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30,000 Yearly Gun Deaths Is A Health Epidemic

Mike Weisser   |   October 6, 2014   11:57 AM ET

It was back in 1996 that Congressman Jay Dickey (R-AR) inserted language into the 1997 budget that prohibited gun research funded by the CDC. And from that time forward, physicians and public health researchers have been a favorite target of the NRA. The most public example of this attempt to demonize the notion that guns constitute a health risk is, of course, the Florida law ("Docs versus Glocks") which potentially criminalizes physicians who ask patients about guns. Yet another instance in which gun "rights" were used to distort the role and value of physicians was the successful attempt by Rand Paul, the self-certified opthalmologist from Kentucky, to block or at least temporarily derail the appointment of Vivek Murthy to be head of the CDC.

Rand's opposition to Murthy's nomination was nothing except an attempt to pander to a receptive audience, i.e., hardcore NRA members and other right-wing folks, whose support he will surely need if and when he announces a bid for the White House in 2016. I actually have no issue with Paul or any other political candidate saying whatever has to be said to get his ducks lined up in the water in order to try and latch onto the gold ring. But when Rand politicizes the importance and value of public health as regards guns or anything else, he's stepped across a line that ordinarily demarcates stupidity from common sense.

Last week the first case of someone infected with Ebola was confirmed. It turned out to be a man who came into contact with an Ebola patient in his native country of Liberia shortly before coming to the United States. And while he evidently told hospital staff in Texas that he had recently been in an infected zone, the hospital in Dallas mistakenly released him back into the general population and God knows how many individuals may have come into contact with this poor guy before he was properly diagnosed.

The challenge now facing Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital is to identify every person with whom this patient may have had contact, get them isolated and tested and hope that the disease hasn't spread. But I'll tell you this: If there's even the slightest hint that the Ebola virus might appear in Dallas or elsewhere, guess which agency the entire American population will expect to step in? It won't be the NRA, that's for sure. Despite the fact that the penultimate guardians of the 2nd Amendment, along with Rand Paul, claim to know what doctors should and shouldn't do, the burden of dealing with Ebola will fall right where it should -- on public health researchers and the CDC.

I'm not saying that gun violence is as much a threat to public health as Ebola. In roughly a month, the WHO estimates that the "epidemic" has killed more than 3,000 people in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. Representatives from more than twenty countries are now meeting in London to figure out how to get more medical aid and resources to contain the deadly spread. In Sierra Leone there are five new cases reported every hour of every day.

Hey, wait a minute. The Ebola mortality rate is estimated at 50 percent, which means that 30 people will die each day from the virus in Sierra Leone, which is about one-third of all the cases that are being reported throughout West Africa at this time. Do the arithmetic, as Bill Clinton said, and this adds up to 30,000+ Ebola victims in West Africa over a full year. Isn't that roughly the same number of people who die from gun violence each year in the United States?

But let's not forget that the CDC isn't allowed to figure out what to do about gun violence and if it were up to the NRA, every state would follow Florida's lead in gagging doctors who want to talk to their patients about guns. If 30,000 Ebola deaths in Africa constitutes an epidemic, what do you call 30,000 gun deaths which have occurred every year in America for the past twenty years?

Guns and Children -- Don't Be Ignorant

Jason P. Stadtlander   |   October 6, 2014    9:26 AM ET

Last month I wrote an article discussing guns, gun bans and the concept that business bans or restrictions on guns offer a safe haven for killers in “Gun Bans a Safe Haven for Killers”.

During my research and discussion for this article, questions regarding children and guns came up and it was a topic I badly wanted to discuss, but did not feel that was the appropriate article to go into any detail.

Gun Safety and Children

I am a father to young children and also an educator of parents with a teaching focus of protecting children online. My compassion for children runs deep and having been raised around guns and being taught the dangers of guns at a young age, I believe that it's critical to educate children on gun safety.

