Martin Luther King . . . His nonviolence preachings as important in 1968 as 2011

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
 ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

There is something very poignant about honoring the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr. today as our country grieves the violent actions of a mentally disturbed young man nine days ago.  The reasons behind the gunman’s heinous shooting spree at a ‘Congress on Your Corner” gathering  may always remain a mystery. Clearly, the horrific attempt on the life of Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and the sadness over 6 lives lost and 13 wounded has jarred the American public.

Of course, the assassination of Dr. King on April 4, 1968, also stunned the nation he was trying to change for the better. Nonviolence was the central theme of Dr. King’s work to bring civil rights to all Americans. He understood the power of words and employed a wonderful eloquence to teach the importance of peace and nonviolence. Dr. King passionately inspired us through his words and deeds.

In his 1957 essay on the nonviolence movement, Dr. King wrote, “The end of violence or the aftermath of violence is bitterness. The aftermath of nonviolence is reconciliation and the creation of a beloved community.” Later in that same piece, Dr. King also explained, “I never intend to adjust myself to mob rule. I never intend to adjust myself to the tragic effects of the methods of physical violence.”  These words of Dr. King are as meaningful today as they were sixty-four years ago.

We cannot help but worry about the recent aggressive, violent outburst unleashed in a typically innocent public setting, and what the tragedy says for our country’s future. Whether devoted to the community like Martin Luther King or as an elected official like Gabby Giffords, these leaders put themselves and their values before the world and suffered the consequences.  From finger-pointing rants at a lectern to the senseless vicious act last weekend, we have been brutally reminded that our leaders can be focal points for physical attacks by irrational motivations.

As we celebrate Dr. King’s birthday today, we remember Rep. Giffords courageous spirit and similar belief in people.   In a 2009 commencement speech at Scripps College in California, her alma mater, Giffords told graduates that she ran for office to “put right things that were wrong and represent those who didn’t have a voice.” 

If he were still here with us today, Dr. King would join the nation in this time of grief and sadness. The dream of Martin Luther King was to see every person, regardless of the many barriers humans set up to separate us, to walk hand in hand in harmony and love. Recalling Dr. King’s words, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” 

The memory of King’s courage and commitment to peace should guide our country and national leaders in the coming weeks and months as they address the cause and effect of the senseless violent act in Arizona and the darkness shrouding America. In Dr. Martin Luther King’s memory, as Americans, we cannot afford to simply adjust to violence.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. 
    ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

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  1. I agree that the young man in Tucson had some very serious mental health issues. An unstable person in an unstable world and this is what happens. How do we resolve mental health issues and the violence of his act. Please don’t say it’s OK to use the defense of mental illnesses for this event.

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  2. Pattye, I was so moved by your writing. Yes, Dr. King’s example and inspirational words deserve more than one day’s passing attention each year. He is one of our nation”s true heroes.

    What a powerful conviction:- that as Americans, we cannot afford to simply adjust to violence.

    But clearly, we already have. Last year almost 100,000 people were injured or killed by gun violence. in this country.There were 33,000 deaths, most of the victims just faceless names in the obituaries.

    Yet a modest bill to limit only the sale of high-capacity ammunition clips – sponsored by N.J. Sen. Lautenberg and NY Congresswoman Carolyn Mc Carthy – is seen as having little chance of ever making it onto the Senate or House floor for a vote.

    What kind of a country do we live In?

    Our elected officials are so cowed by the prospect of an all-out NRA offensive they don’t want to go on record as being against anything gun-related. Not even magazine clips designed to kill lots of people quickly.

    On a day when we honor an American hero committed to advancing civil rights through peaceful means, some of us are deeply discouraged. The reality of unabated gun violence the likes of which no other civilized country would tolerate, reflects our collective silence in the face of things that matter.

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    flyersfan Reply:

    violence is rampant in Hollywoods movie productions, in video games and on tv ..Culture of violence. Just another source of behaviour modification our young people are subjected too, and at least desensitzation. Until it hits close to home

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    Bill L. Reply:

    Of course. More gun laws. And then some more. How about we enforce the laws already on the books? How about we crack down on the criminLs that use guns, rather than make law abiding citizens jump through more hoops?

