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Response to a Gun Nutter

I posted this as a comment to an article on RawStory.com, in response to a gun enthusiast who insisted that 'part of the problem' is that there 'really are "people trying to quash our second
amendment rights," and that the real solution to our problems was a greater awareness of gun safety procedures. Here is the full text of the comment to which I was responding (my response follows below the original commwnt):


Some good points there. I've tried telling people till I am purple in the face, part of the problem here is not the guns. It's the idiots who've never handled one, never SEEN one, till they plop down a grand for their cool looking rambo machine, or buy a gun that no self respecting hunter would look twice at.

Part of what is going on IS there are people trying to quash our second amendment rights. Just read after ANY gun related news hits that "OMG WE SHOULD BAN GUNS NOW!" gets plastered all over. Responsible gun owners are trapped between the mentally ill anti gunners, so phobic over a machine they have panic attacks when they see one, and gun waving idiots who mistake their gun for a penis.

Proper education, made mandatory for all schools, yearly, can teach our kids to handle a firearm safely. Yes, this includes the best option, to stand there, don't touch it, and send someone to get an adult to handle it. Many of the gun penis crowd would slow their rolls, and decrease MANY accidental shootings with just some simple, common sense safety lessons.

And the worst part is, these are simple rules ANYONE with half a brain can follow.

Simple Safety rules.
1. The gun is to ALWAYS be treated as loaded. Just consider it loaded.
2. If you have unloaded all ammo from your firearm, opened the action, and checked to make sure there is nothing the gun can use to shoot, see #1
3. NEVER point a firearm at anyone or anything you do not wish to shoot. This includes checking what's BEHIND your target. One popular show, the Walking Dead, shows just why this is important (Season 2, Carl getting shot by accident because a deer hunter failed to check for possible targets behind the target of interest.
4. NEVER put ANYTHING in or near the trigger EXCEPT your own finger. And don't even put your finger near that trigger till you are ready to fire. Not even a trigger lock. Realize most trigger locks can be defeated with a hacksaw or screwdriver. Several gun locks can even be jarred loose, and allows the person to fire the gun without removing the lock. Use a gun safe, or if you cannot afford one of these, then use what is called an ACTION lock. This is a cut resistant lock that feeds down through the action, and physically prevents someone from loading or operating the firearm.

5 simple rules, and some simple lessons that can be easily learned, and you'll see a major reduction in this nonsense where some toddler finds Momma's boyfriend's gun under the couch and shoot themselves dead, or an adult just tossing a handgun into the console of the car and accidentally killing their son because the "unloaded" gun just happened to have one round still in it.

And here was my response:

markpkessinger Srilania

Part of what is going on IS there are people trying to quash our second amendment rights. Just read after ANY gun related news hits that "OMG WE SHOULD BAN GUNS NOW!" gets plastered all over.

This might surprise you, but believe it or not, comments made in response to an article on a web site really aren't the same thing as a serious legal effort to 'quash our second amendment rights.' Nowhere in this country has there been any legislation, or even proposed legislation, seeking to take away your guns or anyone else's. It may well be the case that there are many people out there who think we should ban guns. They are entitled to their opinion (there is no law saying anyone has to agree with any or all of the Constitution -- only that they abide by it). Banning guns outright would require a Constitutional Amendment, not merely passing a statute -- and that is a very, very tall order, and most people know this country is far from being willing to pass such an amendment, no matter how fervently it may be supported by some..

But here's the thing: if such a Constitutional Amendment overturning the Second Amendment were proposed—that is to say, if such an amendment received the approval of a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate—and then were sent on to the states for approval, and if such an amendment were then to be approved by three-fourths of the states (either by vote of the state legislatures are by vote of state ratifying conventions), then it would be perfectly within the right of the people to do so.

But what the NRA—and many gun enthusiasts—do is to conflate any and all regulation of gun sales and ownership with 'taking away our guns.' It is a belief without any rational basis whatsoever. If one agrees that guns should be kept out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill, then why in God's name would that person (or that organization) then go on to oppose things like background checks? On the other hand, if an organization that purports to be about defending the Second Amendment is really about protecting the financial interests of, oh, say, gun manufacturers (despite what it has led many of its rank-and-file members to believe), well then it makes perfect sense.

I grew up in a household with many guns -- it was central Pennsylvania, where almost everybody hunted (my family included, and even I myself for a few years as a teenager). Yes, gun safety can be, and most certainly should be, drilled into any and all who come in contact with firearms. (My Dad drilled gun safety into his kids many years prior to any of us actually handling a firearm; he forbade us from pointing even an obvious toy gun (save for maybe a squirt gun) at another person And all of the safety rules you mention were likewise drilled into us over and over again. Yes, that is certainly how it should be. The problem is, it all too often is not how it is. And there is no real way to remedy that problem. Sure, you can make gun safety courses more available, or you can create safety awareness campaigns, but you cannot, under our Constitution, compel people to participate in such things. And inevitably, some will choose not to.