Gun ownership is not just a right under the Constitution, it is also a responsibility. It’s our charge to ensure that those who own guns are taught not only the safety necessary to protect themselves, but also the knowledge of how to make certain children understand the realities and dangers of guns.

As a child, I was never allowed to touch a gun unless my parents were with me. I knew exactly where they were kept. I even knew where the ammo was stored, but not once did I ever think of touching them. I knew guns posed a danger. I realized what guns were capable of and that they could mean the difference between life and death--in good ways (protecting yourself) and bad (killing another accidentally). My father would even mention that we shouldn't even point toy guns at other children, in keeping with the consistency of his "gun" safety teaching.

When I did handle guns, my father had three strict rules:

  • Never have the chamber loaded unless ready to shoot.
  • Never point a gun at another person unless your intent is to kill.
  • Never point a loaded gun anywhere but the ground, in the air or at a target.

My father has taught children for years about gun safety, explaining the power that accompanies holding a gun, the inherent dangers and the fact that guns should only be held by those trained to wield them.

Ignorance Kills - Guns Don't

Few things upset me as much as hearing people say, “Guns kill people.” They might as well step out into a crowd with a megaphone and announce, “Hello. I’m ignorant.”

Not once in my life have I ever seen or heard of a gun jumping off a table, aiming itself at a person and tripping its own hammer.

Are guns dangerous? Yes. Are knives dangerous? Yes. Are cross bows dangerous? Yes. Are cars dangerous? Yes.

Every single one of these is both a tool and a weapon and should be respected as such. But no single weapon kills a person unless the person behind that weapon either has the intent to kill or is ignorant. Sadly, I do believe that a greater number of fatal gun accidents are due to ignorance than due to intent. Ignorance is our number one problem when it comes to all weapons--ignorance of how they work, ignorance of how to protect our children from their inherent dangers, and ignorance of use and purpose.

Resist the urge to be an ignorant parent who dismisses guns entirely in stating, “I don’t believe in guns” or “I won’t allow my child near guns.” The reality is, your child will end up around guns someday. The right to own a gun is a constitutional right and isn’t going away. That being a given, I encourage you to either educate your children on gun safety or move out of the country.

Please consider the fact that teaching your children to be safe and understand guns doesn’t mean that you need to own one or even approve of owning them in general. Your teaching them gun safety does mean that you are a responsible parent. The last thing you want is for your child to be in a gun owner’s house with a parent who has refused to teach their own children safe gun practices, thus putting your own child at risk of being injured or killed--only because you were negligent in instructing your child about gun safety.

What can we do to ensure that our children are safe?

Too many people expect the government to make laws and set rules in place that will protect their children and take away the responsibility that they have as an American to educate their own children for.

William H. Taft said:

We are all imperfect. We cannot expect perfect government.

It is our responsibility as parents to create and follow guidelines that will teach our children and make a safer world for them to live in. Ultimately it is we the parents that are responsible for our children, not our government.

Follow these simple rules religiously; what I call the T.A.F.T.T. rules:

Tell your children that you own a gun. Hiding it and not telling them that it’s in the house is a recipe for disaster.
Alert an adult if they see a child near or touching a gun and always leave immediately.
Fear guns. Explain the real dangers to your children that guns pose. A strong fear should be put into them (especially young children) regarding guns.
Take your children shooting as they get older (pre-teen and teen). They need to understand the reality of guns and how to properly handle them.
Treat your guns as you would treat your car. Both can save a life or take it away.

Kevin Short   |   September 29, 2014    5:10 PM ET

A Louisiana cajun restaurant thinks your smoked ribs and fried catfish would go better with a side of firearms.

Bergeron's Restaurant in Port Allen, Louisiana, is giving gun-toting customers a 10 percent discount on their meal after a series of national chains have banned guns in recent months.

"There are people here with guns, this is not a gun-free zone," Kevin Cox, the owner of Bergeron's, told The Huffington Post in a phone call. "So if you want to cause trouble, you can think about who you're sitting next to."

