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Stop Saying AR-15s Aren't Assault Rifles

Kelly A Scaletta   |   June 16, 2016    7:34 PM ET

In the wake of the Orlando shootings, the AR-15 and weapons like it are in the spotlight because, once again, a semi-automatic rifle was used in the shooting.

This time, it was technically a Sig Sauer MCX, but it's in the same classification of gun. It's a category of weapon called "military" or "assault rifles." And while some people would like to blame that nomenclature on the "ignorance" of liberals, it's how they are actually marketed.



But there is also a technical distinction between an assault weapon and the "semi-automatic rifles" which the gun advocates want you to know about.

I will quote the Blaze here, so as to not be called "gun grabber" or be accused of any bias in my definition:

For the purpose of this article, we'll focus on AR-15s since it is what CBS calls "the most popular rifle in America" and one often designated an "assault" rifle. An AR-15 is the civilian equivalent to the military's M-16. So what's the difference?

Kelly Alwood, a firearms trainer and consultant, told TheBlaze the only difference is that one is fully automatic and the other is semi-automatic. It's a small yet simultaneously big distinction. Firearms for use by the military are able to shoot continuously with one pull of the trigger, machine-gun style. Civilian firearms, on the other hand, only allow one shot per trigger pull.

So one is semi-automatic, and the other is fully automatic. Got it.

See, with a semi-automatic weapon, you have to pull the trigger each time you want to fire a round. You can't just hold the trigger down and have a steady stream of bullets come out like you can with a fully automatic.

Doesn't that sound a lot less deadly?

This, to the gun-rights advocate, is the quintessential distinction between them. But that's a distinction without a difference.

Then there's what's called a "bump stock."

You can buy one right here for just $135.95.

So what is a bump stock, you ask?

I'll let this guy tell you because he seems like he knows what he's talking about. After all, he's selling them, right?

At about the 20-second mark, what did he say?

"This stock will let you use your semi-automatic rifle to bump-fire--or mimic automatic firing--without breaking any laws."

"Mimic automatic firing... without breaking any laws."

Those are his words, not mine. And while he goes on to adhere to the semantic distinction, he's doing it emphasizing that in practicality, there is not one.

Alright, so what does that mean.

At 38 seconds:

"Bump firing is the use of a recoil of a semi-automatic firearm to simulate the effect of firing fully auto."

So basically, it lets you do the same thing as a fully automatic weapon; it just lets you do it in a slightly different way. Each time the gun recoils, it bounces back, which causes it to automatically pull the trigger again, which causes another recoil and so on.

With both an automatic weapon and a bump stock, you're holding your finger still while the gun automatically fires, but on a technicality, the trigger is being pulled each time with a semi-automatic.

Using the word "automatic" as an adjective, you can describe a semi-automatic with a bump stock as an automatic weapon, even you can't call it one by its technical definition.

Perhaps a visual will help. Here's a guy bump-firing 100 rounds in a matter of seconds:

Visually, does that seem any different than an automatic gun to you? Would you feel terrified if you were pinned in with a crowd as someone fired into it with a gun like that? Or would you feel safe and secure in knowing that it's not really an assault rifle?

But there's a problem with the guy in the last video. He's using what's called a double drum, and they suck. They tend to jam up, and that's the last thing you want to happen if you're trying to murder 100 people in a matter of minutes. Just ask James Holmes.

So what's a would-be psychopath to do?

Well he could go buy himself the top-rated AR-15/M16 50RD 223/5.56X15 DRUM Magazine which sells for $215.00 and describes itself as:

Rugged, reliable 50-round drum magazine designed for .308/7.62x51mm & .223/5.56x45mm, full metal jacket ammunition provides plenty of capacity and reduces reloading time. Rated for full-auto fire, the low-profile drum is still compact enough for shooting from the prone position. Integral hand wheel makes it easy to crank back the spring for quick loading/unloading. X-15 magazine fits AR-15/M16 style rifles, and functions with .223/5.56x45mm & 300 Blackout ammunition. The X-15 is also shorter than a standard 30rd magazine.

It's designed to reload quickly, and it's rated for full auto fire--their words, not mine.

Becuase in case the first 50 rounds that went into the deer didn't do the job, you need to be able to dump another 50 into him fast, or Bambi might get away.

Look, let's stop with this nonsensical distinction without a difference between automatic and semiautomatic. With a bump stock, it's effectively the same thing. The "gun rights" people know it because they're the ones buying it; the gun manufacturers know it because they're the ones selling it.

And the killers know it because they're using them to shoot over 100 people in a matter of minutes.

Do you think those victims feel any less "assaulted" because they weren't "technically" shot by an assault weapon?

What they're hoping for is that the rest of us won't know, and we'll just buy into the "one pull per bullet" nonsensical rhetoric and let it go.

I don't think the founders had the Orlando shooting in mind when they wrote the Second Amendment.

But we should in considering our gun legislation and start recognizing the difference between a weapon to defend yourself and your family and one designed for assaulting others.

3 Reasons Why Guns Are A Health Problem -- And 3 Things We Can Do About It

Sanjeev K. Sriram   |   June 16, 2016    5:00 PM ET

Cigarettes and smoking may seem like obvious threats to health now, but in the 1950s, many Americans did not believe smoking was a health problem. The tobacco industry fought scientists and public health experts who dared to say otherwise, and that conflict led to the Surgeon General's 1964 report which identified smoking as a cause of lung cancer. Evidence about the other dangerous consequences of cigarettes has grown for decades, and Americans now accept smoking as a danger to health despite all the tactics used by Big Tobacco to convince them otherwise. We are experiencing a similar denial process (nurtured by industry, ideological misinformation, and bad politics), when it comes to recognizing gun violence as a public health crisis.

Thousands of medical and public health experts are urging our fellow Americans and political leaders to broaden their approaches to stopping gun violence. What qualifies doctors and public health workers to talk about gun violence is that we witness and treat the short-term and long-term consequences suffered by Americans because of firearms. It is our duty to have tough conversations to prevent further injury and death. With that in mind, here are just a few of the many reasons why guns are a health problem:

1. Guns and Mental Health are a Dangerous Combo, Just Not the Way You Think
Mass shootings lead to media narratives and political rhetoric about stopping "crazy evil monsters" from accessing guns, which increases stigma and makes inaccessible treatment even less utilized. Furthermore, we completely miss the real danger guns pose to mental illness: the increased risk of suicide. In America, over 60 percent of gun deaths are due to suicide, and over half of all suicides are done with a firearm, meaning we need to not only strengthen mental health systems, but we must also limit access to guns if we are going to save lives. It is untrue, cruel, and cynical to say people who want to kill themselves are going to do it regardless of whether they can access a gun or not. For people who have attempted suicide and survived, 90 percent do not go on to kill themselves later. I have cared for a few patients who either attempted or survived suicide. Their struggle and their mental health providers need more than just resources and funding -- they need their fellow Americans to get real about guns.

