Tag Archives: nra

Armed with Crayola? NRA selling all-ages Full Metal coloring book

The NRA has added its contribution to the arsenal of coloring books. The gun-rights group is selling the Full Metal Coloring Book in its nrastore.

The 70-page book sells for $9.95 and the promotion for it says “coloring utensils are not included.”

The boom in coloring is among adults, but the NRA says on its site that the Full Metal book is for all ages.

The NRA said, “Forget abstract designs or run-of-the-mill shapes. The Full Metal Coloring Book offers art based on our favorite thing — GUNS! This 70-page book contains dozens of action-packed, patriotic, and firearm related designs. Artists of all ages are sure to enjoy hours of fun bringing these guns to life!”

Public support, pleas from grieving family fail to move Wisconsin on gun background checks

By Alexandra Arriaga

On a Sunday afternoon nearly four years ago, Elvin Daniel was in his garden when he got a call from police: His sister, Zina Haughton, had been shot at work.

Zina’s abusive husband, Radcliffe Haughton, used a semiautomatic handgun that he bought from a man in the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant in Germantown the day before the shooting. He killed Zina Haughton, Maelyn Lind and Cary Robuck and wounded four others at the Azana Salon & Spa in the Milwaukee suburb of Brookfield. He then used the weapon to kill himself.

Zina Daniel Haughton, 42, left behind two daughters, ages 20 and 13.

Daniel, who owns a gun, said he was shocked that his late brother-in-law was able to buy a firearm despite a judge’s order prohibiting Radcliffe Haughton from possessing a gun.

“We started to find out that people actually can get guns without a background check,” said Daniel, who lives in Illinois, where all gun purchasers must pass a background check. “As naive as I was back then, I thought because I go through a background check, everybody did. So we start to find out about all these loopholes that we have in our laws.”

Since his sister’s death, Daniel has pushed lawmakers to expand criminal background checks beyond licensed dealers to private sellers, such as those who advertise on Armslist. That is where Haughton found the seller of the gun he used in the mass shooting.

“I mean, the day before that (shooting), I was one of those that says, ‘You know what, leave me and my guns alone,’” Daniel said. “I still feel that, but I believe that everybody should go through a background check when they buy a gun to keep guns out of (the hands of) people that shouldn’t have them.”

Zina Haughton’s daughter, Yasmeen Daniel, was at the salon and saw her mother shot to death. Her stepfather also tried to shoot at her, but Daniel was saved when Lind stepped in front of her.

She is now suing Armslist, charging the website facilitated the illegal gun purchase that led to her mother’s death. Armslist has asked a Milwaukee County Circuit judge to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that under Wisconsin law, the company cannot be held liable for the actions of people who advertise on its site.

Eighteen states plus the District of Columbia have expanded background checks beyond federal law to include at least some private sales. Two more states — Nevada and Maine — have expanded background checks on the ballot this fall.

Background checks proven, popular

A Marquette Law School Poll this year found 85 percent of registered voters in Wisconsin, including 84 percent who have guns in their homes, say they support closing the private-sale loophole. A CNN poll in June showed 92 percent of respondents nationwide favored expanded background checks.

Officials in Milwaukee are working with community leaders and nonprofit groups on a plan to reduce gun violence. A top recommendation: Expand criminal background checks to private gun sales. (That initiative is partially funded by The Joyce Foundation, which also provides funding for the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism’s coverage of gun violence prevention issues.)

Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn said expanding background checks to private sellers would not cure all of Milwaukee’s violence, but it would be a step.

“Background checks for private party gun sales would add another layer of oversight that may help keep guns out of the hands of those prohibited from possessing guns,” Flynn said in an email.

But Republicans who run Wisconsin state government have blocked attempts to require background checks on purchases from private sellers. That position is shared by the National Rifle Association, the nation’s most powerful gun lobby, which spent $3.6 million to support Republicans and conservative candidates in Wisconsin between 2008 and 2014, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

A 1997 study estimated that 40 percent of U.S. guns are obtained outside of federally licensed gun stores. Updated research from Harvard University and Northeastern University includes soon-to-be published findings that roughly one-third of gun acquisitions today occur outside of such licensed dealers.

Expanding background checks to private sales is the “most promising” strategy to prevent gun violence, said Ted Alcorn, research director for Everytown for Gun Safety, the nation’s largest gun violence prevention advocacy organization. The group, which began as Mayors Against Illegal Guns, is bankrolled by Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor and gun-control advocate. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett helped co-found the organization.

Firearm violence includes two elements, Alcorn said: a gun and a person who poses a high risk of causing harm with it. Background checks act as a gatekeeper, he said, preventing individuals at risk of harming others from accessing guns.

“Criminologists and law enforcement officers say this is … the biggest weakness with the gun laws that we currently have in place because it leaves an open door for prohibited people like convicted felons and domestic abusers to buy firearms without a background check, no questions asked,” Alcorn said.

Dr. Garen Wintemute, director of the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California-Davis, has studied various policies for more than 30 years and agrees universal background checks are among the most effective at preventing gun violence.

Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, also has studied background checks. Webster and his fellow researchers found that Connecticut saw a 40 percent drop in the firearm homicide rate over a decade after universal background checks were enacted. In contrast, when Missouri repealed such a law in 2007, firearm homicide rates rose 23 percent, Webster has found.

The permit-to-purchase laws implemented in Connecticut and repealed in Missouri require buyers to pass background checks and get a license from a state or local police agency to buy a firearm. Some states require a permit for all firearms and some only for handguns. In some states, permit holders must first go through safety training or an exam.

Another Webster study found levels of illegal gun trafficking were about half in cities where the state required background checks for private handgun sales.

But a University of Pittsburgh study this year discovered that most criminals found ways around laws aimed at keeping guns out of their hands. Researchers traced the origins of 893 firearms recovered by Pittsburgh police in 2008. The study found 79 percent of perpetrators were not the legal owner of the firearm used in the crime — bolstering the gun-rights argument that laws do not stop criminals who want guns. Pennsylvania requires background checks for all handgun purchases.

