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Clinton Attacks Bernie Sanders on Guns, But Was as a 'Pro-Gun Churchgoer' in 2008

H. A. Goodman   |   January 11, 2016   10:41 AM ET

When asked about Wall Street donations, Hillary Clinton invoked 9/11. Shortly after the Paris attacks, she supported sending U.S. ground troops back to the Middle East, then abruptly evolved and now opposes ground troops. Clinton's future foreign policy has been described as "neocon" by a leading historian, she'd likely have neoconservative advisers in her White House, and she calls her Iraq Vote a "mistake." Because of Bernie Sanders and a progressive surge within the Democratic Party, Clinton now opposes the TPP and Keystone XL, after supporting both controversial projects and dodging questions. Then of course there's the opposition to gay marriage up until 2013.

In terms of Clinton's value system, NBC News recently asked, Did Hillary Clinton Diss the Iowa Caucuses in Private Email? The self-described "moderate" alluded to certain views within the Democratic Party representing an extreme. According to the email, Clinton referred to the Iowa Caucus, and other caucuses, as examples of "parties' extremes."

The problem with Clinton's viewpoint of the caucuses is that progressive values are no longer "extreme" in American politics. I explain in this YouTube segment why Bernie Sanders easily wins the Democratic nomination if progressives simply vote their conscience in 2016.

Running against the more progressive Sanders, gun control isn't a fringe, or extreme issue to Clinton. It's a way to flaunt progressive credentials, and Clinton is trying desperately to paint Bernie Sanders as the Ted Nugent of Democrats. The game plan for the Clinton campaign is to focus on the emotional issue of mass shootings and somehow link a D-minus rating from the NRA to this scourge in American society.

In this way, the Clinton team hopes the issue of gun legislation will overshadow her conservative stances on Iraq, Keystone XL, the TPP, marijuana legislation, prison lobbyist donors, foreign policy, and a number of other key issues.

Yes, the "7%" that would correlate to decisions as president, specifically her likely use of the AUMF to send more Americans abroad and bomb countries at will. Senators don't possess the AUMF (only presidents can unilaterally wage war) which is why the myth about Sanders and Clinton voting in a similar manner ignores a Vox article titled Hillary Clinton will pull the Democrats -- and the country -- in a hawkish direction.

First, Bernie Sanders has a lifetime voting record of "D-minus" from the NRA. He doesn't need to evolve on anything, unless you believe a D-minus is good, or that the NRA is lying about his score. Furthermore, while Clinton might have a lower score, she also has a weapons deal controversy involving billions of dollars in weaponry.

Second, Clinton once tried to paint Barack Obama as being out of touch with American society because of his view that Americans cling to guns. According to a 2008 New York Times article titled Clinton Portrays Herself as a Pro-Gun Churchgoer, Clinton's rhetoric on the 2nd Amendment differed greatly from today's attacks against Sanders:

For the third time since Mr. Obama's remarks were made public Friday night, Mrs. Clinton criticized him at length, saying his comments seemed "kind of elitist and out of touch."

"I disagree with Senator Obama's assertion that people in our country cling to guns and have certain attitudes about immigration or trade simply out of frustration," she said.

She described herself as a pro-gun churchgoer, recalling that her father taught her how to shoot a gun when she was a young girl and said that her faith "is the faith of my parents and my grandparents."

Imagine Clinton recalling how she learned to shoot a gun in 2016. She also focused on faith and the right-wing talking point of liberal elitism, which is why Clinton stated Obama was "kind of elitist and out of touch."

In addition to describing herself as a "pro-gun churchgoer," Clinton made a point to continue these themes against Obama. A 2008 CNN article titled Clinton touts her experience with guns explains her rural Indiana visit in greater detail:

"You know, my dad took me out behind the cottage that my grandfather built on a little lake called Lake Winola outside of Scranton and taught me how to shoot when I was a little girl," she said.

"You know, some people now continue to teach their children and their grandchildren. It's part of culture. It's part of a way of life. People enjoy hunting and shooting because it's an important part of who they are. Not because they are bitter."

Minutes later, in a slightly awkward moment, Clinton faced a question from a woman in the audience whose son had been paralyzed by a gunshot...

"As I told you, my dad taught me how to shoot behind our cottage," she said. "I have gone hunting. I am not a hunter. But I have gone hunting."

Clinton said she has hunted ducks.

Voters in 2016 should remember that just eight years ago, Clinton believed teaching children how to shoot a gun was simply a part of American culture and a "way of life" to many people.

As for her words to an audience in Indianapolis, POLITICO has the 2008 transcript:

You know, Americans who believe in the Second Amendment believe it's a matter of Constitutional rights.

Americans who believe in God believe it is a matter of personal faith. Americans who believe in protecting good American jobs believe it is a matter of the American Dream...

I grew up in a churchgoing family, a family that believed in the importance of living out and expressing our faith.

These are the words of America's anti-gun crusader, who grew up in a "churchgoing family" and viewed belief in the 2nd Amendment as "a matter of Constitutional rights." Clinton's use of guns, faith, and the 2nd Amendment was successful in putting Obama on the defensive.

