Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Conventional Wisdom Predicts That Ohio Gun Worshippers Have No Worries In 2016


If Ohio gun nuts are breathing easy it's because they probably figure that either incumbent Republican Rob Portman will win the 2016 Senate race or he'll be defeated by conservative Democrat Ted Strickland. Both are devout NRA-shills, Portman with an NRA rating of A and Strickland, believe it or not, with an even better NRA rating of A-plus! The solution for anyone who takes gun safety seriously is the progressive Democrat who's running against these two conservative relics: Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, who doesn't pussyfoot around when it come stop guns. "I will unequivocally push for universal background checks that aren’t watered down with gun show or other loopholes," he told Ohioans at a press conference this morning in Columbus. He started by explaining he's running for the Senate because "Ohio needs new ideas and new approaches to the major issues facing our country."
Ohio needs new ideas and new approaches to the major issues facing our country. Critical issues are ignored. Special interests supersede the national interest.

And do-nothing gridlock has become our government’s default position. By now, it should be clear that politics as usual won’t fix the problem because politics as usual IS the problem.

It’s often been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again-- and expecting a different result. And so it is with our politics. If we’re serious about cleaning up the mess in Washington, it makes no sense to keep electing and re-electing the same people who created that mess in the first place. The time has come to turn the page-- and to bring fresh faces and new voices into the Congress of the United States.

...Nowhere is this clearer than when it comes to reducing the gun violence and mass shootings that continue to plague our streets, schools, churches and movie theaters.

In America, over 32,000 people are killed by guns every year. That’s roughly 90 people a day… every day... every week… every month. In Cleveland, 2015 has been the deadliest year in nearly a decade, with 100 homicides through the first week in October-- which city police blame on the proliferation of guns. In September, three of the victims were a 5 year old, a 3 year old, and a 5-month old infant who were hit by stray bullets.

Here in Franklin County, 89% of the homicides so far this year were the result of gunfire-- as were over half of Toledo’s murders. And so it goes in city after city and state after state. You want to know how bad it’s gotten?

In 2013, there were more preschoolers under the age of 5 killed by guns in this country than there were police officers killed in the line of duty. And since 1989, more Americans of all ages have been killed by guns than have been killed in every war our nation has ever fought.

Think about that last statistic for a minute.

I know it’s hard to believe. But it comes from the Center for American Progress in Washington-- where Gov. Strickland served as President of their Political Action Committee before he decided to run for the Senate.

And then there’s the rising tide of mass shootings across our nation. Columbine.  Virginia Tech.  Aurora.  Newtown. Charleston. Roseburg, Oregon. We’ve reached the point where every few weeks, another mass shooting darkens our nation’s door.

Few will ever forget the horror we felt when a psychopath armed with a semi-automatic rifle and two semi-automatic pistols walked into an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut and slaughtered 20 six- and seven-year-old children, along with 6 adults, including the school principal.

That was in December of 2012-- three years ago next month.  And since then there have been 142 more school shootings-- 49 of them this year alone. And every time, our reaction is the same. We weep. We mourn. We say "never again."

But then nothing changes. Nothing happens. Nothing ever gets done.

It’s as if we tell ourselves that this is just the way it is in America... that mass homicide and periodic massacres are the price we must pay to live in a free society. But that, of course, is preposterous. No other country in the world lives like this-- and we shouldn’t either.

Like most Americans, I support the Second Amendment. I respect the rights of hunters and sportsmen. And I believe we all have a right to protect and defend ourselves, our homes, and our families.

But I am tired of seeing the Second Amendment abused by absolutists who believe anything goes-- and don’t seem to understand that there is a huge difference between regulation and confiscation. No one is talking about taking away everyone’s guns.

We’re only talking about common sense-- and common sense tells us that when Americans are 20 times more likely to be murdered with a gun than are citizens in any other developed country on earth, something is seriously wrong.

So why is there so much carnage in this nation? Is it because Americans are inherently more violent-- or because we have more people who are mentally ill? No, it’s not. Nor can we blame violent movies and video games-- since people in other industrialized countries watch the same movies and play the same games.

What’s different is the 300 million guns this nation now has in circulation-- and the ease with which they can be accessed and carried into public places by people who shouldn’t be allowed to have them in the first place. The vast majority of Americans get that-- which is why polls tell us that 90% of the people-- and a solid majority of gun owners-- favor common sense laws like universal background checks with no gun show or other loopholes.

