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Alex Lazar   |   May 14, 2014    3:58 PM ET

Oklahoma GOP gubernatorial candidate Chad Moody has a catchy slogan that he hopes will get voters talking: "God, grass and guns."

"I tried a few different slogans and then that one flashed in and I was pretty certain that was it," Moody told KOCO 5 News. "Most political campaigns start out as something serious and turn into a joke, this kind of started out as a joke and it's turned into something serious."

The "grass" part of the slogan comes from Moody's view that non-violent offenders who are in prison for smoking marijuana shouldn't be cooped up there.

"The department of corrections hides how many people are in there for marijuana," Moody said. "It's all about money and it's all about a private prison industry that is the modern-day slave trade."

He is also advocating for allowing law-abiding citizens to carry guns without a permit or license.

Moody has posted his slogan on billboards across the state, some of which have cost him up to $800, he said.

Moody faces incumbent Gov. Mary Fallin and Dax Ewbank of Guthrie in the Republican primary on June 24.

  |   May 8, 2014    7:34 AM ET


TOKYO, May 8 (Reuters) - A 27-year-old Japanese man was arrested on Thursday for illegally possessing handguns made by a three-dimensional printer, media said, marking the first such case in Japan, a country that takes pride in its low crime rate.

Police in April found five plastic guns and a 3D printer at the suspect's home in Kawasaki, south of Tokyo.

Two of the handguns were later proved capable of killing or wounding people, although no bullets were found at his home, public broadcaster NHK said.

Police also found blueprints for manufacturing guns stored in the suspect's personal computer. The blueprints were believed to have been downloaded from the Internet, NHK said.

"I made the guns by the 3D printer at home. I did not think it was illegal," the suspect, a college employee, was quoted by NHK as telling police.

A spokesman at Kanagawa Prefectural Police, which covers Kawasaki, declined to comment.

The suspect has frequently made Twitter entries aimed at justifying possession and manufacturing of guns and once said on the Internet "Gun restrictions are violation of human rights," NHK said.

Jiji news agency reported the suspect also possessed 10 toy guns. (Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Divest Now: Clayton Williams, the Oil Corporation That Loves the NRA (Even More Than its Own Shareholders)

Naomi Seligman   |   May 7, 2014    2:01 PM ET

Co-authored by Nick Guroff, Corporate Accountability International

The independent Texas oil and gas corporation, Clayton Williams Energy, will no doubt be riding high when it hosts its annual shareholder meeting today. Profits and revenues are up, thanks in part to the corporation's fracking activities. Meanwhile, the corporation's stock price is hovering near its all-time high.

But all that glitters is not gold. Shareholders -- in particular big public pension funds and socially responsible institutional investors -- have reason to be not only wary and angry, but to threaten divestment from the corporation. Why exactly? For starters, the energy corporation has, for years, been abusing their trust to make undisclosed political donations to the National Rifle Association (NRA).

As illuminated in a recent report by our two organizations, the Gun Truth Project and Corporate Accountability International, the corporation has been quietly donating millions to the NRA over the past couple of election cycles. Although the exact figure is unknown, it is the NRA's largest non-firearm-related corporate donor. And, anyway you slice it, the contributions are bad news for shareholders, the public, and even NRA members. Such contributions, on the one hand, may explain why the NRA supported legislation to open public lands that hunters and sportsmen cherish to energy development. On the other, they may have nothing to do with the corporation's business interests and everything to do with the political leanings of its founding chairman and chief executive, Clayton Williams Jr., a one-time Republican candidate for Texas governor who has boasted that "the enemies of the National Rifle Association are enemies of mine."

That's not a line likely to resonate with the many teacher pension funds with sizeable stakes in Clayton Williams Energy -- among them the California, Texas and Florida state teachers' retirement funds and TIAA-CREF. They are more likely to think back on the unspeakable mass school shootings that have plagued this country, from Columbine to Newtown, and the NRA's vehement opposition to even modest attempts at legislation to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill.

Indeed, the backlash has already begun. Scott Stringer, the New York City Comptroller whose own public pension fund has more than 25,000 shares in Clayton Williams Energy worth more than $3 million, wrote a letter last month asking for a full accounting of the corporation's NRA contributions. "Absent a compelling corporate rationale," he wrote, "such payments would exacerbate longstanding investor concerns regarding the ability of... the board of directors to exercise independent oversight of Mr. Williams."

Williams is an unusual boss for a public corporation in that he retains personal control of a majority of the shares and, according to his own corporate literature, plays a "significant" role both in business strategy and daily operations.

Even though Williams has a sizable personal fortune and could easily donate to the NRA from his own funds, he has directed his corporation to give millions to the NRA and more since 2010, according to his own public statements, NRA documentation and SEC filings.

Shareholders should follow Stringer's lead by scrutinizing Clayton Williams lobbying and demand full transparency. As our report puts it:

"While there is no obligation for public companies to spell out their spending on political lobbying, [Williams] is doing a disservice to his shareholders by not keeping them fully informed on such a sensitive issue... This information gap constitutes a breach of trust."

