On grief

Because of my finances, I haven’t traveled with the kids as much as I’d have liked to. As a child, I grew up traveling quite a bit and know the deep value in understanding that the world is both bigger than you think, but at the same time, also smaller –

The last time we were at the beach all together, we were with my mother. Andrew was a toddler, and we’d gone to Emerald Isle. I have some pictures somewhere I’ll try to find. A few years ago, there was the overnight, emergency, much-needed sanity-seeking beach trip here to Topsail – a getaway to just anywhere – so Katie, Andrew, and I decided to come down and look for megaladon teeth, since it had been reported that year that the locals were finding them. J. was living full time with his father that year. Later, there was the two-night at Ocracoke Spring Break with Katie and Jack. (A. on Spring Break with beloved friends.) J. literally laid down in the sand as soon as we reached the beach that first day and didn’t move, didn’t venture down to where Katie and I laid our towels, or swim, or look for shells.

Part of the reason we are here this year is that at some point, I have to disperse my mother’s ashes, but I don’t exactly have a plan. I am old enough now that I am not afraid of a mess, of getting my hands dirty, of doing the work – but if I’m honest, I know that this deep sense of dread I am carrying has to do with fear.

Maybe it has to do with dealing with the macabre, the death and skin of her, the ash of her, the small bones, the unknown. This part of death I haven’t handled before. The soil of her, the loam of my mother from whom I sprang. It is said we begin as dust and that is where we end, and here I am with her dust …

And maybe it also the finality, that I am letting her go along with all the questions, all the answers I’ll never have. She died and we didn’t really know each other, and won’t — all her secrets and truths she so tamped down in her life will now be sent back into the wind.

At least the wind is constant.

My muscles ache from walking on the sand, the good ache, the necessary one. But I am heartweary from worrying about my beloveds, from carrying loss with me, and the fears of losing more, from how harsh this world can be –

And yet so filled with beauty at the same time. I watched the moonrise last night over the ocean – a deep orange lifting right out of the water and fooling us, behind black ropes of clouds –at first we weren’t sure what it was but supposed it some kind of ship with orange lights, til it grew brighter and brighter and then leapt from the black water, still in her veils, but finally J. asked, “Is that the moon?”

And it was, and it cleared the ocean, the black wisps across her face dissipating while she came more clearly into view.

I always forget and then remember how the moon pulls the tide back like a curtain and lays the wet sand bare, and I think of how tender our hearts, how we are made vulnerable by grief, how if we strip back the anger, the fears, the petty resentments, we uncover the truths: we are all made to love and to hurt, that we all hold desires, hopes, and dreams for ourselves and for those we love – and the wet sand is waiting for those moments when all the walls and devices we use to protect ourselves are dissolved, pulled back. Waiting for answers, maybe, and waiting perhaps for us to dare to love each other again, for us to let go of losses and fears and be pulled right along with her into what is beautiful: a soft night, the roar of ocean, a sky speckled with stars.

The New Household Names: Ray Rice, Greg Hardy, and domestic violence

In that I live in North Carolina and my hometown is the also the hometown of the Carolina Panthers, and given that my father physically abused my mother during their 23-year marriage, to say the Ray Rice scandal touches my life is putting it mildly.  And for the Panthers to have been willing to play Hardy on Sunday was appalling in the light of the new “Zero Tolerance” policy handed down on the heels of the leak of the now famous elevator tapes that we’ve all either seen or been made aware of. Never mind that it took the videos for the NFL to do the right thing.   (Not that I never mind it at all.  It’s simply too abhorrent for words, really.)

But when I heard that the Panthers planned to allow Greg Hardy to play even though he’d already been convicted for spousal abuse and was headed into the appeals process — I mean, a guilty verdict, guilty of partner violence — I had to wonder what Zero Tolerance really meant.  Zero except when your lawyers are still planning on tying the matter up in the courts?

We’ve had talks about this incident at my house, too, because we like the Panthers, and have watched them for years. So when I received the following picture from my oldest, to say I was proud of him is putting it mildly.  He gets it.  Of course, kids always get these kinds of things.  Well before the adults do, it seems.



I am not just going to sit here hoping that this trend continues.  I am going to work actively to remind friends, family and fans to get involved.  It’s not enough to say, Oh, we really don’t like this.

I am glad to learn that Roger Goodell has appointed four women to “address domestic violence and social issues,” but I confess I don’t know yet what that really means.  Will they have any real authority?  Will the men in leadership truly support their efforts?

Steve Almond writes that “it’s time for the fans to start quitting,” and points out that along with women making up 45% of the NFL’s audience, corporate sponsors FedEx and Marriott are watching closely.  Of course we have to hit them in their wallets for them to concede.  But oh, I long for a day when corporate America does the right thing because it’s the right thing to do.

