Tom Diaz

Posts Tagged ‘NRA’

WHIFFLE BALL, OR HOW BARACK OBAMA, ROBERT GIBBS, AND RAHM EMANUEL GAVE A HOME RUN ON “OPEN CARRY” TO THE NRA

In bad manners, Bushmaster assault rifle, Concealed Carry, Cultural assassination, Glock, Glock Semiautomatic pistols, Guns, Ignorance of History, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION, Obama, politics, Running Fire Fight, self-defense, Semiautomatic assault rifles, Semiautomatic Rifles, Starbucks, The Great Stupid, The So-called "News Media" on June 3, 2014 at 5:53 pm
The Sultan of Swat Hits a Grand Slam on Open Carry

The Sultan of Swat Hits a Grand Slam on Open Carry

 

WAYNE LAPIERRE and the National Rifle Association just got a grand slam on the “open carry” issue.

They can thank the Obama White House Genius Bar for the opportunity for the NRA to look rational, Wayne LaPierre to sound “Presidential,” and the gun industry to cleverly knock “gun safety” foundation babies and nubbins off of their stride.

open-carry-tools

Typical Open Carry Nitwits

Five years ago, Barack Obama’s White House also had the bases loaded on open carry. It was tossed a floating pitch that it could have blasted out of the park. But President Barack Obama, his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, and his media marvel, Robert Gibbs, were playing Whiffle Ball in the Bigs. They collectively blew it, not only politically but to the nation’s great long-term harm.

Let’s be clear: the NRA’s admonition to the nitwits of the “open carry” movement was not a victory for the groundlings of the “gun safety and stuff like that” movement. It was as clear-eyed, coldly strategic a move as anything the NRA has ever done. The gun industry’s mouthpiece simply threw a small and annoying claque under the much larger and more successful gun rights train. The open carry movement has never been important to the gun industry or the NRA, as I described in my famous book, The Last Gun, published by The New Press. (See further below for the salient paragraphs.)

Let’s go to the tapes.

Here, in relevant part, is what the NRA posted this week chastising the “open carry” movement for its recent actions (toting assault rifles around in public):

…just because something can be done doesn’t mean it should be done. In each case, gun owners would do well to consider the effect their behavior has on others, whether fellow gun owners or not.

Let’s not mince words, not only is it rare, it’s downright weird and certainly not a practical way to go normally about your business while being prepared to defend yourself. To those who are not acquainted with the dubious practice of using public displays of firearms as a means to draw attention to oneself or one’s cause, it can be downright scary. It makes folks who might normally be perfectly open-minded about firearms feel uncomfortable and question the motives of pro-gun advocates.

But when people act without thinking, or without consideration for others – especially when it comes to firearms – they set the stage for further restrictions on our rights. Firearm owners face enough challenges these days; we don’t need to be victims of friendly fire.

rahm-emanuel-is-having-a-really-bad-summer copy

St. Emanuel of Chicago: Useless Then, Pathetic Now

Okay, you’re thinking, what’s your problem? Sounds good. The NRA is reining in the gun nuts.  No, actually, it’s not. It’s simply trying to excise a tiny number of people who are getting in the way of the big money in the gun industry: selling concealable handguns and accessories, and selling semiautomatic assault rifles and accessories. There is simply no value added to the gun market by open carry. (Politically, think of open carry nitwits as Trotskyites who have been purged by the NRA’s Stalinists.)

Here is what I wrote in The Last Gun, contrasting the huge concealed carry market with the desert of open carry:

An idea of how much fresh blood concealed-carry laws have pumped into the anemic gun industry is demonstrated by Florida’s experience. Before the new law, 16,000 Floridians were reported to have concealed carry licenses. As of August 31, 2012, Florida had dispensed 1,151,537 gun licenses, of which 963,349 were run-of-the-mill concealed-carry licenses. the remainder were for various specialized occupations, such as private investigators. Add to this growth the increased sales in all of the forty-one states that as of February 2012 have shall-issue laws similar to Florida’s, and it’s clear that the NRA’s gift to the gun industry was a big one, a gift that keeps on giving profits to the industry while taking innocent lives.

 …

If this boom from the NRA’s concealed-carry push made gun retailers happy, gun manufacturers and importers were tickled pink. Designing and marketing new lines of small but powerful “pocket rockets” in high calibers for the new concealed-carry market boosted manufacturers as well. This factor explains why the industry has never thrown its weight behind the “open-carry”  movement. Just about any gun will do for open carry. A handgun can be stuck into a waistband or shoved into a holster. A long gun can be slung over the shoulder. No special gun size or design is required for carrying a gun openly, no accessories are needed, and no specialized clothing need be worn. Thus open carry offers few new, if any, profitable marketing ploys to tempt [gun industry marketer] Massad Ayoob’s “walking cluster” gun buyer. (emphasis added here)

Makes Nice Speeches About Stuff

Makes Nice Speeches About Stuff

The marginal nature of the claque of open carry nitwits was completely misunderstood by the Obama White House five years ago, caught up as it was (and is) in the paralytic nonsense of the so-called “Third Way” movement.

Here is what I wrote about this shameful performance in The Last Gun:

The degree to which the gun lobby can control the political debate was starkly illustrated in August 2009 at a White house press conference. During that month, a spate of armed protestors began showing up at presidential events. In Portsmouth, New Hampshire, a man with a gun strapped to his leg stood outside a town hall meeting with a sign reading, “It’s time to water the tree of liberty.” The reference was to a letter in which Thomas Jefferson wrote, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.” In Phoenix, Arizona, about a dozen people carrying guns, including one with an AR-15 assault rifle, milled around among protesters outside the convention center, where the President was giving a speech. A spokesman for the Secret Service admitted that incidents of firearms being carried outside Presidential events were a “relatively new phenomenon,” but insisted that the President’s safety was not being jeopardized.

But, one might fairly have asked, what about the safety of other ordinary citizens who aren’t carrying guns and don’t want to carry guns? What about their rights, and their preferences? What about the intimidation inherent in the open display of guns at political events by people who are, to put it mildly, clearly angry? What will be the effect of this precedent on future Presidents—and other public figures? What about the possibility of people showing up with more advanced firepower—such as freely available 50 caliber antiarmor sniper rifles?

 When asked about these events, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs spoke only to the parochial interests of gun enthusiasts, saying merely that people are entitled to carry weapons outside such events if local laws allow it. “There are laws that govern firearms that are done state or locally,” he said. “Those laws don’t change when the President comes to your state or locality.” But as commentator E.J. Dionne incisively observed at the time, Gibbs’s technical response missed the bigger point. “Gibbs made you think of the old line about the liberal who is so open- minded he can’t even take his own side in an argument. What needs to be addressed is not the legal question but the message that the gun-toters are sending.”