Cox told HuffPost that the deal was originally designed to encourage law enforcement officers to visit the Cajun restaurant, but was then broadened to welcome all gun carriers.

"It makes us all feel better when state patrol, police and sheriff's department come in and have lunch here because you know when they're here we're safe," Cox said. "And I realized that we have a lot of good people that carry a firearm in Louisiana -- my cousins and relatives included -- and I'm equally as safe when they're here, and I need to encourage that."

Advocates for open-carry gun policies have recently forced some chain restaurants and retailers to clarify their policies on guns. Chipotle and Target adopted no-gun policies after gun rights activists flaunted their weapons in the stores.

gun discount

Cox said the recent gun bans inspired his unique discount, and that firearm bans actually invite crime.

"So now you have a choice: You're going to go to Bergeron's and cause trouble or you're going to go to Chipotle and cause trouble," Cox told HuffPost. "I don't think they're going come here if they're going to find good people carrying their guns."

It is legal to openly carry firearms in Louisiana without a permit, as long as you're over 18 years old and not prohibited from having a firearm under federal or state law.

Cox told NBC33, an NBC affiliate in Baton Rouge, that he's been giving out 15 or 20 of the discounts each day.

He said "business is taking off" since the deal was introduced and reported by media outlets, and customers are driving from all over the region to show their support for the restaurant.

The gun discount may or may not leave a bad taste in your mouth, but
at least the Bergeron's BBQ is consistently tasty.

We Need Another Eric Holder

Norma Cook Everist   |   September 29, 2014    1:48 PM ET

The reality of Blacks living daily fearful of an overwhelmingly white police force has not gone away. Fear of black people by white police has not gone away. Calling such things "unrest," would mean all we need in the Attorney General's office is someone who is calm. Therefore, "Guilty of being black while walking," and "Guilty of being black by driving," are issues for the next Attorney General.

"Guilty of being black while being president or attorney general" has become extraordinarily clear in what some said would be a post-racial society. The fear embedded in systemic racism is more insidious, and trust so much more elusive.

A black man is stopped for appearing to not be wearing a seat belt. The video camera shows when told by the officer to get out of his car, the driver does. When told, yet with a calm voice, to produce his driver's license, the man proceeds to do so by reaching back into his car to obtain it. Then we hear and see the police officer's tone change into a fearful rage: "Get down on the ground," while simultaneously shooting the driver." "Why did you shoot me?" the man asks. "You told me to get my driver's license." Fear!

Eric Holder has told us that he had to have "the talk" with his own son that his parents had with him, the talk that neither he nor they thought he would have to have in this generation. It's about how a black son, as he becomes a man, must be prepared to act when confronted by the police in order to live. Fear. The gulf of trust.

The question is not how many people liked or disliked Eric Holder in his office, nor even a matter of his record. The question is how we can replace Eric Holder with Eric Holder, with a person who will carry on the issues that are essential to this nation if we are ever to move beyond fear of the "other" and live in trust without needing to shoot each other.

President Obama, addressing the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's annual awards dinner Saturday night said people, "who are victimized by crime and need strong policing [are] reluctant to go to the police because they may not trust them," and that the "widespread mistrust of law enforcement" that exists in too many communities "is having a corrosive effect on the nation, particularly on its children." Obama called this a "gulf of mistrust."

One could argue if there ever has been trust between blacks and whites in the United States, when our history began as one group oppressing the other. We must ask now if we have trust between people of different ethnicities, religions, or national origins. We fear immigrants at our borders, even (especially?) children. Inter-faith groups have been meeting since 9/11 to try to learn about and understand one another; however images of be-headings incite fear that reverse the polls in favor of military action in the Middle East.

Eric Holder will leave office with many things undone, but he made civil rights a top priority. When people in this nation cannot even have enough trust to allow each other to have their constitutional right to vote, fear has won and democracy has lost. Voter suppression will continue and increase without another Eric Holder.

