dribbling brain home

Mass Shootings in America

(Disclaimer: I wrote this during October and November, 2017. There are places in this text that refer to 2017 not being over yet. At the time that this article was finalized, that was true. Regrettably, things have not changed substantially since then.)

As I start to write this (October 1, 2017), a gunman in an upper-level room in a hotel in Las Vegas has just used an automatic weapon to open fire on a crowd of people attending a live concert nearby. No one knows why. At this point there are reported to be 59 dead and over 500 injured. The shooter had 47 weapons in his collection (23 in his hotel room) and was not considered to be a "gun enthusiast" by his brother, who thought that he only owned three weapons. I don't consider myself to be a "gun enthusiast" either, so I don't own ANY guns. (Because I am comfortable with the size of my penis.) Just how many deadly weapons does a person need to own in order to be considered a "gun enthusiast"? How many guns do you own?

Sadly, this is not the first time, nor the last time this year that someone in this country will decide to turn his weapons on fellow Americans, trying to murder as many people as possible for reasons that are less than clear. Hell, it isn't even the first or last time THIS WEEK. It is only the most recent, and the largest death toll in decades, and continues a disturbing trend in this country.

How did this start? How did we get to this point? We can't be the only country facing this challenge, right? How do other countries deal with gun violence? Can we stop it?

How did this start?

This all started on this continent hundreds of years ago when European settlers came to the "new world" and brought weapons with them. They used those weapons to hunt for food and for protection from wild animals that the Europeans had not seen before. They also used their weapons to intimidate, murder and enslave the indigenous peoples living here already so that they could take their land. This enabled the Europeans to expand their territory and have as much real estate for themselves as they wanted. This was seen as a useful and good thing to the white men from across the sea, although the indigenous peoples might have had a differing opinion. (If you have a problem with my phrasing of those last three sentences, put a cork in it. We can discuss that later. Right now, let's stick to the subject at hand: Guns.)

Later on, the settlers on this continent wanted to break free from their political ties to Europe. When Europe sent an army to enforce compliance, the only remaining way the colonists saw to stand up for themselves (after diplomacy and protests had failed) was through violent means. Again, guns were the solution.

When it came time for the newly formed alliance of states, commonwealths and territories to form a government, they wrote a document in 1787 called the Constitution and used the principles in it to guide themselves. Nothing is perfect the first time around. (Technically, the first time around was the Articles of Confederation in 1781. The Constitution was written to correct that document's flaws.) It needed some tweaking, so in 1791, they tacked on a list of Amendments to patch some holes. One of them was a law that protected their rights to defend themselves against imperial aggressors. That was the defense model they had in mind at the time: Ordinary citizens grabbing their guns from above the fireplace mantle and meeting up to form a militia to defend themselves against an invading army from Europe. This rule is the Second Amendment to the Constitution. Here is what it says:

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.

If we were to translate this into modern grammar, and add in the context which is missing from the text of the document, but which was assumed to be universally understood at the time it was written, it could arguably be rewritten (without changing it's meaning) like this:

Seeing as we have not yet established a regular army for defense, and since a trained Militia made up of ordinary civilian citizens with their own personal weapons is the next best thing to protect the security of our new Country from an invading army, the right of people in this Country (aka. potential Militia members) to own and carry guns shall not be infringed.

All right. That's how it started. Do we still need this level of gun freedom today? The argument could be made that since we now have an extravagantly well-funded and trained Army (as well as a Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, National Guard and Reserves), there is no longer any need for citizens to assemble to form a Militia. As a matter of fact, if a group of citizens formed a Militia independently of the "official" armed services, and not at the express request of Congress, the absurdly well equipped government forces would not take very long to quell an uprising if they became a problem. These people are acting on their own, and are in no way an extension of any official United States military force under government control. Simply put, there is no reason for a Militia to exist in the United States in the 21st century. So is there a need for this Amendment any more? Can we get rid of it now?

The short answer is, no, we cannot get rid of this outdated rule. There are too many American citizens that would be furious at losing access to the shiny metal murder machines that they like to wield for purely recreational purposes. (And since they are armed, it would be best not to piss them off.) Also, in certain parts of the country, aggressive and dangerous wildlife can actually make survival difficult or impossible without a weapon. But mostly, canceling an Amendment to the Constitution, while not impossible, is notoriously difficult. It requires creating another Amendment to nullify it. We actually did this once when the 21st Amendment repealed the 18th Amendment, which had previously established Prohibition.

By the way, The 2nd Amendment was adopted in 1791 when it took 20 seconds to reload a manual firearm with ONE bullet. The Founding Fathers could not possibly have imagined the invention of fully-automatic assault weapons even in their most severe fever-induced nightmares.

What have we tried?

