The reaction to the massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, the deadliest against the Jewish community in American history, Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum told the Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in Manhattan, to be more Jewish, more visibility, not be (terrorized) into bunkers or invisibility.
Leading a communal shiva service, she said, “We will study, build community and not lose our focus as to what it is to be Jewish.”
New York State Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, addressing a communal Shiva gathering for victims of the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh said, “The word is resilience, a refusal to succumb to victimhood. That’s how we win out. Willingness to gather as a community …
“The shock, outrage, disbelief, overwhelming sadness and grief is overwhelming,” she said.
“How it happened? We don’t have political courage to ban weapons that allow such carnage.
“As to why? We know there is hatred, evil, but in t last two years, it has evolved… Evil lurking under surface, the serpents feeling they can rise up out from under rocks because leadership is willing to do the same. .. What was submerged is unleashed.
“What gives hope is the knowledge that no child is born anti-Semitic, homophobic, racist, misogynistic. [We must] capture hearts and minds of next generation before they learn hate.”
She advised, “Live a more publicly Jewish way, not be a victim, but embrace your heritage and embrace the ones not yet [tainted] by hate. Push [hate] back under a rock.
“On behalf of Governor Cuomo and 20 million New Yorkers, I express condolences to all of us because we are all heartbroken today.”
Rabbi Kleinbaum noted that the first response after the news of the massacre in Pittsburgh came via text and email from Muslim and Christian leaders in the city.
She said that since the inauguration, she and members of the synagogue have held a vigil at the nearby mosque every Friday, to stand up for Muslims who have been vilified by Trump.
“We say to ourselves what would it have been like in Berlin, in Vienna, if non-Jewish Germans and Austrians stood with their Jewish neighbors.
And now, the Iman has said his members would come to the synagogue this Friday before Shabbat services.
“We are in solidarity with our Jewish brothers and sisters,” he wrote. “Throughout the constant attacks and dehumanization from this administration, [Beit Simcha Torah] has been a source of faith and love. … Our duty is to stand with our Jewish brother and sisters. We stand with them, put our bodies on the line for their safety. … [We must] stamp out White Supremacy and anti-Semitism….Any attack on your community is an attack on ours.”
Rabbi Kleinman said, “We can replace hate in the world, the violence, with love.”
She noted that the attack on Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh was not only an act of anti-Semitism, but because the synagogue supported refugees to the US.
“Abraham was told to leave his home, go to a place he did not know and build and live there.
HIAS – Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society – provided finances to help Jews, and today, HIAS helps non-Jews become part of the American tapestry, “because we are Jews, we welcome the stranger, the immigrant,” she said.
“God forbid this act of violence deters us from that, puts us into bunkers. That’s what the terrorists, anti-Semities want…. We must respond to anti-Semitism with deepened strength of Jewish identity. We must not let fear, despair control us.
At the end of the service, members of the synagogue’s board read the names and something personal about each of the 11 victims at Tree of Life Synagogue, murdered for no other reason than being Jewish. Most notably, was the personal remembrance of Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, 66 years old, who was one of the first to treat people with HIV. The gentleman had grown up in Pittsburgh and was treated by Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, until he left Pittsburgh in 2004. “He was the one to go to. He was known in the community for keeping us alive the longest. He held us without gloves. You will be remembered by me always. You are one of my heroes.”
It is also notable that the first to treat the assassin at the hospital were Jewish, including a doctor who was a congregant at Tree of Life.
“I refuse to give up on the dream of what this world could be,” Rabbi Kleinbaum said, “[to be a victim of] the violence, hatred unleashed by this administration. I refuse to give up on the power of human beings. We who are Jews, have a deep and proud tradition. There are those who would want us to turn inward. Don’t believe that.
“Before the immigration laws, a young boy whose mother couldn’t speak English, came with no money, worked very hard cleaning other people’s homes and would tell him, ‘God bless America,’ not because it was perfect but it was better than the place she fled. The son grew up in New York City, became one of the greatest songwriters. Irving Berlin wrote “God Bless America,” not as a militaristic, triumphant chant. He wrote it as a prayer. He wrote it understanding her dream, coming to this country without skills, language or money, for her son to grow up away from a land that hated Jews. God Bless America. We won’t give up. And remember to vote. Sing it, as a prayer.”
And the congregation sang.
Founded in 1973, Congregation Beit Simchat Torah (CBST) is a progressive synagogue that attracts and welcomes gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender, queer and straight, individuals and families who share common values. Hochul had participated in the opening of the building in 2016.
It doesn’t matter that Donald Trump and the NRA-toadies in the Congress had all skipped town ahead of the onslaught of an estimated 500,000 who joined the March for Our Lives in Washington DC calling for sane gun control. After Sandy Hook, Pulse Nightclub, Las Vegas, and the five school shootings that took place just since Parkland, the advocates for commonsense gun regulation are done trying to appeal and cajole lawmakers. The overriding theme of the event, called out in every interlude between the teen and t’ween speakers who so eloquently made the argument for banning assault weapons and high-capacity ammo clips and universal background checks was “VOTE THEM OUT.”
The call would come from down a mile-long stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue, and crescendo, until the buildings would shake.
Gun control advocates are done expecting tragedy to prompt action to protect public health and safety. They are done asking. They are demanding change – whether it be the policy or the politician.
“Either represent the people or get out … Stand for us or beware: The voters are coming,” was the manifesto from Parkland student Cameron Kasky to lawmakers. “To the leaders, skeptics and cynics who told us to sit down, stay silent and wait your turn: Welcome to the revolution.”
The NRA has succeeded, despite easily 90% of Americans who want sensible gun regulations – keeping guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, the severely mentally ill, felons and terrorists, and want to keep weapons designed for war off city streets where 80 percent of Americans live – because they 1) buy politicians, but 2) because they manage to shepherd single-issue voters, fear-mongering the call for “sensible” gun regulation into “confiscate your guns” – and there are some 350 million of them in the hands of just 22% of the population (3% of gun owners own 50% of guns).
Now, the single-issue voters will be gun regulation. That will be the litmus test for support or opposition to a candidate. And that’s okay, because it seems that those who embrace sensible gun laws tend also to support climate action, women’s rights, justice, health care and education. They tend to support diplomacy over war. They see gun control as a public health issue – an epidemic of lethal violence that must be addressed – and so also favor the other issues that support health and quality of life, or in the words of the Founding Fathers quoted on the stage: “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
And there will be 3.9 million high school seniors who will be eligible to vote, if not in the 2018 midterms, buy the 2020 presidential.
An army of volunteers were out with forms to register new voters here and in the hundreds and hundreds of “sibling” rallies held across the country – more than 800 in all including those that took place globally. (Several nations have issued advisories against traveling to the United States because of gun violence.)
This was quite literally a March for Our Lives. More children have been killed by gun violence in the five years since Sandy Hook than soldiers have died in combat since 9/11, reported Newsweek. According to Everytown, on average, there are 13,000 gun-related homicides a year (another 20,000 suicides); for every one person killed by a gun, two more are injured; seven children and teens are killed with guns every day. In 2015, Politifact confirmed a statement by Nicholas Kristof that “”More Americans have died from guns in the United States since 1968 [1,516,863] than on battlefields of all the wars in American history [1,396,733].”
There have been 5 school shootings just since Parkland on February 14 – including the murder just two days before the March for Our Lives of 16-year old Jaelynn Willey at Great Mills High School in Maryland, at the hand of a 17-year old former boyfriend, wielding his parents’ semi-automatic handgun.
It wasn’t just Parkland or Sandy Hook and school shootings represented. The speakers were representative of the spectrum of gun violence that is epidemic in America and no where else in the world: gang violence that steals so many lives in urban center cities like Los Angeles and Chicago, that snuffs out the souls in church, concerts, movies, shopping malls; the victims of domestic violence and robbery. And assassination, as the remarks of Martin Luther King Jr.’s 9-year old granddaughter, Yolanda Renee King, recalled.
“My grandfather had a dream that his four little children will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character,” said Yolanda Renee King. “I have a dream that enough is enough,” she said. “And that this should be a gun-free world – period.”
Then there was 11-year old Naomi Wadler from Alexandria, Virginia, who led the walk-out from her school for 18 minutes – 17 to honor those killed in Parkland and 1 more for the girl who was murdered from her school. “I am here today to acknowledge and represent the African American girls whose stories don’t make the front page of every national newspaper. Whose stories don’t lead on the evening news. I represent the African American women who are victims of gun violence, who are simply statistics instead of vibrant, beautiful girls full of potential,” she said. “For far too long, these names, these black girls and women, have been just numbers. I’m here to say ‘Never Again’ for those girls, too.”
On average, gun violence kills 96 people each day, who don’t warrant media notice. American women are 16 times more likely to be shot to death than women in other developed countries; When a gun is present in a domestic violence situation, the woman is 5 times as likely to be murdered. But in states where a background check is required for every handgun sale, 47% fewer women are shot to death by intimate partners, according to EverytownResearch.org.
The speakers, an extraordinary array of the most extraordinary young people, described their trauma, their loss of siblings, parents, best friends, the constant anxiety they must now live with (187,000 school children today have been witness to gun attacks in their schools, according to a Washington Post study; an entire generation since the 1999 Columbine massacre lives with Live Fire drills just as the 1960s kids drilled for nuclear bomb attacks; 40% of Americans know someone who has been a victim of gun violence). They made their case with such clarity, poise, reason and most of all, authenticity, you had to contrast that with the absurdity and stupidity that is heard from many of the current electeds, like Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert.
When Emma Gonzalez, with her poignant, piercing 6 minutes and 20 seconds of silence that mimicked the time it took for the Parkland School Shooter to kill 17, injure 17 more with his AR-15 assault rifle and simply disappear amid the fleeing students, you had the feeling of seeing a future leader, much as those who heard Hillary Clinton’s Wellesley commencement speech. And so many more on that stage. And then there was Malala, in her taped message, who defied the terror attack on her by Taliban determined to prevent girls from attending school.
But more: you realized in a flash what was lost – to society, to civilization – the potential of what these young people could have been, their lives snuffed out by the dreck of our species. Did we lose a Steve Hawking, a Malala, an Obama, a Steve Jobs, a Bill Gates? And what of the hundreds of thousands who must live with life-altering injuries – what of the cost to society of their lost ability to fulfill their potential, of the cost of health care that might otherwise have been spent on education, professional training, investment in innovation? The high cost of trauma counselors after an event, of security officers, technology and construction to harden schools against gun violence (diverting scarce funds from computers and actual teaching), pales in comparison.
These Parkland survivor-leaders weren’t trying to appeal to politicians with reason or emotion, authenticity or compassion, as the Sandy Hook parents had futilely done. They are done with that.