Based upon the numerous changes in viewpoints I explain in this YouTube segment, Anderson Cooper rightfully asked Clinton, "Will you say anything to get elected?"

Finally, Clinton's latest promise for executive action, as a way to differentiate herself from Bernie Sanders on the gun issue, ignores her previous stances on federal gun legislation. During a debate with Barrack Obama, the ABC News transcript shows a Hillary Clinton uncomfortable with "blanket" federal legislation on guns:

CLINTON: What I favor is what works in New York. You know, we have a set of rules in New York City, and we have a totally different set of rules in the rest of the state. What might work in New York City is certainly not going to work in Montana.

So for the federal government to be having any kind of, you know, blanket rules that they're going to try to impose I think doesn't make sense.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But, Senator, you were for that when you ran for Senate in New York.

CLINTON: I was for the New York rules; that's right. I was for the New York rules, because they have worked over time. And there isn't a lot uproar in New York about changing them, because I go to upstate New York, where we have a lot of hunters and people who are collectors and people who are sport shooters. They have every reason to believe that their rights are being respected.

Yes, the Democratic crusader against guns once stated, "What might work in New York City is certainly not going to work in Montana." Back then, Clinton wasn't the proponent of blanket rules, or sweeping federal legislation on guns; certainly not executive action.

Today's outspoken critic on guns stated that the federal government's "blanket rules...I think doesn't make sense."

Not long ago, Hillary Clinton was also defending the gun rights of hunters and sport shooters in upstate New York. Her use of guns and faith also relates to her 3:00 a.m. ad against Obama.

In 2016, the irony of a hawkish Democrat possibly giving billion dollar weapons deals to donors, is lost upon the Clinton faithful. Party loyalty overshadows duplicity. Blind allegiance shields the inconvenient reality that Clinton has evolved even on guns, in addition to most other contentious issues. Because the Clinton campaign can't possibly spin out of continual evolution and prior conservative viewpoints, I explain why Bernie Sanders will become president in a recent appearance on Thom Hartmann Program. I also explain in 60 seconds why I'm voting for Bernie Sanders, instead of Clinton or a buffoon named Donald Trump, in this YouTube segment.

Igor Bobic   |   January 10, 2016   11:22 AM ET

Former Arizona congresswoman and gun control advocate Gabby Giffords (D) is endorsing Hillary Clinton for president, a spokeswoman confirmed to The Huffington Post.

Giffords' husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, will also back Clinton. The endorsement is a personal one, however, separate from the couple's political action committee, Americans for Responsible Solutions, which is dedicated to curbing gun violence.

On Sunday, the couple released a statement officially announcing the endorsement, calling Clinton the only candidate who "has the determination and toughness to stand up to the corporate gun lobby --  and the record to prove it."

"Today, we are proud to have Hillary’s back, and to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with her to, once and for all, break the stranglehold the corporate gun lobby has had on American politics -- and American families -- for so long," Giffords and Kelly said in the statement.

The endorsement was first reported by CBS News.

Friday marked five years since a gunman shot Giffords in the head and killed six others at a constituent meeting outside a supermarket in Tucson. After an impressive recovery, Giffords and her husband began to lobby for gun control.


The issue of gun violence is once again a topic of national debate after President Barack Obama tearfully implored Congress to act and announced he was taking modest executive actions with respect to guns. He later participated in a live town hall where he engaged critics of his policies.

Clinton has also gone after Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), her rival in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, over his stance on guns. On Friday, she called on the senator admit he erred by voting in favor of a 2005 bill that granted legal immunity to gun manufacturers.

"Maybe it's time for Sen. Sanders to stand up and say, 'I got this one wrong,'" Clinton said on MSNBC.

This article was updated with a statement from Giffords and Kelly.

Also on HuffPost:

Can't We Just Put the Damn Guns Down?

Steve Nelson   |   January 8, 2016    1:38 PM ET

12 year-old Tamir Rice, shot dead on a playground and, once again, a grand jury finds insufficient cause to indict.

Yes, the shooting seems indefensible. An "unarmed" 12 year-old boy was shot dead by a cop, apparently an intemperate cop, based on his history. It is not possible to consider this case without considering the national pattern: Cover-ups; injustice in case after case; the way white cops see black boys; stereotypes; racism; cool, calculated indifference.

But these factors cannot be the sole or dominant considerations in a legal decision. Racism and injustice must be considered as context within which alleged acts occur, but it is also plausible that the police officer in any particular case is not criminally liable.

The evidence indicates that the police officer in Cleveland had reason to be fearful. Tamir Rice was allegedly carrying an airsoft replica gun. These "toys" are designed to appear as realistic as possible. Perhaps the officer was both a bad, racist cop and he was justified in his fear. That is the discomfort a just society must hold: That racism and injustice are systemic, structural and ubiquitous and yet a particular decision within a racist system may still be just.

We must deal with the reality that our society created both the trigger-happy cop and the boy he shot, who apparently thought it was cool to carry around a gun that looked like the real thing. Don't get me wrong. I'm not blaming Tamir Rice for his own death. I'm blaming the rest of us for not speaking out or acting to change our violent, gun-saturated society.

