Tom Diaz

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Desecrating the Holocaust: Guns and the Right Wing Propaganda Machine–Part Two

In Bushmaster assault rifle, Cultural assassination, Fox News, Guns, Holocaust, Ignorance of History, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION, politics, Running Fire Fight, Semiautomatic assault rifles, Shoah, The Great Stupid, Tired Old Republicans on January 27, 2013 at 9:49 pm
800px-Stroop_Report_-_Warsaw_Ghetto_Uprising_06b

If only these women and children had guns…

It would be hard to find a more ignorant statement—or more accurately, a more ignorant misstatement—of history than this misshapen deposit from the muddled cloaca of low level electrical discharges that pass for the intellect of former New Jersey state trial judge Andrew P. Napolitano:

 The historical reality of the Second Amendment’s protection of the right to keep and bear arms is not that it protects the right to shoot deer. It protects the right to shoot tyrants, and it protects the right to shoot at them effectively, thus, with the same instruments they would use upon us. If the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto had had the firepower and ammunition that the Nazis did, some of Poland might have stayed free and more persons would have survived the Holocaust. (Emphasis added.) Andrew P. Napolitano, “Guns and freedom,” January 10, 2013, FoxNews.comhttp://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2013/01/10/guns-and-freedom/#ixzz2J6aV0NUe.

454px-Polish_infantry_marching_-2_1939

These Poles actually did have guns…and airplanes…and tanks. The Polish army in 1939

It is hard to see how—even if they were the most well-armed Jews in the world—the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto could have saved even an inch of Poland. By the time Jews of Warsaw were forced into the ghetto in October 1940, Poland’s not inconsiderable army had been defeated and the entire country occupied by the Nazis and Soviet forces (briefly allies)  for over a year!

Napolitano, invested with the magnificent title of “senior judicial analyst” (do ermine-trimmed robes come with that?) is one of Fox News’ “experts” in counter-factual ideological hot air.  He quite clearly, however, has no clue about the actual history of the Holocaust, the actual history of the brutal conquest of Poland in September 1939, nor does he know what actually happened in the Warsaw Ghetto and when it happened.  Nor does he appear to have any idea of the actual firepower of even the most mundane military forces today.  So far as his official biography at Fox News goes, Napolitan has no military service and no experience in armed combat.  In sum, he is a windbag running on fumes when it comes to guns.

napolitano

Andrew P. Napolitano was formerly one of about 300 New Jersey country level trial judges. In spite of his bloviation about the potential use of civilian weapons against military force, he has apparently never spent ten minutes in military service.

Like many Fox News “experts,” Napolitano seems only interested in emitting his pathetically one-dimensional debating points.

Okay, given that, what is so terribly wrong with his ignorant verborrhea, his reckless throwing around of words that are somehow in this dimmest of bulbs vaguely related to the most serious mass murder in history?

  • It fundamentally disrespects the murdered victims of the Holocaust.  Such argumentative misstatements reduce the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust to dehumanized cartoon figures. Disconnected from truth, those victims become merely convenient Jews to be propped up with a sort of faux sympathy on the battlefield of ideology.  This is the intellectual equivalent of the hatefully anti-Semitic and stereotypical cartoon figures published by the odious Nazi propaganda rag Der Sturmer.
  • It vandalizes the real history of the Holocaust, smearing a coarse coating of opaque disinformation over the truth.  That obscurantism makes it much more difficult for people of good faith to understand and to learn from the terrible truths of the Holocaust.
  • It encourages the same sort of widespread armed disorder that existed during the Weimar Republic and out of which the Nazi movement grew.  For all their bleating about Hitler and Stalin, the ignorant, irresponsible and only slightly veiled calls to violence emitted by Napolitano, Glenn Beck and other of his soul mates in the gun lobby are the precise analog of the political thuggery that laid the foundation for the assumption of power by Adolf Hitler and the Nazis.  Their reckless talk encourages unbalanced extremists to shoot at local cops and other “faces of government.”

Whom exactly is Andrew Napolitano suggesting that his followers shoot? Another county judge? A police officer? A governor? A senator? A member of the National Command Authority?  Put up or shut up, Andrew.

The Actual History

1933-may-10-berlin-book-burning

Book burning in 1933. The Nazi regime legally came to power, then won widespread support among ordinary Germans by its brutal imposition of “order” and “progress.” There was no magic moment to “shoot back.”

The German Jews.  As noted in Part I of this three-part series, Napolitano and other commentators are either thoroughly confused about, or entirely ignorant of, what happened in Germany during the Nazi era.  They apparently believe that the Nazis seized power at a discrete moment in a kind of violent coup, a moment at which armed Jews in Germany would have been able to “shoot them effectively” in Napolitano’s inelegant phrasing, if only they had had guns.

Wholly aside from the fact that the imbalances of firepower would have been such that the Jews would have been instantly crushed (see below, “The Jews of  Poland and Eastern Europe”), there was simply was no such moment for armed resistance.  Hitler was legally invited to power.  Jews represented .75% of the German population. Most of the other 99.25% of the German population were down with the Nazi program.  Moreover, it was almost impossible prospectively to believe that the Nazi regime would take the horrific course it did.

Jews were in fact subjected to an increasingly oppressive “cold pogrom” during the years between 1933 and the invasion of Poland.  In January 1933, some 522,000 Jews by religious definition lived in Germany. Over half of these individuals, approximately 304,000 Jews, emigrated during the first six years of the Nazi dictatorship, leaving approximately 214,000 Jews in Germany proper (1937 borders) on the eve of the Second World War. Long before the Nazis began the systematic deportation of German Jews in October 1941 — almost eight years after Hitler came to power — the violent regime was thoroughly installed and enjoyed the support of the German masses. Jews had been effectively erased from the public’s consciousness.  In all, the Germans and their collaborators killed between 160,000 and 180,000 German Jews in the Holocaust, including most of those Jews deported out of Germany. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, “German Jews during the Holocaust, 1939–1945,” http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005469.

The Jews of Poland and Eastern Europe.  Many gun lobby commentators who play the Holocaust card appear to be completely ignorant of the fact that most of the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust were actually from Poland and other East European nations. (There were others of course, from wherever the Nazi tide spread, often given up by conquered governments after their armies were thrashed by the German forces.)

The Jews of Poland did in fact have armed protection.  It was called the Polish Army.  When fully mobilized the Poles could potentially field an armed force of some 2.5 million men in 1939. The Jews of the other parts of Eastern Europe that the Nazis rolled over also had armed protection.  It was called the Red Army.  The Jews of France who were surrendered to the Nazis had armed protection, the French Army, as did the surrendered Jews of the Channel Islands, the British Army.

Polen, Stukas

It would have difficult for the most well-armed Jews in the world to shoot down these Nazi Stuka dive-bombers, shown over Poland.

Contrary to popular opinion in blighted quarters, the Polish Army was not a “push over” for the more powerfully armed Nazi forces when the latter invaded Poland in September 1939:

Publicly, the Nazis liked to give the impression that, in the words of the American Naval Attaché, ‘the Poles’ performance had been pitiable and inspired nothing but contempt in the German Army’, but, as the Germans themselves knew, the reality was rather different. All in all, a French military report on the war was correct when it observed that ‘with equality of material the Polish troops were always superior to the enemy’.

Essentially, however, the Poles fought with great courage and tenacity. Had there been near equality in tanks and planes between them and the Wehrmacht, the story might have been very different. As Zaloga and Madej point out, ‘it should not be forgotten that the Polish Army fought for nearly five weeks against the full weight of the Wehrmacht and later the Red Army, even though it was substantially outnumbered. In contrast, the British, French, Belgian and Dutch armies, which outnumbered the Wehrmacht in men, tanks and aircraft […] held out for only a few weeks more’. The Polish record in Warsaw, Modlin, Hel and Westerplatte was second to none. The Poles managed to inflict considerable casualties on the Germans: 16,000 killed and 32,000 wounded, while they knocked out 674 tanks, 217 of which were destroyed. The small and outdated Air Force, combined with ground defences, also managed to destroy, at a conservative estimate, about 220 Luftwaffe planes. The cavalry, far from indulging in useless deeds of derring-do, were often used effectively. Armed with anti-tank rifles and dismounted, cavalrymen were able to surprise and destroy German armoured units. Williamson, David G. (2012-09-20). Poland Betrayed: The Nazi-Soviet Invasions of 1939 (Campaign Chronicles) Casemate Publishers. Kindle Edition.

It is impossible to imagine what greater armed force the Jews of Poland and Eastern Europe could have had than that possessed by the professional armies of Poland, France, and England —not to mention those of the Red Army of the Soviet Union that was rolled back practically to Moscow when Hitler turned on his erstwhile ally in 1941.  Tanks? Aircraft?  What?

Napolitano’s Goofy and Totally Inaccurate Timeline

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German troops march through Warsaw in September 1939…more than a year before the city’s Jews were forced into the ghetto. The Nazis had firm control of every aspect of life in Poland by that time.

Germand and Soviet officers shake hand

German and Soviet officers shake hands after conquering Poland in September 1939. Hitler turned on his Russian ally two years later and scooped millions more Jews into his killing machine. The Red Army could not stop the Nazi juggernaut until winter set in. Even then, war would rage on the Eastern front for four more years.

Napolitano’s fact-free reference to the Warsaw Ghetto betrays a pitifully confused understanding of the actual sequence of events.  Poland was already thoroughly defeated and long since occupied by Nazi forces before the Warsaw Ghetto even came into existence.

Napolitano’s fantastic declaration that “some of Poland might have stayed free”  if Jews had guns is absurd.  What planet’s history has this man studied?

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Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler glory in the defeat of Poland, September 1939.

Here’s a recap of what actually happened. (See, http://www.ushmm.org/outreach/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007706.)

  • Defeat of Poland, September 1939.  Millions of Jews lived in eastern Europe. After Germany invaded Poland in 1939, more than two million Polish Jews came under German control. Many millions more were to fall under Nazi control with the invasion of the Soviet Union.
  • October 12, 1940. Warsaw Jews Ordered Into Ghetto.  A year after the defeat of Poland and its army, the Germans announced the establishment of a ghetto in Warsaw. All Jewish residents of Warsaw were ordered into the designated area, which was sealed off from the rest of the city in November 1940. More than 350,000 Jews—about 30 percent of the city’s population—were confined in about 2.4 percent of the city’s total area.
  • July 22, 1942. Warsaw Jews Deported To Treblinka Killing Center. Between July 22 and mid-September 1942 – three years after the defeat of the Polish army and imposition of Nazi control over all of Poland, and one year after the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, more than 300,000 people were deported from the Warsaw ghetto: more than 250,000 of them were deported to the Treblinka killing center.
  • April 19, 1943. Jewish Fighters Resist Germans In Warsaw Ghetto. The Germans decide to eliminate the Warsaw ghetto and announce new deportations in April 1943, almost four years after the fall of Poland. The renewal of deportations sparked an armed uprising within the ghetto. Most people in the ghetto refused to report for deportation. Many hid from the Germans in previously prepared bunkers and shelters. Jewish fighters battled the Germans in the streets and from hidden bunkers. The Germans set fire to the ghetto to force the population into the open, reducing the ghetto area to rubble. On May 16, 1943, the battle was over. Thousands had been killed and most of the ghetto population was deported to forced-labor camps. The Warsaw ghetto uprising was the largest and most important Jewish uprising, and the first urban uprising in German-occupied Europe.