The pacing of the production – mixing personal stories with PSA’s and data – even the NRA’s “greatest hits” – and top-notch entertainment that included Lin-Manuel Miranda and Ben Platt ; Miley Cyrus; Ariana Grande; Jennifer Hudson; Andra Day with Cardinal Shehan School Choir; Common with Andra Day; Demi Lovato; Vic Mensa and an astonishing performance by the Stoneman Douglas drama club with a student choir of the song they wrote, “Shine” (www.youtube.com/watch?v=MrZiB2jV7dw), was as fast and explosive as an AR-15 firing. The audience filled in the interlude with chants of “Vote Them Out” – except after Emma Gonzalez spoke, when the chant was “Vote Her In.”
They want to know why a minority of people get to threaten the vast majority of people.
Enough is Enough, the speakers declared. Never Again, was the reply back, perhaps more hopefully, given that there are still more than 200 days before the midterm elections, and 250 days before a new Congress is seated. How many more will die until then? If the law of averages continues, 96 a day, or upwards of 24,000 lives will be snuffed out in this gun violence epidemic, with thousands of more suffering life-altering injuries, that sap their ability to fulfill their god-given potential.
“We’re done hiding, being afraid,” Ryan Deitsch, a survivor of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, declared. “That’s not what our Founding Fathers envisioned when they wrote of ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’ This is the beginning of the end. This is the fight for our lives.
“REV up America: Register to vote. Then educate. Then vote.”
About a million people attending more than 800 rallies across the country and around the world, were inspired to take action. And vote.
Here are more photo highlights of the March for Our Lives in Washington DC:
New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and Rhode Island Enter into Agreement to Create Multi-State Database That Will Share Information on Firearms, Law Enforcement Efforts and Supplement Federal NICS Database
New Multi-State Coalition Will Trace and Intercept Firearms to Stop Flow of Out-of-State Guns
Nation’s First Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium Will Conduct Studies to Better Inform Policy Makers
New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo today announced the formation of the new “States for Gun Safety” coalition to combat gun violence. In the face of repeated federal inaction, the coalition will enter into a Memorandum of Understanding to better share information and tackle this devastating epidemic through a comprehensive, regional approach. The coalition will advance a multi-pronged effort that will create a multi-state database to supplement the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System, trace and intercept guns that are used in crimes as well as guns transported across state borders and launch the nation’s first Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium that will study the issue across multiple disciplines to better inform policy makers nationwide.
“Here in New York, we’re proud to be home to the nation’s strongest gun safety law. However, the federal government’s continued inaction on this issue has not only allowed the epidemic of gun violence to spread, but it has actually prevented the laws like the SAFE Act from being fully effective,” Governor Cuomo said.“Rather than wait for the federal government to come to its senses and pass responsible gun safety legislation, New York is joining with New Jersey, Connecticut and Rhode Island to take matters into our own hands. Not only will this groundbreaking partnership take new steps to prevent illegal guns from crossing state lines, but by forming the nation’s first Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium, we will be able to better inform policymakers nationwide on how to keep their communities safe.”
“We refuse to allow federal inaction to enact commonsense, gun safety laws endanger the lives of our residents,” Governor Malloy said. “Despite the best efforts of powerful lobbyists from special interest groups, we will work together as a coalition of states to keep our communities safe. We cannot sit back and let guns get into the hands of those who shouldn’t have them, and we cannot simply watch almost daily tragedy occur. One thing remains clear: we would be better off if every state and the federal government enacted sensible gun safety rules. We will not wait for Washington to act – the time for action is now.”
“Gun violence is not a New Jersey problem, or a New York problem, or a problem for any particular state or region – it is a national problem,” Governor Murphy said.”However, we cannot wait for Congress to act. As states, we must work together to take the steps and enact the measures to protect our residents and our communities. But, even more importantly, a collective of states can take these steps together broaden the reach and impact of commonsense gun safety laws.”
“Rhode Island has some of the nation’s strongest gun laws, but our nation has some of the world’s weakest. Kids in Florida and across the nation are taking action, and it’s not a surprise: We’ve forced them to lead because for years elected officials in Washington have refused to,” Governor Raimondo said. “We will stand up with our students and with parents to strengthen our gun laws and combat gun violence.”
As part of the coalition, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and Rhode Island will share information about individuals who are prohibited from purchasing or possessing a firearm within each state. By sharing this information, states can more effectively prevent certain individuals from purchasing a gun, obtaining a weapon and/or getting a gun permit. The agreement, in accordance with federal and state privacy protections, will provide state law enforcement agencies with details on the firearm purchase or permit denials for those who are disqualified. People may be disqualified from owning a firearm for several reasons, including an arrest warrant, order of protection, debilitating mental health condition, or criminal history.
Despite the passage of gun safety laws restricting the purchase and carry of firearms across the four states, the lack of federal regulations preventing individuals from purchasing guns in other states and transporting them across borders has undermined state legislation. To combat this practice, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and Rhode Island will direct their law enforcement intelligence centers to work cooperatively to trace the use of out-of-state guns in crimes and share information in order to intercept criminals transporting illegal guns across state borders. The four state fusion centers that will jointly share information under this agreement are the New York State Intelligence Center, the Connecticut Intelligence Center, New Jersey Regional Operations Intelligence Center, and the Rhode Island State Fusion Center.
The four states will also designate institutions of higher education to partner and create the nation’s first Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium. The consortium will be comprised of dedicated public health, social welfare, public policy, and criminal justice experts who will share and examine data to better inform policymakers nationwide. This groundbreaking consortium will fill the void left by the federal government’s 1996 ban on the use of federal funds to study gun violence which has obstructed research efforts across the nation, including at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health.
“We have to remember that the federal government has had a provision in place now for over 20 years that effective bars the Center for Disease Control and Prevention from studying gun violence. So it has devolved to the states, now for over 20 years and our thought is perhaps if we can do it in a coordinated way, the more of us at it, hopefully the better result and meaningfully propelling things like smart gun technology,” Governor Murphy of New Jersey said during a telephone press availability with al four governors.
“We can’t wait for the federal government to act. We have states with good intentions, with good laws, let’s take it to the next level. Let’s work across our borders. Let’s not just advocate for better laws in our own state, but advocate for better laws in our region. Let’s not just try to make our own borders as safe as possible. Let’s try to make our region as safe as possible.” We’ll reach out to other governors,” Governor Malloy of Connecticut said.
Building on these efforts, the states will also work to push the federal government to adopt common-sense gun safety measures. In order to protect families and communities across the region, the group will call on the federal government to swiftly enact universal background checks, an assault weapons ban and a federal waiting period between the purchase and delivery of guns.
The multi-state coalition builds on years of progress spearheaded by Governor Cuomo to combat gun violence in New York. Following the tragedy at Sandy Hook, Democrats and Republicans came together in New York to pass the nation’s strongest gun safety law in 2013. The New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013, more commonly known as the NY SAFE Act, banned the sale of assault weapons and high capacity magazines and helps keep guns out of the hands of the dangerously mentally ill, all the while safeguarding the constitutional rights of law-abiding gun owners.
In addition to the SAFE Act, New York has continued to invest in the SNUG and GIVE initiatives which engage with community members to help get guns off the street. Under SNUG, specially trained individuals are employed to reduce violence from occurring when tensions arise within their community, while also connecting high-risk individuals with essential social and support services. The GIVE initiative provides funding to support technical assistance, training, equipment, and personnel – such as prosecutors and crime analysts – to help communities reduce gun violence and save lives. The funding for both initiatives is administered by the state Division of Criminal Justice Services.
Most recently, Governor Cuomo proposed new legislation as part of the 2018 State of the State which will remove all firearms from those who commit domestic violence crimes. Given the inextricable link between domestic violence and lethal gun violence, this legislation will require all firearms be removed from those convicted of domestic violence crimes, including misdemeanors. It will also add measures to keep firearms out of the hands of those who commit domestic violence with the goal of preventing additional tragedies.
“We’re not waiting for federal action,” said Governor Cuomo of New York, a former Attorney General who laid out an indictment against the Trump Administration and the Republican-controlled Congress over its measures that not only don’t mitigate against gun violence, but go backwards. “All of our states are already ahead of the federal government when it comes to laws on this issue. The Florida Parkland massacre, one would hope that it would spur responsible federal action but we’re not going to hold our breath and were not going to risk our children’s lives. Sandy hook happened, I remember speaking with Governor Malloy at the time, and since then 1600 people have died. After Sandy Hook was when New York passed the SAFE Act because people were so outraged and change comes when people demand change. After Sandy Hook, especially in this region of the country, people demanded change. Columbine 1999, since then there have been 200 school shootings, 25 mass school shootings, so no I’m not especially optimistic that the federal government will be a response.
“Let’s be honest, this a federal government has gone backward on the issue. President Trump has pledged allegiance to the NRA and he’s delivered for them. He defunded, in part, the NICS background check system, he stopped last February the Social Security Administration from providing information that the Obama administration put into place that would have given more information on mental health for the NICS system and the solution here is not rocket science. In many ways it’s harder because it takes political courage and this is not just about the NRA, this is a politically charged issue and I think we understate the opposition when we say it’s just the NRA. To be responsible on this issue you have to pay a political cost.
“Governors on the phone all understand that. I have the political scars from what we did and that’s why it really is a test of leadership and I think right now you have the high school students showing more leadership than the leaders in Washington. What they said on TV was it shouldn’t be a democratic or republican issue, it’s an issue in life and death and they’re right.
“Your Florida elected officials showed up at the town hall like Senator Marco Rubio, who I think should be ashamed of themselves because he had nothing responsible to say and rather than proposing baby steps, which is the worst type of political pandering, he should have at least been honest and say we have nothing meaningful to propose on this issue. At least that would have been honest.
“To say this is a mental health issue is a sham and a fraud because if you really believed it was a mental health issue, then you have to say, the way to combat mental health is we will have s universal background check system to make sure a person who is mentally ill cannot buy a gun. We’re going to have a NICS system that has a comprehensive mental health database that is in the federal NICS system. You will then have to have a federal reporting system where people could actually report people to police, people who they believe has a mental health problem. Teachers would have to be able to call police, family members would have to be able to call the police and say investigate this person because I think they are mentally ill and they shouldn’t have a gun and they still have to answer why you wouldn’t support an assault ban. 1934, this nation outlawed machine guns because the nation said the risk outweighs the reward. The damage that can be done with a machine gun outweighs the individual’s right to own it. That is an assault rifle today. It’s doable, it’s feasible, we did it in this country. It’s just that we’ve gone backwards,” Cuomo said during the press call.
“The answer is not to make the schools armed camps. That’s where they’re going to go in Washington. Why? Because that’s where the NRA wants them to go. Because it means selling more guns. And the NRA is in the business of selling guns. Arm every teacher. Oh that makes sense. The only thing it would do is bring more guns into a school, more money for gun manufacturers, which is what the NRA is really trying to say…
“Today, we take the next step in the evolution of state action. We are limited by our borders so we can put in laws but then our borders are porous. Governor Malloy spoke about the I-95 corridor. That guns literally come up the I-95 corridor. Share your databases and your information so if a person can’t buy a gun in New York, they don’t drive to Connecticut or New Jersey or Rhode Island and buy the gun. Come up with a coalition of state actions. And then share that information. And that’s what we’re going to be doing. We have a mental health database in New York that now exists that didn’t exist before the SAFE Act that has 77,000 people who are on the database who are mentally ill who could have bought a gun in this state the day before the SAFE Act. Share that information.
