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Vaughn Can Go Packin'

Leslie Marshall   |   June 24, 2015   12:00 AM ET

I don't like Vince Vaughn. I've never met the man, but I have that six degrees of separation relationship with him -- sans Kevin Bacon.

It all started a few years back when one of my husband's best buddies was getting married in Bora Bora. Because it was a destination wedding, everything was being held at a resort. After our plane tickets were purchased and rooms and taxes paid, the hotel informed us that that it had canceled our reservations.

Why? Because Vince Vaughn was filming a movie there and allegedly he didn't want anyone staying at the hotel who wasn't in his flick, Couples Retreat. (Ironic title, huh?) Now keep in mind, this was someone's wedding, and there were two other couples getting married that same weekend! So, my first impression of Vaughn was that he was a diva accustomed to demanding and getting his way. And, since I live in Los Angeles, believe me, I've met plenty of them.

So imagine my surprise when I was asked for one of my weekly television appearances to comment on Vince Vaughn's assertion in a British GQ magazine that Americans should be able to carry guns everywhere, even in gun free zones.

Here's what Vaughn said:

I support people having a gun in public full stop, not just in your home. We don't have the right to bear arms because of burglars; we have the right to bear arms to resist the supreme power of a corrupt and abusive government. It's not about duck hunting; it's about the ability of the individual. It's the same reason we have freedom of speech. It's well known that the greatest defense against an intruder is the sound of a gun hammer being pulled back. All these gun shootings that have gone down in America since 1950, only one or maybe two have happened in non-gun-free zones. Take mass shootings. They've only happened in places that don't allow guns. These people are sick in the head and are going to kill innocent people. They are looking to slaughter defenseless human beings. They do not want confrontation. In all of our schools it is illegal to have guns on campus, so again and again these guys go and shoot up these f***ing schools because they know there are no guns there. They are monsters killing six-year-olds.

Now Vaughn's entitled to his opinion. But opinions based on fact are so much better.

Although I agree with Vaughn that the 2nd Amendment was meant to enable us to protect ourselves from a tyrannical government, nowhere in the 2nd Amendment does it state that there's a right to carry weapons around in our daily lives, in public, in plain view.

What about the rights of those like me, who choose not to bear arms and don't want them around me at Disneyland, which in Vaughn's utopia would not be a gun free zone. What about my right to have my children run free to meet Donald, Mickey and Cinderella without the fear of someone going postal after waiting in line too long? And as for the 2nd Amendment not applying to duck hunting? Well, don't tell that to the cast of Duck Dynasty.

When Vaughn speaks of the greatest defense against an intruder being a gun, he is wrong. He and those who believe this often cite a study quoted by the NRA, which was done by Northwestern University in 1995 -- a study now two decades old. The problem is that data is not the data we are working with today. More recently, a higher risk of suicide, homicide and even accidental death by gun have been linked to owning a gun. And although guns are used to defend our castle, for every time a gun is used to defend one's self, there are 11 suicide attempts, four accidents and seven murders or assaults.

And his claim that mass shootings only take place in gun-free zones is completely false. The Sikh Temple in Wisconsin had no such ban. Guns were, in fact, legal there.And at Columbine, there was an armed security guard in the school and another armed officer outside. Both, in fact, shot at the shooters, but that did not stop the carnage on that day.

And as for his "sick in the head" comment, isn't that reason enough for us not to all walk around with guns in holsters on our hips a la John Wayne? Anyone, without a background check and certainly without a psychological exam can obtain a gun at one of the numerous guns shows throughout our nation.

Vaughn's claim that all our schools are gun-free zones is not true either. Of the approximately 4,400 colleges and universities in the United States, most are gun free zones, but not all. And with legislation passed such as last week in Texas, where the Lone Star state will allow guns to be carried on college campuses starting in 2016, that claim is certainly changing and rapidly.

Do we send our children to colleges and universities to learn or to walk around in fear, and just in case a bad guy is around the corner, to make sure they can defend themselves with deadly weapons? If our college campuses are so dangerous, why are we sending our kids there at all?

As for Vince Vaughn, it's a good thing there are gun-free zones. For if those brides had been packing heat at that resort in Bora Bora, well, let's just say, he would definitely have understood the meaning of Bridezillas.

