Image source: Mayors Against Illegal Guns
A matter-of-fact article in the right-leaning Daily Mail (“Gun rights organizer calls for civil disobedience“) highlighted a number of pernicious trends that keep upstate New York, including Greene, backward, poor and unhealthy. The most insidious of these was not the pro-gun rally organizer, Billy Martin, who seems to be a caricature of the ill-informed and easily manipulated gun lover. No, the worst of it was the presence and miguided encouragement of “nice guy” state legislator Pete Lopez.
Lopez: leading his constituents backward.
Martin railed against apathy, saying that gun owners represented such large numbers that, if everyone would just wake up and get on board, “We sweep the day, uncontested”. This is, of course, a self-serving delusion: gun ownership has been declining for years. As Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy notes:
Gun ownership has dramatically dropped over the last 20 years, so now it’s about selling a larger number of more expensive weapons to a smaller number of customers. The N.R.A., doing the bidding of the industry, ratchets up paranoia about government so that those people will go out and buy more guns.
No, Martin’s not the problem, obnoxious though he may be. He is simply a type, a loud and fanatical, self-appointed spokesman for a dwindling minority. Lopez is the problem. He is supposed to represent the best interests, health and well-being of his constituents, and he is failing miserably in that regard when he joins with local upstate zealots in claiming that “the challenge will be, we’re gonna have to strike down every piece of that damn bill [the NY SAFE Act] to kill it … and in the future we’ve got to prevent that stuff from coming forward.” Lopez went on to claim that fighting against gun control will “determine the fate of America”.
What Lopez should be focusing on is the health of the people he represents—their health is not likely to be improved by making it easier for guns to metastasize throughout upstate NY even more widely. Indeed, the counties that are calling for the repeal of NY SAFE are among the sickest—literally—in the state. Greene ranks 55th in health care outcomes, out of the state’s 62 counties. That’s down from 52nd place the year before. (Columbia held steady in 45th place.)
The upstate economy could stand some serious attention, too. It seems to be growing steadily sicker along with its inhabitants. Instead, Lopez chooses to spin fictitious scenarios about basic human rights under seige by sinister government forces.
Finally, what passes for honest reportage in this benighted district could use some more media pushback as well. Where is the commentary from our perceptive local bloggers? Carole? Sam? We need you to step up on all of these very serious issues.
Both Martin and Lopez trashed newly elected State Senator Cecelia Tkaczyk and suggested she needed to be removed. (How, exactly? By “ballots or bullets,” as the gun fanatics like to say?) Tkaczyk is one of the brightest spots in recent upstate politics, and represents real hope for change. She deserves your support. Lopez does not.
Come on, people. If you want a better, healthier upstate New York, then come forward and speak out. Don’t let ignorance and fanaticism control the conversation.
Update, April 9: No other subject generates such heated response. Some of it is rational, most of it is not. Venom abounds. And gun lovers from around the country feel free to join in—with any other issue, the response is generally local.
From this point on, I will approve comments selectively. I am not going to take the time to respond to each one. It becomes tiresome responding to the same formulaic arguments, over and over again. Suffice it to say that America has a very serious problem, and it has as much to do with gun lovers as it does with guns.
One of the most intolerable aspects of the “pro-gun” argument, for rational Americans, is the heavy reliance such proponents place on the Second Amendment. The NRA and others cite the Second Amendment as graven in stone, permitting no possible deviance from its absolute law. This is nonsense.
The amendment is an antique, and it has been twisted by right-wing courts into a travesty of present-day relevance. The amendment did not have the intent of guaranteeing citizens the right to possess and use super-charged, military-grade weapons that can kill dozens in a few minutes. The constant citing by “gun rights advocates” of the Second Amendment as something approaching the Word of God is therefore absurd, as the illustration below makes clear.
Assault weapons were never intended. Image source: the New York Times, Christopher Sergio, photographs by JRB/Fotolia, zim101/Fotolia and Anatoly Vartanov/Fotolia.
There is a very strong argument to make for rewriting the amendment, to accord with common sense and strike some semblance of a balance between gun owners’ “rights” and public safety. There is also a strong argument for abolishing the amendment altogether, something I would personally favor. I do recognize that this is very unlikely to happen, however.