“On Governor Murphy’s point about research, I was HUD Secretary in the Clinton Administration. At that time, the manufacturers said they could manufacture a smart gun. They could manufacturer a gun where the trigger read a finger print. We’ve done absolutely nothing on the research and the technology because they haven’t been forced to do it.
“So do what you can and that’s what we’re doing. This is not a substitute for federal action. And we hope and we will push for federal action. I would like to see the national democrats put a real sensible gun control bill on the table so that people have a real choice and we have a real debate because this is not about baby steps, this is not about bump stocks and moving the age from 18-21. Those are just political crumbs to throw forward to end the political discomfort for some of the elected officials. Let’s do something real and let’s make a difference. This has been handled by countries across the globe. We can handle it if we want to. If we have the political courage and the political will to do it. It’s that simple. But it’s that difficult.”
You would think after the unimaginable carnage at a country music concert in Las Vegas, that would have been enough, at least to ban bump stocks which Republicans signaled they were receptive to. Then nothing. Well not really nothing: instead of banning bump stocks, Congressional Republicans adopted Conceal Carry Reciprocity, which would essentially negate every state’s gun control regulations (so much for sacred State’s Rights). Imagine someone whipping out a concealed semi-automatic handgun in the rush hour crowd at Penn Station. Even with the heavily armed national guardsmen who patrol, 50 could be dead in the spate of seconds before anyone even realized what was happening. Now imagine another 10 people whipping out their concealed carry guns and firing in all directions.
You would think after an ex-Air Force gunman, court-martialed for domestic violence, killed 26 people at a smalltown Texas church, there would have been legislation to beef up background checks, which the vast majority of Americans, including NRA members and Republicans support. Dream on.
You would think that after Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, Congress would have reauthorized the assault weapons ban that George W. Bush allowed to expire in 2006, or enacted universal background checks. Or, given that Republicans and the NRA always fall-back to mental illness, not the easy access and availability of semi-automatic high-capacity guns as the cause of massive carnage, to stiffen restrictions against those with mental illness, including veterans with PTSD, to acquire guns. Oh yes, Obama actually did that, only to have Donald Trump and Senator Charles Grassley (who ironically reflexively called for more controls to prevent mentally ill from acquiring guns), to rescind the regulation. Or after the San Bernardino terror shooting, Congress would have adopted the “No Fly, No Buy” rule. Or after Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot, would have limited the capacity of ammo clips.
An ongoing Washington Post analysis has found that more than 150,000 students attending at least 170 primary or secondary schools have experienced a shooting on campus since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999. After each, there is a spurt of “thoughts and prayers” and then nothing.
Seventeen school shootings, 34 mass shootings, 2008 deaths from gun violence. That’s just the body count for the first 7 weeks of 2018.
As a New York Times editorial noted, “The journal Pediatrics reported last June that gunfire, each week, kills an average of 25 children ages 17 and under. A 2016 study in The American Journal of Medicine calculated that among two dozen of the world’s wealthiest nations, this country alone accounted for 91 percent of firearms deaths among children 14 and under.
Instead, the only “solution” Congress seems to be interested in is mandating Conceal Carry Reciprocity nationwide, to “harden” schools and allow (even require) teachers to carry guns, effectively deputizing them as soldiers in this war-of-choice. (If that is the case, teachers should get battlefield pay.) The only response has been to do the NRA’s bidding: more guns.
But now, perhaps after this latest school shooting, something is different. Because the survivors are 17 and 18 year olds – a cohort of 3.9 million – who will be eligible to vote in the 2020 presidential election if not the 2018 midterms. They know how to marshal the power of social media and organize an ongoing campaign; they are articulate, passionate, and have the energy to keep this going. And they are still idealistic enough to think they can actually force politicians to do their will, naively unaware or underestimating the political perils.
It is reminiscent, in fact, of the anti-Vietnam youth movement of the 1960s. By the time it ended, 58,200 Americans had lost their lives in a decade of fighting a war predicated on politically expedient lies.
But this is war on the homefront. This is a public health scourge in our neighborhoods: guns kill 33,000 Americans a year, the equivalent of a 9/11 each month and injure another 100,000 each year whose lives, like the 14 injured Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. will be forever altered – sports scholarships lost, college savings lost, career track altered. Since Sept. 11, 2001, 95 Americans have been murdered on US soil by terrorists (every one an American citizen or legal resident), but in that same timeframe, guns killed 561,000.
Will this stab at activism be different?
My question is how soon will they become frustrated and beat down by the political song-and-dance? Or will they be snuckered by promises, as hollow as the bullets that the NRA defends that can pierce police protective vests?
Indeed, after traveling by bus for six hours to plead their case at the State House in Tallahassee, 100 of the Parkland students were promptly shut down by a swift 2 to 1 vote to table any discussion of banning assault weapons.
Trump, who made a show of visiting two victims in the hospital and praising first responders (not heroic teachers who now as part of their duties have to make themselves human shields, like the three murdered in Parkland), said he might “consider” a bipartisan bill improving background checks, a statement so remarkable, it warranted front-page headlines.
He is talking about the Cronyn bill, which came out of the Texas massacre, but it only requires the military to do what they were legally supposed to have done: notifying the federal database of military who committed domestic violence and shouldn’t be able to buy a gun anyway. He made a show of ordering the Department of Justice to “examine” the possibility of new regulations banning bump stocks or any device that turns a semi-automatic weapon into a machine gun. But automatic weapons are already illegal for civilian use. And heaven knows how long it will take Attorney General Jeff Sessions to come up with such regulations. Meantime, Congress is off the hook from actually doing anything that resembles even a modest stab at gun control. No slippery slope there.
And even in his phrasing, “I will be open to a bipartisan bill” to improve background checks sounds like the same bullshit he used when he betrayed Dreamers.
The reality behind his bullshit is that Trump’s budget would cut 19% from funding for background checks, and thanks to George W Bush’s Attorney General John Ashcroft, background checks have to be completed within just three days, and the records destroyed (that’s how the Charleston massacre was able to get his gun).
Over and over, Trump has pledged his fealty to the NRA, which apart and in concert with the Russians, did more to send him to the Oval Office than anyone or anything – $30 million in spending, split between pro-Trump and anti-Clinton campaigns. And even now, it compromises the bulk of his precious, unshakeable “base.”
In his State of the Union, he said, “My duty, and the sacred duty of every elected official in this chamber, is to defend Americans, to protect their safety, their families, their communities,” which sounded as if he might finally call for action to restrain the scourge of gun violence, especially after the two most monstrous massacres in history. Instead, his next line was, “We are totally defending our Second Amendment…”
The reality is, it is easier to buy an assault rifle than buy alcohol or access reproductive health care or register to vote; it is easier to get a gun license than a drivers license, to get a gun than register a car; there are more gun stores than grocery stores, McDonalds and Starbucks combined.
Young people, don’t be played! Here’s what should constitute gun reform:
Restore the ban on assault weapons; limit the capacity of ammunition clips; ban bump stocks.
Require universal background checks including gun shows and private sales and online sales; remove the artificial limit in time for the check to be completed or increase the waiting period beyond 3 day.
Require training and licensing and a national database of gun registration; and renewal program for license and registration (just as for a car).
Bar felons, domestic abusers, those diagnosed mentally ill, anyone under the age of 21 from buying a gun, and those on a terror watch list (“No Fly, No Buy”)
Tax purchases of guns and ammunition, the money going into a victims fund to pay compensation to survivors and for health care.
Require gun owners to take out liability insurance, just as automobile insurance.
Overturn Stand Your Ground laws; defeat Conceal Carry Reciprocity.
Make parents responsible for safe storage of guns; liable and subject to manslaughter prosecution if their children use guns to kill.
Treat gun violence as public health epidemic; end gag order on CDC to research gun violence and recommend protections.
Emma Gonzalez, one of the Parkland school survivors, properly called out the “bullshit.”
“The people in the government who were voted into power are lying to us. And us kids seem to be the only ones who notice and our parents to call BS,” she said in an impassioned and on-target speech. “Politicians who sit in their gilded House and Senate seats funded by the NRA telling us nothing could have been done to prevent this, we call BS.
“They say tougher guns laws do not decrease gun violence. We call BS. They say a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun. We call BS. They say guns are just tools like knives and are as dangerous as cars. We call BS. They say no laws could have prevented the hundreds of senseless tragedies that have occurred. We call BS. That us kids don’t know what we’re talking about, that we’re too young to understand how the government works. We call BS.
“If you agree, register to vote. Contact your local congresspeople. Give them a piece of your mind.”(Crowd chants) “Throw them out.” (Listen to her powerful speech)
Ironically, this new student movement may have a dreaded “unintended consequence” for Republicans: if the NRA lackeys are swept out of office in favor of politicians who enact true gun reform, that might also result in campaign finance reform, overturning Citizens United and requiring Disclosure of who is supplying money, finally breaking the shackles the NRA (which may well have funneled Russian money in the $55 million it spent in the 2016 campaign, including $30 million spent to elect Trump) has on lawmakers.
That would be killing two birds with one stone, not an AR15.
Donald Trump loves all things “biggest”. Like the charge he gets over the United States being hit by the biggest climate catastrophes in history, Trump probably took a measure of delight at the “biggest” mass murder in US history – at this writing 59 dead and 527 injured in just a few minutes at the hands of a 64-year old white male spraying bullets with a military-grade assault rifle from 32nd floor of the Mandalay Hotel on an open-air folk-music concert attended by 22,000. Like shooting fish in a barrel.
In fact, there have already been 521 mass shootings in the 477 days since the Pulse Nightclub massacre in Orlando, the last record holder, drawing no remark from Trump. But this one is one for the record books.
Trump, predictably, evoked prayer and called for flying “our great flag” at half-staff. He calls for “unity” because it means mindlessly following authority. “God lives in the hearts of those who grieve.” Sure, that will salve the loss of loved ones. And to the wounded, numbering more than 500? “I pledge to you our support from this day forward.” What does that mean, exactly, when he is doing his best to take away health care from tens of millions, when any concept of health care he advocates would remove mental illness from the list of required conditions covered under Obamacare? Who pays for the multiple surgeries and rehabilitation to save and restore victims’ lives?
Imagine the tone he would have taken if the murderer was Muslim or a terrorist or a foreigner.
Trump will do his best to deflect from this tragedy, say “this is not the time” to consider sensible gun restrictions. He will call for greater security (police state), shift responsibility onto the hotel, say that 33,000 deaths a year is the “price of freedom” and move on to tax so-called “reform” aimed at furthering the redistribution of wealth to the already ridiculously wealthy and politically powerful like the NRA. Trump, the Republicans and the NRA would have us be soldiers and martyrs, terrorized and dying on the altar of gun rights. In the same way as he never criticizes Putin, Trump will never go against the NRA.
