Nel's New Day

March 25, 2018

‘Be Outraged’

Almost 55 years ago on May 2, 1963, thousands of young people marched in Birmingham and changed the nation. They were bombarded with water from fire hoses, attacked by police dogs, beaten with police batons, and jailed, but others took their place. These young people  took part in the Children’s Crusade because they knew that adults who marched would lose their jobs and homes if they marched for integration. Children took their parents’ places. Martin Luther King, Jr told them, “What you do this day will impact children who have not been born.”

Yesterday young people marched again when over a million people, many of them young people as young as nine years old, participated in the March for Our lives in at least 800 places covering all 50 states throughout the United States and around the world. Cameron Kasky, a Marjory Stoneman Douglas student (Parkland, FL), described their mission when he called on politicians to pass universal background checks and ban the sales of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. At the speeches, young people registered others to vote.

Signs from protests.

The Park Service no longer estimates the number of people attending protests, and there were no aerial photographs until the event finished. CBS lowballed the figure in Washington at 200,000 while a better estimate might be 800,000.

Congressional legislators went home Friday morning, so today some young people went to them . Inspired by the 54-mile march from Selma to Montgomery (AL) during the civil rights movement, 40 high school activists in Wisconsin are marching 50 miles from Madison to Janesville, home town of House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), in a call for gun safety laws. Ryan did not respond to the students’ attempt to contact his office. In February, he said, “We shouldn’t be banning guns for law-abiding citizens.” A rally is planned at Traxler Park when the march reaches Janesville on March 28.

In his Palm Sunday sermon today, Pope Francis cited World Youth Day, begun by Pope John Paul in 1986 to inspire a community of different cultures and encouraged young people to lead.

Syndicated Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts had powerful messages about gun safety in two recent columns:

“Last week, a puppy died in an airplane overhead bin. Three days later, Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy introduced a bill to safeguard pets. But after Columbine and Aurora, after the Navy Yard, Sandy Hook and West Paducah, after Las Vegas, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and San Bernardino, after Charleston, after Tucson, after Fort Hood, after Sutherland Springs, we settle for a thin gruel of cliches — thoughts and prayers, good guys with guns and now is not the time.

“Sure, puppy lives matter. But human lives do, too.”

“And someday, when America is sane, when future generations wonder how it ever was we protected guns more than we did children, or that a disturbed 19-year-old was able to legally purchase a weapon of war, or that carnage became routine, or that some of us said this routine carnage was the price of freedom, maybe we will look back on this as the pivot point. Trump, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and every other politician who accepts money soaked in blood from the extremist NRA should consider themselves on notice.”

Conservatives can argue that Pitts is one of those “liberals” (ugh!) who don’t understand the Constitution. One of the most determined originalists about the document from the Founding Fathers and one of the most conservative members of the Supreme Court also disagrees with the “guns at any cost no matter how many people dead” philosophy of conservative gun owners. Ten years ago, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in the majority opinion of Heller v. D.C. that regulation of gun ownership is compatible with the Second Amendment:

“Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited…” It is “… not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”

“Nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”

“We also recognize another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms. Miller [an earlier case] said, as we have explained, that the sorts of weapons protected were those ‘in common use at the time.’ We think that limitation is fairly supported by the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of ‘dangerous and unusual weapons.’”

Meanwhile the NRA voices grow more shrill, claiming that young people aren’t smart enough to do any organizing, that all the marches were created by “gun-hating billionaires and Hollywood elites.” On NRA TV, Colion Noir said to Parkland students if their friends hadn’t died, “no one would know your names.” The NRA is justifying its “good guys” theory at a school with a shooting at Great Mills High School Maryland when a teenager shot and killed his former girlfriend because “only” one person died. Both that school and Parkland had school security officers. Over Great Mills students joined the Washington protest for gun safety laws.

The conservative Arizona Republic misrepresented the 20,000 people at the Phoenix March for Our Lives, first with a headline about a “Clash” with people opposed to gun safety laws and then changing it to “Faced Off” after readers objected. About two dozen people in the anti-March group received half the video coverage, mostly with adults and not the young planners of the March, with vacuous comments about the Second Amendments.

Young advocates of gun safety laws have persevered despite smears about their credibility, insults about their intelligence, and outright death threats. Out-spoken survivors of the Florida school shooting are also receiving death threats. Fox network concentrated its Saturday reports on one Parkland student who supports the NRA.

A Fox survey, however, shows that a majority of respondents, 53 percent, think preventing gun violence is more important than protecting gun rights, compared to the 40 percent how disagree. In other results, 91 percent want criminal background checks to buy a gun, 84 percent ask for mandatory mental health checks, and almost three-fourths believe in raising the minimum age to 21 for buying guns. Fifty-seven percent oppose arming teachers.

Young people are doing more than marching and speaking to the media to make their schools safer. Students against Violence Everywhere (SAVE) have over 315 clubs in 40 states to oppose bullying and encourage inclusiveness. The SAVE philosophy is that an accepting culture in which students don’t feel left out can greatly reduce violence. The program connected with Sandy Hook Promise, started by parents who lost children in the 2012 elementary school massacre in Newtown (CT). Almost 2.5 million students and adults in schools in all states have been trained in at least one of the four Know the Signs programs, beginning with the Start with Hello. The others—Say Something, Safety Assessment and Intervention, and Signs of Suicide—are designed to help protect children from suicide, bullying, and gun violence. Say Something includes anonymous online bullying reporting of suspicious behavior. Grants are available for hosting community-wide events and spread anti-violence and anti-bullying messages. As written in the bible, “A little child shall lead them.”

A few weeks ago, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) said he would rush into the high school without a gun to face a shooter with an AR-15 to save the students; yesterday he took a detour back from his golf course to avoid student protesters.

Rule #4 of Masha Gessen’s primer on surviving in an autocracy: “Be outraged.”  Young people are following that rule, and we should follow them.

March 14, 2018

Students Protest for Gun Safety, Get No Help for Legislators

Tens of thousands of young people walked out of over 3,000 schools for 17 minutes between 10:00 and 10:17 am today to protest the lack of safety in public schools and mourn those lost in the most recent massacre from high-powered guns at a school. One month ago today—28 days—17 people were killed at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland (FL). Some students either didn’t go to school today or were on lockdown because of threats of violence. Other schools locked school doors or threatened long suspensions to keep students from leaving for 17 minutes. ACLU cautioned that the First Amendment prevents more stringent punishments for protests. that a punishment cannot be more for First Amendment rights than general rules. Many enlightened districts, like my small one on the Oregon coast, supported the students’ protest rights.

Florida GOP legislators initially denigrated the young people who begged them for gun safety laws, but some Republican legislators in Florida condescended to pass a new law, recently signed by GOP Gov. Rick Scott.

The first Florida gun safety law in 20 years provides $400 million for greater school safety, help with mental health, and gun training for teachers who are not limited to classroom duties; a ban on bump stocks that allow semiautomatic weapons to fire like fully automatic firearms; permission to remove guns and ammunition with court orders; a three-day waiting period for purchases of long guns; and prohibition of gun sales to anyone under 21 except for law enforcement or correctional officers or military members.

The governor objected to the waiting period and arming teachers but still signed it. The NRA immediately filed a lawsuit against Florida for discrimination because no one under 21 can buy guns.

Several Democrats voted against the bill because it puts more guns in schools by arming teachers. Once again, a teacher, this one in Monterey County (CA) showed the danger when the trained reserve police officer “accidentally” charged his gun during a class on public safety. One student was injured in the neck. The class continued after the incident, and the parents took the student to a hospital after he went home. The teacher said he was pointing the gun at the ceiling to see if his gun wasn’t loaded.

White supremacists, including one middle school social studies teacher in Florida, support recruiting people to take over public schools by become teachers. With the pseudonym of Tiana Dalichov, 25-year-old Dayanna Volitch bragged on a podcast about teaching her students about the myth of different levels of intelligence among races, the importance of “eradication” of all Muslims, and the necessity for “annihilation” of North Korea. She also promotes the conspiracy theory that no one died at the Parkland (FL) school. After Voltich’s suspension from teaching, a large number of “alt-right” women supported her. The new law lets these people have guns in schools.

With every age demographic opposed to arming teachers, peaking at 70 percent opposition among those ages 16-17, the greatest opponents are insurance companies. After a mass shooter massacred children and educators at Sandy Hook (CT), Kansas gave schools the right to concealed-carry, and EMC Insurance Companies, providing coverage to 85 percent of the state’s schools, said they wouldn’t insure schools that permitted employees to carry concealed handguns “to protect the financial security of the company.” Indiana workers’ comp insurers refused to cover school personnel who carried guns on campus. When Oregon considered a similar “guns in schools” initiative, insurance companies promised to surcharge districts for every civilian employee with a firearm in school. The question in Florida is whether they considered this issue when they passed its law arming teachers.

