A Mitch McConnell scout on patrol

Mitch McConnell is no stranger to massacres involving semi-automatic assault weapons.

In 1989, a workplace massacre in downtown Louisville took the lives of eight and wounded 12 using an AK-47, and it remains the deadliest mass shooting in Kentucky history.  McConnell, well into his first term as a U.S. Senator from Kentucky, said he was “deeply disturbed,” declaring, “We must take action to stop such vicious crimes.” And he added: “We need to be careful about legislating in the middle of a crisis.” And in the days and weeks after, he did not join others in calling for a ban on assault weapons like the AK-47 used by the shooter.

Following the Sandy Hook massacre of 2012, the Obama White House embarked on a robust policy response.  McConnell — then the Senate minority leader — vigorously downplayed that effort.

Fact is:  McConnell has never wavered on his absolute objection to any sort of gun control legislation.

On the day after the Uvalde elementary school massacre, Senate minority leader McConnell took to the Senate floor to declare himself and the nation “sickened and outraged by the senseless evil” that left at least 19 students and two teachers “innocent young lives murdered for no apparent reason at all.”

No mention of guns or any potential legislation, just the statement, ‘Words simply fail.’

After tasking Sen. John Cornyn (R, TX) to negotiate with Democrats on potential legislative actions to stop the epidemic of gun violence in America, McConnell went on the record stating, “Background checks and ‘red flags’ will probably lead the discussion — those are for sure two items that will be front and center.”

What?  No mention of high-velocity high-capacity semi-automatic military style weapons?  No mention of high-capacity magazines which allow the shooter to mimic a machine gun?  No discussion about military style ammunition which launches at 3,000 + feet per second, and has the likelihood to fragment and/or expand to create an exit wound the size of an orange?

What?  No mention of studies on human brain development which have proved that female brain development occurs at a more rapid pace than males of a similar age? The frontal cortex — the area of the brain that controls reasoning and helps us think before we act — develops later in males than in females.  The majority of research tells us that females tend to reach maturity toward the end of adolescence; where in males, the frontal cortex is still changing and maturing well into adulthood.

We know that: (1) Over 85% of U.S. homicides are committed by males; (2) Male brain development is delayed to early adulthood; and (3) The vast majority of mass homicides in the U.S. over the past decade have been committed by American males under 25 using a military-style assault weapon with high-capacity magazine(s).

Yet, McConnell stays focused.  “We have a Second Amendment to the Constitution. We take it seriously. There’s the right to keep and bear arms in this country,” McConnell said.  “And so what I’ve done is encourage some bipartisan discussions that are going on. In fact, I just had a call with one of the members of it to see if we can find a way forward consistent with the Second Amendment that targets the problem.”

And another McConnell soundbite: “I am hopeful that we could come up with a bipartisan solution that’s directly related to the facts of this awful massacre. I’m going to keep in touch with them, and hopefully we can get an outcome that can actually pass and become law rather than just scoring points back and forth.”

Translation:  McConnell will encourage and support activities related to school security and mental health, but don’t expect him to ever say “gun”. Mitch may be the very best Silver Tongued Orator we will ever encounter live and in person.

As a nation, we have everything to lose – and nothing to gain – by refusing to face the facts we have at hand, and to engage in proper research to help guide our future policy.

The causes of gun violence

In 1996, under extraordinary pressure from the NRA and other pro-gun rights factions, Congress essentially shut down support for CDC-supported-research into the causes of gun violence.

Why is this important?

The commonly accepted proactive method to solve difficult problems is known as “Root Cause Analysis”.

It relies on a rigorous independent methodology to identify the Root Cause of an intractable situation, zeroing in on the primary factor which is the foundational cause of the dilemma.

Removing the Root Cause of a problem prevents the problem from recurring.  Removing a causal factor (one that may affect an event’s problematic outcome) certainly can improve an outcome, but it does not prevent its recurrence with certainty.

More than 2 decades after the Congressional ban on gun violence research, the paucity of research leaves some of our elected officials and media pundits to conjecture that ‘violent video games’, ‘mental illness and hatred’, ‘soft targets’, ‘multiple doors’, and plenty of other ingredients contribute toward increasing occurrences of domestic gun violence events.

A surprising number of elected officials have emerged and coalesced, seemingly unable or unwilling to consider that access to military-style weapons could be the Root Cause of our gun violence problem.

Instead, we read or hear assertions that… ‘mental illness is the trigger; it’s not the gun’.

Research provides fact-based evidence.

There is no research which supports any notions that video games, mental illness, weak doors or racism play a primary role in domestic gun violence incidents.

