CATEGORY: Sports

It’s time baseball players were allowed to carry guns on the field

CATEGORY: SportsYesterday, the second best pitcher on the LA Dodgers, Zack Greinke, had his collarbone broken by an out-of-control Carlos Quentin.

If Greinke had only had a right to carry a gun in the workplace, this all could have been avoided. He was denied that right because of an aggressive anti-Second Amendment stance by Major League Baseball.

Zack Greinke, who is white, is an outstanding pitcher and former all-star, having won the Cy Young in 2009 and this year having signed a six year contract worth $147 million with the Dodgers. (That’s about $5,000 per pitch.) Mr. Quentin, who makes roughly 1/3 of what Mr. Greinke makes and is of Hispanic descent, has a habit of stepping in front of pitches. In this case, after being hit he charged the mound and viciously slammed into Greinke, breaking his non-throwing shoulder. Both dugouts immediately emptied. Greinke is out for at least eight weeks, although there is no timetable on how long it will take him to fully recover, if ever. This represents a loss of roughly $5 million dollars for the Dodgers and two to three wins.

If Greinke had been armed with a handgun, even a small one, this likely would not have happened. He was not, even though everyone else in Dodger Stadium probably was, because of an antiquated and unreasonable ban on such weapons by MLB.

Guns have proven to be a useful deterrent to violence in other sports. In the NBA, when Gilbert Arenas of the Washington Wizards (formerly the Bullets) refused to pay a gambling debt and pulled four guns on fellow player Javaris Crittenton, Crittenton was able to defuse the situation by pulling a gun of his own from his locker. However, the NBA, like MLB, has an aggressive anti-gun stance and suspended Crittenton, later releasing him. He continues to be hounded even today, as he was arrested last week by the FBI and charged with 12 counts, including murder, stemming from a pre-emptive self-defense situation in Atlanta. Mr. Crittenton attended Georgia Tech and is a member of numerous charitable and social organizations, including the Crips.

It’s time for professional sports to join the 21st century. There’s ample proof that guns prevent crime and guns in the workplace save lives. It’s time to give professional baseball players the same rights as policemen, airline pilots and kindergarten teachers.

CATEGORY: Guns

New NRA enemies list provides great ideas for people and companies to support

CATEGORY: GunsI am not anti-gun. I am, however, anti-NRA, which isn’t pro-gun so much as it is the advocacy wing of the arms dealer industry.

Anyway, the organization has now released a compilation of National Organizations With Anti-Gun Policies (aka an enemies list). In their words:

The following organizations have lent monetary, grassroots or some other type of direct support to anti-gun organizations. In many instances, these organizations lent their name in support of specific campaigns to pass anti-gun legislation such as the March 1995 HCI “Campaign to Protect Sane Gun Laws.” Many of these organizations were listed as “Campaign Partners,” for having pledged to fight any efforts to repeal the Brady Act and the Clinton “assault weapons” ban. All have officially endorsed anti-gun positions.

The roundup also targets “Anti-Gun Individuals & Celebrities,” “national figures,” “journalists [who] actively editorialize in favor of gun control laws,” “Anti-Gun Corporations/Corporate Heads” and “Publication and Media Outlets.” When you dig into the specifics of whom the NRA regards as a menace to a free society, things get really entertaining. Here are just a few.

  • A & M Records
  • AARP
  • American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing
  • American Multi Cinemas Entertainment, Inc.
  • Amitai Etzioni – Teacher
  • Anne Rice – Writer
  • Barry Manilow – Singer
  • Ben & Jerry`s Homemade, Inc.
  • Billy Crystal- Actor
  • Bishop Edmond Browning – Espiscopal Leader
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield – Kansas City
  • Bob Barker – TV Personality
  • Boys II Men – Pop Group
  • Capital Cities/ABC
  • Carrie Fisher – Actress
  • Catherine Zeta-Jones – Actress
  • CBS Television Network
  • Chaka Khan – Singer
  • Children`s Defense Fund
  • Christie Brinkley – Model
  • Congress of National Black Churches, Inc.
  • Cox Newspapers
  • Crown Central Petroleum Corp.
  • Doug Flutie – NFL player
  • Drew Barrymore – Actress
  • E.J. Dionne Jr. – Columnist
  • Earthgrains – St. Louis
  • Ebony Magazine
  • Episcopal Church-Washington Office
  • Frank Rich – Columnist
  • Gannett News Service
  • George Clooney – Actor
  • Gloria Estefan – Singer
  • Gray Panthers
  • Hallmark Cards
  • Henry Winkler – Actor
  • Interfaith Neighbors
  • Jack Nicholson – Actor
  • Jerry Seinfeld – Actor
  • Jon Bon Jovi – Singer
  • Kansas City Chiefs
  • Kansas City Royals
  • Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds – Singer
  • Kenneth Cole
  • Kevin Costner – Actor
  • Keyshawn Johnson – NFL player
  • Kim Cattrall- Actress
  • Knight-Ridder Newspapers
  • Lauren Bacall – Actress*
  • League of Women Voters of the United States*
  • Leonard Nimoy – Actor
  • Levi Strauss & Co.
  • Los Angeles Times
  • Louis Anderson – Comedian
  • Madonna – Singer
  • Mandy Patinkin – Actor
  • Maya Angelou – Poet
  • McCall`s Magazine
  • Mel Brooks – Actor/Director
  • Miami Herald
  • Michael Eisner, Former Chairman and CEO The Walt Disney Company
  • Mike Luckovich – Cartoonist
  • Mike Peters – Cartoonist
  • Missy Elliott – Singer
  • Motorcycle Cruiser Magazine
  • National Association of Police Organizations
  • National Black Nurses` Association
  • National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
  • NBC Television Network
  • Peter Yarrow – Singer
  • Richard Parsons – Pres. Time Warner
  • Robert Reno – Columnist
  • Rolling Stone Magazine
  • Russell Simmons – Record Producer
  • Sally Field – Actress
  • Sara Lee Corporation
  • Sarah Jessica Parker – Actress
  • Sean Connery – Actor
  • Shania Twain – Singer
  • Sheryl Crow – Singer
  • Sigourney Weaver – Actress
  • Spike Lee – Director
  • Sprint Corp PAC
  • St. Louis Rams
  • Steve Buscemi – Actor
  • Stoneyfield Farms Yogurt
  • Susan Sarandon – Actress
  • The Christian Science Monitor
  • The New York Times Corporation
  • The Temptations – Pop Group
  • The Tribune Company
  • Tim Toles – Cartoonist
  • Time Magazine
  • Time Warner Inc.
  • Tom Freston – MTV President
  • Tom Oliphant- Columnist
  • Tony Bennett – Singer
  • United Church of Christ, Office for Church in Society*
  • United Methodist Church, General Board & Church Society
  • United States Catholic Conference
  • Washington Post
  • YWCA of the U.S.A.