And transparency is only the half of it. What we already know about how this corporation subsidizes the NRA's anti-gun safety lobby is sufficient grounds for divestment.

There is every indication public pension funds are inclined to agree. In the wake of the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, which left 20 children and six teachers dead, both the California public employees' pension retirement fund (CalPERS) and the state teachers' retirement fund (CalSTRS) divested from the gun industry. CalSTRS further leveraged its investment in the private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management to pressure Cerberus into selling its stake in the gun manufacturer Freedom Group.

They should use similar leverage with Clayton Williams Energy now, and for the same reasons. The NRA's insistent lobbying to put more guns in the hands of more people, regardless of the consequences, has put it out of step with mainstream opinion, including a majority of gun-owning Americans. Opinion polls have shown overwhelmingly support for a loophole-free system of background checks, yet the NRA has used its lobbying power to stop the requisite legislation from passing in Washington.

Clayton Williams Jr. is, of course, under no obligation to change his opinions. But he has no business using his publicly traded corporation to further his political agenda -- and to use the corporation's financial muscle to lobby against the public interest. His shareholders would do well to voice their disapproval loud and clear, and dump their stock today.

Do Bullied Youth Really Carry Weapons to School?

Deborah Temkin   |   May 7, 2014   11:54 AM ET

Bullying Victims Bring Weapons to School!

So reads the latest headline heralding new research on bullying and weapon carrying. This finding certainly sounds plausible -- we know bullying is a common factor in many school shooting incidents (though, like suicide, bullying alone is likely not causal), but what does the data really say? As a trained researcher, I wanted to dig deeper beyond the news reports and went searching for the study. Imagine my surprise when the only published mention of this research was a 500-word abstract for a conference poster presentation that contains little information about their methodology and statistical analysis, and which has never been reviewed by fellow researchers, i.e. "peer reviewed." Peer review helps ensure that studies' data, methods, and conclusions are valid before entering the research literature and influencing further efforts on a given topic. Without peer review, we must question the findings of this study, especially given other research on this issue that shows quite the opposite -- bullied youth actually decrease their weapon carrying over time.

First and foremost, the authors report that 50 percent of youth participants on the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey administered by the CDC reported being victims of bullying. The CDC's own analyses of this data show a much lower rate at 20 percent. This huge discrepancy no doubt affects the interpretation of these findings. It is also unclear whether the researchers controlled for contextual factors known to influence weapon carrying such as the presence of gangs, overall rates of weapon carrying in particular schools and communities, and previous aggressive behavior. The authors also fail to report gender, race, and grade difference which almost certainly impact weapon carrying rates.

Though theirs may be the first to garner headlines, the authors' assertion that their study is the first to explore the connection between weapon carrying and peer victimization, is simply inaccurate. A 2011 longitudinal study from Dijkstra and colleagues published in the peer-reviewed journal, Journal of Adolescent Health, found that weapon carrying only increased for victims identified by peers as also aggressive. Aggressive youth, generally, were more likely to carry weapons over time. Those who self-identified as victims actually had a reduction in weapon carrying. As Dijkstra and colleagues conclude:

... Weapon carrying as a purely defensive response without engagement in problem behaviors may be uncommon. The finding that peer-reported victimization increased the likelihood of weapon carrying for highly aggressive adolescents underlines that experiences of victimization may prompt weapon carrying only among adolescents with a history of aggression. (pg. 375)

The differences between this published study and the one that made headlines this week are striking, yet no news reports covered the release of Dijkstra's work.

So what can we actually say about the current headlines? Media plays a valuable service in translating bullying research for the general public. Most research is cost prohibitive to access without academic credentials and can be difficult to interpret without a trained eye. Yet, the news is selective about what research it reports, often focusing on those studies that reinforce preconceived notions about bullying and those that may cause scandal, regardless of their validity. For these reasons, we must be critical consumers of all research-turned-news stories. Although peer review cannot guarantee validity in all cases (see, for instance, the since debunked vaccines-cause-autism research, where the research fabricated results) or quality studies and conclusions (see my blog on the "anti-bullying programs don't work" paper), it is at least a clue as to whether a paper is ready to be considered on a wide scale. Do bullied youth carry weapons? I'll wait to read the peer-reviewed paper.

What Do We Need to Do About Gun Violence?

Mike Weisser   |   May 6, 2014    4:33 PM ET

According to a recent report issued by the Center for American Progress, of everyone killed by guns each year, one in five was 24 years old or younger, making gun death the second most common form of morbidity for this age group, surpassed only by motor vehicle accidents. The Center is hardly the first to draw parallels between the number of automobile fatalities versus the number of gun deaths each year. But beyond the similar number of deaths in both categories (roughly 30,000+) the comparison, in terms of what it means from a public policy or public health perspective, means nothing at all.

