GUNS: THE AMERICAN EPIDEMIC
“The gun lobby’s interpretation of the Second Amendment is one of the greatest pieces of fraud-I repeat the word fraud-on the American people by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime. The real purpose of the Second Amendment was to ensure that state armies would be maintained for the defense of the state. The very language of the Second Amendment refutes any argument that it was intended to guarantee every citizen an unfettered right to any kind of weapon he or she desires.”
~Conservative Chief Supreme Court Justice Warren Burger
“I have never believed in the general practice of carrying weapons, I seldom carry one.”
~Karl T. Frederick, President of the National Rifle Association, 1934.
I joined the NYPD in January of 1983 and witnessed the rise of Crack and the ensuing violence that accompanied it. You couldn’t swing a dead cat in those days without hitting a crack house. With the meteoric rise in the highly addictive drug, came crime and guns. Crack vials littered the streets, victims fell prey to addiction and gun violence skyrocketed. In 1991 the City of New York witnessed nearly 2,500 homicides. We were outgunned in terms of fire power. The bad guys had Uzi’s, Tech-9’s, Calico machine guns and other automatic weapons. We were equipped with .38 caliber revolvers, dump ammo pouches (before speed loaders) and 10 layers of Kevlar. We were bringing spit wads into this battle against drug dealers and other criminals that wouldn’t have hesitated to shoot a cop. Some of my fellow officers chose to carry automatics such as 9mm and .380 caliber pistols. These firearms were banned by department regulations, but the mantra of “carried by 6 or judged by 12” prevailed. I wasn’t one of those “buffs” as we called cops that collected guns, but I didn’t judge those that were. I had two firearms, my duty revolver and my department authorized five-shot Smith and Wesson .38 off duty gun.
In my time as a police officer, investigator, and sergeant, I arrested dozens of criminals with illegal handguns and witnessed firsthand the atrocities committed by firearms. In one such instance a ten-year old boy was struck in the femoral artery by a stray 9mm round fired in a shoot-out between rival drug dealers. The boy was bouncing on his parents’ bed when the round pierced the front door and struck him. As I was attending to a mortally wounded combatant, the boy’s mother pulled me into her apartment to help her young child. Blood was gushing out of his artery like a geyser. I pinched the artery off with my fingers as we rushed him to Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx. There was no media coverage, no screams into the Congressional void for this boy, just the wails from his grief-stricken mother. Luckily the boy survived, and his parents were able to save enough money and move to a safer neighborhood. Now, just imagine a child shot with an assault rifle or larger projectile. The image isn’t pretty. Now multiply that by the thousands of victims killed by firearms. The gun violence epidemic is a man-made problem, as most are, and our congressional leaders (particularly in the Republican caucus) refuse to listen to the people’s demand for gun control.
As time goes on and the proliferation of guns and gun violence continues through the fetishization of military style weapons, and the gun lobby continues to pervert the Second Amendment by buying off politicians, the death toll rises.
The death and destruction I witnessed involved plenty of innocent victims but was also comprised of criminals killing criminals. Now that I’m retired, and watch in horror with the rest of America, the slaughtering of our nation’s children and other innocent victims, I weep for the victims and their families.
I also weep for the future of my grandchildren and our country in general. As apathetic politicians insist on fighting made-up culture wars like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ campaign against “Wokeism.” A topic that neither he or any other Republican can explain or describe. Yet DeSantis and other Republican leaders continue to pass laws that only exacerbate the already prolific gun death rate.
I always supported the Second Amendment…to a degree. If someone can pass all the legal requirements, he or she should be allowed to purchase and carry a legal firearm, with the caveat that no one needs to possess an assault rifle, stabilizing braces, high-capacity magazines, or armor piercing bullets. I now find myself rethinking my position on the Second Amendment and the need for more strict gun control.
Albert Einstein (the quote was misattributed to him) taught us that insanity was doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. This is the very position we now find ourselves in as a nation. The time has come for strict federal gun legislation that would supersede state law, lest we continue down the path of destruction.
The alarming rise in gun violence deaths over the last 20 plus years demands a careful examination of the historical, political, financial, and cultural forces that produced the epidemic, so our society can take meaningful steps to combat the crisis.
The public has become numb to the ever-increasing headlines of the latest mass shooting, like the recent Virginia high school graduation attack that left a father and son dead, and five others injured. In this video game morality, our society now finds itself living in, firearms have replaced reasoning and logic as conflict resolution tools.
Gun violence has now replaced car accidents as the leading cause of death in children aged 0-17. Mass shootings own the headlines but everyday gun violence in 2021 reached 48,830, 43% were homicides, 54% were suicides and 3% were accidental or law enforcement related. With death rates soaring Republican politicians remain steadfast in their support of the NRA and gun manufacturers.
Political ambivalence has helped kill Americans by the thousands. According to the FBI 90% of all homicides by firearm are committed with a handgun. Handguns are inexpensive, easy to find and easily concealed. Assault rifles are predominantly used in mass shootings due to their lethality and ability to exact the maxim damage expeditiously. But everyday gun violence still remains accounts for forty-eight thousand deaths.
In a recent 72-hour period with data captured from the Gun Violence Archive from June 8, 2023, to June 11, 2023, 265 people were shot across the country and 95 died. The corybantic gun culture in America claims lives at rates only seen during armed conflict. Whether it’s a society with a lack of probity, socio-economic causes or a just a galactic disregard for human life, the culprit remains…guns.
Firearms now outnumber the country’s population with four hundred million firearms to 394 million people. Using unlegislated and targeted marketing by gun manufacturers and dealers, America now accounts for 46% of the worldwide total of civilian-held firearms. That equates to about 120.5 firearms for every one hundred American residents.
In many states across the nation, it’s now easier for someone to own a firearm than it is to obtain a driver’s license. We all experienced the angst of a trek to the local Department of Motor Vehicles and subsequent written test to obtain a learner’s permit. To ensure safety on our streets and highways, one must prove the ability to operate a motor vehicle responsibly and competently to receive a driver’s license. In many Republican controlled states, the only requirements in purchasing firearms are that you’re 18 years of age or older and have the cash to purchase the firearm.
Republican states have the highest rate of run ownership according to The World Population Review, and six of those states have the highest rate of gun violence deaths.
States with the highest gun deaths per capita 2023:
New Mexico 27.8
Presently, there are twenty-seven states that have passed Constitutional carry laws, allowing for their citizens to carry weapons either openly, or concealed, without permits or licensing requirements. Only Alabama requires a federal background check. These states have GOP controlled legislatures/governors apart from Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. The incontrovertible fact is unfettered access to firearms, loose gun legislation, and the unwavering Republican support of the gun lobby will add to the death toll and make the job of public safety that much more difficult for law enforcement.
Police officers across the country agree that unlicensed concealed weapons make their jobs more difficult and will lead to an increase in accidental shootings. These are the people that see what people are capable of when they’re emboldened by a gun on their hip.
Additional proof of GOP abominable rhetoric in support of guns and violence, occurred at a far-right rally on June 10, 2023, in Georgia. Kari Lake, the failed Arizona gubernatorial candidate and election denier, said the quiet things out loud. She intimated support of an armed rebellion over Trump’s second indictment. “If you want to get to President Trump, you’re going to have to go through me, and you’re going to have to go through 75 million Americans just like me. And most of those individuals are card-carrying members of the NRA.” This is the incendiary and pernicious language that too many Republican use to rile up their base and encourage not only gun purchases, but violence aimed at their perceived enemies.
