Nel's New Day

March 12, 2017

Fight Back against Fundamentalist Christian Control

Faith groups came out to protest Dictator Donald Trump’s (DDT) second attempt last week to ban Muslims from the United States. Throughout the first day of the order, a number of groups condemned DDT’s actions calling it an affront to religious freedom.

  • American Jewish World Service tweeted its solidarity with immigrants.
  • Auburn Seminary President Rev. Dr. Katharine R. Henderson decried “the false narrative that this country is at war with a religion” and the “dramatic spike in Islamophobia, including a rise in hate speech, vandalism, and fires at mosques across the nation.”
  • Amanda Tyler, the executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, expressed concern “that this administration is using religious identity as a proxy for ‘security threat’ and a reason for exclusion.”
  • Stosh Cotler, the CEO of the social justice advocacy group Bend the Arc Jewish Action, stated that DDT “is targeting Muslims, immigrants and refugees purely out of spite and fear, but national security experts agree that his action today will not keep us safer.”
  • Catholic Relief Services issued a lengthy statement condemning the ban that explained refugees already undergo “significant vetting” and stated that “now is not the time for the world’s leader in refugee resettlement to back down.”
  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reiterated its previous concern “about the temporal and spiritual welfare of all of God’s children across the earth, with special concern for those who are fleeing physical violence, war, and religious persecution.”
  • Church World Service unveiled a new grassroots campaign in support of refugees in tandem with the National Council of Churches.
  • The Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach reminded people “that we are a nation of immigrants and refugees and we are called to stand in solidarity with them.”
  • The Conference of Major Superiors of Men stated, “It is completely unjust to punish an entire country due to the suspicion of a potential crime by an individual. We should be asking about the root causes of violent acts, such as U.S. militarization of conflicts, and giving our attention to addressing those concrete situations.”
  • Rev. Allison Liles, Episcopal Peace Fellowship, wrote that it “asks that God look with compassion on the whole human family, taking away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts, breaking down the walls that separate us and instead unite us in bonds of love.”
  • Rabbi Jack Moline, president of the Interfaith Alliance, stated that the ban is “bigoted and un-American … fueled by anti-Muslim bigotry and motivated by a desire to score political points—not keep Americans safe.” Moline continued, “Now we look to the courts, Congress and the American people to restore what makes American great — our freedom and diversity.”
  • Other groups making statements in opposition to DDT’s restrictive order included Leadership Conference of Women Religious, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, National Council of Churches, National Council of Jewish Women, the Catholic social justice lobby NETWORK, Pax Christi USA, Presbyterian Church (USA), The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Unitarian Universalist Association, United Church of Christ, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, United Methodist Church, and PICO National Network which stated:

“This [ban] is less about keeping America safe and more likely a step toward the ethnic cleansing of America. Coupled with this nation’s track record of detention, deportation and mass incarceration, the travel ban is a path to reassert white supremacy and dominance in the U.S. It is evil, sinister and stands in stark contrast to a core tenet of faith which asserts that we are all children of God. Even with its revisions, President Trump’s ban on Muslim-majority countries continues a xenophobic false hierarchy of human value. It is not only anti-American, it is anti-Christian.”

White evangelicals, however, are pitying themselves. According to a survey, 57 percent of them believe that they face a great deal of discrimination in the United States while only 44 percent think that Muslims are confronted with the same level of discrimination in the nation. White evangelicals are the only major religious group to think that Christians suffer from heavy persecution.

An example of prejudice against Islamic comes from Oklahoma Rep. John Bennett, who refused to meet with his Muslim constituents on its annual Muslim Day at the Capitol unless they completed a questionnaire from the Islamophobic hate group called ACT for America. Three students from Tulsa’s Peace Academy, a private school, asked to speak to Bennett and were told to answer such questions as these:

“Sharia law says that it must rule over the kafirs, the non-Muslims. Do you agree with this?”

“The Koran, the sunna of Mohammed and Sharia Law of all schools say that the husband can beat his wife. Do you beat your wife?”

“Mohammed was a killer of pagans, Christians and Jews that did not agree with him. Do you agree with this example?”

In the United States, an average of almost 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner, equating to over 10 million women and men a year. Yet Bennett asks only Muslims if they “beat your wife.”

In his second Muslim ban, DDT demonstrated the same false belief in Islam violence as Bennett does. The executive order includes a provision requiring the Department of Homeland Security to collect and make public “information regarding the number and types of gender-based violence against women, including so-called ‘honor killings,’ in the United States by foreign nationals.” The United States has fewer than 30 so-called “honor killings” each year, but about 1,500 women are murdered from domestic violence in the same time. DDT’s budget eliminates the Department of Justice’s Violence Against Women grants of $480 that funded 25 programs last year to help victims of domestic violence. Both DDT and his white supremacist and chief strategist Steve Bannon have been seriously accused of domestic assault.

DDT’s provision follows his plan to use federal resource to increase racial panic when he also promised to create the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement office, or VOICE, during his speech to Congress last week. The program ignores the fact that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than native-born people in the United States and that people in the United States are far far more likely to be killed by a right-wing extremist than a Muslim terrorist. Yet DDT’s federal counter-terrorism program will ignore all extremist groups not composed of Muslims, including violent white supremacists.

Facts have no value for DDT’s policies. As for the DHS report that “citizenship is unlikely to be a reliable indicator of potential terrorist activity,” a senior administration official said:

 “The president asked for an intelligence assessment. This is not the intelligence assessment the president asked for.”

The GOP has increasingly pushed religious freedom for the United States although almost everyone knows that the harder a person pushes for this “freedom,” the more that person means only fundamentalist Christianity. In an evangelical discussion last summer, one of them asked how the Baptists could defend Muslims when they kill and imprison Christians. Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore gave a sensible answer—that restrictions on Muslims could lead to restrictions on Christians. Moore said that people must freely choose their faith.