But rewriting the Second Amendment does seem possible, perhaps after several more senseless atrocities have occurred. If you have an open mind, read why such a revision could convey benefits to people on both sides of the gun debate in this article.
Harry Reid recently dropped an assault weapons ban from proposed Senate gun control legislation, to widespread disgust and consternation.
“It doesn’t even have 40 votes,” he explained. Left unsaid was Reid’s inability or disinclination to reform Senate voting procedures, so 60 votes would not be needed to pass important legislation. Also left unmentioned was Reid’s NRA backing and his general lack of leadership on this critical issue. With his droning, reedy voice and increasingly frail appearance, Reid seems more than ever to epitomize weak, ineffectual leadership.
Harry Reid: a pathetic failure to lead.
A wide array of people and groups, including President Obama, Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns and the families of the slaughtered Newtown children, are urging a vote on an assault weapons ban anyway. As the president noted, “These ideas shouldn’t be controversial—they’re common sense. They’re supported by a majority of the American people.”
A vote on assault weapons would have the further advantage of forcing senators into actually coming out against new gun controls, a political risk and a potential public relations disaster that may eventually harm some of them. One can only hope.
A friend of mine recently wondered whether, if the general public could view a photo of the carnage in Newtown—small children literally blown apart by a military-grade weapon—it would make any difference in the gun control “debate”. I’d like to think it would, but I remain skeptical. Cowardice and doublespeak are likely to remain the order of the day in the U.S. Senate, which will struggle to pass any gun control legislation at all.
Perhaps the most infuriating thing about America’s gun nuts is their constant clamor for respect and their so-called “rights”. This culminates in the right-wing glorification and distortion of the Second Amendment, far beyond its original scope. And it creates a whole slew of specious arguments, many funded by the NRA, which aim to undergird what is ultimately an indefensible position.
Much of the reaction to my last post revolved around the fact that my pro gun-control position was seen as a minority viewpoint. Following that logic, many of my correspondents took it a step further and suggested I move somewhere more congenial. I will grant that gun control is not currently popular in Greene County. But the NY SAFE Act is not a Greene County creation, it is state law. And in the state at large, rational gun control is strongly favored by a solid majority of people (70-30, by most estimates). NY SAFE is not going anywhere.
Upstate gun-rights activists: rude, rustic and out of place.
Another gun-lover argument that’s not going anywhere: weaponized “patriots” who arm themselves to uphold civil rights, and defend against a totalitarian government. (The NRA calls itself, with a straight face, America’s oldest civil rights organization.) First of all, the focus is wrong: if you’re concerned about misuse of government power, now or in the future, your recourse should be political involvement, not assault weapons. Do you think your AR-15 can stand up to a drone? Secondly, the old canard that the government is “coming to take your guns” is growing very tiresome, simply because it is repeated so ignorantly and so often. No one is taking your guns, unless you misuse them.
It is actually these upstate conspiracy theorists who are in the minority in New York State. And their minority position will only become more conspicuous as the country haltingly moves toward social and political progress in the 21st century. The fact is, gun “rights” adherents are rude, rustic and increasingly out of place.
Take the recent rally for “gun rights” in Albany as an example. I drove past the rally site at the State Capitol the morning of February 28, as the protesters were beginning to assemble. On the left side of State Street, by the park, an ordinary-looking guy in camo smirked as he leaned on his rifle like a cane. (Adult men in civilian camouflage always strike me as kids playing at war. They look ridiculous.) Across the street, some fat guy bent over into a rusted-out car (to grab more guns?), his butt crack on prominent display. For the rest of the morning, up until 2 PM or so, the crowd (far less than the 5,000 cited in the press; it was more like 2,000, tops) milled in and around the park, chanting slogans like “We will not comply!” They were a sad, bedraggled lot, overwhelmingly male and all dressed up in hunting gear and baseball caps, who walked in pairs and groups of three or four to stand apart from the businesspeople and government workers who normally occupy this space.
It was their moment, and I think they enjoyed it. But these rural New Yorkers are not going to succeed in foisting their backward beliefs on the people of this state. If they can’t, or won’t, conform to the new law, then I suggest they move someplace more congenial. Someplace where rural life predominates and anti-government conspiracy theories abound. Someplace like Idaho.