The fact is that nearly everyone who gets killed on our highways never imagined that this would be the result of getting into their car. The fact is that just about everyone who used a gun to kill themselves or someone else picked up the gun for that reason and that reason alone. Since we know that most fatal vehicle accidents occur because people drive too fast, or drink too much, or do something else that they shouldn't do, we pass DUI laws, we set radar traps on major roads, and we even make the vehicles more crash-proof and mandate seat belts to bring down fatalities even more. But even though scores of peer-reviewed articles confirm Walter Mosley's comment that "if you carry a gun, it's bound to go off sooner or later," we make it pretty easy for most Americans to walk around with a gun. And despite NRA bombast to the contrary, the majority of gun deaths each year were committed by people who either could or had legally acquired the gun.

Given the above, it seems to me that when we look at the issue of gun violence, it gets down to choosing from one of three options:

1. We agree that 30,000+ gun deaths per year is a small price to pay for the existence of the 2nd Amendment and leave it at that.

2. We engage from time to time in a loud and basically unproductive national debate about a new gun law which, even if it were enacted, would probably do little to change the current state of affairs.

3. We try to figure out the points of contact between people at risk for using guns and those professionals who might appropriately intervene, then give the latter the necessary resources to initiate the intervention process and monitor the results.

In the case of suicides, we know that most victims saw a mental health professional within the 30 days prior to the suicide act itself. In the case of homicides, more than 75% grow out of long-standing disputes and arguments, many of which resulted in non-fatal injuries before one or the other parties yanked out the gun. Whether it was a counselor, an ER physician, a teacher or other professional, most people who shoot themselves or someone else presented symptoms or testimony that needed to be followed up. A mental health worker who alerts the police to a patient's suicide plan with a gun isn't infringing on anyone's 2nd Amendment rights. An ER physician who's told by a patient that "I'm not going to let him beat me up again" has a Hippocratic responsibility to inquire about the existence of a gun.

Despite what Rand Paul says, gun violence has been recognized as a public health issue since 1979. It is the only public health issue registering significant morbidity for which medical professionals do not have any best practices from which they can receive guidance either for identifying or treating at-risk patients who might otherwise hurt themselves or someone else with a gun. Let's be honest: the discussion and development of best practices to deal with gun violence is long overdue.

Post-Sandy Hook Active Shooter Training Has Already Saved Lives, Says FBI Director James Comey

Ryan J. Reilly   |   May 2, 2014    4:41 PM ET

WASHINGTON -- The active shooter training that the FBI has been giving to local and state law enforcement officials across the country in the wake of the Sandy Hook killings has already saved lives, FBI Director James Comey told reporters Friday.

Comey said the chief of police in Murrysville, Pennsylvania "wanted to make sure that I knew that the FBI's training had saved children" when a student stabbed 25 people at Franklin Regional High School last month.

"One of the pieces of training we've been pushing out is tell responders to be sure to keep a path clear for ambulances," Comey told reporters. "One of the things we've learned from examining past incidents is the law enforcement responders race up, park their cars at all sorts of angles and race towards the building, completely blocking the roads."

"So one of the things we've been teaching is race up, but somebody needs to take command and keep one road clear," Comey continued. "And the chief wanted me to know that kids lived who would otherwise have bled out and died that day because he had gotten that training and he insisted that a lane be kept clear, and the ambulances got right up, grabbed the kids that were bleeding badly and got them out and saved their lives."

Comey also said that the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit is regularly working with state and local law enforcement to address concerns about individuals who might be plotting a violent attack.

"We've put the word out to all of our partners -- if there's a troubled person in your community, [a] troubled student, anybody you worry about, you can bounce it off us and consult with our experts down at Quantico and they'll offer you advice on how you should think about the risk," Comey said.

Local and state law enforcement are regularly taking advantage of the program, Comey said. He added that an individual who was believed to have been plotting a mass shooting was sent to a mental health unit within the last week after local law enforcement intervened based on the BAU's recommendation.

Special Agent Ann Todd, an FBI spokeswoman in Quantico, told The Huffington Post that the bureau could not offer any details on the case because it was ongoing.

Is It Time to Update the Second Amendment?

Sanjay Sanghoee   |   May 2, 2014    3:07 PM ET

As Winston Churchill famously said, "You can always count on Americans to do the right thing -- after they have tried everything else." It was a backhanded compliment about our ability to find the courage to do what is necessary, and time and again, Americans have risen to the challenge.

Except on gun control.

It should dismay us greatly that even after the Newtown tragedy, which claimed the lives of 20 young children, and the countless gun related deaths since -- including this week when a gunman went on a rampage at a FedEx facility in Georgia, we have been unable to enact stronger laws to prevent the reckless marketing and sales of guns by manufacturers and dealers. Even basic measures such as expanded background checks and restrictions on the sale of assault weapons have failed in Congress, and we seem to be no closer to making progress on this issue than before Newtown.

When even the massacre of children doesn't move us, it is time to ask why we have become so ineffectual and unable to do the right thing. A big part of the answer lies in our blind adherence to the Constitution, and more specifically, the Second Amendment, which codifies the right to bear arms. Even gun control advocates who recognize the urgent need to do something are so scared of appearing un-American that they routinely sidestep the core issue of whether the Second Amendment makes sense anymore and even wind up bolstering the other side's cause in some cases.

