Tag Archives: mass shooting

Considering Candidates Post Las Vegas Massacre: Rule Out Tim Walz

A man who was not even known as a gun collector amassed an arsenal that all experts agree included illegal fully automatic weapons. He carried out an act of carnage, alone and using only those weapons, that exceeded in casualty count almost every military battle fought in recent decades by American troops, and that equaled or surpassed all but a very small number of terrorist attacks.

He shot five hundred people.

He shot these people, killing nearly 60 of them, with guns he was able to get because he lives in America. In America, the Second Amendment has protected gun ownership for so long and so irrationally that, even though the worst killing machines are sort of, kinda, a little, illegal, you can still get them.

Guns are the only toys protected by a Constitutional amendment. Gun ownership is a deadly pasttime that is protected by Congress. Even though the CDC and other government agencies, and the concomitant experts, believe that guns are a major public health risk, Congress has legislated against the distribution of research funds one might use to study this problem. And, generally, Congress has been the lapdog of the National Rifle Association, which is a lobbyist organization representing gun and ammo manufacturers disguised as an interest group supporting guns as toys for men and women, but mostly men, across the country.

Why Tim Walz Is Not Viable as a DFL Gubernatorial Candidate

First, let me say that I would normally argue that it is too early to make strong statements against a fellow DFLer (Democratic Party) who is running for office. But what happened last night in Las Vegas has changed all that, and I have to speak out, and strongly so. I am very unhappy about this situation. Here’s the story.

As I was poking around to find out how various members of Congress and future candidates for re-election had voted on guns, in pursuit of writing about Las Vegas. I was shocked and deeply disturbed to find that Congressman Tim Walz, who currently represents Minnesota’s 1st District and is now running for the Democratic Party’s endorsement for Governor, is one of those questionable members of Congress. I had seen Walz speak at a recent forum. Members of a gun-control group were there and they asked the first questions. They asked about various bills and they asked about silencers, an issue that has come up recently in the Minnesota legislature.

I was utterly confused by Congressman Walz’s response to these questions. At no point did he lay down a position. He seemed to take more than one position at a time. He mentioned he was a veteran and a hunter several times, but he also mentioned that we have to be sensible about guns. But he wasn’t able to articulate a position that I could understand, and I’ve been following and writing about gun issues for years. I left that forum not knowing what his position on guns was, but feeling like I had been somehow conned. In fact, I felt like I needed a shower after that set of answers, and I honestly can’t explain exactly why. I did check my wallet on the way out the door, though.

Anyway, I have now looked into it. Walz is, essentially, a Republican when it comes to guns. He supports conceal carry. He supported a bill that allowed the registration and position of weapons that are normally illegal, by a privileged group. He supported the ban by Congress of the Washington DC law that included sensible trigger lock provisions, disallowed semiautomatic weapons, and provided for stricter registration He opposed legislation what would limit access to guns by people with questionable mental competence. And, I think he said, silencers should be legal, but again, I’m not sure.

Walz was actually a co-sponser of HR420, the Veterans Heritage Firearms act. This basically allowed veterans or people related to veterans (i.e., a LOT of people) to keep and register firearms that would normally be illegal, as long as they had stolen the gun off a dead enemy. Or otherwise acquired it while “overseas.”

The act of Congress disallowing Washington DC to regulate its own guns was HR 1399 was also co-Sponsored by Walz. Congress allowed DC to continued to disallow sawed off shotguns, but not semiautomatic weapons.

The mental competence law that Walz supported was HR2547. This bill “Prohibits, in any case arising out of the administration of laws and benefits by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, considering any person who is mentally incapacitated, deemed mentally incompetent, or experiencing an extended loss of consciousness from being considered adjudicated as a mental defective for purposes of the right to receive or transport firearms without the order or finding of a judge, magistrate, or other judicial authority of competent jurisdiction that such person is a danger to himself or herself or others.”

It seems like Walz is especially concerned with protecting and even expanding beyond normal the gun ownership rights of veterans with mental disabilities, which by definition includes a subset of individuals who really should not be walking around with guns that are not even legal for other people to have.

The other Democratic candidates for Minnesota Governor have very different positions. Walz stands out like a sore thumb among his colleagues. Rebecca Otto wants a science based approach. She noted in a statement following the Las Vegas massacre that Congress has essentially illegalized scientific research on guns and gun safety. Clearly, we have made huge strides in automobile safety, and people generally have the right to drive cars, and far far fewer people are killed because of driving today than would otherwise have been possible without sensible science-based policy. We did not need a Constitutional Amendment protecting driving to make this happen. In fact, the Second Amendment damages our nation’s ability to be sensible about gun laws.

Here is, in part, Otto’s statement:

What we are doing with gun safety laws is not working. We must study gun violence as a public health issue just as we did motor vehicle safety and our work to reduce motor vehicle deaths. We need to steep our policies in evidence, not rhetoric. Let’s collect the evidence and let our scientists study the issue.

The NRA has its place, but not at the expense of so many lives. The NRA and their gun lobby stranglehold on D.C. is a perfect example of the Politics of unfettered greed. Time to end the Politics of Greed & return to the Politics of the common good.

Here’s the thing: Even Walz can be seen as advocating a sensible approach, if you stand in the back of the room, plug one ear, and kinda squint while he is talking about guns. But he has never voted for sensible change, and when he tries to advocate a mainstream progressive policy, his tongue gets stuck on his trigger and thing go badly. He is pushing himself as a progressive left of center who won’t move to the right, but he’s been far right on guns all along.

Sorry, Tim.

Sandy Hook: Their Horror, Our Country, Your Guns.