How California Teachers Beat the Gun Companies

Robert Greenwald   |   June 23, 2015    4:43 PM ET

The recent success of the California Federation of Teachers' (CFT) battle to remove investment in guns and pro-guns organizations from their retirement fund is a major victory. In the years since the ultimately successful divestment campaign to end apartheid in South Africa, the tactic of using one's money to change the world has been repeatedly second-guessed, called ineffective and generally dismissed. Yet divestment campaigns continue, on fossil fuels, on guns, and on other issues, for a reason: They work.

In the real world, where progress on tough issues is measured in millimeters, California teachers taking a stand and forcing their pension fund to divest millions from gun holdings was a practical and moral win that matters.

The campaign to divest began two years ago, when the country was jolted out of complacency by the horror of the Newtown school shooting. New groups formed, legislation was introduced in Congress and a pivotal moment in gun legislation was at hand. California teachers voted to have their pension fund, known as CalSTRS, divest from companies manufacturing firearms illegal for sale in California. The vote took place in April 2013, but two years later, the pension fund still held stock in Cerberus, which owns Freedom Group -- maker of the Bushmaster rifle used in the Sandy Hook massacre. CalSTRS said it was complicated and that they were working on divestment, but no one saw any movement. Cerberus claimed they were trying to sell Freedom Group, but despite protests from coalitions like Campaign to Unload, which includes the American Federation of Teachers, there was no evidence that they were truly making an effort.

"Our teachers took a stand, put their money where their mouths are and told the world that the violence in this country must end and that we are all responsible for making that happen," said CFT President Joshua Pechthalt. "We were truly amazed that those who supposedly worked for us and managed our money did not do everything they could to support us in our work."

By fall of 2014, it had become abundantly clear that progress would be made only if those who care deeply about gun-violence prevention gave CalSTRS no choice but to act.

The renewed campaign officially kicked into full gear in spring 2015 at the CFT's annual convention in Los Angeles, but planning for it began much earlier, with a new partnership between the teachers and our team here at Brave New Films. Together, we planned and delivered a hard-hitting short film featuring teachers who had been touched by gun violence in their lives or through the lives of their students. The film became a rallying point for teachers to speak out on social media, make phone calls and eventually launch simultaneous public protests in Sacramento, at the CalSTRS campus during a board meeting, and in Los Angeles, at the Cerberus Group's Southern California office.

In Sacramento, teachers screened the film outside the meeting and staged a "teach-in" to educate the board about the toll of gun violence on the lives of Californians. In L.A., my Brave New Films team and I joined angry teachers and other advocates in a similar teach-in and delivered thousands of petition signatures to Cerberus calling for the group to follow through on public promise and to sell Freedom Group.

And then in mid-May, Cerberus announced plans to let investors in their funds divest themselves specifically from Freedom Group.

The lessons here are no surprise to anyone who has organized and fought for change.

The voices of ordinary people matter. In this case, the teachers' voices mattered not only because they were the actual investors in the pension fund but because they had moral authority on the issue. They had felt the anguish of gun violence survivors and victims, and they were taking a stand for selfless reasons.

Press coverage matters. The Internet is a powerful tool for organizing without which they would not have had this success. People saw the film online, got angry and were moved to take action. And this action led to press coverage, which took the campaign to another level. When people in power see a story told in the media, it takes on a new reality and a sense of urgency. They know for sure that someone is watching what they do.

Finally, successes take time. With all the competing demands in our lives, from activism to family obligations, it's easy to think that one can send a tweet or an email or make a single phone call and his or her part will have been done. That never happens. Victory is always the result of sustained effort and constant pressure. Hang in there; it is worth it. But don't be overly patient -- know when it's time to ramp up the pressure.

The next steps in the gun divestment movement include ensuring that there are no firearm companies in the University of California's endowment. Gun-violence-prevention activists are also working to spread the word about how everyone with a retirement account can take a stand for peace and safety by unloading their 401k.

No matter what amount of money is in one's retirement fund, divesting from gun companies makes a difference. Divestment is a financial tactic, and the pain is felt at the bottom line, but it is also very much a matter of changing the world through social norms. Today's children not only know that smoking is bad for you but also are disgusted by the very idea of taking it up. That took one person at a time changing what they did and what they said. If we work at it, those children can grow up in a world free of random violence and with a political system that does not bend to the will of the loudest, richest voices -- like the gun manufacturers and their lobbyists, the National Rifle Association.

