Switzerland Is An Excellent Model for the Second Amendment: But Probably Not for the Reasons You Think.

Students in my Contemporary World Issues class have been have been engaged in some serious and at times intense debate over guns, gun violence and the 2nd Amendment. Frequently in those debates, Switzerland has been mentioned as the best proof that more gun ownership does not lead to more gun violence. I admit that I have read this many, many times in blog posts and have heard it many times on television and radio, and in the past I more or less accepted that argument. So, as is often the case, I had to do some quick and serious research to keep up with my students. Since what I found was fascinating, to say the least, I wanted to share a few Internet sources and pass on some information about Switzerland and their gun laws. Sources are cited at the end of the post.

Bullet Points (pun intended) on Firearms in Switzerland

  • Nearly every male in Switzerland goes through firearm training at the age of 20.
  • Swiss males are allowed to keep their firearms after the end of their military service at age 30. The fully automatic weapons must be converted to semi automatic before they can keep them as civilians.
  • Switzerland has universal gun registration on gun ownership.
  • Switzerland has universal background checks on all gun purchases.
  • Switzerland requires universal reporting of firearm transactions, whether commercial or private transfer of ownership.
  • Switzerland’s carry laws are highly regulated and very restricted. Other than militia members transporting their firearms on their way to militia training, very few people are allowed to actually carry firearms. And they cannot be loaded.
  • Despite the militia requirement in Switzerland, the rate of gun ownership (by percentage) in the United States is much higher than in Switzerland.
  • Males berween 20 and 30 years of age are required to own firearms in Switzerland because they are the nation’s well regulated milita. Switzerland has no standing army. It is their civilian militia (much like the intent of the American 2nd amendment) that defends their nation against foreign aggression.
  • The vast majority of militia members are not even allowed to store ammo at home. And for the 2ooo or so–that’s right only 2000–militia members who do have ammo, it is sealed and inspected regularly.
  • Switzerland’s gun ownership rate is only fourth highest in the world. Surprised?

In reality, and perhaps ironically, and to the chagrin of the NRA, Switzerland is a fine model for the intent of the American Constitution’s 2nd Amendment. They have a well-regulated militia instead of a standing army. They have universal background checks and universal licensing. They require firearm training before a gun can be owned. They have near total restrictions on the purchase and use of ammunition. In fact, they regulate and restrict much more than America does. Interesting.

http://www.politifact.com/rhode-island/statements/2013/jan/06/facebook-posts/facebook-posting-says-gun-rich-swiss-have-lowest-f/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_politics_in_Switzerland

http://www.ehow.com/facts_6766770_switzerland-gun-safety.html

Finally a Republican Plan that Inspires Me!

Once the Conservatives finally discovered that the country is not moving to the right as they claimed; and once they discovered that their position on guns and gays were far out of step with the majority of Americans; and once they discovered that their positions on not raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans were opposed by the vast majority of voters; and once they discovered that their position on climate change, intelligent design and prayer in schools was not so well received by the electorate; and once they discovered that Mitt Romney did actually lose the election…they finally decided they needed to make a few dramatic changes. The new strategy is, of course, to simply change the way the votes are counted. Forget the very basic premise of the nation’s democratic foundation: one man one vote because the Neo-Conservative leadership in America truly believe that every conservative vote is worth more than any liberal, progressive or independent vote.

If you listen closely to the arguments by the Republican vote riggers, you can hear rationalizations, yes, but also a real idea: Rural Americans deserve disproportionate political representation. Charles W. Carrico, a small-town Republican state senator from Virginia who sponsored his state’s Electoral College–alteration bill, said, “People in my district—they feel discouraged by coming out because their votes don’t mean anything if they’re outvoted in metropolitan districts.” Jase Bolger, speaker of the state House of Representatives in Michigan, likewise fretted over the voting power of the urban hordes: “I hear that more and more from our citizens in various parts of the State of Michigan, that they don’t feel like their vote for president counts, because another area of the state may dominate that or could sway their vote.” http://nymag.com/news/features/republican-party-2013-2/

Seriously, the new plan to retake the White House and Congress  is to take the losing side and simply find a way to call it the winning side. Is there anything more Orwellian than that?

