Category Archives: Guns

Watch Out!

Look to your right. Now look to your left. Look ahead. Slowly, without drawing attention to yourself, turn and look behind. See all the people? Any one of them could be carrying a concealed weapon. They may be deranged. They may have no logical reason to be armed. But the Republican Supreme Court says they can carry weapons. And there is not a thing you can do about it.

The Republican hypocrites on the Court, all six of them, fulfilled the dreams of every member of the National Rifle Association by striking a New York law which had served that state well for one hundred years, setting standards for the carrying of concealed weapons. For the conservatives who hide when convenient behind the idea that states should be able to set local standards on these matters, the hypocrisy is exposed for all to see. This was not unexpected. Republicans have been fighting attempts to restrict guns for years. The vote was 6-3, strictly along party lines. All of Donald Trump’s three appointees voted to strike the law.

The New York law required concealed carry permit applicants to demonstrate a special need for a license, beyond a basic desire for self-defense. Writing the opinion in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the so-called “proper-cause requirement” prevented “law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising their right to keep and bear arms.”

“We know of no other constitutional right that an individual may exercise only after demonstrating to government officers some special need,” Thomas wrote for the majority. “That is not how the First Amendment works when it comes to unpopular speech or the free exercise of religion. It is not how the Sixth Amendment works when it comes to a defendant’s right to confront the witnesses against him. And it is not how the Second Amendment works when it comes to public carry for self-defense.”

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett joined the opinion.

The ruling’s broad sweep amounts to a complete overhaul of the court’s Second Amendment doctrine and is expected to call into question a wide range of other gun laws. The court’s decision clears the way for legal challenges to similar restrictions in Maryland, California, New Jersey, Hawaii, and Massachusetts. It follows recent mass killings in Buffalo and Uvalde, Texas, horrifying acts of violence that spurred Congress to advance bipartisan legislation strengthening federal gun laws.

The court’s three Democrats, in dissent, accused the Republican majority of failing to consider “the potentially deadly consequences of its decision.” A 52-page dissent by Justice Stephen Breyer began bluntly. “In 2020, 45,222 Americans were killed by firearms,” he wrote, joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. History alone shouldn’t govern the Second Amendment’s application, he wrote, for “it is constitutionally proper, indeed often necessary… to consider the serious dangers and consequences of gun violence that lead States to regulate firearms.”

So now it is done. I have been writing about this ad infinitum, ad nauseam. I am ready to throw up. And to morn. I can now look forward in the years ahead to writing about more gun control laws being stricken by the Republican Supreme Court. And I can plan on writing about more killing and carnage. Make no mistake about it. The carnage does and will lie at the feet of the Republican Party, which favors guns over children. And takes the blood money of the NRA to win elections.

I know I have broken the tradition by referring to the Supreme Court justices as political partisans. Too bad. I call them as I see them. Today’s ruling has been the result of a fifty-year crusade by the NRA and its Republican syncopates to change the meaning of the Second Amendment and to take control of the Court. The second shoe is expected to fall any day with the overturning of Roe v Wade.

With this ruling, the Court continues the strained logic of its 2008 opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller. In Heller, the then 5-4 Republican majority bent over backwards to conclude that the first words of the Second Amendment, “A well-regulated militia,” didn’t actually require regulation nor a connection to a militia. Apparently these strict textualists, who in other places argue that the words of the Constitution are paramount in its interpretation, conveniently relegate those key opening words of the Amendment to the status of an ink blot to be ignored.

Let’s face facts. The Constitution does not mean what it says. It means what a majority of Supreme Court justices say it says.

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In Memoriam

Memorial Day, along with Veterans Day, are the days on which we honor the men and women in uniform who have given their lives to defend our nation. I have always had respect for those who wear the uniform. And I wonder if I would have been able to show their courage and dedication had I been called to do so.

I mean no disrespect, and I certainly hope our soldiers and veterans will not think ill of me, but I find myself moved to commandeer their day to mark another memorial and to write, for what seems the umpteenth time, about a mass killing in America. The twenty-one souls whose faces appear at the top of this columns died at the hands of an eighteen-year-old killer at the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

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Guns for All!

I’m beginning to think I have been going about this the wrong way. I write about the never-ending string of mass shootings. I tell the history of the Second Amendment. I deplore the right-wing Republican judges who overturn even the most reasonable legislation designed to curtail the endless supply of weapons. But here we are with another mass shooting. And on the same weekend, a single killing which would have been worse had it not been for some heroism by a church congregation.

A majority of the American people favor placing stricter limits on the ownership of guns. But the political leaders do not.

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The Truth is Out There

This is the 21st century. The Russians deny they are responsible for the slaughter of civilians in Bucha, Ukraine, claiming corpses were planted on the streets after Russian soldiers had left the scene. Satellite pictures clearly show bodies on the ground and Russian troops still on the scene.

There is a fiction making the rounds that says the average Russian does not know what their country is doing in Ukraine. Don’t buy it for a minute. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union worked hard to keep the truth out of their territory. Western news media were blocked, jammed, and banned. But the truth leaked in, and when the USSR fell in an economic collapse, the truth flowed in with a vengeance.

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Miscalculations

How many synonyms for “miscalculate” can you think of?

Now how many do you think Vladimir Putin knows, in Russian or Ukrainian?

And it is not just a question for Putin. American intelligence, which got most of the story of Russia’s invasion into neighboring Ukraine right, did expect the Ukrainian capital of Kiev to surrender to Russian forces within days. First lesson to be learned, never underestimate the Ukrainian people.

Ukrainian men of fighting age were told they had to stay while everyone else was encouraged to flee the Russian invasion. But on that score even the Ukrainians miscalculated. Many Ukranian women, especially those without children, elected to stay. And some with children took their sons and daughters to safety and then returned. Older men and women are volunteering for duty in the resistance.

And if Vladimir Putin figured the Ukrainians would surrender in the face of his blitzkrieg, that was only the first of the Russian dictator’s many miscalculations. He rained missiles down on the general population of Georgia for twelve days in 2008 before that nation surrendered control of two territories, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia. He used soldiers wearing unmarked uniforms to stage a fake revolution that took Crimea away from Ukraine in 2014. And he obtained a de facto takeover of Belarus in 2020. But this time Ukraine is fighting back with everything it has. Ukraine estimates deaths among Russian soldiers are approaching 10,000. It has stood up against superior forces in the air and on the ground. The full-scale invasion began February 24, 2022, and it shows no sign of ending anytime soon.

Putin may also have miscalculated, first believing he could deliver reelection to his useful idiot, Donald Trump, in 2020 as he did in 2016. And second, once that failed, by believing that even without Trump in the White House, ready and willing to hold open the door at Ukraine’s border so the Russian invaders could march right in, Trump was right when he promised during his secret talks with the Russian dictator that NATO was a dead issue which no longer had the support of the American people. Trump, remember, withdrew American forces from Syria and Afghanistan, handing over American bases to the Russians. Trump had also promised to withdraw America from NATO during his second term in office.


Not only are the American people today voicing support for NATO‘s involvement in Ukraine, but NATO itself seems to have awakened from a long slumber. Members who have been reluctant to spend the 2 percent of GDP the organization demands on defense have suddenly declared they will increase their budgets. That includes Germany, which has dependably walked several feet behind the NATO consensus since the end of the Second World War. Germany has also joined in the economic sanctions against Russia, even at the risk of creating energy shortages for its people.

While not required to send military aid to Ukraine, which is not a member, NATO has been sending a wide range of increasingly lethal weapons to the besieged nation. They have warned Putin that an attack on any of their member nations will be met with a defense mounted by the entire organization. And they have been taking in Ukrainian refugees by the millions in what is the most dramatic movement of innocent civilians fleeing an onslaught since the German invasions so many years ago.

Finland and Sweden are talking about joining the alliance. The forever neutral, independent Swiss, with their incredibly opaque banking rules, imposed some new sanctions on Russia.

The reaction of the United Nations itself was miscalculated by most. The UN was never empowered to act militarily unless the action was agreeable to all five of the permanent members of the Security Council. On the subject of Ukraine, Russia therefore blocked any action. But the meeting did allow for high drama when the Ukrainian ambassador warned the Russian that war criminals “go straight to hell.”

But the UN General Assembly surprised observers by taking up the matter in an emergency session. Its votes are merely advisory, but the delegates still sent a clear message to Moscow, a total of 141 countries voted in favor of a resolution, reaffirming Ukrainian sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity. 

The resolution demands that Russia “immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces from the territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders.”

It was sponsored by more than ninety countries and needed a two-thirds majority in the Assembly to pass. Five countries – Belarus, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (more commonly known as North Korea) Eritrea, Russia, and Syria – voted against it, while thirty-five abstained.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump and his fellow travelers are throwing miscalculation after miscalculation. Trump calls Putin a “genius,” “smart,” and “savvy.” Trump’s former secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, adds, “talented” and a “capable statesman.” Trump acolyte Tucker Carlson asks, “It may be worth asking yourself, since it is getting pretty serious, what is this really about? Why do I hate Putin so much? Has Putin ever called me a racist? Has he threatened to get me fired for disagreeing with him?” Carlson has been joined by Fox hosts Laura Ingraham and Maria Bartiromo, among others praising Putin.

Thirty-one senators of the Trump-GOP voted against emergency humanitarian and military aid for Ukraine. Republicans, of course, have hated Ukraine since that country refused to give in to Trump’s extortion threat to withhold aid unless the embattled nation investigated Hunter Biden, the cause of his first impeachment.

This GOP miscalculation could prove costly in the 2022 midterm election. Sanctions, even economic sanctions that may increase inflation in the United States, are popular with voters anxious to help Ukraine but understandably concerned about being drawn into a wider war with Russia.

It is not a time for miscalculations. But these appear to be mostly what we have.

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The Things That Come to Mind

When I was in grade school, at 10:30 in the morning on the first Tuesday of every month, every air raid siren in the city of Chicago went off. It was a regular test of the warning system. Our job, as third graders, was to duck under our wooden desks and cover in place. After a few minutes, the “all clear” sounded and we went back to our studies. I may not have known what “geopolitics” even meant in those days. But I do remember wondering, if the nuclear bombs were as dangerous as everybody said they were, how much protection would those wooden desks provide?

By the time I got to high school, the Cold War was simply an unpleasant fact. A substantial portion of the wonderful Promontory Point Park just a block from our apartment building, where I used to walk my Scottish terrier, had been taken over and surrounded by a fence. On the fence were intimidating notices to stay out. And inside were several towers, each one a couple of stories tall. At the top of the towers were antennas. This was part of the early warning system, designed to detect Soviet bombers coming over the North Pole, down from Canada.

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Ban the Damn Guns

America today is suffering a plague of gun violence.

It wasn’t always this way. Americans used to own guns without engaging in daily massacres. As a Chicago native, I learned as a child about the infamous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre of 1929, when members of one Chicago gang set up and killed seven members of a rival gang. It was so shocking it led to legislation that prohibited automatic weapons in the U.S.

That ban was extended with restrictions on “semiautomatic assault weapons,” as well as magazines that met the criteria for what it defined as a “large capacity ammunition feeding device,” in 1989 after 34 children and a teacher were shot and five children killed in Stockton, California with a semi-automatic Kalashnikov rifle. A pull of the trigger is required for each shot of a semi-automatic. An automatic fires continuously.

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