Saturday, July 21, 2012

Mass Murder in Colorado

(My deepest sympathy to the survivors of this tragedy and the families of all the victims.  This post is directed to the rest of us, who if we can organize and form a citizens' group of sorts, might prevent another such incident).

Nevertheless, here we are again! And do you think that after another massacre caused by lax gun laws and ammo purchased through the Internet, there will be any reform on gun control?

Not unless we act. The gun lobby is now the “sugar daddy” of the U.S. Congress, supplying them with perks and supporting campaigns for re-election. We therefore pay (with our taxes) for a weak, flaccid congress which is terrified of the gun lobby,  doesn't  make waves and continues to allow mayhem across the nation dating back at least as far as the Columbine massacre thirteen years ago.

President Clinton signed a Federal Assault Weapon ban in 1994 which was allowed to expire in 2004 under the Bush administration. As a result, every weapon purchased by this confused young man,  who has admitted to perpetrating the murders at the movie theatre in Aurora, CO on July 20, and every round of ammo in his possession, was apparently legal and purchased over a period of several months from gun stores and the Internet.

Do we never learn? Why do we need semi-automatic rifle fire and high capacity gun clips which most gaming authorities do not allow?  We obviously don't need them to hunt or to protect our homes.  Let’s think about this a moment:

Have you read the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution?

                            Text of Amendment:
A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

The Second Amendment, the bible of the powerful NRA, states that we have a right to bear arms to protect our country. That’s about it. Everything else is open for interpretation.  “. . .a well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state…”  meaning that we can go to war as a citizen soldier  in order to protect our homes and our land. That’s my interpretation of it.

But, we no longer have a militia; we have a standing army.  So in literal terms, we don't have to take up arms to defend ourselves  -- at least not from foreign marauders.  The Court's interpretation in 2008 (DC vs Heller) held that the Second Amendment protected an individual's right to possess a firearm without any connection to a militia and to use that firearm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as protecting hearth and home.  I can live with that.

What it does not do is allow us personal ownership of the types of weapons now available, the likes of which were never remotely imagined when the second amendment was conceived.  It does not grant us the right to take down an eager young audience waiting for a much publicized fantasy thriller nor does it give us the right to shoot an unarmed teenager coming home from a visit with his girlfriend in Florida, nor does it say that we can blow away a U.S. Congresswoman almost killing her simply because she made herself publicly available to constituents in a Safeway parking lot.

And here, I must refute the most profoundly stupid statement I've ever heard, recently  made by one U.S. Congressman who speculates that had there been more people from the audience armed that night, there might have been fewer deaths.  Seriously?  With the type of protective gear this guy was wearing covering him from head to toe?   Can you imagine the scene had some of the audience been armed? -- in a panic and shooting randomely in the dark, hitting not the perpetrator but -- each other?  Please!

Movies are a part of Americana and we should not stop going to movies. We should not be held hostage to fear.   And as some have maintained, we must keep in sight the miracle that more were not killed.  I agree.  But when will it stop? Where can we be safe from gun-toting mal-contents and screwed up grad students?  Increasingly, we're allowing guns to rules our lives.
To quote myself from my blog regarding the Tucson shooting in January of 2011:

"We not only encourage incivility on the cable news shows, we reward networks who air blood-curdling TV dramas and movies of such considerable violence, that even I, a grown woman, have to walk out of the theatre in disgust and nausea. Guns are wielded on every channel -- try flicking across the networks one evening during prime time and you will witness a gun -- being discharged against someone or being used as a threat against someone -- guns on TV are as common as tasteless advertisements."

I don't condone doing away with guns but I propose regulating the ownership and use of them.  Ask the incredibly effective Aurora Police Department, whose performance early Friday morning was flawless.  Ask their Chief, the no nonsense Dan Oates, whether he thinks the current gun laws are reasonable.  Ask any active police officer. 

It is long past time to act. We need to do something about the loose gun laws, before another preventable incident such as this takes place. Think people! Neither the Congress nor the NRA owns us. We can fire Congress and replace them with real patriots who will do the will of the people. We are the people. Let us do something.

Please see my blog of January, 2011 regarding the shootings at Tucson, AZ:

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Supreme Court Ruling

When the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to uphold the “Affordable Care Act” last Thursday, I was, to say the least, taken by surprise. This court has the reputation of being the most conservative since WWII and I, along with many others, was shocked. I think we were prepared for a 5-4 decision in the other direction, with (Chief) Justice Roberts leading the dissent.

Justice Roberts, however, is a very smart man. He is only 57 years old which is between 20 and 30 years younger than most of his colleagues. He knows he will likely have another 30 years to serve barring unforeseen illnesses or any of those unpredictable life situations we all face. He also understands the reputation the Court has incurred with its 2000 Bush v. Gore ruling along with the infamous Citizens United decision in January, 2011. To add one more flagrant partisan ruling to his legacy would not only jeopardize his reputation as Chief Justice, but would hinder progress to further the Court’s conservative agenda. By voting with the liberals, he has provided us with the judicial restraint he promised during his own confirmation hearings.

That he confounded the dissenting judges is evident and uplifting. The scoop is that  Justices Scalia, Thomas and Alito were not only surprised but miffed that their leader could defect.  It is said that Justice Kennedy, who has created his own list of surprise rulings, tried for a full month to convince Justice Roberts to re-join the conservatives, to no avail.  I maintain that rulings by any of them should not become predictable. That is why I’ve so admired Justice Kennedy who seemed to be the lone maverick on the Court until now.

Whether the mandate is a tax or a penalty and whether it is an action or non-action that Congress has or has not any authority over through Commerce, I simply don't know.  And since the ruling, it appears that these concepts have been revised and re-revised. 

However, even more significant to me in his individual opinion, was Justice Roberts' statement that “. . . the Court does not express any opinion on the wisdom of the Affordable Care Act. Under the Constitution, that judgment is reserved to the people.”  Doesn’t this point to limited authority by the Courts, whose judges are appointed -- , not elected as is the President and the Congress? (And for a term of life!)  I like this man.

Perhaps I can live with the idea of Justice Roberts leading this court for the next 30 years, after all. I would prefer term limits for all three branches of the government, but in the meantime, we appear to have a Chief Justice with a streak of stubbornness and an extremely savvy political  awareness.