Fair and Unbalanced

Mike Littwin

"The pump don't work 'cause the vandals took the handles."

Littwin: We all agree gun violence is a huge problem. Right?

Littwin: We all agree gun violence is a huge problem. Right?


Let’s not talk about guns today. Let’s talk about gun violence.

We obviously can’t begin to agree about guns. That much is clear from every poll you see and every political and geographic and sociological divide that separates the country on a dozen other issues. But we can all agree, I hope, that gun violence is a huge problem.

We can look at the numbers — more than 30,000 gun deaths annually, 11,000 of them homicides — or we can look at our TV screens. If you’ve got a TV, you’ve probably spent more than a few hours in the past week watching as the most horrific gun violence played out. We watched as Colorado Springs was held siege for more than five hours. We watched as the day-long horror in San Bernardino ended as if it were a Bonnie and Clyde remake.

And if you’ve got a TV or access to the Internet or maybe even take a newspaper, you probably also saw this statistic: that if you count a mass shooting as one in which at least four people are injured, we have totaled more mass shootings this year than we have days.

So, the question is why, in the face of this carnage, we don’t do something about it. But, sadly, that’s not a serious question.

We know why. It’s the NRA. It’s politics. It’s the notion, one taken seriously in some quarters, that more guns make us safer. It’s the notion, once passed into law, that, when it comes to gun violence, we shouldn’t spend federal dollars to study what does make us safer.

If we were ever going to consider doing something about gun violence, you’d have to think that San Bernardino would be the starting point. As of now, the motive for the massacre remains uncertain, but the FBI is treating it as a possible case of home-grown terrorism, in which a husband-and-wife team – the husband born in America, the wife here on what is called a fiancee visa — may have had ties to radical Islam.

And in their suburban home, officials found thousands of bullets and a dozen pipe bombs. And if they were terrorists, or even if they were not, and we have to ask why terrorists would target a holiday party in an obscure setting in an obscure town, that’s a lot of bullets. In the headlines, they’re calling it an arsenal.

And in an answer to a question you probably don’t have to ask, the guns that the killers used — .223-caliber assault rifles and semiautomatic handguns — were all purchased legally.

Which leaves us here: Thirty governors have said they don’t want Syrian refugees in their states for fear there might be terrorists among them, even though these refugees have gone through a major vetting process. Meanwhile, in the worst case, potentially home-grown terrorists are able to buy military-style weapons they can use to kill 14 and injure 21 at a holiday party before shooting it out with heavily-militarized police in an exchange of hundreds of rounds of ammunition.

If you think any of that makes a difference, you should have turned to CSPAN and watched the U.S. Senate at work. It was a different kind of horror show.

There was a bill, a budget reconciliation bill that included, not incidentally, yet another shot at repealing Obamacare and also an amendment that would defund Planned Parenthood. Barack Obama has already promised to veto the bill, meaning that it was not about making new law, but making sure everyone is put on the record. And so the Democrats, playing the same game but with fewer players, offered up two gun-control amendments, both of which, of course, failed.

But here’s the thing: One amendment, which lost on a 54-45 vote, would have prevented those on a terrorist watchlist from buying guns, this a day after San Bernardino. In other words, it said if you’re on a list that prevents you from getting on an airplane, it also prevents you from buying, say, an assault rifle.

Republicans were forced not only to vote on this, but they had to actually defend voting against it. Paul Ryan, the new House speaker who will have to vote on it soon, defended it on MSNBC saying, “People are saying, you know, this no-fly list. ‘Don’t let a person who’s on a no-fly list get a gun.’ Well, there are people who are arbitrarily placed on those things. Sometimes people are put on there by mistake. And we would deprive of them of their constitutionally protected due-process rights.”

So, Donald Trump says he’s considering undoing a few constitutional amendments by forcing Muslims to somehow register while calling for more surveillance of mosques, and he’s leading in all the GOP primary polls.

If we’re unwilling to change the laws so that people on a no-fly list can’t buy a gun, what is the chance of, say, banning assault weapons again or mandating technology to make guns safer or punishing the few gun shops that willfully sell to criminals or expanding background checks or doing anything — other than pretending to talk seriously about mental illness — about gun violence?

The truth is that mass shootings are only a small part of gun violence in this country. But these are the shootings that force people to notice, as they did right here in Colorado, at least before the recalls. Still, as the shootings continue, they’ve forced Democrats, after years of cravenly avoiding the issue, to make it a centerpiece nationally in the 2016 campaign. Certainly the tenor of the conversation has changed. The level of gun violence has forced the issue. But will it actually force anything to change?


Photo credit: Tony Webster, Creative Commons, Flickr

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About the Author

Mike Littwin

He has covered Dr. J, four presidential inaugurations, six national conventions and countless brain-numbing speeches in the New Hampshire and Iowa snow.
mlittwin@coloradoindependent.com | Twitter @mike_littwin


  1. JohninDenver on said:

    “The level of gun violence has forced the issue. But will it actually force anything to change?”