And the only reason we don’t have that law on the books is because Congress continues to cower before the extremists who have taken control of the NRA. Once and not so long ago, the NRA actually lobbied for sensible gun safety laws. In 1999-- one month after the Columbine shootings-- the NRA’s Executive Director went to Congress and testified in favor of universal background checks.

Now, the NRA spends its time blocking even the most reasonable reforms-- including the very same comprehensive background checks they used to support. The NRA has become the worst kind of special interest in our political system. A group that puts it’s own radical agenda above the common good of the nation… a group that distorts the truth-- and tries to get its way through  fear and intimidation.

So I have come here to say-- I will not be intimidated. I am here to say that Ohio deserves leaders who will stand up and fight for the safety of our families. And I am here to say that it is time for the slaughter to stop. But here’s what else we know:

No matter how unreasonable the NRA becomes, it has always been able to count on the unwavering loyalty and knee-jerk support of my two Senate opponents in this race, Ted Strickland and Rob Portman. When it comes to guns, Sen. Portman and Gov. Strickland are just different sides of the same coin. And they’ve both earned “A” ratings from the NRA by doing exactly what they’re told to do.

Shortly after the elementary school massacre at Newtown, for example, Sen. Portman met with the parents of some of the murdered children. And when they asked him to vote for the background check legislation that was then before Congress, Sen. Portman told them--and I quote-- "You know, I have an 'A' rating from the NRA, so I’m probably not going to support this."

And sure enough-- he didn’t. But that should have come as no surprise. Sen. Portman also voted against background checks in 1993 when Congress passed the Brady Bill... he voted against background checks for guns bought at gun shows… against a ban on semi-automatic assault weapons… and he even voted against prohibiting gun purchases by violent juvenile offenders.

Unfortunately, Ted Strickland’s record has been even worse-- which is why he earned not just an "A" rating from the NRA, but a rating of "A+." In Congress, he voted against everything Sen. Portman voted against-- and then went a few steps further. Congressman Strickland voted against keeping assault weapons out of the hands of children… he voted to protect gun manufacturers… but opposed the funding necessary to enforce a child safety lock provision. And he even voted against banning the use of federal money to promote the commercial sale of elephant ivory and rhinoceros horns.

Over the objection of police groups, Governor Strickland pledged to sign a bill allowing guns to be brought into bars and restaurants where alcohol is served. He signed legislation that weakened concealed carry restrictions. And when he ran for re-election in 2010, he boasted about voting against the Brady Bill’s background checks-- and against what his campaign literature described as "the Clinton Gun Ban."

You know what this so-called “Clinton Gun Ban” was? It was a law passed by the Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton that took military-style assault weapons off our streets. But you know, Ted doesn’t much talk about the “Clinton Gun Ban” anymore. And it’s easy to see why.

These days, he’s supporting another candidate named "Clinton"-- one who’s not only making gun safety a cornerstone of her campaign, but who recently said-- and I quote:
"We need to make every politician who sides with (the NRA) look in the eyes of parents whose kids have been murdered-- and explain why they listen to the gun lobbyists instead."
Apparently, that’s not something Ted is anxious to explain. So he’s suddenly reversed himself and now says he actually supports the very same "common sense background checks" that he’s always opposed and voted against.

Next March, Democratic primary voters will have to decide for themselves whether they think Ted’s election year conversion on guns is sincere-- or merely politically expedient. In the meantime, let me tell you about the kind of gun reforms I will pursue in the United States Senate.

First, I will unequivocally push for universal background checks that aren’t watered down with gun show or other loopholes. Background checks work-- and since 1998, they’ve blocked an estimated 2.3 million attempted gun purchases by dangerous people who shouldn’t have them.

But current federal law has two major loopholes that were championed by the NRA and supported by both Gov. Strickland and Sen. Portman.

The first is that background checks are required only for guns sold by licensed dealers-- which means that firearms sold at gun shows-- and often over the internet-- are free to be sold without a check.

