Stefany Shaheen is the Chair of the Portsmouth Police Commission. Really.

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I'm breaking out the old fisking template for an editorial column carried in my local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat, published in the April 2 Sunday edition (when the paper is called Seacoast Sunday.) It's by Stefany Shaheen, who is the daughter of our state's senior senator, Jeanne Shaheen. And, as noted, Chair of the Portsmouth Police Commission.

Shaheen's column is reproduced on the left with a lovely #EEFFFF background color; my remarks are on the right.

As New Hampshire lowers flags to half-staff once again following the horrific violence in Nashville this week, it is hard not to feel hopeless. How many times? How many innocent lives? Our children are being gunned down at school. How often will we lower flags to honor the loss of innocence? How many more families will be forced through this nightmare? An emotional response to the horror of Nashville is proper and understandable. Panic and fear encouraged by inflammatory and overwrought rhetoric (e.g., "Our children are being gunned down at school.") is unlikely to be a useful guide for government action.

Shaheen, I am sure, knows this. Her purpose is to whip up mindless reaction, and to bully any opponents.

As we'll see.

We are the United States of America.                                                 Duh.
How is it that we have not yet figured out how to prevent 9-year-olds from being killed at school? Indeed. In fact, how is it that we have not yet figured out how to prevent any bad things from happening to anyone, anywhere, at any time?
How is it that we have not found a way to implement reasonable safety measures to keep first-graders from being shot in their classroom with automatic assault weapons that can unload 90 bullets in 10 seconds. 90 bullets in 10 seconds! The Nashville murderer didn't use an "automatic" assault weapon. CNN reports the weaponry was "an AR-15 military-style rifle, a 9 mm Kel-Tec SUB2000 pistol caliber carbine, and a 9 mm Smith and Wesson M&P Shield EZ 2.0 handgun." All semi-automatic.

Even less detached from reality is Shaheen's claim that the weapons were capable of firing "90 bullets in 10 seconds!" While from recent news reports , the shooter did manage to fire off 152 rounds over the 14-minute spree. That's enough for plenty of carnage, but it averages to about 0.18 rounds/second, a factor of 50 below Shaheen's figure. This also, apparently, includes the rounds the shooter expended on the school's locked glass doors in order to gain entry.

[Not that it matters, but I can't help but notice the considerable pronoun confusion in describing the murderer. The Metropolitan Nashville PD report issued yesterday uses "she" and "her" uniformly. The linked Daily Beast story, when quoting the report, replaces its usage of "her" with "[their]" and otherwise uses "he" and "his" throughout. The CNN story linked above quotes one person using "their" and a different person saying "she", otherwise clumsily avoiding pronouns altogether.]

Where does Shaheen's "90 bullets in 10 seconds!" come from? Apparently from estimates of the firing rate of the Las Vegas shooter back in 2017, who used bump stocks.

Bump stocks have been illegal "for almost all US civilians" since 2019. The legality of that regulation, promulgated by the Trump Administration, is dubious; a matter that will probably be settled by SCOTUS.

Either way, Shaheen uses a scary, but not particularly relevant, number to appeal to emotion.

The cycle of outrage and avoidance and blame is maddening. It makes us lose trust and confidence in our institutions. Democracy demands an active and engaged citizenry to thrive, but forces are at work eroding and seeking to dismantle the very systems Americans built to do things like educate our children and keep them safe. This erosion of trust combined with the spread of misinformation and polarization leads to inaction and hopelessness. It is designed to prevent progress and change — especially when that change is desperately needed. Ah, now we're getting to it. Since there are obvious and easy "systems" designed to "educate our children and keep them safe", the only problem must be dark and sinister (albeit unnamed) "forces"! They are "at work"! They're "eroding" our trust!

And, worse: all that erosion and misinformation and polarization? It's all "designed"! These deplorable folks actually want to make kids unsafe!

It's a demonic conspiracy, I tells ya!

One of the primary roles of government is to keep people safe. We invest considerable tax dollars to ensure our national defense and public safety. And yet, GUNS ARE NOW THE LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH FOR CHILDREN in the United States.

Woo, uppercase. Always an indicator of reasoned analysis.

Well, first: As (even) Snopes notes, you have to put a lot of asterisks on that claim. The most recent numbers are from 2020 and 2021, so the "NOW" claim is problematic. And it's true only if you exclude very young children (under 1 year old). And you need to include 18 and 19 year olds as "children". You need to mix together suicides and accidents with the homicides.

And: you can't count abortions. Which kills off a lot of kids before they even get to zero.

But the ultimate misdirection is claiming "GUNS" as the "CAUSE" of death. Neatly eliminating the trigger-puller. This (as I've said before) is fetishism : imagining inanimate objects with a magical will of their own.

We have the power and ability to address this public safety crisis. There are reasonable measures that we can take to stem the tide of these horrendous deaths. And the encouraging news is that most Americans support:

• Background checks for private and gun show sales.

• A national “red flag” law.

• Requiring a license before gun purchase.

• Banning the sale of high-capacity magazines.

• Banning the sale of semi-automatic weapons.

• A mandatory assault weapon buyback program.

Unsurprisingly, a lot of bans, mandates, and prohibitions. The arguments against are well known, and I won't detail them here. But in general: Shaheen proposes, with a straight face, to take the failed tactics of the War on Drugs (and, before that, Prohibition) and use them against guns, too.
The beauty of a democratic form of government is that WE the people have power. Together, we can insist that those who earn our votes support safety in our schools and on our streets. We can put an end to this vicious cycle of inaction driven by those who want us to disengage and give up. Again, Shaheen invokes those shadowy conspirators who "want us to disengage and give up".

I'll point out that "WE the people" had a chance to support Beto "Hell yes, we're going to take your AR-15, your AK-47." O'Rourke in the 2020 presidential campaign, his proposals including that mandatory buyback thing. Beto couldn't even sell that as a winning position among Democrats, and dropped out before the New Hampshire Primary.

Yes, we the people have power, and that includes the power to say "no, thanks."

We can do this, and we must do this because frankly, it is up to us. What the 376 school shootings have demonstrated since Columbine in 1999 is that this cannot be done by an individual leader or political party. The challenge ahead is one that requires every single one of us to take a hard look at those running for public office and cast our votes accordingly. VOTE. And make support for reasonable public safety measures a litmus test for your vote. Honor the innocent lives lost not only by lowering the American flag to half-staff, but by demanding that it represent the change we desperately need to see in the world. I wish Shaheen the same success with her "litmus test" that it has had in the past. I only wish she'd explicitly advocate what she really wants: a de facto repeal of the Second Amendment.

OK, so I'm all better now.

Last Modified 2024-01-13 12:57 PM EDT