I'm Going to Get Shit in the Comments For This Post

Please excuse me as I shift from bitching about the $686,000,000.00 playground to focus on national news.

Lately the news has been dominated by incomprehensible violence within schools. Schools are one of the few places where any act of murder or mayhem uniquely affects the American conscience. These are children who are mostly defenseless and need us to protect them. Despite the recent bloodletting in educational settings, schools are considered the safest place for children of any age. Obviously, executions and sexual assaults of innocent young girls still have a way of burrowing under your skin. Something must be done.

Well, something productive anyways. It's obvious that current Republican leadership has no interest in acting productively. Instead, they offer platitudes and batshit craziness. It's par for the course for the American Right.

Just look at how stupid conservatives are acting in Dana Milbank's most recent column. President Bush, First Lady Laura Bush, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, and Secretary Margaret Spellings all hosted panels and/or gave speeches on the recent spate of school violence. All four failed to talk about the "elephant in the room": access to assault weapons.

Now, it's full disclosure time. Although I've been called a "mediocre liberal in-the-box thinker" in this blog's comments section, one area where I diverge from typical liberal thinking is gun control. I'm one of the few DC residents who thinks that the city's handgun ban is wildly unconstitutional. Yes it keeps the citizenry safer from acts of violence. That's no excuse for a serious breach of the Second Amendment. It's our Bill of Rights. We can't weaken them in the name of safety. That applies to handguns as much as it applies to not sending people to Syria to be tortured without trial or access to evidence. Real liberals should be with me on this. Instead I'm stuck agreeing with Republicans and, shudder, Libertarians.

Of course, like many other liberties, there are limits. And psychotics getting access to assault weapons designed for the sole purpose of taking human life is certainly way outside those limits. Our Constitution certainly has plenty of room for pragmatism.

Republican leadership's failure to discuss the impact of assault weapons in connection to violence within our schools is ridiculously negligent. This is an issue that could result in an excellent national dialogue. But as long as the NRA is writing the checks, the American public is shit out of luck.

So, what do Republican supporters say the real problem is? Hold onto your hats for the surprising answer:

Bush and his fellow participants stood in front of a faux blackboard inscribed with the words "Conference on School Safety" 42 times. With gun control off the table, the questions and comments became a bit repetitious, too, as a long line of participants echoed the belief that school violence would be reduced by values education and religious belief.

"It's illegal to say 'God' in the public schools these days," complained one questioner. He was followed by a representative of the American Association of Christian Schools. Craig Scott, brother of a girl killed in the Columbine massacre, said she was "killed for her faith."

"Lots of folks find answers in their faith," Spellings observed.

They certainly did yesterday. Another panelist spoke about the need for churches to "adopt" schools. An organization started by the Scotts, Rachel's Challenge, distributed brochures comparing the slain girl and her father to Anne Frank and her father.

When Bush arrived, Craig Scott was invited to speak again. This time, he read a poem he said his father read while appearing before a congressional committee.

"You've outlawed simple prayer.

"Now gunshots fill our classrooms and precious children die . . .

"You regulate restrictive law through legislative creed, and yet you failed to understand that God is what we need."

Of course. Of fucking course. President Bush, by the way, lauded Scott's "unbelievably eloquent testimony." I suppose "eloquent" is relative when dealing with President Bush.

What garbage. Christianity, even the evangelical kind that many liberals find so scary, is fine by me. But this is flat-out dishonest. You'd think people so into their Lord and Savior would know that bearing false witness is a big no-no.

First thing first. It is not illegal to say "God" in public schools. For teachers, yeah. Separation of church and state and all that deliciousness. But personal prayer, despite what the Christian crazies might tell you, is perfectly fine. I only spent three years in a non-religious (read: public) school, but people prayed all the time. People even crossed themselves before math class! And this was in Massachusetts, the first place Evangelicals would expect a bunch of crazy anti-prayer laws.

And what's really startling about all this "schools aren't Christian enough" hogwash is that the most startling and horrible act of school violence took place in an Amish school! Are these people suggesting that the Amish aren't Christian enough!? I'm pretty sure Amish schoolhouses feature prayer!