Pastor John Wofford answered:

“So what I am actually doing if I support and defend the rights of people to construct places of false worship, I am helping them go to hell. And I do not want to help people go to hell.”

That’s the direction of the United States if we don’t fight back.

June 30, 2016

Supreme Court Does a 180 Degree Turn

Supreme Court decisions looked hopeless just six months ago. Many of us feared that women would lose abortion rights, and domestic abusers could stomp around with their guns. Affirmative action, rights of unions, and continued Affordable Care Act provisions seemed impossible. What a difference one person makes! Antonin Scalia’s death in February left only eight justices—for a long time if the GOP has its way—and the tone flipped from devastation to optimism.

The 4-4 ties kept an injunction against the DHS immigration policy but saved public union dues, especially after the court refused to hear the case again. Ties don’t establish the law of the land; they don’t establish precedent. All they do is confirm a lower court ruling. The case about religious objections from Catholic nonprofits refusing insurance coverage for employees’ birth control was returned to a lower court to be fixed. These cases, however, did not destroy a progressive movement; two of these three cases just slowed its progression.

In at least three cases, however, a majority voted in favor of progressives, both times with Justice Anthony Kennedy as the swing vote. The zombie case Fisher v. University of Texas, returning from what should have been an earlier death, upheld the school’s affirmative action plan. Race can continue to be considered to increase college admissions of disadvantaged minorities because, as Kennedy recognized, diversity’s educational benefits cannot be reduced to exact numbers. Now affirmative action can be used if race-neutral alternatives are not enough and if race plays only a small part. The only other Supreme Court case, decided in 2003, warned of a 25-year deadline. This ruling has no such warning. The vote in this case was 4-3 because Justice Elena Kagan recused herself. With Scalia’s vote, it would surely have been a tie.

Women are cheering the 5-3 ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt that struck down faux health requirements and “undue burden” for abortions in Texas. Law required clinic doctors to have “admitting privileges” in nearby hospitals and clinics to meet expensive, and unnecessary, standards for “ambulatory surgical centers” (ASC).  “Undue burden” was a standard set up for abortion restrictions in Planned Parenthood v. Casey almost 25 years ago, but the health issue set new law. Justices warned against state anti-abortion laws that claim to be for health reasons but don’t protect women’s health. Again Kennedy, for the first time supporting abortion rights for women, cast the deciding vote. If he had voted against Whole Woman’s Health, Texas could have kept closing all its clinics—now down to about 20 for 5.4 million of reproductive age.

This ruling affects laws in several states throughout the nation; almost half of them lied about health reasons in restricting abortion rights. The high court announced that it will not consider appeals from Mississippi and Wisconsin on laws similar to those in Texas, ending those unconstitutional laws. Alabama dismissed its appeal to keep its anti-abortion law. Laws are on hold in Kansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. Other states are still fighting: Michigan providers are deciding whether to challenge the state’s ASC law, and Florida’s admitting privileges law goes into effect on July 1.

In question also are other anti-abortion laws such as waiting periods and mandated useless medical procedures preceding the abortion. In Indiana, a judge blocked the state’s new anti-abortion law. Planned Parenthood will work to block anti-abortion laws in eight states.

In Voisine v. United States, two men from Maine whose guns were removed after misdemeanor convictions in domestic violence argued that “reckless” conduct wasn’t enough for them to lose their guns. The high court disagreed, voting 6-2 that “a reckless domestic assault qualifies as a ‘misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.”

A little-mentioned Supreme Court decision in the media may have a long-reaching impact. A 4-4 tie in Dollar General v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians upholds rulings from the higher Tribal court, the District Court, and the 5th Circuit Court that non-Tribal businesses and individuals can legally face civil suit in Tribal courts. Dollar General had signed a contract with the tribe swearing to uphold its health and welfare, and the manager of a Dollar General on the reservation molested a 13-year-old Tribal boy.

Limited authority of Tribal governments frequently leaves little recourse for victims of sexual attacks. Native American women in the U.S. are twice as likely to suffer sexual assault as other women in the nation, and 80 percent of these assaults are by non-Tribal men who can get off free because tribal courts cannot criminally prosecute non-Tribal members not intimately known to the victims. Federal authorities tend not to pursue these rape cases.  This problem was exacerbated 38 years ago by Oliphant v. Suquamish, in which the high court ruled that Tribal courts cannot criminally prosecute non-tribal members even when the crime is committed on the reservation, making race a de jure (legal) factor in these cases.

About Oliphant, Amy Casselman, author and former case work for the Washoe Tribe of California and Nevada, said:

“Reservations became hunting grounds. This creates a lot of different types of crime—drug production, drug trafficking, human trafficking—but the people who disproportionately feel this sense of predation are Native women. Sexual assault in the US is an overwhelmingly intraracial crime, meaning that rape happens overwhelmingly between two members of the same race. Native women are the one statistical anomaly.”

In the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence against Women Act, Congress stipulated that Tribal courts only have the authority to prosecute non-Tribal sexual offenders who have pre-existing intimate relationships with the women they abused, purposely excluding from prosecution unknown predators who specifically seek out reservations to commit their crimes. The only course of action comes from civil suits.

The Supreme Court does not finalize this case that began 13 years ago; it merely allows the sexual assault case to move forward in tribal courts. But that is far more than Native Americans had before this decision. Full restoration of tribal sovereignty won’t happen until Congress passes a law or the high court overturns Oliphant.

The high court benefited women when it declined to hear a Washington state case in which pharmacists were told that their religious objections could not keep them from dispensing Plan B or other emergency contraceptives. That refusal to hear Stormans Inc. v. Wiesman allows women to get medication no matter what the person views of a pharmacy owner because the 9th Circuit Court had twice ruled in favor of women.

A Washington state judge has also ruled that public hospitals must provide abortions on side if they offer maternity services. The ruling supports the Reproductive Privacy Act, passed by voter initiative in 1991.