2. Guns are a Threat to Women's Health
In America, 1 in 3 women have suffered physical violence from their intimate partners. Based on data from the FBI, domestic abusers shoot and kill 52 women every month. Domestic violence is thus a major health problem in our country, with mental and physical health consequences that last long after law enforcement has done its part. While some think arming a woman with a gun is an appropriate "prescription," there is evidence that the presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide by 500 percent -- for the abused, not the abuser. Women struggling with domestic violence need their fellow Americans to prevent guns from undermining safety and recovery. Let's close the "boyfriend loophole" in the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, which prohibits gun ownership for certain kinds of domestic abusers, but not dating partners and stalkers.

3. Unintentional Shootings Are Not Accidents
At least 100 children were killed in unintentional shootings during just one year after the December 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school massacre. 84 percent of these preventable shootings happened in a home or vehicle owned by the victim's family, relatives, or friends. If gun owners had stored their weapons unloaded and locked over two thirds of these children's deaths could have been prevented. Just like one does not need to be a chemist to advise parents on safe storage of cleaning supplies, a health care provider does not need to be a ballistics expert to guide families on safe storage of firearms.

Limiting gun violence to a law enforcement issue is clearly not enough for the millions of patients and families seen across the country by physicians like myself. Some of the health problems described above include some steps we can take to reduce the impact of firearms on individual, family, and community health. There is no single law or technology that will stop all gun violence. A diversified public health approach should include the following:

1. End the Ban on CDC Research of Gun Violence
For the past 20 years, Congress has not appropriated funds for the CDC to research gun violence despite over 30,000 dying each year from firearms. Over 140 medical groups, including the American Medical Association, Doctors for America, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychiatric Association, and many others are demanding Congress to support CDC and NIH endeavors to ask tough questions, do credible analyses, and share truthful approaches to reducing gun violence. The knowledge acquired can strengthen how we think about guns in our society, and how we protect each other from preventable tragedies.

2. Let Doctors Talk About Guns
As described earlier, the presence of guns is particularly dangerous for naturally curious children, people suffering from mental illness, and for families struggling with domestic abuse. In asking all of our families whether they have a gun in their homes, health care providers are starting conversations about safety that can save lives. "Gag laws" undermine public health when they punish doctors for opening this dialogue with patients about guns. We need our fellow Americans to repeal "gag laws" in Florida and stop other states from passing them.

3. ASK Your Friends About Guns
Conversations about guns need to happen in non-clinical places as well. The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and the American Academy of Pediatrics have been partners in the yearly June 21 ASK Day Campaign, an initiative to encourage parents to ask relatives and friends whether they own a gun and how it is stored before allowing children to play or visit. One third of homes with children have guns, many improperly stored, and the majority of children know where their families guns are hidden. With these facts in mind, asking friends and family about the presence and storage of guns is one of the most things parents can do to protect their children from unintentional shootings.

We can no longer deny that gun violence threatens our public health. Medical and public health personnel need our fellow Americans to be part of the changes in policy and culture that will prevent injuries and save lives. The wide range of problems caused and worsened by gun violence require a similarly wide range of solutions. One size will not fit all, and building a safer, healthier union free from gun violence will require individuals, families, policymakers, and private sector institutions to do their respective parts. The time to join this journey is now.

Inaction Cannot Be An Option

Marian Wright Edelman   |   June 16, 2016    4:52 PM ET

"This massacre is therefore a further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon that lets them shoot people in a school, or in a house of worship, or a movie theater, or in a nightclub. And we have to decide if that’s the kind of country we want to be. And to actively do nothing is a decision as well."
– President Barack Obama, June 12, 2016

"We have to face the fact that meaningful gun control has to be a part of homeland security . . . We need to do something to minimize the opportunity for terrorists to get a gun in this country."
– U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, June 14, 2016

"I am proud to announce that after 14+ hours on the floor, we will have a vote on closing the terror gap & universal background checks."
– Tweet by Connecticut Senator Christopher Murphy, June 16, 2016

Inaction is not an option. In the wake of the worst mass shooting in American history we can and must do everything in our power to end this scourge of terror, hate and bullets that fly across our land killing and maiming and breaking hearts and traumatizing communities with ever increasing frequency. How can inaction continue to be an option in the face of senselessness and intolerance fueled by guns? We must act to save our country’s soul and the lives of our people — all of our people.

The June 12 attack at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando was both our nation’s worst act of terrorism since 9/11 and a hate crime. In that it was all too common: lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are too likely targets of hate crimes in America. A large number of victims were gay people of color who were celebrating Latin Night in what many said they trusted and believed was a desperately needed “safe space.” But as we have seen over and over again, America is running out of safe spaces. Not Pulse. Not Bible study at Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church. Not an office holiday party in San Bernardino. Not a movie theater in Aurora. Not a dorm or university hall at Virginia Tech. And not a first grade classroom in Newtown, Connecticut, in a country where hate, bigotry, terrorism, and mental illness collide with unfettered access to these weapons of war that leave us with no hiding spaces unless we do something now.

Connecticut Senator Christopher Murphy couldn’t face the families of the children of Sandy Hook unless he did something. The Senate filibuster he led in the aftermath of the Orlando slaughter lasted for more than 14 hours before there was bipartisan agreement to allow a vote on two common sense amendments that would make all of us and our nation safer. Creating a “No Buy List” so that the more than 800,000 people on our terror watch lists cannot legally buy guns in America should be an easy decision for all of us. Closing the loopholes in existing background checks to reach sales at gun shows and through the internet to keep more criminals, would-be terrorists, and others from buying guns should be another easy decision. The evidence is clear that expanded background checks work. A recent study found that a Connecticut law that expanded background checks on all handgun purchases helped achieve a 40 percent reduction in gun homicides during the first 10 years following the law’s enactment. These are measures the majority of Americans strongly support — and it’s long past time that Congress followed the will of the people instead of the will of the National Rifle Association and gun manufacturers whose profits are soaked in the blood of our people.

The majority of Americans also support reinstating the ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines that have been used time and time again -- to kill the innocent children at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the innocent people in the Aurora movie theater, the innocents in San Bernardino, and now Orlando. Why should it be perfectly legal to buy an AR-15 in a Five Guys parking lot in Vermont the day after the massacre at Pulse with no background check and no paperwork at all? Weapons designed for war are now as easy to buy as a loaf of bread. Since 1963 more than 176,000 children have died from gun violence in America — over three times more than all the soldiers killed in action in the Vietnam War and every external conflict since. Our children have a right to grow up in a caring and decent society that protects their right to live and learn in safety. That right must take precedence over anyone’s right to own assault weapons or high capacity magazines that have nothing to do with self-defense or hunting and have no place in the hands of non-military and non-law enforcement personnel. Without these weapons of war how many would be alive today? How many Newtown or Aurora or Orlando victims would have survived?

