The Passing of Mark Shields

A sad moment in our household:  the passing of Political Commentator and longtime PBS NewsHour Contributor Mark Shields, at age 85.  Between 2001, when New York Times Columnist David Brooks joined the NewsHour, and 2020, when Mr. Shields left the NewsHour due to failing health, we never failed to see their Friday night exchanges, being sure to record them when we couldn’t watch live.  Although my substantive sentiments were frequently closer to the more-conservative Mr. Brooks’ than to those of the more-liberal Mr. Shields, one could not help but be enchanted by Mr. Shields’ warm and open personality.  While Mr. Shields’ natural passing is without the anguish, outrage, and terror that have accompanied other incidents recently addressed in these pages, may he rest in peace following a life of contribution and good fellowship.  Although TLOML and I obviously never knew him personally, we nonetheless somehow feel that we’ve lost a wise and beloved friend. 

A link to an Associated Press piece on Mr. Shields’ passing is set forth below; I expect that it is more readily accessible to all that follow these pages than similar tributes by the Washington Post and the New York Times.      

https://apnews.com/article/david-gergen-brooks-mark-shields-maryland-elections-8ab1a49920e7f935c276f5fb1a505125

Man confesses to killing missing journalist and colleague, police say

Attached is a link to a Washington Post article reporting that Brazilian authorities have announced that a fisherman has confessed to ambushing and killing British journalist Dom Phillips and his colleague, Indigenous Expert Bruno Pereira, in a remote region of the Amazon.

Given the many days that passed following the disappearance of Mr. Phillips and Mr. Pereira, the outcome of the authorities’ search and investigation was not unexpected … but is nonetheless gut-wrenching.

The report indicates that Mr. Phillips and Mr. Pereira were armed when they began their trip.  Their weapons were insufficient protection against an ambush.

The report further indicates:

“President Jair Bolsonaro, a vocal advocate for development who has defended illegal miners and deforesters, has cast blame on Phillips for his disappearance. In a statement Wednesday, he said the journalist was ‘disliked in the region.’

‘He did a lot of stories against gold mining and on environmental issues,’ Bolsonaro said. ‘In that region, a region extremely isolated, not a lot of people liked him. He should have redoubled his focus on taking care of himself. But he decided to make this excursion.’” [Emphasis Added].

One can only infer from Mr. Bolsonaro’s dismissive attitude that he and the elements of Brazilian government he controls intend to do little to protect the Amazon environment, the indigenous people who live there, or those that report upon the activities of those ravaging it.   

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/06/15/brazil-dom-phillips-bruno-pereira-remains/

Bodies found tied to tree in search for journalist, colleague: Family

For those able to access it, there is a link below to a Washington Post article indicating that authorities searching for British Journalist Dom Phillips and his associate, Bruno Pereira, have found two bodies tied to a tree in the Amazon rainforest.  The report indicates that a Brazilian diplomat in London has informed a member of Mr. Phillips’ family that it is likely that the discovered remains are those of Mr. Phillips and Mr. Pereira, although such as not yet been confirmed.  Effects belonging to the two men have been recovered.  Our prayers go out for these two brave men who believed in protecting the Amazon and the uncontacted indigenous peoples who inhabit this extremely remote region.  

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/06/13/dom-phillips-bruno-pereira-bodies-found/

The January 6th Committee Hearings

One benefit of retirement is that it will enable me to watch most if not all of the upcoming hearings of United States House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack, the first of which will proceed this evening.  Anyone who has followed these pages for any length of time – and seen the analogies drawn between the activities of former President Donald Trump and his cohort and passages in Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf – knows the deep antipathy for and concern I have about what the former president and his co-conspirators have done, have attempted to do, and are continuing to do to our country.  That said – and subject to the caveat that outrage at the revelation of some particularly-egregious traitorous act may drive me to write – I plan to enter very little here about the evidence presented by the hearings, for reasons I expressed in a note in early January:

“The almost certain:  that the House … Committee … will [set] forth damning evidence showing that … former President Donald Trump and his traitorous cohort sought to overturn … a free and fair election and instigated the Capitol insurrection.  I believe that the political ramifications … will be … nil. … [T]hose citizens with – to paraphrase the Lord – eyes to see and ears to hear already know that Mr. Trump and his acolytes are guilty of sedition.  Those who willfully and steadfastly reject this fundamental and blatantly obvious truth will be unmoved by whatever the Committee brings forth.”

