Voices from Russia

Thursday, 31 January 2013

Gabrielle Giffords Sez “Too Many Children Are Dying”

00 Political Cartoon. 05.12. Guns


On Wednesday, former US Representative Gabrielle Giffords (DAZ), two years after she was shot in the head and critically wounded in a mass shooting in Arizona, surprised lawmakers when she testified during a US Senate hearing on gun violence in America. Speaking slowly and deliberately, on Wednesday, Giffords told the Senate Judiciary Committee, “Too many children are dying… we must do something. It’ll be hard, but the time is now, you must act. Be bold, be courageous, Americans are counting on you”. This was the committee’s first hearing since last month’s shooting massacre at a Connecticut elementary school left 20 children and 6 adults dead. Giffords and her husband, former cosmonaut Mark Kelly, have become two of the leading advocates in America on the issue of gun safety, forming a group called Americans for Responsible Solutions, which calls for universal background checks for gun buyers and limits on high capacity ammunition magazines. Kelly also testified at the hearing, saying, “We aren’t here as victims, we’re speaking to you here today as Americans. … When dangerous people get dangerous guns, we’re all the more vulnerable.”

Also testifying at Wednesday’s hearing was the head of the powerful American gun lobby, the National Rifle Association (NRA)Wayne LaPierre. He told lawmakers that new proposals to ban assault weapons and increase background checks were not going to solve the problem of gun violence, saying, “Let’s be honest. Background checks will never be universal, because criminals will never submit to them”. LaPierre also called for stricter enforcement of current gun laws, pointing up, “violent felons, gang members and the mentally ill who possess firearms aren’t being prosecuted. That’s unacceptable”.

US President Barack Obama called for new gun control legislation, including banning military-style assault weapons, requiring background checks on all gun purchases, and outlawing ammunition magazines with more than 10 rounds. US Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced legislation banning the sale and manufacture of more than 150 types of semiautomatic weapons, as well as limiting ammunition magazines to ten rounds.

 30 January 2013



Editor’s Note:

Isn’t that an oddbod argument for the NRA to use? “Let’s not have a law because the criminals won’t follow it”… that’s sheer bonkers and we deserve to laugh it out of court out-of-hand. We need robust gun laws, with especial attention paid to enforcement in the south and southwest, where scofflaws would be most common (that’s where most gun nutters and rightwing kooks are). At the same time, we should preserve the rights of the rural population and registered hunters to appropriate firearms (who ever heard of a mass shooting carried out with a shotgun or hunting rifle?). We can do it… we’ve allowed the rightwing gun nutters to run rampant for too long. Second Amendment be damned… its purpose was to provide for a well-regulated militia to protect the state and society (to keep national defence in the hands of citizen-soldiers, not standing “volunteer” mercenary forces, as is being done today), not provide a rationale for potty nutters to have access to whatever weapons their pointy little heads desired.



Friday, 11 January 2013

Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords Launches Gun Control Campaign in USA

00 Gabrielle Giffords. 11.01.13


On Tuesday, on the second anniversary of the mass shooting in Tucson AZ that left her critically injured and six people dead, former US Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) launched a high-profile campaign against gun violence in America by taking aim at her former colleagues in Congress. Giffords and her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, in a USA Today op-ed published Tuesday said, “In response to a horrific series of shootings that has sown terror in our communities, victimised tens of thousands of Americans, and left one of its own bleeding and near death in a Tucson parking lot, Congress has done something quite extraordinary… nothing at all. Special interests purporting to represent gun owners, but really advancing the interests of an ideological fringe, have used big money and influence to cow Congress into submission… as a result, we’re more vulnerable to gun violence”.

With that, the husband-and-wife team announced their new Americans for Responsible Solutions initiative, which aims to raise enough money to balance the influence of the powerful pro-gun lobbying group the National Rifle Association (NRA) and others in the gun industry. The announcement comes just days after Giffords and Kelly had an emotional meeting with family members of those killed in the December shooting massacre that claimed the lives of 20 young children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. They said, “We can’t just hope that the last shooting tragedy will prevent the next. Achieving reforms to reduce gun violence and prevent mass shootings will mean matching gun lobbyists in their reach and resources”.

The couple is pushing for comprehensive background checks for anyone purchasing private firearms, and advocate more effective treatment for those who are mentally ill. Kelly said in an interview with ABC News, “I bought a gun at Wal-Mart recently and I went through a background check. It’s not a difficult thing to do. Why can’t we just do that and make it more difficult for criminals and the mentally ill to get guns?”