Senator Murphy said while paying tribute to Sandy Hook victims teacher Anne Marie Murphy and 6-year-old Dylan Hockley before ending his filibuster at 2:11 a.m. this morning: “It doesn’t take courage to stand here on the floor of the United States Senate for two hours or six hours or 14 hours. It takes courage to look into the eye of a shooter and instead of running, wrapping your arms around a six-year-old boy and accepting death as a trade for just a tiny little-itty piece of increased peace of mind for a little boy under your charge.” Senator Murphy then asked his colleagues a question we should all ask our elected officials in the upcoming days: “If Anne Marie Murphy could do that, then ask yourself: What can you do to make sure that Orlando or Sandy Hook never happens again?”

Unless we want to give up and agree that the only way to survive our nation’s gun violence crisis, which goes on and on and on in this land of ours, is for every adult, teenager, and child in America to own a gun, we need to provide common sense safety solutions like a “No Buy List,” universal background checks, and a ban on assault weapons and high capacity ammunition magazines — now. Our children are afraid for their friends, their families, and themselves. And this needs to change. We all need to stand up until we are heard and laws are changed. Contact your Senators right now to urge them to support these common sense safety solutions all of us so desperately need. Please act now.

Inaction cannot not be an option in a decent, caring nation that purports to value human life.

Guns, Terrorists, And The Constitution

Chris Weigant   |   June 15, 2016    8:23 PM ET

As I write this, there is a filibuster currently going on in the Senate. Senator Chris Murphy and other Democrats launched this filibuster to draw attention to the fact that suspected terrorists in America can still legally buy guns. Murphy represents Connecticut, where the Newtown massacre happened, and thus he feels very strongly about the issue of gun control.

Republicans, at least as of this writing, seem more willing to compromise on the issue than they've ever been before. Bills with a similar objective have been rejected by a (mostly) party-line vote in the very recent past, in fact. But the outrage over what happened in Orlando is tangible, and the GOP seems to actually realize it this time. Even Donald Trump says he's about to meet with the National Rifle Association in an effort to convince them to support banning suspected terrorists from legally buying guns. This is a significant shift from the party that has been refusing to do just that for the past few years.

But I have to say, while all this seems laudable at first glance, the underlying (and bipartisan) disdain for the United States Constitution is extremely worrisome. Just to be clear, I'm not talking about the Second Amendment here, but rather the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. Here are the relevant clauses: "No person shall... be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law...." (Fifth Amendment); and "...nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law...." (Fourteenth Amendment).

It's always a little tricky to oppose such popular legislation, and that is even more true when the idea comes from your side of the political spectrum. But I have to say I am with the American Civil Liberties Union on this one. From an article written just this past December, the A.C.L.U.'s director of their National Security Project wrote:

Last night, in response to last week's tragic attack in San Bernardino, California, President Obama urged Congress to ensure that people on the No Fly List be prohibited from purchasing guns. Last week, Republicans in Congress defeated a proposal that would have done just that. "I think it's very important to remember people have due process rights in this country, and we can't have some government official just arbitrarily put them on a list," House Speaker Paul Ryan said.

There is no constitutional bar to reasonable regulation of guns, and the No Fly List could serve as one tool for it, but only with major reform.

I'd go one step further, personally. If we're going to have a No-Fly List and a Terrorist Watch List to provide security for American citizens, then we need to codify such programs by passing a constitutional amendment which clearly spells out the limits and scope of such programs. To me, there is simply no other constitutional way to achieve this goal.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not arguing that such pre-emptive security measures are inherently a bad thing. And I'm certainly not arguing that suspected terrorists should be able to easily acquire high-powered weapons. I'm not "pro-terrorist" in any way, shape, or form. Just to be clear.

But I am arguing that what we've got now is blatantly unconstitutional. And it appears nobody else is even willing to make such an argument, at the moment. Republican Senator Pat Toomey, who is trying to forge a compromise between the two parties on the issue, stated his concerns today:

What we need is a process that would block terrorists from being able to purchase a firearm and at the same time, make sure there's a mechanism whereby someone who gets wrongly put on a list has a chance to clear their name and you know, get their Second Amendment right.

He falls short of questioning the constitutionality of such lists in the first place, but rightly points out that the due process to get taken off the lists is currently woefully inadequate. Even the National Rifle Association seems to now be singing the same tune:

The N.R.A.'s position on this issue has not changed. The N.R.A. believes that terrorists should not be allowed to purchase or possess firearms, period. Anyone on a terror watchlist who tries to buy a gun should be thoroughly investigated by the F.B.I. and the sale delayed while the investigation is ongoing.... At the same time, due process protections should be put in place that allow law-abiding Americans who are wrongly put on a watchlist to be removed.

Both of these statements fail to make the truly constitutional argument about the concept of the lists themselves. Which is a shame, because it's almost impossible to argue for their constitutionality.

There are many of these blacklists that the government now keeps. The two most often referenced in the debate are the No-Fly List and the Terrorist Watch List. Both are incredibly secretive in nature, making even knowing how many people are on the lists almost impossible to determine. The most recent numbers I could find showed that there were 47,000 people on the No-Fly List as of 2013, and 800,000 people on the Terrorist Watch List as of 2014. But it's really anyone's guess how extensive either list is, due to the secrecy surrounding who is on these lists.

The criteria for inclusion on the lists is also secret. Few people have any idea they're on the list until they attempt to fly on a plane, for the most part. Mistakes abound. Just on the smaller No-Fly List, the number of prominent people who have been mistakenly listed is a long one, and includes members of the U.S. Congress itself (the most famous being Edward Kennedy, who was apparently matched up with the vague "T. Kennedy" even though his legal name was not Ted or Teddy). And that's only the shorter of the two blacklists.

The A.C.L.U. is challenging the No-Fly List in court. From the same article:

Separately, the government made two basic arguments in its defense of the No Fly List, both of which the court rejected. First, it argued that U.S. persons had no constitutionally protected right to fly. In August 2013, the court disagreed, holding that constitutional rights are at stake when the government stigmatizes Americans as suspected terrorists and bans them from international travel.

Second, the government asserted that national security concerns meant the government couldn't confirm or deny whether people were on the No Fly List, and it couldn't give them reasons or a hearing before a neutral decision-maker. This is absurd as a practical matter and violates due process as a constitutional matter. Practically speaking, people know they are on the No Fly List when they are banned from flying and surrounded -- and stigmatized -- by security officials publicly at airports. Some of our clients were told they would be taken off the list if they agreed to become government informants. Again, the court agreed with us and held that the government's refusal to provide any notice or a hearing violates the Constitution. As a result, the government announced in April that it would tell U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents whether they are on the No Fly List, and possibly offer reasons.

Unfortunately, the government's new redress process still falls far short of constitutional requirements. In our case, it refuses to provide meaningful notice of the reasons our clients are blacklisted, the basis for those reasons, and a hearing before a neutral decision-maker. Much as before, our clients are left to guess at the government's case and can't clear their names. That's unconstitutional.