Very well, then, we can't get rid of it. What about putting some limitations on it? The First Amendment protects a citizen's right to free speech, but there are legal boundaries such as hate speech, yelling "fire" in a crowded theater, or inciting a riot. These are common sense restrictions that are in the in the best interest of the public's safety. If these restrictions to the First Amendment did not exist, it would be legal to do these things and endanger people's lives. The lives of the majority of the population outweighs the rights of some individuals to have the freedom to do whatever they want. In the public's best interest, can we also put some limitations on the Second Amendment as well?

As it turns out, there are already some limitations on the Second Amendment. Extremely powerful weapons such as Tomahawk missiles are kept out of the hands of ordinary citizens. Not surprisingly, any nuclear armament is strictly prohibited as well. I think we can all agree that we don't want to live around someone who can nuke the town if he is drunk and angry at his Ex, right?

However, each State gets to set their own rules on gun ownership. The Federal government has chosen a hands-off approach for almost everything else. In California, you need a special license to be allowed to own a .50 caliber gun. In Texas, no special license is required. In practice, this simply means that if it is illegal to purchase a particular weapon in the area in which you live, one can simply drive to a neighboring state where the gun laws are less strict, make your purchase and drive home with your new toy. Completely legal. This is why Federal restrictions are so important. A Federal law would apply to the entire country.

Have we never tried to expand these restrictions? Actually, we have. It is illegal to manufacture fully automatic weapons like machine guns, some semi-automatic weapons defined as Assault Weapons and high-capacity magazines. Or at least it was from 1994 to 2004. This bill was signed into law by President Bill Clinton on September 13, 1994 as a response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting where 26 people (20 children, 6 adults) were killed with an AR-15 Assault Rifle. Unfortunately, it included a "sunset provision" and was allowed to expire by President George W. Bush on September 13, 2004. Yes, you read that right. Just three years after 9/11 (almost to the day) our government made it easier for anyone in this country to get their hands on some of the most deadly assault weapons on the market.

Before that, as a response to the St. Valentine's Day Massacre of 1929, the National Firearms Act (NFA) of 1934 regulated the use and/or ownership of machine guns, short-barreled rifles (SBRs), short barreled shotguns (SBSs), silencers and "destructive devices". Destructive devices include grenades, bombs, explosive missiles, poison gas weapons and any firearm with a bore over 0.50 inch except for shotguns that are suitable for sport purposes, such as 10-gauge or 12-gauge shotguns. This regulation usually takes on the form of special licensing requirements or fines and taxes on their sales. This does not make such devices illegal, just slightly more cumbersome to legally obtain.

The Gun Control Act of 1968, enacted after the John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King assassinations. This established stricter licensing and regulation on the firearms industry, establishes new categories of firearms offenses, and prohibits the sale of firearms and ammunition to felons and certain other prohibited persons. It also imposes the first Federal jurisdiction over "destructive devices," including bombs, mines, grenades and other similar devices. This does not prevent most people from getting their hands on automatic or semi-automatic weapons, only felons.

The Brady Law of 1993, imposed as an interim measure a waiting period of 5 days before a licensed importer, manufacturer, or dealer may sell, deliver, or transfer a handgun to an unlicensed individual. The waiting period applies only in states without an acceptable alternate system of conducting background checks on handgun purchasers. The interim provisions of the Brady Law became effective on February 28, 1994, and ceased to apply on November 30, 1998. This only applies to handguns, not automatic or semi-automatic weapons.

The 1934 NFA only means that you need to have to complete extra paperwork in order to own an automatic weapon. The Gun Control Act of 1968 and the Brady Law of 1993 did not deal with automatic or semi-automatic weapons at all. The 1994 ruling finally made fully automatic weapons illegal to manufacture. Since that expired in 2004, there are currently no Federal laws keeping semi-automatic assault weapons out of the hands of non-military personnel. Individual states can add further restrictions on top of Federal rules, but this is spotty at best. If you want to see how far someone can take weapon ownership, do an internet search for "Dragon Man". This one individual is better armed than many small countries. I think it is safe to say that Dragon Man is a "gun enthusiast".

Is this really a problem?

On September 11, 2001, a national tragedy took place at the World Trade Center in New York City. Using that date as a popular starting point in the collective American discourse on the subject, CNN had this to say:

Using numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we found that from 2001 to 2013, 406,496 people died by firearms on U.S. soil. (2013 is the most recent year CDC data for deaths by firearms is available.) This data covered all manners of death, including homicide, accident and suicide.

According to the U.S. State Department, the number of U.S. citizens killed overseas as a result of incidents of terrorism from 2001 to 2013 was 350.

In addition, we compiled all terrorism incidents inside the U.S. and found that between 2001 and 2013, there were 3,030 people killed in domestic acts of terrorism.* This brings the total to 3,380.