Let me start with this. People talking about Sandy Hook need to stop saying that “20 children between the ages of 5 and 10 were killed.” That is technically true but misses an enormously important point and indicates that you really haven’t thought this through. All of the children who were killed were born between September 2005 and December 2006. They were all in the first grade, all in the same school year, and most of them in the same exact class. Sandy hook had about 100 students in that year. Now, the class is 20% smaller.

This means that every year for the next few years there will be a special, demographic, reminder of the killings. This will be the year with one fewer teacher and slightly more crowded classrooms, or the same number of teachers with smaller than typical classes, compared to the year ahead or behind. This will be the year when the number of busses needed for a field trip will sometiems be less than needed for the year before or the year after, as time marches on. In this particular school district, students consolidate into a middle school in the fifth grade, so the demographic shift will be less noticeable. Instead of 20% of the students missing, it will be 5%. But, that is not a small number when counting students, teachers, busses, desks, etc. It will be subtle, but the 7th grade history teacher will wait an extra year to order new textbooks. You see, one of the reasons to order a new volume, besides staying current, is attrition on the numbers of available books. When this class arrives that won’t be an issue for one more year. And so on. Many little things like this will happen, every week, to teachers, students, administrators. The memory, and thus the horror, of the Sandy Hook killings will be manifest in the details and will keep sneaking up on these people when they least expect it.

This is nothing, of course, compared to the horrors of the deaths and the circumstances surrounding them. But there will be times when a teacher will remember her fellow educator slain on that day while grading assignments and feeling the difference in numbers, or a student will notice that her section of the 4th grade concert assembly is smaller because her four best friends were slain while she hid in a cabinet, hearing her teacher trick the gunman into leaving the classroom just before being pumped with bullets. Will she remember the sound of her body falling to the floor or was it masked by the repeated gunfire or did she hear both sounds from her hiding place? You and I don’t know, but she’ll remember. If they make cute little year books for Elementary School graduation, this class will use less space, and it will take less time at the ceremony to hand out the scrolls. This will dawn on someone in the audience who will then be reminded of the horror, and if you are there, you’ll hear the sobbing.

Anyway, stop saying “20 children between the ages of 5 and 10” because that ignores the very important fact that these children were all the same exact age, as ages go.

Now, on to this point: Stop telling me that your guns are important. I don’t care about your guns. I have hobbies too, that don’t happen to involve guns and I don’t ask you to adjust your politics, to take risks of life and limb, to ignore the horrors of daily gunplay among testosterone poisoned men taking lives every few hours somewhere in this country, of the thousands of youth suicides every year facilitated by easy access to unsecured deadly firearms or the occasional horrific massacre. Do don’t do that to me. Don’t make me respect your stupid hobby which has, as a side effect, the horror that happened last week and will happen again in a few months, because these things happen every few months, in case you have not noticed because you are too busy playing with your precious little guns.

And then this. Don’t give me your made up, out of date, or irrelevant statistics. There have been enough studies. Not all fears (about guns) are real, but most of the accolades given to gun ownership are pipe dreams, or really, gunplay fantasies. When a conceal carry law was passed in Minnesota, anti-gun people feared more shootings, pro-gun people said we’d all be safer because when trouble happened, good guys would draw guns and stop it. Guess what. Neither happened. We had a major massacre here, in fact, just recently, a workplace shooting. No good guys drew their guns. So even if the number of shootings did not go up, the “good side” of allowing people to walk around slinging guns like they lived in the wild west did not happen either. But otherwise, the statistics generally show that more guns equals more bad things that happen with guns. If good things happen because of these guns, they are very small in number, very infrequent, occur at a very low rate, if at all.

To depict these relationships I’ve drawn two graphs. I don’t need to base them on data, because even though you will say “You are not a real skeptic if you make a graph with no data” (I dare you, say it in the comments), these two graphs summarize all that we know to be pretty much true. Here they are:

The more guns, the more bad shit that happens because of guns
If there is a positive effect of more guns, it is much less of an effect than the negative effects depicted above. This line, in real life, may in fact be flat.

Then this: The problem is the Second Amendment. With or without the Second Amendment, we could have sensible gun laws.Gun ownership could be legal, but guns could be better secured an less often used. But with the Second Amendment, the pro-gun lobby takes the most extreme stance possible because they argue that any limitations on gun use or ownership will lead to abrogation of all gun rights. I know lots and lots of gun owners who are happy with increased restrictions or increased security, but the NRA bought-and-paid-for elected officials and gun lobbyists don’t represent those reasonable people at all. They refuse to compromise. One of the false statistic you might have wanted to cite above before I told you to shut up is this: There have been lots of gun restrictions passed and they did not good. That is not true in two ways. First, increased restriction leads to fewer deaths, compared across states or across countries. Second, there have not been very restrictive gun laws passed, for the most part. I’ve seen gun nuts cite the assault weapons ban as having done nothing, without noting that it exists for a few years then expired.

Here’s the the thing. If gun ownership is OK, then lets make it ok, using laws. If gun owners really think that what they are doing is OK, then they should be able to do it without hiding behind an amendment that has nothing to do with Boys and their Toys or with Hunting, or even with addressing issues of crime, threats of rape, home invasion, etc. The Second Amendment does not limit restriction on guns so you can defend your home from criminals or go hunting. It is to defend your home from the British. If what you are doing with your guns is really OK, then why do you want to hide behind an atavistic centuries old out of date no longer relevant amendment?

So here’s what we do, OK? First, we get rid of the Second Amendment. Then, we talk. In the mean time, keep your fucking guns away from me and stop complaining. Society has reached a tipping point. We are tired of your bullying, your whining, your childish insistence that you are doing something important with your toys, because for the most part, you are not.