In the next part, Fairly Civil explores the well-financed hidden hands behind the foolish prattle that Napolitano and others in the right-wing propaganda machinery spew.

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Ignorant prattling about the Holocaust dishonors the brave struggle of the Jews who did resist further Nazi deportation to death camps from the Warsaw ghetto…three and half years after the date Napolitano’s goofy timeline would place the uprising.

Desecrating the Holocaust: Guns and the Right Wing Propaganda Machine–Part One

In Guns, Holocaust, Ignorance of History, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION, politics, Running Fire Fight, Semiautomatic assault rifles, Shoah, The Great Stupid, Tired Old Republicans on January 25, 2013 at 5:56 pm
Kinder begrüßen Heinrich Himmler u. a.

Heinrich Himmler and German children. The idea that the Nazis “seized power” from hapless Germans who could have “shot back” turns history on its head. Nazis and their leaders, like the execrable Himmler, were hailed as national saviors by most “ordinary” Germans.

Yesterday, the Anti-Defamation League ripped into the misguided use of “Nazi and/or Holocaust analogies” in the national debate over gun control. ADL Says Nazi Analogies Have No Place in Gun Control Debate, http://www.adl.org/PresRele/HolNa_52/6472_52.htm. The organization, which this year will celebrate its 100th anniversary of fighting hate and bigotry in America, cited these recent examples:

            •            The Drudge Report, under the headline “White House Threatens ‘Executive Orders’ on Guns,” featured photos of Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin (Jan. 9).

            •            Former Major League pitcher John Rocker wrote on WorldNetDaily.com about what he described as “…the undeniable fact that the Holocaust would never have taken place had the Jewish citizenry of Hitler’s Germany had the right to bear arms and defend themselves with those arms” (Jan. 15).

            •            During an interview on the Fox News Channel, Lars Larson suggested that, “…if the president does it that way, everybody in America will be required to go in and give fingerprints….  It will be ‘your papers, please’ like Nazi Germany” (Jan. 9).

            •            Ohio State Board of Education President Debe Tehrar reportedly posted a photo of Adolf Hitler on Facebook with a variety of anti-Obama, pro-gun slogans and images (Jan. 23).

            •            Sean Hannity, discussing the gun debate, stated that, “We don’t talk a lot about — what were the intentions of our founders and framers? And we have Stalin, um, we have Hitler, we have countries, tyrannical. They talked a lot about that” (Jan. 23).

            •            Judge Andrew Napolitano, senior judicial analyst at Fox News, suggested in a column on Fox News.com that, “If the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto had had the firepower and the ammunition that the Nazis did, some of Poland might have stayed free and more persons would have survived the Holocaust (Jan. 10).

This effusion of appalling ignorance is both disgusting and dangerous.  Disgusting because it desecrates the memory of the six million Jews who were murdered not because they did not have guns, but because the societies in which they lived and died were infected with hatred.  That hatred was founded on the twin pillars of “scientific anti-Semitism” and the twisted ideology of a great national community called the Volksgemeinschaft.  Dangerous because our failure to understand the true history and dynamics of the Shoah (Holocaust) clouds our understanding of the power of rhetoric and passion that divide the world into “us” and them.”

This is the first of three parts by Fairly Civil to rebut this dangerous ignorance.  Part One summarizes the ultimate truth of Nazi power–it was not seized but given by a willing people.  Part Two will discuss the question of whether guns in the hands of any number of Jews would have prevented the Holocaust. Part Three describes the secret right-wing machinery behind much of this toxic ignorance about guns and the Holocaust.

[This part is in large extent based on or extracted from my work-in-progress, Something to Hide — The Lives of a Fake Mexican, Aryan Jews, and Other Chameleons on the Cloak of Empire.]

HITLER AND THE NAZI PARTY DID NOT “SEIZE” POWER

In 1933, when Hitler was lawfully appointed to power in an attempt to solve a parliamentary crisis, there were about 500,000 Jews in Germany.  They represented 0.75% of the total German population, and an even smaller proportion of the total number of Jews in all of Europe. (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Jewish Population of Europe in 1933: Population Data by Country http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005161.)

Most of the other 99.25% of the German population were or soon became enthusiastic about the Nazi program.  Not only would they not have helped an armed Jewish resistance.  They would have — as they later did — either actively aided in the suppression of Jewish resistance or, at best, turned a blind eye to it and the state response.  During the period 1933 to the joint Nazi-Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939, Jews in Germany lived through a “cold pogrom,” during which they were relentlessly but “legally” divested of civil rights and ultimately of their existence in German society.

1941 Bundesarchiv_Bild_Berlin,_Reichstagssitzung,_Rede_Adolf_Hitler

Nazis like these salute-throwing devotees were hard to find after the defeat of their empire.

When the defeated Germans crawled out of their holes in May 1945, it was hard to find anyone who would admit to having been a Nazi or even a Nazi enthusiast. It was equally difficult to find Germans who would concede that they had known about the savagery committed around them and in their name. This national amnesia was not merely a conscious dodge to escape righteous vengeance. For some years after their defeat, Germans “concentrated on the suffering they had endured rather than the suffering they had caused: they viewed themselves not as responsible for National Socialism and the war, but primarily as their victims.” [Jane Caplan, Nazi Germany.]

For many among the victorious but war-weary Allies, the pasty-faced psychopath Adolph Hitler and the violent actions of his cadre of Nazi thugs were explanation enough. These villains certainly were essential to the self-confidence of Western scholars. How else could one explain the rapid descent of a country that had contributed so much to high culture into the corrupt barbarity of the Nazi empire?

In this exculpatory narrative, the maniacal, charismatic Hitler and the extraordinarily efficient Nazi bureaucracy had “seized” power. Then, using a combination of terror and hypnotic propaganda, the Nazis forced “ordinary” good Germans to follow orders. Quite unfortunately, these orders resulted in horrific consequences for everyone but the “good,” if astonishingly clueless, Germans. Hitler became a comic book villain given to absurd postures, a beady-eyed genius with a ridiculous mustache and a grating, high-volume style of public speaking. The good German burghers and the rank and file German proletariat had no choice but to follow this mesmerizing cartoon figure over the cliff and into the putrid abyss that was the Third Reich.

The excuse of the most sophisticated Germans, the politicians and the industrialists, was that they thought they could control and moderate Hitler, but ended up instead being consumed by the evil genie once he was out of the bottle.

Nazi salute

Inconvenient photographs of “ordinary” Germans enthusiastically embracing the Nazi program are part of the proof of the isolation of German Jews, who represented less than one percent of the population.

This tidy narrative of “ordinary” Germans as victims ignored — if nothing else — the inconvenient photographs and films of tens of thousands of ordinary Germans massed along parade routes, weeping with joy upon catching a glimpse of Hitler.  More thousands stuffed themselves like sausages into meeting halls, enthusiastically throwing the raised arm Nazi salute. Yet more thousands packed huge public squares at Nazi events, howling like pubescent teenagers at a modern-day rock concert.

This evidence graphically demonstrates that masses of ordinary Germans supported the Nazi program. More salient were the testimonies of victims of the Nazi scourge about the behavior of their good German neighbors toward them. These included death camp survivors, refugees, and the few who went to ground and hid out within the empire. Even more light was cast by the meticulous records kept by the Nazi edifice itself. Base motives of greed and self-interest were exposed by business records, personal correspondence, diaries, and volumes of other self-incriminating scribbling penned by millions of “good Germans.”

Hitler Youth

Hitler Youth

As later scholars have pointed out–and the Nazi leadership was well aware–”consent and coercion often went hand in hand.”  Novelist and essayist Aldous Huxley observed in 1936 that “the propagandist is a man who canalises an already existing stream. In a land where there is no water, he digs in vain.” Thus, to the extent that Nazi propaganda succeeded in shaping German society, it depended in no small degree “on the prevailing opinions and prejudices of the German public.” [Quotes from David Welch, “Nazi Propaganda and the Volksgemeinschaft: Constructing a People’s Community,” Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 39 (2), 213-238.]

Hitler himself shrank under close examination. The early explanation posited a well-ordered Nazi bureaucracy that obediently carried out the Fuehrer’s detailed orders. The Nazi machinery was supposed to have been a pyramid of unprecedented efficiency. The all-knowing and all-powerful Hitler perched at the top, an eagle dictating the minutiae of Nazi policy and practice, conscious of every German sparrow’s tiniest move. In fact, later researchers discovered a much more chaotic regime in which—albeit both revered and feared—Hitler appears “not so much as the director or enforcer of policy, but as the charismatic condition of its possibility, as the source of unpredictable, imprecise, and ‘utopian’ pronouncements that his minions outbade one another to convert into policy. This practice  of ‘working towards the Fuerhrer’ … imposed no rational limits on what might be imagined as appropriate and feasible.” [Jane Caplan, Nazi Germany.]

It eventually became clear to historians that, as Ian Kershaw observed, “To call Hitler evil may well be both true and morally satisfying.  But it explains nothing.” [Ian Kershaw, Hitler 1936-45: Nemesis (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2000), p. xvii.] And the more that was explained, the more there was that needed to be explained.  Historical research, Jane Caplan wrote, “modulated the popular images of Nazi Germany as a nation of either disciplined fanatics or powerless and terrorized victims.” [Jane Caplan, Nazi Germany.] In Peter Fritzsche’s sardonic words, “National Socialism did not succeed through seduction or paralysis or hypnosis.“[Peter Fritzsche,Life and Death in the Third Reich.]  The Nazis succeeded because most Germans wanted them to succeed.

THE SATANIC BARGAIN

Jewsih man 426px-Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-R99993,_Jude_mit_Stern_in_Berlin

German Jews suffered a “cold pogrom,” the gradual erasure of their civil rights, dignity as human beings, and place in German society. Their treatment was accepted by the other 99 percent of the German population as part of a grand bargain for social order and “national pride.”

Why?  Most historian trace the proximate roots of the rise of Naziism to the humiliating defeat of Germany in World War I, and the even more humiliating Treaty of Versailles that followed.  The toxic idea of redemption by “taking our country back” arose among the German right wing parties.  The goal was “restoration” of a mythically romantic national Aryan community, the Volksgemeinschaft, based on race. The Nazi distillation of who was in and was out of this community is embodied in what became the national slogan, “Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Führer” (One People, One Reich, One Führer).

The Nazis did not invent the idea of the Volksgemeinschaft. “On the contrary, the Nazis were credited with finally putting into place the national solidarity that Germans had long yearned for.” [Peter Fritzsche, Life and Death in the Third Reich.] However, the Nazis taught the most aggressive form of “self love” and “other hate” known to history. People stood in relation to the Volksgemeinschaft in only one of two ways—“people’s comrades” inside the community, and “people’s enemies” outside the community. It was either/or. There was no middle ground. Race, which the Nazis regarded as a matter of modern science, was the most important determinant of where one stood in the community. Where one stood determined one’s fate.

418px-Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-2008-1016-508,_Hamburg,_Trauung_Theo_Osterkamp,_Fel_Gudrun_Pagge

The “Heil Hitler” salute infested every aspect of German society.

