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NRA holding nation hostage

Published: Sun, February 3, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

I woke up early this morning, driven from my bed by the sharp pain running up and down what’s left of my spine. As I straightened up my back emitted a series of sharp cracks. If you’ve ever seen a poker player shuffling chips you’ll know what it sounded like. You’ll also know why my spouse told me to leave the bedroom.

Fortunately, the cracks emanating from my back were the only sharp sounds in my neighborhood. When I turned on the radio in the bathroom and NPR’s Morning Edition leaped from the speaker, I learned that men, women, and children across the globe were awakening to a completely different kind of crack — the crack of gunfire.

In Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, Egypt, Algeria, bullets were flying. People were being killed by people wielding assault rifles. Sadly, the same thing was happening in Chicago — seven people murdered in one night on the streets of America’s most blood-soaked city.

Reeling, the sound of recorded gunfire still ringing in my ears, I walked into the living room, turned on the TV, and tuned to the Today show, hoping for some happy talk that would take the edge off. Instead, a promo for Sylvester Stallone’s new movie “Bullet to the Head” filled the screen. I mashed the power button on the remote and sent Sly into the abyss.

I sat on my couch in silence and semi-darkness repulsed by the realization that we live in a world and a country so soaked in gun violence that we’ve become numb to the carnage surrounding us. A congresswoman shot in a parking lot, a movie theater turned into a killing field, 32 dead and 17 wounded at Virginia Tech, 31,000 Americans, more than 2,000 of them kids, slaughtered by guns every year and, until the unspeakable horror of Newtown, until the bodies of 20 first graders were riddled by so many bullets that they were rendered unidentifiable, we refused to act. A nation held hostage by NRA extremists who front for the gun manufacturers that profit from death.

As I sat, despondent because pundits are already speculating that President Obama’s drive to enact reasonable gun regulations appears doomed, this thought hit me: the same assault weapons that are ripping apart bodies in Damascus and Benghazi, that the Taliban use to kill, that opened gaping, fatal wounds in 50 Egyptian protesters, that terrorists around the world use to murder, are being used to terrorize people right here in the good old USA.

The sad fact is that when it comes to guns and gun violence, we’re no better than the third-world nations so many of us like to sneer at. Think for a moment what life would be like if we adopted the same perverse absolutist stance toward other segments of our society that the NRA and its adherents take toward guns. There would be no child labor laws, no OSHA. Our food would go un-inspected, our drugs untested, our water undrinkable, our air rank and deadly.

We are the culture we are because we acted to make our nation — and in particular our kids — safer. We are the greatest nation in the world because we recognized dangers and dealt with them. We are the freest nation in the world because we are free of so many of the hazards that make life in Syria, Egypt, Afghanistan, Libya, and other lesser-developed nations so damn deadly.

And yet, when it comes to guns, we are just like them.

Is that who we really are?

Is that who we really want to be?

State Rep. Robert F. Hagan, D-58th, Youngstown, writes on behalf of the Mahoning County Democratic Party.


1Photoman(1249 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

It appears to me that Mr. Hagan has not done his homework on countries where gun control in in effect. It also appears to me that our Constitution has little meaning to our current administration as we as seeing attacks against the 1st, 2nd, 6th and 14th amendments by those of Mr. Hagan's ilk. If we lose one right that's guaranteed us, we will soon lose all of our liberties.

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2dmacker(541 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

The NRA is an organization of millions of individuals with similar but not identical values. It's much like the Mahoning County Democratic Party on who's behalf you write.
As a Mahoning County Democrat I know many others with much different opinions than yours about what is behind the wave of violence in todays world and in our neighborhoods.
Many of those Democrats are life long owners of firearms, for a variety of reasons, and see no nexus between their guns and the violence of which you speak.
Today we live in an evil world with a culture of violence on television, movies and video games. We see a lack of respect and value for human life.
Most of the tragedies to which you refer were committed by persons with severe mental problems. Yet we see no outrage over our lack of attention to improving the means of identifying those with serious mental problems and getting them the treatment they need.
Only the very naive believe that banning guns will stop the evil in the world and in our streets. Many of us see the firearm as the last resort to keep this evil from our door. Our forefathers saw gun control as a step toward people control and I agree with their wisdom.
Most of the Mahoning County homicides and those around the country involved drugs or drug trafficking.
How did banning drugs work for you?

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3excel(1307 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

Don't let the critics thwart your line of thinking comrad Bob. We can become a kinder and gentler nation when only the drug dealers and criminals are armed.

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4redeye1(5673 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

Once again Booby has proven to me that he shouldn't even be representing us in our state gov't . This just shows just how out of touch Booby really is. Time to retire Booby !!!! . How come you didn't mention the great city of Chicago ( your exalted ruler's hometown) that already has 42 as yesterday or more murders this year already. You know the city with the toughest gun control laws in the country. All the shooting sights that you have mention were and still are GUN FREE zones. How come?

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5definitelyjim(4 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

The previous four letters and the hundreds of comments (I counted 1394) made to them paint a picture of shameful redbaiting, cynicical ignorance that appears to have thrived in the Mahoning Valley since the 1950s.

Since so many are glued to their TV sets, EIB's Rush Limbaugh, senslessly violent movies, and an absolute horror of reading anything to the left of Hannity -- having a cache of weapons in the closet and gunrack seems as ordinary as free speech, voting, or a trip to the Giant Eagle store.

Guns are not the answer to any problem. Guns and attitudes and beliefs about gun ownership IS THE problem. The writers of the second amendment clearly had in mind the right of states to form militias. The eighteenth century politicians and intellectuals could not even have dreamed of the deadly capacity of today's weapons. The founding fathers' nightmare would have been armed bands of survivalists and Wild West gunslingers running amok instead of well organized militias.

The per capita slaughter by firearms in the Youngstown region has been on par with the most violent areas in the United States. We are not going to increase the quality of life here or anywhere else in the world through the use of weapons and advanced weapon technology.

If you want a gun or many guns, I would suggest joining the National Guard. Help protect Ohio in a sensible way. If you don't want the bad guys, so-called, from the middle east to have guns and commit violence, cooperate with rather than attempting to own them and their resources (oil).

While we're at it, dissolve the CIA and the vast number of spy agencies that our tax dollars support. The covert, off the record guns paid for, and used, in all of our names by the government is embedded in our culture of gun violence.

If my notions mentioned here seem naive to some readers; how much more naive and misguided is the notion of pouring ever more weapons into our lives through the entertainment industry, the NRA, and the Pentagon with its covert operatives.

Bob Hagan is absolutely right, and some of us need to stop snivveling about getting our rocket launchers taken away. I further suggest beginning by subscribing to and supporting TomDispatch online. This site explains in plain language, sane approaches to survival for all of us and our children and their children.

Guns will not be a problem once we come to understand their low importance; that they cause infinitely more harm than good. We need to follow the example of enlightened countries that have low homicide rates and very strict gun laws. Which countries? Widen your reading, the info is not available on TV or the movies. It's just Not there.

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6VINDYAK(1824 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

@definiteyjim - Your idea of eliminating guns from citizens will never work. Drugs, crime and illegal guns will always be here because our government cannot stop any of it. That is why so many millions of Americans are arming themselves. When seconds count, you can be sure our police will be there in minutes to do the paperwork. This is not a slight against our brave policemen and women. It is a statement of fact and of the system that criminals so freely play in.

None of us have rocket launchers or automatic weapons, as they are illegal for us to own. We simply want to protect ourselves and that is why we have a Second Amendment to the Constitution. The First Amendment allows you to make your comments, for me to reply and for this paper to print our exchange. If it were not for our Constitution, we would be another Cuba, Russia or China. Are they any better off than we are? Ask someone who lives there. Or, ask some of the millions who try to move to America every year.

Despite all of our issues, we live in the best country in the world and we want to be sure it stays that way. Our Constitution is there for us, not for the government. Let's keep it that way.

