Allison Kilkenny: Unreported

Activist judges overturn decades old handgun ban

Posted in guns, Supreme Court by allisonkilkenny on June 28, 2010

Digby makes a super logical observation while discussing today’s SCOTUS decision to overturn a decades old handgun ban, which is that this ruling is obviously the work of pro-gun zealots.

Of course, this plainly obvious truth is obscured by a media that refuses to call right-wing legislating “activism,” but consistently labels center-to-left-wing judges and nominees as radical extremists, who should be feared and condemned.

I missed the Kagan hearings this morning, but from what I’m gathering it was pretty much a high tech lynching of Justice Thurgood Marshall. Seriously. Evidently, he was one of those “activist” judges (and a community organizer too, I’m sure)and I think we all know what he was agitating for, don’t we?

Meanwhile, she is an “out of the mainstream” elitist, weirdo (lesbian, NY Jew) who worked for a you-know-what and liked it. Ever since Beauregard Sessions ascended to the ranking Republican position on the Judiciary Committee whatever uhm … subtlety the Republican strategy once had has evaporated into crude dogwhistling.

Right. See, Marshall was a lunatic leftist extremist, but Scalia and Thomas are ideologically consistent.


Guns For Votes

Posted in guns, law, politics by allisonkilkenny on February 28, 2009


alexis-shootingThe 600,000 residents of Washington, D.C., have long been without Congressional representation.  They were only allowed to vote for President for the first time in 1964 because of the 23rd Amendment that gave the district 3 electoral votes.  But the District still lacks representation in Congress.

In 1801, the District was annexed from Maryland and Virginia and was left without elected representatives.  D.C. residents have protested their disenfranchisement from the nation over the last two centuries in a variety of ways.  In 2000, new D.C. license plates read, “Taxation Without Representation.”   

Today, the Senate voted 67-31 for a bill that would give the District a single seat in the Congress and would create an additional seat that would go to a state based on population.  As it stands, that state would be Utah.  Utah typically votes Republican and the District typically votes Democratic.  But there are strings attached to the bill.

The bill includes an amendment that would repeal local District gun control laws.  Nevada Senator John Ensign (R) sponsored the amendment that would repeal gun control laws in the District.  The District currently bans semiautomatic guns.  The bill would also restrict the District’s ability to make laws concerning gun control in the future.  

Senator Ensign said his goal with the amendment was to “remove the tremendous barriers and burdens on law-abiding citizens” but Senator Dianne Feinstein (D) of California called the amendment “reckless” and “irresponsible.”

It appears that if the citizens of D.C. want representation in Congress, they will have to trade their current laws on gun control to get it. Despite opposition from the residents of D.C. to the stripping of their gun laws, the House is expected to pass the bill next week and President Obama has promised to sign it.  

There are more obstacles ahead for the bill.  Opponents like Mitch McConnell (R) of Kentucky, insist that the Constitution on Congressional representation is clear: “only states elect members of Congress.”  The District of Columbia is not considered a “state.”

The bill will probably wind up in the Supreme Court to test its Constitutionality. 



Among other things, the amendment’s wacky provisions would make it much harder for police to trace crime guns by repealing all registration requirements. The amendment also would bar Washington from enacting laws or regulations that may discourage private gun ownership or use, including by children or felons. It would lift a ban on gun possession by anyone voluntarily committed to a mental institution in the last five years and end a ban on .50 caliber sniper rifles and military-style semiautomatic assault weapons. All of this under the phony guise of complying with last year’s Supreme Court ruling.



U.S. Is Arms Bazaar for Mexican Cartels

Posted in guns, politics by allisonkilkenny on February 26, 2009
Officials say weapons from George Iknadosian’s store in Phoenix ended up in the hands of a cartel that included Alfredo Beltrán Leyva, right.(Left, A.T.F; right, Eduardo Verdugo/AP)

Officials say weapons from George Iknadosian’s store in Phoenix ended up in the hands of a cartel that included Alfredo Beltrán Leyva, right.(Left, A.T.F; right, Eduardo Verdugo/AP)

Note from Allison: I love how the conversation regarding Mexico’s political and social volatility is never framed as a problem with guns and/or the War on Drugs. Our policies on arms and a failing drug war are just fine. Those crazy Mexicans just need to get their acts together and figure out a bureaucratically corrupt system where corporations operate on the backs of the poor like we have in the good ole’ U S of A, and they’ll be a world power in no time!

New York Times

PHOENIX — The Mexican agents who moved in on a safe house full of drug dealers last May were not prepared for the fire power that greeted them.

When the shooting was over, eight agents were dead. Among the guns the police recovered was an assault rifle traced back across the border to a dingy gun store here called X-Caliber Guns.