Basically, the new Florida law does what Republicans decry about schools—throw money at them without fixing the problem which is the problem of guns in schools. John Woodrow Cox showed the problem of accessibility to high-powered guns and large capacity magazines in his article about Jesse Osborne, a 14-year-old who killed a six-year old and injured another student and teacher after he had killed his father in their home. Osborne’s hope was to kill as many as 150 people, but he complained that he could get only a .40 caliber pistol. It jammed 12 seconds after he pulled the trigger. Osborne really wanted his father’s the Ruger Mini-14, a semiautomatic rifle like the gun that killed so many people in Parkland. Without that weapon, a firefighter was able to stop him. In court Oborne smiled while prosecutors described his crime. The Florida law won’t teach anyone how to pick out the Jesses from the millions of angry boys and men who love to shoot and succeed in getting guns.

Before the Florida Senate passed the final bill, it banned AR-15s for 15 minutes in an unrecorded voice vote. GOP leadership returned them to their normal state of Florida the “Gunshine State,” and overturned that vote by 21-17. Pro-AR-15 arguments were that AR-15s would protect people from the Nazi Holocaust and that “thoughts and prayers” were more useful than gun bans because people could use explosives to kill people. The Senate kept the AR-15s and then had a moment of silence for the 17 dead people before leaving the chamber.

The Alabama state Senate carried the religious notion event further: it’s “gun-safety” bill authorizes the placement of the Ten Commandments on public property to stop school mass shootings.

Since the Parkland massacre, the media largely ignored an armed school attack in Pennsylvania that left 22 wounded people. The 16-year-old sophomore had no guns—just two large knives. With an AR-15, he could have killed more than the 22 people he wounded. In the two Canadian mass shootings in 2016, a crossbow attack killed three, and a shotgun attacked killed four in two different locations. Yet in another U.S. mass shooting, this one in a Yountville (CA) veterans home, a veteran murdered three women before killing himself. In the first 67 days of 2018, 41 shootings of at least four people have killed at least 72 people. Seven of those shootings were in Florida.

For a month, the GOP Congress dithered about gun safety laws as young people continued to pressure them. Today, the House passed $50 million in unfunded grants for safety protocols and training in schools, ironically called Student, Teacher’s Officer’s Prevention (STOP) School Violence Act. The theory is to provide “tools and training to recognize warning signs to prevent violence.” The House has no plans for any other legislation unless the Senate sends them bills.

To look as if he were concerned about gun violence in schools, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) issued his proposal for gun safety, largely similar to the Florida law and House bill although it added some requirements to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said in her disastrous 60 Minutes interview that she will be leading DDT’s “blue ribbon” commission on school safety. In addition to training teachers with guns, DDT wants to recruit military veterans and retired law enforcement trained with guns to become teachers, perhaps paying them the bonuses that he offered teachers with guns. Basically, watch people to see if they’re a problem (like white supremacists with guns?) and hire gun experts as teachers while studying programs. What’s missing is even his weak promise of increasing the age limit of purchasing high-powered semi-automatic weapons to 21. DDT is now repeating “The NRA happens to be very good people.”

DDT follows the person he talked with last, and in the case of his “school safety” ideas, he talked with NRA representatives last. “A gun-free zone to a killer or somebody who wants to be a killer, that’s like going in for the ice cream,” DDT said after he met with NRA leaders. The United States has some of those “ice cream” gun-free zones:

  • The White House
  • The Republican National Convention
  •  Mar-a-Lago
  • The U.S. Capitol Building
  • Republican Town Halls
  • NRA Conventions

No one gets shot in these places. In fact, when 80,000 people leave their homes for the annual NRA convention, gun-related injuries drop in the U.S. by 20 percent, according to a new study. In the states hosting the NRA convention, the drop in 37 percent is much more dramatic. Lead author of the study, Harvard Medical School professor Anupam Jena, said the reason is “a brief period of abstinence in gun use” when gun owners are away and their gun ranges or hunting grounds are closed. An Emory University epidemiologist suggested year-long NRA conventions to improve gun safety in the United States. (FYI, Dallas is holding the gun-free NRA convention on May 4-6.)

The most efficient way to pass real gun safety laws, not the laws that have commissions and extra money for training, is to use Black Panthers to patrol schools. It worked 50 years ago when they legally carried their guns onto the floor of the California state legislature. They were disarmed, and state legislators outlawed the public carrying of loaded firearms. Within a year, Congress passed the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968, the first federal gun-control law in 30 years, followed by the Gun Control Act of 1968 that amended and enlarged the first law.

February 20, 2018

Dead Children: A ‘Reprieve,” the Price of Freedom

When Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) visited a visit to Parkland (FL) last Friday, he was all smiles. He never mentioned the word “guns” and largely ignored the victims’ families while focusing on first responders. On Valentine’s Day 2018, a mass shooter killed 17 people at a Florida high school with a legally purchased assault-style rifle. The day after the shooting Florida Republicans tried to loosen background check laws for guns by putting the provision into an agricultural bill. Along with oyster harvesting and water standards in vending machines came granting a concealed weapons permit within 90 days even without a full background check.

The day after the killings, Florida’s GOP Sen. Marco Rubio went to the U.S. Senate floor to explain that they shouldn’t ban the AR-15, the weapon of choice by mass shooters. That’s the conservative mentality for these tragedies. Republicans have had several other mass shootings that they use to choreograph their responses. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) repeated his argument against the “knee-jerk” political response to mass shootings, his same statement after the 2015 San Bernardino shooting killing 14 and the Umpqua Community College (OR) killing of nine the same year. Ryan got $177,000 from the NRA in 2016; his first successful bill last year was rescinding barriers to gun ownership for the mentally ill. Other GOP legislators repeat “knee-jerk” in the midst of their call for “thoughts and prayers.”

Ryan’s “knee jerk” comment did add the possibility of collecting “the facts and the data” that can’t happen because Republicans won’t remove the funding ban for this collecting. removed all funding for getting this information. Two decades ago, gun research in the United States stopped after the GOP threatened to take all funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention if it funded research on firearm injuries and deaths. No one has a basis for any gun safety laws. The author of that law, former Rep. Jay Dickey (R-AR), regrets his action, but the NRA hasn’t allowed any changes.

This weekend Ryan was at a fundraiser 50 miles away from the shooting in Key Biscayne. When teacher Maria Thorne criticized him for his response to the killings, he told her he “didn’t want to talk politics.” She was removed from the facility. An activist tweeted a photo of people at the Ritz-Carlton and wrote, “This is @SpeakerRyan’s version of Thoughts and Prayers. Odd, it looks like a donor event in the tropics.”

The White House response to the killing of 17 people was one of relief. Aides said that the tragedy gave them “a distraction or a reprieve” from the media attention on coverups for wife-beating, Cabinet secretaries’ luxury travel, payments for DDT’s paramours, and, most especially, the Russian investigation. [The White House may have more “reprieves”: three of the ten deadliest mass shootings in nation’s history have occurred in the past five months.] DDT hid out at Mar-a-Lago for the long weekend where he hosted a disco party immediately after spending a few minutes with victims of the Parkland shooting. DDT had heavily criticized President Obama for playing after the ISIS beheading of a journalist, but DDT was back on the links Monday at the same time as the funerals just 40 miles away for children killed in the shooting.

Through his speech after the shooting, DDT spread more propaganda and lies. In addition to not mentioning the word “gun,” he talked about “defenseless students and teachers,” a line to support the NRA by encouraging guns in every school. The site of the shooting had armed security personnel who never encountered the shooter. His promise of doing “anything we can … assist in any way we can” is false because communities are asking for closed loopholes on buying guns, background checks, and bans on assault-style weapons. DDT also elevated the “thoughts and prayers” to “we hold on to God’s word in Scripture.” In his commitment “to working with state and local leaders to help secure our schools, and tackle the difficult issue of mental health,” he avoids the problem of gun ownership for all. Millions of people suffer from mental health, but they aren’t shooting people. Millions of other people aren’t classified as mentally ill, but they are violent.

DDT’s budget for 2019 eliminates funds for school counselors and violence prevention programs. The $25 million cut, 36 percent of funding for school safety activities, eliminates the Project School Emergency Response to Violence (Project SERV) and Project Prevent Grant programs. DDT’s budget also reduces funding by 16 percent that helps states report domestic and violence crimes for the national background check database for gun purchases. The man who killed 26 people at the Sutherland Springs (TX) church legally purchased his gun because his conviction of domestic abuse had not been entered into this check system. DDT’s constant judicial nominations of gun-happy conservatives will make life for people more dangerous for decades.