As to your point about not storing guns "WHERE CHILDREN, CRIMINALS, AND MENTALLY ILL PEOPLE CAN GET THEIR HANDS ON THEM," well, if only it were so simple. First, while it may seem to be a simple matter to secure guns from children, how exactly do you do that for the 'mentally ill,' given that mentally ill persons usually have perfectly normal, or sometimes even advanced, intellectual capabilities, and in many cases are not specifically identified as being 'mentally ill' unless and until they attempt some act of violence? It's not like you can go out and buy a 'mentally ill-proof lock' or something. And besides, the overwhelming majority of mentally ill people pose no threat of violence at all to anyone, so how do you identify those who should be denied access to something everybody else is granted access to? And what about those with a history of criminal or domestic violence? Those folks aren't necessarily mentally ill. Here again, background checks would make perfect sense. (And yes, I believe anybody who has a history of domestic violence incidents should be denied the right to own a gun.)

The bottom line is that although safety education can certainly help, effective regulation of gun sales and ownership is also required. Requiring universal background checks on all gun sales, public and private, is a common sense step to take in order to make it more difficult for those who should not own guns to acquire them. But the NRA opposes them. Gun safety awareness can have a dramatic impact upon the number of accidental shootings, but does little to affect the shootings and deaths resulting from intent. Banning sales of certain types of guns and gun accessories, such as high-capacity magazines and rapid-fire weapons (all such measures which are opposed by the NRA), can at least reduce how much damage a malcontent with a gun can inflict within a given amount of time, and as such would be an obvious common-sense step to take. But the NRA opposes them.

Pointing to gun safety rules as a remedy for gun violence is egregiously and woefully inadequate to the problem we face as a society. It represents a selfish, willful refusal to grapple with reality. But if gun enthusiasts continue to successfully block all reasonable efforts the wider society tries to make in order to protect itself from this scourge (which efforts are supported by a large majority of voters), then they may very well live to see the day when there really is an effort to overturn the Second Amendment and to 'take away their guns,' because the wider society will have no other alternative, what with every attempt at reasonable regulation having been blocked.

The gun lobby may, as a result of its selfish intransigence, find itself the unwitting midwife of the very opposition movement it now fears, but which currently exists mostly in the fevered imaginations of gun enthusiasts. Keep it up, NRA -- just keep it up.
Posted by markpkessinger | Wed May 28, 2014, 02:40 PM (11 replies)

The Compassion and Humanity of Judge Jones (PA Gay marriage decision - extended excerpt)

After reading the entirety of Judge Jones' decision striking down Pennsylvania's gay marriage ban, what really stood out for me was that, although the technical, legal and precedent aspects are all very solid and well worth reading, it was the depth of the Judge's understanding of, and compassion for, the plaintiffs who brought the suit, and of how their lives had been affected by the ban on gay marriage. So I've created a selective excerpt of his decision, intentionally omitting some of the more technical parts of the opinion, in order to demonstrate the depth of the judge's compassion and humanity that shines so clearly in the decision. I was particularly moved by his use of phrases from the traditional wedding vows as subheadings.

There is a particular school of thought with regard to jurisprudence―one that is especially popular among conservatives―which holds that values such as empathy and compassion, and consideration of real-world impact of laws upon the lives of those who must live under them, have no place in judicial rulings. But I would counter that true justice operates on two planes, an ethical plane and a legal/technical plane; and it is the ethical plane that informs the legal/technical plane, not the other way around. And values such as empathy and compassion are integral to any kind of ethical consideration. I think Judge Jones' ruling stands as a wonderful example of a jurist allowing his ethics to inform his technical legal scholarship. Would that we had more liike him.

Here is the excerpt. The case is Whitewood, et al. v. Wolf, Case No. 1:13-cv-186.


May 20, 2014

Today, certain citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania are not guaranteed the right to marry the person they love. Nor does Pennsylvania recognize the marriages of other couples who have wed elsewhere. Hoping to end this injustice, eleven courageous lesbian and gay couples, one widow, and two teenage children of one of the aforesaid couples have come together as plaintiffs and asked this Court to declare that all Pennsylvanians have the right to marry the person of their choice and consequently, that the Commonwealth's laws to the contrary are unconstitutional. We now join the twelve federal district courts across the country which, when confronted with these inequities in their own states, have concluded that all couples deserve equal dignity in the realm of civil marriage.

