Posts Tagged ‘fear’

Why Can't a “Law-Abiding Citizen" Carry Ricin?

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

ITGS_comp_screen BLACKWhy Can’t a “Law-Abiding Citizen” Carry Ricin?

By Elliot Fineman


Part of the IT’S THE GUNS, STUPID Series

“Law-abiding” citizens have the right to carry guns to defend themselves” is the meme that drives our gun laws. Relying on this meme, laws have been passed that allow concealed and open-carried guns in public places ranging from restaurants, bars and movies, to churches and offices. Georgia’s “Guns Everywhere” law is the most extreme law a state has ever passed, ironically after one of the nation’s biggest gun violence incidents, at Sandy Hook elementary school in late 2012.

Here in Illinois, Circuit Judge Richard Posner cited the rights of law-abiding citizens to self-defense in overturning Illinois’ ban on concealed weapons–yet the Supreme Court’s 2008 Heller decision never mentions the individual’s right to carry a gun for self-defense–only to have it in the home. Nor does the Second Amendment mention “self-defense” or even “firearms.” Clearly, judges themselves have bought the “meme.”

The insanity of our guns laws is demonstrated by a conversation I had with someone after a talk I gave who did not agree that we need better gun laws. I asked him if he were familiar with ricin, a substance that is so poisonous that a dose the size of a few grains of table salt can kill an adult human. He said yes he was.

Well, I said, I am a law-abiding citizen and under the Second Amendment I have the right to carry ricin to defend myself and my family. The Second Amendment doesn’t say anything about guns or firearms–it just mentions “arms” and, according to the United Nations, there are at least 33 different types of arms. What do you think about me carrying ricin for self-defense, I asked.

The gun advocate said he did not feel too good about it because it was “pretty dangerous and you could kill a lot of people.”

In point of fact, in the U.S., ricin is so controlled that scientists must register with Health and Human Services before they can possess it to use for their research. A Mississippi man was recently sentenced to 25 years in federal prison for mailing ricin-tainted letters. Would anyone in the U.S. tolerate “law-abiding citizens” carrying ricin–even if there were a lucrative ricin lobby pushing universal ricin carrying like there is for guns? Would anyone tolerate citizens carrying ricin if it were responsible for 30,000 U.S. deaths a year?

I often end my talks about the need for sane gun laws in the U.S. by saying there is one country where the government imposes no gun regulations. People can have all the weapons they want and take them anywhere whether they are criminals, mentally ill, have vendettas, have no training or are children. The government never gets in the way of their “gun rights” or imposes gun laws or restrictions. That country is Somalia.


NGVAC’s 90 minute, bi-monthly radio show, IT’S THE GUNS, STUPID, airs every other Thursday at 6 PM Eastern Time on 1480 WPWC in Washington, D.C., an AM station that also covers northern Virginia and southern Maryland and reaches nearly 600,000 social media members. The show may be viewed live on the YouTube We Act Radio channel and heard on (“Listen Live”), and on Androids or IOS smartphones (TuneIn>Search>”We Act Radio”). Highlights of the show, the complete show and previous shows are posted on the NGVAC website.

Misguided, Uninformed Illinois Judges’ Gun Rulings Will Cost Lives by Elliot Fineman

Monday, February 10th, 2014

Three days before the Newtown massacre, on December 11, 2012, a federal appeals court in Chicago declared Illinois’ ban on concealed firearms unconstitutional. Last month, a federal judge ruled Chicago’s ban on gun retailers within the city also unconstitutional. Both rulings bastardize case law: the Second Amendment says nothing about “firearms” or “self-defense” and the Supreme Court’s 2008 Heller decision only affirms the individual’s right to keep a firearm in the home for self-defense. Neither address an individual’s right to carry a firearm outside the home in self-defense as both judges erroneously state.

There’s another concept not found in the Second Amendment that both Circuit Judge Richard Posner in his 2012 decision and Judge Chang last month bandy around in their decisions–“law-abiding citizen.” Judge Posner’s reference to “law-abiding” adults and Judge Chang’s reference to “lawful” purchases and sales legitimize the gun lobby’s slick fiction of two kinds of people–“law-abiding” and criminal–on which most gun regulation is based. According to the gun lobby, criminals won’t follow laws and law-abiding people don’t need them because they always do the right thing in every situation. By this logic, law-abiding drivers do not need red lights, stop signs, speed limits or laws against driving drunk because they would always drive in a safe and responsible manner.

The truth is most of our nation’s high profile gun massacres (Virginia Tech, Aurora, Tucson, Washington’s Navy Yard) were perpetrated by “law-abiding” citizens. And “lawful” gun dealers like Chuck’s Gun Shop in Riverdale, near Chicago, flood the criminal market thanks to NRA-driven laws that say they don’t have to keep track of their inventory and “lost guns”–which is the main way criminal and trafficker sales take place. More than 1,300 crime guns have been traced to Chuck’s since 2008. And thanks to last month’s ruling, Chuck can now open a store in Chicago and be closer to his criminal and trafficker customers. “Lawful” gun dealers like Chuck’s also enjoy immunity from crimes committed with their products thanks to NRA-driven laws.

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There is another gun lobby “truism” that is not found in the Second Amendment–that there’s a “right” for everyone to be armed at all times, wherever they go, for self-defense. This overlooks the reality that carrying a gun in public does not provide self-defense. President Reagan was surrounded by Secret Service and local police all of whom were armed and looking for assailants yet a would-be assassin with a $45 handgun was able to shoot all six of its bullets and hit four people. If carrying a gun offered self-defense, no police officers would be killed. Unlike the new generation of gung-ho carriers, police receive constant training. And why was Chris Kyle, arguably the best shot in the US, murdered last year on a firing range? The element of surprise always defeats the person carrying a gun for self-defense.

Finally, the judges inaccurately state that there’s no evidence that more guns in society, whether through increased sales or increased places to carry, add to the public danger. Actually there is a wealth of evidence of the harm starting with the 526 people and 14 law enforcement officers who have been killed by concealed carriers since 2007, according to in-depth studies by the Violence Policy Center (VPC) and additional studies cited by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

But true gun death and injury statistics reported remain unknown thanks to gun lobby-driven defunding of government research and state and local laws which prohibit the public from knowing which of their neighbors keep guns, are concealed carriers or even which mass shooters were legal carriers, like Jared Loughner who shot Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords.

In ruling in favor of the Second Amendment Foundation last year and the Illinois Association of Firearm Retailers last month, Judges Posner and Chang take away the fundamental right of Illinois citizens to walk the streets and inhabit public spaces in peace, without fear of gun violence. These rulings misinterpret the Second Amendment to make money for gun manufacturers and will only increase Chicago’s bloodshed. We as citizens paying their salaries deserve to be protected from such uninformed decisions that put us and our loved ones at increased risk every day. Minimally, the judges should be required to attend training so that they understand the actual facts before making misguided and dangerous rulings.

Elliot Fineman is President and Chief Executive Officer of National Gun Victims Action Council.

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