Noteworthy but not surprising is that many in the latter group won’t even see what the Committee brings forth, because Fox News – with its wide conservative audience – isn’t televising the hearings.  (I have seen one wag tweet that such failure is Fox claiming its Fifth Amendment right not to testify against itself.) 

In reviewing my earlier post, however, I do believe that the hearings might ultimately have some effect, to the benefit of Democrats and, ironically, “organization” Republicans such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell:  it may weaken Mr. Trump’s hold on sensible Republicans and conservative independents (who I think will watch some, if not all of the hearings), thereby widening what already seems be a developing schism between Trumplicans and those who wish to move on from him.  Any such schism will help Democrats in 2024, if not this year, and – for good or ill, and whether or not Democrats hold the White House in 2024 – facilitate the return of control of the Washington GOP to Mr. McConnell and party regulars.

A Palliative Is Worse Than Nothing

Pal’-li-a-tive.  (Of a medicine or medical care) relieving pain without dealing with the cause of the condition.

  • Oxford Languages

As all are aware, there were multiple incidents involving firearms across our nation this past weekend that met the Gun Violence Archive’s definition of a “mass shooting”:  four or more people shot (injured or killed) in a single incident, at the same general time and location, not including the shooter.  I was out of town, visiting with friends.  On several occasions, we visited public venues.  I don’t know how many of them glanced around, considered — and then, out of necessity, dismissed – the thought I had:  that if a shooter entered the premises while we were there, we had few avenues of escape.

It’s being reported that given the recent mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, a bipartisan Senate Committee led by Democratic U.S. CT Sen. Chris Murphy and Republican U.S. TX Sen. John Cornyn is considering so-called “gun legislation.”  Sen. Murphy, an ardent advocate of gun control, has apparently indicated that any product of the bipartisan negotiation will NOT ban assault weaponry, expand background checks, or raise the age at which firearms can be purchased.  Republicans, reportedly, instead wish to emphasize school security and mental health measures.  One Wall Street Journal account has noted, “Many Democrats, worn down after repeated failures to advance new laws, have said they are willing to settle for even a small bipartisan deal.”

As all who care are aware, Sandy Hook Elementary School, the scene of the deadliest elementary school mass shooting – including 20 children between the ages 6 and 7 — is located in Mr. Murphy’s state of Connecticut.  He took his seat in the Senate in 2013, less than a month after the Sandy Hook massacre.  Throughout his time in the Senate, he has worked tirelessly – and tragically, fruitlessly — for effective American gun control measures.  No one can have anything but complete admiration for his efforts.

At the same time, even the most pressing issues with the most obvious solutions – a pandemic, or in this case, the unspeakable slaughter of innocents – now somehow become political.  I didn’t want to sully the recent posts relating to the Buffalo and Uvalde mass shootings with any reference to their political ramifications.  I would now submit that for Democrats, what the Republicans are apparently willing to enact – in the Journal’s words, “a small bipartisan deal” – is a sucker’s bet.  They seem likely to take it.  They shouldn’t.

As those that follow these pages are aware, I generally maintain an incrementalist philosophy toward legislation:  if you see that you don’t have the votes to get the whole loaf, take what you can get.  While I can’t dismiss the possibility that President Joe Biden acquiesced to a sweeping Democratic domestic legislative agenda in areas such as voting rights, immigration reform, and the “Build Back Better” initiative because such was necessary to maintain the support of his party’s avid progressive wing, if the so-called “Go Big” strategy was his choice – if he saw himself as either a Franklin Roosevelt or Lyndon Johnson – he may have squandered an opportunity during his first year in office to get small but popular measures passed, such as childcare relief and a path to legal status for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients.

