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Nick Wing   |   December 17, 2015    2:48 PM ET


With gun violence claiming more than 30,000 lives in the U.S. each year, there's plenty of debate over how, or if, public policy can drive these numbers down toward the rates seen in the rest of the developed world.


Many lawmakers on Capitol Hill, along with their powerful allies in the gun lobby, maintain that trying to do so is pointless, which could help explain why Congress hasn't passed a single piece of gun control legislation in recent years. But a new study released this week could add to a growing wealth of research that calls into question the supposed ineffectiveness of gun regulations.


The 2015 Gun Law State Scorecard, which the nonprofit Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence published Wednesday, finds that states with stricter regulations on guns see lower rates of gun deaths, while states with weaker gun laws see higher rates of this sort of violence.


The Law Center examined state gun laws across the country, assigning points to those that have enacted measures like universal background checks for all gun sales, prohibited domestic violence offenders from accessing guns and limited bulk firearms purchases. Among other measures, it deducted points from states that have expanded access to guns in schools and bars, allowed concealed carry in public without a permit or passed "Stand Your Ground Laws" -- which remove the duty to retreat and allow people to shoot potential assailants, ostensibly in self defense.


The states that ended up with the most points received the best grades. Perhaps unsurprisingly, heavily blue states like California, New York and Massachusetts scored the highest, among the six that earned A-minus grades. Deep red states like Kansas, Mississippi and Wyoming scored the lowest, among 26 states that got failing grades.

(Click here for the full map.)

The Law Center then looked at the rate of gun deaths in each state, tallying homicides, suicides and other accidental shootings from the Centers for Disease Control's 2013 Fatal Injury Report, the latest year for which data is available. The report found that the gun death rate tends to get higher as firearms laws get weaker. In fact, the average gun death rate in states with failing grades was more than twice as high as it was in those with A grades.

While the study demonstrates a strong correlation between weak gun laws and increased gun violence deaths, it doesn't directly prove causation. And indeed, as other studies have suggested, the rate of firearms-related fatalities may be affected by a variety factors, such as poverty and educational attainment. 

But the Law Center study does reinforce previous research that suggests gun laws and gun violence are connected. Last year, the Violence Policy Center compared rates of gun ownership against gun deaths in 2011, finding that deadly gun violence was more common in states with weak gun laws and higher rates of firearms ownership. 

Other academic studies have similarly found that in places where more people have guns, more people get killed with them -- including in suicides. In 2014, a report on "right-to-carry" laws, which let people carry concealed firearms in public and are often held up by gun advocates as crime deterrents, found that such laws were "associated with substantially higher rates" of aggravated assault, rape and robbery. In others words, more guns didn't result in less crime.

Further research has shown that while the U.S. has a disproportionately high murder rate in the developed world, other nations see rates of non-lethal violence that are somewhat close, suggesting that our problem is in part due to the pervasiveness of guns. This flies in the face of the pro-gun argument that people who want to kill will simply find another way to do so, even if they can't get a firearm.

No study has been able to show that any U.S. law can prevent gun violence entirely, or even impede any single, horrific incident. As we look at the shootings that tend to attract national attention -- often mass murders, like in San Bernardino -- it's hard to find examples in which a specific policy would clearly have stopped a shooter. Laws are obviously not unbreakable, and the gun measures being proposed and adopted in the U.S. are far less expansive than those often touted in other nations, like Australia. But if we view gun violence as a broader public health problem, research increasingly shows that stronger regulations on firearms are connected with reductions in fatal shootings.

If stronger gun laws can indeed save lives, the Law Center said several states will soon see such benefits. Since the 2012 mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, 41 states and Washington, D.C., have passed 125 new laws intended to prevent gun violence. These include provisions to strengthen background checks and allow families and law enforcement to file "gun violence restraining orders," which can empower a court to temporarily remove firearms from individuals who have exhibited behavior that could make them a danger to themselves or others.

Still, several states -- many of which already experienced higher concentrations of gun deaths, according to 2013 numbers -- have further weakened their laws since Newtown. These new measures include lowering barriers for gun purchases and reducing restrictions on where firearms can be carried, among others.

Despite the persistent disagreement on the merits of gun control at both the state and federal level, Robyn Thomas, executive director of the Law Center, said she's happy with the movement she's seeing.

“While Congress has shamefully failed to act on widely supported firearms policies like universal background checks and prohibiting gun possession by those on the terror watch list, we have seen encouraging, lifesaving progress at the state level,” she said in a statement. “The 2015 Gun Law State Scorecard shows that smart gun laws make a real difference. State legislators can make their communities safer by enacting common-sense gun laws, following in the footsteps of states like California and New York. Change isn’t just possible -- it’s happening.”

Also on HuffPost:

An Advent Declaration on Gun Violence

Kutter Callaway   |   December 16, 2015    1:29 PM ET

This blog post has two purposes:

First, I want to let you know about the growing list of people who have joined me in signing the Advent Declaration on Gun Violence.

But before I do that, I want to take a moment to do something that I think is appropriate given where we are in the Church calendar. That is, I want to ask for your forgiveness.

To those who responded to my previous blog about renouncing my 2nd Amendment rights with hatred, threats of violence, and vitriol: forgive me.

A number of my fellow citizens (and Christians) let me know that they were thrilled with my decision to lay down my arms and that they looked forward to hearing the news that my entire family and I had been murdered on account of my stupidity. Others suggested that I speed up my inevitable death by either "doing us a favor and taking care of it yourself," or coming over to their house to "see what happens" when a non-gun owner tries to force them to let go of their guns.

As I read through the growing list of inhumane responses, I became aware of something very specific taking place within me: my own form of violence. In my heart and mind, I was returning evil with evil. The hatred was there all along, lurking just beneath the surface, waiting to be exposed. It doesn't really matter that I didn't type out what came to mind or post it in the comments section for the whole world to read. Regardless of how much hate you have spewed upon me--regardless of how much violence you wish would befall me--you don't deserve my hatred and violence in return. You deserve better. Ironically, that was the whole point of my post. As a Christian, I am called to love you, even and especially when you mistreat me or see me as your enemy. It's easy to love those who love us back. It's something altogether different to love those who hate you. And I failed. Please forgive me.

To those who thoughtfully disagree with my take on the matter: Forgive me for making generalizations about all gun-rights advocates based upon a small handful of people who are hell-bent on spreading hatred and animosity.

In an online environment, it's easy to think that the loudest and most polarizing voices are representative of the general population. But we all know this is simply not true. As I read and responded to your thoughts on the issue, I was guilty at times of painting with too broad a brush. I compared the best of my arguments with the worst of those who disagreed with me. To put it in Christian terms, I am guilty of "bearing false witness" against you. And this is an especially fatal mistake in a time when fringe voices continue to co-opt the conversation, doubling-down on their commitment to destructive patterns of life. In such a time as this, we MUST find a way toward civil dialogue, even while we hold on to our convictions. And this begins by giving the other a fair hearing. So let me be the first to say, I am sorry for contributing to the problem rather than the solution. Please forgive me.