Hitler was installed in office in January 1933. Skillfully blending brute force with formulaic actions designed to project the appearance of legality and rule of law, Hitler and the Nazi party set about eliminating political opposition and implementing the dream of the Volksgemeinschaft. By 1936, Hitler’s power was solidly established. Political opposition from Communists and Social Democrats had been crushed, many opponents murdered or imprisoned. Ordinary Germans, along with their social and religious institutions and all but a few of the leaders of these institutions, willingly bought into a satanic bargain—the Nazi’s savage repression of Jews, other non-Aryan minorities, and “social misfits” was a small price to pay for the rebirth of national pride and social order.

”Internal opposition had been crushed. The doubters had been largely won over by the scale of an internal rebuilding and external reassertion of strength which, almost beyond imagination, had restored much of the lost national pride and sense of humiliation left behind after the First World War. Authoritarianism was seen by most as a blessing; repression of those politically out of step, disliked ethnic minorities, or social misfits approved of as a small price for what appeared to be a national rebirth. While the adulation of Hitler among the masses had grown ever stronger, and opposition had been crushed and rendered inconsequential, powerful forces in the army, the landed aristocracy, industry, and high ranks of civil service had thrown their weight behind the regime. Whatever its negative aspects, it was seen to offer them much in advancing their own interests.” Ian Kershaw, Hitler 1936-45: Nemesis (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2000), p. xv.

In the next part: What if only?  What if  the murdered Jews of Europe had only had guns?

Goosestep

Feinstein Assault Weapon Bill: Is It a Little Bit Pregnant?

In bad manners, Bushmaster assault rifle, Ethics in Washington, Guns, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION, politics, Running Fire Fight, Semiautomatic assault rifles, Tired Old Republicans on January 23, 2013 at 3:23 am

473px-Dianne_Feinstein,_official_Senate_photo_2

George Bernard Shaw: Madam, would you sleep with me for a million pounds?

Actress: My goodness, Well, I’d certainly think about it

Shaw: Would you sleep with me for a pound?

Actress: Certainly not! What kind of woman do you think I am?!

Shaw: Madam, we’ve already established that. Now we are haggling about the price.

(This exchange is also attributed to Winston Churchill, Groucho Marx, and Mark Twain. Take your pick.  They are all good.)

In a perfect world, the so-called “Assault Weapons Ban” being circulated on the Hill by Senator Dianne Feinstein would be … well, perfect.

One problem.  This is not a perfect world.

It is certainly not a perfect world in the comfortable little set of nesting boxes that defines politics as usual on Capitol Hill — tired old convention, horse-trading, and selling out are the currency of the realm.

Is Feinstein’s bill a “sellout?”  Thinking…thinking.  Well, it depends on whether you believe in the concept of being only a little bit pregnant.

At first blush (and pending further analysis) the late draft of the Assault Weapons Regulatory Act of 2013 I have seen is a case of something “progressive” politicians have proven themselves masters of time and again, namely, preemptive surrender.

no pasaran2

“No pasaran!”–they shall not pass.

Sure, the NRA will scream and shout, “they shall not pass!”  But if Wayne LaPierre is on his meds, he’s going to love this start. His lobbyist surgeons will get busy slicing, slicing away at the weak points in this bill until they give it a complete radical orchiectomy.

The “pro-gun regulation” (aka, the “gun safety,” the “gun violence prevention,” the “nubbins,” anything but the “gun control”) side has started out by giving away half its best cards.

If you’re a betting person, put the mortgage down on the square that reads “another NRA victory.”

Here is what the draft has given away out of the blocks:

What the law taketh, the law giveth back: The draft I have seen “grandfathers” in all assault weapons legally owned as of the date of enactment. This was one of the major defects of the 1994 “ban.”

Here is the operative text from the bill:

SEC. 3. RESTRICTIONS ON ASSAULT WEAPONS AND LARGE CAPACITY AMMUNITION FEEDING DEVICES.

(a) In General.—Section 922 of title 18, United States Code, is amended— (1) by inserting after subsection (u) the following:

“(v)(1) It shall be unlawful for a person to import, sell, manufacture, transfer, or possess, in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce, a semiautomatic assault weapon.

“(2) Paragraph (1) shall not apply to the possession, sale, or transfer of any semiautomatic assault weapon otherwise lawfully possessed under Federal law on the date of enactment of the Assault Weapons Regulatory Act of 2013.

“(w)(1) It shall be unlawful for a person to import, sell, manufacture, transfer, or possess, in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce, a large capacity ammunition feeding device.

“(2) Paragraph (1) shall not apply to the possession of any large capacity ammunition feeding device otherwise lawfully possessed on or before the date of enactment of the Assault Weapons Regulatory Act of 2013.

But…wait: the law proposes also to bring these guns under the National Firearms Act.  So, isn’t that good…or good enough?  Close enough for nubbin work?   Bringing the guns under the NFA would indeed require a more extensive background check than the Brady Law and registration in a central registry. Here is what the summary describes:

Requires that grandfathered weapons be registered under the National Firearms Act, to include:

  • Background check of owner and any transferee
  • Type and serial number of the firearm
  • Positive identification, including photograph and fingerprint
  • Certification from local law enforcement of identity and that possession would not violate State or local law
  • Dedicated funding for ATF to implement registration

Well, gosheroonee, that sounds good.  (And I have written before that this could be one of a number of good ways to deal with the existing stock of assault weapons.)

But why would you go directly to this option instead of insisting on an outright ban, which is actually the best option from the point of view of public health and safety?

Why would you not make the other side come to you for a concession?

No pasaran…

Okay, let’s say Senator Feinstein is trying to be “reasonable” (in a Third Way kind of way) and reassure gun owners that no one is going to take their guns away.  This is exactly what the summary (full text of the summary at the bottom of this post) implies:

Protects legitimate hunters and the rights of existing gun owners by:

  • Grandfathering weapons legally possessed on the date of enactment
  • Exempting over 900 specifically-named weapons used for hunting or sporting purposes and
  • Exempting antique, manually-operated, and permanently disabled weapons

None dare call this pandering.

[Cue, off-stage, left: Here is where a “gun safety” nubbin stands up and dutifully says, “We can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”  Check that.]

Prowler-Trap

That ATF funding? Piece of cake. Boehner signed off on that.

But this bill precisely hinges on a perfect legislative outcome on its solution to the grandfathering issue.  Not just a good outcome.  A perfect outcome.  A carrier landing in a freezing rain.

The “solution” of requiring that all these existing assault weapons be registered under the National Firearms Act depends on their being “dedicated funding for ATF to implement registration.”   In other words, somewhere, someone, somehow, is going to have to come up with the m-o-n-e-y, the funding to make this huge task of registration work.

Hmm…what could go wrong? The House of Representatives is going to drop its bitterly partisan fiscal trench warfare and throw a whole bunch of money at ATF? Call me cynical, but I tend to doubt that.

Why would you not ask for a total ban and then use agreement on funding as a bargaining chip to fall back to NFA registration?

Private law enforcement sales.  If this provision creates an exemption for private sales to individual cops, it just a bad, bad idea.

4) Paragraph (1) shall not apply to—
“(A) the importation for, manufacture for, sale to, transfer to, or possession by the United States or a department or agency of the United States or a State or a department, agency, or political subdivision of a State, or a sale or transfer to or possession by a qualified law enforcement officer employed by the United States or a department or agency of the United States or a State or a department, agency, or political subdivision of a State for purposes of law enforcement (whether on or off duty);

That would assume that law enforcement officers are generically and genetically eradicable “good guys.”

On that count, please check (for a start) “Las Vegas police officer kills wife, son, himself,”
http://www.presstv.com/detail/2013/01/22/284974/las-vegas-officer-kills-family-himself/.

This is all hot off the samizdat press and requires further analysis.  More to come after a closer read.

Here is the summary sizzling fresh out of Feinstein’s office:

Summary of Feinstein Assault Weapons Regulatory Act of 2013

Bans the sale, transfer, importation, or manufacturing of:

  • Approximately 150 specifically-named firearms
  • Certain other semiautomatic rifles, handguns, and shotguns that can accept a detachable magazine and have one military characteristic
  • Semiautomatic rifles and handguns with a fixed magazine that can accept more than 10 rounds
  • Semiautomatic rifles that are shorter than 30 inches in length

Strengthens the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban and state bans by:

  • Moving from a 2-characteristic test to a 1-characteristic test
  • Eliminating the easy-to-remove bayonet mounts and flash suppressors from the characteristics test
  • Banning firearms with “thumbhole stocks” and “bullet buttons” to address attempts to “work around” prior bans
  • Adding a ban on the importation of assault weapons and large-capacity magazines
  • Eliminating the 10-year sunset that allowed the original ban to expire

Bans large-capacity ammunition feeding devices capable of accepting more than 10 rounds.

Protects legitimate hunters and the rights of existing gun owners by:

  • Grandfathering weapons legally possessed on the date of enactment
  • Exempting over 900 specifically-named weapons used for hunting or sporting purposes and
  • Exempting antique, manually-operated, and permanently disabled weapons

Requires that grandfathered weapons be registered under the National Firearms Act, to include:

  • Background check of owner and any transferee
  • Type and serial number of the firearm
  • Positive identification, including photograph and fingerprint
  • Certification from local law enforcement of identity and that possession would not violate State or local law
  • Dedicated funding for ATF to implement registration

Bans the transfer of grandfathered large-capacity ammunition feeding devices

 Allows states and localities to use Byrne JAG funds to conduct a voluntary buy-back program for grandfathered assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition feeding devices

Imposes a safe storage requirement for grandfathered firearms

Requires that assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition feeding devices manufactured after the date of the bill’s enactment be engraved with the serial number and date of manufacture of the weapon

OVER TO YOU, AMERICA!

In bad manners, Bushmaster assault rifle, Glock, Glock Semiautomatic pistols, Glock smeiautomatic pistols, Guns, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION, Obama, politics, Running Fire Fight, Semiautomatic assault rifles, Tired Old Republicans on January 16, 2013 at 5:36 pm

obama_biden.jpg.aspx copy

Big, huge A+ for the President Obama and Vice-President Biden for their strong start out of the blocks today on a comprehensive gun control package.

Confident, tough, and smart.  Sure, you can natter about what might have been in or out, but this is laying down a super package.

President Obama nailed it: this is not going to happen unless the American people demand it.

Start demanding!  Don’t let the midgets on the Hill kill it.

THE ROAD FROM SERFDOM–THE POLITICS OF GUN CONTROL

In bad manners, Bushmaster assault rifle, Corruption, Ethics in Washington, Guns, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION, Obama, Police, politics, Running Fire Fight, Semiautomatic assault rifles, Tired Old Republicans, Washington Bureaucracy on January 14, 2013 at 2:28 pm

Schumer's Bird

The year was 1861. An enlightened French nobleman was visiting a Russian nobleman on the latter’s vast estate. The two were out for a morning ride.  The Frenchman pointed to a cluster of serfs—poorly clothed, filthy, ignorant, and doomed to a brutish life little better than that of the animals among whom they lived and bred.

“But, my dear Alexey,” the French nobleman asked the Russian nobleman. “Don’t you care for the health of your serfs?”