NRA spokeswoman Catherine Mortensen said these types of laws are tantamount to “criminalization of the private transfer of firearms.”

“These gun control laws criminalize the commonplace practices of law-abiding gun owners,” Mortensen said in a written statement. “By imposing government mandates and fees they cost law-abiding gun owners time, money and freedom.”

Mortensen cited work by economist John Lott, Jr. In his 2016 book, “The War on Guns, Arming Yourself Against Gun Control Lies,” Lott writes that data from all 50 states from 1977 to 2005 shows murders were 49 percent higher and robberies were 75 percent higher in states with expanded background checks.

Lott is founder and president of Crime Prevention Research Center, a Colorado nonprofit that studies the relationship between gun policy and public safety. The center says it receives no funding from the NRA.

Lott’s influential studies have been disputed by some academics for faulty statistical analysis and allegedly fabricated research. And he has acknowledged posing as “Mary Rosh,” a former student, in posts praising his own teaching and research. Lott has likewise criticized Webster’s research, accusing him of cherry-picking in the study of Missouri’s repealed law.

Republicans mum on checks

In emotional testimony before a U.S. Senate committee in 2014, Elvin Daniel described himself as “a Republican, an avid hunter (and) a gun owner” who is “a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, and an NRA member.” Nevertheless, he urged the senators to pass universal background checks and make some “good come out of (Zina’s) death.”

“It is heartbreaking to know that our weak gun laws continue to allow dangerous abusers to buy guns without a background check,” he said.

The argument failed to sway any Republican senators. Two years later, on June 20 after a gunman killed 49 people and wounded 53 others at an Orlando, Florida nightclub, a Senate filibuster and vote resulted in a 56-44 largely party-line vote against expanded background checks. Wisconsin’s Republican Sen. Ron Johnson voted no; Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin voted yes.

On June 23, House Democrats staged a sit-in to try to force a vote on a measure to expand background checks and another that would have prohibited people on no-fly lists, including the Orlando shooter, from buying guns. Republican Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin blocked that effort, calling it a “publicity stunt.”

In Wisconsin — where an epidemic of gun violence fueled by illegally obtained firearms is raging in Milwaukee — lawmakers have avoided voting on background checks. Bills introduced by Democrats to expand background checks in recent sessions have died without a hearing.

Republican Gov. Scott Walker has said he opposes expanding background checks. In a written response to questions from the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, Walker spokesman Tom Evenson said Wisconsin already requires background checks; he did not address the issue of private sales, which require no such scrutiny.

Other top Republicans are mum on why the Legislature has declined to consider expanding background checks.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, did not respond to emails seeking comment.

Email and phone messages sent to Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc, chairman of the Assembly Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety, also were not returned. He told Wisconsin Public Radio in 2015 that he opposed the Democrats’ bill but gave no explanation.

‘Don’t ask, don’t, tell’ for guns

Wintemute said there are “two systems of gun commerce in the United States”: Sales by licensed retailers that require background checks, paperwork and a permanent record; and transactions between two private individuals requiring no screening or record keeping.

Wintemute has seen the systems in action during his visits to gun shows in Wisconsin and elsewhere. He calls it “Don’t ask, don’t tell” for guns.

“I’ve watched people go up and negotiate the purchase of the gun from a vendor at a gun show, not realizing that they’re talking to a licensed dealer,” Wintemute said. “And just as the negotiation is concluding, out comes the paperwork. And the buyer says, ‘Wait, you’re a dealer?’ And the seller says ‘Yes,’ and the buyer just laughs and walks away and goes and finds a private party to buy from.”

At the Badger Military Collectible Show at the Waukesha Expo Center Aug. 5, some licensed dealers told a reporter that they have witnessed the same thing. At this show, old military uniforms, medals and vintage firearms were sold next to tables with newer handguns and rifles. Licensed dealers were vocal in their thoughts on expanding background checks to private sales, but several unlicensed sellers declined interview requests.

Marty Brunner, who goes by the nickname “Machine Gun” Marty, is a licensed gun manufacturer and dealer. “NRA4 EVER” is tattooed across the knuckles of both his hands.

Brunner believes purchasers go to private dealers because “they have something to hide.”

He also believes private vendors are more likely to sell “hot guns” previously used in crimes.

Said Brunner: “They don’t want the government to know they have a gun.”

Tom Hardell, owner of Tom’s Military Arms & Guns, said he “definitely” supports universal background checks. Hardell, who mostly sells handguns, said he has turned down a lot of buyers after running a background check. Many of them, he said, are “gang bangers.”

“It hurts me as a business, and it hurts Milwaukee because that’s where the guns are coming (from),” Hardell said.

Ron Martin, a licensed dealer who travels across Wisconsin selling hunting rifles, said implementing background checks for everyone could “level the playing field” between licensed and unlicensed firearm sellers.

Martin is not sure expanding background checks would help to reduce firearm violence, however.

“You could put all the laws you want, but the last I checked criminals don’t abide by laws,” Martin said. “They don’t buy guns — they steal them.”

Former gang member: Guns easy to get

But Rico, a former gang member and admitted criminal from Madison, told a reporter that he bought his guns, finding it easy to amass numerous high-powered weapons after he failed a background check by a licensed dealer. While Rico has bought some of his guns “on the street,” he also purchased weapons at gun shows. He asked that his full formal name not to be used because he described committing crimes that could subject him to prosecution.

The 27-year-old estimated that he owns more than 20 guns — all of them bought without passing a background check.

“To be honest, I lost count. I got many. I got assault rifles, I mean, just regular hand pistols, they could be 9-millimeter Berettas, mini-AKs, ARs,” Rico said, listing a variety of semi-automatic weapons. He photographed many of them at the request of a reporter.

He bought several firearms without a background check at a Black River Falls gun show. He used the same terminology as Wintemute to describe private transactions: “Don’t ask, don’t tell.”