Speaking of being a part of the problem, forgive me for being complicit in America's culture of death and violence.

I am not innocent here. As I noted in my previous blog, even though I never made a conscious choice to be involved, I am. I have owned guns for my entire life. I stand to inherit even more. Which means that I fit the profile for the majority of mass shooters in the United States: young(ish), white, male. So make no mistake, I am the violent perpetrator at the door. I am and continue to be part of our collective sickness. Indeed, like many others, my own sense of self is bound up in this culture of guns. So laying down my arms involves far more than simply making a symbolic gesture. It also involves incredibly difficult renegotiations with my family about our shared identity and how we honor our family's heritage without allowing ourselves to become victims of that heritage. In other words, I am not above the fray. I have no moral high ground upon which I can stand. I am the problem. So again, I ask for your forgiveness.

To so many of you who expressed a desire to join me in laying down their right to bear arms, forgive me for not offering a "next step."

I wrote my previous blog without any expectation that it would circulate in the way that it did, so I had not thought beyond my own personal decision. I would like to rectify my shortsightedness by pointing readers to this Advent Declaration. Simply send an email to declarationonguns@gmail.com to join the growing list of signatories, each of whom are respected Christian leaders from around the country known for their spiritual wisdom (note: this list only began three days ago).

Allow me to quote from the Declaration's preamble:

Pastors and leaders in the Church from throughout the US met on December 10, 2015 to express grief that we need to lead our congregations over and over in worship services of lament for senseless deaths from guns. We recognize that this is a particular cultural issue woven into our American society. A spirit of fear, enmity, racial prejudice, distrust, and violence is tragically normal in our way of life. We believe this is contrary to the gospel, and so we say, "Enough of this. No more." There is something seriously wrong with our way of life if we tolerate violence in our society. We believe God is calling us to stop this accelerating, downward spiral of destruction. There is an urgent need for followers of the Prince of Peace to challenge the easy use of guns in our society.

I encourage my Christian brothers and sisters to reflect upon the biblical and theological rationale outlined in this declaration. However, I also realize that some readers might be interested in an even more detailed or developed biblical justification for the kind of response that these Christian leaders are calling for. If you are interested in how the Old Testament might address gun violence, I can do no better than Chris Hays, a colleague of mine at Fuller Seminary. Here are his thoughts on guns seen through the lens of Genesis. For an insightful take on what the New Testament has to say about violence and the right to bear arms, check out Moyer Hubbard's thoughts on the topic (Hubbard teaches NT at Talbot School of Theology). Here is part 1 and part 2 of his thoughtful engagement with the biblical text. Forgive me for not providing these resources earlier.

Finally, I need your forgiveness because, to use Jesus' words, when it comes to gun violence, I know not what I do. Actually, we Christians know not what we do. And we all need your forgiveness.

This isn't the way things are supposed to be. The Christian community is not supposed to be overcome by evil, but is called to overcome evil with good (Rom 12:21). Yet, we fail -- constantly. For anyone who does not identify with the Christian tradition but saw the anger and bitterness that was spawned by my previous blog, what you witnessed was a reflection of the thousand and one ways that the Christian community enacts evil upon its own kind.

In fact, you might have even been the object of some of this venom. So while I realize that it might seem like an impossible task, I ask that you forgive us, for we know not what we do. Forgive us for failing to demonstrate love. And forgive those of us who continue to fail in this regard. And even more importantly, I plead with you to remain committed to the conversation. Christians need people who are not part of our faith community to speak to us. Indeed, this is one way to read the entire scope of biblical history. Time and again, the "people of God" forget how to be God's people, while those who are not "God's people" live in a way that more faithfully reflects God's intentionality in the world. And the only way that the "people of God" are able to come to their senses is when they hear the prophetic word of judgment coming from their neighbors and have the courage to respond.

So when it comes to guns, don't give up on the Christian community just yet.
We need your prophetic voice.
We need your forgiveness.
We need you.

Sing Along: 'Let's Go Buy a Gun'

Warren J. Blumenfeld   |   December 16, 2015   10:19 AM ET

Sung to the music of "Let's Go Fly a Kite" from the soundtrack of Mary Poppins

Let's go buy a gun
Where we'll all have fun
Let's go buy a gun and kill the bad guys
Hooray for the NRA
For that's the American way
Let's all go buy a gun

Let's kill birds of prey
Deer, boars all the day
Let's kill bears and foxes, elk and oxen
Children who play their games
Maiming, killing all the same
But let's all go buy a gun

Freedom and Liberty
Wave the flag and sing with me
God and country standing up and fighting together
We will not be slammed
Gun safety Hell be damned
Let's all go buy a gun

Military guns we need
To watch Bambi twist and bleed
Bigger guns we all do prize to compensate for our cock size
Jesus carried and told you this
To load and shoot's no greater bliss
So let's all go buy a gun

Smith, Wesson, Cabot, Colt
Winchester gives a bolt
Dillon, Daisy, Heckler and Koch for all us high velocity folk
Gun makers that's the way
With NRA to leaders pay
So let's all go buy a gun

Protecting my family
My castle, my right to be
More risk from those that we do know than strangers in home invasion
The U.S. tops the world
With guns and deaths and flags unfurled
But let's all go buy more guns

Countless innocents killed each year
But let us be completely clear
No restrictions to limit our rights will we let pass through
That is our battle cry
One which we live and die
Let's all go buy a gun

So gun control freaks leave us alone
Or we will come invade your homes
My rights you will never abridge 'cause we are stronger
We don't care how many die
Cause death's American as apple pie
So let's all go buy a gun
Yeah let's all go buy a gun
Now we've all gone to buy a gun (or ten)

Just How Many Guns Do Americans Own?

Mike Weisser   |   December 16, 2015    8:14 AM ET

Now that the New York Times has decided to become a major player in the gun debate -- they even have editorial writers attending gun shows -- we better make sure that all our facts are straight and our arguments correct when it comes to explaining violence caused by guns. Now I'm not concerned with getting facts from my friends on the gun nut side because like all gun nuts, including myself, we just want to hold onto our guns. But it's my friends in the GVP community dialoging with the newspaper that sets the gold standard for fact-checking who need to make sure they get it right. So over the next couple of weeks I'm going to look at some of the evidence the GVP folks bring to bear in discussing guns, and I'm starting today with the most basic question of all, namely, just how many guns do Americans really own?

We are told again and again that the size of the civilian arsenal is somewhere above 300 million and climbing fast. Since we don't have anything close to universal (or even partial) gun registration, this number comes from a somewhat creative extrapolation combining guns that are manufactured and imported (both of which must be reported to the ATF), plus estimates of how many guns were floating around before the ATF started compiling and publishing their numbers in 1986. The base number that is used by researchers on both sides comes from a survey of gun owners conducted for the National Institute of Justice in 1994. This study concluded that the civilian arsenal stood at 192 million guns which, when one adds in the annual numbers from the ATF since that date, gets us up to the 300-plus million that is bandied around today.

Both the gun nuts and the GVP are quite happy promoting a massive gun ownership number that continues to increase. After all, if you're the NRA, America's oldest civil rights organization, the more guns owned by Americans, the more guns are just another mainstream, consumer product, all the more reason why we shouldn't do anything about guns. On the other hand, the GVP community would find its recent organizational momentum slowing if, all of a sudden, gun ownership really started going down. What does seem to be declining is the percentage of American households which contain guns -- from what appears to have been maybe half of all American homes in the 1970s now appears to be roughly thirty percent.

The problem in figuring out the size of the civilian stock is that the surveys assume that once a gun gets into the civilian arsenal, it should always be counted as if it still exists and, more to the point, could be a factor in the link between the size of the arsenal and our extraordinary rates of gun injuries and gun crimes. But anyone who ipso facto assumes this to be true may know very little about guns.

According to the NIJ report, roughly one-quarter of all guns owned in 1994 were inherited or received as gifts, a percentage which is probably higher today as the proportion of gun owners continues to go down. Know what these guns tend to be? Old, useless junk. I can't tell you how many times the kids walk into my shop with a broken or rusted gun that's been lying around the old man's basement and now that the old man's carted off to the nursing home or the cemetery, the old lady says to the kids, "get rid of the goddamn guns." The average age of privately-owned guns in the NIJ report was 13+ years, which means that for every gun recently purchased, another one was at least a quarter-century old.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not denying the obvious connection between 300 million guns and 100,000 gun injuries and deaths every year. But if we believe that controlling those guns will reduce gun violence, we should understand which guns need to be controlled.

In a Time And Place Manipulated By Fear, I Salute My Courageous Friends

Lorraine Devon Wilke   |   December 15, 2015    3:16 PM ET

2015-12-15-1450144214-697074-photo1446569971295057569541991.jpg

It's a tough time to be courageous. Fear is all the rage, the currency of politics and pontification. For a country built on ideals of intrepidity and dauntlessness, how strange that we've become a culture hiding behind walls of artillery, clinging to the coattails of our most xenophobic and narrow-minded.

Which got me to thinking about the people in my own life. My friends. My circle. Those with whom I share this world. In doing so, I couldn't help but recognize what a courageous bunch they are, which, in the quaking of our current zeitgeist, seemed worth noting.

My friends are a wildly diverse group. A great many are artists of every medium; some are contractors, wood workers, or builders, with a growing number in the professions of engineering, law, and medicine. There are teachers amongst them, administrators, students, and counselors; dog caretakers, people caretakers, family caretakers. There are bakers, bikers, and bartenders. Some are parents, others are happily childless-by-choice. Blue collar, white collar, every kind of collar in between are all part of this eclectic group. They are members of every ethnicity, color, orientation, and religious affiliation. Most tend toward liberal, progressive, or Democrat philosophies, but there are bona fide conservatives, libertarians, and Republicans in the mix, some even in my own family. Most are American-born, some are immigrants; some naturalized citizens; some visitors. As I said, a diverse collection, but with one thing in common: they are courageous.

Why do I say this? Because I know them. I talk to them, debate with them, spend time, share posts, and have dinner with them. Some I know only peripherally, others are in my closest circles. They are as disparate a group as you could imagine, but share a trait that is harder and harder to find in a country beset by mass shootings, gun paranoia, bomb threats, terrorism (or--more realistically--fear of terrorism); racial animus, police brutality, religious zealotry, political fundamentalism, and an election frontrunnered by gas-baggers spinning fear like toxic cotton candy.

Courage. To see beyond smokescreens to the bigger pictures hidden in cleverly edited snapshots. Courage to disentangle truths woven into hyperbole and distortion. Courage to accept a world in which the good of the collective sometimes supersedes the wants of the individual. They are courageous because they recognize that, beyond exteriors of race, ethnicity, religion, financial status, gender orientation, or political proclivity, we are each made of the same stuff, with hearts that beat and souls that yearn, generally, for the same things: happiness, love, meaning, safety. They are people disinclined to conduct lives built on the shaky foundation, the corrupt inspiration, the insane illogic of fear: fear of crime, fear of failure, fear of loss, injury, and death. Fear of others.

That's the big one these days: fear of others. Because it's others who perpetrate and inflict the list of things we fear most. Others who are the monsters under the bed, the "boogey-men" of childhood nightmares, the deviants out to sway and steal our children, break into our homes, kill our families, terrorize our every waking moment. Others are impossible to predict, to catch, to identity, to ever fully eradicate. And while the "smarter fearful" know that what they fear can look, talk, think, and pray just like them, the "average fearful" project their anxieties onto others, a differential that drives the scare tactics most successful in manipulating our fellow citizens.

And it's working... that we can see, that we know. It appears all a person has to do is stoke that fear, poke the snake of rage and bigotry just beneath that fear, to unleash the kind of paranoiac, xenophobic, gun-toting panic that currently reigns. And the person doing that? He becomes the hero, the frontrunner, the Big Daddy who promises to keep the monsters away, chase those boogey-men from the closet, keep us safe from people--others--out to do us harm. And the fearful amongst us vault these demagogues, despite suspecting (knowing) they're unqualified and undeserving; they stockpile arms, despite statistics (and the Harvard School of Public Health) telling us guns do not keep us safer; they rally against refugees even when told they're families and children fearful of the same others we fear; they pretend circling the wagons of old-timey, white, Christian America will keep out people with darker skin and stranger names, despite the fact that old-timey, white, Christian Americans have perpetrated some of the worst crimes in American history. They defy logic at every turn... because fear trumps logic (verbiage intended!).

And yet... in the bubbling cauldron of this unholy stew, my friends stand out, stand strong. They're the ones unwilling to be bowed by hate and fear, refusing to shut eyes, ears, and minds to logic and new information. They're relentlessly capable of adjusting beliefs and instructing themselves with evolving details; willing to be pounded and pilloried for promoting solutions that are unpopular but necessary for the greater good. They're joining rallies, writing speeches, aiding causes, and teaching their children well. They're committed to civility, resistant to misinformation and propaganda. They're positioned to push, defend, and educate against hate and harm however it presents, but remain convinced that humanity of every kind deserves our consideration, curiosity, and concern. They see the value of honor and integrity as it relates to matters both large and small, from fighting for civil rights, gender equality, and religious freedom, to conducting and curating their public and private debates to prevent bile and venom from hijacking necessary conversations. They find a balance between sharing inevitable news of the day with the hope and beauty of life (meaning, they post baby and animal videos to the delight of this writer, along with theses on terrorism and the state of human rights). Both are necessary. And both take a comprehension of the arc of life and its rhythms, something smart, courageous people understand. My friends understand.