This, of course, is exactly what gun companies and the National Rifle Association count on to continue their policy of bullying America into submission on guns. As long as we are afraid to question the sacred cow of the pro-gun movement, there cannot be meaningful progress on gun control.

So does the Second Amendment really serve a useful purpose in modern society and should it be modified to suit our times?

The answer to the former depends on whether you imagine that the Second Amendment somehow protects Americans from a tyrannical government. It does not. No matter how many weapons private citizens stockpile or even what type of guns they own, a private militia can never match the firepower of the U.S. government. Simply put, if our government ever decides to suppress the citizenry by force, privately held guns won't be the factor that makes a difference.

With this in mind, the central purpose that the Second Amendment once served is no longer applicable, and therefore neither is the Amendment in its current form. Even gun control advocates are not opposed to private citizens keeping a handgun at home for personal protection or hunters owning a rifle, but those exceptions can be covered without the overarching sweep of the Second Amendment.

Also, as much as the pro-gun movement would like you to believe, there is no real evidence that more guns in the hands of private citizens protects society from violence. The popular idea (amongst some people) that if every person was armed, criminals could be neutralized more easily or be less likely to commit crimes in the first place is absurd and more the result of an effective media campaign by the NRA than a real fact. The presence of more guns in society simply raises the danger of more people being hurt and we don't need statistics to recognize that.

Ironically, the problem with the Second Amendment is that by being so broad, it actually makes it vulnerable to interpretation and sets up the conflict between the right to bear arms (reasonable) and the ability to pose a serious threat to civilized society (unreasonable). Limiting its scope, therefore, could strengthen the spirit of the Amendment by removing its undesirable consequences.

Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens recently suggested adding the words "when serving in [the militia]" to update the Second Amendment but that won't necessarily work either since the definition of 'militia' itself is debatable. It's time to stop quibbling over words and make the Amendment as specific as possible to avoid subjective interpretations leading to deadly consequences for our nation.

To summarize, if we want meaningful gun control in America, we first need to remove the all-encompassing shield of the Second Amendment that the multi-billion dollar gun industry and its lobbyists routinely hide behind to ply their weapons. Only without that artificial protection can we begin to have a real debate about the type of gun laws we need.

I know that many will bristle at the notion of modifying our Constitution but as an evolved nation with civilization and peace as our guiding principles, we are actually obligated to rethink anything that derails those principles - no matter how appropriate the Second Amendment may have been when it was adopted in 1791. If the essence of America is freedom, then we also need to be free of blind ideology, needless paranoia, and the fear of questioning our Constitution - which was written by free-thinking Americans who had no problem questioning their own status quo.

One such free-thinking American today is former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a long-time advocate of gun control, who recently pledged $50 million of his personal capital to take on the destructive influence of the NRA. Predictably, the NRA is trying to use that to make Americans afraid of what could happen to their guns, but let's not be fooled by them.

Support Mr. Bloomberg on his mission instead.

Sanjay Sanghoee is a writer and commentator. He has written extensively about gun control since the Aurora, Colorado shootings and is the author of two books. Follow him @sanghoee.

Better Love It or Leave It, Because We Cling to Guns

Allen Schmertzler   |   May 2, 2014   10:07 AM ET

2014-04-29-clivenbundycopy.jpg


The times they have a changed. I remember when the extreme right-wing nuts were social pariahs. No mainstream politician or national media organization would openly embrace or advocate for them. They were either percolating as white supremacist racists, shamed KKK holdouts, Hell's Angels road bandits, or grouped into a category labeled "survivalists." They were all armed and willing, had caches of enough weapons and supplies sometimes hidden in bunkers, and they were going to save America. We knew they existed, sometimes gave them some thought, but mostly ignored them as pesky bugs that one just has to monitor and avoid as best as possible, because there was a powerful sense that the rightness of the American Dream machine would prevail.

This was also a time when America's youth were "crusaders" against government over-reach. Despite their being armed only with the first amendment, idealism, and organizing peaceful and mostly non-violent protests, a majority of Americans angrily called them unpatriotic and yelled for them to "love it or leave it!" Odd to realize now how that slogan was never aimed at the right wing nuts.

During the same period of social discontent when the Black Panthers "stood their ground" armed with the second amendment, the FBI and all shades of law enforcement agents either killed many of them in shoot-outs or imprisoned others. Americans, in the mid-west, and from coast to coast supported the government and its agents with patriotic fervor for ridding society of those illegal treasonous Hanoi Jane and black militant types. The chaotic unrest of the '60s and '70s faded as the social crusaders donned work suits and NBA team uniforms and assimilated back into the melting pot.

Fast forward to Cliven Bundy's "home on the Nevada range," where the big ugly truth stood its ground that America is still a Civil War house divided across one hundred fifty plus Aprils. What first appeared to be a resurgent state rights sagebrush rebellion on steroids took a prickly cactus turn.