Now, the Founding Fathers didn't explicitly list the right to fly anywhere in the Constitution. Airplanes wouldn't exist for over a century, when the document was written. But the right to freely travel on public conveyances is definitely covered by the word "liberty" in the due process clause. Banning a citizen from flying is restricting their liberty. Period. And that is only supposed to happen after due process of law has been followed.

The No-Fly List and the Terrorist Watch List turn the legal concept of "innocent until proven guilty" on its head. The government -- without any legal due process whatsoever -- puts people on the lists merely because it suspects them of wrongdoing or evil intent, and then it is up to them to try convincing the government to remove their names. That is constitutionally topsy-turvy, which is why it's disappointing that even conservative Republicans and the N.R.A. refuse to make this case (where are all the Libertarians when you need one?).

Blacklisting people from flying is one thing, but blacklisting people from buying a gun is another, because of the Second Amendment. The courts have declared that individuals have the constitutional right to own and purchase guns. So taking that right away becomes even more problematic, legally speaking. There are several classes of people who are banned from owning or purchasing guns already, but each has some form of legal process that has to happen before such a ban takes place. Violent felons are restricted from owning guns, but they are already felons -- in other words, they were previously convicted of a felony in a court of law. The gun ban is part of their punishment. People with mental problems usually have some sort of competency hearing in court, or at least their lawyers can press for one if they are involuntarily deemed a risk by a doctor. Dangerous threats (such as stalkers or domestic abusers) are dealt with by restraining orders -- issued by a judge.

But no one included on the blacklists has had any such legal proceeding. The government makes a determination that you are too dangerous to fly, and bingo, you're on the list. You are not even informed of this decision by the government, and they certainly don't have to present evidence for why you should be blacklisted to any judge (much less give you the opportunity to rebut their evidence). Until the government was challenged in court (and embarrassed by Teddy Kennedy in public), there wasn't even a process for being able to prove you were mistakenly included at all. And currently, this process is completely inadequate (which is why the A.C.L.U. is still fighting it in court).

The entire concept of governmental blacklists is completely unconstitutional. But, as people back to Abraham Lincoln have pointed out, the Constitution is not a suicide pact. This feeling is often invoked in a time of war, when the government sees fit to curtail certain rights. But we are currently in what can only be called a generations-long conflict. The other side does not wear uniforms or follow the Geneva Conventions. Therefore the government might need to take measures in the name of national security. Rational people would all agree, most likely.

Such measures have already curtailed the freedom of movement for some citizens, who are not allowed to board a commercial airline. What is now being discussed (with a filibuster to draw the nation's attention) goes even further and would deny citizens one of the rights explicitly spelled out in the Bill of Rights itself. This all might be a necessary and commonsense reaction to the very real threat of terrorists having access to military-style weapons.

Fortunately for us all, there is a remedy to reconcile the passion some are now feeling on the issue with our founding document. It's spelled out in the Constitution itself, in fact. What is absolutely necessary for the continuation of such blacklists as the No-Fly List and the Terrorist Watch List -- and for any expansion of them to ban gun sales -- is that a constitutional amendment be drafted to grant the government what would otherwise be an unconstitutional power. The usual argument against a constitutional amendment probably wouldn't apply, because due to public outrage it would probably be pretty easy to get both Congress and the state legislatures to quickly ratify such an amendment. Due process would be included to get folks like the N.R.A. (and the A.C.L.U.) on board. It would achieve the Democratic goal of stopping terrorists from easy access to weapons. Constitutional amendments are -- by design -- hard to pass, and we haven't seen one succeed in two decades. But "it's too hard" or "we just don't do that anymore" are not valid excuses for attempting to pass some legislative shortcut that will eventually (almost inevitably) be declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

If America does have a consensus that we're all basically OK with the concept of governmental blacklists, and that we further approve of curtailing constitutional rights for people on such lists, then it should be relatively easy to get the necessary votes in Congress and the statehouses. And then, once enshrined in the Constitution itself, there would be no further questions of the legality of such blacklists. If it's in the text of the Constitution (as an amendment) then it is, by definition, constitutional.


Chris Weigant blogs at:

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


On Gun Violence -- Let's Come Together And Stop the Heartbreak

Sen. Barbara Boxer   |   June 15, 2016    7:19 PM ET

Columbine. Virginia Tech. Fort Hood. Tucson. Aurora. Newtown. Navy Yard. Isla Vista. Charleston. Umpqua. Colorado Springs. San Bernardino.

And now Orlando is etched into the list of places in America that have been forever scarred by gun violence.

In the aftermath of each of these deadly mass shootings, we express our horror, our prayers for the victims and survivors, our condolences, our thanks to the courageous first responders -- and of course, we must and we should. But words are not enough.

After the horrific tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School four years ago, I was convinced that Congress would finally take action to address that epidemic of gun violence that kills more than 30,000 Americans every year. But only four Republicans were willing to join with 51 Democrats and independents, and so commonsense gun safety legislation was once more derailed.

That's why I am so proud that Senator Chris Murphy - joined by his Connecticut colleague, Senator Richard Blumenthal - took to the Senate floor with a simple message: Enough is enough. The Senate must address this issue with a vote.

We may not be able to prevent every tragedy, but there is so much we can do to save lives and protect our communities. And we can do it while still protecting the Second Amendment. We should start by taking these six commonsense steps right now:

• We can pass legislation to prevent a suspected terrorist from buying firearms or explosives.

• We can pass legislation to keep military-style weapons off our streets. These are weapons of war, and they do not belong in our communities.

• We can expand background checks - an idea supported by almost 90 percent of the American people and a majority of NRA members - which will help keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill.

• We can pass the Gun Violence Intervention Act, which would allow families to go to court to seek a "gun violence prevention order" to temporarily stop someone who poses a threat to themselves or others from purchasing or possessing a gun.

• We can increase funding for the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI), an important grant program that helps communities plan how best to prevent and respond to acts of terrorism.

• We can protect our children by investing in the Comprehensive School Safety Initiative, which helps schools develop school safety plans and provide critical safety training to school personnel.

We need a layered defense to protect our communities from criminals and terrorists who want to inflict mass casualties, and that is what these proposals would provide.

We know that tough gun safety laws work. We have seen it in other countries, like Australia. And we have seen it in my state of California which - after passing sensible laws - saw a 56 percent drop in gun violence between 1993 and 2010, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

People deserve to feel safe in their communities. They deserve to feel safe at work, at school, at a shopping mall, at a movie theater, at a health clinic, at a night club.

As elected officials, we take an oath to protect and defend the American people. Right now, we are failing at our most basic task - keeping our children and our families safe from harm.

It isn't enough for us to keep lamenting these tragedies. The people of Orlando, San Bernardino, Isla Vista, Newtown and so many other communities want more than words. They want action. And they want it now.

How Does America Break Its Obsession With Hatred And Guns?