 It was a “teachable moment.” But instead of using these events as an opportunity to speak out about “the message that the gun- toters are sending,” Gibbs’s meek response only validated their threatening actions, further empowering them. Americans must demand that such appeasement of the gun industry and extremist gun enthusiasts end.

 Had the Obama White House seized the moment, they would have found that most Americans, even most gun owners, are not comfortable with whack jobs walking around public places openly carrying guns. More than that, Obama could have taken the high ground and pressed the issue forward, educating the nation about the even greater danger of the gun industry’s ruthless marketing system.

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Cultural Change, Human Rights, and Gun Control in America

In Bushmaster assault rifle, Concealed Carry, Cultural assassination, Ethics in Washington, Expendable Youth, Glock, Glock Semiautomatic pistols, Guns, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION, Obama, politics, Running Fire Fight, self-defense, Semiautomatic assault rifles, The Great Stupid, The So-called "News Media", Tired Old Republicans on December 17, 2013 at 5:41 pm
Melting Pot or Oil on Water?

The Future—Get Used to It

 

Cultural change may be solution to US gun crimes

 

http://www.shanghaidaily.com/Opinion/shanghai-daily-columnists/Cultural-change-may-be-solution-to-US-gun-crimes/shdaily.shtml

By Wang Yong | December 14, 2013, Saturday |  Print Edition

Editor’s note: The following is an exclusive interview of Shanghai Daily opinion writer Wang Yong with Tom Diaz, author of The Last Gun: How Changes in the Gun Industry Are Killing Americans and What It Will Take to Stop It.

Q: The September 16 shooting carnage at the Washington Navy Yard is the latest proof of what you call “a reign of terror” by gun activists who raise the false flag of constitutional rights. Will it push the US to better regulate guns?

A: It’s wishful thinking to suppose that any single incident – no matter how horrific – will inspire significant change in gun regulation in the US. No one in their right mind likes these incidents or accepts them as normal.  But, as in so many other areas, Americans are dramatically divided on what to do about it, and so we do nothing.

There are two strongly held and opposite points of view.

One side understands that the proliferation and types of guns available is the crux of the problem, not only of mass shootings but of daily “routine” shootings all over the country. Even “good” people with access to guns commit terrible crimes with them.

The other side is committed to the ideological and emotional view that the problem is “bad” people, not guns.

It so happens that these sides are in rough national political balance right now, which favors the pro-gun side because inertia makes change virtually impossible at the national level.

The hope is that, over a longer term, there will be real and widespread cultural change that will favor stricter gun control. In other words, we will reach a “tipping point” that will break the deadlock.

There is good evidence that this may be happening, as younger and more culturally, racially, and ethnically diverse communities within the US “grow into” political power. Guns do not have the same emotional and ideological appeal to these groups as they do to the old line white male population, whose grip on American politics is clearly fading.

Q: What are Obama’s chances and challenges if he really wants to make the US a safer place?

A: I have not seen and do not expect to see substantial change under President Obama. He certainly has made powerful speeches. He would clearly like to go in the correct direction.

That said, however, two factors work against administration-driven change.

One is the reluctance of the political “experts” in the Democratic party to take on tough gun control legislation.

The influence of this view reaches to the highest levels in Congress and the White House, and includes those who might otherwise be thought to be “progressive” or “liberal.”

It’s safer to keep one’s head down. Mere politics prevents bold action, and ultimately empowers the National Rifle Association and the gun industry it represents.

The other is the stark national political division that I referred to earlier.

The president has only so much “political capital” to spend, as the recent budget and debt limit confrontation showed.

It took an enormously disciplined and steel-nerved will to face down those who had locked down the government.

Yes, the president (and for that matter, the Democratic leaders in Congress) could in theory decide to make gun control an all-or-nothing fight.

But given everything that needs to be done just to keep the US functioning, I doubt that this fight will be engaged.

Q: Do you campaign for an outright ban on individual gun rights, or for better regulated individual gun rights?

A: The facts of gun violence dictate certain answers. If we really want to reduce gun violence of all types, we must limit access to guns. So, yes, I favor strong restrictions on access to and possession of certain types of guns: high-capacity semiautomatic pistols, semiautomatic assault weapons, and very high caliber (armor-piercing) sniper rifles.

Unfortunately, the “gun control movement” in the US has bought into the idea of pursuing much more limited goals.

This is because, to a large extent, the Democratic political establishment does not want an abrasive fight. The phrase “gun safety” has come into political favor and “gun control” has lost favor.

There is nothing “wrong” with most of the incremental change being pursued.  Better background checks, trigger locks, and other hardware changes all would have some small effect on gun death and injury. The facts, however, are quite clear.

The preponderance of the hurricane of gun violence in the United States comes from so-called “legal” guns and is committed by people who won’t be deterred by gadgets like trigger locks.

In my view, the diversion of energy to these palliatives is a serious mistake.

The proliferation of assault weapons in the US could have been cut short as late as 1994 if the Congress and then-President Bill Clinton had acted forcefully and intelligently. Instead, they compromised on a weak law that has since expired. Now we see the results at elementary schools, movie theaters and other public places.

Q: You write: “Every year, more Americans are killed by guns in the United States than people of all nationalities are killed worldwide by terrorist attacks.” As terrorist attacks are threats to human rights, would you also call gun crimes an abuse of human rights, especially in the case of racial hatred toward non-white immigrants?

 A: I have no doubt that some of our domestic gun violence is driven by fear, anger and hatred that has its roots in some of the racial and ethnic theories that have stained our history. It certainly fuels the desire to own military-style guns.

However, one must be cautious and specific in how one articulates the case for calling gun violence a case of human rights abuse. To me, the key is the extent to which the government per se is complicit in the abuse, and I see little of that in our domestic problem.

The three greatest examples of human rights abuse within the United States that I would cite all involved overt government complicity: the genocide of the Native Americans, the institution of slavery and so-called “Jim Crow” laws that followed its formal end, and explicitly racist national laws, such as the Chinese Exclusion Act and subsequent “quota” restrictions on immigration.

So far as domestic gun violence goes, governments in the United States can be faulted for passivity politically, but I can’t think of a case in which the government has overt responsibility for or encourages the violence. There is, however, a different case to be made for the gun violence that occurs in other countries because of our government’s lax controls on the export and smuggling of guns.

The citizens of Mexico, Canada and other countries all over the world have suffered because of these weak export and law enforcement policies and practices.

There are many things that the federal government in particular could have done and can do today to effectively prevent much of this traffic, but chooses not to do for pragmatic reasons. That is complicity.