Now, the owner, George Iknadosian, will go on trial on charges he sold hundreds of weapons, mostly AK-47 rifles, to smugglers, knowing they would send them to a drug cartel in the western state of Sinaloa. The guns helped fuel the gang warfare in which more than 6,000 Mexicans died last year.

Mexican authorities have long complained that American gun dealers are arming the cartels. This case is the most prominent prosecution of an American gun dealer since the United States promised Mexico two years ago it would clamp down on the smuggling of weapons across the border. It also offers a rare glimpse of how weapons delivered to American gun dealers are being moved into Mexico and wielded in horrific crimes.

“We had a direct pipeline from Iknadosian to the Sinaloa cartel,” said Thomas G. Mangan, a spokesman for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Phoenix.

Drug gangs seek out guns in the United States because the gun-control laws are far tougher in Mexico. Mexican civilians must get approval from the military to buy guns and they cannot own large-caliber rifles or high-powered pistols, which are considered military weapons.

The ease with which Mr. Iknadosian and two other men transported weapons to Mexico over a two-year period illustrates just how difficult it is to stop the illicit trade, law enforcement officials here say.

The gun laws in the United States allow the sale of multiple military-style rifles to American citizens without reporting the sales to the government, and the Mexicans search relatively few cars and trucks going south across their border.

What is more, the sheer volume of licensed dealers — more than 6,600 along the border alone, many of them operating out of their houses — makes policing them a tall order. Currently the A.T.F. has about 200 agents assigned to the task.

Smugglers routinely enlist Americans with clean criminal records to buy two or three rifles at a time, often from different shops, then transport them across the border in cars and trucks, often secreting them in door panels or under the hood, law enforcement officials here say. Some of the smuggled weapons are also bought from private individuals at gun shows, and the law requires no notification of the authorities in those cases.

“We can move against the most outrageous purveyors of arms to Mexico, but the characteristic of the arms trade is it’s a ‘parade of ants’ — it’s not any one big dealer, it’s lots of individuals,” said Arizona’s attorney general, Terry Goddard, who is prosecuting Mr. Iknadosian. “That makes it very hard to detect because it’s often below the radar.”

The Mexican government began to clamp down on drug cartels in late 2006, unleashing a war that daily deposits dozens of bodies — often gruesomely tortured — on Mexico’s streets. President Felipe Calderón has characterized the stream of smuggled weapons as one of the most significant threats to security in his country. The Mexican authorities say they seized 20,000 weapons from drug gangs in 2008, the majority bought in the United States.

The authorities in the United States say they do not know how many firearms are transported across the border each year, in part because the federal government does not track gun sales and traces only weapons used in crimes. But A.T.F. officials estimate 90 percent of the weapons recovered in Mexico come from dealers north of the border.

In 2007, the firearms agency traced 2,400 weapons seized in Mexico back to dealers in the United States, and 1,800 of those came from dealers operating in the four states along the border, with Texas first, followed by California, Arizona and New Mexico.

Mr. Iknadosian is accused of being one of those dealers. So brazen was his operation that the smugglers paid him in advance for the guns and the straw buyers merely filled out the required paperwork and carried the weapons off, according to A.T.F. investigative reports. The agency said Mr. Iknadosian also sold several guns to undercover agents who had explicitly informed him that they intended to resell them in Mexico.

Mr. Iknadosian, 47, will face trial on March 3 on charges including fraud, conspiracy and assisting a criminal syndicate. His lawyer, Thomas M. Baker, declined to comment on the charges, but said Mr. Iknadosian maintained his innocence. No one answered the telephone at Mr. Iknadosian’s home in Glendale, Ariz.

A native of Egypt who spent much of his life in California, Mr. Iknadosian moved his gun-selling operation to Arizona in 2004, because the gun laws were more lenient, prosecutors said.

Over the two years leading up to his arrest last May, he sold more than 700 weapons of the kind currently sought by drug dealers in Mexico, including 515 AK-47 rifles and one .50 caliber rifle that can penetrate an engine block or bulletproof glass, the A.T.F. said.

Based on the store’s records and the statements of some defendants, investigators estimate at least 600 of those weapons were smuggled to Mexico. So far, the Mexican authorities have seized seven of the Kalashnikov-style rifles from gunmen for the Beltrán Leyva cartel who had battled with the police.

The store was also said to be the source for a Colt .38-caliber pistol stuck in the belt of a reputed drug kingpin, Alfredo Beltrán Leyva, when he was arrested a year ago in the Sinaloan town of Culiacán. Also linked to the store was a diamond-studded handgun carried by another reputed mobster, Hugo David Castro, known as El Once, who was arrested in November on charges he took part in killing a state police chief in Sonora.

According to reports by A.T.F. investigators, Mr. Iknadosian sold more than 60 assault rifles in late 2007 and early 2008 to straw buyers working for two brothers — Hugo Miguel Gamez, 26, and Cesar Bojorguez Gamez, 27 — who then smuggled them into Mexico.