On the minus side, the tie allowing a Texas judge to keep his injunction against a DHS policy trying to stop some removals of immigrants appears to be a disaster for the president’s policies. According to noted judge Richard Posner, however, the decision may not make any changes. And as law professor Peter Shane wrote, the decision has nothing to do with executive decisions because it was an agency decision.

The Supreme Court dispensed two disasters in its last week. In Utah v. Strieff, a 5-3 ruling on gender lines overturned the Utah Supreme Court and ruled that an illegally detained person can be subject to lawful search and seizure if the person has a warrant for arrest. Justices Sonya Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg argued that this decision contradicts previous Court decisions that had deemed such evidence inadmissible as “fruit of the poisonous tree.” Sotomayor said that police can verify legal status at any time, that a person’s body is always subject to invasion, and that it legitimizes racial profiling:

“The Court today holds that the discovery of a warrant for an unpaid parking ticket will forgive a police officer’s violation of your Fourth Amendment rights. Do not be soothed by the opinion’s technical language: This case allows the police to stop you on the street, demand your identification, and check it for outstanding traffic warrants—even if you are doing nothing wrong.”

The worst ruling, however, may have been the unanimous exoneration of former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell on a charge of corruption by overturning his conviction. Chief Justice John Roberts referred to Citizens United ruling that “ingratiation and access” were “not corruption.” McDonnell and his wife took expensive gifts, loans, and vacations worth more than $175,000 in return for favoring a diet-supplement business benefactor, but the court ruled that only formal and concrete government actions such as filing a lawsuit counts. Arranging meetings doesn’t, giving elected officials a blank check to trade for access. The case was returned to the lower court with the stricter standard but will most likely fail.

All except two of the progressive decisions described above would certainly have lost or had a tie if Scalia had voted. I would also ask if he might have swayed some of the justices toward his far-right position in argument if he were still sitting on the court. All in all, the outcome this year was much better than was expected when the session started last fall.

A message to people who agree with this man who said he wouldn’t vote for Hillary Clinton: “If that means Trump wins, it’s not my fault, the Democrats should have nominated a viable candidate.” Yes, it is your fault, and you will be enabling a GOP president to nominate Supreme Court justices worse than Antonin Scalia.

July 30, 2014

Close Loopholes in Abusers’ Gun Ownership

The first-ever hearing on the connection between gun policy and domestic violence in the Senate Judiciary Committee occurred today as members of a witness panel discussed ways to close the loopholes in current federal law. Passing additional legislation in the Violence against Women Act (VAWA) to protect women from gun violence was also a topic.

elvin-danielOne of those testifying in favor of a comprehensive background check for all who purchase guns was Elvin Daniel, a member of the National Rifle Association. His sister was shot and killed by her estranged husband in 2012. At the hearing, he said he is “convinced” that her killer deliberately bought a gun from an unlicensed firearms dealer.

As shootings rampage across the country, Congress has remained at a standstill. After the December 2012 massacre inside Sandy Hook Elementary School. Some states have passed new reform measures that tighten gun restrictions, while others have enacted laws that weaken regulations.

Gabby Giffords, a former representative whose Congressional career was stopped by a shooting in 2011, has  launched a leadership network to educate state and federal lawmakers on the need for solutions that protect women from gun violence. The group plans a major advocacy push this year near the 20th anniversary of VAWA on Sept. 13.

There are those who won’t believe that guns are a serious problem for women. Elizabeth Hovde, conservative columnist for The Oregonian, wrote, “It’s rare that we are victims because we are women.” In glossing over any discrimination against women, including her representation of the Hobby Lobby case, she determined that women just like men, that bad things happen to all people. Hovde said that the California mass murdered Elliott Rodger was not targeting women, but his statement shows a different picture: “If I can’t have them, no one will.”

A recent study, “Women under the Gun,” shows how lax gun laws, both federal and state, allow women to be murdered at an alarming rate—6,410 from 2001 to 2012–more deaths than from the Iraq and Afghan wars combined. Women’s experiences of violence in this country are unique from those of men: Women knew their attackers in 65 percent of the cases, compared to the 35 percent of murders in which men knew their assailants. About 48 women are shot to death by intimate partners each month.

Two states passed bills in May to stop people convicted of domestic violence from owning or buying firearms. Minnesota’s bill expands handgun restrictions for convicted abusers to rifles and shotguns. It also includes restrictions for temporary restraining orders. Louisiana has passed a similar bill. With earlier laws from Wisconsin and Washington, the success rate covers four states. In Minnesota the bill got the vote of a GOP representative who regularly carries a gun, and Washington’s bill passed unanimously. Information about all state laws to protect women from fatal gun violence is available here.

A 2010 study, published in the journal Injury Prevention, showed that such laws have reduced intimate partner homicides by 19 percent. The victims in all five incidents leading up to the law were all women who had obtained protective orders within the month in which they were killed. More than 30 people subject to active restraining orders were convicted of assaults involving guns in a three-year period.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) are trying to close loopholes through their proposed Protecting Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act. Federal law defines domestic as people who have lived together, had a child together, or been married. Only ten states cover “dating partners” who are responsible for over half the murders of women in domestic violence.  In an unusual defense of same-sex relationships, the NRA argued against such a law because it might work against “partners of the same sex.”

The proposed bill also prevents convicted misdemeanor stalkers from obtaining weapons, which the NRA also opposes. Its position is that stalking behaviors “do not necessarily include violent or even threatening behavior.” One in five convicted stalkers use weapons to threaten or harm their victims and nine out of 10 attempted murders of women involve at least one case of stalking before the incident. Another provision of the bill would expand the definition of “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” to include the threat of violence.

states where stalkers can buy guns

Weak enforcement of laws sometimes comes from the failure of prosecutors to demand that those banned from owning firearms surrender their guns. States also don’t fully comply with reporting those banned from gun ownership. Laws are also weak in many states. About 40 percent of all gun sales are done privately because many states do not require universal background checks for these sales. In states that require background checks for all handgun sales, however, nearly 40 percent fewer women are killed by their intimate partners than in other states.

Although the NRA is completely opposed to saving women’s lives through closing the gun purchasing loopholes, the vast majority of women—81 percent—support extending the definition of “abusers” to include stalkers and dating partners. Overwhelming support for such a measure exists among 77 percent of both Republican and independent women.

Statistics show how often stalking leads to violent crimes and murder. One study of female murder victims in 10 cities found that three-fourths of women murdered and 85 percent of women who survived a murder attempt by a current or former intimate partner had been stalked in the previous year. There are nearly 12,000 convicted stalkers in the United States who can legally buy a gun.

sarah EngleSarah Engle is just one example of how women are targeted for killing and why the country needs restrictions on gun ownership. [ Left: Engle in an appearance with Gabby Giffords who was shot in Arizona in January 2011.]Almost six years ago, her ex-boyfriend broke into her mother’s house where he shot and killed the woman. After sexually and physically assaulting Sarah, he shot her in the face and left her for dead. Her experience highlights the way that women are the focus of killing because of gender.

Kentucky is one state where legislators are as clueless about guns and domestic violence as Elizabeth Hovde is. With the most lax gun restrictions for DV abusers in the nation and the greatest percentage of intimate-partner homicides by guns, the state has passed a law making it easier for battered women to obtain concealed-carry permits without changing laws for DV perpetrators. The victims don’t need any firearms training.

The presence of a firearm in a DV situation increases the risk of homicide by 500 percent for women, according to research from Mayors against Illegal Guns.  The Atlantic noted, “Not a single study to date has shown that the risk of any crime including burglary, robbery, home invasion, or spousal abuse against a female is decreased through gun ownership.”

Domestic abusers and stalkers should not have guns. People who engage in this behavior escalate conflict that frequently results in tragedy. The gaps in federal law need to be closed—now.

June 11, 2014

WaPo Continues Misogynist Rant

The Washington Post has done it again. Just two days after George Will’s op-ed that victims of campus rape want a “coveted status,” W. Bradford Wilcox and Robin Fretwell Wilson urge women to get married because they’ll be safer than single women. The piece was originally titled “Marry Your Baby Daddy to End Violence Against Women” until something (embarrassment?) caused it to be changed to “One Way to End Violence against Women? Stop Taking lovers and Get Married.” Once again, men blame women for male violence and guilt them for not marrying just anyone so that they’ll be safe.

Wilcox and Wilson write, “The bottom line is this: Married women are notably safer than their unmarried peers, and girls raised in a home with their married father are markedly less likely to be abused or assaulted than children living without their own father.” Missing in their argument is the drop in domestic violence rates at the same time that marriage rates are falling.

According to the op-ed, marriage tames men: “But marriage also seems to cause men to behave better. That’s because men tend to settle down after they marry, to be more attentive to the expectations of friends and kin, to be more faithful, and to be more committed to their partners—factors that minimize the risk of violence.”

W & W also promise that married women live in a better neighborhood and have less chances of getting robbed. Omitted from their polemic is the fact that the privileges of many marriages—more education and money, for example—also provide safer neighborhoods.

Part of the op-ed’s explanation that married women are safer is that they tend to stay at home more. So the solution that W & W proposes is that women stay out of public areas.

A serious problem in domestic violence is that victims may believe that they can change an abusive partner into a loving one by doing the right things. W & W do briefly admit that “married men can and do abuse or assault their wives.” Yet they refute their weak statement by giving marriage credit for their belief that “married fathers are much less likely to resort to violence.”

The op-ed is in response to #YesAllWomen, the “dramatic” social media response to the Santa Barbara shooting that drew attention to the fact that “across the United States, millions of girls and women have been abused, assaulted, or raped by men, and even more females fear that they will be subject to such an attack.” W & W claim that the campaign failed to note that married biological fathers “are more likely to protect women, directly and indirectly, from the threat of male violence.”

For Wilcox, however, this isn’t a new message. In a 2006 interview with Christianity Today, he claims:

  • Evangelical women tend to be happier in their marriages than other women, particularly when both the wife and the husband attend church on a regular basis.
  • The biggest predictor of women’s happiness is their husband’s emotional engagement.
  • For the average American marriage, it matters a lot more whether the husband is emotionally in tune with his wife than whether he’s doing, say, half the dishes or half the laundry.
  • Women who have more traditional gender attitudes are significantly happier in their marriages. They’re more likely to embrace the idea that men should take the primary lead in breadwinning and women should take the primary lead in nurturing the children and managing the domestic sphere, managing family life.
  • What’s more predictive of a woman’s happiness is whether or not her husband is the primary breadwinner. The income actually is a more important predictor of her happiness than whether she works outside the home.
  • Women are looking for, in general, husbands who provide them with emotional and financial support, and support to make the choices that they think are important for them and for their children.

As old as his message is, his supporting material is even older. Links go to research published in 1986 and 1990.

According to his bio, Wilcox “directs the Home Economics Project at the American Enterprise Institute and the Institute for Family Studies.” As a right-wing group, AEI joins other conservatives in pushing marriage as the cure for societal evils. Nowhere, however, have they explained how marriage can end sexual assaults in the military and on campus unless they argue that women don’t belong in these places.

Wilcox had already sullied his reputation with his involvement in a 2012 study by University of Texas Mark Regnerus that claims having LGBT parents harms kids. The fraudulent study was used in Russia’s oppressive laws against LGBT people. Regnerus’ conclusions completely unraveled after it was discovered that his skewed data all came from two respondents. Wilcox had recruited Regnerus to do his study and was then paid to work on the project. He also urged Regnerus to complete his study to influence the U.S. Supreme Court’s marriage equality cases.

Wilson also has a background of opposition to LGBT rights, primarily marriage equality. He was also one of 11 people who sent a letter to Gov. Jan Brewer urging her to sign the bill that would have allowed residents of Arizona to discriminate against anyone based on religious beliefs.

