AS HAPPENS IN ALL THIRD WORLD NATIONS AS GLOBAL POLS ARE TRYING TO MAKE OF THE US.
First, let's be clear---the REAL gun control needs to start with US military arms dealers and the weapons that are finding their way into US communities and all of the hype global pols use to expand militarization in the US under the guise of WAR ON TERROR. We all know Bush/Cheney are the Halliburton/XE military contracting corporations that profiteered and used systemic defense industry fraud to make US global military corporation profits soar----and in doing so spread so many military weapons around the world in unstable nations under the excuse of arming friends of US that always become the enemy(terrorists) of the US. So, gun control starts with dismantling the privatization of our US military----and getting militarization out of our communities. As Bush/Hopkins neo-cons and Clinton/Obama neo-liberals use fear of domestic terrorism to expand presence in our communities----
CITIZENS AROUND THE NATION ARE MADE TO FEEL THEY NEED TO ARM TO PROTECT AGAINST WHAT THEY SEE AS A HOSTILE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OF GLOBAL POLS WORKING FOR GLOBAL CORPORATIONS---NOT THE AMERICAN PEOPLE.
This article was from 2002------as Bush was just coming to office after Clinton-----think what a decade and two wars have done to these stats!
New World Disorder: Arms Dealers Profit from War on Terror
The following article from Lip Magazine looks at the issue of arms trade and the military in the context of the war on terror. You can see the original article at http://www.lipmagazine.org/articles/featawehali_194.shtml.
New World Disorder: How U.S. Arms Dealers and Their Cabinet-Level Cronies Profit from the War on Terror
By Brian Awehali
November 11, 2002
What's wrong with this picture?
The world's lone superpower, fearful of being attacked by one of many real or perceived enemies, sets out to solve the problem by increasing weapon sales and military aid to the world. But the sales and aid aren't just made available to existing allies; indeed in the wake of Sept. 11th, the race is on to arm governments formerly considered unstable or otherwise "off-limits" due to gross human rights violations, on grounds that these nations are assisting in the sweeping "war against terrorism."
If that sounds illogical, then perhaps you're beginning to understand the perverse logic that pervades the U.S. arms industry. After Sept 11th, the industry has - with the support of the Bush Administration - stepped up its efforts to further reduce oversight and regulation of arms sales and military aid. This, despite a clear track record of providing weapons to the very forces now portrayed to a frightened public as threats.
In the process, the administration is apparently jettisoning efforts to use military aid as a carrot to encourage the advancement of human rights. In the past year, restrictions on military aid and arms sales to formerly off-limits regimes have largely been eliminated. Of the 67 countries which have received or are set to receive U.S. military aid, 32 have been identified by the State Department as having "poor" or worse human rights records.
"Two key [FY2002] Defense Department funding allocations - $390 million to reimburse nations providing support to U.S. operations in the war on terror and $120 million 'for certain classified activities,'" according to a report in the Arms Sales Monitor (Aug. 2002), can now be delivered "notwithstanding any other provision of the law."
In other words, Congress has approved a staggeringly large sum of military aid for regimes fighting an ill-defined "war on terror," and is working to ensure that there will be little or no public scrutiny of how such aid is spent.
The central question is: does this make the world a safer place for anyone but arms manufacturers and the politicians who love them?
Conflicts of Interest
From 1991 to 2000, the U.S. delivered $74 billion worth of military equipment, services and training to countries in the Middle East, according to a Sept. 2002 General Accounting Office (GAO) report. You might expect that a majority of that military aid went to our staunch ally in the region, Israel, which has been cited repeatedly by the U.N. and Amnesty International for human rights abuses. However, military aid to Saudi Arabia - where a majority of the terrorists reported to be involved in the Sept 11 attacks were from - topped $33 billion for the period, outpacing aid to Israel by a more than 5-to-1 margin.
What's more, there is ample evidence that arms sales to the Middle East are, in fact, destabilizing and dangerous.
"Foreign [military] assistance to the Middle East," noted West Virginia Democratic Senator Robert Byrd in 2001, "virtually ignores the spiraling violence in the region."
In a November 9, 2001 interview with Pakistan's Ausaf newspaper, none other than Osama bin Laden justified the Sept. 11 attacks by noting that the U.S. sells advanced weaponry to Israel, which is in turn used in the military occupation of Palestinian territories. Bin Laden was specifically discussing the sale of Lockheed Martin's F-16 fighter planes. It's worth noting that Lynne Cheney, the wife of Vice-President Dick Cheney, was on the board of Lockheed Martin from 1994 until 2001, and would have been involved in overseeing this sale.
On July 13, 2002, the New York Times also reported that Vice President Dick Cheney's former employer, the Halliburton Company, is "benefiting very directly from the United States' effort to combat terrorism." From building cells for detainees at Guantanamo Bay ($300 million) to feeding American troops in Uzbekistan, the Times reported, "the Pentagon is increasingly relying on a unit of Halliburton called KBR, sometimes referred to as Kellogg Brown & Root." KBR is the "exclusive logistics supplier for both the Navy and the Army, providing services like cooking, construction, power generation and fuel transportation."
And then there's the Carlyle Group, described by the The Industry Standard as "the world's largest private equity firm," with more than $12 billion in assets. A Washington merchant bank specializing in buyouts of defense and aerospace companies, the Carlyle Group stands to make a substantial sum of money from a global "war on terror." Former U.S. President George Bush, Sr. - whom current President Bush is known to consult about policy matters almost daily - works for the firm. According to the Baltimore Sun, so do former Secretary of State James Baker III and former Bush Sr. campaign manager Fred Malek. Former Republican Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci (a college roommate of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld), is the Carlyle Group's chairman and managing director.
The bin Laden family, hailing from Saudi Arabia, is also heavily invested in the Carlyle Group. On Sept. 27, 2001, the Wall Sreet Journal published an article entitled "Bin Laden Family Could Profit From Jump in Defense Spending Due to Ties to U.S. Bank." The "bank" in question? You guessed it: the Carlyle Group.
Cold War Communism vs. New World Terrorism
One of the more disturbing aspects of post-9/11 arms sales is the wanton redefinition of various dissident groups around the world as "terrorists." Even longstanding conflicts such as the 38-year-old civil war in Colombia have been re-cast as a war between our Colombian allies and "terrorists." In the Phillipines, "counter-terrorism aid" has been released to fight a band of Islamic militants, the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), despite the fact that even government analysts admit the ASG poses no credible threat to the U.S. In Nepal, counter-terrorism aid has been allocated to help the Nepalese military quell Maoist dissent, despite State Department testimony that there's no evidence that these dissidents are connected to al-Qaeda.