Maya Angelou? Jon Bon Jovi? The St. Louis Rams? Hallmark? Inigo Freakin’ Montoya?

[sigh] I guess the most disappointing thing about this list, though, is that I’m not on it. Time for a belated New Year’s resolution.

In the meantime, not a bad collection of people and organizations to support, huh?

Thx to Cat White for the idea…

After protest, NRA advocates for speech control

by Christopher Griesedieck

(WASHINGTON, DC) “In the wake of this great national tragedy, the National Rifle Association mourns with the victims,” announced NRA President Buck Donalds at a press conference today following yet another massive protest in favor of tougher legislation on firearms.

“We certainly want the community to have space and time to mourn, and are sympathetic to calls to avoid ‘politicizing the issue’ too soon. However, the NRA feels that now is the time for action. Now is the time for conversation about serious speech control legislation to curtail irresponsible use of these oral weapons that can only serve to harm the gun-owners of America.”

Donalds noted that the Supreme Court, while it has long recognized Congress’ ability to restrict 1st Amendment speech rights with regards to time, place, and manner, has generally banned speech controls based on subject matter or content.

“It is time for the President of the United States to stand up, and close the gaping ‘subject matter’ loophole that subjects millions of gun-owners to violence every day in this country. Well, metaphorical violence.”

Donalds expressed frustration that neither candidate in the recent presidential election indicated any will to stop the rampant speech culture that threatens America’s firearms enthusiasts. He went on to address Constitutional concerns of speech advocates.

“We are fully cognizant of the Constitution’s general protection of the right to arm oneself with words in order to protect against tyranny, but our country’s founders could never have foreseen the prevalence of vitriolic anti-gun speech that we have today.

“When protesters this week pronounced that, both in the United States and across high-income nations, gun availability increases the risk of homicide, or that guns are used far more often to intimidate than in self-defense…I mean, what more evidence do you need that things have gotten out of hand?”

Donalds concluded his remarks by announcing that a free handgun was underneath the seats of everyone present at the meeting.

Please note: the foregoing passage was satirical, and not in any sense a real news report. If you did not catch that, please pause and reflect on the many ways in which you have let yourself down.

_____

Chris Griesedieck is currently in his first year at the Georgetown University Law Center. He graduated from Boston College in 2011.

sandyhook

Deconstructing the NRA response to Sandy Hook

Every good recipe for deception begins with an ounce of truth.

Whoever is managing the current public relations crisis facing the National Rifle Association clearly understands this fundamental principle. In the days since the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, the NRA has offered a textbook execution of the crisis communication playbook, employing everything from ducking out of sight for a few days to clever messaging strategy to an attempt to throttle the public profile of media coverage through timing tactics that are as cynical as they are traditional. My former colleague Patrick Veccio, who spent a lot of years in the newsroom watching how PR firms attempted to play the press, explains that last part:

Public relations professionals, press agents and political spokespersons try to avoid announcing bad news until late afternoon Fridays. They hope the bad news will be less apt to get attention or generate discussion over the weekend. They hope by Monday, the story will be running out of legs because the weekend has defused it.

After a week of silence, LaPierre and the NRA knew they had to say something before gun control advocates took ownership of the discussion about preventing another Sandy Hook slaughter. No matter when the NRA brass crawled out of their spider hole, they were going to have to face the blinding media light.

Obviously, the “quiet until late Friday” trick was doomed. The delay in answering questions until Monday, though, is a deliberate move. Monday is Christmas Eve. Tuesday is Christmas. LaPierre and Keene hope the weekend and the holidays will give them time to regroup and mitigate the damage from LaPierre’s ranting.

The NRA obviously hoped that by the time America surfaced from its extended holiday food- and gift-fest the edge would be off its outrage over Sandy Hook. They also probably hoped you didn’t notice the Christmas Eve ambush of a suburban NY firefighting crew at all.

A gunman ambushed firefighters responding to a house fire in the Rochester suburb of Webster, N.Y., early Monday, killing two firemen and injuring two others.

