Quotes of the day

posted at 10:21 pm on February 4, 2013 by Erika Johnsen

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With his gun proposals dividing Congress, President Barack Obama took his case for universal background checks and for banning some military-style weapons to the upper Midwest on Monday, looking to build public support for his measures and to apply pressure on lawmakers.

Obama argued that there’s bipartisan support for a system to undertake criminal checks on gun buyers and for gun trafficking laws but, acknowledging the political challenges he faces, would only say that the assault weapons ban deserves a vote in Congress.

‘‘We don’t have to agree on everything to agree it’s time to do something,’’ he said. …

‘‘Changing the status quo is never easy,’’ Obama said. ‘‘This will be no exception. The only way we can reduce gun violence in this county is if it the American people decide it’s important, if you decide it’s important — parents and teachers, police officers and pastors, hunters and sportsmen, Americans of every background stand up and say, ‘This time, it’s got to be different.’’’

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Senate Democratic leaders expect a gun bill to move to the Senate floor that includes most of the proposals backed by President Barack Obama, with the notable exception of a ban on military-style, semiautomatic weapons, a top aide to Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said. …

The details provide the first snapshot of how Senate Democrats plan to move forward on major gun legislation in coming weeks.

But the strategy outline also reflects a growing sense within Democratic ranks that some of the president’s most ambitious goals—particularly the call for new bans on certain types of military-style guns often described as assault weapons—may be unrealistic, the Reid aide said.

The goal is to get the bill to the Senate floor next month, at which point lawmakers could then seek to amend the legislation by adding a ban on certain semiautomatic weapons or other provisions, the aide said.

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REID: George, I’ve been supported by the NRA on occasion. I know Wayne LaPierre. He’s always been extremely pleasant to me. We have a good relationship. So I — I am not here to demean the organization.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But they are resisting almost everything you’ve talked about and we’ve talked about here, everything the president has called for.

REID: George, just because they resist it doesn’t mean we can’t do things. I mean, we have a lot of special interest groups that come and complain about things, and we don’t listen to them. We’ll listen to them and make the right decision.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But will you commit to getting something done?

REID: Yes, I definitely want to do something with immigration for sure, and I want to get something done on guns.

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David Axelrod suggested on Morning Joe that Chicago’s high rate of gun crime can be blamed on the fact that “surrounding areas” have lax gun laws. What is true here is that the guns used in Chicago crimes come from outside of Chicago, because they “don’t have gun stores in Chicago.” Many crime guns are purchased just outside the city limits, though more than half come from other states.

However, Illinois as a whole is fairly strict when it comes to guns — all gun owners must have a license, and it’s the only state in the nation that doesn’t allow concealed carry by private citizens under any circumstances. (This will change if Richard Posner’s recent ruling holds up.) I’m not sure how much stricter a state could be without running afoul of the Second Amendment. And the communities these guns come from typically have much lower crime rates than Chicago does. …

Frankly, I don’t think gun control has much to do with Chicago’s murder problem. It seems to be mostly gang-related, which means that (A) any guns that can’t be bought legally will be bought illegally and (B) arming the law-abiding won’t make much difference either, because the violence is taking place between criminals. We still should arm the law-abiding, so that they may defend themselves against burglaries and the like, but they are rarely the victims of gang murders.

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Most New Yorkers support a stringent new state law that tackles gun control, a poll out Monday showed.

According to a survey from Siena Research Institute, 65 percent of those polled back the measure, which was passed last month in the wake of the December shooting massacre in Newtown, Conn. Thirty percent are opposed. …

The legislation, the toughest in the country, took steps including banning certain kinds of military-style weapons, reducing the ammunition quantities weapons can hold and requiring background checks to purchase bullets.

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The Arkansas House of Representatives approved a bill on Monday to allow concealed-carry permit holders to take their weapons into churches, and it is expected to be signed into law by the state’s governor.

The Church Protection Act would allow individual places of worship to decide whether to allow concealed handguns and who could carry them. The Republican-controlled House passed the bill 85-8 with bipartisan support. The measure previously passed the Republican-controlled Senate 28-4.

Arkansas joins a handful of other states, including South Carolina, Wyoming and Louisiana, that allow guns in churches, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

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If Idahoans, like Americans in many states, have rushed to buy guns out of fear for personal safety in the aftermath of recent mass shootings, or out of fear of tighter legal controls, then democracy has already spoken, many lawmakers said. People have voted with their pocketbooks.

“Enable them to do what they believe is right,” said State Senator Marv Hagedorn, a Republican who was designated to be his chamber’s point man on proposed gun legislation in the session that began in January, describing what he sees as his mandate. “There’s a huge call to all of us to protect the Second Amendment rights.”

Every level of government in every state is, without question, looking more closely at issues of public safety since the slaughter in Newtown, Conn., of 20 children and 6 adults in an elementary school in December. But in deeply conservative states like Idaho, where President Obama got less than 33 percent of the vote in November — one of his worst showings in the nation — the discussion of school safety is occurring behind a kind of Chinese wall, separate from the question of whether certain types of guns or high-capacity magazines are to blame. …

The Idaho Department of Education has also been meeting to talk through the new terrain of school safety, even as some districts have said that they may move ahead on their own in allowing teachers and administrators to be openly armed, as Idaho law already permits.

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According to multiple studies summarized by the Treatment Advocacy Center, these untreated mentally ill are responsible for 10% of all homicides (and a higher percentage of the mass killings), constitute 20% of jail and prison inmates and at least 30% of the homeless. Severely mentally ill individuals now inundate hospital emergency rooms and have colonized libraries, parks, train stations and other public spaces. The quality of the lives of these individuals mocks the lofty intentions of the founders of the CMHC program.

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this 50-year federal experiment is its inordinate cost. In 2009, 4.7 million Americans received SSI or SSDI because of mental illnesses, not including mental retardation, a tenfold increase since 1977. The total cost was $46 billion. The total Medicaid and Medicare costs for mentally ill individuals in 2005 was more than $60 billion. …

Nor is President Obama likely to do anything, since his lead agency, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, has essentially denied that a problem exists. Its contribution to the president’s response to the Dec. 14 Newtown tragedy focused only on school children and insurance coverage. And its current plan of action for 2011-14, a 41,000-word document, includes no mention of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or outpatient commitment, all essential elements in an effective plan for corrective action.


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