Guns from the United States not only take lives and injure innocent people, they have provided infrastructures through which criminal and other non-government organizations can confront legitimate governments and deprive ordinary people of the free exercise of their human rights.

Frankly, it amazes me that none of these affected governments has made an aggressive case in international courts or elsewhere based on the theory that the United States is directly complicit in these abuses. Every now and then someone talks about it, but no one really does anything.

Q: You call for the creation of a comprehensive reporting system regarding gun crimes. Has there been progress to that effect since the publication of your book?

]A: I favor not only a comprehensive data system about gun “crimes,” but also about gun violence of all sorts, which would include suicides and incidents of “road rage” and “domestic violence,” which many people think is somehow different from cases in which someone sets out to use a gun to commit another crime and kills or injures a victim.

Only a little progress has been made, largely at the direction of the president. The NRA and the gun industry have a vested interest in preventing such information from being gathered, much less made public.

Ignorance, for them, is power.

 

 

Reply To A Coward’s Threat

In bad manners, Bushmaster assault rifle, Crime, Cultural assassination, Guns, Ignorance of History, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION, Running Fire Fight, Semiautomatic assault rifles, Semiautomatic Rifles, Terrorism, The Great Stupid, Tired Old Republicans on July 24, 2013 at 5:28 pm
klansmen

Cowards Who Are Ashamed Or Afraid (Or Both) To Show Their Faces

Wayne LaPierre, the Grand National Orifice of the National Rifle Association, infamously said in one of his emissions of verbal flatulence that “the guys with the guns make the rules.”

Wayne LaPierre

The NRA’s Grand National Orifice Vents about “The Rules” of Freedom

Anyone who dares to speak out on the American gun crisis has learned recently that the rules of the guys with the guns are cowardly threats.  LaPierre and others of his ilk have sought to mobilize fear and anger in the United States.  They want to get their pathetic troops out of their masturbatory fantasies in their grandmothers’ basements and onto the street, armed and ready to kill like so many jack-booted thugs.  They want to murder the First Amendment and anyone who exercises their rights under that Amendment to express an opinion with which they disagree.

This post is about an example.  It’s only one example out of many one could cite.

Last April I happened to appear for a few minutes in an excellent hour-long  CNBC documentary titled

“America’s Gun: the Rise of the AR-15.”  Here is a relevant clip from the documentary, which I highly recommend as having fully and fairly represented all of the many facets of this complex and troubling phenomenon.

I recently got a reply to the question I raised.  It was posted as a comment on this blog.

Here is that reply:

tomdiaz.wordpress.com 2013-7-22 18 11 6

A Cowardly Threat

In a nutshell, one “G. Wright” answers that it is I that he (or she) — or in his (or her) squishily evasive convention “they” — would like to kill.

Who knew?

Tom Diaz

The Education Face

It turns out that I, Tom Diaz, am the very face of oppressive government.  I haven’t been elected to any office.  I don’t run a powerful lobby for the gun industry, like the NRA.  I am nothing more than a citizen expressing my educated point of view, as is my right to do under the Constitution of the United States.

Okay, if I am truly that powerful, I decree that the United States government take the cost of one (just one) nuclear submarine out of the Pentagon’s budget and spend it instead on building a decent education infrastructure in every town, city, hamlet, and school district on America.  Call me the “Education Face.”

Waiting…waiting…waiting.

As a rule, I do not allow trash like G. Wright’s emission into the comments section of my blog. I used to let all comments in.  But I realized that I was often just underwriting ignorance, the bleating know-nothingness of the Great Pestilential Stupidity that has infected America.

However, given the obvious passion of “G. Wright,” I decided to make an exception.  I emailed G. Wright and invited him to provide his name and a brief biography.  I figured that if  he felt so passionately about his “rights” and the commandments of his “God,” he would be proud to attach his name to his opinion.

I’ll be honest.

I was not the least bit surprised when it turned out that “G. Wright” is a coward, a snake in the grass, a weak and no doubt mentally unbalanced person who emerges from the night, spray-paints the world with his simplistic and ill-informed hatred, and leaves a fake email address as his calling card.

Here is the email I sent to him and the “bounced back” response I got:

live.com 2013-7-22 18 7 20

The Cowardly Mask of a Fake Email Address

Yep, “failed delivery” to gw100001@aol.com.

As it happens, I know exactly who G. Wright is.  The following video describes him in some detail, and includes my response to his cowardly threat.

Let’s be clear about one thing.  G. Wright’s threat is not about me.  It’s about you, and you, and you.  It’s about whoever has an opinion that people like Wayne LaPierre, G. Wright, and other “guys with the guns” don’t like and don’t want this country to hear.

Shame on them. They are no different from and no better than the masked terrorists of al Qaeda, Hezbollah, or the Ku Klux Klan.

Shame on us if we let them get away with their terrorist campaign.

1933-may-10-berlin-book-burning

They Didn’t Like Free Speech Either…

Pity the Poor M1 Garand, Which Is Not and Never Has Been an Assault Rifle

In bad manners, Ethics in Washington, Guns, Ignorance of History, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION, Running Fire Fight, Semiautomatic assault rifles, Semiautomatic Rifles on May 5, 2013 at 9:08 pm
M1GarandShooter_001

Empty Eight-round Clip Ejecting From M1 Garand Rifle.

They don’t make em like me no more; Matta fact they never made it like me before

Phone home, Weezy; Phone home, Weezy

Lil’ Wayne – Phone Home

Gosh, The Washington Post’s exercise on the import of the M1 Garand sounds pretty scary!

Why should I–who carry a certified NRA “Gun-Grabber” certificate–care?

MagicLantern

The M1 Garand As Projected By Some

Because shadow-lantern-projection hyperbole obscures real issues and feeds the beast of the gun lobby. Anyone who truly understands the M1 Garand rifle has the right to laugh at some of the fright wig stuff written and said about it.

Bad facts–or mere assertion of bad facts–do not make good policy.

Wayne LaPierre

Wayne LaPierre May..Or May Not…Have Had A Little Something Going on The Side.

The main thrust of the Washington Post piece may be fairly summed up as follows: “Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s mouthpiece, may have profited from a little side deal with a gun importing front. (Or maybe not.) That deal, combined with LaPierre’s lobbying, opened the gates to a flood of military weapons through a dangerous new loophole for “curios and relics.” The M1 rifle is one of those curios and relics and its import puts the world at mortal peril.”

Howard Kurtz

“Media Critic” And Personality Howard Kurtz Had His Fingers In A Lot Of Pies And Got Burned A Bit.

100121_clinton_obama2_reuters_605

In 2011, Bill Clinton made a total of $13,434,000 for his 54 speeches, which works out to an average of $248,777.78 per speech. This is in addition to his $191,300 pension from the taxpayers of America.