The shooter was later found dead of gunshot wounds near the scene, according to Webster Police Chief Gerald Pickering.

Pickering, choking up frequently as he spoke to reporters, said all four firefighters who responded to the call at 5:35 a.m. ET came under fire when they drove up.

The dead are Lt. Mike Chiapperini, 43, a volunteer firefighter and the Webster Police Department’s public information officer, and Tomasz Kaczowka.

“It is a very difficult situation,” Pickering said, his voice quavering.

“People get up in the middle of the night to fight fires,” he said. “They don’t expect to be shot and killed.”

It isn’t yet clear how successful the NRA strategy has been or will be. For sure, they find themselves in the crosshairs of mainstream media coverage of the Sandy Hook aftermath and they’ve taken a serious whipping in the online/social media world.

Twitter’s reaction to Friday’s press conference was swift and almost universally negative. A search for the #NRA hashtag yielded thousands of tweets criticizing LaPierre for his proposals for a database of people with mental illness and to put armed guards in schools.

Though a handful of NRA supporters and conservatives using the #tcot hashtag offered completely positive comments, others criticized the organization.

“This press conference [is the] best Christmas present the White House and the Democrats could get!” wrote Twitterer R. Saddler.

Many who tweeted about the conference remarked about the surreal atmosphere of the press conference itself, in which two protesters shouted at LaPierre and were quickly escorted out. Syndicated columnist Tina Dupay called it a perfect example of a “tone deaf” press conference, and Matt Seaton of The Guardian said it should make year-end lists as the worst speech of 2012.

Twitterer Tom Sauer perhaps put it most succinctly:

“Well that was a train wreck.”

It probably seems obvious to say that whatever the nation and its elected leaders decide to do or not do about firearms, that decision should be a result of thoughtful, informed consideration of the issue, not the efficacy of the NRA’s spin job. Still, we live in a media-driven culture with a frightfully brief attention span. Our ability to lose focus, especially in the presence of artful misdirection, isn’t to be underestimated. It’s therefore important for us to cast as much light as possible on said misdirection.

On December 20, Michael Sebastien at PR Daily published their Top 10 PR disasters of 2012. He probably wishes he’d held fire for a few days. While the Komen affair, Romney’s 47% gaffe, Todd Akin, Lance Armstrong and Chik-Fil-A kept industry observers marveling at just how much foot one mouth will hold, the NRA’s performance since Sandy Hook would certainly rank them in the top three if we were compiling the list today.

That said, this rumble has barely begun and in the final analysis, Wayne LaPierre’s abject cluelessness may wind up not mattering in the least.

Rohit Bhargava does a wonderful job of explaining how the NRA made use of the three biggest PR crisis response tricks in the book.

NRA MESSAGE #1 – GUNS ARE NOT THE PROBLEM – UNSAFE AND UNPROTECTED SCHOOLS ARE THE PROBLEM.
Strategy: Elevate the issue. If the issue being debated is easy access to deadly weapons, then the NRA will lose. If the issue, instead, becomes that our schools are not safe enough … then the NRA has a chance. So we saw over and over again throughout the press conference that NRA CEO Wayne Lapierre talked about the ways that our schools aren’t safe enough, and called on the government to spend whatever would be necessary to better protect schools.

NRA MESSAGE #2 – THE ONLY DEFENSE AGAINST A BAD GUY WITH A GUN IS A GOOD GUY WITH A GUN.
Strategy: Play offense instead of defense. When it comes to defending anyone’s right to have guns, the NRA would have a difficult argument because anyone can point to mentally unstable people like the shooter* as reasons for why gun access should not be so free. Instead, the NRA laid out plans to introduce a comprehensive “school shield program” led by independent experts. Introducing such a program lets the NRA flip the issue to go on the offense to solve what they have already positioned as the biggest issue – school safety.

NRA MESSAGE #3 – OUR CULTURE OF VIOLENCE IS REALLY TO BLAME FOR MASS SHOOTINGS.
Strategy: Change the bad guy. A topic that has not been getting nearly enough attention is how violent video games and “blood soaked films” are creating a desensitized culture of violence. The last mass shooting was at the opening of a very violent Batman film. In his short talk, Lapierre called this a “race to the bottom” and likened it to pornography. Add to that the media’s coverage of the shooter and how they have turned him into something of a celebrity, and the argument that the real bad guy is media and entertainment (and not guns) is complete.

As I said above, textbook. But closer analysis reveals that these techniques were merely the tip of the iceberg. Behind the scenes there’s somebody who’s as deft with messaging as LaPierre is ham-fisted and alienating at the podium. Deft and borderline sociopathic.

Let me repeat what I said at the outset: Every good recipe for deception begins with an ounce of truth. When we speak truthfully, when we connect the words coming out of our mouths with the reality of the world as the audience perceives it, we establish common ground. We sow credibility. We demonstrate that we’re acquainted with the facts. Saying something overtly true greases the skids for whatever we say next.

LaPierre’s speech, for all its flaws, is a master class in using truth or shared values as a jumping off point for statements that range from deflective to outright dishonesty. I want to walk through some of the key passages, highlighting misdirections and deceptions as I go, and paying special attention to the places where fact goes in service of a lie.

The tone is established in the third paragraph:

How do we protect our children right now, starting today, in a way that we know works?

All we care about is children, he asserts, and he sets up what is to come as being solely concerned with efficacy and efficacy.

