James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Posts Tagged ‘gun control’

Gun-loving morons rush to buy guns & ammo before dead kids’ funerals

Posted by James McPherson on December 17, 2012

Nothing like the slaughter of twenty children to “fire up” the morons, who think discussion of gun control is anathema. Not that most of them would understand the last word of that sentence. After all, they’re morons.

After every incident of mass violence, gun sales increase,” says a Maine Gun Owners Association spokesman. “It’s a reminder that it’s a rather violent society.” Those impulse buyers need reminders? Oh, yeah; they’re morons.

This tragedy is pushing sales through the roof,” said a dealer in North Carolina. “It’s like putting gasoline on a fire.” Or a funeral pyre.

On one conservative blog, a conservative gunslinger (I won’t bother linking to the post where the comment occurred) listed the 10 most-common murder weapons, suggesting that we might call for bans on all of them.  Of course he ignored the fact that if we added all those nine together, the total is barely over one-third the number killed by firearms. Morons really aren’t all that into math.

Some blogging morons have compared a knife attack in China–in which a man slashed 22 children on the same day as the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre–to the Connecticut killings. Predictably, those morons almost always neglect to mention that all 22 of the Chinese children survived, while 26 Newtown residents won’t be there to unwrap their Christmas presents a week from tomorrow.

Sadly some of the gun-loving morons (such as Dick Cheney) would likely favor legalization of armor-piercing bullets, hand grenades, plastic guns that could be carried on planes, land mines, and perhaps chemical and biological weapons before they’d favor any restriction on guns–at a time when it’s already easier to buy an assault rifle than a handgun. Of course, being morons, they also think Obama has been tough on guns, even though as I’ve noted previously, it’s easier to own a gun today and you can carry one in more places than before Obama took office, while conservative “hero” Ronald Reagan actually supported stricter gun laws than we have today, or than have been supported by any so-called liberal president since.

Some buyers say they need more guns–and thousands of rounds of ammunition–before tighter gun restrictions are passed. Like that will ever happen, despite those who now suggest otherwise. But hey, if the morons hurry, they can get those assault rifles under their trees before mourners start shopping again and clogging up store aisles.

Still, if you want to cling to a bit of hope, there is this:

Posted in Legal issues, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , | 18 Comments »

The cowards among us: killers, legislators and the NRA

Posted by James McPherson on December 15, 2012

A question for parents: How many of you have toy guns or “first-person-shooter” video games nicely wrapped under your Christmas trees as you get ready to celebrate the birth of Christ?

Here in America, of course, that’s just the batcrap-crazy norm, as we go from one supposedly shocking mass killing to another and another and another. Maybe this year the deaths will hit triple digits. And unless you’re related to them, or it involves a member of Congress, you probably won’t remember any of their name  by New Year’s Day.

“They packed the pews to remember, mourn and pray,” wrote CNN’s Dana Ford. “What else can you do?”

What, indeed? Surely we can’t have a serious discussion about gun control, or get members of Congress to stand up to the National Rifle Association for even common-sense legislation. After all, some folks think it outrageous that “government” keeps us from easily owning automatic weapons, machine guns and hand grenades.

We also can’t adequately fund education or mental health care, especially at the risk of raising taxes or cutting military funding. We can’t rationally discuss what it is about US that makes mass murder now commonplace. To do that would be both too scary and too political.

Despite the fact that most Americans, including most members of the NRA, favor some gun laws, we apparently can’t have any millionaires or billionaires stepping up to found an organization with lobbying influence to combat the NRA. No reason they should, since they live behind gates and their kids are in private schools. (Ironically, the chidren of workers for the country’s second-biggest gun lobby could actually be among the Newtown, Conn., victims, considering that the National Shooting Sports Foundation–which offers members a newsletter titled “Pull the Trigger,” boasting such articles as “It’s the Indian, not the arrow“– is within walking distance of the school.)

We can’t have gun-totin’ conservatives admitting that Barack Obama doesn’t really want to take away our guns, or that it’s easier to own a gun today and you can carry one in more places than before he took office. Or that conservative “hero” Ronald Reagan actually supported stricter gun laws than we have today, or than have been supported by any so-called liberal president since. After all, one of the many things Obama and Mitt Romney shared duting the recent presidential campaign was cowardice when it came to talking about guns.

Oh, we can do a few things. We can breathlessly watch the news media report the tragedy as quickly as possible, guaranteeing that they’ll get some things wrong in the process–yet again. We can expect the NRA to somehow use this tragedy as an excuse to fundraise while its followers tell us that it’s “wrong” to use a tragedy to discuss the politics of gun control. And we can continue to have nutjobs such as Spokane city councilman Mike Fagan suggest that we arm teachers or administrators.

