"The issue of human life and its preservation and development is one that begins with conception and ends only when God calls a person back to himself in death. If we are consistent, then, we must be concerned about life from beginning to end. It is like a seamless garment; either it all holds together or eventually it all falls apart." Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, 1975

Friday, November 27, 2015

Bang, Bang, Sanity

One of the most common sense articles on the gun culture and gun violence.  A few excerpts from a lengthy, but well written piece.

Jim Wright, Stonekettle Station


"We need gun laws that give society legal recourse by making each gun owner/user personally accountable for their own actions."

"Those laws should be designed to change our gun culture over time in order to make gun violence less likely."

"Make responsible gun ownership and usage federal law, uniform across the United States."

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Gun Violence: The Public Health Crisis America Is Denying

By Ellen Rome, MD, MPH, Special to Everyday Health,
Published Oct 9, 2015


Remember the Ebola panic of 2014? The fear and upheaval? The media saturation? The stop-it-by-any-means attitude?

If we can mount that kind of response for a disease that was contracted by just two people in the United States, imagine what would happen if a public health crisis began killing 30,000 Americans a year, including 3,000 children.

Unfortunately, we don’t have to imagine this. Gun violence kills that many Americans annually, while wounding 73,000 more. Sadly, response from lawmakers is the polar opposite of the Ebola response.
This has to change.

Gun violence is a public health issue that profoundly affects children and families. Firearm injuries are among the top three killers of kids.
As a pediatrician, I have a duty to protect children. And the data is clear: strong gun laws positively impact families and lower accidental gun deaths, homicides, and suicides in youth.

I firmly support the American Academy of Pediatrics’ stance that Congress needs to find a way forward on gun safety legislation that improves the background-check system (including the elimination of gun show loopholes), reduces gun trafficking, requires safe firearm storage, bans all high-capacity magazines, passes stronger handgun regulations, enacts a strong, effective ban on assault weapons, and supports research to generate effective approaches to prevention and healing.

Here’s a closer look at the priorities the American Academy of Pediatrics is advocating:
  • Firearm safety: Enact stronger gun laws, including an effective assault weapons ban; mandatory background checks on all firearm purchases; and a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines.
  • Prevention and public health: Allow federal agencies to conduct research on the causes and prevention of gun violence, and stand by the president’s clarification that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors from asking their patients about guns in the home.
  • Access to mental health services: Improve the identification of mental illnesses through increased screening, addressing inadequate insurance coverage and high out-of-pocket costs that create barriers to access, strengthening the overall quality of mental health access, and expanding the Medicaid reimbursement policy to include mental health and developmental services.
  • Reducing gun violence in the media and educating children: Develop quality, violence-free programming and constructive dialogue among child health and education advocates, the Federal Communications Commission, and the television and motion picture industries, as well as toy, video game, and other software manufactures and designers, to reduce the romanticization of guns in the popular media as a means of resolving conflict.
For those who have been the witnesses or victims of gun violence, more affordable and accessible mental health services are a necessary part of the healing process. Supporting a robust gun violence research agenda will also ensure that we develop and utilize the most evidence-based practices to keep families safe and well, especially children and adolescents — our most vulnerable population and our future.

I saw a young man in my office with bullet wounds skimming his legs. He was at the wrong place at the wrong time ­— an increasingly common occurrence here in Cleveland. In the past month, three children have been killed in separate Cleveland shootings: A 3-year-old boy and a 5-month-old girl were shot and killed while sitting in cars on the city’s East Side, and a 5-year-old boy was shot and killed while playing football outside his grandmother’s home.

These incidents — as well as the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut; the Umpqua Community College shooting in Roseburg, Oregon; and all the other places that have become synonymous with deadly shootings — are preventable.

A public health approach can help.

Consider automobile safety. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, traffic fatalities were as high as they had been since cars went into mass production, with about 52,000 deaths per year, or 25 to 26 deaths per 100,000 people.

A litany of common-sense laws, regulations, and safety campaigns were put in place over the next several decades, including speed limits, seat belt laws, air bag regulations, better highway design, baby seat and child seat laws, and drunk driving laws. Societal pressure also had a big impact. By 2013, the death rate had dropped 61 percent, to 10.3 deaths per 100,000 people.
Picture our roads and highways today without speed limits, seat belts, or child safety seats. It’s unthinkable. In fact, after initially fighting increased safety measures as too expensive, the auto industry has made safety a selling point, adding more air bags and technology that alerts drivers when they’re out of their lanes, and even brings the car to a stop to avoid collisions.

How does this apply to guns? It shows that safety improvements can be made through common-sense tactics, and that it’s possible for a resistant industry to embrace safety changes — and for a hesitant society to flip cultural norms.

It’s also important to consider that we didn’t ban cars to improve traffic safety. We didn’t ban alcohol to decrease incidence of drunk driving. Instead, we implemented multi-faceted approaches through improved technology, law enforcement, and cultural pressure.
We cannot afford to be silent on gun violence. I strongly encourage action on this issue, with appropriate legislation passed, research supported, and families able to access bolstered mental health services to heal those who are already victims of schoolyard killings, drive-by shootings, or accidental gun-related injuries in the home. Call your congresspeople. Take action to help be the change we need.

I hope that we can all agree that reducing gun violence would be good for America. Certainly, there is no simple, overnight solution. It took the better part of four decades to improve traffic safety. Let’s hope it won’t take that long to improve gun safety.

Rome_Ellen_395572Ellen Rome, MD, MPH, is a pediatrician at Cleveland Clinic and head of Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Adolescent Medicine.
Top photo credit: Getty Images


Sunday, November 1, 2015

Why Liberals Should Oppose Assisted Suicide

, Distinctly Catholic 
National Catholic Reporter  


Assisted suicide is now legal in five states: California, Oregon, Washington, Montana and Vermont. In the coming year, Connecticut, Maryland and New York will likely face the issue in their state legislatures. All but one of those states, Montana, is a blue state, and in the three states set to consider the issue, Democrats control both houses of the legislature in Maryland and Connecticut, and the governorships in Connecticut and New York. So, this political battle will largely be fought within the ranks of the Democratic Party.

Liberals certainly value personal autonomy. They also have been the core of the party which has evidenced a sense of social solidarity: Democrats created the New Deal and continue to defend it, they support union rights, they care about immigrants and how they are treated. On the issue of assisted suicide, these values, personal autonomy and social solidarity seem to conflict and, indeed, there are prominent Democrats who support it and prominent Democrats who oppose it. All Democrats and liberals should oppose it and here is why.

Whatever your thoughts on the issue per se, how Democrats conduct the debate on assisted suicide will have a clear impact on how our nation confronts one of the most consequential political struggles in the coming years: entitlement reform. Medicare and Social Security (and other entitlements) account for a large and increasing share of federal spending. These benefits go disproportionately to the elderly, who some of us believe have earned the right to live out their lives in dignity and consequently believe that the rest of us have an obligation to provide for our seniors. This issue, along with immigration reform, more than any others, requires a renegotiation of the social contract, the sense of what we as citizens owe to one another. (Assisted suicide is not only an issue about the elderly, but it is primarily about them and they are the focus of my concern here.)

It is obvious to me that if liberals spend the next twelve months in the important media markets of Washington, D.C. and New York talking about the importance and value of social solidarity in opposing assisted suicide, they will be well positioned to defend against efforts to cut Social Security and Medicare funding. If, on the other hand, those of us who care about entitlements celebrate personal autonomy, we play into the hands of those who wonder why they should be expected to pay their money in taxes to support people they do not know or do not care about.

Make no mistake about it: When the ideological libertarianism of the right on economic issues combines with the moneyed interests of those who will have to pay more taxes to keep Social Security and Medicare afloat, powerful political pressure will be brought to bear. It is easy to scare people about the rising costs of entitlements because the numbers are scary. It is easy to find someone who defrauded Medicare and make that person the poster child of an otherwise very effective system for providing health care. (I have never understood why people buy into this kind of attack, using one person’s fraud to demean an entire system. After all, in Watergate, we drove Nixon out of office, we did not cease holding presidential elections.) In the 1980s, Republicans regularly denounced “welfare queens” to attack social welfare programs, and stoke a bit of racial animus as well. Some such campaigns will likely be used to convince Americans that “we can’t afford” Social Security and Medicare, we have to make cuts, the laws of economics demand it, that we are depriving our children of their future, etc. Just because this is bunk doesn’t mean it won’t work.

This line of argument will have a harder time working if we on the left spend the next twelve months talking about the elderly in terms of solidarity and confronting assisted suicide because it is the opposite of solidarity. Solidarity with those who are suffering should speak to the liberal heart, shouldn’t it? And, it should speak to our brains too. Assisted suicide as public policy is a statement of failure, of social failure, not medical failure: Pain management has come a long, long way and those who are dying need not suffer pain and they can experience a death with dignity, surrounded by caring family and nurses. Vicki Kennedy, whose husband Sen. Ted Kennedy had died after a long illness, spoke to this in her important op-ed opposing assisted suicide in Massachusetts three years ago.  She wrote:

When my husband was first diagnosed with cancer, he was told that he had only two to four months to live, that he'd never go back to the U.S. Senate, that he should get his affairs in order, kiss his wife, love his family and get ready to die.