To sum up: Since 9/11 406,496 Americans have lost their lives due to gun violence, and only 3,030 from terrorist attacks. But the imbalance is even worse than that. Remember that 2996 of that total were lives lost due to the 9/11 attack alone. That means that excluding 9/11, there were only 34 deaths due to terrorism from 9/11 to 2013, an average of 22 deaths per year. Compared to the 406,496 gun related deaths in that same time period, averaging 33,874 deaths per year. That is about one hundred thirty-five 9/11 events worth of gun violence, approximately one new 9/11 occurring every 32 days. For 12 years, and counting.

Of those terrorist attacks, not all of them were due to what President Trump takes perverse pleasure in calling "Radical Islamic Terrorism". The fact of the matter is that Islamic extremists account for only 63 of the 201 incidents, 76% of which were thwarted by police action. Another 115 were perpetrated by white American men with far-right leaning agendas, and were thwarted by police only 35% of the time. Most of them acquired their weapons legally through proper channels.

The American Journal of Medicine studied whether the popular argument that "guns make a nation safer" is correct or a steaming pile of bull. I encourage you to read the entire paper for yourself. In the interest of speeding up this discussion, here is the conclusion they arrived at.

The number of guns per capita per country was a strong and independent predictor of firearm-related death in a given country, whereas the predictive power of the mental illness burden was of borderline significance in a multivariable model. Regardless of exact cause and effect, however, the current study debunks the widely quoted hypothesis that guns make a nation safer.

So, yeah... this IS a problem.

How have other countries dealt with this issue?

There have been very few countries with both a Democracy and such promiscuous access to lethal weaponry. But according to the factcheck.org website, here is what happened in Australia.

In 1996, Australia passed the National Firearms Agreement after a mass shooting in Tasmania in April of that year. In that incident, a 28-year-old man, armed with a semi-automatic rifle, shot and killed 35 people, and injured 18 others, in what was known as the Port Arthur Massacre.

Under the 1996 law, Australia banned certain semi-automatic, self-loading rifles and shotguns, and imposed stricter licensing and registration requirements. It also instituted a mandatory buyback program for firearms banned by the 1996 law.

During the buyback program, Australians sold 640,000 prohibited firearms to the government, and voluntarily surrendered about 60,000 non-prohibited firearms. In all, more than 700,000 weapons were surrendered, according to a Library of Congress report on Australian gun policy. One study says that the program reduced the number of guns in private hands by 20 percent.

In 2002, Australia further tightened gun laws, restricting the caliber, barrel length and capacity for sport shooting handguns.

Since 1996, the number and rate of homicides - defined as murder and manslaughter - has fallen.

According to NBC News, there were no mass shootings at all in Australia since these laws were passed.

And here are three excerpts from a BBC.com article describing how the United Kingdom has dealt with the problem of gun control.

The UK has some of the toughest gun control laws in the world. If you want to own a gun, it is very difficult to do so.

In short, it has been designed to put as many barriers in the way as possible and to assume the worst, rather than hope for the best.

In the United States, you can declare that it is your constitutional right to bear arms. But in the UK, you need to spend hours filling in paperwork and proving to police officers that you are not a danger to society.

The system is administered by police forces in each part of the UK and in England, Scotland and Wales there are separate licences for shotguns and for other firearms.


Getting a licence is a long and complicated business. Every stage of the process is designed to reduce the likelihood of a gun falling into the wrong hands. It starts with an application form which asks specific questions about why the individual wants a gun, telling them they need to show "good reason".


The reality is that gun laws in the UK have developed piecemeal since the end of WWI in response to threats as they are perceived to emerge.

The two most important laws came in the wake of two national tragedies.

Michael Ryan's massacre of 16 people in Hungerford in 1987 led to the banning of all modern semi-automatic rifles, the range of guns that can be fired rapidly without needing to be reloaded.

Nine years later, Thomas Hamilton killed 16 schoolchildren and their teacher when he opened fire at a school in Dunblane. Parliament banned all handguns and there is now a mandatory five-year jail sentence for possession.

Since then, we have seen moves against criminal conversion of imitation firearms - a tactic used by backstreet engineers working for gangs.

The complete article describes the hoops one has to jump through and the effectiveness these measures have brought to UK society. Not surprisingly, gun violence is rare in the U.K.

I can only imagine that other countries in the world must think we are either insane or stupid or both.

Why are we not doing that here in the US?

I suppose we could always increase restrictions on gun ownership here in the United States, but do the citizens of USA even want that? According to a recent poll by politico.com the answer is overwhelmingly "yes".