LaPierre himself seems to have emerged from this piece of reporting relatively unscathed. The practice of making a personal profit in Washington from side deals is, of course, unheard of in the Metropole of the American Empire. Well, okay, maybe unheard of if you don’t count the Members of Congress whose wealth balloons over their tenures (from the steady acquisition of inside information and fawning deal-making  courtiers), the navel-gazing think tank “fellows” who charge hefty fees for “appearances,” the Presidents of the United States and their spouses who write best-selling books while they are oh-so marketable, the ex-Presidents, Senators, and Other High Potentates who cash in with six-figure speechifying fees, and the new media personalities who get their fingers in every pie in town, sometimes with a (gasp!) financial or ethical conflict.

But the oddest implication left hanging in the air by this piece is that the M1 Garand is an assault rifle or some kind of precursor assault rifle.

Josh Sugarmann of the Washington-based Violence Policy Center says the 200,000 rifles imported by Blue Sky were “basically the first of the military weapons marketed to the civilian population. If you were going to draw an ‘assault weapons timeline,’ it would start with the M-1 and eventually end up where we are today.”

By 2012, nearly 1 million of what gun advocates call “modern sporting rifles” were coming into the U.S. market from foreign and domestic sources in a single year.

Tom Hamburger and Sari Horwitz, “NRA lobbyist, arms dealer played key role in growth of civilian market for military-style guns,” The Washington Post, May 3, 2013.

Or, if not that, well, at least that the import of the M1 Garand, this horrible “military weapon,” marks the start of the “assault weapons timeline.” 

800px-WWII_M1_Carbine

The M1 Carbine Is A Completely Different Gun From The M1 Garand. Its Import IS A Problem.

Or, at the very, very least, the M1 Garand is a “bad” gun.  Allowing it into the country is bad policy, something on the order of importing portable mini-nukes or missiles full of sarin gas.

Time to take a deep breath about the M1 Garand, folks.

These three propositions are demonstrably not true. There are indeed problematic guns that fall under the complicated curios and relics rule, which essentially sanitizes many (but by no means all) guns that are at least 50 years old. But the M1 is not one of those problematic guns.

M1 Garand

The Scary M1: Basically, About the Same as Your Semiautomatic Hunting Rifle. Only Heavier and Harder to Load.

Let me disclose a conflict of interest here. As a young and foolish man in uniform, I was intimate with the M1 in … well … an almost Biblical sense. Yes, I slept with an M1 Garand every night for, as I recall, about one week.  That was the interval between one close rifle inspection–during which it was determined that I had cut corners and kept my rifle in “dry” condition (i.e., without oil, it seemed like a good idea at the time)–and the next. Worst than that, I’ve actually stripped an M1 down. All the way, baby. And more than once. I even just narrowly escaped “M1 thumb” a few times.

So, I guess I am a bit handicapped by actually knowing what the hell I am writing about here.

OK, people.  Listen up.  I am only going to write this once.

The M1 Garand is not by any stretch of fevered imagination an “assault rifle.” It is, in fact, a classic example of precisely the kind of “main battle rifle” that assault weapons were designed to replace. If you were going to draw a timeline of the demise of big, cumbersome, awkward military rifles, it would start with the M1 Garand in about 1944, when the Nazi army fielded the first true assault rifle, the STG-44.

The truth is that the M1 Garand is really no scarier, no more lethal, no worse than many popular semiautomatic hunting rifles sold today.

M1 Clip

Clip. Not Magazine. Eight Rounds.

The M1 Garand is a semiautomatic rifle. It is fed by means of an 8-round clip. (Note: The M1 Garand is not the M1 Carbine, which is an entirely different gun, with entirely different features, and is quite properly excluded from import.)

That’s eight rounds. Not 20 rounds.  Not 60 rounds.  Not even the 10 rounds of the “high capacity magazine” that was banned (sort of) by the puny political fiction of the 1994 federal “Assault Weapons Ban.” In fact, the M1’s design is such that it can only accept an 8-round clip!  And, yes, this is one time when the word “clip” (as opposed to “magazine”) correctly describes the ammunition feeding device.

So, what is an “assault rifle” and why isn’t the M1 one of them?

Well, Kristen Rand, of the Washington-based Violence Policy Center, quite correctly defined assault rifles in her statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 27, 2013 supporting Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s proposed assault weapons legislation.

Ms. Rand described assault rifles as weapons that “have incorporated into their design specific features that enable shooters to spray (‘hose down’) a large number of bullets over a broad killing zone, without having to aim at each individual target.” Wow, that is really good writing!

thumb3

Eight (not 10, not 20, not 60) Round Low Capacity Clip Ready to be Inserted into M1 Garand Rifle.

The specific design features, according to Ms. Rand’s perceptive statement, are:

  • High-capacity detachable ammunition magazines (often erroneously called “clips”) that hold as many as 100 rounds of ammunition. This allows the high volume of fire critical to the “storm gun” concept.
  • A rear pistol grip (handle), including so-called “thumb-hole stocks” and ammunition magazines that function as pistol grips.
  • A forward grip or barrel shroud located under the barrel or the forward stock that give [sic] a shooter greater control over a weapon during recoil. Forward grips and barrel-shrouds make it possible to hold the gun with the non-trigger hand, even though the barrel gets extremely hot from firing multiple rounds.
  • A folding or telescopic stock that allows the shooter to make the gun more portable and concealable by reducing the overall length of the gun.
m1-thumb-enbloc-clip-thumb2

The Exquisitely Imperiled Thumb.

It’s hard to find a better or more succinct statement of what makes an assault rifle an assault rifle!

The M1 has zero of these features. None. Zippo.

Unlike the AK-47 and the AR-15–which are assault rifles–the shooter cannot just pop in a 10, 20, 40, 60 round magazine, or 100 round drum. Loading the clip into an M1 is by comparison a cumbersome and slow process. The clip–into which eight rounds have been previously loaded by hand–has to be pushed down into the receiver. This requires more manual dexterity than simply shoving a high-capacity magazine up into a receiver, because once the M1 insertion is fully accomplished and pressure released, the M1’s bolt flies forward. It can give the inept shooter a vicious whack on the thumb if he (or she) hasn’t gotten it smartly out of the way. Hence, the phrase “M1 thumb.”

In fact, the five-round box magazine of a modern semiautomatic hunting rifle like the Remington Model 750 can be more easily and more quickly inserted into the rifle than the clips of the M1. Bonus: no chance of M1 thumb.

AK-47 Was Other Choice of MS-13 Gangsters

The AK-47 And Its Clones Are Truly Assault Weapons. Like the German STG-44 and the US AR-15, the AK Was Designed To Replace Cumbersome Low Capacity Main Battle Rifles Like the M1 With A Lighter Weight, High Capacity Bullet Hose Highly Effective At Close to Medium Range.