As this gun violence continues to rage throughout the country, many Republican controlled states continue to pass laws antithetical to curbing gun related deaths. States with Constitutional carry laws, except for Nebraska, have passed stand-your-ground laws. These laws state that an individual has no duty to retreat from the threat and may resort to deadly physical force and are not limited to your home or workplace. Such laws only serve to embolden a frontier style of justice and result in unnecessary deaths. Case in point is the 2012 George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin shooting and recent cases of overzealous use of firearms. In the case of Zimmerman and Kyle Ritenhouse the GOP and their supporters elevated these killers into celebrity status.
- Recently we’ve witnessed an uptick in these so-called stand-your-ground cases, with another Florida incident occurring on June 5 in Ocala. Susan Louise Lorincz a 58-year-old white woman, shot and killed her African American neighbor, Ajike Owens. Witnesses state neighborhood kids were playing in the vicinity of Lorincz’ home, when she became irate, throwing a pair of roller-skates at them and calling them the n-word. Ms. Owens knocked on the shooter’s door to confront her about her attempted assault on her children, when Ms. Lorincz fired a shot through her own front door, striking and killing Ms. Owens in front of her nine-year-old son. Local police originally questioned and released Lorincz, before arresting her hours later, charging her with manslaughter. Lorincz and Owens had been engaged in a long spat according to neighbors. Ms. Lorincz used the ridiculous defense that she felt she was in danger when Ms. Owens knocked on her door. Where was the threat? She stood safely behind a locked door and could’ve called the police if she thought there was a problem. Instead, she chose to shoot and kill an innocent mother in front of her young son.
- In Kansas City, Missouri on April 13, 2023, Ralph Yarl, a 16-year-old African American teenager, was picking up his younger siblings at a friend’s house, when he mistakenly knocked on the wrong door. 84-year-old Andrew Lester, a white man, saw a young black man standing at his door and opened fire from behind a closed door. The teen was struck in the head but managed to escape and run away. Instead of answering the door and inquiring what the young man wanted, Lester chose to shoot first and ask questions later. Again, armed and emboldened by stand your ground laws and motivated by race.
- Not related to a stand your ground case, but another example of armed false bravado and stupidity is the Kaylin Gillis murder. On April 18, 2023, in Hebron, New York, about 60 miles northeast of the state capitol of Albany, 65-year-old Kevin Monahan shot and killed the young woman when she mistakenly pulled into his driveway. Ms. Gillis was driving with a group of friends looking for another friend’s house on the dark rural roads. Lack of adequate cell phone coverage in the area prevented the use of GPS or ability to call for directions. Monahan saw lights in his driveway and just began to shoot without cause, striking and killing the young woman in her vehicle.
The common denominators in these cases all involved scared, weak-minded individuals, emboldened by either stand your ground or in Ms. Gillis murder New York’s Castle Law, that had no business owning a firearm and in 3 of the cases, racial biases.
In contrast to the out-of-control gun violence in Republican controlled states, the World Population Review reports the states with the toughest gun legislation, are predominantly Democratic and have considerably lower rates of gun ownership and lower rates of gun violence death. We can postulate from this analysis that gun control legislation equals fewer guns and saves lives.
States with the lowest gun deaths per-capita:
New Jersey 5.3%
New York 3.7%
Rhode Island 3.9%
Source: World Population Review
The conundrum with out-of-control gun violence is strictly a United States problem, as other nations have figured it out and taken swift and efficacious action to greatly reduce mass shootings and gun violence deaths. Comparing the 4.12% per capita homicide rate of the United States with that of other industrialized nations, we can determine how impotent our leaders are and how badly they have failed us.
A United States Problem. Comparing the 4.12% homicide rate to other industrialized nations.
United Kingdom .04
United States 4.12
Source: World Population Review
When compared with other nations it becomes apparent that the country’s fascination and love affair with guns is unique to the United States. Legislation varies from country to country, including Japan’s oppressive gun laws, that prohibit anyone outside the military, or police, from owning or possessing a gun, to the European model of psychological testing and strict regulations in obtaining permits. One constant remains; their respective legislation has led to a dramatic decrease in gun violence deaths, while America teeters on self-destruction.
The bigger question for Americans is how did we get here? How do we have congressional leaders such as Alabama Congressman Barry Moore (R) proposing a bill on the House floor that would officially acknowledge the AR-15 assault rifle as “America’s Gun?”
The National Rifle Association has given Congressman Moore its’ “A” rating, a sought after ‘badge of honor’ for Republican politicians. These politicians that blindly support the Second Amendment would like you to believe they are Second Amendment absolutists on patriotic principles. When in fact their blindness and obsequious behavior toward the NRA, their non-response to the gun crisis in America isn’t a matter of Constitutional purity or righteousness, it’s merely a money grab to secure wealth and power. The inability and unwillingness by politicians on the right, and their operatives to address the death spiral brought upon by the greed of gun manufacturers, school shootings have become the new normal.
As school shootings continued to rage on into 2022, President Biden urged Congress to act. They finally passed the first bi-partisan gun legislation in nearly 3 decades. President Biden signed the Safer Communities Act into law and moves the United States closer to universal background checks than ever before.
The new law includes $750 million to support states in strengthening red flag laws to keep firearms out of dangerous hands. $250 million is allocated for community intervention programs, as well as $200 million to fund national background checks. Additionally, the legislation will address the loss or theft of firearms during the shipping process. Theft from shipping containers increased by 5,000 guns from 2018 to 2022. In a recent survey of prisoners incarcerated for crimes involving the use of a handgun, 62% reported the gun they used was stolen from another. The Secretary of Transportation and the DOJ will consult on the best course of action to eliminate or reduce the number of firearms stolen. Inspection of licensed firearm dealers will increase as will the transparency in which that information is released to the public.
While this legislation is relevant and historical, it still falls short of what really needs to be done, such as bans on assault rifles, high-capacity magazines, and pistol stabilizing braces, as well as enforcing universal background checks, and reversing the 2005 Bush era law, Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act that protects gun manufacturers and dealers from being held accountable when crimes are committed using their products.
In contrast to President Biden’s legislation and the Democrats fight to hold gun manufacturers accountable, GOP governors like Tennessee Governor Bill Lee pander to them. Weeks after the mass shooting that took the lives of 3 adults and 3 nine-year old children at The Covenant School in Nashville, he signed a bill that will further protect gun manufacturers and dealers in his state from lawsuits. The bill mirrors the PLCAA bill from the Bush era and expands protection from lawsuits initiated in the state but allows the manufacturer to be held liable for defective products and breach of contract, but not for the use of their products during criminal conduct or shootings. 33 states have similar legislation, mostly red states with a few exceptions.
Smith & Wesson recently announced after 172 years it will be leaving its current headquarters in Springfield, Massachusetts, for the more gun friendly Blount County, Tennessee. This will make Tennessee the leader in the gun industry. Coincidence? Not so much. As Mark Wahlberg’s character Bob Lee Swagger says in the movie Shooter, “Welcome to Tennessee, the patron state of shooting stuff.”