We should hold folks responsible for feeding this culture of entitlement, aggression and self-determination.

We must confront the police departments in America that view their black constituents as "the other" rather than as their neighbors.

The designers, manufacturers and marketers who fashion video "games" that glamorize guns and violence hold responsibility for the disintegration of civility and the callouses that have grown on young folks' souls.

The NRA, its members and its funders should be shamed for creating a political climate where government fails to act even in the face of the slaughter of children. Politicians who pander to the gun lobby even in the face of the slaughter of children should be held accountable and removed from office at the ballot box.

Every arrogant, entitled jerk who walks in public with a firearm is making it more possible that some child will think that's a cool thing to do - and die in the street.

Every multi-millionaire athlete who carries a handgun into a nightclub, all the rap or hip-hop artists who gratuitously contribute to the celebration of thug culture and every producer and director of film or television who profits from gratuitous violence should be confronted for their complicity.

Every person who profits from the production and sale of weapons, sponsors gun shows or otherwise advances the profitability of the gun culture shares the responsibility for the deaths of children.

And the parents and caregivers who purchase or allow their little boys or girls to purchase "toys" that replicate killing devices should get their minds right. While no child should be shot for carrying around a relatively harmless weapon, no child needs to carry around a relatively harmless weapon.

I could go on.

I suppose this piece will anger nearly everyone. My progressive partners in anti-racist work will likely be disappointed that I don't simply join in the understandable outrage. And the usual suspects will come out from under their rocks to lecture me about the Second Amendment or to trot out some arcane statistics that purport to disprove any link between violent images and subsequent violence.

Armed thugs defy the government in a wildlife refuge in Oregon. There is a shooting on a campus more than once a week. As I wrote this post, a news report flashed across my screen that a 15 year-old girl shot her mother and her mother's boyfriend. Horrible icons like Columbine, Sandy Hook and San Bernardino are just the slaughters that were of sufficient scale to keep our national attention for more than a day or two.

I've just had enough with guns - all of them - in the hands of police, in the hands of children, in the hands of crazy white men in Oregon. Forget the Second Amendment or the grand jury decisions. Can't we just put the damn guns down?

Gabby Giffords and the Meaning of Service

Andrei Cherny   |   January 8, 2016   12:28 PM ET


Five years ago today, I was driving from Phoenix to Tucson to see my friend Gabby Giffords. That Saturday morning, she was at a shopping center parking lot, holding office hours, doing the most basic job of a representative, meeting with her constituents.

The day before, she had sent what would be her last tweet for a long time endorsing my new candidacy for chair of the Arizona Democratic Party. It was not a job I had been looking for.

We had just ended the 2010 elections. She had run for reelection. I had been the nominee for Arizona State Treasurer. It was a terrible year for Democrats nationwide, but it was particularly so in an Arizona riven over immigration and suffering from the aftermath of the real estate collapse. On Election Day, I lost by a lot. Gabby narrowly won.

But one of the many joys of that campaign was getting to spend time with Gabby, whom I had known since she was a newly elected State Senator, as well as her new husband Mark, a former Naval aviator who flew combat missions in the Persian Gulf War and NASA astronaut who had flown four missions to space.

When, a couple of months later, the position of the chair of the state Democratic party came open, some party leaders and activists asked me to run. I said no at first. I felt more comfortable as a policy wonk than as a partisan warrior. And after a long, tough, and failed campaign, and with two very young children at home, I wanted a break from politics.

Then Gabby called. She said the post was one from which I could help bridge divisions in the state and offer new ideas. I still hesitated. She said she knew it was not what I had wanted to do. And then she said words I can still hear, echoing over the years, "Andrei, sometimes you don't get to choose the way in which you'll serve."

Sometimes you don't get to choose the way in which you'll serve.

I said yes. It was a Tuesday. We made plans to see each other that weekend in Tucson.

On that Saturday, Gabby and her husband Mark's lives, and the lives of so many others, changed forever.

And if afterwards, Gabby and Mark had decided to spend all the rest of their days focused on her healing, and holding tight to each other and their loved ones, they would still have been rightly hailed by every American as heroes, heroes who gave so much - in fact, almost everything - in service to their country.

If they had spent their time not only on her healing, but on healing our nation's wounds, working to make our civic discourse less coarse, that would have been worthy of even more praise and they would have been universally admired by all.

But instead, Gabby and Mark did all those things and then also stepped forward to serve again on perhaps the most contentious, bitterly divisive issue in America today.

Spurred on by the murder of 20 six-and-seven year olds and their teachers in a small town in Connecticut - and the steady, daily drip of gun deaths across the nation - Gabby and Mark have spent day after day campaigning around the country and organizing more than half a million Americans in a new push for responsible, moderate, common sense approaches to stem the awful tide of gun violence.

Their lives today are not what they imagined when they awoke on that Saturday morning four years ago.

Sometimes you don't get to choose the way in which you'll serve.

Whitney Snyder   |   January 7, 2016    7:13 PM ET

Read More: obama, guns, gun control

Even as I continue to take every action possible as president, I will also take every action I can as a citizen. I will not campaign for, vote for or support any candidate, even in my own party, who does not support common-sense gun reform. And if the 90 percent of Americans who do support common-sense gun reforms join me, we will elect the leadership we deserve.