Orson Aguilar   |   June 15, 2016    5:24 PM ET

The country we live in today is divided by wealth, race, religion, party, and political ideology. Few countries are as big and as diverse as the U.S., yet we live in a nation that is also full of hate and harmful rhetoric, where corporations, special interest groups, religious institutions, and political sects create an us vs. them attitude in order to maximize their profits and influence.

Although America does not necessarily own hate and division (those things have many shareholders around the world), we do own way too many guns. Combine hate and guns with mentally disturbed individuals and you get mass shootings.

There is a lot of speculation as to why Omar Mateen decided to kill 49 people at a popular LGBT nightclub in Orlando Florida. Was it ISIS inspired? Was it homophobia? Was he anti-Latino? Was he gay and in the closet, believing it when told by family or religious leaders that he should hate himself for who he was? We may never know.

I'd like to pose another question: Does it really matter? Even if he left a detailed diary with his motivation, would it make a difference?

Today's political rhetoric that pits one group against the other, coupled with easy access to guns, means that another Newton, San Bernardino, Charleston, or Pulse is around the corner.

Are we simply waiting for the next one because we accept that our nation's leaders will fail to take meaningful action?

Our obsession with guns in the U.S. has gone hand in hand with violent hatred for a long time. Unless we address hatred and guns, simply pray that you're not in the path of the next disturbed individual who just purchased a gun.

President Obama captured the feelings of many of us when he said, in reaction to the Orlando massacre, "our thoughts and prayers are not enough." But so far, thoughts and prayers are all we've gotten from most of our political leaders.

At times like this, we should remember the famous words of Muhammad Ali when he said, "Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it."

We have the power to change it. Will we?

Time to Act was Yesterday

Rep. Charles Rangel   |   June 15, 2016    4:56 PM ET

I applaud the current efforts of Senate Democrats led by Senator Chris Murphy (CT) in their filibuster to make Republicans act on gun violence. The threat of terrorism, whether it is associated with global organizations or lone wolf attacks, should compel my colleagues in Congress to do more to keep America safe. Protecting the American people from violence is not a partisan issue. It is a national security issue. It is a public health issue. Yet for some reason, Congress continuously fails to respond to one of the largest crises our nation has ever seen: the epidemic of gun violence. This failure is amplified by the clearly targeted attack on members of the LGBT community in Orlando. Thoughts, prayers and moments of silence, while always offered and appreciated after times of tragedy, are not enough to create the preventive measure we need.

As we endure this painfully familiar feeling of mourning, we must move forward with progress in honor of the victims, their families, and those injured who are still fighting for their lives. The horrific shooting at the Pulse Night club only adds to the sad reality that an average of thirty Americans have died each day this year from gun-related incidents. When will we say enough is enough? Gun violence has become the unacceptable norm, which in reality is an epidemic that demands an emergent response.

We can avert this national crisis. The Orlando shooter had previously been on a terrorist watch list but was still able to legally purchase a weapon. This shows the glaring flaws in our current gun laws. According to the Government Accountability Office, more than 2,000 suspects on the FBI's Terrorist Watch List have been able to purchase guns since 2004. In an effort to close this loophole, I joined Rep. Peter King (R-NY) as the leading Democratic sponsor of H.R. 1076 - the Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act. This bipartisan bill promotes a simple principle: If you are too dangerous to fly, then you are too dangerous to buy a gun. This week, House Democrats and I have been calling for a bill that would preclude those on the "no fly list" from purchasing guns. While this legislation is supported by over 80 percent of Americans, Republicans failed to bring it to the House floor for a vote. Sadly, this marks the twelfth time they have blocked our efforts to protect America from potential terrorism. We must make it harder for those who want to harm Americans to get their hands on dangerous weapons.

While Republicans and Democrats may not agree on everything, one thing we must cooperate on is enforcing the gun laws we already have. Right now, the Justice Department's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is responsible for ensuring that our existing gun laws are followed. However, in recent years the Republican-controlled Congress has passed numerous policy riders in appropriation bills that prevent the ATF from doing its job. If the proper resources were provided, the ATF and law enforcement officers could be more effective and better equipped to protect our nation. To address this problem, I authored H.R. 2939, the Enforce Existing Gun Laws Act, which I first introduced in 2013. This bill seeks to repeal several provisions that have limited the ATF's ability to investigate gun trafficking and to stop the flow of guns to criminals, terrorists, and those with mental illnesses. Last year I have also introduced a resolution to designate the month of June as "National Gun Violence Awareness Month" to promote nationwide efforts to prevent further shootings.

The American public is outraged by Congressional inaction, and rightfully so. Failure to act on curtailing gun violence has become routine in Congress. There are nearly seventy bills that have been introduced to reform our nation's current ineffective gun laws. While these bills may not stop all violence, this does not mean we should sit idly and fail to curb any violence. Congress has a chance to save at least one more precious life from being shot to death.

In the past, our nation has expediently responded to public health crises. In the last hundred years we have seen the eradication of deadly diseases. We have seen the addition of airbags and seatbelts to motor vehicles, greatly reducing the number of highway fatalities. We were able to work together after September 11, 2001, and increase airport security and change aviation regulations to protect all Americans from threats of terrorism. We must act now to end this epidemic and create a safer America.


I Want a New Normal

Bridget Anshus   |   June 15, 2016    4:30 PM ET

I am in desperate need of a new normal. It has only been four years since I first became acutely aware of the our nation's gun issues.

First, it was the shooting in Colorado, twelve innocent individuals dead at a movie screening. Then it hit closer to home in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, leaving six dead not including the perpetrator. And then it was Sandy Hook, the tragedy where I realized my stance on this issue.

It was in the middle of the afternoon when I was a sophomore in high school. Over the loudspeaker, they announced that there was a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. My stomach sank hearing about the 27 victims, many of which were children.

Ever since Sandy Hook, I found myself becoming desensitized to gun violence. I am no longer surprised that a toddler, middle schooler, high schooler, or grown adult somehow got their hands on a gun. Every day, I read about at least one story that has to do with someone killing someone else and I am so sick and tired of it.

The feeling in my stomach sank again when I heard about the Orlando shooting Saturday morning. Reading about the deaths of 49 people and 53 injured made me angry and fearful of the future of our country.

Gun violence is a serious problem and it's time for us to talk about it for what it is. This conversation isn't nor should be about taking guns away. That is not what I want. To me, gun control means putting on the responsible and proper restrictions on gun certain models, limiting their accessibility, and doing thorough background checks on those purchasing the guns. Most importantly, it's about the safety of our nation's people.

Protecting the people of our nation shouldn't be a political issue. As humans, we all deserve to feel safe wherever we occupy space. We shouldn't feel frightened to go to a movie theater, to school, to work, to a night club. I should not have to research or read an article about how to survive a mass shooting. Fear is not what our nation was built upon.

Gun violence has claimed far too many victims and I'm scared I might be next. I don't want to hear about another shooting. I don't want to be a victim of a shooting. I refuse to believe that our nation, our government, our people, can't do better than this. I refuse to stand still and let these violent acts continue. I want a new normal.