But that prognosis was wrong. Teddy lived 15 more productive months. During that time, he cast a key vote in the Senate that protected payments to doctors under Medicare; made a speech at the Democratic Convention; saw the candidate he supported elected president of the United States and even attended his inauguration; received an honorary degree; chaired confirmation hearings in the Senate; worked on the reform of health care; threw out the first pitch on opening day for the Red Sox; introduced the president when he signed the bipartisan Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act; sailed his boat; and finished his memoir "True Compass," while also getting his affairs in order, kissing his wife, loving his family and preparing for the end of life.

Because that first dire prediction of life expectancy was wrong, I have 15 months of cherished memories — memories of family dinners and songfests with our children and grandchildren; memories of laughter and, yes, tears; memories of life that neither I nor my husband would have traded for anything in the world.

When the end finally did come — natural death with dignity — my husband was home, attended by his doctor, surrounded by family and our priest.
That is what death with dignity looks like. That is what health care, which Sen. Kennedy considered the cause of his life, looks like. That is what solidarity looks like.

Assisted suicide is promoted as a means to alleviate suffering, but that is not how it is actually practiced. All of us fear being in great pain at the end of our lives, but once this right is established, people who are not facing great pain avail themselves of it. This is not a slippery slope argument. There is clear evidence that the slope is slippery. In Oregon, where assisted suicide has been legal since 1997, the principal reasons for availing oneself of the “right-to-die” are: loss of autonomy (91.4%), decreased ability to engage in enjoyable activities (86.7%), loss of dignity (71.4%), loss of control of bodily functions (49.5%) and becoming a burden on others (40%).  Advocates of assisted suicide say they are in favor of “compassionate choices” but surely, there are more compassionate ways to help people cope with these anxieties than inviting them to kill themselves.

All of those items on the list are things people with disabilities confront and overcome, which is one reason the disability community is in the vanguard of opposition to assisted suicide laws. They understand that, yes, life is made more challenging because of their disabilities, but they are not expendable, they still have dignity. They understand, too, that a society that starts calculating what people can and can no longer contribute to society, that links human worth with other people’s determination of social utility, leads to inhumane judgments and expectations: If you are a burden, and you know it, why not dispose of yourself? On second thought, why shouldn’t society help you? Our country found its better angels when it passed the Americans with Disabilities Act that responded to the challenges people with disabilities face by trying to ameliorate the hurdles, not encouraging people to make themselves scarce.

Still undecided? When confronting a decision that involves competing values of personal autonomy and social solidarity, a pertinent question to ask is whether a given policy will impact the poor disproportionately. The rich can hire help so that they are not a burden, nurses to take of their physical needs, and the like, but the poor cannot. This should set off alarm bells in liberal minds. Among the reasons Gov. Jerry Brown should have vetoed the assisted suicide law in California is that the state’s Medicaid program does not cover palliative care, but it will cover assisted suicide. So much for choices! Advocates of assisted suicide argue that everyone is free to choose whether or not to seek the drugs that will take their life and this is true in a formal sense. But, formal freedom is not real freedom. The rich and poor alike are formally free to rummage in the dumpster for their dinner. Blacks were formally free to vote before the Voting Rights Act. Real freedom is something different.

I return to the issue of entitlement reform and pose a question to fellow liberals: Do you really trust President Obama and incoming Speaker Ryan not to find a compromise on entitlement reform that harms the poor and the elderly? I don’t. No one, absolutely no one, either man speaks with on a regular basis receives their actuarial statement from the Social Security Administration, looks at their estimated retirement benefit, and asks themselves if they will be able to live on that amount. They are wealthy and highly successful people. When they leave government service, they will likely make large fortunes in the private sector or go work at a think tank where the idolatry of the market convinced far too many that Simpson-Bowles was a good deal. I will support cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security only when the top marginal tax rate is back around 70% where it was in the Eisenhower years! Those were good years for the country, good years for the wealthy, good years for working people, but they were not years that produced the kind of Gilded Age economics we have today.

Social Security and Medicare exist so that the elderly will not be destitute. That is a low bar. We as a society, not our government, should do even more for our elderly. Our churches, our unions, our neighborhood watch groups, our schools, and most especially our families, should do more to keep our seniors involved in our lives. As Pope Francis never ceases reminding us, they hold the wisdom of years, which is a wisdom we could all use. Instead of seeing the elderly, and the entitlement programs that support them, as a burden, we should all find ways to celebrate their lives and keep them integrated into our own. We can start exercising this kind of social solidarity by opposing assisted suicide and reminding our seniors that they are not a burden, that they are needed and valued, that they have dignity and can never lose it. Here is an issue on which solidarity must trump personal autonomy or else we will all lose, and we might lose more than we first thought.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

An Appeal to Men to Stand up for Women and Care for and Defend Their Children

By Randy Alcorn, September 16, 2015


The tenth video exposé about Planned Parenthood from The Center for Bioethical Reform was released yesterday. You can view it, and more related articles, on the ERLC site.

The history of abortion in America should bring more shame to men than to anyone. No pregnancy happens without a man. Men should take the responsibility for their own purity and to protect that of women. When they fail to do this, they should be the first to accept full responsibility for the consequences of their actions, including the conception of a child.

As George Gilder argues in Men and Marriage, [i] when men exercise deep loyalties to women and children, when we take responsibility to protect and defend them, we are at our best; when we violate those loyalties, we are at our worst. We become abusers on the one hand, or passive cowards on the other. We place ourselves under the rightful scorn of women and under the judgment of God.

When I spoke on this subject at my church, a man in his sixties told me of a girl he got pregnant thirty-nine years ago. She gave him the choice of what to do, and he chose an abortion. He said it has haunted him since. He thinks about the woman he failed and the son or daughter he lost and wonders about the grandchildren he’d now be holding. He said to me, “Tell people about the consequences. Warn our young men—tell them God will hold them accountable for what they do with their children.” Then he broke down in tears and said, “I don’t want our young men to do what I did thirty-nine years ago.”

One of our home Bible study leaders came to me, tears in his eyes. He told me of an abortion he paid for years ago and the devastating impact it had on his life. A quarter of a million babies are aborted each year by women who describe themselves as “evangelical” or “born again." [ii] Most of these women no doubt have some church affiliation. In many cases the father of the child attends the same church. It is not only a moral crisis, but a matter of great shame that Christian men have been so weak that they not only commit sexual immorality, but allow a child to be killed to cover up their sin and make their lives easier (until their conscience takes revenge).
For the sake of women and children—and for our own sakes—it is time for men to stand up and make whatever sacrifices are necessary to care for children they have fathered. If this means begging the forgiveness of women, or standing in front of church leaders or a congregation and confessing their sin, so be it. If this were done more often, more young men in the church would be encouraged to pursue purity and discouraged from ever letting a child die for their sins.

Abortion isn’t a women’s issue. It’s a human issue, and its effects are devastating to women and men alike. But it’s high time for men to take personal responsibility, stand up for women and children, and exercise the kind of leadership God expects of us.

Sources[i] George Gilder, Men and Marriage (Gretna, La.: Pelican, 1992).
[ii] Family Planning Perspectives, July–August 1996, 12.


Sunday, October 25, 2015

Is personhood an opinion?

Did you ever think that perhaps the root cause of many social problems is that the status of personhood is perceived as just an opinion?  If one person's opinion is that another is less of a person than oneself, then any behavior against the other is allowable and justified.  (History shows us that legality is not a factor as laws can be changed and are changed.) 

Women are considered inferior to men; so men feel justified when putting a woman into 'her place' through domestic violence.  Malala was shot for advocating women's education, defying male dominance over women.  Gays are bullied for their sexual orientation.  Ethnic and racial groups are marginalized, segregated and eliminated through genocide. 

Think of how groups of people are dehumanized through words or images.  In Rwanda before the genocide began the radio station RTLM referred to the Tutsis as "cockroaches".   Jews were described by the Nazis as "lazy", "inferior", "robbers", "vermin" and "lice".  African-Americans were labeled "apes".  Native Americans were commonly referred to as "savages".  How much easier is it to harm or kill someone else if that person is not as 'human' as you?

Abortion is justified by many as the removal of an object or a clump of cells.  Others admit that those cells are the beginning of a person, but just not yet a person; therefore an abortion is acceptable.  Euthanasia is urged in some places for those unable to function to the standards of the world. 

Is child abuse an effect of abortion?  The disposable unborn becomes the disposable baby, child, teenager?

Could even the violence of street gangs be attributed to those members viewing members of other gangs as less of a person? 

The only possible way to give dignity to all is to respect the personhood of all people from the moment of conception to their natural death. 

A stretch?  I don't think so.  But of course, it is just my opinion.

Guns in America: A pro-life letter to my dad

A pro-life view on guns and gun control.

By Stephen Schneck, blog Justice News


My dad died in 2008. He joined the National Rifle Association (NRA) when he came home from Korea and was a member for the rest of his life.

Dear Dad,

I’ve changed my mind about guns. They do need to be regulated, licensed, and limited. I say this especially as a pro-life Catholic.