My Brother Was Murdered By A Man With A Gun

Alex Schneps   |   January 7, 2016    3:56 PM ET

My brother was murdered by a man with a gun.

That's an easy, simple truth. It's not up for debate.

It can't be politicized, analyzed or reduced to anything other than what it is: reality. My brother is dead because of a gun. You can lump him into a statistic. You can break down the circumstances. But at the end of the day, what can I really say that will call you to action?

2016-01-07-1452199817-8353159-schneps.jpgMy brother (center) and cousins

Is it that, "Every year more than 30,000 Americans have their lives cut short by guns," or that a gun is "...a product that kills as many Americans as car accidents"? No. These are important statistics (used by President Obama) to highlight the problem. But statistics don't put you face to face with a victim. Rhetoric cannot possibly encapsulate the gruesome details of grief.

President Obama's executive order is a noble step forward by a politician in gridlock, and I sincerely hope it is a catalyst for future politicians to pull themselves from the mire of discourse into action. But in my opinion the most important thing Obama said was a very small, seemingly insignificant statement: "In this room right here, there are a lot of stories." In this room right here.

I don't know how many people he is referring to, but according to, there were 52,626 incidents of gun violence in the United States in 2015. Even more surprising, there have already been 697 incidents (at the time of this article's publication) in 2016, and it's only been 2016 for a week. To give you some perspective, you'd need roughly 29 days to give each of those 697 individuals an hour to talk about their experience. That's the equivalent of one episode of Netflix's Making a Murderer. They had 10 hours total and still couldn't fit in everything they needed to tell that story.

"This has become somehow normal. An American standard. Gaze at the wildfire while drinking a bottle of water."

I've come to the conclusion that a gun exists only for one purpose -- to make whatever it's pointed at vulnerable when it might otherwise be safe. This is true whether you're holding the gun or you've got one pointed at you. Firing a gun has a singular purpose whether you're a hunter or a murderer (and I apologize for putting the two in the same sentence).

The result, however, is never, ever, ever singular. Hardly. The opposite of singular. Multitudinous. Inexplicably infinite. A seismic event that shatters the windows and walls and doors of the house that held your understanding of life and liberty and freedom and justice and any other aggrandized pillar of American society. Suddenly. Forever. Obliterated. And you're left with a numb, empty canvas, a fragile shell of existence. The sympathizers and the prayer-givers quickly recede back into a world of unchangedness while you flail wildly in the deep dark waters of unfloatable change. And that's probably just day one.

So when the president of the United States began crying when talking about the children murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary during his speech on Tuesday, I hope you can trust that he wasn't crying over a lack of gun reform. He wasn't crying over the inaction of Congress. He wasn't crying about a loophole.

He was crying because a father, Mark Barden, of a murdered seven-year-old, Daniel, was the person to introduce him that day, and that when the public and the politicians moved on from Sandy Hook, Mark would still have to go on living with the fact that he once was a father to a boy named Daniel. Every minute of every day from then on would be informed by that loss.

Daniel's murder and the murder of 19 other children that day -- Charlotte Bacon, Olivia Engel, Josephine Gay, Ana M. Marquez-Greene, Dylan Hockley, Madeleine F. Hsu, Catherine V. Hubbard, Chase Kowalski, Jesse Lewis, James Mattioli, Grace McDonnell, Emilie Parker, Jack Pinto, Noah Pozner, Caroline Previdi, Jessica Rekos, Avielle Richman, Benjamin Wheeler, Allison N. Wyatt -- couldn't elicit any legislative progress to prevent Charleston Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and Oregon College and Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood and San Bernardino, not to mention every individual gun murder that occurred without receiving the acknowledgment it deserved.

This has become somehow normal. An American standard. Gaze at the wildfire while drinking a bottle of water.

"...[W]hen the public and the politicians moved on from Sandy Hook, Mark would still have to go on living with the fact that he once was a father to a boy named Daniel..."

"We all believe in the first amendment -- the guarantee of free speech. But we accept that you can't yell 'fire' in a theater. We understand there are some constraints on our freedom in order to protect innocent people."

President Obama could not have been clearer in his support of the second amendment right to bear arms. This is not "the first step in a slippery slope to mass confiscation," as he said. It is the first step, however, towards safer gun practices.

So can we agree collectively -- gun reformists and advocates alike -- that safety is the common goal? It's as simple as that. Our common goal is safety. The Constitution, in fact, exists to protect us and our inalienable rights, including our second amendment rights.

So can we agree that a freedom tempered is a right upheld? Justice is, after all, a balanced scale.

No Tolerance for Gun Violence

Martin J. Walsh   |   January 7, 2016    3:03 PM ET

I traveled to Washington D.C. and stood with President Obama as he took measures to make our communities safer. Gun violence is not just a local problem or an inner-city problem --it's an American problem. 1.5 million Americans have been killed by gunfire on U.S soil since 1968.