How have our nation’s priorities gotten so far out of order? Think about it. We care about our money, so we protect our banks with armed guards. American airports, office buildings, power plants, courthouses — even sports stadiums — are all protected by armed security.

We care about the President, so we protect him with armed Secret Service agents. Members of Congress work in offices surrounded by armed Capitol Police officers.

Yet when it comes to the most beloved, innocent and vulnerable members of the American family — our children — we as a society leave them utterly defenseless, and the monsters and predators of this world know it and exploit it. That must change now!

This is clever. A lot of us think our priorities are out of order (although we might disagree vehemently about the specifics). We do care about money. We do protect these other venues with armed security. We do keep the president under heavy guard. And we do love children. So what’s to argue with?

In what is perhaps this performance’s finest moment, a subtle linkage is established between caring and guns. If you care about something, you protect it. And best way of protecting is to surround it with guns. We have a blatantly emotional appeal masquerading as pure reason, and if you weren’t paying attention LaPierre might, at this juncture, be sounding pretty reasonable.

The truth is that our society is populated by an unknown number of genuine monsters — people so deranged, so evil, so possessed by voices and driven by demons that no sane person can possibly ever comprehend them. They walk among us every day. And does anybody really believe that the next Adam Lanza isn’t planning his attack on a school he’s already identified at this very moment?

How many more copycats are waiting in the wings for their moment of fame — from a national media machine that rewards them with the wall-to-wall attention and sense of identity that they crave — while provoking others to try to make their mark?

A dozen more killers? A hundred? More? How can we possibly even guess how many, given our nation’s refusal to create an active national database of the mentally ill?

It’s true – we don’t know how many. And there is every reason, given our history, to assume that there are madmen out there doing precisely what he says. But we would know if we’d … wait, if we’d do what?! There’s so much wrong with the national database idea it’s hard to know where to start, but here are three things to think about:

  • Any number of past perpetrators have been in the system and it hasn’t stopped them in the end. Heck, the guy who killed those firefighters in Rochester had been in prison.
  • Right now, people with mental issues are encouraged to seek help and they know they can do so with the assurance of confidentiality, which is certainly important if you ever hope to have another job. So once you realize that something as simple as seeking relief from depression might ruin your life for good, what are the chances that you take that risk?
  • Finally, LaPierre’s suggestion works fine unless you recall that the 2nd Amendment isn’t the only thing in the Bill of Rights. His idea represents such a radical breach of individual liberty it’s hard to imagine what Constitution he thinks might be left to defend.

Next we get this:

Meanwhile, federal gun prosecutions have decreased by 40% — to the lowest levels in a decade.

Assuming this is accurate, what am I being asked to conclude? That the Feds don’t want to stamp out gun violence? Or are there other reasons? Like enforcement has had an effect and there are fewer guns out there? That what has been rounded up represents the low-hanging fruit? That more resources are now required? That the NRA has done all it can to hamstring the authorities at every turn? Good questions. I’d like to know more, but LaPierre wants me to draw a misdirected conclusion and move on. In cases like this, it’s usually safe to assume that what you aren’t being told works against whomever is talking, because if they could tell you more, they would.

So now, due to a declining willingness to prosecute dangerous criminals, violent crime is increasing again for the first time in 19 years! Add another hurricane, terrorist attack or some other natural or man-made disaster, and you’ve got a recipe for a national nightmare of violence and victimization.

Violent crime is increasing? I know you want me to buy that this is about a “refusal to prosecute,” but by “violent crime” are you referring to crime committed with guns?

Through vicious, violent video games with names like Bulletstorm, Grand Theft Auto, Mortal Kombat and Splatterhouse. And here’s one: it’s called Kindergarten Killers. It’s been online for 10 years. How come my research department could find it and all of yours either couldn’t or didn’t want anyone to know you had found it? Then there’s the blood-soaked slasher films like “American Psycho” and “Natural Born Killers” that are aired like propaganda loops on “Splatterdays” and every day, and a thousand music videos that portray life as a joke and murder as a way of life. And then they have the nerve to call it “entertainment.”

And:

In a race to the bottom, media conglomerates compete with one another to shock, violate and offend every standard of civilized society by bringing an ever-more-toxic mix of reckless behavior and criminal cruelty into our homes — every minute of every day of every month of every year.

A child growing up in America witnesses 16,000 murders and 200,000 acts of violence by the time he or she reaches the ripe old age of 18. And throughout it all, too many in our national media … their corporate owners … and their stockholders … act as silent enablers, if not complicit co-conspirators. Rather than face their own moral failings, the media demonize lawful gun owners, amplify their cries for more laws and fill the national debate with misinformation and dishonest thinking that only delay meaningful action and all but guarantee that the next atrocity is only a news cycle away.

Very true. No doubt. Anybody with a critical bone in his or her body is sympathetic to the idea that we’re overrun with violence in this society. I’m even willing to accept, for a moment, the idea that this is all desensitizing. So, the problem is games and media, right? Well, they have the same games and media in other countries, countries with gun violence rates that are a fraction of ours. What’s the key variable, then?

The goal in this whole sequence is simple and it leverages one of the most powerful instincts in the American mind: either/or. It’s black or white. You can’t have it both ways. You’re with us or against us. The problem is that it simply isn’t true. Sometimes – most times, really – effects do not stem from a single cause, they result from a complex melange of factors. Is it possible that our rash of high-profile gun violence is due, in some measure, to other mediated factors like violent movies and games? Certainly. Would cleaning up those industries help reduce violence? Maybe. But let’s be clear: none of that diminishes the roll played by the wide availability of firearms. It’s not either/or, it’s both/and.

The media call semi-automatic firearms “machine guns” — they claim these civilian semi-automatic firearms are used by the military, and they tell us that the .223 round is one of the most powerful rifle calibers … when all of these claims are factually untrue. They don’t know what they’re talking about!

Which can only mean that a .223 caliber round isn’t sufficient to kill an unarmored child or teacher, right?

The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Would you rather have your 911 call bring a good guy with a gun from a mile away … or a minute away?

Beautiful false dichotomy here. It asks me to assume that the bad guy has a gun (which is certainly a safe assumption in a world where the NRA is allowed to buy and bully its way to such overwhelming legislative influence, I guess). Now, would you rather be able to defend yourself or not? Well, sure, if I buy your assumption. The problem is that I don’t. The real dichotomy is this: which would you rather face: a bad guy with a gun or a bad guy without a gun?

As for the second part of the equation, are you suggesting that the alternative to addressing our gun problem is a police station within a minute of every home? You understand what is meant by the term “police state,” right?

You know, five years ago, after the Virginia Tech tragedy, when I said we should put armed security in every school, the media called me crazy. But what if, when Adam Lanza started shooting his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School last Friday, he had been confronted by qualified, armed security?

You mean like the armed security guard at Columbine? Also, Virginia Tech had a well-armed police force – are you saying we need armed police in every classroom now?

Is the press and political class here in Washington so consumed by fear and hatred of the NRA and America’s gun owners that you’re willing to accept a world where real resistance to evil monsters is a lone, unarmed school principal left to surrender her life to shield the children in her care? No one — regardless of personal political prejudice — has the right to impose that sacrifice.

There’s so much manipulative misdirection in this little paragraph that’s it’s almost hard to untangle. First, misdirection: those kids were killed by the press and political class in Washington, certainly easy enough targets. Battle between good guns and evil monsters. And if you don’t agree with me, you’re imposing sacrifice on the innocent. My professional compliments to the sociopath who wrote this.

But do know this President zeroed out school emergency planning grants in last year’s budget, and scrapped “Secure Our Schools” policing grants in next year’s budget.

Of course, legislators vote on budgets. I wonder what would happen if I tabbed how Congressional reps voted on these items and then cross-referenced those results with their NRA ratings? Hmmm.

Now, the National Rifle Association knows that there are millions of qualified active and retired police; active, reserve and retired military; security professionals; certified firefighters and rescue personnel; and an extraordinary corps of patriotic, trained qualified citizens to join with local school officials and police in devising a protection plan for every school. We can deploy them to protect our kids now. We can immediately make America’s schools safer — relying on the brave men and women of America’s police force.

Part true, part problematic. Not only an unsubstantiated emotional appeal to our reverence for police, military, firefighters and other “patriotic” and brave citizens (because if you disagree, you aren’t a patriot), but also the invocation of one of the NRA’s favorite words: “trained.” They can’t say hello without helping you understand that a gun is perfectly safe in the hands of a trained citizen (they use some form of the word ten times in this speech alone). There’s no arguing that training is good, of course. Then again, a few months back some highly trained police officers opened fire on a suspect outside the Empire State Building. When the smoke cleared, nine civilians had been hit – all by police fire. LaPierre wants you to believe that a police officer at Sandy Hook would have meant no dead children. Possibly. Or possibly many more.

Our training programs are the most advanced in the world. That expertise must be brought to bear to protect our schools and our children now. We did it for the nation’s defense industries and military installations during World War II, and we’ll do it for our schools today.

LaPierre is now so far over the top that it’s almost impossible not to snark. That armed guard in Mrs. Snodgrass’s class is going to save the day when the Japanese bomb Pleasant Grove Junior High.

If we truly cherish our kids more than our money or our celebrities, we must give them the greatest level of protection possible and the security that is only available with a properly trained — armed — good guy.

“Cherish our children more than our celebrities”? Wait – did I miss where there’s an armed guard on every movie set? Also, again – guns = good guys.

There’ll be time for talk and debate later. This is the time, this is the day for decisive action.

We can’t wait for the next unspeakable crime to happen before we act. We can’t lose precious time debating legislation that won’t work. We mustn’t allow politics or personal prejudice to divide us. We must act now.

First, we establish that debate is bad. So when Congress takes up gun reform, you’ll know. There is an element of truth to the idea that one doesn’t stand around hemming and hawing in the face of a clear and present danger, and he hopes to insinuate that assumption into your thinking. Second, we must act now! He’s trying to turn the urgency around and, as Bhargava explains above, go on the attack. Bad guys are coming right now and every second we refuse to put more guns out there we risk our children, whom we love almost as much as we do Cameron Diaz. I do wonder, though. Several days elapsed between the sandy Hook killings and this press conference. If every second is that critical, why did they wait, in the process risking the lives of countless innocent citizens?

So, how effective was the NRA’s response? Too soon to tell. On the one hand, we just witnessed an absolute case study in how to manage crisis. Whoever crafted the strategy knows his/her stuff, and as my analysis of the LaPierre speech suggests, is willing to pull every switch on the control panel in pursuit of a goal. Whoever is behind this is either a true believer or as malignant a prostitute as the PR industry has ever spawned.