We've all seen the Margaret Mead quotation that half the people we know use in their email signature -- you know, the one about how a few committed people are the only way to make real change. Sure, it may be overused, but that sure doesn't make it any less true.

5 Lessons Charleston Can Teach Us About Race, Guns and Healing

Tavis Smiley   |   June 23, 2015    2:04 PM ET

The talking points have been many, varied and wrong. Here's how we can go forward with clarity and the resolve for change.

After last week's massacre in Charleston, South Carolina, there should have been no question of guilt, or motivation. Dylann Roof made it clear what he did, and why, long before his confession. And yet, the media has bungled so much of it, from beginning to, if not the end, then the point at which we continue, which today saw South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley call for the immediate removal of the Confederate flag.

Why did it take this event to lead to that? How can we re-examine the assumptions we hold and expand our inventory of ideas about the way we talk about race in America? Here are five points, just for a start.

1. EVERYTHING SLICK DON'T SLIDE

Never in my media career have I seen media outlets refuse to show the face of any adult black murderer. Never. Quite the opposite: They loop it. All day, all night. We tend to see black men on television in one of two positions: handcuffs in the front, or handcuffs in the back. So what was with the burst of momentary morality that had certain talk show hosts refusing to show the killer's face? Really? To all of a sudden decide to not show Roof's face seemed not only disingenuous, but racial.

2. IF YOU QUOTE KING, VOTE KING

Can we stop letting pundits and politicians get away with selectively quoting Dr. King when black tragedies happen? Sure, King is the quintessential example of "nonviolence" and
"love thy neighbor as thyself," but he was also felled by an assassin's bullet, and six years after his death, his mother was shot and killed as she sat playing the organ at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. Never mind that the black folk for whom he risked his life are still overwhelmingly the victims of gun violence in America.

To quote King about the "beloved community" and not get serious about gun violence in America is, at best, empty rhetoric, and at worst, a malignant mangling of his message. If you're going to quote King, then vote King: Get serious about gun control.

3. TO DO NOTHING, ONE EXCUSE IS AS GOOD AS ANOTHER

It didn't take long for partisan politicians and the chattering class to start manufacturing excuses about this tragedy. First it was an attack on faith. Then it was an "accident" that might have had more to do with drugs than guns, bumbled former Texas governor and Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry. Or it was all about quickly casting Roof as "mentally ill" and "unstable," not a thug, criminal or terrorist. (Sidenote here: For all our handwringing, we are no more serious about adequately addressing America's mental health crisis than we are about addressing the gun epidemic.) Truly unbelievably, a board member of the NRA actually blamed one of the victims of the shooting for his political position on concealed-carry gun laws. Finally, the media seized on Roof's statement to police investigators that he "almost didn't go through with it." But he did.

Any excuse to do nothing, any route to circumvent the ugly truth! And what is the ugly truth? Lack of gun control. Personal and systemic racism. A political system undermined by corporate interests. Politicians who put personal gain and fleeting support above the needs of the citizens.

4. THE TERRORIST TEST

When is a terrorist not a terrorist? Apparently when he's a 21-year-old white male in America. Were he a 21-year-old Muslim attacking a sacred site in America, the media would have declared him a "terrorist" sooner than right now and quicker than at once.

Jim Naureckas, editor at FAIR.org, said it best:

If media are going to use the word 'terrorist' they need to have a single standard for its application. By applying the word to a [Boston Marathon] bombing with initially unknown perpetrators, and largely declining to use it in connection with a massacre allegedly perpetrated by a white supremacist hoping to spark a race war, media failed that test.
The media is a runner coming off the blocks. How it frames a breaking story is critical to both initial public perception and eventual public policy. 5. THE POWER OF LOVE The most important message to come out of this tragedy is, sadly, the lesson that we will likely forget soonest: forgiveness. Maybe it's just me, but given our society's unconscious biases about black men, I have a hard time believing that a 21-year-old black male in the South could just roll up into an all-white prayer circle, cop a seat next to the pastor and be welcomed like a Christian brother, no questions asked. I was at a dinner party after Roof's confession, and even the black folk at the table thought it was strange and abnormal that the black prayer warriors let this out-of-place white male just randomly stroll up in the church. I didn't agree. That's love. Growing up in a black church, I've seen it happen countless times with all kinds of random visitors. Indeed, our church's welcome, uttered in unison, went like this, "Welcome to the church where everybody is somebody, nobody is a stranger, and you belong here. Welcome!" Sadly in this world, sometimes trust makes you vulnerable and love can get you killed. And, yet, love is the only antidote to hate. What else is there? For a true Christian, there really is no more noble way to die. Refusing to judge folk, meeting them where they are, and sharing the Good News. Black America has learned to love this country in spite of, not because of. Even when the victim of the most heinous of assaults, at our best, we forgive so that we might live. The next time this happens, the media won't likely remind us of the extraordinary grace that we're witnessing right now. So, remember Charleston.