    Laws only affect those that pay attention to it. More gun laws aren’t going to affect the criminals. Guess what? the criminals are still going to get their hands on the items they want to, regardless of the laws and restrictions. That’s why they are criminals.

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    kate Reply:

    No law is full-proof, but personally, i don’t understand why even an avid gun-lover wouldn’t acknowledge that allowing the ban on assault weapons to expire was a mistake, that outlawing high-capacity ammunition clips is reasonable in light of the mass shootings this country has witnessed.

    Keep all your damn guns. Cuddle up to them at night, give them as presents to your children . Mount them on your walls. Feel the power.

    But make it a crime to possess the types of ammunition designed for one purpose – to kill multiple people quickly.

    And make the criminals who use such ammunition subject to stiffer penalties.

    Jared Loughner was not a “criminal” when he set out to kill as many people as he could on January 12. He was mentally ill when he fired those 30 bullets. If he had not been able to easily and legally purchase high capacity clips, he would have gotten off only 10 shots – the standard magazine capacity for a Glock..

    Such a small sacrifice for all you gun worshippers. And yet you deflect and deny.

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    Just asking Reply:

    Right Kate… Jared couldn’t possibly have carried multiple clips and reloaded, or carried multiple guns, or driven a car into the crowd…..

    The gun laws and restrictions do not necessarily change a thing for the criminals or those who have criminal intent.

    Bill L. Reply:

    This quote from your post sums up your ignorance of the subject and lack of understanding:
    “Keep all your damn guns. Cuddle up to them at night, give them as presents to your children . Mount them on your walls. Feel the power.”

    Spoken like a true Person ignorant if the truth. Automatically surmising that it’s about “the power” and it’s some sort of sexual replacement (cuddle up with it).

    And your ignorance displayed by the following quote is even more laughable:

    ” that outlawing high-capacity ammunition clips is reasonable in light of the mass shootings this country has witnessed.”
    Tell me, was Columbine before or after the sunset? What the heck does the Ban have to do with any of this?

    And P.S. Jared Loughner was a criminal prior to this…

    And I love your closing with your self-righteous “gun worshippers” remark. That’s half of the problem with the firearms argument. Many (not all) of the opponents to firearms are a bunch of self-righteous snobs that think supporters of the 2nd Amendment are a bunch of uneducated hicks that need their (anti-gun crowd) help and guidance because they’re too stupid to think for themselves.

  3. kate, I agree with you!!! Too many guns, too many bullets and too many dysfunctional people that are still getting access to them.. The NRA is just another example of powerful lobbies on both sides of the “isle” that essentially influence our government with big money. And the regular folks are left on the sidelines.

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  4. Rachel Maddow made a point last night of reminding us that K-Mart stopped selling ammunition after Columbine (or at least after the Bowling for Columbine movie) and that the response from the NRA was so brief it is not memorable. Perhaps individuals need to step up more. The NRA is a powerful lobby, but I cannot fathom that it is a majority of this country. That’s the problem with the “left” — they don’t coordinate well. How do we band together to influence this? An anti-NRA NCA — National Cittizens Alliance?

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    Howard in Daylesford Reply:

    You can blame Rosie O’Donnell as well, she called for a boycott of K-mart because they sell ammo.

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  5. Rachel Maddow??? You must be one of the one hundred US citizens that watch her.

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    a voice of confusion Reply:

    I watch the shows where I am least likely to agree iwth the hosts….I don’t need to watch commentators that I always agree with — I cannot learn or grow. I don’t watch it every night for sure — but I do believe I benefit by hearing intelligent people on the “other” side…

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    Bill L. Reply:

    I agree 100%.

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    Just a thought Reply:

    I SO agree with “a voice of confusion” – I also watch the shows I am least likely to agree with – in my case, Fox News. I want to know what the other 50% of Americans are hearing and want to try and understand why they hold their beliefs (as I hold mine).

    It’s also why I read this blog – I want to know what my (mostly Republican) neighbors are thinking and why. I appreciate those (from both sides of the aisle) who are able to make their case without resorting to childish antics such as name-calling and innuendo….I am much more inclined to consider your point of view.

