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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.

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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 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

Why the Los Angeles Gang Tour and the Sicilian Mafia are Bad Ideas

In bad manners, Corruption, Crime, Cultural assassination, Drugs, Ethics in Washington, Gangs, Guns, Latino gangs, Marijuana Debate, politics, Transnational crime, Turf Wars on January 31, 2010 at 3:44 pm

Survivors of Gunshot Wounds Suffer Pain, Indignity, and Often a Life of Daily Horrors

“This isn’t the Boy Scouts. It isn’t the chess club. It’s a world of violence.”

Los Angeles Police Department Detective and gang expert Frank Flores, quoted in article on MS-13 trial in Charlotte, NC, Charlotte Observer, January 14, 2010

Just when you thought Los Angeles couldn’t get any goofier or more self-defeating, an entrepreneurial former gang member turned “anti-gang activist” has started a gangland bus tour.

Alfred Lomas, 45, a former gang member and the creator of the tour ($65, lunch included), said this drive-by was about educating people on city life, while turning any profits into microloans and other initiatives aimed at providing gang members jobs.

“A Gangland Bus Tour, With Lunch and a Waiver,” The New York Times, January 16, 2010

OK.

Like the mudslides and wildfires that remind us the Los Angeles Basin was intended by its Maker for other than human habitation, this idea roared through the arid mind canyons of the Left Coast and swept thoughtful analysis into the Pacific Ocean like so much polluted runoff.

Not on the Tour

First, let’s be clear about one thing.  Lomas’s “tour” is going to skip the fundamental reality of gang life in Los Angeles.  You know, the inconvenient bits – drug and human trafficking, extortion, robbery, theft, armed violence, and most of all the visible toll of the dead (think funerals) and the limping, less visible trail of walking or wheelchair-bound wounded (think spinal injuries and those little plastic waste bag appendages).

This You Tube video fills in that weak point of the enterprise.

NOTE:  Some idiot at You Tube  disabled the video I had posted here some months ago — without warning — on the grounds that the images of actual gunshot victims in the video were merely shocking.

You Tube’s Google owners have learned well from their Chinese masters.  I’ll find another venue to host the video and add the link back here when I get it.

Meanwhile, I took down my You Tube site in protest of this idiotic and heavy-handed censorship.  Be warned.

I assume that one of the LA gangster world’s bought-an-paid-for-politicians got to YouTube, or some other thug-hugger.  In a paraphrase of Gen. Douglas MacArthur:  The Video Shall Return.

Superficial Rationales Sufficient for the Chattering Class

Rationale # 1. “Hey, it’s America, right?”

“What the heck, market what you got,” said Celeste Fremon, who writes the criminal justice blog Witness L.A. and has studied the city’s gangs.

Although she disputed whether several of the sites had a solid gang association, she said, “if it makes money for a good cause, more power to them.”

Rationale # 2. “Hey, his heart’s in the right place!”

Kevin Malone, a former general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers who came to know Mr. Lomas through the center and is one of the financial backers of the project, said he might accept the criticism “if it was somebody other than” Mr. Lomas.

“But I know the guy’s heart,” he said. “He is not taking anything out. All he is doing is serving and giving. If that is exploitation, I hope somebody does that to me.”

Rationale # 3 (maybe … maybe not … demi-semi quavering)Gloria in excelsis scelestus ?”

Caregivers in Pediatric Intensive Care Units See Too Much of This from Gang Violence

“Everybody says we are the gang capital of the world, and that is certainly true, no denying that,” said the Rev. Gregory Boyle, who has spent decades trying to steer people out of gangs into legitimate work. “It’s hard to gloss over that. But there are two extremes we always need to avoid. One is demonizing the gang member, and the other extreme is romanticizing the gang.”

Snarky Rebuttals

With all due respect to Boyle, Malone, Lomas and Fremon, this is a bad idea on so many levels it makes LA’s most densely stacked freeway interchange look like a rural crossroads.

Snarky rebuttal # 1. Making money for a good cause?  That’s the test?

Deep.

Let’s see, every whacked out terrorist in the universe – especially the ones who strap bombs into their underwear – thinks his or her cause is not only good, but also superior to every other cause on the planet.

Fund-raising for these “good causes” is intimately entwined in the depredations of global organized crime – included human trafficking, sex trafficking, drug trafficking, cigarette trafficking, traffic in phony products from lethal baby formula to fake designer jeans, and the bloody mayhem that accompanies all of the above.   In fact, there is a school of serious thought that the war in Afghanistan is at least as much about the drug trade as the Taliban’s odd socio-religious tyranny.

