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A Revision on the Bill of Rights, Part III

Justin Curmi   |   April 26, 2016   12:07 AM ET

"A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

The Second Amendment is highly contested. There is no doubt that people do have the right to carry and have a stockpile of guns ("the right of the people to keep and bear arms") and a state has the right to organize a well-regulated Militia. But, the main issue is on the right to self-defend with a firearm.

The main problem with the notion of self-defense is it imposes on justice, for everyone has the right for a fair trial. Therefore, using a firearm to defend oneself is not legal because if the attacker is killed, he or she is devoid of his or her rights. In addition, one's mental capacity is a major factor in deciding whether a man or woman has the right to have a firearm. There are two reasons for ensuring mental capacity. First, one of the Five Aims is to ensure domestic tranquility and there can be no tranquility if one does not have the capacity. Second, if one's brain is distorting his or her reality, they do not have the proper reasoning and deduction skills to use a firearm.

Therefore, if we ponder and meditate on the recent events in news about guns, it would be obvious that the current state is incorrect. A gun for civilians is a weapon for a revolution and not for ordinary use. The belief that a gun is a useful tool to protect one is counterintuitive because guns get into the hands of people who use them for horrible reasons. In addition, there are reasons why cops are trained to use a firearm in stressful situations. It is not to keep their mind at ease or anything of that sort, but to be able to fire accurately at the target in the correct location. It is immensely difficult to fire when under pressure. Moreover, one may argue this is an analogous argument and yes it is because the United States government is lobbied to not study or fund research that observes the effects of guns. This cripples the chance of evaluating a proper policy to deal with gun violence. But, there was one study by ABC, which observed using guns in a classroom. All the participations poorly performed at the mock situation.

Once again, if there is an argument in the reasoning of this amendment and others, one must filter it through the Five Aims of the USA and the Bill of Rights. This is to ensure that any argument can be answered, avoiding a political divide.

From Behind Bars, Jon-Adrian Velazquez Works to 'Create Healthy Communities' to Reduce Gun Violence by Jessica Mindich

Jessica Mindich   |   April 21, 2016    8:28 AM ET

Someone dies from gun violence every 16 minutes in America.

YOU CAN DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT is a series of frank interviews with passionate men and women who are leaders, activists and influencers on the subject of gun violence in America. Some have been my teachers, champions and support system on this very complicated and emotional journey and some I have admired from afar for their bravery, audacity and indomitable commitment to the cause. Although our backgrounds, experiences and the challenges we face in our work are as complex as the causes and the solutions to this epidemic, all have shown that there is more that can be done to end this senseless loss of human life.
I am proud to introduce you to each of them and excited to share their insights into how all of us can be a part of the solution to Raise The Caliber of our communities.

Name: Jon-Adrian Velazquez
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Occupation/Title/Life Background: I am inmate #00A2303 at Sing Sing Correctional Facility. At Sing Sing I work with the Hudson Link for Higher Education in Prison program as an administrative assistant to the academic coordinator. Hudson Link is a non profit organization that provides college education, life skills and re-entry support to incarcerated men and women as well as their families and communities, resulting in lower rates of recidivism, incarceration and poverty.

I have lost half my life to a wrongful conviction. At first I was broken, but before my spirit deteriorated, my resilience led me on a path that allowed me to turn my trauma into triumph.
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Age: 40

Race/Nationality: Latino; American of Puerto Rican Descent.


Where do you live? Sing Sing Correctional Facility. Temporarily.


What quote do you live by?
"It's not the duration of your life, but the donation you make to life that really counts." -The 12 Universal Laws of Success by Herbert Harris


What are you most proud of about your work/life?
I have found a way to overcome my adversity by becoming a voice for the voiceless. In a NBC Dateline documentary called Conviction, which aired in February 2012, I shed light on the tragic struggle innocent people face when they fight for freedom. I developed a program with prisoners at Sing Sing using their powerful testimonies about gun violence and the real life consequences which later developed into a unique movement with the help of an incredible NBC Dateline Producer Dan Slepian called Voices From Within. Most recently I had the honor of organizing TEDx SINGSING-The very first TEDx event held in a New York State Prison. Prisoners, celebrities and community activists came together to discuss ways to 'Create Healthy Communities.'
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What is the biggest challenge you face in your work/Life?
The biggest challenge I am facing is to regain my freedom and correct an injustice that has destroyed the lives of my family, myself and the people I love.


Why do you think we have such a problem with gun violence in America?
Culture and access. Unfortunately gun violence is deeply embedded in the American culture. Guns have been symbols of power utilized to acquire wealth, prestige and dominion. Accessibility only exacerbates the problem. There are too many guns in the circulation of our nation. I cannot fathom the reality that it is easier to get a gun than it is to get a job or an education in this country.


What do you think is the biggest misconception about why we have such a problem with gun violence in America?
The biggest misconception about why we have such a problem with gun violence in America is that there can be an "immediate solution". This issue is too complex to be easily solved.


Do you think there a law that the government could enact that would really make a difference in reducing gun violence and building safe communities?
There is no single solution that will fix this issue. We need to combine technology and legislation to really affect the magnitude of the problem of gun violence in America. For instance, gun manufacturers should be required to utilize secured active RFID (Radio Frequency Identification tags) transmitters on all firearms so they can always be tracked and accounted for. Extra measure could be implemented with all the "smart" technology available today, making guns only able to be activated by an owner's own finger and palm prints.

Legislation requiring insurance and regular safety inspections for gun owners, just as car owner are required to maintain. This would encourage accountability and safety. It would also deter some people from owning guns just because they can!

Finally, there should be standard Federal laws that are uniformly applicable across the United States which require law enforcement to do thorough background checks and restrict individuals who suffer from mental health issues from owning a gun.


What are three things the average American citizen can do to "Raise The Caliber" of their community?
1. Enhance community relations through organized events designed to bridge the gap between responsible adults and young children.
2. Promote open and healthy communication between residents and law enforcement.
3. Foster educational opportunities to minimize the social barriers created by cultural differences.


Is there a must read book or article on this topic that has educated and inspired you?
Don't Shoot-One Man, A Street Fellowship, and the End of Violence in Inner-City America by David M. Kennedy

To learn more about Jon-Adrian's story: http://www.nbcnews.com/news/investigations/ive-been-dragged-through-gates-hell-says-man-jailed-murder-n272071


About the Editor: Jessica Mindich began the Caliber Collection in January 2012 as a collaboration with the Mayor of Newark, NJ, Cory Booker, as a way to turn illegal and unwanted guns from our cities' streets into jewelry. Their vision was to create a virtuous cycle by funding gun buyback and amnesty programs from the proceeds of the sales from the Caliber Collection. The jewelry is made with the serial numbers from illegal guns and the metal from shell casings. The Caliber Collection donates 20% of the net proceeds to fund voluntary gun buyback and amnesty programs in some of the toughest cities in America. To date, they have taken over 1,000 illegal guns off the streets and have raised approximately $100,000 for police departments in Newark, Hartford, the San Francisco Bay Area and Detroit from the sale of Caliber products to customers in over 85 countries.
From the success of the Caliber Collection, Jessica created The Caliber Foundation, which offers support to victims, families and communities who have been affected by illegal gun violence. The Caliber Foundation is the proud recipient of grants from MTV, Shepard Fairey/Obey Giant and The Serena Williams Foundation. Jessica is also the founder of the Raise The Caliber initiative, a National advocacy campaign to end illegal gun violence. Proceeds from partnerships under Raise The Caliber are donated to the Caliber Foundation.
www.calibercollection.com

Did the Assault Weapons Ban Work?

John A. Tures   |   April 20, 2016    2:17 PM ET

On the anniversary of the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, it's worth asking whether the assault weapons ban, which was in effect during the time, actually worked. Analysis of 108 shootings with five or more deaths showed that the ban was more successful than in years where there wasn't a ban, and such mass shootings have dramatically increased since the ban expired.

The Columbine shooting by a pair of students which killed 13 at the Colorado school, has been held up by assault weapons ban opponents as a reason why the ban didn't work, listing each case of a shooting (whether they involved assault weapons or not). But focusing on cases from a decade doesn't tell us much about all of the shootings over years before and after the ban, to see if the ban actually reduced such mass killings.

To analyze the issue, I look at all rampage killings, school shootings, workplace shootings, family massacres and mass killings over religion, race and politics, from 1973 to the present. Each case analyzed had five or more deaths, with many wounded.

In this study of 108 mass shootings, 92 of them occurred before the assault weapons ban, and after it as well, with only 16 mass shootings in the ten years in which we had an assault weapons ban. If you divide those by the number of years (34 for non-ban years and 10 for ban years), you find that we had 2.71 shootings per year in non-ban years, and 1.6 shootings per ban year. That means we had 1.69 times as many mass shootings in non-ban years.

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Let's break it down by the timing of the shooting. Before the assault weapons ban, there were 2.04 mass shootings per year (1973-1994). So the ban did reduce the number of mass shootings.

What's even more frightening is what happened in the 11 years after the assault weapons ban was allowed by the GOP Congress to expire. We had 46 mass shootings per year from 2005 to 2015, or 4.18 mass shootings per year. That's more than 2.61 times as many mass shootings as when we had the assault weapons ban.


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Critics are likely to claim that other means of killings were frequently employed during the years of the assault weapons ban. That isn't supported either by the evidence. There were four cases of vehicular killings with three or more dead and 10 or more injured between 1973 and the present. None happened during the assault weapons ban. The same can be said of causing deadly fires and plane crashes (four cases, none during the ban). There was the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal building by a domestic terrorist, of course.

Those who support gun control have hyped each shooting. But it hasn't translated into support for restricting firearms. Instead, it's had the opposite effect, making people more willing to support gun rights, or go out and buy a firearm. Gun control advocates need to show how laws like assault weapons ban worked, in America, Europe, Australia, etc.

Yes, there were tragedies during the ban, like Columbine. Perhaps more draconian punishments and civil suits against those who helped provide the weapons for the killers might deter future straw purchases. But even with the horrible event of 1999, the data shows that the assault weapons ban reduced mass shootings in America, and letting the ban expire dramatically increased the number of mass shootings in the United States.

John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga. He can be reached at jtures@lagrange.edu.

Ryan Grenoble   |   April 19, 2016    1:05 PM ET

DENVER -- Colorado's Douglas County School District has purchased 10 semiautomatic rifles that it says school security officers can use in the event of a shooting or other security threat.

“We may be the first one on scene, and I want to make sure that we are able to have the correct tools to handle the situation if something happens," the district's director of security, Richard Payne, told 9News. "I hope that we never have to deploy them.”

Payne added that spending more than $12,000 on the Bushmaster long rifles was about giving officers a "tactical advantage" in the event of a serious incident in the 900-square-mile school district that includes 86 schools and 67,000 students. District officials declined to tell ABC affiliate Denver7 what the exact model of the rifle is or its magazine capacity.  