The NRA has been praised for its programs teaching young people how to shoot. The teenager who killed 17 people last week sharpened his marksmanship in a NRA-supported school program that received $10,000 from the pro-gun organization in 2016. While he was a member of JROTC, the shooter talked about his AR-15; he was described as “a very good shot” with one of the “air rifles special-made for target shooting.” The NRA gave $2.2 million in grants promoting gun use to schools including “elementary and middle schools” for “youth shooting sports.”

Teenagers refuse to wait to talk about gun safety. The last few days they have been protesting and giving speeches that received national media notice. They also plan these events:

  • March 14: National school walkout
  • March 24: March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C.
  • April 20: National school walkout

Stories from these young people are powerful. Carly Novell, 17, sent this message about herself and her grandfather, Charles Cohen, with this photo:

“This is my grandpa. When he was 12 years old, he hid in a closet while his family was murdered during the first mass shooting in America. Almost 70 years later, I also hid in a closet from a murderer. These events shouldn’t be repetitive. Something has to change.”

In response to conservative claims that the shooting was about mental illness and people, not guns, Carly wrote:

“I was hiding in a closet for 2 hours. It was about guns. You weren’t there, you don’t know how it felt. Guns give these disgusting people the ability to kill other human beings. This IS about guns and this is about all the people who had their life abruptly ended because of guns.”

The conservative New York Post, owned by Rupert Murdoch, has reversed its position on assault-style weapons, now calling for a ban on them. The ten-year ban passed in 1994 banned features on semi-automatic rifles such as large capacity and detachable magazines as well as high-caliber bullets. The New York Daily News also has a cover attacking him.

Al Hoffman Jr., a Florida real estate developer who contributed millions of dollars to Republicans, said that he will no longer donate any money to organizations and candidates who don’t support a ban on selling military-style firearms to civilians. Buying an assault-style gun is easier that getting birth control or purchasing Sudafed.  Every state requires an ID to register to vote, but 39 states, including Florida, permit the sales of these weapons with no ID. At least 40 percent of guns sold in the U.S. are purchased with no ID. People can buy as many guns at one time that they wish, and Florida gun sellers need no license to sell weapons.

Russians again flooded social media with “bot” propaganda, this time opposing any gun safety laws. Much of the propaganda pushed the concept of the crazy lone wolf shooter with possible terrorist connections, a device that blocks action on gun safety laws. The sole purpose of Russian involvement is creating chaos to widen divisions and freeze any action. DDT helped the chaos by first blaming the students for not reporting the shooter’s behavior (they did) and then the FBI for ignoring the tip they got because they concentrated on—according to DDT—the non-existent Russian collusion.

Kali Holloway has the solution for ending mass shootings: arm all black men. As in the past, armed black men would move white conservative legislators to endorse gun control. “Racism [can] move American political mountains,” Holloway wrote. The first gun control law, passed in Virginia in 1640, banned blacks from owning guns, and the 1857 Dred Scott decision banned blacks from citizenship because it conferred the right “to keep and carry arms.” Following the Civil War, “Black Codes” made gun ownership by blacks illegal. Martin Luther King was denied an open carry permit. California under Gov. Ronald Reagan ended public carry when the Black Panther Party for Self Defense patrolled Oakland with weapons, and the federal Gun Control Act of 1968, the first federal gun law in almost 30 years, came after race riots.

This list of congressional legislators shows which ones are profiting from supporting the NRA in its opposition to gun safety laws.

Millions of people throughout the United States demand unlimited gun ownership as their definition of “freedom.” The price of their freedom is dead children.

February 14, 2018

Shooting, Russian Involvement: Demand Action

Filed under: Guns — trp2011 @ 10:20 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

Today at least 17 people were killed in a school shooting, taking the public attention from other events. Vice President Mike Pence is especially lucky because most people may not notice that he again blatantly lied in an interview of Axios. He said:

“Irrespective of efforts that were made in 2016 by foreign powers, it is the universal conclusion of our intelligence communities that none of those efforts had any impact on the outcome of the 2016 election.”

Pence lied.

Six U.S. intelligence leaders, including Pompeo, Coats, and Wray, testified that Russia had interfered in the last general election, that they plan to do so in the current election, and that DDT has not given any direction to stop the Russian meddling. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said last week that the meddling has already started but that there is nothing that the United States can do to prevent any Russian involvement.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo said:

“We have seen Russian activity and intentions to have an impact on the next election cycle.”

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said:

“There should be no doubt that Russia perceives its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 U.S. midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations.”

The intelligence community concluded that Russia “aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him.” Collectively, they made this statement:

“We did not make an assessment of the impact that Russian activities had on the outcome of the 2016 election. The US Intelligence Community is charged with monitoring and assessing the intentions, capabilities, and actions of foreign actors; it does not analyze US political processes or US public opinion.”

The intelligence community made no ruling on the Russian affect on the outcome of the election last year when Donald Trump became the president of the United States. Yet Pence said that “it is the universal conclusion of our intelligence communities that none of those efforts had any impact on the outcome of the 2016 election.”

Donald Trump’s appointed FBI director, Christopher Wray, thinks that Russia believes its maneuvers succeeded in electing Trump as the president.

The Russians hacked and revised emails that resulted in negative press about Hillary Clinton. It distributed massive communications on social media that lied about Clinton and other progressive candidates. The FBI spread doubt about Clinton just days before the election while it failed to release the information about the Russian involvement in Donald Trump’s campaign, knowledge that they had for months before the election. And Donald Trump got over 60 million votes after he lied to the public about protecting the working people.

The same hackers also got into the email accounts of defense contract workers, and nobody is talking about that. Donald Trump refuses to sanction Russia for its interference.

Today witnessed the 18th school shooting in only 31 days of school in 2018, most of the shootings largely unnoticed by the media. Because of the gun industry and the NRA, conservatives take no action. (Although I wonder if they decide to allow all students over the age of five to take guns to school.) Yet GOP legislators give away trillions of dollars to the wealthy and the huge corporations. They plan to spend tens of billions of dollars on a wall to keep out immigrants and hundreds of billions of dollars to start and continue wars throughout the entire world.

The killer’s choice of weapon, at least one AR-15 style rifle and a large number of magazines, was the usual one for the deadliest mass shootings, including the October 1, 2017 Las Vegas massacre and the November 5, 2017 Texas church shooting. The assault-style rifle was developed for military use, but people use the Second Amendment to force its availability for the general population. Florida has no waiting period for anyone, including those on the terrorist watch list, who wish to buy guns, and the U.S. House has passed a bill making concealed-carry permits in one state valid in any other state.

Within hours after the shooting, officials associated the shooting with mental illness and calling them “evil.” Sheriff Scott Israel of Broward County said that nothing can be done about shooters if they are determined to kill people. Others are using the standard statement that shooters are “evil.” Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s response was that she would guarantee no “price gouging” for funerals and make sure that the families didn’t have to pay for the funerals of the dead students. Florida Gov. Rick Scott gave his “thoughts and prayers” to the victims.

People who want to think of the United States as exceptional should know that the U.S. has 270 million guns with 90 mass shooters from 1966 to 2012. No other country has more than 46 million guns or 18 mass shooters. In 2009, the gun homicide rate in the U.S. was far higher than other developed countries at 33 per million people. The rate was 5 per million in Canada and 0.7 million in Britain, corresponding with differences in gun ownership. In 2013, Japan had 13 deaths related to guns; U.S. gun-related deaths included 21,175 suicides, 11,208 homicides, and 505 deaths caused by an accidental discharge. The chances per capita of a U.S. resident dying from a gun is 300 times more likely than a Japanese person dying in the same manner, and U.S. gun ownership is 150 times as high as that of Japan. Only three countries—Guatemala, Mexico, and the U.S.—have the assumption that people have an inherent right to own guns.

Gun ownership is the reason for these gun deaths:

  • The U.S. does not reflect a greater problem with mental health issues than any other wealthy country. Only four percent of U.S. gun deaths might be attributed to mental health problems. Other countries with high suicide rates have low rates of mass shootings.
  • People in the U.S. are no more likely to play video games than in any other developed country.
  • European countries show little association between immigration and other diversity with the rates of gun murders or mass shootings.
  • The U.S. is no more prone to crime than other developed countries—just more lethal.
  • Gun control legislation reduces gun murders, according to an analysis of 130 studies from 10 countries.

Britain’s 1987 mass shooting and Australia’s 1996 shooting turned the tide of unregulated gun ownership. The U.S. doesn’t care. British journalist Dan Hodges wrote:

“In retrospect Sandy Hook marked the end of the US gun control debate. Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over.”

These are the 1,607 mass shootings in the U.S. since Sandy Hook.

Broward County Public Schools Supt. Robert Runcie said, “This has been a day we’ve seen the worst of humanity.” He may be right, but the worst is coming from people on the internet accusing the shooter of being a DACA recipient and an ISIS supporter with no evidence. The worst of humanity comes from people who refuse to take any action to stop mass shootings. The shooter will be dehumanized as insane, and the dead will be classified as heroes. And the Republicans will block any sane action. Only a shooting by an immigrant or in the name of a non-Christian religion would bring any action.