On Thursday, June 15, 2023, in Marion County, Tennessee, Gary Barnett shot and killed his estranged wife Regina, her daughter and her two granddaughters, then turned the gun on himself, but not before setting the house on fire. Regina had filed for a restraining order a month ago according to court records. In those records she stated, “My soon to be (ex) husband threatened to shoot me and he verbally abuses me every day.” She continued, “He also has anywhere from 50-60 guns in his room. I am afraid he will get drunk and shoot me.” County Sheriff Bo Burnett said to WTVC News Channel 9, “It’s a domestic situation, evidently that has been going on for a pretty good while.” Ostensibly, local authorities were aware of the domestic violence, but didn’t take any action.
Presently, Tennessee doesn’t have red flag laws. In April, Governor Lee paid lip service to the idea of creating legislation after public outcry following the Covenant School shooting in March. Red flag laws might’ve saved all those lives. As Democratic leaders seek solutions to save lives with sensible gun legislation, that most Americans demand, Republicans continue to undermine those efforts, and fail to hold the gun industry accountable.
President Barack Obama and the Democrats tried in vain to ban assault weapons after the Sandy Hook mass shooting. The bill proposed by California Senator Diane Feinstein was defeated in the Republican controlled Senate. President Obama did have a regulation that made it harder for people with mental illness to purchase a gun. After the 2013 Sandy Hook shooting by Adam Lanza, a severely debilitated individual, it sought to block people with severe mental illness from purchasing a gun. It added people receiving social security benefits for mental illnesses to a national background database. According to officials in the Obama Administration if the rule had fully taken affect it would’ve added about 75,000 names to that database. It was hotly contested by gun advocates on the grounds it would’ve violated the Second Amendment but was championed by gun control advocates.
After the 2016 Presidential Election, the Republican controlled House and Senate defeated the Obama bill, and it was revoked by former President Trump. Trump typically would sign bills with his giant Sharpie, in front of the press corps photographers with much fanfare. This was the first piece of legislation signed by the newly elected Trump and done without all the hoopla associated with the twice impeached and now twice indicted Trump. News that he signed the bill was hidden in the bottom of an email released by his press secretary.
The NRA applauded the signing of the new bill with its Executive Director, Chris Cox saying “this marks a new era for law-abiding gun owners, as we now have a president who respects and supports our arms.” When interviewed by NBC News, Democratic Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy called out the Republican hypocrisy, “Republicans always say we don’t need new gun laws, we just need to enforce the laws already on the books. But the bill signed today undermines enforcement of existing laws that Congress passed to make sure the background check system had complete information.” The NRA and other Second Amendment fanatics continue to influence and, in some instances, create Republican legislation and talking points.
In an act of tail wagging the dog, the GOP’s stance on armed security in schools is the brainchild of Wayne LaPierre the CEO of the NRA, when he suggested we arm teachers, creating another market for the gun industry. He’s also the one that coined the phrase “the only thing that stops a bad a guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Sound familiar? It should, these are the talking points of GOP extremists.
GOP policy regarding school safety and gun legislation is being dictated by the individuals that stand to gain financially, the NRA and gun manufacturers. A small minority is drowning out the voice of the majority. The Founding Father’s greatest fear was a country governed by a minority. The gun conglomerate and their lobbyists don’t seek obvious solutions to this crisis, gun control legislation. That would only castrate their cash cow in an act of self-flagellation. They choose to create these catchy phrases and false narratives to distract us from the truth, slogans like, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”
The Republican Party prefers to lean into their favorite dog-whistle stance that mental health care is the long-term solution to the gun violence problem. While mental health does add to gun violence deaths and demands solutions, it’s the ease of access to firearms that amplifies the epidemic of gun violence. Texas Governor Greg Abbott is truculent about his support of mental health initiatives and stated that he recently committed $105 million to support his state’s Mental Health and Human Services Commission. He neglected to inform his constituents that one week before the Robb Elementary School mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, he cut $210 million from the HHSC.
GOP members offer their meretricious “thoughts and prayers,” without a vestige of sympathy or empathy, choosing to embrace made up culture wars, and refusing to address issues that Americans face daily, or the violence that rob our children from us in the most despicable and heart wrenching manner imaginable. Their public stance in support of the Second Amendment gives their argument a degree of verisimilitude in their eyes but is just another degree of perfidy.
To access your local Congressional House Representative’s stance on gun policy, click here:
The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence has compiled a list of Republican senators that oppose gun control legislation and the bans on assault rifles. See the entire list here: https://elections.bradyunited.org/take-action/nra-donations-116th-congress-senators.
In 2019 the NRA spent $3.22 million in Republican campaign donations, in 2020 it was another $2.2 million in donations. Here’s a list of the top ten Republican senators and the gun deaths in their respective states. The Republican’s stance on abortion is incongruous with their pro-gun voting records and obfuscates their position on the sanctity of life.
- Mitt Romney (UT) $13,647,676 400
- Richard Burr (NC) $ 6,987,380 1,470
- Roy Blunt (MO) $ 4,555,722 1,288
- Thom Tillis (NC) $ 4,429,333 1,470
- Marco Rubio (FL) $ 3,303,355 2,449
- Joni Ernst (IA) $ 3,129,723 302
- Rob Portman (OH) $ 3,063,327 1,602
- Todd C. Young (IN) $ 2,897,582 1,021
- Bill Cassidy (LA) $ 2,870,574 1,036
- Tom Cotton (AR) $ 1,971,214 596
With the recent news concerning conservative members of the Supreme Court receiving unreported lavish gifts from wealthy donors in the manner of trips and other endowments, we’re left wondering what other politicians have been showered with gifts, money, and other forms of payment in exchange for favorable rulings?
The AR-15 and Stephen Feinberg
With mass shootings occurring on a seemingly daily basis, we need to understand the origin of mass shooters weapon of choice, the assault rifle. A common misconception is the term “AR” in AR-15, refers to assault rifle, but it stands for Armalite Rifle, in reference to Armalite Arms, the original designer of the popular assault rifle.
It has been referred to as “America’s Gun” by far-right gun zealots and has been called an outstanding weapon with phenomenal lethality, and as a true “soldiers’ rifle.” After WWII the army commissioned Armalite to develop a lighter, more efficient rifle to replace the current weaponry. A man named Eugene Stoner created a new firing system dubbed “The Stoner Gas Impingement System.” This technology allowed for the gas and inertia to be evenly distributed front to back to ease user fatigue while reducing muzzle rise and allowing for more accurate follow-up shots. After much testing and different variations of the rifle the AR-15 was developed. The military version became the M-16 and M-4.
The rifle was marketed commercially to sportsmen and hunters with little success. The military model allows select fire with multiple firing modes: semi-automatic, fully automatic and burst fire-in which the rifle fires several rounds in succession as the trigger is pulled, the commercial version doesn’t have select-fire. These modern commercial AR-15 type rifles can be altered to automatic firing. It is illegal but still occurs in the aftermarket.
As gun manufacturers tried in vain over the years to market these black rifles to the sportsmen and hunter, it failed to gain traction in the mainstream. At gun shows across the country these rifles were relegated to obscure backrooms. The destruction the weapon caused on its target made it impractical for hunting as it would destroy the meat of the game. The AR-15 continued in obscurity without a market in the commercial world until a man named Stephen Feinberg created the world’s first gun conglomerate, thus setting American society on a collision course with today’s gun epidemic.
Mr. Feinberg’s calculated moves in the creation of the Freedom Group, his political alliances and the questionable marketing decisions by the gun conglomerate coalesced to create one of the deadliest pandemics our country has seen.