Military aid flowing to Central Asia under the auspices of fighting terrorism seems equally ill-justified, with virtually every country in the region receiving increases in U.S. military aid despite connections to the war on terrorism that are, at best, tenuous.
What seems clear from a close look at military aid policy over the past year is that the U.S. military is using the threat of terrorism to garner support for its ambitious goals for extending its reach around the world, and that it doesn't mind arming unstable or anti-democratic regimes in the process.
The "weapons against terror" rationale is strained even further by a 2001 report released by the Centre for Defense Information, an independent non-profit research group. The report, entitled "US Arms Exports to Countries Where Terror Thrives," found the following:
"There are 28 terrorist groups currently operating in 18 countries, according to the State Department's bi-annual list of active foreign terrorist organizations....In the period of 1990-1999, the United States supplied 16 of the 18 countries on the State Department list with arms.....In addition, the U.S. military (and CIA) has trained the forces of many of these 18 countries in U.S. war fighting tactics, in some cases including individuals now involved in terrorism."
In sum, the U.S. has sold weapons or training to almost 90% of the countries it has identified as harboring terrorists. A severe restructuring of U.S. arms export policy is in order, but little or nothing is being done to ensure a safer future.
Guns and History in the Middle East: Why Insecurity Sells
Perhaps nowhere is the correlation between arms sales and violence more apparent than in the Middle East, where the U.S. sells an enormous amount of weapons.
According to an August 6, 2002 congressional report on arms sales to developing countries, "The Persian Gulf War....played a major role in further stimulating already high levels of arms transfer agreements with nations in the Near East region. The war created new demands by key purchasers such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) for a variety of advanced weapons systems."
"The Gulf states' arms purchase demands," the report continued, "were not only a response to Iraq's aggression against Kuwait, but a reflection of concerns regarding perceived threats from a potentially hostile Iran."
The U.S. dominated the arms market in the region from 1994-2001, selling more than $13 billion worth of weapons to Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Russia and China also sold $8 billion worth of weapons to Iran, Algeria, Syria, Yemen, and Libya. Judging by numbers alone, it's hard to miss the parallels to Cold War-era geopolitical strategy.
Also hard to miss is the profit motive. 2001 marked a slump for arms dealers, as sales to developing nations dropped 43%, according to a Congressional Research Service (CRS) report. Peace, obviously, is not good business for the "defense" industry.
Why would countries siphon money from all manner of social programs in order to purchase expensive weapons systems if they didn't feel threatened? The reason has more to do with insecurity than fiscal logic, as evidenced by the fact that Israel, despite a declining economy, was the number one U.S. arms importer in 2001, purchasing, among other weapons, 52 F-16 fighter jets and six Apache helicopters.
Given that Israel has repeatedly violated international humanitarian law with its advanced U.S. weapons systems, it's clear that profits - and geopolitical advantage - trump human rights when it comes to selling weapons.
Focusing on the War, Not the Battle
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed," proclaimed former U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower. "The world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children... This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron."
Fifty years later, the figures seem to back Eisenhower up. The 2002 Federal Military Budget stands at a mind-boggling $343 billion. Consider that the same budget allocates a comparatively paltry $39 billion to children's health, $6 billion to the Headstart program, and $1 billion to combat world hunger. It's estimated that it would cost just $6 billion a year - or approximately 1/57th of the military budget - to provide healthcare for all uninsured children in the United States.
Given the broad bipartisan support for a war with Iraq, and considering the largely-abysmal quality of most mainstream coverage of the subject, even the encouragingly large number of spirited anti-war protests around the world may not be enough to prevent an attack. However, there are battles and there are wars: the battle to prevent an attack on Iraq might fail, but the war to end a global arms race and U.S. militarism can still be won.
The U.S. military-industrial complex is a giant enterprise, employing hundreds of thousands of people, raking in billions of dollars in profits every year, and utilizing a veritable army of lobbyists and Washington insiders to maintain its dominant position in the U.S. economy. As such, the struggle to wean the country from its dependence on the defense industry has been - and will continue to be - a difficult one.
The good news is that the defense industry is not a monolith, and that opposition to U.S. arms sales is actually a popular, majoritarian stance. The problem is not so much one of educating the public on why arming the world to the teeth is a bad idea, but what can be done about it.
We can start by supporting efforts to end export subsidies on U.S. arms sales. Ever year, defense contractors receive billions of dollars in subsidies: that's taxpayer money poured right into the pockets of arms dealers, and it needs to stop. Defense industry types claim they need these subsidies in order to remain competitive around the globe, but at a time when U.S. military spending dwarfs our nearest competitor - Russia - by a margin of more than 9-to-1, this argument simply demonstrates the greed and lack of restraint that defines the defense industry.
The Bush Administration has been working, with relative success, to end all export controls on weapons in the name of fighting terrorism. Rebuffed in their efforts to completely do away with weapons controls, they have turned to a strategy of incrementalism, successfully weakening or circumventing a host of weapons export controls, including the Export Administration Act. All efforts to weaken the control, oversight, and regulation of arms exports should be challenged vigorously.
Most importantly, the defense industry must not be allowed the secrecy it seeks. Public servants of both major parties must be scrutinized for conflicts of interest, and barred from public office if such conflicts come to light. This should include virtually everyone in the Bush Administration.
The agency once called the Bureau of Export Administration, which controls weapons exports, recently changed its name to the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS). The BIS is part of the Commerce Department, and although lip service is paid to the office's responsibility for controlling arms exports, the BIS is also charged with promoting arms exports.
Politicians cannot simultaneously serve the interests of peace and war, nor can an office like the BIS serve two masters well. This office must be restructured or split in two if the concept of arms "control" is to be taken seriously. Instead of crowing on its website about its Defense Trade Advocacy Program generating "high-level, government-to-government advocacy on behalf of U.S. firms," helping them "succeed in today's highly competitive global defense market," and supporting "$22 billion in U.S. [weapons] exports since 1994," the BIS might instead make it its business to actually help stem the flow of arms to the rest of the world.
In 1925, President Calvin Coolidge uttered the famous line, "The business of America is business." However repugnant a truth that may be, fighting over the long haul against U.S. arms exports to the world - and diminishing the political influence of the defense industry - is important if we, as a nation wish to avoid the continuation of an even uglier truth: that the business of America is the business of war.
As I watch local TV news showing a police relations officers telling citizens in the Baltimore area to simply do what they are told by police no matter the illegal actions being used-----we here this spokesperson tell us----YOU DON'T KNOW THE KINDS OF PEOPLE WE ARE DEALING WITH.
The American people are being told police are up against street criminals having military weapons that penetrate police bullet-proof vests et al-----and this is why US police have to treat US citizens as if they were insurgents in a war zone.