It is possible that Rico could qualify to buy a gun after undergoing a background check. He was charged with a felony in 2009 — possession with intent to deliver marijuana — but the case was dropped for lack of evidence. Rico believes he could have fought the background check denial. He chose not to.

“I might as well buy it from a third party where they don’t do background checks, like gun shows, private sales,” Rico said, saying such transactions are similar to “people who’re just selling them … on the street.”

He said universal background checks would not keep criminals from getting guns.

During his years in the gang, Rico said he used guns for intimidation and robbery — even a shootout. Rico acknowledged using firearms to rob people at ATM machines.

“I mean, the more crime you did … the more elite, the more alpha you were,” he explained.

He described one incident in Milwaukee about 10 years ago in which two cars approached his group on the street. Somebody said something in Spanish that provoked his group. At least 15 shots were traded in a matter of moments, he said.

Rico said he has quit the gang life. He went back to school, and now works in an office as a tech specialist. He has turned in his gangster attire for gym gear; he hopes to become a certified trainer.

One remnant of his old lifestyle stayed.

“I kept the firearms,” Rico said.

Lawsuit targets Armslist

For several years before her death, Zina Haughton had been physically abused by her husband. When the violence escalated in October 2012, she got a restraining order and moved out of the couple’s Brown Deer home, testifying that his threats “terrorize my every waking moment.”

The court granted her protection, prohibiting him from approaching Zina Haughton for four years and from possessing firearms, a ban that would have lasted until October 2016.

If Radcliffe Haughton had attempted to buy from a licensed dealer, he would have been blocked by a background check, and police would have been alerted to his attempt to illegally acquire a gun, according to the lawsuit filed by Yasmeen Daniel with help from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

Instead, he visited Armslist.com.

The lawsuit argued that Haughton’s “extreme urgency, lack of discernment, and preference for a high-capacity magazine” should have alerted Armslist proprietors.

Without any screening or background check, Radcliffe Haughton purchased a FNP-40 semi-automatic handgun for $500 from a private seller in a McDonald’s parking lot.

The complaint argues Armslist proprietors designed the site to exploit the loophole to allow private sellers to cater to prohibited purchasers. It notes that the website has been traced to several incidents in which prohibited purchasers used firearms in Wisconsin and elsewhere.

Websites including eBay, Amazon and Craigslist have banned private gun sales. The complaint argues that Armslist strategically fills the online void left for private gun sales “to enable the sale of firearms to prohibited and otherwise dangerous people.”

The lawsuit also alleges such transactions circumvent other safeguards, including federal restrictions on interstate transfers of guns, state waiting periods and state-specific assault weapon bans.

Armslist attorney Eric Van Schyndle did not respond to several messages seeking comment. Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Glenn Yamahiro has scheduled a Nov. 1 hearing to decide whether to dismiss the case. In 2014, Armslist defeated a similar lawsuit in Illinois. 

Background checks stall in Wisconsin

State Sen. Nikiya Harris Dodd, D-Milwaukee, and state Rep. Terese Berceau, D-Madison, co-sponsored a bill again in the most recent legislative session to implement universal background checks. Berceau called it a “common sense” step to reduce gun violence.

“It seems really obvious to me that if you are a person who knows that you can’t pass a background check, you’re going to buy from one of these private sellers, and that is indeed what’s going on,” Berceau said.

Under the bill, all firearm transactions would have to go through a licensed dealer, and buyers would have to pass a background check, with certain exceptions. Gifts between family members, for example, would be exempt.

As a representative from Milwaukee, where gun violence spiked in 2015, Harris Dodd called the legislation a “no-brainer.” Milwaukee had 119 gun-related homicides and 633 nonfatal shootings in 2015, according to the Milwaukee Homicide Review Commission — the highest in at least 10 years. The Center has reported that such crimes cost individuals and the state of Wisconsin billions a year in medical bills, police and prosecutorial costs, lost lives and stunted futures.

Of the known suspects in the 2015 gun homicides in Milwaukee, 69 percent — or 66 suspects — were legally prohibited from possessing a firearm at the time of the crime, according to the commission.

Milwaukee’s lobbyist, Jennifer Gonda, said universal background checks are a key part of the city’s legislative agenda. But she is not optimistic any of the city’s priorities to reduce gun violence will pass the current Legislature.

“We didn’t make much headway with the Democrats and … we’re making less with the Republicans,” Gonda said. “In some ways, it feels like we’re spinning our wheels a little bit.”

Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, a member of the NRA, has opposed universal background checks and other gun regulations. Clarke, a Democrat who spoke at the Republican National Convention, has advised residents to arm themselves to stay safe.

“Universal background checks and limiting magazine capacity are offered as reasonable approaches to reducing violence” but are “technical fixes” that mostly “frustrate the overwhelming number of law-abiding American gun owners,” Clarke wrote in an opinion piece for CNN in 2014.

Elvin Daniel said some steps toward reducing gun violence in Wisconsin have been taken. He appeared with Walker in 2014 when the governor signed a law requiring people served with restraining orders to surrender their firearms.

But for now, universal background checks — which Daniel believes would have prevented the Azana Spa mass shooting that claimed three lives including his sister’s — remain out of reach. He is reminded of that every day by the purple bracelet that reads “For the love of Zina” on his wrist.

“Had he gone through a background check, he wouldn’t have been able to buy a gun,” Daniel said. “Chances are, Zina would still be with us right now.”

***

Background checks, dealer licensing requirements in Wisconsin explained

The federal Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, which took effect in 1994, required licensed dealers to subject buyers of handguns to a background check before a sale is made. The law was extended to shotguns and rifles in 1998.

Who is prohibited from purchasing a firearm?