I Will Not Pray For Orlando

Jonathan Williams   |   June 15, 2016    4:19 PM ET

There is a joke.

A man stands on his rooftop as floodwaters surround him. He prays, "God help me!" Soon after his prayer a boat comes by but the man refuses to get in. "God will help me!" He says. A helicopter comes by and someone throws down a rope. The man refuses to grab the rope. "God will help me!" He says.

The man eventually succumbs to the floodwaters. He perishes and is taken to heaven. Once in heaven, the man confronts God. "I prayed for help during the flood waters! Why didn't you come to my rescue!" God replies, "I sent a boat and I sent a helicopter, you idiot!"

After yet another tragedy I'm angry, confused, and hurt.

I see the posts. "Pray for Orlando." It's the same sentiment we posted for Paris, San Bernardino, Oregon, Newtown, Charleston, Aurora, and Blacksburg. Only the place has changed.

I will not pray for Orlando because the truth is that God has already answered our prayers. We're not paying attention.

We have the God-given capability to stop dangerous people from buying assault rifles. The AR-15 has been used to kill 49 people in Orlando. The same weapon was used to kill 20 children in Newtown. It's the same weapon that killed 12 people in a Colorado movie theater. This is the weapon that congress has continually proposed to ban. It is the weapon that was designed by the military to kill with accuracy. And yet the AR-15 is the weapon that congress continually refuses to ban due to some passionate lobbying from the NRA.

I will not pray for Orlando.

We have the God-given power to create common sense laws when it comes to driving. We take tests, practice driving, and take driver education courses. Once we've gone through the process of permits, classes, tests, and insurance we can finally get behind the wheel of the car.

We have no-fly lists and exhaustive security measures that have us at the airport two hours before our flights leave. We even take off our shoes at the airport because one time someone tried to hurt us with a shoe on a plane.

And yet a man who was interviewed three different times by the F.B.I., was proven guilty of physical abuse against his wife, and was flagged for concerns over erratic behavior is allowed to legally purchase an assault rifle. There are no tests, classes, insurance, or exhaustive security measures.

I will not pray for Orlando.

God gave us an inspired text, full of letters, stories, poems, songs, and accounts. In this beautiful text there is one verb that appears more than any other, love.

When asked, Jesus tells us quite literally that the entirety of the scriptures is based on one law,

"Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, strength, and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself." - Luke 10:27

It's quite clear that our God values love more than anything else. And yet religion has largely focused on six verses that have led many to forsake the commandment of love for division and law. In some part, the religious narrative that makes our LGBTQ brothers and sisters "less than" contributes to this senseless violence.

I will not pray for Orlando.

We spend our time talking creating rhetoric, declaring war, and conveniently identifying an entire religious group as radical terrorists. We follow leaders who want to create a ban on all Muslims and build walls against perceived threats.

Yes, we must address the extreme minority who wish to do evil. Yes, those who promote evil must be held accountable. And yet we promote fear at the expense of an entire people group.

There is Christ who tell us that "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear." And yet our common narrative is to fear the other.

No, I will not pray for Orlando,

Here's what I'll do.

I'm going to be a part of 225,000 people who want to see a ban on assault rifles. You can do the same here.

I'm going to lobby for thorough gun laws that are proven to limit gun violence.

I will stand with my LGBT brothers and sisters who have long been told they're not worthy of perfect love. I will stand with my LGBT brothers and sisters who have been told that they're broken. I will stand with my LGBT brothers and sisters who walk down the streets in fear of hate and bigotry. It is unacceptable that almost 1 in 5 hate crimes in America involve our brothers and sisters who identify as LGBT. We will stand together to affirm each and every child of God.

I will not be afraid. I will not build walls. I will walk by my neighbors, strangers, the ones we call "dangerous" and I will smile, talk, and treat each person as someone to be loved, not feared. I'll teach my children to do the same.

I will not pray for Orlando. God has answered our prayers. It's time to grab the rope, jump on the boat, and wake up to the just and generous peacemaking that God asks of each and every one of us!

I'll pray for those of us who do otherwise.

He Walked Into a Gun Shop and Bought Some Guns

Mike Weisser   |   June 15, 2016    4:14 PM ET

Here we go again. Another act of 'domestic terrorism,' and this one left over 100 people injured or dead. The shooter, 29-year old Omar Mateen, broke the old record set by James Holmes, who shot 72 people in a Colorado movie theater in 2012, of whom 60 survived. And Holmes broke Seung-Hui Cho's 2007 record of 49 victims at Virginia Tech, and on it goes back to Charlie Whitman, who gunned down 49 people from his perch in the Texas University Tower in 1966, although only 16 lost their lives.

There's an unemployed academic out there pretending to be a researcher named John Lott, who actually tried to 'prove' that at least ten other countries have higher death rates from mass public shootings than what we experience here in the U.S.A. Which is not hard to do if a country has a fraction of our population and one mass shooting takes place. But any rational, normal and semi-intelligent person who actually believes that mass shootings are an everyday fact of life anywhere but in the United States is either hopelessly delusional or is simply trying to burnish his shopworn credentials as a flack for the NRA.

The bottom line is that there have been three horrendous shootings in the last seven months (Umpqua, San Bernardino, Orlando) which together have resulted in the loss of 74 lives, and I'm not even bothering to count the little mass shootings - a few bodies here, a few bodies there - which take place all the time. Our friends at the Gun Violence Archive count 25 shootings with at least 4 victims each time over the last -- ready? -- three weeks!

Maybe we haven't figured out what to do about this seemingly unstoppable carnage, but what does seem to be emerging from the unending slaughters is a convenient way of ignoring the use of guns. Because the problem isn't the gun, after all, it's the person who uses the gun, and that person is now invariably described as a 'domestic terrorist,' which I guess means someone who is somehow tied to some kind of terrorist organization but happens to permanently live and was maybe even born in the United States. Back in the old days, meaning before the 2016 presidential election cycle, the term 'domestic terrorist' was usually applied to an American who had actually been in contact with a terrorist organization, or had received or planned to receive training in terrorist activities, or in some other way was directly involved in terrorist behavior of some sort. In 2014, two young Americans from Minnesota were killed fighting with ISIS in Somalia and Iraq; home-grown terrorist bomb plots have recently been thwarted in Wichita, Boston and New York.

Of course depending on what political gains can be made from the anguish and fear that any mass shooting evokes in the general population, the presumptive Republican candidate, Street Thug Trump, wanders back and forth between condemning 'domestic terrorism' and 'radical Islamic terrorism,' but let's leave Street Thug alone, because he's incapable of understanding what the real issue is all about.

And the real issue runs like this. Omar Mateen was young, he was stable enough to hold down a job, he was socially isolated and alienated but he was, and this is very important, he was able to get his hands on a gun. And the gun he chose to carry into Pulse was what has become the weapon of choice for young men who want to kill lots of people in one place - an AR-15.

So it doesn't matter whether this shooter was a 'domestic terrorist,' or a 'radical Islamic terrorist,' or a homophobic maniac or whatever else he was or claimed to be. He walked into a gun shop and bought some guns. And that's the real reason that 49 patrons at the Pulse are now dead. It's the gun stupid, it's the gun.

Don't' forget to donate to the Orlando Pulse fund. I just did.

An Open Letter to Americans Who Are More Reasonable Than I Am

Sean Whitson   |   June 15, 2016    4:10 PM ET

The NRA would call me an "extremist," and maybe I am. I would have thought I had a ways to go to get to that point, but nobody feels like an extremist themselves, I imagine.

I would have thought an anti-gun extremist would support repealing the Second Amendment, which I never have. I would have thought an extremist would want all firearms banned, which I do not. Still, I concede I'm no middle-of-the-roader when it comes to gun safety, and that restrictions I may be fine with might be pushing it a little too far for others.

I stipulate as well that I just don't like guns -- I've never owned one, have fired one only a handful of times in my life -- and that may make my views too easy to dismiss for people who do like them, but I also understand that if everything I didn't personally like were illegal then line dancing, Bikram Yoga and flavored whiskey would all be punishable offenses.

There is a Second Amendment, and while we can argue about its breadth and language we must begin my acknowledging that it is there and that it does explicitly guarantee specific freedoms.

What we must also acknowledge, however, is that the scope of freedoms the NRA wants us to believe it guarantees has changed and grown dramatically, not only through our nation's history but over the course of the last few decades as well. I'm sure you're sick of hearing that the Bill of Rights was written when firearms meant muskets (me, too) but that doesn't mean there isn't some truth to it, and while I certainly don't suggest the Second Amendment should be restricted to 18th Century technology, I also think it's just common sense that we have to draw the line somewhere. Nuclear bombs are "arms" too, after all, and none of us want people in our neighborhoods permitted to bear and stockpile those.

Assault rifles are not used for hunting or sport. They are not used for home protection. They are offensive (meaning made for offense rather than defense, as made clear by the name "assault rifle") by their nature. Service members are trained on them and use them on our behalf to attack threats to our national security, and we rightfully honor them for it. Stateside, the best we can ever hope for is that they are never used, because when they are it's always tragic.

From 1994 to 2004 the sale of assault rifles was illegal, and neither tyranny nor the repeal of the 2nd Amendment followed. No one's guns were taken from them, as assault weapons purchased before the ban went into effect were grandfathered in. Since 2004, however, when (mostly Republican) legislators (under pressure from the NRA) let the assault weapons ban expire, we've seen them used to threaten and intimidate government officials, slaughter innocent people at night clubs and movie theaters, and murder 26 children and educators in a single school on a single day. Their only purpose is to kill as many people as possible as quickly as possible, and so resurrecting the assault weapons ban which we employed for a decade with some success and no infringement on the legitimate rights of Americans does not seem like an extreme position to me. Rather, arguing against it does.

But the NRA doesn't stop there. It also put political and financial pressure on legislators to block attempts to keep people on the terrorism watch list from buying guns -- a common-sense precaution which would have prevented the Orlando nightclub shooter from acquiring his weapons so easily less than a week before he used them. The NRA wants us selling guns to people we won't let on our airplanes.

But the NRA doesn't stop there, either.

It uses its power to ban our public health institutions from studying gun violence to see if there are any other solutions beyond restricting weapons that we might be able to discover.

It blocks research and development into smart gun technology, which would prevent toddlers from picking up and accidentally firing weapons -- a tragic occurrence we are now seeing almost every other day in America.

It pushed through legislation in Florida (and is trying to push similar laws in other states) that makes it illegal for a pediatrician to ask families if there are guns in their homes so that they might try to educate parents who want to keep weapons about the importance of proper storage and safety.

And so I have to ask: who really is the extremist here?

Maybe I'm still an extremist, but it's painfully, tragically clear that the NRA is, too. That they are funded by the gun manufacturers is well known, but what that means in practice is that they are not fighting for constitutional rights but simply for a bigger market. They aren't trying to defend the Second Amendment but rather encourage existing gun owners to buy more (and more expensive) guns and frighten more Americans into feeling that arming themselves in their only option.

They want proliferation, and proliferation is something that gun rights and gun safety advocates should be able to agree poses a clear and present threat to our national security.

This is why I'm writing to reasonable gun-owning Americans. Stopping the national slide that threatens to turn all of our communities into self-inflicted war zones is, I'm sorry to say, up to you.

The good news is that none of us extremists can make you do anything. Leftists like me can't take away your guns or force policies on you that will erode the fundamental rights the Second Amendment guarantees if you don't want us to, and the NRA can't use the Second Amendment as an excuse to erode our fundamental rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness just to make a bit more money if you stand up and refuse to let them.

Please don't let them.

Joining the NRA may have seemed like a good idea if you thought crazy liberals like me really were plotting ways to confiscate your pistols, rifles and shotguns--and they certainly pitched that idea hard--but the reality is that they are using your money and support to push the extreme, profit-driven motives listed above. At every turn they are using their members' money and political capital to fight the background checks that three quarters of their members support.

And don't take my word that we crazy liberals won't come after your guns, either. I have no interest in it but that is not to say others don't. The truth is there are a lot of organizations dedicated to defending the Second Amendment but also committed to common sense and public safety, perhaps because they understand that, while proliferation might benefit some people financially in the short term, it ultimately threatens the Second Amendment by making it unsustainable. The American Hunters and Shooters Association folded, but you can still join Americans for Responsible Solutions, which is spearheaded by proud gun owners who have also faced the tragedy of senseless gun violence. ARS also recently launched the Veterans Coalition for Common Sense.

There are other steps we, as a country, need to take, of course. We need better mental health care. We need to fight ISIS and stand up to hate-based perversions of religion at home and abroad. We need to stem the fracturing of our society which results in a pervasive lack of empathy. No combination of these will do much without a return to common sense in our gun laws, however, and the most important thing you can do to that end is to stand up and make it clear that the NRA does not speak for you.

And that ball is in your court. Everyone knows the NRA doesn't speak for an "extremist" like me, but if gun owners, if NRA members stand up and leave--like President George H. W. Bush and so many principled conservatives already have--they could change the whole country for the better.

The rest of us can only ask. And we're begging.

Orlando's Game-Changing Lesson: See A Gun, Think Terrorism

Ariel Moutsatsos   |   June 15, 2016   11:14 AM ET

The attack in Orlando is a game changer for how to address the guns issue. The massacre exposed a vulnerable U. S. national security flank which the FBI and other agencies can do little to secure within the current legal framework. The fact is that last Sunday a man killed 49 people and injured 53 others using an assault rifle he bought locally; and that entails an essential lesson: A gun can be equally or even more effective as a terrorist weapon than a bomb, and terrorists can legally buy such a weapon in the U.S. without even being traced.

After the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. and the majority of the world improved and strengthened security controls in airports and public venues. The Department of Homeland Security was created along with a new intelligence coordination entity. The Patriot Act was signed and the security, intelligence, defense and justice institutions of the U.S. were given greater capabilities and authority to face the "new" terrorist threat. Citizens gave away some of their rights in exchange for security. The attacks of March 11th, 2004 in Madrid and the 7/7 attacks in London were also a game changer for Europe and the world. More recently, the terrorist acts in Paris triggered a re-assessment of security and intelligence practices and lifted international alerts and cooperation to new levels. In all those cases measures were taken with one central goal: to prevent or at least dramatically reduce the possibility of a similar attack.

So what to do after Orlando?

So far, the guns debate in the United States has been about the spirit and purpose of the Second Amendment -- the right of every citizen to bear arms and the limits and interpretation of such right. Different views on this issue have been turned into political flags and the hundreds of shootings that take place in the U. S. and cost the lives of over 30 thousand people every year have been more or less central to the way each side supports its arguments. But the issue has taken on a new dimension now and the debate on how to address it should change.

After the 9/11, March 11, 7/7 and the Paris attacks, governments did not propose arming their citizens as a way to face the new terrorist threat. They modified their laws, changed their approach and took security and intelligence measures to protect their people. That is exactly what must be done after Orlando. This is not only about the Second Amendment anymore; it is about terrorism. Guns are now the terrorist's weapons of choice and it turns out that unlike any other country in the civilized world, in the U.S. it is legal and possible for a person with terrorist intentions to acquire the weapon to execute an attack without being traced, and the FBI can't do anything about it even if they have knowledge of his or her process of radicalization. How about that for a vulnerability? Would people be willing to compromise their right to own high-caliber weapons in exchange for protection against terrorism?

It is urgent that we learn this painful lesson from Orlando and act quickly to prevent another attack. From now on, we must see guns as potential terrorist weapons and we must do something about it.

Erin Schumaker   |   June 15, 2016   11:01 AM ET

Just days after the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, a new study from Denver finds that deaths from gunshot wounds at a trauma center there have increased over the past decade and that gunshot injuries have become more severe.

Although the findings are from only a single hospital, they represent a trend that doctors elsewhere have reported anecdotally, the researchers said. "Our study provides an objective measure of something trauma surgeons across the country already know: The firearms used in our communities are becoming more harmful and more lethal," said study co-author Dr. Angela Sauaia, a professor of public health, medicine and surgery at the University of Colorado Denver.

In the study, the researchers analyzed information on gunshot injuries treated at the Denver Health Medical Center from 2000 to 2013.

During that time, a total of about 1,680 people were treated for gunshot wounds at the hospital, and the number of people hospitalized yearly for gunshot injuries was about the same from year to year, according to the findings.

However, death rates for gunshot wounds increased during the study period, by about 6 percent on average, every two-year period, the researchers found.

In addition, the risk of having a severe gunshot injury increased by 6.5 percent for every two-year period, and the risk of a single patient having more than two severe gunshot wounds increased by about 5 percent for every two-year period, the study found. Injuries were considered severe if they had a high score on a scale used to measure injury severity. [5 Milestones in Gun Control History]

"Patients who arrive to our ER now have more wounds and more severe wounds than 10 years ago," Sauaia told Live Science. The increased number and severity of gunshot wounds likely explains the rise in death rates from these injuries, the researchers said.

The findings follow the news of a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, on Sunday (June 12). Forty-nine people (plus the shooter) died, making it the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

The researchers noted in the new study that they also analyzed information on other injuries at their hospital, including stabbings, assaults, falls, car crashes and accidents involving pedestrians. None of these other injuries showed increases in death rates over the study period, and in fact, some showed declines in death rates.

Some might argue that advances in medical care have made it more likely that people injured by gunshots will survive at the scene of the shooting and make it to the hospital, and that this could lead to an increase in hospital death rates. However, this idea is unlikely to explain the results of the current study, because the researchers found that there were no changes in deaths on the scene from gunshot wounds during the study period.

More research is needed to determine the exact reasons for the increase in gunshot death rates, such as whether the types of guns or the number of guns used by the people in the area played a role, the researchers said.

But this type of research can be difficult. Sauaia said that if researchers wanted to find out whether certain types of cars were involved in an increase in car crashes, they would have little difficulty getting this information. In contrast, "Finding data and research funding to study firearm injuries is much more difficult, despite evidence showing that they affect us in much higher numbers than other diseases," Sauaia said. "That said, it does not take much science to see that high-firepower, high-magazine-capacity [firearms] in the hands of one or few individuals can result in more damage than low-firepower and small-magazine capacity," Sauaia said.

More studies are also needed to confirm whether hospitals in other parts of the country are seeing a similar trend.

The study is published today (June 14) in the journal JAMA.

Original article on Live Science.

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It Starts With You - Stand Up Against LGBTQ+ Violence

Zac Thompson   |   June 14, 2016    7:11 PM ET

Tragedies occur daily. That's a fact. Orlando isn't an isolated incident. If you really think what happened in Orlando is gut-wrenching, take in a single episode of VICELAND's Gaycation. The large majority of the world is still rejecting LGBTQ+ rights for religious or political reasons.

It has now been revealed that the Orlando gunman, Omar Mateen may have been gay himself. It seems he was motivated by a combination of religiously fueled homophobia and a last minute devotion to the Islamic state. Mateen's despicable actions are now riddled with troubling contradictions. Mateen frequented Pulse, but never felt comfortable with his identity. He used gay dating apps but he never felt empowered to stand up as who he truly was.

We all have strong opinions on gun control, pride, gay rights, or religion. Today is to think about the people who lost their lives for living openly and standing proud with their sexual identity. Mateen was someone who couldn't cope with proud sexual identities of LGBTQ+ people and it's also possible he couldn't face his own identity. The good news is we can. We can face the reality of the LGBTQ+ community and do something to prevent further attacks like this.

Let's not let this mess of confusion and contradiction slow us down. We can face reality together. We should all be proud of our LGBTQ+ community. This an opportunity to start a conversation with the community in your area. Create a culture of acceptance and education. Make an enduring commitment to love.

The sad truth is violence against LGBTQ+ people in America is incredibly common. In fact, they are more than twice as likely to be the target of a violent hate-crime than Jews or black people. That's astounding.

We owe it to each other to create a culture of acceptance and empowerment. We need to help each other stand up against discrimination and violence. North America cannot keep perpetuating this kind of hatred. We have to be an example for the rest of the world.

Travis Bryant identifies as a LGBTQ+ person, recounting in the video what it's like to stand up and look aggression in the eyes. His anecdote is now more relevant than ever. Watch the video and stand with Travis, stand with your community, and reach out someone who may need your support today.

For more of Travis Bryant, find his videos on YouTube and follow him on Twitter.