Tag Archives: activism

NORTH & HAMMER: More Reasons to Burn the NRA

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Together their surnames sound like a Black Metal band on trial for church arson, but Oliver North and Marion Hammer recently managed in just one day to throw additional fuel on everything that makes the National Rifle Association such a trash fire.

On May 7th, the NRA announced their next president, an iconic position historically often given to retired military officers or more recently, Right Wing public personas. Lt. Col. North fills both requirements. While he came across sympathetically to many during the 1980s as a stoic scapegoat from the Iran-Contra scandal, his career more recently involved playing a Fox News contributor in the most typical scribble-by-numbers sense. Wide eyed disbelief at how Democrats allegedly hate police officers, sorrowful head shaking when activists shout anti-war slogans and incongruous outrage at  NFL players peacefully kneeling during the national anthem as protest against State Terror by police forces.

Instead of winning more people over in support of gun rights, choosing North signals that the NRA seeks no deviation from it’s tragic policy of marrying the 2nd Amendment to regressive political and unrelated social issues. While the human right of self defense should hold universal appeal, it has instead promoted characters like Executive Vice-president Wayne LaPierre, who wrote sarcastically against feminism, singled out Ben and Jerry’s ice cream for attack* and repeatedly blamed shootings on video games. Of course, anecdotal evidence strongly suggests video games make teenagers extremely boring, yet no scientific link has ever been found to demonstrate that digital violence ever leaves the domain of ones and zeroes.

Still, LaPierre’s bungles pale in comparison to NRA board member Ted Nugent who most infamously created a new definition for White privilege when he evaded legal jeopardy after threatening to machine-gun President Obama, besides calling him a “subhuman mongrel” and then issuing a half-apology no parent would accept from their six-year old. Nugent’s other antics include referring to Hillary Clinton as a “bitch,” whore” and “toxic cunt” besides a whole host of slurs against Black and queer folks among many others. His dimwitted social observations are hardly original among the most ignorant, but by elevating such a man so highly, the NRA irresponsibly gives clear endorsement to such views. One could hardly imagine a better way to alienate decent minded people from the gun rights movement than a 60 second google search of Nugent’s quotes.

Then, if this wasn’t all bad enough, just hours after Oliver North’s new job announcement hit the airwaves, former NRA president Marion Hammer appeared on the NPR program All Things Considered. Immediately she fired off a classic culture wars bazooka. In her social analysis, the root cause of gun violence is “the breakdown of families. Parents don’t raise children the way they used to. There are too many children who grow up on their own without guidance.”

Hammer didn’t specify further, but it’s clear where she was riding the family values train and is an easy argument to dismiss. For example, divorce rates in the European Union as a whole are roughly identical to the United States, just under 50%. However, the EU is much more friendly territory for gay marriage and adoption, gender equality, including trans rights, not to mention atheism, abortions, birth control access…etc…etc…in other words, the vast host of issues that conservatives blame on destroying traditional virtues. Yet despite these trends not increasing divorce rates, they also don’t lead to Europeans murdering one another with the same enthusiasm as Americans. It’s obviously something else.

Unfortunately, North, LaPierre, Nugent and Hammer are ideological  prisoners, clawing at any excuse to blame shootings on something besides guns, yet ignoring what actually makes the United States so dangerous. Institutional racism is a huge factor, yet kneeling at football games never hurt anybody. Video games don’t kill, but toxic forms of masculinity remain dominant themes among mass murderers. Healthy families are obviously important, but children raised by queer parents are no worse than others. Systemic poverty destroys whole communities, leading to tragic violence levels, yet the NRA would rather play off skewed Right Wing social biases than face the truth. It weakens their organization long term and sadly, hampers the work of everyone who cares about the right to be armed.

 

*Both from Wayne LaPierre and James Jay Baker. Shooting Straight: Telling the Truth About Guns in America. Regnery Publishing, Washington DC, 2002.  3 & 129.

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Trump, the NRA and Inauguration Day

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There’s a narrative the NRA is pushing that I want to break down. Unsurprisingly, they are reveling in Donald Trump’s victory, calling it “a stunning political upset–led by America’s gun owners.”(1) Their bold assumption is essentially that the election constituted a national referendum on gun rights, as embodied by themselves.