No, the M1 is simply not an assault rifle by anyone’s definition. Its eight rounds are scarcely more than a semiautomatic hunting rifle’s, and it cannot be reloaded as quickly and easily as the AK-47 and AR-15 (and others)  can be.

Nubbin’s question: Well, but, gosh, sir, doesn’t the M1 fire some of kind of really dangerous high-powered military ammunition? I mean (smirk) nobody would really want to shoot a deer with this thing, right?

Sarcastic Answer: What are you smoking, son?

M1 thumb 01

M1 Thumb.

30-06 ammo

Not Mini-Nuke. Not Sarin Gas. Just Plain Old Bambi-Killin’ Hunting Ammo.

The M1 fires basically the same round that millions of hunting rifles fire–the venerable .30-06 Springfield, which has been around for over 100 years.

 The M1 was not the “first of the military weapons marketed to the civilian population.” In fact, it was one of the last to be directly marketed to civilians from surplus stocks. The fact is that millions of surplus military rifles were imported into the United States in the years  following World War II.  The flow was cut off by the Gun Control Act of 1968 not because the M1, or any of equivalent rifles, were particularly deadly, but because the domestic gun industry was being hurt by competition from these relatively cheap imports. It persuaded Congress to stop them. The changes in the law in the mid-1980s were simply a reconquest, a victory of gun importers over domestic producers.

Military rifles have been part of the American sporting scene since the Revolution. The M1 Garand was no different. What has changed the situation dramatically and dangerously since the 1980s is the import and manufacture of the high-capacity magazines and the semiautomatic assault weapons for which they are designed. As explained above, the M1 Garand in no such creature by any definition.

Let’s examine a little relevant history here. I would say with all due modesty that the second-best book about the American gun industry and attempts at its regulation is Robert Sherrill’s 1973 masterpiece, The Saturday Night Special. Sherrill documented and cut through the preening hypocrisy of his era (very similar to ours) with scathing documentation. Here’s what he wrote about the history of the import of military weapons into the United States:

It’s estimated that between 1959—about the time the New England manufacturers really began to get their anti-import propaganda going—and 1963, 7 million foreign weapons, mostly military surplus, were imported into the United States.

 Robert Sherrill, The Saturday Night Special (New York: Charterhouse, 1973), p. 88.

Do the math and a timeline to figure out when military weapons were first marketed to civilians in large numbers.

Sherrill also cuts through the hypocrisy and cant surrounding the ban on foreign guns that was put into place by the Gun Control Act of 1968.  (It is worth reading just to get perspective on how little things have changed: then and now the gun industry had great influence in Congress, and then and now many gun control nubbins really don’t know jack about guns. They just plain don’t like any of them.) For example, in 1958, then Senator John F. Kennedy offered a bill to restrict the import of military firearms:

…but he did so candidly, admitting that the bill he introduced to ban the importation of military arms was meant to keep the cash registers jingling in his home state…The imports, he said, “have helped spoil the domestic market,” and his bill was “of particular importance to five arms manufacturers in Massachusetts,” which was as close as any politician will come to telling the truth: the legislation was written by the interested parties.

 Robert Sherrill, The Saturday Night Special (New York: Charterhouse, 1973), p. 91.

Kennedy’s legislation went nowhere. Among the millions of  surplus military guns imported in the post-war era were about 125,000 Carcano M91 Italian army rifles. Kennedy’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, bought one of these by mail order from Klein’s Sporting Goods in Chicago. (“‘Cursed Gun’–The Track of C2766,” LIFE Magazine, August 27, 1965, p. 63.) “Within the context of the marketplace, Kennedy’s assassination came to the assistance of [Sen. Thomas J.] Dodd and the New England gun manufacturers.” (Robert Sherrill, The Saturday Night Special (New York: Charterhouse, 1973), p. 165.)

The rest is history.  Foreign guns–and guns manufactured in the United States for use by foreign armies, like the M1s Wayne LaPierre either did or did not have a hand in getting into the US–were to a large extent shut out of the U.S. domestic civilian market until the 1980s.

The M1 was very like an attractive woman in a very short skirt with an enormous purse slung over her shoulder, who just happened to be standing on a corner in a bad neighborhood when the cops came and made a sweep to keep the politicians happy. The M1 got caught in the roundup. Its reputation has never been the same since.

Pity.

Congress, NRA Lobbyists, Cockroaches, and the Public Interest–Cockroaches Win

In bad manners, Bushmaster assault rifle, Corruption, Cultural assassination, Ethics in Washington, Fox News, Glock, Glock Semiautomatic pistols, Glock smeiautomatic pistols, Guns, Ignorance of History, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION, politics, Running Fire Fight, Semiautomatic assault rifles, The Great Stupid, Tired Old Republicans, Washington Bureaucracy on April 25, 2013 at 4:59 pm

cockroaches

“Cockroaches are a pretty good reason to call the exterminator but voters might be even more concerned if their homes were infested with members of Congress: Cockroaches 45 Congress 43″

Congress somewhere below cockroaches, traffic jams, and Nickelback in Americans’ esteem

Here are the names of two people you probably never heard of: Jim Manley and Mark Lyttle.

The worlds of these two men are a universe apart. The void between their worlds is filled with the dark matter of political influence in Washington–blood money, revolving doors, and the self-interest of career politicians. That invisible political astrophysics is what defeated the public’s desire for comprehensive background checks in the Senate last week, is defeating public health and safety measures to reduce gun violence in Washington today, and will continue to thwart the will of the vast majority of Americans for a safer country tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow.

Unless you get up, stand up, and do something about it, like the hundreds of Americans rallying today in Washington to shame the NRA’s lobbyists.

New Yorker

How can this happen, you may ask yourself? Think “lobbyists” and money. Lots of money. Your money.

Mark Lyttle is the subject of a frightening article by William Finnegan in the current issue of The New Yorker magazine. Lyttle is an American citizen who was arrested for a misdemeanor in North Carolina. From there–in a horrendously Kafkaesque series of arrogant mistakes and flawed decisions by nameless, faceless, and demonstrably incompetent  bureaucrats–Lyttle was thrown into the unrelenting machinery of the American Homeland-Security-Industrial-Complex. He was expelled from the United States and repeatedly arrested by Department of Homeland Security operatives.

Like Boston marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev, Lyttle fell through the cracks of the vastly flawed system of piously fearful pork upon which we, the taxpayers of America, have lavished at least $1.3 TRILLION since the horrible events of September 11, 2001.  Trillions for “homeland security,” but not one cent for keeping children safe from gun violence!