No Season of Jubilee

Sylvia Rhue, Ph.D.   |   June 23, 2015   12:45 PM ET

Mother Emanuel AME Church, famous for being the Church of Denmark Vesey, and one of the oldest churches in South Carolina, is now infamous for the Peculiar Institution of racially motivated hate crimes. Nine souls murdered for the eternal crime of being Black.

When someone enters a church, a synagogue, a temple, a mosque and shoots down people, it goes beyond the heinous act of killing the innocent. It shatters the sinews of a society.

Evil.

For Black Americans, evil does not lurk, it lunges. It lynches. It lunches on our entrails with bloody fangs and reads the signs of past and future terror. It is celebrated as Americana. Baseball, apple pie, and racism.

America's Original Sin, 500 years in the making.

Jim Crow is back with a brand new outfit. It has molted its feathers and looks like another bird. It is now a mutant with two right wings: one wing is voter ID suppression and the other wing is the school-to-prison pipeline for our children. And voter suppression is not just for African Americans. It is for students, and Latinos and anyone who isn't "just so."

Chorus: Wheel about, and turn about, and do just so;
Every time I wheel about, I jump Jim Crow.

The melody lingers on.

The people who died in Mother Emanuel AME Church will be buried in a state that still flies the Confederate Battle flag at the State Court House. It is a truncated swastika. Still saluted. Still revered by those who believe in the Cult of Euro-Narcissism, aka, White supremacy.

So there will be no season of jubilee for us. No funeral for racism. No respite from its spiritual and physical violence. No parades for the final coffin of racial hatred. No victory parties, but the continuation of public outcry and private pain.

The despair of our diaspora continues. We can say, "It Gets Better." But right now it is bitter. Racism has infused liability into the bone marrow of our viability.

Now we must draw on our prayers and the strength of our ancestors who faced worse than today and survived. We will soldier on. We will face fear and loathing with the same rich, deep-veined reserves as those who went before us. We will soldier on. We will challenge the daily domestic terrorism that haunts our movements and existence and we will survive.

We soldier on.

What Do You Do When the World Is Too Much With You?

Edie Weinstein   |   June 22, 2015   11:24 PM ET

What do you do when you have days when the "world is too much with you"? I do my best to keep from absorbing the pain and angst of those in my personal life as well as what is going on all over the planet. Sometimes I succeed. Sometimes I get overwhelmed with the magnitude of what is swirling around me.

Sitting here in beautiful Bucks County, P.A. -- a suburb of Philadelphia, grateful for my family, friends, home, job, Jeep, and the fact that I am rebounding from several health crises in the last year or so that included shingles, heart attack and kidney stones. Feeling revitalized as I am re-creating my life. All good stuff.

Elsewhere in the world... not so good stuff. War, church shootings, off the scale racism and hatred, climate change, people and animals being abused, addiction of monumental proportions sucking the life out of those in its clutches.

Ball of confusion, indeed.

What's an empath to do? Shields up. I know that taking on the traumas and dramas of others is not the answer. I used to carry the proverbial weight of the world and needed to put it down when I was almost crushed beneath it. Savior behavior and all that comes with it. Being a martyr isn't pretty.

Today, I didn't feel like leaving the house. Spent the day writing A LOT, had a work-related phone meeting, did promo for my articles and workshops, took two required online competency classes/tests for my job, and then guided friends who wanted assistance with getting their business out on a grander scale. Later, I spoke with a family member who is facing a major health issue that I can do nothing to help, but just listen and love. Focusing on quality of life for her, without letting the fear of losing her getting in the way.