Only eight of the district's 64 security staffers currently carry handguns, and will be the only officers allowed to use the new rifles. All of the district's security officers previously worked in law enforcement and have been trained to carry the weapons, district spokeswoman Paula Hans told The Huffington Post.

Hans said the guns are part of a "proactive approach" to school security, and that the weapons can be used at the discretion of the officers. She declined to specify what might qualify as an appropriate scenario to use the guns because sharing such information "might compromise the safety of our students and staff."

The new weapons will be locked in officers' cars during the day and transferred to a locked safe in the district's security department at night.

We may be the first one on scene, and I want to make sure that we are able to have the correct tools to handle the situation if something happens. Richard Payne, director of security for the Douglas County School District

District Superintendent Liz Fagen authorized Payne to make the purchase in January after he learned school officers and the sheriff's deputies they trained with were not equipped with similar weapons, according to Hans. Payne told The Denver Post he did not discuss the decision with the school board because he was not required to have its approval.

The board learned about the weapon purchase on Monday. It has scheduled a meeting for Tuesday night.

“People recognize this is something we do not take lightly,” Hans added, saying parents have had mixed reactions to the possibility of having semiautomatic weapons on campuses. 

Payne did not return a request for comment on Tuesday. 

In December, Fagen touted the district's commitment to security in a video posted to YouTube.

"We want to make sure that we have done all that we can to make sure that students and staff in our district are physically [safe], psychologically [safe], and safe online," she said.

"We know from events all over the country that school districts alone cannot solve this issue, and we need to work together, and that’s exactly what we’ve done in this district," Fagen added. "We’ve partnered with law enforcement at a level that I’ve not seen before. In addition to that, we really work hard to partner with parents, staff members, community members, and students, because we know that's where information begins."

This article has been updated with comment from Paula Hans.

Christina Wilkie   |   April 14, 2016   10:30 PM ET

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) struggled to explain his position Thursday on whether Sandy Hook families should be able to hold the manufacturer of the AR-15 gun used in the 2012 massacre liable in a wrongful death lawsuit.

Sanders voted for a 2005 law that grants immunity to gun manufacturers for injuries caused by their products.

Since then, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act has been used by gun manufacturers and retailers to quash hundreds of lawsuits filed by victims of gun violence. The law is deeply unpopular among Democrats, and then-Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) voted against it.

"They have the right to sue, and I support them and anyone else who wants the right to sue,"  Sanders said in the CNN Democratic debate.

But "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," Sanders added.

The weapon used in the Sandy Hook mass shooting was purchased legally by the shooter's mother. So, what Sanders was saying is that he believes the Sandy Hook victims should have a right to sue -- and lose.

When Clinton pointed out that Sanders voted five times against the landmark Brady gun-control bill, Sanders retreated to a position more often used by pro-gun advocates, namely, that government must "make certain that guns do not fall into the hands of people who should not have them."

And while Sanders said he supports a ban on military-style automatic firearms, or  "assault weapons," he insisted that the gun industry plays no part in America's epidemic of gun violence.

Filmmaker Abigail Disney advises 'When a film relies on violence for entertainment, walk out.' Interview No. 12

Jessica Mindich   |   April 14, 2016    8:47 PM ET

Someone dies from gun violence every 16 minutes in America.
 
YOU CAN DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT is a series of frank interviews with passionate men and women who are leaders, activists and influencers on the subject of gun violence in America. Some have been my teachers, champions and support system on this very complicated and emotional journey and some I have admired from afar for their bravery, audacity and indomitable commitment to the cause.  Although our backgrounds, experiences and the challenges we face in our work are as complex as the causes and the solutions to this epidemic, all have shown that there is more that can be done to end this senseless loss of human life. 
I am proud to introduce you to each of them and excited to share their insights into how all of us can be a part of the solution to "Raise The Caliber" of our communities.

Name: Abigail Disney

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Occupation/Title: Filmmaker, Founder and President, Fork Films

Age: 56

Race/Nationality: American/Caucasian

Where do you live? New York City

What quote do you live by?
The more we sweat in peace the less we bleed in war. --Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit

What are you most proud of about your work/life?
I am so proud that the films I have made have not only found their way to audiences of all stripes, but that they stand on their own and communicate clearly the very message of peace that I had hoped they would.
That, and my children....

What is the biggest challenge you face in your work?
The challenge is not engaging audiences. Most people love what we make, no matter where they come from or what they thought going in. The challenge is in finding audiences in a very noisy media landscape, and get them to make the effort to gather in critical masses around our important messages.


Why do you think we have such a problem with gun violence in America?
America is not a peaceful country. I wish I could say we are, but we are not. Americans think they live in peace while all around the world, with our permission (even if that permission comes only by default) and with our resources and by way of our proxies, men and women are being killed and maimed in our names. And even when we are not doing the killing, we are supplying those who are with all they need to keep the world unstable. It is therefore, not surprising, given the violence abroad that we seem to think is necessary and inevitable to protect our way of life, that we accept a high rate of violence at home as natural and inevitable. The key to transforming this nation into a peaceful place is to challenge violence locally. We need to challenge the conception of violence as a viable means of resolving conflict and solving problems. We need to develop other, better tools. And we need to make more visible the cost of violence, rather than offer the sanitized and even picturesque version of it that one sees in film, television, video games and even the news. If people really understand what an enormity it is to take even one human life, even when justified in self defense, they'd be less anxious to pick up guns to promote their interests.


What do you think is the biggest misconception about why we have such a problem with gun violence in America?
Grrrrrr. The idea of the Wild West. You hear a lot of nonsense when you go into this country and talk about guns, but this tidbit of gun wisdom is so far off the mark it makes me crazy.
First of all, everything we picture when we think of the "Wild West" comes not from reality, but from movies and TV. It was Hollywood that decided what, where, when and why a cowboy would shoot another human being, and Hollywood's conception of this reality could not be further off base.
"Wild West" towns in fact were zones of strict gun control. Men did not walk the streets with guns strapped to their sides and they certainly did not, at least not often and never without consequences, meet at high noon and fire off six or eight shots in the middle of Main Street.
The town of Tombstone Arizona, in fact, had a sign at the entrance that said "Welcome to Tombstone. Kindly leave your gun with the Sheriff's office." In fact, the famous shootout at the OK corral happened precisely because the Clanton boys refused to disarm, and it was Wyatt Earp's intent to force them to do so. The Tombstone shootout, therefore, isn't a romantic story of men and their weapons, challenging each other over honor and justice in the lawless west. It is the story of gun control, and about how a common sense measure can make a town more civilized, and leads to violence ONLY when flouted.
This idea is especially insidious because it leads to the next bit of craziness often heard in gun culture circles which is that America was forged in violence and that violence is in our very DNA. First of all, what exactly does that mean? How can a behavior be in your DNA? Violence is a decision. Violence does not simply "happen". So saying it is in our DNA is a cop out and a sham.


Do you think there a law that the government could enact that would really make a difference in reducing gun violence and building safe communities?
There are a lot of laws and regulations that will improve our record on guns. Some should be geared toward suicide prevention, some toward holding parents responsible for their kids' getting access to guns, some for holding guns owners responsible for keeping their guns secure from being stolen and sold into black market. But the real change that has to happen won't be legislative or regulatory. The real change has to involve a change in the American mindset. We wouldn't be so far up this creek if we didn't hold guns in the highest esteem. I mean truly we are in love with them. Some of us would have sex with them if we could!! We need to fall out of love with guns, with violence and with aggression. We need to shed the idea that violence is normal and natural and a legitimate way to solve problems. And we need to fall IN love with peace in all its forms. That's the only thing that will materially change this country for the better and for good.


What are three things the average American citizen can do to "Raise The Caliber" of their community?
1. Speak up for peace. When a film relies on violence for entertainment, walk out. When people find a fight or a killing amusing, tell them they should be ashamed of themselves. Peace is an orphan in our country. More people need to step up and defend the idea of it.
2. Join Moms Demand Action or any other activist organization raising the visibility of the MAJORITY of Americans that want gun reform. Make yourself a loud advocate for change.
3. Vote the issue. Don't look the other way when your candidate refuses to walk the walk (I'm talking to YOU Bernie Sanders!!) If they don't pay for their records at the ballot box, then how can we expect anything to change??


Is there a must read book or article on this topic that has educated and inspired you?
Well, there is this film called The Armor of Light. It's on Itunes, and Google Play and Amazon now and will be airing on PBS May 10. I highly recommend it!!

### Jessica Mindich began the Caliber Collection in January 2012 as a collaboration with the Mayor of Newark, NJ, Cory Booker, as a way to turn illegal and unwanted guns from our cities' streets into jewelry.  Their vision was to create a virtuous cycle by funding gun buyback and amnesty programs from the proceeds of the sales from the Caliber Collection.  The jewelry is made with the serial numbers from illegal guns and the metal from shell casings. The Caliber Collection donates 20% of the net proceeds to fund voluntary gun buyback and amnesty programs in some of the toughest cities in America. To date, they have taken over 1,000 illegal guns off the streets and have raised over $100,000 for police departments in Newark, Hartford, the San Francisco Bay Area and Detroit from the sale of Caliber products to customers in over 85 countries.  From the success of the Caliber Collection, Jessica created The Caliber Foundation, which offers support to victims, families and communities who have been affected by illegal gun violence.  The Caliber Foundation is the proud recipient of grants from MTV, Shepard Fairey/Obey Giant and The Serena Williams Foundation. Jessica is also the founder of the Raise The Caliber initiative, a National advocacy campaign to end illegal gun violence. Proceeds from partnerships under Raise The Caliber are donated to the Caliber Foundation. Jessica is also a guest editor for the Huffington Post on Crime and a frequent contributor to www.MariaShriver.com www.calibercollection.com

 

Christina Wilkie   |   April 14, 2016    3:43 PM ET


Families who lost loved ones in the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre can proceed with their wrongful-death lawsuit against Bushmaster Firearms International, manufacturer of the AR-15 rifle used to kill 20 children and six adults, a Connecticut Superior Court judge ruled on Thursday. 


In a ruling likely to stir the gun-control debate and the Democratic presidential primary, Judge Barbara Bellis rejected arguments made by Bushmaster, a division of Remington Arms, and its co-defendants, who sought to have the lawsuit dismissed. 


Bushmaster argued immunity from liability under a U.S. law designed to shield gunmakers from lawsuits when their products are used to commit crimes. The 2005 law, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, has been used by gun manufacturers and retailers for more than a decade to successfully fend off hundreds of lawsuits related to gun crimes.


Bellis did not directly address the immunity question. Instead, she rejected Bushmaster's claim that because the law is federal, not state, the state Superior Court didn't have jurisdiction over the case.


“The judge is saying the defendants are wrong that the federal statute strips the court of the power to hear the case,” Sachin Padya, a law professor at the University of Connecticut, told the Stamford Advocate. “She says the law does not restrict the court’s power to hear the case.”