In their sanctimonious method of controlling gun safety laws, conservatives always accuse people who want to stop shootings as attempting to “politicize” a tragedy. The only way to stop the growing mass shootings and lack of safety at schools is to stop electing Republicans because they are controlled by the NRA and the gun industry. They have no interest in protecting people; they only want to get elected and grow richer and more powerful. Their demands to not politicize tragedies are to guarantee that gun laws grow more lax.

Happy Valentine’s Day, thanks to your GOP legislators, owned by the gun industry, who think that words like “prayers and condolences” are sufficient action. And Vice-President Pence, your intelligence community didn’t say that Russia had no impact on last year’s election that turned the United States away from democracy and toward authoritarianism.

June 15, 2017

Right-Wing Refuses to Accept Blame for Their Rhetoric, Policies

Filed under: Guns — trp2011 @ 10:00 PM
Tags: ,

Front-page headlines today featured dual news reports: the president of the United States is under criminal investigation for obstruction of justice; and a U.S. representative is in critical condition after being shot at a baseball practice. The second item dominated talk shows as Republicans blame Democrats because of political hate rhetoric from the left. Rep. Jack Bergman (R-MI) blames the media because “they keep inciting, as opposed to informing.”

Almost 63 million people voted for a man who called for violence against people who didn’t support him and bragged about his wanton sexual assaults. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) continually made calls against Clinton to “lock her up” and encouraged his supporters when they threatened to kill Clinton. He even told his supporters that he would pay their legal fees for attacking protesters so that they would have to be “carried out on stretchers,” and his supporters cheered when he said that he wouldn’t lose any voters if he shot someone in the “middle of Fifth Avenue.” When his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, was arrested for physically attacking a Breitbart reporter, DDT defended him.

The serious escalation of violence developed in the 21st century after George W. Bush attacked Iraq without provocation in a “conflict” that has eaten away at U.S. resources, put millions into poverty, and enriched the wealthiest in the nation. For almost a decade, white male Tea Partiers carried guns, invoked a Thomas Jefferson quote about watering the “tree of liberty” with blood, and threatened President Obama’s life. Former VP candidate Sarah Palin posted online graphics with cross hairs on House districts, including that of former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ) who was then shot in the head in a massacre that also killed six people. Other GOP candidates, such as Nevada’s Sharron Angle, have promised that they would enact Second Amendment “cures” if they didn’t get their way.

A year ago, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) tweeted that the purpose of the Second Amendment is “to shoot at the government when it becomes tyrannical!” Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) called for bloodshed if Hillary Clinton were elected, and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) joked about shooting reporters at a gun range. The day before his successful election, Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-MT) body-slammed a reporter to the floor and punched him for asking a question before lying about having done it. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) said, “It’s not appropriate behavior. Unless the reporter deserved it.” Other GOP congressional members covered for Gianforte’s attack on the reporter and laughed about it.

Newt Gringrich joined others about calls to assassinate DDT  but never complained when Republicans publicized materials for eight years to lynch President Obama. People objected to comparing DDT to Adolf Hitler but never spoke up about the narrative and visuals showing Barack Obama as Hitler.

Much of the rhetoric against the GOP is legitimate:

Since the inauguration of a GOP president in January, the senate has confirmed Cabinet members and other officials who failed to submit materials before hearings and then blatantly lied under oath. When the Democrats questioned this process, the GOP senators changed the rules and met without Democrats to confirm nominees. Secretary of Education DeVos clearly stated that she condones discrimination against some students, doesn’t plan to help all students in the nation, and her vouchers will go to religious and/or wealthy schools.  OMB director Mick Mulvaney tries to pass off inexcusable budget cuts against the poor and elderly as “compassionate.” EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt committed criminal acts by concealing emails and taking bribes from members of the fossil fuels industry. HHS Secretary Tom Price introduced and encouraged legislation that raised the price of his personal stocks. Every confirmed agency director is in direct opposition to the agencies’ missions.

Currently, 13 white men are meeting in secret to prepare a draconian version of health care that even DDT calls “mean.” The chamber’s fast-tracked process allows the bill to be available for only two days before a vote with no democratic process of testimony and debate. The sole goal of the bill, affecting one-sixth of the economy and destroying jobs and people’s lives if passed, is to leave people without health insurance by giving billions of dollars to already wealthy people.

Republicans want to put more billions of dollars into the military while leaving the safety net, education, health care, and infrastructure bereft.

Massive gerrymandering and punitive laws have created voter suppression for women, minorities, and low-income people throughout the nation.

GOP senators ignored a nominee for the Supreme Court for almost a year and then rapidly moved to confirm a GOP-nominated justice so far right of the other justices that they unanimously overturned one of his rulings at the same time as his confirmation hearings. Other DDT-nominated justices for lifetime appointments equate the 19th-century Dred Scott case upholding slavery with Roe v. Wade, legalizing abortion. Nominees have histories of discrimination against minorities and LGBT people as well as misogynist attitudes exhibited through their court arguments. John Bush, nominee for the 6th Circuit Court, used a blog to posted citations of white supremacist conspiracy theories and other false information, such President Obama not being born in the U.S. Kevin Newsome, nominee for the 11th Circuit Court, wants juveniles executed but doesn’t want to provide legal counsel to death-row prisoners.

Congress makes a sham of hearings, such as confirmations and other in the past few weeks to examine the involvement of Russia in U.S. elections and political activities, by suppressing questioning. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) was stopped in Jeff Sessions’ confirmation hearing for AG and told she could no longer speak, and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) was blocked in her questioning of Sessions this week when he stonewalled the Senate Intelligence Committee, the second time in a week that she was stopped.

Members of state and federal legislatures are purchased, usually by wealthy conservatives.

The intent of every piece of legislation overturning President Obama’s executive orders is to defraud people, take away salaries, and make life worse for the vast majority. DDT’s entire MO is dismantling anything that President Obama created—no matter its value—in an act of petty revenge after the man inaugurated last January was ridiculed at a White House Correspondents’ Dinner in 2011. The GOP members of Congress are supporting him every inch of the way.

GOP members of Congress consistently enable DDT and his family. DDT consistently flouts the constitution, and 70 percent of his personal real estate deals are to “shell companies,” allowing the purchaser to be hidden. The percentage is up from four percent in the previous two years. He and his daughter are obtaining trademarks in China by meeting with Chinese officials, and he’s made business deals with other world leaders. Now investigated for fraud and embezzlement charges, DDT’s sons Donald Jr. and Eric are following in their father’s footsteps of cheating people. The business affairs of DDT’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, are also being examined as part of the Russian investigation.

Calling talk about gun control after shootings as politicizing the tragedy, Republicans are politicizing the Alexandria shooting, referring to the shooter as “anti-GOP” and “pro-Sanders.” They ignore his history of domestic and gun violence while blaming Democrats’ “rhetoric.”Republicans use the excuse of “rhetoric” to avoid talking about the culture of gun violence in the United States and remain indifferent to gun violence in the nation. The same day as the shooting in Alexandria, four people died in a shooting at a UPS facility, but no GOP politicians commented on the tragedy—or the other eight mass shootings in the last ten days. Mass shootings have increased 54 percent since that same period of time in 2014. The first five and a half months of 2017 have seen at least 13,400 gun injuries and almost 7,000 gun deaths. (See map.) Anti-Muslim hate crimes were up 67 percent in 2015, the first year of the presidential campaign, and then tripled last year. The number of white supremacist groups grew to 917 by the beginning of 2017, but DDT has stopped investigation of white domestic terrorism.

David Frum, former speech writer for George W. Bush, tweeted:

Virginia:

  • No background checks

  • No licensing

  • No registration

  • No permit req’d for concealed carry of long guns

  • Open carry long guns & handguns

Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL) said, “What makes us great is that we are Americans.” Nationality doesn’t bestow greatness. Greatness must be earned by support and respect for all, rapidly disappearing in the United States. Eric Trump summarized the GOP position when he said that Democrats aren’t even people. The United States needs a seismic shift in policy toward transparency, ethics, and a democratic policy that protects all—not just the privileged. Suppressing voting, protests, media, and public opinion is not a solution. Jailing and physically attacking journalists for reporting the news, a practice increased since the GOP took over the country, cannot be a solution.

The GOP is accustomed to attacking everyone except the wealthy, and they are astonished and outraged when a man with a history of violence shoots one of their own, a politician who voted against Martin Luther King Jr. Day and against punishing hate crimes. The right-wing never talked about their rhetoric being responsible for the shooting of Gabby Giffords; now one person from the left has committed violence against a Republican. Abstraction is hard for Republicans; they understand only those issues that affect them personally. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) voted against bipartisan legislation to expand the criminal background checks after a mass shooting in 2014, but now he wants a background check on the shooter of his colleague. It’s a start—background checks for shooters after they are killed.

