Guns · Uncategorized

Ignore the defeatists: Gun violence is a solvable problem

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Fifty-seven years ago this week, the President of the United States stood before a joint session of Congress and said something nutty.

First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth. 

John F. Kennedy elaborated on that thought a few months later before a big crowd in a Houston football stadium.

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win…

In 1961, no doubt some considered that goal to be “crazy talk.”

As of July 20, 1969, it was reality.

I found myself thinking about JFK and his outlandish commitment to the space program when I read a characterization of Friday’s Santa Fe, Texas, shooting as part of an “epidemic without a solution.”

That’s defeatist talk. Defeatism has never solved a problem.

America’s gun problem

The US is unique in two key — and related — ways when it comes to guns: It has way more gun deaths than other developed nations, and it has far higher levels of gun ownership than any other country in the world.

The US has nearly six times the gun homicide rate of Canada, more than seven times that of Sweden, and nearly 16 times that of Germany, according to United Nations data compiled by the Guardian. (These gun deaths are a big reason America has a much higher overall homicide rate, which includes non-gun deaths, than other developed nations.)

Researcher Josh Tewksbury’s data show the correlation between the number of guns and gun deaths (including homicides and suicides) among wealthier nations:



If this was an epidemic without a solution, the United States would not be an outlier.

As journalist German Lopez reports in

Guns are not the only contributor to violence. (Other factors include, for example, poverty, urbanization, and alcohol consumption.) But when researchers control for other confounding variables, they have found time and time again that America’s high levels of gun ownership are a major reason the US is so much worse in terms of gun violence than its developed peers.

The moon shot happened because fulfilling President Kennedy’s promise became a priority for the nation and a goal members of  Congress supported, for which they approved resources. It unified the country.

Leadership on the gun issue could have the same effect. There’s already plenty of support which, in a democracy, ought to count for something.


Americans’ support for tougher gun laws hit a 25-year high in March. In the wake of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in a March Gallup poll, 67% of Americans indicated their support for tougher restrictions on guns. This was the highest level of support for more stringent gun laws in the U.S. since 1993. Americans’ support for tougher gun laws has generally trended up since the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, and has now returned to levels last seen prior to 2000.

What we lack are leaders who aspire to do the difficult. You won’t get that kind of leadership from this White House, but we can move the fight in the right direction this November.
Pay attention to the congressional elections.
If gun violence matters to you, find out which members of Congress accept NRA support and support their opponents. Encourage friends and family to do the same.
Instead of letting the defeatists get us off track, let’s pay attention to the what the young people, those literally on the front lines of gun violence, have to say about the attitude that has kept rational gun laws from becoming law.
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“When we’ve had our say with the government — and maybe the adults have gotten used to saying ‘it is what it is,’ but if us students have learned anything, it’s that if you don’t study, you will fail,” declared Emma Gonzalez, a Parkland student, in a speech that has gone viral on the Internet.

“And in this case if you actively do nothing, people continually end up dead, so it’s time to start doing something.

Ignore the defeatists.

Americans can accomplish anything if we are committed to victory, no matter how long it takes.

We put a man on the moon, for God’s sake.


In praise of the “PR stunt”


Retirement means I’ve been able to visit places with the family I never thought I would see. Earlier this year, we journeyed to Paris and Amsterdam, experiencing The Louvre, Napoleon’s Tomb, the Anne Frank House and much more.

In Amsterdam, we stayed in a hotel with a link to Beatles history.


The Amsterdam Hilton opened in 1962, but its greatest fame came seven years later when the presidential suite, room #702, became the honeymoon suite for newlyweds John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

From March 25-31, 1969, Lennon and Ono hosted media members from around the world at their “Bed-in for peace.” The idea was to use their highly publicized marriage to bring attention to the importance of ending the Vietnam war.

With their nonconformist artistic expressions (cf. Bari: 33),[3] such as the nude cover of the Two Virgins album, the press were expecting them to be having sex, but instead the couple were just sitting in bed, wearing pyjamas—in John’s words “like angels”—talking about peace with signs over their bed reading “Hair Peace” and “Bed Peace”. After seven days, they flew to Vienna, Austria, where they held a Bagism press conference.

The Bed-in was a PR stun intended to draw attention to the couple’s pro-peace message. As such, it was quite successful. The Bed-in for Peace received a huge amount of news coverage worldwide. The North American leg of the Bed-in (Montreal, June, 1969) was the site for the recording of Lennon’s peace anthem which was an international hit.