Under state and federal law, people prohibited from buying guns include anyone who is:

  • Underage: Minimum age to purchase a firearm in Wisconsin is 18. To buy a handgun through a licensed dealer, the federal minimum age is 21.
  • Convicted or charged with a felony or another crime punishable by imprisonment for more than one year or found delinquent as a juvenile after April 21, 1994 for a comparable crime;
  • A fugitive from justice;
  • An unlawful user of or addicted to a controlled substance or ordered to alcoholism treatment;
  • Adjudicated as “a mental defective,” including anyone found to be insane, incompetent to stand trial, appointed a guardian or determined to be a danger to himself or others;
  • Committed to a mental institution;
  • An immigrant without legal status;
  • Dishonorably discharged from the military;
  • Has renounced his or her U.S. citizenship;
  • Is subject to a court order restraining him or her from harassing, stalking or physically threatening an intimate partner or family member;
  • Has been convicted of a misdemeanor for domestic violence.

What is the procedure for a background check?

For long gun purchases, buyers from a licensed dealer must fill out Form 4473, which asks about drug use, criminal history and mental health history. The dealer calls into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, triggering an FBI search of several databases for potential prohibitions. The process happens within minutes.

Wisconsin is a point-of-contact state, meaning handgun dealers must contact the Wisconsin Department of Justice to conduct a background check to sell a handgun. Wisconsin’s DOJ is required to complete the check within five days.

Which sellers must be federally licensed?

Federal Firearm Licensees (FFLs) are individuals “engaged in the business” of selling guns. Applicants must go through a background check, safety training and testing to ensure they know how to handle weapons and are knowledgeable about firearms laws. Sellers who make “occasional sales, exchanges, or purchases of firearms for the enhancement of a personal collection or for a hobby” are not required to be licensed.

What is the private seller ‘loophole’?

There are no background check or record keeping requirements for private, unlicensed sellers. A private party may sell a firearm to a prohibited purchaser without committing a crime, unless the seller knows or has “reasonable cause to believe” the buyer is prohibited. It is still always illegal for a prohibited purchaser to buy a firearm.

— Alexandra Arriaga

 

Dee J. Hall and Coburn Dukehart of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism and Wisconsin Public Radio reporter Bridgit Bowden contributed to this report. It was produced in collaboration with Precious Lives, a two-year project investigating the problem of gun violence among young people, its causes and potential solutions in the Milwaukee area and statewide. Other partners in the project are 371 Productions, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Milwaukee Public Radio 89.7 WUWM and The Voice 860 AM WNOV. Coverage by the Center (www.WisconsinWatch.org) of gun violence prevention issues is supported by The Joyce Foundation. The nonprofit Center collaborates with Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television, other news media and the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication. All works created, published, posted or disseminated by the Center do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of UW-Madison or any of its affiliates.

 

50 years after the Texas sniper, a look at gun violence and mental health laws

For some people, the attack on police officers by a gunman in Dallas this summer brought to mind another attack by a sniper in Austin 50 years ago — on Aug. 1, 1966.

That’s when student Charles Whitman stuck his rifle over the edge of the clock tower at the University of Texas at Austin and started shooting. Ultimately, he killed 16 people — and wounded more than 30 others.

For decades, people have struggled to figure out why. There have been theories about abuse, a brain tumor and, of course, mental illness.

Six months before Charles Whitman took aim from that tower he visited a school psychiatrist, and admitted while there that he had a violent fantasy of going to the top of the tower with a deer rifle and shooting people.

Gary Lavergne, who wrote A Sniper in the Tower, said the school psychiatrist, Dr. Maurice D. Heatly, claimed he’d had many students who recounted violent fantasies during therapy sessions.

“Today we take it a whole lot more seriously because of our history,” Lavergne said. “But back then, that kind of thing didn’t happen.”

Soon after the 1966 shooting, Heatly spoke in a news conference.

“It’s a common experience for students who come to the mental hygiene clinic to refer to the tower as the site of some desperate action,” Heatly told reporters. “They say ‘I feel like jumping off of the old tower.’ (Charles Whitman had) no psychosis symptoms at all!”

Whitman never went back to the clinic, but he did return to his violent fantasy. Lavergne said the 25-year-old former Marine and Eagle Scout was incredibly methodical as he went about killing his mother the night before the tower shootings, placing her body in bed as if she were sleeping. Then he went back home and stabbed his wife.

“By 3 o’clock in the morning, his wife and his mother are both murdered,” said Lavergne. “After that, until he goes to the campus, he spent the rest of his time polishing, getting weapons ready, buying more ammunition. All for the specific goal of going to the top of the UT tower and shooting people.”

Nearly two hours later, 16 people were dead and 32 more were wounded. Police finally killed Whitman.

Speaking to the media, John Connally, who was then governor of Texas, could barely find words.

“Of course I am concerned, disturbed, and yet somewhat at a loss to know how you prevent a maniacal act of a man who obviously goes berserk,” Connally said.

Fifty years later, when news about shootings in Dallas, in Orlando or San Bernardino hits, our reactions are much the same. We avoid those charged words, but we often assume the shooter is mentally ill, and that crimes like this could be avoided if those with serious mental illness didn’t have guns.

Which raises two questions: First, was Charles Whitman mentally ill? And second, could policies focusing on mental health prevent mass shootings?

As to the first question, Lavergne said he doesn’t think Whitman had serious mental illness. Whitman, he said, did have mental health challenges that are common — depression and anxiety. But more than anything, he was manipulative.

“He was always who he was expected to be,” Lavergne said. “In front of his father-in-law, he at times appeared to be a dutiful husband, when — in fact — he assaulted his wife, just like his daddy assaulted his mother. And he gave people the impression he was an honor student, when — in fact — when he died he had a 1.9 grade point average.”

Charles Whitman did seem to think something was wrong with him. This is an excerpt from a note he left on his wife’s body:

“I don’t really understand myself these days,” he wrote. “I’m supposed to be an average, reasonable and intelligent young man. However, lately, I can’t recall when it started, I have been a victim of many unusual and irrational thoughts. These thoughts constantly recur.”

Whitman didn’t mention he’d also been abusing amphetamines. The potential impact of those chemicals fizzled out of the public conversation as soon as a pathologist made a striking discovery in his autopsy: a brain tumor.