Indeed, during times when many Republican leaders shrunk from association with Trump, the NRA provided complete, uncritical support. While establishment icons from the Bush family to Colin Powell, Mitt Romney and even the Koch brothers turned against a candidate who bragged about sexual assault, smeared a Gold Star family and changed policy stances at the slightest breeze, the NRA never wavered. As I wrote in October, they stood almost alone by refusing to even acknowledge issues that made so many high profile conservatives spurn Trump. Of course, this seemed particularly odd, given his mixed record supporting their main focus, the 2nd Amendment.

If there is any reason for them to take credit, it is Hillary Clinton. While Democrats, in general, spent the last twenty years viewing gun control as a losing issue, Clinton mistakenly sensed a change in the air and attempted taking advantage of the one place she could be perceived as politically Left of Bernie Sanders. Clinton and the NRA leadership may have little in common, but one thing shared is their overestimation of the firearm factor.

Instead of guns, the single greatest element in the 2017 presidential election was sheer dissatisfaction with the status quo. Angry voters from every direction sought a standard bearer. Clinton tried haphazardly to bear that mantle, which fell much more naturally around Sanders shoulders, enough that it took a rigged primary system to make her the Democratic nominee. Trump, on the other hand, harnessed this groundswell and rode it to victory, even trampling roughshod over his own party elites. The point is, Democrats apparently didn’t hold Sander’s weaker record on gun control against him and at the same time, Republicans rejected candidates with much stronger pro-2nd Amendment claims.

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The NRA oversells their value in Trump’s win and by the same token, paints all opposition to him as anti-gun. They do this using conflation. On the cover of America’s 1st Freedom for January, images of gun control promoting billionaires George Soros and Michael Bloomberg hover above a crowd of placard waving anti-Trump activists. An article inside then declares: ‘“Not My President” protesters symbolize a looming threat to gun rights–one that didn’t accept defeat on election day.”(2) However, for all their alleged symbolism, if you look at the anti-Trump signs being carried, they say nothing about firearms at all. Instead, the messages read: “LOVE TRUMPS HATE” and “REFUSE TO ACCEPT A FASCIST AMERICA” and “UNITED AGAINST HATRED.”(3)

There are many issues uniting Americans who despise Donald Trump. Gun control simply isn’t one of them. If anything, the wave of racist attacks and actions unleashed by his victory has made the Left more conscious of their vulnerabilities, as seen by increased gun sales to women and minorities, greater interest in groups such as The Liberal Gun Club and even just my own personal experience of more Lefty Portlanders seeking information about firearms and Concealed Cary Permits.

This Friday, January 20th, Donald Trump is scheduled for inauguration as President of the United States, while again, protests oppose him nationwide. With Republicans primed to control every branch of government, the NRA needs enemies justifying scare tactics in their fundraising. Now that Obama and Clinton are removed, they will continue using anti-Trump activists instead. Don’t believe it.

As Trump is sworn in, I will be out on the streets of Portland with thousands of others who refuse to accept naked authoritarianism at the helm of State power. He cannot take office without a great cry against his lies, contempt for women and minorities and complete disregard of the Constitution. The tone must be established that armed Americans have a duty and presence in opposition, despite how the NRA portrays reality. I will be proud marching among comrades from every background in this and implore everyone who cares about creating a just, equitable future to join with us.

(1) America’s 1st Freedom, January 2017, p. 33.

(2) Ibid.

(3) Ibid. p.32.

Bloomberg’s Class Warfare

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I recently received an e.mail from the billionaire Wall Street financier, and former New York city mayor, Michael Bloomberg. Well, it was actually his pet project, Everytown for Gun Safety, a national gun control organization. As a socialist, I’m highly skeptical of most any agenda pushed by front groups for the ultra-wealthy, (Bloomberg being only one of many billionaires on their advisory board) and this was no exception. At any rate, their communication was promoting a new video by the comedian Rachel Dratch. Here is her written introduction:

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I can think of a lot of things that don’t go well with drinking alcohol: Calling your ex. Performing heart surgery. Knitting. A loaded firearm. We can all agree that mixing that stuff with alcohol makes for a pretty dangerous cocktail. That’s why I was shocked to learn that you can legally carry a loaded gun in places that serve alcohol in 49 out of 50 states. Who thought this was a good idea?! And it’s just one of the crazy gun laws the NRA has fought for in statehouses across the country. The good news is, there’s something people like you and me can do about it: Check out the video I made about “What Could Go Wrong?” when guns and alcohol mix. Then, sign up to get involved to stop the gun lobby from pushing their extreme laws in your community. I spent my comedy career on Saturday Night Live doing some pretty ridiculous stuff. But “let’s allow guns in bars” is the kind of idea that’s too ridiculous to make up. And it’s being pushed by the same extremists who want guns in mental institutions, day care centers, and in the hands of felons and domestic abusers. It’s going to take people like you and me — sane, reasonable people — standing up to these reckless laws in our neighborhoods, cities, and states, if we want to keep our families safe.

Besides irresponsibly asserting that anyone actually desires arming mental patients or violent abusers, Dratch handily distorts consuming alcohol with a far from universal end result: murderous-drunkenness. It’s a bizarre oversimplification to imagine having casual drinks turns average people into staggering menaces who can’t be trusted with knitting needles or would shoot up a bar Wild West style given the opportunity. Nobody would survive a happy hour if that were true. Also, the worst likely scenario involving knitting and drinking is a tacky scarf. People don’t down several beers and then immediately jab craft tools into their eyeballs. Given that people are far more likely to drink themselves to death than be fatally shot, it might seem alcohol is the more relevant social problem.

The set up Dratch implies, is that guns will turn bars into homicide scenes over minor disagreements. Subtract the guns, no more problem. However, as she admits, most states allow properly licensed persons to legally carry concealed firearm in such establishments already. Therefore, her fear isn’t some hypothetical worry. It’s something we can examine the facts on.

Bureau of Justice statistics conveniently arrange criminal acts, so that a breakdown can be viewed covering violent incidents within restaurants, bars and nightclubs. Interestingly, the yearly average for 2004-08 was 4.4% of total. About the same as visiting a neighbors residence or the sidewalk in front of your own. However, far less than inside your home (17.6%) and in school or on school property (13%). These numbers include all violence, not just involving guns. In other words, despite bars potentially containing alcohol and firearms, they are still much safer than individual residences or schools. The school point is significant, because while homes often pair both alcohol and guns, schools should be relatively spared from drinking and are often considered gun-free zones. In other words, social violence  remains foremost a social issue– not a gun, knife or tools-of-violence issue. This needs to be stressed, because gun control arguments easily play into simplified causation scenarios, obscuring complex societal problems.

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The video heavily reinforces gun-owner stereotypes. Dratch cheerfully hams it up, portraying a harried suburban mother who takes her family out to a restaurant. There, her children are horrified, seeing rifles propped against the bar and casually resting near white men wearing baseball-caps and clean flanels. Climax arrives when a shotgun is accidentally knocked over, though it fails to discharge. Curiously, the video doesn’t even address Dratch’s stated concern: that concealed weapons make bars violent, instead humorously suggesting unconcealed long guns will cause accidents. There are no statistics available regarding accidental firearm deaths in bars, but I suspect it is greatly infrequent.

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It’s understandable some people fear guns in places that serve alcohol. Of course, people do get drunk and make poor life choices. Indeed, the father of a dear friend of mine was shot and paralyzed years ago, following a bar altercation. As for myself, I’ve carried a gun hundreds of times in divebars, nightclubs or upscale lounges. In those circumstances, I elect against drinking excessively. Everyone that I know who carries, exercises similar judgment. The low rate of bar violence, compared to other locations, implies this is common restraint.

But why carry in a bar if they’re so safe? Well, fatality statistics don’t tell the whole story. I remember one of the Portland Pink Pistols telling me years ago, about encountering several men savagely beating another outside a gay club. Simply the sight of his gun was enough to halt the assault. Another good friend of mine was nearly stabbed to death by racial skinheads while walking home from a Portland bar. Also, people employed in the service industry tend to work odd hours and carry cash. Circumstances like that attract predators who might be further encouraged if people leaving bars were known as vulnerable targets.

Everytown for Gun Safety is an organization representing interests of the notorious wealthiest 1%. People who don’t work long hours earning tips or catch the last bus home at dark transit stops. Social elites dwelling in gated communities with private security, who know 911 would always respond in emergencies. Most Americans don’t possess that assurance and for some, a concealed pistol might be the worst case ticket home to their families. A percentage are even baseball-cap-wearing white men, but that is hardly universal. Indeed, people from every background rely on guns for protection. I know, because many share it with me, often laughing that because of stereotypes, they would never tell friends, family or co-workers. American’s don’t need rich men like Bloomberg proclaiming simplified solutions for very real problems. Reducing the number of places marginalized populations can exercise self defense is simply regressive class warfare.

A Name for an AK

IMG_2738Several years ago, my friend Ann encouraged me to order an AK-47 parts kit. She had been building them in her garage for some time, in fact, I’d written an article about the process for my old gun politics ‘zine AGCR. Soon enough it showed up. A decommissioned Romanian rifle with the stamped receiver cut in sections. It reeked of cosmoline. A capital letter G stood out boldly, engraved on the rear sight block.

For me, that was a bonus. It stood for Garda, a special section of the Romanian military created as a citizens militia. Nicolae Ceauşescu, the longtime dictator, originally founded it in response to Soviet Russian crackdowns on freedom movements throughout Eastern Bloc countries during the late ‘60s. This put Romania in an uncomfortable position, wholeheartedly accepted by neither side during the late Cold War. The Garda persisted, conscripted mostly among young people and issued AK-47 rifles, ostensibly providing a loyal armed force to maintain civil order in times of crisis.

Over time, Romania became an increasingly bitter country, wracked with economic troubles and autocratic rule. Then in 1989, as other Communist states folded through relatively peaceful transfers of power, Ceausescu’s regime hung on. The Garda proved reluctant to fire against their own neighbors and significant numbers turned on the government. Weapons intended for entrenching a totalitarian ruling class instead took part in tearing it down. Little wonder I thrilled at holding such a piece of history.

Ann and I pressed out its barrel, then removed the stock and other components, before fabricating a replacement receiver from sheet metal. We installed a new trigger group, pistol style grip and muzzle compensator. After much grinding and welding, it functioned reliably at last. The old Romanian AK had turned into a US legal semi-auto firearm. Around then, Ann informed me that every home built rifle needs a name.

I pondered this. It was early autumn of 2011, and while commercial fishing in the Gulf of Alaska over the summer, repercussions after the Arab Spring democratic uprisings played out over our deck speakers via satellite radio. One by one, repressive governments collapsed, from Libya to Egypt, shaken by a mix of mass demonstrations and in other cases, armed resistance. Just as enormous halibut succumbed under our sharp knives, dictators like Gaddafi and Mubarak fell from power.

Of particular interest was Tunisia, where the unrest began. My shipmate Anissa, came from a Tunisian family, and together we learned how it started, after a street vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi, set himself on fire to protest unjust treatment by government agents. Just two weeks following his sacrifice, Ben Ali, the national leader for over two decades, was forced into exile.

Inspired by these events, movements against authority spread, eventually to the US just as fishing season ended. Like others in my fleet, I proudly joined the domestic occupation movement, personally waving a Tunisian flag in solidarity with their cause. The choice seemed obvious. I named my immigrant AK-47 Bouazizi.IMG_2648

Recently, I took the final steps toward dedicating it. After years with the name simply painted on a standard wooden stock, I carved a custom one from oak. The traditional ones are quite short, designed for soldiers wearing cold weather gear, so I cut this one almost two inches longer, making it more comfortable to shoulder. On one side, I engraved the name in Arabic letters, and on the other, using Old German script. Then across the top, I added Tunisia’s crescent and star. With metal shavings and glue, I inlaid the patterns, then sanded everything flush once it dried, creating a nice faded effect. A couple layers of stain and lacquer later, I screwed it solidly in place. Complete at last.IMG_2646

My rifle memorializes historic stands against tyranny and injustice across continents, cultures– and the power of common people to throw off oppressors. It will be many years before the true course of Romanian and Tunisian destinies play out, but brave people who took incredible chances to forge it for themselves should never be forgotten. I am honored to commemorate one of them. Mohamed Bouazizi didn’t die in vain.

Cascadia and the NRA

IMG_2865One of the side benefits to joining the NRA (see my embarrassed confession in a previous weblog post) was the offer of a free duffle bag. Who doesn’t need a way to carry more stuff around? At any rate, it showed up the other day, a cute mini-duffel that looks like it might make a decent range bag or handle enough gear for an overnight. The only glaring problem was its logo. This leftist certainly wasn’t going to be caught with N-R-A in giant white letters on his luggage! The only question was, which patch to sew over it?

I’d recently gotten some Cascadia liberation patches from cascadianow.org and selected one for cover up duty. It wasn’t hard to choose. I used the rainbow gay pride version of the classic tri-color, superimposed with a Douglas fir tree. One could hardly imagine a better counter against socially regressive messages from the NRA. However, it’s not as oppositional as some suppose.

IMG_2866A major intellectual thinker behind the modern Cascadian successionist movement was the writer Ernest Callenbach (1929-2012). In 1975, this Berkely professor published a book called Ecotopia, concerning his vision for the Pacific Northwest breaking away from the US and forming an independent nation. As the title suggests, this new country focused on bringing ecological balance back to the bio-region, with a great deal of economic equality and various other progressive values as well.

However, Callenbach didn’t buy into, what at the time, was a relatively new crusade among liberals, that of gun control. In his imagined society, the military was largely replaced by militia units and citizens were expected to form the bulk of self defense forces. Firearms abounded, but as with the examples of Switzerland, Israel and Canada, greater social equality translated into low interpersonal violence, despite their availability.

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Several years ago, I corresponded with Callenbach in the course of a book review for my old ‘zine AGCR, and questioned him on that front. He explained that he came from rural Pennsylvania and grew up in countryside where everyone had firearms and there was little crime, so for him, it never made sense to blame guns, and carried that idea into his writing.

In the end, I thank the NRA for their bag, but am proud it now represents a much more noble ideal. That the citizens of Cascadia should be free to choose their own destiny, whether it remains part of the greater US or not, with equality and respect for all. Armed or unarmed. Gay or straight. Douglas fir or Pacific red cedar.

Country,Hip-Hop and the NRA Lifestyle

One feature of the NRA’s regular magazine, America’s First Freedom, is a column called “NRA Country.” It highlights contemporary country music artists who adhere to the so-called, “NRA lifestyle.” No, I didn’t know what that means either. Fortunately, they provide a definition on their internet page. It more or less boils down to being patriotic, respecting the military and, naturally, supporting the 2nd Amendment, while showing background photos of exclusively White people waving flags or engaging in sporting activities. In other words, it portrayed a carefully cherrypicked version of America.

This is no accident. A curious aspects of the NRA is how doggedly it reinforces its own stereotypes. That causes problem for everyone who takes the right to be armed seriously. A hazard often encountered defending gun rights is how enmeshed the 2nd Amendment has become with regressive social politics. Of course, the NRA bears major guilt for this because of their strict party line Republican support and non-firearm related conservative causes.

You might think, when linking themselves to a subject like modern musical acts, the NRA might relax a little bit, but no. Only country music. Well, why not tweak perceptions and include other styles? There are Americans musicians from rockabilly to electronic noise who enjoy shooting. Why not, say, hip-hop?

An obvious reason is that firearms are lyrical staples among gangsta rappers, which in some people’s minds IS hip-hop, and the NRA would dislike association with a sub-group known for celebrating gun use while drug dealing or amidst gang warfare. However, is country music really much better? The artists they feature may be clean cut, but as a genre, country isn’t all ballads about hound dogs and pickup trucks.

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(above) Move along, just karaoke murder music, folks

Take two prominent examples. Even a mainstream singer like Dwight Yoakum wrote a song called “Buenas Noches from a Lonely Room” which approvingly describes stalking an unfaithful lover and shooting her in the head. Then there’s Garth Brooks, whose upbeat song “Papa Loved Mama” tells the story of a truck driver who murders his wife for cheating on him. In NRA country, is it morally worse to kill a person you love or just someone who owes you drug money?

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As far as I can tell, the NRA doesn’t necessarily pick artists who write songs about guns, only those whose image appears consistent with the “NRA lifestyle.” That shouldn’t disqualify rappers. (1) Take, for instance, the Mississippi artist David Banner, who previously put on shows for US troops, (Respecting the Military, CHECK), testified before Congress about controversial subjects in hip-hop music, (Patriotism, CHECK) and is also a gun owner. (2A CHECK!!!)

Banner has been quoted, saying “…I love guns . . . because I don’t plan on doing anything but protecting myself with my gun. My thing is that I don’t want anybody to be able to tell me that I can’t protect myself.” (2) Now, Banner isn’t seeking out endorsements from the US firearms establishment, but there have been other rappers who did.

Back in 1995, a crew called Smif-N-Wessun released their first fill length record to warm reviews and, soon enough, a cease-and-desist letter from the lawyers of firearms manufacturer, Smith and Wesson. Interviewed ten years later, Tekomin Williams, from the group, still sounded bitter.

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“That just let you know, even in this day and time, or that day and time, hip-hop’s still not appreciated in some places. . . If anything, they should have supported us, as many guns as they got floatin’ in the hood or they sellin’ to us. If anything, they should have been our number one sponsor. You know what that could have done for their sales?”

Perhaps a spotlight from the NRA’s magazine might have been just the thing to smooth over their legal dispute. However, we’ll never know, as long as the NRA continues to portray itself as an institution supporting only right wing politics and White music.

 

  1. Colt Ford, a country singer/rapper who the NRA has, in fact, featured, doesn’t count.
  2. Rodrigo Boscunan and Christian Pearce. Enter the Babylon System: Unpacking Gun Culture from Samuel Colt to 50 Cent. Random House Canada, 2007. p. 141.
  3. Ibid. 33.

Cats and Gun Safety: An Interview

IMG_2532As someone who began writing about gun politics in the ‘zine community over ten years ago, I was always curious if anyone else might eventually take a similar path. Despite the great quantity of political topics covered by ‘zinesters, it was rare to find more than a passing mention of firearms in any context, pro or con. Then almost three years ago, I came across a thin, glossy pamphlet titled How to Talk to Your Cat About Gun Safety. The cover was reminiscent of AGCR #4 (The Cute Issue) from 2009, and I bought it immediately.

784288-R1-029-13_014An outtake from the cover shoot session, with Other Cat (RIP 1/5/16)
and a Springfield X D subcompact 9mm

This proved to be a delightful satiric work, published by the “American Association of Patriots” and packed with pun-laced advice for armed cat owners. Beside helpful tips on safety, it also provided insight into the types of enemies felines might confront, from houseold intruders, to United Nations personnel and troublesome ghosts.

784288-R1-017-7_008This outtake featuring Mortgage Cat and X D

I soon passed it on to another person who appreciated both firearms and felines, but recently a friend gave me a new copy. My attention regained, I decided to discover more about the enigmatic AAP. After much work convincing them my weblog has no connection with the Communist Party or ZOG (Zionist Occupation Government), a representative finally agreed to answer some questions:

What’s your publishing background? Was Cat Safety a first? Do you have other plans ?

The How to Talk to Your Cat… guides are currently a collaboration between myself and my grandfather Josiah, the founder of the American Association of Patriots. How to Talk to your Cat About Gun Safety was the first one I worked on with him, but he has been writing and publishing since his first brochure in 1974, Protecting Your Cats From the Viet-Cong Menace.

There are three publications currently in print: How to Talk to Your Cat about Gun Safety, Evolution, and Abstinence. We are also excited to announce that this fall, the patriots at Random House, the same company that publishes Bill O’Reilly’s books, will be publishing a full-length compilation of How to Talk to Your Cat… guides, including never before seen topics like Satanism and Post-Apocalyptic Survival.

Do the cats pictured belong to AAP members?

The two cats pictured in How to Talk to Your Cat Evolution are our own, and the one on the cover of Abstinence belongs to a close friend, who happily to let us borrow their feline for promoting such a noble cause. The other cats are all from the internet.

What is the AAP political stance regarding firearms?

The debate over the right to bear arms is not just a philosophical argument – in this era of constant government overreach by Barack Hussein Nobama, a well-armed citizenry is essential to keeping our government from sliding further into tyranny. Today it might be the freedom to own guns, but tomorrow it could be something far worse, like the freedom to own cats! George Washington understood this, Abraham Lincoln understood it, and Ronald Reagan understood it. America is the greatest country in the world, and it is essential that citizens be allowed to own guns without regulation in order to protect themselves from the government.

Thanks for your time. Good luck with those other projects!