Even so, in the area of gun control, I think that Democrats should refuse to settle for a measure that fails to address any of the currently unaddressed evident root causes of many of these massacres.  Such a measure will enable Republicans in swing areas to soften swing voters’ outrage at the GOP’s intransigence by allowing them to loudly proclaim that they “did something” while simultaneously maintaining the support of gun rights advocates.  Democrats should want the issue, in its rawest form, if all they can get is a palliative.  They should want certain voter segments, such as those suburban Republicans who in 2020, because they could no longer stomach former President Donald Trump, either voted for Mr. Biden, or didn’t vote at all, to remain acutely uncomfortable.  (Making a negotiation breakdown appear to be the Republicans’ doing should be simple; all it would take would be the introduction into the talks of a generally-popular provision, such as institution of universal background checks.)  If Democrats think that after a modest measure is passed, bringing more aggressive bills – to ban assault weapons, to impose universal background checks, etc., etc. — to the floors of the Houses of Congress and making Republicans vote against them will have any political value whatsoever, I fear that they’re kidding themselves.

A close friend recently called my attention to a Politico article (linked below) in which a number of professional politicians opine that gun control is not the type of campaign issue that will sway a determinative number of voters.  While this assessment is certainly true in deep- (perhaps better described as, “dead-”) red areas – and arguably gained credence when the Republican U.S. Congressman representing suburban Buffalo, Chris Jacobs, announced on June 3 that he would not seek re-election after facing backlash for indicating that he would support an assault weapons ban — I did note that the piece reports that a Global Strategy Group poll has found that 58% of registered suburban voters in swing states, including Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, support more restrictive gun laws.  If I was the Wisconsin Democratic U.S. Senate nominee running against Ron Johnson in a close election – and not expecting to garner any votes from ardent Republicans, as Mr. Jacobs needed to keep his seat – I’d rather have Mr. Johnson on the record as opposing all gun reform than enabling him to assuage the uneasiness of conservative independents and moderate Republican suburban women by asserting that he did indeed vote for a “gun law” — which, on a relative scale to what needs to be done, did precious little to protect our children, our grandchildren, or ourselves.

https://www.politico.com/news/2022/06/01/gun-control-debate-suburbs-elections-00036230?nname=playbook&nid=0000014f-1646-d88f-a1cf-5f46b7bd0000&nrid=00000171-35c5-dd63-a9fd-77d53c5e0000&nlid=630318

British Journalist Missing in the Brazilian Amazon

Below you will find a link to an article in The Guardian describing the recent disappearance of Guardian Contributor Dom Phillips.  Mr. Phillips has spent over a decade reporting upon the indigenous tribes and environmental issues of the Amazon.  This report has particular significance for us.

https://www.theguardian.com/media/2022/jun/06/dom-phillips-british-journalist-missing-brazil-amazon

There is No “Why”:  a Second Postscript

There were a number of thoughtful comments to this post, some entered on these pages, some provided through other means.  They warrant a postscript, since I remain unaware – and at this point, think I always will be unaware 😉 – how many that read these notes see the comments besides me.

It’s best at the outset to correct a couple of misimpressions I apparently inadvertently left with this post.  One observer suggested that by limiting the note’s focus to an assault weapons ban, I had failed to adequately reference our need to continue and enhance the ongoing activities by various public and private mental health agencies to identify and treat those who may be prone to contemplate undertaking a mass shooting.  Such was not my intent.  I have no doubt that we would be suffering even greater levels of carnage but for our mental health professionals’ dedicated efforts, and absolutely support increasing funding for this work.  An experienced and gifted mental health professional, while agreeing that we need more regulatory constraint on access to assault weapons, expressed a concern that my broad-brush reference to “crazies” in the post’s concluding paragraph had the potential to perpetuate stigmas about the mentally ill, the vast majority of whom are nonviolent and are more likely to be the victims than perpetrators of violence.  Again, I had no intent to reinforce false stereotypes.  The twin shocks of the Buffalo and Uvalde shootings, combined with my fervent belief regarding our need to restrain the manufacture, sale and use of assault weapons, caused me to overlook clarifications that I should have added to my assertions.