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    flyersfan Reply:

    Intelligent people on the other side, sure. So I still don’t get why you watch Rachel Maddow.. Maybe it is good to know what the enemy is thinking.. I mean I have heard that before. Or can I use enemy like that? If the President can, I guess I can too?

    I have tuned in too, for a minute or two and didn’t get the joke.

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  6. I am always struck by the vehemence of gun lovers like Bill L in defense of gun ownership. They never acknowledge any need for change, and angrily disdain anyone who questions the easy access to guns and ammunition in this country.

    They won’t even consider that anger is the rational and correct response to 30,000 deaths by handguns (mostly) each year.

    Bill, you say all we need is stronger enforcement of existing gun laws? I believe we need more than that.

    But please reread my comment above.. I don’t support taking anyone’s legally owned guns away. I agree that law-abiding citizens have a right to own guns.

    Just not assault weapons and the kind of ammunition used in war.

    Personally, i believe all gun owners should be required to take firearm training before purchasing a gun and to secure their guns by some means.

    Many tragedies could have been prevented if these two measures were required. I think about the Chester County teenager who had a party while his parents were away, and after drinking heavily shot his best friend in the head while playing Russian roulette. I think about a couple I knew who were shot to death in their own home by an unarmed intruder who grabbed their gun and turned it against them. I think of a former neighbor who, deeply depressed, shot himself to death

    People pulled the trigger, but the guns were oh so handy…..Those beloved guns remain blameless. They were at the scene of the accident or crime but had nothing to do with it!

    In Jared Loughner’s case, no current law, training course or gun lock would have prevented his crime. As a country, we need to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill . This will be difficult legislation to write and get passed, but it’s past time our elected representatives got moving on it.

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    Bill L Reply:

    I haven’t “angrily disdained” anyone who just questions things when it comes to gun control (i.e. Pattye and the several interactions on here re gun control). But I have done so to people like you who parrot the false talking points and do so with an ttitude and air directly translated into your posts as if you know better than everyone else. As if your option is the correct one. As if any option other than any you suggest is shortsighted and not enough. So please save the martyr act.

    And you think the kind of ammunition used in war should be outlawed? Again, this shows your ignorance of the subject. The military uses “ball ammo” for the most part. Their are one or two other kinds, but they are not what you think. They are not the “Hollow points”, “hydro-shocks” or whatever other buzzwords the anti-gun lobby is teaching you. Just plain old ball ammo. A wad of metal in front of a bunch of gun powder. Why? Because it’s the cheapest. Any other false myths you are perpetuating?

    You cite one couple who was shot to death by an unarmed intruder who took their gun. And can site many many more instances where a person in the home having a gun prevented such an act. Where a law requiring them to secure it in a lock box (which I believe it should be with children in the house, but who are we to come into someone else’s home and mandate that? Big Brother?) would have lent itself to a delay and getting said protection and resulted in a bad ending. the question begs to be asked of the circumstances of the couple you cite… Was the weapon close at hand? was it far away and the intruder came upon it? was there a wrestling match involved and the gun wrestled away? did they know how to use it? did it have a malfunction? Why did he break in? theft? assault? These are just some of the questions, but all of which have an appropriate solution that could have prevented an unfortunate outcome (unfortunate for the law-abiding couple that is.

    Your neighbor who shot himself, he probably wouldn’t have resorted to using pills, knife, carbon monoxide, jumping off a bridge, etc then? If he was going to committ suicide, the gun was the absolute only means he was going to do it by… Come on. quit blaming an inanimate object for the intentional actions of the person. The intruder in the other “scenario” you cite. He probably couldn’t have just grabbed a knife or a bat either? or just used his bare hands? If he was willing to take their gun and use it against them, rather than just walk out, it’s a reasonable deduction to say that he probably wouldn’t have had a problem killing them with or without a gun.

    And you say it’s time they got moving on it, but the majority of the country does not feel that way. Look at the polls and elections. But then again, we are just a bunch of uneducated, gun-“cuddling” (your words”, fools who need the enlightened likes of you to show us the folly of our ways. Rather than holding the persons responsible for their actions.