Despite the arbitrary Congressional moratorium on public funding toward the causes of gun violence, we have seen some compelling research from small private colleges and universities.

One research paper from an independent private college published in 2015 asserted that, “Men commit over 85% of all homicides, 91% of all same-sex homicides and 97% of all same-sex homicides in which the victim and killer aren’t related to each other.”

Many studies on human brain development have provided a rich array of data which strongly supports the fact that female brain development occurs at a more rapid pace than males of a similar age.

Specifically, the frontal cortex — the area of the brain that controls reasoning and helps us think before we act — develops later in males than in females.  The majority of research tells us that females tend to reach maturity toward the end of adolescence; where in males, the frontal cortex is still changing and maturing well into adulthood.

We know that:                                   

(1) Over 85% of U.S. homicides are committed by males;

(2) Significant scientific research supports the theory that male brain development is delayed to early adulthood; and

(3) The vast majority of mass homicides in the U.S. over the past decade have been committed by American males under 25 using a military-style assault weapon with high-capacity magazine(s).

Based on what we know, should we conclude that eliminating the availability of firearms, accessories and ammunition which are derived from and/or modelled on military grade assault weapons will reduce — and eventually eliminate — young American males from obtaining and/or using these deadly weapons?

Lacking any specific research, what should we do right now to put a halt to these massacres?

Institute an immediate ban on the production, sale or civilian possession of military-style assault weapons, military-style ammunition and high-capacity magazines in the U.S.

Removing assault weapons from civilian access on a temporary – say 10 year — timeframe will provide a window of opportunity to conduct meaningful contemporary research.

Is there a precedent to this “call to action” at the federal level?

Yes, there is.  The Public Safety Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act (1994) prohibited the manufacture, transfer, or possession of “semiautomatic assault weapons” as well as “large capacity ammunition feeding devices” — defined as “any magazine, belt, drum, feed strip, or similar device” which had “the capacity of, or that can be readily restored or converted to accept, more than 10 rounds of ammunition”. That legislation passed in September 1994 with a sunset provision for the assault weapon ban section. The law expired on September 13, 2004, and nothing has occurred at the federal level over the past 2 decades to reign in the proliferation of civilian ownership of assault weapons, military grade ammunition and high-capacity magazines.

And, it seems perfectly clear — even without any research — that AR-15-style weapons have no place in a civil society, except perhaps for military and limited law enforcement use.

In addition to having a single point of entry guarded by multiple armed police officers, or if need be, military veterans, and a mandate that schools install bulletproof and locking doors to each classroom, recruiting and training responsible middle and high school students is the next logical step.

Deploying highly trained and armed middle and high school students, fully prepared for combat situations, into every school in America will put an immediate stop to the terrible events we’ve witnessed over the past decade, or so.

Never forget: “A well trained Student Militia, being necessary to the security of our public Schools, the right of the middle and high school students to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

A public service announcement brought to you by The Ted Cruz Academy of School Safety

Dozens of polls and studies reveal general agreement among American adults which favors sensible gun control reform legislation, incorporating a variety of strategies such as:  (a) increased funding for mental health services; (b) universal background checks; (c) a national ‘red flag’ law; (d) training and/or licensing requirements; (e) more consistent rules across state lines.

Each and all of these would likely contribute toward reducing senseless gun violence. Yet, the Root Cause of our present dilemma seems to center around one specific type of firearm, often called “AR-15 style”.

These are high-capacity military-style weapons which can be fired semi-automatically and/or have the capability of being easily transformed into a rapid fire weapon. There is no legitimate purpose for these weapons in a civil society, and the ultimate goal to remove this Root Cause from the equation ought to be a total and complete ban on the civilian purchase, sale or possession of such weapons.

The next critical variable is ammunition. There is no logical or defensible reason to support civilian sale, possession or use of military grade ammunition categorized as: hollow point; full metal jacket; armor piercing; green tip; black tip; or any other sort of ammo which is not used by regular gun owners for target shooting or which is appropriate for legitimate hunting purposes.

As painful as it might seem to Wayne LaPierre, Jason Ouimet and others at the NRA, these AR-15 style weapons and military grade ammunition seem to continually and disproportionally fall into the hands of a few people who have really bad agendas.

If we eliminate the very weapons and ammunition which seem to attract the interest of folks with bad agendas, we will be making some real progress.

Please listen carefully, NRA.

The great majority of us don’t want to take guns away from our neighbors; we don’t harbor animosity toward responsible gun owners; and we often are gun owners and NRA members ourselves.