There was the usual and now quite predictable circus of "Republican" characters that jumped on this event to spin the narrative, score political points, spend Koch brother monies, stoke the base, create another poster child victim of Obama's illegal government over-reach, and gain another propaganda win.

The shocking surprise was the turnout of "first responders." The neo-minutemen and women that flocked to the Nevada "Concord" from other states, forming a volunteer armed citizenry, that took up sniper positions, and were ready to place women as the first receivers of bullets against federal agents enforcing the law against the cattle welfare queen, Cliven Bundy. This group was more than ready and desirous of martyrdom to bring about their larger cause, the overthrow of the evil empire.

Just when did it become fashionable and acceptable, and not punishable for armed treason against the government? That is exactly what occurred there. No one was saying, "love it or leave it" to this posse, because they cling to guns, because they have become embedded into a way larger fabric of American society than their predecessors were able to. I wonder if the gush of the Republican power elite somehow legitimized and thus emboldened these folks? Could this have become the first shots of the rewriting of the Civil War?

Thankfully, the same guy that started this defused the standoff. Cliven Bundy talked. No longer an obscure desperate lone ranger, Cliven had the embrace and love from the Republican machine that empowered him to spew his Civil War era racism. The same machine that gaveth him a platform, now couldn't find enough cactus, sagebrush, or moral platitudes to distance themselves fast enough. Oh well, no one promised unconditional love.

It is beyond me why the extreme right wing Republican power machine doesn't do a better job vetting the Cliven Bundys. Does so much power and money breed such stupidity? I guess in their mind they won anyway. They know the hatred is still out there waiting for the next crusade, and it isn't the sort of group that anyone other than me might politely ask of them, but here goes, please, "America, love it or leave it!"

Ed Mazza   |   April 30, 2014    4:14 AM ET

Sarah Palin is at it again, this time saying that if she was in charge, waterboarding would be "how we baptize terrorists."

On Tuesday night's "Daily Show," Jon Stewart said Palin's speech was tailor-made for an Al Qaeda recruitment video -- or maybe part of a new series of speeches called the "HUH?! Talks."

"They're like TED Talks, except they make no sense," Stewart said.

Watch the segment above for more on Palin.

The former vice presidential candidate and Alaska governor was speaking at an NRA meeting in which guns were the implied solution to a long list of cultural problems.

"The NRA convention is like a fortune cookie game in bed, except here the answer is always 'you need a gun,'" Stewart said. "It's a hilarious and incredibly misguided game... like tennis darts."

For more of Stewart's take on the convention as well as new gun laws, see the clip below.

As a Future Seminarian Headed to Georgia, I'm Scared About the 'Guns Everywhere' Law

Richard M. Weinberg   |   April 28, 2014    4:00 PM ET

I'm both excited and scared to be headed to Atlanta in August to attend Candler School of Theology at Emory University. Excited because moving anywhere from Washington, D.C. -- and the Northeast in general, where I've lived my entire life -- is a welcome change. But, I also have not just a few hesitations about being a liberal Northeastern gay Episcopalian in the South at a Methodist seminary -- this despite friends assuring me that Atlanta is different than the rest of the South.

Atlanta may be different, but it's still in Georgia, where last week Governor Nathan Deal signed into law the so-called "guns everywhere" bill, officially named the Safe Carry Protection Act of 2014. As someone about to become a seminarian in the state, I can't quite wrap my head around the idea that while receiving Communion on Sunday, one of my fellow congregants might be packing heat.

Thankfully, both bishops in my denomination, the Rt. Rev. Robert C. Wright, bishop of Atlanta, and the Rt. Rev. Scott Anson Benhase, bishop of Georgia, issued a joint statement opposing the bill.

This bill solves nothing, and it only creates the potential for more gun violence, not less, to say nothing of increasing political polarization in Georgia. Our state's current gun laws are already quite fair to gun owners, adequately protecting their rights. All the citizens of Georgia have rights as well. We have a right to keep guns out of our houses of worship and our schools,

the statement said. (So I assume the Episcopal churches I'll be frequenting will opt for a "no guns, please" sign at their entrance.)

My direct involvement in advocacy related to curbing gun violence has come in the past year-and-a-half. Following the horrific shootings at Newtown, my boss, the Very Rev. Gary Hall, dean of Washington National Cathedral, entered the public debate on gun violence head-on, making headlines with a rousing sermon in which he famously quipped, "The gun lobby is no match for the cross lobby." Since December 2012, our work at the Cathedral has included organizing two annual Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath weekends, hosting a vigil service on the one-year anniversary of the Newtown shooting, marching for commonsense gun laws and working with faith-based coalitions across the country to reflect the overwhelming majority view of people of faith who are opposed to the epidemic of gun violence in America.

