The NRA and paramilitary militia groups have got the Second Amendment all wrong—it’s more about suppressing rebellion than individual gun ownership. By Jack Schwartz.
One of the more execrable responses to the mass slaughter of 28 children and teachers in Newtown, Conn., by a crazed gunman, has been the idea that we’d be safer if we were better armed—that a kindergarten teacher with a handgun would somehow be a match for a determined assailant with automatic weaponry intended for warfare. The general mayhem that might be inflicted on innocent bystanders in the ensuing shootout goes unmentioned in these fantasies.
Dan Cartwright, co-owner of TDS Guns, places a semi-automatic pistol on display at his store in Rocklin, Calif., Friday, July 27, 2012. The California Department of Justice expects 725,000 weapons will be legally purchased in 2012, 100,000 more than last year and nearly twice the 371,000 guns legally purchased five years ago. (Rich Pedroncelli/AP)
Leaving aside such helpful remedies as former GOP presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee’s suggestion that the shooting filled the vacuum that was left when prayer left our schools, the larger issue for gun advocates is one of our liberties. For them, the right to bear arms trumps any attempt to dilute the Constitution’s Second Amendment with restrictions on who bears arms, for what purpose, and exactly what sort of arms they’re bearing. Any attempt to encroach on it, even by an iota, will ultimately lead to our enslavement by a federal tyranny. If we have to suffer an occasional mass murder, it is a necessary price we must endure to insure our freedom.
But what does the Second Amendment actually say? Here it is, in full: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
By lopping off the first half of the sentence, the pro-gun lobby and its apologists have eliminated the Founders’ rationale for this amendment: That those who bore arms did so as members of a well-regulated militia. This was never a license for freelance vigilantism.
Just months before the Constitution was forged, our new nation endured Shays’ Rebellion of 1786-7, in which a militia had to be called out in Massachusetts to suppress an uprising against the government’s fiscal policies before order was restored. The purpose of the Second Amendment was to subdue violent dissent, not enhance it. At the time, we hardly had an army to speak of, so the safest way to ensure the security of the federal and state governments against subversion was “a well-regulated militia.” It derives from Article One of the Constitution, which gives Congress the power “To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions.” The Second Amendment says nothing about administering personal justice or taking the law into one’s own hands.
One of the ironies of its deification by the current Supreme Court is that Justice Antonin Scalia, a self-styled “originalist,” has ignored the historical context and the clear intent of the Founders in providing legalistic cover for the gun lobby.
There is, however, one sort of militia that benefits from the arsenal of heavy weaponry available to all comers. It is the paramilitary groups that practice secretly for a final reckoning with the federal government in the name of a “liberty” known only to them. Who else would need such an arsenal? Yet it is these very anarchic groups that the Second Amendment was incorporated to subdue.
The rush by some conservatives to blame the absence of God and guns in schools for the Newtown carnage needs to be called out—and is one reason we can’t build coalitions to fix the problem, says John Avlon.
It’s definitely not too soon to condemn this craziness.
AP (2); Getty
But there are still those on the far right who, when confronted with the killing of classrooms full of 6-year-olds, reached for alternate explanations that could preserve their ideological purity and avoid common sense.
These are not just fringe figures but elected officials and other leaders of the Tea-vangelist wing of the GOP.
Former presidential candidate and Arkansas ex-governor Mike Huckabee instinctively blamed the separation of church and state for the mass murder. “We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we have systematically removed God from our schools,” Huckabee said on Fox News. “Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage? … Maybe we ought to let [God] in on the front end and we wouldn’t have to call him to show up when it’s all said and done at the back end.”
Surprisingly, some people had a problem with this.
Those ranks included the always-thoughtful conservative Pete Wehner, writing at Commentary.
Americans anxious to join the fight for stricter gun-control laws in the wake of the Newtown school shooting are finding there isn’t much of a fight to join—and the NRA is supremely organized. David Freedlander reports.