We do believe there is a balance – a sensible equilibrium — which respects, supports and honors the American tradition for people to keep and bear arms in a manner consistent with a civilized 21st century society.  

Let’s work together to find that balance.

Fact-based Research?

August 8, 2019

When I was in school, there was zero tolerance for opinion-based research.

You either backed up your work with validated facts from reliable sources, or you didn’t pass the class.

In 1996, under extraordinary pressure from the NRA and other pro-gun rights factions, Congress essentially shut down support for CDC-supported-research into the causes of gun violence.

Why is this important?

The commonly accepted proactive method to solve difficult problems is known as “Root Cause Analysis”.  It relies on a rigorous independent methodology to identify the Root Cause of an intractable situation; that is, zeroing in on the primary factor that is the foundational cause of the dilemma.

Removing the Root Cause of a problem prevents the problem from recurring.  Removing a causal factor (one that may affect an event’s problematic outcome) certainly can improve an outcome, but it does not prevent its recurrence with certainty.

More than 2 decades after the Congressional ban on gun violence research, the paucity of research leaves some of our elected officials and media pundits to conjecture that ‘violent video games’, ‘mental illness and hatred’, ‘soft targets’ and plenty of other ingredients contribute toward increasing occurrences of domestic gun violence events.

A surprising number of elected officials have recently emerged, seemingly unable or unwilling to consider that access to military-style weapons could be the Root Cause of our gun violence problem.

Instead, we read or hear assertions that…‘racism, bigotry and white supremacy is the trigger. It’s not the gun’.

Research provides fact-based evidence.

There is no research which supports any notions that video games, mental illness or racism play a primary role in domestic gun violence incidents.

Despite the arbitrary Congressional moratorium on public funding toward the causes of gun violence, we have seen some compelling research from small private colleges and universities.

One research paper from an independent private college published in 2015 asserted that, “Men commit over 85% of all homicides, 91% of all same-sex homicides and 97% of all same-sex homicides in which the victim and killer aren’t related to each other.”

Many studies on human brain development have provided a rich array of data which strongly supports the fact that female brain development occurs at a more rapid pace than males of a similar age.

Specifically, the frontal cortex — the area of the brain that controls reasoning and helps us think before we act — develops later in males than in females.  The majority of research tells us that females tend to reach maturity toward the end of adolescence; where in males, the frontal cortex is still changing and maturing well into adulthood.

If we know that:

(1) Over 85% of U.S. homicides are committed by males;

(2) Significant scientific research supports the theory that male brain development is delayed to early adulthood;

(3) The vast majority of mass homicides in the U.S. over the past decade have been committed by American males under 30 using a military-style assault weapon with high-capacity magazine(s);

Lacking any specific research, what should we do right now to put a halt to these massacres?

Institute an immediate ban on the production, sale or civilian possession of military-style assault weapons, military-style ammunition and high-capacity magazines in the U.S.

AR-15 (AK-47, and similar weapons) have no place in a civil society, except perhaps for military and limited law enforcement use.

Removing assault weapons from civilian access on a temporary – say 5 year time-frame – will provide a window of opportunity to conduct meaningful contemporary research.

Is there a precedent to this “call to action” at the federal level?

Yes, there is.  The Public Safety Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act (1994) prohibited the manufacture, transfer, or possession of “semiautomatic assault weapons” as well as “large capacity ammunition feeding devices” — defined as “any magazine, belt, drum, feed strip, or similar device” which had “the capacity of, or that can be readily restored or converted to accept, more than 10 rounds of ammunition”.

That legislation passed in September 1994 with a sunset provision for the assault weapon ban section. The law expired on September 13, 2004, and nothing has occurred at the federal level over the past 15 years to reign in the proliferation of civilian ownership of assault weapons, military grade ammunition and high capacity magazines.

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As a nation, we have everything to lose – and nothing to gain – by refusing to face the facts we have at hand, and to engage in proper research to help guide our future policy.

Today’s massacre in El Paso contains some common elements to dozens of similar occurrences.

Who are these killers?

The statistics tell us that they are most likely to be U.S. born while males, generally under 30 years of age.

A number of studies have shown that the male brain reaches maturity significantly later than females. The key brain region believed to be primarily responsible for reasoning and helping us to ‘think before we act’ is the pre-frontal cortex, which develops later in males, and is generally still changing and maturing well into adulthood.

What sort of weapons do these mass killers prefer?

Military-style assault weapons with high-capacity magazines.

What should we do right now to put a halt to these massacres?

Institute an immediate ban on the production, sale or civilian possession of military-style assault weapons in the U.S.