'Today, police departments—or some of their key enforcement operations—appear to be on a war footing. Many dress in commando black, instead of the traditional blue. They own military-grade weapons, armored personnel carriers, helicopters and Humvees. Their training is military. Their approach is military. They are in a war against crime and violence and terror that they argue never ends. Just ask those at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15'.
'During the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama criticized [George W.] Bush and the Republicans for cutting Byrne, a federal police program beloved by his running mate Joe Biden. Despite Tulia … and a growing pile of bodies from botched drug raids, and the objections of groups as diverse as the ACLU, the Heritage Foundation, La Raza and the Cato Institute, Obama promised to restore full funding to the program, which, he said, “has been critical to creating the anti-gang and anti-drug task forces our communities need.”'
I wanted to include this long article because it starts with the history of the American Revolution where Founding Fathers wrote into the US Constitution the RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS----THE IDEA OF A WELL-ARMED PUBLIC MILITIA.
Now, REAL social Democrats do not like guns----we don't want citizens to own them but we certainly don't want our US military privatized to global corporations moving them into our communities to 'PROTECT US'.
So, here is the progressive posing--------you have a Wall Street global corporate neo-liberal in Hillary that is behind all of this Bush global military corporations and arms dealing worldwide running as a progressive wanting 'gun control'. Then, a REAL progressive social Democrat runs as wanting to protect the US Constitutional right to own guns. Is that social Democrat acting Republican and working for NRA----or is this social Democrat looking at the attack on our US sovereign nation by global corporations and private militarized policing as a need to protect THIS WELL-ARMED PUBLIC MILITIA.
This is what is so critical in this 2016 election and it figures deeply into Baltimore City and its policing and gun policies. We have the most Bush neo-conservative institution in Johns Hopkins working for global corporations and privatized military policing writing public policy that poses progressive by looking as though they are concerned with the gun violence in Baltimore brought about mostly by public policy Hopkins wrote.
How did America’s police become a military force on the streets?
Posted Jul 01, 2013 10:10 am CDT
By Radley Balko
Editor’s Note: In a remarkable speech at the National Defense University in May, President Barack Obama signaled an end to the war on terrorism; maybe not an end, it turns out, but a winding down of the costly deployments, the wholesale use of drone warfare, and even the very rhetoric of war. Click here to read the full editor’s note.
Are cops constitutional?
In a 2001 article for the Seton Hall Constitutional Law Journal, the legal scholar and civil liberties activist Roger Roots posed just that question. Roots, a fairly radical libertarian, believes that the U.S. Constitution doesn’t allow for police as they exist today. At the very least, he argues, police departments, powers and practices today violate the document’s spirit and intent. “Under the criminal justice model known to the framers, professional police ofﬁcers were unknown,” Roots writes.
Civil liberties activists say our nation’s police forces have become too militaristic—like this SWAT team participating in a drill in October–and are deployed even in nonviolent situations. Photo by AP/Elaine Thompson.
The founders and their contemporaries would probably have seen even the early-19th-century police forces as a standing army, and a particularly odious one at that. Just before the American Revolution, it wasn’t the stationing of British troops in the colonies that irked patriots in Boston and Virginia; it was England’s decision to use the troops for everyday law enforcement. This wariness of standing armies was born of experience and a study of history—early American statesmen like Madison, Washington and Adams were well-versed in the history of such armies in Europe, especially in ancient Rome.
If even the earliest attempts at centralized police forces would have alarmed the founders, today’s policing would have terriﬁed them. Today in America SWAT teams violently smash into private homes more than 100 times per day. The vast majority of these raids are to enforce laws against consensual crimes. In many cities, police departments have given up the traditional blue uniforms for “battle dress uniforms” modeled after soldier attire.
Police departments across the country now sport armored personnel carriers designed for use on a battleﬁeld. Some have helicopters, tanks and Humvees. They carry military-grade weapons. Most of this equipment comes from the military itself. Many SWAT teams today are trained by current and former personnel from special forces units like the Navy SEALs or Army Rangers. National Guard helicopters now routinely swoop through rural areas in search of pot plants and, when they ﬁnd something, send gun-toting troops dressed for battle rappelling down to chop and conﬁscate the contraband. But it isn’t just drugs. Aggressive, SWAT-style tactics are now used to raid neighborhood poker games, doctors’ ofﬁces, bars and restaurants, and head shops—despite the fact that the targets of these raids pose little threat to anyone. This sort of force was once reserved as the last option to defuse a dangerous situation. It’s increasingly used as the ﬁrst option to apprehend people who aren’t dangerous at all.
The Third Amendment reads, in full: “No soldier shall, in time of peace, be quartered in any house without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.”
You might call it the runt piglet of the Bill of Rights amendments—short, overlooked, sometimes the butt of jokes. The Supreme Court has yet to hear a case that turns on the Third Amendment, and only one such case has reached a federal appeals court. There have been a few periods in American history when the government probably violated the amendment [the War of 1812, the Civil War and on the Aleutian Islands during World War II], but those incursions into quartering didn’t produce any significant court challenges. Not surprisingly, then, Third Amendment scholarship is a thin field, comprising just a handful of law review articles, most of which either look at the amendment’s history or pontificate on its obsolescence.
Given the apparent irrelevance of the amendment today, we might ask why the framers found it so important in the first place. One answer [lies in] the “castle doctrine.” If you revere the principle that a man’s home is his castle, it hardly seems just to force him to share a portion of it with soldiers—particularly when the country isn’t even at war. But the historical context behind the Third Amendment shows that the framers were worried about something more profound than fat soldier hands stripping the country’s larders.
At the time the Third Amendment was ratified, the images and memories of British troops in Boston and other cities were still fresh, and the clashes with colonists that drew the country into war still evoked strong emotions. What we might call the “symbolic Third Amendment” wasn’t just a prohibition on peacetime quartering, but a more robust expression of the threat that standing armies pose to free societies. It represented a long-standing, deeply ingrained resistance to armies patrolling American streets and policing American communities.
And, in that sense, the spirit of the Third Amendment is anything but anachronistic.
As with the castle doctrine, colonial America inherited its aversion to quartering from England. And as with the castle doctrine, England wasn’t nearly as respectful of the principle in the colonies as it was at home. The first significant escalation of the issue came in the 1750s, when the British sent over thousands of troops to fight the Seven Years’ War (known in the United States as the French and Indian War). In the face of increasing complaints from the colonies about the soldiers stationed in their towns, Parliament responded with more provocation. The Quartering Act of 1765 required the colonists to house, feed and supply British soldiers (albeit in public facilities). Parliament also helpfully provided a funding mechanism with the hated Stamp Act.