July 8, 2016

We Need to Save Both Blacks, Police

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy’s (D-NY) husband was killed in a mass shooting in 1993, the same horrific event that seriously wounded her son. Elected to Congress four years later, she fought for gun safety legislation. Not until 2007 did she succeed—in a small way. During the last session before winter holiday recess that year, Congress passed a law requiring federal agencies to keep up-to-date records on people who might be disqualified from purchasing guns such as those convicted of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence, those convicted of crimes punishable by imprisonment for more than a year, and those with documented mental health issues.  Other than a vote to renew a ban on plastic firearms in 2013, that’s the last gun safety legislation that got through Congress. Since then, hundreds of thousands of people have died because of firearms, and the number of mass shootings are drastically increasing.

After the 50 deaths from a shooter in an Orlando nightclub on June 12, House Speaker Paul Ryan still refused to bring any gun safety bills to the floor. Fed up with continued inaction on the public health issue of deaths from guns, a majority of the House Democrats began a 25-hour sit-in on the chamber floor on June 22. At this time, Ryan has said that “all options” were being considered to discipline sit-in participants for their protests.

Ryan also promised to bring a gun bill approved by the NRA for a vote but then pulled it. He said, “We’re not going to rush it…. We’re going to get it right.”That was the day after two black men were murdered by police officers and the same day that a sniper murdered five Dallas (TX) police officers and wounded nine other people, seven of them police officers. The same week Ryan changed his mind, family members killed each other, and there were a variety of “smaller” mass shootings.

After a 15-hour filibuster by Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), the Senate voted on four bills–two of them supported by Democrats and the other two that would make no change. All four of them failed when the GOP voted against change and the Democrats refused to support do-nothing bills.

This past week, President Obama has been forced to make two painful speeches about horrific gun deaths—the first one after police killed two black men and the next after the deaths of five law enforcement officers in Dallas. During the second speech, he said that at some point people will need to think about the “powerful weapons” that help these deadly shootings. He said this after he expressed his horror at the “vicious, calculated and despicable attack on law enforcement” and his support for law enforcement. He will cut short his diplomatic mission to Europe intended to smooth over foreign relations after the British Brexit fiasco in order to visit Dallas.

The president was immediately attacked for getting “political” (Ben Carson) because people need guns to “defend themselves from an overly aggressive government.” Another former GOP presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee, wanted the president to emulate President Ronald Reagan’s speech after the Challenger disaster as if killing police and space shuttle disasters are the same. Actually, Reagan supported a universal background check, a seven-day waiting period before buying guns, and a ban on assault-weapons.

Since 2000, an average of 50 police officers have been deliberately killed each year. In contrast, the first six months of 2016 saw police kill 532 people, many of them unarmed, mentally ill, and people of color. About half of them were white, but black people and Native Americans are killed at higher rates than any other ethnic group. For example, 31 percent of people killed by police in 2012 were black although blacks comprise only 13 percent of the population.

The vast majority of these officers who killed people will receive minor or no punishment; not one officer was convicted of murder or manslaughter in 2015 when the police killed 1,200 people. An example is Freddie Gray, apprehended on April 12, 2015 because he allegedly possessed an illegal switchblade. He was alive when he was put into a van with no seatbelt; when the van arrived at the station, he was in a coma from a spinal injury that led to his death seven days later. Thus far, three of the six police officers involved in Gray’s death have been exonerated despite evidence to the contrary.

The most recently publicized death of a black man shot by a police officer was that of Philando Castile. He legally owned a gun and had a concealed carry permit, issued by Minnesota, for the gun. When the police stopped him for a broken tail light, he said that he had a permit. The police officer ordered Castile to show him his ID, Castile reached for his wallet to get it and was instantly shot dead. Castile, 32, had worked for the St. Paul Public Schools for 13 years, becoming a kitchen supervisor two years ago. He was shot and died in front of his girlfriend and the girlfriend’s four-year-old daughter. Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said in his speech that the killing was at least in part because of Castile’s death.

The NRA, pushed into a statement two days after Castile’s killing, said only that there should be an investigation. The organization most likely wants to avoid controversy about black men who are killed while carrying guns because studies show the relationship between white identity and opposition to gun control. The NRA said nothing about the police killing of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge (LA) the day before Castile’s death after Sterling was thrown on the ground by two police officers because he was selling CDs in front of a convenience store. He didn’t draw his gun, but he was killed when the police shot him multiple times.

Sterling’s and Castile’s deaths set off protests, mostly peaceful and without incident, throughout the nation. Even the one in Dallas (TX), with about 800 protesters, was peaceful. After they started to disperse, a lone sniper, an Army veteran with an honorary discharge who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, killed five police officers and wounded seven other people with an assault weapon. The sniper was killed by the police with an armed bomb-disposal robot.

Only one person was involved in the killing although the police announced other suspects. They even posted his photo online asking people to help them find the suspect and left it there for almost 24 hours after he had turned himself in and they decided that he had nothing to do with the killings. His only crime was being a black man with a gun (although open carry is legal in Texas), but he’s now getting thousands of death threats.

In Portland (OR) a well-known Trump supporter pulled a gun on protesters, threatening them with it. He is well known for stalking and harassing people, filming them at leftist protests to put the video online with their names and addresses. The man had a round in the chamber of his gun that he used to sweep the crowd in front of him. He also had five other magazines of ammunition with him. Some of the protesters tried to calm him down and offered to take him out for coffee. As the incident ended, over a dozen police officers arrived in two trucks, and arrested him along with another man.

The Bahamas has issued a travel advisory for the United States, warning young men “to exercise extreme caution” in their “interactions with the police.”

A problem with passing legislation to make the country safer is the low bar for electing members of Congress. House Rules Chair Pete Sessions (R-TX) had earlier claimed that the Pulse nightclub, the location of the recent mass shooting, was not a “gay bar” although it described itself as the “hottest gay bar in Orlando.” Now he expresses concern that the Dallas police officers “let their guard down.” Perhaps we can’t expect much from a person who said in 2009 that House Republicans would look at “the Taliban” as a tactical model to take over Congress and that “everything we do in this body should be about messaging to win back the Senate.”

This philosophy aptly explains the reason behind the gridlock in the U.S. government reinforcing continued deaths from guns. It is guaranteed that Congress will hold a moment of silence for the five Dallas police officers killed this week. It’s probably also a guarantee that they won’t be commemorating the untimely death of Philando Castile—and the other people killed unnecessarily by the police.

“Black Americans shouldn’t be killed in routine traffic stops, and police shouldn’t be killed while protecting and serving their communities.”

Elizabeth Warren’s tweet succinctly provides the goal; now Congress needs to live up to it. They probably won’t.

June 21, 2016

Senate Gun Vote: NRA – 2, U.S. Residents – 0

Filed under: Guns — trp2011 @ 8:56 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

NRA scored more victories yesterday as Republicans turned down two measures that might have made the United States safer for everyone except killers with guns.

A 15-hour filibuster led by Chris Murphy (D-CT)—a real filibuster with his standing in front of the Senate and not the wimpy “I don’t like the bill” one—“inspired” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to put out four gun “control” measures for a vote. Just eight days after 50 people died in Orlando because a mass shooting, almost all Senate GOP members protected the NRA. Democrats wanted background checks for almost everyone and the prevention of gun sales to people on the terror watch list. Republicans wanted a 72-hour check for people on the watch list and more funding for a background check that didn’t check any more purchasers.

Democratic proposals followed by GOP versions:

Murphy Amendment #4750 on background checks: The filibuster’s measure requires a background check for all gun sales, including at gun shows and online, with some reasonable exceptions such as transfers by law enforcement, private security professionals, armed forces, loans or gifts to close family members; temporary transfer to prevent imminent bodily harm; temporary transfer for hunting trips or firing ranges. [Lost 44-56; Democratic senators Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Joe Manchin (WV) and Jon Tester (MT) voted no with GOP; Mark Kirk (IL) yes with the Dems. ]

Grassley Amendment # 4751 on background checks: Chuck Grassley’s (R-IA) amendment fails to close the private sale loophole but adds funding for background checks. It would allow an individual to regain the ability to buy a gun immediately upon release from a period of involuntary psychiatric treatment and let veterans who suffer from mental illness to legally buy guns. [Lost 47-53; all GOP except Kirk voted no.]

Feinstein Amendment #4720 on terror gap: Dianne Feinstein’s (D-CA) bill gives the Attorney General the discretion to block gun sales to a known terror suspect based on a reasonable suspicion that the individual is engaging in, preparing for, or providing material support to an act of terrorism. This amendment provides a process for individuals erroneously denied a gun on this basis to seek to have that determination reversed and their gun rights restored. [Lost 47-53; Heitkamp again votes with the Republicans and GOP Kirk and Kelly Ayotte (NH) vote with the Democrats.]