No, we can’t compartmentalize the violence on the field with the violence behind closed doors.  And yes, asking us to do that is outrageous.  But apparently, Zero Tolerance is a fluid situation, and it’s time to reach out again and contact the Panthers and the NFL.

On North Carolina’s Moral Mondays, Motorcyclevaginas, and How a Red State Goes Decidedly Blue

(Originally published by The Rude Pundit.)

As much as North Carolina’s Governor Pat McCrory wanted to rebrand the state, I assume he didn’t mean to have us known as the state of the #Motorcyclevagina.  This fascinating hashtag was born of a bill that was originally written to improve motorcycle safety — but with added legislation in the eleventh hour that would effectively close all but one Planned Parenthood in the state.

Maybe you’ve heard of it.

Moral_Monday_Rev_BarberI have lived in North Carolina for most of my life, and have been attending Moral Monday protest rallies since June 3.  Reverend William Barber, the President of the North Carolina NAACP, is the man behind this movement. The first time I saw him speak, he was in front of a group of about seventeen people gathered who had agreed to go with him to Raleigh to practice civil disobedience that first Monday, April 29, 2013.  Regarding an onslaught of ALEC-sponsored legislation, like cuts in funding that would affect the poorest and most vulnerable in the state, legislation to do away with early and Saturday voting as well as requiring voter ID cards (which ultimately affect minority voting rights in this state above all others), and the imminent repeal of the Racial Justice Act, he said “I never thought I would have to fight for the things my parents already won.”

I will tell you that I was changed after hearing that speech.  I knew I had to get involved, to make my way to Raleigh as often as possible to support this cause.

Fighting for what was already won.

And now suddenly the women of North Carolina are fighting once again for the right to maintain our individual reproductive freedom.  SB353, the now infamous legislation also known as The Motorcycle Vagina Bill will effectively close all but one Planned Parenthood in the state.  Governor McCrory — who, while campaigning for the job he’s holding now, promised to do nothing to infringe upon a woman’s right to choose – has already said he will sign it into law.

I daresay that no one wants to have an abortion.  Should a woman have to make that painful and personal choice, the decisions surrounding that choice are hers alone to make in consultation with her physician.  They are no one else’s business.  Not mine, not yours, and certainly not of a handful of politicians over in Raleigh.

For while they are very concerned with legislating whether or not a woman has the baby, it has become very clear that once the child is born, the Republican party is not interested in any legislation to enhance the child’s quality of life.    The GOP has made cuts in food assistanceearly childhood educationpublic education (don’t even get me started), and limited Medicaid expansion and healthcare.  Talk about your deadbeat dads.

 Separate and apart from abortion, Planned Parenthood offers a myriad of health services to women across the state, and closing them is harmful to a woman’s health, not protective and the Republican party as the bill proclaims.

“I voted for SB353 because I truly felt that it would help to protect the safety of women who choose to have an abortion. If abortion is legal (which it is), then I believe we should try to make it as safe as possible. Due to the fact that abortion is a serious (and sometimes dangerous) medical procedure, I believe it is sensible to require abortion clinics to adhere to certain operational standards (similar to those of ambulatory clinics). Also, because abortion often involves surgery with significant medical risks, I believe it is prudent to require a doctor to be present during the procedure. Instituting these requirements is simply a way to help keep women safe during abortion procedures, and I think that is a worthy cause.”  — Representative Jon Hardister 


Here are some facts for you that render these argument moot:

 Abortion is one of the safest surgical procedures for women in the United States. Fewer than 0.5% of women obtaining abortions experience a complication, and the risk of death associated with abortion is about one-tenth that associated with childbirth.  

AND the state’s abortion rate is lower than the national rate — both of which are already on the decline.

(More good information like this at the source.)

IMG_3266The women of this state are not taking any of this lying down.  (Heh.)  E-mails and social media have alerted and rallied women across the state.  Thousands of women AND men braved sweltering heat for last week’s tenth wave of Moral Monday, the theme of which was Women’s Issues.  It was a record crowd for Moral Monday.

After seeing the size of the turnout, I mused to a friend (only half-jokingly) that if the Republicans in Raleigh could repeal a woman’s right to vote, they probably would.  Her response was completely serious:  that with the swiftly-moving proposed legislation to end early and Saturday voting, limiting the vote is exactly what they are trying to do.

I am often asked why I go – why, when nothing seems to be changing, when the state’s Republicans dismiss us and call us names at every turn, and keep right on pushing their immoral agenda through.

 The simple answer is, it is the right thing to do.  I’m in this for the long haul.

 It’s not always easy to get there.  The weather can be brutal.  Conflicts and schedules don’t always cooperate.  But I make it every week that I can.  One thing that always strikes me is that there is no racism on Halifax Mall.  There is no sexism, no misogyny, and no homophobia either.  There is only compassion and respect and love for everyone.  This is the right side to be on.

IMG_3168The next steps for me are to volunteer to help register voters and drive them to the polls on Election Day.

 Governor McCrory continues to brush off Moral Mondays, while his approval rating has dropped 15 points in a single month.  The entire party is starting to feel it, too:  “Unhappiness over the abortion bill seems to be driving a lot of the increased unhappiness with the Republicans in state government this month. Only 34% of voters support the proposal to 47% who are opposed. They’re even more unhappy with the process- 80% think it’s inappropriate to combine abortion legislation with bills about motorcycle safety or Sharia Law.”

 Just today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington released their report that put McCrory on the list of the country’s worst governors.

 So thank you, Pat McCrory, Thom Tillis, and all of the Republicans down in Raleigh who proudly declare they are not listening.   The rest of the state, and the country, can hear us just fine.   And you have galvanized the citizens of this state in a way we haven’t been in a long time.

nc_moral-monday-protest Thank you for this movement that brings us together for the greater good.

 Thank you for reminding us that we have to keep fighting for our rights, for what we want and want to hold on to, and be tireless in working to keep it.  For reminding us that there are those who will always want to take it away again.

 We will see you at the polls.

Dear Mandy, Thank you for your comments. | An Open Letter to an NRA Defender

Dear Mandy,

I want to thank you for taking the time to read my essay exit wound and leave your comments.  It looks like you put a lot of time and effort into it and I’m very glad to respond but there is quite a bit to unpack.  I’ll do my best.  Here’s what you said:

Hi Melissa, I appreciate well thought opinions and liked this post very much. And though I’m not a ‘gun-nut’ it seems that ‘gun-control nuts’ are setting up many straw men to take down.

For example, the NRA and conservatives have been for background checks for a long time… legislation that NRA has recommended making mental health issues available for instant background checks, but the ACLU said violated people’s rights to privacy. Also, the background check laws that are already in place are not being carried through because they are not being funded and because anything done federally, is simply not managed well. Michigan has a ‘universal background check’ like that is being proposed federally and it is “largely ignored” because it is very hard to enforce. So it simply creates imposition for the law abiding citizens… that’s what he means in the quote you used above… those that are trying to get around the laws already in place… will get around the new ones too. In all the legislation being proposed, there are no enforcement ideas or long term funding options offered.

And the other solutions, we’ve tried! The Brady Bill did nothing to affect gun violence and most violent gun deaths happen by people who obtain guns illegally anyway.

Believe me, I find it very very frustrating to hear time after time about gun violence but I’m not someone who will be placated by a democrat pushing a bill through that doesn’t do anything anyway.

I do believe that smaller clips are a compromising point, leaving provisions for ‘well organized militia’ like those doing border patrol in Texas, etc. And I would like for background checks (the laws already in place) to actually be enforced, including access to psychiatric red flag records… certainly we don’t need to know everyone’s full record, but if they have threatened to or admitted to daydreaming about taking out tons of people to school counselors or doctors, there should be a way to get a red flag out there.

It seems as though people who are, rightly so, passionate about gun control like to create an “us v them” atmosphere automatically making gun owners the villains.

Let’s enforce the laws we do have. Let’s make criminals do hard time instead of getting slaps on the wrist and let’s try to figure out ways to make our kids and law abiding citizens safe… LaPierre tried to suggest one… instead of demonizing him because we don’t think its the right solution… let’s find another.

anyway, I’ll check around as it seems you put a lot of thought into your blogs, which I appreciate!


Again, thank you for your comments.  Your assertion that the NRA and Republican Party have worked to support background checks and mental health issues a factor in purchasing weapons is not fact.  I thought I would share some facts with you — facts that I don’t mind citing.

The NRA and Conservatives have long been doing and continue to do everything they can to undermine the gun laws that are currently in place, instead of trying to enforce or improve or even stand aside for the current laws.  Follows are specific examples, but first a bit of history from before the 2012 election:

The convention, in its “celebration of American values,” has drawn tens of thousands of members to see genuflecting Republicans and to browse a seven-acre commercial mart of guns and shooting paraphernalia, much of it designed for the battlefields of war, not the home front. [ … ]

Polls show Republicans enjoy heavy support and donations from gun owners. In return, the gun lobby has had steady success in weakening gun laws — especially in the two dozen statehouses that followed Florida in enacting new self-defense laws to allow the instant use of deadly force in a confrontation rather than retreat from danger. These laws are fostered by the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, with heavyweight business supporters like Walmart, a major gun retailer.

