Monday, April 29, 2013

Identity Crisis

No one knows this is what I've escaped!
A few weeks ago, before I started my new consulting gig, I went to have my gray roots head of hair colored back to a recognizable shade of brownish. I left Henry with a babysitter, as he no longer deems it worthy to sit still for more than 14 milliseconds in a row.

On the subway platform, I felt oddly vulnerable, almost naked.

You see, up until recently, I was with Henry wherever I went. Henry in the carrier. Henry in the stroller. Henry in the stroller and Hudson peeing on the curb. Henry screaming as I pried his little fingers gently from the door to the playground swings.

I imagined people viewed the specter of my disheveled, frumpy, makeup-less facade with sympathy (if not always empathy):

Look at her, she's the mom of a toddler! No wonder she's such a mess. And by the look of all that dog hair on her black yoga pants (in need of a hem, incredibly), she probably has a neurotic corgi shedding-machine at home, too! 

With Henry I can smile that wan, weary mom-smile. Other moms return the knowing glance.

But alone? Alone I have no excuse. No one knows I narrowly dodged gooey pesto fingers and a mad barking fur ball on my way out the door. No one knows I had to sprint to the subway to arrive only 15 minutes late to the salon.

Alone I'm not a mom -- just a mess.

I'm a mom! To a toddler! I wanted to scream to my unsuspecting fellow straphangers. At least I don't have a huge rip in the crotch of my jeans this time!

Desperation is unattractive, isn't it?

I'm the only one who cares, of course, and if I care so much, why don't I throw on some mascara once in a while, right?

Cut me some slack, I want to say to everyone in the world.

Truthfully, though, the only person who needs to hear that is... me.


Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Thursday, April 25, 2013

I'm $o Gang$ta

Remember last September when I said I was getting a Droid Razr Maxx? Because my phone drowned? In the tornado that touched down in Brooklyn? Because climate change is a giant hoax perpetrated by the liberal media?

Yeah, well my contract was only a year old, and I refused on principle to pay $650 for a phone. Rayne tried to buy me a couple of different versions on Ebay, but let's just say a few shady characters from Kazakhstan made out better than we did on that one.  So I settled on an old Blackberry Crapberry.

Can I tell you how bad Blackberry is? The operating system is complete shit and their "apps" are a joke. Case in point: I tweeted this evidence of my frustration back in October:


And Research in Motion (the company that makes Blackberry) RETWEETED IT. They can't even get it together enough to refrain from retweeting insults about themselves. Truly pathetic.

The only saving grace was the velocity with which you can type on a Blackberry as opposed to an Android phone. It's much faster. Admit it.

But then this happened:

The smudgy baby fingerprints make the shot, I think.

Henry loves that phone so much he pulled the S key off. It's also the 4 key, which was the speed dial for Nana-and-Papa. I suspect it was the number of times he called them without my knowledge that finally did the poor S key in.

In any ca$e, for the la$t few week$, unle$$ the email or text wa$ important and related to work, I've been u$ing the $ key in place of "S," like the dime $tore gang$ta that I am. (You, my dear reader$, obviou$ly do not qualify a$ important or work-related.)

Speaking of work-related, now that I have a "real job," the $ key thing is becoming a problem. (Also, my sister might murder me in my sleep if I send her one more ransom-note text message.)

Finally, my dear husband called Verizon and somehow convinced them to upgrade me early. After seven months, it's true: I'm getting a Droid Razr Maxx! Best! Day! Ever!!!!


Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Monday, April 22, 2013

Lean In, Lean Out, Lean Up, Lean Down

Lean In
The first week of work was hectic but exciting. (If you missed the news, Mama's gone "back to work.") I was gone all day Tuesday, and Henry clung to me on Wednesday like a baby monkey.

I missed him too, especially by the end of the day when I was stuck in city traffic. Just a few... more... blocks....

The truth is I enjoyed reentering the workplace. My new engagement is fascinating, and I got to listen to NPR during my commute.

But more relevant, I must admit to feeling proud, almost relieved, to be working again. My self-esteem is, for better or worse, inextricably tied up in my professional life. Although I have enjoyed being home with Henry, part of me (the part that probably needs to go to therapy) has felt like a lame-ass for not "working." 

(I'm going to use "work" to describe "work-outside-the-home" for the sake of brevity, but who are we kidding, really? Raising children is just as much work as anything I do at a desk, if not more.)