The man who shot Giffords was deemed incompetent to stand trial and was sentenced in November to seven life terms plus 140 years in prison without parole. Giffords wrote, “America has seen an astounding 11 mass shootings since a madman used a semiautomatic pistol with an extended ammunition clip to shoot me and kill six others. This country is known for using its determination and ingenuity to solve problems, big and small… but when it comes to protecting our communities from gun violence, we’re not even trying… and for the worst of reasons”.

The new initiative launches as the national debate over gun control heats up with a series of White House meetings this week on how best to curb gun violence in America. The administration invited gun owners, victims’ groups, educators, mental health experts, and video-game industry figures for high-level discussions on possible changes in policy. A task force on gun control led by Vice President Joe Biden is set to submit recommendations to President Barack Obama by the end of the month.

8 January 2013



Friday, 17 August 2012

Mass Shootings Reignite US Gun Control Fight


Despite a recent stroke, Bill Badger was determined to show up in court this month to see with his own eyes the man who shot him in the head in a mass shooting 19 months ago at a supermarket in Arizona, one in a series of murderous armed rampages in the United States in recent years. Badger, a retired US Army colonel, a hunter, and lifelong supporter of the pro-gun National Rifle Association (NRA) lobby, said, “It’s changed my life. I’ve made up my mind that I want to do something to help prevent this kind of thing from happening again and again in this country”. The Arizona shooting, which left 6 people dead and 13 injured including Gabriel Giffords, then a member of the US Congress, shattered Badger’s peaceful retirement years and propelled him into the national spotlight of an emotional and peculiarly American debate on how to control citizens’ possession of guns.

With a US presidential election looming, that debate has acquired a fresh urgency as supporters and opponents of tighter restrictions on guns take their cases to the court of public opinion, even as the two main candidates, President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, seem eager to stay on the sidelines. Badger’s determination to take action against gun violence was sealed last month, when another mass shooting claimed the lives of 12 people and injured 58 others inside a movie theatre in Aurora CO. in a telephone interview, referring to the Colorado shooting, Badger said, “I was just devastated. It was just like it was January 8th, 2011 all over again, because I know exactly what those people are going through”.

In the days before attending the court appearance of Jared Lee Loughner, the 23-year-old college drop-out diagnosed with schizophrenia who plead guilty to the Arizona shooting, Badger joined two other survivors in a national ad campaign called “Demand a Plan”, sponsored by Mayors Against Illegal Guns. The campaign calls on President Obama, a Democrat, and his Republican challenger, Romney, to spell out their positions on gun control in unambiguous terms… an effort to bring the policy choices on gun control into sharp focus and to encourage concrete steps to curtail gun violence in the United States. The ad states, “We demand a plan because 48,000 Americans will be murdered with guns during the next president’s term. That’s three Aurora shootings every day”. Badger and his “Demand a Plan” partners aren’t alone in insisting that US political leaders turn their attention to the gun issue in the wake of all the recent deadly mass shootings.

Recently, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, co-chairman of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, said in a statement, “The Tucson survivors have waited nearly 600 days for Washington to take action to end gun violence. The people who want to run this country need to tell us their plans to stop the bloodshed”. Less than an hour after the “Demand a Plan” campaign released its ad to the media, a gunman opened fire at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, killing six worshippers and critically injuring three others. Earlier this week, a gunman opened fire near a university in Texas, killing two people and wounding another two. However, despite the string of mass shootings and the renewed debate in the run-up to the US presidential election in November, experts say Badger and other gun control advocates have a slim shot at limiting either the types of weapons on the streets of America or the people who have access to them. Kristin Goss, associate professor of public policy and political science at Duke University, and the author of , said, “Gun control is a radioactive political issue in this country and not one that either party is going to have either the courage or the conviction to address”.

Tom Mauser, whose 15-year-old son Daniel was killed in the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton CO, voiced similar scepticism that Obama, Romney, and other US political leaders would attempt to change the status quo, saying, “We just go from one mass shooting to the next to the next. Our leaders are just frozen in place. I hope someday they’re more nervous about upsetting me than they are about upsetting the gun lobby, but we’re not there yet”. After the Sikh temple shooting, Obama called for “soul-searching” on gun control and Romney lamented the “tragedy”. In spite of this, neither even hinted at the more specific action gun control advocates want. Despite the pleas from relatives of victims in the recent Colorado shooting for tougher gun laws, gun sales and classes in that state are booming, and supporters of gun ownership say gun control has failed.