The families of the victims killed and wounded in the Virginia Tech massacre do not come close to having such clout. For the tragedy’s fifth anniversary next week, they are having a hard time securing meetings with Washington politicians to fix the law that promised a more complete and up-to-date federal list of the mentally ill, who should be barred from buying guns. But two dozen states have submitted fewer than 100 mental health records each when tens of thousands should be entered, according to Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a national gun reform group. Financing to help state reporting efforts was supposed to be $1.1 billion over the last four years, yet Congress appropriated only $51 million. So goes the nation’s utter failure to deal with the gun menace.  Source.  April 13, 2012

Bringing us to more current times.  Hold on to your hat, dear Mandy:

The consensus among most analysts is that the shootings in Aurora, Colorado, are unlikely to change current gun laws—that, despite the bloodshed and the outrage, our statues aren’t up for radical reconsideration.

But that’s not necessarily accurate—in fact, our existing gun laws are poised to get much weaker. In the current Congress and the one before it, pro-gun legislators have proposed and passed a variety of truly shocking measures that would weaken what laws are currently on the books—and remember, President Obama is only willing to enforce “existing law,” whatever that might be.

Here are five of the most craven gun bills in the 111th and 112th Congresses:

More guns for veterans with mental issues. In October 2012, Congress passed HR 2349, the Veterans’ Benefits Act of 2011. The bill contains a provision introduced by Representative Danny Rehberg of Montana that would forbid the Department of Veterans’ Affairs “from determining a beneficiary to be mentally incompetent for the purposes of gun control, unless such a determination were made by a judge, magistrate, or other judicial authority based upon a finding that the beneficiary posed a danger to himself or others.” In other words, the VA would no longer be able to alert federal authorities that a veteran is mentally unfit to own guns, unless they are able to get a judge to certify it. Currently, professionals at the VA simply make the determination and pass it on to the FBI.  This bill is currently stalled in the Senate, having been read twice and referred to the Committee on Veteran’s Affairs.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, as of May 1, 2011, there were 130,886 files in the national gun-check database’s mental-defective file, referred to the FBI by the VA. This means that if/when Rehberg’s provision passes, tens of thousands of veterans whom the VA considers unsuitable to have weapons would be able to buy them.

More guns for suspected terrorists. There are many things that will disqualify you from buying a gun — if you’re a convicted felon, you won’t pass a background check. But if you happen to be on the federal government’s watch list of terror suspects, you will pass the background check just fine. In 2010, 247 people suspected of ties to terrorism passed background checks and purchased weapons.

Senator Frank Lautenberg has repeatedly tried to pass legislation that would make one’s presence on a terror list a disqualifier for buying guns.  Should be a no-brainer, right?  He has received support from the Bush and Obama Justice Departments. But pro-gun legislators have buried the bill every time.

While there are legitimate concerns with the arbitrary system by which the federal government creates the terror watch list, generally the Republicans take it very seriously—and so their opposition to Lautenberg’s bills truly speaks to the depth of pro-gun sentiments in Congress.

Stepping on states with tougher laws. The House also passed a bill last fall that would essentially establish a lowest-common-denominator for concealed-carry permits. (It awaits action in the Senate, where in the last Congress, a similar measure sponsored by Senator John Thune was narrowly defeated).

HR 822, the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011, basically says that states with tough laws on concealed-carry can’t enforce them on people who come there from other states with weak laws.

Thirty-eight states have “shall issue” laws, which means that a concealed-carry permit must be issued to anyone who applies and meets the criteria—which varies from state to state. (Some require mental health checks, for example, while others don’t). Other states have “may issue” laws, where state and local authorities have much more discretion.

Many states with tough gun laws don’t honor concealed carry permits from states that basically rubber-stamp permits—but HR 822 would require they do.

Notably, when the House Committee on the Judiciary considered this bill, Democrats tried to attach a number of amendments that would at least deny concealed-carry permits to certain groups: persons on terrorist watch lists, sex offenders, stalkers, drug traffickers to minors, and assailants of police officers. Republicans defeated each amendment.

More guns in public housing. Gun violence is tightly concentrated in poor, urban areas, which makes a bill passed by the House Financial Services Committee in 2009 particularly heinous—a successful amendment to the Section 8 Voucher Reform Act would forbid federal authorities from prohibiting firearm possession in public housing complexes.

Hamstringing the ATF.  The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has been prevented from having a director since 2004, and it is widely known that pro-gun legislators has been behind that.  But in the past two Congresses, legislators have further tied the hands of the ATF in all sorts of ways. (And if you think the furor over the bureau’s Fast & Furious operation isn’t part of that effort, you aren’t paying attention.)

In its budget requests, Obama has proposed the removal of several restrictions placed on ATF funding in 2004. But not even the Democratic-controlled Senate would oblige, and the restrictions remain in place. The funding restrictions:

    • prohibit the use of any funding appropriated for ATF to disclose firearms trace or multiple handgun sales report data for any purpose other than supporting “bona fide” criminal investigation or agency licensing proceedings,
    • prohibit the use of any funding appropriated for ATF to issue new regulations that would require licensed dealers to conduct physical inventories of their businesses, and
    • require the next-day destruction of approved Brady background check records.