One doctor said the “grayish yellow mass” wasn’t a factor in explaining what Whitman had done. But a medical panel later diagnosed the mass as a glioblastoma and said it could have contributed to Whitman’s inability to control his emotions and his actions. Dr. Elizabeth Burton, a Dallas pathologist, agrees it’s possible.

“You can have headaches, you can have seizures, and you can have changes in cognition, and you can actually have personality changes,” she said.

But plenty of people have tumors and are not violent. And plenty of people have depression, anxiety and paranoia and aren’t violent.

Dr. Paul Appelbaum, a psychiatrist and director of the division of law, ethics, and psychiatry at Columbia University, pointed out that only a tiny percent of violence — about 4 percent in the U.S. — is attributable to mental illness.

“We know that people with serious mental disorders are at somewhat elevated risk of committing violence,” Appelbaum said. “Even so, the vast majority of them never commit a violent act. And we know that people with serious mental illnesses are much more likely to end up as victims of violence rather than as perpetrators.”

But Democrats and Republicans have both touted mental health care legislation as a way of preventing mass shootings.

After a shooter killed 20 children in Newtown, President Obama called for a gun crackdown. That didn’t happen. But, Obama’s 2017 budget does include a request for $500 million for mental health services.

Appelbaum said this is a misguided approach.

“We need more funding for treatment of people with mental illness in this country,” Appelbaum said. “But to argue for that funding on false grounds — namely to try and persuade the public that it will protect them [to] have more mental health clinics — in the long run can only backfire.”

Applebaum said he believes there are alternatives. At least temporarily limiting access to guns for some people make sense, he said. In general, people who have been convicted of violent misdemeanors, or who are a under temporary restraining order, or who have multiple DUI convictions over a 5-year period are more likely to commit acts of violence than people with mental illness are.

This story is part of a partnership with NPR, local member stations and Kaiser Health News

Clinton, Kaine take aim at NRA, with public behind them

“Tim Kaine has a background of steel — just ask the NRA,” said Hillary Clinton in introducing her vice presidential pick in Florida today. It was her first limelight moment since the Republican National Convention, and we’re encouraged that she used part of it to focus on gun control.

The nation desperately needs to hear an honest debate about gun control at the presidential level. Democrats and Republicans are worlds apart on the issue. We got a striking picture of where Republicans stand at their convention in Cleveland, where delegates toted firearms into the Quicken Loans Arena like little kids showing off their toys. The party’s platform not only ignores the nation’s mounting toll of horrific mass shootings, but also reads as if the National Rifle Association wrote it — which might very well be the case.

In addition to Clinton’s remarks today, there was more good news for gun-control advocates. A new Associated Press-GfK poll found support for restrictions on gun ownership now stands at a two-thirds majority — the highest level since the poll started asking the question in 2013, about 10 months after the elementary school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut.

According to the new poll, majorities favor nationwide bans on semi-automatic assault weapons and high-capacity magazines holding 10 or more bullets. By a 55 percent to 43 percent margin, respondents to the poll said laws limiting gun ownership do not infringe on the Second Amendment. Strong majorities from both parties said they support background checks for people buying firearms at gun shows and through private sales.

In addition, they back the commonsense banning of gun sales to people on the federal terrorist watch list.

But the poll also found widespread pessimism that elected officials will act. It’s incumbent on Clinton and other Democrats running for office in November to prove the public wrong. They must stand up forcefully and stand down the NRA’s propaganda machine.

The NRA maintains that more guns make people safer, but the opposite is true. The U.S. has more guns per capita than any other nation in the “developed” world and more firearm deaths per capita to show for all those weapons. Americans are 10 times likelier to be killed by firearms than citizens of any other developed nation, according to a study that appeared in the American Journal of Medicine. Yet Americans own virtually one gun for every man, woman and child in the country.

Recent gun-violence cases further undermine the NRA’s distortion. When a sniper opened fire on armed Dallas police officers earlier this month, their guns did nothing to protect them. But imagine how many more casualties there would have been if everyone in the crowd had been armed to the hilt and shooting willy-nilly to stop an assailant who was not even visible.

A gunman managed to kill three Baton Rouge police officers and wound three others, despite the fact that his victims were both armed and trained to use their weapons. An armed security guard was working at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando when 49 customers were killed. The guard exchanged fire with the attacker but to no avail. And officials said that more firearms in the nightclub would have resulted in more innocent deaths during the hysterical melee the first shootings triggered.

In all of those cases, the attackers had the advantages of surprise and powerful weapons. We can’t stop the former, but we can curb the latter with sensible gun restrictions. We need laws designed to benefit society rather than the profits of weapons and munitions manufacturers.

Americans don’t balk at the myriad other restrictions they live with, many of which are ridiculous and unfair. Citizens don’t become unhinged at having to undergo minor security checks to buy decongestants. They don’t send death threats to opticians in protest of bogus laws forcing contact lens wearers to undergo annual eye exams, whether they need them or not. Most citizens accept laws against littering, urinating on sidewalks and coming to a complete halt at stop signs even when no traffic is present.

Yet the NRA has trained millions of Americans to go full freak at potentially life-saving restrictions, such as preventing terrorists from buying assault weapons and prohibiting the sale of body-armor-piercing bullets. Obviously, sanity is being set aside when it comes to this issue and tens of thousands of Americans are dying every year as a result.

Beginning now, you must force candidates for offices at all levels to explain their positions on gun control. Let them know that in order to earn your vote, they must support sensible gun control that does not violate the 2nd Amendment but can reduce the shootings.

We’re finally in a place where Americans are fed up with the nation’s gun obsession. We have a presidential candidate who plans to challenge the NRA from the top of the ticket, but it’s up to voters to put pressure on local and state officials.

Together, let’s imagine a nation where we don’t awake every morning to headlines of another slaughter, where we don’t live every day with the fear that we — or someone we love — will be next. Then take that vision to your candidates and ultimately to the ballot box.

 

NRA endorses Paul Ryan for re-election

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., earned an endorsement from the National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund in his re-election bid.