Once again, The Washington Post needs to be educated. Marriage does not guarantee that a man will not abuse his wife. Being a biological father does not mean that he will not abuse his child. Being victimized does not mean that the person will tell a husband or father. Men who are not abusive don’t abuse women and children. Abusive men will abuse others whether they are married or not. The problem is abusive men.

If W & W were right, the marriage rates would go up and the divorce rates would go down. In the meantime, more men engage in shaming women under the guise of journalism. Again it’s just propaganda and should be stopped.

Talking Points said it best: “WaPo Editorial Page Goes Neanderthal For Second Time In A Week.” Women are still considered responsible, this time for not getting married.

April 10, 2014

A Few Steps Forward in Protection from Guns

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Twenty-four people were wounded yesterday in horrific stabbings at a Pennsylvania school. Those who oppose any gun control say, “See! It’s not guns that are the problem.” They point out that a student was stabbed to death in school last September. Yet that’s only one person, compared to the thousands of people who die every year because of guns.

Guns kill far more people in the United States than knives: guns cause two-thirds of the homicides whereas only 13.4% of murders result from knives or other cutting instruments.  Of 37 public mass killings since 2006, 33 involved firearms, the other four being the Boston Marathon bombings, an incident involving a car, and two cases of arson. Far more suicides come from guns than sharp objects.

Even worse may be the “accidental” deaths because of people’s carelessness. In Arizona, a man’s Glock pistol falls from his waistband, and his three-year-old son picks it up, shooting himself in the head and killing himself. That happened five days before Christmas last year. State Rep. Victoria Steele introduced a bill, similar to laws in 28 states, that would make it a crime to store an unsecured loaded gun where children might be. There was never a hearing.

What got hearings in the Arizona legislature were speeded-up permits for specialized high-caliber weapons such as machine guns and fines for city council members who try to pass stricter gun laws than from the state. At least 32 Arizona children were killed in 2012. Fifty percent of these were by a gun that belonged to the child’s biological parent. Nationwide, at least 134 children accidentally died from gunshots in 2010, a number most likely undercounted by half because of misleading reporting and not counting seriously injured children. Like the three-year-old Arizona child who shot himself in the “lower torso” by one of the many unsecured guns in the home.

Todd Rathner, a member of the NRA’s board of directors, thinks that people with guns should have the entire family trained for safety, but he doesn’t see a requirement as “the responsibility of the government.” His cop-out is that parents let their children be hurt or killed and that gun deaths shouldn’t be singled out. Actually, many laws do protect children from irresponsible parents.

Fortunately, some progress—or at least a bit of holding ground—has been made in protecting people from shootings, such as a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

A federal law prevents people convicted of domestic violence from owning guns. Several courts, including the supposedly-liberal U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, ruled that this ban only refers to convictions that involved a “violent use of force.” In a surprising unanimous ruling, SCOTUS overturned these rulings by determining that the ban applied to everyone who pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of DV without proof of violent acts of physical injury.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor said:

“Domestic violence is not merely a type of ‘violence.’ It is a term of art encompassing acts that one might not characterize as ‘violent’ in a non-domestic context [and includes acts such as] pushing, grabbing, shoving, slapping and hitting.”

The ruling in U.S. vs. Castleman brings back the illegal gun possession charges against the Tennessee man who pled guilty to causing “bodily injury” to his child’s mother and was later charged with violating the law by possessing firearms. The U.S. 6th Circuit Court dismissed charges because of no proof that he had “violent contact with the victim.”

Washington state now requires people with histories of domestic violence to give up their weapons if they are under no-contact or permanent restraining orders. Gun owners are allowed to participate in a hearing to contest the order. The impetus for the law, unanimously passed in both houses, came from Stephanie Holton’s telling about her husband threatening to blow off her head as he pointed a gun at her in her living room.

The couple divorced after 12 years of marriage and two children with Stephanie having primary custody. When her ex-husband’s behavior because increasingly erratic, she told a friend, a police officer, who suggested that she file a police report. After her ex-husband came to her house when she wasn’t there, she asked for a protective order and told the judge that she was frightened because he had guns.

Corey Holton came to the house the same day the order was served, ordered her into the house, and forced her to kneel in the living room. Fortunately, the police took him into custody with no more violence, and he has been sentenced to 75 months in prison with a lifetime no-contact order involving Stephanie.

The 9th Circuit Court upheld a San Francisco ordinance requiring that people must either lock up guns or keep them on their person while at home as well as the city code that prohibits the sale of hollow-point bullets which expand inside a target. Gun owners and the NRA tried to maintain that the Second Amendment allows hollow-point bullets and unlimited gun storage. The ordinance allows people to buy hollow-point bullets outside the city and bring them back to their homes. The losers have promised to appeal. Earlier this year, the court ruled that people can carry guns outside their homes.

Last month, Milwaukee (WI) County Circuit Judge Michael Guolee ruled in favor of two police officers in a lawsuit against former gun dealers and their owners who had moved for summary judgment. The case, filed by two officers injured by weapons bought from Badger Guns, is now headed for a trial. Two other officers also received a ruling to go to trial in a similar case. Badger Guns and Badger Outdoors have been top sellers of guns used in crimes recovered by Milwaukee police for more than a decade.

In 2005, Badger Outdoors was the top U.S. seller of guns used in crimes with 537 weapons traced back to the company. ATF investigators recommended that the company’s license be revoked in 2006, but the store simply changed to Badger Guns because the son of Badger Outdoors’ owner obtained a new license. When ATF revoked his license for Badger Guns in 2011, his brother opened Brew City Shooters Supply in 2012.

In at least 50 cases across the country, people with revoked licenses maintain a close relationship to the gun-selling operation. Congress has limited ATF’s authority to gather evidence in finding these places and closing them down.

The killing of four men at Fort Hood last week brought out an uncharacteristic statement from House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH): “There’s no question that those with mental health issues should be prevented from owning weapons or being able to purchase weapons.” He thought the bill to prevent a Medicare reimbursement cut to doctors also contained funding for pilot programs studying the link between gun violence and mental illness, but it didn’t. His speech also blamed the VA for the shooting because the House wants to make it easier for the department’s secretary to fire senior officials.