In America today, guns have become something that they never were for us. We wrangled about whether this or that shotgun gauge was better for ducks or pheasants. Dad, I remember how proud you were when I bested all my Boy Scout friends at an NRA rifle contest. With guns, we felt part of family history; we celebrated rituals like walking Uncle Nick’s cornrows and huddling over steaming coffee in a late November deer stand and passing along Grandpa Joe’s .410 to the next generation. Guns were several things in our home. They were tools for the hunting part of our lives and they were legacies of family traditions. As tools and legacies, they were part of the fabric of our culture and way of life.

I’m sure that for some Americans, guns are still what they were for us—tools and legacies. But, for most that’s not what they are anymore.
For many, guns are no longer a part of the fabric of their way of life; they have become the measure and purpose of their way of life. I wonder if this is related to a decline of religiosity or if it’s a reaction of people who find themselves in an America where everything seems to be eroding or in flux. Remember that kid when I was growing up who became so fixated with fire? Remember how he ended up burning down the high school? I think there are thousands and thousands of people in America who have become crazy about guns like that kid was about fire.

For others, guns are about power, both symbolic and real. If guns are about power over others then they are no longer merely tools. Guys who feel powerless and who worry about not measuring up as a man gravitate toward guns. The bigger and scarier-looking the gun, the better. I blame Hollywood and other parts of America’s culture industry for the prevalence of this fetishizing of guns.

I remember how you laughed at that guy in the duck blind who had painted his shotgun black. Scary-looking guns don’t hunt better, you said. Well, it’s the scariest-looking guns that people are buying these days—a telling sign of how guns in America today are no longer what they were for you. They are now all about having power or feeling powerful. They’re now primarily understood as weapons and increasingly as militarized weapons, designed by manufacturers and at least subliminally valued by their owners for their deadliness against human life.

You know that I’m pro-life, Dad. Over the years, as I’ve become more and more appalled at the unconscionable deaths of innocents, I’ve become pretty strident in my support for pro-life causes. You remember me marching in Washington’s annual January pro-life march. You remember my efforts to advance policies and laws that promote and protect life in all its stages. (And, you would be appalled at what Governor Jerry Brown just approved in California! You used to like him.)

In the last few weeks it’s become clear to me that one cannot be opposed to abortion, euthanasia, and the death penalty and yet remain silent about guns. This year, guns in the United States will kill thousands and thousands of people. I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to see it this way, but clearly this is a pro-life issue. If you are pro-life, then you must be in favor of whatever works to reduce gun deaths. Reflecting the teachings of the church, we are obliged as Catholics, as a matter of faith and morality, to address the availability of guns in public life, just as we are with other life issues. The moral gravity of gun violence is no less than for other life issues.

We know each other too well, Dad, so I know that you’re going to ask me to step down from lofty sermonizing and tell you what this would actually mean in the real world. How do we really achieve such reduction? Well, we could do worse than to take our bearings from the way that the pro-life movement has made progress against abortion: regulation, licensing, limits and, equally importantly, trying to change the culture by promoting supportive policies for families, mothers, and babies.

How would this work for guns? In many states, only state liquor stores can sell liquor. Why not ammunition? In every state, some cars are not allowed on the roads because they are potentially dangerous. In every state, cars need to be licensed, insured, and frequently inspected. Why not guns? One needs to be licensed to scuba dive, run a restaurant, have a dog, operate a ham radio, fish for trout, get married, and oodles of other things. Why not for gun ownership? Such regulations, limits, and licenses are designed to keep the public safe, while allowing mature, qualified, and appropriately healthy individuals to own and use these things safely.

You and I would surely argue about the details. It’s the bigger matter of faith and morals that’s become so compelling to me. This is a moral imperative. Don’t you see? It’s not a putdown or an effort to diminish the way of life that you loved and that I grew up in. Indeed, that way of life would surely flourish if common sense regulations and limits were in place. But if I’m pro-life, Dad, if I’m serious about my Catholic faith, then I must support advancing gun controls in contemporary America.

I know that someday we’ll be tramping through Uncle Nick’s cornrows again. I miss you, Dad.


Stephen Schneck is the Director of the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at The Catholic University of America.

Stephen Schneck's blog, Church and state, will update every Monday. Follow him on Twitter @StephenSchneck
Image: Flickr cc via Michael Dorausch

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Comprehensive Health Clinics vs. Planned Parenthood

Shift Planned Parenthood Funds to Health Centers That Don’t Equate Abortion with ‘Women’s Health’

The Center for Medical Progress’s undercover videos exposed the heartbreaking facts about Planned Parenthood’s trafficking in the body parts of aborted babies. The ensuing controversy has revealed another fact that Planned Parenthood would have preferred to keep hidden: It’s not really the “leading provider of high quality, affordable health care” it claims to be — unless you think a woman’s health is defined solely by her reproductive system.
Under questioning from Representative Mia Love during a recent hearing, Planned Parenthood’s president, Cecile Richards, finally admitted that, despite all the propaganda to the contrary, her organization does not actually provide mammograms. Nor does it provide other health-care services women routinely need to access — treatment for hypertension, diabetes, depression, osteoporosis, and other diseases and ailments.
So what exactly are taxpayers getting for the $528 million they provide to Planned Parenthood each year? And more important, what could they get if that money were spent instead at the thousands of federally qualified health centers around the country that do provide a full range of services and diagnostic screenings, as well as birth control, pap smears, and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases?  
In fact, women have the most to gain from a congressional decision to reallocate money away from Planned Parenthood and to community-based health centers that already serve their localities. The quality of women’s health care will be improved by shifting money to medical providers that focus on the health and well-being of the whole woman; the priority should not be funding an organization that treats women’s reproductive health in isolation.
Women’s access to health care will improve, as well. There are more than 13,000 qualified health centers providing a full range of health-care services to women, including 4,000 in under-served rural areas.
In comparison with the more than 13,000 health centers across the country, there are fewer than 700 Planned Parenthood facilities nationwide. In Los Angeles, for example, a woman could choose to receive services from any one of 43 health-care providers within a five-mile radius of the city’s downtown Planned Parenthood facility — including one clinic just 213 feet away. In Houston, there are 13 full-service health centers within five miles of Planned Parenthood; in Washington, D.C., there are 23 health centers already serving the community around the Planned Parenthood facility that is currently under construction, including one center just half a mile away. Research done by the Alliance Defending Freedom and the Charlotte Lozier Institute demonstrates that in every state, women will have more options and greater choice if federal funds are shifted away from Planned Parenthood and to community health centers.
The curtain has finally been pulled back on Planned Parenthood’s claim to be a champion of women’s health. Just as it reduces unborn babies to a collection of body parts for sale, Planned Parenthood reduces women’s health to their reproductive organs. Women deserve health care that focuses on the full range of their health and well-being. Reallocating Planned Parenthood’s federal funding to community health centers will be a major step in that direction. 

#ShoutYourAbortion Consequences

Planned Parenthood’s recent encouragement to women to tweet their abortion truth using #ShoutYourAbortion will have a long lasting impact not only on the women who responded but also on many families who will read, with horror, about the death of a family member.

The candor of this truth, tweeted quickly and without thought to future consequences, will remain a permanent record of a child’s death. It will also be a black mark in some circles for the woman who confessed in such a sensational manner. Sharing this truth rarely enhances the post-abortive life but often reduces it.

I was one of the early pioneers in sharing my abortion experience publicly in 1992. My story was shared on a two-day broadcast that reached millions outlining how horrifying my abortion impacted me at a spiritual, emotional, psychological and physical level. Thousands of women who felt the same way about their “choice” responded. My work in helping women find healthy ways to grieve this choice and forgive themselves began with that first public sharing. Yet there were major costs to my family for this confession.

Immediately after an abortion, it is a typical post-abortion experience to endorse and even recommend abortion. After my abortion in 1981 I surrounded myself with pro-choice people who would not judge me for this choice should they discover my truth. I only supported pro-choice candidates and even encouraged one of my friends to abort. Thankfully, she didn’t listen to me and is enjoying her daughter’s grandchildren these days. It wasn’t until I saw my next child fully formed on an ultrasound screen that I “realized” I had lost a person that day in the abortion clinic.

Defunding Planned Parenthood efforts across America have dredged up many women’s vivid experiences in these clinics during their own abortions. Footage from the Center for Medical Progress featured brutal discussions and clear dissection of our “blobs of tissue.” These images brought back memories we had hoped to forget.

Yet an amazing thing resulted from these video exposes – the world finally realized what women endured being under the “care” of such brutal hearts that were so calloused to tiny human beings. Compassion for the post-abortive has finally been released, particularly for those who regret their abortion choice.

Once you have lost a child to abortion, the experience becomes part of your soul forever. As long as it remains a secret, it can fester and grow into either pro- or anti-abortion sentiments. Once an abortion secret is revealed publicly, it can be used as a reason to discredit the women at many levels.
Few consider the consequences to family and friends who don’t understand a love one’s stance to glorify a choice that cuts off a whole family branch. Anger and outrage typically results towards the post-abortive woman from these family members.