< . . . .>

B. The Plaintiffs

Plaintiffs are Deb and Susan Whitewood, and their teenage daughters, A.W. and K.W.; Maureen Hennessey; Lynn and Fredia Hurdle; Fernando Chang-Muy and Len Rieser; Julia Lobur and Marla Cattermole; Dawn Plummer and Diana Polson; Dara Raspberry and Helena Miller; Ron Gebhardtsbauer and Greg Wright;

Sandy Ferlanie and Christine Donato; Heather and Kath Poehler; Angela Gillem and Gail Lloyd; and Edwin Hill and David Palmer. Five of the couples are unmarried, seeking to wed in Pennsylvania, and six of the couples, as well as Maureen Hennessey, desire to have their valid, out-of-state marriages recognized by the Commonwealth.

As a group, they represent the great diversity of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. They hail from across the state, making their homes in Allegheny, Dauphin, Centre, Northampton, Delaware, Chester, and Philadelphia Counties. They come from all walks of life; they include a nurse, state employees, lawyers, doctors, an artist, a newspaper delivery person, a corporate executive, a dog trainer, university professors, and a stay-at-home parent. They have served our country in the Army and Navy. Plaintiffs' personal backgrounds reflect a richness and diversity: they are African-American, Caucasian, Latino, and Asian; they are Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Jewish, Quaker, Buddhist, and secular. In terms of age, they range from a couple in their 30s with young children, to retirees in their 60s. Many of the couples have been together for decades.

As plainly reflected in the way they live their lives, the plaintiff couples are spouses in every sense, except that the laws of the Commonwealth prevent them from being recognized as such.

For better, for worse

The plaintiff couples have shared in life's joys. They have purchased homes together and blended their property and finances. They have started families, welcoming children through birth and adoption. Some of them have celebrated their commitment to each other through marriage in other states, sharing their wedding day with family and friends.

Yet, with each of these joys there has been concomitant hardship resulting from the Marriage Laws. In terms of property ownership, all of the couples face the payment of Pennsylvania's inheritance tax - including on half of the value of jointly-owned homes and bank accounts - at 15 percent, the highest rate.

For those couples who have had children, like Dawn Plummer and Diana Polson, the non-biological parent has had to apply for a second-parent adoption. Dawn expresses that she and Diana are presently saving money so that she can legally adopt their second son, J.P. Until the adoption is complete, she has no legal ties to J.P., despite that, together, she and Diana dreamed of welcoming him to their family, prepared for his birth, and functioned as a married couple long before having him. Christine Donato, who together with Sandy Ferlanie completed a second-parent adoption in similar circumstances, describes the process as "long, expensive, and humiliating." The couples choosing to adopt, like Fernando Chang-Muy and Len Rieser, had to undergo a two-step process, incurring double the costs, in which one became their child's legal parent and, later, the other petitioned for a second-parent adoption. For the children of these couples, it can be difficult to understand why their parents are not married or recognized as married. In the words of Deb Whitewood, "It sends the message to our children that their family is less deserving of respect and support than other families. That's a hurtful message."

In addition, for the couples who have chosen to marry out-of-state, they are acutely sensitive that their marital status changes when they cross state lines. Edwin Hill describes driving home to Pennsylvania after wedding David Palmer in Maine in 2013, elated to be traveling through all of the northeastern states that recognize their marriage. "And then we crossed the Delaware River into Pennsylvania," he recalls, "and we looked at each other and said, 'We're not married anymore.' And that hurt." Further, the married couples must still identify themselves as single in Pennsylvania, for example, on their state income taxes. Many have remarked on the pain this causes them, describing that it feels "terrible," "wrong," and "like a denial of [their] relationship" to tick the box marked "single."

For richer, for poorer

The plaintiff couples share their resources and support each other financially. But Plaintiffs commonly echo a sense of legal and economic vulnerability because of Pennsylvania's Marriage Laws. Many of them have paid lawyers to draft protective documents, like wills and powers of attorney, in efforts to emulate some of the protections afforded to couples recognized as married. Susan Whitewood estimates that her family has spent over $10,000 in legal fees for the preparation and maintenance of such documents, which would not have been necessary if the Commonwealth acknowledged their marriage.

Angela Gillem and Gail Lloyd describe feeling particularly insecure. Angela is a clinical psychologist and the primary bread-winner, while Gail is an artist who does not draw a steady paycheck or contribute to Social Security. Angela expresses that she has "taken every step [she] can to ensure [Gail's] financial security" but that they still cannot duplicate all of the protections married couples receive, and she "live[s] every day with the fear that the steps [she has] taken will not be enough to protect Gail if something should happen to [her]."