With control over so many state legislatures, Republicans have already done some of the most creative gerrymandering imaginable. And now that the legislative districts are all screwed up in favor of their party they want the electoral college to reflect the skewed representation. It apparently wasn’t enough in the last election to close polling places in Florida where minorities–read democrats–vote, creating long lines. It wasn’t enough to purge legal voters from the rolls, place robocalls deceiving voters about polling places and times, the sudden need without any justification for voter ID cards, electronic voting machines changing votes, and Billboards in Ohio intimidating minority voters–all of these were not quite enough to steal an election. (And I haven’t even mentioned hanging chads and the Supreme Court of 2000.) Since none of those strategies worked, Conservative leaders will only be satisfied when they can lose and still win.

So, this story has inspired me. It really has. Among other responsibilities I have, I am the Athletic Director at a school that has struggled in recent years in basketball. Since one team in our league dominates year in and year out, I have decided to propose a few rules changes. From now on, the best team has to do all the travelling while the worst teams get to play at home all the time. That means the best team has to ride on a school bus for 1-2 hours while the less competitive teams get to sleep in on Saturdays. I’m also changing the scoring rules. Every time THEY make a basket it only counts for one point. All of OUR baskets will count as three-pointers. (Because after all, it isn’t how many baskets you make, it’s how many points you have.) WE will no longer have to follow rules of “travelling” and “double-dribble” and from now on officials can only call three fouls on each of OUR players. THEY will have to play with four players on the floor while WE get to play with six. At the end of the game there will be a score that was arrived at, based on the new rules and the winner will be declared. Seems reasonable to me. I’m calling it the Republican Plan.

 

One Prediction for President Obama’s Second Term

Obama will fix ObamaCare. It needs fixing mainly because it was never really the best idea. And why on earth would someone select  national health care plan that was anything other than the plan that came in first place? Why indeed? Seems like a reasonable question. But the whole thing got all tangled up in politics, compromise, deception.  Those are the nice words that describe how we got to ObamaCare.

Sidebar: I realize that the Affordable Care Act will make it so that tens of million more Americans will have health insurance. I understand about the expanded coverage for college students. I have read about the free prenatal care and cancer screenings. I understand about the emotional and financial relief for so any families with some  member who has been denied coverage simply because they really need coverage. I believe that it will be good for the economy and for society in general. And I also know that for the first time in decades my health insurance costs stayed exactly the same as the previous year while I received greater benefits. That hit me immediately. In my wallet and in my life. Just being honest.

One thing for certain, ObamaCare is much better than what we have been living with, or dieing without: the ever expanding cost of health care and health care insurance, coupled to the ever increasing list of medicines and procedures and pre-existing conditions that swell the NOT COVERED list. But I read  a blog today on the Huffington Post that led to some comments that eventually got to this response about ObamaCare exchanges from a RubyMontana. She had a bit of criticism for ObamaCare that I think has some merit.

In October the exchanges will be open for business. Governments will staff this highly trained bunch to navigate you through ObamaCare.
When you are finished with that, more government staff will look at your tax return (yes, you will need one if you want that subsidy) and tell you how much you get towards your required coverage.
Should be fun!
For those of us who have been doing our own work, this is a no-brainer. For those that want it all done for them, you will learn a difficult and expensive lesson. RubyMontana.

I’m not totally convinced that life will be as dire as Ruby says, but she did get me thinking about how much I appreciate ObamaCare and the work that went into it–but here’s the thing, it’s not the final answer.  So for now, in spite of, or because of, the awful experience RubyMontana says I should expect from the exchanges, I’ll continue to visit my friendly Nurse Practitioner and follow her advice as she is the one who monitors my health much more than I ever will. Then I will continue to push for single-payer, government managed health care to replace this good first intermediate step that got fashioned in this form to appease the republicans who then stabbed a president in the back by turning their own backs on the deals they made. It was the Conservative Corporate Congressional demand for appeasement that makes Obamacare something far below the ideal. But its also all we could get–for now.  Anyway…

This president doesn’t strike me as one who likes to settle for less than what he knows is the best. He makes deals, yes. But I believe he yet strives for some high ideals.

Sidebar: Consider the range of high ideals this last term, from endorsing gay marriage, gays in the military and women in combat roles, to his supreme court appointments, to supporting an investment in the auto industry, to doubling auto efficiency standards, to ObamaCare, his “signature” accomplishment.

With all that said, my big prediction for the next four years is that before this term is over, President Obama will get health care right. Hey, it’s got his name on it.

More Disgusting Hate Filled Signs

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Driving up I-5 from Portland to Seattle/Tacoma this is what greets you about half-way. This is the new message–front and back–put up just for the MLK three-day weekend traffic. Besides being simplistic and overly disgusting, isn’t it just what America needs to have shoved in our faces on a day we are trying to remember a man of peace?