As for the Scotts, well, I'm sorry that this family lost a loving daughter. But passing out brochures comparing her to Anne Frank reeks of self-promotion. Oh, and Craig? Your poem sucks.

The Republicans have decided that giving people the religious willies is more important than a dialogue on access to assault weapons. Why? Because the religious willies are the grease in the GOP voting machine. Shame on these people.


  1. A. Please tell me what you consider an "assault weapon."

    B. Tell me how you would determine who is, and who isn't, a "psychotic."

    C. Do you not agree that the man could have done all the damage he wanted in that school with a garden variety .22 or shotgun?

    D. How exactly has the DC ban "kept us safer?" There are shootings seemingly all the time here.

    Not giving you shit, just don't follow your logic.

  2. A. An AK-47 was used in an incident in Wisconsin. Those would certainly qualify. Anything with an automatic function would to.

    B-C. I admit I'm not offering solutions. But I wish politicans could discuss these issues instead of hiding behind Jesus.

    D. There used to be a lot more shootings. The logic is that less access to handguns means less crime. Since the law went into effect violent crime has decreased. I admit that could be a coincidence. The law also makes people feel safer which generally improves quality of life. The law makes sense, but I can't accept as anything other than unconstitutional.

  3. I agree w/ you about the assault weapons. Rusty, I'm a slightly left of center voter w/ some conservative-populist tendencies.

    Yes, the extreme right wing is frightening but you have yet to write about how absurd the extreme left wing is.

    These people are just as crazy in my book. When are we going to see you criticize a liberal?

  4. Guns should be illegal, period. "It's our bill of rights"--go back and read the second amendment carefully. Try out the clause that precedes that hallowed words "right to bear arms shall not be infringed." Then take two more steps back and think about the country when this right was enshrined. None of this was handed down from God.

    The NRA and their cohorts are sick twisted freaks that are devastating this country.

  5. I 100% disagree with you. The Second Amendment is meant to allow American citizenry to protect itself from others...including its own government.

    Not to mention, taking the Constitution literally is a fool's errand. After all "Congress shall make no law" in the First Amendment has been ignored for centuries.

  6. I thought the same thing when I saw all this school violence. WHAT ADMINISTRATION let the act expire? They try to brush that under the carpet, as though it is totally irrelevant that the KID WAS USING AN AK. Of course, yes, he could have used other weapons, but jesus. an AK?

    Another thing I didnt like was Bush's statement that parents should do something about children that seem unhappy. I mean duh -- of course they should. but most likely, this child is unhappy and gets little attention, or the parents just dont notice it, or they dont care. so does he think that all parents are just going to be like "oh...shit." and turn their bad parenting off? as though that's all it would take?

  7. This was a very good post. You have some very good insights, and I agree with you. More religion in schools is not the answer. There's plenty of that already, it's simply not completely institutionalized. That doesn't change the fact that it can still be a very significant part of daily life--I went to public high school in Utah, and while we were never told "you should believe this (referring to Mormonism)" directly, it was inferred in a variety of circumstances. Institutionalizing religion in schools only leads to problems, and would probably ultimately lead to more violence as a result of nonreligious people and religious minorities feeling even more marginalized than they already do. It's disgusting that the GOP is trying to use this to sway the religious right again...what happened to those kids was tragic, but it doesn't have anything to do with religion. Actually, if you look at the past four recent school shootings in the last year, the basic for targeting has been sex specific--women were targeted.

  8. I am a moderate liberal, and yet somehow I usually disagree with Rusty. Not this time. Spot on. Good writing.

    Re: the commenter who said "Guns should be illegal, period." Have you actually thought this statement through?

    Many of the crimes committed with a gun are committed by those who are not legally allowed to own a weapon anyway. Making a gun "illegal" does nothing. You'll still be able to find one from any thugs. And look...drugs are illegal. It's probably easier for me to get a bag of coke than it is for me to get the new Tickle Me Elmo doll. Outlawing an item does very little to stop it from being used.

  9. Remember the Alamo!

  10. "Not to mention, taking the Constitution literally is a fool's errand. After all "Congress shall make no law" in the First Amendment has been ignored for centuries."

    That's a double-edged sword.