I contemplated going to the gym to sweat it all out, but voted for a restorative nap instead. I was greeted in my dreamtime by images of tumultuous storms that threatened to sweep me away. It felt so real that I was tempted to get up and batten down the hatches outside. I was relieved when I awoke to see calm twilight instead.

I have gotten adept at self care, when in the past, I would have muscled on through, creating a "spiritual bypass," as I told myself that I had nothing to complain about, echoing my well-meaning father, "If that's the worst thing that happens to you, you'll be all right."

Nowadays I pray, meditate, exercise, spend time in nature, hang out with kindred spirits, dance, drum, cry when needed, laugh a bunch, read, express gratitude. Despite all of those interventions, there are still moments when I feel this emptiness and weariness attempting to overtake me.

I reached out to the Facebook collective mind/heart and was greeted by other ideas that included yoga nidra, EFT, hugs, letting myself off the hook and honoring my intentions as good and honorable. By bolstering myself and allowing others to support me and the planet, since we are all in this together, I can become an even greater force for good in the world.

'Good Guy With a Gun' Stories Are a Lot Less Common Than the NRA Wants You to Believe

Mike Weisser   |   June 22, 2015    4:55 PM ET

Every time there's a mass shooting, it ignites the debate about whether guns make us more or less safe. And even though the NRA has been surprisingly silent since the Charleston massacre (but that will probably change within the next few days) they have plenty of surrogates running the virtues of the 'armed citizen' up the rhetorical flagpole, of which the latest is a story in the online Washington Times about how "a good guy with a gun stopped a bad guy, saving lives." The intro to the story says "With tragic events such as the shooting of a bible study group at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, the stories of heroic self defense and lives saved by legal gun owners are often overlooked." And we are then treated to eleven examples of what happened when bad guys were confronted by good guys carrying guns.

Before I review these 11 stories, bear in mind that whenever someone promotes the armed-citizen nonsense, there's usually some caveat about how the 'mainstream' media goes out of their way to diminish or entirely ignore all the wonderful things accomplished by good guys with guns. But since this story ran in the Washington Times, which promotes the NRA's viewpoint as if the Reverend Moon owned the NRA, I'm going to assume that these stories are the real deal and, if not an exhaustive compilation of good guy-bad guy episodes, at least give us some idea of how much and how often we can depend on our fellow armed citizens to protect us from all those nasties out there.

The first story concerns Jeanne Assam, who was something of a poster-girl for the CCW movement after she shot and killed a shooter outside of a Colorado Springs church following a Sunday service when congregants were heading for their cars. Actually, it turned out that the shooter committed suicide after being wounded by Assam's gunfire, but let's not quibble over details. The bottom line is that her actions may have saved the lives of other parishioners, so she deserves our recognition and our thanks.

But there's only one little problem with the story itself, namely, that it occurred in 2007. And if you take the trouble to read through all 11 accounts of armed citizens protecting someone else or just themselves, it turns out that only one of the episodes took place in 2015. In fact, one of the episodes took place in 2006, and in two other instances, the 'armed citizens' turned out to be professional security guards or cops. So what the story gets down to is, in fact, exactly nine examples of good guys protecting us from bad guys over a period of nine years.

Now you would think that in a country which, according to John Lott's estimate, has issued more than 11 million concealed-carry permits, that the Washington Times could dig up more than nine stories to prove that bad guys are only stopped by good guys carrying guns. So I went to the real fount of knowledge when it comes to the benefits of concealed-carry, namely, the NRA, which has been publishing examples of good guys stopping bad guys since 1958. Here's how they put it: "The NRA Armed Citizen® stories highlight accounts of law-abiding gun owners in America using their Second Amendment rights to defend self, home and family."

Know how many good-guy stories the NRA has published in the past 57 years? Somewhere around 1,540, give or take a few, which translates into roughly 36 per year. Don't get me wrong; the people whose lives were saved by those 1,540 good guys will never be able to thank them enough. But do those numbers balance out the 30 people who are shot to death every day? Maybe what good guys do and what bad guys do have nothing to do with each other. But they do. It's called a gun.

After Charleston

Tom F. Driver   |   June 22, 2015   12:43 PM ET

Following the nine murders in Charleston, the most amazing thing has been the public reaction of the victims' families, who have, as they say, refused to let the mass murders push them into hatred. Instead of calling for revenge, or even "justice," they offered forgiveness. It is the strongest affirmation of nonviolence that I have ever heard.