In addition to preserving these riders, in April the House passed a FY2013 appropriations bill that would also forbid the ATF from:

    • Altering the regulatory definition of “curios and relics,”
    • requiring federally licensed gun dealers to conduct physical inventories, or
    • revoking a federal firearms license for lack of business activity

These rules mainly help protect large gun dealers, allowing them to distribute firearms under decreased regulation if they are labeled an antique, and protecting them from examination of their business records.

(Here’s the source on this complilation, which is in turn, cites within its pages and links.)

Now, more information on the weakening of the ATF, as there is certainly no love lost between the NRA and ATF:

A review of congressional legislative records, federal lobbying disclosure forms, as well as interviews with former ATF agents, shows how the NRA has repeatedly supported legislation to weaken several of the nation’s gun laws and opposed any attempt to boost the ability of the Bureau of the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to enforce current laws, including:

  • The Firearms Owners’ Protection Act of 1986. This law mandated that the ATF could only inspect firearms dealers once a year. It reduced record-keeping penalties from felonies to misdemeanors, prohibited the ATF from computerizing purchase records for firearms and required the government to prove that a gun dealer was “willful” if they sold a firearm to a prohibited person.
  • The Tiahrt amendments. Beginning in 2003, the amendments by then-representative Todd Tiahrt, R-Kan., to the Justice Department’s appropriation bill included requirements such as the same-day destruction of FBI background check documents and limits on the sharing of data from traces.
  • Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Reform and Firearms Modernization Act. Most recently introduced in 2011, the bill proposed changing several regulations, including redefining the burden of proof for agents investigating firearms dealers accused of selling to prohibited individuals and capping fines for other violations.

And it is more than disheartening to work and lobby at the national level only to find that surreptitiously gun laws are being controlled by the NRA, the GOP, and the gun lobby.  But that is what is happening.

A Tearing Down of State Gun Laws by the NRA

In Ohio:

Ohio’s Republican Governor Johns Kasich on Thursday signed into law a measure that would slightly weaken the state’s law on carrying concealed weapons, less than a week after a Connecticut school massacre focused national attention on gun control.

The bill would require Ohio residents demonstrate competency with the weapon only once rather than each time the concealed carry permit expires. It also would allow carrying concealed weapons in the parking garage of the State Capitol.

Kasich signed the bill along with 41 others and did not hold a signing ceremony. A press release summarizing his actions put the gun law near the bottom of list of those signed.

Source:  http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/20/us-usa-guns-ohio-idUSBRE8BJ1EY20121220

In Lousianna:

A New Orleans judge ruled Thursday, March 14, that a law forbidding felons from owning firearms infringes their rights to keep and bear arms as guaranteed by the state’s newly amended constitution.

Although Louisiana already had extremely permissive gun laws (and the second highest gun-murder rate in the country), last November voters overwhelmingly passed an initiative backed by the National Rifle Association that made gun ownership a fundamental right with the same levels of protection as the freedoms of religion and speech.

In Washington State:

… under Washington’s Hard Times for Armed Crimes Act, judges have no discretion to deny felons their gun rights based on mental health, character, and other factors. Analyzing data from Washington, the Times found that since 1995, more than 3,300 felons and people convicted of domestic violence have regained their gun rights in the state: “Of that number, more than 400—about 13 percent—have subsequently committed new crimes, the analysis found. More than 200 committed felonies, including murder, assault in the first and second degree, child rape and drive-by shooting.”

Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers across the country are pushing felons’ gun rights (while others are denying them voting rights). In January, a state representative from Colorado introduced a bill that would allow people convicted of nonviolent crimes or felonies to possess guns after release. A similar Republican-backed bill was introduced in Oklahoma a month later, but that plan was derailed when party members learned “nonviolent” offenses also include drug trafficking, child prostitution, and child pornography.

Source and attendant links.

Oh!  And you mentioned Michigan.  Did you know legislation that likely would pit Michigan against the federal government in a legal battle over firearms regulations was introduced approximately one month after the Newtown massacre?  Can you guess who introduced it by now?  That’s right.  The GOP.

Senate Bill 63 would exempt firearms and firearms accessories made and sold exclusively in Michigan from federal gun restrictions, including those proposed by President Barack Obama in response to last month’s slaying of 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school. Obama’s proposals include universal background checks for firearms purchases and a ban on assault weapons.

A full Senate vote has yet to be scheduled as of this article. (January 24, 2013)

GOP lawmakers have touted the legislation as a way to lure gun manufacturers to Michigan. Sen. Mike Green, R-Mayville, and Rep. Joel Johnson, R-Clare, issued a letter inviting Remington Arms Co. to relocate here from New York, which just passed stringent new gun regulations.  Source:  The Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20130124/POLITICS02/301240369#ixzz2OnITUhVw

These are just a few examples.