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  7. I am a conservative, and a tea party advocate. I am not a gun owner but I am a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms.
    However, I question the need for the general public to own assault weapons (AK-47’s etc) or have access to high capacity ammunition clips. Can anyone explain the need other than the weak excuse of the Second Amendment??
    I also agree that nothing would have stopped the shooting of the Congresswoman – but if the gunman had only a six shooter maybe the Judge and/or the young Miss Green would still be with us.
    So I ask Bill L or anyone else reading this to simply explain the need for assault weapons or high capacity clips… I do want to understand…

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  8. Two questions:

    Would there have been an opportunity to tackle the Arizona shooter before he killed so many if he had to stop to reload sooner?

    What are the purposes for a law-abiding citizen to carry a semi-automatic, high capacity weapon in a public place?

    Thank you.

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  9. I’m not going to weigh in on this one — but I would like to remind us that the flaw in the gun issue for Jared L is that people in the community (friends, college, the military) did not report his mental issues to the FBI. He was able to buy a gun. Given the gun laws in place, it sounded like if any of those participants had reported him, he would not have been able to buy the gun. The military rejected him for service and there ought to be some obligation for them to take action when they do that.

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  10. The concerns about high-capacity magazines show a lack of understanding about how gun laws actually work. Even during the Assault Weapons Ban, it was possible to legally obtain high-capacity magazines. I know because I was able to purchase them legally. It was simply a matter of spending more money because the supply was limited to clips manufactured before the ban (which became more expensive). And, of course, criminals could simply buy them on the black market. So the people hurt by the ban were law-abiding citizens who weren’t rich enough to purchase pre-ban guns and magazines. Is that fair?

    I do not think that reducing the availability of such clips would have saved lives in Tucson. It’s quite simple to reload a gun in just seconds and even easier to carry a second gun. Only someone who is unfamiliar with guns would claim that having a different magazine would have saved lives in Tucson.

    When guns aren’t available, criminals like the shooter in Tucson can use cars as weapons or build IEDs, etc. We always will have crazy people among us, and these criminals will always pose a threat to law-abiding people.

    Having a group of well-trained, responsible gun owners can make us safer. If someone in that crowd in Tucson had been armed, they could have taken down the shooter before he’d killed so many. There are many documented cases of good Samaritan gun-owners defending their lives and those of innocent people.

    There’s no need to be afraid of legitimate gun owners. In most cases, you’d never ever guess that we owned guns because we’re not loud about our gun ownership. We probably don’t hunt, don’t belong to the NRA and don’t do anything to draw attention to ourselves. We don’t appear to be “hicks” or “rednecks” or any of the things that the media tries to portray us as.

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    Bill L. Reply:

    Thank you “common sense”. Much more eloquent and precise than I could have worded.

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    flyersfan Reply:

    Common sense, i agree, but I am thinking about privacy rules. Can colleges or the military “report” to the FBI about a mental illness? Even privacy rules should make sense, but sometimes the letter of the law precludes that. the law of unintended consequences.

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    common sense Reply:

    Mental illness is a tricky issue. A large number of Americans have suffered from depression or an anxiety disorder at some point, but it doesn’t mean that they are violent. E.g. what about a woman who suffered from post-partum depression after the birth of her child, would you want to ban her from ever owning a gun? Or if a college reported someone who attempted suicide or needed counseling for depression after a bad breakup, should that person be prevented from ever owning a gun? I don’t think that would be fair, nor do I think these people would be threats to society.

    But clearly we need some way to cover people who are violent and mentally ill. How do we do this without deterring people from getting help for mental illness? There would be more lives lost if people did not get the treatment needed for depression, and I would imagine that putting people on some kind of government list would add to the stigma of getting depression treatment and would deter people from getting help.

  11. to Common Sense
    I appreciate your input. You are a private and quiet gun owner. You don’t hunt, don’t belong to the NRA and are not a hick. All a relief to be sure.
    Now — if I can intrude on your privacy — I’d like to understand why you bought a high capacity magazine? Why do you use them? Do you use them? I’m genuinely trying to understand. You sound reasonable and careful. I just don’t get it. Do you carry?