Cornyn Amendment #4749 on terror gap: John Cornyn (R-TX) would permit people on the terror watch list to buy guns unless the Attorney General can prove in court that the suspect will actually commit an act of terrorism. If the procedure is not complete within three days, the person is welcome to buy as many guns as they wish. [Lost 47-53; same as Grassley amendment.]

Gabby Giffords, the former representative shot in the 2011 mass shooting in Tucson (AZ), said the Senate “chose to do the unimaginable: nothing at all.” Giffords wrote:

“Five years ago, I was shot point blank in the head, and the Senate did nothing. When 20 young children and six educators lost their lives in Newtown, Connecticut, the Senate did nothing. San Bernardino, Roseburg, Navy Yard, Charleston, Isla Vista — nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing.”

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) is searching for a “moderate compromise” to let the GOP off the hook for voting to sell guns to people on the terror watch list. Her proposal allows the attorney general to prevent people on two specific lists–the “no-fly” list and selectee list requiring additional screening–from buying a weapon. No one knows how many other lists there are. People denied the right to purchase a gun can challenge the decision. Those who win are to have their legal costs paid by the government. Collins also suggested requiring the FBI to notify law enforcement if someone on the list any time during the past five years if they try to buy a gun. It still doesn’t mean that they can’t buy a gun.

At this time only three Republicans support Collins idea—not enough to get the 60 necessary votes. Democrats aren’t happy with the proposal. As Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said, “Her alternative is not enough to close the loophole that creates this terror gap.” On the House side, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has indicated opposition to gun purchase restrictions for anyone on the terror watch list—and he’s the gatekeeper for bills to get to the floor of that chamber.

Even knowing his reluctance, House Democrats are calling on Ryan to hold a vote on an assault weapons ban before Congress adjourns for the summer recess, according to a letter from 75 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. The seven-week recess begins on July 15. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA) and other Democrats are focusing on the “no fly, no buy” gun provision connected to the terror watch list, and expanded background checks for gun sales, but they also want a vote on Rep. David Cicilline’s (D-RI) Assault Weapons Ban of 2015, a bill with 139 co-sponsors. The Orlando shooter used an assault weapon—a Sig Sauer MCX rifle—that folds up for concealment.

The Terror Watch List:  Between 2004 and 2014, people on this list passed background checks and could to legally buy guns 2,043 times. With lax gun laws permitting loopholes for millions of people, many more people on the list most likely bought firearms through unregulated private purchases. The terrorists in the Middle East are right: they can easily access guns from the United States. An overwhelming majority of Americans, including 82 percent of gun owners and 77 percent of Republicans, supports closing the terror gap.

Background Checks:  Only 60 percent of gun sales happen through federally licensed firearm dealers; the other 40 percent of gun sales happen without any background check. They usually occur online—Craigslist is a big gun clearinghouse—or through newspaper classified ads or at gun shows. The GOP continues its excuse of trying to prevent a federal gun owner registry. The 55 senators who voted for either Cornyn’s or Feinstein’s measures, but not Murphy’s background checks, said that it is bad for suspected terrorists to buy firearms. Yet they want background checks for that population to be voluntary—sort of like making airport screening procedures optional.

Gun deaths: Between 2001 and 2013 (the last year the CDC has records for), 406,496 people died from being shot, whether by homicide, suicide, or accident. During the same time, 2,96 people died of terrorism on U.S. soil–2,902 on the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

Donald Trump’s solution for mass shooting is racial profiling. CNN Van Jones suggested that to do so would require demographics of shooters. Far more mass shootings in the United States are caused by white, mostly young Christian men. Fitting this profile is the 19-year-old man arrested at a Trump event for trying to take a gun from a law enforcement office to use it on Trump. Jones said, “You are seven times more likely to be killed by a right wing extremist — a racist or an anti-government nutjob—seven times more likely than a Muslim.”

The Orlando shooting finally pushed the American Medical Association over the edge. The AMA, composed of some very smart people, is now calling gun violence a “public health crisis” and urges Congress fund research into the problem. The group will press Congress to overturn the 20-year-old, NRA-pushed legislation that blocks the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from conducting research on gun violence. At its annual meeting in Chicago, the AMA called US gun violence a crisis that requires a comprehensive response and solution.

Steven Stack, AMA president, said:

“With approximately 30,000 men, women and children dying each year at the barrel of a gun in elementary schools, movie theaters, workplaces, houses of worship and on live television, the United States faces a public health crisis of gun violence.

“Even as America faces a crisis unrivalled in any other developed country, the Congress prohibits the CDC from conducting the very research that would help us understand the problems associated with gun violence and determine how to reduce the high rate of firearm-related deaths and injuries.”

In 1993, the NRA complained that research was biased toward gun control because CDC found that people in homes with firearms were at an increased risk for homicide in the home. By 1996, Congress almost totally eradicated funding for research into gun violence. Between 1996 and 2013, CDC funding for firearm injury prevention fell 96 percent, down to $100,000 in the CDC $5.6 billion budget.

Although NRA claims that the purpose of CDC research was to do away with unlimited gun rights, some research has sneaked through the restrictions. The ten states with the worst gun violence: Alaska, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Montana, Arkansas, New Mexico, Wyoming, South Carolina, and Oklahoma. These states have at least four criteria in common: fewer gun restrictions, more guns, more gun sellers, and a higher incidence of violent crime than in most of the United States. No wonder the NRA tries to quell the evidence that this nation has far more violence from guns because it has far more guns and unfettered ownership and use of them.

June 14, 2016

Toxic Masculinity Leads to Killings from Guns

Filed under: Guns — trp2011 @ 10:50 PM
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We could never get to the moon. We could not possibly do away with (fill in the name of a disease). We could never build highways across the United States. Planes will never fly. These are some of the statements proved false during the past century. Why, then, do we think that we can’t do away with gun violence? The reason comes from the disease of toxic masculinity controlling gun laws.

Guns are “manly.” Yes, the killer in the recent Orlando shooting suffered from internalized homophobia and he may have tried to blame his action on his religion. But he also loved his guns, having two different concealed carry licenses. The FBI investigated him in 2013 after he made threats to a coworker, and before that he physically abused his wife. He was so controlling that her father had to rescue her. His job at the private security firm, G4S, allowed him to be controlling and dominant. The company is known to be abusive to immigrants, children, and other inmates.

Mention toxic masculinity, and some men whine about feminists condemning all men. Amanda Marcotte explains that the term “toxic” changes the definition of masculinity. She writes:

“It’s a manhood that views women and LGBT people as inferior, sees sex as an act not of affection but domination, and which valorizes violence as the way to prove one’s self to the world.”

Conservatives push disasters like the Orlando shooting as done by either a crazy person or a “radicalized” Muslim. They ignore the self-appointed heavily-armed militia that took over public land in Oregon  and the head of a self-appointed Arizona border patrol who molested five- and six-year-old girls as well as the men who attack and kill people at abortion clinics.

Men suffering from toxic masculinity are terrified of appearing tender or soft—being less than “manly.” The far-right white conservatives, concerned that they might be emasculated by a lack of racist beliefs, developed the term “cuckservative” for anyone who thinks that non-white, non-heterosexual people have the right to live in the United States. “Manly” men aren’t worried about Muslims killing people in the United States; they worry about them—and all other people not in their “manly” group of forming the majority of the population.

Toxic masculinity ends up with a man killing his family because it’s the only way he can control them, to show that he has power over them. And thanks to legislatures controlled by the “manly” men, they have the military weapons to carry out the murders. They argue that they need guns to “protect” themselves, but the “manly” George Zimmerman didn’t need his gun for protection. He stalked Trayvon Martin despite the police telling him not to do it and executed a 17-year-old boy. That’s toxic masculinity.

Just one or two guns for defense isn’t enough. They stockpile more and more of them, taking pride in how much control they give them. And toxic masculinity demands that the guns be capable of shooting 100 or more people. “Manly” men develop an attachment to their guns. They sit and stroke them–and sometimes shoot themselves in the process. Any imagined threat that they can’t buy as many as they want sends them into hysterics. Just thinking about LGBT people sends these “manly” men into more fear and hysteria because they compare non-heterosexual people to be feminine.

The more fear that “manly” men experience, the more they threaten others—sometimes carrying out their threats. Donald Trump is an example of toxic masculinity, shouting for “toughness” and calling for his supporters to beat up protesters. His only strategies are to bomb the enemy—whoever they are—and keep people who don’t look like him out of the country. And to make sure that everyone has enough guns to keep killing innocent people.