How can this be?  How can it be that the Congress of the United States can allow–indeed, encourage–waste and incompetence on such a scale for such a Byzantine structure, and yet not protect small children and the rest of us from the far greater danger of gun violence?

manley031406

Their business is none of your business. Insiders in Washington: professional politicians and lobbyists.

Enter Jim Manley, a long time aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, career Senate staffer, now turned lobbyist. Manley made the unfortunate decision to be interviewed by the brilliant John Oliver for The Daily Show on politics and guns.  He fairly made an ass of himself, but in the process revealed precisely the problem. Asked what makes a politician “successful,” Manley unblinkingly answered, “Getting reelected by his or her constituents.”

Not saving lives, but getting reelected.

Manley got the classic, patented John Oliver reaction to incredibly dumb statements.  As the light dawned on his smugly placid face, he began to squirm with a deer-in-the-headlights look.  Gosh, if only he could have rewound the tape and started over!  But see the whole revealing bit for yourself here.

So, who is this inadvertently revealing guy, Jim Manley? Here’s his official bio from QCA, the oh-so-cleverly named “public affairs” (Washington doublespeak for House of Lobbyists and Piano Players) firm for which he now works:

Jim most recently served as the senior communications advisor and spokesman for the Senate Majority Leader, where he spent six years at the nexus of communications, politics and policy for every issue facing the Senate.  As a strategist, he worked with the White House and the leadership in the House of Representatives to set the Democratic tone for legislative initiatives. As the Leader’s top spokesman, he dealt extensively with the national and regional media on a daily basis to advance the Democratic agenda.  He is a regarded as a top Democratic strategist in Washington and continues to serve as a trusted resource for many of the nation’s top reporters.

What neither Manley nor The Daily Show revealed about this “top Democratic strategist” and “trusted source” is that among his firm’s clients is the investment management company BlackRock.  New York City’s Public Advocate, Bill de Blasio recently named BlackRock as one of the Dirty Dozen investors in the gun industry.  In fact, BlackRock, with $342 million of its investors’ money invested in the killing machine business, tops de Blasio’s money manager dirty investor list.

Blood money.

Lucky Strike

Kill yourself if you got ‘em: the murderous tobacco and gun industries have lots of well-paid lobbyists in Washington and elsewhere to make sure that death is always politically safe.

In truth, there is nothing remarkable about Jim Manley and his pedestrian, let’s-all-go-along-to-get-reelected “strategical thinking.” He’s just another of the thousands of Capitol Hill staffers who rotate between high-paying Congressional jobs to cash in with even higher paying jobs whoring–oops, I meant “lobbying”–for one or another plutocratic or just plain evil special interest in Washington. They are only following their bosses’ example.  As The New York Times‘ inimitable Gail Collins recently noted:

Members of Congress regularly glom onto high-paying jobs in the private sector, none of which involve the use of their skills in computer technology. The Center for Responsive Politics counts 373 former House and Senate members who are currently working as lobbyists.

Steve Buyer

Buyer…and Seller.

Former Congressman Steve Buyer (what a deliciously appropriate name, and no wonder he pronounces it as if it were spelled “boy-er”!), for example, went to work flacking for the tobacco industry, the only other industry in town that even comes close to the murderous, blood-soaked, unconscionable greed of the gun industry and its lackey, the NRA.

The NRA, of course, has been throwing its money around Washington with an abandoned passion since the Moloch’s slaughter of precious, innocent, beautiful children at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Not that the NRA and the gun industry need that much help with brilliant “strategists” like Jim Manley and the Third Way’s Jim Kessler advocating preemptive surrender on the gun control front. Still, every little bit helps when your business is death machines in a society of people who mostly want to live.

williamsme

NRA Mouthpiece at Greenberg, Taurig.

Among the hired guns the NRA has bought with the gun industry’s blood money is Michael E. Williams, a director in the firm of Greenberg, Taurig, another House of Piano Players in the Washington lobbying game. If Williams’ name sounds familiar, perhaps it’s because he was reported to be linked to convicted felon Jack Abramoff’s “Dream Team” of hucksters and specialists in the subornation of Congress. Here’s Williams’ official bio, which brags conspicuously about his skill at “derailing” gun control legislation, meaning the will of the American people:

Michael Williams focuses his practice on coalition building and integrating legislative, regulatory, grass tops, grass roots and public relations strategies on behalf of his clients to affect positive legislative and regulatory outcomes. Michael’s 25 years of experience on Capitol Hill has allowed him to develop a deep understanding of the interaction of policy issues and politics, as well as a wide-ranging bipartisan network of contacts within all areas of the federal government including Members of Congress, Congressional staff, the Administration and various governmental agencies.

Michael is a member of the Greenberg Political Contribution Committee which reviews and approves contributions and political activities of the Greenberg Traurig Political Action Committee. He also serves as a government affairs team representative to the Greenberg Traurig Commitment to Excellence Committee (CTE). The CTE works to ensure that the firm preserves and enhances the core values crucial to our brand: integrity, quality, service and accountability.

Prior to joining the firm in 2001, Michael Williams was a Senior Lobbyist for the National Rifle Association (NRA), the number one rated Association lobbyist team for 2001, according to Fortune magazine. For more than 11 years, as a Federal liaison for the NRA, he promoted legislative and political objectives on Capitol Hill. Michael was one of the major architects of the NRA legislative strategy to derail the 1997-1998 Clinton Gun Control legislation.

These inside ball, dark-of-the-moon, smoke-filled room operators are the mere tip of a rotting mound of corrupt influence in Washington.  For more information, go here.

These people have no shame.  And, by the way, there should be no place to hide for those who hire them. All of their clients are gun violence enablers, linked to the NRA and the gun industry in a frothing chain of blood money.

But who lobbies for the children of Newtown and the rest of us?

Newtown Kids

Never forget.

 

No Country for Old Men: Why They Are Killing Our Cops and Prosecutors

In bad manners, Bushmaster assault rifle, Corruption, Crime, Cultural assassination, Drugs, Ethics in Washington, Gangs, Guns, Mexico, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION, Police, politics, Running Fire Fight, Semiautomatic assault rifles, The Great Stupid, Tired Old Republicans, Transnational crime on April 4, 2013 at 2:15 pm
"Call it!"

“Call it!”

Sometime between 5:00 and 6:00 p.m., about two dozen LAPD officers faced an angry crowd at the intersection of Florence and Normandie avenues. The cops were outnumbered to begin with, the crowd was growing into a mob, and the mob was howling mad at the police. An LAPD lieutenant, Michael Maulin, made a tactical decision that would cost him his career in the orgy of retrospective finger-pointing that followed the riots. He ordered the police officers to withdraw. The hard-charging, in-your-face, proactive thin blue line faded like a gaggle of Las Vega showgirls at curtain time. “It was widely believed in South Central that the LAPD did not want to protect the city’s poor, minority neighborhoods,” journalist Lou Cannon observed. “The shocking reality was that the LAPD was unable to provide that protection.”