Two years after my abortion, I was entering my last semester of college. Before I met two family members for dinner, I spent twenty minutes talking with fellow students about how abortion had empowered women. I was in that “abortion is great” mood when I sat down to dinner.

While it was unplanned, I casually announced, “I’m so glad that abortion is legal. I‘d never be to this point in my education without it.”

My family responded in total shock. Anger was the next emotion expressed as one asked fiercely, “You actually had an abortion?”

My response was positive and upbeat, “Yes and it was the best decision of my life.”

The emotions these two presented then were unexpected. I had no clue that my abortion truth would be considered a death experience to my family.
Heartlessly, I continued to outline why my abortion had been a great choice. As I talked, the anger and opposing sadness increased. Confused, I grew angry at these people and said, “Do you think I shouldn’t have aborted?”
No answer was given. They simply stood up and left the restaurant. Never again would these two people sit in my presence without the same emotion of disrespect and hatred being presented towards me. My casually shared abortion truth ended their love for me permanently.

While my life has drastically changed in regard to my support of abortion, it made no difference to these two individuals. Even in specifically asking for their forgiveness for both aborting my child and speaking so casually about it to them, no clemency was gained.

For every person that learned of a loved one’s abortion truth through the #ShoutYourAbortion social campaign, understand they did not share this truth publicly to specifically wound you. They simply do not understand your angst towards their abortion choice. These women believe that if abortion is safe and legal, why would it upset anyone?

If a #ShoutYourAbortion tweet outlined the death of a loved one in your life, take time to carefully guard your words. Take time to grieve this lost child and learn more about why women abort. Visit a local pregnancy center to discover how to communicate with your loved one and help others make a better choice than abortion. Please also continue to pray for the post-abortive person as the consequences to sharing this truth so publicly may be more than they can bear in the years to come.  The last thing they need is your rejection.

God’s grace, mercy and truth applies to every post-abortive person despite the pain they may have caused in your heart. I’m grateful for God’s help to face the anger and outrage that I often experience from people after public presentations despite being clearly against the abortion option. But for God’s grace, anyone could have chosen abortion, even you!

For more information on finding healing after abortion, visit ramahinternational.org

Sydna Masse is President & Founder of Ramah International and author of the book, Her Choice to Heal: Finding Spiritual and Emotional Peace After Abortion.


Thursday, October 15, 2015

3 Reasons I Went From Being A Gun Nut To Supporting Gun Control

Guns and our culture.

3 Reasons I Went From Being A Gun Nut To Supporting Gun Control140
I have a confession to make.

Once upon a time, I was a gun nut. I wasn't planning for the coming apocalypse or anything like that, but I owned a lot of weapons and ammunition for a guy living in a comfy house in central Houston. People could've easily mistaken me for a character from an episode of "Doomsday Preppers," except I didn't own a bunker. Yet.

I could field strip Glocks, 1911s, Kalashnikov style rifles, and AR15s almost with my eyes closed, and went shooting at various Houston area ranges weekly. I'd grown up around guns, and felt comfortable with them. I considered them a normal part of my life.

Then at some point I just lost interest in having a bedroom that looked like an armory, and I started to question why I owned so many weapons. Mind you, this change in attitude was not something that happened overnight, but eventually I started liquidating my large collection of firearms.

Before anyone assumes that I magically turned into some anti-gun hippie crusader, that didn't happen either. I still own a few. But I began to look at attitudes towards firearms in a different way, and a lot of what I saw began to bother me. I began to look at gun culture in America, and my opinions on topics like gun control began to slowly change. These are complex issues, but here are a few reasons that I changed my attitude about firearms.
3. Americans Have Weird Attitudes About Freedom When It Comes To Guns.
The right to bear arms is enshrined in our Constitution, as any gun owner will remind you when a debate about gun control comes up. That's true, and at least in the near future, it's unlikely that the Second Amendment is going to be tossed in the waste bin. A lot of Americans look at their right to gun ownership as a basic freedom, and resist any suggestion that it could be limited in any way. To some of them, the right to bear arms is the only measure of freedom that matters. For one reason or another they seem to believe that without the right to own as many guns as they wish, with few limits on them, they wouldn't really be free.

That's an interesting attitude, because Americans aren't completely free in many ways, and most gun owners don't seem to worry about the many laws and social customs that place limits on other aspects of their lives. I'm not free to walk down the city street completely naked (have no fear folks, that's not something I want to do), yet there are open carry advocates walking around stores with AR15s on their backs.

People willingly submit to rules and limits on their personal freedom in countless ways; it's the price of living in a civilized society without being a huge nuisance to other people. One day I realized that nudity is controlled more tightly than ownership of deadly weapons, and that seemed absurd to me. The right to own guns is freedom, but it's not the freedom. Not to everyone anyway. That leads me to conclude...
2. Many Gun Owners Believe That They're Powerless Without Their Guns.
Paranoia. That's a word that sums this attitude up, and the deeper into gun culture I got, the deeper that paranoia seemed. I recall going to a gun show years back and visiting a table just in time to overhear the guy behind it complaining about liberals in "Jew York" not allowing handguns in the city, and how we were all going to be disarmed and herded into interment camps soon.

Attitudes like that (or similar ones) are disturbingly common among a small but vocal percentage of gun owners. They seem to believe that the reason a lot of people are in favor of gun control measures is because they don't value freedom and are "Sheeple," somehow rejecting the fact that more and more mass shootings and gun crimes seem to be happening and worry the rest of us.

Some of the hardcore gun owners I met were convinced that America is heading towards an Orwellian future where no one is free and the government controls every aspect of our lives. To many of them, the only thing standing in our evil government's way is their personal stockpile of AR15s. They seem to ignore the fact that if the government went to such an authoritarian extreme, it would have the resources to effectively vaporize any suburban "patriots" who decided to raise an armed resistance against it.
Thinking the government is out to get them is a very simple and fairly stupid way of looking at things, and not something the majority of responsible gun owners buy into, but once I found myself encountering a bunch of those characters, I decided I didn't want to be part of that culture anymore.
Gun violence in entertainment is pervasive. Nearly every photo I could find for "Action Hero" had at least one gun in it. They should be called "Gun Heroes" instead.
Gun violence in entertainment is pervasive. Nearly every photo I could find for "Action Hero" had at least one gun in it. They should be called "Gun Heroes" instead.
1. Guns Are Deeply Entrenched Symbols, And It's Unhealthy.
America has many myths, and guns are important to a lot of them.
We tend to lionize the rowdier aspects of our frontier past, with imagery of gun slinging cowboys dispensing justice from the end of a Colt 45. Movies and video games portray guns as a way to destroy evil doers or eliminate a threat a heck of a lot more often than they realistically portray the type of gun violence that makes headlines in this country nearly daily. I grew up being bombarded by heroic depictions of gun play, and although I knew the difference between reality and fiction, I look at that kind of stuff now and wonder why we're still more concerned with nudity in movies than we are gun violence. That's a really weird and unhealthy way to view the world, in my opinion.

Too often guns are shown to be totems of power, the only way to deal with a conflict, and as a symbol of masculinity. It's stupid. I personally began to feel less powerful whenever I carried a gun. Living in fear while going about my business just made me feel weak and paranoid.

I would never champion censorship, but it's time more people take responsibility for the violent films and games they allow kids exposure to, because the only way anything will ever progress is through a change in societal attitudes. Shaking one's head in disgust at the latest mass shooting before going to buy the hottest new first person shooter ignores the fact that we all are part of this.

Just last week a TV journalist and cameraman were gunned down on film by another creep who decided to use a gun to vent his frustrations at the world. Just a couple of months ago a racist monster turned his gun on the parishioners of a historic African American church. There have been numerous mass shootings in schools and movie theaters across the country in recent years. Guns aren't going anywhere soon, that is certain. Obama isn't going to take them all (like a lot of paranoid gun nuts predicted), and the Second Amendment isn't going to be negated. A widespread gun ban isn't likely to happen either, so some folks can relax on their plan to finish that bunker they're building.

Most of us don't live in the Wild West anymore, and prefer civilized life, so maybe it's time to look at the reality of gun violence in this country and try to do better. I used to have a huge collection of firearms, and I came to feel that there was no reason for me to have them, and that it merely reflected a toxic personal attitude about guns. While I don't advocate a total ban, and think they still have a place in our society, I also don't think that it's healthy to continue the way we've been going.
Rather than fighting over what the Second Amendment really mens, perhaps it's time we should at least look at where we are at now, and try to look at gun violence and our collective preoccupation with deadly weapons, and figure out a better way to do things. Doing nothing isn't helping, and the body count continues to rise daily.


Battleground America - One nation, under the gun.

Gun violence is also a pro-life issue with thousands of people being killed and wounded every year. 