After all, what could go wrong having stressed, distracted people in charge of too many children also packing heat? Of course they’d have to lock the firearms away, to avoid letting kids get to them. And if the gun and ammo were locked away, it would probably be useless in an emergency situation–especially because anyone looking to wreak havoc would know to shoot the teacher first, because s/he might be armed.

So what can we really do, other than to remember, mourn and pray? Well, after doing that for a few days (and perhaps for a few minutes on every Dec. 14 for the next few years) we could just let things go back to “normal” until the next mass killing. That’s what I’m betting we’ll choose. After all, it probably won’t be in your kid’s school.

Merry Christmas.

Posted in Journalism, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments »

Supreme Court & NRA may kill 2nd Amendment, aid abortion

Posted by James McPherson on March 2, 2010

Remember when gun nuts were claiming that Barack Obama would take their firearms away? Those paranoid claims bolstered weapon and ammo sales, but in fact gun regulation has decreased since Obama took office, not increased.

It’s easier (though more expensive) to buy a gun now than before Obama was elected, easier than it was under Ronald Reagan (funny how getting shot clarified his mind). Even Yellowstone Park can now boast something scarier than grizzly bears. To be fair, though, those who feel a need to wear a gun just because they can often may not be able to afford new trucks or other traditional mechanical redneck means to public prove their manhood.

Now, in response to a Chicago case, the activist Supreme Court probably will further the Wild West approach to gun ownership favored by the National Rifle Association. Chicago allows homeowners to own shotguns (which are better for home protection that handguns), but not handguns. So how open should it be? As I heard on NPR this morning, ormer Bush administration Solicitor General Paul Clement, representing the NRA in the case, “says a bazooka is probably not even an arm ‘for purposes of the Second Amendment.’ But, he concedes, ‘A machine gun is a more difficult question.'”

I’m not against firearms, by the way. I grew up in Idaho, own a variety of long guns and handguns, and once taught gun safety. That’s how I know that that vast majority of homeowners (and their children) would be safer with a dog at home and pepper spray in their purse or pocket than having guns in either place.

And please forget the tired and inaccurate argument that we’re all safer if more of us have guns and regulation is less strict. As shown here, states that are the most pro-gun tend to have the highest firearms death rates. That would seem to be common sense, but when it comes to the gun debate, common sense often is in short supply. In fact, you’re more than three times as likely to be killed by a gun in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Lousiana, Mississippi or Tennessee than you are in New York.

In the category of unintended consequences, once gun ownership becomes more widespread, and deaths ranging from kids accidentally shooting themselves to Virginia Tech-style massacres to domestic terrorism become more common, expect a backlash. That backlash might even result in a new constitutional Amendment that overturns the Supreme Court interpretation of the current Second Amendment. The NRA may find that it has a much easier time buying off members of Congress than it will controlling an fearful anti-firearms movement that it helped start.

Interestingly, the case could end up being a good thing for liberals in another arena, as well. The Court’s pro-gun decision may also help preserve abortion rights, a result likely to bother many of the same folks who are apparently untroubled by the fact that a few dozen kids are killed each day by guns.

Posted in History, Legal issues, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

‘Killer American Idol’: Mass murder no surprise, more likely to come

Posted by James McPherson on April 5, 2009

palin_with_gunOne of the most troubling leads I’ve read in a long time, from CNN today: “People who knew the suspected gunman in Friday’s shooting at an immigration services center in Binghamton, New York, were not surprised by his actions, the police chief said.”

I’m not shocked, in the abstract, by mass murder–though individual cases, like the one in my own state in which a father apparently shot and killed his five kids, do still surprise me. In a broader sense, though, killing a bunch of people is a too-common way for the clueless and the hopeless to gain attention, and the suicide (or “suicide-by-cop”) that almost always concludes these events keeps the cowardly killer from having to face his inability to deal with the world.

One notable and perhaps regrettable exception (I oppose the death penalty but agree that certain people deserve to be dead, and that there are certain people for whom I’d be willing to pull the trigger) is the nutcase who gunned down three police officers in Pittsburgh. Because he wore a bulletproof vest–like his fellow coward in Binghamton, N.Y., who killed 13 other people–the Pittsburgh cop killer survived.

People have been committing mass murder for attention for a long time; consider it a form of “American Idol” for killers. The preponderance of guns in our culture doesn’t help–notably, one of the arguments of the Pittsburgh coward is that he, like the National Rifle Association and an assortment of other right-wingers,  “feared the Obama administration was poised to ban guns.”