Fear. When some people are so afraid of people of different sexual orientation that they believe they need laws to defend their own heterosexual marriage, trust goes underground. During Holder's time in office the Justice Department decided to no longer defend components of DOMA because it "contains numerous expressions reflecting moral disapproval of gays and lesbians and their intimate and family relationships..."

This nation is so full of fear of people of color and those who are poor that they incarcerate them, more than any other country in the world. Attorney General Eric Holder pushed for sentencing reform. He said, "This over-reliance on incarceration is not just financially unsustainable, it comes with human and moral costs that are impossible to calculate."

Over the weekend there was more racial "unrest" in Ferguson. A police officer was shot, but the mayor stated it was unrelated to the protests. Eric Holder urged officers not to cover their name plates with black tape. Across TV screens the nation is fixated on a missing young college woman and an armed man hiding out from law enforcement in NE Pennsylvania. We need the police. We need community policing. We need trust. What would this country look like if we had not more guns, nor more fear of each other, but more trust? Trust, when broken, takes time and will and work to (re)-establish. We need you Eric Holder, and another like you. We need thousands of leaders and citizens like you.

Beauprez Feels Your Fear of U.S. Government Attack on You

Jason Salzman   |   September 25, 2014    4:21 PM ET

Over the weekend, Denver Post Editorial Page Editor Vincent Carroll pointed out that gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez has shown a "tendency in recent years to voice support for the fringe issue du jour on the right, whether it's northern Colorado secession or repeal of the 17th Amendment permitting the direct election of senators."

I just found yet another instance of Beauprez voicing "support for the fringe issue du jour on the right."

This time, Beauprez was on a right-wing radio show Dec. 21, 2012, a week after the Sandy Hook massacre. And the hot topic was the stockpiling of guns and ammo.

Host Chuck Wilder asked Beauprez, who's running against Gov. John Hickenlooper, if he thought people were buying guns and ammo to "protect yourself against the bad guys or to protect yourself against the government which might say, 'Only the government is going to have guns?'"

Beauprez responded by saying there's a "growing sentiment" that America might be on the "verge of something very, very bad," and "folks realize they may need to protect themselves against the government that was supposed to be instituted to protect us." 

Beauprez's use of the word "realize" indicates his agreement with the sentiment, I'd say.

Beauprez's comments extend the theme, expressed by the Republican candidate previously, of impending civil war in America. On the Internet show "Christian Today," Beauprez once said:

Beauprez: I hope and pray that, that we don't see another revolution in this country, I hope and pray we don't see another civil war, but this administration is pushing the boundaries like none I think we've ever, ever seen.
For more of the objectively fringy comments, like the ones Carroll mentioned, as well as Beauprez's statement that Americans are like sheep who'd blindly allow the government to implant microchips in their bodie, read Susan Greene's recent article in the Colorado independent.

Partial transcrirpt of the  Talkback with Chuck Wilder Show, Dec. 21, 2012, on the digital Cable Radio Network.

Beauprez: I don't mean to minimized this tragedy. It is a horrible tragedy. But the rush of politicians to somehow blame the gun when there is a whole lot going on than the weapon. If you are going to ban guns, you're going to have to ban a whole lot of other things, baseball bats, kitchen skillets.

Chuck Wilder: Some people, you know, they will look for a giant conspiracy. And that's why, you know, all the K-Mart stores have already sold out of their assault weapons that they sell. That's why, right now, what was it, 6,000 or 8,000 a day are joining the NRA since last Friday.

Baeuprez: We've got that going on in Colorado, the rush to apply for concealed-weapon permits, the gun training businesses are overwhelmed with people.

Chuck: You've got to ask yourself, Bob, and I'll ask you. Do you think it's to protect yourself against the bad guys or to protect yourself against the government which might say, 'Only the government is going to have guns?' You know what I'm saying?