But I really didn't want to go back to work full-time. I would have been devastated to leave Henry to a full-time nanny, not to mention exhausted at the mere thought of everything I'd still have to do to "keep house" despite never being home. 

The realization made me agree even more with Lisa Belkin that many well educated women would not "opt out" if there were more viable, compelling opportunities to work flexibly or part-time. In reflecting on her 2003 article, "The Opt-Out Revolution," Belkin, in a March 2013 essay, concludes, "I confused being pulled toward home with being pushed away from work."

Indeed. There is a difference between working part-time and working part-time.

Lisa Mills runs a great website called Work At Home Mom Revolution with opportunities to make some money. But as I scrolled through the telemarketing and transcription jobs I realized something important.

I don't want simply to work. I want to advance my career

I despaired that I would only find an intellectually challenging, career-advancing or even career-maintaining opportunity in a full-time, 60-hour a week (or more) position. I was worried I'd have to "lean in" all the way, even if I wanted -- or needed -- to lean out sometimes.

In some ways, I was right. Flexible career opportunities are few and far between. Too often it's all or nothing. I had the great and rare privilege to be able to stay home for my son's newborn months and write, waiting to find that perfect part-time opportunity. It shouldn't have been so difficult.

Do you think we'll ever have a more parent-friendly work environment in this country?


Image courtesy of AdamR / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Monday, April 15, 2013

Mama's Going "Back to Work"

Yes, it's true. Mama's heading "back to work" tomorrow.

More to the point, I'm adding a 20-hour-per-week consulting engagement plus a 6-hour-per-week commute to my already full-time job of mommying, my part-time job of playing keeping house and my other part-time job of freelance writing.

(I didn't mention blogging, though it takes up a lot of time, because I get zero compensation aside from the pure joy of vomiting the contents of my toxic brain into the ether.)

Inquiring minds want to know: How do I feel about going "back to work."

I wrote back in October about how much housework makes me want to scream, whereas childcare has made me unexpectedly happy.

Then yesterday, my friend Rachel at Tao of Poop wrote a post called Unhappy Homemaker, in which she bemoaned the job title of "homemaker" she was forced to write on her tax return (as was I). I was surprised at how many commenters didn't think the "label" was important, when, in fact, the words we use to describe ourselves and our world mean everything.

Hendrik Hertzberg at the New Yorker recently had a great piece on spin called "Senses of Entitlement" in which he says "names make opinions":
Call it what you will—enhanced interrogation or torture, collateral damage or civilian deaths, pro-life or anti-reproductive rights, global warming or climate change, homosexual marriage or marriage equality, assault rifles or “semi-automatic small-calibre sporting rifles with plastic accessories”—it’s all the same, and (excepting torture and warming) it’s all, to some degree, propaganda.
Indeed. There is a big difference between "stay-at-home mom" (which, again, is a term I hate) and "housewife" or "homemaker." The latter implies that I'm somehow solely responsible for both the quotidian child-rearing and keeping the house in order, cooking, cleaning, picking up the dry cleaning, doing the food shopping, walking and feeding the dog, doing laundry, taking out the trash and so on.

Well, you know, my husband works all day, so it's the least I can do, right?

Wrong.

Guess what? I work all day, too, raising our son. Outsourcing that care to a babysitter costs me $15 an hour. Because it's WORK. That we, in this country, do not monetarily value the time mothers (and fathers) spend with their children does not make it any less work.

So when Rayne is home, I expect him to do his share of keeping house. Generally I am on plants, laundry, cooking and food shopping duty. He does the trash and recycling, dishes, breakfast, dog and tinkering. (He also kills bugs. I love you, honey!)

As far as I'm concerned, my husband and I make our home together.

To answer the original question, I'm excited to "add to my work." It means I get two days a week separate from my role as mom and wife. It means I get to make a meaningful monetary contribution to our household. It means I get to exercise my brain a little differently. It means I have a reason to wear a suit instead of yoga pants. It means I get to leave Henry with an Italian babysitter.

And it means I don't have to put "homemaker" on next year's tax return.



Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Kilimanjaro vs. Childbirth: A Poll

In August 2010, Rayne and I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. To say it was challenging is a gross understatement. Perhaps some people (Germans) can run up the highest mountain in Africa in their hiking boots. Perhaps other people (Germans) can carry everything on their back and smile as they leave you in the dust.

I am not those people (Germans).

