Interesting. I can honestly say I’ve never seen anything quite like it before.
Early this afternoon in west central Missouri:
On an overpass on U.S. Highway 50 in Warrensburg, Missouri – November 14, 2015.
I spoke with one of the participants as the group was taking down their flags and banner (“Arrest Obama”) at the end of their two hour long demonstration. When asked he stated that they had received a mixed response – there were supportive passersby and a few people flipped them off. We spoke of public demonstrations, the First Amendment, the student protests at the University of Missouri, last night’s terrorism in Paris, and Hillary. Apparently they believe we’re next and that Americans will wake up when the inevitable attack occurs. They definitely don’t like Hillary Clinton. I didn’t ask if that was more or less than Obama. They definitely believe in open carry.
Today at around noon six individuals set up flags and signs on an overpass over U.S. Highway 50 in Warrensburg, Missouri, expressing a variety of sentiments in opposition to President Obama and his administration. One sign made reference to Benghazi, several signs referred to constitutional issues, and one sign addressed guns. At least one of the demonstrators was openly carrying a firearm.
Flags and signs at an anti-Obama demonstration on an overpass over U.S Highway 50 in Warrensburg, Missouri – October 10, 2015.
Interestingly, of the two individuals holding flags (and there were several flags to choose from) both chose to hold the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, not the U.S. flag, nor the Gadsden flag.
Driver of a passing car: [shouted, while gesturing at the demonstrators] Idiots!
Anti-Obama demonstration on an overpass over U.S. Highway 50 in Warrensburg, Missouri – October 10, 2015.
Show Me Progress: So, what kind of response are you getting today?
Demonstrator: It’s positive. We normally, uh, we’re with Overpasses for America. Uh, we’re a national organization and, uh, we normally get a very positive response from people. Uh, now and then you might get some people that have some animosity towards us, but normally it’s, uh, positive, so. [horn honking]
Show Me Progress: So, um, uh, are you from this area?
Demonstrator: Uh, [….] from, uh, this area. I’m from Kansas City.
Show Me Progress: Uh, huh.
Demonstrator: Uh, I think the rest of them are from Warrensburg.
Show Me Progress: Uh, okay. Uh, so [horn honking], um, why out here today, just…?
Demonstrator: Well, we, we go all over the state. Like I said, we’re national, and right now I’m, uh, uh, [….] and I are having this, uh, right here in Warrensburg. We come down here periodically. We just want to make sure that we have plenty of exposure for people to see us, or organization, and know that we’re out here and we’re protesting against this present administration, the, uh, criminal activities that they’re doing, not following our Constitution.
Demonstrator: ….Police officers in the area are usually real receptive to us. They watch for us, make sure that nobody harasses us or bothers us.
Show Me Progress: They tend to, they tend to do that no matter what anybody’s point of view [cross talk] is.
Demonstrator: Well, you’re [crosstalk] right.
Show Me Progress: And they’re really, real good about that because [crosstalk]…
Demonstrator: Well, not always.
Show Me Progress: Oh, really?
Demonstrator: I’ve been in places where we’ve had problems…
Demonstrator:…And, uh, if we don’t exercise our rights we’re gonna lose them. And that’s what we’re out here doing.
The local constabulary driving past an anti-Obama demonstration on an overpass over U.S. Highway 50 in Warrensburg, Missouri – October 10, 2015
Uh, if you’re relying on the local police to protect you from harassers and botherers, why open carry? The First Amendment is a two way street, right? Just asking.
Mixed messages? Anti-Obama demonstration on an overpass over U.S. Highway 50 in Warrensburg, Missouri – October 10, 2015.
In the several hundred vigils, demonstrations and protest marches I attended starting in 2003 I don’t ever recall a participant openly carrying a firearm. I do recall cooperative law enforcement officials working to ensure peaceful demonstrations in which participants could safely exercise their First Amendment rights. I also vividly recall harassers and botherers, most who didn’t cross the line.
So, where were today’s folks twelve years ago? Right…
A Utah elementary school teacher who was carrying a concealed firearm at school was struck by fragments from a bullet and a porcelain toilet when her gun accidentally fired in a faculty bathroom on Thursday, officials said.
The sixth-grade teacher had a concealed-firearm permit and was within her legal rights to carry a gun while in a school in Utah, which, as the same article points out, is one of the few states to permit concealed carry in schools.
Wanna know what kind of fools think it’s a good thing to arm teachers? You don’t need to worry about Utah. Just look no further than our own home state where legislators think that the only way to forestall a potential St. Valentine’s day massacre in our schools is to enable a repeat of the gunfight at the OK Corral instead. Missouri has been among the states permitting teachers the “privilege” of concealed carry for some time, but, as of this week, the state went further to institutionalize guns in public schools when the legislature overrode Governor Nixon’s veto of SB656 which encourages public schools to train and arm designated personnel. Just let me point out in passing that the teacher in Utah had undergone firearm training which is mandatory for concealed carry in Utah, and which has been given free of cost to many teachers there.
I’m sure many will dismiss the Utah occurrence with the bromide that accidents happen, adding that it’s worth the risk in order to enable an armed “good” guy to counter those “bad” guys when they show up. Even if one accepts this highly questionable formula (which, incidentally, seems to be the entire rationale for casually carrying guns), the idea of guns in schools raises several questions that go beyond the issues involved in adequately training teachers – itself a veritable minefield: Will teachers also go through mandatory mental health screening? Can the authorities guarantee that no teachers with anger management issues will be armed in schools? Do schools mandate that guns are locked up while teachers are in class – rendering the good guy response moot – or are they left accessible to children in purses, lockers, desk drawers, or, better yet, on the desk tops where they are to-hand when that bad guy appears? Doesn’t it stand to reason that when you fill schools with guns, there will be gun related accidents? After all, accidents happen. And it’s an obvious fact that accidents with guns have a high probability of inflicting harm.