Will he be a leader and call for sensible gun violence prevention measures that are supported by 80% of Americans including overwhelming majorities of gun-owners and NRA members, like universal background checks? Of course not. Trump has already overturned Obama orders desperate to stem gun violence, including barring people who are deemed “mentally incapacitated” from buying a gun.
Instead, the Gun Lobby – the NRA and its gun manufacturer masters – knowing they have an dufus ally in the White House and a complicit Republican majority in Congress (even after Congressman Scalise was shot and his Republican compatriots at baseball practice fired on), are pushing to ease what little gun regulations there are, for example, opening up the floodgates to the use of silencers so that innocents can be even easier prey and police would have an even harder time locating a perpetrator. In 4 minutes, 1600 rounds fired, dozens die, hundreds face lifelong injury (and how are injuries and recovery paid for with the dismantling of health care?).
The gun lobby now is enthusiastically pushing for “Concealed Carry Reciprocity,”which would overrule any state’s gun restrictions to the weakest states laws. New York State’s tough restrictions would be nullified.
There is so much that could be done and should be done if Congress really cared to stem terrorism and tragedy and promote public health and safety: universal background checks, restoring the ban on assault weapons and mega-ammo magazines; requiring gun holders to register (after all, you have to register to vote) and universal background checks; regulating online sales and ending the gun-show loophole, banning people on the Terror Watch List from buying guns, ending Stand Your Ground. And easing access to mental health care. And while you are removing the ban suppressing pediatricians Hippocratic oath and freedom of speech to counsel parents to lock away their guns; overturning the Dickey Amendment to allow research on gun safety; requiring federal dollars for military and police weaponry be “smart guns” (like smart phones) to turn the industry around.
You can never know who will become a murderer – how often do you hear people say, “Who would have believed”, “He was such a nice man”.
But there is one common denominator for all these tragedies: the ease with which individuals can obtain weapons of mass destruction. ISIS has already invited would-be terrorists to take advantage of lax gun laws. You can’t stop every act of terror – but it is plainly clear that incidents that involve other weapons like knives and machetes and even cars, do not have the same lethal success of assault weapons.
“Accessibility to weapons is the greatest national security threat in the US,” a security adviser tells NPR, and Nevada has some of the loosest gun laws in the US. Combine that with what we like to call a “free society.” A lone wolf is the worst nightmare of law enforcement because they are impossible to track or detect.”
The Bill of Rights does not allow for any restriction on guns? Nonsense: read the full 2nd Amendment, not just the “shall not be infringed” part and you will see that it is the ONLY amendment that has qualifications and limitations built in: “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state….” If you would be an “originalist” taking the 2ndamendment literally, you would restrict gun ownership to people who are in the National Guard or military or police – those who provide for the “security of a free state” and the “common defense” – there is nothing about an individual’s unlimited right to have a gun. And if you would be a true ideological, fundamentalist “originalist” you would restrict a gun to a single-ball musket, which was the most advanced technology of the time, a time when people had to hunt their food and protect themselves from Indians and in the absence of a standing army, settlers had to defend against an invading force.
On the other hand, the Constitution provides for a government “by the people, for the people” and for voting, and the Trumpists have no problem whatsoever imposing such onerous voter registration procedures and election site restrictions that become obstacles to the right to vote. Isn’t that interesting: it’s okay to require voter registration but not gun registration. In fact, in Texas, a gun permit is acceptable ID for voting, but a college student ID is not.
You can never know who will become a murderer (how often do you hear people say, “Who would have believed”, “he was such a nice man”) – as is the case of the Las Vegas shooter, who did not seem to conform with any of the usual attributes of a mass murderer (white male, 64 years old, no political or religious agenda, well-off, in a relationship, no history of mental illness). But there is a common denominator for all these tragedies – Tucson, Orlando, San Bernardino, Columbine, Virginia Tech – the ease with which individuals can obtain weapons of mass destruction. You can’t stop every act of terror – but it is plainly clear that incidents that involve other weapons – knives, machetes – do not have the same lethal success of assault weapons.
Consider how much of our GDP goes to security in order to protect the “freedom” of gun owners but take away the security, freedom, and the very lives of everyone else . Just look at the money we spend to safeguard our schools that could otherwise go to actually teaching. Now hotels, amusement parks, churches, shopping malls, and concert venues will also have to allocate their operating budgets. Think of the rights we allow to be trampled in order leave unrestrained the 2nd amendment: 1st amendment rights of free speech and assembly and 4th amendment right against unreasonable search and privacy. Would that they value voting rights as highly.
But as Senator Bernie Sanders reminded us, there have been more mass shootings this year than days of the year, this is just the most sensational.
“..it should be clear to all that we have got to do everything we can to stop guns from falling into the hands of people who should not have them. It is long past time for Congress to take action on gun safety to save innocent lives.”
Rebecca Fischer, Executive Director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, stated, “Easy access to guns–particularly weapons designed to kill many people rapidly–repeatedly leads to tragedy and loss of life. Rather than ‘thoughts and prayers’ from our elected officials, we need action to address this public health epidemic.”
Jim Dean, chair of Democracy For America, put it more bluntly:
“How is Congress responding to last night’s terror attack in Las Vegas? By getting ready to pass a bill to make it easier to buy silencers — a top priority for the NRA.
“Republican elected officials offer their thoughts and prayers. They lower flags to half-staff. But they will never act to stop gun violence and mass shootings, because they’re in league with the NRA.
“The NRA is unrepentant. They and their allies in Congress don’t think there’s anything wrong with what happened in Las Vegas last night. In fact, they are doubling down in support of laws that enable white men like Stephen Paddock to use guns to terrorize their families and communities.
“Congress has caved to the NRA after every mass shooting this decade, from Sandy Hook to San Bernardino, from Umpqua Community College in Oregon to the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, and so many more. They will keep doing so until we defeat them at the ballot box.
“The NRA and their Republican allies are not just promoting gun violence — they are promoting white supremacy and toxic masculinity.
“They refuse to acknowledge that these mass shooters are terrorists, because the people doing the shooting are mostly white men. When it’s a person of color, however, they’re quick to call them terrorists.
“The NRA’s primary agenda is to promote a culture of gun ownership among white men — often by demonizing people of color as threats. The NRA vehemently defends “stand your ground” laws that were used to let the man who killed Trayvon Martin off the hook.
“The NRA also openly enables violence against women, including by their past opposition to legislation to keep guns out of the hands of men who have threatened or committed domestic violence. Many mass shooters have a history of violent threats and acts against women. It’s part of the ‘profile’ of these shooters now.”
Gabby Giffords, who was an Arizona Congresswoman until she was shot in the head by a mass murderer only stopped when one of his guns jammed, and now heads Americans for Responsible Solutions, wrote: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of this shooting, their families, and their friends. But the truth is, for those who have the power to act and to save lives, thoughts and prayers are not nearly enough.
“So today, I am praying for my former colleagues as well — that they find the courage to make progress on the issue of gun violence in America…
“Some will say that now is not the time to have this conversation, but the truth is that we cannot wait. Congress cannot delay. Now is exactly the right time to take positive action that will keep our our communities safer. The nation is counting on them.
“I also know enough from my time in Congress that action is only possible if people make their voices heard. So today, especially today, I want to ask you to do just that — to demand action from our elected leaders. Action that will save lives:
““Tell Congress: ENOUGH is ENOUGH. Pass legislation to make our communities safer from gun violence. To do nothing is not acceptable. Now is the time for action.”
“We watch, time and time again, as people describe these mass shootings as unimaginable acts of evil, but the sad fact is that this is not true. There is no other advanced nation in the world where these kinds of mass shootings happen with this kind of frequency.
“The only thing that is unimaginable is the continuous legislative inaction on this issue.
“Hopefully this time will be different, but I know that’s only possible if all of us are willing to act.”
Trump, who has already proved himself incompetent as a leader and who condones police brutality and torture and tells rallies, “Your 2nd Amendment is safe with me,” will do nothing beyond tweet his prayers and attack his critics.
Yes, this is one for the history books. The question is will it be surpassed? Thanks to the utter lack of sensible gun violence prevention, it is all too easy to do so.
In Trump’s absurd “law and order” speech delivered to Suffolk County, Long Island, police officers, he made a side reference, after noting how horrible violence is that takes our sons and daughters, even husbands and wives, that he and he alone has saved the Second Amendment.
“But we’re just getting started,” Trump said. “We will restore law and order on Long Island. We’ll bring back justice to the United States. I’m very happy to have gotten a great, great Justice of the United States Supreme Court, not only nominated, but approved. And, by the way, your Second Amendment is safe. (Applause.) Your Second Amendment is safe. I feel very good about that. It wasn’t looking so good for the Second Amendment, was it, huh? If Trump doesn’t win, your Second Amendment is gone. Your Second Amendment would be gone.”
An interesting remark considering that New York State has one of the most restrictive gun control laws in the nation, which can explain why Long Island and New York City have some of the lowest rates of gun violence for their size in the country.
Now, an upstate New York Congressman, Chris Collins (who didn’t do enough damage with his Repeal & Replace Obamacare amendment that was written solely to hurt New York State), is proposing a federal bill to preempt state and local gun laws.
“Concealed Carry Reciprocity,” would allow more people who have never passed a background check or fired a gun in their lives to carry hidden, loaded firearms in public crowds as soon as they buy them. While nearly every state requires people to qualify for a permit to carry loaded, concealed weapons in public, some states have strong permit requirements, others have very lax restrictions or none at all.
What this bill would do is say that if you have a permit from ANY state in the country, ALL states must recognize it, which means the weakest state laws will effectively become nationwide laws, as all states will be forced to accept them.
So much for the 10th Amendment crowd who purport to want states rights (including the rights of states to ignore Affordable Care Act mandates), and who have said time and time again that government works best that is most local to the people. Except when it comes to women’s reproductive rights, environmental protection, climate action, and gun control.
New Yorkers Against Gun Violence has come out strongly condemning H.R. 3576, a federal bill introduced by Congressman Chris Collins (R-NY 27) that would preempt state and local gun safety laws regulating rifles and shotguns, including background check requirements on the transfer of these guns.
The bill would pose a danger to New Yorkers by overriding the common sense gun laws enacted by state and local governments. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has also condemned this federal proposal and expressed strong support for New York State’s gun safety laws.
“Representative Collins’ dangerous proposal is a drastic, politically-driven attempt to override state and local laws that reasonably regulate the sale and transfer of shotguns and rifles, including assault weapons and high capacity magazines,” said Rebecca Fischer, Executive Director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence.
“This extreme federal legislation would even gut applicable background check requirements and allow felons, domestic abusers, and others who are a danger to themselves or others to easily access such guns. New York has the third lowest gun death rate in the nation and our common sense gun laws have prevented gun deaths and injuries across our state. We condemn this unconscionable, gun lobby-backed bill that undermines states’ rights and threatens the lives and well-being of families and communities in New York and across the country,” she added.
“It is interesting that Congressman Collins holds himself out as having conservative values and yet he is pushing a bill that would challenge the rights of states and localities to set policy regarding gun sales,” said Gary Pudup, NYAGV’s Western New York Coordinator. “This extreme federal bill is both vague and overly broad and could easily be challenged as unconstitutional. As a gun owner and retired police officer myself, I also find it incomprehensible that any reasonable, law-abiding gun owner would be in favor of eliminating background checks on the sale of rifles and shotguns,” he added.
“In 2013, following the Sandy Hook tragedy, New York State rose to the occasion and passed the toughest gun safety laws in the nation,” stated New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo. “Democrats and Republicans came together to ban assault weapons from coming into the state, ban high capacity magazines and keep guns out of the hands of the dangerously mentally ill, while safeguarding the constitutional rights of law-abiding gun owners.
“Now, in a blatant political ploy, Chris Collins is turning his back on New Yorkers and putting millions of people at profound risk. By fighting to roll back vital legislation that protects the people of the Empire State, Collins is demonstrating once again that he is beholden to no one but the gun lobby and entrenched special interests.
“This disturbing bill puts New Yorkers in harm’s way – and to make it worse, there is no basis for it. None. The courts have resoundingly upheld New York’s law as consistent with the Constitution. We understand that Washington is in turmoil right now – we just ask that they don’t do anything to set back the progress we’ve been able to make despite them.”
Donald Trump had nothing to say, no tears to shed when a teacher and a student were murdered when her husband, a man who had already been cited for domestic violence, came into her classroom and shot her with a gun. But he had a lot to say to the National Rifle Association Leadership Forum at the Georgia World Congress Center, Atlanta, on April 28, his 99th day occupying the Oval Office, becoming the first since Reagan to address the conference. He profusely thanked the NRA membership for support in taking the Electoral College, and the Heritage Foundation for supplying the list of nominees he should tout for Supreme Court justice. He extolled the Rule of Law and abiding by the Constitution – that is, the Second Amendment – and made sure to conflate the Second Amendment with building a wall to keep out Mexicans.
“But we can’t be complacent. These are dangerous times. These are horrible times for certain obvious reasons. But we’re going to make them great times again. Every day, we are up against those who would take away our freedoms, restrict our liberties, and even those who want to abolish the Second Amendment. We must be vigilant…
“So let me make a simple promise to every one of the freedom-loving Americans in the audience today: As your President, I will never, ever infringe on the right of the people to keep and bear arms. Never ever. Freedom is not a gift from government. Freedom is a gift from God.”
Thank you, Chris, for that kind introduction and for your tremendous work on behalf of our Second Amendment. Thank you very much. (Applause.) I want to also thank Wayne LaPierre for his unflinching leadership in the fight for freedom. Wayne, thank you very much. Great. (Applause.)
I’d also like to congratulate Karen Handel on her incredible fight in Georgia 6. (Applause.) The election takes place on June 20th. And, by the way, on primaries, let’s not have 11 Republicans running for the same position, okay? (Laughter.) It’s too nerve-shattering. She’s totally for the NRA and she’s totally for the Second Amendment. So get out and vote. She’s running against someone who’s going to raise your taxes to the sky, destroy your healthcare, and he’s for open borders — lots of crime, and he’s not even able to vote in the district that he’s running in. Other than that, I think he’s doing a fantastic job, right? (Laughter.) So get out and vote for Karen.
Also, my friend — he’s become a friend, because there’s nobody that does it like Lee Greenwood. Wow. (Applause.) Lee’s anthem is the perfect description of the renewed spirit sweeping across our country. And it really is, indeed, sweeping across our country. So, Lee, I know I speak for everyone in this arena when I say, we are all very proud indeed to be an American. Thank you very much, Lee. (Applause.)
No one was more proud to be American than the beloved patriot — and you know who I’m talking about — we remember on gatherings like today, your former five-term President, the late Charlton Heston. How good was Charlton? (Applause.) And I remember Charlton, he was out there fighting when maybe a lot of people didn’t want to be fighting. He was out there for a long time. He was a great guy.
And it’s truly wonderful to be back in Atlanta, and back with my friends at the NRA. You are my friends, believe me. (Applause.) Perhaps some of you remember the last time we were all together. Remember that? We had a big crowd then, too. So we knew something was happening. But it was in the middle of a historic political year, and in the middle of a truly historic election. What fun that was— November 8. Wasn’t that a great evening? Do you remember that evening? (Applause.) Remember that? (Applause.)
Remember they were saying, “We have breaking news: Donald Trump has won the state of Michigan.” They go, “Michigan? How did that” — “Donald Trump has won the state of Wisconsin, whoa.” But earlier in the evening, remember, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, all the way up — we ran up the East Coast. And, you know, the Republicans have a tremendous disadvantage in the Electoral College, you know that. Tremendous disadvantage. And to run the whole East Coast, and then you go with Iowa and Ohio, and all of the different states. It was a great evening, one that a lot people will never forget — a lot of people. (Applause.) Not going to forget that evening.
And remember they said, “There is no path to 270.” For months I was hearing that. You know, they’re trying to suppress the vote. So they keep saying it, so people say, you know, I really like Trump, he loves the Second Amendment, he loves the NRA; I love him, but let’s go to the movie because he can’t win. Because they’re trying to suppress the vote.
But they’d say — I mean, hundreds of times I heard, there is no — there’s no route. They’d say it, “There is no route to 270.” And we ended up with 306. So they were right: Not 270, 306. (Applause.) That was some evening. Big sports fans said that was the single-most exciting event they’ve ever seen. That includes Super Bowls and World Series and boxing matches. That was an exciting evening for all of us, and it meant a lot.
Only one candidate in the General Election came to speak to you, and that candidate is now the President of the United States, standing before you again. (Applause.) I have a feeling that in the next election you’re going to be swamped with candidates, but you’re not going to be wasting your time. You’ll have plenty of those Democrats coming over and you’re going to say, no, sir, no thank you — no, ma’am. Perhaps ma’am. It may be Pocahontas, remember that. (Laughter and applause.) And she is not big for the NRA, that I can tell you.
But you came through for me, and I am going to come through for you. (Applause.) I was proud to receive the NRA’s earliest endorsement in the history of the organization. And today, I am also proud to be the first sitting President to address the NRA Leadership Forum since our wonderful Ronald Reagan in 1983. (Applause.) And I want to thank each and every one of you not only for your help electing true friends of the Second Amendment, but for everything you do to defend our flag and our freedom.
With your activism, you helped to safeguard the freedoms of our soldiers who have bled and died for us on the battlefields. And I know we have many veterans in the audience today, and we want to give them a big, big beautiful round of applause. (Applause.)
And, like I promised, we are doing a really top job already — 99 days — but already with the Veterans Administration, people are seeing a big difference. We are working really hard at the VA, and you’re going to see it, and you’re already seeing it. And it’s my honor. I’ve been telling you we’re going to do it, and we’re doing it. (Applause.) Thank you.
The NRA protects in our capitols and legislative houses the freedoms that our servicemembers have won for us on those incredible battlefields. And it’s been a tough fight against those who would go so far as to ban private gun ownership entirely. But I am here to deliver you good news. And I can tell you that Wayne and Chris have been fighting with me long and hard to make sure that we were with you today, not somebody else with an empty podium. Because believe me, the podium would have been empty. They fought long and hard, and I think you folks cannot thank them enough. They were with us all the way, right from the beginning. (Applause.)
But we have news that you’ve been waiting for for a long time: The eight-year assault on your Second Amendment freedoms has come to a crashing end. (Applause.) You have a true friend and champion in the White House. No longer will federal agencies be coming after law-abiding gun owners. (Applause.) No longer will the government be trying to undermine your rights and your freedoms as Americans. Instead, we will work with you, by your side. We will work with the NRA to promote responsible gun ownership, to protect our wonderful hunters and their access to the very beautiful outdoors. You met my son — I can tell you, both sons, they love the outdoors. Frankly, I think they love the outdoors more than they love, by a long shot, Fifth Avenue. But that’s okay. And we want to ensure you of the sacred right of self-defense for all of our citizens. (Applause.)
When I spoke to this forum last year, our nation was still mourning the loss of a giant, a great defender of the Constitution: Justice Antonin Scalia. (Applause.) I promised that if elected, I would nominate a justice who would be faithful and loyal to the Constitution. I even went one step further and publicly presented a list of 20 judges from which I would make my selection, and that’s exactly what we did.
And, by the way, I want to thank, really, Heritage. And I want to thank also all of the people that worked with us. Where’s Leo? Is Leo around here? Where is he? He’s got to be here. Where is he? He has been so good. And also from Heritage, Jim DeMint. It’s been amazing. I mean, those people have been fantastic. They’ve been real friends. (Applause.) The Federalist people — where are they? Are they around here someplace? They really helped us out.
I kept my promise, and now, with your help, our brand-new Justice — and he is really something very special — Neil Gorsuch, sits on the bench of the United States Supreme Court. (Applause.) For the first time in the modern political era, we have confirmed a new justice in the first 100 days. (Applause.) The last time that happened was 136 years ago, in 1881. Now, we won’t get any credit for this, but don’t worry about it, the credit is in the audience, right? The credit is in the audience. (Applause.) All of those people. They won’t give us credit, but it’s been a long time, and we’re very honored.
We’ve also taken action to stand up for America’s sportsmen. On their very last full day in office, the previous administration issued an 11th-hour rule to restrict the use of lead ammunition on certain federal lands. Have you heard about that, folks? I’m shocked to hear that. You’ve all heard about that. You’ve heard about that. On his first day as Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke eliminated the previous administration’s ammunition ban. (Applause.) He’s going to be great. Ryan is going to be great.
We’ve also moved very quickly to restore something gun owners care about very, very much. It’s called the rule of law. (Applause.) We have made clear that our administration will always stand with the incredible men and women of law enforcement. (Applause.) In fact, countless members of law enforcement are also members of the NRA, because our police know that responsible gun ownership saves lives, and that the right of self-defense is essential to public safety. Do we all agree with that? (Applause.)
Our police and sheriffs also know that when you ban guns, only the criminals will be armed. (Applause.) For too long, Washington has gone after law-abiding gun owners while making life easier for criminals, drug dealers, traffickers and gang members. MS-13 — you know about MS-13? It’s not pleasant for them anymore, folks. It’s not pleasant for them anymore. That’s a bad group. (Applause.) Not pleasant for MS-13. Get them the hell out of here, right? Get them out. (Applause.)
We are protecting the freedoms of law-abiding Americans, and we are going after the criminal gangs and cartels that prey on our innocent citizens. And we are really going after them. (Applause.)
As members of the NRA know well, some of the most important decisions a President can make are appointments — and I’ve appointed people who believe in law, order, and justice. (Applause.)
That is why I have selected as your Attorney General, number one, a really fine person, a really good man, a man who has spent his career fighting crime, supporting the police, and defending the Second Amendment. For the first time in a long time, you now have a pro-Second-Amendment, tough-on-crime Attorney General, and his name is Jeff Sessions. (Applause.)
And Attorney General Sessions is putting our priorities into action. He’s going after the drug dealers who are peddling their poison all over our streets and destroying our youth. He’s going after the gang members who threaten our children. And he’s fully enforcing our immigration laws in all 50 states. And you know what? It’s about time. (Applause.)
Heading up the effort to secure America’s borders is a great military general, a man of action: Homeland Security Director [sic], John Kelly. (Applause.)
Secretary Kelly, who used to be General Kelly, is following through on my pledge to protect the borders, remove criminal aliens, and stop the drugs from pouring into our country. We’ve already seen — listen to this; it never happened before, people can’t even believe it. And, by the way, we will build the wall no matter how low this number gets or how this goes. Don’t even think about it. Don’t even think about it. (Applause.)
You know, they’re trying to use this number against us because we’ve done so unbelievably at the borders already. They’re trying to use it against us. But you need that wall to stop the human trafficking, to stop the drugs, to stop the wrong people. You need the wall. But listen to this: We’ve already seen a 73 percent decrease — never happened before — in illegal immigration on the southern border since my election — 73 percent. (Applause.)
You see what they’re doing, right? So why do you need a wall? We need a wall.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Build the wall!
THE PRESIDENT: We’ll build the wall. Don’t even think about it. Don’t even think about it. Don’t even think about it. That’s an easy one. We’re going to build the wall. We need the wall.
I said to General Kelly, how important is it? He said, very important. It’s that final element. We need the wall. And it’s a wall in certain areas. Obviously, where you have these massive physical structures you don’t need, and we have certain big rivers and all. But we need a wall, and we’re going to get that wall. (Applause.)
And the world is getting the message. They know that our border is no longer open to illegal immigration, and that if you try to break in, you’ll be caught and you’ll be returned to your home. You’re not staying any longer. And if you keep coming back illegally after deportation, you will be arrested, prosecuted, and you will put behind bars. Otherwise it will never end. (Applause.)
Let’s also remember that immigration security is national security. We’ve seen the attacks from 9/11 to Boston to San Bernardino. Hundreds of individuals from other countries have been charged with terrorism-related offenses in the United States.
We spend billions and billions of dollars on security all over the world, but then we allow radical Islamic terrorists to enter right through our front door. That’s not going to happen anymore. (Applause.) It’s time to get tough. It’s time we finally got smart. And yes, it’s also time to put America first. (Applause.)
And perhaps — I see all of those beautiful red and white hats — but we will never forget our favorite slogan of them all: Make America Great Again. All right? (Applause.)
Keeping our communities safe and protecting our freedoms also requires the cooperation of our state leaders. We have some incredible pro-Second Amendment governors here at the NRA conference, including Governor Scott of Florida. Where is Governor Scott? Great guy doing a great job. Governor Bryant of Mississippi. What a wonderful place. Governor Bryant is here. Thank you. Governor Deal of Georgia. (Applause.) And we’re also joined by two people that — well, one I loved right from the beginning; the other one I really liked, didn’t like, and now like a lot again. (Laughter.) Does that make sense? Senator David Perdue — he was from the beginning — and Senator Ted Cruz — like, dislike, like. (Applause.) Where are they? Good guys. Good guys. Smart cookies.
Each of these leaders knows that public officials must serve under the Constitution, not above it. We all took an oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States — and that means defending the Second Amendment. (Applause.)
So let me make a simple promise to every one of the freedom-loving Americans in the audience today: As your President, I will never, ever infringe on the right of the people to keep and bear arms. Never ever. (Applause.) Freedom is not a gift from government. Freedom is a gift from God. (Applause.)
It was this conviction that stirred the heart of a great American patriot on that day, April, 242 years ago. It was the day that Paul Revere spread his Lexington alarm — the famous warning that “the British are coming, the British are coming.” Right? You’ve all heard that, right? The British are coming.
Now we have other people trying to come, but believe me, they’re not going to be successful. That I can tell you. (Applause.) Nothing changes, right, folks? Nothing changes. They are not going to be successful. There will be serious hurt on them, not on us.
Next, came the shot heard around the world, and then a rag-tag army of God-fearing farmers, frontiersmen, shopkeepers, merchants that stood up to the most powerful army at that time on Earth. The most powerful army on Earth. But we sometimes forget what inspired those everyday farmers and workers in that great war for independence.
Many years after the war, a young man asked Captain Levi Preston, aged 91, why he’d fought alongside his neighbors at Concord. Was it the Stamp Act? Was it the Tea Tax? Was it a work of philosophy? “No,” the old veteran replied. “Then why?” he was asked. “Young man,” the Captain said, “what we meant in going for those Redcoats was this: We always had governed ourselves, and we always meant to” govern ourselves. (Applause.)
Captain Preston’s words are a reminder of what this organization and my administration are all about: the right of a sovereign people to govern their own affairs, and govern them properly. (Applause.) We don’t want any longer to be ruled by the bureaucrats in Washington, or in any other country for that matter. In America, we are ruled by our citizens. We are ruled by each and every one of you.
But we can’t be complacent. These are dangerous times. These are horrible times for certain obvious reasons. But we’re going to make them great times again. Every day, we are up against those who would take away our freedoms, restrict our liberties, and even those who want to abolish the Second Amendment. We must be vigilant. And I know you are all up to the task.
Since the first generation of Americans stood strong at Concord, each generation to follow has answered the call to defend freedom in their time. That is why we are here today: To defend freedom for our children. To defend the liberty of all Americans. And to defend the right of a free and sovereign people to keep and bear arms.
I greatly appreciated your support on November 8th, in what will hopefully be one of the most important and positive elections for the United States of all time. And to the NRA, I can proudly say I will never, ever let you down.
Thank you. God Bless you. God Bless our Constitution, and God bless America. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you. (Applause.)
Ahead of the April 19 New York State Primary, the gloves came off between the two contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination, former Secretary of State and New York Senator Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, at what is being called “The Brooklyn Brawl” – the Democratic Debate at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
The confrontation was the most contentious to date, but still substantive with both candidates making strong arguments on major issues.
Here are annotated highlights from the “Brooklyn Brawl” – the debate between Democratic contenders for the nomination for president, former Secretary of State and New York State Senator Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, based on a transcript provided by CNN, the news organization that hosted the debate, April 14.
In this section, the candidates discuss gun violence and criminal justice.
Gun Violence & Criminal Justice
Guns in America. Secretary Clinton, you’ve said that Vermont, Senator Sanders’ home state, has, quote, “the highest per capita number of guns that end up committing crimes in New York.” But only 1.2 percent of the guns recovered in New York in 2014 were from Vermont. Are you seriously blaming Vermont, and implicitly Senator Sanders, for New York’s gun violence?
CLINTON: No, of course not. Of course not. This is — this is a serious difference between us. (Sanders starts to laugh) And what I want to start by saying — it’s not a laughing matter — 90 people on average a day are killed or commit suicide or die in accidents from guns, 33,000 people a year. I take it really seriously, because I have spent more time than I care to remember being with people who have lost their loved ones.
“So, yes, we have a problem in America. We need a president who will stand up against the gun lobby. We need a president who will fight for commonsense gun safety reforms. (APPLAUSE)
And what we have here is a big difference. Senator Sanders voted against the Brady Bill five times. He voted for the most important NRA priority, namely giving immunity from liability to gun-makers and dealers, something that is at the root of a lot of the problems that we are facing.
“Then he doubled down on that in the New York Daily News interview, when asked whether he would support the Sandy Hook parents suing to try to do something to rein in the advertising of the AR-15, which is advertised to young people as being a combat weapon, killing on the battlefield. He said they didn’t deserve their day in court. I could not disagree more.
“And, finally, this is the only industry in America, the only one (APPLAUSE) that has this kind of special protection. We hear a lot from Senator Sanders about the greed and recklessness of Wall Street, and I agree. We’ve got to hold Wall Street accountable, well, what about the greed and recklessness of gun manufacturers and dealers in America?” (APPLAUSE) (CHEERING)
Sanders then attacked her for not answering the question about whether Vermont was responsible for New York’s gun violence, to which Blitzer said, “She said no.”
Sanders then went on to boast how he probably lost his first election for Congress, in 1988, because of the NRA. But the point is that he never challenged the NRA since (even though he now boasts of a D-minus record from the NRA). Caving to lobbyists is not just about who gives money, but who threatens to throw resources at defeating you – in both instances, the lobbyist controls the elected official.
Clinton said as much in her rebuttal:
CLINTON: Well, the facts are that most of the guns that end up committing crimes in New York come from out of state.They come from the states that don’t have kind of serious efforts to control guns that we do in New York.
“But let me say this — in 1988, as we’ve heard on every debate occasion, Senator Sanders did run for the Congress and he lost. He came back in 1990 and he won, and during that campaign he made a commitment to the NRA that he would be against waiting periods.
“And, in fact, in his own book, he talks about his 1990 campaign, and here’s what he said. He clearly was helped by the NRA, because they ran ads against his opponent. So, then he went to the Congress, where he has been a largely very reliable supporter of the NRA. Voting — he kept his word to the NRA, he voted against the Brady Bill five times because it had waiting periods in it. Thankfully, enough people finally voted for it to keep guns out of the hands of who should not have them.” (APPLAUSE)
BLITZER: Senator, you recently said you do not think crime victims should be able to sue gun makers for damages. The daughter of the Sandy Hook Elementary School who was killed back in the 2012 mass shooting, says you owe her and families an apology. Do you?
SANDERS: What we need to do is to do everything that we can to make certain that guns do not fall into the hands of people who do not have them.
“Now, I voted against this gun liability law because I was concerned that in rural areas all over this country, if a gun shop owner sells a weapon legally to somebody, and that person then goes out and kills somebody, I don’t believe it is appropriate that that gun shop owner who just sold a legal weapon to be held accountable and be sued.
“But, what I do believe is when gun shop owners and others knowingly are selling weapons to people who should not have them — somebody walks in, they want thousands of rounds of ammunition, or they want a whole lot of guns, yes, that gun shop owner or that gun manufacturer should be held liable.”
BLITZER: So, Senator, do you owe the Sandy Hook families an apology?
SANDERS: No, I don’t think I owe them an apology. They are in court today, and actually they won a preliminary decision today. They have the right to sue, and I support them and anyone else who wants the right to sue.
CLINTON: Well, I believe that the law that Senator Sanders voted for that I voted against, giving this special protection to gun manufacturers and to dealers, is an absolute abdication of responsibility on the part of those who voted for it.
“This is a unique gift given to only one industry in the world by the United States Congress, as Senator Murphy from Connecticut said, we have tougher standards holding toy gun manufacturers and sellers to account than we do for real guns.
“And the point that Senator Sanders keeps making about how he wouldn’t want a mom and pop store — that was not the point of this. And if he can point to any, any incident where that happened, I would love to hear about it.
“What was really going on, I’ll tell you, because it has a lot to do with New York City. New York City was on the brink of being able to hold manufacturers and dealers accountable through a very carefully crafted legal strategy. The NRA came to their supporters in the Congress and said, stop it, stop it now, and Senator Sanders joined those who did.”
1994 Crime Bill
Errol Lewis, of New York 1 Time Warner Cable News, once again took up an issue that has been used against Clinton: Secretary Clinton, the 1994 crime bill that you supported [when she was First Lady] added 100,000 police officers across the country and banned certain assault weapons. It also imposed tougher prison sentences and eliminated federal funding for inmate education. Looking at the crime bill as a whole, do you believe it was a net positive or do you think it was a mistake?
CLINTON: Well, I think that it had some positive aspects to it. And you mentioned some of them. The Violence Against Women Act, which has been a very important piece of legislation, in my opinion. (APPLAUSE)
“And it also did some things which were to provide more opportunities for young people. So if we were to have the balance sheet on one side, there are some positive actions and changes.
“On the other side, there were decisions that were made that now we must revisit and we have to correct. I think that sentences got much too long. The original idea was not that we would increase sentences for non-violent low-level offenders, but once the federal government did what it did, states piled on.
“So we have a problem. And the very first speech I gave in this campaign was about what I will do to reform the criminal justice system and end the over-mass incarceration.
“So I think that if all of us go and look back at where we were, Senator Sanders voted for the crime bill,and he says the same thing, there were some good things, and things that we have to change and learn from.
“So that’s how I see it. And I think we ought to be putting our attention on forging a consensus to make the changes that will divert more people from the criminal justice system to start, to tackle systemic racism and divert people in the beginning.”
Louis then came back with a second attack: LOUIS: Now earlier this year, a South Carolina voter told your daughter Chelsea, quote, “I think a lot of African-Americans want to hear, you know what, we made a mistake.” Chelsea said she has heard you apologize, but went on to say that if the voter hadn’t heard it then, quote, “it’s clearly insufficient.” Do you regret your advocacy for the crime bill?
CLINTON: Well, look, I supported the crime bill. My husband has apologized. He was the president who actually signed it, Senator Sanders voted for it. I’m sorry for the consequences that were unintended and that have had a very unfortunate impact on people’s lives. I’ve seen the results of what has happened in families and in communities.
“That’s why I chose to make my very first speech a year ago on this issue, Errol, because I want to focus the attention of our country and to make the changes we need to make. And I also want people (APPLAUSE) especially I want — I want white people — I want white people to recognize that there is systemic racism. It’s also in employment, it’s in housing, but it is in the criminal justice system, as well.” (APPLAUSE)
LOUIS: Senator Sanders, earlier this week at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, you called out President Clinton for defending Secretary Clinton’s use of the term super-predator back in the ’90s when she supported the crime bill. Why did you call him out?
SANDERS: Because it was a racist term, and everybody knew it was a racist term. (APPLAUSE)
“Look, much of what Secretary Clinton said was right. We had a crime bill. I voted for it. It had the Violence Against Women Act in it. When as mayor of Burlington, we worked very hard to try to eliminate domestic violence. This took us a good step forward. We’re talking about the weapon that killed the children in Sandy Hook. This banned assault weapons, not insignificant.
“But where we are today is we have a broken criminal justice system. We have more people in jail than any other country on Earth. And in my view, what we have got to do is rethink the system from the bottom on up. And that means, for a start — and we don’t talk about this. The media doesn’t talk about it — you got 51 percent of African-American kids today who graduated high school who are unemployed or underemployed. You know what I think? Maybe we invest in jobs and education for those kids, not jails and incarceration. (APPLAUSE)
“And I’ll tell you what else. And I’ll tell you what else I think. And that is, we have got — and this is the difference between the secretary and myself as I understand it. We have got to have the guts to rethink the so-called war on drugs. Too many lives have been destroyed because people possessed marijuana, millions over a 30-year period. And that is why I believe we should take marijuana out of the federal Controlled Substance Act.” (APPLAUSE)
CLINTON: Well, look, I think that, as Senator Sanders said about what I said, I will say about what he said. I think that we recognize that we have a set of problems that we cannot ignore and we must address. And that is why I have been promoting for my entire adult life the idea of investing early in kids, early childhood education, universal pre-K, like what Mayor de Blasio brought to New York. We have got to help more kids get off to a good start. That’s why I want a good teacher in a good school for every child, regardless of the zip code that child lives in and to be really focused on how we build ladders of opportunity and tear down these barriers that stand in the way of people getting ahead.
Senator Sanders, I have a question for you related to this. So you’ve said that by the end of your first term as president, the U.S. will no longer lead the world in mass incarceration. To fulfill that promise, you’d have to release roughly half a million prisoners. How are you going to do that, since the vast majority of American prisoners are not under federal jurisdiction?
SANDERS: We’re going to work with state governments all over this country. And you know what? In a very divided Congress, and a very divided politics in America, actually the one area where there is some common ground is conservatives understand that it’s insane to be spending $80 billion a year locking up 2.2 million people.
“With federal and presidential leadership, we will work with state governments to make sure that people are released from jail under strong supervision, that they get the kind of job training and education they need so they can return to their communities. On this one, Errol, actually I think you’re going to see progressive and conservative support. We can do it, if we’re prepared to be bold.”
Gun violence prevention advocates won one victory in May – Oregon passed universal background checks – but suffered a bigger loss, as Texas voted to allow concealed carry of guns on campuses of public colleges across the state. This is despite the fact that the most famous thing to happen at the University of Texas-Austin was the first mass shooting in America, on August 1, 1966, when Charles Whitman climbed the University of Texas Tower and used a sniper to kill 16 and wound 31.
Ironically, Oregon, which allows concealed carry on college campuses, just this month was the setting for the latest campus massacre.
Also this month, a six year old murdered his three-year old sibling with his father’s gun, kept loaded, atop their refrigerator.
Indeed, roughly every week, a toddler is killed or kills with a gun. How many more are added to the list, provided in mid-April by Colette Martin, of Moms Demand Action, which had already produced 11 children under the age of 15 who had been shot accidentally so far that month.
“It’s shocking to me – as I investigate laws at states – because the federal is useless – depending on zipcode, leaving a loaded gun on a coffee table is either a crime or nothing,” Martin told a Gun Violence Prevention forum at Temple Beth-el of Great Neck, “That’s why we read stories every day that a child is shot accidentally. We are not talking suicide or domestic violence.”
Her list included 5 year olds shooting 2 year olds; a 15 year old in Brooklyn who shot himself in the chest; in Houston, a 5 year old was shot by 4 year old (the fourth in 3 weeks); a mom’s boyfriend, cleaning his gun, accidentally shot a 9 year old.
“The NRA won’t tell you but two children a week will die this way, through accidental gunshot wounds – many more hurt, life changing injuries – a pattern so predictable. Over 100 kids a year will be dead because someone didn’t store gun properly.
“Is there any product that kills that many kids that we’re not regulating?
“It should be a crime to leave a loaded gun accessible to children –a punishable crime. That is a glaring omission from New York’s Safe Act,” she says.
That’s also the basis for a proposed law in New York, Nicholas’ Law – named for a 12 year old killed by playing at friend’s house where unsecured loaded gun and friend shot him, accidentally.
Other legislative actions that need to happen nationally:
Repealing laws that ban pediatricians from raising questions about guns in the home and recommending they be locked up (such as in Florida).
Repealing Stand Your Ground (aka “License to Kill”), another law written by the NRA and ALEC (a front for the Koch Brothers) and spread like cancer among the states, starting in Florida under then-Governor Jeb Bush.
Changing the requirements to purchase and possess guns. Norman Siegel, a New York civil rights lawyer and former director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, in a letter to the New York Times in December proposed a nationwide state registration program, similar to motor vehicle registration. “Every two years the owner of a gun would be required to bring his or her weapon in for inspection and re-registration. If the owner no longer possesses the weapon, he or she should be required to explain what happened to the gun. Perhaps under such a program we, as a nation, can realistically ameliorate the problem of guns winding up in the hands of lawbreakers and/or the mentally ill.”
And for those who charge that gun registration is somehow violating 2nd Amendment rights, look to the oppressive Voter ID and registration requirements being passed around the country which effectively put barriers in front of citizens’ right to vote.
Moreover, gun rights fanatics have no problem cancelling out the First Amendment’s freedom of speech in banning pediatricians from discussing gun safety with their patients’ families.
Gun violence is not a 2nd amendment issue. It is a public health issue, and should be treated in the same way. And if anything violates the founding premise of this country, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” it is the outsized weight given to so-called gun rights which never actually existed.
“This family’s only child is gone. It’s not just a legislative change, it’s part of the cultural change – the social norming that has to happen as with drunk driving,” she says, referring to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and the way they insinuated a kind of moral code into everyday life.
Governor Cuomo seized upon the massacre Sandy Hook Elementary School as a rare moment when he could pass Safe Act.
But other states – the gun happy ones, the free-range ones, the Live Free or Die ones (and so they die) – have gone the other way – in Florida, doctors are banned (no matter the inconvenient First Amendment guaranteeing free speech, or even the Hippocratic oath) from even asking parents if there is a gun in the home, in order to urge safe storage to prevent such tragedies as Nicholas’ and the others, a move that is being copied by other states, prompting New York Times columnist Charles Blow to raise the question, “Has the NRA Won?”
And the real challenge is the latest move by the NRA in the bought-and-paid-for Congress: to force states with gun regulations to have “reciprocity” – essentially to make a gun permit like a drivers license – with states that have virtually no restrictions (and in the case of one Georgia town, which mandate every family have a gun) – in a blatant disregard of states rights, in yet another instance when hypocrisy rules the day if it is convenient.
“We have to fight reciprocity,” State Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel said during the forum. “Every state has their rights – who can own a gun. New York has strong laws, but in Vermont, you only need to be 16 years of age and have a drivers license and you can have a gun.” What reciprocity means is that if you have a gun permit in one state, you can have a gun – transfer guns, drive interstate (now illegal) – scary for someone like NY.” So if a state like Texas allows concealed guns everywhere (except the State House) with no questions asked, even a person with a mental condition, a veteran with PTSD or a domestic abuser, can bring their gun to New York.
As the level of gun violence has only escalated, the NRA has come back with more and more absurd statements (such as the time after a tragedy is no time to consider what to do about it), or a move to ease access to guns.
If anything gives lie to the absurdity, “the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” and the even more absurd statement that the way to reduce gun violence is to make guns even more prevalent, it is the fact that gun violence kills 2500 children each year. You can also look to the murder of police officers, who are clearly “good guys” whose guns could not stop the bad guy who shot first.
In Chicago, just over Memorial Day weekend, 40 people were shot including a 4 year old girl, with nine dead, including,a 15-year old boy, Nation of Change reported.
