Monday, February 4, 2013

Monday Mailbag

I've received lots of email over the past week or two. Here's a sampling:

I miss your humorous little grape posts. Can you bring them back or is the Grape just not very funny now that he's older?

The Grape, at the ripe old age of three, remains a funny little guy. This weekend R. and I took him skiing for the first time and I'll try to write about that adventure later this week. The truth is, I haven't been in a funny mood in the weeks since the Newtown massacre and that's been reflected in this space.

I am going to go through old posts this week and tag the funny ones as humor, so you will be able to seek out our beaching, baking, traveling and other misadventures without scrolling through posts chronologically.

I'm surprised you haven't written anything about Cardinal Mahony... I am outraged he isn't under arrest... I hope he burns in hell.
-anonymous member of SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests)

I share your outrage, and I commend SNAP on their tireless work on behalf of victims of child rape.

Cardinal Roger Mahony is the poster child for a reassessment by all states of statutes of limitations on conspiracy crimes.

He's yet another glaring example of why we cannot allow the Roman Catholic Church to police itself.

If the evidence against Mahony is accurate, he deserves to rot in prison for the rest of his days. I hope prosecutors in California exhaust all possible avenues before throwing up their hands on his case.

The Conference of Catholic Bishops was quick to point out Cardinal Mahony's work as an advocate for immigrants. While he may indeed have made valuable contributions to the dialogue on immigration, thankfully our rules of law don't work in such a way that good acts in one sphere excuse felonies in another.

I don't personally believe in hell, but if there is such a place, I am sure they have a special section for priests who rape, and aid and abet and conceal the rape of, children.

I love your pieces on gun control, please keep writing them, but what can I do? I think my congressmen already support background checks and the federal assault weapons ban.
-Sue in RI (mom of four)

You can still make your voice heard. Contact your reps to tell them that new federal gun control legislation is extremely important to you, and that you simply won't support your reps in their next elections if they don't support such legislation.

You can also urge them to reach out to other members who might be undecided, on both sides of the aisle. Sensible gun control doesn't have to be a partisan issue. Moms from both major parties have joined One Million Moms for Gun Control, and many decorated military veterans (e.g., Colin Powell, Stanley McChrystal) support common sense measures like universal background checks and a federal ban on assault weapons and extended magazines.

I'd urge you not to automatically write off all Republicans as enemies of sensible gun control legislation. Case in point: Massachusetts has the toughest gun laws in the nation. We have a state assault weapons ban that was signed by then-Governor Mitt Romney. Regular readers know I've never before written a kind word about Mr. Romney, but this is one big thing he got right, and he deserves credit for it.

I was reading the comment thread on your post One Million Moms for Gun Control, and I wasn't surprised to see the comment from an anonymous gun owner who wrote that he keeps a handgun to protect his wife and kids. 

Did you know that the presence of any firearm in a residence increases the risk of a female member of that household being murdered by a gun threefold?

Yes, I did, but the statistic bears repeating.

In a major peer reviewed emergency medicine study, researchers found that people of either sex who keep a gun in their home are almost twice as likely as those who live in gun-free homes to die in a gun-related homicide. 

The risk was much greater for women: women living in a home where there is a gun are almost three times more likely to die in a gun-related homicide than men similarly situated.  (Wiebe D.  Annals of Emergency Medicine.  2003; 41:771-82).

Were you scared to take your child to a gun control rally?
No. That honestly never crossed my mind, but then again, we live in Boston and my neighbors tend to be a progressive lot. I urge moms in every corner of the country to demand action on gun violence prevention. Don't be scared of the NRA and its affiliates. They are nothing more than lobbyists who choose to behave like a domestic terrorist group. Their radical views fall far outside the mainstream, and I'm hopeful I will live to see the day when the NRA is as irrelevant to our politics as the once-almighty tobacco lobby.

Your (sic) an idiot if you think banning assault weapons will stop gun violence.

That's not what I believe.

I believe, based on evidence collected in every other industrialized country in the world, that a federal ban on military style assault weapons and extended magazines, that required all grandfathered weapons to be stored in a secured, insured facility, would drastically cut down on massacres of Newtown variety.