“Of course, I do care, my dear André,” replied the Russian noble, flicking his riding crop impetuously as if offended by the very question. “I care very much that they be healthy enough to dig potatoes, but not so healthy as to dig my grave before I am ready to die.”

The challenge of what to do about gun violence in America presents two questions of fundamentally different natures.

  • The public health and safety question: What would successfully reduce gun death and injury among Americans?
  • The political question: What, if anything, can the politicians in Washington nurse through the Congress of the United States of America?

The questions are so radically different that they compel answers as different as the comparison of Hyperion to a satyr (see, http://voices.yahoo.com/literary-analysis-classical-allusions-shakespeares-8833327.html) or of the sun to the moon.

The Public Health and Safety Question

Culex quinquefasciatus

The answer to the first question is so thoroughly answered by an impressive body of research—even though hindered by sabotage from the National Rifle Association and junk scholarship from the gun industry, for which the NRA is a mere potty-mouthpiece—that having to ask it at all ought to be embarrassing to any educated American.

This body of careful assembled scientific knowledge points unerringly to the sea of guns in which we are awash as the problem.  Not video games.  Not movies.  Not secularism.  But guns.  Guns. (See, e.g. http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/hicrc/firearms-research/; http://www.jhsph.edu/research/centers-and-institutes/johns-hopkins-center-for-gun-policy-and-research/; http://www.uphs.upenn.edu/ficap/. )

Guns, and particular types of guns, are the vector, the microbe, the bacillus, the virus, the disease that has infected America with an epidemic of needless, senseless, relentless death and injury.

The proliferation and easy availability of guns not only empowers the mentally ill, the mass shooter, and the criminal. They thrust guns into the hands of law-abiding but angry husbands and boyfriends, fatally curious children, self-appointed vigilantes, the despondent, the angry driver, and the bitter extremist.

The dark, rotting specter of that infection stalks our homes, our schools, our shopping malls, our places of worship, our hospitals, our workplaces, our highways, our restaurants, our courts, our parks, our police stations, even the White House, our Capitol, and our military bases.  Its putrid breath wafts over every one of us every single day.

No other advanced—I dare say it, civilized—nation in the world tolerates this madness.

The Political Question

devil tray 02The Moloch’s slaughter at Sandy Hook Elementary School (see, http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2012/dec/15/our-moloch/) put starkly to the newly and powerfully reelected President of the United States the greatest domestic political question any President has faced since Abraham Lincoln decided what to do about the secessionist threat.

I do not make that comparison lightly. Insurrectionists today dance to theology from the NRA, around the totem of military-style guns from the gun industry.

Barack Obama handed over this profound political question—inspired by the unimaginably torn flesh and blood of Innocence itself—to Joe Biden, a crown prince among America’s putatively progressive political “gun control nobility.”

Vice-President Biden is today “all about” how he personally wrote and passed the monstrously ineffective 1994 assault weapons ban, as part of the epically bloated and pork-laden Clinton Crime Bill.  (See, e.g., Peter Baker, “Biden Is Back for a 2nd Run at Gun Limits,” The New York Times, December 29, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/30/us/politics/newtown-task-force-returns-biden-to-gun-control-arena.html?_r=2&.)

Why anyone would actually want to claim authorship of that abortive piece of legislation—Dr. Frankenstein could have assembled a more effective assault weapons ban using random scraps from the burial notices of those from whom he assembled his monster—passes understanding. Perhaps Dr. Biden doesn’t really understand his law’s fatal flaws, or perhaps he is counting on the fact that not one out of ten thousand Americans does either. In either case, what Joe Biden does not so freely share is the fact that in the darkest days of the final conference negotiations over that 1994 Crime Bill, when President Clinton’s senior staff member George Stephanopoulos was skulking around the conference meetings on Capitol Hill, urging conferees to dump the assault weapons provision to “save” the Crime Bill that Clinton desperately needed as an example of something—anything—the President could get done, Sen. Biden was encouraging his fellow conferees to do just that. What kept the assault weapons ban in the crime bill was the unflinching resolve of the late Senator Howard Metzenbaum of Ohio, whose position was resolute: no assault weapons ban, no crime bill. (Sen. Dianne Feinstein was equally resolute, but she was not a conferee.)

This gun control nobility are the career politicians—and their respective trains of career advisers, well-paid consultants and pollsters, and assorted opportunistic camp followers—who have similarly gamed the question of what to do, and mostly what not to do, about guns and gun control to their political benefit over the last several decades.

Yes, gamed. Gambled.  Played at.

a-combination-of-12-handout-pictures-shows-12-of-20-young-schoolchildren-killed-at-sandy-hook-elementary-school-in-newtown-conn-on-friday-dec-14-2012All of them trade on their putative (but usually shockingly thin) knowledge of guns and of the real drivers of the gun violence problem, and on their professed paternal concern for you and me. They appear in an endless procession of Sunday morning shows and at controlled media events.

But, as the continuing and growing torrent of gun violence in America conclusively demonstrates, what has been good for this gun control nobility has not been equally good for America.  Like the nobility of imperial Russia, the gun control nobility have lurched through a series of clever retreats and cynical concessions, all designed to ensure that they stay in political office to do…what?

This political tactic of always skulking around the edges of the gun control battlefield but never stepping up to the fight has actually been reduced to doctrine and received wisdom in Washington by the likes of such appeasement-oriented organizations as Third Way, founded and run by a gaggle of career political functionaries, liverymen of the career political nobility.

“Not too liberal…not too conservative…but right in the middle.” That’s the third way.  Okay, so maybe staying in the middle third means that some more kids will have to die, but we’ll still be in office to do…what?

The barons of gun control have stayed in office.  But they have failed to protect Americans and, in a profound and real way, America itself.

Put aside the mass shootings and the daily dead. Their hand-wringing, self-serving equivocation, fainthearted piety, and backward-stepping has enabled the growth and arming of a significant insurrectionist paramilitary faction in America.  The country is in vastly more danger of armed political violence than it would have been had they screwed up the will and the courage to act decisively years ago.

Thus, the Prospects of a Sell-Out Look…Good

political-handshake-lgGiven the tender hands within which the fate of the country now rests, there is faint cause for hope.

There are really only two forces that count on this issue in political Washington. One is the power of the office of the President of the United States.  We have seen what Barack Obama chose to do with that, although it must be said that he still makes a fine speech.

The other is the National Rifle Association.

There is no in-between moderating force.

Either the President goes to war with the NRA and mobilizes the nation for a long fight comparable to that of, say, the civil rights struggle, or the NRA wins.

The so-called gun control movement—or “gun safety”, or “gun violence prevention,” or whatever the evasive semantic fashion of the day happens to be—is not a force to be reckoned with.

It is a prop.

These nubbins of candle light vigils and teddy bear mounds have no boots on the ground. None. None of them can reliably deliver that vital spark of local influence that drives the votes of the hard-eyed men and women who run Washington.  Many decision makers in Washington secretly believe that the “groups” are basically useless.  I would murmur that not all are useless.  The Violence Policy Center—where, yes, I worked for 15 years—has contributed a virtual online encyclopedia of knowledge about the gun industry and its depredations.  (See, http://www.vpc.org/.)

The rest of these nubbins can fend for themselves in the court of public opinion.

Thus, reality.  Unless and until a real grass roots gun control movement is created in the form of one that can deliver the same thing that the NRA delivers day in and day out—not campaign money, but local clout to be heard by politicians—all the calculations of the third or fourth or fifth way, and all the marches of a million this and a million that (truly, more like a few thousand this and a few thousand that) do not amount to a heap of toasted nubbins on the scale of hard, cold power.

Unless, of course, the President stands up and takes off the gloves for a real fight.

Obama weeping

For an easy guide to 10 ways to tell the American people have been sold out..again…on gun control, see the companion post here http://tomdiazgunsandgangs.com/2013/01/14/ten-ways-to-spot-a-sell-out-on-gun-control/.

TEN WAYS TO SPOT A SELL-OUT ON GUN CONTROL

In bad manners, Bushmaster assault rifle, Ethics in Washington, Guns, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION, Obama, politics, Running Fire Fight, Semiautomatic assault rifles, Washington Bureaucracy on January 14, 2013 at 2:26 pm

Biden and Obama copy

The Ten Ways

Vice-President Joe Biden will within days flash his beautiful teeth (only his orthodontist knows for sure what his barber already knows) and deliver the conclusions of the ponderous machinery of his task force (or whatever it’s officially called).

One would like nothing so much as a powerful legislative drone strike against the NRA and the industry it represents as the opening round in a long and relentless war against gun violence.  But the NRA is not crouched in the dust behind a hill in Yemen. What we are most likely to see is a frizzante of accommodation, an artfully-contrived punch, served up as the gun control nobility whirl about in the kind of grande valse brillante that passes for action today in Washington, DC.

Here are ten signs—among many that one could state—to watch, in order to know at the end of the day whether you have been sold out once again by the political nobility of gun control.

 

  1. Failure to stop production, import, and transfer of ownership of semiautomatic assault weapons and high capacity magazines.  If either of these bans is out, the fix is in.  A high-capacity magazine ban would be a useful advance, but if the guns themselves are not addressed, a thriving trade in contraband magazines is guaranteed to ensue.  By the way, there is nothing magic about the number ten.  A reasonable case can be made to define a high-capacity magazine as any magazine holding more than, say, five, rounds of ammunition.  The current chatter about 10 rounds is political.
  2. “Grandfathering” existing assault weapons and/or high-capacity magazines.  Any law that “grandfathers” (exempts) existing guns and high-capacity ammunition magazines is meaningless as a practical matter.  This was one of the great defects of the 1994 law.  Millions of military-style weapons would remain in legal circulation. Production and imports would ramp up feverishly to build up legal stocks before the deadline.Should the banned guns be confiscated?  No.  That is not a realistic or, given the tense facts on the ground in America, wise course. But further transfers of banned guns can be halted, meaning, if you own one, you cannot sell it, give it away, or leave it to your heirs.  The guns could be brought under the highly restrictive regime of the National Firearms Act, which requires registration and an extensive background check.
  3. Allowing “exceptions” or “waivers.”  The gun industry loves waivers and exceptions.  For example, an assault weapons ban could allow the Attorney General or some other executive authority to “waive” the prohibition on a firearm classified as an assault weapon, for one or another reason.  Were that to be in the law, the industry would build its guns toward the waiver and its lobbyists would work the halls of the bureaucracy to open a fatal gap in the ban.
  4. Exceptions for “small” calibers.  It will be tempting to make an exception for assault weapons and magazines in small calibers, e.g. 22 caliber, that are associated in the popular mind with sporting use and thought to be relatively benign.  Nothing could be further from the truth. Multiple rounds from an assault weapon in any caliber are extraordinarily lethal.
  5. Contingency and/or sunset clauses.  Contingency clauses, suspending the law’s effectiveness “unless and until” X event or Y data occur, simply open up running room for equivocation, challenge, and litigation.  The “sunset” (automatic expiration) of the last ban was a foolish concession allowing the gun industry to bide its time and wage an assault in what was essentially a entirely new legislative fight—with a President who sat on his hands.
  6. Cosmetic features test.  It is well understood that the 1994 law was a failure in large part because its definition of what constituted an assault weapon was a fanciful agglomeration of “bells and whistles,” most of which had absolutely nothing to do with what makes assault weapons so dangerous.  An effective law will focus on one prime feature—the ability to accept a high-capacity magazine.
  7. Private sales to law enforcement personnel.  Allowing individual law enforcement officers to make private purchases of banned guns is a bad idea.  If an agency decides such guns are necessary, it should purchase and issue them.
  8. “Relics” and “museum” exceptions.  Some existing gun laws are written so as not to cover guns made before a given date or period of time.  The flaw is obvious: as time passes, more and more truly modern and exceptionally lethal guns become treated as relics, which they are not in any real sense.  Moreover, similar provisions allowing trafficking in guns designated by jerry-rigged “museums” as “curios” simply opens the door to fraudulent certifications of phony curios by fake museums.
  9. Expanded background checks without funding for implementation, and better definitions of what is disqualifying (especially mental health status).  The question of mental health will be explosive, as some mental health advocates will argue that it is not “fair” to restrict the “civil rights” of persons with mental health problems.  But a better definition and working practice is essential
  10. Failure to greatly strengthen the legal definition of gun trafficking, the definition of what constitutes “dealing” in firearms, and to expand funding of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.  The NRA and the gun industry have deliberately starved the ATF and weakened its authority.  It is time to insist that it be given the funds and power to deal with its mission.