Beauprez: I think a lot of the rush right now for people to get what firearms they want or need, to load up on ammunition, to get better trained, because, at a minimum, they think it's going to be much harder to do very soon. You're absolutely correct, there is a growing sentiment within this country that we might be on the verge of something very, very bad. And folks realize they may need to protect themselves against the government that was supposed to be instituted to protect us."

  |   September 16, 2014    6:09 PM ET

Sept 16 (Reuters) - A Mississippi coroner who advised residents to arm themselves and shoot home intruders said on Tuesday that he had been angered over a recent spate of burglaries and was not seeking to drum up business.

David Scott Gregory, 40, the coroner of largely rural Winston County in eastern Mississippi, went on social media over the weekend to urge residents to buy guns and be willing to use them on burglars.

"I say shoot the idiots and call the Coroner!" Gregory wrote on Facebook. "I'd hate for any innocent people to get hurt but at the same time my stuff is my stuff, my hill is my hill."

Gregory, who has served 10 years as coroner and also works as a local radio DJ under the name "Scotty G," said feedback to his advice has been overwhelmingly positive.

Mississippi is among more than 20 states that have enacted a "stand your ground" self-defense law since Florida's contentious measure took effect in 2005. (Reporting by Jonathan Kaminsky in New Orleans; Editing by Eric Walsh)

The Midterm Election in Aurora, Colorado Where My Son Was Shot Must Address Gun Control

Tom Sullivan   |   September 16, 2014   10:54 AM ET

For those who know me or have heard me speak, you know I measure time in Fridays. This Friday will mark the 112th Friday since my son Alex Sullivan was murdered on his 27th birthday in the mass shooting at the Aurora movie theater along with 11 others.

After Alex's death, when the wakes and funerals were over and the news trucks left town, I was left to figure out my own way of dealing with the loss of a loved one. Reading and re-reading the cards and letters offered me some comfort, but there were just too many questions left unanswered and an overwhelming sense of confusion about how this happened to me. I wanted to know how we as a society got to this point. And more importantly, I wondered what I could do to help make a change.

I began to go to the Colorado State Capitol to hear the discussions on common-sense gun legislation. I stood in line to testify on bills, like the one that would require background checks on all gun sales, and shared my experience about the effect gun violence had on my family and me.

During this time, my wife, daughter and I also met with our Representative, Mike Coffman, who represents Colorado's 6th Congressional District, which is also home to the Century 16 movie theater. He was courteous, showed compassion and asked us lots of questions. But what he didn't offer was any solutions. Since then, I have sat down with Congressman Coffman on at least three separate occasions in Aurora. I also visited his office in Washington, DC with two other parents whose children were killed in the theater shooting. You might think after all of this time Rep. Coffman would have shared his plan to curb these acts of senseless gun violence plaguing our community. But he hasn't. After all this time, Rep. Coffman is still the one asking questions.


Not only has Mike Coffman failed to offer solutions, he seems to be working against the interests of our communities. He voted to require Colorado to allow people from other states, including states with lax or no gun safety training requirements, to carry concealed weapons in our communities, streets, churches, and playgrounds. When some legislators suggested excluding dangerous criminals like convicted sex offenders, stalkers, and suspected terrorists, Coffman voted to allow them to carry weapons anyway.

Colorado did the right thing and closed the loophole that made it easy for criminals, convicted domestic abusers, and the seriously mentally ill to buy guns without any questions asked. But we need federal action because criminals in many other states -- including six of the seven states bordering Colorado -- can go online or to gun shows and buy guns easily without a background check.

Responsibility for closing this loophole on the federal level lands squarely on the shoulders of Rep. Coffman and his peers in Congress. And yet, when asked at a recent congressional debate in Aurora whether he would vote in favor of the Manchin-Toomey bill that would require every gun purchaser -- including strangers who meet online -- to go through a background check so we can keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, Rep. Coffman said he would not support it.

Again, he offered no solutions of his own to curb gun violence. It angered me to hear Mike Coffman dismiss this common-sense approach, supported by 92 percent of gun owners nationwide.