Whereas Rayne is from Oregon and was trained as a Wilderness First Responder in college, I am from a Brooklyn family transplanted to the suburbs. I hadn't ever even hiked until college, let alone camped in the wilderness.

In fact, before Kilimanjaro, I had only camped out for sequential nights one other time, during my college's freshman orientation trip 18 years earlier. And we stayed in cabins. Not. The. Same.

Our program included five-and-a-half days up the mountain and a day-and-a-half down. We woke up at midnight on the fifth day and spent six hours climbing the last of the 19,000 feet in the freezing cold, pitch black. I was dehydrated from having been sick and utterly confused as to where I was and what I was doing.

I definitely hallucinated. (And I definitely cursed Rayne under my bated breath.)

Here is a photo of Rayne at the top. I'm not there, because three-quarters of a mile back I had passed out. Yes. I made it to the top. But not the tippy top. Not the photo-op top.

You can imagine how well that went over with me.



Fast forward a lifetime one year and four months to December 2011, when I gave birth to Henry. If you are so inclined, you can read the full story of Henry's Birth Day here: Part I, Part II and Part III. (Focus on Part III for the purposes of this post.)

After a quick and delusional labor that involved me leaving the house without our hospital bags on purpose, I was unceremoniously rushed to the operating room for an emergency c-section. The anesthesiologists prepped me for surgery; I was high as a kite, completely numb from the sternum down and asking the nurses questions about Battlestar Galactica.

Then my OBs arrived and decided I had dilated enough to push. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Here's a closely cropped photo for your comfort. I'm excluding Rayne from the photo, because this time it was he who didn't make it to the metaphorical tippy top.

(Not that he could have, obviously, whereas I could have/should have made it to the tippy top of Kili. See what I did there? I'm infuriating. How does he stay married to me??)



Someone once asked me if running a marathon was harder than climbing Kili.

ROFL.

No. At no point during any marathon have I felt like I was going to die.

So we know marathons are in third place for most-difficult-life-experience-thus-far, but which takes gold and which takes silver?

Poll is open until Sunday at 10 p.m. EST. I'll write a post about the results and my thoughts next week.


Which do you think was more difficult?


Which do I think was more difficult?

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Where Does Helicoptering Begin?

Little Doorman
The other day I was at the playground with Henry, watching from a distance while he opened and closed the door to the swings area.

Open. Close. Open. Close. Open... Close.

He let a few kids and adults in or out as needed. But there was one woman who seemed unnecessarily panicked that a 15-month-old was holding the gate for her.

"Who's child is this?" she asked another adult standing close by, who shrugged in response. She scanned until she saw me waving. "Oh, okay, is he yours?"

I nodded and smiled.

She seemed satisfied, although I'm sure she went home and told someone that night about the crazy woman at the playground who left her child alone to open and close the gate for 20 minutes.

Henry looked up at me and grinned. Hi, Moo Cow.


Open. Close. Open. Close. Open... Close.

A little later, he tripped up a small incline and smacked his forehead on the ground. I swear he inhaled for a full 45 seconds before letting out the terrible wail of a toddler experiencing his first significant playground abrasion.

My poor little boy.
He's fine, of course.

I've been reading a lot of the blog Free Range Kids lately. I'm really against the idea of "helicopter parenting," although I don't think it's a label any parent would give herself. So I'm not sure where the line is.

Here I coooooome!
Photo credit: Phaitoon / Free Digital Photos

I'm fighting the urge to helicopter. Hard. For now, that means trying to stay out of Henry's way at the playground. Even if it makes some parents uncomfortable.

Thoughts?

Friday, April 5, 2013

Hell Hath No Fury Like a Mother Informed

On December 14, 2012 I wrote a post entitled Hell Hath No Fury Like a Mother Enraged in response to the Sandy Hook massacre.

Since then, I have gotten involved with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America to channel my anger and despair in a positive way.
I sat down earlier this week to compose a short piece on why I support Moms Demand Action, but I ended up doing so much reading and research I had to break my post into three parts.

> Part I: Analysis, Honesty and Gun Control
> Part II: The Very Unsexy, Yet Essential, Backdrop

As I said in my last post, the counterpoint to gun control legislation has become a collection of misguided arguments based on diversions, technicalities and populist mythology. I can't possibly do every argument justice, so I've chosen a few to highlight.


"Guns Don't Kill People"


Are we still carrying on with this inane piece of propaganda? Let's compare the facts, shall we? 