That's more than the number of troops killed in all of our nation's wars since the nation's founding. Mass shootings rightfully command our attention, but we must recognize that in America we average 33 gun deaths daily. That amounts to a collective mass shooting every single day. America has a problem with gun violence.

Requiring all gun purchases to include a background check is a common sense, simple step, which will make it harder for criminals and those who intend to commit crimes to access firearms. The Obama Administration is also investing $500 million to increase access to mental health care offerings, which is a major factor. With expanded background checks and more resources for effective enforcement of existing gun laws, the President's actions are just some of the ways that we, as a country can reduce the gun violence that happens each and every day.

Boston is one of America's safest, large cities, and our 33 gun homicides this year are a historically low number. But yet, taken together, they would make up one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history. And because these deaths are concentrated in a small number of communities, their traumatic impact is not so different from that of a mass shooting. Mayors and police chiefs see the fallout up close. We visit crime scenes and sit with families. We see the trauma, the impact on public health, on education, on job growth, on community pride and neighborhood well being. The inability of Congress to pass even the most common-sense measures, like background checks, is discouraging. But we can't allow ourselves to become apathetic. We have to ask why and how this is happening, and what we can do to stop it.

In Boston, we have gone all-in on police-community relations. We've created a Social Justice Task Force made up of clergy and community leaders, held Peace Walks in affected neighborhoods, and made our gun buyback a tool of community engagement. We've brought services to the highest-risk young people from the earliest age we can identify them. These actions have made a difference and we have had a steady stream of interest in our policies from other cities and from the U.S. Attorney General's office.

Ultimately, we have an issue of access to guns that originates far beyond the local community. Our police officers have taken 1,061 guns off the streets in 2014, and 785 guns in 2015. We're looking to make even more progress in 2016, but the guns keep coming. With nearly 70 percent of Boston's crime guns coming from outside Massachusetts, we know that this is not just a local issue, or an inner-city issue. Guns move across city and state lines and all too easily from legal ownership to criminal possession. We have to reach beyond city limits to find a solution. If we had a contaminated food supply, we would treat the sick and we would urge safety measures, but we would go much further. We would find the source of the contamination and clean it up without delay, even if that took us out of state. That's how we should treat gun violence as well. We do all we can to make our communities safe, but we have to move up the chain to find the source of the problem.

We have partnered with the Bloomberg Foundation's Everytown for Gun Safety, and with the Rappaport Institute at Harvard, to research the origins of crime guns in Boston. It showed that two-thirds of our crime guns come from states with weak gun laws. We have convened regional gun trafficking summits to forge data-sharing agreements with neighboring states, but we also found that nearly one-third of the crime guns recovered in Boston were first sold by federally licensed gun dealers right here in Massachusetts. The vast majority of those guns were not held by the original buyer, nor had they been reported as sold, lost, or stolen.

These findings are troubling--but they open a window for action. The law that the Legislature passed last year requires prior approval and registration of private gun sales. As the state ramps up enforcement, we will be able to stop legally purchased guns from becoming crime guns. Locally, we are starting the conversation. We sent a letter to every licensed gun owner in the City of Boston explaining the new law, promoting the buyback program, and offering a free gun lock as well as safety advice. One gun owner from Dorchester wrote back and said, "until your letter, we have been virtually excluded from the discussion of how to reduce violence." We expect legal gun owners to be valuable partners moving forward.

Another challenge is holding retailers, distributors, and manufacturers accountable for safe practices. To do so, we have joined with the nonprofit Arms with Ethics to create the Boston Responsible Gun Vendor Initiative. Local governments and law enforcement agencies are one of the industry's biggest markets, spending more than a billion dollars each year on guns and ammunition. Moving forward, bidders for gun contracts with the Boston Police Department will be scored on the measures they take to prevent straw purchases and theft, and we will offer all vendors support and advice on adopting and documenting best safety practices.

This year in the City of Boston, gun homicides are down considerably (a 13.5 per cent decrease from 2014), but shootings are slightly up (a 18 per cent increase from 2014 for non-fatal shootings). We should resist any temptation to see a non-fatal shooting as a minor event: children are growing up in our city believing that getting shot is a common occurrence. We must begin answering the tough questions, as well as asking them. We have the tools. We have the will. Let's not wait any longer. Let's make a difference together. Let's show the nation a way forward, out of this crisis.

For more information on gun trafficking in Boston, visit:

Two Letters to President Obama on Gun Control

David Ropeik   |   January 7, 2016   10:23 AM ET

Dear President Obama,

I respectfully ask that you take no action to further limit Americans' right to own firearms. I make this request not so much to protect my right to own guns, but because, like millions of my fellow Americans, I am afraid. I am afraid of the seemingly endless ways the government tells me what I can and can't do. I am afraid of the increasingly frequent ways that, in the name of "government" and "democracy," it feels like the religious beliefs and moral values I share with millions of Americans are being trampled on. I am afraid of living in a nation, a great nation, that is moving in directions with which I disagree, but over which I have no control.