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    Bill L. Reply:

    I’m not “common sense”, but here’s the link to an article/commentary I read several years ago and saved. Some of the speech is a little inflammatory, but read it for what it is. Commentary from someone who has been in law enforcement for more than a decade and a half at the time this was written.

    http://www.2ampd.net/Articles/Bolding/Laymans_Guide_to_High_Capacity_Magazines.htm

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    common sense Reply:

    I do not carry a gun, but I did get a permit to carry. The reason: if I ever were threatened by a stalker (e.g. an employee I had to let go), I would want the ability to carry legally. It’s too late to get a permit once someone is already threatening you. And you never know when you might need to protect yourself.

    Without a permit, you’d be arrested if you actually had to use your gun in self-defense even in the stalker situation I described. I’d actually encourage everyone (even non-gun owners) to get a permit just in case you’d need it to protect your family. It takes less time to buy a gun than it does to get a permit for carry. And you don’t want to jeopardize your safety because you’re waiting to get approved for a permit.

    Regarding the high capacity magazine, I bought one because I find loading bullets into magazines really tedious. I do not hunt or even carry for self-defense, but it was important to me to know how to use a gun. So I do practice regularly at a shooting range. It’s nice to spend that time actually shooting rather than reloading a magazine. And responsible gun owners know that it’s important to practice. If you ever needed to use a gun in self-defense, you need to have the skill to actually hit your target.

    That does not mean that you’d actually want to shoot someone else. The goal is always deterrence rather than shooting. So you want to take every step possible to resolve a situation without shooting. Most gun owners do not actually need fire their gun in self-defense. The act of showing that you have a gun (e.g. brandishing) will generally inspire all but the most persistent criminals to run away. But in the event of a persistent criminal, it could be necessary to shoot, and you need to be prepared for it. Many of the readers of this blog might not want to shoot a criminal to protect their own lives, but wouldn’t you be willing to shoot a criminal to protect your own child. Personally, I would. If it’s my kid or a criminal, I’m doing what it takes to save my kid even though the thought of harming even a criminal disgusts me.

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  12. Common sense — thanks for that explanation. I appreciate the thought that went into it. I also believe that based on your reason for a larger clip, that they truly are NOT necessary, and I think you would agree. Convenience is a justification, but certainly not a compelling reason.

    On the topic of mental illness — of course you can and should report it to the FBI. In the case of the college student, he had not done anything to warrant any report. The military has records of why JL was refused and as citizens we are entitled to that protection. It doesn’t give the FBI the right to punish the right to evaluate him if he should apply for a weapon.
    And likewise, the post partum woman or anyone with a suicide history — part of the price of liberty is security, but the other side is that you do not have unlimited rights to guns — they do require permits. So being delayed in acquiring a gun to demonstrate a bit more of your ability to handle it is not so onerous and certainly is no privacy violation.

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    common sense Reply:

    So are you saying that someone who did suffer from Post-Partum Depression or a non-violent mental illness like depression/anxiety should have to prove to some government bureaucrat that they are worthy of gun ownership? You write, “so being delayed in acquiring a gun to demonstrate a bit more of your ability to handle it is not so onerous and certainly is no privacy violation.”

    I strongly disagree. It’s an incredible privacy violation for a law-abiding citizen who has shown no signs of violence to have to discuss their mental health history with some government bureaucrat in order to purchase a gun.

    But more importantly, I believe any legislation that would do what you recommend would have a serious impact on mental health in the United States– particularly in areas of the country where people value the right to bear arms. Do you really want people afraid to talk to their doctors about depression because they fear a prescription for Zoloft could prevent them from owning a gun in the future? Aren’t you harming more people than you’re protecting? Millions of Americans are treated for these non-violent mental illnesses, and doctors have worked so hard to remove the stigma from treatment. So as a result of one shooting by a mentally unstable person in Tucson, you’d impose legislation which would increase the suicide rate in our country?

    Regarding your point about high capacity clips, I don’t think anyone “needs” high capacity clips, but a right is a right. You could argue that we don’t “need” all sorts of guns. You don’t “need” a handgun if you own a rifle. But I don’t believe it’s the role of government to tell us what we “need” or not. If I- as a law-abiding citizen- choose to spend my own money on a high capacity clip, that’s my right.