The gun group issued a statement quoting Chris Cox, chairman of the NRA-PVF. Both men took the stage at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland on July 19 to deliver prime-time speeches.

Cox, in the endorsement statement, said, “Paul Ryan’s leadership in the fight to preserve our Second Amendment rights and hunting heritage has earned him the trust and support of the National Rifle Association.

“As a lifelong outdoorsman and avid hunter, we can trust Paul to continue to fight for the Second Amendment rights of all law-abiding gun owners in Wisconsin and across the United States.”

Ryan and other Republicans held off a Democratic-driven campaign for gun reform this summer.

He also indicated that Democrats who staged a sit-in for reforms following a massacre at a gay nightclub in Florida might be punished by GOP leadership.

The NRA said Ryan received his “A+” from the pro-gun group, which is the highest rating a lawmaker can receive.

The NRA said Ryan has an “excellent voting record on all critical NRA issues” and also made a “vigorous effort to defend and promote the Second Amendment. He has strongly opposed President Obama’s numerous attempts to ban lawfully owned firearms, ammunition and magazines. Equally impressive, he has fought against the gun control agenda promoted by Obama, Hillary Clinton and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.”

Cox said, “The NRA is honored to endorse Paul Ryan and appreciates his steadfast support of the Second Amendment. The NRA encourages all gun-owners, hunters and sportsmen to vote re-elect Paul Ryan this November.”

Ryan actually faces a primary challenge in August — Paul Nehlen.

Democrats who filed to run for the seat include Tom Breu and Ryan Solen.

The federal ban on gun-violence research must end

In the immediate wake of our nation’s mass shootings, many people ask the question, “Why do these things happen?”

But an answer to this question remains hard to come by, because so little is known about gun violence. The nation’s largest medical association wants to change that, and we heartily agree.

The knowledge deficit is entirely the fault of past and current Congresses beholden to the National Rifle Association and the gun industry. It can be traced back to 1996, when Congress first passed a measure banning the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from conducting research on gun violence (the author of the amendment now regrets it). The ban had a chilling effect across the board on researchers, who feared retribution from the powerful NRA and its cultlike acolytes.

Following the mass shooting two years ago at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, President Barack Obama issued an executive order calling on the CDC to get back to studying “the causes of gun violence.”

The order got no traction. Researchers, both within and outside the government, were loath to become enmeshed in such a hot-button issue, especially with the 1996 law still on the books.

After a church shooting last year in Charleston, South Carolina, left nine people dead, there was a renewed attempt on Capitol Hill to study the relationship between gun ownership and gun violence.

Instead, Congress quietly renewed the ban on federal research of the issue.

The gun culture within the Republican Party is so deeply rooted that delegates recently adopted an amendment to its national platform declaring pornography a “public health crisis,” while arguing that guns are not a health issue and therefore the CDC cannot receive federal funding to study them. The platform was being written as President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush were in Dallas addressing a memorial service for the police officers gunned down there by a sniper.

Physicians and virtually all other health care professionals disagree strongly with the assertion that gun violence is not a public health issue.

In Chicago earlier this summer, the American Medical Association adopted the position that gun violence in the United States is not only “a public health crisis,” but one that requires a comprehensive public health response and solution. The AMA vowed to put its considerable lobbying muscle to work in Congress to end the research ban.

“With approximately 30,000 men, women and children dying each year at the barrel of a gun in elementary schools, movie theaters, workplaces, houses of worship and on live television, the United States faces a public health crisis of gun violence,” said AMA president Dr. Steven J. Stack in a press statement.

He continued: “Even as America faces a crisis unrivaled in any other developed country, the Congress prohibits the CDC from conducting the very research that would help us … determine how to reduce the high rate of firearm-related deaths and injuries. An epidemiological analysis of gun violence is vital.”

We’d like to see the AMA, the American Psychological Association, law-enforcement agencies and other groups committed to public health and safety work together to break the gun industry’s lock on Congress.

This will take fortitude. Leaders of such an effort will face intimidation from the same people who once warned that Obama was going to take away their guns. Pro-gun zealots will attempt to destroy their reputations. Opponents of the research ban can also expect intimidation — and even death threats — for daring to “attack” the Second Amendment.

Let’s be clear: Scientific studies of gun violence do not constitute an attack on the Second Amendment any more than studying the limits of free speech violates the First Amendment.

But continuing to ban the study of gun violence violates both reason and humanity.

Donald Trump is backtracking on guns-in-clubs statement

Donald Trump is backtracking from his contention that victims of the Orlando massacre should have been allowed to carry arms into the nightclub where they were attacked — a stance even the NRA says is untenable.

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee tweeted on June 20 that he was “obviously talking about additional guards or employees” of the Orlando, Florida, nightclub where the attack happened when he spoke about the value of having more people armed to challenge the gunman.

That’s not what Trump said previously.

A day after the attack, he told radio host Howie Carr: “It’s too bad that some of the young people that were killed over the weekend didn’t have guns, you know, attached to their hips, frankly, and you know where bullets could have flown in the opposite direction, Howie. It would have been a much different deal. I mean, it sounded like there were no guns. They had a security guard. Other than that there were no guns in the room. Had people been able to fire back, it would have been a much different outcome.”

Trump had repeated his suggestion at rallies across the country last week. In Atlanta he said the carnage would have been lessened if “some of those great people that were in that club that night had guns strapped to their waist or strapped to their ankle.”

His statements were a step too far for the National Rifle Association, a powerful lobby for armed self-defense and broad permissions to carry weapons. “No one thinks that people should go into a nightclub drinking and carrying firearms,” the NRA’s chief lobbyist, Chris Cox, told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. ‘’That defies common sense. It also defies the law.”

The NRA dustup came as the Senate prepared to vote Monday on expanded gun background checks and proposals to keep people on a government terrorism watch list or other suspected terrorists from buying guns. But prospects for any significant change in gun laws were dim.