The brothers instructed the buyers to show up at X-Caliber Guns and to tell Mr. Iknadosian they were there to pick up guns for “Cesar” or “C,” the A.T.F. said. Mr. Iknadosian then helped the buyers fill out the required federal form, called the F.B.I. to check their records and handed over the rifles. The straw buyers would then meet one of the brothers to deliver the merchandise. They were paid $100 a gun.

The Gamez brothers have pleaded guilty to a count of attempted fraud. Seven of the buyers arrested last May have pleaded guilty to lesser charges and have agreed to testify against Mr. Iknadosian, prosecutors said.

In one transaction, Mr. Iknadosian gave advice about how to buy weapons and smuggle them to a person who turned out to be an informant who was recording him, according to a transcript. He told the informant to break the sales up into batches and never to carry more than two weapons in a car.

“If you got pulled over, two is no biggie,” Mr. Iknadosian is quoted as saying in the transcript. “Four is a question. Fifteen is, ‘What are you doing?’ ”

Virginia Tech: In the tunnel with the rest of us

Posted in guns, media by allisonkilkenny on April 19, 2007

The gifts of squirrel and possum carcasses the 30 Rock folk offered their peacock god have paid off. Cho Seun-hui, the kid who shot up Virginia Tech, mailed his rambling manifesto to the NBC studios, giving them the exclusive story into his motives. And boy-oh-boy, are people concerned with motives. The media wonders about Cho’s motives, and now the public wonders about the media’s motives to broadcast Cho’s manifesto. All coverage of the Virginia events surround speculation about loners, publicity-hungry networks, and background checks at gun shops.

But no one talks about the real story: Guns are legal.

After the atrocities at Virginia Tech, the media underwent its familiar pattern of “surface diagnosis.” This is when media correspondents harp upon superficial details of a story and become unknowing (or perhaps knowing) participants in “spin.” Suddenly the story became less about the victims and more about Cho — his childhood, relationships, and motives.

As if there is a good reason to blow away your classmates, and if the news stations devote enough time to analysis, they’ll find it. Every available talking head has their own theory for why Cho fell off the deep end. Could it simply be that Mr. Seun-hui was….I dunno….crazy?

But this is not the point. Everyone knows there is no good reason to massacre our fellow human beings. The major news networks’ obsession with Cho’s motives are surface diagnosis. For example: A
psychopath, who was known to his university as a deeply disturbed, unstable young man, marches over to the local gun depository, and purchases a Glock 19.

Now, it’s easy to “surface diagnose” this situation. Why didn’t the gun dealer communicate with the university? Why didn’t the university have Cho Seung-hui forcefully committed after he stalked two girls and made his creative writing professor so uncomfortable that she had hand signals (indicating to call the police) for her assistant if Cho ever showed up and began to threaten her? Clearly, the warning bells were a-ringin’, and had been for some time. These are all important points, but there is a bigger undiscussed problem.

To discuss these smaller stories in this way is to discuss it from inside the “tunnel.” We (citizens, the media, special interest groups, lobbyists, think tanks, neo-conservatives and neo-liberals) all helped to build the tunnel. The tunnel is narrow policy. The tunnel is the reason presidential candidates only discuss a handful of issues, very briefly and without great detail, during debates. The tunnel is the reason the media only discusses effects and never causes. They cover arrests and massacres but never discuss the policy behind the effects.

Outside the tunnel is the real story: WHY ARE GUNS STILL LEGAL?! Pardon the outraged liberal upper-caps, but C’MON! PEOPLE! SERIOUSLY?? The is the real story behind the Virginia Tech massacre, but gun laws are policy, so they’re off-limits to the media, who are safely nestled inside the tunnel.

It’s a bunch of hooey when the NRA gun nuts march into town and talk about everyone’s civil liberties. As if anyone has ever been shot through the chest during a bank robbery and thought, “Thank God for Mr. Charlton Heston.” There’s also this argument:

Gun nut: If we really lived in the Land of the Free, all dem kids woulda had guns, and dey coulda den shot him right ‘tween’ his lil’ slanty-eyes, that chink motherfucker Imma kill me some Korean Jap bastards RAWWWWWWWRrrrrrrr!!!!!!1

Me: … what?

That’s a great idea, Larry. Let’s arm the college kids, so when they get drunk at keggers, and fight over which frat brother grabbed Tina’s boob, they can shoot it out in front of the Sigma house. Kudos on an excellent policy decision.

The truth is this: guns do more harm than they do good, period. A Virginia Tech-sized portion of the American populations dies every day from guns. Yes, what happened in Virginia is a national tragedy, but 30 people die from guns EVERY DAY in this country. EVERY DAY. This is the story of policy outside the tunnel that we need to address.