Protests erupted throughout the colonies, [and] some spilled over into violence, most notably the Boston Massacre in 1770. England only further angered the colonists by responding with even more restrictions on trade and imports. Parliament then passed a second Quartering Act in 1774, this time specifically authorizing British generals to put soldiers in colonists’ homes. The law was aimed squarely at correcting the colonies’ insubordination. England then sent troops to emphasize the point.
Using general warrants, British soldiers were allowed to enter private homes, confiscate what they found, and often keep the bounty for themselves. The policy was reminiscent of today’s civil asset forfeiture laws, which allow police to seize and keep for their departments cash, cars, luxury goods and even homes, often under only the thinnest allegation of criminality.
A BATTLE OVER ARMIES
After the American Revolution, the leaders of the new American republic had some difficult decisions to make. They debated whether the abuses that British soldiers had visited upon colonial America were attributable to quartering alone or to the general aura of militarism that came with maintaining standing armies in peacetime—and whether restricting, prohibiting or providing checks on either practice would prevent the abuses they feared.
Antifederalists like George Mason, Patrick Henry, Sam Adams and Elbridge Gerry opposed any sort of national army. They believed that voluntary, civilian militias should handle issues of national security. To a degree, the federalists were sympathetic to this idea. John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison had all written on the threat to liberty posed by a permanent army. But the federalists still believed that the federal government needed the power to raise an army.
In the end, the federalists won the argument. There would be a standing army. But protection from its potential threats would come in an amendment contained in the Bill of Rights that created an individual right against quartering in peacetime. Even during wartime, quartering would need to be approved by the legislature, the branch more answerable to the people than the executive.
Taken together, the Second, Third and Tenth amendments indicate the founders’ desire for the power to enforce laws and maintain order to be primarily left with the states. As a whole, the Constitution embodies the rough consensus at the time that there would be occasions when federal force might be necessary to carry out federal law and dispel violence or disorder that threatened the stability of the republic, but that such endeavors were to be undertaken cautiously, and only as a last resort.
More important, the often volatile debate between the federalists and the antifederalists shows that the Third Amendment itself represented much more than the sum of its words. The amendment was in some ways a compromise, but it reflects the broader sentiment—shared by both sides—about militarism in a free society. Ultimately, the founders decided that a standing army was a necessary evil, but that the role of soldiers would be only to dispel foreign threats, not to enforce laws against American citizens.
FEDERAL FORCE ARISES
Before the Bill of Rights could even be ratified, however, a rebellion led by a bitter veteran tested those principles. Daniel Shays was part of the Massachusetts militia during the Revolutionary War. He was wounded in action and received a decorative sword from the French general the Marquis de Lafayette in recognition of his service.
After the war ended, Shays returned to his farm in Massachusetts. It wasn’t long before he began receiving court summonses to account for the debts he had accumulated while he was off fighting the British. Shays went broke. He even sold the sword from Lafayette to help pay his debts. Other veterans were going through the same thing.
The debt collectors weren’t exactly villains either. Businesses too had taken on debt to support the war. They set about collecting those debts to avoid going under. Shays and other veterans attempted to get relief from the state legislature in the form of debtor protection laws or the printing of more money, but the legislature balked.
In the fall of 1786, Shays assembled a group of 800 veterans and supporters to march on Boston. The movement subsequently succeeded in shutting down some courtrooms, and some began to fear that it threatened to erupt into a full-scale rebellion.
In January 1787, Massachusetts Gov. James Bowdoin asked the Continental Congress to raise troops to help put down the rebels, but under the Articles of Confederation the federal government didn’t have the power. So Bowdoin instead assembled a small army of mercenaries paid for by the same creditors who were hounding men like Shays. After a series of skirmishes, the rebellion had been broken by the following summer.
Shays’ Rebellion was never a serious threat to overthrow the Massachusetts government—much less that of the United States—and it was put down relatively quickly, without the use of federal troops and with little loss of life beyond the rebels themselves. But its success in temporarily shutting down courthouses in Boston convinced many political leaders in early America that a stronger federal government was needed. Inadvertently, Shays spurred momentum for what became the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia.
The impact of Shays’ Rebellion didn’t end, however, at Philadelphia. Memories of the rebellion and fears that something like it could destabilize the new republic blunted memories of the abuses suffered at the hands of British troops and made many in the new government more comfortable with the use of federal force to put down domestic uprisings.
In 1792, just five years after the ratification of the Bill of Rights, Congress passed the Calling Forth Act. The new law gave the president the authority to unilaterally call up and command state militias to repel insurrections, fend off attacks from hostile American Indian tribes, and address other threats that presented themselves while Congress wasn’t in session. In addition to the concerns raised by Shays’ Rebellion, growing discontent over one of the country’s first federal taxes—a tax on whiskey—was also making the law’s supporters anxious. Two years later, in 1794, President George Washington used the act to call up a militia to put down the Whiskey Rebellion in western Pennsylvania.
So ideas about law and order were already evolving. The young republic had gone from a country of rebels lashing out at the British troops in their midst to a country with a government unafraid to use its troops to put down rebellions. But American presidents had still generally adhered to the symbolic Third Amendment. For the first 50 years or so after ratification of the Constitution, military troops were rarely, if ever, used for routine law enforcement. But, over time, that would change.
The Civil War and Reconstruction rekindled historic antipathy toward the use of military troops in the streets. And four major wars during the 20th century kept militarization in its intended context—protecting Americans by fighting overseas.
But as the Vietnam War abated, policymakers turned the war footing inward, transforming law enforcement against illegal drugs into a “war.” There was nothing secretive about this transformation. President Richard Nixon declared a “war on drugs” in June 1971. But as that war has unfolded over several decades, we seem not to have noticed its implications.
On Feb. 11, 2010, in Columbia, Mo., the police department’s SWAT team served a drug warrant at the home of Jonathan Whitworth, his wife and their 7-year-old son. Police claimed that eight days earlier they had received a tip from a conﬁdential informant that Whitworth had a large supply of marijuana in his home. They then conducted a trash pull, which turned up marijuana “residue” in the family’s garbage. That was the basis for a violent, nighttime, forced-entry raid on the couple’s home. The cops stormed in screaming, swearing and ﬁring their weapons; and within seconds of breaking down the door they intentionally shot and killed one of the family’s dogs, a pit bull. At least one bullet ricocheted and struck the family’s pet corgi. The wounded dogs whimpered in agony. Upon learning that the police had killed one of his pets, Whitworth burst into tears.