The Orlando shooter, Omar Mateen, was added to a government watch list of people known or suspected of being involved in terrorist activities in 2013, when he was investigated for inflammatory statements to co-workers. But he was pulled from that database when that investigation was closed 10 months later.

Trump made the case on the weekend that the U.S. should consider profiling Muslims inside the country as a terrorism-fighting tool, the latest example of his backing positions that could single out a group based on its religion.

“We really have to look at profiling,” Trump told CBS’s “Face the Nation.” ‘’It’s not the worst thing to do.”

Trump’s proposal runs counter to Justice Department policy, which prohibits profiling on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity and national origin. That profiling ban applies not only to federal agents but also to local law enforcement officers who participate in federal task forces.

Trump’s increasing embrace of policies that could isolate Muslims in America is extraordinary for a candidate assured of his party’s presidential nomination. The proposals have been roundly criticized by many Republican leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan. Civil libertarians, Muslims and others also have strongly disagreed, arguing that profiling is unconstitutional and often constitutes unlawful discrimination based on race, religion and other factors.

Trump’s statements are consistent with his long-expressed views on how to stop terrorism in the United States, most notably a freeze on the entry of foreign Muslims in the U.S. But he’s intensified his approach since Mateen carried out the worst mass shooting in modern American history on June 12. Forty-nine people were killed in the attack.

DIVIDED AMERICA: Gun views fractious even as fewer bear arms

Look anywhere in this nation born of a bloody revolution of musket fire and you’re likely to find sharp disagreement over guns.

Democrats war with Republicans. Small towns are pitted against cities. Women and men are at odds, as are blacks and whites and old and young. North clashes with South, East with West.

“The current gun debate is more polarized and sour than any time before in American history,” said Adam Winkler, a constitutional law professor at UCLA and author of the 2011 book, Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America.

Still numb from the latest mass shooting, in Orlando, it’s easy to imagine that guns have always divided us this way.

But a close look at survey data over decades shows they haven’t.

There was a time when most citizens favored banning handguns, the chief gun lobbyists supported firearm restrictions and courts hadn’t yet interpreted the Second Amendment as guaranteeing a personal right to bear arms for self-defense at home.

Today, in a country of hundreds of millions of guns, public opinion and interpretation of the law have shifted so much that outright gun bans are unthinkable. It’s true that large segments of the public have expressed support for some aspects of gun regulation — but when Americans have been asked to say which is more important, gun control or gun rights, they trend toward the latter.

That shift has come, perhaps surprisingly, as fewer Americans today choose to keep a gun in their home. The General Social Survey by NORC at the University of Chicago — one of the foremost authorities on gun ownership — found 31 percent of households had guns in 2014, down from a high of 50.4 percent in 1977.

“Institutions have repeated, ‘More guns, less crime. More guns, less crime,’ over and over again for almost 40 years, and it’s hard to turn that belief around in any easy way,” said Joan Burbick, an emeritus professor at Washington State University who wrote Gun Show Nation: Gun Culture and American Democracy and who owns a gun for hobby shooting.

Among the longest-existing measures of public gun sentiment is a Gallup poll question asking whether there should be a law banning handguns except by police and other authorized people. When it was first asked, in July 1959, 60 percent of respondents approved of such a measure.

By last October, 27 percent agreed.

Many point to a single date as crucial in the societal shift: May 21, 1977, when a contingent of National Rifle Association members staged a revolt that remade the group’s leadership, scuttled plans for a retreat from politics and sealed a rightward, hard-line shift. It led to a fundamental remaking of the NRA, which had come to accept some gun laws, including the Gun Control Act of 1968.

“That was the moment, in one evening, when the gun debate in America radically changed,” said Winkler.

The gun lobby’s increasingly powerful voice found receptive ears among a public left uneasy by civil rights battles, assassinations and growing urban lawlessness. Over time, statehouses and Congress bowed to the influence of the NRA and its allies. And in 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court finally declared Americans have the right to a gun for self-defense.

“What they (gun rights advocates) did is a classic example of how you make constitutional change: They realized they needed to win in the court of public opinion before you could win in the court of law,” said Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University and author of The Second Amendment: A Biography.

The NRA did not respond to an interview request.

But data from the GSS and the Pew Research Center offers a sketch of what the gun-owning populace looks like today: Overwhelmingly white and male, concentrated in rural areas, and more often identifying with or leaning toward the Republican Party.

They also have higher incomes and are more likely to vote.

Though polarization appears in broad questions on gun rights, far more consensus emerges on individual proposals.

A Pew poll released last August showed:

  • 85 percent of people support background checks for purchases at gun shows and in private sales.
  • 79 percent support laws to prevent the mentally ill from buying guns.
  • 70 percent approve of a federal database to track gun sales.
  • 57 percent favor a ban on assault weapons.

“The fact is it’s not divisive. The things that we’re advocating in the American public, when you’re talking about keeping guns out of dangerous hands, we all agree,” said Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. “The only place where this is truly a controversial issue is, tragically and disgracefully, in Congress and in our statehouses across the country.”

WiGWag: The one about Cruz’s doppelganger and Red Riding Hood has a gun

Searcy Hayes went on the Maury Povich Show in April and became a sensation — not because she passed a lie-detector test after her fiancé accused her of cheating but because viewers widely agreed she’s a doppelgänger of Ted Cruz. Hayes became an immediate meme star and, according to the Huffington Post, she and her fiancé agreed to do a six-minute sex tape for $10,000. If you’ve been longing to see Ted Cruz in drag making it with a guy, your chance is coming.

Jenner tests Trump

Caitlyn Jenner decided to take Donald Trump up on his statement that transgender folks should be able to use the restroom that corresponds to their gender identity. Jenner posted a video of her entering the women’s room at Trump International Hotel in New York. “Thank you, Donald, really appreciate it,” she says upon completing the mission and exiting. “By the way, Ted,” she quipped, “nobody got molested.”