Support stricter gun laws Oppose stricter gun laws
General Population 64% 29%
Democrats 83% 12%
Independents 58% 33%
Republicans 49% 45%
Trump Voters 46% 48%
Gun Owners 55% 41%

But citizens do not make the laws. Congress does. If we elect politicians to represent us, why has Congress not enacted stricter gun laws in the wake of the increase in mass shootings in the past decade or so?

Every time that there is a mass shooting in the US, the people call for tighter gun regulations. Every time that there is a mass shooting in the US, the politicians who are in a position to write those laws declare that it is "too soon" to have a discussion on gun control because it is insensitive to the families of the victims. The bodies are not even cold yet. Give the families time to bury their dead. Give the families time to grieve for their loved ones. They also claim that it is disrespectful to the victims of this tragedy to use their deaths for political gain.

Instead, our politicians offer "thoughts and prayers" to the families of the victims of the latest horrible tragedy. There was a recent mass shooting (November 5, 2017) in a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas where 26 people were killed. These people were LITERALLY in the middle of a church, praying. There can be no clearer demonstration of the ineffectiveness of "thoughts and prayers" to prevent mass shootings.

The effect of this is that people are criticized by politicians for even requesting to discuss the issue if it is "too soon" after a mass shooting. Since there are mass shootings in this country on a practically DAILY basis, there is never a time during which it is not "too soon." In this way, politicians effectively prevent a discussion from ever taking place.

Years ago, politicians claimed that there is nothing that can be done to prevent things like this from happening, that we just have to accept that this is the new reality of living in a post 9/11 world. No one in the country bought that one, so they don't rely on it as heavily as they used to.

More recently, politicians claim that the problem is not guns, or even practically uncontrolled access to assault weapons specifically, but rather, "mental illness". They claim that something has to be done about paying more attention to treatment for the mentally ill. Coincidentally, politicians are not in charge of treating mental illness, so the responsibility naturally falls on others. That way, if someone fails to give a mentally ill person the help he really needed, and he then goes on a killing spree, it is not a failing that can be directly traced to something that a politician did not do. This keeps the politicians blameless for their inaction. Besides, the mentally ill who would do these kinds of shootings would surely have found some way to get their hands on a deadly weapon anyway, right? (So politicians claim.)

But our politicians' concern for treating mental illness to stop gun violence does not seem very sincere. To explain why, here is part of an article from NBC News in February of 2017.

President Donald Trump quietly signed a bill into law Tuesday rolling back an Obama-era regulation that made it harder for people with mental illnesses to purchase a gun.

The rule, which was finalized in December, added people receiving Social Security checks for mental illnesses and people deemed unfit to handle their own financial affairs to the national background check database.

Had the rule fully taken effect, the Obama administration predicted it would have added about 75,000 names to that database.

President Barack Obama recommended the now-nullified regulation in a 2013 memo following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, which left 20 first graders and six others dead. The measure sought to block some people with severe mental health problems from buying guns.

In the hours after the Las Vegas shooting, it came out that the shooter used a gun attachment called a "bump stock" that effectively modifies a semi-automatic weapon to behave as a fully automatic weapon. For those who don't know, the distinction between the two is that a semi-automatic weapon fires a single shot when you pull the trigger, then automatically ejects the spent cartridge and loads the chamber with a fresh live bullet. A fully-automatic weapon will continuously fire, eject, reload and fire again for as long as the trigger is held.

Immediately, there was public outcry for legislation that makes bump stocks illegal. Members of congress agreed that bump stocks need to be made illegal. The NRA (National Rifle Association) even came out with a statement to the effect that they, too, support making bump stocks heavily regulated. The next day, the media reported that everyone concerned is in favor of making bump stocks extinct. The public breathed a sigh of relief and promptly stopped paying attention to the matter.

Almost immediately, the NRA turned around and reversed their support for regulations of any kind on something that enabled one man to slaughter so many people so easily. This reversal of opinion, however, was not widely reported in the media. Almost as fast, Congress changed their minds as well. A bill was introduced into Congress to make bump stocks illegal, as well as fully automatic weapons. This bill was quietly allowed to die without coming up for a vote. There is no replacement bill planned, and no effort has been made to inform the citizenry that bump stocks are still "A-OK" with both the NRA and Congress. (Could it be that the bill was only introduced for show? If so, it worked.)

It seems abundantly clear that the individuals that We the People elect to represent our interests in Congress (individuals whose job title is literally "Representative") have no desire to represent our interests. This begs the question: Whose interests ARE they representing? When you want to know what makes powerful people do immoral things, there is one simple rule researchers use: FOLLOW THE MONEY.

Follow the Money

According to opensecrets.org, during the 2016 election cycle, the NRA gave $821,350 directly to Republican politicians, and $10,550 to Democrat politicians in Congress. Most of that went to Incumbents in the House of Representatives. They also spent $3,188,000 on lobbying congress during this time. Incidentally, the NRA has already spent 4 million on lobbying for 2017, and the year is not yet over. The website opensecrets.org, describes the NRA spending as follows.