Street Gangs are the Retail Outlets for Drugs in America

And by the way, the point of this spear of criminality comes right down to L.A.’s ubiquitous marijuana “clinics,” which are a wonderful system of retail outlets for the illegal production and trafficking in weed by the Mexican drug cartels and their affiliates, the Gangs of Los Angeles.

Bad idea, good cause.

Check.

Snarky rebuttal #2. “If it were anybody else …”

Say, what he say?  This logic twists my mind like a pretzel.

Hmmm.

Okay, pick a hero in your life.  Any hero.  You know, like … um … Brangelina … Barack Obama … Mother Teresa … Alex Sanchez … Lindsay Lohan … Pat Robertson … Glenn Close … whoever you look up to in your personal universe.

Just imagine – stick with me here, this is just a “mind exercise” – that your hero decided that running 13-year old child prostitutes up from Pueblo Pobre, Qualquiera, and vending them out in slam pads was a damned good way to raise funds for … well, a good cause, no profit here.

Pick a Hero ... Any Hero

See, if it were anybody else …  love the sinner, love the sin?  Certainly, no one, definitely not Fairly Civil, suggests that there is anything unlawful about the gang tour.  But the logic is the same.

Bad idea, good-hearted personal hero.

Check.

Snarky rebuttal # 3The demi-semi quaver.

In fairness to Father Boyle, it is at least possible that he told The New York Times reporter that this gang tour was definitely a bad idea because it glorifies gang life.  Reporters and editors sometimes cut out the sharp points in a “reader.”  But the quote attributed to him came across as an “on the one hand, on the other hand” equivocation.  What the modern news media call “even-handed.”

Well, be that as it may, here is a more pungent comment from another source:

Is there a danger of romanticizing or even glorifying the culture that has cost so many lives and caused so much heartache and tragedy to go along with the poverty that pervades the area? You think? There are a number of tours of past gangster lairs and stomping grounds from those occupied and traveled by Jesse James to John Dillinger to name only a couple. But those who made these locations infamous or famous are long gone and the thrill is far more benign than what one might expect where there still is ongoing horror.

“L.A. gangland tour is a bad idea,” Dan K. Thomasson, Scripps Howard News Service.

Human tragedy is human tragedy.

Check.

The Sicilian Connection

Cosa Nostra Assassinated Mafia Busting Sicilian Magistrates Giovanni Falcone (left) and Paolo Borsellino

Finally, it is instructive to look at this tour in the context of another gang-infested culture:  Sicily, home of the original mafia, Cosa Nostra (not “La Cosa Nostra,” as the U.S. federal government mistakenly and irreversibly misnamed the American variant.)

It’s well worth reading the history and sociopolitical culture of this scourge.  So much that is fundamentally bad about the Sicilian Mafia and its relation to civil life can be seen in the L.A. gang culture.

  • Self-marginalizing ethnic mythology and denial. “There is no mafia, it’s just a cultural thing we Sicilians have.”  For nearly a century and a half Sicilian and other Italian chatterers – politicians, writers, academics – promoted the idea that there was no such thing as the mafia, in the sense of an organized criminal enterprise in Sicily.  No, they said, “mafia” just means a prideful violence ingrained in the “character” of Sicilians.  You know, like that Latino carnal and barrios stuff.  We just can’t help ourselves.  The gangsters, of course, loved this idea, and promoted it through the transmission belt of their “useful idiots”  — even in the face of well-documented informants from as far back as the late 19th and early 20th centuries!  The mob’s suckers included “intellectuals,” corrupted and gullible politicians, nitwit clerics, and the usual gaggle of do-gooders.
  • Corrupted members of church and state. To the shame of the Italian government and the Catholic Church, many politicians and priests were co-opted by Cosa Nostra.  Some remain so to this day.  Interestingly, a characteristic posture of the corrupted has been to publicly criticize the mafia and propose grandiose plans to attack it, while secretly undermining law enforcement efforts against the mobsters.
  • Attacking law enforcement and judicial authorities. One of Cosa Nostra’s classic tactics has been to attack – both physically and rhetorically – specific gangbusters in Italian law enforcement and in the Italian judiciary.  In many cases, this was assassination intended to send a message that the mafia was above the law, in fact, was the law.  In other cases, it was a smear campaign; a whispering, snickering current of innuendo designed and intended to undermine public confidence in law enforcement generally and in specific persons whose principled activities became a thorn in the side of the mob.
  • Culture of Criminality. The goal of socialization is to inculcate a “culture of lawfulness.”  No matter what else one thinks of cops, there clearly are not enough of them to prevent every crime and stop every criminal enterprise.  This is the job of that broader mass we call “culture” or “society.”  In Sicily, the culture of lawfulness became a culture of unlawfulness.  The vast mass of ordinary people came to accept the depredations of the mafia, because the very culture taught them there was nothing they could do about it.  Many heroes of modern Sicily paid with their blood to reverse this perverse culture inversion.