Now I have a confession to make. Just about a week ago I was out to dinner with one of my best friends. He wanted me to come meet his younger sister and brother-in-law. My friend had warned me many times that his family is conservative, but hey, so are a number of my family members. Quite unexpectedly, at one point near the end of the meal, the conversation turned to their respective love of guns. Comparisons on who owned what ensued, and to a degree I was comfortable with the "hunting" talk for the most part and decided to keep quiet.

But then the conversation took a turn when my friend's brother-in-law expressed his concern over efforts to limit the sale of high-capacity magazines. Rather than speak up and risk an uncomfortable confrontation with my friend's family, I excused myself quickly as we were paying the check.

The following day I apologized to my friend explaining that I felt I had missed an opportunity to express my views from my Christian standpoint. I wish I had told those at the dinner table about my co-worker whose cousin Alex Sullivan died in Aurora, or about the interviews I conducted with family members of gun violence victims, including Scarlett Lewis, the mother of Jesse, a six-year-old boy who died at Newtown or Ann Wilson, whose son Daniel and husband James died within five years of each other at the ages of 20 and 50, respectively, in Washington, D.C. Listening to the heartbreaking stories of those who have suffered such loss was a challenge and a privilege, and what was inspiring was the resilience of their faith. It made it personal for me.

Now, I don't know what my dinner table companions' reactions would have been had I entered the conversation. And I know that gun enthusiasts are not in favor of gun violence and wouldn't not share empathy toward victims. But it seems to me that people on polar opposite sides of the gun debate come to the conversation from completely different places. On the one side, Second Amendment advocates just like guns, believe in their right to have them, and oppose any legislation that would seek to limit their lawful access to them. On the other side, gun control advocates are mindful foremost of the violence illegal guns cause and rally around the notion that commonsense measures to prevent guns from falling into the wrong hands are appropriate for the well being of all citizens. One of those measures -- universal background checks -- is even supported by more than 80 percent of Americans.

What's to be done? Well, for one thing, those of us who believe that gun laws save lives have to speak up and not be silent like I was at dinner the other week. Respectfully engaging in conversation around the culture of guns, listening to one another -- either about a passion for hunting, concern for the ability to defend one's home or about the stories of some of the 30,000 annual victims of gun violence and the ways we can protect gun owners' rights while also protecting innocent would-be victims, would be meaningful conversations to have.

It would seem when I move to Georgia in August that I'll be afforded more opportunities to engage with those I disagree. As a Christian, I follow one who died at the hands of extreme violence. And I'm confident of my calling to condemn violence of any kind that would cause such tremendous loss of life. If the Holy Spirit can aide us all in open conversation that would lessen the polarization of our political discourse, then come Holy Spirit, I pray: fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in them the fire of your love. Amen.

Samantha Lachman   |   April 25, 2014    5:19 PM ET

National Rifle Association Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre sees a lot of haters out there, from President Barack Obama's administration to the media, who "scheme to destroy our country."

Speaking at his group's annual meeting in Indianapolis Friday, LaPierre stoked fear of an erosion not just of Second Amendment rights, but of other values too, according to a transcript released by the NRA:

Freedom has never needed our defense more than now. Almost everywhere you look, something has gone wrong. You feel it in your heart, you know it in your gut. Something has gone wrong. The core values we believe in, the things we care about most, are changing. Eroding. Our right to speak. Our right to gather. Our right to privacy. The freedom to work, and practice our religion, and raise and protect our families the way we see fit. Those aren't old values. They aren't new values. They are core freedoms, the core values that have always defined us as a nation. And we feel them -- we feel them -- slipping away.

LaPierre laid out a spectrum ranging from "terrorists" to "haters," all of whom could presumably be stopped with guns:

We know, in the world that surrounds us, there are terrorists and home invaders and drug cartels and carjackers and knockout gamers and rapers [sic], haters, campus killers, airport killers, shopping mall killers, road-rage killers, and killers who scheme to destroy our country with massive storms of violence against our power grids, or vicious waves of chemicals or disease that could collapse the society that sustains us all. I ask you. Do you trust this government to protect you? We are on our own.

Without specifically mentioning Democrats, LaPierre pledged defiance against those whom he says would strip away individual rights.

This election is going to be a bare-knuckled street fight. They're going after every House and Senate seat, governor's chair and statehouse they can get their hands on -- laying the groundwork to put a Clinton back in the White House. They intend to finish the job, to fulfill their commitment -- their dream -- of fundamentally transforming America into an America you won't recognize. But mark my words: The NRA will not go quietly into the night. We will fight.

A new coalition of gun control groups called Everytown for Gun Safety released a new ad Friday, just a week after former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a $50 million campaign aimed at beating the NRA in policy battles across the country.

Several prominent Republicans appeared at the NRA event Friday, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

Despite LaPierre's remarks, there is little evidence to suggest that the so-called "knockout game" is a real phenomenon.

Read the full text of LaPierre's speech here.

Why I'm Going to the NRA Convention

Rebecca Bond   |   April 25, 2014   11:00 AM ET

I'm a gun responsibility advocate and I'll be attending the NRA Convention in Indianapolis this weekend. Sound like an oxymoron? Well, it shouldn't be. Evolve, the gun safety and responsibility organization my husband Jon and I founded, believes that something as important as responsible gun ownership should not be politicized.

