Friday, October 02, 2015

Something Else in Oregon & Joseph Tartaro's "Urban Initiative"

The looming threat of Hurricane Joaquin has cast a gloomy anxious pall over New Jersey; a state where many people have only just recovered from the ravages of Superstorm Sandy two years ago - and some still haven't.

But after seeing the horrific aftermath of the latest mass-shooting on the Oregon campus of Umpqua Community College where 26-year old Chris Harper Mercer used at least three different guns to kill ten people and wound seven more, can the threat of any damage Joaquin might inflict on the east coast of America be any worse than the threat posed to society by gun violence in this country? 

Unfortunately the do-nothing Republican majority that currently controls the U.S. House of Representatives have refused to use their Constitutionally-mandated authority to draft legislation and pass laws that might put into place the kinds of reasonable common sense gun control laws that might limit the access to handguns and keep mentally disturbed individuals like Mercer from obtaining firearms in the first place.
The response from the reactionary Second Amendment advocates like the NRA to this blood-soaked gun horror is as predictable as it is meaningless to the victims of today's shooting and their families, friends and co-workers.

National Rifle Assoc. CEO Wayne LaPierre
The Wayne LaPierres (pictured left) and other right wingers who deify America's gun culture will release the usual public statements condemning the (latest) violence and expressing their heat-felt condolences for the victims before they use the occasion to extol the lofty mythical virtues of the Second Amendment.

An Amendment that was drafted in the 18th century when our nation was a sparsely populated collection of territories with no organized law and order under invasion by a foreign power and regular citizens needed to be armed to defend themselves.

Hell, it was only about a week ago at the 30th Annual Gun Rights Conference in Phoenix, Arizona that Joseph Tartaro, the 84-year old president of the Second Amendment Foundation proposed a bold  new initiative for pro-gun advocates to begin aggressively reaching out to African-American and Hispanic citizens in urban communities and encourage them to learn to shoot firearms.

Yeah we could use more of that.

Joseph Tartaro
As Jennifer Mascia reported in an article on, it was during the second session of the three-day conference when the theme of the day was "The Gun Rights Battle" that Tartaro (pictured left) shared his radical proposal for minority recruitment.

By the way, "The Gun Rights Battle" is an interesting theme given that a visibly-angered President Obama, speaking in response to the horror in Oregon yesterday, noted that right now there are enough guns in America for every man woman and child.

As of July 2014 the population in the United States was estimated to be 322,583,006 so do the math, shouldn't take you too long to figure out who's winning the "Battle" for gun rights - after the horror in Oregon we certainly know who's loosing.

Anyway back to article.

In it, Tartaro acknowledged a truth to the gun-loving audience in Phoenix that scares the crap out of many American conservatives; that “Within the next 20 to 30 years, the U.S. white population will no longer be the majority.”

So, by Tartaro's thinking, the only way to ensure the continued expansion of "gun rights" in  America is to reach beyond the pro-gun constituency that “seems to be predominantly white and Republican.” and start reaching out to pastors and local and state political leaders with influence in predominantly minority communities who will then encourage a rising tide of gun ownership, training and eventually political activism that will ensure liberal access to firearms for future generations.

Now for you right-leaning folks who check this blog out I realize black folk are responsible for plenty of gun carnage too so don't give me any grief; Tartaro is an old white guy and I'm only quoting what he told a large audience of (mostly) gun loving white folks.

Go ahead and read the article for yourself. As Mascia reported, Tartaro insisted that,  “I know pro-gun white people can meet with urban Democrat politicians at the local, state and federal level for useful conversations when the way has been paved by pro-gun members of the minority communities,”

Now the thing is, I don't think Tartaro is crazy. Some of his views on gun ownership are a bit extreme but he's not crazy.

He's just one of the few conservatives I've seen express something that today's Republican party can't seem to understand; that indeed, there are many African-Americans and Hispanics in this nation who are very traditionally conservative socially, religiously, fiscally and politically.

Problem is, Republicans have allowed themselves, their party and their brand to be hijacked by a perpetually pissed off extremist element that tolerates bigotry, narrow-mindedness and the condemnation of "otherness."