    After all, nobody “needs” a big screen TV. TV viewing has been linked to obesity, which is linked to heart attacks. With the goal of saving lives, should the government regulate that we all watch smaller TVs. After all, it could discourage some people from watching TV for extended periods and therefore reduce heart attacks? If that sounds absurd to you, you perhaps have an idea about how this talk of banning clips sounds to gun owners.

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  13. As someone who does carry, and as someone who has carried in the line of duty many years ago, that magazine with the extra rounds in it can be a lifesaver. It can mean the difference between wounding multiple (or even one) attackers or removing them as a threat. If you wound them and they surrender. Perfect. If you wound them and they still fight, I would rather have the extra rounds in the gun. Some people are loathe to say it to mixed company, but if it comes down to me or or my family being hurt or killed vs an attacker being hurt or killed, that attacker is either going to the hospital or the morgue. It’s as simple as that. I’ve seen guys with literally, 8-9 rounds in them still walking around. Still fighting. The body’s natural adrenaline is an amazing drug. It will drive you into action long after you should be sometimes. And besides adrenaline, the illegal drugs can have that same exact effect.

    “give it a rest”: did you read the link I posted just above?

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  14. I know that people on each side of the gun issue can not even begin to comprehend the thinking of the other side, but maybe there are those in the middle that can be swayed. In today’s WSJ we have Peggy Noonan, Reagan and Bush aide and speechwriter, and overall articulate representative of the moderate right, arguing for the President to advocate a ban on extended clips:

    “Normal people are not afraid of a lowering of discourse in political speech. They don’t like it, but it’s not keeping them up nights. Normal people are afraid of nuts with guns. That keeps them up nights. They know our society has grown more broken, families more sundered, our culture more degraded, and they fear it is producing more lost and disturbed young people. They fear those young people walking into a school or a mall with a semiautomatic pistol with an extended clip.

    What civilian needs a pistol with a magazine that loads 33 bullets and allows you to kill that many people without even stopping to reload? No one but people with bad intent. Those clips were banned once; the president should call for reimposing the ban. The Republican Party will not go to the wall to defend extended clips. The problem is the Democratic Party, which overreached after the assassinations of the 1960s, talked about banning all handguns, and suffered a lasting political setback. Now Democrats are so spooked that they won’t even move forward on small and obvious things like this. The president should seize the moment and come out strong for a ban.”

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    Bill L. Reply:

    Unfortunately, with the last ban, it affected all magazines above 10. So the current ones that are standard with the issue of a pistol are 13-15 would also be affected.

    But as stated earlier also, it would still not be illegal for people to own them. People could and would still own them. It would not be illegal to sell them either. It would be illegal to manufacture them. You could still purchase aftermarket kits that would allow you to extend the capacity of the magazine.

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  15. Yes — I did. And it made the point htat it takes 2 seconds to reload a magazine — so limiting the magazine is a waste of intent.

    I guess it’s all about the perception and reality of what guns are about — well meaning people keep and carry them for self-defense — and they truly believe that purpose. For those of us who cannot fathom owning a gun, it’s a hard mindset to acquire. But I respect it. I can buy all the arguments about the criminals being able to get a gun regardless of gun laws — but I cannot follow the Right to Bear Arms as the overpowering permission that the NRA and many claim.
    But I’m learning and I do appreciate this. Maybe in the line of duty, you’ll think about just killing these armed criminals — because it’s the damage they can do after they complete their sentence that terrifies me….and I know that I could never shoot anyone. I’d only be arming my attacker if I had a gun.

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    Bill L. Reply:

    I’m just going to respond to your last sentence, because i have seen many people believe this to be true, when in fact it is not.

    ” I’d only be arming my attacker if I had a gun.”
    With proper training, etc, you can learn alot. You can learn how not to let your attacker get your weapon. You can learn not to have a “victim mindset”. No offense, but that is what it is. And every single person has it. It just takes training and a learning of confidence in yourself and your abilities (and capabilities). And the only thing left is motivation, and when you believe yourself or loved ones are going to die, that’s a lot of motivation. Like I said, I don’t want to kill somebody. I don’t want to shoot and injure somebody. I don’t even want to have to pull my weapon on somebody. Not at all. Not in the least. But I will protect my family and myself. Even a stranger.