For an analysis of the deeper questions and politics of gun control, see the companion post here http://tomdiazgunsandgangs.com/2013/01/14/the-road-from-serfdom-the-politics-of-gun-control/.

P

THE ALEX SANCHEZ CASE: “THIS IS OUR EVIDENCE, YOUR HONOR, AND IF YOU DON’T LIKE IT, WELL…WE’LL FIND SOME OTHER!”

In Crime, Gangs, Informants and other sophisticated means, Latino gangs, RICO, RICO indictments, Uncategorized on January 5, 2013 at 5:08 pm
Groucho Justice copy

“When the duck comes down…”

“Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them… well, I have others.”

Groucho Marx

“Even a modestly competent district attorney can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich.”

     Former Judge, Now Law Professor (and Ex-Con) Sol Wachtler, with respect to whom, see http://www.law.columbia.edu/media_inquiries/news_events/2009/december2009/wachtler-mental.

Still in Custody -- Judges denies Bail Request of Alex Sanchez, Accused "Stealth Shot Caller"

Alex Sanchez–ripped from his family and left to rot for three years until the government’s case folded like a soggy gyro.

It will be four years in June since the United States government shocked the world and threw a legal fragmentation grenade into the home of Alex Sanchez. On June 24, 2009 Sanchez was arrested and charged under the federal racketeering law popularly known as RICO.

The essence of the federal charge was that Sanchez—an anti-gang activist whose prominence at the time cannot be exaggerated—was secretly continuing his membership in the huge and violent Latino gang, MS-13, a transnational racketeering organization. In plain words, Sanchez was accused in the indictment of plotting, as a boss or “shot caller,” to kill another gang member.

The government recently dropped the charges against Sanchez.

But the great, gray, anonymous and tight-lipped agglomerations of suits that is “the government” collectively muttered under its breath that it is going to “review” the evidence and likely will indict Sanchez again. They’ll be back. The prosecution asked the judge to let it take its embarrassingly shredded case back to a grand jury.

ham sandwich

The accused, Ham Sandwich, was indicted last week.

Ooops! We indicted a ham sandwich.  See, your honor, what we really meant to do was to indict a taco. The image of Groucho Marx in a court room springs irresistibly to mind. “That’s our evidence, your honor. If you don’t like it, well, we’ll find other evidence.”

Charge first, evidence later?

With the conspiracy to murder charge toasted like last week’s Cinnabon, perhaps the genius bar at the U.S. Attorney’s office can assign half of the federal agents in Southern California to follow Sanchez around and nail his ass on a charge of felonious crossing against a “don’t walk” sign.

Sanchez is due more than one apology, and I’ll start with mine.

I’ve followed this story for three years with a series of caustic and skeptical posts. The trouble is, I was skeptical about the wrong party. Although I have always been careful to note Alex Sanchez’s claim of innocence, looking back over past posts, it is clear that I had a grain, nay a fist-sized rock, of salt stuck in my throat.

My blind spot was that I simply could not believe that the government would indict a man as well known and, frankly, beloved as Alex Sanchez unless the government case was locked up tight. As I have written many times, you better be damned sure you’re right if you indict Mother Teresa. I also knew that the government has a barracks full of informants and “flipped” gangsters, so they must have had solid evidence against Sanchez.

My bad.

I am sorry. I apologize to Alex Sanchez and to those who had faith in him. Because it now appears that the U.S. government, with all the power and resources available to it, screwed up in such a way that assistant U.S. Attorneys and some law enforcement agents ought to be fired, or at best reassigned to wear out their shoe leather on student loan collection work.

Groucho Marx ponders his next move in Duck Soup . Scanned in from Bee File

Not an assistant United States Attorney, but…thinking … thinking..is there a taco in here?

If it has not committed a massive miscarriage of justice, the U.S. Department of Justice has certainly left the appearance that is has, skulking behind a forest of sealed files. There is virtually NO public record in the Alex Sanchez case other than the juicy tidbits the government has chosen to dribble out. If it makes you feel any better, this is not the only case in which trial by sealed memoranda and plea bargain—as opposed to a public trial and proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury of one’s peers—has become the norm, rather than the exception.

If you have not followed the story, here is a concise summary from a brief filed on behalf of Sanchez more than two years ago.  I posted this extract in  Accused Secret Shot-Caller Alex Sanchez’s Take-No-Prisoners Brief Flames Trial Judge Manuel Real — Bottom Line: Judge Doesn’t Get It.

The brief sketches a factual review of a man grievously wronged by arbitrary and misdirected government conduct:

Mr. Sanchez quit gang life nearly 15 years ago, beginning a journey of redemption leading him to become one of the foremost anti-gang interventionists in the United States.  In 2006, he became the Executive Director of Homies Unidos, an organization dedicated to extricating youths from gangs and brokering and maintaining peace in communities afflicted by the scourge of gang violence.

On June 24, 2009, however, Mr. Sanchez, a long time resident of Los Angeles and the 38-year-old father of three, was arrested at his home and taken into custody on an indictment charging 24 defendants with various crimes in connection with alleged activities of the Mara Salvatrucha (“MS-13″).  Within days of his arrest, over 100 social workers, professors, politicians, clergy, law enforcement and former gang members from around the country raised a chorus of support to release Mr. Sanchez from custody, all attesting to his good character, commitment to peace and ties to the community.  This overwhelming support included over $2.5 million dollars in bail pledges and property.

At the detention hearing, the government claimed a chest tattoo indicated Mr. Sanchez had not quit the gang and four phone calls where Mr. Sanchez mediated a non-violent resolution to an intra-gang dispute supposedly evidenced a plot to kill one of the disputants.  Announcing “the only determination I have to make on this motion” is “whether or not Mr. Sanchez was there” and “what they were discussing,” the district court precluded Mr. Sanchez from rebutting the government’s evidence about the significance of his chest tattoo while refusing lay and expert testimony contradicting the government’s interpretation of the calls.

How could the federal government—with its awesome access to technology and expertise—get the single most important piece of evidence in the only meaningful charge against Sanchez wrong?  Namely, the phone calls in which the operative facts were all about who was walking to whom about killing whom?

You tell me. But they did. And now they grudgingly admit it.

The government’s expert witness, it turns out, completely misidentified a participant in the supposed plot to kill phone calls. And when the real participant surfaced, he blew up the government expert’s theory of the case.

After Sanchez’s new lawyer filed a motion to throw the case out, the U.S. Attorney’s office got some new lawyers on the case to reply and fess up…sort of:.

In their Motions to Dismiss, defendants Alex Sanchez (“defendant Sanchez”) and Juan Fuentes (“defendant Fuentes”) (collectively “defendants”) raise serious questions regarding the evidence presented to the grand jury and the manner in which it was presented. Although the government disputes defendants’ allegations of misconduct and grand jury abuse, the government agrees that the grand jury presentation with respect to the conspiracy to murder Walter Lacinos, aka “Camaron,” was flawed. In order to correct the errors and omissions in the initial presentation, the government asks the Court to dismiss without prejudice, pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 48(a), the following counts…

The government makes this request with the express intention of re-filing certain of the dismissed charges, including certain charges with respect to defendant Sanchez, as part of a superseding indictment in this case.

taco

We found it, boss, the smoking taco!

In a footnote, the government grumbles, “a determination of which of the dismissed charges will be pursued will be made only after a thorough re-review of the evidence.”  Say what?  We’re going to see if there is a ham sandwich lurking in here?  Or a taco?  Or just anything to save our face?

Here is where it gets really interesting.  All the basic documents in this courtly exchange are sealed.  But one juicy little piece of sizzling meat somehow escaped the Czar’s censor.  This is an extract from Alex Sanchez’s defense reply to the government’s request for a do-over:

The government has not filed an opposition to the Motion to Dismiss and has avoided addressing the factual arguments therein: that the government presented false evidence to the grand jury issuing the indictment; that a government prosecutor lied to the grand jury in subsequent proceedings; that the government failed, for more than three (3) years, to take any action to formally acknowledge or attempt to correct an indictment based on false evidence; and that government prosecutors withheld from Mr. Sanchez favorable and exculpatory evidence.

 Insofar as newly assigned government prosecutors have finally performed the analysis and evaluation that should have occurred years ago, Mr. Sanchez does not contend that the government’s Request to Dismiss, filed December 17, 2012, is in bad faith. Mr. Sanchez does not waive his right to revisit this issue, should he subsequently become aware of evidence suggesting that the Request for Dismissal is motivated by anything but a desire to fairly seek justice.

U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte

United States Attorney Andre Birotte

Wowser, sir!  These are serious allegations: false evidence to a grand jury? A government prosecutor lying?  Withholding evidence?  Career-enders and maybe even…criminal conduct?  By the good guys?  Does the late Senator Ted Stevens come to anyone’s mind?  Or a bar association misconduct proceeding?

I have no idea whether Alex Sanchez is a saint or a sinner, the anti-gang activist  he appears to be, or a secret agent for Zombie Nation.  But I do know “enough” when I see it.

Basta!

Finish this case without Alex Sanchez and let him stay home to raise his children.

You screwed the pooch.

The NRA Attacks Mentally Ill … and Threatens Congress

In Ethics in Washington, Guns, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION, politics, Semiautomatic assault rifles on January 4, 2013 at 12:34 am

Here is a letter sent to Congress by Chris Cox, the National Rifle Association’s chief lobbyist, aka Executive Director of the Institute for Legislative Action.

More comment and analysis of this shameless screed later, but it is basically an attack on politicians who want to do something about the pollution of guns in America, the mentally ill, and the health care system, in other words, just another dodge to avoid the responsibility of guns and the NRA, the gun industry, and the National Shooting Sports Foundation for the slaughter going on in America.

The hypocrisy in this letter is right up there Wayne LaPierre’s infamous attack on the “filthy pornography” of violent movies.