Fox’s American News HQ wanted a guest to call for arming all the military on posts. Instead retired four-star general Jack Keane said:

“I don’t believe our soldiers should be armed on the base. […] Can you imagine the first responders coming on a scene, and there’s people shooting all over the place, and they have to determine who is friend and who is foe? I think the potential for leading to more violence by arming everybody is rather significant.”

Fox made the same claim about Navy Yard shooting, not knowing that some of the victims were armed personnel. Keane continued to point out that soldiers aren’t trained to control and de-escalate a situation as police are. The woman who stopped the Fort Hood shooter was a trained MP.

People who equate more guns with less violence are operating in an extremely simplistic fashion, assuming that every person with a gun carefully evaluates the situation and respond in a calm and appropriate manner. It’s the reverse: more guns = more violence.

February 24, 2014

SCOTUS Refuses Gun Cases; Irresponsible ‘Good Guys’

Four years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Citizens United, allowing wealthy people to buy political legislators and judges. Almost a year ago, the court ruled in favor of the LGBT community but against voters’ rights. Today, they rejected two petitions from the NRA about gun rights, showing that they are waiting out the Second Amendment issue—at least for now. The NRA is not happy.

SCOTUS has issued only one ruling on the Second Amendment since its decision almost six years ago that the U.S. Constitution gives individuals the right to have a gun. After the court expanded the Second Amendment beyond federal laws to state and local gun control laws a few years ago, they have stayed silent. That’s what happened today.

Both the petitions that SCOTUS refused had to do with young people from 18 to 20 years old. In one of them, the NRA tried to legalize the sale of handguns to these youth, and the other case challenged Texas laws barring the same people from obtaining license for open carry outside their homes. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals banned members of that age bracket to Second Amendment protections because SCOTUS ruled that only “responsible” people have gun rights.

A third case that SCOTUS refused was against a 1968 law banning all interstate gun sales except by federally-licensed gun dealers. Lane v. Holder tried to get SCOTUS to determine if gun buyers have a legal right to challenge this law. The NRA is still not happy.

 SCOTUS did hear a case last month about the Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban which prevents people convicted of DV from owning or possessing a gun. In U.S. v. Castleman, the argument is whether the law applies to Castleman because his conviction does not state whether he used physical force against the victim. Most local jurisdictions resolve misdemeanor domestic violence cases under assault and battery statutes and do not indicate whether physical force was used. The court decision will be issued by early this summer.

In the United States, three women are killed every day by domestic violence. If abusers were re-armed, this number would most likely increase. According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV), women in the United States are 11 times more likely to be murdered with a gun than women in other high-income countries, and victims of domestic violence who live in homes with guns have an eight-fold increase in homicide risk.

Facebook is one place where teens are buying guns because of lax background check laws. A 15-year-old student in Kentucky who bought a 9mm automatic pistol from an Ohio man last October took the gun to his homecoming football game because he wanted to be “cool.” Frederick Stiltner was indicted last week for the crime, but Facebook has not stopped advertising gun sales.

Another reason for mandating universal background checks comes from this recent study in Missouri. In 2007, the state repealed the requirement for background checks except for federally-licensed dealers, permitting private sales through unlicensed sellers without any checks. Since that time, an average of 60 more people have been killed by firearms every year. This 23-percent increase occurs at a time when the overall murder rate in the United States is down by 5 percent. Neighboring states didn’t have any spike in murders during these years, but both Illinois and Kansas experienced increases in confiscated guns from criminals who had come from Missouri. Forty percent of Missouri’s guns are recovered in a crime within two years of the original sale.

Starting in 2010, a project called Trace the Guns identified state laws and the rate of illegal guns going in and out of these states. It’s no surprise that states with the fewest gun laws  and states not requiring background checks ranked higher for the number of crime guns originating from those states. At this time, only 15 states require background checks for gun purchases from unlicensed sellers.

These are a sampling of actions by “responsible” gun owners this month:

 

  • In Arkansas, 48-year-old Willie Noble shot and killed a 15-year-old girl who was egging her friend’s car for a prank in retaliation against one done by the man’s teenage son.
  • In Florida, Marcus Leon Thompson, an off duty corrections officer, was responsible for nine injured people in a café, Shooters Waterfront, when his gun accidentally went off as he reached into his pocket for money and a valet ticket.
  • In California, 34-year-old Brent Posada shot himself with a high-powered air rifle and then told police that a black man had shot him.
  • In North Carolina, Justin Carper’s three-year-old son shot and injured his 17-month-old sister with Carper’s 9mm handgun. Carper writes a column on parenting advice for a local newspaper. A study found that handguns are responsible for more hospitalizations and in-hospital deaths than any other type of weapon.
  • In Michigan, a man shot and killed himself when he was teaching his girlfriend gun safety. He had three pistols and put them to his head, one by one. The gun went off with the third gun.

 

In January, 62-year-old Rodney Bruce Black shot and killed his new neighbor and the neighbor’s brother in West Virginia. The afternoon that they were killed, the two men were inspecting property that one of the men had just purchased. Police took a “large amount” of weapons and ammo from Black’s home.

In Indiana, Police Chief David Counceller, 60, shot himself in the leg with his own Glock handgun as he was looking at weapons in a gun store. Previously he had shot himself in the hand while he was on duty. The town mayor tried to justify Counceller’s accident last month by saying, “Apparently the Glocks don’t have the trigger safety that they should have.”

The people above would fit into NRA Wayne Pierre’s definition of a “good guy with a gun,” those people who wants to protect the U.S. citizens. One “good guy” is 37-year-old Marlo Ellis who was armed with a pistol in the Dollar Store in Orville (AL). When another 37-year-old, Kevin McLaughlin, came into the store and used his gun to force Ellis and a cashier towards a break room, Ellis shot and killed McLaughlin. There was no mention of robbery, just an angry argument.