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  16. Wow, the vitriol coming from those who equate any reasonable limits on gun ownership to be an infringement on their personal freedom …. never ceases to amaze me. The rationalization for keeping laws as they are is that criminals will still get their hands on guns and high capacity ammo clips, o why bother?

    Bill L thanks commenter, Common Sense, for his input and offers up a hokey pro-gun article.

    Here’a another article worth reading. It appeared on NYT’s Sunday Opinion Page (1/23/11). It offers a SANE approach to updating gun laws – one that would “save lives without interfering with hunters or violating any constitutional right.”
    ________________________________________

    SANER GUN LAWS

    It is widely believed in Washington that there is no chance the gun lobby and the new Republican majority in the House would ever permit passage of the modest ideas for tightening America’s absurdly lax gun laws that have surfaced since the massacre in Tucson.

    That may be true, but it is no reason for supporters of reasonable gun regulation not to put up a fight. Nor is it an excuse for the lack of principled presidential leadership on this issue. We are still waiting for President Obama to fulfill his promises on gun safety.

    Mr. Obama ran for the White House calling for the restoration of the ban on assault weapons that Congress irresponsibly let expire in 2004. He has not pursued that goal, and so far, his voice is missing even from the call for less ambitious but necessary changes in gun laws. The country needs Mr. Obama to put his support behind a two-pronged approach that is directly relevant to the dynamics of gun violence we all saw at play in Tucson.

    It begins with a proposed ban on the big volume ammunition magazines that added to the carnage not just in Arizona but also a long line of other mass shootings, including at Columbine High School and Virginia Tech. Even former Vice President Dick Cheney, a staunch gun rights advocate, said last week that it might be time to reinstate the magazine-size rule, which was part of the discarded assault weapons ban. That would save lives without interfering with hunters or violating any constitutional right.

    Mr. Obama ought to tell that to Congress and the public in his State of the Union address this week. The National Rifle Association will counter that Americans need high-capacity clips for self-defense. We’d like to hear how many times in the real world the life of an American, other than a police officer or a combat soldier, was endangered because of an inability to fire 30 shots in rapid succession without reloading. What we do know about is the grim, repetitive reality of mass shootings.

    The pending gun agenda also includes plugging dangerous holes in the background check system to make it harder for people with emotional and drug abuse problems, like the Tucson shooter, to obtain weapons. Despite eroding public support for more strict rules, like a handgun ban, there is broad agreement on the need to keep guns from getting into the wrong hands.

    Although facing a likely primary challenge from the right when he runs for re-election next year, Senator Richard Lugar, Republican of Indiana, voiced his continued support for banning assault weapons in a recent interview with Bloomberg News.

    Another Republican, Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, opposes banning the enlarged magazines. But on “Meet the Press” last Sunday, Mr. Coburn expressed an interest in a bipartisan effort to create a new legal standard to “make sure people who are mentally ill cannot get and use a gun.” His interest in finding common ground is encouraging even though for the moment, at least, the fix is unclear.

    One thing that could be usefully addressed is that many state records on disqualifying involuntary commitments and adjudicated mental instability are not being submitted to the federal background check system. Records of drug abuse or addiction also rarely make it into the system, according to Mayors Against Illegal Guns, Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s gun policy group.

    Asked last week about the administration’s positions on these matters, Mr. Obama’s press secretary, Robert Gibbs, said the White House was focused on “the important healing process.” That is part of the president’s duties. So is protecting public safety.

    A version of this editorial appeared in print on January 23, 2011, on page WK9 of the New York edition..

    [Reply]

  17. Kate
    Maybe I am not reading talking points, but I am very much afraid of and in the dark about guns and gun owners, but I have not sensed any vitriol at all. I appreciate the candor these guys have extended explaining why reasonable people can be in against gun control without threatening our safety.

    I struggle with this issue — really do — but I think calling their measured responses vitriol is over a line. If we cannot stop characterizing each other based on beliefs, then we do stop listening.

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  18. Kate, please save the theatrics for the theater. There has been no vitriol, other that that demonstrated by you and your apparent willingness to be open to any discussion other than stricter gun laws. Save it.