    Look at what this "right" has given us: murder rates appropriate to a war-ravaged developing country, 300 MILLION! handguns and school slaughters every other week. Thanks NRA.

  11. Weren't at least two of the recent school shootings situations where the attackers were adults, not students? How's school prayer going to protect kids from the wackos OUTSIDE the school? Make sure they're right with Jeebus before the bullets start flying?

  12. Hmmm, OK. Yes, let's blame the NRA. We shouldn't look at poor family structure, the availability of contraband weapons or lack of opportunity in urban areas. Or, god forbid, what most Americans really hate to examine...personal choice and dealing with its consequences. Nope, all those people shooting each other up would NEVER have done so, had it not been for the NRA.

    I can't tell if you're a troll or if you're serious. I hope you're not serious.

  13. Oh Rusty, sadly you didn't get as much shit as you wanted.

    Here, let me help..

    I like my guns!! I keep one in my car, one in my bedroom, and two up my ass. Damn fagoty liberals wanna take away my guns-- They hate America! Marrainge should be between a man and a woman. Liberals want the terrorist to win! They gave Kim Jong-Il a basketball! Thank God Bush was president druing 9/11 because Gore would have messed everything up. Democrats hate the troops! We're safer now than we were before 9/11. Saddamm Hussein was working with Bin Ladden. Clinton is a commie pinko! Global Warming is a scam. Fox News is way better than that Clinton News Network. I've found Jesus. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, 9/11, 9/11, Jesus...

  14. A little more clarity:

    "Anything with an automatic function would do."

    Fully automatic weapons have been intensely regulated to the point of near extinction for over 60 years. A few folks have them and stage recreational shoots under supervision of local police and fire dept.

    These weapons are involved in virtually none of the gun related crimes in this country, mostly because they cost more than an average new car and they aren't exactly convenient to carry around.

    "There used to be a lot more shootings. The logic is that less access to handguns means less crime. Since the law went into effect violent crime has decreased. I admit that could be a coincidence. The law also makes people feel safer which generally improves quality of life."

    To which law are you referring? DC's comprehensive gun regs went into effect in 1976. That did not exactly lead to a golden age of crime-free DC.

    As far as the law making people feel safer, is this actually true. The law makes people feel safer? Is this before or after they watch the evening news stories about folks getting murdered in SE, or Georgetown, or walking home with a pizza in Petworth?

    The next time I see two unsavory gents lurking in an alley, am I to think to myself, "no worries, we don't allow guns here."

    It's like after the London Tube explosions, New York City started doing random searches of subway-users belongings, on the off chance that your local jihadist might consent to a search and have his plans ruined.

    And random interviewees were hailing this new policy on the grounds that, while it won't actually do anything, it "makes me feel so much safer."

    Well, bully for you. Forgive me if I put the Constitution, along with sane public policy, above your "feelings."

    Finally, with respect to the AK-47. It actually isn't relevant. AK's were perfectly legal before, during and after the vaunted "assault weapons ban." The ban had to do with mostly cosmetic characteristics , so all one had to do was make their rifle less "military-looking" and they're in full compliance.

    An AK is not fully automatic. It is semi-automatic, meaning you can fire a round each time you're able to pull the trigger.

  15. I knew the handgun bill was passed in the 1970s so shame on me for implying that it led to a crime decrease. The 1980s were obviously pretty shitty around these parts. I don't know why I didn't notice that disconnect. Stupid stupid stupid.

    I agree with what you're saying re the handgun ban. I'm against it too. I wish the Supreme Court had the stones to take on a 2nd Amendment case...they haven't taken once since the late-30s. I can't imagine the handgun bill being ruled Constitutional.

  16. Wikkipedia:

    "Although the precise definition is disputed, an assault weapon is generally defined as a semi-automatic firearm that is similar in name, appearance, or design to a fully automatic firearm or military weapon."

  17. Just because people don't use assualt rifles in common robberies doesn't mean they should be made legal. Otherwise, you;d have to apply that logic to nuclear weapons.


    I say give everyone guns!!!! From the day you are old enough to pull the trigger and withstand the kick.

    Then, allow anyone to shoot at anyone that’s shooting. If you see a person fire, regardless of the target, you can shoot to kill and it will be considered self defense.