Imagine you live in Connecticut, not far where the Sandy Hook massacre took place. Or, say, Oak Creek, Wis., where a gunman shot and killed six at a Sikh temple in August. Or in Denver, near the Aurora movie theater, where 12 were shot in July.
Protesters outside the NRA's lobbying office in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 17. (Paul J. Richards/Getty)
Fed up, and maybe a little scared for your safety, you decide that something needs to be done. But what? You check out the nation’s most prominent gun-control group, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, hoping to find an organization to join or at least some simple steps you can take immediately to join the fight—a march to attend, a congressman to pressure, news of legislation coming up before key committees in your local state legislature. For each state, the website gives you a generic form to fill out to contact your state chapter, which may be several towns over, a button to donate money to the group, and a link to learn about local gun laws.
Compare this with the National Rifle Association, which for years has been reaching out aggressively to would-be supporters everywhere from college campuses to CPAC by culling conservative email lists and by catching people at the point of sale of a firearm. Indeed, if you are thinking about joining the NRA, it is probably because the group has already reached out to you.
The discrepancy in organizing capacity between the opposing sides of the gun debate has been underscored in recent days, as many Americans have found themselves anxious to join the fight against the NRA and to start pushing for stricter gun-control laws.
The problem is, there isn’t much of a fight to join. Besides the Brady Campaign, dozens of groups are fighting for gun safety, all of which have different agendas, leadership styles, and supporters. The most prominent group of the moment is the Mike Bloomberg-backed Mayors Against Illegal Guns. But if it wasn’t clear from the name, that group is focused mostly on mayors and other elected officials, and less on building a mass movement.
In its six years in existence, Mayors Against Illegal Guns has had a decent run. The group defeated a bill that would have forced states to honor out-of-state concealed-carry permits. It also racked up a handful of victories over pro-gun lawmakers in the 2012 elections after pouring millions of Bloomberg’s money into a super PAC. The group has launched a new ad campaign, and the New York City mayor has pledged to keep his wallet open in the next round of elections —“shame on me if I don’t,” he said at a press conference Monday, surrounded by dozens of family members of shooting victims—but the group hasn’t done anything yet to approach the organizing power of the NRA.
“We thought that what was needed in this broken debate was an outsider,” said Arkadi Gerney, who as a City Hall aide was one of the original organizers of MAIG. “And those outsiders, the core of them, are mayors. If you are a mayor, you can’t ignore the crime issue. And instead of fighting these battles city by city, we bring these ideas to Washington. I think it has helped change the discussion.”
Before his rampage, the Newtown shooter smashed his home computer’s hard drive, a law-enforcement source tells Christine Pelisek—evidence that the shooting spree was planned in advance.
Before 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot his mother multiple times and then drove to a nearby elementary school, killing 26 more victims, he destroyed his computer hard drive, a law-enforcement sources tells The Daily Beast.
This undated photo shows Adam Lanza posing for a group photo of the technology club which appeared in the Newtown High School yearbook. (AP)
“It was pretty bad,” the source said of the smashed hard drive. “If he destroyed the computer, that means there are things on there that would concern him. It is going to be a while before they can decipher the information.”
The FBI’s computer-analysis response team is still trying to put the pieces of the hard drive back together, said the law-enforcement source, who asked not to be identified because of the ongoing investigation, “The kid knew what he was doing,” the source said. “This was a planned event. There is no question about it.”
According to the Hartford Courant, Lanza had used the computer to play a violent videogame in which life-like characters participate in bloody battle scenes. At this point, there’s no telling what else he did with it.
Eight boys and 12 girls—all between the ages of 6 and 7—and six adult school employees, including the principal, were killed. Most of them were shot multiple times, some of them at close range as they sat in their classrooms. Lanza was found dead of a self-inflicted wound from a gun owned by his 52-year-old mother, Nancy. He had four weapons and “hundreds of bullets.”