Tom Diaz, No Boundaries: Transnational Latino Gangs and American Law Enforcement, p. 96.

Thus was the iron-fisted, mirrored-sun glasses, take-no-prisoners, paramilitary  creation of legendary chief Darryl Gates—the proud Los Angeles Police Department—humbled by the infamous “Rodney King riots” of April 1992.

The LAPD would never be the same.

Just the Expert Facts, Please

The lesson for today is quite simply this: uniforms, badges, tough-guy swagger, ballistic vests, and most of all guns do not protect law enforcement. Respect and the healthy fear of consequence do. When a society surrenders those two foundations of “law and order,” there are not enough guns in the world—not enough good guys with guns—to protect police, prosecutors, and judges from men who are willing to kill them.

Now we are seeing the truth of this implacable maxim, revealed in a prophetic spate of ruthless murders of law enforcement officers.  In Colorado, the state’s prison chief is shot to death on his doorstep. In Texas, two county prosecutors are shot to death in separate incidents. In West Virginia, a sheriff is shot dead in his car.These incidents are but the latest and most recent examples of a growing trend of blatant attacks on law enforcement.

Please note that it is not the quantum, the total of law enforcement officers murdered, so much as it is the growing demonstration of willingness to confront law enforcement with armed violence. And that willingness–that willful disregard of fear and respect–is the inevitable consequence of two long-term currents in the United States.

One is the suppurating wound inflicted on America’s public discourse by the reckless gospel of insurrection that has been promoted by the National Rifle Association and the gun industry that it represents since at least the 1980s. This rotting lesion has consequences that go far beyond the kabuki theater of rhetorical exchange in Washington, a place where both sides need each other for the show, and ritual has displaced action.

Emitted Little Thoughts Compiled in . . . ummmm... WTF?

“The guys with the guns make the rules.” Wayne LaPierre, Orifice-in-Chief of the NRA.

The stinking, hateful matter emitted by the NRA has dangerously infected the minds of many of the dullest and worst of our society. Ideas have consequences, and when the idea that “government is our enemy” is combined in the minds of the unbalanced and the psychopath with easy access to increasingly deadly guns…well, to all but the ideologically intoxicated, the inevitable is clear.

The other factor is the utter collapse of not only moral will, but moral discernment itself, in Washington. This infection at the heart of our political discourse has paralyzed a body politic that might with capable discernment and strong will have cured itself of the hateful wound inflicted by the NRA and its ilk.

What we see today—elaborated at length in my latest book, The Last Gun—is the triumph of Third Way politics, micro-politics that seeks only political success for career politicians and their waddling retinue of mere technicians—pollsters, advisers, spin-masters, lobbyists.

These are people—Democratic party leaders and their fawning servants—who describe in great detail the polling, focus with frightening precision on the tiniest “swing” group, and then define a message that will appeal to that micro-fraction of America.

These “leaders” have, in the end, defined themselves as soulless people, willing to accept only “what we can get” and “what is politically feasible” in place of real change. They are either incapable of—or unwilling to—make grand moral judgments, define causes to lead, and stand up for principle. Reelection for its own sake is enough.

Thus has the powerful chorus of national moral outrage that followed the Moloch’s slaughter at Sandy Hook Elementary School been pared down to a whimper, to “negotiations” about inconsequential legalisms between the likes of the artfully consummate Third Way deal-maker Sen. Charles (“Chuck”) Schumer and the implacably thick-witted Senator Tom Coburn.

Schumer's Bird

Career politicians bond over a dead bird…

While these career politicians—many of whom have never done anything of substance in their lives other than curry elective favor—nitter and natter around the margins of America’s gun problem, the country is sinking to its gunwales in military-style firearms. Disrespect for law enforcement burgeons among radicals and career criminals alike, fueled by an irrational hatred of compromise and fact-based discourse.

Industry Puppet NRA Calls These Romanian Assault Rifles Just Plain Old Sporting Guns--Are They That Stupid Or Are They Just Liars?

…while the mentally ill, criminals, and extremists bond with the gun industry and its handmaiden, the NRA, over military-style guns.

If this sounds like Mexico, it is.

Conventional wisdom has always been—and still is among conventional “expert” thinkers like those of the hapless private spy agency Stratfor which, not incidentally, failed to protect its vast files from hacking some months ago—that organized gangs and transnational criminals will never attack law enforcement in the United States because the consequences would be too great.

Really?

This is the argument of the smug, the proud, and, oh, yes, by the way,  the grand consultants retired from law enforcement selling their “expertise.”  It can’t happen here because we are so good.

Well it is happening.

09122009_229540It is just as reasonable, and I would argue more reasonable, to conclude that the war for control has begun. We already see one federal prosecutor withdrawn from a major gang and drug prosecution. The drug “cartels” are not stupid. The examples recited above—no matter by whom they are ultimately found to have been perpetrated—make it clear that determined, ruthless men can indeed assassinate law enforcement officers pretty much at will in America today. So much for fear. It doesn’t matter, in the overall sense, who was behind the last four murders.  What matters is the brazen impudence with which they were carried out. That’s straight outta No Country for Old Men.

Do not for one minute think that the chill of necrosis is not creeping into hamlets, counties, towns, cities, states, and  even Washington. A member of Congress who received multiple death threats for simply suggesting that gun owners be required to insure themselves decided, for example, to skip a public ceremony, mindful of the recent near-fatal wounding of another member.

Hysteria?

Vamos a ver.  We’ll see.

devil tray 02

Evil this way comes.

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/.

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

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

Cinema Seat

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

AmmoLand.com, July 18, 2012.

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

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

 Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

This report documents

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

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

Violent Screen—The NRA’s National Firearms Museum Exhibits

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

 Stephen Hunter

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

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

 2002—“Real Guns of Reel Heroes”

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

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

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

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

clinteastwood gun at NRA

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

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

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

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

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

2010-Present—“Hollywood Guns”

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

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

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

Pulp Fiction Cropped

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

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

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

No Country Shotgun Cropped

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

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

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

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

Reservoir Dogs Cropped

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

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

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

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

The NRA Marketing Angle

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

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

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

 Wayne LaPierre Channels William B. (Bill) Ruger

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

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

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

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

Internet Promotions by the NRA

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

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

Doubting Stephen—the NRA Refuted Within Its Own Ranks

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

Stephen Hunter

Hunter and Schreier

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

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

Here is Stephen Hunter’s case for movie violence:

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

 Gold on Silver — The Gun Industry Connection

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

Stephen Hunter

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

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

world war z

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gaston Glock’s Golden Movie Marketing Strategy

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

Paul M. Barrett

Virginia Tech Mass Shooter Cho Used Glock Handgun

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

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

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

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

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

4. Put your product in the right hands

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

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

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

NRA Ex Glock

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Murfreesboro Post

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

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

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

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

Barrett Hurt Cropped

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

Conclusion

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

Wayne LaPierre

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

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

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

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

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

Guns are.