U. S. Chronicles April 23, 2012 Issue         
Battleground America One nation, under the gun.

Just after seven-thirty on the morning of February 27th, a seventeen-year-old boy named T. J. Lane walked into the cafeteria at Chardon High School, about thirty miles outside Cleveland. It was a Monday, and the cafeteria was filled with kids, some eating breakfast, some waiting for buses to drive them to programs at other schools, some packing up for gym class. Lane sat down at an empty table, reached into a bag, and pulled out a .22-calibre pistol. He stood up, raised the gun, and fired. He said not a word.
Russell King, a seventeen-year-old junior, was sitting at a table with another junior, Nate Mueller. King, shot in the head, fell face first onto the table, a pool of blood forming. A bullet grazed Mueller’s ear. “I could see the flame at the end of the gun,” Mueller said later. Daniel Parmertor, a sixteen-year-old snowboarder, was shot in the head. Someone screamed “Duck!” Demetrius Hewlin, sixteen, was also shot in the head, and slid under the table. Joy Rickers, a senior, tried to run; Lane shot her as she fled. Nickolas Walczak, shot in his neck, arm, back, and face, fell to the floor. He began crawling toward the door.
Ever since the shootings at Columbine High School, in a Denver suburb, in 1999, American schools have been preparing for gunmen. Chardon started holding drills in 2007, after the Virginia Tech massacre, when twenty-three-year-old Seung-Hui Cho, a college senior, shot fifty-seven people in Blacksburg.
At Chardon High School, kids ran through the halls screaming “Lockdown!” Some of them hid in the teachers’ lounge; they barricaded the door with a piano. Someone got on the school’s public-address system and gave instructions, but everyone knew what to do. Students ran into classrooms and dived under desks; teachers locked the doors and shut off the lights. Joseph Ricci, a math teacher, heard Walczak, who was still crawling, groaning in the hallway. Ricci opened the door and pulled the boy inside. No one knew if the shooter had more guns, or more rounds. Huddled under desks, students called 911 and texted their parents. One tapped out, “Prayforus.”
From the cafeteria, Frank Hall, the assistant football coach, chased Lane out of the building, and he ran off into the woods.  Moments later, four ambulances arrived. E.M.T.s raced Rickers and Walczak to Chardon’s Hillcrest Hospital. Hewlin, Parmertor, and King were flown by helicopter to a trauma center at MetroHealth Medical Center, in Cleveland. By eight-thirty, the high school had been evacuated.
At a quarter to nine, police officers with dogs captured Lane, about a mile from the school.

I hate to say it, but we trained for exactly this type of thing, a school emergency of this type,” Dan McClelland, the county sheriff, said.
Danny Parmertor died that afternoon. That evening, St. Mary’s Church opened its doors, and the people of Chardon sank to their knees and keened. At the town square, students gathered to hold a vigil. As night fell, they lit candles. Drew Gittins, sixteen, played a Black Eyed Peas song on his guitar. “People killin’, people dyin’,” he sang. “People got me, got me questionin’, Where is the love?”
Russell King had been too badly wounded. A little after midnight, doctors said that they couldn’t save him.
There are nearly three hundred million privately owned firearms in the United States: a hundred and six million handguns, a hundred and five million rifles, and eighty-three million shotguns. That works out to about one gun for every American. The gun that T. J. Lane brought to Chardon High School belonged to his uncle, who had bought it in 2010, at a gun shop. Both of Lane’s parents had been arrested on charges of domestic violence over the years. Lane found the gun in his grandfather’s barn.
The United States is the country with the highest rate of civilian gun ownership in the world. (The second highest is Yemen, where the rate is nevertheless only half that of the U.S.) No civilian population is more powerfully armed. Most Americans do not, however, own guns, because three-quarters of people with guns own two or more. According to the General Social Survey, conducted by the National Policy Opinion Center at the University of Chicago, the prevalence of gun ownership has declined steadily in the past few decades. In 1973, there were guns in roughly one in two households in the United States; in 2010, one in three. In 1980, nearly one in three Americans owned a gun; in 2010, that figure had dropped to one in five.
Men are far more likely to own guns than women are, but the rate of gun ownership among men fell from one in two in 1980 to one in three in 2010, while, in that same stretch of time, the rate among women remained one in ten. What may have held that rate steady in an age of decline was the aggressive marketing of handguns to women for self-defense, which is how a great many guns are marketed. Gun ownership is higher among whites than among blacks, higher in the country than in the city, and higher among older people than among younger people. One reason that gun ownership is declining, nationwide, might be that high-school shooting clubs and rifle ranges at summer camps are no longer common.
Zimmerman shot Martin in the chest. Martin did not survive. Zimmerman was not charged. Outside Orlando, the story was not reported.
The day after the shooting in Ohio, I went to a firing range. I’d signed up for a lesson the week before. Once, when I was in Air Force R.O.T.C. for a year, I spent an afternoon studying how to defeat a sniper, but I’d never held a gun before.
The American Firearms School sits in an industrial park just north of Providence, in a beige stucco building topped with a roof of mint-green sheet metal. From the road, it looks like a bowling alley, but from the parking lot you can tell that it’s not. You can hear the sound of gunfire. It doesn’t sound like thunder. It doesn’t sound like rain. It sounds like gunfire.
Inside, there’s a shop, a pistol range, a rifle range, a couple of classrooms, a locker room, and a place to clean your gun. The walls are painted police blue up to the wainscoting, and then white to the ceiling, which is painted black. It feels like a clubhouse, except, if you’ve never been to a gun shop before, that part feels not quite licit, like a porn shop. On the floor, there are gun racks, gun cases, holsters, and gun safes. Rifles hang on a wall behind the counter; handguns are under glass. Most items, including the rifles, come in black or pink: there are pink handcuffs, a pink pistol grip, a pink gun case, and pink paper targets. Above the pink bull’s-eye, which looks unnervingly like a breast, a line of text reads, “Cancer sucks.”
The American Firearms School is run by Matt Medeiros, a Rhode Island firefighter and E.M.T. Medeiros is also a leader of the Rhode Island chapter of Pink Heals, a nonprofit organization of emergency and rescue workers who drive pink fire trucks and pink police cars to raise money for cancer research and support groups. Last year, when Pink Heals opened a women’s center in West Warwick, Medeiros held a fund-raiser at the Firearms School.
Unlike many firing ranges, which are private clubs, the American Firearms School is open to the public. Most mornings, federal, state, and local law-enforcement agencies, as well as private security firms, rent out the ranges for training and target practice. Classes, from beginner to advanced, are held in the afternoons, and are run by certified instructors.
In many states, to purchase a gun from a licensed dealer you need a permit, which requires you to complete firearms-safety training, not unlike driver’s education. But, even if all states required this, not everyone who buys a gun would have to take a class. That’s because forty per cent of the guns purchased in the United States are bought from private sellers at gun shows, or through other private exchanges, such as classified ads, which fall under what is known as the “gun-show loophole” and are thus unregulated.
At the American Firearms School, the Learn to Shoot program, for novices, costs forty dollars for ninety minutes: a lesson, a gun rental, range time, two targets, and two boxes of bullets. This doesn’t constitute sufficient instruction for a gun permit in the state, but the school offers a one-day, ninety-nine-dollar course that does: Basic Firearms Safety includes shooting fundamentals, a discussion of firearms law, and guidance in safe firearms storage.
The idea that every man can be his own policeman, and every woman hers, has necessitated revisions to the curriculum: civilians now receive training once available only to law-enforcement officers, or the military. A six-hour class on concealed carrying includes a lesson in “engaging the threat.” N.R.A. Basic Personal Protection in the Home teaches “the basic knowledge, skills, and attitude essential to the safe and efficient use of a handgun for protection of self and family” and provides “information on the law-abiding individual’s right to self-defense,” while N.R.A. Basic Personal Protection Outside the Home is a two-day course. A primer lasting three hours provides “a tactical look at civilian life.” This raises the question of just how much civilian life is left.
As I waited for my lesson, I paged through a stack of old magazines while watching Fox News on a flat-screen television. In Michigan and Arizona, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum were competing in that day’s Republican primaries. At the top of the hour came the headlines: in Ohio, Demetrius Hewlin had just died. For a tick, the news announcer fell silent.
I put down Field and Stream and picked up American Rifleman, a publication of the N.R.A. The magazine includes a regular column called “The Armed Citizen.” A feature article introduced David Keene, the N.R.A.’s new president. Keene, who is sixty-six, is a longtime conservative political strategist. Grover Norquist once called him “a conservative Forrest Gump.” The 2012 Presidential election, Keene told American Rifleman, is “perhaps the most crucial election, from a Second Amendment standpoint, in our lifetimes.”
The Second Amendment reads, “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” Arms are military weapons. A firearm is a cannon that you can carry, as opposed to artillery so big and heavy that you need wheels to move it, or people to help you. Cannons that you can carry around didn’t exist until the Middle Ages. The first European firearms—essentially, tubes mounted on a pole—date to the end of the fourteenth century and are known as “hand cannons.” Then came shoulder arms (that is, guns you can shoulder): muskets, rifles, and shotguns. A pistol is a gun that can be held in one hand. A revolver holds a number of bullets in a revolving chamber, but didn’t become common until Samuel Colt patented his model in 1836. The firearms used by a well-regulated militia, at the time the Second Amendment was written, were mostly long arms that, like a smaller stockpile of pistols, could discharge only once before they had to be reloaded. In size, speed, efficiency, capacity, and sleekness, the difference between an eighteenth-century musket and the gun that George Zimmerman was carrying is roughly the difference between the first laptop computer—which, not counting the external modem and the battery pack, weighed twenty-four pounds—and an iPhone.