Coffman's opponent, Andrew Romanoff, on the other hand, did not hesitate in offering his full support of Manchin-Toomey. "Surely we can make it a little harder if not impossible for people with violent criminal backgrounds or serious mental illnesses from acquiring firearms," he said. "Which is worth pointing out, cross state lines. That's why federal legislation in this case makes sense."

Our elected leaders need to lead us out of the darkness that surrounds us during times like these. Our elected officials in Washington, like Rep. Coffman, have been lacking in that leadership and I, for one, want to see that change.

With the midterm elections just days away, now is the time to ask our elected officials in Washington where they stand on gun violence prevention. It's really that simple. Stay engaged in the process, talk about the issues, get the information you need to make the right decision and most of all, vote for candidates who support common-sense public safety measures that will save lives.

These issues are too important. Our children's lives and our communities are at risk. Let the politicians in Washington know that enough is enough. We will work for a change, whether it is with them or without them. Change is coming.

This post is part of a series about "Real Time with Bill Maher" 's "Flip a District" initiative. Authors live in the state of the Congressperson whose district the program seeks to "flip." To learn more about Flip a District, visit here.

Gun Bans a Safe Haven for Killers

Jason P. Stadtlander   |   September 11, 2014   12:54 PM ET

Recently Panera Bread released a notice that they will be banning guns within all their restaurants. Although I understand the concern behind this decision, I believe this is not truly being thought through to its logical conclusion.

Panera is not the first to make such a policy. They follow an appeal from Moms Demand Action, an organization that supports preventing child access to guns, something I happen to agree with. However, I do not agree with this Panera policy, or the Kroger and Target policies, which have also been pushed by Moms Demand Action. It is my opinion that these policies have been hastily thrown together in an attempt to prevent firearms from existing at locations where children may be.

This policy is something Starbucks already contemplated, but they decided instead on a statement that guns are "unwelcome" rather than stating that they are banned altogether, which speaks volumes about an organization that appears to have actually put thought into their policy.

Gun Control vs. Gun Bans

A ban on guns is not gun control. I am for gun control -- that is, controlling who can have guns and who cannot. I do believe that individuals who own guns should go through a screening, licensure and perhaps even medical-history evaluation, but this is not the same as banning guns or preventing ownership of guns.

Alexander Hamilton once said, "The constitution shall never be construed ... to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms."

Second Amendment Rights

"Peaceable citizens" is the key term here. We are maintaining a level of peace by providing knowledge that there are repercussions for certain actions. During the Cold War we never fired a nuclear weapon at Russia (though there were very close calls, such as the Cuban Missile Crisis), but it was not because we were "good guys." It was because we knew that if we struck them, they had the power to retaliate. It was two sides possessing strength but respecting the other's strength. As long as guns exist in the world, criminals will always have guns -- but we law-abiding citizens have the power to choose whether we will hold our own strength against them.

Britain used to have strict gun laws in place for those who wanted to own handguns. Despite this, Michael Ryan killed 16 people and wounded another 14 people before shooting himself in the town of Hungerfold. Because the public and police were unarmed, Ryan was able to roam the streets for eight hours with two semiautomatic rifles before anyone with a firearm was able to come to the rescue.

This, along with a shooting spree by Thomas Hamilton in 1996, resulted in Britain banning guns with the Firearms Act of 1998. The effect was totally opposite to what the proponents of the act intended. Gun violence has soared to a point where some British police are now carrying guns for the first time due to gang-related gun violence.

Safe Haven for Terrorism

"When the law disarms good guys, bad guys rejoice."
--Ted Nugent

Words to live by?

The CEO of Panera stated, "Within our company, we strive to create Panera Warmth. This warmth means bakery-cafes where customers and associates feel comfortable and welcome. To this end, we ask that guns not be brought into this environment...."