January 3, 2013

Dear Representative:

cwc

NRA Hack-in-Chief Chris Cox Attacks Mentally Ill and Subtly Threatens Congress

I would like to welcome you to the 113th Congress and wish you the best in dealing with the many challenges facing our country.
The National Rifle Association of America is made up of over four million men and women and transcends every socio-economic, racial, religious and partisan line. We have members in every state and every congressional district in America. For 18 years, I have traveled across our great country meeting our members and I’m honored to represent them as the Executive Director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action.
Our members – and our mission – are all about safe and responsible gun ownership. Our members love their country and love their neighbors. They join the NRA because they love their freedom – including the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The NRA has a long and proud history of teaching safe and responsible gun ownership. Our “Eddie Eagle” children’s safety program has taught over 25 million young children that if you see a gun “Stop. Don’t touch. Leave the area and tell an adult.” As a result, firearm accidents are at the lowest levels since the government began keeping records over 100 years ago.
For adults, the NRA has over 80,000 certified instructors to teach our military, law enforcement and average American men and women how to safely use firearms. The 2nd Amendment does not require us to fund these programs. We provide this as a service to our fellow Americans. We do more – and spend more – than any other individual, group or government entity teaching safe and responsible gun ownership. Promoting firearm safety is integral to our mission of defending the freedoms we all enjoy.
Sadly, these very freedoms have come under attack in recent weeks.
In the wake of the Newtown tragedy, every American family has had the same conversation: how do we help make sure this never happens again?
Now that debate moves to Washington, with the swearing-in of this new Congress and the promise of a legislative package in the coming weeks from Vice President Joe Biden.
Many in Washington will be tempted to paper over our national grief with quickly-passed new laws that will be broken by those bent on evil, just as evildoers break our current laws. Instead of that paper-thin answer to a deep cultural problem, Congress should have a broader discussion that includes mental health, school security, Hollywood’s violent marketing to our kids, as well as our 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms.
Long-time gun ban advocates like Sen. Dianne Feinstein have made it clear that gun control laws will be debated, and Vice President Biden’s task force is sure to propose them. Indeed, Sen. Feinstein has announced that her new bill would ban millions of commonly owned semi-automatic firearms, going far beyond the ban she authored in 1994. She has even hinted at mandatory firearms confiscation through a federal government “buy-back” program.
The four million men and women of the National Rifle Association will be a constructive voice in this debate and we are confident about its outcome.
We know that the facts prove gun bans do not work and that is why they are not supported by a majority of the American people. Gallup polls taken after the Newtown tragedy indicate that opposition to a handgun ban in America is at an all time high and a renewal of the 1994 Gun Ban is opposed by a majority of Americans.
Even as the majority in our country rejects gun bans, we should all agree that criminals who misuse firearms should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Unfortunately, the Obama administration has overseen a collapse in the prosecution of those misusing firearms. According to the most recent FBI statistics, federal weapons prosecution levels are down 27% from their peak in the prior administration. This must change and we call on Congress to insist that it does.
There is equal consensus in our country that we must take a new and hard look at the bureaucratic nightmare that is our mental health system. We have created almost insurmountable obstacles to involuntary commitment of the kind of disturbed people who commit mass murders, shackling their own family members who wish to protect themselves and their neighbors.
It must become our focus as a nation to keep these desperately ill human beings from harming themselves or the rest of us who play by the rules. The common thread in each and every high-profile mass shooting has been that red flags were seen, but ignored. We need a national effort to address those with mental problems who are a danger to themselves and others with the same vigor we promote awareness campaigns to address gambling, alcohol and drug addictions.
We at the NRA are not simply looking to keep certain types of firearms out of the hands of the mentally unstable. We need to find a way to keep ALL weapons out of the hands of the mentally ill.
If the mental health and law enforcement systems need more tools to identify the unstable, Congress should help them. We can all come together and agree to do that and we should not settle for anything less.
The NRA is also ready to help secure our schools. Last month we announced an initiative to help local educators strengthen school security procedures and Congress should join us. This is not a search for a “one size fits all” solution; rather, it is an effort to assist those at the local level in ensuring that our schools are made safer. Former Congressman Asa Hutchinson has agreed to lead our efforts with only one condition from the NRA – find the best people and develop the best program.
While criticized by many in the media, having an armed presence at schools is not a new or controversial idea. President Bill Clinton started the “Cops in Schools” program during his administration and by the 2009-10 school year 28% of public schools had some sort of armed security on campus. Surely we can all agree that our children deserve the same level of protection at schools that is afforded to bank customers, airline passengers and – yes – elected officials.
Congress and the Obama Administration must also question the violence we allow those in the entertainment industry to pipe into our homes and into the video games our children play. The entertainment industry has a responsibility to help clean up our culture and Congress should encourage it to do so. Like many parents, I am personally driven by the verse in the Book of Proverbs that says “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” Now is the time for us to ask for a higher standard from our culture.
Speaking in Newtown, President Obama reminded us that no set of laws can eliminate evil in the world. He is right. Humanity is inherently fallen and we should all be humble enough to admit it.
The President challenged us as Americans to come together and be honest about the fact that we are not doing enough to protect God’s children. He is right about that as well.
The four million men and women of the NRA grieve for the people of Newtown. We love our country. We believe in peaceful communities and rule of law. We know we can guard our freedom and guard our children too.
Let’s have the courage to take a serious look at what has happened to our culture and fix it before this happens again.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call our Federal Affairs division at 202-651-2560. I look forward to working with you personally in the 113th Congress.

Sincerely,

Chris W. Cox
Executive Director, NRA-ILA

BLOODY REEL–HOW THE NRA AND THE GUN INDUSTRY EXPLOIT VIOLENT MOVIES TO SELL GUNS …AND MORE GUNS

In Bushmaster assault rifle, Cultural assassination, Glock, Glock Semiautomatic pistols, Guns, Movies, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION, Semiautomatic assault rifles, Video games on January 2, 2013 at 11:23 am

Cinema Seat

“Movies have more influence on which guns sell than politicians.”

AmmoLand.com, July 18, 2012.

This report is about the hypocrisy of the National Rifle Association and the gun industry it represents. Even as they pretend to condemn violence in movies, both exploit images of guns in extremely violent movies to sell the increasingly lethal military-style guns that define today’s civilian gun market.

For a PDF file of this report, which contains end notes documenting sources, click here:Blood Reel Poster PDF

 Introduction

On December 14, 2012, Adam Lanza walked into the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown CT and killed 20 first graders and 6 school employees with a .223 caliber Bushmaster semiautomatic assault rifle. He then used a handgun to kill himself. Lanza had earlier killed his mother, Nancy Lanza, with a .22 caliber rifle.

The National Rifle Association (NRA)–the public face of the American gun industry–scurried into silence. The organization took down its Facebook page and suspended its Twitter feed. Some imagined that the executives of the nation’s premier gun lobby and industry front were engaged in agonized soul-searching. The following Tuesday, the NRA’s social accounts were again active. The organization announced it would hold a press conference that Friday, one week after the slaughter of the innocents.

On Friday, December 21, the NRA’s leadership emerged in Washington, DC.  The executives did not offer the olive branch that some expected.  Instead, in a defiant broadside, Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s chief executive officer and executive vice president, blamed the news media, the film industry, and video games for causing America’s gun violence problem:

And here’s another dirty little truth that the media try their best to conceal.  There exists in this country, sadly, a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells and stows [sic] violence against its own people through vicious, violent video games … Add another hurricane, add another natural disaster, I mean, we have blood-soaked films out there like “American Psycho,” “Natural Born Killers.”  They’re aired like propaganda loops on “Splatterdays” and every single day…And then they all have the nerve to call it entertainment. But is that what it really is?  Isn’t fantasizing about killing people as a way to get your kicks really the filthiest form of pornography?

It would be hard to find a more hypocritical statement even in the annals of the NRA, which is distinguished by its frequent assertion of unfounded “facts” about guns and gun violence.  The truth is that the NRA and the gun industry it represents ruthlessly peddle what LaPierre called “the filthiest form of pornography” in his statement.

This report documents

  • How the NRA promotes the use of guns in violent movies through its widely-publicized–and ongoing–“Hollywood Guns” special exhibit in its National Firearms Museum, in its official publications, and on its Internet website. Wayne LaPierre himself is credited as “executive producer” of the current “Hollywood Guns” exhibit at the NRA’s national headquarters.
  • Statements directly contradicting LaPierre’s thesis, written by a prominent author and movie critic whose article for the American Rifleman, an official NRA magazine, appears as the Introduction to Hollywood Guns, the NRA’s official exhibit brochure. Former journalist Stephen Hunter opined in his book about the movie industry and film criticism that violent movies do not cause violent behavior and may in fact prevent it.
  • Austrian handgun manufacturer Glock’s calculated marketing strategy to exploit the placement of its guns in violent movies to help it capture a premier place in the American civilian gun market.
  • Boasting by American 50 caliber anti-armor sniper rifle manufacturer Barrett Firearms about the use of its guns in violent movies. Barrett is also reported to charge video game manufacturers fees for the use of representations of its guns in games.
Front Cover

Cover of the NRA National Firearms Museum “Hollywood Guns” exhibit brochure.

Violent Screen—The NRA’s National Firearms Museum Exhibits

“If you love guns or you love movies or, still luckier, you love guns AND movies, this is a trip you cannot miss.”

 Stephen Hunter

 For over a decade the NRA has glamorized the use of guns in violent movies. One prime vehicle for the NRA’s promotion of guns and violence has been a series of two exhibits in the National Firearms Museum at the NRA’s national headquarters, located in Fairfax, VA, a suburb of Washington, DC. Both exhibits featured guns used in movies that were described by critics as among the must brutally violent ever made, featuring the sort of grisly mayhem that NRA executive Wayne LaPierre piously denounced as “the filthiest form of pornography” in his December 21, 2012 attack on the movie industry.

As of December 29, 2012—more than a week after LaPierre’s accusatory rant—a personal visit to the museum by the author confirmed that the latter of the two exhibits (“Hollywood Guns”) was still going strong. The NRA was peddling the exhibit brochure in its museum shop.

 2002—“Real Guns of Reel Heroes”

 In March 2002 the NRA opened at the National Firearms Museum its first special exhibit of guns in the movies. The display, “Real Guns of Reel Heroes,” was said to have been the NRA’s most successful exhibit as of April 2010.

“Think ‘Lights! Camera! Guns!’ and you conjure up probably 70 percent of American movie history, maybe the best of it,” opined Stephen Hunter, then the Washington Post’s film critic, an ardent gun enthusiast, and later a writer for the NRA. “That’s the history the NRA celebrates: masculine, aggressive, violent, adventurous, unapologetic and unbowed, which is pretty much a take-it-or-leave-it proposition.”

Many of the guns celebrated in this NRA museum exhibit were from westerns and historical dramas which might plausibly be argued to be not so terribly violent as to merit LaPierre’s “pornography” rating, notwithstanding the display of a knife that actor John Wayne used to “scalp an Indian” in the film The Searchers. But at least two others were clearly problematic under the LaPierre film porno standard.

Dirty Harry. One was the 1971 film Dirty Harry, first of a series starring Clint Eastwood as renegade San Francisco police Inspector Harry Callahan. “Violence is a given in the world of ‘Dirty Harry’ Callahan,” one critic noted. Another described “the unrepentant violence of Dirty Harry.” New York Times critic Vincent Canby wondered, “Will we ever see the day when it will be possible to give an ‘X’ [most restrictive film rating] on principle to all of Clint Eastwood’s ‘Dirty Harry’ movies, including the new ‘Sudden Impact’?”  Of the latter film in the Dirty Harry series, Canby wrote, “Though the movie’s allure is exactly the same as a porn film’s, the rating is ‘R.’”

clinteastwood gun at NRA

The S&W Model 29 .44 Magnum revolver featured in the violent “Dirty Harry” movies is also featured by the NRA in its temple of worship to guns.