A gun is a machine made to fire a missile that can bore through flesh. It can be used to hunt an animal or to commit or prevent a crime. Enough people carrying enough guns, and with the will and the training to use them, can defend a government, or topple one. For centuries before the first English colonists travelled to the New World, Parliament had been regulating the private ownership of firearms. (Generally, ownership was restricted to the wealthy; the principle was that anyone below the rank of gentleman found with a gun was a poacher.) England’s 1689 Declaration of Rights made a provision that “subjects which are Protestants may have arms for their defence suitable to their condition and as allowed by law”; the Declaration was an attempt to resolve a struggle between Parliament and the Crown, in which Parliament wrested control of the militia from the Crown.
In the United States, Article VI of the Articles of Confederation, drafted in 1776 and ratified in 1781, required that “every state shall always keep up a well regulated and disciplined militia, sufficiently armed and accoutred, and shall provide and constantly have ready for use, in public stores, a due number of field pieces and tents, and a proper quantity of arms, ammunition and camp equipage.” In early America, firearms and ammunition were often kept in public arsenals. In 1775, the British Army marched to Concord with the idea of seizing the arsenal where the Colonial militia stored its weapons. In January of 1787, a Massachusetts resident named Daniel Shays led eleven hundred men, many of them disaffected Revolutionary War veterans, in an attempt to capture an arsenal in Springfield; they had been protesting taxes, but they needed guns and ammunition. Springfield had been an arsenal since 1774. In 1777, George Washington, at the urging of Henry Knox, made it his chief northern arsenal. By 1786, Springfield housed the largest collection of weapons in the United States. In the winter of 1787, the governor of Massachusetts sent the militia to suppress the rebellion; the Springfield arsenal was defended. That spring, the Constitutional Convention met in Philadelphia. Among the matters the delegates were to take up was granting to the federal government the power to suppress insurgencies like Shays’ Rebellion. From Boston, Benjamin Franklin’s sister Jane wrote to him with some advice for “such a Number of wise men as you are connected with in the Convention”: no more weapons, no more war. “I had Rather hear of the Swords being beat into Plow-shares, and the Halters used for Cart Roops, if by that means we may be brought to live Peaceably with one another.”

The U.S. Constitution, which was signed in Philadelphia in September of 1787, granted Congress the power “to provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions,” the power “to provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress,” and the power “to raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years.”
Ratification was an uphill battle. The Bill of Rights, drafted by James Madison in 1789, offered assurance to Anti-Federalists, who feared that there would be no limit to the powers of the newly constituted federal government. Since one of their worries was the prospect of a standing army—a permanent army—Madison drafted an amendment guaranteeing the people the right to form a militia. In Madison’s original version, the amendment read, “The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; a well armed and well regulated militia being the best security of a free country: but no person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms shall be compelled to render military service in person.” This provision was made in the same spirit as the Third Amendment, which forbids the government to force you to have troops billeted in your home: “No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.”
None of this had anything to do with hunting. People who owned and used long arms to hunt continued to own and use them; the Second Amendment was not commonly understood as having any relevance to the shooting of animals. As Garry Wills once wrote, “One does not bear arms against a rabbit.” Meanwhile, militias continued to muster—the Continental Army was disbanded at the end of the Revolutionary War—but the national defense was increasingly assumed by the United States Army; by the middle of the nineteenth century, the United States had a standing army, after all. Harpers Ferry was the U.S. Army’s southern armory, Springfield its northern. In 1859, when John Brown and his men raided Harpers Ferry, they went there to get guns.

At the American Firearms School, you can either rent a gun or bring your own. It’s like an ice-skating rink that way, except that renting skates when you don’t know how to skate is different from renting a gun when you don’t know how to shoot. The guys who work at the school don’t take any chances. In the twelve years since the school opened, there has never been an accident. “You can’t do anything here without us watching you,” Tom Dietzel told me. “In a swimming pool, there are lifeguards. And this place is a lot more dangerous than a swimming pool.”
Dietzel, who is twenty-four and has long dark hair, is one of the few instructors at the school who isn’t ex-military, ex-police, or ex-rescue. He led me to a classroom, opened a case, and took out a .22-calibre Mark III Target Rimfire pistol. Dietzel studied history in college, and on weekends he gives tours of the Freedom Trail, in Boston. We talked about the eighteenth-century portraits in the new wing of the Museum of Fine Arts; we debated the oratory of Joseph Warren. Dietzel owns a flintlock musket; he’s a Revolutionary War reënactor, with the Thirteenth Continental Regiment. He showed me a photograph of himself in costume: a cocked hat, a mustard-colored scarf of flax. He could have been painted by Gilbert Stuart.

Dietzel is a skilled and knowledgeable teacher, steady, patient, and calm. He had written safety rules on a whiteboard: Never point your gun at anyone. Keep your finger off the trigger. Don’t trust the safety. Assume every gun is loaded.
He explained how to load the magazine. “This is a semiautomatic,” he said. “After you fire, it will load the next bullet, but you have to pull the trigger again to fire. We don’t have automatics here.” Automatic weapons are largely banned by the federal government. “An automatic, you pull the trigger and it keeps shooting.” Dietzel shook his head. “Because: why? Why?”
Gun owners may be more supportive of gun-safety regulations than is the leadership of the N.R.A. According to a 2009 Luntz poll, for instance, requiring mandatory background checks on all purchasers at gun shows is favored not only by eighty-five per cent of gun owners who are not members of the N.R.A. but also by sixty-nine per cent of gun owners who are.
Dietzel rose. “Stand like a shortstop about to field a ball,” he said.

He showed me how to hold the .22.
Every day, Dietzel goes to work and, at some point, has to hand a gun to a perfect stranger who has never used one. He went over the rules again.  We got earplugs and headgear and ammunition and went to the range. I fired a hundred rounds. Then Dietzel told me to go wash my hands, to get the gunpowder off, while he went to clean the gun.
The halls at the American Firearms School are decorated with framed prints: Monet’s “Impression, Sunrise”; van Gogh’s “Irises.” A sign on the door of the women’s restroom reads, “Every Tuesday Is Ladies Night. Ladies Get FREE Range Time from 5:00 PM to 9:00 PM.”
I opened the door, and turned on the tap. T. J. Lane had used a .22-calibre Mark III Target Rimfire pistol. For a long time, I let the water run.
On March 8th, Trayvon Martin’s father, Tracy Martin, held a press conference in Orlando. “We feel justice has not been served,” he said. He demanded the release of recordings of calls to 911. “Family Wants Answers in Teen’s Death,” the Associated Press reported.

Two days later, the biggest gun show in New England was held in West Springfield, Massachusetts, in an exposition center the size of an airport hangar. (Nationwide, there are about five thousand gun shows annually.) Early in the morning, men with guns lined up to have them inspected at the door: two policemen made sure that every gun was unloaded; a plastic bucket on the floor, half filled with sand, was for dumping ammunition, like the bin at airport security where T.S.A. officers make you chuck your toothpaste. Tickets cost eleven dollars, but there was no charge for children younger than twelve.
Inside was a flea market: hundreds of folding tables draped with felt tablecloths and covered with guns, along with knives, swords, and a great deal of hunting gear. Long guns stood on their stocks, muzzles up. Handguns rested under glass, like jewelry. “Cash for Guns,” the sign at the Tombstone Trading Company read. Ammunition was sold outdoors, in cartons, as in the fastener aisle of a hardware store. At the N.R.A. booth, membership came with a subscription to one of the N.R.A.’s three magazines, an N.R.A. baseball hat, twenty-five hundred dollars of insurance, “and the most important benefit of all—protecting the Constitution.”
I stopped at the table of Guns, Inc., which advertises itself as the largest firearms dealer in western Massachusetts. Guns, Inc., is also an arsenal: a place where people who don’t want to keep their guns at home can pay to have them stored.
In the nineteenth century, the Springfield Armory grew to become the single biggest supplier of long arms to the U.S. Army. It shut its doors in 1968. A National Historic Site now, it houses about ten thousand weapons, most of which are shoulder arms. A sign on the door warns that no firearms are allowed inside. “People ask about that,” Richard Colton, a park ranger and the site’s historian, told me when I visited, “but we have plenty of guns here already.”
The story of the Springfield Armory illustrates a shift in the manufacture and storage of firearms: from public to private. In 1974, a family in Illinois founded a company devoted to arms manufacturing and import called Springfield Armory, Inc. The firm, “the first name in American firearms,” is one of the largest of its kind in the United States. Dennis Reese, the current C.E.O., and his brother Tom have staunchly opposed gun regulation. I asked Brian Pranka, of Guns, Inc., if he had any Springfield Armory guns. He said, “You can’t buy a Springfield handgun in Springfield.” The company does not make handguns that conform to all the gun-safety regulations in states like Massachusetts, New York, and California, and in Illinois they have lobbied the legislature, successfully defeating a state ban on assault weapons. In 2008, the Illinois State Rifle Association gave the Reeses the Defenders of Freedom Award.
On the first day of the Springfield gun show, Trayvon Martin’s parents appeared on “Good Morning America.” On March 19th, the Department of Justice, responding to growing protests, announced that it would conduct an investigation. On March 23rd, President Obama answered questions about the shooting at a press conference. “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon,” the President said. Later that day, Rick Santorum spoke outside a firing range in West Monroe, Louisiana, where he’d just shot fourteen rounds from a Colt .45. He told the crowd, “What I was able to exercise was one of those fundamental freedoms that’s guaranteed in our Constitution, the right to bear arms.”
In the two centuries following the adoption of the Bill of Rights, in 1791, no amendment received less attention in the courts than the Second, except the Third. As Adam Winkler, a constitutional-law scholar at U.C.L.A., demonstrates in a remarkably nuanced new book, “Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America,” firearms have been regulated in the United States from the start. Laws banning the carrying of concealed weapons were passed in Kentucky and Louisiana in 1813, and other states soon followed: Indiana (1820), Tennessee and Virginia (1838), Alabama (1839), and Ohio (1859). Similar laws were passed in Texas, Florida, and Oklahoma. As the governor of Texas explained in 1893, the “mission of the concealed deadly weapon is murder. To check it is the duty of every self-respecting, law-abiding man.”
Although these laws were occasionally challenged, they were rarely struck down in state courts; the state’s interest in regulating the manufacture, ownership, and storage of firearms was plain enough. Even the West was hardly wild. “Frontier towns handled guns the way a Boston restaurant today handles overcoats in winter,” Winkler writes. “New arrivals were required to turn in their guns to authorities in exchange for something like a metal token.” In Wichita, Kansas, in 1873, a sign read, “Leave Your Revolvers at Police Headquarters, and Get a Check.” The first thing the government of Dodge did when founding the city, in 1873, was pass a resolution that “any person or persons found carrying concealed weapons in the city of Dodge or violating the laws of the State shall be dealt with according to law.” On the road through town, a wooden billboard read, “The Carrying of Firearms Strictly Prohibited.” The shoot-out at the O.K. Corral, in Tombstone, Arizona, Winkler explains, had to do with a gun-control law. In 1880, Tombstone’s city council passed an ordinance “to Provide against the Carrying of Deadly Weapons.” When Wyatt Earp confronted Tom McLaury on the streets of Tombstone, it was because McLaury had violated that ordinance by failing to leave his gun at the sheriff’s office.

