Largely without a voice in the corridors of power across the nation's legislative institutions, America's 'mentally ill' have become a focal point in an attempt to make sense of some of the violent acts that have been perpetrated over the last few years. Most recently, the letters believed to be covered with ricin sent to the White House, a judge in Tupelo, Miss., and Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss), are believed the be the actions of a "mentally ill" man who's "paranoid and thinks people are out to get him" when not on his medication.
But studies ranging back decades clearly show that mental illness is no more an indicator of conducting a violent act than not having a mental illness. For a host of reasons, however, the media and the public's attention is all too often focused on this group of individuals as the scourge that has wrested away the relative peace that had heretofore been perceptibly known. That is, the mentally ill have become a scapegoat, the easy target, for some of our society's deeper problems.
For me, this issue is personal. A number of individuals in my family as well as a number of friends have 'mental illnesses' and I suspect a number of Blue Virginia readers also know someone with a mental illness too (who doesn't these days!?). These individuals are, on the whole, some of the kindest, most virtuous, and big-hearted individuals I have ever known. They are, in other words, great people, and not one medical relapse away from acting out in a manner harmful to others or themselves.
It looks like communists (or socialists, whichever) are once again taking up arms to defend their cause. Witness Exhibit A, the not-so-recently taken picture of President Obama using a shotgun at Camp David on August 4, 2012. Before the picture surfaced, Republican and Tea Partiers seemed to believe that President Obama was so anti-gun that he would never even shoot one. Who needs a shotgun, after all, when you have the United Nations to subvert the Bill of Rights in the U.S.?
But that trickster, President Obama, must have something else up his sleeve, right? Indeed, it didn't take long for the smokescreen thesis to arise within fruit-cup conservative circles. That is, President Obama's picture campaign is nothing but a diabolical attempt to fool the American people in to believing that he is a "moderate" on gun safety. How diabolical, indeed!
Look, we already know that there are a lot of nutty people in this country who believe extremely distorting things about President Obama, to say the least. One of my favorites is the belief that President Obama will run and win a third term to the presidency. Thus, somehow President Obama will overturn the 22nd Amendment with a bitterly opposed Republican House to then win another presidential election in a country that is hostile to the mere thought of a president running for a third term. Of course, these are only two of the many barriers that could be named. Brilliant!
A policeman with a sidearm will be no match for someone with the AR-15 Bushmaster shown above. I do not want to turn our schools into armed camps.
I wrote a version of this as a comment in an on-line discussion about Terry McAuliffe's proposal to place armed policemen in every school in the Commonwealth. Since then we have had a parallel proposal from Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association to have armed NRA trained volunteers in every school. Governor McDonnell has argued for training school personnel to carry weapons as a means of keeping students secure. All three are wrong.
Keep in mind there was an armed policeman at Columbine.
Keep in mind that the Fort Hood shooting took place in the midst of a heavily armed military base.
And keep in mind that just as LaPierre was holding a press conference, a man was walking down a highway in rural Pennsylvania shooting people. He killed three and wounded several others, including State Policemen, before he himself died.
The best use of policemen in schools is the building of relationships.
Please continue as I offer my thoughts beneath the fold. I write this as an educator, someone who had military training with firearms, and someone who is well aware of how unprepared even trained police are to handle a situation like Columbine or Sandy Springs Elementary.
Those who gave money to the NRA include 22 gun makers, 12 of which manufacture assault rifles, and high-capacity ammunition magazine manufacturers or sellers. Beretta alone donated one million dollars to the NRA to lobby to overturn gun control laws in the wake of the 2008 Supreme Court decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, which eliminated laws against handguns.
The Violence Policy Center Executive Director Josh Sugarmann states, "Today's NRA is a virtual subsidiary of the gun industry. While the NRA portrays itself as protecting the 'freedom' of individual gun owners, it's actually working to protect the freedom of the gun industry to manufacture and sell virtually any weapon or accessory."
The NRA is nothing more than a front for corporate money spent to enlarge markets and profits, no different than the bogus Smokers Rights Groups that were created secretly by major tobacco companies Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds.
From 2004 to 2010, the NRA's revenue from corporate fundraising grew twice as fast as its income from members' dues. So, let's be clear. The NRA does not exist to represent gun owners and hunters. Its purpose is to be a front for corporate lobbying, to help elect legislators who will resist any and all gun regulation, and to strike fear in its members about gun control. The political activities of the NRA serve right-wing political interests, as well. Otherwise, why would the Koch brothers have donated big bucks to the NRA in 2012?