The two most recent mass shootings occurred in “gun-free zones” like schools, businesses, and places of worship. Those restrictions, gun supporters argue, only kept victims from being armed and able to protect themselves. Erich Pratt, Communications Director for Gun Owners of America, said, “Gun ownership probably is more American than apple pie. This truly was a cherished liberty, the right to bear arms. The Founding Fathers truly felt it was a right from God, and certainly they used their guns to throw off the tyranny of King George, so we really distinguished ourselves in our ability to defend ourselves”.

Yet, the notion that Americans have a basic right to possess almost any type of gun and to carry it in any manner they choose is being called into question, even in some unlikely quarters. Recently, US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, an influential conservative, said that the US “Founding Fathers” intended limitations on this right, saying on Fox News Channel last month, “They had some limitation on the nature of arms that could be borne. So, we’ll see what those limitations are as applied to modern weapons”.

17 August 2012

Maria Young



Friday, 15 June 2012

When Will The USA Put An End To Gun Violence?


The man suspected of killing three people at a party in Alabama surrendered to the police. When he opened fire, 22-year-old Desmonte Leonard also injured three more people. The quarrel about a girl could’ve had a much less tragic end if Leonard hadn’t had a gun handy. This incident discredits US gun laws, which make firearms easily available to every citizen of the country. According to witnesses and one of the victims, the shooting began after a tiff between two groups of guests at a student party at the Auburn University campus turned into a fight. Desmonte Leonard, who was one of the fighters, opened fire, killing three people on the spot and injuring another three. One of the injured is still in hospital in critical condition. Leonard hid for three days; then, he voluntarily turned himself in at the end.

Such tragedies regularly shake American society, vividly proving that unstable elements, such as teenagers, people with mental disorders, and even ex-criminals, often have access to firearms. One only has to bring to mind the massacre carried out by a student of the Virginia Technical Institute, who killed 32 people in 2007, or, the attempt on the life of US Representative Gabrielle Giffords, carried out by a psychopath who shot to death 19 people at a voters’ meeting with the politician. Incidentally, it’s noteworthy that Giffords, who sustained a severe head wound, was a supporter of the current gun laws. In spite of the efforts of a large number of human rights activists, lawyers, politicians, and public figures, it isn’t easy to modify the US gun laws. Gun manufacturers don’t want to lose their profits, so, they continue to praise the advantages of easy access to firearms. To prove their point, those in favour of universal firearms ownership, the majority of whom are Republicans, usually emphasise that the right to carry arms is one of the fundamental rights of in the US Constitution.

On the one hand, this is true. However, the frontier times and the Civil War are in the past; today’s society lives according to different laws. Declarations made by the National Rifle Association or the Gun Owners of America to the effect that citizens’ right to self-defence with firearms helps prevent crime don’t hold water. They pump up the rare occasions when people manage to defend themselves with their own guns on a vast scale, whilst they deliberately ignore nationwide tragedies, which occur all too often. It’s unwise to expect ordinary people to feel comfortable in the use of firearms, when even police officers find themselves the focus of scandal with growing frequency due to the unwarranted use of firearms. Speaking about outmoded ideas, we should mention George Zimmerman, a neighbourhood watch member, who shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin to death. Although the neighbourhood watch only has the right to warn the cops about suspicious activities, Zimmerman must’ve imagined himself a deputy sheriff in the Wild West, for he killed a teenager who only had a mobile phone, a packet of sweets, and a bottle of iced tea on him. Incidentally, Zimmerman, who legally owned a gun, had been arrested for assaulting a police officer in the past.

The uncontrolled activity of US gun manufacturers is threatening the country with diplomatic scandals as well. The Mexican President repeatedly expressed displeasure with US gun policies because a considerable proportion of the firearms manufactured in the US happen to get into the hands of Mexican drug cartels. When the market is flooded with firearms, anyone can get them, either legally or with the help of underground dealers. The authorities developed large-scale programmes to struggle against illegal gun ownership, for example, street searches, which gave rise to charges of racism against New York City officials. However, the real world shows that the interests of Big Business are more important to the US government than the country’s international reputation or its citizens’ safety.

13 June 2012

Vladimir Gladkov

Voice of Russia World Service


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