In sickness and in health

The plaintiff couples have supported each other through illness and medical emergencies. Yet, because Pennsylvania considers them legal strangers, they may be left vulnerable in times of crisis. Various of the plaintiffs express anxiety at the possibility that they would not be allowed to comfort or gain information about their partner's condition in the event of an emergency, despite the fact that they have prepared powers of attorney. Lynn Hurdle remembers feelings of fear and helplessness when her partner, Fredia, was admitted to the hospital for unexpected surgery. Doctors began operating earlier than planned, and when Lynn discovered Fredia's hospital room to be empty, staff would not tell her why Fredia had been taken early or where she was.

Until death do us part

The plaintiff couples demonstrate an intention to live out their lives together. Plaintiff Maureen Hennessey and her partner of 29 years, Mary Beth McIntyre, present a powerful example. When Mary Beth was diagnosed with inoperable Stage 4 lung cancer, Maureen left her job to care for her and to help run Mary Beth's business until her death. Towards the end of her life, Mary Beth required Maureen's help to get out of bed and to the bathroom, and to assist in self-care and administer medications. They were married in Massachusetts after Mary Beth fell ill, but because Pennsylvania does not recognize their marriage, the line for "surviving spouse" was left blank and Mary Beth was identified as "never married" on her death certificate. Maureen was listed as the "informant."

Wishing to have their relationships recognized for what they are in the state they call home, and by doing so to transcend the pain, uncertainty, and injustice visited by the Marriage Laws, Plaintiffs brought this suit.

< . . . . >

The issue we resolve today is a divisive one. Some of our citizens are made deeply uncomfortable by the notion of same-sex marriage. However, that same-sex marriage causes discomfort in some does not make its prohibition constitutional. Nor can past tradition trump the bedrock constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection. Were that not so, ours would still be a racially segregated nation according to the now rightfully discarded doctrine of "separate but equal." See Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), overruling Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896). In the sixty years since Brown was decided, "separate" has thankfully faded into history, and only "equal" remains. Similarly, in future generations the label same-sex marriage will be abandoned, to be replaced simply by marriage.

We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history.
Posted by markpkessinger | Wed May 21, 2014, 02:23 PM (5 replies)

From Federal District Judge John E. Jones III's decision overturning PA's marriage ban

I highly recommend taking the time to read Federal Judge John E. Jones III's decision striking down Pennsylvania's gay marriage ban. The Judge very carefully dismantles every one of the Commonwealth's arguments defending the ban. (A link to the full decision is provided below.) Then the Judge concludes with the following two, very eloquent paragraphs:

The issue we resolve today is a divisive one. Some of our citizens are made deeply uncomfortable by the notion of same-sex marriage. However, that same-sex marriage causes discomfort in some does not make its prohibition constitutional. Nor can past tradition trump the bedrock constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection. Were that not so, ours would still be a racially segregated nation according to the now rightfully discarded doctrine of "separate but equal." See Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), overruling Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896). In the sixty years since Brown was decided, "separate" has thankfully faded into history, and only "equal" remains. Similarly, in future generations the label same-sex marriage will be abandoned, to be replaced simply by marriage.

We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history.

Bravo, your Honor, bravo!

Posted by markpkessinger | Wed May 21, 2014, 12:35 AM (2 replies)

NY Post: The 9/11 museum’s absurd gift shop

(Note: I had no idea the 9-11 Museum at Ground Zero would include, of all things, a damned GIFT SHOP! It's hawking mostly NYPD-, Port Authorit6y Police- and NYFD-branded trinkets and items of clothing, or items bearing the kind of cheap consolation of the greeting card industry. It is fitting that a 9-11 Memorial Museum exist at Ground Zero. But if it is fitting to have a memorial and/or museum to commemorate a national tragedy that had enormous impact upon the country as a whole, then it is equally fitting that federal revenues should be used to operate it and sustain it to the extent admissions fees fail to cover expenses. This is just in outrageously offensive bad taste! And if even the New York Post is offended by it, that should really tell you something!)

[font size=6]The 9/11 museum’s absurd gift shop[/font]
[font size=1]By Susan Edelman May 18, 2014 | 4:54am[/font]

< . . . . >

The 9/11 museum’s cavernous boutique offers a vast array of souvenir goods. For example: FDNY, NYPD and Port Authority Police T-shirts ($22) and caps ($19.95); earrings molded from leaves and blossoms of downtown trees ($20 to $68); cop and firefighter charms by Pandora and other jewelers ($65); “United We Stand” blankets.