The language from the leaders of the NRA, Mandy, has become rhetoric:  Fight.  War.  Uprising.  Is this the culture you would promote?   This language incites, preaches fear, and hopes to turn responsible owners like you, Mandy, full of fear of a make-believe tyranny and mythical “gun grabbers.”

But that simply isn’t happening.

I absolutely do not and will not make gun owners the villains.  Most gun owners WANT tighter restrictions and regulations in place.  Owning a gun is serious business and a serious responsibility, and most treat it as such.  I absolutely believe that the NRA has become a political arm of gun manufacturers, and earns their keep (and lots of it) by encouraging and increasing gun sales.  Do not be fooled into thinking they have your best interests at heart.

This is a lot of information to take in, Mandy, and if you’ll indulge me, hang in there because there is a bit more.  We can’t talk about gun violence without talking about all kinds of gun violence, and that includes gun suicides.  A study from Duke University found the following with regard to the Brady Bill:

Another way to measure the effects of the Brady Act is to focus on suicides, an important public health concern since more people die each year by gun suicides than gun homicides in the United States. We do find that the Brady states experienced a greater reduction than the non-Brady states in gun suicides to older people, who have the highest rates. While this drop was partially offset by an increase in non-gun suicides, our evidence suggests that the Brady Act has saved lives by reducing the overall suicide rate among older Americans. Interestingly, the effects of the Brady Act on suicide seem to be caused in large part by the act’s original waiting period requirements, which were phased out in late 1998 as states moved to an “instant check” system.  Source.

We have a problem in our society, our culture, with a society that seems to shoot first and ask questions later.

This, from the The Tea Party Facebook page last night:

39,719 people like this.

And I need to point out who is now funding the NRA, despite the fact that they state they are independent of gun manufacturers.  This has been proven to be a false statement.

The report, Blood Money: How the Gun Industry Bankrolls the NRA, reveals that since 2005 contributions from gun industry “corporate partners” to the NRA total between $14.7 million and $38.9 million. Total donations to the NRA from all “corporate partners”–both gun industry and non-gun industry–for the same time period total between $19.8 million and $52.6 million. The vast majority of funds–74 percent–contributed to the NRA from “corporate partners” come from members of the firearms industry: companies involved in the manufacture or sale of firearms or shooting-related products.

Despite the NRA’s historical claims that it is not financially allied with the gun industry, including the current disclaimer on its website that it “is not affiliated with any firearm or ammunition manufacturers or with any businesses that deal in guns and ammunition,” NRA “corporate partners” include many of the world’s best known gunmakers as well as such companies as Xe, the new name of the now infamous Blackwater Worldwide–known for its abuses in the Iraq war–which alone contributed between $500,000 and $999,999 to the NRA since 2005.

This is Mr. LaPierre at CPAC, March 15, 2013.  He spends a good portion of the first eight minutes referring over and over again to the “political elites”  and how they call him crazy.  He starts dissing universal background checks at 8:29.  But that was way back on March 15.

This is now (March 23, 2013):

Sen. Joe Manchin and the National Rifle Association are quietly engaged in private talks on a proposal to broaden background checks on purchasers of firearms.

That the NRA is even talking with Manchin suggests there’s at least some room for negotiation for the group — despite its public posture against tougher gun laws, several sources say.

But to the point of background checks, Mandy —  in case you’re wondering, here’s how most illegal guns are obtained.  And under whose jurisdiction would this fall?  Did you read it, Mandy?  The ATF.  Which brings us full circle.

I am absolutely pro-gun owner, Mandy.  And Canada has 7 million guns within its borders and very little gun violence.  Very little.  Like, 173 in 2009.   I have amassed a LOT of information on worldwide gun violence statistics and posted them here, Mandy, so that you can read them at your leisure.

I wonder if the NRA has chapters at the local level.  Can you answer that for me, Mandy?  What is the dialogue there?

A majority of Americans — including gun-owning Americans and National Rifle Association (NRA) members — back sensible gun regulation. In fact, new research released in July by Republican pollster Frank Luntz for Mayors against Illegal Guns, finds that gun advocates overwhelmingly support common-sense measures typically described as “gun control.” These include:

1. Requiring criminal background checks on gun owners and gun shop employees. 82 percent of all gun owners and 74 percent of NRA gun owners support the former, and 80 percent and 79 percent, respectively, endorse the latter.

2. Prohibiting terrorist watch list members from acquiring guns. Support ranges from 80 percent among non-NRA gun-owners to 71 percent among NRA members.

3. Mandating that gun-owners tell the police when their gun is stolen. 71 percent non-NRA gun-owners support this measure, as do 64 percent of NRA members.