On December 14, 2012, 20-year-old Adam Lanza killed 20 children and 6 adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT with a Bushmaster .223 semi-automatic rifle (a type of AR-15). He shot 154 rounds in less than 5 minutes. (Source: NBC News)

On the same day, 36-year-old Min Yingjun injured 22 children and 1 adult at a preschool in Beijing with a knife. (Source: Daily News)

Take a look at the words in bold if you are confused.

Guns. Kill. People.
Bushmaster .223 semi-automatic rifle
Source: ctpost.com

The Chicago Argument


Gun advocates like to point to Chicago as a city with strict gun laws yet out-of-control gun violence. The argument goes something like this: Chicago has strict gun laws. Gun violence persists. Ergo strict gun laws don't work.

Wrong.

First, according to the CDC, Chicago's firearm homicide rate is 23rd in the nation at 11.6 deaths per 100,000. While that number is high, it's certainly nothing compared to New Orleans, which is first with a whopping rate of 62.1, almost double that of runner-up Detroit at 35.9. (In third place, viewers of The Wire will recognize, is Baltimore at a rate of 29.7 deaths per 100,000.)

Chicago
Photo credit: porbital

Second, Chicago's experience underscores the need for federal legislation around guns. Because according to a recent New York Times article, the problem is guns acquired legally elsewhere.
More than a quarter of the firearms seized on the streets here by the Chicago Police Department over the past five years were bought just outside city limits in Cook County suburbs, according to an analysis by the University of Chicago Crime Lab. Others came from stores around Illinois and from other states, like Indiana, less than an hour’s drive away. Since 2008, more than 1,300 of the confiscated guns, the analysis showed, were bought from just one store... within a few miles of Chicago’s city limits. (emphasis is mine)

A 2001 study using data from guns used in crimes traced by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms corroborates this explanation. It found that "[t]he effect of gun control laws was... mitigated by the nearness to a state with fewer restrictions on gun purchasing."

Third, a 2005 study published in the American Journal of Economics and Sociology found that
Comprehensive gun control legislation lowers the number of gun-related deaths anywhere between 1 to almost 6 per 100,000 people in the states with the most gun-related legislation. Socioeconomic and law enforcement variables play equally important roles in containing gun-related fatalities. (emphasis is mine)
Chicago is in the midst of gang wars unlike any the city has seen in recent history. As a result, one might expect to see a spike in firearm homicides as was seen in the city in 2012. (Socioeconomic variable)

In addition, this New York Times article from 2010 shows how weakly Chicago's strong laws are enforced. (Law enforcement variable)

All of this is to say that simplistic, anecdotal arguments in the absence of academic research are useless. I could easily counter with the fact that New York City also has strict gun laws, yet its firearm homicide rate dropped to 4.0 recently. (Source: CDC)

Incidentally, the reason we don't have as much hard evidence and research into guns as we might want is that the NRA has lobbied hard -- and successfully -- to limit federal agencies from conducting research into firearms.

Did you know, for example, that, under pressure from the NRA, Congress passed legislation in 1996 that banned the CDC from conducting research regarding gun control? Here is the language:
"None of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control."
In 2011, Congress placed those same restrictions on all agencies of the Department of Health and Human Services, including the NIH.


The Russia Argument


The Russia Argument is a cousin of the Chicago Argument, but way more ridiculous. It tries to compare the gigantic apple of the U.S. with the gigantic orange of a developing nation or police state where the rule of law is not respected in any domain.

For example, in response to tweets to my congressional representatives, someone actually wrote to me: "Russia banned guns. Their murder rate is twice ours." As if Russia should somehow be the benchmark to which we aspire?

Russia?

Seriously? Land of the free? And the AK-47?
AK-47
Photo credit: anankkml
No thank you.

How about Australia, where, according to studies in Firearms Research (a database of social science, criminology, law reviews, medical and public health research concerning firearms compiled by the Harvard Injury Control Research Center) gun control legislation worked:
The authors... found that after the first legislative reform in Victoria, rates for all firearm-related deaths decreased in the period 1988-1995 compared to the rest of Australia. After national legislation was implemented in 1996, similar declines were observed in the rest of Australia from 1997 to 2000.
Or Canada, where, following the passage of gun-control legislation in 1977, researchers found "a significant decline in the overall homicide rate and a non-significant decline in homicide by firearms" over the period 1969-1985.

In the U.S., civil society functions. Let's compare ourselves to our peers, shall we?