    Finally, make a mandatory immediate-death sentence for anyone convicted of murder. They get shot right there in the court room - one in the back of the head.

    That would solve everything!

  19. Apples and oranges. Actually, more like apples and volcanoes.

    Assault rifles don't need to be made legal. They are legal.

    A nuclear weapon would be of little use to me during a home invasion, mugging, or mall shooting.

    We're talking about firearms, not military ordnance.

  20. Wikki: Exact definitions vary, but an assault weapon is most frequently defined as a semi-automatic rifle, shotgun, or pistol with a combination of any or all the following characteristics:

    A detachable magazine holding more than 10 rounds. This is often called a "large" or "high" capacity magazine in legislation even if the firearm was originally designed to operate with a normal capacity magazine of such size
    Military-style appearance, including semi-automatic replicas of military fully-automatic assault rifles

    A folding or telescoping stock
    Attached grenade launchers such as the M203

    On rifles and shotguns, "pistol" grips that extend vertically from the stock

    A bayonet lug

    Threaded barrel capable of accepting a flash suppressor or sound suppressor

    Weapons that include a barrel shroud or other covering that prevents the shooter from burning oneself on the barrel

    On pistols, those on which the magazine attaches outside of the pistol grip

    A forward mounted pistol grip

  21. lincoln, are you saying that children do not need protections for that kind of weaponry mentioned above? by protection i mean background checks that have been historically opposed by the NRA.


  22. Protected from what? Scary looking pistol grips? Folding stock?

    Children deserve protection from anyone who would do them harm.

    I also reserve the right to defend myself from criminals especially when my local government is unwilling or unable to do so.

    With respect to background checks, you'd get more sympathy from me if I didn't hear the same anti-2nd Amendment politicians ranting about all these privacy invasions due to the Patriot Act.

    I'm not saying I'd be in favor of them, but you'd get more sympathy.

    By all accounts, the man who attacked the Amish children would have passed (and indeed, may have passed) any background check the government could have thrown his way.

    Even if you had a nationwide database that all gun dealers log into before making a sale, whom will you deny? Anyone with a criminal record? So, a woman with an abusive ex-husband wants a gun. But she got busted for pot a few years back, so she's a no go?

    Are you only going to deny those with violent felony convictions? Ok, but those cats get their glocks out of old dodge ram conversion vans.

    Finally, the NRA is not the mythical power people think it is. Politicians do not cower before the NRA. In fact, NRA gets its marching orders from the politicians, then they sell whatever compromise is on the table to their members.

    I don't want to go off on a major tangent, but suffice to say I know more about the 2A "movement," if you want to call it that, than anyone at the CHE and 99% of all journalists at mainstream publications.

    NRA sells out the interests of gun owners all the time. NRA loves media attention, loves having a "seat at the table," loves going to coctail parties.

  23. I feel bad that the Columbine dad lost a daughter in that massacre. But the "fact" that she was killed because she said she was Christian is an urban legend er, uh, I mean a half-brained, nutjob fundamentalist legend on par with "prayer is illegal in schools". It's more than a little disturbing that people would mis-use a tragedy in this way. Wanna really get scared about America's future? Go see "Jesus Camp".

  24. Rusty, I think you're great. And I really mean that. Your posts bring a smile to my face. Thank you.

  25. I just have a couple of questions, and I'm not trying to be an ass. I just want to know what you think.

    1) What reasons other than "it's in the constitution" do you have for making it legal to have guns? Because, you know, the constitution can be amended. We somehow came to the conclusion that blacks are worth more than 3/5 of a person, I think we could come to the conclusion that "arms" have developed far beyond the wildest dreams of our forefathers.

    2) Do you know the statistics about the use of handguns as a means of protection against criminals? That seems to be everyone's favorite argument. "I want to protect my family." Because, and I am not sure about this, but I think that owning a handgun and having it in your house is more likely to cause harm to one of the residents than to stop an intruder based on the idea that a) people's houses aren't robbed while people are home all that often and b) if a robber does come in with a weapon, what are the chances that you will be near the gun or be able to get to the gun before that intruder can shoot you? And if the intruder doesn't have a gun, can't you just use a knife or a bat?