4. Concealed carry permits should only be restricted to individuals who have completed a safety training course and are 21 and older. 84 percent of non-NRA and 74 percent of NRA member gun-owners support the safety training restriction, and the numbers are 74 percent and 63 percent for the age restriction.

5.Concealed carry permits shouldn’t be given to perpetrators of violent misdemeanors or individuals arrested for domestic violence. The NRA/non-NRA gun-owner split on these issues is 81 percent and 75 percent in favor of the violent misdemeanors provision and 78 percent/68 percent in favor of the domestic violence restriction.

The poll, which sampled 945 gun owners around the country and had a margin of error of +/- 3, also found broad support gun-owners for the principle that “support for 2nd Amendment rights goes hand-in-hand with keeping illegal guns out of the hands of criminals.” In fact, more NRA members (87 percent) supported the statement than non-NRA members (83 percent).

In the aftermath of the tragedy, gun safety advocates have called for Congress to vote on banning assault weapons and high capacity clips, closing terrorism loopholes, and requiring background checks for all gun sales. Yet the NRA has yet to issue a public statement about the elementary school shooting. One wonders if will listen to the views of its supporters, or continue to represent the business interests of gun manufacturers, once it does.  Source.

In observing all of the rhetoric and fear-mongering, I have become decidedly anti-NRA, at least at the national level and where their leadership is concerned.  I’ve been given no reason not to be, frankly.

Until their leadership can step forward not with swagger and hubris but with a real compassion for the tens of thousands of real lives lost each year, not to mention those 20 sweet children in Newtown taken from this life far too early, well, I will not listen to them or anyone that defends them.  What if they were your children, Mandy?

For I had asked [David Keene] whether he or the NRA regretted its first responses to the mass murder of children by a killer with an assault weapon at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

The answer was “no.” — Howard Fineman

And today,  we learn that the NRA has outright lied to us about Nancy and Adam Lanza’s membership in their organization.

What the NRA doesn’t seem to understand is that the Newtown children were our children.  As was Adam Lanza.  And all the kids at Columbine.  And everyone in that theater in Aurora.  It takes a village — and the village failed them.

So leaving things as they are, and letting the NRA conduct business as usual is no longer acceptable.

Walk in peace, Mandy.


exit wound

exit wound:
Forensic pathology:  The “goodbye” lesion that a bullet or other projectile causes when leaving the body;  EWs are often larger than the entrance wound, due to tumbling and deformation of the bullet.

From The Medical Dictionary

Growing up in the south, everyone’s father had a gun — weapons were always around but generally took the form of  mysterious closets we kids weren’t allowed in. In college, I dated a hunter and his family took very seriously their responsibility for life and safety, and I think of them often  when discussing responsible gun legislation proposed by President Obama and Senate leaders with friends and strangers and their influence on me is probably most of the basis for the respectful tone I keep when disagreeing.  But violence and the potential for gun-related violence or accidents have followed me throughout my life.


When I was about nine or ten, my best friend’s stepdad awoke in the middle of the night to hear an intruder moving about the house.  In the dark, he reached for his handgun and took aim toward the noise in the hallway.  His wife appeared then, in front of him, a glass of water in her hand — terrified to come face to face with her husband pointing a gun at her.  Luckily, he had the presence of mind to relax his grip and put the gun down.  All of us kids talked about it the next day.  By breakfast, the mother had moved beyond upset and scared and was furious with her husband.


A few years later when I was a teenager, my father decided he wanted a divorce. When my mother couldn’t imagine a life without him and was uncooperative, he reached for his gun and over the course of a weekend held her captive.  He did all sorts of unspeakable things to her, keeping a gun to her head the entire time, until he finally, on the third day, fell asleep.  She escaped to a friend’s house and on Monday found an apartment and filed a police report.


My uncle, a well-loved and talented musician and music teacher, would drive home late at night across Raleigh from restaurant and club gigs he played with his band.  He would often stop at a convenient store late for something to eat.  One summer night in the 80’s, he unknowingly entered a store during an armed robbery.  The thief had managed to come around behind my uncle and was about to make his escape when he called from behind, with a hand on the door, “Don’t turn around.”  Reflexively, Jerry turned to see who had spoken to him.  He was shot and killed immediately.  He left behind a beautiful wife and daughter who still miss him terribly to this day.


“Before I tell you how the NRA and our members are going to Stand And Fight politically and in the courts, let’s acknowledge that all over this country, tens of millions of Americans are already preparing to Stand And Fight to protect their families and homes.

These good Americans are prudently getting ready to protect themselves.”  — Wayne LaPierre, Stand and Fight

From the day of the shooting til today, this is the first detailed account of Newtown that I have found at a time and place I was able to bring myself to read:

Lanza shot his way into the school through the glass windows at the front entrance and turned left toward the first-grade classrooms. He almost immediately encountered Principal Dawn Hochsprung and school psychologist Mary Scherlach, who ran into the hallway from a meeting room, which would have been on Lanza’s right. He shot them both to death immediately.