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7definitelyjim(4 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

Spoken like a true provincial, vindyak.
We can be sure to have little or no weapons control laws as long as there are people who think like you.
So tell me, how many trips to China, Russia, and Cuba have you made? What are their homicide rates?
I didn't write my comments in order to be an object of condescention, but to explain that the second amendment was written to provide us with a well-regulated militia. The second amendment was not written to create droves of paranoids who cannot possibly believe that they keep deadly weapons in their homes to "protect" themselves from intruders.
Since you bring up the ad hominem argument of foreign countries, let me bring you a bit of relevance to the table. To name three other countries, Japan, Germany, and England; there are many others, but in the three countries I mention, strict enforcement of guns is in effect. That policy keeps the homicide rate to five percent of that in the United States. In other words, for every gun homicide in Japan, twenty similar homicides occur here.
Fear of criminals is tantamount to giving criminals power over us to legislate sane use of firearms. A much more effective policy would be to issue titles and registrations for every firearm. All guns have a make and serial number after all. We must responsibly do this for our motor vehicles, which do have a purpose other than killing, unlike guns. While we're at it, liability insurance, the same as for automobiles, should be mandatory for ALL guns to insure the public that firearms owners are indeed responsible citizens. I am sure the insurance industry would appreciate the premiums.
Without strict control of deadly guns, you can expect the same or increased absurdly tragic homicide rates to continue. You can't keep doing the same wrong things and expect changes for the better. To do so is insane.

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8VINDYAK(1824 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

I have relatives and family friends from Russia, Cuba, Germany, Poland, and Ukraine and have traveled to many countries throughout the world during my days in the service. Although you suggest crime in countries such as England and Germany are low, the truth remains that their per capita crime is actually higher when you remove the gun homicide factor.
We seem to have an obsession in this country to vilify the tool, rather than the criminal, so we waste more time focusing on elimination of the tool rather than solve the social issues of how people become criminals and why.

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9walter_sobchak(2727 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

@definitelyjim- You have some of the facts correct about state militias. The militias were indeed described in most of the individual state constitutuions prior to the US constitution. This is how it was possible for them to fight along side of the Continental Army in America's First Civil War. However, many of those constitutions did not provide arms for the members; the men brought their own weapons. Now, after we beat the British Army and won our independence from the crown, our founders tried with the Articles of Confederation to establish some central government. This didn't prove to be workable, so we had a Constitutional Convention. You would do well to read some of the arguments stated there regarding the right of the people to keep and bear arms. The founders were very suspicious of a large central government and standing armies, for good reason. The only way the Constitution was going to be passed was for the leaders to assure the states that a Bill of Rights would be immediately added so that the INDIVIDUAL'S GOD-GIVEN rights would not be trampled.

You claim that homicide rates of Russia, Cuba, and China are very low since guns are not permitted. But, what about the people that receive a knock at the door in the middle of the night and suddenly disappear because they are deemed enemies of the state. Any way you cut it, killing of one person by another is a homicide!

Here is an appropriate quote with which I leave you:
"Firearms stand next in importance to the constitution itself. They are the American people's liberty teeth and keystone under independence … from the hour the Pilgrims landed to the present day, events, occurences and tendencies prove that to ensure peace security and happiness, the rifle and pistol are equally indispensable … the very atmosphere of firearms anywhere restrains evil interference — they deserve a place of honor with all that's good."

The quote is from that ne'er-do-well George Washington.

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10definitelyjim(4 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

Tools are floor jacks, Crescent wrenches, drywall trowels, etc.
Although I will concede that a .44 magnum,or a zip gun, or a B-52, or the Ohio nuclear submarine are also tools of a fashion -- I have serious reservations about any of these solving social issues of any kind.

Per capita crime higher? Maybe. But very little bloodshed occurs when graft or embezzlement is the crime. But our social issues center around a very few people owning and/or controlling vast amounts of wealth and resources. This goes a long way to create a permanent underclass.

This underclass has little or no means to obtain much less maintain a high quality life. They remain little able to "game" the economic system the way a bailed-out New York bank exec can. However, they have a second amendment right to obtain and use a gun. Until they use it to commit a crime, AND get caught and convicted.

In effect our economic systen has all along been creating an economic underclass with marginal lives that sees every day many examples of splendid wealth and conspicuous consumption both in real time and through the various media.

By an underclass I mean that there exists a permanent strata of Americans for whom no meaningful employment will Ever be available. These people understandably will do what they must to maintain their existence. And...they are free to do that with their second amendment rights, so-called.

To advance my argument another step, one must take a week off and read the many hundreds of pages of the USAPATRIOT Act. Through these pages a reader will find that all of our constitutional rights have been suspended. There is no second amendment. Nor is there a first, sixteenth or any other. The constitution has been nullified and voided through collusion by the Republican and Democratic parties. These majority parties played on the fears, ignorance, and paranoia of Americans over the extremely unlikely possibility that Osama binLaden will attack us once more; oh, wait "we" assassinated him without due process, one of our constitutional rights.

Well the Constitution makes a great framed artifact or wallpaper or whatever other paper that may be necessary. But Nobody is or has been for quite a few years, fighting to protect our constitutional rights. The only rights we have are the ones we get at the pleasure of the Federal Government. As long as what I write poses no threat to the established order I can have all the first amendment rights in the candy shop.

Must we arm ourselves like they are doing in the Bitterroots of Idaho? It will be useless! Janet Reno sent a tank and flamethrower to teach the Branch Davidians a lesson on second amendment rights. And that was before our constitution was suspended.

So wake up and smell the coffee, for it may already be too late. Our only hope is an awakening from mass media's hypnosis that we have inalienable rights in the USA, "Homeland" of the Brave New Patriotact World.
Welcome Home.

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11definitelyjim(4 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

Two points: First you"re going to have a difficult time selling that George Washington argument to Native Americans. How much peace, security, and happiness did they receive at the wrong end of "the pistol and the rifle"? They were living on top of all that coal, oil, uranium, and farmland, etc. and had to be removed at all costs. Thus, the "Indian Wars."

Secondly I said nothing about the homicide rates in Russia, Cuba, or China. I mentioned Germany, Japan, and England; could have mentioned a substantial number of others such as Norway, Denmark, Finland, and so on.

If we wish to visit countries in which its citizens disappear, we may want to get out our travel brochures for Chile (September 11, 1973) armed overthrow of a democratically elected president with the substantial help of Henry Kissinger and tha CIA; or El Salvador, USA supported dictatorship in which civilians disappeared on a regular basis. Civilians in Salvador were armed but to little avail. The military had bigger guns and God on their side (Napoleon said God is on the side of those with the biggest guns).

We can look at several more Latin, and South American countries, but you can see where I'm going with this -- straight to the School of the Americas, of which I'm sure you have at least a passing familiarity.

My final comment is that in the face of any evidence or no matter how compelling that evidence is, there are those that will rationalize gun ownership and its "necessity" for protecting constitutional rights we have not had for a number of years. So, have your guns already. I have never owned one in my 65 years, never felt the need to own one. The biggest threats I have ever faced came from number crunchers, execs, banks, utility companies, and so on. I can't bring myself to shoot them. So my "gun fund" pays for six months of cell phone usage.

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12exlonghorn(45 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

Let me tell you why I don't think the availabilty of firearms is the main problem..When I was in high school in the '60's,guns were even more readily available. You could even get a rifle by mail order (remember Oswald?) I remember many mornings before class walking into the school with my friends, each of us carrying a .22 rifle to go practice in the school's indoor rifle range in the basement. There was never any trouble because the culture then was one of respect for law and order and fellow citizens. The kind of behavior that results in these heinous killings is learned... Kids become what they see..Walk through the video game isle of BestBuy, look at the movie trailers...WE CREATE THESE MONSTERS.. Wake up people!

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13CBDactivist(125 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

First OFF,

Bob Hagan, Keep up the good work!

I have heard it all over and over and all the lamb arguments of the NRA

They are basically summarized blaming everything else rather than the root cause.

Mental illness, video games, guns don’t kill, people kill?? It goes on and on!
Anything else at all cost is the problem just not the guns.
The only part of that argument that is true is that "Guns don’t Kill"
it’s actually the "BULLETS in them Kill"


If there were no guns in existence, at all, no guns, could you get killed by a GUN?

This whole argument is really not anymore complicated than that!
Lets not continue to let the NRA come up with anything more basic than that!

If there were no guns in existence, at all, no guns, could you get killed by a GUN?

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