Video of the day

I resisted this the first few times it came across my FB feed.  That was a mistake.  So worth it.

Research this!

Well, if you are the NRA or the Republican Party, facts and data can be an enemy.  So, the two have actively worked together to actually try and prevent meaningful research on gun violence.   Nice NPR story on it last week:

Art Kellermann was raised in eastern Tennessee, where his father taught him how to shoot a long gun when he was 10 years old. Kellermann grew up to become an emergency room doctor — and a target for gun-rights groups when he started asking questions like, “If a gun kept in a home was used, who did it shoot, and what were the consequences?”

Kellermann found people turned those guns on themselves and others in the house far more often than on intruders. “In other words, a gun kept in the home was 43 times more likely to be involved in the death of a member of the household than to be used in self-defense,” he says.

Kellermann says the National Rifle Association and other Second Amendment advocates leaned on his then-employer, Emory University, to stop the research. That didn’t work.

So, he says, “they turned to a softer target, which was the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], the organization that was funding much of this work. And although gun injury prevention research was never more than a tiny percentage of the CDC’s research budget, it was enough to bring them under the fire of the NRA.”

Lawmakers — both Democrats and Republicans — held back some money from the CDC and made clear that no federal funds should be used to promote gun control.

Many researchers interpreted that message to mean no public health studies about injuries from weapons.

Then, a few years later, Congress weighed in again, in a slightly different way.

In 2003, Rep. Todd Tiahrt, a Republican from Kansas, added language to the Justice Department’s annual spending bill. It says the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives can’t release information used to trace guns involved in crime to researchers and members of the public. It also requires the FBI to destroy records on people approved to buy guns within 24 hours.

God forbid the FBI should actually have any data on people who buy guns.  Wouldn’t want them to track down straw purchasers or anything like that.  Nor, of course, would we want anybody to actually be able to do research about guns used in crimes to try and limit that.  Pretty much the same thing as fascist tyranny, far as I can tell.

Anyway, one very nice piece of news with Obama’s gun proposals is an executive order clarifying things for the CDC.  Via Slate:

Here’s the relevant part from the White House fact sheet, under action no. 14, titled clearly as “Issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence”:

Conduct research on the causes and prevention of gun violence, including links between video games, media images, and violence: The President is issuing a Presidential Memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control and scientific agencies to conduct research into the causes and prevention of gun violence. It is based on legal analysis that concludes such research is not prohibited by any appropriations language.  [Italics mine] The CDC will start immediately bya ssessing existing strategies for preventing gun violence and identifying the most pressing research questions, with the greatest potential public health impact.And the Administration is calling on Congress to provide $10 million for th CDC to conduct further research, including investigating the relationship between video games, media images, and violence…

NBC explains the back story:

From the mid- 1980s to the mid-1990s, the CDC conducted original, peer-reviewed research into gun violence, including questions such as whether people who had guns in their homes gained protection from the weapons. (The answer, researchers found, was no. Homes with guns had a nearly three times greater risk of homicide and a nearly five times greater risk of suicide than those without, according to a 1993 study in the New England Journal of Medicine.)

But in 1996, the NRA, with the help of Congressional leaders, moved to suppress such information and to block future federal research into gun violence, [Dr. Mark Rosenberg, president of the Task Force for Global Health and director of the CDC's Center for Injury Prevention and Control from 1994 to 1999] said.

The statute that governs the agency’s funding stipulates that none of its federal funding can be used “to advocate or promote gun control.” While that never specifically blocked research into gun violence, the language was broad enough to give CDC officials pause and serve as a deterrent to inquisitive researchers.

Great example of the president using his power of executive orders.  Whether stating that no federal funds should be used to “promote gun control” includes basic research on gun violence is clearly a matter of interpretation.  The president is saying to the CDC, essentially, “you’ve been interpreting this too cautiously.”  And, in the plain meaning it seems fairly clear that this should not prohibit simply accumulating data and doing research.  Quite clearly, the CDC cannot use this data to advocate for policies that place any restrictions on guns.  But that’s not at all to say that others cannot do so with the data collected by the CDC.

Obama goes big on guns

Wow.  Good for you Barack Obama.  No way a bunch of his proposals ever becoming law with a GOP House, but good for him for pushing to take the right and sensible steps.  Sounds like the universal background checks will be an especially big push, as well it should given it’s popularity.  Love this analogy:

One of the administration’s top priorities is strengthening background checks by closing loopholes in existing law.

“Too often, irresponsible and dangerous individuals have been able to easily get their hands on firearms,” the White House said in a fact sheet describing Obama’s proposals. “We must strengthen our efforts to keep guns from falling into the wrong hands.” It said an estimated 40 percent of all gun sales are made by private sellers who are exempt from a federal requirement to check the buyer’s background.

“We should have a system where everybody has to get a background check,” said a senior administration official. “The best analogy that experts talked to us about in our meetings is that it wouldn’t make any sense at the airports to have two lanes — one where if you go to a licensed dealer you go through the metal detector and if you go to a private sale there’s no metal detector at all. This is an attempt to get everybody through the system.”

Like I said earlier, I think it is important they actually defeat the NRA on something and this strikes me as clearly the best candidate.  The rest of the proposals also make plenty of sense– especially smarter approaches to gun trafficking (most illegal guns started out legally– we’ve got to stop that pipeline).  Naturally, the NRA sees all these completely reasonable proposals as just the first step to the government taking everybody’s guns away:

At an annual trade show in Las Vegas, the National Rifle Association on Wednesday cast its opposition to Obama’s plans as “the fight of the century.”