One might think the NRA would eschew a film with such criticism. But for enthusiasts like Stephen Hunter the gun violence is not only acceptable, but positively exciting. Here is what Hunter wrote of the appearance of Dirty Harry’s Model 29 Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum revolver in the NRA’s “Real Guns” exhibit:

So what’s the most famous gun in movie history? Wouldn’t it be: “. . . but being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question…Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?” The punk felt lucky, and it was a permanently bad career move, as Clint Eastwood nailed him with the giant Smith & Wesson. Ka-boom! He did a black flip into a scummy SoCal pond, as his eyeballs eight-balled and he dropped his own piddly 9mm pistol on the way down, maybe the most famous gun moment in movie history. How could that gun not be there? After all, it — that is, one of three such N-frame Smith revolvers purchased for the films “Dirty Harry” and “Magnum Force” — was presented to screenwriter John Milius, who is now on the NRA board of directors. So there it is in an Eastwood panel, where many of Clint’s guns reside.

Pulp Fiction. The other film in the 2002 NRA exhibit that one might think problematic under LaPierre’s standard was director Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 film, Pulp Fiction, starring among others John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, and Bruce Willis.  One critic wrote of this film, “Tarantino caresses violence like a lover on speed. And there is plenty of it in ‘Pulp Fiction.’ Brains are splattered over a car and bits stick to Jackson’s hair; faces are rearranged from beatings.”

All the splattered brains, summary executions by drug gangsters, and violent male rape of Pulp Fiction, however, did not deter the NRA from displaying a Colt Model 1911 .45 ACP pistol used in the movie by actor John Travolta—one of eight of the make and model in the exhibit.

2010-Present—“Hollywood Guns”

 In 2010, the NRA announced a new museum exhibit, the currently ongoing “Hollywood Guns” exhibit.  Writer Stephen Hunter wrote an article for American Rifleman magazine, one of the NRA’s mainline publications. Hunter described the new exhibit as “a follow-up to NRA’s most successful exhibit, ‘Real Guns of Reel Heroes,’ of a few years back and possibly even better. If you love guns or you love movies or, still luckier, you love guns and movies, this is a trip you cannot miss.”

The NRA used Hunter’s article as the “Introduction” to its official guide to the museum exhibit. The writing offers insights into an almost sexual passion for guns, and documents the NRA’s hypocrisy about violent films:

I was fortunate enough to get an advance prowl through the museum’s vault where, pre-exhibition, the guns were being accumulated and stored. It was like going to Valhalla without the inconvenience of having to die first. So many guns, so little time. As karma decreed, my eyes first lit on the cut-down, suppressed Remington Model 11-87 Javier Bardem committed such mayhem with in “No Country For Old Men.” Who could not notice this twisted sister of a piece…

Pulp Fiction Cropped

Brain spatter, ruthless murders by drug gangster hit-men, and unrelieved violence might seem to qualify a movie for Wayne LaPierre’s porno test. But LaPierre is okay with displaying this revolver from “Pulp Fiction” in the NRA museum.

Dirty Harry and Pulp Fiction continue to be featured in the new and improved NRA guns in the movies exhibit. But even more problematic films have been added. The following presents a representative but by no means exhaustive sample of movies that escaped Wayne LaPierre’s fickle porno meter in the NRA’s “Hollywood Guns” exhibit.

No Country for Old Men. Hunter’s adulatory reference to “suppressed Remington Model 11-87” quoted above alluded to a silenced shotgun used by an assassin in the gory 2007 film No Country for Old Men, written and directed by brothers Ethan and Joel Coen, and starring Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem and Josh Brolin.

No Country Shotgun Cropped

“No Country for Old Men” passed Wayne LaPierre’s porno-meter test. The NRA museum brochure describes professional assassin Anton Chigurh as “one of the screen’s most prolific and emotionless killers.”

“No one should go into ‘No Country for Old Men’ underestimating the unnerving intensity of its moments of on-screen violence, its parade of corpses and geysers of spurting blood,” the Los Angeles Times warned in 2007.

The character that Hunter’s “karma” brought him to was Javier Bardem’s “Anton Chigurh, a hired assassin and psychopath, whose latest idea of fun is killing unsuspecting strangers with a device used to slaughter steers. It’s an oxygen tank attached to a hand-held pile driver that shoots a rod a few inches with great power. The effect is like a gunshot without a bullet.”

Reservoir Dogs. When director Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs opened in 1992, it was reported that “the movie is so graphic that dozens of repulsed viewers fled early screenings.” No wonder. “In one of the most disturbing sequences, a dancing criminal tortures a hysterical police officer at knife point, maiming his face and drenching his battered body in gasoline.”

Reservoir Dogs Cropped

Criticism of “Reservoir Dogs” for its excessive violence did not deter Wayne LaPierre, executive producer of the NRA’s “Hollywood Guns” exhibit, from including these two handguns in the show.

“Strong violence is Tarantino’s passion, and he embraces it with gleeful, almost religious, fervor,” wrote the Los Angeles Times. “An energetic macho stunt, ‘Reservoir Dogs’…glories in its excesses of blood and profanity, delighting…in going as far over the top as the man’s imagination will take it.”

Curiously, the excessive violence in Reservoir Dogs has not deterred the NRA from displaying in its “Hollywood Guns” exhibit two Smith & Wesson 9mm semiautomatic pistols used by actors Steve Buscemi and Harvey Keitel in the film.

Other violent films in the current NRA exhibit include The Departed, given an R rating in 2006 “for strong brutal violence, pervasive language, some strong sexual content and drug material,” and 1998’s Die Hard.

The NRA Marketing Angle

The NRA’s motive in mounting such exhibits—putting aside the bizarre obsession with guns evident in the National Firearms Museum—is simply to exploit the popularity of movies to draw people into the museum and the NRA. “The NRA is hoping the pop-culture exhibit will attract people who would not usually visit the firearms museum, which features a permanent collection of 2,000 guns,” Cox News reported in 2002.

“It offers people that otherwise might not cross the street to come into this building…an opportunity to see something that’s very, very interesting and, hopefully, they might see other things along the way,” [museum curator Philip] Schreier told the news service. “I mean, who doesn’t like films?”

Schreier stated that in the first weekend of the exhibit, the museum attracted three times the number of visitors as on the same weekend in the preceding year.

 Wayne LaPierre Channels William B. (Bill) Ruger

 Both of the NRA museum’s movie guns exhibits were mounted in its William B. Ruger Gallery.  Ruger was an icon of the gun industry, idolized for building Sturm, Ruger & Co., Inc., into a major force in the world of guns and gun marketing in America.

Ruger also designed the P-89 type of semiautomatic pistol that Colin Ferguson used in December 1992 to kill six people and wound 17 on a Long Island commuter train in New York. Asked about his responsibility for the massacre, Ruger blamed movies and television, and scoffed at school shootings.

Ruger blames Hollywood violence for twisting America’s conception of firearms. “Movies and TV these days have sold the idea of the shootout as though that were the purpose of firearms,” he said. “TV is an enemy of civilization. You take the program violence away and all these immature, slightly crazy mentalities watching that would no longer be stimulated by what they see on television.” He believes the problem of guns in school has been “greatly exaggerated.” “I just have to wonder how many schoolchildren go to school and worry about getting shot. If there are some rotten kids who are carrying a gun, that can’t happen very often. But it gets a lot of play with the press,” he said. The real danger to American society, he says, is not firearms makers but gun control advocates.

Thus, 20 years before the slaughter at Sandy Hook Elementary, Bill Ruger offered essentially the same excuse that Wayne LaPierre used to divert attention from the gun industry and its responsibility after a mass shooting.

Internet Promotions by the NRA

The NRA also promotes its love idyll with Hollywood guns and the gun industry through an extensive, sophisticated structure on the internet. It has more than a dozen separate sites, each designed to hone in on the specific interest of different groups of gun owners and potential gun owners, all the while serving the marketing interests of the gun industry.

The scope of this presence may be seen in one glance at http://membership.nrahq.org/othersites.asp. One of the sites is that of the National Firearms Museum. http://www.nramuseum.org/. A blurb and link there drives traffic to an NRA blog, which in turn promotes “NRA’s Guns & Gold – the sizzle reel from Sportsman Channel,”  a teaser video for a television series that serves as another marketing channel for the NRA and the gun industry. “See super slow-mo shots of watermelons going kablewie, closeups of rare and exotic firearms along with a couple of cutup segments from NRA Museum Director Jim Supica and Senior Curator Phil Schreier.” http://www.nrablog.com/post/2012/12/06/NRAs-Guns-Gold-the-sizzle-reel-from-Sportsman-Channel.aspx. The “cutups” of Supica and Schreier may also be seen on the NRA museum curator’s channel on You Tube, http://www.youtube.com/user/NFMCurator?feature=watch.

Doubting Stephen—the NRA Refuted Within Its Own Ranks

 “I’m not sure this [movie violence] is necessarily the bad thing that so many assume it to be.”

Stephen Hunter

Hunter and Schreier

Phil Schreier (left) of the National Firearms Museum and Stephen Hunter playing with guns from violent movies in the William B. Ruger Gallery of the museum.

Before Stephen Hunter was a scrivener for NRA publications, he was a movie critic at The Baltimore Sun newspaper, and later at the Washington Post. In 1995 he published Violent Screen, a book of recollections about his work and the movies.  Hunter addressed the issue of movie violence in an introductory essay, in which he apparently concluded that—contrary to the self-serving assertions of Wayne LaPierre and Bill Ruger before him—violent movies not only do not cause violence, but may indeed prevent it.

Here is Stephen Hunter’s case for movie violence:

I have always felt it a point of honor as a movie critic not to pretend that, as an advanced thinker, I am somehow above the lure of violence in a film. Indeed, my best pieces here seem to be about movies where I’ve made some emotional contact with violence and have let it sweep me away, fire off all my synapses, liberate my imagination. In fact, I think one of the reasons that we go to movies is FOR the violence: it enables us to project ourselves and our hostilities into some form of righteous rage and take charge and triumph in a world of the imagination where a world of reality obdurately refuses to be taken charge of or allow triumph. I’m not sure this is necessarily the bad thing that so many assume it to be. Critics of American movies love to zero in on the relatively few copycat killings that the odd picture will inspire, but nobody’s able to chronicle the times that angry men have seethed toward violence but been released from its mandates when a story so gripped their imagination that they lost hold of themselves and their anger in witnessing it.

 Gold on Silver — The Gun Industry Connection

 “These three industries—the gun manufacturers, the magazines and the movies—clearly interrelate in their willingness to serve and profit from this audience.”

Stephen Hunter

 In spite of the self-righteous blustering of the likes of NRA paladins Bill Ruger and Wayne LaPierre, the movies are a major marketing tool for the gun industry. Everyone who is anyone in both industries knows that.