I will be going to the convention with my gun-loving, safety-and-responsibility-advocate brother, Troy. One of the reasons I asked Troy to join me is that he personifies everything good about gun culture: tradition, family values, safety, calling out irresponsible behavior when he sees it. Troy lives in rural Minnesota, has some chickens that lay some eggs (not enough to feed the family, but the kids love it) and makes an honest living running a property maintenance company while fixing the occasional car on the side. Troy is not a politician. But he believes that his community -- the gun community -- should lead the safety and responsibility messaging.

We're going to the convention to talk to gun owners and manufacturers about the work of Evolve. Sandy Hook was a wake-up call for me and for millions of other Americans, not just because of the terrible human toll suffered by the families who lost loved ones, but because the senseless slaughter provoked a national standoff about gun safety. A standoff that has the potential to send the gun safety and personal responsibility conversation right down the drainpipe of politics. Again.

My husband and Evolve co-founder, Jon, is an ad guy, raised in a quintessentially Woody Allen-esque family. I come from more traditional Lutheran Scandinavian Minnesota, and my brother's love of guns reflects my family roots. But the vitriolic debate that broke out after Sandy Hook convinced Jon and me that the politicized arguments were not going to help in remaking an aspirational culture of safety and responsibility. One that can be owned by everyone.

We looked at other times when a national consensus developed around the issue of safety; for example, the National Safety Council, which grew out of efforts to promote safe driving when America began its love affair with cars. The Council wasn't interested in taking cars away from drivers, even unsafe drivers. But it did, and still does, evolve motivational and innovative ideas around safety and careful driving messages. The new campaign efforts around the issues of safety now emphasize the need for drivers, particularly young drivers, to understand the dangers of texting while they drive.

Another example is Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), which began in 1980 but really took off when public service announcements appeared in movie theaters in 1988 reminding us to designate a "safe" driver who would stay sober so that everyone else could have a good time and still return home safely. Like the Safety Council, nobody was asked to give up drinking. But the language and culture about safe driving and alcohol was changed forever. Change the language around an idea and we change how people think about it. What is significant is that the alcohol industry has actively supported responsible drinking. Think about it, how effective would "designated driver" be without the support of the key stakeholders -- bars and restaurants? The Century Council, for instance, is comprised of virtually all the major spirits companies that "aims to fight to eliminate driving and underage drinking and promotes responsible decision-making regarding alcohol use." They lead the safety and responsibility message; they make it cool to be educated and talk about alcohol. In addition, they are creative and open to working with new partners to make sure their message is heard by all. This is good business and politics -- because if you "self-regulate" then the government and its citizens tend to leave you alone.

Evolve wants to help do the same thing with guns. The NRA, NSSF, and others in the industry have paid lots of attention to gun safety. There is a legacy of safety messaging. But the fact of the matter is that most efforts are exclusive to the gun industry. History shows that responsibility campaigns that remain insular, not embracing a spirit of inclusiveness, can run the risk of inside baseball and can end-up talking only to themselves. And not talking to the wide range of people who should be thinking and talking about it.

There are always new and emerging segments of owners and motivating interests -- today's gun owners don't all come from a heritage of gun family traditions -- so "it takes a village." It's not enough to advocate for ownership and not make safety and personal responsibility also the coolest thing on the block. For everyone.

Now that's not a problem for the automobile industry because everyone drives a car. But a majority of Americans don't own guns, and the gun industry could also be willing to learn how to talk to non-gun owners, as well, so that gun safety and responsibility can become a part of popular culture, with everyone at least owning the basics. By combining objective outsiders, who know marketing and popular culture, with industry support, perhaps we could create the new gun equivalent of "friends don't let friends drive drunk" -- perhaps with the gun shop owners and gun manufacturers taking on the role of the bar -- and a larger coordinated message effort emerging from that.

Evolve says "safety is not a side" because we don't think something as important as gun safety and responsibility should be politicized. We only care about the biggest and most innovative safety and responsibility campaigns and tools. Campaigns that continue to evolve and talk to everyone.

For those of you wondering, we are completely independent and we depend entirely on ourselves for support. Our first video "The Bill of Rights for Dumbasses," which has been viewed by nearly 100,000 people, was totally financed by us and in-kind services. We know that politicizing safety is not a big enough idea and there are plenty out there who want a new playbook. Troy and I look forward to meeting many of you this weekend.

Learn more about Evolve on Facebook

  |   April 24, 2014    9:49 PM ET


By Sharon Bernstein

SACRAMENTO, Calif. April 24 (Reuters) - A bill banning the sale of single-shot handguns that can be modified into semi-automatic weapons advanced in the California legislature on Thursday as lawmakers sought to close what the bill's supporters say is a loophole in the state's gun safety laws.