  26. [Picks self up off the floor] My God man you may be worth something yet! I have to agree. I mean the NRA is so, so, not needed anymore...

  27. Just curious, don't you know the second amendment "right to bear arms" came straight from God's mouth and the preceding clause that QUALIFIES it was the work of the devil? Wake up, man.

  28. Just Curious,

    I would be against any amendment that strips the people of rights instead of granting them new liberties.

    And, yeah, guns are dangerous and stupid. Despite my rifle shooting merit badge, guns scare the shit out of me. I HATE them. But, people have the right to own them for protection. The 2nd Amendment is pretty clear on that.

  29. Why "shudder, Libertarians"? Your statement that you "would be against any amendment that strips the people of rights instead of granting them new liberties" is pretty much the definition of the libertarian political philosophy.

  30. Yes. I would consider myself a Democrat with Libertarian leanings. But actual Libertarians tend to be incredibly pompous and not that bright.

  31. "...actual Libertarians tend to be incredibly pompous and not that bright."
    Rusty, you are making the jokes too easy.
    I'll start: OK, but what DISTINGUISHES you from the "actual Libertarians"?

  32. "I would be against any amendment that strips the people of rights instead of granting them new liberties."

    If banning guns would mean that fewer people would be killed, isn't that worth it? Are you saying that someone's right to live isn't as important as another person's right to own an object that, in 99 cases out of 100, is only to make that person feel safer (and won't actually ever be used)?

  33. We need to find statistics. I don't know if they exist.

    If we knew how many peoples' LIVES were saved because they owned a gun and could protect themselves, we could weigh that number against how many people would be saved if we banned guns.

    If more people were saved because of gun ownership than were lost needlessly, then protecting the rights of those who wish to own guns would be paramount because more people's right to life would be protected. However, if more people are killed because of guns than are saved, keeping the second amendment as is infringes on more peoples' right to life than it protects. What is more important than that?

    Owning a gun to protect one's house from an intruder is not a stupid idea, by any means. But we have to make a separation - in some of those cases, would the gun be to protect property as well as life? Should a person's right to protect their television set be more important than the child's life that is lost when a careless father leaves his gun on the table?

  34. A civil liberty is a civil liberty, even if it's a dangerous one. Miranda rights are dangerous if it leads to a killer being freed, but, that's why we have a Constitution. Liberty is more important than safety. When it comes to "terrorist rights," Democrats tend to agree with me. When it comes to guns, the exact opposite.

    People can think what they want of me, but at least I'm consistent!

  35. Curious, statistics have been manipulated on both sides.

    Gun-grabbers point to the high amount of "children" killed by "gun violence" (they are never killed by murderers, rather, just taken by "gun violence.") And even if the kiddies are 19-year-old drug dealers, they are lumped in with accidental deaths.

    Pro-2A groups will show you stats indicating that an American child is more likely to die in a swimming pool than as a result of a firearm-related accident.

    But in either case, I find fault with your analysis of how many guns are used for defense vs. how many are used for murder.

    How many traffic fatalities are there each year? Thousands? Tens of thousands?

    Congress could pass a bill mandating that any car sold in the US must not be able to exceed 30 miles per hour. That would lead to a huge drop in auto fatalities.

    The bottom line for me is that I don't believe any government has the right to disarm its citizens. It's not about protecting my television (it's an 8-year-old Sony, maybe if I had a plasma I'd think differently).

    The government's "efforts" at law enforcement and corrections are quite lacking.

    Just because they can't keep criminals behind bars doesn't mean they should be able to strip me of any way to defend myself from said hoodlums.

  36. "A civil liberty is a civil liberty, even if it's a dangerous one. Miranda rights are dangerous if it leads to a killer being freed, but, that's why we have a Constitution. Liberty is more important than safety."

    So then, Rusty, according to that logic, you should also be adamently anti-War on Drugs and pro-Marijuana (and other drug) legalization. Are you?

  37. Plain and simple: If you own a gun legally, don't be stupid about it. Goes back to the personal freedom of choice and dealing with the consequences. If you're a parent with a gun, keep that thing secured and unreachable from your kid. Lock box. Key. It's not that hard. I agree with Rusty on the amending the Constitution. These days you have WAY too many laws enacted to protect the most inept, idiotic individuals.