“I warned you this day was coming, and now it’s here,” Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s fiery executive vice president, wrote in a fund-raising letter circulated at the 35th annual Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade Show and Conference, known as the SHOT show. “It’s not about protecting your children. It’s not about stopping crime. It’s about banning your guns … PERIOD!”

Of course, it’s not.  What a stain on our democracy that these absolute buffoons have so much political influence.

Photo of the day

Via Gawker.  Think those rhinos are perilously close?  They are:

Game Park Owner Who Advised Couple to 'Stand Closer' to Rhinos Snapped This Foreboding Photo Seconds Before They Were Attacked

A Johannesburg resident was still in intensive care today — several days after being gored by a rhino while on a game drive through the Aloe Ridge nature reserve in Muldersdrift.

A photo released by Chantal Beyer’s family shows the 24-year-old and her husband standing perilously close to a pair of rhinos just seconds before the attack that left her with a collapsed lung and broken ribs.

Beyer’s uncle told a local newspaper that his niece is in currently in stable condition.

Thom Peeters said Beyer told him that she and her husband were advised by the game park owner, Alex Richter, to “stand just a little bit closer” to the rhinos so he could take their picture.

Dickerson on parenting

John Dickerson is pretty much my favorite political journalist.  Not as insightful or wonky as my favorite journalist/bloggers, but as a pure political journalist he’s far more thoughtful than most.  He’s also got a wide range of interests besides politics that he enjoys writing about from time to time.  Anyway, after being away from his family on the campaign trail for 16 months he polled his readers on what he should do to “return to normalcy.”  Overwhelming winner was re-connect with his children.  Dickerson seems like a very decent guy, so I’m sure he was going to do that anyway.  But since that was his assignment, he wrote a beautiful piece on watching your kids grow up.  Parents– read it.  Some of my favorite bits:

I’m flirting with becoming that tiresome guy you meet at weddings. He’s the guy that goes on about how quickly children grow up. No couple with kids is safe from his instruction: Cherish every moment with your children.

This lament is natural, but not helpful because, unless you are a total brute, the sense of loss is inevitable, no matter what kind of parent you are. If you neglect your kids, you look up and they have grown and you’ve missed it. If you are fully present in their lives, then when they’ve grown you lament the hole they’ve left in your life. Either way, you’ve done your job and now they’re off backpacking out of cellphone range or making girls with unruly hair laugh in coffee shops.

The answer has to be avoiding the lament and focusing on the product. Try to give your kids the benefit of your experience, love, and discipline—so that they can leave you strong. This also means giving them the example of what it looks like to enjoy your job so much that sometimes it takes you away from them. You hope they’ll have a job like that one day too. There’s got to be a way for the guy at the weddings to say something more like this to new parents. It would be more helpful. Still: I’m pretty much that guy…

Re-entry mostly teaches you what you already knew about parenting but forget every day because you’re greedy. Connecting with kids is like trying to connect with the Wi-Fi on the Amtrak train. The signal is mostly a trickle. Sometimes it doesn’t even exist. You’d like to fix it, but it’s not in your control. Their lives are moving along and you’re just a passenger. The best you can hope for is to enjoy the scenery and be ready when the signal gets strong. Then, you can get a pretty good download for a little while until the train moves to a new place.

No great thoughts from me.  Just a really thought-provoking, wonderfully-written meditation on parenthood.

I heart NY

Now, whatever gun laws the state of New York can only have so much utility when we live in a federal system where neighboring states can have vastly different laws.  Obviously, criminals already have a proclivity to break laws, so they’ll happily bring illegal guns into NY.  Nonetheless, if NY’s new laws save a totally statistically insignificant 5 lives, I’d say that’s worth it since the cost of having people give up their large capacity magazines is not exactly comparable to the value of a human life.  That said, if you are going to regulate guns more, I’m very glad to see that NY is taking it seriously enough to make the issue about what you own, not what you buy.  Oddly, it seems to have disappeared from this version of the article, but the earlier one made it clear that large capacity magazines would eventually become illegal to own.   I’m wondering if that provision disappeared?

Owners of an estimated 1 million previously legal semiautomatic rifles, such as the Bushmaster model used to kill 20 children and six adults in Newtown, Conn., a month ago, will be allowed to keep their weapons but will have a year to register them with police. The sale of any more such weapons is prohibited.

In addition to outlawing a broader array of military-style weapons, the measure restricts ammunition magazines to seven rounds, down from the current 10, creates a more comprehensive database of people barred from owning guns, and makes New York the first state to require background checks to buy bullets. The system will also help flag customers who buy large amounts of ammo.

In another provision, therapists, doctors and other mental health professionals will be required to tell state authorities if a patient threatens to use a gun illegally. The patient’s weapon could then be taken away.

Anyway, as you’ll notice, this has literally zero impact on law-abiding gun owners who want to use reasonable (nobody needs an assault weapon specifically designed to kill large numbers of humans) guns as a means of potential self defense.  Zero impact.  So, they NRA types can quit all their 2nd Amendment bitching (not that they will– I’m sure this is just the first step to the ATF coming door-to-door to take their guns).

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