Who is Stephen Feinberg and how is he instrumental in the creation of the gun violence epidemic? Stephen Feinberg is a New York based billionaire, and co-founder of Cerberus Capital Management, an equity firm that manages $30 billion in wealth. Part of the equity is firm is an entity known as the Freedom Group.
Forbes puts his personal net worth at $3.5 billion, although Feinberg denies it’s that high. For years Feinberg has shunned the public spotlight opting for anonymity and preferring to operate in the shadows and was described as “secretive” by the New York Times.
He donated $1.5 million to the 2016 Trump campaign Super Pac, he co-hosted a $50,000 per person Republican National Committee and Trump fundraising dinner that year. As a thank you for his donations and commitment to his campaign, ex-President Trump named him to the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board and Chair of the Intelligence Oversight Board in 2018.
He remains active within the Republican party and is a member of The Business Council in Washington, D.C. who meet several times a year to discuss high-level policy such as protecting gun rights and gun manufacturing.
Mr. Feinberg started his career in finance as a hedge fund manager. Ten years later he co-founded Cerberus. His investment strategy used in the company’s equity arm specialized in downtrodden companies that were compromised, struggling, and suffering from bad management or outdated equipment. The faltering gun manufacturers of the late 90’s and early two-thousands, were prime for takeover. A fantastic article Big Gun’s Big Fail, written by Stephen Witt for New York Magazine goes into detail about Mr. Feinberg and his career. https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2016/11/a-billionaires-dreams-of-creating-a-guns-empire.html.
Feinberg graduated from Princeton and trained with the ROTC; he left ROTC before graduation. Feinberg made strategic decisions to develop a network of individuals that would facilitate his goal of creating the first gun conglomerate and eventually become an influential military contractor and policy maker.
One of those relationships was with Marine Corps sniper Stephen Reichert, whom he trained with at the North Carolina Blackwater facility. The two developed a friendship over the years and in 2005 created the Tier 1 group, a military contractor, services include military training in and outside of the United States and includes civilian tactical medicine, military medicine, law enforcement, and long-range marksmanship. A complete list of services provided can be found on the Tier 1 website.
In June 2021, the New York Times reported 4 Saudi operatives involved in the kidnapping, torture, and murder of United States journalist Jamal Khashoggi, trained at the Tier 1 compound. This training was done with the knowledge and approval of the United States Department of State and included marksmanship and counterattack measures. Tier 1 has since stated that the training was protective in nature, and they were unaware of the Saudi’s intentions to murder Mr. Khashoggi. Mr. Reichert eventually left Tier 1 for other endeavors and lamented that the firearms side of Cerberus was a disaster.
Mr. Witt’s story details how Feinberg’s visit to the Blackwater camp preceded Cerberus’ eventual purchase of Bushmaster Firearms for $76 million in 2006. Bushmaster was the gun John Muhammad had stolen and used in the D.C. sniper attacks, as well as other mass shootings.
The victims and survivors sued Bushmaster, with the company eventually settling for $62,500 per victim. This suit opened the door for potential lawsuits unless legislation was enacted to protect the manufacturers. The 2005 Republican-controlled Congress obliged and passed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, championed by the NRA lobbyists, it granted immunity to gun manufacturers from victims of gun violence. Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the NRA, called this legislation “the most significant piece of pro-gun legislation in recent memory,” as reported by the New York Times, referring to it as historic. Cerberus wouldn’t stop with Bushmaster; it was just the beginning.
After acquiring DPMS (Defense Procurement Manufacturing Services) in 2007, Cerberus moved to create The Freedom Group. No one ever tried to build a gun conglomerate until Feinberg seized the opportunity, joining the world of other conglomerates such as the auto, pharmaceuticals, and oil industries.
Cerberus would eventually purchase a total of 18-gun manufacturers, including Remington Arms consolidating the market by centralizing management, combining costs, cutting overhead, while improving production with the long-term goal of offering the Freedom Group in an IPO.
The Remington acquisition was key in selling the products in established retail outlets like Walmart. These “black guns,” as they were known in the gun world, were now branded with the known and trusted Remington name targeting hard-core gun collecting enthusiasts and military wannabes. The Freedom Group exploited that market, like Apple with its I-Phone and latest accessories. With high yield accessories such as lasers, rail-mounted flashlights and night vision scopes margins improved tremendously. A continuation to capture more of the market would ensued.
In 2008 to gain a stronger foothold in the commercial market Feinberg rebranded Bushmaster and called it “A Modern Sporting Rifle”, and marketed it to hunters and sportsmen, making it more attractive to the avid outdoorsman. The redesign of the weapon included stocks painted camouflage and constructed with lightweight materials to separate it from the old black rifle appearance. Gun redesign wasn’t just aimed at men, as manufacturers such as Glock created pink handguns for the woman that needs some style in her weaponry. Redesign of the assault rifle continues today, making the rifle appear futuristic and menacing.
Rebranding was just a snippet in the makeover of gun manufacturing. It required strategic personnel moves too. The 1999 hiring of former Vice President Dan Quayle as the Cerberus Chairman of Global Investment seemed peculiar due to Mr. Quayle’s lack of any measurable financial acumen. Ostensibly, this was considered a move to open doors into the gun friendly Republican party.
Feinberg continued to hire upper echelon former Republican leaders to executive positions within Cerberus. In 2006 Feinberg hired former George W. Bush Secretary of Treasury John Snow as Co-Chairman. Were these quid pro quo appointments in exchange for behind the scenes lobbying on behalf of gun manufacturers or obtain future military contracts? One would be foolish and naïve not to believe so. As Feinberg continued to maneuver within the business and political arenas of gun manufacturing, a perfect storm was brewing that would push gun sales to all-time highs.
The 2008 economic collapse due to George W. Bush’s illegal invasion of Iraq, mortgage deregulation, and other failed policies, spurred on the worst stock market collapse since the Great Depression. The banking and auto industries imploded as well as the housing market and caused great political and societal upheaval.
The United States lost its AAA rating, the world was on edge and Barack Obama was elected the first Black President of the United States. The election of President Obama revitalized the gun market with millions of units being sold, because of the unfounded fear that the Democratic President would enact stiffer gun control legislation.
In 2009 Cerberus investors were fleeing due to the heavy loses Cerberus suffered due to investments in Chrysler and General Motors. The Obama Administration’s bailout of the auto industry helped save Cerberus. After the auto bailout, Cerberus sold Chrysler and General Motors to Italian car maker Fiat. The gun market continued to rebound, and Cerberus looked for other investment opportunities.
Cerberus seized an opportunity to invest in another undervalued company that was having internal problems. This one was the military contractor, DynCorp. Cerberus purchased it for $30 million after The New York Times reported Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction investigated DynCorp’s misconduct on a $188 million job to buy weapons and train the Iraqi police. Auditors discovered the serious mismanagement of funds and in 2011 DynCorp agreed to pay $7.7 million to the US Government to settle claims that it inflated the costs for construction. President Dwight Eisenhower warned us about the military industrial complex, referring to it as “nefarious.” The Pentagon has a bloated $858 billion budget and has failed 5 consecutive audits in a row, unable to account for 61% of the funds.
