A National Conversation, Not The Sounds of Silence

28 July 2012
Published in

By Scott Blakeman 

July 28, 2012

Imagine if immediately after the attacks on September 11, 2001, President Bush shrugged his shoulders and told the nation, "There's nothing we can do to stop this kind of horror. If a terrorist wants to hijack a plane and fly it into a building, he's going to do it regardless of what we do or laws we sign."

And yet a week after a domestic terrorist slaughtered innocent men, women and children with an arsenal of military-style assault weapons, our political leadership is once again telling us that there is nothing we can do to stop this kind of gun crime, and that reinstating an assault weapons ban would not help prevent these horrific acts from happening again.

It is not just Aurora. Every year since 2001, according to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, approximately 30,000 people have been killed by firearms in America. And the reaction to this carnage has been to loosen existing gun laws, and to radically misinterpret the Second Amendment.

The National Rifle Association essentially harbors terrorists, by resisting any attempt to apply sensible regulations on gun use. The NRA wants almost anyone to obtain virtually any kind of gun and unlimited amounts of ammunition. Hunters don't need assault weapons or high capacity ammunition clips to shoot deer. These weapons and the ability to shoot more than 30 rounds at one time are for murdering large numbers of people.

The NRA is a massively funded lobbying group that politicians of both parties bow down to with timidity and fear. When you hear politicians say "the political will isn't there" for stricter gun control, what they're really saying is that they are afraid to stand up to the NRA. That's why the assault weapons ban, and the ban on high capacity clips, was allowed by both parties to expire in 2004. Democrats, like Carolyn McCarthy, who lost her husband in a mass shooting on the Long Island Railroad, and Frank Lautenberg have introduced bills to limit ammunition, but these bills garner little support.

The words that frustrate and infuriate me the most are from those in both parties who say now is not the time to talk about gun violence. After 9/11, if someone had said now is not the time to talk about terrorism, they would rightfully have been considered insane.

The conversation must start from the top. Although President Obama is inexplicably considered by right wing media to be a threat to gun rights, his administration has been given a failing grade by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. 

The President's speech in Aurora was moving and compassionate, as was his speech last year after another terrorist attack killed men, women and children, and nearly took the life of Congresswoman Giffords. No federal gun legislation was enacted after that attack either.

The President said about Aurora, "If there is anything to take away from this tragedy, it's the reminder that life is very fragile." We are constantly reminded of the fragility of life, because approximately 33 people are killed in America by gun violence every day. What we need to take away from this tragedy is a renewed determination to, at the very least, begin an intense national dialogue on the causes of gun violence, and what steps can be taken to reduce it.

We must stand up to the fatalism, cynicism and ignorance of those who say, "There's nothing we can do. And no law will help." There is much that can be done. And we can demand that the political will be found to get it done. Instead of cowardly running away from the NRA and the issue of gun violence in the U.S., we must bring it up now, and bring it up loudly and forcefully. Those who vote against gun control legislation, or do nothing to promote it, even if they are liberal on other issues, should be challenged by pro gun control candidates.

And even though almost every Obama campaign advisor would tell him otherwise, the President must start the national conversation about gun violence right now. His speech to the National Urban League, where he called for reinstating the assault weapons ban, is a good start. 

The American people are listening. And this time, they must hear more than the sounds of silence.


Scott Blakeman is a liberal political comedian and commentator, who appears regularly on FoxNews.com Live. He will perform his one man show "Liberal Jew" at the Lenox Town Hall in Lenox, Massachusetts on August 18, and the Grange Hall on Martha's Vineyard September 1.   Twitter: @scottblakeman

Why isn’t the Colorado shooter considered a Terrorist?

22 July 2012
Published in Blog

James Holmes is a terrorist.

You would think this would be undisputed. But it’s not. Why? Two reasons keep coming up: 1. He had no overt political agenda for his attack and/or; 2. He is not a Muslim.

I’m sure some are saying: Why does his religion matter? Let us be honest: If James Holmes had instead been named Jalal and was Muslim, the response by the media and most Americans would be different. The presumption would be that he’s a terrorist. The political reason for the attack many say is currently missing would be a given simply because of his Muslim faith.

There would be calls to increase police surveillance of American-Muslims and justifications offered for racial profiling. People like Representative Michelle Bachmann would likely claim that the attack was part of the Muslim Brotherhood’s campaign to destroy America. After all, just last week Bachmann claimed that the Muslim Brotherhood was infiltrating the US government. (I personally wish that Bachmann’s brain would be infiltrated by intelligence.)

But the facts are clear that the greatest threat to the lives of Americans is not Muslim terrorists. Indeed, in 2011, approximately 14,000 Americans were murdered on US soil. How many were killed by Islamic terrorists? Zero. 

Despite this fact, Representative Peter King, chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, continues to solely focus on the “radicalization” of American-Muslims, instead of the radicalization of any American. It’s about time that Peter King stop demonizing Muslims for political gain and start using his committee’s work to save American lives.

So why do I believe Holmes is a terrorist? First and foremost, because of Holmes extensive planning. The Aurora, Colorado police chief described the attack as being designed with "calculation and deliberation." Several months ago, Holmes apparently put his plan into action when he purchased a handgun and shotgun from a local store. Holmes later purchased a third weapon–-an AR-15 assault rifle--from another store about one mile from the theater where he committed his bloody assault.

Holmes also purchased 6,000 rounds of ammunition over the Internet. In addition, on the night of his terrorist attack, he donned a Kevlar helmet, a gas mask, a tactical bullet-resistant vest, bulletproof leggings, a neck and groin protector and special tactical gloves.

And Holmes, not content to just kill the people in the theater, even rigged his apartment with jars of liquids, explosives and chemicals. The intention being to kill or maim any person who entered his residence after the attack.

This is truly Terrorism 101. It is as evil as the people who attacked our nation on 9/11.

Finally, I don’t subscribe to the view that you need an overt political agenda to be labeled a terrorist. In fact, neither does US law.

Federal law defines the term "domestic terrorism" to mean activities that:

         (A) Involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;

         (B) appear to be intended -

           (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;

           (ii) to influence the policy of a government by Intimidation or coercion; or

           (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and

         (C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.

Consequently, a person can be found guilty of “domestic terrorism” if he/she: 1. Engages in acts dangerous to human lives which violate US/State law – in this case shooting people; and 2. The action “appears to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population.”

There is a strong argument that James Holmes goal was to achieve just that. He wanted to instill terror in the hearts of Americans. To make us all fear that in the friendly confides of our neighborhood movie theater, another killer could be lurking in the darkness waiting to open fire.

Some say in Holmes defense that he was crazy. I honestly think we would prefer to believe that as opposed to labeling a fellow American a terrorist.

But there are simply no signs of insanity. Holmes has shown no prior incidence of mental illness. He has no prior criminal history. He has been described as a brilliant young man who excelled at science. The only blemish in the glowing description of Holmes was that he was a loner.

While it’s painful for some, we must as a nation come to the realization that terrorism does not come from just one religion, race or ethnicity. Terrorism knows no such bounds.

However, there is, of course, still a chance that Holmes is insane. Most undoubtedly would prefer to give Holmes the benefit of the doubt on that issue. However, I doubt most would apply that same standard if Holmes were Muslim.