There are bracelets, bowls, buttons, mugs, mousepads, magnets, key chains, flags, pins, stuffed animals, toy firetrucks, cellphone cases, tote bags, books and DVDs.
Modal Trigger

You can pick up an assortment of oak leaf jewelry at the 9/11 museum gift shop.Photo: Sue Edelman

Even FDNY vests for dogs come in all sizes.

After paying $24 admission for adults, $18 for seniors and students, and $15 for kids 7 to 17, visitors can shop till they drop.

< . . . . >
Posted by markpkessinger | Sun May 18, 2014, 10:39 PM (15 replies)

Uh, oh! I think I know what happened to those 30 million people 'missing' from Op. Am. Spring . . .

Clearly, there is only one possible answer to why 30 million people mysteriously failed to show up at "Operation American Spring." Think about it, there's only one possible explanation:

Clearly, what obviously happened is that those 30 million folks were raptured, and all the rest of us have been consigned the fate of 'Left Behinds.' (Calling Tim LeHaye . . . )

If you happen to know any of these 'Left Behind' Tea Party types, you should probably be very careful in how, exactly, you break the news to them that they didn't make the cut. Just my advice . . .

Posted by markpkessinger | Sat May 17, 2014, 10:29 PM (32 replies)

About young Mr. Fortgang (the Pirnceton "privelege" kid) . . .

Blogger Ari Kohen has written a an excellent installment on this topic. But wherever you stand on the substantive question of White privilege, before you jump to defend young Mr. Fortgang, who told the NY Times he didn't "have a racist bone in (his) body," you might want to take a look at some of his past tweets. Fortgang has deleted his Twitter account, but he wasn't quick enough on the draw for blogger Matt Binder, who made screen captures of them:

Posted by markpkessinger | Sun May 11, 2014, 05:36 PM (16 replies)

The NY Times' Adam Liptak: False Equivalence Monger

On edit: I originally stated that my comment had not yet been published. It now has been published, so the text below is edited accordingly.

There is a column by Adam Liptak in today's Times, titled, "The Polarized Court" (excerpt appears at the end of my comments below). Liptak blathers on about the 'polarization' of the Supreme Court and points out that it reflects a similar polarization in the electorate. Yet, to read the article, one would think that the two parties had moved in opposite directions, when in fact both moved in the same direction: one party by a radically large degree, the other by s smaller degree. But there is NO discussion of the fact that to the extent polarization has occurred, it has occurred as a result of the GOP shifting radically rightward. To the extent Democrats have moved, it has also been (sadly enough), to the right also. Here is the text of a comment I just posted to the piece.

Mark P. Kessinger
I wonder if perhaps Mr. Liptak has been spending a bit too much time inside the Beltway of late, for he seems to have succumbed to a certain malady that affects many pundits and journalists who spend too much time there: False Equivalence Syndrome. To speak of our politics as merely being "polarized," without mention of the very significant rightward shift of our entire political spectrum over the last 33 years is to miss what has really been going on, and suggests, incorrectly, that the two parties have moved in opposite directions.

What has happened, though, is that the Republican Party, beginning with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 and continuing to the present day, has moved radically to the right, abandoning a middle ground on many issues on which there had previously been, if not full agreement on how to address issues, at least a broad consensus on what the issues were and the importance of addressing them -- things such as public education, a robust social safety net, and at least nominal support for organized labor. The broad center, comprised of Democrats and Republicans alike, did not demonize government. But Reagan, with his "Government is the problem" mantra, changed that. That was the point of departure.

Sadly, Democrats moved to the right as well. So it is hardly adequate to speak of 'polarization' when one party has moved radically to the right, and the other closer to the center.

Here is an excerpt from the article:

[font size=5]The Polarized Court[/font]

[font size=2]MAY 10, 2014[/font]

WASHINGTON — WHEN the Supreme Court issued its latest campaign finance decision last month, the justices lined up in a familiar way. The five appointed by Republican presidents voted for the Republican National Committee, which was a plaintiff. The four appointed by Democrats dissented.

That 5-to-4 split along partisan lines was by contemporary standards unremarkable. But by historical standards it was extraordinary. For the first time, the Supreme Court is closely divided along party lines.

The partisan polarization on the court reflects similarly deep divisions in Congress, the electorate and the elite circles in which the justices move.

The deep and often angry divisions among the justices are but a distilled version of the way American intellectuals — at think tanks and universities, in opinion journals and among the theorists and practitioners of law and politics — have separated into two groups with vanishingly little overlap or interaction. It is a recipe for dysfunction.

< . . . .>

Posted by markpkessinger | Sun May 11, 2014, 12:34 PM (4 replies)
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