DynCorp started as an aviation company and morphed into a private military contractor providing flight operations, training and support, contingency operations, security, and operations. They provided services for the US government in several theaters including Bolivia, Bosnia, Somalia, Angola, Haiti, Colombia, Kosovo, and Kuwait. It also provided security for Afghan president Hamid Karzai’s presidential guard and trained much of the police force in Iraq and Afghanistan. Cerberus sold DynCorp in 2020 for $1 billion dollars, to Maryland based Amentum.
Why is it important to mention Feinberg’s decision to develop Tier 1 and buy DynCorp? Well, for one, as a military contractor it allowed for more access to politicians, and the ability to influence policy on weapons and broker deals for military operations and weaponry. Was he trying to build a military contractor conglomerate with Tier 1 and DynCorp as he did with gun manufacturing? Or was he trying to get in on the money train and grossly overcharge the United States military? We can only speculate.
The US withdrew more troops from the Middle East, independent contractors replaced them at a steep cost to the government and higher profits for the contractors. Groups like Tier 1, DynCorp and Blackwater serve as a 7-Eleven one stop shopping as a supplement to US military operations. If they aren’t fighting or protecting assets, they’re training foreign military and police personnel. As United States military action wound down in the Middle East and weapon sales to the military decreased, Cerberus and The Freedom Group’s desperation to capture more of the civilian gun market increased. The additional 56-million-gun sales over the last 3 years is attestation of those efforts.
One could call Mr. Feinberg a man of great vision. Others would call him an opportunistic money grubber, who would sell his soul and that of his mother to the devil for money and power. Creating the Freedom Group saved struggling gun manufacturers that were on the brink of collapse. By consolidating these companies with corporate restructuring, targeting marketing of weapons to weak-minded individuals, flooding the market with guns, designed to cause catastrophic damage, his intentions must be questioned. His creation of the Freedom Group, quest for wealth and power, and his calculated alliance with politicians such as George W. Bush, Dan Quayle, John Snow and Donald Trump, and countless others, precipitated the gun epidemic in our country today.
One thing we’ve learned from mass shootings is that no community, no matter how idyllic, is immune from gun violence. From the manicured lawns of Newtown, Connecticut to the ocean breezes of California, this epidemic does not discriminate. We raise our kids, teach them from right and wrong, help with their homework, celebrate accomplishments and birthdays, and send them to school. Every parent’s worst nightmare is burying their child. Too many parents have joined that dark and painful fraternity.
This Memorial Day the country witnessed another mass shooting. This one was in Florida. Just steps off the boardwalk in Hollywood Beach, 9 people were shot, including a 1-year-old infant, as two groups began firing wildly at one another. Two eighteen-year-old men, Morgan Deslouches and Keyshawn Stewart have been arrested and charged as the investigation continues. A lovely day where the nation remembers our service members that gave the ultimate sacrifice was shattered by what else…a mass shooting. This on the heels of Ron DeSantis and the far-right state Republicans enacting legislation to move Florida into the ranks of Constitutional carry states.
There’s much debate as to what constitutes a mass shooting. The agreed upon definition is one in which 4 or more people, not including the shooter, are shot in a single event. 96% of mass shooters are men, more than half are under the age of 40, but we’re witnessing more shooters under the age of 21. Everytown for Gun Safety reports, from 2015-2022 there 175 incidents where 4 or more people were shot. Although they only made up 5% of all mass shootings, they accounted for 30% of all mass shooting deaths.
Deadliest Mass Shootings Since 1999
Source: Everytown for Gun SafetyRoute 91 Harvest music festival, Las Vegas, October 2, 2017: 60 killed, more than 850 injured.
- Pulse, Orlando, Fla., June 2016: 49 killed and 53 injured.
- Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Va., April 2007: 32 killed and 17 injured on campus.
- Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown, Conn., December 2012: 26 killed.
- First Baptist Church, Sutherland Springs, Texas, November 2017: 26 killed and 20 injured.
- Walmart, El Paso, Texas, August 3, 2019: 23 killed, 26 injured.
- Robb Elementary School, Uvalde, Texas, May 24, 2022: 21 killed.
- Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland, Fla., February 2018: 17 killed.
- Inland Regional Center, San Bernardino, Calif., December 2015: 14 killed.
- Fort Hood, Fort Hood, Texas, November 2009: 13 killed.
- Columbine High School, Littleton, Colo., April 1999: 13 killed.
- Binghamton Civic Association, Binghamton, N.Y., April 2009: 13 killed.
- Century 16 movie theater, Aurora, Colo., July 2012: 12 killed, 58 wounded.
- Navy Yard, Washington, D.C., September 2013: 12 killed, 8 wounded.
- The Borderline Bar & Grill, Thousand Oaks, Calif., November 2018: 12 killed, several wounded.
According to the Gun Violence Archive there have been 331 mass shootings thus far in 181 days in 2023, on pace to shatter the record in 2021 of 690 mass shootings. In total 1,360 victims have been wounded and 394 lives ripped away by gun violence. In 8 of these shootings an assault rifle or machine pistol was used.
The Nashville school shooter used an assault rifle and a machine pistol with a 30-round clip and stabilizing brace. Mass shootings with assault rifles are on the rise in 2023. The numbers are staggering, to say the least. We’ve seen the deadly consequences of domestic violence that escalate but hate and misogyny are deeply rooted in the psyche of mass shooters as well.
Misogyny and white supremacy idealogues have motivated numerous mass shootings. In the top ten mass shootings all were committed by men and 3 had a history of domestic violence against their girlfriend, mothers, or another woman in their lives. Two others made public misogynistic statements.
Elliot Rodgers killed 6 people and injured 14 others in a killing spree near the campus of UC Santa Barbara. He uploaded a video to YouTube titled “Elliot Rodgers Retribution” in which he outlined his planned attack to seek retribution against women that rejected him. This introduced the Incel Movement into the mainstream consciousness. Incels blame women for their inability to attract a sexual companion and gain support through an online community of like-minded men. They’re typically associated with views that are hostile to women and suffer from severe solipsism.
We’ve touched on some root causes of shootings such as domestic violence, racism, misogyny, and mental illness, but what feeds into this problem? Targeted marketing.
Known Weapon Manufacturers Used in Top 10 Mass Shootings
Daniel Defense: Las Vegas and Uvlade
Glock: Orlando and Sutherland Springs
Ruger: Las Vegas and Southerland Springs
Sig Sauer: Orlando
Smith and Wesson: Las Vegas, Parkland, and San Bernardino
Source: Everytown for Gun Safety
Marketing the Weapons of War
After the terrorist attacks on 9/11 and the eventual wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the 24/7 news cycle gave the world real time views of soldiers in combat gear holding M4 and M16 rifles. Doug Painter, the former President of the National Shooting and Sports Foundation referred to these images saying, “there’s never been a better accidental advertising campaign in history.”
The images of the soldiers allowed gun companies to effectively use what’s known as the ‘Halo Effect.’ Oxford refers to this as a positive impression of a person, company, country, brand, or product in one area to positively influence one’s opinion or feelings in the chosen area. Gun makers used the global war on terror in their marketing to military wannabes, their marketing teams referred to them as “military enthusiasts.”
Gun manufacturers’ long-term goal was to penetrate the consumer market to take advantage of higher prices. The gun companies viewed the military and police markets as less profitable than what they could earn in the consumer market. In 2006 Smith & Wesson marketed their M&P models to take advantage of the halo effect. This fed into the buyer’s desire to use what the professional’s use.
Smith and Wesson’s M&P model was an enormous success after the advertising blitz, taking sales from $12.1 million to $75 million in a 5-year span. The average profit margin on a handgun is $200, but on an assault rifle gun companies earn over $1,000 per unit sold. As further proof that gun sales soared the FBI reported during the years of 2006-2013 background checks doubled from 10 million to 21 million. With advertising executives’ imaginations aside, societal fears and national news play unwitting advertising pawns of the gun market too.
History has taught us the greatest marketing tools gun makers enjoy are nothing borne out of the imagination of board members or advertising executives, but mass shootings and newly elected Democratic presidents. Gun sales soared after the Sandy Hook massacre, and the election wins of Barack Obama and Joe Biden. The intellectual Lilliputians that make up the GOP base and NRA members buy into the narrative that someone is always “coming for their guns.”
Throughout the years gun manufacturers preyed on the fear and insecurities of consumers through marketing for profit and programming susceptible minds. In the early 20th Century Smith & Wesson created an ad depicting a family riding in a wagon that read “protect your family on the trail.” Winchester had an ad targeting young boys turning 12 years old, that read “real boys deserve a real rifle.,” touting the occasion as a rite of passage.
Other ads would suggest a lack of ‘manhood’ unless you subscribed to the ‘real men have guns’ rhetoric. Bushmaster targeted impressionable young men in 2012 with an ad in Maxim Magazine for their AR-15 with a slogan, “Consider Your Man Card Reissued.” They preyed on young men that had deep seeded inferiority complexes and those searching for an identity. That same year Sig Arms, which rebranded itself as Sig Sauer, was on the verge of collapse. Chief Executive Roy Cohen stated that the firm was “about 2 seconds away” from imploding, until the AR-15 saved the company.
By late 2007 the AR style rifle became the stable revenue source of the gun industry. In a 2021 book titled “Gunfight”, author Ryan Busse said the speed in which the AR-15 catapulted from a weapon that was shunned by gun buyers, and held in disdain, to being celebrated, was “mind boggling.”
The marketing didn’t stop at print or social media. Two members of the Freedom Group met with technicians from the video game maker “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare” to improve the realism of the audio. The unnamed Freedom Group representatives had assembled several weapons and fired thousands of rounds, enabling the technicians to create life-like sounds from the report of the rifle, the action of the bolt and the click of inserting a magazine. The alliance improved the game’s sound effects and created another advertising platform for the Freedom Group’s products.
Smith & Wesson continued its halo effect advertising with a photo of a SWAT officer in tactical gear, holding an assault rifle, with the caption “The Chosen One.” Another ad under consideration for publication displayed select Smith & Wesson handguns with corresponding bullets and magazines, which read “Fine Tuned Machines.” The SWAT ad was the consensus among S&W executives. Remington got into the marketing craze too with an ad showing a combat shotgun and the slogan, “For when knock-knock won’t do.” The corrupting of susceptible minds allowed to fester.
Daniel Defense, the maker of the weapon used in the Uvlade massacre, produced an ad showing soldiers in full combat gear with the caption “Use What They Use.” These ads furthered the fetishization of guns, military, and law enforcement use, and were successful in driving sales. These ads were written toward self-defense, home defense and a level of masculinity that the affected were enamored with. Ads targeting white men in the 35–55-year-old range, centered on defending the family and other aggressive tactics thrived in attracting their target audience.
Daniel Defense, created by Marty Daniel in 2001 began as a military contractor, in 2012 80% of its sales were to the military. As the wars in the middle east wound down and sales to the military decreased, DD shifted its concentration to the civilian market. After the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook and the fear of Obama gun legislation, DD shifted their marketing to self-defense and personal liberty narratives. Campaigns using slogans such as “Protecting Your Freedom” manipulated “gun enthusiasts” to stockpile weapons, in particular assault rifles. Daniel Defense civilian sales rose to 90% of its portfolio.
By August of 2013, their sales skyrocketed from $31.7 million to $110 million by 2014. In using these marketing stunts, preying on societal fears, and falsely claiming “the left is coming for your guns” Daniel Defense production and sales soared from 2,413 rifles in 2010 to 29,180 in 2020. The fastest growing segment of those buying these rifles were referred to as “Urban Defenders,” protection was the greatest motivator in driving sales. One ad depicted a man in his pajamas holding a rifle with the slogan…” whether you’re on the battlefield or protecting your family in the middle of the night.”
Daniel Defense saved their most despicable ad for May 16, 2022, when it posted a picture of a toddler holding an assault rifle, like the rifle used 8 days later in the Robb elementary massacre. The slogan was taken from Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Eight days later a Texas teenager would murder 19 children and two teachers. Daniel Defense founder Marty Daniel has long held a reputation of being “edgy” in the marketing choices of his company. Others prefer to call it indoctrination and incendiary.
Daniel Defense and other gun makers claim to be supporters of the Gospel and God fearing. Daniel was named by Donald Trump Jr. to his Second Amendment coalition. Daniel once said that he believes the right to bear arms was granted by God. He told Breitbart in a 2017 interview, “Not only do we have those Second Amendment rights because God gives them to us, but also the Gospel.”
Gun makers, right wing politicians and their sycophants continually inject “God” into the equation. God didn’t create the Constitution of the United States, or any other legislation. They conveniently forget about separation of church and state. The Founding Fathers tried to build a wall between government and religion. Modern day religious fanatics have been chipping away at the wall for decades.
These faux Christians would be more believable if they would just admit this was about making money and nothing as noble as patriotism or Godly. According to Public Religion Research, evangelicals have the highest rate of gun ownership than any other religion. Armed fanaticism is a scary thought…the American version of the Taliban comes to mind.
With ads such as these, and many others, black rifles went from unwanted guns relegated to the back rooms at gun shows to being the darling of the show everywhere. As gun shows doubled in size to 500,000 square feet of space, assault rifles continue to occupy half of the gun show floor. The rapid rise of the ugly black rifle to “America’s Gun,” as Republican politicians refer to it, grows in popularity, even as it mows down the nation’s children. These same politicians won’t discuss how these weapons of war tear through the flesh of children causing catastrophic damage and carnage, destroying families, and mutilating nine-year old children. These ads are nothing short of evil and should be legislated.
Solutions to Curb Gun Violence
The Supreme Court having been packed with far-right conservatives have already shown a lack of intestinal fortitude to support any legislation that would upset the Second Amendment absolutists. They recently struck down a New York law that required applicants to prove a need for a concealed weapons permit. This requirement is a staple in the successful European legislative models but is still deemed too radical in the United States. Any new legislation that could impact the gun violence epidemic, legislation that most Americans want, would receive fervent opposition from the NRA, their bought and paid for politicians, gun manufacturers and their billionaire supporters. Clearing the SCOTUS hurdle would be a monumental task for sure but can be accomplished as evidenced by other nations.
To save lives and make society safer, a Constitutional Amendment would be required to avoid having federal courts and congressional opposition from overturning laws. An amendment may be proposed by a two-thirds vote of both Houses of Congress; or, if two-thirds of the States request one, by a convention called for that purpose. The amendment must be then ratified by three-fourths of the State legislatures, or three-fourths of conventions called in each state for ratification. Republican leadership’s statements and actions are filled with pejorative toward the American people. This process could take decades to garner the support and necessary votes to achieve. If the Democrats, and any sane rational Republicans, can join forces, sensible life-saving legislation could be enacted for future generations. This is where the heavy lifting starts with the American public. And it’s achieved at the ballot box.
Until the country comes together to ratify a Constitutional Amendment, there are other initiatives to be taken in the meantime. These proposed bills could be included in a future 28th Constitutional Amendment or in separate pieces of legislation. These proposals wouldn’t impede lawful, sane, and qualified individuals from owning firearms, that’s not the objective. The objective is to save lives through sensible legislation, without the abolishment of the Second Amendment.
Universal Background Checks
Presently the United States does not have a federal mandate for all gun sales. Only 22 states and the District of Columbia have background check legislation. The states that do have background checks also have the fewest deaths by gun violence. A universal background check would require all firearm transactions to go through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). This would close the private sales loophole found at gun shows and with online dealers. According to the Annals of Internal Medicine 78% of gun sales are completed by licensed gun dealers, still leaving 22% unchecked.
A 2016 representative poll conducted by Quinnipiac, Gallup, and the Pew Research Center, 86% of American voters favor universal background checks. Those polled feel universal background checks would have more impact than other gun legislation. The problem is 40% of Americans think we already have universal background checks. In a more recent poll in 2019 conducted by NPR it was discovered that 84% of Republicans polled and 96% of Democrats polled, favor universal background checks. Of course, the NRA and National Shooting Sportsman Foundation opposed this because it could potentially reduce profits for gun manufacturers and their investors.
Expand Red Flag Laws
A red flag law is a gun violence prevention law that permits a state court to order the temporary removal of firearms from a person who they believe may present a danger to others or themselves. This is a highly effective way to protect victims of domestic violence and help close loopholes in the private sales sector and online market that have cost lives unnecessarily. Once the case against the gun owner is adjudicated, the guns may be returned accordingly. These laws have various names from state to state and may differ to the degree in which they are utilized and enacted. All states allow law enforcement to file petitions, while others like New York, expand the right to petition to teachers and school administrators. Other states also include healthcare providers to petition the courts. According to a poll conducted by Fox News, imagine that, reports 80% of Americans favor national red flag laws. Of course, Fox News talking heads won’t report the findings of their own poll.
Connecticut was the first state to enact a red flag law in 1999 after a mass shooting at the Connecticut Lottery. Unfortunately, Connecticut’s red flag laws didn’t prevent Nancy Lanza from owning multiple firearms while living with her severe mentally disturbed son, Adam. Indiana followed, after an Indianapolis police officer was fatally shot by a mentally disturbed man. In the years following Connecticut’s legislation 20 states and the District of Colombia have enacted red flag laws with Minnesota and Michigan becoming the 20th and 21st state in May of 2023. Other states have introduced red flag legislation without success, these states are Arizona, Tennessee, New Hampshire-the Democratic-majority approved the bill only to have it vetoed by Republican Governor Chris Sununu, Nebraska, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania. Now that Pennsylvania Democrats control the state legislature and governorship, they could change this year.
Another stumbling block in enforcing red flag laws are local sheriffs that call themselves, “Constitutional Sheriffs”, such as Joe Arpaio, the former Maricopa, Arizona sheriff. There are over 300 of these so-called Constitutional Sheriffs in the United States, who contend that federal and state authorities are subordinate to local authority and refuse to enforce laws they consider unconstitutional. Colorado passed such legislation in 2022, but Sheriff Bill Elder in El Paso County, Colorado fancies himself a Constitutional Sheriff, has refused to follow the law because he finds it unconstitutional, even though the sheriffs in 20 of the 37 counties in Colorado have filed petitions in red flag situations. Many of those same sheriffs are reversing course on previous opposition to red flag legislation.
Pew Research reported 26,328 deaths by suicide in 2022, or 54% of all gun related deaths. Those statistics coupled with mass shootings by mentally disturbed individuals could be greatly reduced with national red flag laws. Annals for Internal Medicine reported suicides by gun from 2008 to 2017 accounted for 62% of gun deaths. The red flag laws enacted over these time periods have a direct correlation in lowering suicide by gun.
A joint poll conducted by PBS/NPR/Marist in 2019 showed that 72% of all Americans supported a federal red flag law with only 23% in opposition. So, if most Americans support such legislation why do an inordinate number of Republican politicians oppose such a bill for their states? That question is rhetorical.
Domestic violence shootings account for 46% of mass shootings with 4 or more people shot, where the perpetrator shot a current or former partner or family member. This accounted for 409 killed and 84 wounded. Two-thirds of these shootings included a child or teenager. One in four of these shootings involved a shooter that was legally prohibited from owning a firearm. An example was found in Appleton, Wisconsin in 2018. A man on bond for felony weapons charge stemming from a domestic abuse incident bought a weapon online from Armslist.com, a website that doesn’t conduct background checks. The day after receiving the weapon in the mail he shot and killed his wife. Two pieces of legislation proposed in this article would be relevant in the Wisconsin shooting; increased red flag laws and universal background checks to close online loopholes. Cases such as this demand stricter red flag laws that would help identify potential threats and stop the violence before it occurs.
In 32% of mass shootings the shooter exhibited warning signs they could potentially commit gun violence. Warning signs could be, but not limited to, sudden withdrawal from friends and activities; bullying, especially targeted toward race, political affiliation, religion or sexual orientation; excessive irritability; chronic loneliness or social isolation; expressing thoughts of harming themselves or others; making a direct threat toward a person, place or event; bragging about access to guns or weapons; recruiting accomplices; directly expressing a threat as a plan; cruelty to animals-this one is a common act in serial killers as well.
Armed with all this information, the Supreme Court has decided to hear a case in the next session of whether people with domestic violence abuse restraining orders against them can own guns.
The case, U.S. v. Rahimi is based on an incident in Texas where Zachary Rahimi assaulted and threatened to shoot his girlfriend, resulting in an order of protection, and prohibiting him from possessing a firearm.
While under this order, Rahimi was accused of threatening another woman with a gun and committed a series of five public shootings, that resulted in a six-year prison sentence. The DOJ prosecuted the case because Rahimi had violated federal law, banning individuals with domestic violence restraining orders from possessing guns.
In their infinite wisdom, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in Texas ruled that the federal ban was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court has already stated that gun legislation requires historical precedent, like that mattered in their decisions on voting rights, Roe v. Wade or Affirmative Action. If certain members of the Supreme Court had their way, they would use archaic historical precedent that deemed women were chattel and belonged to their husbands as property, and they could do with them as they please. This is the battle sane, rational Americans are up against.
Microstamping and National Registration
Since 2010 the country has witnessed a steady decline in homicide clearance rates by law enforcement agencies. According to Everytown for Gun Safety, violent crime clearance rates were 61.5% in 2015 and now the national average has dipped below 50%. This has emboldened criminals, knowing they have a better than average chance of never getting caught. Chicago has a clearance rate of 21% while Oakland sits at 27%. On the flip side of that the LAPD has 77% clearance rate, and Germany’s 90% clearance rate. There’s a myriad of factors contributing to this, including community distrust of the police, and overworked detectives stretched too thin. Police investigators need any help they can get in bringing the perpetrators to justice. Microstamping would be a major advantage to aid in that endeavor.