The second loophole is that even when a gun is purchased from a licensed dealer, the sale can go forward if the FBI takes longer than three days to complete the background check. Now most of the time, this isn’t a problem because the vast majority of checks take only a few minutes. But when there is something in a potential buyer’s background that is uncertain and requires more investigation… the FBI may, in rare cases, take longer than 3 days. But rare cases can have catastrophic consequences. According to some estimates, this arbitrary three-day rule has allowed more than 15,000 guns to be sold to dangerous people. One of them was a psychotic, 21-year old racist named Dylann Roof-- who walked into Charleston’s Mother Emmanuel Church last summer and brutally murdered 9 innocent people with a gun that was sold to him by a licensed dealer after the background check took longer than 3 days.

What other industry would tolerate this kind of policy? No bank loan officer would be allowed to hand out money after three days because a borrower’s credit check was incomplete. No doctor would tell a patient she was cancer-free because it took longer than three days to get the lab results back. And how many parents would want a day-care worker cleared for duty with an incomplete background check? To be fair, many licensed dealers and a few large retailers are doing the right thing and refusing to sell a gun without a completed background check. But too many others are not acting responsibly-- and that is why we cannot afford to count on voluntary compliance alone.

I believe “no check, no sale” must become the law of the land-- and in the Senate, I won’t rest until we close the "Charleston loophole" once and for all. But let’s be honest. While they’re a good first step, background checks alone won’t be enough to stop the slaughter in our streets. We must also make "straw purchases" of guns a federal crime-- and revoke the licenses of "bad actor" dealers who have a history of selling guns to gang members, traffickers, and third party purchasers.

I’m also tired of watching our police and law enforcement officers being outgunned by gangs, drug dealers and lunatics-- and that is why I will fight to re-instate the ban against military-style assault weapons that Congress should never have lifted in the first place. These guns aren’t used for hunting-- and they’re not made to protect our homes and families. As their name implies, they’re designed to kill enemy soldiers in war-time assaults-- and they do not belong on the streets of our cities.

I will also work to keep guns out of the hands of those convicted of battery and domestic violence-- and to expand the prohibitions that already exist to cover abusive dating relationships and those found guilty of stalking.

And above all, I believe we must do a better job of denying firearms to those with severe mental illness. I realize that this is an enormous challenge-- but that’s no excuse for sitting back and doing nothing. As a first step, I believe we need legislation to ensure that people who are involuntarily committed for outpatient mental health treatment-- like the Virginia Tech shooter-- can’t walk into a store and buy a gun.

And there are a host of other gun-safety measures that I believe Congress should be considering as well, such as:
Safe storage requirements for guns that are kept in homes…
”Microstamping” of ammunition so police can more easily trace bullets back to the specific guns that fired them...
And a resumption of federally-funded research into how we can make gun use safer----along with a repeal of that ridiculous gag order Congress passed in 2003 which bars the government from publishing the results of gun-safety research.
Political pundits often say that guns are the "third rail" of American politics-- and that touching it is the quickest way to sink a candidacy. I know that tackling this issue head-on is sure to make me Public Enemy No. 1 with the gun lobby. I’m sure they’ll come after me-- just as they’ll be coming after Hillary Clinton and any other candidate who has the courage to stand up and speak out for common sense gun safety in next year’s elections. And because I have called them out on their views and their votes, I predict that my two opponents in this Senate race will respond with the same old arguments and excuses that they’ve used for 20 years to justify their own inaction.

They will tell us that new gun laws don’t work because criminals don’t follow the law-- as if the only laws worth passing are those that no one will break. In my view, it makes no more sense to oppose background checks on the grounds that some people will violate the law and acquire guns illegally than it does to oppose laws against murder, rape or robbery because some people will violate those laws and commit those crimes. I suspect we will also hear that background checks-- or any of the other common-sense reforms I have proposed today-- would not have prevented Newtown… or the movie theater blood-bath in Aurora… or stopped all the other murder and mayhem that scar this country on a daily basis. And it is obviously true that no law or series of laws can stop every crime. But since when did not being able to do everything become an acceptable excuse for not trying to do anything?

That we cannot build a society in which there are no victims does not mean that we should stop trying to build a society in which there are fewer victims. And if comprehensive background checks with no gun show or other loopholes  prevents even one mass shooting, I believe it will be more than worth the effort.
Blue America has endorsed P.G. for the Ohio Senate seat. His stand on gun-related issues is one of many positions that differentiates him from two politicians from a past era. We think P.G. is part of the future of progressive government. If you'd like to help his grassroots campaign, please consider contributing here.

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