After the Aurora, CO shooting, The Guardian compiled data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC) database of homicides by firearm and the Small Arms Survey of 2007 to show the U.S. has the highest homicide-by-firearm rate per 100,000 people of any developed country on the globe.

I'm so very proud, aren't you?


The Technicality Argument: "There Is No Such Thing as an Assault Weapon"


I love these people. They focus on semantics instead of substance to derail the conversation. They say "assault weapon" is an imprecise term (correct), therefore the entire argument for reasonable gun legislation is invalid (incorrect).
I stopped listening after you said "assault weapon."
Photo credit: artur84

Here is just a sampling of comments left on the Moms Demand Action - Greater NYC Chapter Facebook page:

"[T]he term 'assault weapon' as used by schumer, oboma [sic], and the like ate [sic] not at all acurate [sic]. they are simply catch phrases invented by clueless people...."

"I'm guessing none of the people here can define an 'assault weapon' or know the difference between a clip and a magazine."

"An 'assault weapon' actually doesnt [sic] exist. There is no such thing, the term 'assault weapon' and 'assault rifle' are terms [sic] made up by the media to villify [sic] weapons."

Are these people for real? Who cares what they are called? Let's call them doppeldydooks. Doppeldydooks have the capacity to blow the jaw clean off six-year-old boys. Doppeldydooks kill.

Doppeldydook fanatics say Doppeldydook A and Doppeldydook B are effectively the same, so what's the point of banning A but not B?

From this same argument, might we not just as easily conclude it prudent to ban both A and B?

It wouldn't be unconstitutional; in fact, until the late 1970s, the Supreme Court agreed that firearms did not belong in the hands of civilians.

Look, Doppeldydook Fanatics, the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban (AWB) did gun rights activists a favor by not banning all semi-automatic rifles and pistols. Don't look a gift horse in the mouth.

The complex and perhaps inconsistent definition of "assault weapon" in the 1994 AWB weakened the bill. But it was one step in the right direction.

As I said in my last post, Christopher Koper, a senior fellow at the Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy, concluded in his AWB report that a new ban could be a good first step. In his own words:
a new ban on large capacity magazines and assault weapons would certainly not be a panacea for gun crime, but it may help to prevent further spread of particularly dangerous weaponry and eventually bring small reductions in some of the most serious and costly gun crimes.  


The Populist Myth of Self Defense


The self-defense argument is the one that annoys me the most, and yet it is the one that is nearly impossible to counter. Some people actually believe they are in the minuscule minority of people capable of successfully defending themselves with a gun. No amount of data or studies will convince them otherwise.

For the rest of us thinkin' folk, I will outline the data that puts an end to the populist myth of self defense.

But first a word from our sponsors (i.e., commenters on Moms Demand Action's Facebook page):

"YOU PEOPLE SHOULD BE THE ONES TO EXPLAIN TO ALL THE VICTIMS OF CRIMINALS HOW IT'S JUST TOUGH SHIT THEY WERE ATTACKED AND COULDN'T HELP THEMSELVES." Thank you for shouting on our page, sir. Very effective.

"And who is to say how much ammo I will need? Would I ever face a burglar, carjacker, or any other armed threat in my near future? I certainly hope not... but should the situation ever arise, I would most certainly want the means to protect myself. Could I do it with 10 rounds or under? Who knows, there is no way of saying what kind of threat I would face or how many threats I would face."

"I love how gun grabbing liberals claim to be all about human rights but refuse to acknowledge self defense as a human right" (This gem was on Twitter.)

The simple truth is that "gun ownership makes everyone less safe," according to a March 25 post on The Guardian. 

The article cites a 2009 study from the University of Pennsylvania that "found that those with firearms were about 4.5 times more likely to be shot than those who did not carry..." as well as numerous studies from the New England Journal of Medicine and others indicating that successfully defending oneself with a gun is "rare and very much the exception" and "it doesn't change the fact that actually owning and using a firearm hugely increases the risk of being shot."

You'd probably be better off.
Photo credit: Ambro

Just ask relatives of the highly trained police officers who are shot and killed in the line of duty every year. Like this 22-year NYPD veteran who was shot to death while breaking up a robbery in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn in December 2011.

In reality, despite the estimated 310 million guns out there, U.S. civilians rarely shoot a gun in self defense. According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, the rate is less than a tenth of a percent. 