The Columbia Police Department SWAT team recorded many of its drug raids for training purposes, including this one. After battling with the police over its release, a local newspaper was ﬁnally able to get the video through state open records laws and posted it to the Internet. It quickly went viral, climbing to over 1 million YouTube views within a week. People were outraged.
The video also made national headlines. On Fox News, Bill O’Reilly discussed it with newspaper columnist and pundit Charles Krauthammer, who assured O’Reilly’s audience that botched raids like the one in the video were unusual; he warned viewers not to judge the war on drugs based on the images coming out of Columbia. Krauthammer was wrong. This was not a “botched” raid. In fact, the only thing unusual about the raid was that it was recorded. Everything else—from the relatively little evidence to the lack of a corroborating investigation, the killing of the dog, the fact that the raid was for nothing more than pot, the police misﬁring and their unawareness that a child was in the home—was fairly standard. The police raided the house they intended to raid, and they even found some pot. The problem for them was that possession of small amounts of pot in Columbia had been decriminalized. They did charge Whitworth with possession of drug paraphernalia for the pipe they found near the marijuana—a $300 ﬁne.
Most Americans still believe we live in a free society and revere its core values. These principles are pretty well-known: freedom of speech, religion and the press; the right to a fair trial; representative democracy; equality before the law; and so on. These aren’t principles we hold sacred because they’re enshrined in the Constitution, or because they were cherished by the founders. These principles were enshrined in the Constitution and cherished by the framers precisely because they’re indispensable to a free society. How did we get here? How did we evolve from a country whose founding statesmen were adamant about the dangers of armed, standing government forces—a country that enshrined the Fourth Amendment in the Bill of Rights and revered and protected the age-old notion that the home is a place of privacy and sanctuary—to a country where it has become acceptable for armed government agents dressed in battle garb to storm private homes in the middle of the night—not to apprehend violent fugitives or thwart terrorist attacks, but to enforce laws against nonviolent, consensual activities?
How did a country pushed into a revolution by protest and political speech become one where protests are met with ﬂash grenades, pepper spray and platoons of riot teams dressed like RoboCops? How did we go from a system in which laws were enforced by the citizens—often with noncoercive methods—to one in which order is preserved by armed government agents too often conditioned to see streets and neighborhoods as battleﬁelds and the citizens they serve as the enemy?
Although there are plenty of anecdotes about bad cops, there are plenty of good cops. The fact is that we need cops, and there are limited situations in which we need SWAT teams. If anything, bad cops are the product of bad policy. And policy is ultimately made by politicians. A bad system loaded with bad incentives will unfailingly produce bad cops. The good ones will never enter the ﬁeld in the ﬁrst place, or they will become frustrated and leave police work, or they’ll simply turn bad. At best, they’ll have unrewarding, unfulﬁlling jobs. There are consequences to having cops who are too angry and too eager to kick down doors, and who approach their jobs with entirely the wrong mindset. But we need to keep an eye toward identifying and changing the policies that allow such people to become cops in the ﬁrst place—and that allow them to ﬂourish in police work.
FUNDING THE FLAME
By the mid-1990s, the Byrne Formula Grant Program that Congress had started in 1988 had pushed police departments across the country to prioritize drug crimes over other investigations. When applying for grants, departments are rewarded with funding for statistics such as the number of overall arrests, the number of warrants served or the number of drug seizures. Those priorities, then, are passed down to police ofﬁcers themselves and are reﬂected in how they’re evaluated, reviewed and promoted.
Perversely, actual success in reducing crime is generally not rewarded with federal money, on the presumption that the money ought to go where it’s most needed—high-crime areas. So the grants reward police departments for making lots of easy arrests (i.e., low-level drug offenders) and lots of seizures (regardless of size) and for serving lots of warrants. When it comes to tapping into federal funds, whether any of that actually reduces crime or makes the community safer is irrelevant—and in fact, successfully ﬁghting crime could hurt a department’s ability to rake in federal money.
But the most harmful product of the Byrne grant program may be its creation of hundreds of regional and multijurisdictional narcotics task forces. That term—narcotics task force—pops up frequently in case studies and horror stories. There’s a reason for that. While the Reagan and [first] Bush administrations had set up a number of drug task forces in border zones, the Byrne grant program established similar task forces all across the country. They seemed particularly likely to pop up in rural areas that didn’t yet have a paramilitary police team (what few were left).
The task forces are staffed with local cops drawn from the police agencies in the jurisdictions where the task force operates. Some squads loosely report to a state law enforcement agency, but oversight tends to be minimal to nonexistent. Because their funding comes from the federal government—and whatever asset forfeiture proceeds they reap from their investigations—local ofﬁcials can’t even control them by cutting their budget. This organizational structure makes some task forces virtually unaccountable, and certainly not accountable to any public ofﬁcial in the region they cover.
As a result, we have roving squads of drug cops loaded with SWAT gear who get more money if they conduct more raids, make more arrests and seize more property, and they are virtually immune to accountability if they get out of line. In 2009 the U.S. Department of Justice attempted a cost-beneﬁt analysis of these task forces but couldn’t even get to the point of crunching the numbers. The task forces weren’t producing any numbers to crunch. “Not only were data insufﬁcient to estimate what task forces accomplished,” the report read, “data were inadequate to even tell what the task forces did for routine work.”
Not surprisingly, the proliferation of heavily armed task forces that have little accountability and are rewarded for making lots of busts has resulted in some abuse.
THE TULIA RAID
The most notorious scandal involving these task forces came in the form of a massive drug sting in the town of Tulia, Texas. On July 23, 1999, the task force donned black ski-mask caps and full SWAT gear to conduct a series of coordinated predawn raids across Tulia. By 4 a.m., six white people and 40 blacks—10 percent of Tulia’s black population—were in handcuffs. The Tulia Sentinel declared: “We do not like these scumbags doing business in our town. [They are] a cancer in our community; it’s time to give them a major dose of chemotherapy behind bars.” The paper followed up with the headline “Tulia’s Streets Cleared of Garbage.”
The raids were based on the investigative work of Tom Coleman, a sort of freelance cop who, it would later be revealed, had simply invented drug transactions that had never occurred.
The ﬁrst trials resulted in convictions—based entirely on the credibility of Coleman. The defendants received long sentences. For those who were arrested but still awaiting trial, plea bargains that let them avoid prison time began to look attractive, even if they were innocent. Coleman was even named Texas lawman of the year.