Whether one considered it silly or serious, the Bed-in drew attention. It irritated President Nixon whose infamous “enemies list” included Lennon, an outspoken and extremely famous anti-war activist.

This morning, I watched a news report on the anniversary of the “Bed-in.” The report noted “the PR stunt didn’t end the war.”

Well, no. The war didn’t end, this week, 49 years ago.

Neither did the mass anti-war demonstrations that took place throughout the 60s end the war. At least, not during the 1960s. Those also could have been described as “PR stunts.”

A stunt is an event designed to draw attention. An anti-war PR stunt is intended to get the attention of people who don’t usually consider the cost of war. It raises the question, “Is it worth it?”

Small demonstrations, like the Bed-in, and large, like the December 1969 March on Washington, helped shorten the war. Over time, those on the fence examined their attitudes and decided the war wasn’t worth the cost. Moving people to the “it’s not worth it” position ended the war.

Saturday’s demonstrations against gun violence haven’t ended end gun violence.


But, there was palpable energy and commitment emanating from the huge crowds of young people participating in the March for Our Lives events throughout the country on Saturday, including those in Washington D.C.Springfield, Chicago, and its surrounding areas. That’s what a movement looks like.

If you show up in large numbers to promote a powerful message and, if you’re in for the long haul, you will eventually win. That’s what we learned from the anti-war movement and from the civil rights movement.



It’s not hard to imagine John Lennon would have been marching against gun violence in New York on Sunday. Others of his generation marched in his place.


Battles aren’t won by PR stunts, but when stunts are part of a strategy and supported by highly motivated people dedicated to a cause, they can help achieve goals worth fighting for.

Photo hanging in the lobby of the Amsterdam Hilton

McBarronBlog Bonus

The Amsterdam Hilton is name checked on this Beatles single which features Lennon on guitar and McCartney on all the other instruments. Ballad of John and Yoko

Guns · Privilege

Privilege? You be the judge


The facts:

A 67-year old man fired a pistol in his apartment. The bullet passed through the wall he shared with his neighbor.

The shooter failed to report the accident. In addition, when asked by his neighbor and the property management company AND the police about the hole in the wall, he provided various explanations, none of which mentioned a firearm.

Police reports say O’Shea gave property managers and police at least three excuses for the hole, including he accidentally put a screwdriver through the wall while hanging a mirror, and his son accidentally caused the hole while using a pneumatic nail gun.

Nine days after the shooting, the neighbor ran across a spent bullet in his apartment. Only then did the shooter admit what had happened. He was charged with reckless conduct.

Now, you might think this an “open and shut” case. If you’re familiar with the legal system, you might be surprised there was a trial. Most lawyers would tell someone stupid enough to fire a gun in his house, and foolish enough to lie to police about it, to avoid court.

But the shooter knew plenty about the legal system.

DuPage County Judge Patrick O’Shea was negligent when he accidentally fired a revolver through his wall and into a neighbor’s apartment, but a Kane County judge ruled Friday those actions did not meet reckless conduct requirements.

Judge Keith Johnson found O’Shea not guilty, ruling prosecutors failed to prove key components of the charge.

The state did not prove anyone’s life was in danger because prosecutors were unable to prove anyone was home in the unit where the shot was fired or anywhere else in the vicinity, Johnson said.

The phrase “white privilege” rubs many people, particularly white people, the wrong way. This is understandable. After all, life is hard for everyone. Few are spared hardship and disappointment.

On the other hand, who believes the court would have been so understanding about the shooting and lying had it been, for example, a young black man who fired a gun into another person’s DuPage County apartment?



The not guilty verdict  wasn’t the end of the good news Judge Johnson gave Judge O’Shea:

He also signed an order allowing to O’Shea to retrieve two pistols and 49 other guns from the Wheaton Police Department, once his FOID card is reinstated by the Illinois State Police.

Oh good. I was afraid a dope wouldn’t have access to 51 guns.

O’Shea declined to comment. His attorney, Terry Ekl, said they expected and were pleased with the ruling.

Yes, despite the evidence, the confession and the lying,  the ruling was “expected.”

I have no reason to believe, after the verdict was issued, that Judge O’Shea told Judge Johnson “It’s been a privilege.”

But he should have.

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