On the other hand, the speech overreached significantly in places, and in doing so threatened to descend into self-parody. Put another way, our evil genius needs to lay off the mustard. Also working against them was LaPierre himself, a walking, talking caricature of a bright-eyed fanatic. It’s bad enough that he simply doesn’t seem to be able to comprehend why people would see guns as part of the problem. What’s worse are his performative skills – anytime you’re in an organizational crisis and you have to put a buffoon up in front of the cameras, you’re in deep trouble no matter how brilliant the script.

In the end, the NRA has been hit, but the extent of the wound remains to be seen. Recent events have been, in some respects, a dog and pony show. Ultimately, my opinion doesn’t matter, nor does yours. The ones that matter are those of our legislators, and they get a good bit of money from pro-gun interests. There are a thousand ways for Congress to put on a concerned face and look very intent about getting something done, only to emerge later, fingers pointing in all directions, bemoaning that as hard as they tried, this was the best they could do. The best, of course, then becomes one more ineffectual, “compromised” gun law that the NRA can one day point to, saying “see, gun laws don’t work.” It’s quite the entertaining bit of kabuki when you think about it.

If you’re hoping to see meaningful action taken, you do have one important thing on your side: As much as they hate it, the National Rifle Association has now become the spokesman of record for mass murder in America. If you need proof, this very press conference was it. Madman kills a bunch of children and teachers. NRA forced to call a press conference defending itself.

Sandy Hook may or may not prove to be the tipping point (my money says not), but when you work in PR you accept that sometimes there’s not much you can do. The architect of last week’s response did about all that could have been hoped for, but when push came to shove, was simply outgunned.

The NRA is on the ropes

by Patrick Vecchio

The cynicism of Wayne LaPierre’s press conference Friday becomes clearer every day. LaPierre, the National Rifle Association’s chief executive, desperately tried an obvious media spin trick. The national media should call him out and keep hammering him. It will further show how deranged the NRA’s response to the Sandy Hook massacre is.

You’ll recall the first ground rule for the press conference was established by NRA President David Keene before he introduced LaPierre: The NRA was going to ignore reporters’ questions until Monday. The words “until Monday” are key.

Public relations professionals, press agents and political spokespersons try to avoid announcing bad news until late afternoon Fridays. They hope the bad news will be less apt to get attention or generate discussion over the weekend. They hope by Monday, the story will be running out of legs because the weekend has defused it.

After a week of silence, LaPierre and the NRA knew they had to say something before gun control advocates took ownership of the discussion about preventing another Sandy Hook slaughter. No matter when the NRA brass crawled out of their spider hole, they were going to have to face the blinding media light.

Obviously, the “quiet until late Friday” trick was doomed. The delay in answering questions until Monday, though, is a deliberate move. Monday is Christmas Eve. Tuesday is Christmas. LaPierre and Keene hope the weekend and the holidays will give them time to regroup and mitigate the damage from LaPierre’s ranting.

After LaPierre’s rant blamed anything but guns for Sandy Hook, he composed himself enough to say Congress should pay for an armed guard at every one of America’s 99,000 public schools. Such a program would cost billions of dollars a year and do next to nothing to keep schools safer. An armed guard can’t cover every point of entry to a school building. An armed guard would be a killer’s first target. Killers would bring more firepower to neutralize the guard. A dead guard would put another weapon in the killer’s hands.

If a more bizarre public policy plan surfaced in 2012, I can’t remember it.

As those points and others are being discussed by millions of people who have never discussed these points before, people have been reminded the supposedly all-powerful NRA has only 4 million members in a nation of 315 million people. A coalition of other interest groups could easily neutralize the NRA. The bumper sticker “I’m the NRA and I vote” would be countered by “I’m not the NRA, and we outnumber you.”

This, of course, assumes elected officials have the decency and courage to act in the interests of millions of constituents who are saying to do something to regulate gun ownership. But the NRA doesn’t exist for gun owners. It exists to make sure the firearms industry continues to profit from the sale of bullets and guns. Those industries funnel millions of dollars into the right politicians’ pockets to sway their votes. Are Americans ready to get together and outspend the industries? Are Americans willing to call out those politicians as spineless MRA cronies?

Sandy Hook has changed the stereotyped dynamic of the NRA vs. everyone else. There’s no way to measure this, but it’s safe to say not every NRA member marches to the beat of the demented drummer LaPierre. How many of those 4 million members are ready to say enough is enough? This number is much higher than LaPierre thinks—or perhaps he sees a substantial number of members turning away from the organization’s dogma and has no response plan in place.

It’s ironic that NRA members who line up to the political right might support a government program that would increase public spending by billions of dollars a year. Haven’t they been saying for years that “big government” is our nation’s biggest problem?

As for people who own arsenals so they can fight against government tyranny, do they really think that when the black helicopters land and the black tanks rumble through the country, a tyrant’s sheer firepower won’t crush them like bugs?

The NRA’s political power is on the ropes. Americans must move in for the knockout.

A question for NRA and LaPierre: where is that $4 billion going to come from?

by Patrick Vecchio

National Rifle Association Chief Executive Wayne LaPierre is not a gifted public speaker. At yesterday’s press conference—the NRA’s first statement after the Sandy Hook school massacre—LaPierre’s head bobbed distractingly as he read from his notes.

