Nel's New Day

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.

March 4, 2018

Gun-Lovers Flock to Pennsylvania Church

In this gun-loving country, weapons are caught up in the Christian religion. The World Peace and Unification Sanctuary in Newfoundland (PA), about 20 miles southeast of Scranton, views the AR-15 as the “rod of iron” in the Bible’s book of Revelation. Therefore, about 600 people gathered together last Wednesday for a blessing ceremony that featured their beloved rods. Wearing bullet crowns, the worshippers “drank holy wine and exchanged or renewed wedding vows,” according to an Associated Press report.

The religious group, led by Rev. Hyung Jin “Sean” Moon, is an off-shoot of the Unification Church, founded by Moon’s father, Sun Myung Moon who died in 2012. Another Moon son, Moon Kook-jin (aka Justin Moon), founded Kahr Arms, a firearms manufacturing company nearby that sold AR-15s to anyone who didn’t bring one for the ceremony. David Konn, a ceremony participant who drove from Florida, said that he has several rifles bought an AR-15 because he didn’t own one. “I think it retails for $689,” he said.

Part of the religion’s weeklong “Festival of Grace,” the ceremony’s name was the Cosmic True Parents of Heaven, Earth and Humanity Cheon Il Guk Book of Life Registration Blessing to follow god’s will in honoring the 2nd Amendment. Moon (wearing long blue velvet robes below with officials dressed in pink) talked about the “last days” and fighting socialism and communism while he wife held an AR-15. The week included a “President Trump Thank You Dinner” on Saturday.

Moon calls himself the “Second King” and anointed heir to the “True Father”; he calls on his followers to use guns in defending their families, communities, and “the nation of Cheon Il Guk,” the kingdom of God the church believes is prophesied in biblical Scripture. He told people that everyone without a weapon or a $700 coupon from a gun store proving they will buy one, couldn’t come to the ceremony.

“OK, you may be able to sit in the back and receive the blessing like the ungrateful punk that you are, the ungrateful piece of shish that you are. And you’ll know that you’re a piece of cr*p. Will you go to hell, will you lose salvation if you don’t bring a crown and a rod of iron? No. Will you be a b**** if you don’t? Yes.”

Teddy Hose, who grew up with the church but left with his entire family, said, “Sean was a bully.”

The Moon multibillion-dollar conglomerate includes the founding of the conservative Washington Times and is now called the Tongil Group. The pro-gun rhetoric has recently become a major part of the empire and received attention from politicians. In 2016, Eric Trump spoke at the opening of Tommy Gun Warehouse, a Tongil gun store.

The AR-15 is known as the favorite weapon of mass shootings, most recently used to kill 17 people on Valentine’s day at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland (FL

The Unification Church, a combination of Christianity and Moon-created Divine Principles, started in 1954 and gained fame in the 1970s U.S. with the premise that true enlightenment comes from marriage, sometimes arranged to other Unification members. His followers, sometimes called “Moonies,” were known for public mass weddings of thousands of couples, often complete strangers. The financial success of the enterprise led to ownership of such businesses as a cable TV network and a shipbuilding studio. Moon used his profits for political lobbying.

In 1976, an investigation found that Moon’s church may have been used for Korean government interests, and during the 1980s, Moon served 11 months in prison for tax invasion. Moon created a large network of right-wing organizations with alliances starting with Ronald Reagan’s administration. This week’s gun-worship ceremony in Pennsylvania is a blend of Christian and corporate pro-gun sponsorship. Their techniques, such as “home churches,” has been incorporated into the mainsteam evangelical community that also fetishizes guns with ritual significance.

Of white evangelicals, 77 percent feel safer with a gun in hand, a percentage far higher than any other religious group. Highly religious gun owners are twice as likely to belong to the NRA as less religious gun owners (24% vs. 12%), and one-fourth of gun-owning white evangelicals are members of the NRA.

Opposition to gun safety laws didn’t lessen after 26 people were killed in a Sutherland Springs (TX) Baptist church, but the Florida shooting may be shifting their opinion. Like most other people, white evangelicals hide behind the “mental illness” fix for gun violence, but 80 percent of them also favor expanded background checks and match others with banning assault-style weapons with a 68 percent favorability rating for this practice. Fifty-eight percent of evangelicals in general were more likely than the 46 percent of conservatives and the 45 percent of Republicans to support gun safety reform.

Last week, even Pat Robertson advocated banning automatic weapons and using background checks to screen people before they purchasing guns. These are the people in the Republican base. GOP legislators may need to reconsider their allegiance to the NRA.

Highly religious gun owners are twice as likely to belong to the NRA as less religious gun owners (24% vs. 12%). Gun owners who worship weekly are also more likely to join the NRA (23%) than those who don’t worship as often (18%). A quarter of gun-owning white evangelicals are members of the NRA.

This op-ed in the Oregonian, however, shows that not all NRA members follow the organization’s party line. Rural Oregonian Rusty Munn, an NRA owner, debunks the NRA partyline:

  • Myth 1: The government is trying to take our guns away. Not true….
  • Myth 2: Because of our frontier history, all Americans are good with guns. Not true….
  • Myth 3a: This one is widespread. I call it the Hollywood myth, in which a bad guy is vanquished by a good guy with a gun…. In real life, even well-trained police personnel have difficulties making the correct decision on when to use deadly force. Most people don’t have the training, judgment or instincts to make the right decision in a split second, chaotic situation.
  • Myth 3b: The way to stop school shootings is to arm teachers. Read 3a and add the fact that many teachers do not want to carry a gun.
  • Myth 4: The NRA speaks for all gun owners. Not true. The NRA doesn’t speak for me. The NRA wants license — the ability to do what they want when they want no matter the effect on others and society. Freedom requires responsibility for your actions. License does not….

“The second amendment does not confer unlimited rights. It states: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The founders acknowledged the need for regulation…..

“Violence is a cancer in our society and there are many things we must do to address it. One step is to attempt to keep guns out of the hands of those who would do violence. If that inconveniences me, I’m willing to put up with that. Regulations are coming….

“It makes sense for gun owners to be involved in the development of those regulations. If we gun owners don’t get out in front of this, we won’t like the results.”

Thank you, Mr. Munn. May the World Peace and Unification Sanctuary become more of an outlier.

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.

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