But there were some curious details about the raids. For such a large drug bust, the task force hadn’t recovered any actual drugs. Or any weapons, for that matter. And it wasn’t for a lack of looking: The task force cops had all but destroyed the interiors of the homes they raided. Then some cases started falling apart. One woman Coleman claimed sold him drugs could prove she was in Oklahoma City at the time. Coleman had described another woman as six months’ pregnant—she wasn’t. Another suspect could prove he was at work during the alleged drug sale. By 2004, nearly all of the 46 suspects were either cleared or pardoned by Texas Gov. Rick Perry. The jurisdictions the task force served eventually settled a lawsuit with the defendants for $6 million. In 2005 Coleman was convicted of perjury. He received 10 years’ probation and was ﬁned $7,500.
In the following years, there were numerous other corruption scandals, botched raids, sloppy police work, and other allegations of misconduct against the federally funded task forces in Texas. Things got so bad that by the middle of the 2000s Perry began diverting state matching funds away from the task forces to other programs. The cut in funding forced many task forces to shut down. The stream of lawsuits shut down or limited the operations of others. In 2001 the state had 51 federally funded task forces. By the spring of 2006, it was down to 22.
Funding for the Byrne grant program had held steady at about $500 million through most of the Clinton administration. The Bush administration began to pare the program down—to about $170 million by 2008. This was more out of an interest in limiting federal inﬂuence on law enforcement than concern for police abuse or drug war excesses.
But the reaction from law enforcement was interesting. In March 2008, Byrne-funded task forces across the country staged a series of coordinated drug raids dubbed Operation Byrne Blitz. The intent was to make a series of large drug seizures to demonstrate how important the Byrne grants were to ﬁghting the drug war. In Kentucky alone, for example, task forces uncovered 23 methamphetamine labs, seized more than 2,400 pounds of marijuana, and arrested 565 people for illegal drug use. Of course, if police in a single state could simply go out and ﬁnd 23 meth labs and 2,400 pounds of marijuana in 24 hours just to make a political point about drug war funding, that was probably a good indication that 20 years of Byrne grants and four decades of drug warring hadn’t really accomplished much.
During the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama criticized [George W.] Bush and the Republicans for cutting Byrne, a federal police program beloved by his running mate Joe Biden. Despite Tulia … and a growing pile of bodies from botched drug raids, and the objections of groups as diverse as the ACLU, the Heritage Foundation, La Raza and the Cato Institute, Obama promised to restore full funding to the program, which, he said, “has been critical to creating the anti-gang and anti-drug task forces our communities need.”
He kept his promise. The 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act resuscitated the Byrne grants with a whopping $2 billion infusion, by far the largest budget in the program’s 20-year history.
9/11 OPENS A SPIGOT
Police militarization would accelerate in the 2000s. The ﬁrst half of the decade brought a new and lucrative source of funding and equipment: homeland security. In response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, the federal government opened a new spigot of funding in the name of ﬁghting terrorism. Terrorism would also provide new excuses for police agencies across the country to build up their arsenals and for yet smaller towns to start up yet more SWAT teams.
The second half of the decade also saw more mission creep for SWAT teams and more pronounced militarization, even outside of drug policing. The 1990s trend of government ofﬁcials using paramilitary tactics and heavy-handed force to make political statements or to make an example of certain classes of nonviolent offenders would continue, especially in response to political protests. The battle gear and aggressive policing would also start to move into more mundane crimes—SWAT teams have recently been used even for regulatory inspections.
But the last few years have also seen some trends that could spur some movement toward reform. Technological advances in personal electronic devices have armed a large percentage of the public with the power to hold police more accountable with video and audio recordings. The rise of social media has enabled citizens to get accounts of police abuses out and quickly disseminated. This has led to more widespread coverage of botched raids and spread awareness of how, how often and for what purpose this sort of force is being used.
Over just the last six years, media accounts of drug raids have become less deferential to police. Reporters have become more willing to ask questions about the appropriateness of police tactics and more likely to look at how a given raid ﬁts into broader policing trends, both locally and nationally. Internet commenters on articles about incidents in which police may have used excessive force also seem to have grown more skeptical about police actions, particularly in botched drug raids.
It’s taken nearly a half-century to get from those Supreme Court decisions [upholding questionable searches and police tactics] in the mid-1960s to where we are today—police militarization has happened gradually, over decades. We tend not to take notice of such long-developing trends, even when they directly affect us. The ﬁrst and perhaps largest barrier to halting police militarization has probably been awareness. And that at least seems to be changing.
Whether it leads to any substantive change may be the theme of the current decade.
As someone who has followed police and community interaction in Baltimore several years----I have not heard of an incident in which a police officer was harmed by militarized weapons. It has occurred in LA------maybe Chicago-----but the idea that there are lots of militarized weapons on the street and every citizen has to be treated as if he/she is ready to use such a weapon is what we are hearing police departments tell us to justify unconstitutional and illegal policing. We all know if this kind of policing continues and grows----THEN US CITIZENS WILL LOOK FOR THOSE VERY KINDS OF WEAPONS BECAUSE THEY NOW THINK THERE IS NO RULE OF LAW OR PUBLIC JUSTICE PROTECTING THEM. So, global pols are deliberately creating the conditions to grow the presence of guns and violence in communities----just as they did overseas in unstable developing nations-----to have a reason to build up third world military presence in our US communities....IT IS DELIBERATE.
These police officers are empowered to act as they want-----they are sure no Baltimore or Maryland State's Attorney is going to prosecute anything they do----which has been the case in Baltimore------and the hostility between community and police grows----police are more fearful because they are openly humiliating and abusing citizens stoking the anger-----
this is the tactic used in war zones against insurgents -------
making people surrender all rights to power.
What you see here is a confrontation by police with a white student crowd----you can bet when this happens to a black citizen---they are likely not to survive.
Video Shows Officer Confronting Man Filming Arrests In Towson
February 25, 2014 3:14 PM By Meghan McCorkell WJZ-TV
TOWSON, Md. (WJZ)—Controversial confrontation. A man videotaped Baltimore County Police as they arrested two people in Towson, but an altercation broke out between the man and officer. Now an investigation is underway.
Meghan McCorkell reports Baltimore County police officials say they are concerned by the video and they’ve launched an investigation.
Early Sunday morning, a man videotaped as Baltimore County Police arrested two people in Towson. As the video rolled, he was confronted by an officer.
View video here.
“I’m allowed to do this,” he told the officer.
“Get it out of my face,” the officer replied.
“I have my rights,” the man said.
“You have no rights,” the officer said.
But the man didn’t stop rolling and was once again aggressively approached.
“Do you see the police presence here? Do you see us all? We’re not [expletive] around. Do you understand? Do not disrespect us and do not not listen to us,” the officer said. “Now walk away and shut your [expletive] mouth or you’re going to jail, do you understand?”
After backing away, the officer came at the man a third time, appearing to grab him.
“I thought I had freedom of speech here,” the man said.
“You don’t. You just lost it,” the officer replied.