  38. Just Curious re drugs,

    Drug users should not be thrown in jail. Drug dealers, even pot dealers, should be.

    Drugs represent a great danger to the American population. So do guns. But drugs don't have the power of the Bill of Rights behind it. Gun ownership has been a liberty since the 1780s. Drugs have no such distinction.

  39. "Gun ownership has been a liberty since the 1780s. Drugs have no such distinction."

    "Liberty is more important than safety."

    So if one person's choice, their "pursuit of happiness", comes in the form of a needle, who are you to tell them what is good for them? As someone else stated, "These days you have WAY too many laws enacted to protect the most inept, idiotic individuals" - Just because some people abuse drugs doesn't mean we should have laws that dictate what we may do to ourselves (not even other people, which guns DO affect)

    When it comes to drugs, when it comes to many other issues today, you can't hide behind the bill of rights because they were created in a time before heroin and cocaine even existed in this country. They weren't excluded from the bill of rights on principle, they were excluded from the bill of rights because they weren't around yet.

    When it comes to something like drugs you have to look at the philosophy and logic behind it. If you only allow people specific rights as listed, then you are not standing up for more freedom, you are standing up for the freedom that is easiest to defend because it is already written down. So, philosophically, if liberty really is more important than safety, why should drugs be illegal? Why shouldn't a person be able to choose what goes into their bodies? And how is selling that substance different than injesting it?

    Another interesting idea of freedom and liberties comes to mind. Why shouldn't prostitution be legal? The only people prostitution harms now are the girls who get abused by pimps, can't get healthcare, and aren't protected from their johns. No, prostitution isn't protected in the bill of rights, but if liberty is most important, why shouldn't a person be able to do with his or her body what he or she wants?

  40. An interesting sidenote:

    You said pot dealers should be thrown in jail. Yet, alcohol is legal in this country. Alcohol is considered by many, many people in the scientific world to be a worse drug for our bodies than marijuana. You can't overdose and die on marijuana, but you can on alcohol. Longterm marijuana use doesn't cause the liver damage that alcohol does. You can't die from marijuana withdrawal, but you can from alcohol withdrawal. We don't even know if marijuana is addictive because our laws prevent adequate studies of it. So why, exactly, is it illegal? Who knows. But just saying, obviously without knowing the science, that marijuana is dangerous to our society and shouldn't be made legal while you go out drinking with your college buddies IS hypocritical. Why should you be allowed to put a drug into your body, but another shouldn't be allowed the same right?

  41. In the guns v. drugs debate, I think it's important to note the distinction between civil rights and civil liberties. While civil rights are inherent rights owed to humanity, civil liberties are rights granted to us by government. Our government has granted us the liberty of gun ownership and not of drug use. Their reasoning being that guns can be used for protection while drugs cause death, despair, unemployment, a burden on hospitals, and a threat to the lives around the drug user. Is it fair, maybe, maybe not. But you have to admit that the government isn't totally out of line denying its citizenry access to drugs.

    And re drugs v. alcohol...yeah, I know. A cop once told me that he'd rather bust a bunch of potheads than a bunch of drunks. But he still thought pot should be illegal while keeping alcohol legal. Why?

    "Look at me drinking this beer. If I were smoking one joint, I'd be high. Too intoxicated to drive. I'd be putting people at risk. With alcohol, you can enjoy it in moderation. You can't have just one bowl or just one line."

    Of course, the biggest danger of marijuana use is the danger of being thrown in jail. And that's ridiculous. That needs to stop.

    Also, full disclosure, I lived with two drug dealers in collge. And they sucked. People broke into my room to steal their stashes and their accumulated wealth. DEA agents busted into the room with ski masks and guns drawn. That sort of fun stuff. I really have no sympathy for drug dealers. They're not choosing to get high. They're choosing to weaken the quality of life around them in order to make a profit. Fuck 'em.

  42. Good points.

    You are one of the only people I have ever encountered that can have a cotinuing discussion/argument on the internet without turning it personal, vulgar, or insulting - even if I made points that didn't make sense. :)

  43. Thanks! You too!

    We should smoke a bowl while shooting our pistols in the air sometime.