I mention this because in their account of LaPierre’s speech, Eric Lichtblau and John Cushman Jr. of the New York Times described LaPierre as “angry and combative” with a “defiant tone.” I wanted to see if these descriptions were true, so I stopped reading the Times, decided not to read any accounts of the speech at all, and then watched a video of the entire press conference. Instead of seeing a combative man, I saw a man for whom the word “glib” doesn’t exist. I also saw a man oblivious to the $4 billion cost of a plan he was proposing (more on that in a bit).

The first thing I noticed, though, was a man whose version of a persuasive speech was so flawed that I would expect more from an eighth-grader. Middle school students are taught (or should be taught) that compromise is an essential ingredient of a persuasive essay. You acknowledge the other side has points worth addressing: some of them very good and worth serious consideration, or even implementation; others of the “your idea sounds good, but I disagree—and here’s why.” Even bad ideas should be politely dismissed.

LaPierre delivered none of that yesterday. He blamed random mass shootings on violent video games, on bloody movies, on the bloodthirsty media—on anything but guns. In fact, he spent so much time bashing the media that it began to sound like his strategy was to hammer the “media: bad” idea so many times that it could be turned into truth through sheer repetition. He did everything but accuse reporters of buying the guns and bullets.

LaPierre’s opening act of “blame the messenger” took up seven of his speech’s 10 pages [transcript here]—a mélange of prevarication ineptly designed to distract people from the legitimate idea that maybe the availability of guns also has something to do with school shootings. He never addressed this point, which was about as predictable as the fact that the world indeed did not end today, despite Mayan prophecy. Instead, at the top of page 8, LaPierre called on Congress to “act immediately, to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every school—and to do it now, to make sure that blanket of safety is in place when our children return to school in January.”

If that idea were the Titanic, it would have sunk immediately after leaving the pier. The National Center for Education Statistics reports there were about 99,000 public schools in America in 2009-10, the last year for which the center has statistics. LaPierre is suggesting armed guards can be stationed in all of those schools in less than two weeks.

In giving a persuasive speech, the speaker should want to sound credible instead of sounding like someone whose version of reality is as credible as a plan to raise the Titanic with dental floss. LaPierre thinks armed guards can be hired in less than two weeks during the holiday season. I suggest that by Monday night, America should deploy mutant reindeer that really can fly.

As for the cost of a guard-per-school program, how much skin does the NRA expect to have in the game? LaPierre’s speech said the NRA will provide training expertise, knowledge, dedication and “resources,” which do not appear to be resources of the financial variety.

So, just for curiosity’s sake, let’s do the math to see how much an armed-guard-in-every-school program would cost. For starters, there are about 99,000 schools in America. Are all of those schools so small that one guard will be enough? Probably not, so let’s assume about 1 percent of those schools will need two guards. That brings us to an even 100,000 guards.

Now, picture yourself as a trained, proficient, law-abiding citizen (a category into which I put all but a sliver of a fraction of gun owners). How much are you going to want to earn for being singlehandedly responsible for defending 500 students: $25,000 a year? $35,000 a year? $40,000?

Using those figures, the cost for implementing LaPierre’s plan ranges from $2.5 billion to $4 billion. This is in an era of widespread aid cuts to schools—cuts that have resulted in larger class sizes, fewer teachers, fewer school nurses and counselors, and fewer resources, extracurricular activities, and programs. And now LaPierre proposes that Congress—which can’t agree on the phase of the moon—come up with $4 billion in less than two weeks. Yes, that will happen, and I will go bowling on Christmas Eve with Pippa Middleton.

As long as we’re in crazy ideas territory, let’s pretend the money can be found. Will it pay for 100,000 safety officers whose aim is true? Consider this: In late August, a shooting occurred at the Empire State Building. Two people died; nine were wounded. All nine were hit by stray police bullets, fragments of bullets, or ricochets, the New York Times reported.

One might think New York City police officers are well-trained in handling firearms, given the events of Sept. 11, 2001. Yet in a fast-moving situation on a crowded street, police officers whose lives or deaths can depend on their shooting skills managed to wound nine bystanders. Enough said.

I had hoped the Sandy Hook tragedy would prompt the NRA to reconsider its unwavering stance on firearms restrictions. Instead, LaPierre came out with a proposal so ludicrous that it’s fair to ask whether he cares at all about public safety. We waited a week for this? Armed guards in public schools?

Well then, sir, what do we do about shopping malls, movie theaters and college campuses?

Illustrations: Paul Szep

lanza

How can we sleep?

lanzaby Patrick Vecchio

I watched President Obama’s emotional remarks Friday in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. I was glad I had a box of tissues nearby. I suspect millions of us have had the same reaction.

A story line that surfaced yesterday and will linger for weeks is the inevitable question of motive. What could have prompted such evil acts? The question, though, seeks a rational answer for irrational deeds. No answer will ever be found. The same question is asked about people who commit suicide. The question goes unanswered then, too.

While we’ll never be able to point to a single instance that leads to horrific decisions like the one the gunman made yesterday, we can realistically put these instances into a broader context — mental health. People with mental health problems are among our nation’s most seriously under-served population. Take a look around the place you live and count the agencies serving people with mental illnesses. You’ll be able to count them on one hand and have fingers left over. Ask people who work there about the burgeoning need for mental health services. Ask them about financial trends; I don’t think you’ll find any of the agencies have more money at their disposal than they had five years ago. You’ll find staffing levels have dropped. In short, you’ll find fewer resources. How can mental health professionals hope to help ticking human time bombs if they don’t have the resources to find them and provide them the care they need?