Baltimore County Police, auxiliary officers and Maryland State Police were all responding to a large crowd and disturbance on York Road. County police officials became aware of the video of the altercation Tuesday morning and have launched an investigation.
“We are concerned about what we saw in the video and the department will be taking a thorough look at that video,” said Elise Armacost.
But officials with the ACLU say the video clearly shows illegal and improper police conduct.
“I think the officer in the video is extraordinarily agitated, hostile and unprofessional. I think it’s highly problematic,” said David Rocah, ACLU Maryland. “The fact that officers can act this way, knowing that they’re being filmed, I think shows a level of impunity that is quite troubling.”
Delegate Sandy Rosenberg says he’s also concerned.
“There needs to be either further training for the police and perhaps some appropriate disciplinary action for this individual policeman,” Rosenberg said.
The man who was filming was not arrested and has not filed a complaint in this case.
In a statement, Baltimore County police officials say they recognize and respect the rights of citizens to film officers on duty in a public place, unless the person filming has violated a law or statute.
Most of these global private military personnel have operated for a few decades under no Rule of Law----as the US ignored International Law since Bush and now Obama-------these military contractors have long documented histories of taunting and abusing civilians------having no respect of laws or human rights------and they are used to getting away with it.
Flash forward to today's US police departments----we are seeing these same ex-military filling our police forces being trained by the same global military security corporations and yes------these people think they are above the law. The actions of police in Baltimore these several years shows just that-----it is incredible that it occurs---and it is incredible that no avenue to justice can be attained...JUST AS IF BALTIMORE WERE THOSE INSURGENT COMMUNITIES IN WAR ZONES.
So, when we talk of gun control the overwhelming feeling of many citizens zero in on policing and less on these rare-occurring mass shootings by people generally mentally ill. This is what Bernie Sanders and his gun stance is about-----it looks less at the civilian guns as the problem other than needing to get them out of underserved communities by resolving black market economy needs over JUST REGULAR EMPLOYMENT-----and feels the sense of urgency against this global security buildup filling our states and cities. Sanders has been outspoken against all of the expansive NSA and militarized policing -----attacks on US Constitutional civil liberties----and that is why he protects gun rights and it is why Republican voters like him as much as Democratic----
WE ALL KNOW WHAT THE PROBLEMS WITH GUN CONTROL ARE TODAY IN THE US-----THE MASSIVE LOOTING OF OUR ECONOMY BY CORPORATE FRAUD AND THE UNEMPLOYMENT GLOBAL MARKETS CREATE----AND THE MOVEMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY TO BEING A NATIONAL SECURITY THREAT AND DOMINATION IN OUR NATION.
It is easy to think-----are global pols that think of people as human capital really worried about what are the same levels of mass shootings that have happened for decades in America---or are they trying to disarm a WELL-ARMED PUBLIC MILITIA. This is the debate around gun control-----and social Democrats who hate guns period are more fearful of a militarized global police force in our US communities.
'And nearly 40 percent had witnessed armed contractors acting in ways that were unnecessarily threatening, arrogant, or belligerent while deployed, including throwing objects at local civilians to clear them off roadways.A complicating factor is that security contractors currently operate in something like legal “limbo.” There are no clear-cut guidelines for their status under international law, and many US laws don’t apply to non-US citizen contractors. But any provocative behavior by contractors has the potential to hinder military efforts'.
A lesson from Iraq war: How to outsource war to private contractors
During the Iraq war, private defense contractors providing security and support outnumbered troops on the ground at points. Contractors can enhance US military capacity but also entail risks. US experience with private security contractors holds several key lessons.
By Molly Dunigan March 19, 2013
Pittsburgh — Ten years after it began, the Iraq war might best be remembered as America’s most privatized military engagement to date, with contractors hired by the Pentagon actually outnumbering troops on the ground at various points.
This might come as a surprise to many, since the sheer number of contractors used in Iraq was often overshadowed by events. By 2008, the US Department of Defense employed 155,826 private contractors in Iraq – and 152,275 troops. This degree of privatization is unprecedented in modern warfare.
One of the most important lessons of the Iraq war is that this military privatization is likely to continue in future conflicts. This could be a good thing, as contractors can enhance US military capacity. But any large-scale use of private military contractors also entails risks. Recent US experience with private security contractors, in particular, holds several critical lessons for the future.
Of course, private contractors are not new to war zones. They supported all the major US conflicts of the late 20th century, including in Vietnam, the Balkans, and Operation Desert Storm in Iraq. But in these cases, they mainly provided logistical and base support.
Now, the US military has developed a growing dependence on private contractors – and for a wide range of functions traditionally handled by military personnel. The Army spent roughly $815 million ($163 million per year, or about $200 million per year in 2012 dollars) to employ contractors under its Logistics Civil Augmentation Program between 1992 and 1997. But between 2001 and 2010, that expenditure grew to nearly $5 billion per year. Of course, this latter cost coincides with US involvement in Afghanistan as well as Iraq.
A more pertinent question – and what truly sets the Iraq war apart – concerns the role of these private civilian contractors. Throughout the war, the majority (61 percent) of contracted jobs continued to be base-support functions. The next-largest group (18 percent) of Department of Defense contractors were security contractors. They provided security services, such as guarding installations, protecting convoys, or acting as bodyguards.
Moreover, this outsourcing trend continued in Afghanistan, where there were 94,413 contractors in 2010, compared with 91,600 US troops.
Military outsourcing in this vein developed as a result of an increased supply of private military services combined with increased demand. The boom in supply was borne out of larger privatization trends in both the US and Britain in the 1980s and 1990s, which spread over into the military arena. The increased demand was due to the strains that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan placed on the US military.
Some have speculated that this degree of outsourcing will end with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but that assumption is unrealistic. The private military and security industry is now incredibly large, powerful, and – perhaps most important – adaptable. Rather than scaling back, the industry is broadening its territory, expanding into maritime security, providing security to business and governments in Africa, and exploring other new markets.
Both to repeat the successes of private military contracting and to avoid the mistakes of contractors in the recent wars, the Department of Defense must consider several points specific to security contractors in particular.
First, security contractors can have a decisive impact on the perceptions of local citizens in the areas where they operate. This can be either useful or problematic for military forces on the ground, particularly when contractors are deployed alongside troops engaged in population-focused operations.
This was indeed a problem in Iraq. In a 2008 RAND survey, 35 percent of diplomatic personnel who had worked with armed contractors in Iraq between 2003 and 2008 reported having to manage the consequences of actions by armed contractors against local citizens. And nearly 40 percent had witnessed armed contractors acting in ways that were unnecessarily threatening, arrogant, or belligerent while deployed, including throwing objects at local civilians to clear them off roadways.