Guns and realistic gun models are supplied to filmmakers by prop houses, and gun makers lobby the prop houses to use their makes and models.  The illustration in the NRA’s “Hollywood Movies” catalog credits a number of these prop houses as the source of guns in the display. Among such houses credited in the catalog’s acknowledgements page are The Prop Store of London, Hollywood Guns & Props, Cinema Weaponry, and Stembridge Gun Rentals.

world war z

The gun industry is already salivating over the upcoming Brad Pitts movie.

Gun industry insiders openly discuss the value of gun placement in movies. “With shotguns, heavily recommended for anti-zombie defense, sales could really pick up after World War Z comes out next year starring Brad Pitt and written by Mel Brooks son,” enthused one industry public relations outlet. “Movies have more influence on which guns sell than politicians.”

“I really like the lever actions that have been around for a long time,” a California gun dealer told Shooting Industry, the premier gun business magazine, in 2012. “People love them from Western movies.”

The NRA’s own catalog and magazine writer, Stephen Hunter, wrote an incisive essay in 1989 in which he described quite well the rise of assault weapons (which he calls exotic guns, but describes accurately) and the mutual exploitation of the gun industry, the movie industry, and the gun fan press.  Appropriately enough, the June 8, 1986 article was titled “Guns are Gold on Today’s Silver Screen.”

Here is a salient excerpt from the article, as reproduced in Hunter’s book, Violent Screen:

 Neither the western heritage nor the [James] Bondian cult of expertise could quite explain the exponential growth of weapons-fixated films of the 1980s. What does explain “Rambo: First Blood Part II,” for example, which zeroes in on the M-60 machine gun with a gynecologist’s clinicalness [sic]; or “The Terminator,” which boasts a wardrobe of exotic weapons not seen in normal life this side of a SWAT-team’s vault? First of all, the development must be seen in terms of larger social trends.  One of them reflects a curious and largely unreported-upon tendency: the growth of an exotics-weapons cult, which manifests itself in a variety of ways, of which the movies are but one. Another is the fact that gun manufacturers, who for years turned out hunting, target-shooting and self-defense weapons, have found in the past decade a new market for exotic weapons. Thus, many of them manufacture semi-automatic versions of the hard-core automatic weapons previously limited to military and police usage. It is now possible to buy a semi-automatic Uzi or MAC-10 or AK-47 or M-16 in virtually any gun store in America, and there clearly are buyers for such weapons. Another manifestation of this tendency is what might be called the exotic weaponry press: Whereas 10 years ago there were but three or four magazines that covered sporting and target shooting, now there are dozens of magazines that concentrate on exotic weapons, such as Exotic Firepower, S.W.A.T., Soldier of Fortune, Magnum Handguns, Combat Shooting, Gung-Ho, American Eagle and the like. These three industries–the gun manufacturers, the magazines and the movies–clearly interrelate in their willingness to serve and profit from this audience. Gun buffs may not form a significant part of the American film audience numerically, but they are passionate about their loves; they go to the movies, they buy the magazines and they buy the firearms to see the guns shoot. Film companies realize this, and frequently use the specialized-firearms press as a way to target this specialized audience by permitting special access to the gun magazines, which in turn will run admiring and non-critical articles.

 Hunter may—and apparently has—changed his personal perspective on guns. But the facts as he wrote them in his 1989 essay have not changed.  The trends in the industry’s marketing of military-derived semiautomatic assault weapons and other “exotic” killing machines have only gotten worse.

The slaughter at Sandy Hook Elementary School by Adam Lanza wielding an “exotic” Bushmaster assault rifle is evidence enough of Hunter’s prescience in 1989.

Gaston Glock’s Golden Movie Marketing Strategy

 “The [Glock] handgun’s adoption as the unofficial firearm of Hollywood brought it to the attention of people far beyond law enforcement and serious gun-owning circles.”

Paul M. Barrett

Virginia Tech Mass Shooter Cho Used Glock Handgun

Virginia Tech Mass Shooter Seung Hui Cho was among those “far beyond law enforcement and serious gun-owning circles” who bought what writer Paul Barrett calls “America’s handgun” — the Glock semiautomatic pistol.

Paul M. Barrett, an assistant managing editor and senior writer at Bloomberg Businessweek, wrote the book GLOCK: The Rise of America’s Gun. The book relates how the former Austrian toolmaker Gaston Glock created and cannily marketed a highly-successful line of semiautomatic pistols in the United States.

On NPR’s Fresh Air interview show with host Terry Gross, Barrett explained that an important part of Glock’s marketing strategy was to get screen time in Hollywood. “In 1990, the Glock began to appear in the hands of police officers in Law and Order and other police procedural shows,” relates the summary of Barrett’s appearance on Fresh Air. “It was also used by Bruce Willis in the movie Die Hard 2. Willis’ character gave a long soliloquy touting the advantages of using a Glock.”

“[He] introduced the gun as a character to people who don’t know anything about guns,” Barrett said.

The internet website MarketingProfs enthused in detail about the Glock marketing strategy in an article titled “Five Things You Can Learn From Glock.” The article described in things “4” and “5” that one can learn exactly how Glock played Hollywood prop houses to brand its pistols in the public’s mind:

4. Put your product in the right hands

Getting the Glock in movies was another strategy. Movie studios rely on prop masters who specialize in weapons to help them procure the guns they need to make movies and teach movie stars how to look like they know what they are doing when they have a gun in their hand. Glock went after these prop masters specifically, making it easy for them to get Glocks when they needed them (other gun manufacturers were seldom so accommodating), and not being too prescriptive about how the guns were used (some manufacturer insisted, for example, that their guns were only for the good guys). Thanks to their efforts, the Glock finally hit the big screen with Bruce Willis in Die Hard II.

5. It doesn’t matter what they say, so long as they’re talking

When Bruce Willis talked about the Glock in Die Hard II, he referred to it as a German gun that was made of porcelain and therefore could evade detection by airport security. None of these things were true (the Glock is Austrian, made primarily of plastic, and can be detected by metal detectors), but that didn’t matter. Gun fans were more than happy to jump on the inaccuracies and lampoon typical Hollywood idiocy, showing that even (or especially) bad information can feed the buzz machine.

NRA Ex Glock

The Glock 19 has starred not only in mass shootings in the United States, but also in executive producer Wayne LaPierre’s “Hollywood Guns” exhibit at the National Firearms Museum.

Sure enough, a Glock 19 9mm semiautomatic pistol used by actor Mel Gibson in the 2010 gore-fest Edge of Darkness is among the guns featured in the NRA’s “Hollywood Guns” exhibit. This movie apparently slipped through NRA boss Wayne LaPierre’s porno meter in spite of its R rating for “strong bloody violence and language.”

In an enthusiastic article promoting his book, Paul Barrett wrote, “The [Glock] handgun’s adoption as the unofficial firearm of Hollywood brought it to the attention of people far beyond law enforcement and serious gun-owning circles.”

Among the people “far beyond law enforcement and serious gun-owning circles” whose attention Glock caught are: Adam Lanza, the Newtown murderer who apparently shot himself to death with a Glock pistol; James Holmes, who was carrying a Glock when he unleashed death in an Aurora, CO movie theater; Jared Lee Loughner, who used his Glock in Tucson, AZ to kill six people and wounded 13 others, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords; and Seung Hui Cho, who used a Glock 19 along with another semiautomatic pistol to kill 32 people and wound 17 at Virginia Tech University.

Size Matters—The Barrett 50 Caliber Anti-Armor Sniper Rifle in the Movies and Games

 “While companies often pay to have their products appear in popular games, Barrett required payment to appear in Call of Duty and received it.”

The Murfreesboro Post

 The 50 caliber anti-armor sniper rifle is a case in which precisely the same weapon is sold on the civilian market as that sold to the world’s armed services. Barrett Firearms Manufacturing, Inc. is the leading supplier of 50 caliber anti-armor sniper rifles to U.S. military forces and many other armies of the world.

It is almost impossible to exaggerate the lethality of the Barrett .50BMG anti-armor sniper rifles.  Capable of blasting through an inch of steel from a thousand yards away, the Barrett is one of the guns most sought after by Mexican drug lords, who have used its range and power to assassinate Mexican law enforcement and other government officials.

A Barrett sniper rifle used in the 2009 movie The Hurt Locker is among those in the NRA’s “Hollywood Guns” exhibit. According to Barrett’s home town newspaper, The Murfreesboro Post, that appearance is just the tip of the iceberg of the gun maker’s clever marketing strategy:

Many people who have never been in much more than hearing of a rifle shot are familiar with the iconic Barrett .50 caliber M107 rifle. The groundbreaking weapon that gave huge firepower capability, and thus survival ability and lethality, to small military groups has been featured in countless movies, television and even computer games. In fact the Barrett .50 is notably evident in America culture right now. The weapon is featured prominently in the nine-Oscar-nominated “The Hurt Locker,” meaning Barrett Firearms Manufacturing officials will be keeping a close eye on this year’s Academy Awards. And, the Barrett .50 is a valued resource in the amazingly popular video games, Call of Duty I and II, the best-selling first-person action game of all time with more than $1 billion in sales. While companies often pay to have their products appear in popular games, Barrett required payment to appear in Call of Duty and received it.

Barrett Hurt Cropped

The Barrett 50 caliber anti-armor sniper rifle can penetrate an inch of steel from 1,000 yards. It’s a favorite not only of Mexican drug lords, but also of video game makers who pay Barrett Firearms for the privilege. These violent video games apparently pass Wayne LaPierre’s porno test, as evidenced by the rifle’s inclusion in the NRA “Hollywood Guns” exhibit.

Conclusion

 “The National Rifle Association — 4 million mothers, fathers, sons and daughters — join the nation in horror, outrage, grief and earnest prayer for the families of Newtown, Connecticut, who have suffered such an incomprehensible loss as a result of this unspeakable crime.”

Wayne LaPierre

The hypocrisy, one dares say duplicity, of the leadership of the National Rifle Association is beyond stunning.

The NRA is an integral element in the ruthless machinery of the gun industry that is butchering Americans in their homes, churches, workplaces, movie theaters, schools, and even military bases. Joined at the hip to the gun industry, the NRA has been an active cheerleader in the gun industry’s cynical promotion of the exotic guns that Stephen Hunter described in an earlier persona.

These killing machines are no longer exotic. Thanks in large part to the NRA, semiautomatic assault rifles, high-capacity semiautomatic pistols, and armor-piercing 50 caliber sniper rifles are common today in America. The consequences have shown up in the terror of small children about to die and the grief of mothers and fathers who must bury them.

Wayne LaPierre’s facile words of sympathy fall hollow in this charnel house.  His pitiful and transparently foolish attempt to blame movies, video games, society at large, the news media, and any politician who dares suggest even the most insipid form of gun control is obtuse and shameful.  As this report shows, the NRA itself has recklessly promoted the infatuation of a few with violent movies and guns simply to sell guns…and more guns…all to the certain harm of the many.

This must end. The fact is that neither movies nor video games, nor any other of the wondrous excuses the NRA can dream up are the cause of America’s gun violence epidemic.

Guns are.

Boy on Bike2

Motorcade

In Uncategorized on January 1, 2013 at 11:33 pm

The U.S. Secret Service has been worried about 50 caliber sniper rifles since the 1980s. Protective measures have necessarily been expanded to take into account the range and power of this gun.

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