Frankly, I find arguments of the you're-never-going-to-stop-all-gun-violence-with-an-assault-weapon-ban to be a tiresome distraction from the real work that needs to be done.

Of course we won't stop all gun violence through legislation. That doesn't mean we shouldn't all be busting our butts to reduce the scale of the violence. The Feinstein Bill isn't some radical, crazy, leftist proposal. Even Rupert Murdoch (yes, the one of Fox News fame) supports an assault weapons ban.


  1. It is always good to see a post from you. Your posts on gun violence against children has stuck with me and, while I've been horrified by the number of gun related events that have made the national news in the last couple of weeks, I am glad that the media has continued to cover them as it can only help raise consciousness. There are plenty of hardened gun owners who we will never reach or bring over to a rational way of thinking, but there are also plenty of folks who don't have a strong opinion on the matter who may join the cause.

    1. Thanks for your kinds words about my blog. I share your optimism that the country is finally focused enough on gun violence to take meaningful action.
      Over ninety percent of voters want universal background checks for all gun purchases (right now there is a loophole the size of the Lincoln Tunnel, no checks at gun shows and no checks for person to person private sales).

      My personal hunch on a secondary reason why the NRA suddenly opposes background checks is that Wayne Lapierre and many of his deputies would not pass them. Mr. LaPierre avoided the Vietnam draft because of mental illness. (The primary reason is the gunmakers don't want impediments to sale.)

      I am also hopeful that horrific incidents like the one today (3 year old boy dies while playing with handgun he believed to be a toy while his grandparents were IN THE NEXT ROOM) will outrage enough people to push through much stricter liability laws and storage laws. The grandparents, in my opinion, should be charged with manslaughter. This wasn't some "horrible accident," it was completely foreseeable death caused by gross negligence.

  2. First off, I appreciate your rational tone when engaging in discussion regarding guns.

    I'm curious as to why a ban on so called assault weapons is so important to you? Handguns kill far, far more people than rifles of all kinds on any given year in the US. If you really want to keep people safe from 'gun violence' then let's talk about a ban on handguns. Isn't that the end game, total citizen disarmament?

    With these proposed liability laws, how would they protect the little boy who shot himself with his grandparents in the next room? Would the fact that their grandchild is now dead not be punishment enough? They would probably already be charged with some sort of endangerment or perhaps negligent homicide or manslaughter under existing laws. Would you like them to sue and subsequently pay themselves a large sum of money with the liability insurance? How about gang bangers who already ignore the laws prohibiting murder, rape, assault, etc? What if they ignored the liability insurance law as well? I just do not see how insurance will keep people from being stupid.

    Finally, when you assert that the current surge in gun sales are nothing but hysteria ginned up by the NRA, you also imply that gun owners are a bunch of paranoid idiots who can't think for themselves. Please refrain from making veiled insults when referring to your fellow citizens.

  3. Hi Matt,

    I find rational discussions more thought provoking, too.

    As to your first question: Because industrialized countries that ban assault weapons report fewer mass shootings. A ban isn't a cure all, but a reasonable starting point.

    As for the three-year-old, those grandparents should go to prison for negligent manslaughter. Had the child been an unrelated visitor, I do believe the parents should have the right to sue the gun owner and/or his/her insurer.

    Of course all gun owners aren't paranoid idiots. But a scary minority are. See,most recently, e.g., the man with the manifesto in Alabama who killed a bus driver and held a kid hostage for a week. I challenge you to explain how Wayne LaPierre is anything but paranoid and unstable. Remember, the NRA doesn't even support a ban on cop killer bullets or wholly plastic guns.

  4. Mari. There's no gun in existence made entirely of plastic...youre most likely referring to glocks, which have polymer frames but more than 200 steel components.

    Cop killer bullets are also mythological- first coined in the awful film Lethal Weapon 3 to refer to a pistol cartridge capable of penetrating a bullet resistant vest and later a bulldozer blade, they simply don't exist and are not marketed in this manner.

    1. The *entirely* plastic firearm is a holy grail for various terrorist organizations. It's one of those things we should not allow developed for public safety reasons.

      I use the phrase "cop killer bullets" in the way used by most of the press: any bullet designed to penetrate standard issue body armor.

      And I wholeheartedly agree that LW3 was an awful film.