakers typically commit a lot of petty infractions on their way to bigger crimes, and enforcing against the former can head off many of the latter.

Even more basically: because there are fewer guns and gun owners to track, those who are dangerous stand out more conspicuously, before it is too late. By living above the floodplain, those countries better manage the flood. Americans insist instead on seeking the one technical fix that would save lives without reducing guns. It’s an illusion for which Americans annually pay a higher price in blood than they shed in most of the nation’s wars.

By David Frum/TheAtlantic

Posted by The NON-Conformist