UPDATE, April 15. Four new comments from Pat Kosorek. He has nothing original to say, and he was likely prompted to comment by yesterday’s post rather than this one, but I decided to publish his observations anyway. They do reflect the mindset of the opposition, along with the quality of its discourse.
UPDATE, 9 PM. There have been quite a few comments from gun lovers, and these comments speak volumes. One Pat Kosorek is particularly eloquent.
We’ve meant to comment on this before now, but Kyle Adams’s timely piece in today’s Daily Mail prompts this post: Catskill Village President Vincent Seeley is to be applauded for voting “no” to last week’s Greene County resolution to repeal the NY SAFE Act. Seeley’s action took courage and intelligence, qualities notably lacking in most of his colleagues. We salute him.
For behaving like an adult and doing the right thing, Seeley has been savaged by the mindless pro-gun forces, notably the “Greene County NY Citizens for Gun Rights” on their horrific Facebook page (I’m not about to link to it). Here is a group that proudly posts photos of AR-15s with captions like “Fuck You, Cuomo—Come and Get It.” It’s worth a lot that Greene County has ONE legislator willing to stand up to these jerks.
Thank you, Vince Seeley. And thanks to Kyle Adams for the fair-minded account in today’s paper.
Tomorrow evening, Wednesday February 27 at 6 PM, Ms. RoAnn Destito, Commissioner, Office of General Services, will lead a presentation and discussion of Governor Cuomo’s State of the State Address (“New York Rising”) and the 2013-2014 Executive Budget and Management Plan. The event will take place at the Meeting Room of the Cairo Public Library, 15 Railroad Avenue, Cairo. Everyone is welcome to attend, regardless of party affiliation. Again, the time and place are:
If you’re as appalled as I am by the moronic anti-NY SAFE resolution submitted by the Greene County legislature last week, this week offers you two opportunities to do something about it.
The first opportunity is a press conference in support of the NY SAFE Act, to be held at the State Capitol in Albany on Thursday, Feb. 28 at noon. The press conference is being organized by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense, and others. You can RSVP here.
Then there is a rally the next day, also at noon at the State Capitol, sponsored by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. You can bet that the retrograde pro-gun forces will show up too, so please try your best to support NY SAFE at both events.
A final note: keep an eye on the news early this week. It’s possible that the close proximity of these two events may lead to one large, coordinated event on one day or the other.
Stand up for common sense and do the right thing for your family, friends and neighbors: sign this petition. Let Greene County Legislature Chairman Wayne Speenburgh and his cohorts know that they don’t speak for us with their misguided attempt to repeal the NY SAFE ACT.
You can make your voice heard for progress, safety and sanity in Greene County. Sign the Keep Greene County NY SAFE Petition. Thank you.
So now we learn that Greene County has drafted a resolution calling for the repeal of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s NY SAFE Act. The resolution will be voted on next week.
“We believe we have the support to pass this at our public safety meeting on Tuesday,” Greene County Legislature Chairman Wayne Speenburgh, R-Coxsackie, said yesterday, “and then our whole legislature on Wednesday night at our regular monthly meeting.”
A long, depressing list of other upstate New York counties is already on record as opposing the new gun control law. Greene, somewhat belatedly, will now apparently join their backward-looking ranks.
Speenburgh said the SAFE Act was a matter of Upstate vs. Downstate, and proper respect for gun owners’ rights. He is correct on both counts. “Downstate” DOES support the new law, which DOES respect gun owners’ rights. The frenzy over “gun rights” being whipped up by the far right fringe has nothing to do with responsible gun ownership or gun control. “Downstate” can see that. “Upstate,” including Greene County, apparently cannot.
Passing a copycat resolution in Greene is a waste of the county legislature’s time and resources. It also does a disservice to those of us who live in this county and support the new law.
A better use of the county legislature’s time might be to examine the Upstate-Downstate dichotomy more closely, and examine why one region thrives and the other does not.The answer has a lot to do with looking forward, out toward the world at large, rather than chronically peering backward into one’s own insular history and outlook.