Sound familiar?

You can read some of the best books about Cosa Nostra, the Sicilian mafia, and decide for yourself.  My recommendations:

Salvo Lima, One of the Sicilian Mafia's Politician Friends, Was Brutally Whacked When He Outlived His Usefulness

IT’S REAL — ALEX SANCHEZ GETS BAIL IN MS-13 RICO TRIAL — JUDGE CALLS IN TEAM OF OUTSIDE REFEREES TO HELP MAKE THE REPLAY CALL

In bad manners, Crime, Gangs, Informants and other sophisticated means, Latino gangs, Police, politics, RICO, RICO indictments, Transnational crime on January 14, 2010 at 2:02 am

Experts Testified Behind Judge Real's Closed Doors in Latest Sanchez Bail Hearing

Federal Judge Manuel L. Real has granted bail to Alex Sanchez, the former gang member turned anti-gang activist who has been accused in a federal racketeering (RICO) indictment of being a “secret shot-caller” for Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13).  [To follow the trail of a series of earlier posts on this fascinating case, start here.  You will eventually land in the Land of Oz. ]

Here is how Celeste Fremon’s WitnessLA broke the news today:

Around 11:30, at the end of the closed hearing that began at 10 a.m. Alex Sanchez attorney Kerry Bensinger came out of the federal courtroom to talk to Sanchez family and a very, very small handful of supporters, whom he drew into a side room and broke the news. U.S. District Judge Manuel Real had granted Alex Sanchez bail.

One thing that can be said for the staggeringly quirky Real, he continues to surprise. This time the surprise was a good one for Sanchez and family.

The bail amount is set at $2 million. It is to be divided into $1 million in properties, $1 million in surities.

Since Sanchez supporters and family have already gathered $1.4 million in property, and $1 million in surities, “it’s only a matter of the paperwork,” said Monica Novoa, a Homies Unidos board member who is very close to the family and thus was in the room.

The extraordinary bail hearing was closed to the public.  It followed the filing of a mysterious sealed document by Sanchez’s lawyer, Kerry L. Bensinger.  Contents of that filing are not available on the public record.

Judge Real apparently felt the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals breathing down his back and called in a panel of independent gang experts to help him pin down the facts relevant to Sanchez’s bail request.  These have almost nothing to do with the defendant’s guilt or innocence, but whether he presents (1) a risk of flight, or (2) a threat to others.

According to papers filed in the federal district court, prosecutors made available three expert witnesses.  They were:

  • LAPD Capt. Justin Eisenberg, Commanding Officer of the Gangs and Narcotics Division.
  • Former federal prosecutor Bruce K. Riordan, now Director of Anti-Gang Operations for the L.A. City Attorney’s Office.  Riordan is also Chief of the Gang Division and Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division.
  • FBI Supervisory Special Agent Robert W. Clark, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Los Angeles Field Office.

“Government’s Notice Re; Available Witnesses at Hearing Re: Detention of Alex Sanchez,” United States v. Alfaro, Central District of California, Docket No. CR-09-466-R, filed January 12, 2010.

NOTE:  This document — which was publicly available yesterday at the time this blog post was first written — has now been sealed.  Oh, well.  Good thing I printed it off!

It is possible that Bensinger’s mysterious sealed document was the defendant’s list of experts, some or all of whom are rumored to be politicians and public officials who may not have wanted to be identified as speaking on Sanchez’s behalf.  Is there such a thing as a spinal implant?  Or integrity transfusion?  Perhaps this is something that the indefatigable activist Tom Hayden — who is given to dark conspiratorial theories when a matter involves the government — can investigate and write about in the public interest.

In any event, Judge Real was demonstrably persuaded that Sanchez was entitled to be released.