As you can see in this video, Josh Horwitz and Lori Haas of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence attempted yesterday to enter 31st State Senate District Republican candidate Caren Merrick's office building in McLean (1313 Dolley Madison, Suite 302) to collect her NRA questionnaire, which Merrick has promised multiple times to provide (although it should be noted that Merrick keeps moving the goalposts, first just saying she'd release it, then saying she'd ONLY release it if Barbara Favola released her AFL-CIO survey, which Favola did; then STILL not releasing the completed survey!). As you can see, Horwitz and Haas were not allowed in to the locked building, and Merrick staffers, who had been on the way out of the building, hightailed it back towards the elevator when they spotted Horwitz and Haas, who they're apparently terrified of at this point.
More background: Horwitz (Executive Director of CSGV) and Haas (mother of a Virginia Tech shooting survivor and Virginia coordinator for CSGV) have been attempting to get a copy of Merrick's NRA questionnaire for days now (again, as Merrick herself has promised multiple times to do!). Yesterday, they first stopped by Merrick's office -- which Merrick shares with Republican Delegate Barbara Comstock, another right wingnut - at 3 pm. At that time, Horwitz and Haas were told that there were no professional staff there, just volunteers (also note: Horwitz had called and asked when a good time to come pick up the survey, but nobody called him back). However, according to Horwitz, there clearly were professional staff there, possibly including a woman named Christina (claims to be a "volunteer" - who knows?) who you can see in the above video scurrying back to the elevator when she sees Horwitz and Haas. Also, Horwitz called at 4:30 pm, but Merrick staffers didn't answer the phone.
Now, on the "flip," find out what happens when Horwitz and Haas return at 6:30 pm last night to try once again to pick up Merrick's NRA questionnaire.
To understand what these letter grades mean, and why they're the exact opposite of how you normall think of grading, check out the NRA candidate questionnaire which has items on it like: repealing Virginia's one-handgun-per-month law; allowing unfettered "sale, purchase, possession and transfer of semi-automatic firearms;" preventing doctors from "questioning patients about firearm ownership;" opposing "legislation requiring locking devices (safes, trigger locks, cable locks...) or other locking procedures for firearms stored in the home;" etc. That's some extreme stuff right there, and that's how you rack up an "A" rating with the NRA, by answering those questions "correctly." A few interesting races where the NRA rating should make a big difference in how you choose to vote?
*Senate District 1: John Miller (D rating) vs. Mickey Chohany (A rating). Vote Miller!
*Senate District 13: Shawn Mitchell (D rating) vs. Dick Black (A rating). Vote Mitchell!
*Senate District 22: Bert Dodson (C rating) vs. Thomas Garrett (A rating). Vote Dodson!
*Senate District 31: Barbara Favola (F rating) vs. Caren Merrick (A- rating). Do NOT vote Merrick!
*Senate District 32: Janet Howell (F rating) vs. Patrick Forrest (A rating). Vote Howell!
*Senate District 33: Mark Herring (D rating) vs. Patricia Phillips (A rating). Vote Herring!
*Senate District 34: Chap Petersen (C+ rating) vs. Gerarda Culipher (A- rating). Vote Chap! (although Chap's rating is too high for my liking, he's still better on this issue, and on every other issue, than Culipher)
*Senate District 36: Toddy Puller (F rating) vs. Jeff Frederick (A rating). Vote Toddy!
*Senate District 37: Dave Marsden (F rating) vs. Jason Flanary (A rating). Do NOT vote for Flanary!
*Senate District 39: George Barker (F rating) vs. Miller Baker (A rating). Vote George Barker!
Also, check out the House ratings and do NOT vote for Mark Dudenhefer (A rating), Bob Marshall (A rating), Ronald Villaneuva (A rating), Scott Lingamfelter (A+ rating), Barbara Comstock (A rating), Brian Schoeneman (A rating), Matthew Fariss (A rating), David Ramadan (A rating), Michael Watson (A rating), etc.
Remember, an "A" from the NRA rating means the person supports the wildly-out-of-the-mainstream items I've listed above. A "D" or "F" rating from the NRA is truly a badge of honor, as it means the candidate opposes the NRA's extreme agenda, in spite of that organization's huge amount of money and organized supporters. Despite that fact, of course, the NRA and what it stands for remains in the small minority of Americans, the vast majority of whom support reasonable gun safety measures. Hopefully, that quiet majority will show up on November 8 and express their preferences accordingly.
This morning, an excellent new website launched, providing fascinating information about the good folks making up the NRA board. One name jumped out at me -- former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore. The website, called "Who is on the NRA Board?", provides a great deal of helpful information, including highlights from Gilmore's illustrious career. That highlight reel includes, first and foremost, Gilmore's association with the "Free Congress Foundation," "a think tank that promotes the far-right's viewpoint in the 'Culture War.'"
According to this new website, which is sponsored by the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence: