TYPO ALERT: Printz was 1997, as I have corrected it, not 1991, as I just this second sent out. Sorry about that!

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I may get some flack for this, but I disagree with lowering the flag every time we have a mass shooting. It's like prayers and condolences from members of Congress and state legislatures yet nothing ever happens to fix the problem. It is meaningless and is like yelling fire until no one pays any attention. Why doesn't the Congress fund mental health initiatives instead? With a couple of thousand a day dying of COVID we should have the flag at half staff permanently. Let's celebrate the lives that will be saved if the Congress would get off its duff and do the right thing.

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My favorite quote of Wallace Stegner's (or, one of my favorite quotes of his) is, I suspect, one of his least quoted: "When the West fully learns that cooperation, not rugged individualism, is the quality that most characterizes and preserves it, then it has a chance to create a society to match its scenery."

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Everything is so tied up in big money. I think I know how the commoners felt under the lords and ladies of old; powerless. And to know that this is one more thing we can tie to the legacy of Ronald Reagan?Trickle-down economics, demolished social safety nets, and unfettered rights to own and carry guns; all are weapons of mass destruction in terms of the harm they have caused.

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Heather's review of the history of gun ownership in America, the Second Amendment, the NRA, etc. pretty much corresponds with what I remember. For me the most disturbing part of the story is how the gun industry and the NRA and movement conservatives managed to convince even the SCOTUS that the clear English in the Second Amendment is about personal gun rights, not about a well-regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State. Clearly the right to a gun was dependent on the need for the militia, which made sense when the USA did not maintain a standing army. Well, now we have a standing army (big time), and no need whatsoever for private individuals to have guns or "bear" arms, as intended by the founders.

The most frustrating thing about this issue is how easy it should be to find a working compromise, but the Right has always used its slippery slope argument that somehow sensible gun laws would infringe on the rights of law-abiding hunters and fearful people wanting to keep a small revolver in the bedside table for home defense. This is clearly not true, both could be accommodated while making mass murders with semi-automatic M-16 clones extremely difficult to accomplish, especially by deranged young men.

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This article by Heather is the single most excellent and informative summary of this subject that I have ever seen. The only piece of info I would add is how many weapons are estimated to be in private hands in the United States. I would be willing to bet that the privately owned weapons in the USA outnumber all the rest of the privately owned weapons in the world.

I live in a rural county in California. This is not the Bay Area or Los Angeles. Every person I know who owns one weapon owns a small arsenal.

Heather doesn’t mention the politics of gun ownership aside from the lone cowboy myth, which of course is a huge part of it. But another huge item is fear of the government. Every person I know who owns their own weapons, meaning their own arsenal, is paranoid about the possibility of a government takeover.

Now in an ideal world, the government is us. But in most of the world, the government is power-hungry autocrats. Military dictatorship in Myanmar. Putin‘s Russia. et al

When Germany first became free of the monarchy after World War I, they had no experience with democracy. Hitler entered the vacuum. One thing that many people know about Hitler’s Germany: he required gun registration. If you register guns, you know where they are. If guns are unregistered, they are an unknown quantity.

Now maybe people think I’m being silly or over the top. But I’m giving it to you the way these people see it. And they are not all Trumpsters nor even necessarily Republicans. What they share, even if they have different ideologies or political leanings, is a concern about their personal safety and their family’s safety. Sometimes a spout the rhetoric about hunting and rural living, the need for weapons in that environment. And of course that need is there. But that doesn’t explain the ownership of military grade weapons, weapons that are only designed for killing people.

I see both sides. Before I met my wife, I had experience with weapons in the Boy Scouts, target shooting only, and experiences with my neighbors and associates. Considering the threat posed by so many autocratic militaries and militias and governments and powermongers, I don’t think it’s ridiculous to have an arsenal. How would Nazi Germany have been different if every other Jewish household, like so many rural Western households, had a small arsenal hiding in various places in their homes? What if the Rohingya, and the schools in Nigeria, were all armed to the teeth?

I am a pacifist. TPJ might well take offense to this line of argument, because he is also an avowed pacifist like I am. TC on the other hand is a military expert and I’m sure is not allergic to weapons.

Are we safe in this country from coercion by a government authority or our own military or National Guard? I think so. But in most countries in the world, no.

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Thank you for once again for giving us the historical context. When I gave birth to my daughter in 1981, I wrote a letter to her about my grief this country elected Ronald Reagan. Each time a mass shooting occurred I would hope and pray now Congress will do something. I was sure Sandy hook would be the event that would change our laws. Nope My outrage has now morphed into profound grief and despair this is the legacy I am leaving to my grandchildren to live in. I thought hoped and prayed I was living in a civilized country. Trump demolished my naïveté. Jan 6 confirmed our Democracy is in great peril.

We are a nation who has been taken over by the NRA and corruption. It is legal to own assault weapons. We have militia groups taking control and power. Thank you Heather for putting the second amendment in context.

We have corrupt leaders like Mitch who has contributed to the destruction on this country by packing the courts. I am having trouble finding hope for change. RBG gave me hope.

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On another topic, thank you to all who introduced me to Timothy Snyder. I am now reading ON TYRANNY. Making prolific margin notations. Probably will read it a second time.

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Thanks for the history of what it meant to "bear arms" when the constitution was written. I am OK with a "well regulated militia". It is the unregulated, private militias and cache of weapons owned by individuals that give me concern.

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"It is easy to feel despair on days like today, amid the heartbreak. But I learned an important lesson covering a young Dr. Martin Luther King early in his leadership of the Civil Rights movement. Back then, his victories were modest and far outnumbered by his defeats. But he believed that even if the road may be so long that progress seems nonexistent, even when the forces arrayed against you may seem so powerful that they are insurmountable, even though there is very little hope to point to, you don’t give up if you believe in the justice of your cause."

—Dan Rather


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It is always a bad idea to elect an actor to a public office.

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Men and boys with AK-15s are not a well-regulated militia. Thank you, Dr. Richardson for this history of the NRA. Sobering, and frightening.

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Today, I was thinking about the comparison of this pivotal year 2021 AD with 476 AD and the Fall of Rome. I came across this article from the history channel that seem to suggest a lot of parallels and perils of our current state. https://www.history.com/news/8-reasons-why-rome-fell

Here's the eight reasons for the fall of Rome along with my suggestion of a parallel.

1. Invasions by Barbarian tribes -- Invasions of immigrants as the climate crisis displaces hordes of people.

2. Economic troubles and over-reliance on slave labor -- Income disparity, economic turmoil, hollowing out of the middle class, people can't make a living wage

3. The rise of the Eastern Empire -- The rise of China as a super power

4. Over-expansion and military overspending -- Perpetual wars with no particular goal or end in sight. Military spending goaded by defense contractors.

5. Government corruption and political instability -- You can say that again! A dysfunctional two-party system stalemating the Congress, the obstruction and filibuster, money controlling politicians.

6. The arrival of the Huns and the migration of the Barbarian tribes -- Diversity and demographics making white to move to autocratic and minority rule.

7. Christianity and the loss of traditional values - The rise of narcissism and social media. The anarchy of total first amendment freedom with no responsibility to community. An amoral world emerging. Religion is simply a way to control the masses.

8. Weakening of the Roman legions -- Fighting yesterday's war rather than the new cyber and biological warfare.

By my calculation the fall of America will be the failure to pass the For the People Act leading to Republican control of Congress in 2022 and the end of democracy with the last election in 2024 putting in an autocratic President being the death knell of democracy throughout the world and the Fall of America. But, don't worry the robots become sentient and treat us as pampered pets if we behave.

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I am so thankful for Heather's final paragraphs. They lead the way out of a sorry tale into hope for a better future.

Our new President, and a vigorous and ever stronger immigrant group, American Asians and Pacific Islanders, are on the side of truth and justice. I now have a clear message to send to my elected representatives. Here's the gist of it:

Dear Senator X,

We have in the United States a pandemic of gun violence. With the lawless use of weapons of war by civilians, I do not feel safe living here.

I urge the prompt passage of Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021 (H.R. 8) and Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2021 (H.R. 1446). These would be a good start.

As you know, the key to all sorts of good governance is freeing the Senate from the binding coils of the silent filibuster. Some adjustment is needed. A return to the "talking filibuster" would be a good step. And an excellent message for Democrats to run on in 2022 and 2024!

Thank you,

Bob Stromberg, Round Lake, NY

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When nothing changed after Sandy Hook, I knew that nothing would ever change.

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As we decry doing nothing to limit violence and lament the loss of American democracy if HR1/S1 For the People Act does not pass, in the spirit of moving us to action, let us heed Heather’s words at the end of her video chat today (3/23/21). Heather commented that when people ask her questions about what the government is doing, it is usually in the vein of “What is that going to do to us?”

Heather suggested that we shift our perspective and embrace our agency. We know what we want our world to be like, so speak it to our public servants. Write. Call. Post. Text. Of course she used a nautical metaphor. To the effect of, put our canoes in the water and start paddling—furiously!

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