In the post, I noted that it had been reported the Uvalde shooter had been “engaged by law enforcement” before entering the school.  We now know he wasn’t, and that law enforcement took an interminable amount of time to meaningfully respond.  While the incompetence and/or cowardice of the law enforcement at Uvalde adds to the excruciating agony of the parents and the outrage of the rest of us, I fear that focus on the Uvalde law enforcement performance creates a distraction to enable gun rights apologists to deflect attention from the fact that the primary cause of this tragedy was that an 18-year-old could legally buy two assault weapons and a bunch of ammunition without effective legal restraint.  I do have a lot of sympathy for the vast majority of our law enforcement officials across this nation who would have run in to save these children – and are now undoubtedly concerned that the general public considers the rank-and-file officer not only racially-biased but an incompetent coward.  I would venture – and am pretty sure that most officers would agree — that if a cop isn’t willing to brave physical danger in these types of emergencies, s/he should find another line of work.

Some noted the sad practical political reality that Congress will do nothing significant to restrict access to and use of assault weapons (a comment on this below), while others urged a more aggressive limit on the right to firearms than I had proposed.  One loyal follower – a mother, nonviolent and quite progressive by nature — gently berated me for stopping short of a call for a ban on all firearms other than used by military and law enforcement, with offenders to be “fined, jailed, and kicked in the nuts.”  Although her sentiments are unlikely to find their way into American law and one of the consequences she proposes probably violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against the infliction of cruel and unusual punishment, I understand her visceral passion. 

At the same time, despite my earlier declaration that there is no “Why” to mass shootings, I have concluded that there is, indeed, a “Why” – not to any particular incident, but to why assault weapons have been allowed to proliferate within our nation although it is glaringly obvious that legally limiting our citizens’ access to such weapons would reduce the number and severity of such incidents.  In a sense, I’ve known for decades. 

Over 30 years ago, I attended a professional conference at a very posh Washington, D.C. hotel.  One morning, I called for room service, and soon my breakfast was delivered by an elderly, white-haired African American gentleman, twice my age, wearing formal tails with white gloves.  I felt very uncomfortable having him wait on me, and attempted to take the tray; he would have none of it, carried it into the room, pulled out a sideboard that I hadn’t even seen, motioned for me to sit, arranged the tray in front of me, put the napkin on my lap.  I had never been waited on like that, and was a bit unnerved by it.  Being a political junkie and sitting in a D.C. hotel room, it occurred to me soon after he departed why so many of our representatives strive so hard to hang onto their jobs.  While Messrs. Ted Kennedy and Herb Kohl (then in the Senate), rich men, would receive such service for the rest of their lives, a member of Congress of average means served as I had just been was likely to transition from initial discomfort, to liking it, to expecting it, to, finally, fearing being deprived of it – terrified of no longer being Cinderella, of having his/her carriage turn into a pumpkin … to having to return to living just like the rest of us.

Lately, I’ve been rereading essays in The Federalist.  As Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, taking turns as “Publius,” sought to persuade Americans to support ratification of the new Constitution, their essays turn time and again to the concept of checks and balances.  “Ambition must be made to counteract ambition,” Mr. Madison observed in “Federalist No. 51.”  Put aside for a moment current perspectives of privilege and diversity; it is clear from reading The Federalist that all three authors implicitly assumed that anyone elected to Congress would already be prominent; he wouldn’t seek office primarily to become prominent.  Powerful men don’t countenance having their prerogatives trampled.  Mr. Jay stated it most directly in “Federalist No. 3”:  “When once an efficient national government is established, the best men in the country will not only consent to serve, but also will generally be appointed to manage it … [a] general and extensive reputation for talents and other qualifications will be necessary to recommend men to offices under the national government ….”

In the aftermath of Uvalde, a PBS NewsHour correspondent reported that he had asked Republican U.S. ND Sen. Kevin Cramer about the prospects of the Senate enacting gun control legislation, and Sen. Cramer, while acknowledging gun control advocates’ concerns, intimated that supporting such legislation would have a significant adverse impact on his career.  Republican U.S. LA Sen. Bill Cassidy, when asked about assault weapons regulation, responded, “If you talk to the people that own [an AR-15], killing feral pigs in the middle of Louisiana, they wonder why you would take it away from them.  [They say,] ‘I’m law-abiding, I’ve never done anything, I use it to kill feral pigs.  The action of a criminal deprives me of my right.’”