The judge's ruling, if it withstands appeals, could open the door for future challenges to liability immunity for gunmakers and sellers.


The Sandy Hook families contend Bushmaster, its parent companies, the gun distributor and the retailer that sold the rifle are liable for supplying a weapon unfit for civilian use. Thursday's ruling didn't deal with the merits of the claim.


Josh Koskoff, a lawyer for the Newtown families, applauded the ruling. “The families look forward to continuing their fight in court,” he said in a statement.


 


 Read the judge's ruling. Story continues below.





The lawsuit also has implications for the presidential race. The campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has been trying to deflect criticism from the senator's 2005 vote to pass the gun liability shield law -- legislation that's deeply unpopular with Democrats.


In a recent interview with the New York Daily News, Sanders weighed in on the Sandy Hook lawsuit. "Do I think the victims of a crime with a gun should be able to sue the manufacturer? No, I don't," he said.


Sanders' support for the firearms industry protection law offers Hillary Clinton an opportunity to draw a sharp contrast with her rival for the Democratic nomination. Clinton also was a senator when the law was passed, but voted against it. 





During an appearance on "The View" this month, Sanders said the bill had good provisions in it that were overshadowed by the immunity for gunmakers. 


Clinton, in a statement on Thursday, lauded the judge's decision. She said the federal gun liability law remains "a major obstacle for these families and others seeking to hold these gun companies accountable."


Tucked into the statement was a reminder that Sanders does not believe victims should be able to sue gun companies. 


The next step in the Sandy Hook lawsuit is a status conference between the judge and lawyers scheduled for April 19.  


Hillary's B.S. Per-Capita Gun Stat

Russ Belville   |   April 12, 2016    6:23 PM ET

The B.S. in the title of this post could refer to Bernie Sanders, as my Hillary-supporting Facebook friends like to write. But I live in stats-world, so when I heard this latest per-capita gun stat humdinger from Hillary, the B.S. was my bullshit-stat detectors, which pegged out at a level I only usually see from creationists and climate change deniers:

"Most of the guns that are used in crimes and violence and killings in New York come from out of state. And the state that has the highest per capita number of those guns that end up committing crimes in New York come from Vermont." -- Hillary Clinton

Per-capita guns? What the hell kind of bullshit stat is that?

Let's say I live next to a house and next to an apartment high rise. There's one lunatic in the house with a gun. There are one hundred lunatics in the apartment building with guns among 1,000 residents. What's the bigger threat to me, the house or the apartment building?

Obviously, the apartment building, right? If I am shot, it is a hundred times more likely to have been by someone who lives in the apartment building than the house. The 900 other people without guns don't factor into my worries. There could be 9 million more people in that apartment building; that won't reduce the 100 lunatics any.

But Hillary's "per-capita gun stat" is designed to make the lone lunatic in the house scarier than the hundred lunatics in the apartment building. After all, per-capita, 100% of the people in the house are lunatics with a gun, while only 10% of the people in the apartments are lunatics with a gun.

WaPo dug up the actual numbers (look for yourself). For New York, in 2014, of the top 15 states with the most guns used in crimes traced back to state of origin, Vermont came in 14th, only ahead of California. There were 4,008 guns from those Top 15 states, Vermont's share was 55 of them, about 1.4%.

Besides New York (1,397 or 34.9%), the most guns came from Virginia (395 or 9.9%). Regionally, most guns came from the South - Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, & Florida (1,699 or 42.4%).

So well over three-out-of-four (77.2%) guns used in crimes in New York come from New York or the South, but Hillary wants you to get all worked up about the 1.4% that came from Bernie's home state, so she can score political points painting Bernie as some raving gun nut.

Bernie, the guy who gets a D- from the NRA.

Hillary needs to make this gun control distinction with Bernie because it is the only position on which she is to the left of him, albeit just barely. This may be a good strategy in a New York Democratic Primary, but it is a lousy general election strategy.

Her attack trying to link Bernie Sanders to the massacre at Sandy Hook has already backfired on her horribly...

... because even liberal Bill Maher and the panel on his show this weekend remarked on the absurdity of suing gun manufacturers because someone misuses their product for its intended purpose.

If Hillary is nominated and takes that idea for a stroll anywhere outside a liberal metropolitan area, she's just increasing GOP voter turnout.

Hillary is getting increasingly desperate. The feeling that, like 2008, she just can't close the deal, is building. She's damaging her African-American support with a terrible joke about "CP Time" and her husband's terrible defense of her "super predators... that must be brought to heel" line to Black Lives Matter activists. She's got to face Bernie in Brooklyn Thursday and he's taken off the kid gloves (too late, I fear) and is starting to hammer Hillary on her lack of good foreign policy judgment, global promotion of fracking, and her Wall Street ties.

Trying to scare the people of New York about 55 guns from Vermont isn't helping Hillary's cause. She may still win New York, but anything short of a double-digit win isn't going to stop the erosion of her inevitability.

Bernie and Hillary Are Competing Over the Wrong Issues

Andy Schmookler   |   April 12, 2016    1:29 PM ET

Your recent squabble -- with one questioning whether the other is "qualified to be president" -- highlights how you two have not been giving us the kind of campaign that would best serve not just the Democratic Party but the nation.

The differences between you may be important. But way less important than the need for whichever of you wins the nomination to win in November.

Two extraordinary aspects of our national circumstance oblige you to allow that priority to dictate how you conduct your campaigns.

Let's start with who controls the Supreme Court for the next generation.

If the Republicans win the White House, we would once again get a 5-to-4 majority on the right. In the previous 5-4 conservative-corporatist Court, the Republican appointees helped the strong rather than protected the weak. By gutting the Voting Rights act, they fortified the forces of racial oppression and, with Citizens United, they unleashed big money to further degrade and corrupt our democracy.

Whatever your differences, on the crucial question of the direction of the Court for years to come, you are essentially the same.

That should be reason enough for you to refrain from undercutting each other and sowing division in Democratic ranks.

But there's another huge reason: If the Republicans win the White House, in all likelihood they will control all three branches of government.

Any party having such power, unrestrained by the usual "checks and balances," might be cause for concern. But the idea of such power in the hands of this Republican Party is downright scary.

This is a Party that has blocked measures to deal with every challenge this nation faces--whether climate change, income inequality, or the epidemic of gun deaths. ("If [Obama] was for it, we had to be against it," reported former Republican Senator from Ohio, George Voinovich.) And now the GOP has taken obstructionism to a new level with its unprecedented refusal to consider any nominee, submitted by this duly-elected president, to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court.

At the state level, the GOP has allowed education systems to be damaged (Louisiana, Kansas) in order to save money that can be used as tax breaks for the rich, and children to be poisoned (Michigan) as a result of measures contemptuous of democracy.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump has become the frontrunner in the Republican presidential race by expressing in more blatant form the bigotry and belligerence and indifference to truth that have increasingly characterized that party.

The battle we need for you to lead is not just against the eventual Republican nominee but against that party as a whole.

Even if one of you is elected president, you will be unable to accomplish anything through the legislative process -- like President Obama these past five years -- unless you take on and take down this Republican Party.

It's time you changed your way of competing against each other into a form that shows you understand what America needs.

Compete with each other over who can best lead this battle, who can best awaken the American people to the threat to our future as a nation this "outlier" Republican Party has become.

Compete over who can best expose the hypocrisy of these Republicans, who make a great show of their love of the Constitution but then twist "advise and consent" into a refusal to consider any nominee because they don't want to lose control of the Court.

Compete over who can best show that the Republican Party has consistently put its quest for power ahead of the good of the nation, and has served the rich at the expense of average Americans.

Compete over which of you can best help the American people see where the responsibility for our dysfunctional politics lies.

Compete in a way that enhances the chances for Democratic victories -- from the White House down to the state legislatures -- by exposing the destructive spirit that has taken hold of the Republican Party.

That job should start not after the conventions but now. Be teammates and competitors at the same time.

This presidential contest is not just about the two of you. It's about the destiny of the nation, about whether our political system can be made able to work for the nation's good again.

You have declared you want to be our leader. Lead now. Start now to unify and mobilize our forces, and lead us into battle against a once-respectable political party that's gone off the rails.


Andrew Bard Schmookler is the author of What We're Up Against: The Destructive Force at Work in Our World--and How We Can Defeat It.

Adam Goldberg   |   April 12, 2016   10:36 AM ET

Read More: eddie eagle, nra, guns, gun safety

But research has found there’s a big difference between a child being able to talk about safety measures and actually being able to perform them.

'Making a Killing' Documentary Shows the Impact of Guns in America as Never Before

Mike Weisser   |   April 11, 2016    5:12 PM ET

There's a media company in California called Brave New Films which earlier this year released a remarkable documentary about America and guns. The film is called Making A Killing - Guns, Greed and the NRA, and from the title you can easily guess which side of the gun argument is being caught in this film. It's a lengthy production for a documentary, runs more than 90 minutes, and much of the footage is devoted to comments by the families and friends of people whose lives were ended because they got in the way of a loaded gun.

The film is divided into four basic segments, each covering a category of gun death with which we are all too familiar: domestic abuse where an ex-husband assaults the ex-wife, the accidental shooting of a young kid, the endless shootings which take place virtually every day in Chicago, and a suicide committed by a seemingly stable young man who runs out one day, gets a gun and does himself in.

Interspersed between each segment are some quick cameos of the usual gun-nonsense comments by Wayne-o, as well as various devotees of the 2nd Amendment including Rubio and Cruz. I must say that juxtaposing a shooting victim lying in the street with Ted Cruz saying that expanded background checks won't do "anything at all" makes the gap between gun violence reality and pro-gun political pandering a joy to behold. Not that the film is joyful in any sense of that word, but I really am pleased at how the filmmakers created an aesthetic production without sacrificing any truth or honesty at all.

Of course there are people who will say that there's no necessary connection between the fact that Glock pistols are used in countless acts of gun violence and that Gaston Glock lives in a beautiful mansion or that Wayne-o evidently keeps his front lawn neat and trim. And while the production weaves back and forth between data on the number of people killed and wounded by guns each year versus the revenue and profits that accrue to companies like S&W and Colt, ultimately the question has to be asked whether there are certain types of profit-making ventures where the physical costs ultimately outweigh the financial gains. What the film does project in a particularly direct and emotional way is the efforts of the gun industry to separate itself from the physical toll connected to the products that it manufactures and sells.

This brings me to the last twenty minutes or so of the film and I am not sure if I can adequately convey the degree to which this final footage is simply beyond anything that exists when it comes to capturing the extreme violence associated with guns. Because this last segment relives, in the most graphic terms, the mass shooting in the movie theater at Aurora, and what makes it so chillingly and terribly effective is that in parts it is narrated by the shooter himself!

That's right. The filmmakers use some of the taped interviews with James Holmes to show how he methodically collected what he refers to as his 'equipment,' i.e., guns, ammo, smoke bombs and gear. Then his voice narrates how he drove to the theater and parked out back. Meanwhile, you are then taken inside the theater where moviegoers describe how they lined up for popcorn, went to their seats, settled back to watch the show. And then here comes Holmes again who says, in a clinically measured voice, that planning the shooting was how he coped with his depression because going into stores and onto the internet to buy ammo and guns allowed him to "shift from the suicidal to the homicidal." And then we hear a smoke bomb go off, and a theater security camera captures panicked, terrified people fleeing from the scene.

I can't say any more. See the film and judge for yourself. The moviemakers set an initial goal of 1,000 screenings and 1,000,000 pairs of eyes in front of those screens and they are almost there. Help them exceed that goal? Contact Brave New Films.

Should Christians Think Less About Safety?

John Backman   |   April 7, 2016   11:05 AM ET

Does God want you to keep yourself safe? The answer, from a Christian viewpoint, may be less obvious--and much less reassuring--than you might think.

Like everyone else, of course, Christians want to be safe. Like everyone else, we get rattled when fearsome things happen. We yearn to draw a ring of security around ourselves, our loved ones, our "tribe." It's why many Christians have applauded measures put forth to enhance security: gun ownership, airport luggage searches, a moratorium on welcoming Syrian refugees, the push to "make America great again."

Christians also seek to live according to God's will, as expressed in sources like the Bible. Here's where it gets unnerving. Those sources suggest that self-protection is low on God's priority list. Worse, self-defense can interfere with beliefs and behaviors that are close to God's heart.

It's true that God is concerned about our safety per se (again using the Bible and related sources as guides). Passages that concern our safety, threats to our safety, and deliverance from those threats are scattered throughout the Bible. The Psalms in particular overflow with appeals to God for safety and deliverance.

But these passages are all about how God delivers us. Few, if any, talk about how we might deliver ourselves. Quite the opposite, in fact: we're warned against seeking deliverance from creatures. God "is not impressed by the might of a horse; he has no pleasure in the strength of a man" (Psalm 147:11).

Moreover, a preoccupation with safety can get in the way of other things, about which God cares a great deal--like compassion for every human being, especially the marginalized. The biblical commandment about people beyond our own borders--"you shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt" (Exodus 22:21)--stands against the anti-Muslim measures promoted by Donald Trump and his supporters. The Jesus of the gospels promised the kingdom of heaven to people of whom he could say, "I was a stranger and you welcomed me...I was in prison and you visited me" (Matthew 25:35).

Think about that a bit. Strangers are, by definition, unknown. We have no idea if they're safe. We do know that many prisoners are not safe--not by any standard.

And we are asked to care for them.

Now consider some of the heroes of the Christian faith. Mother Teresa went into India's most wretched slums to care for people forgotten by the world. St. Francis of Assisi crossed enemy lines to bridge divides with the Sultan of Egypt in the heat of the Fifth Crusade. Dorothy Day, a journalist by trade, did not just write about the poor and homeless; she lived among them.

Why do we admire them so? Why do we use their stories, virtues, and character as examples to live by? Partly because nothing--not even a healthy sense of self-preservation--prevented them from going where, in their understanding, God asked them to go.

Now some Bible students have made thoughtful cases in favor of self-defense for Christians. And few people of faith would condemn taking some well-considered steps to keep oneself and one's loved ones safe. Does anyone really want to argue against smoke alarms, seat belts, or martial arts training? After a great deal of reflection, I'm coming to believe that thoughtful gun ownership can be justified too.

The problem does not lie in these "well-considered steps." The problem comes when the steps are not well-considered: when we overreact, when we take steps and pass legislation purely out of fear, when we make safety a life pursuit. For people of faith, the challenge comes when we hear the call of God and, concerned for our own safety, refuse to respond.

As people of faith, then, we are often asked to act contrary to our first instincts and self-interest. God's call may take us into dangerous territory, and that may cost us. But a central message of the Christian faith is that even our death, the ultimate defeat of our attempts at self-protection, is not the end: we live on with God as the fruit of our good deeds lives on in the world. That is a fulfillment devoutly to be wished.

Using Research to Help Stop Youth Violence

Catherine Y. Spong   |   April 6, 2016   12:57 PM ET

The statistics are staggering: violence is the 3rd leading cause of death among U.S. teens and young adults ages 15 to 24. In addition, nearly 1 million young people are treated in hospital emergency rooms each year as a result of physical violence, sexual assault, bullying, or self-harm. In a recent national survey, 1 in 10 teens reported being hit or physically hurt by someone they were dating. Whether it's relationship violence or bullying, online or in-person, youth violence is far too prevalent and warrants our attention.

In recognition of National Youth Violence Prevention Week, April 4-8, I join others in raising awareness about this important issue facing our nation's young people and the parents, educators, and health care providers who care for them.

Searching for Answers

Researchers understand the need for evidence to help track, reduce, and prevent youth violence. To this end, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development supports studies to explore the complex issues that surround youth violence. Several branches in our Division of Extramural Research support a wide range of projects, including the following:

Research on youth violence has provided some answers and potential strategies for prevention. It has also highlighted gaps in care. For example, a study published last December in the journal Pediatrics found that teenage victims of sexual assault treated at 38 emergency rooms across the country weren't receiving adequate care, as recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). More often than not, hospital emergency departments did not test for sexually transmitted diseases nor did they administer medication to treat these diseases.

Another study on gun violence tracked the whereabouts of young male gunshot victims ages 10 to 24 during the 24-hour period before the attack. Researchers mapped the paths and activities of more than 600 kids in the Philadelphia area: 143 had been shot with a gun; 206 were injured with another weapon; and 283 were unharmed. The findings showed that the kids' neighborhood locations and activities either helped shield them or significantly increased their risk of assault.

The brain still is developing during the teenage years and this may affect their decision making, including not being able to fully comprehend the consequences of their actions until it is too late. We know that the adolescent years can be associated with impulsive and, at times,"thoughtless" actions. Young people need the appropriate supports and services to foster their positive development and reduce problematic risk-taking. New research we are supporting analyzes magnetic resonance images of the brain to explore these concepts and to understand why some juvenile offenders respond to rehabilitation treatment while others relapse into violent behavior.

Partnering to Make Progress

Youth violence is a major public health problem. Our responsibility as researchers, parents, and practitioners is to help track, reduce, and prevent these occurrences. Our goal is to empower and partner with our kids in addressing this problem, including encouraging them to become more alert and vigilant about their risks. The good news is that there are effective evidence-based youth violence intervention and prevention programs. The CDC offers a tool to help design a youth violence prevention program tailored for specific community needs. "Striving to Reduce Youth Violence Everywhere" or STRYVE provides a range of resources. Research confirms youth violence can be both predictable and preventable. The health community can and must play a vital role in helping to ensure the safety and well-being of the next generation.

Dana Liebelson   |   April 5, 2016    3:33 PM ET


WASHINGTON -- An unarmed, handcuffed inmate died in 2014 after a Nevada Department of Corrections officer shot him with a 12-gauge shotgun loaded with 7 1/2-birdshot, the tiny pellets hunters use to kill birds and rabbits. Correctional experts urged the state to stop using shotguns to break up serious fights — a practice that's unheard of in other modern-day U.S. prisons. But Nevada officers are still shooting inmates.


An inmate at High Desert State Prison, which is less than an hour from Las Vegas, alerted The Huffington Post to another shooting in a handwritten letter dated March 24. A lieutenant told the inmate "the shotgun rounds did more damage than the fight did," he said in the letter.


NDOC spokesperson Brooke Keast confirmed last month's incident, but said the shotgun was used to stop potential injury or death. Four inmates assaulted a lone prisoner on the yard at High Desert with handmade weapons, and continued the assault despite warnings, the firing of a blank round and rubber "stingers," she said.


An officer had to skip three rounds of birdshot off the ground, she claimed, because the assailants wouldn't give up. The victim suffered multiple stab wounds. His attackers sustained multiple pellet wounds, with one hit "in his thigh, buttocks and neck" and taken to the infirmary, according to Keast.  

Prison fights, including those involving weapons, are certainly not unique to Nevada. But other systems typically use alternative methods to break them up, like Tasers, chemical spray or talking the inmates down. The reason most systems developed this way is simple: Prisoners are supposed to be unarmed, and they definitely aren't routinely packing guns.

Nevada officers fired a live shotgun round once every 10 days between Jan. 1, 2012, and June 26, 2015, according to a Huffington Post Highline investigation. Nevada has claimed the way it uses birdshot — skipping pellets randomly off the floor — is a non-deadly tactic used only as a last resort to prevent injury or death. But at least 22 inmates at three facilities were injured by shotgun blasts last year. Over the years, uninvolved bystanders have also been hit or blinded.

In November 2014, an officer shot at two scuffling inmates who had their hands cuffed behind their backs, killing 28-year-old Carlos Perez.

It took months for the true story of Perez's death to emerge. Initially, the prison accused the other inmate -- who was also handcuffed -- of murder, and disciplined him with solitary confinement, even though a death certificate issued later clearly stated Perez was shot to death. (NDOC's Keast disputed that his punishment, disciplinary segregation, should be defined as solitary, because inmates "can be out of their cell as much as possible depending on the unit's schedule, safety and security of the facility, staffing needs, etc.") 

The state attorney general's office has still not announced any results of the investigation into the incident, and none of the officers involved have faced charges. Months after HuffPost submitted public records requests, NDOC has not produced any photos or videos related to a number of shootings.

Perez's family is suing the state over the incident. In a February court filing, the state argued the law allows officers to fire shots in a prison setting in order to restore order. But after Perez's death, the Association of State Correctional Administrators, an independent organization, determined Nevada should phase out the routine use of birdshot. NDOC refused.

The state has taken recent measures that have led to a decrease in shootings, including adding rubber stingers, issuing chemical spray to officers, and beefing up training, including teaching officers "verbal judo." But the state still has a chronic understaffing problem — annual starting salaries are reportedly only $39,000 a year — and ASCA has said that's why the system has relied on shotguns in the past.

After the HuffPost investigation came out, Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval asked at a prison board meeting in January why more states weren't using birdshot if the practice saves lives. "Because we are right and everyone else is wrong," said interim NDOC director E.K. McDaniel — who took over after the previous director abruptly resigned — according to prison meeting notes. He added that it's been successful, and "other departments may not use it because of the perception of shooting someone with a live round."

Last month, Sandoval announced he was replacing McDaniel with a new director, James Dzurenda, who has experience in the Connecticut and New York City correctional departments, which do not use birdshot to stop fights. It is not clear whether Dzurenda will continue the birdshot policy — he started work this week — but Sandoval emphasized the system needs to focus on "humane treatment," and Dzurenda "will bring a necessary fresh perspective to our current department."

This article has been updated with comment from Keast on the prison department's definition of solitary confinement.