The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Reprinted with permission from Uexpress.

On Aug. 1, 1966, Charles Whitman opened a peculiarly American chapter in the history of violent deaths. Mowing down unsuspecting students and tourists from a tower at the University of Texas in Austin, Whitman pioneered the era of mass shootings in this country. He killed 15 people and injured 31 others.

Since Whitman’s massacre a half-century ago, mass shootings have become so commonplace that politicians, police officers and journalists have ritualized their responses. President Donald J. Trump has now given his first White House address in response to such an act of “pure evil,” but, if his presidency lasts the expected four years, it likely won’t be his last.

According to a database assembled by Mother Jones magazine, there were 37 mass shootings during President Barack Obama’s tenure, including terrorist attacks at Fort Hood, Texas; San Bernardino, California; and Orlando, Florida, as well as the unspeakable atrocity at Sandy Hook Elementary School. (Obama’s administration changed the definition of “mass shooting,” lowering the minimum number of victims from four to three.)

Yet, here in the most powerful and wealthiest nation on Earth, here in the land of incredible technology, of Nobel laureates and first-rate universities, of a constitutional democracy revered the world over, we do nothing to combat this strange malady. We have become inured to this particular madness, even though we know the next mass shooting may well be worse than the last. If the gunmen are crazy, what are we?

The opioid crisis has grabbed the attention of lawmakers — as it should. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, overdoses from opioids — a class of drugs that includes heroin as well as some prescription meds — killed more than 33,000 Americans in 2015, the last year for which reliable figures are available. The Food and Drug Administration, the CDC, the Drug Enforcement Administration and local governments have responded with alacrity, tightening guidelines for prescriptions, opening centers for treatment, even arresting doctors who run “pill factories.”

But more than 33,000 Americans are killed every year with firearms, and we shrug. And buy more guns. (The vast majority of gun deaths, by the way, are suicides, not homicides.)

This is an American disease. No other nation has elevated guns to religious objects and given them a sacred space.

Don’t say that our Constitution demands it. Go read the Second Amendment again. It begins this way: “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state …” For most of the nation’s history, legal scholars, liberal and conservative, agreed that the Founding Fathers did not intend to protect an individual’s right to firearms. It wasn’t until 2008 that the U.S. Supreme Court rewrote the meaning of the Second Amendment, declaring, for all intents and purposes, that an individual may own as many guns as he or she wishes.

That’s just part of the insanity. The National Rifle Association sees no limit to the arsenals that private citizens should be allowed to own. And it goes further: It doesn’t want to apply any commonsense measures that would stop thieves or terrorists from obtaining firearms. The gun lobby has objected to technology that would allow a gun to recognize its owner’s handprint and be fired only by him or her. Why?

The NRA has even bullied Congress to shut down any funding to the CDC to study deaths from firearms. In other words, the gun lobby won’t allow the research necessary for us to learn how we might prevent the loss of so many lives.

If you think that sanity will be restored in the wake of the Las Vegas massacre, think again. Because the NRA has spent decades in an illogical wilderness of its own making, it is now being hailed for the tepid gesture of suggesting that “bump stocks,” which allowed Stephen Paddock to fire so many rounds so rapidly, should be more tightly regulated. But that doesn’t go nearly far enough to stop future atrocities.

It’s likely to be decades before the nation can bring itself to confront this crazed gun culture. In the meantime, many more Americans will die.


Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

Supreme Court of the United States

YouTube Screenshot

A new analysis is explaining the disturbing circumstances surrounding the overturning of Roe v. Wade and how the U.S. Supreme Court has morphed into an entity actively working toward authoritarianism.

In a new op-ed published by The Guardian, Jill Filipovic —author of the book, The H-Spot: The Feminist Pursuit of Happiness—offered an assessment of the message being sent with the Supreme Court's rollback of the 1973 landmark ruling.

Keep reading... Show less


YouTube Screenshot

After a year of reporting on the tax machinations of the ultrawealthy, ProPublica spotlights the top tax-avoidance techniques that provide massive benefits to billionaires.

Last June, drawing on the largest trove of confidential American tax data that’s ever been obtained, ProPublica launched a series of stories documenting the key ways the ultrawealthy avoid taxes, strategies that are largely unavailable to most taxpayers. To mark the first anniversary of the launch, we decided to assemble a quick summary of the techniques — all of which can generate tax savings on a massive scale — revealed in the series.

1. The Ultra Wealth Effect

Our first story unraveled how billionaires like Elon Musk, Warren Buffett and Jeff Bezos were able to amass some of the largest fortunes in history while paying remarkably little tax relative to their immense wealth. They did it in part by avoiding selling off their vast holdings of stock. The U.S. system taxes income. Selling stock generates income, so they avoid income as the system defines it. Meanwhile, billionaires can tap into their wealth by borrowing against it. And borrowing isn’t taxable. (Buffett said he followed the law and preferred that his wealth go to charity; the others didn’t comment beyond a “?” from Musk.)

Keep reading... Show less
{{ }}