These cases also demonstrate, of course, that many of those who most love guns are among the people we should least trust with them. That obvious fact didn’t stop the Bush administration from making gun purchases easier to buy and carry, while making it tougher to track those purchases.

Nor has that fact, or the fact that most of the guns in the drug wars now going on in Mexico come from the U.S., managed to persuade the conservative Obama administration and a conservative Congress to get tougher on gun violence. Maybe a few more killings will do the trick–but probably only if they occur on Capitol Hill.

One thing we do know: With a faltering economy and a culture that glorifies violence, many more such killings will come. Especially if people are “not surprised” that a neighbor might turn out to be a mass murderer, but do nothing to prevent it.

Posted in History, Journalism, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

GOP VP nominee not Palin’ by comparison to Biden

Posted by James McPherson on September 3, 2008

From “bullshit” to bull moose: In her speech earlier tonight, Sarah Palin showed that she can not only shoot down and field dress the meat, but she can also pitch that red meat to the Republican base. She has no apparent qualms about doing what good VP candidates are supposed to do, attack the other side. Joe Biden won’t be the only VP pit bull–with or without lipstick–in this campaign.

Palin gave a good speech, with the usual convention-sized helpings of exaggeration and mischaracterization sprinkled with lie or two (she should quit repeating her false-but-appealing “bridge to nowhere” story, or that’s where it the bridge may help take her campaign). Palin did well what she had to do, though now that she’s “out there” without days to prepare for each appearance things may get tougher. On the other hand, Jay Rosen offers this somewhat depressing quote in considering the apparent McCain-Palin strategy:

Strategy: Comes from Bush, the younger. When realities uncovered are directly in conflict with prior claims, consider the option of keeping the claims and breaking with reality. Done the right way, it’s a demonstration of strength. It dismays and weakens the press. And it can be great theatre.

Rosen discusses how the GOP might reignite the culture war (it’s best strategy in the past couple of presidential elections), and elements of that war could be seen tonight. There wasn’t much on abortion–after all, Palin’s warmup act was pro-abortion, pro-gay civil unions, pro-gun control Rudy “9/11” Giuliani (I would like to see Rudy try to wrestle a rifle from Palin). But there has been plenty in recent days from the GOP (and its Fox News mouthpieces) about “elites” (a funny term for a ticket with at least 10 houses between them) and about that old Republican favorite, “the liberal media.”

It also was interesting to hear Palin and other speakers during the evening talk about the need for “change” from Washington politics. They obviously hope that a fair number of Americans will forget that it’s their president–the one McCain votes with most of the time–who has occupied the White House for the past eight years, and that their party controlled Congress for almost that entire time (while holding enough seats to sustain George W. Bush’s vetoes for the last two years, after the electorate kicked many–but not quite enough–of them out of office).

McCain himself was a Senator for all of that time, though he hasn’t showed up for the past five months. Giuliani made fun of Obama for voting “present,” but it has been quite a while since McCain could even say that much.

One media problem the McCain camp is trying to head off, fresh on the heels of the Bristol Palin pregnancy: the latest National Enquirer story about an alleged Sarah Palin affair. This is the sort of story that many of us would consider to be unlikely and irrelevant trash–but the exact thing that many conservatives recently criticized the mainstream media for not following up after the Enquirer reported similar allegations about John Edwards.

Unfortunately, as long as the major media let bloggers and tabloids dictate news selection, the GOP will have a case against the press–but it’s not a case of bias, as Republicans now pretend, as much as it is a case of laziness and sensationalism. And the Democrats can made the same case.

A even more ludicrous complaint from the McCain folks is that criticism of Palin’s obvious lack of experience is somehow sexist. That’s just stupid, especially since the GOP has been citing Obama’s lack of experience for months. Using their own reasoning, one would be forced to assume their criticisms stem from racism.

Tomorrow night is McCain’s turn. Any bets on how many times his years as a POW will come up?

Thursday elitist note: Vanity Fair estimates that Cindy McCain’s outfit from the other night cost approximately $300,000. Most of those “small town Americans” that the Republicans keep talking about that didn’t pay that much for their houses. And most of them only have one house.

Posted in History, Journalism, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Supreme Court OKs home executions

Posted by James McPherson on June 26, 2008

OK, that’s not quite true. The court did say that child rapists can’t be executed by the state, but that the victim can have ready access to the firearms necessary to kill the perpetrator him/herself.

The justices may want to avoid Cordova, Alaska, though–I suspect that almost everyone there already owns a gun.

Posted in Legal issues, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »