What happened to America?!

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Courtesy of Jack Cluth on the blog, What Would Jack Do?

On Thursday, federal authorities filed an indictment in federal court in San Francisco charging FedEx with assisting two related online pharmacies by knowingly delivering painkillers and dangerous drugs to customers without prescriptions for ten years ending in 2010. Paul Elias reports, FedEx Charged With Knowingly Delivering Dangerous Drugs To Customers Without Prescriptions, that the Department of Justice announced the charges in Washington, D.C. demanding FedEx forfeit $820 million earned by assisting the illicit pharmacies. The Memphis, Tennessee based delivery company stands accused of shipping Ambien- a powerful sleep aid,  anti-anxiety medications Valium and Xanax and other drugs to customers without legitimate medical need and a lack of valid prescription. In a written statement, company spokesman Patrick Fitzgerald said, “We will plead not guilty. We will defend against this attack on the integrity and good name of FedEx and its employees.” In addition, Fitzgerald said the DEA refused their request for a list of online pharmacies under investigation making it impossible for the company to know which companies are operating illegally. However, the Justice Department claims that federal officials told FedEx since 2004 that it was shipping dangerous drugs without prescriptions alleging that couriers in Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia warned executives about suspicious drug deliveries. Last year, rival company UPS paid $40 million to resolve similar allegations and took steps to block illicit online drug dealers from using their service. Both companies said in regulatory filings that they had been served with grand jury subpoenas between 2007 and 2009, Elias reports. The investigation came in response to the increase in online pharmacies launched in 2005 in San Francisco leading to  dozens of arrests, thousands of websites shuttered and tens of millions of dollars and pills seized worldwide. The executive director of Express Association of America, a trade group created by FedEx, UPS and three other service said there is no industry wide effort to address the policing of prescription drug deliveries. A federal jury in 2012 convicted three men of operating illegal pharmacies using FedEx and UPS to deliver drugs without prescriptions and seven others were convicted in San Francisco previously.

In Los Angeles, the Associate Press article, Lawsuit filed in LA woman’s pummeling by patrolman, a woman pummeled by a California Highway Patrol officer caught on video filed a civil rights lawsuit on Thursday. A lawsuit filed in federal court on behalf of Marlene Pinnock names the commissioner of the CHP, the unidentified officer in the July 1 video and other officers as defendants. The video recorded by a passing driver shows Pinnock being repeatedly punched while being straddled by the officer. The lawsuit claims excessive force, assault, battery and a violation of Pinnock’s due process rights. In addition, Pinnock “suffered great mental and physical pain, suffering, anguish, fright, nervousness, anxiety, grief shock, humiliation, indignity, and embarrassment” and seeks monetary damages. CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow told the Associated Press: “We do have a good history at taking a look at our processes, procedures and conduct of our employees,” Farrow said. “That’s never been questioned until today.” He has met with community and civil rights leaders in Los Angeles multiple times since the incident and pledge that an internal investigation will conclude in weeks rather than months. The CHP said Pinnock was walking on Interstate 10 west of downtown L.A. endangering herself and people in traffic and the officer was trying to restrain her. Pinnock had begun to walking off the freeway but returned when the confrontation happened. The officer involved has been on the job one and half years and will be on desk duty until completion of the internal investigation, meanwhile, Pinnock remains hospitalized with head injuries. Nine drivers called 911 to report the beating, according to recordings the CHP released Thursday in response to public records request by the Associated Press. One caller said she appeared loaded, while another said she looked high or drunk. Pinnock claims in her suit that the CHP’s actions were an effort to shift blame by “misusing the criminal justice system to obtain privileged and private information to discredit (Pinnock) … or circumvent the discovery rules in civil rights violation matters.” The incident has drawn outrage from U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters calling it police brutality and demanded the officer be fired.

While outrage and public distrust of the police in Los Angeles rages on, the justice system in Detroit leaves many shocked by the comments of one judge. According to Ed White, Judge tells young Detroit man he need a beating, a young man who participated in a mob attack on a Detroit motorist needed a father to beat the hell out of him as a kid to discourage him from committing a crime, a judge said Thursday. The shocking comment by Wayne County Judge James Callahan came as he sentenced Latrez Cummings to six months in jail. White reports that Callahan said Cummings needed a dad, “someone to discipline you. Someone to beat the hell out of you when you made a mistake, as opposed to allowing you or encouraging you to do it to somebody else.” Cummings and four others pleaded guilty to the assault on Steve Utash who was in a coma for days after the attack. Apparently, after the judge’s remark, the assistant prosecutor Lisa Lindsay argued with the judge that the six month sentence was too light and many young black men without fathers don’t commit crimes. Callahan replied, a white judge himself: “Did I ever use the term ‘black’? It doesn’t matter if a person is black, white, yellow or red.” Despite the harsh tone, the judge said Cummings’ age and childhood were considered in the light sentence. As Callahan put it:”We’ve all been 19 years of age.”

While Cummings got off a little easier because of age for a vicious crime, a group of suburban white teens in Mississippi didn’t fair so well. A three year investigation into attacks on blacks in Mississippi’s capital of Jackson has grown to 10 indictments and six convictions, according to Jack Elliot, Hate crime investigation grows in Mississippi. The most recent indictments were made public Wednesday including two men and two women. The June 2011 death of James Craig Anderson, who was ran over by a pick up truck outside a Jackson hotel, started a broader investigation into reports claiming groups of young white men and women drive from the mostly white Rankin Country into majority black Jackson to assault blacks. Prosecutors said the suspect using target the homeless or people under the influence of alcohol. John Louis Blalack, 20, of Brandon; Sarah Adelia Graves, 21, of Crystal Springs; Robert Henry Rice, 23, of Brandon; and Shelbie Brooke Richards, 20, of Pearl, pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to charges including conspiracy and committing a hate crime with each being released on a $100,000 bail. A tentative trial date is set for Sept. 15. Prosecutors said the assailants used their fists, beer bottles, sling shots and vehicles to attack. The assault on Anderson was caught by a hotel surveillance camera and received widespread attention after the video was obtained by news organization including the Associate Press. Four men pleaded guilty in the Anderson case and other offenses, while two other men pleaded guilty in other attacks.

While the justice system struggle to deal with the increase it seems in violent crimes and police department struggle to deal with the influx of criminals and public scrutiny, an old but constantly recycled issue has come up again with increasingly unjust consequences for some. What happened to the inscription on the Statue of Liberty? If you can’t remember or don’t know, here’s a refresher:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses, yearning to breath free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

Author: Emma Lazarus

Well sadly, since the Great Recession, many U.S. cities are trying to eradicate homelessness not in a humanitarian way but by making it illegal to be homeless according to Arthur Delaney, More Cities Are Basically Making It Illegal To Be Homeless. Citywide bans on things homeless people need to survive have increased according to the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty. Delaney reports, key finding from the survey of 187 American cities show that since 2011:

Citywide bans on camping in public have increased by 60 percent.

Citywide bans on begging have increased by 25 percent.

Citywide bans on loitering, loafing, and vagrancy have increased by 35 percent.

Citywide bans on sitting or lying down in particular public places have increased by 43 percent.

Bans on sleeping in vehicles have increased by 119 percent.

The law center director Maria Foscarinis in a press release stated: “There is a severe shortage of affordable housing and a lack of emergency shelter options in our communities, leaving homeless people with no choice but to perform basic acts of survival in public spaces. Despite a lack of any available alternatives, more cities are choosing to turn the necessary conduct of homeless people into criminal activity. Such laws threaten the human and constitutional rights of homeless people, impose unnecessary costs on cities, and do nothing to solve the problems they purport to address.” According to government data, homelessness has declined 9 percent from January 2007 through January 2013 with 65 percent of the nation’s 610,042 homeless people staying in shelters any given night that month. Over those years, unsheltered homeless dropped by 23 percent. The law center report differs from government data noting it fails to account for several factors including jailed homeless people and other data suggest worsening homelessness such as a U.S. Conference of Mayors report that found a 4 percent increase in family homelessness from 2012 t0 2013.

NRA Believes Stalkers’ Have the Right to Bear Arms

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Wayne LaPierre (Credit: Reuters/Jim Urquhart)

The National Rifle Association has now taken up the fight against federal legislation banning those convicted of domestic violence against dating partners and stalking from purchasing guns, according to Laura Bassett’s article on June 25, NRA Fights For Convicted Stalkers’ Gun Rights. The federal law already prevents persons convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence from purchasing firearms. However, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) proposes the addition of convicted stalkers to the group and is in favor of expanding the definition of convicted domestic violence against “intimate partners” to include dating partners, according to legislation S. 1290 which she introduced. Bassett reports that two different senators’ aides confirmed that the NRA sent letters to lawmakers strongly opposing the measure even describing it as “a bill to turn disputes between family members and social acquaintances into lifetime firearm prohibitions.” The letter from the nation’s largest gun lobby also states that the measure “manipulates emotionally compelling issues such as ‘domestic violence’ and ‘stalking’ simply to cast as wide a net as possible for federal firearm prohibitions.” Klobuchar in an email to HuffPost stated, “As a former prosecutor, I know how domestic violence and stalking can take lives and tear apart families. This is a commonsense bill that would protect victims and keep our families safe, and I will continue to work to move this legislation forward.”

Legislation has been gaining momentum in the states that would prevent all convicted domestic abusers from purchasing guns and even the NRA has relaxed its stance on such bills over the past year due to the fact one of its own top officials was convicted of domestic violence and prohibited from owning a firearm. However, the federal push for domestic violence gun bans has raised some red flags for the gun rights groupies e.g. Klobuchar, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.) have all introduced measures to expand and strengthen gun restriction for people who are convicted of domestic abuse or stalking or who have emergency temporary restraining orders issued. According to a report released last week by the Center for American Progress, stalkers and physically abusive dating partners are just as deadly as violent spouses. In addition, domestic abusers with access to guns are seven times more likely to kill their partners than those without access.

Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), a congresswoman who survived a gunshot to the head in 2011, met last week with House and Senate leadership, White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, numerous other lawmakers and policy experts to discuss what Congress can do to protect women from gun violence committed at the hands of domestic abusers and stalkers, Basset reports. Giffords’ gun violence prevention PAC, Americans for Responsible Solution, found that women in gun friendly Texas favor a law requiring stalkers to turn in their firearms. Halyley Zachary, executive director of the PAC, told HuffPost:  “Protecting women from gun violence means ensuring we have laws that keep guns out of the hands of stalkers and domestic abusers. By opposing this commonsense bill, [NRA chief] Wayne LaPierre and the NRA leadership has once again shown it is out of step with the vast majority of Americans and responsible gun owners. Now, the question for NRA-backed candidates around the country is: do they share the NRA’s position?”

The Circus Has Come to Town

Connecticut Governor Dannell Malloy appeared on CNN’s ‘State of Union’ on Sunday to discuss many things, but one particular subject sparked quite a response from the governor. As one of the country’s strictest gun control legislation goes into affect in Connecticut just four months after the Newtown shooting, the NRA president Wayne LaPierre has wasted no time publicly criticizing the new legislation as alleged fears spread that the gun manufactures might flee the state. The governor has this to say reports the Huff Post:

“Wayne reminds me of the clowns at the circus. They get the most attention and that’s what he’s paid to do. This guy is so out of whack, it’s unbelievable. 92% of the American people want universal background checks. I can’t get on a plane as the governor of the state of Connecticut without somebody running a background check on me. Why should you be able to buy a gun?….We’ve decided that public safety trumps all of that (regarding gun manufacturing). I hope they stay and manufacture products that can legally be sold. But if they leave, that will be a decision they make. We’re not making them leave.”

Meanwhile, in Washington, families of the Connecticut school shooting along with President Barack Obama are walking the halls of Congress to garner support for stricter gun control regulations. The group has already helped to push the nation’s most restrictive gun law that was signed by Gov. Malloy, D-Conn, on Thursday. As Congress returns from spring break the families plan to spend the next weeks on Capitol Hill where the gun control debate has reached a stalemate. Using their own personal stories and the lasting affects of the Dec 14 shooting, the group hopes to speak to senators who have yet to support gun legislation. As David Wheeler, who lost a 6 year old son, Benjamin, commented to the Associated Press: “I’m not a constitutional scholar and I’m not a Second Amendment specialist. I don’t know the ins and outs of gun policy but I know …,” his voice trailed off as a sob catches in his throat. “But I now know one of the things that no father should ever know. And in our system of representative government we have to use our voices.”

Many of the families affected by the Newtown Massacre at Sandy Hook come from diverse political backgrounds and do not always agree on policy reports the Associated Press. The group includes gun owners, Democrats and Republicans. Mark Mattioli, who lost his 6 year old son James, attended a NRA news conference last week to endorse  a proposal to train school staffers as armed officers, while relatives of nine victims have a non-profit group called the Sandy Hook Promise who came together to sign letters Thursday to senators asking them to vote for expanded background checks, stricter gun trafficking laws and ban ammunition magazines with more than 10 rounds. The magazine Adam Lanza used a magazine capable of 30 rounds of ammunition firing 154 shots during the four minute rampage in the school and stopped to reload giving 11 children the chance to escape according to the Associated Press. Nicole Hockley who lost her 6 year old son, Dylan, in the classroom where Lanza reloaded commented that, “They ran for their lives. Dylan was not so fortunate. If there were lower capacity magazine clips, there’s a chance Dylan would be here with me today.” She drives home her point by handing out cards to lawmakers with her son pictured in a Superman T-shirt and grinning with the caption “Honor his life 3/8/06-12/14/12. Stand with us for change. Now is the time.” Bill Sherlach also passes out a similar card with his Wife, Mary, a school psychologist who died, pictured asking lawmakers, “Can you show the same courage in your vote today?”

As strong as the message may be to lawmakers, it’s a tough road ahead as Congress has a strong tradition of protecting gun rights as barring large capacity magazines are difficult and senators cannot agree on the expanded background check. The Sandy Hook Promise stated days after the shooting as a group of neighbors came together and decided to take action to heal the community and aid victims’ families. The group has so far shoveled driveways, given funds to those on hard economic times and use their personal and professional connections to support public policy from mental health to gun safety. The co-founder Tim Makris had this to say, “This is not about just guns. The gun is the enabler, the cause is mental health.” Ubnfortunately for COngress, the iussue befoe them is guns. THe families of victims watchs on March 28 as Obama spoke about Congress and the importance of his proposal: “Less than 100 days ago that happened, and the entire country was shocked. And the entire country pledged we would do something about it and that this time would be different. Shame on us if we’ve forgotten. I haven’t forgotten those kids.” Obama plans to meet with the families Monday when he travels to Connecticut for a speech at the University of Hartford Sports Center close to the capitol where the governor signed the sweeping new gun restriction into law Thursday according to the Associated Press.

Connecticut Has Done What Congress Could Not

As the gun control debate become exhaustive and the international community seems to have an easier time getting their act together than Congress, Connecticut has decided to take action statewide to protect their citizens and put some minds at ease a mere three months after the Sandy Hook shooting that claimed so many lives and intensified the gun debate. Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy (D) on Thursday signed comprehensive gun control reforms less than 12 hours after the state legislature approved it in a late night session according to Huff Post. Malloy during the signing ceremony commented that the event was profoundly moving saying Connecticut came together as few other places have and are able to do as Washington remains divided (thank you NRA and second amendment supporters) and lawmakers have no excuse to expand background checks. Both of Connecticut’s two Democratic senators, Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, supported the expanded gun control which requires background checks on private gun sales, bans the sale of magazines holding more than 10 rounds, and expands the state’s assault weapons ban including new gun models. As Malloy stated, the provisions will be in effect immediately with others being phased in. The bill also has new registration requirements for high capacity magazine owners who purchased before the law and creates the nation’s first dangerous weapons offender registry. The legislators during Wednesday nights session applauded the bill as it will allocate $15 million more to school safety and mental health monitoring programs. Many of the families who were affected by the deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newton were present for the historic signing and President Barack Obama will also visit Connecticut on Monday to applaud the new reform as well as make a case for broader gun control measure being debated by Congress.

 

 

 

 

 

Gun Proponents Take Action and Speak Out

Heidi Heitkamp Michael Bloomberg

 

 

 

 

Surely this debate will never end until both sides can compromise which will probably be when hell freezes over. Nonetheless, many of the Second Amendment supporters are speaking out or taking action to protect their rights but most importantly their guns. Eventually, with the public outcry and fierce opposition to any sort of gun control legislation, the White House as well as Congress will ultimately have to decide what is the best measure for the country. As lawmakers debate arming teachers and administrators to prevent more school shooting, one Colorado school district has voted to allow superintendents and high school principals to carry concealed semi-automatic pistols on campus which some believe sidesteps laws that keep the schools gun free reports the Associated Press. Dolores County, in southwestern Colorado, voted unanimously in February to allow Ty Gray, principal of Dove Creek High School, and Superintendent Bruce Hankins to double as security officers. Both men will receive an extra $1 a year for the responsibility after completing a concealed carry course and receiving permits to carry on campus from the county sheriff. Hankins told the Cortez Journal that this will give them the ability to respond immediately to any shooting. Like Dolores County, New Jersey Passaic Valley High School’s board of education voted unanimously last month to allow the principal, a retired police sergeant, to carry concealed on campus which Ray Rotella has no problem doing so since he has a license to carry one reports the Associated Press.

There is a big difference between Dolores County and Passaic as Rotella explained last month, “It’s a unique situation. I’m not advocating administrators carry weapons. You don’t just give a gun to someone even with a little training. You’re talking about someone who was in law enforcement. I was a firearms instructor.” The reasoning behind the decision in Dolores County was the response time for police is 40 minutes and with a limited budget “it is necessary to rely upon existing staff to fulfill the function of the needed security personnel.” But according to Laura Cutilletta, a senior staff attorney for the San Francisco-based Law Center Prevent Gun Violence, believes that administrators are already dealing with so much and don’t have the experience of a security guard or police officer that the stress may affect their ability to serve the school well. As she explained to the Associated Press, “They’re not used to being in that type of stressful situation, not the type of stress that a police officer faces,” she said. “The likelihood of causing more death and injury is through the roof. Even police officers have a hard time hitting the target during a stressful situation, so how can we expect a superintendent or principal to do it?” Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed several bills into law last week that require background checks for private and online gun sales as well as banning ammunition magazines that hold more than 15 rounds. Many states already ban guns on campus unless carried by peace officers, security guards, or employees with permission to carry from the school’s superintendent. But after the Sandy Hook Shooting many lawmakers in two dozen states are making it easier for school employees or volunteers to carry on campus for example South Dakota’s Governor, Dennis Daugaard, signed a bill March 8 to allow districts to permit teachers and personnel to serve as sentinels and carry guns on campus which will go into effect July 1.

On the other side of the aisle, the gun violence and gun control ad blitz is in full effect as the $12 million ad buy from Mayor Against Illegal Guns begins to target key Senators such as Heitkamp to support gun control legislation and comprehensive background checks. Bloomberg the co-founder of the group and personally financed the ad blitz is spending $156,000 in North Dakota. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) the target of the ads came out on Tuesday in the Grand Forks Herald to criticize Bloomberg’s federal fun control push saying the mayor needs to worry about his own city’s gun violence than North Dakota. As Heitkamp explained in a statement: “North Dakota continues to have one [of] the highest rates of gun ownership and lowest incidences of gun crime in the country. Yet New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg insists on taking gun-driven crime statistics in his city and from other major cities and trying to force those numbers into a narrative that just does not fit North Dakota.” Bloomberg has defended the ad buy by saying, “These ads bring the voices of Americans — who overwhelmingly support comprehensive and enforceable background checks — into the discussion to move senators to immediately take action to prevent gun violence.”

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, North Dakota one of the highest rates of gun ownership at 50.7 percent but one of the lowest gun homicide rates at 1.1 per 100,000 below the national rate at 2.75. Heitkamp attributes the low gun violence rate to the proud outdoor heritage that firearm owners in her state understand the rights and responsibilities that come with guns. According to the Associated Press, this is not the first campaign that has targeted Heitkamp’s position on gun control as the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence launched ads attacking her pro-gun stance less than a week after being sworn in as senator in January. The ad read, “No parent should have to send their children to school wondering if they will come home. Shame on you, Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), for telling the country on Sunday that the Obama Administration’s response to Newtown — which may include universal background checks and a ban on assault rifles and high-capacity ammunition magazines — is ‘extreme.'” The group was responding to Heitkamp’s statement that White House’s gun control plans were too extreme.

As the Death Toll Rises, The Great Gun Debate Rages On

From the Debates at home to the debate abroad, the U.S. needs to address and take a firm stance on gun control as the death toll rises. Everyday more people are dying from gun related deaths and nobody has address the real issue which is not the second amendment but finding better ways to regulate the gun trade in America. Here is a compilation of events that will make any American whether for or against gun control to think twice about what is really important.

Hitler Gun Control

When Ohio’s school board president posted her opposition to gun control she used Adolf Hitler’s image to get her point across, while a well known conservative commentator argued about the efforts to restrict guns he commented that if the Jews in Poland had more arms there would of been more survivors of the Holocaust. In the months since the Newtown shooting in Connecticut, some gun rights supports have compared the U.S. gun control efforts to Nazi restrictions on firearms arguing the government is leaving the people defenseless against tyrants reports the Associated Press. Isn’t that what the military is for? However some experts argue that the argument distorts history since Hitler loosened tight gun laws governing World War I Germany evening barring Jews from owning weapons and moved to take them away. Oh those fact checkers strike again. Gun advocates who cite Hitler in the U.S. gun debate fail to realize that Jews in the 1930s Germany were a small population with few guns before Nazis take over, even though it fits the current debate the truth is that Hitler’s firearms laws made no difference in the Jews’ survival. As historian Steve Paulsson, an expert whose family survived the city’s destruction, said, “Objectively, it might have made things worse” if the Jews who fought the Nazis in the 1943 Warsaw ghetto uprising in Poland had more and better guns. Nonetheless the comparison remains strong online as former Major League Baseball pitcher John Rocker wrote in January, “Absolute certainties are a rare thing in this life, but one I think can be collectively agreed upon is the undeniable fact that the Holocaust would have never taken place had the Jewish citizenry of Hitler’s Germany had the right to bear arms and defended themselves with those arms.” National Rifle Association President David Keene thinks the analogy is appropriate – Gov Andrew Cuomo depicted as Hitler at a New York rally in February- during an radio interview on March 1 saying, “Folks that are cognizant of the history, not just in Germany but elsewhere, look back to that history and say we can’t let that sort of thing happen here.”

However according to the Associated Press, the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish civil rights group, has asked that Hitler and the Nazis be kept out of the debate saying the rhetoric “is such an absurdity and so offensive and just undermines any real understanding of what the Holocaust was about. If they do believe it, they’re making no serious examination of what the Nazi regime was about.” As Harcourt explains, “To suggest that the targeting of Jews in any of the gun regulations or any of the other regulations is somehow tied to Nazis’ view of guns is entirely misleading because the Nazis believed in a greater deregulation of firearms. Firearms were viewed, for the good German, were something to which they had rights.” U.S. gun rights advocates disagree pointing to the 1943 Warsaw ghetto uprising where 700 armed Jews fought off  a large German force for days until they fled to tunnels and the ghetto was burn to the ground house by house. The problem with this argument as Paulsson points o9ui is that if the Polish Jews would of limited their resistance the Nazi troops might not have destroyed the ghettos allowing more to survive and escape, but when they chose to fight other times in 1930s and 1940s Poland it incited vicious counter attacks. However, Heller a gun activist said the uprising and ore guns might not have stopped the Holocaust but gave the Jews a fighting chance and saved many from the concentration camp according to the Associated Press. But Paulsson, whose mother was freed from Auschwitz at the end of the war, dismisses this twisting of facts: “Ideologues always try to shoehorn history into their own categories and read into the past things that serve their own particular purposes.”

Thousands of gun deaths since Newtown

The Huffington Post has tracked gun-related deaths in the United States since Newtown. Click here for an interactive map of those who have died. In the 98 days since the Sandy Hook Massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, guns have killed at least 2,243 more people. Click here to read about the thousands of gun deaths since by Huff Post “One Nation Under Guns.”

Arms Trade Treaty Nra

The United Nation’s Arms Trade Treaty, an international convention on small arms sales now being negotiated at the United Nations this week and next in New York, has drawn more than a 100 demonstrators at Lafayette Square on Friday urging the U.S. to back the treaty according to Huff Post. The supporters are optimistic even though the treaty would face political and policy hurdles. Salil Shetty, secretary general of Amnesty Internation, told the Huff Post before addressing the protestors across from the White House that, “We are still very hopeful that we’ll end up with a treaty. The important thing is [that the Arms Trade Treaty must] protect human lives and protect human rights. We will get a treaty, the question is ‘how good is it, how strong is it?’ That’s a bit up in the air right now.” The intended purpose for the treaty would be to prevent the transfer of arms across boarders to governments using  them in war crimes, genocide and other human rights violations. There are a few sticking points though. Among the most contentious was ammunition sales as opposed to weapons sales would be covered in the treaty as the United States delegation opposes including ammunition in the ATT which has angered a number of protestors. As Shetty explains to the Huff Post: “The argument the U.S. is making is a very practical one, saying that it’s very difficult to track [things like ammunition]. But there are many governments that produce ammunition, and they’re not blocking [it from being included in the treaty].” As Paul O’Brien, the vice president of policy and campaigns for the human rights group Oxfam explains, “We’re confident we’re going to get something. But something isn’t good enough. If we don’t get a strong treaty, it’s not going to mean anything for the people on the wrong end of violence.”

What would it be without the National Rifle Association voicing its concern? Well of course the NRA chimed in along with strong resistance stateside from gun rights advocates portraying the treaty as in international poly to deprive Americans of their Second Amendment rights states the Huff Post as NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre demanded last summer during a U.N. speech: “We have watched [the treaty] with increasing concern and, one year ago, I delivered … our objections to including civilian arms in the ATT. I said then, and I will repeat now, that the only way to address NRA’s objections is to simply and completely remove civilian firearms from the scope of the treaty.” During the predawn hours of Saturday, two amendments were put forth in the Senate: one to prohibit the U.S. from signing the ATT which was approved in the Senate 53-46 and the other to affirm that the international treaty would not trump the U.S. Constitution which passed by a voice vote. According to Huff Post, both amendments will be worked on in committee then proceed to the House as the Senate departed for Easter recess after passing the budget bill.

 

 

Guns In Capitols Laws Gain Momentum In States

Guns In Capitols Laws Gain Momentum In States.

The debate that has swept the country has now made it to the steps of state capitols and not everyone is excited about the idea. Kansas may join 11 other states allowing some civilians to carry guns inside the state capitol which most states restrict the practice to member of the state legislature while Texas allows anyone to carry inside the building. However opponents say that civilians carrying guns make them feel endangered, while gun enthusiasts see it as exercising their Second Amendment rights. Texas state Rep. Garnet Coleman (D-Houston) told Huff Post that, “The law enforcement in the Capitol should be done by the state troopers and not by members of the Legislature. I feel less safe. Even though someone has gone through training, sometimes it is better to move away from danger. Get the appropriate security there. The chance he will shoot an innocent person is high. It concerns me if someone wants to be a hero.” Eight states allow civilians to carry concealed weapons in their capitol buildings and three states say they allow guns in capitols but gave no specifics reported Morgan Cullen, a program analyst at the National Conference of State Legislature. Texas allows anyone to carry a concealed pistol with a permit to bypass metal detectors at the capitol as Texas state Rep. Jonathan Strickland (R-Bedford) told the New York Times that he wears his gun routinely and people are used to guns in Texas. Coleman sees it as a problem even though concealed carry permits require background checks as he explains, “Background checks mean that nothing has occurred in the past, it does not mean it could not happen.” Kansas state Rep. J.R. Claeys (R-Salina) told Huff Post he is not concerned with concealed carry permits bringing  guns because they have to undergo background checks. An example of things going horribly wrong is the shooting death of New York City Councilman James Davis (D) in 2003 inside City Council chambers by his political opponent, Othniel Askew, who legally purchased his gun and was able to under City Hall rules to bypass metal detectors. The Kansas plan adopted by the state House carries specific stipulations as state Rep. John Wilson (D-Lawrence) explains that the bill allows concealed carry guns in other public building not the Capitol. He also commented he is not in favor of guns in public places. Unfortunately the bill was passed before discovering an error in the written amendment allowing people to openly carry guns in the Capitol instead of the concealed carry which now leaves the decision up to the state Senate. Arizona state House Minority Leader Chad Campbell (D-Phoenix) told Huff Post he has a problem with guns in the Capitol as he explains, “I’m a gun owner and I have no problem with gun ownership. But I don’t think that there is a need to carry them to the floor.” Only time will tell if such laws are effective or a complete disaster.