One could infer from the report of Mr. Cramer’s comments that he will not support significant gun control legislation due to potential political repercussions, although he perhaps well sees a need for it.  Mr. Cassidy is a physician.  He clearly possesses discernment — it should fairly be noted, he was one of a few Republican Senators with the courage to vote to convict former President Donald Trump in his last Senate impeachment trial – and he can’t help, as one who presumably subscribes to the Hippocratic Oath, but to privately understand that citing his constituents’ need for assault weapons to shoot feral pigs is an absurd ground upon which to rationalize the failure to limit Americans’ access to war weapons that have destroyed an unconscionable number of innocent human lives in a matter of seconds.     

While Republican legislators should be removed who sincerely hold that largely unfettered gun rights for Americans supersede the need to protect the public from unprovoked mass gun attacks, I feel no anger toward them; they simply lack the capacity to think critically.  What I find despicable are the Republican legislators whom I truly believe make up their majority – avowed “conservatives” — who recognize that meaningful assault weapon regulation would save lives, and yet fail to act out of political self-preservation.  We rightly criticize any police officers ultimately proven to have failed to act to protect children because they feared for their lives – since they understood when donning the badge that such risks were part of the job – but we seem too ready to accept at face value the notion that legislators who know better – successors to men who pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to found a nation — are somehow justified in failing to limit ongoing mortal danger to Americans because they want to protect their hallowed positions

As I’ve previously noted in these pages, Eighteenth Century Anglo-Irish Statesman Edmund Burke, ironically considered one of the founding fathers of modern conservative thought, once declared to his Parliament constituents: 

“[A representative’s] unbiased opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living.  Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”

So on this issue, as with others, there is a “Why,” the root rot of the troubles we face:  we are subject to the Tyranny of Cowardice.

There is No “Why”: a Postscript

I’ve gotten a number of thoughtful comments on yesterday’s post which warrant a postscript.  Even so, the video linked below was called to my attention, and demands to stand by itself.  While perhaps lacking the eloquence of Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill, and despite the fact that this gentleman is patently hawking his wares, I would submit that the vehemence he exhibits is a fair reflection of my feelings.

MeidasTouch.com on Twitter: “Wow. Texas Paul just said what needed to be said. (warning: language) https://t.co/axmkiY2ylK” / Twitter

There is No “Why”

On Tuesday night into Wednesday, I couldn’t sleep until the very late (or very early) hours; after watching President Biden’s speech to the nation, I resorted to escapism:  I reread a couple of the James Bond novels in my cherished but now rarely-visited set.  Arguably an odd choice given the events of Uvalde; but in every adventure, Bond ultimately dispatches evil and in some way saves innocents.

No one is dispatching evil and saving innocents in Congress today.

In these pages, I try when I can to offer a different perspective – at the very least, a thought that occurred to me about an issue before I heard it spoken elsewhere. 

On the issue of gun control, that’s obviously impossible. 

Subject to the exception below, “assault weapons” should be banned in America for all but military use and law enforcement.  Now. 

[In this post, I mean “assault weapons” to include any weapon (and attendant high-capacity magazines) designed or reasonably modifiable to kill a lot of people in a short amount of time, as needed for use in war.  I don’t know enough about weapons to make finer distinctions, and lack the patience to quibble with gun rights apologists.  If a reasonable case can be made for a weapon’s inclusion within the definition, it’s included.]

Let’s take the Constitution first.  For those that hear a lot about the hallowed “Second Amendment,” but have better things to do than delve into arcane legal jargon, Amendment II to the Constitution of the United States of America, ratified along with nine other Amendments constituting our Bill of Rights, provides as follows:

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.