Add to this signage the fact that the Portland progressive radio station and the Seattle progressive radio station both changed to all day sports formats, and I felt like I was back in Eastern Washington driving a lonely stretch of conservative hell. Scanning through channels I kept getting pieces of Michael Medved, some Lars Larson and way too much Sean Hannity.  Lucky for me I like ESPN.

Seriously, that billboard is huge and spews more hatred than Limbaugh. What kind of signs are the haters putting up on your highways?

 

Yes, They Did Boo Paul Ryan at the Inauguration. Duh!

To all apologists for Paul Ryan and the booing he received. Booing is pretty tame when you consider that people view Ryan as the Anti-Robin Hood. Ryan wants to take from the working classes and give to the wealthy and that makes him a modern day Sherriff of Nottingham. A lackey for the truly rich, doing their bidding, worming his way into every old boys network of old money. So folks boo him. Duh!

Neo-conservative Rifle Association

Like many of you I have been watching and listening to the Great Gun Debate in America. I would like to say I am fascinated by the discussion, but I’m not. To be fascinated I would have to be somewhat surprised. But who can be surprised by what has transpired over the last few weeks? In the wake of multiple shootings and horrific tragedies, the President has responded to the demands of a large majority of the population by proposing reasonable firearm regulations. The NRA has responded as they always do by drawing a line in the concrete and demanding that the only solution to gun violence is…more gun violence.

So I compiled my own personal list of things the Neo-conservative Rifle Association is for and against, based on the statements of Wayne LaPierre, Paul Ryan and numerous other voices who want only to scare you so that they may profit.

For: Guns for everyone.

Against: Health care for everyone who gets shot.

For: Large ammunition magazines that can slaughter a lot of sparrows, squirrels, deer and …people.

Against: Taking the time to actually reload.

For: Absolute access to firearms and ammunition instantly.

Against: Stopping criminals and the mentally unstable from instant and absolute access to firearms and ammunition.

For: Violent resolutions.

Against: Peaceful resolutions.

For: Old Testament and an eye for an eye.

Against: New Testament and turn the other cheek.

For: Keeping and bearing arms.

Against: A well regulated Militia. (Whatever that means.)

For: Shoot first and ask questions later.

Against: Preventing shootings from happening because nobody stopped to ask questions.

For: Stand your ground law.

Against: Civility.

For: Minority rule.

Against: Democracy.

For: Yelling and bullying.

Against: Listening.

For: Our way or the highway.

Against: Any reasonable compromise.

For: Buying politicans’ votes.

Against: Anyone who votes against their demands.

For: More guns equal less gun violence.

Against: Logic and common sense.

 

 

NRA Easter Gifts: Mace-In-An-Egg!

I get the whole NRA armed guard thing. They are looking for positive role models to help our children in this time of confusion and fear. Macho gun toting guards in every school. Replace fear with respect. Replace confusion and anxiety with order. I get it now. It took a few days, but I get it.

So I called up a former high school buddy who works in the Headquarters Offices of the NRA. Back in the day I used to ride around with him in the middle of the night thrashing mailboxes with three-woods so I knew he could be trusted to give me the inside dope. Here is what he told me about that confidential NRA Department Head work session that brought us phase one of the NRA plan. That’s right. Gun Totin’ guards is only phase one of the NRA’s comprehensive strategy to dramatically alter the mindset of every single child in America and get them on the path to peace of mind.

In phase two, to be introduced at the press conference scheduled for Valentines Day, the NRA plans to reveal a new line of designer body armor from a very select group of hip American designers, for school aged girls. Wayne LaPierre is apparently already in discussions with several members of various boy bands for sponsorships. Currently it comes in black only, but they are testing a pink camo line that comes in all the youth sizes, all the way down to toddler for you preschool parents. Why Valentines Day? Well, what says love from a parent to a child like a gift of new body armor?

Phase three, planned for an Easter unveiling, will be the new Mace-In-An-Egg. designed to fit in pencil boxes, it’s the Easter gift every child will be demanding. Imagine the child who finds that special hidden Easter egg and discovers the child-friendly Mace-In-An-Egg. Beats jelly beans any time. My friend’s understanding is that Mel Gibson is working on a Saturday morning program called,”Lockdown!” to help cross market the product.  Sure to be a hit.