The “good guy” who did the killing is facing charges of rape in the second degree and enticing a child for immoral purposes. According to court documents, Ellis picked up a girl at school and drove her to his home where he had sex with her. The Dallas County Sheriff’s Department said that they were waiting for forensics and that “there had been [past] allegations against Ellis similar to what he was charged with in this case.” Over three years ago, Ellis had been sentenced for another criminal offense. McLaughlin had no criminal record. Some pro-gun websites claimed that McLaughlin was “hunting for people to shoot.”

Alabama law may prevent law enforcement from revoking Ellis’ concealed handgun permit even with his criminal history and recent indictment for rape. Many people in the United States would agree with a statement made in 1934 by then-NRA president Karl T. Frederick: “I do not believe in the general promiscuous toting of guns.  I think it should be sharply restricted and only under licenses.”

The anti-regulation people claim that there are many cases of armed citizens protecting other people. The question is how many of their cases are similar to this one. This is one of the people who Wayne Pierre calls a “good guy.”

February 23, 2013

No Compromise for VAWA

For 18 years the Violence against Women Act (VAWA) was the law of the land, passing in the year that Newt Gingrich took over the House and renewed every six years even when the GOP had control of a Congressional chamber and the presidency. Then the Tea Party came to town, and everything changed.

VAWA provides vital protections against domestic violence and sexual assault, providing assistance to victims through funding clinics, shelters, hotlines, and services. Greatly improving the nation’s infrastructure of dealing with rape and abuse, VAWA has saved countless women’s lives and livelihoods. It established the National Domestic Violence Hotline; trained law enforcement officers, judges, and prosecutors to help victims; made stalking illegal; and updated laws throughout the United States to consider rape by a partner equal to rape by a stranger.

Since VAWA, partner violence and homicides fell: from 1993, the year before VAWA’s passage, until 2010, the overall rate of intimate partner violence in the United States declined by 64 percent. The number of women killed by partners dropped 43 percent.

vawa

Last April, the Senate passed another six–year extension to VAWA, but the House rejected it. This month the Senate passed VAWA, but the House opposes support for Native American, undocumented, and LGBT victims of DV and SA.

One sticking point with the GOP-controlled House, that has proposed a watered down version of VAWA, is the provision that would protect Native American women on tribal reservations. They ignore the statistics of sexual violence against Native American women. Three out of five are assaulted by their intimate partners, and 56 percent of these women have non-Indian husbands. Despite epidemic rates of domestic violence against Native women on reservations by non-Native men, local governments are not permitted to respond to crimes in their community if the perpetrator is not Native. Only federal prosecutors, often hundreds of miles away without local resources, are allowed to investigate and prosecute these crimes. On some Indian reservations, the homicide rate of Native women is ten times that of the national average.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) is an example of the 22 senators–all men–who voted against VAWA, bigots who oppose protecting Indian women from non-Native men. He declared that VAWA was unconstitutional because white men would be deprived of their rights by facing a tribal court.  “On an Indian reservation, it’s going to be made up of Indians, right?” he said. “So the non-Indian doesn’t get a fair trial.”

“The jury is supposed to be a reflection of society,” Grassley wrongly claimed. According to the Sixth Amendment, juries are drawn from the “state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed.” The U.S. Supreme Court decisions ruled that criminal defendants have a right to a jury “drawn from a fair cross section of the community” where the case is heard. Over 95 percent of Vermont is white, so the jury might be all white. On the other hand, the population of local communities on the Navajo Nation are largely Native American. Grassley’s statement indicates he thinks that Navajo jurors are less like to be impartial than whites.

Of these 22 senators, five senators are so anti-women that they voted against an amendment to ban human trafficking.  

Grassley has company in his anti-VAWA stance. Heritage Action, from the group headed by ultra-conservative Jim DeMint, and Freedomworks, one of the Tea Party groups,  are fighting VAWA’s reauthorization because it is “unprecedented, unnecessary and dangerous.” Claiming that VAWA is “bad for men,” the groups stated, “Under VAWA, men effectively lose their constitutional rights.” Because male victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking may also be covered, the only men who might suffer from VAWA are those who commit these violent crimes.

Sponsored by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), one of 17 GOP women who constitute 8.5 percent of Republicans in the House, the House bill removes rights from three specific groups of people:

Native American Victims: Tribal court sentencing on non-Native defendants would be limited to one year in addition to other options allowing defendants to evade justice in tribal courts. Non-Native American men who abuse Native American women on reservations could move their cases to a federal court if they feel their constitutional rights are not being upheld. The bill also eliminates the 2000 VAWA allowing tribes to issue and enforce civil protection orders against all persons, the only protection a tribal government can provide to victims of domestic violence from DV, stalking, and harassment.

LGBT Victims: The bill removes “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” from the list of underserved populations who face barriers to accessing victim services, thereby disqualifying LGBT victims from a related grant program; eliminates a requirement in the Senate bill that programs that receive funding under VAWA provide services regardless of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity; and excludes the LGBT community from the STOP program, the largest VAWA grant program, which gives funds to care providers who work with law enforcement officials to address domestic violence.

Undocumented Immigrants: Undocumented immigrants who are victims of domestic violence can be eligible for legal status only if federal or local officials certify that it would help investigate or prosecute criminal activity.

Last year, Grassley vote against the rights of these groups, saying that it was just the Democrats’ “election year politics.” He indicated that these provisions were included to make Republicans look bad in an election year. Instead of accepting the motivation to make the United States a better place to live, he follows the paranoid complaint from the National Review :

Democrats have nearly perfected the following exercise in cynical electioneering: 1) introduce legislation; 2) title it something that appeals to the vast majority of Americans who have no interest in learning what is actually in the bill, e.g., the “Violence Against Women Act”; 3) make sure it is sufficiently noxious to the GOP that few Republicans will support it; 4) vote, and await headlines such as “[GOP Lawmaker] Votes No On Violence Against Women Act”; 5) clip and use headline in 30-second campaign ad; and 6) repeat.”

Amanda Marcotte laid out the issue much better:

“There’s a long and ongoing history of rape and domestic violence being minimized and ignored by law enforcement and society at large. Domestic violence is frequently minimized as mere couple-squabbling. Rape is often written off as the victim’s hysterical reaction to bad sex or just desserts for a woman who broke one of the many unwritten sexist ‘rules’ about going out at night, being alone with a date, dressing a certain way, or drinking alcohol.

“VAWA addresses these realities, by strengthening law enforcement response and providing victim services that avoid victim-blaming or minimization, and is not, contrary to conservative hopes and dreams, an attempt to make up for women’s supposed physical or emotional inferiority.”

If the House version even gets out of committee, GOP members will whine about Democrats not compromising with them. Trying to find common ground by refusing rights to specific groups of people is like the agreement of 1787 that gave each slave in the South only three-fifths’ status of a white man in determining Congressional representation. Emory University President James Wagner declared this a good compromise. Denying people rights is never a good compromise.          

April 24, 2012

GOP Opposes VAWA, Women

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 1:19 PM
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Politics takes front and center this week with five primaries across the nation today. Voters in one state, North Carolina, will determine the fate of an anti-marriage equality amendment to the constitution which will disenfranchise domestic partnerships for not only LGBT couples but also for 233,000 heterosexual couples. Friday may bring a vote in the House on the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) that greatly expands the government’s ability examine online activities in this country.

Tomorrow the Supreme Court discusses the Arizona anti-immigrant law SB1070. Let’s hope that none of them addresses the “fairness” of the law the way that one of them did while discussing the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. Also tomorrow the Senate debates a bill that potentially impacts over half the population of the United States—the Violence against Women Act (VAWA).

For the first time since its original passage in 1994, VAWA faces a fight for renewal. Originally written and introduced by then-Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE), the bill is an effort to prevent domestic violence and help victims of domestic or sexual abuse. Twice reauthorized–once signed by George W. Bush–VAWA has enjoyed broad bipartisan support until this year. Republicans have decided to fight VAWA because the revised act extends the classes of victims to Native Americans, the LGBT community, and undocumented immigrants. Conservatives don’t want other women to be beaten, strangled, and raped, but those other women don’t deserve government help.

Some women are even supporting the Republican opposition: Janice Crouse, a spokesperson for Concerned Women for America, said that VAWA “pits husbands against wives” and that under the law “a woman can, with the barest evidence and no evidence at all, claim abuse and get (a husband or partner) out of the house.” Meanwhile after opposing VAWA in the Judiciary Committee two months ago, some Republicans say they are drafting their own, scaled-back version of the law. They have yet, however, to produce any specific proposals.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has said that the Senate GOP won’t filibuster VAWA, up for debate tomorrow. Its 61 Senate co-sponsors would already make it filibuster-proof, but Republicans plan to undermine the bill through amendments that delete the added classes of victims. Concerned that tribal officials might be able to prosecute non-Indians for abuse on reservations, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) described the added classes of victims, “matters put on that bill that almost seem to invite opposition.” Conservatives can pass these amendments with 51 votes if all the Republicans plus a few less-than-liberal Democrats vote to delete some women from the bill. An alternative to these amendments is to add toxic amendments, forcing Democrats to oppose the bill.

Since VAWA’s first passage, domestic violence has annually decreased by 53 percent. Because victims now report incidents, abuse reports have increased 51 percent. The law has provided hundreds of thousands of women, men, and children access to legal help, health care, and police assistance. VAWA makes special provisions for the elderly, the disabled, and women in rural areas who can’t easily access help. Thus far, VAWA has not been a cure: in 45 percent of cases where a man killed a woman, it was because a woman tried to leave an abusive relationship. One in five women will be raped in her lifetime, as will one in 71 men. Between one-third and one-fourth of same-sex relationships has experienced domestic violence.

One in three Native American women will be raped in her lifetime; they face the highest rate of domestic violence out of any group in the country, three and a half times the national average. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) said that “any American” could be imprisoned by tribal courts, but the provisions allow tribal members to prosecute non-tribal people who commit domestic violence and who either live or work on a reservation or are married to a tribal member. Republicans also oppose the increased number of visas extended to abused undocumented victims. The expanded VAWA would prevent shelters from discriminating against LGBT victims.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), the highest-ranking member of the Senate Democratic leadership, and Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) held a press conference last week about VAWA. “It really is a shame, I think, that we’ve gotten to this point that we even have to stand here today to urge our colleagues on the other side of the aisle to support legislation that has consistently received broad bipartisan support,” Murray said.

One GOP Senate candidate, Sarah Steelman who is opposing Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), didn’t know about VAWA until she got a question about the bill. Later she said, “Of course I am for stopping violence against women” but accused Senate Democrats of making the bill a “political football.” [Any time someone disagrees with the GOP position (which is anything opposing the Democrats’ position), that person screams “politization,” probably the term replacing “un-American.”]

Steelman is in good company: Mitt Romney didn’t know what VAWA was when he was a presidential candidate in 2008. Thus far, Romney has not stated an opinion about VAWA’s renewal.

Since the beginning of the recession, the Northeast has seen a 72 percent increase in the incidence of domestic violence in the Northeast while domestic violence homicide rates have increased 24 percent in New York. Yet across the country, states are cutting funding to counseling programs, non-shelter services, and rental subsidies that help domestic violence victims escape into other permanent housing.

This Friday the Senate will leave for a one-week recess. Will they create separate classes of Native Americans, LGBT, and undocumented immigrant people, allowing them to suffer violence to the point of being killed?

As Meghan Rhoade wrote, “The bottom line for women is that everyone deserves protection from violence–regardless of the length of her skirt, regardless of her sexual orientation, and regardless of her immigration status.” Freedom from violence should be a human right.

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