AR-15 (AK-47 and similar weapons) have no place in a civil society, except perhaps for military and limited law enforcement use.

Is there a precedent to this “call to action” at the federal level?

Yes, there is.  The Public Safety Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act (1994) prohibited the manufacture, transfer, or possession of “semiautomatic assault weapons” as well as “large capacity ammunition feeding devices” — defined as “any magazine, belt, drum, feed strip, or similar device” which had “the capacity of, or that can be readily restored or converted to accept, more than 10 rounds of ammunition”.

That legislation passed in September 1994 with a sunset provision for the assault weapon ban section. The law expired on September 13, 2004, and nothing has occurred at the federal level over the past 15 years to reign in the proliferation of civilian ownership of assault weapons, military grade ammunition and high capacity magazines.

I refuse to stand by and wait for someone to go hunting with an AR-15 at the school which my grandchildren attend, at the mall where my family shops, or at the house of worship in my neighborhood.

Please join me:  Step up and demand common sense gun regulations from your elected officials.

Now!

I have reviewed some of Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s judicial decisions; I’ve read some of his legal opinions; and I listened to some of the testimony he gave to the Senate Judiciary Committee in early September.

My limited research led me to conclude that Judge Kavanaugh supports highly subjective views on the 2nd Amendment; on women’s reproductive rights; and on the executive power of the presidency.

Judge Kavanaugh’s testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee shed new light on his published positions, as well on his devotion to President Trump and Trump’s political agenda.

Judge Kavanaugh is quite personable and well-spoken, yet I believe his positions are not in keeping with the mores of American society.  His responses to many of the difficult but seemingly fair questions from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee were evasive and ambiguous.

Kavanaugh was nominated by President Donald Trump in July 2018, drawn from a carefully vetted list of conservative jurists compiled by the Federalist Society, following Trump’s campaign promise that his judicial nominees would all be picked by the Federalist Society, an ultra-conservative legal organization.

Our nation is currently at a crossroads, possibly at or near a similar state which preceded the Civil War.

It is not slavery that divides us today.  What divides us today is petty political divisiveness, exacerbated by special interest groups which operate behind the curtain, seeking to gain economic and political power over their opponents.

Our next Supreme Court Justice ought not to be an ultra-liberal or ultra-conservative individual.  People who lean heavily left or right might attempt to institute abrupt changes to our legal order.

Abrupt change is both dangerous and disruptive, and has the potential to create political paralysis, or worse.

We recently began to hear talk of the ‘Deep State’ – an invisible but powerful alliance of career bureaucrats; officials who sit in powerful positions; and who serve through multiple presidential administrations.

Candidates for elected positions in the U.S. seem to often campaign on the abrupt and transformational changes they will institute on “Day One.”

Conspiracy theorists whisper innuendo accusing career public servants of creating obstacles to enact abrupt change, turning career public servants into natural enemies of those officials who are elected on their “Day One” promises.

Conspiracy theorists whisper innuendo accusing these career public servants of creating obstacles to enact abrupt change.

Career public servants often advocate for research and planning; for using historic data and experience to predict future outcomes; for upgrades to systems and infrastructure to improve data security and data integrity.

In the end, Presidents come and go, every 4 years, or so.  Supreme Court justices serve a lifetime appointment.

Supreme Court justices should be politically neutral, above the fray of partisan politics.  The future of our nation is at stake.

Change is both necessary and inevitable.  Abrupt and unplanned change could result in a good outcome; history tells us that it is much more likely to result in catastrophic result.

Constitutional Conflicts

August 11, 2018

We frequently hear from advocates of the 1st amendment, the 2nd amendment, the 4th amendment, et al.

We don’t often hear about one of the key concerns of our ‘Founding Fathers’, perhaps best voiced by James Madison who said, “The truth is that all men having power ought to be mistrusted.”

Indeed.

Madison and his colleagues made sure that one of the basic precepts of the U.S. Constitution was to ensure a separation of powers enforced through a series of checks and balances to prevent a single person (or branch of the federal government) from becoming too powerful, thus thwarting the potential for fraud, self-aggrandizement and to encourage timely correction of errors or omissions.

The system of checks and balances is intended to act as a circuit breaker over the separation of powers, balancing the authorities of the separate branches of government.

It assumes honest and impartial actions by each department charged with the responsibility to verify the appropriateness and legality of actions initiated by the others.

Never before Donald Trump have we had a senior elected federal official who refused to disclose the details of his finances.  And, in U.S. history there has never been a president for whom it was more important that we know the details of his finances.