Turning the tables

South Carolina state Rep. Mia McLeod introduced a bill requiring men to wait 24 hours to get Viagra prescriptions filled. The proposal, which has no chance in the Republican male-dominated legislature, also requires cardiac stress tests for men seeking drugs for erectile dysfunction, as well as counseling that presents celibacy as a viable lifestyle choice. The requirements mirror South Carolina’s anti-abortion law.

Texas education

A school in Austin, Texas, may get a new name because of its existing name — Lee Elementary, as in Robert E. Lee. Some people suggested honoring author Harper Lee, artist Russell Lee, actor Bruce Lee or director Spike Lee. Some suggested recognizing local legends, like Willie Nelson and Stevie Ray Vaughn. More than a few took offense at the decision to withdraw the Confederate honor and suggested Bleeding Heart Liberal Elementary and Adolf Hitler School for Friendship and Tolerance. But the most popular name? Donald Trump.

Another name game

In an online poll, the Natural Environment Research Council in Britain invited people to help name a new polar research vessel. The top vote-getter turned out to be Boaty McBoatface, which Britain’s science minister said probably wouldn’t become the name of the $284 million ship.

Bad taste

The Krave “candy” bar mixes fruit with meat. Flavors include blueberry barbecue beef and pineapple-orange beef jerky. “We aren’t going out there saying it is a meat bar,” a Hershey’s marketing VP told the Wall Street Journal. But it is definitely a meat bar.

True love’s kiss

One Million Moms raised a ruckus in April after ABC aired an episode of Once Upon A Time featuring a “true love’s kiss” between Ruby AKA Red Riding Hood and Dorothy Gayle. On its website, the grassroots group complained, “Many families watch the program based on beloved children’s fairy tales, but unfortunately ABC has distorted and twisted the storylines in these fables.” The group said ABC is “purposefully pushing a gay agenda.” The producers defended the episode, saying it honored the fairy tale truth: Love is love.

Red’s rifle?

Red Riding Hood’s trending these days. NRA Family, apparently the kid-friendly section of the National Rifle Association website, features retakes on old stories. The first story in the series is “Little Red Riding Hood (Has a Gun).” It transforms Red into a fashion-conscious Annie Oakley. Grandma also has a gun — better to shoot to maim. And the big bad wolf is annoyed because, “Oh, how he hated when families learned how to protect themselves.” Twitter users had a good time offering grim takes on fairy tale figures and accidental shootings. Heard the one about the elves and the shoemaker?

Quality check

A 45-year-old woman in Toulouse, France, was unsure about the quality of her cocaine. So she sought help at a local police station, asking officers to test three bags of the drug for purity. She seemed baffled by her arrest, saying that she merely wanted “to know it was good quality so people do not die of an overdose.”

PricEy junk

Nick Hawk, the Madison native who stars in the Showtime series Gigolos, recently took out an insurance policy for $1 million on his moneymaker. George Geldin, who provided the policy, said it was the first one he’d heard of during his 24 years in the business.

Stressing out Fido

People love to hug their pooches, but a study by the University of British Columbia found the feeling isn’t mutual. Hugging Fido relieves stress for humans, but it turns out that it causes stress for most dogs, who don’t like being squeezed.

Find more WiGWag stories at
wisconsingazette.com.

Republicans demand right to carry firearms at convention

About 32,000 people so far have signed a Change.org petition to allow guns at the Republican National Convention in the name of safety.  Ohio is an open carry state, but the Quicken Loans Arena, where the convention is being held in July,  is a gun-free zone.

Petition signers contend the ban on firearms will make them “sitting ducks, utterly helpless against evil-doers and criminals.”

“Cleveland, Ohio, is consistently ranked as one of the top ten most dangerous cities in America,” the petition says. “By forcing attendees to leave their firearms at home, the RNC and Quicken Loans Arena are putting tens of thousands of people at risk both inside and outside of the convention site.”

That argument has become ubiquitous among members of the National Rifle Association, anti-government militants and gun owners who feel unsafe without weapons. The same argument was made prior to the 2012 RNC in Tampa, but the Secret Service stepped in and banned firearms.

Critics say that Trump and his angry followers present the greatest danger to the RNC. His appearances are often marked with violence toward protesters, blacks, Muslims and others whom Trump rails against from the podium. He encourages his followers to create mayhem.

Protesters effectively shut down a recently scheduled Trump appearance in Chicago by surrounding the area where he was scheduled to speak.

The petition notes that: “All three remaining Republican candidates have spoken out on the issue and are unified in their opposition to Barack HUSSEIN (sic) Obama’s ‘gun-free zones.’”

Petitioners include quotes supporting the universal right to carry firearms from each of the three remaining political candidates (below):

Donald Trump said “I will get rid of gun-free zones on schools — you have — and on military bases on my first day. It gets signed my first day … you know what a gun-free zone is to a sicko? That’s bait.” (Jan. 8. 2016)

Ted Cruz has accurately pointed out “shooting after shooting after shooting happens in so called gun-free zones.” He continued, “look, if you’re a lunatic ain’t nothing better then having a bunch of targets you know that are going to be unarmed.” (Dec. 4, 2015)

And Ohio Governor John Kasich has been a leader in this movement to eliminate deadly “gun-free zones” starting with his brave decision to fight the Democrats and end “gun-free zones” at National Guard facilities in Ohio. (Dec. 18, 2015)

The signers also claim that carrying firearms is a “God-given” right:

“We are all too familiar with the mass carnage that can occur when citizens are denied their basic God-given rights to carry handguns or assault weapons in public. EVERY AMERICAN HAS THE RIGHT TO PROTECT AND DEFEND THEIR FAMILY (sic). With this irresponsible and hypocritical act of selecting a ‘gun-free zone’ for the convention, the RNC has placed its members, delegates, candidates and all US citizens in grave danger.

“We must take a stand. We cannot allow the national nominating convention of the party of Lincoln and Reagan to be hijacked by weakness and political correctness. The policies of the Quicken Loans Arena do not supersede the rights given to us by our Creator in the U.S. Constitution (sic).”