Before law-enforcement officers entered the large colonial home Lanza shared with his mother, they used a robot to search for explosive devices. “There was no indication of booby traps,” said the source.
What police did find in the house on Yogananda Street were multiple weapons owned by Nancy Lanza. Those weapons, said Connecticut State Police Lt. J. Paul Vance, are an important focus of their attention.
From all across the nation.
Sometimes, sadly, it takes a tragedy to unite a nation. In the days following the heart-wrenching Newtown shootings, support has poured into the small Connecticut village from all across the country. One anonymous donor from North Carolina donated 26 Christmas trees—one for each victim—to line the streets around the local firehouse. Shipments of toys and food have been steadily flowing into the town, while donors from away as California and even Pakistan have sent money to the community. One fund has already generated $45,000, while another has grossed $75,000 for the Sandy Hook Elementary PTA. Meanwhile, a local church has been hosting 10 golden retrievers to comfort the community’s grieving children.
Citing emotional distress from Newtown shooting.
Even Hollywood is putting its usual glitz and glamour on hold out of respect for the victims of the Newtown school shooting. Tuesday’s Los Angeles premiere of Quentino Tarantino’s heavily violent new Western, Django Unchained, was canceled by the Weinstein Company Monday night, citing the pervasive emotional distress in America following the Newtown massacre. Foregoing a splashy red-carpet premiere, Tuesday’s event will be a private screening for industry bigwigs and the cast, including Leonardo DiCaprio and Jamie Foxx. The premieres of Tom Cruise’s Jack Reacher and the comedy Parental Guidance were also scrapped in the wake of the shootings.
Immediately after the shooting.
Numerous stories of courageous heroes rising to the occasion during Friday’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary have emerged, and Gene Rosen now joins their ranks. The 69-year-old Newtown man lived near the school, and was driving away when he noticed six small children sitting in a semicircle at the end of his driveway, supervised by a bus driver. The six students had just escaped the classroom where their teacher, Victoria Soto, had been shot and killed. Rosen took them into his home, fed them juice, and gave them stuffed animals to play with while he frantically tried to contact their parents to let them know their children were safe.
Depite Murdoch’s call to action.
In the days following the Newtown school shooting, two Fox News higher-ups were on very different pages. Rupert Murdoch, CEO of News Corp., which owns Fox News, quickly took to Twitter to call for stricter gun control, imploring for “some bold leadership action” from the president. At the same time, David Clark, the executive producer in charge of Fox’s weekend coverage, instructed his producers not to allow and gun-control talk on air, even as the national conversation turned to gun control and producers begged for exemptions. The decision spotlights the “growing chasm between Rupert Murdoch and [Fox News president] Roger Ailes,” who is reportedly a gun enthusiast, says New York magazine.
Adam Lanza killed up to 27 people with the Bushmaster .223. The gun’s manufacturer—and its private-equity honchos—have said nothing, while reaping huge profits, reports Daniel Gross.
Freedom Group is having a pretty good year. The economy may be stuck in a low gear, but the company's sales are growing rapidly—up 20%, to $237.9 million, in the third quarter of 2012 compared to the same period last year. Thanks to a “considerable increase” in demand for Freedom Group’s core products, the company told investors, “the market is expanding quicker than the industry can increase production.”
Those core products? Guns and ammo.
Several .223 caliber rounds are shown near a Bushmaster XM-15. (Joe Raedle/Getty)
Freedom’s “family” includes Remington, maker of sniper rifles and shotguns; Advanced Armament, maker of silencers; Para USA, maker of 9mm pistols; and Bushmaster, the company behind the Bushmaster .223 semi-automatic rifle that authorities say Adam Lanza used to kill up to 27 people at close range at Sandy Hook Elementary School last week. “With a Bushmaster for security and home defense, you can sleep tight knowing that your loved ones are protected,” reads its website. “Bushmaster offers everything you need to ensure the safety of you and your family.”