The National Rifle Association was founded in 1871 by two men, a lawyer and a former reporter from the New York Times. For most of its history, the N.R.A. was chiefly a sporting and hunting association. To the extent that the N.R.A. had a political arm, it opposed some gun-control measures and supported many others, lobbying for new state laws in the nineteen-twenties and thirties, which introduced waiting periods for handgun buyers and required permits for anyone wishing to carry a concealed weapon. It also supported the 1934 National Firearms Act—the first major federal gun-control legislation—and the 1938 Federal Firearms Act, which together created a licensing system for dealers and prohibitively taxed the private ownership of automatic weapons (“machine guns”). The constitutionality of the 1934 act was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1939, in U.S. v. Miller, in which Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s solicitor general, Robert H. Jackson, argued that the Second Amendment is “restricted to the keeping and bearing of arms by the people collectively for their common defense and security.” Furthermore, Jackson said, the language of the amendment makes clear that the right “is not one which may be utilized for private purposes but only one which exists where the arms are borne in the militia or some other military organization provided for by law and intended for the protection of the state.” The Court agreed, unanimously. In 1957, when the N.R.A. moved into new headquarters, its motto, at the building’s entrance, read, “Firearms Safety Education, Marksmanship Training, Shooting for Recreation.” It didn’t say anything about freedom, or self-defense, or rights.

The modern gun debate began with a shooting. In 1963, Lee Harvey Oswald bought a bolt-action rifle—an Italian military-surplus weapon—for nineteen dollars and ninety-five cents by ordering it from an ad that he found in American Rifleman. Five days after Oswald assassinated President Kennedy, Thomas Dodd, a Democratic senator from Connecticut, introduced legislation restricting mail-order sales of shotguns and rifles. The N.R.A.’s executive vice-president, Franklin L. Orth, testified before Congress, “We do not think that any sane American, who calls himself an American, can object to placing into this bill the instrument which killed the president of the United States.”

Gun-rights arguments have their origins not in eighteenth-century Anti-Federalism but in twentieth-century liberalism. They are the product of what the Harvard law professor Mark Tushnet has called the “rights revolution,” the pursuit of rights, especially civil rights, through the courts. In the nineteen-sixties, gun ownership as a constitutional right was less the agenda of the N.R.A. than of black nationalists. In a 1964 speech, Malcolm X said, “Article number two of the constitutional amendments provides you and me the right to own a rifle or a shotgun.” Establishing a constitutional right to carry a gun for the purpose of self-defense was part of the mission of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, which was founded in 1966. “Black People can develop Self-Defense Power by arming themselves from house to house, block to block, community to community throughout the nation,” Huey Newton said.
In 1968, as Winkler relates, the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., gave the issue new urgency. A revised Gun Control Act banned mail-order sales, restricted the purchase of guns by certain high-risk people (e.g., those with criminal records), and prohibited the importation of military-surplus firearms. That law, along with a great deal of subsequent law-and-order legislation, was intended to fight crime, control riots, and solve what was called, in the age of the Moynihan report, the “Negro problem.” The regulations that are part of these laws—firearms restrictions, mandatory-sentencing guidelines, abolition of parole, and the “war on drugs”—are now generally understood to be responsible for the dramatic rise in the U.S. incarceration rate.
The N.R.A. supported the 1968 Gun Control Act, with some qualms. Orth was quoted in American Rifleman as saying that although some elements of the legislation “appear unduly restrictive and unjustified in their application to law-abiding citizens, the measure as a whole appears to be one that the sportsmen of America can live with.”
David Keene, the N.R.A.’s president, is the former chairman of the American Conservative Union. In his office in Washington, he has a photograph of Ronald Reagan on the wall and a view of Pennsylvania Avenue out the window. Keene has white hair, blue eyes, and an air of plainspoken geniality. When he was eight or nine, he says, his grandfather taught him how to shoot by aiming a .22 at squirrels and rabbits.
Keene’s parents were labor organizers. They never once voted for a Republican. “My first political activity was going door to door passing out pamphlets for J.F.K. in the snows of Wisconsin,” Keene told me. In the nineteen-fifties, he said, “Lionel Trilling considered conservatism to be a political pathology.” Keene became a conservative in high school, when he read “The Constitution of Liberty,” by Friedrich Hayek. In 1960, at the Republican National Convention, Barry Goldwater said, “Let’s grow up conservatives, if we want to take this party back, and I think we can someday. Let’s get to work.” Four years later, Keene volunteered for Goldwater’s campaign.