Phase four will be aimed specifically at high school kids as the NRA leads the marketing highway for a new product called Zip. Its the smallest, lightest, quickest and easiest to use firearm ever invented. Resembling a ball point pen, it fires a single .22 caliber round. Targeting the nerd market specifically, it comes with matching pocket protector.  Imagine, you’re writing that essay for the World Lit class and you suddenly suspect that the person entering the room is a Bad Guy. He is, after all, carrying what resembles a ball point pen. You instantly stop writing and without giving it another thought, you fire. Everybody calms down and you finish that pesky essay. Now that’s how you make Student of the Month.

My friend didn’t have time to fill me in on the final three phases of the plan because he thought he heard funny clicking sounds on his phone and quickly hung up. But he hinted at possible new product lines for middle schoolers aimed at the untapped holster and bandoleer market.

I wished him luck.

NRA: The Re-Emergence of the Neanderthal Gene?

Every now and then something happens to make me consider the real possibility that humanity has evolved into at least two distinct species. Before you start writing your comments telling me that this is ridiculous, let me say, I know it’s ridiculous. But I like to think that my species entertains crazy ideas and is willing to reflect on the seemingly ridiculous from time to time in hopes that it leads to better understanding.

I first began to seriously explore this possibility when George W. Bush was reelected. How could half of the American people really believe that this guy was capable of being President of the United States? Clearly the most failed presidency since Franklin Pierce. I carefully re-considered  those people who could look me straight in the eye and claim that GW was a great president, and without blinking, turning away or cracking a smile, declare that they would vote for him. I wondered how their brains were programmed. How could they, humans who shared nearly every piece of the same gene pie with me come to such different conclusions? Was it all nurture or was nature doing something insidious to the top Primates on the planet? Were we, I wondered, reverting to a 25,000 year-old Neanderthal/Homo Sapiens type of competition for the top of the pecking order on our small planet? Yes. I suppose we are.

So I Binged some research and came up with some interesting stuff. I admit I had read about this controversial idea before just now, but you tell me, doesn’t this help make some sense out of the craziness?

…there are some commentators that think that Homo Sapiens may not have completely prevailed, that perhaps Neanderthal man still effects the modern gene pool. Yes, many reckon that far from eating Neanderthal man, we may  in fact have mated with them. It’s a contentious issue… Source: http://ezinearticles.com/…

Then, today I hear the spokesperson for the National Rifle Association, NRA’s top lobbyist (read Neanderthal), Wayne LaPierre, tell the American public, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good [Neanderthal] with a gun.” And I am more convinced than ever that there are Neanderthal genes swimming in the American pool.

Again, from Wayne LaPierre, in an effort to deflect blame from guns and bullets to movies and television:

“In a race to the bottom, many conglomerates compete with one another to shock, violate, and offend every standard of civilized society, by bringing an even more toxic mix of reckless behavior and criminal cruelty right into our homes.”

I could not agree with him more. He is absolutely right in his assessment. Violent movies and music, video games, the UFC with blood splattered all over the contestants and the mat–all are offensive to civilized society. But his conclusions and solutions are all twisted.  Only a Neanderthal could excuse the primitive image that looks back at him in his mirror. Truly, is anything more offensive  to “every standard of civilized society…a more toxic mix of reckless behavior and criminal cruelty” than gun violence? And his only answer is to get more guns into society. More people armed. More profits for the gun manufacturers. Wyatt Earp. OK Corral. Hang the horse thief and all cattle rustlers. Get a rope, Ma. Better yet, load the six-guns, I’m a goin’ to town. (Do those who long for the glorious days of yesteryear even realize that guns in the hands of the citizenry terrorized the townspeople? The first thing Wyatt Earp and others did was to ban guns in town!) I will stop here as I have written other posts on this topic and feel I am beating a horse that isn’t likely to get up and run any time soon…Write your senators and representatives in congress.

Merry Christmas.

Today everything changed at school.

Staff meeting first thing in the morning. The superintendent addressed the staff with some new changes. First, every classroom will be locked and the doors will be closed during instructional time. Second, nobody leaves the classroom without a hall pass. Third, A security consultant arrived at 11:00 to advise us on how to install a buzzer at the front door with an intercom system and a closed circuit camera monitoring the entrance. Fourth, all visitors that enter the building must have a visitors badge. Fifth, we ordered stanchions for the front, the kind of posts and barriers that will direct all traffic to the office door.