“So far, there have been 18,760 gun incidents this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, resulting in 4,830 deaths and the death or injury of 249 children.”
There are practical things that can be done to significantly reduce the more than 30,000 gun deaths a year – that’s equivalent to a 9/11 a month – having nothing to do with violating the 2 nd Amendment or taking guns away from the ostensibly “law abiding” people (isn’t it odd that people are “law abiding” until they aren’t?)
But before we get into the long list of commonsense steps that should be taking immediately, without having any impact whatsoever on the so-called “law abiding” gunowners, there is this:
Gun Manufacturers Profit Incentive: Smart Guns
Much is made of the fact that the NRA, which is such an outsized powerhouse scaring the beejeebees out of politicians, serves the interests of gun manufacturers, not the ordinary members (a majority of whom support universal background checks and other commonsense measures).
In fact, the NRA was in favor of universal background checks until they were against them, and now, whenever there is a massacre, they call for more guns – armed guards at schools and churches, concealed carry at college campuses, in fact, everywhere but in Congress and Houses of Legislature.
So just like the corruption in FIFA won’t be rooted out politically, but when Nike and other sponsors exert their power, gun manufacturers have to see profit in being more socially conscious.
Jeb Bush speaking to 30,000 at the NRA convention, said Obama should be disarming ISIS rather than law-abiding Americans – the problem is that terrorists in the US have a clear shot at obtaining military-grade weapons and high-capacity ammo clips- while, in fact, DoD has radiofrequency controls in its military weapons so they can locate guns gone missing into the wrong hands. (Jeb! casually dismissed the Oregon shooting as “stuff happens”.)
Question is: why aren’t there ‘smart guns’ like ‘smart phones’ that can only be used by the person whose hand print is identified with the gun? Or, for that matter, a locater as a smart phone has when it is stolen, and can be located and disarmed remotely?
If the gun manufacturers would see themselves as, say, Apple Computers, coming out with the newest, latest gun that replaces the older gun, they could see big profits in sensible gun measure: namely, the same ID access that smart-phones now have: make the gun so that it can only be used by the owner. If the gun-owner is in fact law-abiding, they would have no problem with that, and would relish the idea of a gun not being snapped up by the “bad guy” (or a child) and used to kill their loved ones.
Think of the increased profits, if 100 million guns had to be replaced! Gun dealers could offer those nifty trade-in deals!
The gun nuts have also long ceased being credible in arguing for “self-defense” and the “homespun, family values sport of hunting” when they refuse to allow a ban on military-grade assault weapons and high-capacity magazines that kill dozens in a blink of an eye. This is about the fantasy of being able to take down the government – something that the 2nd Amendment never envisioned, since it was intended to provide a defense for the fledgling democratic government in the absence of a standing army -like a National Guard.
It’s been 15 years since the Million Mom March in Washington DC (remember how they said if George W Bush were elected, there would be an office in the West Wing for the NRA? They were right.) Things clearly went downhill from there – for example, allowing the 1994 Assault Weapons ban to lapse.
Despite the rise of organizations like Moms Demand Action, Moms Rising, Americans for Responsible Solutions, Everytown and scores of others (typically, tragically, by family members like Richard Martinez whose lives have been forever destroyed by gun violence), Congress, in the pocket of the gun lobby, has refused to budge, and in the states, the reaction to what was considered the most heinous tragedy of all, the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, was to free up, not tighten, gun restrictions (New York’s Safe Act was the exception).
It’s time to change tactics and the dynamics.
Abortions are constitutionally protected but the anti-choice movement has been able to put all sorts of legal and financial impediments that make it impossible for women to exercise their Constitutionally protected rights.
The gun violence prevention advocates should adopt some of these methods. For example:
State requirements: Just as California laws regarding automobiles and the chemicals industry have forced those industries to change their manufacture to be more environmentally friendly, states could impose requirements on gun manufacturers that every gun be a smart-gun; increase taxes on ammunition (like they do on cigarettes) and fees on gun permits (like voting IDs)
Make gun manufacturers and dealers liable when their product is inappropriately used (as so many other manufacturers are – gun manufacturers are somehow exempted.)
Require gun owners to take out liability insurance so that victims’ families can be adequately compensated.
Institute laws making parents/guardians responsible for safe storage, and criminally liable if a child commits a crime with their gun. For example, no one questioned where the 15 year old Jared Michael Padgett, of Portland, Oregon, obtained the gun he used to kill freshman Emilio Hoffman and wound teacher Todd Rispler before killing himself. Or where 14 year old Jaylen Fryberg, a popular student at Marysville, Wash. high school,, got the .40-caliber handgun he used to kill a girl and strike four others in the head before turning his gun on himself and committing suicide. There were no consequences for whoever obtained the guns that these minors used to murder innocents.
Put a fee on ammunition and gun purchases to support a victims fund.
Boycott college campuses that allow guns: Parents should contact colleges and ask if guns are allowed, and if so, tell them you won’t allow your child to apply there.
“I am, a huge believer that the American people can fix this,” Martin says. “I’ve lost faith in Congress, lost faith in the federal government, lost faith in the NRA – I was never much of a fan, my father tore up his NRA card in1980s, it was apparent to him what they were about: politicizing, a money racket, they are not standing for his ideals.
“Most gun owners are not in NRA… 90% of legitimate legal gun owners don’t support NRA. Who is supporting the NRA? The gun manufacturers – Smith-Wesson, Baretta. It’s no mystery that’s who they serve – the NRA is a front for gun manufacturers.
“Their job is to fend off, violently, any regulation that will impact the sale of their product – every gun that ends up on the street, used in a crime, begins as a legal gun –it was first sold as a legal gun – no illegal gun manufacturing plant anywhere.”
(And every criminal or maniac who uses a gun starts off as a noncriminal, non-maniac. Actually, you could add that whenever there is a massacre – the more heinous that it is – gun sales go up because LaPierre warns that the government will finally confiscate guns.)
Colette adds, “I’m a gun owner and here’s the impact [the NY Safe Act] had on me (she gestures, zero). I don’t have AR 15s in my basement – New York by any measure has done a great job keeping its citizens safe -the illegal street variety and more difficult gun violence.
“I am here today to deal with children’s and guns –standard, practical storage protocols. If you have children and guns in house, lock one of them up,” she said, drawing a laugh.
“1/3 of families own at least one gun – it behooves us to ask how it is stored at home.”
But in the absence of law, there are more practical actions parents should take: “Before you allow your child to go for a playdate, ask are there guns in house That’s not political, but safety. That’s a house I don’t want my kid playing unattended
It’s no more offensive than asking if there is a pool, or a dog. It’s not easy to plan a funeral for a 12 year old – that’s inconvenient.
“How many of these parents whose kids were shot this month would do anything to go back in time and ask that question. It’s not political, not offensive- not out of order to ask about the safety.”
Martin also refutes the claim that safe storage of guns at home will somehow interfere with the ability (rare) to defend from an intruder. She says that evidence shows that it takes a gun owner “fractions of seconds” to get a gun out of a safebox and load it.
In August, Fox & friends did 5 part gun safety series and part 3 featured expert marksmen, firearms dealer and trainer Rob Pincus, who did a live demo showing how long it took in an incidence of home invasion. Someone banged the door down downstairs, he went to the gun safe’s numeric keypad taking a half second to open it, she said.
On the other hand, the incidence of home invasion is so minimal, as are the instances of a gunowner actually foiling an intruder.
“The FBI did a study of home invasions and found that 68% of home invasions happen between parties that knew each other.”
What is more likely is that believing you are defending yourself against an armed intruder, results in accidentally killing your 19 year old who comes home unexpectedly from college at 3 am.
Florida, which calls itself “The Sunshine State,” and is one of the most popular family vacation destinations, may soon be far less family friendly. State lawmakers are considering giving gun owners with concealed carry permits the right to openly carry their firearms in public places, even allowing them to hold their guns in their hands as they walk around. [“Open-carry law would create anxiety, not safety: Editorial,” Orlando Sentinel, Oct. 15. 2015.]
With Disney World, Universal Studios, miles of pristine sand beaches, and world-class shopping and dining, Florida is the ultimate vacation destination for many families in the United States and around the world. But imagine going on vacation with your kids and loved ones to a place where any stranger standing inches from you in line, or just passing by on the street, could be displaying or handling a deadly weapon.
That’s the message that MomsRising, an organization that advocates for sensible gun regulation, MomsRising is circulating. The group is urging families to sign a petition telling – or rather warning – the Florida Commission on Tourism that families do not want to vacation in a state where people are openly carrying their weapons.
“The open carrying of firearms serves little purpose but to intimidate the public, which is why even major retailers like Starbucks and Target don’t want guns in their stores,” [“7 Companies That Don’t Want Guns In Their Stores,” Andrew Lord, Huffington Post, July 17, 2015] the organization stated in a message to supporters. “Why would anyone want to feel intimidated, especially while on vacation?”
Indeed, open carry is just another way for the gun lobby (which is really the gun manufacturers) to roll back gun safety laws. But studies have demonstrated the “weapons effect,” where the mere presence of firearms encourages aggressive behavior. [“Mere sight of a gun makes police – and public – more aggressive, experts say,” Andrew Yuhas, The Guardian, Aug. 5, 2015.] This was certainly the case for a family Tennessee now mourning the loss of their 19-year old at Tennesee State University over a dice game (three female students just passing by were also shot). [Fatal Tenn. campus shooting started over dice game, USA Today, Oct. 23, 2015]
“Open carry would make the presence of firearms that much more visible in public, raising the likelihood of dangerous outcomes. Who wants that on vacation?,” says MomsRising, an organization that supports sensible gun regulation.
“No family wants to be intimidated and feel at risk of gun violence, especially when we are supposed to be relaxing and having fun. Tell the Florida Commission on Tourism that families do not want to vacation in a state where people are openly carrying their weapons!”
With more than 97 million people visiting the state, bringing $72 billion a year to the economy, the tourism sector is a powerful voice in Florida and can influence state policy on gun safety. The Florida Commission on Tourism and other leaders in the tourism industry will not like to hear that allowing the open carry of firearms may lead people to start looking elsewhere for that perfect family vacation.
MomsRising.org is urging people to sign their petition and will deliver the message and your signature to the Florida Commission on Tourism, as well as to Disney World, Universal Studios, regional tourism boards, and other key members of the Florida tourism community.
“Stopping open carry in Florida will help keep this terrible idea from becoming law in other states that also rely on tourism dollars. Together, we are a strong voice for safer families and communities,” stated MomsRising.org.
Let’s not forget that Florida was the birthplace of Stand Your Ground, giving anyone with a gun a license to kill and later claim they feared for their life, as was the case for a self-appointed neighborhood watch who was acquitted in the murder of black teen Trayvon Martin. After being adopted in Florida, ‘Stand Your Ground,’ written by ALEC’s gun manufacturer members, was exported to 22 other states.