After Goldwater’s defeat, Keene finished college and went on to law school. He became the national chairman of the Young Americans for Freedom. “What brought conservatism to dominance was the Great Society,” Keene argues, because Johnson’s vision represented “the culmination of the thinking that you could solve everything with money, and nothing worked.” Keene went to D.C. to work for Spiro Agnew, and then for Richard Nixon.
On Election Day in 1970, Keene was at the White House. Joseph Tydings, a Democratic senator from Maryland who had introduced a Firearms Registration and Licensing Act, was running for reëlection. “The returns were coming in, and someone said, ‘What’s going on in Maryland?’ ” Keene recalled. “And someone answered, ‘I can tell you this: everywhere except Baltimore, there are long lines of pickup trucks at the polls. He’s going down over gun control.’ ”
In the nineteen-seventies, the N.R.A. began advancing the argument that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual’s right to carry a gun, rather than the people’s right to form armed militias to provide for the common defense. Fights over rights are effective at getting out the vote. Describing gun-safety legislation as an attack on a constitutional right gave conservatives a power at the polls that, at the time, the movement lacked. Opposing gun control was also consistent with a larger anti-regulation, libertarian, and anti-government conservative agenda. In 1975, the N.R.A. created a lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action, headed by Harlon Bronson Carter, an award-winning marksman and a former chief of the U.S. Border Control. But then the N.R.A.’s leadership decided to back out of politics and move the organization’s headquarters to Colorado Springs, where a new recreational-shooting facility was to be built. Eighty members of the N.R.A.’s staff, including Carter, were ousted. In 1977, the N.R.A.’s annual meeting, usually held in Washington, was moved to Cincinnati, in protest of the city’s recent gun-control laws. Conservatives within the organization, led by Carter, staged what has come to be called the Cincinnati Revolt. The bylaws were rewritten and the old guard was pushed out. Instead of moving to Colorado, the N.R.A. stayed in D.C., where a new motto was displayed: “The Right of the People to Keep and Bear Arms Shall Not Be Infringed.”
Ronald Reagan was the first Presidential candidate whom the N.R.A. had endorsed. David Keene ran Reagan’s Southern campaign. Reagan’s election, in 1980, made it possible for conservatives to begin turning a new interpretation of the Second Amendment into law. As the legal scholar Reva B. Siegel has chronicled, Orrin Hatch became the chair of the Subcommittee on the Constitution, and commissioned a history of the Second Amendment, which resulted in a 1982 report, “The Right to Keep and Bear Arms.” The authors of the report claimed to have discovered “clear—and long-lost—proof that the Second Amendment to our Constitution was intended as an individual right of the American citizen to keep and carry arms in a peaceful manner, for protection of himself, his family, and his freedoms.”
In March of 1981, John Hinckley, Jr., shot Reagan, the White House press secretary, James Brady, a D.C. policeman, and a Secret Service agent. He used a .22 that he had bought at a pawnshop. A month later, the Times reported that Harlon Carter, then the N.R.A.’s executive vice-president, had been convicted of murder in Laredo, Texas, in 1931, at the age of seventeen. Carter had come home from school to find his mother distressed. She told him that three teen-age boys had been loitering nearby all afternoon, and that she suspected them of having been involved in stealing the family’s car. Carter left the house with a shotgun, found the boys, and told them that he wanted them to come back to his house to be questioned. According to the trial testimony of twelve-year-old Salvador Peña, Ramón Casiano, fifteen, the oldest of the boys, said to Carter, “We won’t go to your house, and you can’t make us.” Casiano took out a knife and said, “Do you want to fight me?” Carter shot Casiano in the chest. At Carter’s trial for murder, the judge, J. F. Mullally, instructed the jury, “There is no evidence that defendant had any lawful authority to require deceased to go to his house for questioning, and if defendant was trying to make deceased go there for that purpose at the time of the killing, he was acting without authority of law, and the law of self-defense does not apply.” Two years later, Carter’s murder conviction was overturned on appeal; the defense argued that the instructions to the jury had been improper.
When the Times broke the Casiano murder story, Carter at first denied it, saying the trial record concerned a different man with a similar name. He later said that he had “nothing to hide” and was “not going to rehash that case or any other that does not relate to the National Rifle Association.”
James Brady and his wife, Sarah, went on to become active in the gun-control movement, but neither the assassination attempt nor Carter’s past derailed the gun-rights movement. In 1986, the N.R.A.’s interpretation of the Second Amendment achieved new legal authority with the passage of the Firearms Owners Protection Act, which repealed parts of the 1968 Gun Control Act by invoking “the rights of citizens . . . to keep and bear arms under the Second Amendment.” This interpretation was supported by a growing body of scholarship, much of it funded by the N.R.A. According to the constitutional-law scholar Carl Bogus, at least sixteen of the twenty-seven law-review articles published between 1970 and 1989 that were favorable to the N.R.A.’s interpretation of the Second Amendment were “written by lawyers who had been directly employed by or represented the N.R.A. or other gun-rights organizations.” In an interview, former Chief Justice Warren Burger said that the new interpretation of the Second Amendment was “one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word ‘fraud,’ on the American public by special-interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”
The debate narrowed, and degraded. Political candidates who supported gun control faced opponents whose campaigns were funded by the N.R.A. In 1991, a poll found that Americans were more familiar with the Second Amendment than they were with the First: the right to speak and to believe, and to write and to publish, freely.
“If you had asked, in 1968, will we have the right to do with guns in 2012 what we can do now, no one, on either side, would have believed you,” David Keene said.
Between 1968 and 2012, the idea that owning and carrying a gun is both a fundamental American freedom and an act of citizenship gained wide acceptance and, along with it, the principle that this right is absolute and cannot be compromised; gun-control legislation was diluted, defeated, overturned, or allowed to expire; the right to carry a concealed handgun became nearly ubiquitous; Stand Your Ground legislation passed in half the states; and, in 2008, in District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court ruled, in a 5–4 decision, that the District’s 1975 Firearms Control Regulations Act was unconstitutional. Justice Scalia wrote, “The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia.” Two years later, in another 5–4 ruling, McDonald v. Chicago, the Court extended Heller to the states.
Nevertheless, Keene says that all of these gains are fragile, because President Obama—who in his first term has not only failed to push for gun control but has signed legislation extending gun rights—has been hiding his true convictions. (From 1994 to 2002, Obama served on the board of the Chicago-based Joyce Foundation, which funds pro-gun-control advocacy and research.) “If this President gets a second term, he will appoint one to three Supreme Court justices,” Keene says. “If he does, he could reverse Heller and McDonald, which is unlikely, but, more likely, they will restrict those decisions.”
This issue has been delivering voters to the polls since 1970. Conservatives hope that it will continue to deliver them in 2012. Keene, in his lifetime, has witnessed a revolution. “It’s not just the conservative political victories, the capture of the Republican Party, the creation of a conservative intellectual élite,” he said, “but the whole change in the way Americans look at government.” No conservative victories will last longer than the rulings of this Supreme Court.
One in three Americans knows someone who has been shot. As long as a candid discussion of guns is impossible, unfettered debate about the causes of violence is unimaginable. Gun-control advocates say the answer to gun violence is fewer guns. Gun-rights advocates say that the answer is more guns: things would have gone better, they suggest, if the faculty at Columbine, Virginia Tech, and Chardon High School had been armed. That is the logic of the concealed-carry movement; that is how armed citizens have come to be patrolling the streets. That is not how civilians live. When carrying a concealed weapon for self-defense is understood not as a failure of civil society, to be mourned, but as an act of citizenship, to be vaunted, there is little civilian life left.
In 2002, Keene’s son David Michael Keene was driving on the George Washington Memorial Parkway when, in a road-rage incident, he fired a handgun at another motorist. He was sentenced to ten years in prison for “using, brandishing, and discharging a firearm in a crime of violence.” I asked Keene if this private tragedy had left him uncertain about what the N.R.A. had wrought. He said no: “You break the law, you pay the price.”
I asked Keene if any public atrocity had given him pause. He explained that it is the N.R.A.’s policy never to comment on a shooting.
I asked him how he would answer critics who charge that no single organization has done more to weaken Americans’ faith in government, or in one another, than the N.R.A.
“We live in a society now that’s Balkanized,” Keene said. “But that has nothing to do with guns.”
On Monday, March 26th, thousands of students rallied in Atlanta, carrying signs that read, “I am Trayvon Martin,” and “Don’t Shoot!” One week later, in Oakland, a forty-three-year-old man named One Goh walked into Oikos University, a small Christian college. He was carrying a .45-calibre semiautomatic pistol and four magazines of ammunition. He grabbed Katleen Ping, a receptionist, and dragged her into a classroom. Nearby, Lucas Garcia, a thirty-three-year-old E.S.L. teacher, heard a voice call out, “Somebody’s got a gun!” He helped his students escape through a back door. Dechen Yangdon, twenty-seven, turned off the lights in her classroom and locked the door. She could hear Ping screaming, “Help, help, help!” “We were locked inside,” Yangdon said later. “We couldn’t help her.”
Goh ordered the students to line up against the wall. He said, “I’m going to kill you all.”
They had come from all over the world. Ping, twenty-four, was born in the Philippines. She was working at the school to support her parents, her brother, two younger sisters, and her four-year-old son, Kayzzer. Her husband was hoping to move to the United States. Tshering Rinzing Bhutia, thirty-eight, was born in Gyalshing, India, in the foothills of the Himalayas. He took classes during the day; at night, he worked as a janitor at San Francisco International Airport. Lydia Sim, twenty-one, was born in San Francisco, to Korean parents; she wanted to become a pediatrician. Sonam Choedon, thirty-three, belonged to a family living in exile from Tibet. A Buddhist, she came to the United States from Dharamsala, India. She was studying to become a nurse. Grace Eunhea Kim, twenty-three, was putting herself through school by working as a waitress. Judith Seymour was fifty-three. Her parents had moved back to their native Guyana; her two children were grown. She was about to graduate. Doris Chibuko, forty, was born in Enugu, in eastern Nigeria, where she practiced law. She immigrated in 2002. Her husband, Efanye, works as a technician for A.T. & T. They had three children, ages eight, five, and three. She was two months short of completing a degree in nursing.

Ping, Bhutia, Sim, Choedon, Kim, Seymour, and Chibuko: Goh shot and killed them all. Then he went from one classroom to another, shooting, before stealing a car and driving away. He threw his gun into a tributary of San Leandro Bay. Shortly afterward, he walked into a grocery store and said, “I just shot some people.”
On Tuesday night, a multilingual memorial service was held at the Allen Temple Baptist Church. Oakland’s mayor, Jean Quan, said, “Oakland is a city of dreams.” A friend of Choedon’s said, “Mainly, we’re praying for her next life, that she can have a better one.” In Gyalshing, Bhutia’s niece, Enchuk Namgyal, asked that her uncle’s body be sent home to be cremated in the mountains above the village, across the world from the country where he came for an education, religious freedom, and economic opportunity, and was shot to death.
Kids in Chardon High are back in school. Nickolas Walczak is in a wheelchair. There are Trayvon Martin T-shirts. Oikos University is closed. The N.R.A. has no comment.
In an average year, roughly a hundred thousand Americans are killed or wounded with guns. On April 6th, the police found One Goh’s .45. Five days later, George Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder. In May, T. J. Lane will appear at a hearing. Trials are to come. In each, introduced as evidence, will be an unloaded gun.       
 Jill Lepore, a staff writer, has been contributing to The New Yorker since 2005.