On top of all these factors, I am afraid for my future and my kids' future. Not from climate change or terrorism, but because my wife and I are losing the financial ability to provide for the comfort and safety of our family. We work hard, but costs are rising and wages aren't keeping pace. My wife just had to take a second job, but we still can't save much anymore; for our kids' college education, or to buy a home of our own, or even for a nice vacation. Like tens of millions of our fellow Americans, it feels like, economically, the bright American Dream future we were raised to look forward to and work toward is getting further and further out of reach, and it feels like we can't do anything about that either.

I guess what all this boils down to is how scary it feels not to be in control of how our lives are going, or of our future. Not economically. Not in terms of how we'd like to live according to our values and beliefs, but society is telling us we can't. Not in terms of something as simple as owning a gun to protect ourselves, something that could give us at least a little feeling of control against these scary times. I am sure you can understand, Mr. President, as a person and as a father, how profoundly threatening it is to feel like we can't control how our own lives are going.

I understand that this fear is hard to accept for people who are concerned about gun violence, as all responsible gun owners are. I respect that some people might even be somewhat worried that they will be a victim of such violence. But our fears run far deeper. They are a constant corrosive presence in our daily lives. Not being able to live your life the way you want to, or shape your future, is far more threatening than how worried people might be about being shot, which most people know is highly unlikely, despite occasional high profile shootings that get lots of attention in the news.

Our deep fear is why we are fighting so passionately on this issue, to assert control somehow, some way, over our lives. Restrictions on a constitutional right feed our fears, and that will make a fight that is already dividing America even worse, which no president should want.


A. K. Fortisevn

Taunton, Massachusetts

Dear President Obama,

I write to encourage you to expand government controls on guns. While there are many intellectual arguments in favor of such controls, my plea is more emotional. I'm afraid. I'm afraid when I think about my kids in school. I'm afraid when I go to a store and see someone with a handgun on their waist that it seems like anybody could grab. I'm afraid when I read about the latest shooting. I'm afraid I might be shot and killed.

I am also afraid of the way the Supreme Court seems like it's taking over the law to advance a conservative agenda. (I am not a member of either political party.) It's frightening how Justice [Antonin] Scalia twisted the language of the Second Amendment, which clearly says that allowing people to own guns was so that a young nation that didn't have an army yet could put together a militia to protect itself, to give everybody the right to own guns. "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State..." is the reason people should be allowed to "bear arms." I tried to read his ruling in the Heller case, but confess I got lost in the tortured grammatical argument he made to get the ruling he wanted to get to. It's scary to think that the ultimate arbiters of disputes over what the law says aren't being impartial, the way judges are supposed to be, and that they're interpreting the Constitution so that America works they way they want it to. That feels like they are hijacking democracy itself.

And I'm afraid of the leaders of the NRA, a small group of extremist libertarians who lie and tell people that the government is coming to take their guns away and scare millions of voters into threatening to kick their government representatives out of office if they support any kind of reasonable gun control, even though the vast majority of Americans -- including many gun owners and even many NRA members -- want such controls.

But mostly I'm afraid that there are so many guns around, and that they are so easy to get, that the chance of being shot is becoming increasingly real. The basic job of government is to pool society's resources and protect us from threats that we can't protect ourselves from as individuals. I don't feel protected. I feel unsafe. I feel scared, for my kids and myself and my friends and neighbors, and for America, if the values of a few can put the lives of the majority at risk.

Please do your job, Mr. President, and expand reasonable controls on guns.


Nan Violenza

Amarillo, Texas

Damon Beres   |   January 7, 2016    9:28 AM ET

U.S. President Barack Obama made an impassioned call to limit gun violence in front of an audience of gun control activists and survivors of gun violence on Tuesday, making special mention of so-called “smart technology” for gun safety.

“We know we can't stop every act of violence, every act of evil in the world. But maybe we could try to stop one act of evil, one act of violence,” Obama said at the event in the White House’s East Room, adding that gun safety technologies may help curb gun violence.

A number of smart gun technologies have been developed for gun safety over the years. One, developed by the New Jersey Institute of Technology, is system called “Dynamic Grip Recognition,” which uses 32 sensors to measure the gun user’s unique grip.

Other smart technologies for gun safety being developed tend to focus on authenticating the user’s identity via a device, such as a ring, bracelet or watch.

This animation shows how the “Dynamic Grip Recognition” system works.

Jennifer Bendery   |   January 6, 2016    1:30 PM ET

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama's new executive actions aimed at curbing gun violence in America have been described as many things: life-saving, by gun control advocates; unconstitutional, by critics; dicey, by political observers, who wonder how the chips will fall in the 2016 elections.

One word not used is timely.

For years, advocates have encouraged Obama to take unilateral steps to tighten background checks for gun sales, making it harder for criminals to buy firearms at gun shows or on the Internet. And for years, the administration rebuffed that lobbying, leaving the impression that they either didn't believe they had the legal authority or found the politics too uncomfortable.

Now that the administration has issued guidance to federal agencies to pursue these actions and others, the question is, what took so long?

"You need to ask them. That's certainly the question that we've been asking," said Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. "It's why we've been putting pressure on the president and the administration to take the action they've now taken."

In many respects, Obama's slow-winding path toward the executive actions exemplifies his governing record as a whole: difficulty working with Capitol Hill, caution during election seasons, frustration over the limits of his persuasive powers and, ultimately, a willingness to buck his Republican detractors.

