By Doug Porter
It’s been two years and a day since the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut left 26 people, mostly first graders, dead. The school has been torn down. The house where the shooter lived will soon meet the same fate.
The troubled 20-year-old gunman shot his way into the school. He shot and killed his mother before driving to the school, and he committed suicide as police arrived. The shootings at the school, lasting just over four minutes, were possible thanks to the military-style weapon used.
This morning a law firm representing the families of nine of the 26 people killed and a teacher filed a lawsuit against the manufacturer, distributor and seller of the rifle used in the shooting.
Welcome to Guns, Policy and Progressives week at the San Diego Free Press. We’ll be talking about guns and their role in society. Provided you can be civil about it, we invite you to join the conversation.
From NBC Connecticut:
The negligence and wrongful death lawsuit asserts that the Bushmaster AR-15 rifle should not have been made publicly available because it is a military weapon unsuited for civilian use.
It goes on to say that the “number of lives lost in those 264 seconds was made possible by the shooter’s weapon of choice: a Bushmaster AR-15 rifle, model XM15-E2S.”
“The AR-15 was specifically engineered for the United States Military to meet the needs of changing warfare,” Josh Koskoff of Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder, the Connecticut law firm representing the families, said in a news release. “In fact, one of the Army’s specifications for the AR-15 was that it has the capability to penetrate a steel helmet. This weapon was not designed for home defense or hunting. This weapon was designed to efficiently kill other human beings in combat.”
Sadly, the lawsuit may be the families of those killed best shot (pun intended) at getting some change in the system that allowed a mentally ill young man to inflict the demons in his head upon hapless school children and school employees.
From the PBS Morning Line:
…Despite the mass shooting, President Obama and allies in Congress were unable to pass anything related to background checks, despite the overwhelming support in the polls for the measure, let alone limits on ammunition in gun clips. Just how much has the National Rifle Association won the message? Consider: Pew Research’s latest polling shows, for the first time in two decades of surveys, that a majority of Americans think protecting the rights of gun owners (52 percent) is more important than controlling gun ownership (46 percent). In 1993, it was reversed — 57 percent said controlling gun ownership was more important than the 34 percent who said so about protecting gun rights.
Most Americans say owning a gun protects potential victims: What’s more, since the Newtown shootings, those saying owning a gun does more to protect someone from becoming a victim of a crime is up nine points from 48 percent to 57 percent. Just 38 percent said it put people’s safety at risk. All of that is despite studies, including one out this year, showing people who own guns are twice as likely to be killed by one and three times more likely to commit suicide.
Gun-control groups face steepest of odds: Despite spending tens of millions of dollars in states and in the 2014 elections, mostly unsuccessfully, gun-control groups, like those started by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, are vowing to continue playing in elections. But without a change of culture or politics, especially with an expanded Republican majority in the House and a Senate newly controlled by the GOP, it’s a safe bet that nothing will pass on limiting gun rights. Some of the families of the victims of the Newtown shootings are going a different route — through the courts.
Cliff Schecter at the Daily Beast takes a more optimistic viewpoint, even after admitting the “manic, fluoride-phobic, tri-corner hatted half-wits are not still trying to dragoon the United States of America into governing via armed warlord.”
…what is clear is that if you talk about certain measures—for example universal background checks—and not the overall term “gun control,” there is overwhelming support. You can trust the many polls saying this, but only if you’re in the reality-based community. If you’re not, then perhaps the actual vote in Washington State to institute background checks might convince you to return to this galaxy. In a state with a heavily white midterm electorate, another gun initiative on the ballot to confuse voters and where the NRA spent more money than any other, 60 percent of the voters approved the measure.
Meanwhile, a new grassroots coalition of state legislators (including Republicans) has joined mayors, moms, pediatricians, gun owners, prosecutors, and other groups dedicated to sane gun laws. A petition has been delivered in Nevada that will put a similar measure to the one in Washington on the ballot in 2016. It had more petition signatures than any previous Nevada ballot initiative. Ever. Oregon, Arizona and Maine may join the parade. The energy is clearly growing to rid this country of the fear-based rule of obtuse, aged white men. We’re becoming a more forward thinking, more multi-ethnic country where Gen X and Millennials are stepping into leadership roles.
There’s still a long way to go, however. This past week, America was once again horrifyingly reminded of who the most extreme gun nuts behind the open carry movement really are, the ones who feel a need to arm for battle when going to the local store to pick up diapers and 7-Up. In Texas, where this is a fetish, Veronica Dunnachie, one of the most high profile members of Open Carry Texas and Open Carry Tarrant County (you know, double the gun groups, double the pleasure), is in custody for shooting her husband and step-daughter to death, and then driving herself to a mental hospital. Because these kinds of things just happen in countries with common sense laws and “peaceful” protesters who feel a need to need to carry a Kalashnikov in public.
I’ll be talking about guns and their role in society throughout the week. Given that guns are woven into our national heritage, I understand why people feel the need to maintain that connection.I don’t understand the fetishists who insist that guns are somehow sacred and must be worshiped at every opportunity. These folks have been deluded for years into thinking the ‘gubmit’ is coming for their weapons.