The “manly” gun-lovers complain about the gay bar in Orlando being a “gun-free” zone because Florida law doesn’t allow guns in bars. An off-duty police officer hired as armed security at Pulse tried to stop the killer but failed to succeed against the military weapon that the killer brought with him. There was “a good guy with a gun,” that miracle that gun-lovers call for, and the “solution” failed.

“Manly” men say that mass shootings are not that common so there should be unlimited ownership of guns. They’re wrong, and between 2009 and 2012, 40 percent of mass shootings started with a shooter targeting his girlfriend, wife, or ex-wife. Just last year almost one-third of mass shooting deaths was related in some way to domestic violence. The majority of mass shootings in this country take place inside the home where men target the women and children in their intimate life.

Male entitlement makes “manly” men think that violence and coercion are part of romantic relationships. If abusive men were blocked from obtaining guns, the number of killings could shrink. The Orlando killer abused his wife and threatened co-workers–and still got concealed carry permits.

Other shootings from “toxic masculinity”:

Mainak Sarkar killed a professor at UCLA earlier this month. Before his trip to California where he also planned to kill another professor, he climbed through a window to kill his estranged wife in Minnesota.

Cedric Larry Ford killed three co-workers at Excel Industries in Hesston (KS) last February after he was issued a restraining order by someone he had abused. Women in past romantic relationships were afraid of Ford, and one said that he tried to strangle her.

John Russell Houser killed two people in a Lafayette (LA) movie theater last July after his family had talked about his violent behavior. His wife had gotten a temporary protective order against him in 2008.

Robert Lewis Dear killed three people at a Planned Parenthood last fall after a long history of preying on women. Dear’s wife said he pushed her out a window in 1997, and a neighbor took out a restraining order in 2002 after he made “unwanted advances.”

Syed Rizwan Farook, who killed fourteen people in San Bernardino (CA) last December, grew up in a violent home where his father abused his mother.

Elliot Rodger killed six people in Santa Barbara (CA) in a rampage because he claimed that women romantically rejected him. He perceived his virginal state as the fault of women and pledged to “slaughter every spoiled, stuck-up, blond slut I see” inside the “hottest sorority house of UCSB.”

Cho Seung-Huim killed 32 people at Virginia Tech in the second worst mass shooting in U.S. history. Two women had complained that he was stalking them, and Cho left behind a “rambling note raging against women.”

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Florida has some of the nation’s laxest gun laws in its support of NRA’s crusade of guns everywhere:

  • No waiting period except for a handgun.
  • No background check for the sale of weapons between two private parties.
  • No state permit requirement to sell guns.
  • No license requirement for gun ownership.
  • No registration for guns.
  • No regulation on the sales of assault weapons, 50 caliber rifles, or large capacity ammunition magazines.
  • No limit to the number of guns a person can buy at one time.

The state’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services issues concealed carry licenses for applicants who meet basic qualifications.

After two days of silence after the Orlando shooting, NRA broke its silence with “Gun laws don’t deter terrorists” in Rupert Murdoch’s publication USA Today. Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action misrepresented statements from the president, skipped over the common use of the AR-15 assault weapon for mass shooting, and blamed Islamic extremists. Like other conservatives, Cox accused the Obama administration’s “political correctness” for the shooting.

The NRA promotes toxic masculinity through its crusade to put multiple guns in every home:

  • Opposition to background checks;
  • Support for restoration of gun rights to convicted felons;
  • Protecting the arsenals and gun rights of domestic abusers;
  • Making it harder for courts to review—and uphold—gun laws.

As conservatives and their leader, Donald Trump, continue to push toxic masculinity, “manly” men will push their agenda through the NRA, more guns will be sold, and more people will die. If we can go to the moon, cure diseases, build highways, and fly huge plane, we can stop gun violence.

June 13, 2016

Orlando Aftermath: Lots of GOP Talk, No Action

Filed under: Guns — trp2011 @ 8:56 PM
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As the people in the United States try to cope with the killing of 49 people in an Orlando gay bar early yesterday morning, the craziness of a polarized country goes on. President Obama “has become the greatest terrorist hunter in the history of the presidency,” according the nonliberal Jeffrey Goldberg, but Donald Trump is calling for the president’s resignation “in disgrace” if the president doesn’t use the words “radical Islamic terrorism.” Conservatives fail to remember that the presidential position that “we ought to avoid the language of religion” goes back to George W. Bush’s “Counterterrorism Communication” guidelines. They’s just happy attacking all Muslims–and of course, they think that President Obama is one.

Donald Trump’s drive for attention led to his making increasingly insane comments during the past 36 hours. He started out yesterday by patting himself on the back in wanting to ban Muslims from the United States and by this morning insinuated that the president may be colluding with terrorists. “There’s something going on. It’s inconceivable,” he said in Trumpese. As Politico’s Blake Hounshell summarized, “This morning, Trump implied President Obama is a terrorist sympathizer.” Politico’s Jake Sherman added, “The Republican Party’s nominee for president seems to be saying it’s possible the POTUS is in cahoots with terrorists.”

In this case, Trump isn’t the only Republican to criticize for the belief. Within the past few weeks, GOP leaders have started falling in line behind their presumptive presidential candidate. As Michael Gerson wrote, “Since Trump now owns [Republican leaders], they now own his prejudice.”

Trump is not alone in stupidity; he has lots of company in Congress. Whether the killer has ever been on a terrorist watch list is still in question, but, thanks to the GOP, being on this list would not prevent him from legally buying a gun. Although people on the list are not legally permitted to purchase plane tickets in the U.S., they can legally purchase guns, including the assault rifle that the killer used. Last December, Republicans defeated a measure to prohibit those on the terrorist watch list from legally purchasing guns. Senate Republicans up for reelection this year—including vulnerable candidates Kelly Ayotte (NH), Ron Johnson (WI), Pat Toomey (PA), and Rob Portman (OH)—voted with the NRA to gun rights for the suspected terrorists’ gun rights.

Florida’s Marco Rubio, whose term is up and who may be running again although he promised not to do so—has strongly argued that guns had nothing to do with the killings. It was the ideology. The man who said that he hated being in the Senate and rarely showed up for votes indicated that the Orlando shooting may have inspired him to run. Hugh Hewitt urged Rubio to run, citing his “foreign policy” knowledge. That must include his opposition to opening trade with Cuba and his determination to destroy any agreement with Iran. Rubio’s foreign policy is very scary.

Terrorists are well aware that the United States is a candy store of guns for them. For at least five years, they have encouraged their followers to purchase assault-style weapons and shoot people in the United States made easy with the extremely lax gun laws in many of the nation’s states. An al Qaeda spokesperson said in that 2011 video:

 “America is absolutely awash with easily obtainable firearms. You can go down to a gun show at the local convention center and come away with a fully automatic assault rifle, without a background check, and most likely without having to show an identification card. So what are you waiting for?”

From 2002 to 2014, 85 percent of people killed by terrorists in the U.S. were killed from guns. Every terrorist attack in the U.S. last year when someone other than the perpetrator was killed involved guns. Building a bomb isn’t easy, and hijacking airplanes has become almost impossible, but accessing guns is quite simple, thanks the GOP support for terrorists purchasing guns. Yesterday, Santa Monica (CA) police stopped a white man from Indiana, who had an NRA symbol on his license plate, on his way to a gay pride parade with “assault rifles, high-capacity magazines, ammunition and chemicals used to make explosives” in his car. Nothing was said, however, about his ideology.

Always direct with its covers, the NY Daily News has one placing the blame for the Orlando shootings square on the NRA. The organization makes millions and millions of dollars from the gun manufacturing industry and then uses the money to lobby legislatures for more lax gun laws that will allow the industry to sell more and more guns. The marketing strategy is brilliant: when men aren’t buying enough guns, advertising is directed to women. When that market seems saturated, guns sales for small children are pushed. Not one person can figure out a reason why private individuals have a need to own an assault-style weapon other than to kill as many people as possible in as short of a time as possible–but the U.S. lets them buy these military weapons.

Daily News cover

Ted Cruz may be the only Republican leader who openly recognized that the killer targeted the LGBT community. His purpose in doing so, however, was to call on Democrats “to speak out against an ideology that calls for the murder of gays and lesbians.” He defined the killers as members of “ISIS and the theocracy in Iran (supported with American taxpayer dollars).” In other words, he wants the Democrats to join the Republicans in banning all Muslims—and probably other immigrants—from the United States.

Aside from the fact that the U.S. does not send “taxpayer dollars” to Iran, Cruz ignores the Christian ideology that promotes the execution of gays. At least one of these Christian leaders who wants to kill gays is Cruz’s colleague, Kevin Swanson, who spoke immediately before Cruz in Des Moines (IA) where Swanson hosted a “National Religious Liberties Conference.” Swanson did say that homosexuals should not be sentenced with a death penalty until they’ve had time to repent.