Although this Amendment was written when we had a tiny standing army and our legendary Minute Men had only laid down the weapons they wielded against the British about six years earlier – for context, then no further in the past for them than the Trump-Clinton presidential campaign is to our current day – put aside any question you may have as to whether an amendment, drafted to ensure that our ordinary citizens could have weapons at the ready (to form a “militia”) at a time when it was reasonable to assume that we might again need them to defend our nation, has any application or relevance today.  Forget about it.  It’s been decided.  In District of Columbia v. Heller (“Heller”), written by Justice Antonin Scalia for a 5-Justice majority including present Justices (Chief) John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito, the Supreme Court held that an individual has the right to bear arms, apart from service in a militia, for lawful purposes such as self-defense.  At the same time, Justice Scalia — a hero to younger conservative jurists such as current Justices Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett – was ultra-conservative, but he wasn’t crazy.  Toward the end of the Heller opinion, he gave the Court and himself some leeway for the future gun rights cases he knew would inevitably arise: 

Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.  From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.  … [N]othing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.  We also recognize another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms.  [U.S. Supreme Court decision United States v. Miller, 1939] said … that the sorts of weapons protected were those “in common use at the time.”  … We think that limitation is fairly supported by the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of ‘dangerous and unusual weapons.’ …  It may be objected that if weapons that are most useful in military service—M-16 rifles and the like—may be banned, then the Second Amendment right is completely detached from the prefatory clause. … It may well be true today that a militia, to be as effective as militias in the 18th century, would require sophisticated arms that are highly unusual in society at large. … But the fact that modern developments have limited the degree of fit between the prefatory clause and the protected right cannot change our interpretation of the right [i.e., that the right is not “unlimited”]. [Emphasis Added]”

Although Justice Scalia’s language can only be described as tortuous, courts have interpreted his words to uphold state bans on assault weapons such as AR-15s (akin to the M-16s he referred to in his opinion).  The reason we have not had a federal ban since 2004 is because Congressional Republicans lack the guts to enact one.

There is not time in this lengthy note to address all of gun rights advocates’ supposed concerns; just three of my favorites:

Citizens need assault weapons to protect themselves against an impending government takeover.  Let’s put aside reason, dive into the weird world of the Conspiracy-Obsessed, and communicate on their plane:  Dude [or Dudette 😉 ], for years, we killed terrorists in the Middle East – smarter, and better equipped than you will ever be — from tens of miles away.  If the President decides to take you out, the AR-15 won’t save you.  You’ll be vaporized while standing in front of your house, wearing your helmet, waving your weapon and pounding your chest.  You won’t even see it coming. 

Let’s give guns to the good guys in churches, schools, and stores, and they’ll defend themselves against the bad guys.  Put aside the fact that most religious, educators, and shop keepers don’t want to assume the responsibility to defend those within their purview from perpetrators with firearms.  How can they reasonably be expected to defend themselves and others in situations that are sometimes beyond the capabilities of trained officers?  Aaron Salter, a retired Buffalo police officer, although armed, was outgunned by an 18-year-old in protective gear, and died attempting to defend Tops patrons.  It has been reported that the Uvalde shooter was “engaged by law enforcement” before entering the school, but he still got in.

 If we start to regulate guns, where does it stop?  This … makes one blink.  Across this country, citizens have had to register their motor vehicles at the state or local level for many decades; this hasn’t resulted in government or anybody else taking our cars away.  One obeys traffic lights and speed limits; these regulations haven’t surreptitiously limited anybody’s operation of his/her car.  From time to time, for the public good, one needs to demonstrate driving proficiency to maintain your legal right to drive – a right, unlike the use of firearms, that many literally rely upon to sustain their livelihoods — and no one objects, although the number of victims in the vast majority of negligently-caused automobile accidents pales in comparison to the number of victims of many mass shootings. 

What’s the exception to the ban I would impose?  Citizens ought to be able to retain the assault weapons they already own.  The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution provide that no person shall be deprived of property “without due process of law.”  That said, in addition to a ban on all future manufacture and sale of assault weapons except for and to military and law enforcement authorities, Congress should pass legislation that provides: for a national registry of all assault weapons; that an owner’s failure to register any such weapon(s) within a year after the effective date of the law is a federal crime, making the weapon subject to confiscation and the violator to mandatory fine and jail time; a specific purchase price scale, annually adjusted for depreciation and inflation, at which the government would be obligated to purchase any registered assault weapon offered for sale by its owner; a ban on the sale or other disposition (e.g., by inheritance) to any private party of any registered assault weapon, with a proven violation resulting in weapon confiscation and a fine and jail time for the violator; and since the perpetrator of an injury caused by an assault weapon would almost certainly be beyond civil recourse, a repeal of any laws shielding manufacturers or sellers of assault weapons from civil liability for loss caused by the weapons they manufacture and/or sell, combined with a provision granting anyone suffering physical and/or emotional injury caused by an assault weapon a federal cause of action against the maker or seller of the assault weapon.  In order to collect from a defendant under the latter provision, a claimant would need to establish only (i) injury (ii) and that the injury was caused by an assault weapon made or sold by the defendant.  Any judgments would not be subject to discharge in bankruptcy. 

Such laws would have no effect on citizens’ unlimited rights to purchase, keep and bear multiple handguns, shotguns, or rifles.  Even I can see that a citizen might consider more than one handgun necessary for defense of his/her home and a hunter stalking bear would require a more powerful weapon than s/he would use to hunt deer or fowl.

Are any of the proposals set forth in this note going to happen?  Obviously not.  Are they too extreme?  Certainly not.  Although it is unrealistic to suggest that banning all assault weapons would have prevented all of the losses suffered by all of the victims of mass shootings that we have witnessed over the past decades – an expert with a long-range rifle can obviously inflict significant damage upon a crowded area — it is fatuous not to recognize and acknowledge that such a ban would have avoided a significant share of the loss and grief – the agony which will never go away — arising from these tragedies.  Although it is for the Almighty, and not for me, to judge, I would nonetheless venture that the blood of some of these victims stains the hands of the politicians, who out of fear and ambition have failed for almost 20 years to enact strict controls on assault weapons, every bit as surely as the blood of innocent Ukrainians festers on the hands of Russian President Vladimir Putin.   

“So for one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, it is a sin.”

  • Jas 4:17.  From the Bible’s only recorded Letter of James, the man referred to as the “brother of the Lord” in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark.

Quite some time ago, I received a comment from a follower of these pages, who suggested that some of these notes perhaps provide me a measure of catharsis, a means through which I address internal conflict regarding issues over which I have no control.  There was more than a little truth to that observation, and I admit that such has never been more so than with this post, which borders on rant.  Still, I think of these babies, wiped away for nothing.  On the morning after the Uvalde shooting, we saw an obviously extremely distraught television reporter indicating that authorities were seeking to determine why the shooting had happened.  Despite my complete sympathy for his obvious emotion – he was on the verge of tears – I considered his point irrelevant.  I don’t care, “why.”  With these terribly disturbed perpetrators, there is no “why.”  If there was ever a good faith belief that we could control this risk to our children and ourselves by identifying the crazies, our experience has made a mockery of that belief.  We’ll never identify all the crazies.  We can’t do worse than we have been by instead doing what we can to keep these terribly destructive weapons out of their hands.

Kasparov: “No Time to Go Wobbly on Russia”

Set forth below is a link to an opinion piece published earlier this week in the Wall Street Journal by Garry Kasparov, former Russian World Chess Champion and among the sharpest critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin. In his essay, Mr. Kasparov asserts that “… isolating Mr. Putin and responding to him with strength is the only way to make lasting progress,” and asserts that Mr. Putin’s dictatorship ” … is shaking for the first time.” He asserts that the only way for the West to save Ukrainian lives is to “arm Ukraine with every weapon that [Ukrainian] President Volodymyr Zelensky wants as quickly as possible.” He cautions against the West’s negotiating for a cease-fire, which he fears would lead to what he calls a “frozen conflict” that he asserts would enable Mr. Putin to consolidate and rearm his forces.

I follow relatively few people on Twitter, but I do follow Mr. Kasparov. While he sounds bellicose and NATO administrators do need to be mindful of the potential for Russian escalation to weapons of mass destruction, my sentiments align with those of Mr. Kasparov; given current battle conditions and the continuing general Western unity against Russia, I fear that any half-loaf settlement would have extremely dangerous long-term consequences for both Ukraine and the democracies.

I’m not sure how the Journal limits access to non-subscribers; hopefully, anyone following these pages who wishes to access Mr. Kasparov’s piece will be able to do so.