But the media, in its tunnel, refuses to have this debate. You will never hear a politician muse about banning handguns because they fear the NRA and its lobbyists, who still have incredible reach and pull in the government and economy.

Gun nut: But hey, hippy, crime has been around since the beginning of time! If Cho hadn’t used guns, he would have used knives or some shit! BlahblahblahBlue Collar TV.

My mother also confronted me with this line of argument yesterday (it wasn’t a proud moment for either of us.) I countered with this: If Cho had entered that hall with a knife instead of Glock 19 and .22 caliber Walther P22 handgun, how many people do you realistically think he would have killed? One? Two, at the most. The truth is: 33 people are dead because of guns.

If Cho had wandered into that gun depository and their shelves had been stacked with delicious corn instead of assault weaponry, this would be a very different blog.

But we have been in the tunnel, built by corporations and their think tanks, for so long that we can’t see these bigger issues anymore.

You can find examples of the tunnel syndrome and surface diagnosis everywhere. Media coverage rarely addresses American foreign policy, the War on Drugs, or the price-gouging of the pharmaceutical companies. Instead, we get stories about another 135 faceless brown people blown to bits in some Iraqi village, the two stoner kids busted for holding an eighth of weed, and crazy old Hilda Fisher racing across the Canadian border in her Rascal so she can find some cheap pills.

And we think: what a crazy world! Where did all this hate and suffering come from?

Now people are foaming at the mouth because NBC showed Cho’s media package where he is seen posing with the guns and bitching about normal teenage annoyances, like rich girls who won’t pay him the time of day. As a media network, NBC had a duty to show the videos. End of story. It’s not as though they showed them with a caption that read: SUPER AWESOME GUY. Such a caption creates bias, and then they could be accused of glorifying the killer. Saying NBC is glorifying the killer is a surface diagnosis. Saying there will be copycat killers is a surface diagnosis. The true diagnosis is:

Guns are legal
Guns kill people.
They are designed to cause maximum destruction
Crazy people can buy guns
Crazy people will kill innocent people

From birth, we’re told the “true patriots” thwarted the British, usually depicted as snarling apelike creatures in red jackets. How did we win the motherland? With guns, bucko! Full-blooded Americans love guns, and if you don’t, you’re a commie. Or worse…French. If you don’t have a gun and support gun rights, the government will come into our homes and sit in our livingrooms, and refuse to leave, which is really unthoughtful because I’ve had a hard day and just wanted to watch American Idol, Government.

The United States of America has the greatest army in the world. They could crush a popular uprising even if every single American citizen was armed to the teeth. And do we want to get into an arms race with our own government? Quick, Cledus! Get the nuke! I think them feds are comin’! Maybe we should be less preoccupied with arming ourselves and more centered on policy discussions, outside the tunnel of gun rights and patriotic facades.

Our country is sick and the diagnosis is bad policy decisions. Why don’t people realize this basic diagnosis? It’s not entirely ignorant America’s fault. We’ve been kept deaf and blind by the media, and dumb by the government, who makes it their business to keep disenfranchised minorities silent and permanently marginalized. We’re born into the tunnel and kept there by the endless cycle of surface diagnosis and spin offered to us by an increasingly conglomerated media.

The good news: You can escape the tunnel.

It’s true! Like individuals who escape cults, you can claw your way out of the darkness. It just takes some reprogramming. The next time your local news covers a story about the cops making a drug bust, pay attention. Right as you feel yourself accepting that the story has a beginning and end that correlate with the beginning and end of thirty seconds of video footage, STOP.


They’ll show footage of the officers emptying brick after brick of weed onto the table set up before the cameras. Then, see if the anchors mention anything about the War on Drugs, the fact that the majority of prisoners in the United States are non-violent drug offenders, or any kind of reference to the botched foreign relations in Latin America. They probably won’t.

This next step is important: Call your local news team. Ask them why they chose not to mention the failed War on Drugs, or the exploitation and systematic torture of the Latin American population. Hold them accountable for their ignorance and perpetuation of the tunnel. If we demand more of our media and government, they will listen. They have to, right? After all, we live in this supposed democracy, so if they didn’t, they’d be admitting it’s actually a fascist regime! HA! Ha…ha…….ha.

Always ask the bigger question. Whenever you see a story on the news, wonder what policy created the effect, the story. If there is a story about a mentally ill man who stabbed a woman on a subway platform, wonder what welfare system failed him that he was not in a safe facility, receiving medical care. The next time you receive a medical bill and cringe at the price, remember that Americans pay for THE worst medical health care system of all the first world countries, and that our arch-enemy, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, offered his own people universal health care coverage.

Make no mistake: you are born into the tunnel. All Americans are. Fortunately, our society is free enough where there are alternative sources of media. Remember: think big, think past the surface diagnosis to the causes — the government policies — that create the world we live in.

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