The same is true of schools. How many students does each guidance counselor serve now, as opposed to five or ten years ago? There’s a hugely important related point here: Ask counselors how much of their time is spent dealing with students who are angry to a degree that is beyond comprehension for those of us who don’t see it? The home lives for many children are the exact opposite of the word “nurturing.” Taking care of these children has fallen on the school districts for the same reason that schools now serve breakfast to students — because they’re not getting it at home. Think of what this does to children’s self-esteem. As my wife, a retired elementary school principal, used to repeatedly say, “For many of our students, school is the best part of their day.”

Could mass shootings by people who are barely adults, age-wise, be averted by providing much more comprehensive mental health services in schools, by working with students steeped in anger to subdue their rage and their growing sense that their lives are valueless? I don’t think we’ll ever know. For one, continuing government funding cuts to education show just how valuable education is to our society. We should individually and collectively shame our elected officials for not fighting like alley cats to reverse this trend. We should shout at them to provide money to give our kids the care and nurturing that my generation received in school. Maybe now these things will happen. Maybe now there is cause for hope.

This is the only area where headway can be made. The National Rifle Association will once again trot out its well-worn arguments, some of which I agree with: for instance, the truth that only law-abiding citizens will comply with new government restrictions on firearms. There are, though, gun-control ideas worth discussing: for example, should people be held more accountable for crimes committed with their legally obtained weapons? Should people be held more accountable if their legally obtained but unsecured firearms are used during the commission of crimes? However, the NRA’s unwillingness to even consider whether people really need military-grade automatic weapons for self-protection or hunting signals that this organization isn’t going to come up with constructive ideas for mitigating the firearms avalanche.

And so, unless we as a nation are willing to recognize the need for a massive investment in services for people with mental health problems, slaughters like the one in Sandy Hook will emerge from the headlines with chilling frequency.

sandyhook

A brief word on “politicizing the tragedy” at Sandy Hook Elementary

sandyhookWe have heard, over the last 24 hours, all kinds of comment on the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. Predictably, much of the public response has taken the form of outrage over the broad availability of the weaponry used in these murders, to say nothing of other high-profile mass killings in places like Aurora, Colorado. And Chardon, Ohio. And Seattle. And Oak Creek, Wisconsin. And Minneapolis. And Fresno. And New York City, near the Empire State Building. And how many more?

We’ve also heard, every bit as predictably, that we shouldn’t “politicize” these tragedies. Somehow, arguing that gun policy needs to change is disrespectful to those killed as a result of our current gun policies. If those children had been killed by terrorists, though, we’d need to make martyrs of them before their bodies were cold – so that “we’ll never forget” or so at least we could “give their sacrifice meaning.”

Listen. I’m a gun owner. I have explained why, and nothing in that explanation suggests that I’m eager to hand over my weapons. I understand that this is a complex issue.

But this trope, this “politicize” meme, is utter silliness. Those who say we shouldn’t politicize the Sandy Hook tragedy are missing the point. It was, by definition, a political tragedy. The availability of guns is a political decision. It derives from laws that legislatures have passed. Lax regulations surrounding gun show purchases are a function of laws that elected politicians passed. The 2nd Amendment, whatever you may believe about its intent, was explicitly embedded, by the politicians we call “Founding Fathers,” in our nation’s most foundational political document. You might just as sensibly argue that we shouldn’t be politicizing elections.

I know we’re all tired of the corrosive effect that our politics have exerted on the society in recent years, and the deluge of campaign ads we had to endure throughout the course of this year was enough to test the patience of a saint. I know we’d all like our leaders to act in our best interests and to stop being so, well, political.

But pretending that something doesn’t exist doesn’t make it go away. When you get right down to it, there is very little about our lives that isn’t, in some respect, political. How we engage the politics of our world, our nation, our communities, is up to us. But let’s stop with the counterproductive, self-delusional denial. Let’s especially stop allowing ourselves to be manipulated by those who have a vested interest in us not “politicizing” these tragedies, because if we don’t, it buys them more time to work with their hired legislators to make sure that no more laws are passed. And that’s political, isn’t it?

What happened at Sandy Hook Elementary yesterday was the direct result of political decisions our society has made. You’re not politicizing anything when you recognize and acknowledge something that was already politicized.

Did you notice that all polling organizations are liberal?

Did you know that Fox News is a liberal news organization? Not because it’s part of the so-called liberal media, but rather because Fox is based in the liberal bastion of New York City. Following similar “logic”, DJ Drummond has labeled every single polling organization in the U.S. as liberal because they’re headquartered in liberal cities or states. Continue reading

Texas to Supreme Court on historic gun ruling: bless your little hearts

By Ann Ivins

Generally, a combination of ladylike reticence and consideration for the insecurities of my fellow bloggers prevents me from mentioning the great state which I call home. Extraordinary circumstances, however, have at last overcome my scruples. In the light of today’s Supreme Court ruling forbidding states, cities and municipalities from forbidding handgun ownership, and before Scalia and company begin ostentatiously flinging sidearms to a cheering populace, I feel it is my duty to point out the leadership role of the land of my birth. In the fight to uphold the blessed Second Amendment of the Constitution of these here United States, Texas has always been a shining beacon of hope to the teeming masses who struggle for their God-given right to own unlicensed semi-automatics and carry a Colt .45 in any diaper bag.

Continue reading