Sources said that the two teachers who were injured were hit by ricochet bullets from that initial burst of gunfire.   [ … ]

Lanza first skipped Victoria Soto’s room and entered the classroom taught by substitute teacher Lauren Rousseau.

Lanza killed all but one student in Rousseau’s class, where the children were massed together in a back corner of the room trying to get into a bathroom. One girl escaped because she played dead and ran out of the room after Lanza left.

Lanza then backtracked to Soto’s room.  —  As reported at courant.com

What do our children think of all of this?  The terrible event itself, the impassioned mothers making phone calls, the neighbors arguing when they never have before, and far away in Washington, on the floor of a large room, someone else decides. 

The day has arrived in America when it is all too easy to obtain a weapon of mass destruction, as easy to pick up as a dozen eggs and gallon of milk, not quite as difficult as Sudafed —

“It’s not a very practical thing to do and you’ll have a lot of inconvenience to law-abiding citizens at the same time you’re not going to keep many weapons out of the hands of people who are misusing them,” said Bob Goodlatte, House Judiciary Chair, on requiring background checks for all gun sales.

… and pro-gun interest groups have twitchy trigger fingers.  In the days before the Senate began its debate, the rhetoric was ratcheting up to a level of extreme irresponsibility.  And from the top of the NRA and all the way down.

“It’s going to be a very rough and very ugly battle.  Fortunately, our enemy doesn’t have any guns and they don’t know how to use them.”  NRA President David Keene on new federal and state gun regulations. 

Sources said that Lanza’s shooting spree lasted less than five minutes and that he fired 152 bullets while making his way through two classrooms in the elementary school. — courant.com

“We have so much to be proud of as gun owners, shooters and freedom lovers. That pride, especially when it’s not hidden in the closet, is itself a form of protection for the Second Amendment.

We will not surrender. We will not appease. We will buy more guns than ever. We will use them for sport and lawful self-defense more than ever. We will grow the NRA more than ever. And we will be prouder than ever to be freedom-loving NRA patriots. And with your help, we will ensure that the Second Amendment remains America’s First Freedom. “– Wayne LaPierre, Stand and Fight

vince March 3, 2013 at 9:56 pm
“See that is exactly the point Eugene, the right to bear arms is a god given right OUR govt has neither the right nor the authority to deny us that right. They have already infringed upon our god given to bear arms. A Thompson sub machine gun is a fire arm and i should be allowed to own it without the BATF’s permission. So is an F-16, and Abrams tank, if i should be inclined and able to afford it i should be able to own any weapon the United States Military operates!! Predator drones, B-52′s whatever. I should be able to arm myself with any weapon i want!!”  — Comment on a pro-gun board from this article


With gun safety measures headed to the Senate floor, members of the House and Senate appropriations committees have quietly made permanent four formerly temporary gun-rights provisions largely favored by Republicans. Those provisions are part of a spending bill that would keep the government running through Sept. 30.  — The New York Times, March 13, 2013        


None of this is acceptable.  There is no God-given right to own a gun or threaten another human life.  There is a Constitutional-given right in the form of the 2nd Amendment and it gets warped and twisted badly, mostly by those who stand to profit greatly from more gun sales and loosened restrictions, and repeated often in slogans and talking points by those whose fear of some unknown, and primarily fictional “bad guy,” who was created in the minds of men much like the fairy tales we were all raised on.

I know from my own history that often it is a good guy with a gun that later becomes an impassioned, irrational, frustrated, angry bad guy.

I will protect anyone’s right to own a weapon but in fact no one needs weapons of mass destruction that too many times now has found their way into the hands of troubled youth.  Until we do a better job of taking care of our mentally ill, we must make it harder to obtain these weapons.  (Owning a weapon should be regarded as a serious responsibility again. I actually watched an NRA YouTube video interview with N.H. gun store owner Keith Cox refer to them as “toys for adults” here.)  I support the assault weapons ban, universal background checks, stricter penalties for illegal gun sales, mandatory liability insurance for gun owners, and increased spending for our mentally ill.

Though I haven’t seen any photographs, I cannot shake the image — indeed, my mind can see it more clearly than if you’d shown me a photograph —  a child with his hand and jaw blown off.  The hand presumably raised to protect himself.  To protect himself.   … He had seen and he knew.

For a six-year-old to possess that horrible knowledge, even for an instant, was and is a lot to bear.   There are small moments of victory and many moments of discouraging or frightening news.  But as Martin Luther King, Jr. said — there comes a point when silence becomes permission.

Newtown was the point of entry.  The exit wound — the goodbye lesion — was left on the nation.  Goodbye to silent witness.

I am a good American, too, Mr. LaPierre.