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05:24 PM December 27th, 2012

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By: Rodel Rodis, December 27th, 2012 05:24 PM

Miss USA, Olivia Culpo, right, reacts as she is announced as the new Miss Universe over first runner-up Miss Philippines, Janine Tugonon, left, during the Miss Universe competition, Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012, in Las Vegas. AP

In a press conference held after she returned to Manila on December 22, Miss Philippines Janine Tugonon told embittered supporters who believe she was robbed of the Miss Universe crown by a hometown decision to get over it. “Miss USA deserved to win and I’m fortunate to place second among 89 contestants,” she said.

“Besides,” she added, “after what happened lately, America needs this win to boost its morale.” What happened “lately” of course was the massacre of 20 school children and 7 adults in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, just 5 days before the Miss Universe pageant in Las Vegas.

The Philippines could have certainly used the morale boost after typhoon “Pablo” had devastated the Philippines leaving 710,224 Mindanao families homeless in its wake and exacting a death toll 50 times more than were killed in Newtown.

But by refusing to be depicted as a victim of a hometown decision, Janine Tugonon exhibited humility, dignity and class. The same could not be said of Wayne LaPierre, the CEO of the National Rifle Association (NRA), who used a no-questions-asked “press conference” in Washington DC on December 21 to advocate for even more guns, instead of less.

NRA – no retreat, advance

LaPierre laid the blame for the mass killings in Newtown on Hollywood which he described as “a callous, corrupt, shadow industry that sows violence against its own people.” He also pointed the finger at violent video games, music, the media, the courts, President Obama, Congress, people with mental illness and “gun-free schools.”

Of course LaPierre failed to mention that all the factors he listed as responsible for the Newtown massacre exist in other countries as well. They watch the same movies, play the same video games and have their own share of mentally ill citizens.

In fact, on about the same say that 20-year old Adam Lanza entered Sandy Hook Elementary School and shot and  killed 20 students, 36-year old Min Yingjun entered a primary school in Chengping, Central China and stabbed 22 students, ages 6 to 11. The difference between Chengping and Newtown is that all 22 Chinese students survived the knife attack because the Chinese assailant did not have access to semi-automatic firearms with high-powered ammunition as Adam Lanza did.

LaPierre’s solution to preventing future mass killings in US schools is to ask the US Congress “to act immediately, to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every school – and to do it now, to make sure that blanket of safety is in place when our children return to school in January.” NRA apparently stands for “No Retreat, Advance” as far as getting more Americans to purchase even more firearms.

The National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre, gestures during a news conference in response to the Connecticut school. AP

There are 99,000 public schools and another 33,000 private schools in the US. At an average cost of $50,000 a year in salary and benefits for each armed police officer, the NRA proposal would require Congress to appropriate $6.6 billion a year to implement it. This figure would not even include the cost of the training of the officers.

Training is vital as shown by the recent example of the New York police officers who responded to a gun shooting at the Empire State Building on August 24, 2012 and shot 9 innocent bystanders before they succeeded in killing the gunman.

 

Reaction from conservative media

The reaction from the media was immediate and unanimous. Even newspapers owned by Rupert Murdock – the bedrock media support of the Republican Party – recoiled at LaPierre’s response to Newtown. The next day, the front page of the New York Daily News featured LaPierre on the cover with this headline: “Just 90 minutes after moment of silence for Newtown victims, vile NRA nut blames everyone and everything except the guns – CRAZIEST MAN ON EARTH”. The other Murdock publication, New York Post, also displayed LaPierre’s mug on the cover with the headline “GUN NUT! NRA loon in bizarre rant over Newtown.”

A protester holds up a sign as National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre, left, speaks during a news conference in response to the Connecticut school shooting. AP

Murdock, the conservative owner of FOX News, was born in Australia and is familiar with the Port Arthur massacre that took place there on April 28, 1996 when a gunman opened fire on tourists killing 35 people and wounding 23 others. Australia’s newly-elected conservative government under Prime Minister John Howard enacted sweeping gun control measures – with 90% public support – that included a massive buyback of 600,000 semi-automatic weapons and the banning of all private gun sales. Between 1995 and 2006, homicides by firearms decreased by 59%. Before the gun control measures were enacted, there were 11 mass murders in the history of Australia. There have been none since.

Funding for NRA dream act

If the NRA persists in pushing through with their plan, they will encounter serious problems getting Congress to appropriate the funds to implement the bill since the NRA-backed Republican members of Congress have all signed the Grover Norqvist pledge not to raise taxes. (Norqvist’s publicly stated goal is to cut taxes to the bone to “shrink government to the size where we can drown it in a bathtub.”)

The funding for this NRA version of its “Dream Act” can only come by slashing and gutting Social Security, Medicare, Food Stamps and unemployment insurance which will be opposed by Democrats and is certain to be vetoed by President Obama.

Perhaps the NRA proposal should also include every place of worship to prevent the mass shooting that occurred on August 5, 2012 when Wade Michael Page entered a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin and killed six worshipers and one responding police officer. As there are at least 95,000 churches in the US, this may require an additional allocation of several billion dollars.

Perhaps the NRA proposal should also include movie theatres to prevent the kind of massacre that occurred in Aurora, Colorado on July 20, 2012 when James Eagan Holmes threw tear gas grenades into a movie audience before using multiple firearms to kill 12 people and injure 59 others.

The NRA believes that if the movie patrons had been armed, they would have killed the shooter before the carnage occurred. But Holmes threw tear gas grenades before shooting, so how could the armed patrons have seen him? Would there not have been more people killed if every armed patron started shooting at who they thought was the shooter?

Will armed guards work?

Placing armed guards in a school did not prevent the massacre that occurred at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999 when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold shot and killed 12 of their high school classmates using semi-automatic weapons. There were two armed security officers at the high school and a deputy sheriff who arrived at the scene and exchanged gunfire with the shooters but they were unable to stop the massacre which only ended when the killers committed suicide.

How would the NRA explain the mass killing that occurred on November 5, 2009 at Fort Hood in Kileen, Texas when Army Major Nidal Hassan shot and killed 13 people and wounded 32 others? Virtually every soldier there was armed but that did not prevent the mass killing.

In contrast to the armed camp vision offered by the NRA is the example of City College of San Francisco (I served as an elected Trustee for 18 years from 1991 to 2009) where we adopted a no-guns policy barring our 40 campus police officers from carrying firearms while patrolling our 10 campuses with 110,000 students. Our no-guns policy has continued since then and, during this entire time, there has never been any gun violence at City College which would cause the board to reconsider its policy.

Although the NRA claims to represent 4 million members, a poll of NRA members revealed that an overwhelming majority of them favor background checks on gun buyers to determine their mental state and possible criminal/terrorist backgrounds. This common sense policy is opposed by the NRA which, as a lobbyist for the gun manufacturing industry, does not want to see any laws enacted that may decrease gun sales.

LaPierre’s description of Hollywood – “a callous, corrupt, shadow industry that sows violence against its own people” – is actually an accurate description of the gun industry the NRA is a shill for.

 (Send comments to Rodel50@gmail.com or mail them to the Law Offices of Rodel Rodis at 2429 Ocean Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94127 or call 415.334.7800).

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