Gun control advocates say thousands of weapons are sold in California each year without a required safety feature that indicates when a bullet is in the chamber, endangering children and others who may be shot accidentally.

"Right now there is a very large opening in the law that permits guns that otherwise we wouldn't consider safe for sale and purchase in California," said Sacramento assemblyman Roger Dickinson, a Democrat who authored the bill.

Under existing law, semi-automatic weapons must have an indicator showing when there is a bullet in the chamber. But many manufacturers do not include the feature, leading some dealers to convert guns to single-shot weapons before selling them, just to change them back later, Dickinson said.

The most populous U.S. state has some of the nation's strictest gun control laws, and Dickinson's measure is the latest of dozens of bills introduced in the state in the wake of mass shootings in 2012 in Colorado and Connecticut.

Last fall, Democratic Governor Jerry Brown, who has tacked to the center despite large Democratic majorities in the legislature, vetoed several of the bills, rebuffing efforts by fellow Democrats to enact a sweeping expansion of firearms regulation.

The proposed ban on converted semi-automatics without the safety feature is a priority for the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence, said the group's legislative expert, Amanda Wilcox.

The loophole was created after single-shot weapons were exempted from the safety requirement to protect collectors of antique guns, Dickinson said.

After the rule went into effect in 2007, the number of guns being sold as single-shot weapons in the state skyrocketed, which Dickinson said indicated many were being converted.

In 2013, more than 18,000 single-shot gun sales were registered in the state, up from 134 in 2007, the state says. But Assemblyman Brian Jones, a San Diego-area Republican who voted against the bill, said that doesn't mean all purchasers are trying to get around the law.

The National Rifle Association said the measure would hurt law-abiding citizens by "eliminating the only options for Californians to purchase numerous handguns that are commonly owned throughout the rest of the country."

The bill passed the assembly 48-25, and goes to the state senate. (Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Cynthia Osterman)

State Firearm Laws Could Reduce Gun-Related Injuries in Children

Kate C. Prickett   |   April 24, 2014    1:13 PM ET

Regardless of where one comes down on the debates about gun control, everyone seems to agree that keeping firearms out of the hands of unattended children is a good idea. After all, firearm-related injuries remain one of the leading causes of death among U.S. children, with close to 3,500 killed a year. The small and seemingly simple step of securing firearms in a locked cabinet makes a huge difference in protecting young children. By our estimates, approximately 5 percent of preschool age children live in homes in which their parents reported that they owned guns but did not store them in a secure and locked place. To address this problem, many states have implemented Child Access Prevention (CAP) laws. This collection of legislative approaches range from suggestive guidelines for storage behaviors in families with minors to more stringent requirements and harsher penalties for noncompliance, holding gun owners criminally liable regardless of whether someone gets hurt.

Unfortunately, little research exists to test whether these laws are actually associated with family firearm safety behaviors. A primary goal of our study, just published in the American Journal of Public Health, was to understand how gun storage behavior in families with young children varied across states with different CAP laws, controlling for a wide range of parent, family, and state-level factors that are often associated with gun ownership, generally, and gun safety behaviors, specifically. We found that the efficacy of state CAP laws seemed to rely on the general firearm legislative climate in each state. CAP laws were only associated with decreased likelihood of unsafe gun storage behaviors in states that had strong firearm legislation overall. Although we cannot infer causation from these findings, we hypothesize that parents may not be aware of the specific laws in their states but are more generally aware that their state has many laws that regulate gun use, prompting them to be more careful about the purchase and storage of firearms. We also think that having stronger general state laws could potentially affect which families own firearms -- parents who own guns in a state without any regulation may constitute a very different pool of people than those who own firearms in a state in which they have to jump through hoops, such as a background check, to get them.

Overall, these findings highlight that a significant proportion of children in the U.S. are living in homes where they can potentially access firearms, and these estimates are likely conservative due to underreporting arising from not wanting to share private or potentially embarrassing information or from parents' loose interpretation of what constitutes a 'safe' or 'locked' gun. Moreover, even laws that do not directly target the types of behaviors that result in young children accidentally accessing firearms could have potential spillover effects for the safety of children.

This is why comprehensive firearm legislation -- even legislation that doesn't seem to necessarily solve the immediate public health issue that politicians are responding to (such as a school massacre) -- could potentially be important.

Take, for example, proposed federal legislation on background checks that would have closed loopholes in firearm purchases at gun shows. Recent polls show broad bipartisan public support for this type of legislation, and, although it likely won't stop school massacres, it has potential spillover effects that may affect minors' access to firearms. Parents who do not keep their guns safe at home probably will not show up in a database of people with a diagnosed serious mental health illness, but having a mandated background check or waiting several days to return to a store to purchase a gun may create enough friction that could stop some parents who may be less able or inclined to take heed of their pediatrician's recommendations or abide by their state's CAP laws.

Ms. Kate C. Prickett is a PhD candidate with the Population Research Center and the Department of Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin.

Dr. Alexa Martin-Storey is an assistant professor with the Département de Psychoéducation, Université de Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada.