There is nothing worse than a bigot with a gun

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The attack on Orlando LGBT club Pulse on Saturday night was carried out – like so many mass shootings before it – with an assault rifle, of the “AR-15 type”. These weapons have the ability to fire hundreds of rounds per minute, spraying waves of hot lead and fire, giving the shooter the power to mete out death on an industrial scale.

The NRA and its supporters have fanatically lobbied to keep these weapons cheap, legal and easy to obtain, in spite of the fact that there is no sporting use for them. You can’t hunt deer with an assault rifle. Animal targets would vaporize if struck by a single round.

Their utility in stopping a home invasion is questionable, but this is true of all guns. According to the FBI, for every case of “justifiable homicide” with a firearm in the US – that’s to say, a self-defense shooting – there are 32 murders, suicides or accidental gun deaths. The overwhelming weight of evidence says that the high rate of gun ownership in this country makes us less safe, not more…

There are many people who insist they “need” a gun – particularly an assault weapon – to feel safe. But unless you are a marine in Fallujah or a Chicago SWAT cop, you don’t “need” anything of the sort. You want it, and not in any kind of reasonable way. It’s either because you’re a sociopath or you’re unreasonably afraid. Neither one of those states is a valid place from which to make the decision.

Perhaps this moment will be a kind of tipping point where the US comes to its senses and starts placing some reasonable restrictions on the owning and trafficking of firearms. My hopes, however, are not high.

After Sandy Hook – when we as a nation heaved a deep, sad sigh over the deaths of an entire schoolroom full of children, then looked away and did nothing – I’ve come to see my countrymen’s gun obsession as an unreasoning dependency, like an alcoholic steadily drinking herself to death.

I would like to believe that we’ll learn something from this, but in truth, the thing I think we’re mostly likely to learn is that when we’re in public – especially in previously safe spaces like gay bars and churches – we need to keep one eye constantly on the nearest exit and always be ready to run.

David Ferguson’s opinion in The GUARDIAN is sad but true. I don’t expect many of our nation’s newspapers to publish anything like it. They are run by cowards. I expect most electronic media – from TV talking heads to online pulpits – will not publish anything like it. They are run by cowards. I expect most politicians, office-holders by virtue of being elected by American citizens – the overwhelming majority of whom support regulated vetting of gun purchases, an end to the sale of assault weapons – will lack the courage and foresight to echo David Ferguson’s good sense. They are cowards.

I have been a gun owner for over 60 years. I don’t hunt anymore. No longer any interest in target shooting. I still own 3 guns – none of which are assault rifles. I support a return to that ban in a heartbeat. I would stand in line to vote for restrictive regulation, oversight and licensing for all guns. I would welcome the debate over details and limits because limits are needed in this nation which would rather protect bigots with guns than ordinary unarmed citizens.

Milestone: Iceland power plant turns carbon emissions to stone


Coauthor Sandra Snaebjornsdottir with test drill core showing carbonate

Scientists and engineers working at a major power plant in Iceland have shown for the first time that carbon dioxide emissions can be pumped into the earth and changed chemically to a solid within months — radically faster than anyone had predicted. The finding may help address a fear that so far has plagued the idea of capturing and storing CO2 underground: that emissions could seep back into the air or even explode out.

The Hellisheidi power plant is the world’s largest geothermal facility; it and a companion plant provide the energy for Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik, plus power for industry, by pumping up volcanically heated water to run turbines. But the process is not completely clean; it also brings up volcanic gases, including carbon dioxide and nasty-smelling hydrogen sulfide.

Under a pilot project called Carbfix, started in 2012, the plant began mixing the gases with the water pumped from below and reinjecting the solution into the volcanic basalt below. In nature, when basalt is exposed to carbon dioxide and water, a series of natural chemical reactions takes place, and the carbon precipitates out into a whitish, chalky mineral. But no one knew how fast this might happen if the process were harnessed for carbon storage. Previous studies have estimated that in most rocks, it would take hundreds or even thousands of years. In the basalt below Hellisheidi, 95 percent of the injected carbon was solidified within less than two years.

“This means that we can pump down large amounts of CO2 and store it in a very safe way over a very short period of time,” said study coauthor Martin Stute, a hydrologist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. “In the future, we could think of using this for power plants in places where there’s a lot of basalt — and there are many such places.” Basically all the world’s seafloors are made of the porous, blackish rock, as are about 10 percent of continental rocks.

Scientists have been tussling for years with the idea of so-called carbon capture and sequestration; the 2014 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggests that without such technology, it may not be possible to limit global warming adequately. But up to now, projects have made little progress.

Now, we have a fresh start and perhaps a solution to some of the carbon produced by existing technology. If the process becomes efficient enough, affordable, it may be usable for removing unneeded CO2 from our atmosphere.