Here’s nutcase Alex Jones (who doesn’t get a link) making his absolute predictions for 2013:
Obama is coming after the guns, and he’s aided by some of the most insidious and psychotic individuals walking the planet today: Joe Biden, Dianne Feinstein, Michael Moore and others.
Their goal is the complete disarmament of the American people so that the government has total control over all firepower, just like in China, North Korea and Hitler’s Germany.
It’s all pure hypocrisy, of course, because all of these people have their own armed bodyguards. Obama’s children are protected by eleven armed guards in a private school.
Michael Moore has armed body guards. Dianne Feinstein has a concealed weapons permit in California. They all want themselves to be able to have weapons, but not YOU, the “little people” of America.
Sorry dudes, we reasonable people don’t want your damned guns. Regulations governing their use isn’t the same as taking them away from you, no matter how many times the NRA says it. If you want to maintain your fantasies about armed rebellion or dark-skinned people breaking to your house and raping your family, there isn’t much I can do. But you sure as hell don’t have the right to endanger my life and the lives of my loved ones. And, yes, I know most people who own and use guns don’t buy into this fringe thinking. But they’re ones who are representing gun owners interests, in the legislative and public areas.
Meanwhile, I’ve got some other news to cover …
Child Labor Putting the Food on Your Table
The Los Angeles Times is up with the final part of its series examining the inner workings of the Mexican agricultural economy, the one that keeps fresh produce in our markets pretty much year-round. There are more than 100,000 children under 14 still working in the fields on a path to lifetime poverty and illiteracy.
Child labor has been largely eradicated at the giant agribusinesses that have fueled the boom in Mexican exports to the United States. But children pick crops at hundreds of small- and mid-size farms across Mexico, and some of the produce they harvest makes its way into American kitchens and markets.
The Times pieced together a picture of child labor on Mexican farms by interviewing growers, field bosses, brokers and wholesalers, and by observing children picking crops in the states of Sinaloa, Michoacan, Jalisco and Guanajuato.
Produce from farms that employ children reaches the United States through long chains of middlemen. A pepper picked by a child can change hands five or six times before reaching an American grocery store or salsa factory.
UCSD Crackdown Continues, Boycott Begins
A second music venue at the University of California San Diego is facing losing its lease, making the school’s earlier quest to evict the Che Cafe appear to be part of a larger plan.
From the Reader:
UCSD administration first took aim at the Ché Café, and now it has its sights set on Porter’s Pub.
“It’s like they’re giving themselves chemo but killing off all of the wrong organs,” says a UCSD alum who is monitoring the school’s extermination of on-campus music venues.
“Are they killing these venues off to pay for the sins of the Sun God Festival?”
Porter’s Pub has hosted all-ages concerts since 1993. Stephen Lawler has held the lease to oversee the Porter’s Pub food-and-beer concession and its adjoining stage area for the past seven years. He tells the Reader that he has been informed that his lease will not be renewed. Lawler says he is pursuing options, including possible legal action. He declined to comment for the record.
From reading the article, the administration’s reasoning for booting Porter’s Pub seems to be a cover for their aversion to the hip-hop shows at the venue.
Meanwhile, supporters of the Che Cafe have not given up the fight. They’re calling for artists to boycott venues at UCSD until such time as the administration is willing to be reasonable.
All These Protests Are Connected
Food writer Mark Bittman took to the pages of the New York Times this weekend to talk about why protests matter, even in his world:
I have spent a great deal of time talking about the food movement and its potential, because to truly change the food system you really have to change just about everything: good nutrition stems from access to good food; access to good food isn’t going to happen without economic justice; that isn’t going to happen without taxing the superrich; and so on. The same is true of other issues: You can’t fix climate change or the environment without stopping the unlimited exploitation of natural and human resources (see Naomi Klein’s “This Changes Everything”). Same with social well-being.
Everything affects everything. It’s all tied together, and the starting place hardly matters: A just and righteous system will have a positive impact on everything we care about, just as an unjust, exploitative system makes everything worse.
Increasingly, it seems, there’s an appetite and even unity to take on the billionaire class. Let’s recognize that if we are seeing positive change now, it’s in part because elected officials respond to pressure, and let’s remember that that pressure must be maintained no matter who is in office. Even if Bernie Sanders were to become president, the need for pressure would continue.
“True citizenship,” says [food researcher] Jayaraman of Berkeley — echoing Jefferson — “is people continually protesting.” Precisely.
It seems appropriate to mention a protest (see this article for background) in San Diego today:
On This Day: 1791 – The first ten amendments to the Constitution, known as the Bill of Rights, went into effect following ratification by the state of Virginia. 1921- The Kansas National Guard was called out to subdue from 2,000 to 6,000 protesting women who were going from mine to mine attacking non-striking miners in the Pittsburgh coal fields. The women made headlines across the state and the nation: they were christened the “Amazon Army” by the New York Times 1977 – The Sex Pistols were denied visas to enter the U.S. only two days before they were to appear on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.”
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