Vol. 202 November 1, 2018 Happy Halloween

November 1, 2018

Hub thumbnail 2015 It is the day after Halloween, so I wanted to write a scary blog, and I couldn’t think of anything scarier than a massacre of 11 praying people by someone with an semi-automatic assault rifle.

The Valentine’s Day Massacre of 1929 (only 7 dead)  resulted in a 1934 law restricting the sale, registering the owner (including fingerprints), limiting the transport, and  setting up a federal government record of Tommy guns.  The whole process of buying a Tommy gun took about 4 months.   The law (it was not a ban) worked for Tommy guns. They became too expensive, too scarce, and too much of a hassle to own, and they have  disappeared from our everyday life. Maybe that law happened because a majority of people regarded the Chicago mobsters as criminals.

So why not pass effective federal restrictions on the sale and ownership of assault rifles? Let’s acknowledge that people who use them to kill other people are just criminals.  Lets stop all the noise and emotional overlay about the shooter’s motives and background. Just call him “a criminal” and restrict access for future criminals to his weapon of choice. Such assault rifle restrictions (not a ban) might, at least, successfully reduce the body count for any one particular future rampage. There are plenty of other kinds of guns around that the mentally deranged, political extremist, terrorist, or even just a ticked-off jilted lover can use, so no one’s constitutional right will be abridged.

On the other hand, the October 2018 Philadelphia synagogue massacre somehow doesn’t seem all that scary. After all, we have had similar massacres in night clubs, Southern churches, rock concerts, movie theaters, and elementary schools. Some of us may have kind of “gotten used to it”. Sort of like that old story of the frog sitting in a pot of water getting hotter and hotter on the stove burner, and the frog, not sensing the heat increase by degrees, just sits there until he is boiled up.

By Degrees” is a song written by Mark Erelli that relates that “frog in hot water” story to our epidemic of gun violence. Other famous singer-songwriters, Rosanne Cash, Sheryl Crow, Josh Ritter, Lori McKenna, and Anais Mitchell join him in singing it. Gabby Giffords: Courage to Fight Gun Violence is helping to distribute it as a digital copy. You can go to www.bydegreessong.com to download it while you watch a video of the lyrics. All of the $4.69 and any additional money you wish to donate goes directly to the Gabby Giffords fund.

Go to the By Degrees website, and click the “GET THE SONG” button. This will take you to Giffords’ Act Blue donation page, where you can pay any amount you like for the song, and you will immediately receive a thank you email with a link to download the track.

BY DEGREES by Mark Erelli
When I take a look around me sometimes I wish I was blind
Feels like something sacred’s dying, one headline at a time
I can’t tear myself away, no I just stare in disbelief
You can learn to live with anything when it happens by degrees

I’ve seen every head bowed down as if lost in private prayer
I’ve seen the phones in every hand, seen the long and vacant stares of souls gone numb,
thumbing through each ceaseless, changing feed
You can learn to live with anything when it happens by degrees

I’ve seen talking heads shout back and forth across some great divide
Against a map of red and blue, points of view so cut and dried
But when you look into the mirror what color country do you see?
Where you can learn to live with anything when it happens by degrees

I’ve seen the flags at half-staff as the nation mourned and moaned
I’ve seen the stars and bars a-flyin’ proud above the state house dome
For the Charleston nine we sing “I once was blind, but now I see”
We can learn to live with anything when it happens by degrees

I’ve seen little hands on little shoulders, children in a line
I’ve seen them led away from school as the shots rang out inside
And I thought something had to change but somehow it’s become routine
We can learn to live with anything when it happens by degrees

I’ve seen sadness seep into my heart, each day a little more
This darkness growing so familiar, I can’t recall what came before
My children’s faces filled with questions, looking up expectantly
And I don’t know what to tell them
I can’t bring myself to tell them
That you can learn to live with anything when it happens by degrees.

As Mark says, “I am under no illusions that my song will solve the problem of gun violence. But I have seen what doing nothing does and want to do something. I’m a songwriter and musician, so I did the only thing I knew how to do, as good as I could do it. I appreciate your support and urge you do what you can to support the cause against gun violence.


Vol. 136 November 15, 2015 “By Degrees”

November 15, 2015

Hub thumbnail 2015

“If a frog is placed into a pot of boiling water it will immediately try to jump out; but if it’s placed into a pot of cool water that’s gradually heated until boiling, it will stay put and never try to jump out.” (1)

Fall is here in New England. There’s a snap in the air as we shuffle through the leaves waiting to be raked up. It is a most beautiful time of the year when many of our thoughts turn to hunting. A noble sport, a timeless match-up of human endurance, skill, and patience against the stealth and quickness of wild game. Of course, the human often has the advantage of a gun. Except for the occasional cow, horse, or large dog that gets mistaken for a deer there are few accidental hunting deaths. That is because hunters are familiar with their guns, know how to handle them, and respect them. Not so much for toddlers.

“Toddlers in America this year have been shooting people at the rate of once a week.” (2)

That’s only 52 a year. Not a really big number. But if you add on 2 parents, 2.18 siblings (on average), 4 grandparents, and maybe at least one lovely teen age baby sitter per toddler, you get up to over 500 devastated people per year. Now THAT number might be big enough to get our attention.

Last week’s Miami Herald reported that a 3 year old who was looking for an iPad in his father’s dresser drawer found a loaded Smith & Wesson pistol instead. The .40 caliber bullet struck him between the eyes. The father worked as a fitness attendant, not usually considered a high-risk or dangerous occupation, so presumably he had the gun for self-defense.

Statistics show that people who have guns in their homes for self defense (”home protection”) are actually shot more often than intruders are. For every gun used to wound or kill in self-defense, four are involved in accidental shootings. (3)

Self-reported use of guns for self defense are grossly exaggerated. On examination most “self defense” use is actually  “threatening or intimidation” use.

In one study over 1/3 of parents who reported that their son had not handled a household gun were contradicted by the child.

By a margin of more than 3 to 1, Americans would feel less safe, not safer, when others in their community acquire guns.

Nearly one-half of gun deaths in U.S. are suicides. Suicides are often impulsive acts, and once the trigger is pulled the act is over.

75% of the guns used in crime are handguns.

An American teenager is more apt to die from a gun shot wound than from all natural causes.

Enough statistics. We all know that the debate about “gun control” is not a rational one anyway.

How about a musical contribution instead of quoting more statistics?  In the tradition of Pete Seeger, a singer of many protest songs, including the still relevant  “The Banks are Made of Marble”, Mark Erelli  (4) has just released “By Degrees” . Screen Shot 2015-11-14 at 9.56.03 AM Click below to watch Mark Erelli’s quietly powerful music video about gun violence in America..

1.Edward Scripture, The New Psychology (1897): “The original 1872 experiment was cited in: Sedgwick, “On the Variation of Reflex Excitability in the Frog induced by changes of Temperature,” Stud. Biol. Lab. Johns Hopkins University (1882): 385. “in one experiment the temperature was raised at a rate of 0.002 °C. per second, and the frog was found dead at the end of 2½ hours without having moved.” 2. Washington Post, Christopher Ingraham, Oct 14, 2015
3. Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence
4. Full disclosure: Mark is my favorite son-in-law…OK, my only son-in-law.

%d bloggers like this: