Our nation is understandably focused on the 20 children and 6 others killed in the Sandy Hook shooting. But this year, over 12,000 people in America — 34 every day — will be killed by guns. Here is just one of their stories:
Linkin Leatham, age 2
Linkin’s parents called their son the “miracle baby” for having overcome several complications at birth and defying doctors’ expectations that he wouldn’t survive. Then, in September, 2-year-old Linkin picked up his father’s handgun and shot himself in the eye, ultimately dying from his wounds. Linkin’s father is a Utah police officer, though the weapon involved in the shooting was not his service weapon.
In his obituary, Linkin is celebrated as a joyful and sweet little boy:
“Linkin enjoyed life to its fullest. He was always smiling, running and playing. Linkin loved trucks, airplanes, the moon and the stars, dancing, smiling and wee-woos (his name for police cars). Linkin’s infectious smile and playful personality always made people laugh and drew others toward him. To know him was to be wrapped around his tiny little finger. In Linkin’s short time on this earth, he has brought immeasurable joy to countless people.”
You can read six other touching and powerful stories of lives taken by guns this year here.
In the wake of a horrific tragedy like the Sandy Hook shooting, 24/7 media coverage is understandable. What’s not understandable — or acceptable — is the relentless media attention on the shooter, which gives him the attention he perhaps wanted (and which others may seek in his footsteps) and distracts us from structural solutions:
Following a shooting at a school in England in early 2009, a forensic psychiatrist told the BBC about his plea to media outlets worldwide:
If you don’t want to propagate more mass murders…
Don’t start the story with sirens blaring.
Don’t have photographs of the killer.
Don’t make this 24/7 coverage.
Do everything you can not to make the body count the lead story … not to make the killer some kind of anti-hero.
Do localize this story to the affected community and as boring as possible in every other market.
Why don’t we listen?
Please read the full essay here.
The always incredibly un-credible Ann Coulter has a new column out and it’s a doozy. Coulter argues that Democrats have historically been anti-gun rights because they have wanted to keep guns out of the hands of blacks who wished to defend themselves from the KKK (which, Coulter argues, began as part of the Democratic establishment). In her concoction column even claims that the National Rifle Association is “America’s oldest and most august civil rights organization.” That statement right there would give most reasonable people pause, but knowing how these sorts of crazy Right wing arguments tend to corrupt and corrode our public discourse, I thought a few facts would be in order:
1. Coulter’s celebrated Republicans are now called Democrats!
This has got to be a big face palm for anyone with even a lick of historical knowledge reading Coulter’s piece. Until the Civil War, the Democratic Party was the major political party in America. But in the mid 19th Century, anti-slavery Democrats fled the party and the Republican Party emerged. Abraham Lincoln, he of the Emancipation Proclamation and social liberal attitudes of the time with respect to abolishing slavery, was a Republican. White Southerners burning with racial resentment indeed backed the Democratic Party in Reconstruction. But then, as any eighth grader can tell you, as the 20th Century emerged, Republicans shifted to become the party of big business, white industrialists while Democrats became the party of the New Deal and Civil Rights legislation.
2. One can’t ascribe the attitudes of the 1800s racist Democratic Party to today’s Democratic Party
Yes, the so-called Democrats of the mid-1800s were rabidly racist and tied to the Ku Klux Klan. But given the profound ideological flip-flop between the two parties over the last two centuries, it’s about as absurd to attribute 1800s Democratic Party attitudes to today’s Democrats as it is to suggest that the Republican Party is “the Party of Lincoln”. If people like Ann Coulter are so damned proud of what anti-slavery Republicans stood for back then, why aren’t they standing up for those same values now?
3. The “civil rights hero” Coulter hangs her argument on exiled himself to Cuba and China and inspired the Black Panthers
This is the best part. Coulter writes about Robert F. Williams, author of the book “Negroes With Guns” (from which Coulter takes the title of her piece), who apparently formed the Black Armed Guard in Monroe, NC, with a charter from the NRA. In other words, ignoring about a hundred year gap in her narrative, Coulter tries to portray Williams as a Republican joining forces with the NRA to fight against the Democrats’ KKK. Ms. Coulter must not have known that one of Williams formative experiences was, at age 11, witnessing a black woman being dragged and beaten by a police officer named Jesse Helms, Sr. (father to future Republican Senator Jesse Helms, Jr.). And she must have missed the part where Williams delivered a speech at the 1965 International Conference for Solidarity with the People of Vietnam Against U.S. Imperialist Aggression for the Defense of Peace. Doesn’t sound like a Republican, eh Ann?