Boy on Bike2

MEXIKANEMI — THE MEXICAN MAFIA, TEXAS VERSION, PART TWO

In Crime, Gangs, Guns, Latino gangs, Mexico, Transnational crime on March 24, 2009 at 1:15 pm

Mutilations have hallmarked this year’s slaughter, and Dr Hiram Munoz, chief forensic autopsy expert assigned to the homicide department in Tijuana, told me how “each different mutilation leaves a clear message. They have become a kind of folk tradition. If the tongue is cut out, it means they talked too much. A man who sneaked on the clan has his finger cut off and maybe put in his mouth [a snitch is known as a dedo, or finger]. If you are castrated, you may have slept with the woman of another man. Decapitation is another thing altogether: a statement of power, a warning to all, like public executions of old. The difference is that in normal times, the dead were ‘disappeared,’ buried or dumped in the desert. Now they are displayed for all to see, so that it becomes a war against the people.”

Ed Vulliamy, “Day of the Dead,” The Observer, Sunday 7 December 2008

"Calavera Huertista," Jose Guadalupe Posada (1852-1913)

"Calavera Huertista," Jose Guadalupe Posada (1852-1913)

This excerpt from Ed Vulliamy’s perceptive article about the drug violence in Mexico is a fine touchstone for the often-repeated assertion in the United States:  it can’t happen here.

Can it not?  That depends on what the meaning of “it” is.  If “it” means bold violence, heedless of authority, made possible by a parity of fire-power between criminals and law enforcement authorities, one could argue that it is already beginning to happen here.  Incubating.

“There just seems to be that there’s a greater willingness on the part of these bad guys to take out a police officer,” Miami Police Chief John Timoney told TIME. “I see that locally here. Then you look at it nationally, there’s [also] been a huge increase.”

Incubation:  Another Traffic Stop, Another AK, Another Dead Cop (Miami-Dade PD)

Incubation: Another Traffic Stop, Another AK, Another Dead Cop (Miami-Dade PD)

Go ahead, argue that the man who killed four Oakland, California cops in a few hour’s — nay, few minute’s — work was a bad man, a felon and parole-violator who broke existing laws.  The ineluctable fact remains that the ability of one man — much less powerful and ruthless transnational criminal organizations — to successfully confront armed law enforcement officers is made possible by the pollution of military-style firearms that is drowning civil society in the Western Hemisphere.

It is fair to say that a crucial difference yet remains between the violence in Mexico and that in the United States —  criminal organizations in the U.S. have not yet mounted organized assaults against security forces.  Still, in the latest of three year-long intensive studies of felonious assaults on law-enforcement officers, the FBI found that of 40 selected incidents involving 43 perpetrators, 13 perps — just about a third — admitted gang affiliation and involvement with drug-trafficking.  Incubating.

“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

Moreover, the point here is that the capability exists, transnational criminal organizations are integrating vertically — cartels to gangs to street corners — and spreading geographically.  The situation is not static.  There is no reason to believe that the United States can necessarily escape the operation of a stern lesson of history:  societies can and often do gradually come to accept present horrors unthinkable at one time as “normal” in another.   People forget the tranquility of their past civility.  Viz., a man takes a leisurely drive through southern Alabama and murders ten people shooting from his car?

It would be a mistake to depend on gangsters to draw their own lines of self-restraint.

On that question, consider the message inscribed in the constitution of the Mexikanemi — the Texas Mexican Mafia [read Part One of the inquiry into this group here and Part Three here].

In 2004 the Court of Appeals of Texas,  8th District, sitting in El Paso, decided the appeal of one Richard Morales Castillo in the case of Castillo V. Texas.  Castillo was convicted of capital murder, committed in the El Paso County Detention Facility.  The victim was another mafia member.

The appeals court reported that one of the witnesses in the trial of the case, Sgt. James Nance, a detention sergeant with the  El Paso County Sheriff’s Department and head of the facility’s Security Threat Group Intelligence Unit, gave expert testimony at trial about the Mexikanemi.  Among other things, Sgt. Nance testified that he had recovered from a cell a copy of the Mexikanemi constitution.   The court wrote that “in addition to describing the duties of each rank and decreeing that consequences that would follow violation of the rules by any member,” the constitution provides:

In being a criminal organization, we assume what-ever aspect of criminal practices for the benefit and advancement of the Mexikanemi. We deal in drugs, contracts of assassination, prostitution, robberies of the highest degree, gambling, extortion, weapons or any and every other thing criminally imaginable.

Ponder that, gentle reader.  “Everything criminally imaginable.”

The brutality of the Mexikanemi gangsters can be gleaned from the details of the crime of capital murder of which Castillo and others were convicted at trial.  It appears that the victim, one Richard Blacknell offended Castillo, who set about organizing Blacknell’s gang-inflicted capital punishment. [See, gangsters are OK with capital punishment as long as they are the ones dishing it out.]  Here is how it went down the morning of December 12, 1994, when Blacknell’s carnales killed him and tried to make it look like a suicide, meanwhile intimidating witnesses:

Bracknell had been standing by the cell door. All of the other Mexican Mafia members, except Romero, were in the cell and they grabbed Bracknell. Romero stood in the doorway with a shank. The Mexican Mafia members held Bracknell while Appellant wrapped a sock around his neck and choked him. Cazares heard Bracknell say in Spanish, “Give me a break, brothers”. Appellant replied, “It’s official, mother-f—-r.” Bracknell made gagging sounds for several seconds then dropped to the floor. Appellant immediately walked out of the cell and the other members began cleaning up the scene. Cazares could hear them flushing toilets and looking for rags to clean the floor. They were also looking for somewhere to hang Bracknell. He saw them walk past the cell carrying Bracknell’s body to the shower. Cazares then heard them turn on the shower and close the curtain. After the murder, Appellant and Romero threatened to kill the non-members or their families if they said anything about the murder. Consequently, Cazares initially told investigators that he had been asleep during the murder.

Mexikanemi Constitutional Law in action.  The point here is how cold-blooded these gangsters are, even when killing their “blood brothers.”  It’s just another day in Mexikanemi Land.

It Can't Happen Here?

It Can't Happen Here?

And some “experts” expect people like this to exercise restraint?

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