The National Rifle Association goes to great lengths (and spends a huge sum of money) to defend the right to bear arms. It is opposed to virtually every form of gun regulation, including restrictions on owning assault weapons, retention of databases of gun purchases, background checks on purchasers at gun shows and changes in the registration of firearms.

Clearly, the NRA is doing it's best to influence our legislators to create friendly bills, or destroy whatever unfriendly bills come across their desks, as required to benefit the NRA's interests most favorably. If this happened in some other country, we would call it "Bribery" and it would be a crime and an indicator that the government officials are corrupt. In the United States, this is variously called "Lobbying", "Campaign Contributions" or "Independent Expenditures" and it is perfectly legal.

Remember kids: The only thing that determines whether or not something is illegal, is whether or not there is a law against it. The people in Congress are the ones who write, approve, and modify the laws. You read that right, the same people who get gifts and money from lobbyists are the same ones who determine whether giving gifts and money to politicians is legal or not. Therefore, showering a politician with gifts in order to ask the politician to write laws that favor your business model is ENTIRELY LEGAL. Immoral does NOT equal illegal.

Let's pause here for a moment to find out about the NRA. I found an article from Time Magazine describing the reason the National Rifle Association (NRA) was Founded.

According to TIME magazine, in a feature written by Richard Lacayo in 1990, the NRA was formed in 1871 because a group of Union Army officers was "dismayed that so many Northern soldiers, often poorly trained, had been scarcely capable of using their weapons."

(Hmm... So much for a "well-regulated" Militia.) From the NRA's own website:

Dismayed by the lack of marksmanship shown by their troops, Union veterans Col. William C. Church and Gen. George Wingate formed the National Rifle Association in 1871. The primary goal of the association would be to "promote and encourage rifle shooting on a scientific basis," according to a magazine editorial written by Church.

About Safety and Education:

The NRA offers resources and training to ensure the safe and effective use of firearms as well as personal safety. Training courses are available that teach proactive strategies to avoid dangerous situations, self-defense using a firearm, as well as protection inside and outside the home.

(I am still a little fuzzy on how shooting a gun at another human being is considered "defense" instead of "offense", but okay...) If all this safety rhetoric is true, then why does the NRA want politicians to make sure that gun laws are as lax as possible? The NRA claims to be an organization that is primarily interested in firearms education. They want to educate gun users in the safe use of firearms. The toughening of regulations that would make it harder to acquire a gun without showing good reason for doing so, or even proving that someone has the mental and emotional competence necessary to be trusted with a deadly weapon, would surely only benefit the NRA's stated goals, wouldn't it?

The NRA used to be an organization that was primarily concerned with the safe and effective use of firearms, and they still use that selling point in their public policy to this day. But the direction of this group flipped in 1977 when Harlon Carter became the leader of the NRA. Here is some background about Harlon Carter.

Mr. Carter, then 17, was convicted in 1931 of murdering a 15-yearold Mexican boy, Ramon Casiano, in Laredo, Tex., and was sentenced to three years in jail. Mr. Carter testified at his trial that he had fired his shotgun after the boy threatened him with a knife.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned the conviction on the ground that the trial judge had not given jurors adequate instruction on the law of self-defense.

In the 1960's, his opinions on gun control were well known.

As NRA president from 1965 to 1967, Carter stewed as gun control became a pet cause of the '60s radicals he hated. The terrifying urban crime epidemic, along with the John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy assassinations, helped trigger the Gun Control Act of 1968. The law banned buying guns or ammunition by mail order - as Lee Harvey Oswald had done - stopped the importing of surplus military weapons and prohibited gun purchases by drug addicts and mental patients. When asked about such dangerous individuals wielding guns, Carter deemed it "a price we pay for freedom."

Harlon Carter's personal crusade was to eliminate all restrictions on the Second Amendment. He made this into the new goal of the NRA in 1977. Harlon Carter was, without a doubt, a "gun enthusiast". So today the NRA is the organization for "gun enthusiasts". It is funded mainly by membership dues and contributions from "gun enthusiasts". And they use their funding to buy politicians.

I would like to remind you that the brother of the guy who massacred over 50 people in Las Vegas didn't consider the shooter enthusiastic enough about deadly weapons to be called a "gun enthusiast". Does that put the mindset of the NRA into perspective for you?

How can we change this?

Honestly, I am not certain that we can. But if it is possible at all, then we must try. The connection between the will of the NRA and the passing or suppressing of laws would need to be severed. Fortunately, there are several links in the chain, and we only need to break one.

  1. Change the minds, attitudes and personal goals of the NRA members who's membership dues fund the NRA.
  2. Change the official policies of the NRA.
  3. Prevent the NRA from lobbying Congress by outlawing big money lobbying.
  4. Protest against the NRA's position so loudly that Congress will be forced to vote against them.
  5. Bring the topic to a National level of discussion (despite theories that it is "too soon") so that Congress is shamed into changing.
  6. Convince the current members of Congress to stop taking bribes from the NRA.
  7. Replace the current members of Congress with a brand new crew who will not take donations from the NRA.

I will grant you that these ideas all sound nigh-on impossible, and some of them probably are, but others are more doable than you might think. Lets go over them one by one.

1. Change the minds, attitudes and personal goals of the NRA members who's membership dues fund the NRA.

This is probably the second most impossible thing on the list. In order to change the goals of the majority of NRA members, you would have to undo years, decades, lifetimes, even generations of conditioning that is rooted deeply into their minds and hearts. You are talking about altering the very fabric of American society. That is not something that is easy for even a single individual to do. Getting millions of people to suddenly abandon their core belief systems is not possible. With public education and advertising, you might be able to gradually prevent a new generation from behaving quite so badly if they are exposed to sensible gun regulation ideas when they are young, but for those who are old enough to have their opinions already well-formed, I hold no hope of ever changing more than a small handful that were already on the fence to begin with.

This approach is not without precedent, however. In the first half of the 20th century, smoking cigarettes was generally accepted as a normal part of society with no perceived ill effects on health. (Of course, the cigarette companies have known otherwise since the 1950's.) Everybody did it. Watch any moves from before the 70's and you will see characters smoking. Cigarette manufacturers sponsored radio and television programs well into the 1960's. There were ads placed into otherwise wholesome shows like The Flintstones and The Beverly Hillbillies that would be shocking to people today. But due to massive public outcry, Congress passed the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act in 1970. This banned the advertising of cigarettes on television and radio starting on January 2, 1971. After nearly half a century without cigarette ads running on popular programming, as well as a few other measures such as warning labels on cigarette packs and anti-smoking PSAs on television, people today are less inclined to smoke than their ancestors did. It was too little, too late to save our grandparents and great-grandparents from emphysema and throat cancer, but the current generation of kids tend to frown upon those few remaining people who do smoke. Smokers are considered pariahs today and several that I know often feel guilty for taking a cigarette break at all, sheepishly telling their friends, "I'm trying to quit." We even banish them to the outdoors to light up since smoking inside public buildings like stores and restaurants is now illegal in most communities.

Society's attitude towards this deadly and smelly habit have been effectively changed as a public health and safety measure without outright banning cigarette, cigar and pipe smoking. So you see, using this precedent as a blueprint, it is not impossible to change society's attitudes towards gun regulations. But even if it works, it will take generations until we see meaningful results.

2. Change the official policies of the NRA.

This might be possible to do, but only after society changes first and the membership of the NRA demands these types of policy changes. (see 1, above.) Once again, it could take half a century or more before such a change is even brought up for a vote at NRA headquarters. Even longer if we are waiting for the vote to pass.

3. Prevent the NRA from lobbying Congress by outlawing big money lobbying.

Believe it or not, this is actually a fairly do-able measure that is already underway. Politicians are behaving like evil, greedy children because they are being paid large sums of money by corporations and special interests with deep pockets (like the NRA) in exchange for passing laws that the corporations want them to pass. (For a clear explanation of this process, the organization Represent.Us has created an easy to understand video on the subject.) Because politicians benefit from this arrangement, they will never pass a law that makes this sort of thing illegal. We need a way for ordinary citizens to stop them. We need a law passed that gets money out of politics. It needs to be a law that politicians cannot repeal without tremendous fanfare drawing attention to what they are doing. The solution is written into the Constitution. We need a new Amendment. The Constitution spells out how to do this in Article V. (That's a roman numeral 5, not the letter "vee".) Here is what it says.

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.

Let me clarify this for you. There are two different ways to create an Amendment to the Constitution. One way is for Congress to pass an Amendment. This requires a 2/3 majority of Congress voting in favor of the Amendment. This does not seem likely to me. How about you?

The other way is that the States can do an end-run around Congress by calling for an Amendment on their own. (...or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments...) You need 2/3 of the state legislatures to sign onto it, but that is proving to be easier than it sounds. (2/3 of 50 states is 34 states.) Yes, it is still hard to do, but not impossible. Remember that the Founding Fathers were rebels, so they built rebellion into the Constitution. There is far less corruption at the State level than there is at the Federal level. We can speak to our state legislatures to ask them to call for a convention to propose an Amendment.