One that embraces exclusion and vilifies inclusion.

If the GOP could learn to think strategically like Joseph Tartaro, they could win the White House.

But they won't.

They're too busy trying to shut down the federal government, flying the flag of the Southern Strategy, obsessing over women's reproductive rights and stoking the fires of imaginary issues like "religious freedom", Hillary Clinton's old emails and Benghazi to think three dimensionally enough to envision how welcoming non-white constituents could expand the Republican power base without the need for gerrymandering or voter repression.

But my point in citing Tartaro's "urban initiative" is to offer a snapshot of where the priorities of the nation's pro-gun advocates are currently focused.

And question why there wasn't a session on keeping guns out of the hands of those who would seek to use them as extensions of their mental illness or who harbor festering personal grudges during that three day conference in Phoenix last week.

Unfortunately Joseph Tartaro doesn't seem to quite understand the extent to which gun violence has decimated urban African-American and Hispanic communities in places like Baltimore, Chicago and Los Angeles.

But he's not a fool.

Texas open carry laws. The grocery store? Really?
He knows that support for the kinds of ridiculously unrestricted gun laws being passed in places like Texas and Georgia are loosing support and won't last.

Like the open carry laws that permit people to strap on a loaded handgun and pretty much go anywhere; like this lady (pictured left)  in the bread section of a grocery store with a .45 semiautomatic in a holster on her hip.

Tartaro knows that the kinds of senseless horrific mass shootings we saw yesterday in Oregon are also happening in affluent suburbs and the kinds of rural areas where the majority population consists of the mostly white conservative demographic who now make up the bulk of the pro-gun movement in this country; granted gunman Chris Harper Mercer did identify himself as mixed race.

So it's not enough for pro-gun advocates to continue using the imagined fear of a wave of armed minorities bent on crime as justification for arming anyone who can carry a gun. FBI statistics show the overwhelming incidents of gun violence in this nation are black on black or white on white crime taking place within specific communities.

There are exceptions obviously but they represent an extremely small percentage of overall crime stats; the NRA-promoted image of the brave white home owner fending off minority criminals is largely a myth - due in no small part to the highly segregated nature of American society.

Statistics show a white, black or Hispanic gun owner is far more likely to use it on someone they know personally than on someone  breaking into their home - which is why groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council have helped states like Florida pass 'Stand Your Ground' laws that essentially empower (mostly white) people to use deadly force to defend their person against someone they perceive as a threat in the same way they'd defend someone who broke into their home.

But as we've seen it's allowed deranged violence prone killers like George Zimmerman to kill innocent people and not be held legally responsible.

But again, Joseph Tartaro and other pro-gun advocates know that the more the the demographic that makes up the bulk of their constituents sees the kind of carnage that took place in Oregon yesterday, the more they recognize that common sense gun laws are just that; and not "attacks on the Second Amendment" as the NRA and their ilk like to paint any effort to enact things like mandatory waiting periods for gun purchases, mandatory federal background checks and reasonable limits of the number and type of guns people can own.

Something has to change.

As a nation we can't simply keep sitting there feeling stunned and powerless every time we see another violence-prone individual with serious mental problems, a massive chip on their shoulder and a huge arsenal of weapons wreak bloody havoc on innocent American citizens.

Chris H. Mercer (Center) & photos from his Myspace page
Listening to some of the almost non-stop coverage of the shootings yesterday on CNN I kept hearing the word "tragedy" used to describe what Chris Harper Mercer did in a classroom to people who were simply trying to educate themselves.

It's not a tragedy.

A tragedy is an earthquake, a landslide or some unforeseen natural disaster.

A tragedy is something that can't be predicted or controlled.

What happened this morning in Oregon was predictable given the easy access to guns in this country; it was inevitable given the difficulty many people in this nation have accessing mental health treatment.

What happened in Oregon this morning was preventable had Congress bothered to act decisively after any of the other horrible mass shootings that have become part of our lexicon. Sandy Hook. Aurora. Charleston.

No what happened in Oregon was something else. And the apathy of our political leaders bears no small measure of responsibility. As do we for not demanding action from those we elect to serve us.

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