    Short answer is, disturbingly, no.

    Until there is a credible threat to election of unabashed 2nd Amendment absolutists in a majority of House districts, there will be no change. Thus far, I can think of NO US Representative who lost re-election based on even the most absurd pro-gun stances. That will be tested again in 2016 after a majority of Republicans (and a few Democrats) voted to NOT limit the 2nd Amendment Rights of those who ALREADY have gotten on a no-fly list. Why we can have such a burden on their due process rights but cannot touch their 2nd Amendment rights baffles me. But I’ll bet no one loses an election on it.

  2. Don Lopez on said:

    Mr. Littwin can work very fast when the need arises.

    He wrote his first column on the tragic shootings at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic, which claimed the lives of three victims, less than 24 hours after it occurred.

    Twenty-four hours after that, Mr. Littwin wrote his second column on the tragic Colorado Springs shootings.

    It’s very rare for Mr. Littwin to write columns on consecutive days and even rarer for the Colorado Independent to publish columns on weekends but those two columns were published last Saturday and Sunday.

    But his speed decreases dramatically when politics becomes a factor.

    It was 48 hours before Mr. Littwin wrote about the shootings in San Bernardino, California that had a far higher body count and a far higher national profile and was being called an act of terrorism by the FBI. An event where two gunman—actually one gunman and one gunwoman—killed 14 and wounded 21 unarmed, innocent civilians at a Christmas party.

    Why the difference in coverage?

    Is the coverage given a story by Mr. Littwin really determined by politics? Does he consider a story that is being called a terrorist act by the FBI less newsworthy than a story where, at least in Mr. Littwin’s mind, a killer was influenced by Republican rhetoric?

    Yes and yes.

    Mr. Littwin’s first two columns on the Colorado Springs tragedy were devoted to creating a non-existent link between Republican rhetoric and the shootings. It was not until his third column on the shootings that he finally admitted, “apparently (alleged shooter Robert Dear) didn’t need to hear heated talk from anyone to act”.

    The San Bernardino tragedy offers Mr. Littwin no opportunity for political posturing. No opportunity to link Republicans to the carnage. And if you need further proof that Mr. Littwin is driven more by politics than facts consider these other column exclusions:

    – Not once—not even one time—does Mr. Littwin express any sympathy for the 35 victims of the San Bernardino massacre, 14 of whom died. Do the politics of Planned Parenthood trump ordinary sympathy?

    – Not once—not even one time—does Mr. Littwin mention the names of those thought responsible: Syed Rizwan Farook and Pakistan national Tashfeen Malik.

    – While mentioning “a husband-and-wife team – the husband born in America, the wife here on what is called a fiancee visa” Mr. Littwin fails to mention the wife is a Pakistan national.

    – He also fails to mention that receiving the K-1 visa required Pakistan national Tashfeen Malik to be vetted by a process described today by Mr. Littwin as “major” and last month as “rigorous”.

    Mr. Littwin doesn’t want to talk about any of those facts preferring instead to discuss gun violence. But you can understand why he wants to change the subject.

    But here’s the thing: Mr. Littwin wants to talk about gun violence without discussing mental illness. He seems almost dismissive about the relationship between the two.

    And while touting an amendment that “would have prevented those on a terrorist watchlist from buying guns..” he fails to mention the amendment would not have prevented the San Bernardino tragedy since neither Rizwan Farook nor Pakistan national Tashfeen Malik appeared on any terrorist watchlist.

    And here from the New York Times is something else Mr. Littwin doesn’t appear willing to discuss :

    “Tashfeen Malik’s declaration of allegiance to the Islamic State was posted on Facebook about 11 a.m. Wednesday, roughly the time of the shooting, according to people briefed on the investigation.”

    Perhaps Mr. Littwin doesn’t read the Times.

    But there is some good news for Mr. Littwin who has voiced the need for a few sensible gun laws that might curtail gun violence. While he has been extremely reluctant to actually outline what those few sensible gun laws might be, California’s Democrat Senator Barbara Boxer has the answer.

    This from theHill.com:

    “Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) pointed to gun laws in her home state as evidence that commonsense reforms can prevent mass shootings.

    “The fact is, sensible gun laws work, we’ve proven it in California, and we’re not going to give up,” the senator said in a press conference on Thursday.

    Boxer’s comments come a day after the mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., in which 14 people were killed and 21 injured.”

    You can’t make this stuff up!!!.

    “The American people should feel confident that, you know, we are going to be able to defend ourselves and make sure that, you know, we have a good holiday and go about our lives,”
    President Obama

    “Well, no, I don’t think (ISIS are) gaining strength. What is true is that from the start our goal has been first to contain (ISIS), and we have contained them”
    President Obama

    “Let’s be clear: Islam is not our adversary. Muslims are peaceful and tolerant people and have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism.”
    Hillary Clinton Really?

    “Let’s be clear: Islam is not our adversary. Muslims are peaceful and tolerant people and have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism.”
    Hillary Clinton Seriously?

    “Isn’t it odd, then, that in Nigeria (70 percent Muslim) and Lebanon (54 percent Muslim) large majorities say they are “very worried” about Islamic extremism in their countries? The presence of Boko Haram in Nigeria and Hezbollah in Lebanon has a way of concentrating the mind. People around the world are worried about Islamic radicalism, too. Perhaps they are mindful of 9/11, the Fort Hood shooting (2009), the Boston Marathon bombing (2013), the bombings of trains in Madrid (2004), the three-day siege of hotels and a Jewish center in Mumbai (2008), the bombings of a bus and trains in London (2005), the attack on a Jewish school in Toulouse (2012), the slaughter of students at a Kenya university (2015), the attack on high schoolers in Peshawar, Pakistan (2014), the shootings at a Mali hotel (2015), the stabbings in Israel (2015), the Bali bombings (2002), the Jakarta bombing (2009) and so very many more, to say nothing of the treatment of religious minorities, homosexuals, and women in many Muslim societies.”
    Mona Charen

    “As for whether Muslims are tolerant, there’s no doubt that some are, but as a 2013 Pew survey of global attitudes found, 88 percent of Egyptian and 62 percent of Pakistani Muslims favor the death penalty for apostates.”
    Mona Charon

    “Before we go any further, I should say that I’m opposed to capital punishment in all cases.”
    Mike Littwin

    “Nor did (President Obama) seriously address the other approach that could make a difference: more aggressive psychiatric intervention. These massacres are almost invariably perpetrated by severely disturbed, isolated, often delusional young men.”
    Charles Krauthammer

    “On Sept. 6, 2012, Obama boasted at the Democratic National Convention that “al-Qaeda is on the path to defeat.” Five days later, al-Qaeda-linked terrorists attacked two U.S. diplomatic compounds in Benghazi, Libya, killing the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

    “On Jan. 7, 2014, Obama dismissed the Islamic State as the “JV” team in an interview with the New Yorker, adding that the rise of the Islamic State was not “a direct threat to us or something that we have to wade into.” That same month, the Islamic State began its march on Iraq, declaring a caliphate, burning people alive in cages and beheading Americans.

    Then on Thursday, Obama did it again, telling ABC News, “I don’t think [the Islamic State is] gaining strength” and promising “we have contained them.” The very next day, the Islamic State launched the worst attack on Paris since World War II, killing at least 132 people and wounding more than 350 others.

    How many times is this sad spectacle going to repeat itself?” – Marc A. Thiessen Washington Post

    “Democrats who debated in Iowa last night were very, very concerned about the Paris terror attacks and the growing evidence that ISIS—or Da’esh, as it is called in the region—has metastasized into a true global threat. Very concerned. Bernie Sanders even thought that this barbaric challenge to civilization should be “eliminated”…although it was not as great a threat as global warming, he allowed, which—hold on, here—causes terrorism. You know, droughts and floods set people in motion and…well, never mind.

    Indeed, political correctness makes it impossible for Democrats to face, head on, by name, the essential problem: the rise of Islamic radicalism—or jihadi-ism, as Hillary Clinton tried to call it (and almost succeeded). This is not just a word game.” – Joe Klein Time

    “The irony of those (Democrats) unwilling to call the threat of radical Islam by its name is that in endeavoring to be intelligent and understanding, in trying to avoid painting with “too broad a brush,” they are in reality betraying their ignorance or inability to grapple with the true nature of today’s foe

    Our leaders do us no service when they fail to recognize that the threat the so-called Islamic State and its allied terrorists represent is a civilizational not a geopolitical conflict, and can only be understood through that lens. The radicals who perpetrated the Charlie Hebdo attack were not motivated by Western Imperialism, but by members of a free society violating Islamic law.” – Daily Beast

    “’Cause I don’t have no use
    For what you loosely call the truth” – Tina Turner

    Greenlight a Vet
    Folds of Honor
    Memorial Day – May 30, 2016

  3. Robert on said:

    Don Lopez…attacking the messenger is a typical winger thing to do…You sound like a fox propagandist…you sound radicalized…and you have fallen for the fallacy of the gop….the truth is in Mike’s column…but your rant rings false…the sources you quote are the crazy winger sources…they are false at best…so Don…have a good life….

  4. Don Lopez on said:


    I’m glad you enjoyed my comment. I did, too.

    Just curious, which of the two sources I quoted are “crazy winger sources”: The New York Times or theHill.com? Or is it both?

    I don’t know how to break it to you gently but if it’s the Times, well, you better notify Mr. Littwin because he quotes it a lot!

    If “the truth is in Mike’s column” he should capitalize it because it’s difficult to spot.

    Is your real name Robert or did you leave off the “a”?

    I hope your parole hearing goes well.

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