Freedom Group, based in Madison, N.C., might have been just another American success story, quietly introducing new products, innovating, and seeking new customers, largely out of public view. But that might change in the wake of the Newtown shooting and ongoing debate about the future of guns in this country.
Same goes for a private-equity firm called Cerberus Capital. Based thousands of miles away in New York City, Cerberus owns Freedom Group. It has about $20 billion in assets, and a leadership team that includes former vice president Dan Quayle and former treasury secretary John Snow. Its billionaire founder, Stephen Feinberg, is a major Republican donor, giving $217,000 in campaign donations in the past three cycles, according to Opensecrets.org. That included $100,000 in August to Friends of the Majority, a Republican super PAC; $9,800 to Rep. Ben Quayle (son of Dan); $30,800 to the Republican National Committee in October; $58,500 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and $7,500 to Mitt Romney.
Cerberus itself is much like any other private-equity firm. It is agnostic about the type of business it invests in. Cerberus’s portfolio includes manufacturers, airlines, time-share companies, banks, and health-care firms. The company’s modus operandi is “centered on integrity, patience, and a unique business model that applies significant financial and operational resources across the firm’s investment strategies.” Of course, some important details are missing from the Cerberus website. It doesn’t note that two of its largest and most high-profile acquisitions—GMAC in 2006 and Chrysler in 2007—ended in disaster. (You won’t find Chrysler or GMAC, which the firm allowed to go bankrupt and left taxpayers on the hook for $1 billion and counting, in its list of case studies) And you won’t learn that one of its investment strategies has involved building a company that makes weapons—the type used by military organizations, hunters, recreational shooters, and occasionally murderers.
In this New York Times piece, Natasha Singer described how Cerberus, starting with Bushmaster, acquired several gun and ammunition brands, including Remington, Marlin Firearms, and Dakota Arms. Together, they have made Freedom Group “the most powerful and mysterious force in the American commercial gun industry today.” Typically, private-equity firms seek to cash out of their investments through initial public offerings or sales to other companies. Neither has happened with Freedom. But Cerberus, the Times noted, did receive a return on investment in 2010, when Freedom sold about $225 million in debt “to pay itself a special dividend used to buy back preferred stock from Cerberus.”
Says Wash. ‘needs to get its act together.’
Three days after a shooting rampage at an elementary school left 26 dead, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy called for stricter gun control laws at a federal level. “Is there a law, policy, or procedure we could have had on the books that could have prevented this tragedy?” he asked. “I do.” He continued, “Do I think that Washington, D.C. needs to get its act together and enact stricter gun control laws at the federal level? You bet I do.” Molloy also announced that on Friday, Dec. 21 at 9:30 a.m. he will enact a moment of silence across the state, asking that places of worship ring 26 bells at that time, one for each victim. He asked other governors to join in the observance.
Legislative change starts with you. Tell us why you own a gun, or why you don't. And see what everyone else thinks.
Connecticut State police spokesman says.
A Connecticut State police spokesman said Monday that Adam Lanza had “no connection” to the school where 26 people died on Friday. It was not immediately clear whether that statement contradicted earlier reports that Lanza had attended the school as a child. Spokesman Lt. J. Paul Vance said that officers “did seize significant evidence” at the home where Adam Lanza lived with his mother. Vance also confirmed reports that two people wounded in the shooting had survived. “We have to do everything it takes to uncover every bit of evidence,” Vance said.
Senator, Scarborough say Newtown school massacre changed everything
There are tentative signs that the heart-rending tragedy in Connecticut is starting to change America’s conversation about guns.
These are early glimmers, and it may or may not lead to legislation in a Congress that has been staunchly opposed to gun control for nearly two decades. But some in that camp are rethinking their positions.
J. Scott Applewhite / AP Photo
Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat endorsed by the NRA, said on Morning Joe on Monday that “everything should be on the table.”