Now all us white folks, listen carefully: The ball is in our court. It is up to us to get the guns off the street and to become nonviolent ourselves. If we're just bystanders and grievers, we're giving the support of silence to the racists among us.

Adam Goldberg   |   June 21, 2015    8:14 PM ET

'Meet The Press' is taking heat for a video the program aired about gun violence.

In the wake of the Charleston church shooting, host Chuck Todd introduced a video on Sunday morning featuring testimonies of convicted murderers, calling the issue "color-blind." Inmates at New York's Sing Sing Correctional Facility opened up about the regret they had after using guns. However, only black prisoners were shown.

The homogeneous racial makeup of the video struck some viewers as inappropriate, especially given the apparently racially-motivated killings by a white man this week of 9 black victims at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina.

'Meet The Press' panelist and Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson pointed out the apparent disconnect.

"I thought that was a very powerful piece," he said. "One small thing I would mention, because I haven't seen the whole piece, is there wasn't a terribly diverse set of people who were talking. Right now, we're talking about a horrific crime committed by a white man. We're talking about the search for two escaped murderers who are white men. So, we should point out that this is not just an African-American problem."

Todd responded that "it wasn't intended to be that way."

Users on social media also expressed frustration with the perceived tone-deafness of the video:

Later in the show, a 'Meet The Press' panel addressed the pushback to the video, with Todd remarking that the topic of gun violence "wasn't meant to be a black and white issue." Todd also spoke out in a post on the show's website. He said:

We've gotten a lot of feedback about the gun video we showed on Meet the Press today. Some were upset it only featured African-American men talking about their regrets of pulling a trigger. All of the men in the piece volunteered to be a part of the video and the larger project it is a part of.

But the last thing we wanted was to cloud the discussion of the topic.

The original decision to air this segment was made before Wednesday's massacre. However, the staff and I had an internal debate about whether to show it at all this week. When we discussed putting it off, that conversation centered around race and perception - not the conversation we wanted the segment to invoke.

We decided against delaying the segment because we wanted to show multiple sides of what gun violence does in this country. We thought the issue of gun violence in our culture and society was an important conversation to continue -- too important to put off for another week. The consequences of gun violence should not be hidden.

As I say to all audiences, Meet the Press should make all viewers uncomfortable at some point or we are not doing our job. I hope folks view the gun video as a part of the conversation we should all be having and not the totality of it.

The gun violence video aired by 'Meet The Press' can be seen at the top of this entry (via RawStory).

Sam Levine   |   June 21, 2015   11:38 AM ET

Charleston, South Carolina Mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr. (D) said on Sunday that the lack of gun control in the United States was "insane."

"It is insane: the number of guns, and the ease of guns in America. It just doesn't fit with the other achievements of this country," Riley told CNN's Jake Tapper. "It's a small -- really small group, well-funded -- that keeps this issue from being appropriately addressed."

Riley's comments came just days after Dylann Roof, 21, allegedly shot and killed nine people at Emanuel AME church in Charleston on Wednesday. Roof apparently bought the gun used in the shooting with money he received for his birthday in April. The church held its first services since the slaying on Sunday.

Several officials, including President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination, have called for action on gun control following the massacre.

But many lawmakers have expressed skepticism that tighter gun control is possible, citing Congress' failure to pass any kind of gun reform after 26 children and school officials were killed in a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012.

  |   June 20, 2015    3:15 PM ET


By Robin Respaut

SAN FRANCISCO, June 20 (Reuters) - Many U.S. mayors said this week's deadly church shooting in South Carolina should lead to more restrictions on gun ownership, but few believe the violence that killed nine people will propel legislators to enact stricter gun laws.

"Among ourselves, it has been coming up," said Bill Harrison, mayor of Fremont, California, during the annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors this weekend in San Francisco. "But how many of these events does it take to get action?"

Harrison said on Saturday the 2012 school shooting in Newton, Connecticut, where 20 children died, represented a personal turning point, but also made him skeptical about political change.

"I'm not giving up, but if Newton couldn't get people together, I don't know what will," he said.

As Wednesday night's shooting at the historic African-American church in Charleston gripped the country, prosecutors on Friday wrapped up their case against James Holmes, on trial for killing 12 and wounding 70 in a shooting rampage in a movie theater in 2012.