Microstamping uses lasers to imprint precise microscopic engravings on internal mechanisms of a semi-automatic firearm, such as the breech or firing pin. When the gun is fired a unique alpha-numeric code identifying the gun’s make, model and serial number is stamped on the cartridge case. This would allow the investigator to trace it back to the original owner.
All firearms have a ballistic “fingerprint,” a marking on the cartridge that is specific to that firearm. Rarely do investigators recover the gun at the scene of a shooting, but when an automatic is used the shell casing is recovered. While this is helpful if the gun has been used in the past, it can also establish the fingerprint for future investigations. While this is very useful information, additional technology can be used to assist investigators to trace the origins of the firearm. That’s where microstamping can be used to solve violent criminal offenses. This information would be stored in the National Ballistic Identification Network with access given to all state and large municipalities to assist smaller local agencies in their investigations.
California has passed legislation to require all new semi-automatic handguns sold to include microstamping by 2027. Of course, gun manufacturers have filed suit questioning the constitutionality of the legislation mandating that gun manufacturers use this technology in all new firearms being produced In retaliation to that law Smith and Wesson, Sturm, Ruger Co., announced their intent to stop selling new semi-automatic handguns in California.
Opposition to this technology ranges from the cost of outfitting machinery to accommodate the legislation to Boogeyman concerns that spent casings could be collected at gun ranges and left at real crime scenes to throw off investigators.
The thousands of gun homicides year-after-year demand action. This technology wouldn’t hinder a law-abiding citizen from owning a handgun but would give investigators another tool in their war on gun violence. Gun manufacturers could receive tax incentives, or financial support from the federal government, whatever it takes to make our society safer.
This legislation would not doubt come under fire from the Republicans and is contingent on the Democrats keeping the Presidency, Senate and retaking the House.
We need to learn from our allies and their gun control legislation. There should be comprehensive psychological testing to apply for a permit or license. A mandatory gun safety course required before an applicant takes possession of a firearm. These laws should be the law of the land and unencumbered by state or local law. These laws would be aimed at repealing constitutional carry laws.
When Australia passed its gun control laws it experienced a powerful gun lobby, individual state gun laws, and vocal rural gun owners and leaders that opposed legislation, but they still found a way to get it accomplished. Since the Australian legislation passed the country has experienced just 3 mass shootings and gun deaths have decreased from 2.84 per capita to 0.9. More proof that gun control legislation works and saves lives.
Repeal the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act and Legislate the Marketing of Guns
After suffering lawsuit loses the gun lobby pressured the 2005 Republican Congress to pass legislation to protect gun manufacturers from lawsuits when their products are used in the commission of a crime. Gun manufacturers have failed to make guns safer, distributors and dealers have used targeted, irresponsible, and increasingly dangerous marketing advertisements, that have only exacerbated the epidemic. Until these companies are held to the same rules as other industries, they will continue in their quest to produce and market more weapons of war in the civilian markets. It’s imperative to repeal the PLCAA to stop the proliferation of gun violence and this video game morality we find ourselves in.
The Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act in 1984 forced tobacco companies to place the Surgeon’s General’s warning on all tobacco product packaging and advertising. Why? Because it was determined that tobacco products posed a serious health risk. Similar advertising restrictions should be used to control the heinous way gun manufacturers and dealers market their products.
Promote Single Issue Voting
The Christian Fundamentalists and anti-abortion fanatics that make up a substantial element of the Republican party, have been exercising this voting tactic for years and finally accomplished their goal of repealing Rov v. Wade. Gun control advocates should take a page from this playbook with targeted campaigning prior to elections and only support candidates that will vote for and enact gun legislation to address the epidemic of gun violence.
Ban Assault Rifles, High-Capacity Magazines, and Strengthen Sentences
This is the one that strikes at the heart of the NRA and gun “enthusiasts” everywhere. Mr. Stoner’s surviving family have stated he would be appalled to know that the weapon he created for the military was being sold to civilians and used to murder and maim children and other civilians.
People like Stephen Feinberg, his bought and paid for Republican servants will fight this until the bitter end. Nonetheless, this must happen. These weapons were never meant for civilian use. Adam Lanza had two, 30 round magazines and used a military tactic of taping the magazines together, expediting the reloading of the rifle. He fired hundreds of rounds and killed two dozen people in a matter of minutes. These magazines have one purpose…improve killing efficiency.
We have already discussed the numerous mass shootings involving assault rifles, their original intent, and the gun manufacturers despicable marketing ploys to flood our streets with these weapons of war. There is no lawful activity that necessities owning an assault rifle.
One last example of the destruction and lethality assault rifles burden our streets is the February 28, 1997, North Hollywood, Los Angeles armored car robbery. Two men armed themselves with Norcino assault rifles (a cheap Chinese version of the AK-47), a Heckler and Koch rifle and a Bushmaster, all modified to fire fully automatic, and were wearing homemade bullet resistant armor. After robbing an armored car, the LAPD responded and engaged the perpetrators in a 44-minute-long shootout, with over 2,000 rounds fired, leaving both gunmen dead, 12 police officers seriously wounded as well as 8 civilians.
This crime and resulting carnage closely resembled the 1995 Michael Mann movie Heat, starring Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino. The movie was the impetus for the bank robbers to commit their crimes. Life imitates art. This is part of the fetishization of guns and assault rifles polluting the minds of the susceptible.
Back in the 1980’s former New York City Mayor Ed Koch appeared in television commercials informing the viewer that anyone caught carrying an illegal firearm in NYC would receive a minimum of 1 year in jail. Mayor Koch was on to something. Any crime that involves a firearm should have a federal offense attached to it, mandating an additional determinate 5-year sentence if convicted. There must be serious consequences to curb the gun violence.
Pass the Disarm Hate Act
A bill to prevent a person who has been convicted of a misdemeanor hate crime or received an enhanced sentence for a misdemeanor because of hate or bias in its commission, from obtaining a firearm.
According to Everytown for Gun Safety, more than 10,300 hate crimes in the United States involve a firearm-more than 28 per day. In most states individuals convicted of hate crimes can still legally purchase and possess firearms. With the ever-increasing violence against minority groups, the rampant anti-Semitism, and violence against the LGTB+ community, this legislation must be passed. It should be included with red flag legislation and trigger the denial or revocation of a license.
If we have the ardent supporters of the Second Amendment, the ones that feel the Constitution is a religious doctrine scribed in stone by the Almighty, or the Founding Fathers were a group of saints doing God’s bidding and not the flawed human men they were, then we will see the continued perversion of the Second Amendment. The fallacy that our Constitution is a religious doctrine and only an act of God can change it, is uniquely an American issue. No other country views their Constitutions or amendments as “God Given” as fervently as the United States. Until the day stricter gun legislation is enacted the fight against the Second Amendment absolutists will wage on.
Universal background checks, psychological and practical use testing would not eliminate a law-abiding rational individual from owning a firearm, it may merely extend the licensing process by 2 or 3 months but would keep firearms out of the hands of those that shouldn’t have them. The gun violence epidemic isn’t a right or left issue, it’s a moral issue. The Republicans continue with their meretricious stance on defending the Second Amendment but will not speak about their culpability in their legislative opposition to protect lives and end gun violence. They have reduced themselves to political eunuchs at the hands of the gun lobby. No matter what side of the aisle you support, we can all agree that there’s a massive gun problem in our country and it’s up to the American voter to rectify it by voting for representatives that will protect us from this insanity.