A complicating factor is that security contractors currently operate in something like legal “limbo.” There are no clear-cut guidelines for their status under international law, and many US laws don’t apply to non-US citizen contractors. But any provocative behavior by contractors has the potential to hinder military efforts.
For this reason, the United States must protect its interests and ensure that the contractors it employs are carefully vetted and well trained. It should also continue to work toward a commonly accepted means of holding contractors accountable for their behavior. One promising mechanism in this regard is the International Code of Conduct, which is being finalized by an international consortium of national governments, civil society organizations, and, as of now, 592 private security companies.
The US also needs to ensure that contractors and military forces can coordinate effectively when deployed together, and that civilian personnel operating on its behalf can easily be identified as friendly forces. At least 78 friendly-fire incidents in Iraq between November 2004 and August 2006 were reported to involve private security contractors; in 49 of those incidents, coalition forces fired at contractors.
Ten years on, the war in Iraq may have ended, but its impact on the way the US goes to war is far from over.
If you look at Bernie Sanders and his history on gun policy he stands for just what I spoke -------his Vermont is heavy into hunting and citizens using guns responsibility so yes, he wants to protect that US Constitutional right. Not to forget Vermont was right there in the original American Revolutionary War where citizens were the WELL-ARMED MILITIA.
Bernie goes on to separate the needs in our cities and this gun violence to that of rural gun use. His way of addressing urban gun violence is just what all social Democrats agree-----we need to address the issues of poverty and unemployment and rebuild a strong public mental health and community system to help people pushed towards violence. Does he support the global military complex just because he has a military manufacturing facility in Vermont?
NO-----BERNIE HAS BEEN THE ONLY POLITICIAN SHOUTING AGAINST THE US GLOBAL MILITARY POLICIES AND AGAINST THE GROWING NSA/HOMELAND SECURITY BUILDUP IN OUR COMMUNITIES.
Please listen to this debate with the knowledge that Clinton/Obama Wall Street global corporate neo-liberals and Bush/Hopkins neo-cons are posing progressive when they push gun control policies as they are militarizing our communities.
Yes, we need to get guns out of city communities-----but we don't want a WAR ON GUNS to replace the WAR ON DRUGS in the next mass incarceration of urban citizens.
Bernie Sanders on Gun Policy
Overall, Bernie Sanders believes in a middle-ground solution in the national gun debate, saying in a recent interview:
“Folks who do not like guns [are] fine. But we have millions of people who are gun owners in this country — 99.9 percent of those people obey the law. I want to see real, serious debate and action on guns, but it is not going to take place if we simply have extreme positions on both sides. I think I can bring us to the middle.”
Gun Control: Gun control legislation should ultimately fall on individual states, with the exception of instant background checks to prevent firearms from finding their way into the hands of criminals and the mentally ill, and a federal ban on assault weapons.
Manufacturer Liability: Gun manufacturers should not be held liable for the misuse of their products, just as any other industry isn’t held accountable for how end-consumers use their products.
Bernie believes that gun control is largely a state issue because attitudes and actions with regards to firearms differ greatly between rural and urban communities. Nevertheless, Bernie believes there are situations where the federal government should intervene. He voted in favor of requiring background checks to prevent firearms from getting into the hands of felons and the mentally ill, passing a federal ban on assault weapons, and closing loopholes which allows private sellers at gun shows and on the internet to sell to individuals without background checks.
What examples are there to show this divide between rural and urban communities?The state of Vermont, which Bernie represents as senator, is the most gun-friendly state in the nation, while at the same time it boasts the absolute lowest rate of gun-related crime.
How does Bernie believe gun legislation in the United States should be handled?Bernie believes in middle-ground legislation. As such, he understands that Americans in rural areas have a very different view towards guns as do those who live in densely populated urban environments. Bernie believes in a solution which promotes gun rights for those who wish to possess them while also ensuring their safe and secure use so that they cannot be used to harm fellow human beings.
To what extent does Bernie believe that gun regulation should be a federal issue?Bernie has voted in favor of a nationwide ban on assault weapons, a nationwide ban on high-capacity magazines of over ten rounds, and nationwide expanded background checks that address unsafe loopholes.
Bernie believes assault weapons, as well as magazines holding more than ten bullets, should be banned nationwide. Why?In a recent speech, Bernie explained that, in his view, assault weapons should be categorically banned:
The gun show loophole should be closed to prevent private sellers from selling firearms without background checks.What is the gun show loophole?Federal law currently stipulates that only licensed firearms dealers are required to conduct background checks.Bernie supports closing the gun show loophole, which allows private sellers to sell firearms to private buyers without background checks. Currently only ten states require background checks for purchases at gun shows. Moreover, according to the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986, a private seller is classified as any seller who doesn’t rely on gun sales as the principal way of making their living. Because of this, it is easy to imagine that many individuals who have a regular source of income outside of selling firearms can claim that they are private sellers. This allows these individuals to exploit the gun show loophole and sell guns without requiring background checks.
What does Bernie propose to do about this?Bernie has voted in favor of expanded background checks for all commercial sales with an exemption for sales between “family, friends, and neighbors”. Bernie has also voted in favor of a national instant background check system.
How does Bernie believe we should address mass shootings and other gun-related violence?Bernie believes that we have a crisis in addressing mental health issues in this country, saying in a recent interview:
“We need strong sensible gun control, and I will support it. But some people think it’s going to solve all of our problems, and it’s not. You know what, we have a crisis in the capability of addressing mental health illness in this country. When people are hurting and are prepared to do something terrible, we need to do something immediately. We don’t have that and we should have that.”
Given that 23 percent of the perpetrators of mass shootings have been found to suffer from mental health issues, Bernie believes that expanding access to mental healthcare can address some of the root causes of gun-related violent crime.
Learn more about Bernie’s stances regarding access to mental healthcare here. Also, learn about his policies with regards to addressing other structural causes of violent crime here.
Manufacturer LiabilityManufacturers and sellers of firearms should not be held accountable for the misuse of their products.
What legislation has Bernie voted in favor of to support this?Bernie voted in favor of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which prevents firearms manufacturers and dealers from being held liable for negligence as a result of the misuse of their products.
Why does Bernie support this?In a recent interview, Bernie said:
“Now, the issues that you’re talking about is, if somebody has a gun and it falls into the hands of a murderer, and that murderer kills somebody with the gun, do you hold the gun manufacturer responsible? Not anymore than you would hold a hammer company responsible if somebody beat somebody over the head with a hammer. That is not what a lawsuit should be about.”
In other words, the instrument itself cannot be held responsible for the being misused by the individual.