So I write this today as a salutation, a nod, a "thank you" to those friends, far and wide. To express my admiration, my gratitude, my pride in knowing that the world can be made up of people who conduct lives of compassion and understanding, devoid of hate, small-mindedness, disrespect, and xenophobia.

Despite horrifying events here and in our global communities, despite the dangers of living in the modern world, despite understandable anger and fear, courageous people know that life beyond the headlines retains its capacity for joy, love, safety, and friendship. We do get to choose our circles; how we live our lives, how we view the world. And I'm grateful today for my circle, my view, my life... my courageous friends. They are the ones helping make this country, this world, a better place.

Photo by Cristina Cerda @ Unsplash (under Creative Commons Zero)

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2015-12-08-1449565914-1562970-Books_HuffPost.jpg Follow Lorraine Devon Wilke on Facebook, Twitter and Amazon. Details and links to her blogs, photography, books, and music can be found at www.LorraineDevonWilke.com.

How to Properly Implement Campus Carry

Xavier Rotnofsky   |   December 15, 2015   11:23 AM ET

In June, the Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 11, which permits the concealed carry of handguns into public university classrooms -- officially validating the stereotype that Texans are gun-toting cowboys. The intent of the law is to give college students the right to feel like they're Clint Eastwood when faced with a potential active shooter situation. Still, despite this new opportunity for heroism students, faculty and staff are upset that campus carry even passed through the legislature, but it's law now, and, as elected representatives of the student body, we have been asked to help develop the plan to implement it. We hope universities will listen to some of our suggestions so that campus carry is implemented as safely as possible.

Many professors are terrified by campus carry, claiming that allowing guns in the classroom will hinder their ability to freely discuss volatile subjects. They say they might be intimidated into giving out only good grades, due to fear of being shot over anything lower than a B. We think the solution to this issue is to install a large Plexiglas frame at the front of the classroom, behind which the professor can teach. It would be sort of like those Plexiglas partitions that protect attendants at your local gas station, except instead of the transaction being for a Wild Cherry Slurpee, it's for the free exchange of ideas and opinions. Think of it as a Popemobile but for your statistics professor.

In hours of testimony and in thousands of letters, community members have expressed that they don't want guns on campus. So as an alternative means of self-defense for those who don't like guns but want something just as deadly, we propose that they be allowed to carry rattlesnakes in our classrooms. And for anyone wishing to defend themselves from said rattlesnakes, we'll have to allow the carry of badgers. But if the badgers get out of hand, we'll have to bring in dingoes. And now honestly we've opened up a can of worms that can only be fixed if we bring in guns to end this animal infestation, because guns, we now realize, are the only solution to everything.

Another issue the administration must deal with is how to clearly mark the areas that will remain gun-free zones. Students and faculty have complained that the signs required to demarcate gun-free zones will actually lead to an increased sense of anxiety. It's sort of like when someone walks up to you and says, "Don't worry; I'm not going to punch you in the face." To fix this, instead of marking off areas that are gun-free, universities should mark off the people who are actually carrying guns. Schools could require individuals who decide to carry a gun to also wear a dunce cap so that everyone else knows whom to not piss off. Of course, this could cause some confusion with the very small percentage of people on campus who already wear dunce caps but do not intend to carry a gun. In this case, the university should provide those individuals with a new dunce cap that has text on it reading: "Don't worry; I'm not carrying a gun."

Some people are also angry by how much it'll cost universities to enact campus carry, but those people aren't seeing the many potential revenue streams on which universities can capitalize after implementation of the new policy. For example, universities can make Kevlar vests featuring the school's colors and insignia to sell at orientation. Textbook companies can make textbooks heavier, with titanium-reinforced, bulletproof book covers. Universities can also sell school-branded gun holsters -- that way you can stylishly represent your school while also carrying a dangerous weapon. These are just a few of the ways that universities could implement campus carry while also increasing revenue and school spirit.

Still, if we want to honor the wishes of the majority of students, faculty, staff, and administrators, who for some reason don't want guns in our classrooms, there is one way to make sure firearms are banned from campus altogether: universities must install wet bars in every campus building. State law prohibits the carry of guns in places with alcohol licenses. Once these buildings are equipped to sell alcohol and professors become licensed bartenders, it will be illegal to carry guns in our classrooms, so long as alcohol constitutes more than 51% of sales in these spaces. So really it comes down to what we'd rather allow in our classrooms: guns or alcohol. Keep in mind: selling alcohol in our classrooms would also be a substantial source of revenue. Who doesn't want to sip on a White Russian while learning about Dostoevsky?

And to those who are still upset that campus carry became law, realize that it was because state legislators thought it was in our best interest, even though we made it very clear that we really did not want this. If there's anything to take from the passing of campus carry, it's that elections matter. If you're going to elect people who don't care about you, you're going to get laws that don't care about you. Starting August 1st, 2016, campus carry will go into effect in all public Texas universities. Until that happens, remember that many universities currently ban fake or prop guns on campus, because such guns would unnecessarily cause fear and misunderstanding -- so you better trade in that NERF gun for an actual Colt .45 before the August 1st deadline.

No More Sandy Hooks or Mass Destructions

Rep. Charles Rangel   |   December 14, 2015    9:29 PM ET

As our nation marks the 3rd anniversary of the shocking massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut, it is indefensible that gun violence has grossly become part of American life. Just in the past few weeks alone we have suffered horrific shootings in San Bernardino, California and Colorado Springs, Colorado, in which we were grimly reminded again that another tragedy can take place anywhere. As President Barack Obama pointed out, our thoughts and prayers are not enough. Gun violence is not just an urgent matter of public safety but of national security. We must make it a national priority to end it.

The statistics on everyday gun violence are appalling. According to The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, 1 in 3 people know someone who has been shot, 31 people on average are murdered with guns every day, and 151 are treated for a gun assault in an emergency room; 108,000 Americans are shot every year in various forms of gun violence and 32,514 of them die. Young people are not immune to the violence, with 48 children and teens shot every day in the United States. So far this year, there have been nearly 300 mass shootings. In one of the more recent ones that occurred in Lafayette, Louisiana, the gunman was able to exploit a loophole in the current law and obtain a gun. This is one of many examples where a firearm used in a mass shooting was obtained illegally. This is unacceptable.

It is furthermore troublesome that global terrorism has evolved into domestic lone wolf style attacks. Due to the loopholes in our current gun laws, radicalized terrorists on our homeland can easily attain weapons of "mass destruction" that wreak havoc in our communities throughout the nation. According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), more than 2,000 suspects on the FBI's Terrorist Watch list have successfully purchased firearms in the United States since 2004. More than 90 percent of all suspected terrorists who attempted to purchase guns in the last 11 years walked away undetected, and only 190 were rejected. In an effort to close this loophole, I joined Rep. Peter King (R-NY) as the lead Democratic sponsor to his bill, H.R. 1076 - Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act. However, House Republican have continued to block debate and vote on this critical legislation that is supported by 80 percent of Americans.