Speakers at the same conference were other Christian supporters for killing gays–Phillip G Kayser, pastor of Dominion Covenant Church in Nebraska, and Joel McDurmon, president of the Christian Reconstructionist organization American Vision. McDurmon criticized Uganda for backing off the death penalty in its anti-LGBT legislation.  Rafael Cruz, Ted’s father and a strong campaigner for Ted’s presidential candidate, is a preacher in the Dominion Church. Ted Cruz follows many of that church’s beliefs.

Congress called today for a moment of silence regarding the killings. That’s what they do best—silence in adversity. My hero for the day is Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT) who refused to participate in today’s moment of silence and walked off the House floor after calling them “obnoxious expressions of smug incompetence.”

In an interview with Slate, Himes said:

“’Thoughts and prayers’ are three words that cost you nothing. I’m sick of it. Show some courage. There’s an array of pathetic arguments with the ideologues you hear, that we can’t ever end gun violence. That’s true. We’re not going to end polio or cancer, either, but we can take some huge strides.”

After Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) held the pro forma moment of silence, Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) tried to ask the Speaker when he would consider bills curbing gun use. Before he finished, Ryan ruled his question out of order and directed the House to move to the next vote. Democrats responded by shouting, “Where’s the bill?” Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told reporters Democrats have “had enough” of moments of silence after mass shootings when Congress does not act to tighten gun laws.

People talk and write a great deal about the killer being “radicalized.” This may be true. But what is the term for Christians who kill? Will we ever talk about Christians who want to kill innocent people being “radicalized”? If Christians kill innocent people, can we call it “domestic terrorism”? Or “radical Christian terrorism”? And will there ever be enough brave people to stand up and say that the killings couldn’t happen without guns?

June 12, 2016

LGBT Hate Crime in Orlando Kills At Least 50, Injures More Than Another 50

Over 100 people were shot and at least 50 of them are dead in a mass shooting early this morning at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando (FLA), a popular gay bar. Omar Mateen, the man responsible for the largest mass shooting in the United States, was killed after three hours when a SWAT team swarmed into the bar. Mateen was armed with ammunition, a handgun, and an AR-15-type assault-style rifle, the civilian variant of the military M-16 rifle, according to Orlando Police Chief John Mina. The firearms were legally purchased, and the killer had active security officer and firearm licenses. His family said he worked as a private security officer.

Mateen’s father said that “this had nothing to do with religion,” but his son became very angry when he saw two men kissing in Miami. The man’s ex-wife said that he was unstable and had violent tendencies. She said that he was abusive and beat her repeatedly during their marriage. He had given her no indications that he was devoted to radical Islam.

Stuart Milk, nephew of Harvey Milk and co-founder of the Harvey Milk Foundation, issued this statement in response:

“Last night, the worst domestic terror attack since 911 has tragically hit American LGBT families head on—children, moms, dads, neighbors, friends—lives that are changed forever. In the days ahead we will come to know the latest victims of hatred—mostly young men and women who were simply out for a night of dancing and enjoyment of our community during LGBT Pride month. These victims of a hate crime targeting an LGBT club had their futures stolen, had their dreams stolen, their potential contributions stolen from us all.

“The LGBT Orlando community and our allies in Central Florida are both strong and unified. We send a world of love and prayers to all who are grieving today and to all who will begin the hard journey to recover from untold wounds, both physical and emotional. But our love and prayers are simply not enough. Hate and separation continue to bring forth too much grief, too many stolen lives across the whole world.

“As we reach out to comfort the Orlando families, and as we support the courage for the injured to heal, may we also have the strength to address and deal with the roots of hatred and separation that target any minority community with violence, anywhere in the world. May we find a way forward to make this act of horrendous violence a commitment to come together and so honor the memories of those who were killed today.”

Color of Change Executive Director Rashad Robinson stated:

“Spaces like Pulse aren’t just bars and clubs. They are a lifeline to many LGBTQ people —a place to be free and open. Falling almost exactly one year after the shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, this tragedy is a reminder of all the ways that hate, intolerance and violence show up. As we seek to make sense of this tragedy and so many others, we do so focused on building a culture of inclusion, respect, liberation and love.”

Barbara Poma, co-owner of Pulse, founded the club to honor her brother who died of AIDS in 1991 and to support the LGBT community. She and her business partner, Ron Legler, survived the shooting. The night before this horrific killing, a St. Petersburg man shot and killed 22-year-old Christina Gimmie, while she was signing autographs after her show at The Plaza Live theater. She had won third place on NBC’s The Voice on Season 6.

President Obama called this “an act of terror and an act of hate.” He said:

“This is an especially heartbreaking day for all of our friends, our fellow Americans, who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. The shooter targeted a night club where people came together to be with friends, to dance and to sing, and to live. The place where they were attacked is more than a night club, it is a place of solidarity and empowerment, where people have come together to raise awareness, to speak their minds, and to advocate for their civil rights. So this is a sobering reminder that attacks on any American, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation, is an attack on all of us, and on the fundamental values of equality and dignity that define us as a country.”

Calls have gone out for blood donors, but men who have had sex with other men in the past year are prevented from donating, according to FDA guidelines. This policy is greatly softened since the first policy banning gay donors was adopted in 1983, but Orlando clinics are still following the 23-year-old protocols. Current tests can sense antibodies that develop within two weeks of infection, reducing the risk of receiving HIV to about 1 in 2 million, but rules for donating blood ignore this science. Other high-risk populations such as illegal drug users and prostitutes have no limits in donating blood.

In its typical hate-filled rhetoric, Fox network hosts blamed President Obama because he had made the country less safe. Donald Trump tweeted, “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism.” Immediately after blaming “the immigrants” for the massacre, Trump said, “I am going to be a President for all Americans.” (Mateen was a U.S. citizen.) Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick posted Galatians 6:7 on Twitter: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” Other Republicans who voted for unlimited ownership of guns and against LGBT rights are sending the customary “thoughts and prayers” to the victims.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said, “Anyone who attacks our LGBT community will be gone after with the fullest extent of the law.” In Florida, that usually means the law is only for straight white men. If Mateen were still alive, he might be able to use the defense that LGBT people threaten him.

The report that Mateen pledged allegiance to ISIS has received more attention than the fact that this tragedy is a hate crime. If one self-identified Muslim kills, it’s an act that conservatives call radical Islamic terrorism so that they can push their narrow, bigoted agenda. If one self-identified Christian kills, as in the murder of three people at a Colorado abortion clinic, they think that it has nothing to do with Christianity. To conservatives, it is the act of a mentally unbalanced person. Nowhere has the mainstream media published the fact that people in the United States are much more likely to be killed by right-wing extremists, many of them self-identified Christians, than by Muslims.

Some Christian leaders call for killing all “homosexuals”; three GOP presidential candidates attended a conference this past year where the leader called for these “executions.” A Christian lawyer in California has proposed killing LGBT people with bullets to the head. More than that, he proposes that citizens should not have to face any charges if they LGBT people.  Franklin Graham, Billy Graham’s son, calls gay Christians “the enemy.” As hate crime rates against all other segments of the population go down, hate crimes against LGBT people increase. And until this morning, these crimes were not by Muslims.

Conservative leaders, such as Ted Cruz, call for an end to “political correctness” and the restriction of “immigrants.” They are enraged because the 9th Circuit Court has ruled in favor of the California law banning concealed weapons outside the home and the 2nd Circuit Court ruled in favor of a Connecticut law that bans assault-type weapons and large magazines of weapons. Blame ISIS, they cry, while ignoring the two other largest gun massacres, one in Newton (CT) where 29 people were left dead and the other at Virginia Tech University that left 33 dead.

This Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court may hear an appeal to the decision from the 2nd Circuit Court about whether to hear Shew v. Malloy or put off that determination for another week or two. The 2nd Circuit Court had upheld a law that bans assault-type weapons and large ammunition magazines. In his decision that the Connecticut law does not violate the constitution’s Second Amendment, U.S. Circuit Judge José A. Cabranes wrote:

“New York and Connecticut have adequately established a substantial relationship between the prohibition of both semiautomatic assault weapons and large capacity magazines and the important — indeed compelling — state interest in controlling crime.”

I want two things. The next time a self-identified Christian kills someone, I want it announced that a Christian performed the crime. And I want controls on gun ownership. And yes, I’m not going to get either wish.

[Update: Florida Gov. Rick Snyder has refused to recognize that killing and injuring over 100 people in a gay bar is a hate crime.

Statement from Terry O’Neill, NOW president:

We cannot say that we live in a free society when LGBTQIA people have to always wonder if horrific violence is just around the corner, or creeping up in the rearview mirror. Hate crimes against this community haven’t disappeared just because courts, political leaders and businesses now support expanded rights. We must remain vigilant against the threat of violence, but we must also speak out against a climate of bigotry and hatred that rejects or devalues LGBTQIA rights.

 

 

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