But let’s get back to that good guys with guns with guns vs. bad guys with guns argument. There are certainly true stores about armed good guys thwarting bad guys with guns – just as there are also anecdotes about situations where armed good guys are either ineffective or make the problem worse. So lets look at what happens when folks try to analyse the issue systematically:
One of the largest and most recent studies on gun violence in America concludes that widespread gun ownership is the driving force behind violence. The study compiles data from all fifty states between 1981 and 2010 to examine the relationship between gun ownership and homicide. After accounting for national trends in violent crime as well as eighteen control variables, the study concludes, “For each percentage point increase in gun ownership the firearm homicide rate increased by 0.9%.” This research is consistent with evidence showing that even in “gun utopias” such as Israel and Switzerland, more guns means more violence.
Another large study compared 91 case workplaces with 205 control workplaces and found that workers whose job sites allow guns are about five times more likely to be killed on the job than are those whose workplaces prohibit all firearms.
Given the weight of evidence demonstrating the danger of carrying guns in public settings, it is extremely unlikely that more guns would make schools safer.
And in case statistics don’t convince you that arming random citizens to fight madmen and criminals is a bad idea:
A 20/20 segment, “If I Only Had a Gun,” showed just how hopeless the average person is in reacting effectively to high-stress situations. In the segment, students with varying levels of firearm experience were given hands-on police training exceeding the level required by half the states in order to obtain a concealed carry permit. Each of these students was subsequently exposed to a manufactured but realistic scenario in which, unbeknownst to them, a man entered their classroom and begin [sic] firing fake bullets at the lecturer and students.
In each one of the cases, the reaction by the good guy with a gun was abysmal. The first participant, who had significant firing experience, couldn’t even get the gun out of his holster. The second participant exposed her body to the assailant and was shot in the head. The third, paralyzed with fear, couldn’t draw his weapon and was shot by the assailant almost immediately. The final participant, who had hundreds of hours of experience with firearms, was unable to draw his weapon and was shot at point blank range.
Of course SB656 goes a lot further than just encouraging schools to arm personnel:
It also allows anyone with a concealed weapons permit to carry guns openly, even in cities or towns with bans against the open carrying of firearms. The age to obtain a concealed weapons permit also will drop from 21 to 19.
Looks like we’ve got two choices: welcome to the wild, wild West, or sayonara Missouri. Personally, I’m considering the latter. There’s something less than compelling about remaining in a state about which a commentator can write that “if there were a competition to see which Republican-led state legislature can govern in the least responsible way possible, Missouri would have to be considered a credible contender.”
Yesterday Missouri’s GOP engineered the passage of a draconian tax cut for wealthy Missourians. The justification? To promote growth.
Today the Los Angeles Times cites new research from the University of Wisconsin that radical taxcutting and similar “pro-business policies don’t really contribute to economic growth. They just make the rich richer, which is not the same thing at all.” Read the details here and weep. Of course, if you’re ready for the unabridged version, you can always purchase a copy of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century and get the same message with massively more data to support the conclusions.
Two voter ID bills introduced in the Missouri House, HB1073 and HJR47, designed by Republicans to limit voting access by Democratic leaning citizens, have advanced to the Senate where Republicans, who are all hot and bothered by non-existent voter fraud, are very likely to send them on to the Governor for what is just as likely to be another veto.
However, as Henry Waters III notes in the Columbia Tribune, judges in Arkansas, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania have found similar voter ID laws unconstitutional on the grounds that “Photo ID laws are an interference with voters’ rights not warranted as protection against voter fraud.” Doesn’t deter our lawmakers from pressing on though. Missouri may be the show-me state, but it’s awful hard to show folks something if they aren’t capable of drawing the right conclusions from the display.
Both the Missouri House and Senate have okayed similar legislation that attempts to nullify federal gun laws (but only, as Brian Nieves insists, the unconstitutional laws), punish federal agents that attempt to enforce those laws, and permit open carry – even in jurisdictions that want to prohibit the open display of guns by armed yahoos.
Guess what? Sane folks know that state lawmakers don’t get to decide which federal laws are unconstitutional and if the final bill survives a guaranteed veto by the Governor, it’ll head straight for the courts – and cost Missouri a bundle in the process. In the District Of Columbia v. Heller decision of 2008, the Supreme Court reaffirmed that the 2nd amendment permits the regulation of firearms – a point articulated by even the über conservative activist judge, Antonin Scalia . On a more immediate level, the mayors of St. Louis and Kansas City are concerned about the potential of this law to endanger cooperative federal and state task forces working to combat gang and gun violence. As for open carry, apart from the disrespect the law shows for local self-determination, the oft-stated rationale, that more guns means less crime, has been shown to be essentially false.
Have you noticed a pattern here? The Republicans who mostly run our state spend lots of time legislating from perspectives that can’t stand the the test of fact-based reality. The result? Counter-productive, costly, and even unconstitutional laws that have the potential to seriously harm Missourians, destabilize our civic and social life, and debase our democratic institutions. The folks who stand to gain? Members of the state’s oligarchy with money to burn and the politicians who want to help them burn it. Each of the examples above either constitutes a direct giveaway to Republican political patrons, or are useful in either directly (voter ID) or indirectly (pandering to gun-related paranoia) securing Republican power. We’re governed by power-mad, corrupt (what happened to those ethics bills?) fantasists. As a result we’re left to cope with what promises to be a consistently deteriorating reality.