At least some observers have speculated that prosecutors made a decision to ease back on the throttle regarding the Sanchez bail question.  The theory of this line of reasoning is that prosecutors realized that they had a big problem with the factual scenario they had relied on to implicate Sanchez in an intra-gang hit — to wit, the government may have incorrectly identified a key participant in a wiretapped phone call.

The call on the table, the reasoning continues, was either to continue pushing hard to keep Sanchez locked up and risk seeing the case taken away from Judge Real by the Ninth Circuit, or to reform the skirmish line and perhaps bring in some fresh troops.  A few new strategic calls may also be made.

Most interesting in the short run will be to see what, if anything, the Los Angeles Times prints tomorrow.  Any way you slice the Sanchez case, it is a world class story that any of the old style newspaper men would have given an arm for:  if Sanchez is truly innocent, he has been the victim of terrible mistreatment.  If he is guilty, he pulled off a scam that makes Ponzi scheme artist Bernie Madoff look like an amateur.

But the Times, one of the few interesting newspapers left in America, has studiously ignored the case to date.

In Happier Times, Sanchez Enjoyed A Saintly Aura Comparable to that of Mother Teresa

UPDATE ON LOS ANGELES TIMES‘ COVERAGE

No surprise here.  No story.  Apparently, LA Times editors couldn’t find their butts in the dark with both hands and a flashlight.

But the on-line edition does have this suh-weet blast from the past:

I wanna take you high-er!

INSPECTOR GENERAL: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE GANG INTELLIGENCE ISN’T

In Crime, Gangs, Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence, politics, Transnational crime, Turf Wars, Washington Bureaucracy on November 19, 2009 at 9:25 pm

Department of Justice Inspector General Report: DOJ's Two Major Anti-Gang Intelligence Units "Are Not Contributing Significantly to the Department's Anti-Gang Initiatives."

If a tree falls in the courtyard of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, DC, would anybody notice in Yakima, Washington?

Not if it involves the two units in the department charged with developing national anti-gang intelligence and coordination systems — at least,  according to the department’s inspector general.  In dispassionate, almost clinical language, a just-issued report by the IG’s staff pretty much trashed both the FBI-based National Gang Intelligence Center (NGIC) and the DOJ-based Gang Targeting, Enforcement, and Coordination Center (GangTECC).

The IG staff reports that “after almost 3 years of operation, NGIC and GangTECC still have not made a significant impact on the Department’s anti-gang activities. Despite being located in the same office suite, both NGIC and GangTECC are not effectively collaborating and are not sharing gang-related information.”

A key recommendation — that the department consider merging the two rival siblings — is the kind of good government idea that could set off a classic turf war.

Tom Diaz, "No Boundaries: Transnational Latino Gangs and American Law Enforcement"

“Tom Diaz has worn out some shoe leather—much like a good detective—in gathering facts, not myths or urban legend. “

—Chris Swecker, Former Assistant Director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division.

“Few people know more about the subject than Tom Diaz and no single book tells the whole story better than No Boundaries. If you really want to know what organized crime in America looks like today, then read this alarming book.”

—Rocky Delgadillo, former City Attorney of Los Angeles

Order No Boundaries from Amazon.com

The following excerpts from the 63-page report — “A Review of the Department’s Anti-Gang Intelligence and Coordination Centers,” U.S. Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General, Evaluation and Inspections Division (November 2009) — cover the major points:

A Review of the Department’s Anti-Gang Intelligence and Coordination Centers

In January 2007, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales announced that the Department had taken several steps to address gang violence. Among those efforts were the establishment of three new entities: (1) the National Gang Intelligence Center (NGIC), which was established by statute in January 2006, integrates the gang intelligence assets of all DOJ agencies and other partner agencies; (2) the National Gang Targeting, Enforcement, and Coordination Center (GangTECC), established in June 2006 by the Attorney General, serves as a central coordinating center for multi-jurisdictional gang investigations; and (3) the Gang Unit, another Attorney General initiative created in September 2006, develops and implements strategies to attack the most significant gangs and serves as the prosecutorial arm of the Department’s efforts against violent gangs.

….

Our review found that, after almost 3 years of operation, NGIC and GangTECC still have not made a significant impact on the Department’s anti-gang activities. Despite being located in the same office suite, both NGIC and GangTECC are not effectively collaborating and are not sharing gang-related information.