"You know, government is a slow process no matter where it's taking place, whether it's Congress or the White House," said Mark Kelly, who runs the gun safety group Americans for Responsible Solutions with his wife, former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.), who was shot in the head five years ago this week.

"You've got to get a lot of folks on board with this, to support changes like this. I think it's a process that included both [the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives] and the Justice Department and the Vice President's office and our participation and others. That does take some time," he said.

The actions Obama took this week -- strengthening background checks, allocating an additional $500 million for mental health care services, refocusing federal agencies' attention on "smart gun" technology -- stem from the Senate's defeat of the so-called Manchin-Toomey bill to expand background checks in the spring of 2013.

That April day, a visibly angry Obama stood in the Rose Garden with family members of the victims of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and vowed not to let the issue of gun control find its way into the dustbin. The administration followed up with a batch of gun-related executive actions that year, but couldn't persuade Congress to revisit the bill, even as high-profile mass shootings began to occur on a disturbingly regular basis.

The failed Senate vote sparked debate within the administration. A faction of aides wanted to move quickly on additional executive actions, wary that implementing them would take months if not years. 

"[T]here is no reasonable policy or legal rationale for why the administration did not take action two years ago to narrow the gun show loophole," a former White House official told The Huffington Post. "If the president had issued a proposed rule two years ago and made finalizing it a priority, he could easily be announcing today a final rule that would be more effective than guidance." 

But that didn't happen and for a variety of reasons. Chief among them was a concern about legality. The president's advisers viewed the law as vague enough to prevent him from trying to implement broad new gun policy unilaterally. The predominant impulse, instead, was to continue to push Congress to act so that any change, even a marginal one, would be more enduring. 

After the Sandy Hook shooting, "we went to them with the idea that anything sold at a gun show should be considered a sale with a background check because the gun show itself was a business interaction," said Jim Kessler, a former director of policy and research at Americans for Gun Safety and co-founder of the centrist-Democratic organization Third Way. "I think the feeling was, let's try and get something done by legislation and executive action would be the last resort."

There were major hurdles, though. The biggest was the National Rifle Association's financial grip on lawmakers, many of whom receive thousands of dollars from the lobbying group. Beyond that is the fact that advocates for gun reforms weren't agitating for another Senate vote, fearful that they could wind up losing more support than they gained. And moderate Senate Democrats, several of whom had just voted against Manchin-Toomey, were begging party leaders to take the issue off the docket, worried that it could ruin their chances in a difficult election cycle.

"The people up for election in 2014 uniformly told us not to continue to hammer that issue," said one senior Senate Democratic leadership aide.

Two of the Democratic senators who voted against Manchin-Toomey, Mark Begich of Alaska and Mark Pryor of Arkansas, ended up losing their seats anyway. A third, Max Baucus of Montana, gave up his seat before facing voters. A handful of Democrats who voted for the bill lost too, making the already remote chances of legislative action even more improbable. Gun control was, for the time being, firmly not on anyone's radar.

But then came the summer of 2015. A mass shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, left nine people dead. A shooting in Chattanooga, Tennessee, claimed five victims, and one in Roseburg, Oregon, claimed nine. Senate Democrats started prioritizing the issue again. Being in the minority, they couldn't force a vote, so they began pressuring fellow lawmakers. "We wanted to build up a campaign over the coming months and force something in 2016," one aide said.

Gun violence was firmly back in the news by the time Democrats held their first presidential debate in mid-October. Hillary Clinton surprised onlookers by attacking Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for his past votes against gun control and legal liability for firearm manufacturers. She went on to propose an executive action that Obama hadn't taken: clarifying what it means for a firearms seller to be "in the business" of selling guns. Clinton's move put the White House on the defensive, forcing officials to explain why Obama hadn't already done what she was proposing. Progressives seized on the divide. Lawmakers wrote to the president urging action.

And then, another shooting. This one, in early December in San Bernardino, California, left 14 dead and 22 wounded. It was the deadliest shooting since Newtown.

Under pressure, administration officials took a look at Clinton's proposal. They didn't mimic it, but they did act on it. Rather than limit the number of guns a person can sell before being classified as running a business, they refined the guidelines to require background checks for people trying to purchase firearms through a trust, corporation or other legal entity. They went a step further, too, by requiring those who ship firearms to notify law enforcement if their firearms are lost or stolen in transit.

"What I can say is that we have looked at this from a number of angles and proposed this guidance in a way that we think is consistent with existing law ... as well as consistent with the Second Amendment," said Attorney General Loretta Lynch. "We wanted to be as careful as we could about that."

Gun control advocates wonder whether all this could have been done sooner and if lives could have been saved in the process. But most don't fault Obama for waiting to act. Given the broad public support for tighter background checks on gun sales, some believed that with patience and a bit of courage in the face of the gun lobby, lawmakers would have eventually come around and passed a bill to close a loophole in the federal background checks law. 

"I think in the days and months and years following Newtown, a lot of people, including the president, hoped Congress would act," said Robyn Thomas, executive director of the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

"He was properly deferring to Congress to do their jobs," she said, but in the end, he "realized the Congress is simply unwilling or unable."