Manchin said that NRA officials should be part of the conversation and “it’s time to move beyond rhetoric. We need to sit down and have a common sense discussion and move in a reasonable way.”
Noting that he had just returned with his family from a deer hunting trip, the senator said: “I don’t know anyone in the hunting or sporting arena that goes out with an assault rifle. I don’t know anybody that needs 30 rounds in the clip to go hunting. I mean, these are things that need to be talked about.”
Host Joe Scarborough, a former Florida congressman, also announced on the MSNBC show that he is reexamining his position in light of the Newtown school massacre.
“I am a conservative Republican who received the NRA’s highest ratings over four terms in Congress,” Scarborough said. “I come to you this morning with a heavy heart and no easy answers. Still, I’ve spent the past few days grasping for solutions and struggling for answers — while daring to question my own long-held belief on these subjects.”
America is just too steeped in violence to save itself from guns. Buzz Bissinger on our bloody history—and despite the tragedy in Newtown, our bloody future.
In 1969, an 822-page book was published with the dry title of The History of Violence in America. It was a reprint of the report that had been made to the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence in the aftermath of the urban riots and political assassinations of the 1960s. But The History of Violence was everything but dry. It was harrowing, hailed as the most comprehensive and authoritative study of violence in America ever published up until that time. The conclusions reached then still so horribly resonate in the aftermath of the shootings at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., Friday that left 26 dead.
In our country, from its founding to the present, where in the past five months there have been three mass shootings, leaving a total of 40 dead, we are a culture historically awash in violence. But despite the copious evidence, we still refuse to believe it, with morally corrupt historians covering up our bloodlust with what the editors of The History of Violence described as “our vision of ourselves as a latter-day chosen people, a New Jerusalem.”
The belief in our perfection is at the heart of American exceptionalism—a belief we hold desperately and always will. But the belief only deprives us from ever thinking there is anything we could possibly learn from another country or culture, such as true gun control and not half-assed measures promoted by a president and put through by a congress scared to death of the National Rifle Association. The National Football League is doing far more to protect its players than our leaders are doing to protect innocent children. But America, or at least a sizable segment of it, thinks that the loss of our violent legacy will somehow strip us of our American freedom. We talk about the need for guns for hunting, or to ward off intruders, but the truth is there are too many out there who like to shoot and shoot to kill. “The right of the people to take care of themselves, if the law does not, is an indisputable right,” said a professor from Missouri named Bigger in 1867.
It is still our credo. The History of Violence report was a response to riots that had erupted in dozens of cities in the 1960s, and to the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King. But as the report pointed out time and time again, that dark era of violence in America was not some aberration.
The nature of the violence has changed since then, but not the violence itself, which once again has a country desperately searching for answers. We look everywhere, except in the one place where many of the answers lie:
Our own blood-drenched past.
As then–New York Times reporter John Herbers wrote in a preface to The History of Violence, the book showed “how deeply engrained in American life is the tradition, even the love, of violence.”
Wrote the editors of the report, Hugh Davis Graham and Ted Robert Gurr:
A mother of a 10-year-old boy at Sandy Hook Elementary School broke down while talking to CBS News on Friday. 'I get to put my kids to bed at night, and I’m very lucky,' she said, while tearfully acknowledging that 'there’s a lot of parents tonight that have not gotten that miracle.'
Friday’s horrific Colorado shooting has reignited the debate on gun control. Just how bad is the problem?
We as a society are held hostage by the NRA’s thugs. This must be the time for change. By Robert Shrum.
Gov. Dan Malloy mourned the loss of 'beautiful beautiful children' in a poignant speech on Friday evening. To those who want to help, Malloy said the best way is to “say a prayer or send a best wish or to be thinking of these individuals who have suffered so mightily today.”
The president got emotional discussing today’s school shooting in Connecticut. Read his words.
Kevin Fallon pieces together details about the Connecticut shooter.