National Gang Intelligence Center (NGIC)

NGIC was established by statute in January 2006 to “collect, analyze, and disseminate gang activity information” from various federal, state, and local law enforcement, prosecutorial, and corrections agencies.5 The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) used existing resources from its Criminal Intelligence Section to establish NGIC. The public law that established NGIC also charged the FBI with administering NGIC as a multi-agency center where intelligence analysts from federal, state, and local law enforcement work together to develop and share gang-related information. NGIC was to provide a centralized intelligence resource for gang information and analytical support to law enforcement agencies. For fiscal year (FY) 2008, NGIC’s budget was $6.6 million and, as of June 2009 there were a total of 27 staff at the NGIC.

Gang Targeting, Enforcement, and Coordinating Center (GangTECC)

On February 15, 2006, Attorney General Gonzales announced plans to create a new national anti-gang task force as part of an initiative to combat gangs and gang violence. On June 26, 2006, GangTECC began operations under the leadership of the Department’s Criminal Division. Its mission is to bring together the Department’s operational law enforcement components and the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to identify, prioritize, and target violent street gangs whose activities pose a significant multi-jurisdictional threat. According to its Concept of Operations, GangTECC is intended to coordinate overlapping investigations, ensure that tactical and strategic intelligence is shared between law enforcement agencies, and serve as a central coordinating and deconfliction center. Unlike NGIC, GangTECC is not authorized a separate budget by statute. Instead, costs are borne by the contributing agencies. As of early 2009, there were a total of 17 GangTECC staff members.

Our review found that, after almost 3 years of operation, NGIC and GangTECC still have not made a significant impact on the Department’s anti-gang activities. Despite being located in the same office suite, both NGIC and GangTECC are not effectively collaborating and are not sharing gang-related information.

Most importantly, NGIC has not established a gang information database for collecting and disseminating gang intelligence as directed by statute. NGIC is perceived as predominately an FBI organization, and it has not developed the capability to effectively share gang intelligence and information with other law enforcement organizations.

In contrast, we found that GangTECC has no budget and lacks the resources to carry out its mission. We also found that the Criminal Division has not filled an attorney position at GangTECC that is intended to enable it to provide guidance to law enforcement officials conducting gang investigations and prosecutions. In addition, because GangTECC’s member agencies and the United States Attorneys’ Offices (USAO) are not required to inform GangTECC of their investigations and prosecutions, GangTECC cannot effectively deconflict the Department’s gang-related activities as directed by the Deputy Attorney General. Further, GangTECC’s efforts to publicize its priority gang targets have lagged.

As a result of the above, NGIC and GangTECC are not effectively providing investigators and prosecutors with “one-stop shopping” for gang information and assistance, and they are not contributing significantly to the Department’s anti-gang initiatives.

NGIC has not developed a gang information database as directed by Congress.

NGIC planned to create and maintain a library of gang identification information and make that library available to investigators, prosecutors, and other law enforcement staff. In addition, NGIC planned to establish electronic bridges to federal, state, and local information technology systems to connect disparate federal and state databases containing gang information or intelligence.

However, technological limitations and operational problems have inhibited NGIC from deploying a gang information database. For example, NGIC has not developed the electronic bridges necessary to allow it to access information from states that have technologically disparate databases on gangs. In addition, performance issues with a contractor contributed to the delay in the development of the gang library. As of July 2009, the information management system and electronic bridges have not progressed beyond the development phase. Unless NGIC can obtain a technical solution for bridging these databases, NGIC’s ability to use existing gang information will be very limited.

NGIC is not effectively sharing gang intelligence and information.

To effectively share gang intelligence and information, NGIC must know the needs of the law enforcement personnel who are its customers and ensure they are aware of the NGIC’s capability to support their gang-related investigations and prosecutions.

We found that NGIC has few regular users outside of the FBI, GangTECC, and itself. These three organizations accounted for 64 percent of all requests received by NGIC. The remaining 36 percent of the requests were distributed among 15 other customer groups. With respect to the “state, local, and tribal law enforcement” customer group, our analysis showed that few requests came from these potential customers. This customer group encompasses the majority of law enforcement agencies and personnel in the United States – over 30,000 agencies and 700,000 sworn officers – and has the greatest interactions with criminally active gangs in the United States. Yet, despite its large size, this customer group made an average of only 3 requests per year and submitted only 13 of the 213 total requests for information received by NGIC from its inception in 2006 to February 2009.

In discussions with the NGIC and GangTECC personnel and other law enforcement officials about why NGIC was not used more frequently by law enforcement agencies, we found that NGIC was not perceived as an independent, multi-agency center by many of the law enforcement personnel we interviewed. It was repeatedly referred to as being “FBI-centric” in the products it generates and the intelligence analysis that it provides.

We also found that, in the 38-month period we examined, NGIC responded to only about six requests a month. While this increased to about 17 requests a month in the first 5 months of FY 2009, that number is still small given NGIC’s staffing of 20 intelligence analysts. NGIC management attributed the small number of requests to the law enforcement community’s unfamiliarity with NGIC – despite the Center’s attempts to advertise its presence – and to NGIC personnel not recording all the requests they received.

Although GangTECC’s operational guidance states that it is intended to be a major user of NGIC’s gang intelligence services, its use remains limited.

GangTECC has insufficient resources to carry out its mission of coordinating gang investigations and prosecutions.

GangTECC has a broad, multi-purpose mission, but only 12 members and no operating budget. Participating components are required to contribute staff to GangTECC and pay their salaries out of their own budgets. The lack of an operating budget has prevented GangTECC managers from taking actions essential to its operations, including hosting case coordination meetings and conducting effective outreach to the law enforcement community. Almost all GangTECC members we interviewed, as well as the GangTECC Director and Criminal Division officials, stressed that the lack of an operating budget is the biggest hindrance for GangTECC, particularly when it prevents the GangTECC personnel from fully participating in case coordination meetings.

Coordination efforts. Organizing and participating in case coordination meetings is central to GangTECC’s mission to identify common targets between law enforcement agencies. GangTECC identifies opportunities to coordinate gang investigations with multiple law enforcement agencies and attempts to organize case coordination meetings to bring together federal, state, and local investigators, analysts, and prosecutors to share information. Successfully coordinated cases may enable charges to be brought against large, geographically dispersed gang-related criminal enterprises.

GangTECC has coordinated 12 cases that involved multiple law enforcement agencies and jurisdictions, and these efforts resulted in better, stronger cases for prosecution. GangTECC has also facilitated cooperation and coordination in over 100 other cases in which investigators or agencies would not initially share information on common targets with one another. Law enforcement personnel we interviewed who used the GangTECC’s services reported high levels of satisfaction and told us that case coordination was the most helpful service that GangTECC could provide to the field.

Notwithstanding the demonstrated value, the GangTECC Director told us there have been at least five occasions when GangTECC has been unable to host or even attend out-of-state case coordination meetings because it was unable to fund travel costs. For example, GangTECC could not host case coordination meetings for two cases involving the Latin Kings gang. As a result of the limitations on GangTECC’s ability to execute its mission, opportunities to better coordinate the Department’s efforts to combat gang crime have been lost.

Deconfliction by GangTECC is not occurring as directed by the Deputy Attorney General.

Over its 3-year existence, GangTECC has not established itself as the central coordination and deconfliction center envisioned by its Concept of Operations.9 Although it was intended that GangTECC would “provide a strong, national deconfliction center for gang operations,” neither GangTECC’s own participating components nor USAOs are required to notify GangTECC of newly opened gang cases. Consequently, GangTECC cannot effectively deconflict the Department’s anti-gang activities on a national level.

GangTECC’s efforts to publicize priority gang targets have lagged.

GangTECC is required to use information from NGIC and other sources to identify priority targets and propose strategies to neutralize the most violent and significant gang threats. According to the GangTECC Director, GangTECC and NGIC first identified 13 priority gang targets in 2006. However, we found little evidence during our review that the list was used outside the two Centers.

NGIC and GangTECC are not effective as independent entities.

NGIC and GangTECC’s operational plans required them to co-locate so that they would establish a relationship in which the resources of each Center would be integrated with and fully utilized by the other. An effective NGIC and GangTECC partnership would include deconfliction, identification of priority gang targets, and sharing of gang information. While the Centers are located in the same office suite in the same building, this co-location of NGIC and GangTECC did not lead to the anticipated partnership. Our discussions with NGIC and GangTECC personnel regarding their interactions found that communication between the two Centers remains limited and ad hoc.

In addition, while both NGIC and GangTECC advertise at conferences and in their pamphlets that they provide investigators and prosecutors with a “one-stop shopping” capability for gang information and assistance, this capability has not been achieved due to various impediments. NGIC is administered by the FBI while GangTECC is administered by the Criminal Division. We found that differing leadership and management philosophies, funding sources (dedicated funding versus funding through contributions by member agencies), and investigative priorities have limited the Centers’ ability to work together effectively.

We believe that the Department should consider merging NGIC and GangTECC into a single unit under common leadership.

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