This is not at all remarkable. It has actually been done before. In fact, more than half of the (currently) 27 Amendments that exist started out as Article V conventions, as did the Bill of Rights. Did you think that lawmakers in Congress simply decided out of the kindness of their hearts that American citizens needed more rights? HA! The people had to get mad about someone (big business, legislators, society, etc.) stepping on what people perceived as their rights, and raised hell when they found out there were no laws protecting those rights. The people raised a fuss by calling for an Article V Convention. (Perhaps the most well-known example of this is the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.) Although these conventions can legitimately create Amendments on their own, in practice, Congress has (so far) always been kicked in their complacency and they hurried to create and pass their own version of the Amendment before the States could do it by themselves. That way, Congress could claim that they were actually behind it all along. Of course, if Congress actually did support the Amendment all along, the States would not have needed to convene an Article V Convention, would they?

Is anyone already working on doing this? Yes! There is a group called Represent.US who has a plan for doing this. They made a good video describing their plan which you can view on YouTube.


America's corrupt political system is a complex problem. The American Anti-Corruption Act is a comprehensive solution.

The American Anti-Corruption Act sets a standard for city, state and federal laws that break big money's grip on politics. It will:

  • Stop political bribery by making it illegal for lobbyists to lobby a politician and donate to their campaign. You can lobby, or you can donate, but you can't do both.
  • End secret money so Americans know who is buying political power.
  • Fix our broken elections so the people, not the political establishment, are the ones in control.

Together, we're building a nationwide movement to fix corruption.

There is a group called Wolf-PAC that is doing this as well. Until recently, Wikipedia actually described Wolf-PAC better than their own website, but they have updated it to include a more complete mission statement.


Our Goal:
To save democracy in the United States by getting a much needed amendment to the U.S. Constitution that will establish elections which are free of the corrupting influence of money in our political system and fair enough that any citizen can run for office, not just millionaires and their allies.

To date, Wolf-PAC has successfully spoken to state legislatures in 5 states (Vermont, California, Illinois, New Jersey and Rhode Island) and gotten them to agree (sometimes unanimously) to call for a Convention for proposing an Amendment. (5 states down, 29 to go.)

If these groups succeed in passing an Amendment to get corporate money out of politics, this will only prevent the NRA from bankrolling Congress to buy their loyalty. Changing the way they vote is another matter altogether, but at least Congress's motives for defending the NRA will be lessened. If a congress person happens to also be a "gun enthusiast", well, then I guess we have to see to it that a better candidate for that seat challenges him at the next election. (See option number 7, below.) Still, it is a worthwhile Amendment to have for a variety of other reasons besides simply gun control laws.

4. Protest against the NRA's position so loudly that Congress will be forced to vote against their major funders.

Call and write to your congress-critter. Call your representatives and senators at the local, state and national levels and request change. Contact them in any way that you can. Contact them as often as you can. Make a nuisance of yourself. All forms of contact are valid, but some carry more weight than others. Letters > phone calls > faxes > emails > tweets

Do you know what is REALLY attention-getting? Hold a rally, or a protest march. The Women's March on Washington (January 21, 2017) really got people's attention the day after Trump was sworn in as President. Stopping traffic for several hours and getting on the news forces politicians to take a look at how passionate you are about a cause.

If you want to provide extra impact, hit them where it hurts: their wallets. Make sure that you point out to their big-money donors (by name) just how wrong Congress is to oppose the Will of the People on this topic, and how wrong those donors are to fund such deplorable people. Once again, make a nuisance of yourself. If their donors start to tell them to vote differently on this topic as well as their own pet projects, perhaps some will be persuaded to finally change their minds on the subject.

5. Bring the topic to a national level of discussion (despite theories that it is "too soon") so that Congress is shamed into changing.

This is very closely tied to the previous method (see 4, above), but instead of trying to talk to your lawmakers, talk to your friends, family and neighbors. Bring up the topic whenever you can. Talk to your family about the issue. Talk to your coworkers about it. Talk to your pals at the bar, the laundromat, the shooting range. Get them to understand the problem and encourage them to spread the conversation to someone else they know, to keep the discussion flowing around the countryside. When enough people are talking about a thing, it can eventually lead to the massive protests directed to politicians and their donors as I described in the previous point.

Can our members of congress ever be shamed into doing something? I really don't know. I am certain that they cannot feel social shame as you and I would. But they can be pressured into doing something if it becomes politically embarrassing for them.

6. Convince the current members of Congress to stop taking bribes from the NRA.

This is by far the least likely of all possibilities. I cannot foresee any scenario that would lead to this. I just can't. If you do, you have more faith in our legislators' ability to change than I do. It also probably means that you don't fully understand the situation.

7. Replace the current members of Congress with a brand new crew who will not take donations from the NRA.

This might sound pie-in-the-sky and overly simplistic on it's surface, but it is another case of a do-able measure that is already underway right now. In fact, there are not one or two, but at least three organizations working towards that goal. And progress is being made. Here are descriptions taken from their websites.