4. The “Negroes With Guns” premise assumes a persistent racism in America that Ms. Coulter and Republicans are otherwise quick to deny.
Let me see if I get this straight: The existence of persistent, implicit racial bias in America is a sufficient argument to exploit when making the case for the NRA and 2nd Amendment rights but when making the case for everything from equal funding for public schools to ending racial profiling to affirmative action, suddenly racism is a thing of the past that liberals are inventing?
5. And lastly, does Ann Coulter really want to arm black folks now?
It seems to me, the leading argument that conservatives make for lax gun laws is that “criminals” (read: black people) have guns and, therefore, law-abiding citizens (read: white people) need guns to protect themselves. By seemingly embracing Robert F. Williams’ arguments, is Ms. Coulter seriously suggesting she wants to see more black folks take up arms today? Apart from being refreshing if true, is she aware that a resurgence of Mr. Williams’ Black Armed Guard-type movement today would likely go after not the Democratic establishment but Republicans — the party that repeatedly suggests problems in the black community are the fault of “black culture” and not deep-seated history and public policy, the party that wants to cut food stamps to give more tax breaks to the rich, the party that won’t even pass the Violence Against Women Act because it might help immigrants and gay people? Oh, yeah, and the party that is constantly blowing its dog whistle about the “New Black Panther Party”?
Perhaps Ann Coulter thinks she can pick and choose from history and biography and tell only the parts of political party history and Robert F. Williams’ life that fit her narrative. And perhaps Ann Coulter also thinks that unicorns poop glitter.
Like so many people, I’m deeply saddened and angry about the tragic killing of Trayvon Martin. And like so many people, I know that in no way is Trayvon’s murder an isolated incident. In my op-ed for Reuters, I explore what scientists tell us about implicit racial bias — and what it means for Trayvon, President Obama and America.
In one study, researchers used computers to generate several faces that were exactly the same except for the skin color — half were black and half were white. All respondents (yes, including black people studied for the project) were more likely to rate the black faces as showing greater hostility. In another study, scientists showed a group of subjects a video of one person pushing another person. When the “shover” was black and the “victim” was white, 75 percent of research subjects said the push was aggressive. When the “shover” was white and the victim was “black,” only 17 percent of subjects said the push was aggressive.
Implicit racial bias has also been found in what researchers call a “shooter bias” — in which subjects playing a simulated video game are more likely to mistakenly pull the trigger on unarmed black men than on unarmed white suspects. The phenomenon has been tested and proved with police officers, too.
Watching conservative attacks on Obama, it’s hard not to conclude that they are tainted by implicit bias. Consider: President Barack Obama is the first African-American president of the United States of America. From day one, conservatives have attacked the president’s religion, citizenship and essential patriotism. Conservatives condemned healthcare reform in general and the individual mandate in particular, even though the mandate was originally a Republican proposal. Republicans, who historically never met a tax cut they didn’t like, have opposed virtually every tax cut proposal that President Obama has put forth. Amidst high unemployment and a crumbling economy, Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said his number one goal was to destroy the president’s chance for re-election.
Now, I do not believe that Mitch McConnell or most Republican leaders or rank-and-file voters are overt racists. But their rhetoric often evokes the same racial animus that Zimmerman seems to have expressed. Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has labeled President Obama “the most dangerous president in history.” Glenn Beck once accused President Obama of having a “deep-seated hatred of white people.” And long before he called Sandra Fluke a slut, conservative mascot Rush Limbaugh said: “Obama is an angry black guy.” The parallel imagery is clear: President Obama, like Trayvon Williams, is a dangerous, suspicious black man clearly up to no good, guilty of Governing While Black.
It’s a much longer piece. You can read it here. And please share your comments and help spread it around — this is a conversation our nation needs to have.
In the WTF? category of political rhetoric, gun nuts have again come out saying that if there had been MORE private citizens with guns on the scene in Tucson, Arizona, fewer people would have been hurt. Yeah, that makes sense — more guns, fewer bullets fired…
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