Trump has a well-documented history as an incompetent and perhaps corrupt businessman. After election, he refused to divest himself of his holdings, providing an open window of opportunities for bad people to entice him – and his family – with unimaginable advantages.  Why?  Trump’s income comes from an incredibly complex web of companies that are impossible for outside observers to comprehend.

We know from public information that the Trump Organization is not just one company, but a very complex assemblage of pass-through entities.  In a March 2016 letter from his tax lawyers, Donald Trump’s financial situation is described as “inordinately large and complex for an individual” because he holds “interests as the sole or principal owner in approximately 500 separate entities (which) are collectively referred to and do business as The Trump Organization.”

Now, more than 18 months after Trump was inaugurated, The Trump Organization continues to bring in money from deals involving potentially questionable characters and foreign governments possibly looking to influence POTUS. We have no idea who his partners in those hundreds of pass-through companies are, and whether they might have compromising information on him.

How can it be that we have allowed Mr. Trump to get away with keeping his tax returns secret?

Why?

Members of Congress have abdicated their role as arbiters of Executive Branch ethics by refusing to demand release of current (2014 – 2017) business and personal federal income tax returns from Donald Trump, The Trump Organization, and any relevant and/or related entities.

We can only conclude that this is clear evidence of dereliction of duty by these officials whom we elected to represent the interests of the American people.

Economically and financially competent American voters must demand full and immediate disclosure of current tax returns by senior elected officials, particularly at the executive and legislative level.

If they who wish to serve don’t wish to disclose, they shouldn’t run for public office.

If they who are elected refuse to disclose, they should automatically be removed from public office.

No exceptions. No excuses.

High on the Hogg

April 1, 2018

David Hogg, the Parkland student who has become one of the most vocal leaders in the March For Our Lives movement, has explained their position and their mission,

“I want people to understand, we’re not trying to take your guns, we’re not against the second amendment; we don’t want to repeal the second amendment. We simply want gun legislation in this country that allows law-abiding citizens to still own guns but prevents people with a history of mental illness or a history of a criminal background from owning a firearm. It’s as simple as that.”

I think the last real, sustained and almost universal call to action by America’s youth occurred in the late ’60’s – early ’70’s when large-scale opposition to U.S. military involvement in SE Asia was the focal point.

Sure, there have been many other issues, causes, protests, rallies, etc. in the ensuing years, but I am not aware of anything quite as promising as the current March for our Lives movement.

One of the great outcomes thus far is contained within the Laura Ingraham debacle.

On her broadcast television show, Laura Ingraham personally attacked David Hogg regarding his academics.

Within 2 days after Ingraham attacked him personally, Hogg organized a successful boycott of her advertisers.

Nothing personal, he remarked. We are just following the money. Take away the money, and the show will disappear.

Brilliant!

How true, yet how trite.

People kill people, whether with their hands, a blunt object, a knife or a gun.

That said, a person armed with a .22 caliber bolt action rifle and a 10 round magazine is much less likely to engage in a mass shooting than, say, a person armed with an AR-15 rifle with a 30 round magazine.

The difference in circumference between the .22 cal and the .223 cal is negligible. The design differences are substantial.

The .22 is a rimfire cartridge, and its design goes back over 100 years.  The .22 Long Rifle cartridge is the most commonly used ammunition in the world today.

The .223 is a centerfire cartridge, designed in the early 1960’s specifically for military purposes as ammunition for the M-16 rifle (the military version of the AR-15).

To the uninformed, there is not much difference between the .22 bolt action rifle commonly used for target shooting and hunting, and the .223 semi-automatic rifle which was designed for military use.

To the Rambo Wanna-Be who is planning his domestic massacre, the differences are extraordinary.

After all, how many civilians can you take out with a .22 LR equipped with a 10 round magazine, even if you are shooting copper-plated hollow point bullets? [We don’t have an answer to this question because there is no record of a shooting rampage involving .22 rifles.]

We know that the AR-15 rifle (and variants) have been the weapon of choice in the majority of firearm massacres in the U.S. over the past decade.

There have been more than 30 school shootings in the U.S. since the December 2012 execution of 20 elementary school students and 6 adults at Sandy Hook in Newtown, CT.

If we were to outlaw the production, sale or possession of AR-15 style weapons in the U.S. tomorrow, would we immediately change this paradigm?  Immediately:  No.

Over the longer term (say, 3, 5, 7 years)?  Almost certainly.

The AR-15 (and similar weapons) have no place in a civil society, except perhaps for military and limited law enforcement use.

Please don’t stand by and wait for someone to go hunting with an AR-15 at the school which your children or grandchildren attend.  Step up and demand common sense gun regulations.  Now.