If these precautions seem to be the kinds of things that should have been in place all along, let me explain a bit about my town and my school. I am the assistant principal and a teacher at a very small K-12 school with 200 total students in the district. We are all in one beautiful building.  The outside grounds are litter free and the interior misleads people into believing our building is quite new when it is actually over 20 years old. My town has a permanent, year-round population of about 800 people. We are high up in the mountains and this time of year we are basically at the end of the road. (15 inches of new snow on the ground and snowing hard as I write this.) We have small class sizes and students call teachers by their first names. We all know each other and parents and teachers socialize a lot. We don’t lock our houses and we leave our keys in the car. But after Sandy Hook our parents are scared. After Sandy Hook I am still somewhat in shock.

As of today, Mrs. Smith will not be allowed to bring the lunch sack her son left on the kitchen counter and drop it off in his classroom. No more will those three responsible high school girls be allowed to work their group projects in the hallway. No more will Mike and Sammi be trusted to leave class to get a drink or to use the restroom without carrying a “passport.” No more will parents just walk into the building and drop in on their son or daughter’s first grade classroom. And I am very saddened by this. Gun violence on the other side of the continent has forced us into being something we have resisted for a long time.

Arming the Adults in Schools Is a Very, Very Bad Idea. Here’s Why.

First let me say that I am heartsick over this tragedy.  When my principal came to me and told me there was a breaking story about an elementary school shooting I was stunned—this is not the kind of thing one gets used to. When I heard it was a kindergarten classroom involving as many as twenty children dead, I was literally heartsick. I hurt. If anyone doubts the existence of evil in the world this was pretty solid evidence. Like every school in America these events cause us to take stock in our policies and procedures: If it happened on my watch should we hunker down in the classroom or should we take our students and flee as fast and far as we could? How do we further restrict access to the building? How much will we be talking about this with students on Monday? What’s appropriate, what’s needed, what’s too much? These are discussions that will be taking place this next week all over the country in schools both public and private. There are many conclusions and many answers, depending on the particular school and their particular circumstances. But one thing I am sure of: arming the adults at the school is a very, very bad idea.

The first parent I saw on Friday at the end of the day confronted me right in front of our library as kids were heading out to their buses. He said, “After today’s shooting, I have two words for you,” and he gave me the first and last name of a high school boy at my school. I’d been speechless all afternoon and I was beginning to feel comfortable there. But not this time. Yes, the boy he mentioned has had difficulties at our school over the last 7 or 8 years, struggling through his parents’ nasty divorce, living with a mother who works for minimum wages at the Wal-Mart so he doesn’t have the same “toys” as all his peers (sounds cliché but it’s true). He is socially awkward and he sometimes is annoying to teachers. But violent he is not. And he has come light years from his first days at our school, in large part because the administration has fought the adults who want him isolated, even expelled, just because they see him as “weird”.  The parent was completely surprised when I told him that what he just said was an awful and that I don’t want that repeated where anyone can hear it. He ignored my pleas and continued right on so I ushered him into the library where there weren’t any kids.

He started right in with, “If I have been here with a gun the first thing I’d have done was blow his fucking head off!” This coming from a recent retiree from the Army. 24 years of service with multiple tours in Iraq I, Iraq II and as a contractor in Afghanistan. He is from the warrior class. No doubt. And his first thought would have been to shoot…the boy he just named.  That his first thought even was to shoot anybody at all is bad enough, but to already have a kid in mind is exactly what many who want to carry guns would do.

And there is the problem. Guns kill people. Forget the cute slogans. Forget the NRA propaganda that absolves them from all responsibility. Guns kill people. And they don’t often kill the “right” people. These are facts we know. These are facts that are in the news every day. Every day.  I don’t think I have to review the research on all of that in this post. We know that countries with easy access to small arms are more violent. We know that thousands of deaths each year in America are attributable to guns—both intentional and accidental. We know that in the absence of 20, 30, 40 round magazines it would be much more difficult for those who are determined to do their worst to do what they intend to do. But today, I am more concerned with the notion that more guns somehow makes the country safer.

You see, the parent I was speaking with had worked for the school for a short time. After his military retirement we hired him on as a part-time bus driver. After two weeks of the occasional stopping the bus and ripping into students—literally terrorizing the youngest ones—we had to let him go. He made horrible decisions about who to discipline and who to ignore. He screamed at kids who had their feet in the aisle. He stopped the bus and yelled at kids who talked too loud. The many who cannot make good decisions about who to discipline on a bus route is NOT the guy I want coming into my building, armed to the teeth, looking for the bad guys. I fear a lot of good student and staff collateral damage in that scenario. So, give me all the arguments you want about gun restrictions and the second amendment and “armed citizens are safe citizens” bologna, my best response is that if we arm everyone, even more crazy people will have guns.