Put another way, "guns are used to commit a crime about 10 times as often as they are used for self-defense." Plus, there is no evidence that "right-to-carry" laws decrease gun violence. (Source: The Atlantic's informative article, "Gun Violence in America: The 13 Key Questions (With 13 Concise Answers")



References and Further Reading


So You Think You Know the Second Amendment? (The New Yorker) Until the late 1970s, following a change in NRA leadership, "according to the Supreme Court, and the lower courts as well, the [second] amendment conferred on state militias a right to bear arms—but did not give individuals a right to own or carry a weapon."

Why expanding background checks would, in fact, reduce gun crime (The Washington Post) Interview with Daniel Webster, Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research.

Have we forgotten Newtown already? Why are we letting the NRA win (Salon) In depth piece by a Sandy Hook alumnus and lawyer who, among other things, questions the NRA's motives for suppressing gun violence research. 

Gun Violence in America: The 13 Key Questions (With 13 Concise Answers) (The Atlantic) Excellent round-up piece of all the basic issues.

Guns don't offer protection – whatever the National Rifle Association says (The Guardian) One of the best explanations of why the "self-defense" argument is bogus.




Gun Violence in U.S. Cities Compared to the Deadliest Nations in the World (The Atlantic) "If it were a country, New Orleans (with a rate 62.1 gun murders per 100,000 people) would rank second in the world." Wow.

Everything you need to know about the assault weapons ban in one post (The Washington Post)

The Truth About Assault Weapons (Anonymous) I found this piece while trying to understand the definition of "assault weapon." It is obviously polemical and biased -- and, again, focusing on irrelevant details to derail the argument -- but I found it very interesting.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Very Unsexy, Yet Essential, Backdrop


Source
Whereas it is possible to debate the meaning of the Second Amendment to the Constitution among intelligent people with informed views, the "debate" about gun control legislation has devolved into a collection of misguided arguments based on diversions, technicalities and populist mythology.

Still, before we look at the arguments, it's important to understand the backdrop. It's not sexy, but it's essential.



Assault Weapons Ban 101


In 1994, Congress passed a ban on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines. The Washington Post's Wonk Blog writes, "For the 10 years that the ban was in effect, it was illegal to manufacture the assault weapons described above for use by private citizens. The law also set a limit on high-capacity magazines — these could now carry no more than 10 bullets."

But there were two problems with the 1994 ban (or perhaps three, if you include the provision allowing it to sunset after ten years):

1. The definition of "assault weapon" was specific, convoluted and thus easily circumvented. Fully automatic weapons (i.e., machine guns that fire continuous rounds during one pull of the trigger) were already banned. Semi-automatic weapons (i.e., those requiring a trigger pull for each round) included most handguns and rifles owned by civilians.

Because Congress did not want to ban all guns, they designed the ban to include only certain weapons with very specific characteristics, like a semi-automatic rifle with a bayonet mount and a grenade launcher or a semi-automatic pistol with "an ammunition magazine that attaches to the pistol outside of the pistol grip" and "a threaded barrel capable of accepting a barrel extender, flash suppressor, forward handgrip, or silencer."

2. Grandfather provisions neutered the ban. As the Wonk Blog explains, "Any assault weapon or magazine that was manufactured before the law went into effect in 1994 was perfectly legal to own or resell. That was a huge exception: At the time, there were roughly 1.5 million assault weapons and more than 24 million high-capacity magazines in private hands."


Now for the good part. Did the ban work? Christopher S. Koper -- Professor of Criminology, Law and Society at George Mason University and a senior fellow at the Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy -- led a series of studies that culminated in a 2004 report entitled, “An Updated Assessment of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban: Impacts on Gun Markets and Gun Violence, 1994-2003.”

Here is what non-partisan FactCheck.org has to say:
Koper concluded by saying that “a new ban on large capacity magazines and assault weapons would certainly not be a panacea for gun crime, but it may help to prevent further spread of particularly dangerous weaponry and eventually bring small reductions in some of the most serious and costly gun crimes.”  
Not super sound-bite worthy, but honest.


The Gun-Show "Loophole" Explained


As explained in this short, excellent (and under-shared) piece by David Gura for American Public Media's Marketplace Morning Report, in many states, it is perfectly legal for a private, non-licensed citizen to sell someone a gun without a background check: "No identification. No waiting period. No record. Cash on the table, and you're gone with the gun."
Source
Here's the confusion: It is illegal for a licensed gun seller (e.g., someone who owns a store) to sell a gun to someone without running a background check, even at booth at a gun show.