That violence, followed by the Newton shooting, inspired activism and a push from President Barack Obama for gun control measures that subsequently fizzled.

Guns are chiefly regulated at the state and federal level, with possession protected by the U.S. Constitution, and local governments have limited authority.

"Our state has made some steps forward but what we do on the ground is with our policing power and our close relationship with the community," New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio said on CNN on Saturday.

"Every time you turn around in this city and there's gun violence, that gun came from a state where it was just easy, just plain easy, to get a gun and send it up the East Coast to New York City. We need national legislation to change this."

The bipartisan group Mayors Against Illegal Guns expects high attendance at its meeting during the mayors' convention, with every state represented, said Mayor James Diossa of Central Falls, Rhode Island on Saturday.

"This happens every time there is a situation: gun control comes to the front burner. But the problem is the political will is lacking." said Mayor Mary Casillas Salas of Chula Vista, California. "It's a problem with the state legislature."

Obama on Friday told the conference he does not expect Congress to enact new gun laws soon.

For Jesus Ruiz, mayor of Socorro, Texas, gun control is a federal issue split along party lines.

"With the Republicans controlling Congress, we are limited," he said. (Reporting by Robin Respaut; Additional reporting and writing by Lisa Lambert in Washington; Editing by Richard Chang)

By ALAN FRAM   |   June 20, 2015    2:44 PM ET

WASHINGTON (AP) — This week's slaughter of nine people in a South Carolina church left prospects that Congress will curb guns right where they've been for years — remote for now, according to lawmakers and activists on both sides of the issue.

Conceding that congressional action was unlikely soon, President Barack Obama said lawmakers will tighten federal firearms restrictions when they believe the public is demanding it.

"I am not resigned," Obama told the U.S. Conference of Mayors in San Francisco on Friday. "I have faith we will eventually do the right thing."

Others said there was little evidence that Wednesday's killing of nine black parishioners by the white alleged gunman, Dylann Storm Roof, would make congressional action more likely, considering recent history.

"I'm skeptical it's going to change peoples' minds who weren't converted by Newtown," said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn. Murphy was part of the Senate's failed efforts to strengthen background checks following the 2012 massacre of 26 children and educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

If anything, the odds of congressional action seem slimmer with both the House and Senate dominated by Republicans, who traditionally have been less sympathetic to curbs on gun ownership. When the Senate rejected firearms constraints in 2013 prompted by Newtown, the chamber was led by Democrats.

"He couldn't get it going after Sandy Hook with Democratic control" of the Senate, Erich Pratt, spokesman for Gun Owners of America, a gun rights group, said about Obama. "He won't get it going with Republican control."

Investigators were just starting to gather facts about Wednesday's shooting at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina. Roof, 21, faced nine counts of murder, and the Justice Department said it was investigating whether to classify the attack as a hate crime or even domestic terrorism.

"The question remains how we keep guns out of the hands of those who shouldn't have them without violating the constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans," said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa. "There's ample time to learn more about what happened and debate ways to prevent these kinds of senseless acts."

Murphy and others blamed the potency of the National Rifle Association for Congress' unwillingness to restrict firearms.

"Congress has failed to act because it's filled with too many lapdogs for the gun lobby," said Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam would not address whether the Charleston shootings would change lawmakers' attitudes, saying, "As the NRA has done for decades, we will not comment until all the facts are known."

In 2013, the Senate's bipartisan attempt to require background checks of all firearms purchasers at gun shows and on the Internet failed by a 54-46 vote. That was six short of the 60 votes needed to break a Republican filibuster against the bill.

A similar measure never reached the floor of the GOP-controlled House.

"I'd like to say these shootings in Charleston will be a turning point, enough for Congress to fight back against the gun lobby and take some serious action about gun laws. But I don't want to be naive," said Chelsea Parsons, who oversees gun policy for the liberal Center for American Progress.

Donald Stewart, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said McConnell had spoken twice Thursday on the Senate floor about Charleston but mentioned no legislation. Kevin Smith, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, did not immediately return phone and email messages seeking comment.

A check of the Congressional Record shows that while several legislators took to the House and Senate floors Thursday to express their sadness over the nine deaths in South Carolina and offer condolences, none called for federal legislation curbing firearms. The word "gun" was spoken seven times while "background checks," ''gun control" and "firearms" were not uttered at all.