One thing which Republicans should agree on is enforcing the gun laws Congress has already passed. Currently the Justice Department's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) is responsible for enforcing current gun regulations and preventing gun trafficking. Unfortunately, over the years Congress has passed numerous appropriations riders limiting the ATF's ability and resources to do its job effectively. Some examples of these riders include prohibiting the ATF from using funds to consolidate or centralize records regarding federal firearms dealers, and exempting federally licensed gun dealers from being required to conduct inventories before inspection. In response, I have authored H.R. 2939, Enforce Existing Gun Laws Act, which I first introduced in April 2013. The bill repeals several appropriation riders that have limited the ATF's ability to investigate gun trafficking and stop the flow of guns to criminals, individuals with mental illness, and people who might hurt themselves or others with guns. Repealing these riders can empower the ATF and give dedicated law enforcement professionals the resources they need to do their job and protect our nation.

If anything, the escalated threat of terrorism should compel lawmakers to double our efforts to keep Americans safe. We still may not agree on everything, but we need to adopt commonsense legislation to prevent another loss of life due to a shot. That is why I am serving on the Gun Violence Protection Task Force in Congress that works with gun violence prevention organizations to better understand and recommend policies. Also, together with Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D- NY), I recently introduced H.Res.541, which would designate the month of June as "National Gun Violence Awareness Month" to promote nationwide efforts that can help prevent shootings, especially during the summer months when crime spikes in most areas of the country.

Gun laws and rights are controversial but protecting our loved ones from senseless violence should not divisive. We should no longer tolerate cycles of inaction after the media frenzy, heartbreaking interviews, political speeches, and public outrage. We cannot accept the shootings as the new norm. Adults should not be gunned down in their workplaces. Children should not be shot in their classrooms. Throughout America, survivors, families, faith and community leaders are calling on Congress to take action that will end the epidemic of gun violence.

To Congress: CDC Research on Guns Will Save Lives

Sanjeev K. Sriram   |   December 14, 2015   11:31 AM ET

A little over 20 years ago, health researchers showed that the risk of homicide was significantly high for gun owners. Rather than having meaningful dialogue about what risk factors were discovered and how new knowledge could save lives, panicked members of Congress passed the Dickey Amendment which stated, "none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control." Since then, NRA lobbyists and their political allies have successfully maintained this policy, even though its author, former Congressman Jay Dickey, has expressed deep regret about the amendment and the subsequent dire shortage of public health research on gun violence.

However, as members of Congress negotiate the current budget omnibus bill, they are considering an end to its ban on the CDC and NIH doing life-saving gun violence research. As tens of thousands of Americans continue to be injured or killed from firearms, Congress must take this opportunity to address gun violence as a public health crisis. Research and public health programs conducted by the CDC, NIH, and their partners successfully address motor vehicle accidents, lead poisoning, swimming safety, smoking, and more. Our country's health has benefited from these efforts, and we are long overdue for well-funded research to help save lives from gun violence.

For skeptics wondering how the CDC and other public health groups may research gun violence, it is worth looking at the Institute of Medicine's 2013 report, Priorities for Research to Reduce the Threat of Firearm-Related Violence. While I do not recommend it for bedtime reading, what I find particularly helpful are all the smart questions this committee of public health experts wants to find answers to: "What attributes of guns, ammunition, gun users, and other circumstances affect whether a gunshot injury will be fatal or nonfatal?" "What factors (like storage practices, time of acquisition, etc.) affect the decision to use a firearm to inflict self-harm?" "What characteristics differentiate mass shootings that were prevented from those that were carried out?" These questions and hundreds more like them need to be asked and answered without fear of political or social backlash. Avoiding these questions will cost us the lives of more of our fellow Americans.

The CDC and NIH's research on gun violence will not be done in a vacuum. One of the most important lessons to learn from our success with reducing motor vehicle mortality is the strength of collaboration. Take a look at this chart about car seats and booster seats for children:

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The fine print at the bottom shows how the CDC works together with groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to make this information available to parents. But that fine print is just the tip of a much bigger collaboration iceberg that protects all of us as we travel. Highway patrols, car manufacturers, emergency rooms, and many other agencies, both public and private, share information to build knowledge and understanding of vehicle and traffic safety. Data such as vehicle speed, influence of alcohol, the use of seat belts and car seats, and traffic sign visibility are all important pieces of information for researchers. Just as importantly, this information is gathered and shared without violating anyone's privacy while benefiting everyone's safety.

Right now, public health experts at the CDC, NIH, and their partner agencies have poor and limited data to study injuries and deaths from guns. Important information like the relationships between shooters and victims, the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, the type of weapon used, and many other data points are inconsistently gathered and hesitantly shared, making it harder for researchers to study gun violence. Without this information, it is extremely difficult to develop evidence-based answers to tough questions. As mentioned earlier, the avoidance of these questions is costing us the lives of our friends and family.

The Dickey Amendment's ban on federal public health agencies studying guns reflects fear and irresponsibility. For the last 20 years, we have been afraid to ask smart questions and do research on gun violence because of the conclusions we might reach. The mere thought of even slightly adjusting our behaviors and relationships with guns drives some people to panic. For those of us with cooler, but still skeptical minds, I want to offer some reassurances.

Take another look at that guide to car seats, booster seats and seatbelts. Many of us grew up without using any of this safety and we survived -- but more of us would be here if we knew then what we know now. Every state in America has laws of some kind requiring parents with cars to use child safety seats, but families have not lost the "freedom of the open road." The car industry continues to succeed, often marketing on their safety record. Traffic laws informed by public health research in collaboration with law enforcement are part of our day-to-day relationship with government and each other. Anyone feeling oppressed because of speed limits, drunk driving penalties, or helmet requirements for motorcycles? It is true that our relationship with vehicles and traffic has changed over the last several decades, and that willingness to learn and evolve has made us safer and healthier on the road.

Public health research on gun violence by the CDC and NIH can save Americans from firearm injury and deaths. Congress must support scientists who are willing to ask tough questions, do credible analyses, and share truthful conclusions. The knowledge acquired can play a critical role in how we write firearm policies, how we think about the role of guns in our society, and how we protect each other from preventable tragedies.

Do Lives Matter? Or just guns?

Fran Moreland Johns   |   December 13, 2015   11:53 PM ET

2015-12-14-1450067012-1556456-VigilwithChiu.jpg
California Assembly member David Chiu, whose district includes The Bayview, speaks to Vigil participants


Candles lit, holding signs that read SPREAD LOVE, NOT VIOLENCE or COMMUNITIES AGAINST GUN VIOLENCE the group stood waiting to start. But nearly half of those expected were missing. It seems there had been a shooting several blocks away. One dead. A lot of police involved, traffic blocked.

The vigil to protest gun violence, delayed by gun violence, eventually got underway.

This was on a recent wintry night in San Francisco, when a group from Grace Tabernacle Community Church in the city's Bayview-Hunter's Point neighborhood gathered for one of the regular vigils they have long held in memory of those killed by gunfire. It is a long list. The Bayview holds the unenviable record of having the most deaths and injuries from gun violence - by a large margin - of any area of San Francisco. It would be almost impossible to find anyone in the community who has not lost a family member, friend or acquaintance to gunfire; yet it is still home to generations of good people who continue to work for a better, even gun-free future.

Joining the Grace Tabernacle vigil group were a number of friends from Calvary Presbyterian church in the city's Pacific Heights neighborhood, an affluent community which holds the unenviable record of having the city's highest suicide rate. Some by gunshot.

Once the latecomers made it past the scene of the latest shooting, the group walked candles-aloft to a nearby corner where a young man had been killed not long ago. A collection of burned-out candles in colorful holders, some now broken, surrounded the parking meter at the spot where he had fallen; the police had given up on it and let the site remain as a memorial. His name was Otis. No one knows who shot him; possibly he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Grace Tabernacle's Bishop Jackson said a prayer and the group slowly moved on.

Occasionally they sang. (This Little Light of Mine . . . We Shall Overcome.) The wind repeatedly blew out candles, but there always seemed to be a flame somewhere. One candle-holder said to another, as she re-lit her candle by his, "I was shot in the shoulder on that corner a block away."

The day after the vigil, Liberty University president Jerry Falwell, Jr., presumably confident that no troubled person would ever be a student at Liberty, urged his students to arm themselves.

Also on that day the Senate once again failed to pass gun control measures, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein's bill that would have prevented people on terrorist watch lists from being able to buy guns with which to commit terror.

Several days later, some who had attended the vigil heard John Weems, at Calvary Presbyterian, address the issue of gun violence. Weems had been part of the vigil, and made a biblically appropriate metaphor of the candles being blown out by the wind, but constantly re-ignited. Darkness, he said, cannot overcome the light.

At the end of his sermon Weems lifted a stack of 8 x 10 sheets about three inches thick, and a few helpers distributed them among the congregation. There were 353 sheets listing the date, location and number of people killed or wounded in each of the mass shootings (four or more killed or wounded) in the U.S. this year according to the only-in-America website shootingtracker.com. Another 45 sheets bore the names of the known 2015 victims of gun violence in San Francisco, the city named for a compassionate saint.

It would be impossible to know how many firearms are in private hands in this country, but it's safe to say at least a few hundred million. Some of them - "assault weapons," "semi-automatic rifles," "sporting guns" by whatever name you choose - can kill more people faster than others; any of them can kill or maim. A wide range of weapons were used for the 353 mass shootings of 2015; all of them succeeded in wounding or killing human beings. The three sheets left to this distributor read:

DURHAM, N.C.; 8/21/2015. WOUNDED: 8. DEAD: 0

ROSWELL, N.M.; 8/21/2015. WOUNDED: 1. DEAD: 3

CINCINNATI, OH; 8/21/2015. WOUNDED: 5. DEAD: 2

It's hard not to think about how much darkness might be prevented by having a few less guns in the U.S. Those who know that darkness best continue to light candles . . . and hope.
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Igor Bobic   |   December 13, 2015    9:52 AM ET


IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — The 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in which a mentally troubled young man killed 26 children and teachers, served as a rallying cry for gun-control advocates across the nation.


But in the three years since, many states have moved in the opposite direction, embracing the National Rifle Association's axiom that more "good guys with guns" are needed to deter mass shootings.


In Kansas, gun owners can now carry concealed weapons without obtaining a license. In Texas, those with permits will soon be able to carry openly in holsters and bring concealed weapons into some college classrooms. And in Arkansas, gun enthusiasts may be able to carry weapons into polling places next year when they vote for president.


Dozens of new state laws have made it easier to obtain guns and carry them in more public places and made it harder for local governments to enact restrictions, according to a review of state legislation by The Associated Press. The number of guns manufactured and sold and the number of permits to carry concealed weapons have also increased, data show.


The trend has been discouraging to some gun-control advocates, even as other states have adopted stricter background checks. Other gun-control supporters say their movement is emboldened by the recent rise of Everytown for Gun Safety, a well-funded group backed by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg that is becoming influential in some state capitols.


The debate over gun rights moved to states after Congress rejected a bill in 2013 that would have expanded background checks to all gun sales, including those at gun shows and over the Internet. The arguments are expected to intensify next year as legislatures convene in the wake of the mass shooting of county government employees in San Bernardino, California, which is being investigated as an act of terrorism.


Recent mass shootings at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado, a community college in Oregon and a church in South Carolina have also reignited passions on both sides.


"Most of our churches are just wide open," said Mississippi Republican Rep. Andy Gipson, who plans to file a bill next year allowing congregations to designate people who could carry guns.


The pro-gun legislation reflects a growing public sentiment that "gun-free zones are magnets for bad guys," said David Kopel, a gun policy expert at the Independence Institute, a libertarian think tank in Colorado. He said that concept was not popular after the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado, but the frequency of mass shootings since then has made the idea of having a trained, law-abiding gun owner present more appealing.


"We've gone from, 'You can't even say that out loud' to it being an evenly divided issue, with the pro-gun side having an advantage on that," he said. "I would expect that we will see continued movement on that in the coming year."


Even before the Dec. 2 shooting at the office holiday party in San Bernardino, gun purchases and permit applications were on the rise.


On the day after Thanksgiving this year, U.S. gun sales approached a single-day record. More than 185,000 federal background checks were initiated, the most in the 17-year history of the program, according to FBI data.


"Everybody is swamped," said Mike Conway, a salesman at Bullseye Sport in Riverside, California, near San Bernadino, which has run out of most guns. "A lot of first-time buyers. A lot of people that realize that they have to be responsible for their own safety."


From 2007 to 2014, the number of concealed-carry handgun permits in states nearly tripled, from 4.7 million to 12.8 million, according to a recent report by the Crime Prevention Research Center, a group whose research is often cited by gun-rights supporters. Meanwhile, several states have passed laws shielding the identities of permit holders to protect privacy and prevent potential harassment.


Instead of limiting access to firearms after Sandy Hook, states such as Indiana and Mississippi passed laws to beef up the presence of police officers in schools. Kansas adopted a law allowing people to carry concealed weapons in many public buildings. Georgia and Arkansas, among others, allowed concealed weapons in bars and some churches. Tennessee made clear that permit holders can carry concealed weapons in vehicles and parks.


Several states also passed reciprocity agreements recognizing gun permits approved by other states, reduced permitting fees and loosened requirements. Wisconsin, for instance, eliminated a 48-hour waiting period to buy handguns.