But a private citizen can sell his own gun to anyone he wants without running a check. Perversely, this is because "under current law, you can't get a federal firearms license if you only do business at gun shows. And if you don't have a license, you can't access the National Instant Criminal Background Check System [NICS]."

Indeed, in states where this "loophole" exists, buyers and sellers can transact gun sales over the Internet with impunity.

This is not a loophole. This is a gaping hole.

Some progress is being made on this front. For example, Colorado recently passed laws "that limit the amount of ammunition allowed in magazines, required background checks for private gun sales and created a fee for background checks."

(Here's another good article from Gura on the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms and Tobacco's impotent background check process.)


The Waiting Is [No Longer] the Hardest Part


There is no federal waiting period. In fact, if the FBI can't conduct a background check within three days, the seller is free to transfer the gun to the buyer. State waiting period laws vary. As of August 2012, only 11 states and the District of Columbia currently have waiting periods that apply to the purchase of some or all firearms. (Source: Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence

In any case, with the advent of instant background checks, the waiting period has become obsolete. For example, in Pennsylvania, "If an individual is eligible to acquire a firearm, the PICS [Pennsylvania Instant Check System] background check replaces the former, mandatory five-day waiting period."


Next up: Debunking the NRA's arguments.

[Read Part I: Analysis, Honesty and Gun Control and Part III: Hell Hath No Fury Like a Mother Informed]

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Analysis, Honesty and Gun Control

Source
I know. You've grown weary of the gun control conversation. Enough with the Facebook posts and the Twitter bombing, already. The tragedy in Newtown seems far away; you can't be angry and upset forever, right?

I get it. I really do. But I can't let this one go.

... Maybe it's because I continue to see my son's sweet face in those of the 20 babies who lost their short lives that day.

... Maybe it's because I know the NRA is just waiting for outrage from the "Connecticut effect" to subside. In February, ThinkProgress reported that a top lobbyist representing the Wisconsin's NRA State Association said at the state's convention, “We have a strong agenda coming up for next year, but of course a lot of that’s going to be delayed as the ‘Connecticut effect’ has to go through the process.”

... Maybe it's because on April 4, Ana Grace Márquez-Greene would have been seven years old. Would have been.

***

This time, I'm not pushing my outrage under the proverbial rug. I've channeled my despair into Moms Demand Action, for which I am now the volunteer coordinator of the Greater NYC Chapter.
Moms Demand Action was formed in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre with five simple, common-sense goals:
  1. Ban assault weapons and ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.
  2. Require background checks for all gun and ammunition purchases.

  3. Report the sale of large quantities of ammunition to the ATF, and ban online sales of ammunition.
  4. Make gun trafficking a federal crime with serious criminal penalties.
  5. Counter gun industry lobbyists’ efforts to weaken gun laws at the state level.

I often have a hard time committing fully to political organizations. Most issues are so nuanced, so much more difficult to parse than the buzz words each side uses to prop up its side.

The truth is I'm not good at politics; I'm good at analysis and honesty. As a result, I have cut off my nose to spite my face ten thousand ways to Sunday over the course of my 38 years. This is why, despite passions that run high and a mouth to match, I am not a lobbyist or a politician. 

But Moms Demand Action's goals are so obvious, so common-sense as to be -- to me -- almost milquetoast. I am saddened on a daily basis that the conversation in this country is skewed so far in one direction that people are actually fighting the idea of mandatory background checks.

In a country where we are required to have a government-issued license, possess insurance and wear a seat belt to drive a car, how is it that requiring background checks for gun purchases is considered so radical, so scandalous

***

Tonight I planned on writing a succinct piece on Moms Demand Action Week -- which is being conducted in honor of Ana Márquez-Greene with the backing of her family -- and why I support common-sense gun legislation. 



The goal has proven elusive. 

Instead, I've spent the better part of five hours researching gun control legislation, reading studies, trying to understand the jargon ("assault weapon," "gun-show loophole," "NICS") and peeling away the layers of simplistic, populist mythology foisted upon us by the NRA ("self defense!" "bad guys with guns!") to understand what people on the other side of this argument are saying.

Analysis.

Honesty.

Tomorrow I will share what I learned. More for myself than for anyone else at this point, but I hope you will learn something, too.

[Read Part II: The Very Unsexy, Yet Essential, Backdrop and Part III: Hell Hath No Fury Like a Mother Informed]