Congress was not in session Friday.

Meaningful Gun Control Will Never Happen in the U.S.

  |   June 20, 2015    9:30 AM ET

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I Hate Him

David Katz, M.D.   |   June 19, 2015    1:21 PM ET

Views on god and religion vary widely, of course. My own views are likely rather transparent to those who pass this way routinely, but are immaterial either way. We may, I trust, agree -- whether we endorse a god of personal attachment, a god detached and dispersed to the far corners of the cosmos, or no god at all -- that preacher and parishioners in that church in South Carolina were worshiping principles of love and solidarity, not divisiveness and hate. Perhaps the godliness of those ideals is sufficient to make us all members of that congregation, whatever the deity, or want of same, to whom they attach.

The particular deity for that particular congregation is, of course, Jesus. Jesus taught love and mercy, compassion and connection. Famously, he renounced his perennially ill-tempered father's inclination to poke out eyes in retribution for eyes poked out, and instead- to turn the other cheek.

Reflecting on that, I hate the fact that I'm thinking surely even Jesus would by now have run out of unbloodied cheeks to turn. Surely even a wellspring of forgiveness would at some point be unwilling to forgive. What becomes of us all when every cheek is already battered?

My thoughts are drawn to that congregation, of which I pledge myself a member in ways I think matter most. I find myself drawn to those grieving families and feel the weight of their loss and pain. I hope that even this unimportant expression of our human bond and common burden lightens the load some trivial bit. I feel, fleetingly, love.

But then my thoughts turn to hate. I hate the disgraceful excuse for a human being who perpetrated this crime. I hate those who raised within his hateful soul those hateful inclinations.

I hate him, and nothing that can happen to him now is as bad as he deserves. Nothing is bad enough to satisfy.

I worry that this primacy of hate over love means he and his kind have won something. I worry that my unwillingness to find forgiveness means I am surrendering something. I worry that for evil to prevail in the world it may be enough for bad people to make good people hate.

If so, the better destiny of the world must depend on people far better than I. Because I was far away, and uninvolved, and unbloodied. And yet I was there -- and I hate him.

-fin

David L. Katz, MD, MPH, FACPM, FACP

Director, Yale University Prevention Research Center; Griffin Hospital
President, American College of Lifestyle Medicine
Editor-in-Chief, Childhood Obesity

Founder, The True Health Coalition

Follow at: LinkedIN; Twitter; Facebook
Read at: INfluencer Blog; Huffington Post; US News & World Report; About.com
Author: Disease Proof

Daniel Marans   |   June 19, 2015   12:34 PM ET

Gun activists have said allowing guns in church could have stopped Wednesday's killings at a Charleston, South Carolina, church, and they wasted no time blaming murdered pastor and state Sen. Clementa Pinckney (D).

In a post on gun activist website TexasCHLForum.com, National Rifle Association board member Charles L. Cotton argued that Pinckney was responsible for the deaths of the eight church members who died alongside him because he did not support legislative proposals that would have allowed concealed carry in churches. Cotton wrote that the victims “might be alive if he had expressly allowed members to carry handguns.”

texas

As a state senator, Pinckney had opposed a 2011 bill that would have legalized concealed carry in churches. The bill ultimately failed in the legislature.

Bryan Fischer, a conservative talk-radio host also called for concealed carry in churches in tweets Thursday, but he stopped short of blaming Pinckney.

Fischer also tauntingly used the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter.

South Carolina is a “shall issue” state, meaning that state law enforcement officials must issue concealed-carry permits to residents who pass a background check and fingerprint review, as well as successfully complete a handgun education course. It does not allow concealed carry in churches or other houses of worship. However, people may bring concealed-carry weapons to churches if they receive “express permission” from church leaders.

The NRA has yet to officially respond to the Charleston church massacre. It typically does not comment on mass shootings.

Facing mounting public pressure to respond to the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, the NRA called for armed guards at schools.

There is no evidence that the presence of civilians with guns limits or prevents mass shootings. A 2012 Mother Jones investigation revealed that none of the 62 mass shootings in the previous 30 years were stopped by a civilian with a gun.

Language has been added to clarify the requirements under South Carolina law for receiving a concealed-carry permit.