And then there are new laws designed to thwart gun-control measures. States have prohibited authorities from seizing guns during emergencies, moved to ban the use of taxpayer funding for government gun buyback programs and banned the destruction of firearms seized by law enforcement. Some Republican-controlled states have pre-empted local governments' ability to pass stricter firearms laws by declaring that it's a matter for the state.


Everytown President John Feinblatt said many of the measures that expanded gun rights were passed when the NRA faced little opposition in statehouses, but that is starting to change. He said his group succeeded this year in opposing bills in several states that would have allowed concealed weapons on college campuses and permitted people to carry without obtaining permits.


Since Sandy Hook, six states have expanded background checks, and two more such measures are expected to be on statewide ballots next year in Nevada and Maine, Feinblatt said. His group, he added, isn't concerned with how many guns exist, but wants rules in place to make sure they aren't sold or transferred to criminals and the mentally ill.


"If more responsible gun owners want more guns and they are doing it the right way, that's not going to affect public safety," he said.


Eric Fleegler, a doctor at Boston Children's Hospital who has studied state gun laws, said he worries that the expansion of gun rights could cause more fights to escalate into deadly confrontations, more people to commit suicide and more kids to die from gun accidents.


"In a country with 330 million people and 310 million guns," he said, "the suggestion that the problem is we don't have enough guns available just doesn't seem to hold much weight."


___


Associated Press Writer Emily Wagster Pettus in Jackson, Mississippi, contributed to this report.


Mehreen Kasana   |   December 12, 2015    5:07 PM ET


AUSTIN, Texas, Dec 12 (Reuters) - Pro-gun advocates doused fake victims with fake blood outside the University of Texas on Saturday in what they called a theatrical event to show the need for firearms on campus.


Their "mock mass shooting" was met with a much larger counter-protest and derision by many onlookers in the left-leaning city of Austin who saw the group pushing a position that could increase the danger brought by firearms at the university that saw one of the worst mass school shootings in U.S. history.


One of the mock mass shooting organizers, the group Come and Take It Texas, said allowing gun-free zones on campuses eliminated a human right to personal protection.


"Our goal is to instill the importance of everyone to be able to defend themselves in any way they choose," the group said in a statement posted on its website. 

The actual mock shooting was a small-scale event that went mostly unnoticed and culminated with about half a dozen people faking their deaths on a sidewalk in a pool of simulated blood.

Ahead of the event, about 20 pro-gun activists walked near the university, some with military-style weapons over their shoulders.

The group was far outnumbered by media, police and students in the middle of final exams, many wondering what the small group of flag-waving, gun-toting people was doing.

"There is always something crazy going on in Texas," said student Zena Brown, a junior at the university.

The school threatened to arrest the group with trespassing if they tried to do their mockshooting on campus.

Cindy Samuelsen, who was taking her daughter back to Dallas, said the rally was disrespectful to the students and the university.

"I don't know what is wrong with these people in that they feel the need to show off their big guns," she said.

The mock mass shooting comes days after a university panel grudgingly acknowledged that it will have to allow guns in the classrooms under a new law that goes into effect next year, dubbed "campus carry."

The law allows people 21 and older with a concealed handgun license to carry handguns in classrooms and buildings throughout the University of Texas system, one of the nation's largest with an enrollment of more than 214,000 students.

Public universities will be required to allow campus carry as of Aug. 1, the 50th anniversary of one of the deadliest U.S. gun incidents on a campus. On that day, Charles Whitman killed 16 people and wounded 31 after firing from a perch atop the clock tower at the Austin campus of the University of Texas. (Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Bill Rigby)

2015 Word of the Year

Jeff Wald   |   December 11, 2015    7:55 PM ET

So many words came into our lives in 2015, how to pick just one?

First let's look back at some of the past words that defined our world:

2014 - Twerking
2013 - selfie
2012 - Binders of Women
2011 - Occupy
2008 - hope and change (tie)
2006 - NINJA Loan
2000 - pets.com
1995 - world wide what?
1990 - world peace forever
1985 - Hulkamania

2015 had many special words, some new, like Lumbersexual and on fleek, others had enhanced meaning like Dark Web and Sharing Economy.

One could make a strong argument for Trump. Hate him or love him he has defined the election thus far. He dominates the news cycle and controls the narrative of the campaign. While we won't select Trump for our word of 2015, we can hope that he is not even a contender for anything in 2016.

Another word that dominated our headlines in 2015 was Refugee. Whether from Syria, North Africa, Afghanistan or Latin America the flow of refugees has hit levels not seen since the Second World War. The prevalence of the word in news stories and political discussions highlight one of the great challenges of our time.

But another looms more directly in American psyche in 2015 and thus, sadly is the clear winner for 2015.

Active Shooter.

I will leave the reasoning and the solutions to smarter folk than me, but given the emergence and the sustained use of the word, there can be no doubt as to its status. There have been more mass shootings in the US than days in 2015 and thus more active shooters than ever before. Here is to hoping that this one's reign in our public consciousness is short lived.

Why are all of 2015's top words depressing?

As a preview for 2016 check out jawn.

The President Stands With Families of Victims of Gun Violence to End the Epidemic

Valerie Jarrett   |   December 10, 2015    4:19 PM ET

Last night, I had the honor to speak at the 3rd Annual National Vigil for All Victims of Gun Violence, hosted by the Newtown Foundation. I joined more than 300 people at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C., a group that included more than 60 families who had lost a loved one to gun violence, as well as members of Congress, advocates, and faith leaders. We came together to honor all those who have died from gun violence, and to rededicate ourselves to the urgent work of making ours a safer country. My message to the group was simple: Please do not grow weary, for you are inspiring our nation to perfect our union. You can read my full remarks below.

***
Thank you to Reverend Schunior who has welcomed us to St. Mark's Episcopal Church this evening. To the Newtown Foundation. The families who have lost loved ones to gun violence. To our members of Congress, and faith leaders who provide great leadership and strength. And to all of you who are dedicated to stopping gun violence in America. Good evening.

My name is Valerie Jarrett, and for the past seven years, it has been my privilege to serve as one of President Obama's Senior Advisors. It's an incredible honor for me to be here with you.

We all come here with freshly wounded hearts from the vicious, mass shooting in San Bernardino last week. Fourteen of our fellow Americans gunned down during a holiday party. Right now, their families feel the excruciating pain that we here tonight, and Americans across our country, know all too well.

Families of a pastor and eight members of a Charleston church who opened their doors to a stranger.

Families of 12 moviegoers in Aurora out for a fun night.

Of a veteran, a police officer and a mother of two in a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood.

Six Sikh Americans worshipping in a temple in Oak Creek.

Twelve soldiers and a civilian doctor who were serving our country in order to keep us safe, at Fort Hood.

The family of 15 year-old Hadiya Pendleton, who was chatting with her best friend in a park one mile from my home in Chicago.

The families of 20 precious six- and seven-year-old children and six brave adults in Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.

Every single day, families from around our country share the bond of devastating grief caused by losing their loved ones to gun violence. First responders witness the immediate, shocking results of carnage, yet manage to professionally perform their duties. Faith leaders offer prayers of comfort. Whole communities in mourning rally together, providing much needed love and support.

And yet, when the headlines fade and the media's attention turns elsewhere -- when the world seemingly returns to normal -- the families and loves ones who are left behind -- well, they're never the same. They're left to face the pain created by a permanent void in their hearts. First responders are often haunted by post-traumatic stress that may go undiagnosed and untreated. And the human fabric that knits together the communities that have been affected are forever tattered and deeply scarred.

And we all ask ourselves: How could this keep happening again and again? Knowing that this cannot be normal? Or: Is this really who we have become? What is happening in America that leaves no community unscathed by gun violence?

I ask these questions not just as a White House official who has attended far too many memorial services during the last seven years, but also, sadly, as a granddaughter with first-hand experience.

My grandfather was an avid hunter and owned several guns. He practiced dentistry in an office on the first floor of his home here in D.C. When I was 15, two burglars broke into his office in search of opiates. They threatened my grandfather with what turned out to be a toy gun. In an attempt to scare away the burglars, my grandfather pulled out one of his guns. They grabbed his gun, then shot and killed him.

So to those who encourage the purchase of guns to protect ourselves, my grandfather's story proves that we are not always safer just because we own a gun.

I respected my grandfather's right to own his guns and his desire to try to protect himself, but for decades after his death I asked myself, "Would he still be alive had he not pulled out his gun?"

Of course, I'll never forget that day nearly 45 years ago.

I'll also never forget the day when I met many of the remarkable families from Newtown. On December 16, 2012, just two days after the massacre at Sandy Hook, I travelled with President Obama to a vigil in Newtown, where he comforted the families, and the Newtown community, who had lost their loved ones.

That evening, in speaking about the victims, the President said, "They lost their lives in a school that could have been any school in a quiet town full of good and decent people that could be any town in America." He also said to the families that they were not alone. And I am here tonight, three years later, to remind you all that you are not alone.

Now, we all know this type of gun violence simply does not happen in other advanced countries with the same frequency as we experience here in the U.S.

But whether from a mass shooting; a suicide; domestic violence; an accident; a disagreement that escalates out of control; or a gang member who murders an innocent nine-year old child, about 30,000 Americans are killed every year by gun violence.

With the help of many of you, President Obama pushed Congress to pass sensible background check legislation nearly three years ago. And even though 90 percent of Americans agreed with the President and all of you, our bill did not pass. But we did not give up. And thankfully, neither did you.

Because of your passion, energy and advocacy, we have made progress.

In consultation with many of you, President Obama signed 23 executive actions that took on gun violence -- from improving the background check system to improving mental health services.

We have and will continue to press Congress for commonsense background checks. For measures that would prevent people on the no-fly list from buying guns and to keep weapons of war off of our streets.

Now, I know our progress feels slow. But in the words of Dr. King, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

The members of Congress who are here tonight have been such strong allies in this fight, and we will continue to work with them, while also channeling our efforts in cities and states across America.

Cities and states are passing commonsense laws to keep guns out of the hands of known domestic abusers. That gives me hope.

They are expanding background checks and making our communities safer. That gives me hope.

And, just two days ago, the Supreme Court declined to take up a case challenging a Chicago suburb's ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines -- weapons that have more in common with a war zone than any Main Street in America. That gives me hope.

Although the tragic reality is that slow progress means every day we lose more Americans to gun violence, Americans are mobilizing. And that also gives me hope.

Two weeks ago, I met at the White House with a group of gun owners who believe in the need for change. Many were former NRA members who made clear to me that the NRA no longer represents them. And they assured me that many more gun owners are doing the same.

The NRA paradigm that tries to pit those who support the Second Amendment against those who believe in commonsense reform -- we know to be a false choice. And Americans all across our country know too.

And so, I am hopeful.

Please know that President Obama shares your pain and frustration, as well as your steadfast determination to keep pushing to make us all safer. And he is prepared to continue to act.

That's why the President has directed his team, in short order, to finalize a set of recommendations on what more the Administration can do on its own to save lives from gun violence. And those recommendations will include making sure we are doing everything we can to keep guns out of the wrong hands, including through expanding background checks.

And so, in closing, let's remember that we are gathered here together under the banner of friendship and community, of brother and sisterhood, of interfaith fellowship. For just as our pain binds us together, we must continue to stand together in the face of the cynical political theater.

So in times of despair, when some try to use horrendous acts of violence to pit us against each other, it is on us -- all of us -- to instead continue to extend a welcoming hand to a stranger. To be more loving and inclusive. To reject divisive strategies, both old and new. To demonstrate, in both our thoughts and our deeds, amazing grace.

Mollie Reilly   |   December 10, 2015   12:12 PM ET

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy (D) announced Thursday he intends to sign a "common sense" executive order prohibiting individuals on government watch lists from buying guns.

"This is a moment to seize here in America," Malloy said during a press conference. "It is incumbent upon leaders at all levels of government to protect its citizenry." 

Pending approval from the federal government to access their databases, including the "no-fly" roster, Malloy said he will sign an order requiring those who apply for gun permits to be screened against government watch lists. Those who are on such lists would be banned from purchasing handguns, shotguns, rifles and ammunition.

"If Congress will not act, we in the states will," Malloy said.

He added there would be an appeals process for people who say they have been unfairly placed on government watch lists.  

 Malloy's announcement comes days after President Barack Obama called on Congress to "close this loophole" following the shooting in San Bernardino, California, that left 14 people dead.

"That is insane. If you’re too dangerous to board a plane, you’re too dangerous, by definition, to buy a gun," Obama said Saturday in his weekly address. "We may not be able to prevent every tragedy, but -- at a bare minimum -- we shouldn’t be making it so easy for potential terrorists or criminals to get their hands on a gun that they could use against Americans."

Congressional Democrats have joined Obama's push, and earlier this week attempted to force a vote on banning people on the no-fly list from buying guns. Republicans, meanwhile, have argued against the proposal, claiming the list is too broad.

With gun control measures stalled at the federal level, Connecticut has made significant strides since the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. In April 2013, the state passed some of the toughest gun regulations in the nation, including requiring background checks for private gun sales, banning the sale of magazines with a capacity of more than ten rounds and expanding the state's ban on assault weapons.

"We can never undo the senseless tragedy that took place on Dec. 14 or those tragedies that play themselves out on a daily basis in our cities, but we can take action here in Connecticut and we can make Connecticut towns and cities safer, and this bill does that," Malloy said upon signing the legislation.

A study released in June linked the state's dramatic drop in gun-related homicide to the new regulations.

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