The Gun Show Loophole Boils Down To Common Sense vs. Nonsense

Rep. Alan Grayson   |   January 6, 2016    1:10 PM ET

I support the president's executive action to close the gun show loophole. And, frankly, I don't understand why Congressional Republicans are complaining about it. To me, their arguments seem like nonsense.

When you try to buy a gun in a gun shop, you go through a background check. If it turns out that you are prohibited from owning a gun -- for instance, a convicted felon -- then you don't get it.

But if you buy a gun at a "gun show" or online, even from a gun dealer, then there is no background check. Therefore, one can buy it even if one is a felon, a fugitive, a drug addict, undocumented, dishonorably discharged, committed to a mental institution, etc.

Excuse me, but why would we, the American people, want to establish a system of "universal" background checks for would-be gun owners, and then exclude gun dealers selling at gun shows (or online) from that universe? Why? What's the point? I just don't get it.

Here is an interesting poll from two weeks ago. Question: "Would you support or oppose a law requiring background checks on people buying guns at gun shows or online?"

Democrats: 95 percent support, 5 percent oppose.

Republicans: 87 percent support, 12 percent oppose.

The same poll, last summer, found that 92 percent of all gun owners support universal background checks at gun shows and online.

Jus' plain folks understand this. Why don't the Republicans in Congress?

So the president has taken executive action to extend the background check requirement to everyone who is in the business of selling guns, even if the transaction takes place at a gun show or over the internet. Here are the consequences:

Good: it will be much more difficult for felons, drug addicts and the criminally insane to buy weapons that can kill.

Bad: ???

Enough with the ideology, already. Seriously. If we're going to have laws, then they should be practical laws that actually work.

B-b-b-but what about the "slippery slope"?? Ah, yes, the slippery slope. Yes, I confess, preventing felons from buying guns sends us hurtling -- no, careening -- down that slippery slope, toward...

Personal safety.


Rep. Alan Grayson

Illinois' Members of Congress React to Obama's Executive Actions on Firearms

  |   January 6, 2016   11:49 AM ET

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If Guns Are So Good, Invite 'Em to GOP Rallies

Clay Farris Naff   |   January 5, 2016    7:31 PM ET

Dear Donald, Ted, Marco, Jeb, and the whole GOP field,

Are you serious? Are you seriously contending that background checks for everyone who buys a gun are bad policy and a threat to the Constitution? The same Constitution whose Second Amendment starts, "A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State..." but nowhere states "Anyone who resents the government has the right to take up arms against it"?

(Credit: Mitch Barrie)
If you've really swallowed the NRA Kool-Aid, then prove it. Ask your supporters to bring their guns to your rallies. All of 'em. I'm confident that most will be responsible gun owners. Maybe over half bought their guns through a dealer who conducted a proper background check.

Hell, I'll even bet you'll beat the national sanity average: Perhaps as many as 75 percent of those who show up will be free of mental illness. And of course, being mentally ill and having a gun doesn't mean a person will necessarily use it. Let's be optimistic: perhaps only 2 percent of those bearing arms at your rallies would be a clear and present danger. Let me be clear: I don't want you, or anyone else, to be gunned down. Still, if you're going to champion untrammeled access to guns, you have to welcome them at your rallies.

Besides, there will be plenty of loyal followers there to avenge you if some lunatic or fanatic takes you out. It's the price of freedom, right? We've all seen how Ted can wangle a machine gun, but he's an experienced debater -- I'm sure he won't lose his cool. So, let's go, men (and Carly). Tell the faithful: "Grab your gun, and c'mon down!"

Promote this hashtag: #BringYourGuns

Or be honest, admit you're capitalizing on the anti-Obama hysteria of the right, and let's get serious about background checks for gun sales. The life you save could be your own.

Igor Bobic   |   January 5, 2016    1:19 PM ET

President Barack Obama issued another impassioned plea on Tuesday for Congress to take action to curb gun violence, shedding tears as he recalled the 2012 Newtown school massacre.

"Every time I think about those kids, it gets me mad," the president said as he unveiled his executive actions on gun control.

It was an emotional moment. At other times during his presidency, Obama has teared up about the 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School who died at the hands of a gunman. The nation averaged more than one mass shooting a day in 2015, according to some counts.

After the president's speech, however, prominent conservatives mocked Obama for displaying his emotions about the tragedy and suggested they weren't authentic.

Fox News Radio's Todd Starnes alluded to the fact that Obama wiped his tears away using his middle finger.

Others accused the president of faking his emotions for the cameras.

On Fox News' "Outnumbered," host Andrea Tantaros suggested checking the president's lectern for raw onion.

“It’s not really believable. And the award goes to… we are in awards season," Tantaros said.

Co-host Meghan McCain -- daughter of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), whom Obama cited in his speech as supporting expanded background checks for gun purchases -- echoed that sentiment.

“It just didn’t seem horribly authentic. And maybe it is; I don’t know him at all,” McCain said. “Go to your hometown of Chicago instead of talking about God-fearing Americans when ISIS is coming to their hometown."

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