Brand New Congress

Both major parties have chosen big donors and special interests over the needs and interests of the American people.
Elect a Brand New Congress that represents all Americans rather than corporate interests and party establishments.
Recruit extraordinary, ordinary Americans to challenge the establishments of both parties in primary races across the country.

Justice Democrats

If you want a strong Democratic Party that doesn't cater to corporate donors and will fight for the average American, join us to take the party back!

The Democratic Party is broken, and the corporate wing of the party is responsible. By aligning with Wall Street over working men and women, the Democratic Party has allowed Republicans to take over most state legislatures, most Governorships, Congress, and the presidency. The solution is not unity with the corporate-backed Democrats. The solution is to challenge them and replace every single one of them with people who will fight for voters, not donors. It's time to rebuild the Democratic Party from scratch to be a party that fights for a clear progressive vision.

All Of Us

As a new movement fighting back against Donald Trump and the hatred and greed poisoning our politics, your support is critical.

We refuse to allow Donald Trump and a corrupt ruling class to divide us and destroy our country. We will organize a democratic revolution to make America a real, multi-racial democracy for the first time in our history. Help us make that possible.

We Will Replace You

WeWillReplaceYou.org: Elected officials tend to take the path of least resistance on most things—unless you create a political cost for them. That's where we come in. The growing anti-Trump movement springing up at town hall meetings and protests across the country has already pushed Democratic strategy in the right direction—but not nearly far enough.

As you might imagine, with so many groups having identical goals, it would make sense for them to combine their efforts and resources towards that goal. They thought so, too. So they did. Justice Democrats and Brand New Congress joined forces on March 17, 2017. The Justice Democrats joined with All Of Us on November 1, 2017. All of Us initially launched the group We Will Replace You, but this group seems to have been folded back into the All Of Us group and is no longer a separate entity. At least, I can not find a current web presence for them, just broken links to web pages that no longer exist.


Mass shootings are a huge problem in America. The problem is only getting worse. Yes, we do need to give people who are suffering from emotional stress, PTSD, brain diseases or other mental illnesses all the care they need. We also need to reduce the likelihood that they can get their hands on a deadly weapon, or a collection of them. Keeping weapons out of the hands of those who are statistically more likely to use them against other people is an important goal because, sane or not, you cannot shoot someone if you have no gun.

Every other country in the western world has stricter gun laws than the US and has far fewer mass shootings, if any. Gun control is not impossible, just something that America has not decided to implement, at least not yet. Gun control laws are proven to save lives. Every other country in the western world has proven this. We just have to do it here.

This is something that the American people want, but the politicians refuse to allow it. There are ways to reverse this, but they involve a lot of work. We must all get involved by hounding the Federal politicians to change, requesting the State politicians to force change onto the Federal level, and educate our fellow Americans who either do not know the facts, do not believe in facts, or willfully ignore facts because they enjoy far too much wielding the power to kill. This includes your co-workers, bridge partners, classmates, and neighbors. This is everybody's business.

This is a life and death issue. I am not being figurative here. This is LITERALLY a matter of life and death. I am not talking about the victims in cities far away from you where these tragedies have already happened. I am not speaking for the dead, the survivors or their grieving families. I am speaking for the still-living. Because one day it could very well be something that happens in your town. Your sister might die the next time she goes to the mall. Your brother might be killed because he was watching a movie in the wrong theater. Your child might not came back alive from the next concert he attends. Your grandmother might be slaughtered for the crime of going to church this week. If you truly feel safe when you are shopping for groceries, perhaps you just don't appreciate the problem fully.

Over 33,000 people will meet that fate in America in the next 12 months and their families will have to deal with it. I don't want myself or someone I know to be among them. I don't think you do either. Let's do something about it.

And For Those Who Are Still Against Gun Control Laws

If you have trouble understanding how people can possibly be in favor of gun control laws, imagine hearing someone defending guns using your common talking points, but replace the word "gun" with the phrase "open mason jar of lye."

"The best way to stop a bad guy with an open mason jar of lye, is a good guy with an open mason jar of lye." Still feel comfortable about that one?

Here's another one: "You can have my open mason jar of lye when you can pry it from my cold, dead hand."

"When open mason jars of lye are outlawed, only outlaws will have open mason jars of lye."

"I keep my grandfather's open mason jar of lye over the fireplace mantle."

"I want to take my young son hunting with me, so I got him his first open mason jar of lye this week."

"I want to try out my new open mason jar of lye. Let's go to the splashing range."

If these statements sound stupid to you, welcome to the party. This is what your addiction to deadly weapons looks like to the rest of us.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead

15 January 2018