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    Bill L. Reply:

    That should read ‘un’ willingness.

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  19. Bill L,
    Wrong. I am open to any discussion that improves gun safety and keeps guns out of the hands of criminals and those who would harm themselves and others due to mental illness.

    Your defense of assault weapons and high volume ammo is very weak. It assumes bad things happen and stricter gun laws won’t changne anything. You say criminals would get hold of them anyway, inferring that law-abiding citizens need the same kind of weapons to defend themselves.

    But really, how many people – not cops or soldiers – actually need a semi- automatic weapon with clips of 30+ bullets for self-defense?

    I’m troubled by your rationalization that a seriously depressed man would have found another method to kill himself. Ask his wife if she wishes she’d removed the gun from their home. How the heck do you know if he could have been saved if he’d used a less instantaneous method?

    The couple that was shot with their own gun had taken training in its use, but probably panicked when they surprised a stranger inside their home about to carry their possessions out the door. If there had been no gun in the mix, the robber probably would have fled and they’d be alive today.

    Guns require no thought, no planning, no time – to kill. The impulse to pull the trigger has no equivalent. As far as i can see, the NRA and their gun-loving minions control the discussion in this country. They feel any compromise infringes on “their freedom”. It is THEY who are not open to discussion.

    Meanwhile most Americans are troubled by gun violence, aware that the number of gun deaths per capita in the U.S. far exceeds that of any other country’, and willing to listen.to reason. I put myself in that category

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  20. Kate
    That’s strident, but useful exchange. I think making your point without attacking the people who make theirs is useful.

    I think this is about neither side understanding the other side because there is so much passion in the perspective. But I think the discussions, absent the drama, are good.

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  21. “Wrong. I am open to any discussion that improves gun safety and keeps guns out of the hands of criminals and those who would harm themselves and others due to mental illness.”
    — And you are only open to that discussion as long as it includes further limiting access to firearms and their accessories to law-abiding citizens…

    “Your defense of assault weapons and high volume ammo is very weak. It assumes bad things happen and stricter gun laws won’t changne anything. You say criminals would get hold of them anyway, inferring that law-abiding citizens need the same kind of weapons to defend themselves.”
    —Guess what? Bad things do happen. Every hour of every day, unfortunately. I, for one, would rather be prepared for that, rather than denying it and making myself a victim. Criminals would get a hold of the guns anyways. This is an accepted truth. And why shouldn’t law-abiding citizens be able to defend themselves? Who are you to decide what I, as a law-abiding citizen, have a right to or not?

    “But really, how many people – not cops or soldiers – actually need a semi- automatic weapon with clips of 30+ bullets for self-defense?”
    —Again, who are you to decide this? Especially seeing as you don’t use firearms, don’t know about firearms, and don’t understand proper use of them?

    “I’m troubled by your rationalization that a seriously depressed man would have found another method to kill himself. Ask his wife if she wishes she’d removed the gun from their home. How the heck do you know if he could have been saved if he’d used a less instantaneous method?”
    —I am troubled by your apparent lack of grasp of reality if you think a “seriously depressed” man would have only attempted suicide if he had access to firearms. Are firearms the only way people commit suicide??? Hardly…

    “The couple that was shot with their own gun had taken training in its use, but probably panicked when they surprised a stranger inside their home about to carry their possessions out the door. If there had been no gun in the mix, the robber probably would have fled and they’d be alive today.”
    —You make an assumption. One that the odds are nowhere near in your favor. One that your naiveté of the subject leads you wrong.

    “Guns require no thought, no planning, no time – to kill. The impulse to pull the trigger has no equivalent. As far as i can see, the NRA and their gun-loving minions control the discussion in this country. They feel any compromise infringes on “their freedom”. It is THEY who are not open to discussion.”
    –“Gun-loving minions”…Hahaha. Again, love the pompous, I’m better and smarter than you, name-calling attitude that anti-gun people display.

    “Meanwhile most Americans are troubled by gun violence, aware that the number of gun deaths per capita in the U.S. far exceeds that of any other country’, and willing to listen.to reason. I put myself in that category”
    —Actually, most Americans are more troubled by the criminals perpetuating the “gun violence”.

    [Reply]

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