Questions to ponder:

  • Thinking this through, one needs to ask what "warmth" it offers customers, knowing that the immediate line of defense for neighbors, friends and family is not an option in an extreme situation?
  • Casting aside emotion, let's think logically about this. What good comes from preventing people who can legally own guns -- those who have passed federal, state and local licensure and are required to pass a gun-safety course -- from bringing concealed firearms into a public building?
  • Are the violent people who walk in with the intent to shoot up a Panera Bread, a Walmart, a Target or a Kroger grocery store going to care what prohibitive gun policies are in place? And at the front end, will these intent-to-kill people have a license to carry to begin with?
  • In our legitimate desire to ward off disastrous gun violence, might we actually be preventing the only people who stand a chance at stopping said criminals from, at the very least, avoiding a worst-case scenario? Yes, the authorities can be called, and perhaps there would even be a police officer on site, but might people who are licensed to carry a concealed weapon be our first critical line of defense in such desperate situations?

Extremes on Both Sides

As much as I love my country, the United States is replete with extremes, which can drive most of us insane. We are a country with two political parties, whereas many other Westernized countries have multiple parties and never allow a single party to have a majority by itself.

One group would like to see guns outlawed completely -- a pointless endeavor, as it will not prevent criminals who have no respect for the law from acquiring guns. We have another group that believes in ownership and feels that the laws are too tight to begin with for those who own guns legally. Then we have the rest of us, who would like to see some kind of happy medium. Ironically, those of us who would prefer a happy medium are the ones without much of a voice, because we do not choose to follow either extreme.

Ask yourself this question: If you were a criminal, had a bone to pick with society or were mentally unstable and wanted to snuff out as many innocent lives as possible, would you walk into a McDonald's where there is no ban on guns and you might get shot, or would you set your sights on a Panera Bread, where you do not need to worry about resistance of any kind?

SUMMER BALLENTINE   |   September 11, 2014    4:32 AM ET

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri lawmakers expanded the potential for teachers to bring guns to schools and for residents to openly carry firearms, in a vote Thursday that capped a two-year effort by the Republican-led Legislature to expand gun rights over the objection of the Democratic governor.

The new law will allow specially trained school employees to carry concealed guns on campuses. It also allows anyone with a concealed weapons permit to carry guns openly, even in cities or towns with bans against the open carrying of firearms. The age to obtain a concealed weapons permit also will drop from 21 to 19.

All Of A Sudden The NRA Doesn't Want To Mention Guns

Mike Weisser   |   September 10, 2014    2:59 PM ET

Two weeks ago, coincidentally on the same day that the unfortunate 9-year old girl accidentally shot and killed a firearms instructor in Arizona, the NRA kicked off a series of Netflix-style video ads that are perhaps the organization's most disingenuous effort to present itself as something other than what it really is; namely, an organization devoted to ownership and use of guns. In fact, having watched all 12 one-minute productions, I can tell you that the only way you would know that this is an effort of the NRA is that each commentator ends his or her spiel by telling the viewer that their wholesome and didactic script was produced by the "National Rifle Association of America" with a slight pause and then heavy emphasis on the word 'America' even though officially the NRA is still just the NRA, not the NRAA.

This new media blitz by the people who used to bring us messages like "only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun" is significant insofar as the word "gun" is never mentioned in any of these videos, not even once. You would think that the NRA had become some kind of touchy-feely civics organization devoted to uplifting our moral virtues rather than a trade association committed to getting everyone in America to own a gun. And not only are the minute-long lectures all about honesty, and decency, and respect for everyone's point of view, but only four of the homilies are delivered by white males, who just happen to own most of the guns in America -- seven of the commentators are women, one is Asian-American and, of course, there's always room for Colion Noir, aka NRA's African-American spokesperson.

When I first started watching these videos I thought I was looking at a remake of the Reagan "it's morning again in America" campaign ads from 1984. Those were slickly-produced messages which never showed Reagan, who was beginning to look his age, but instead had a variety of American families proudly standing in front of a farmhouse, a factory gate, a well-manicured suburban lawn, all smiling, all happy, all gently reminding us that if we just remembered to vote Republican that all those things we cherished and loved would never be taken away.

The NRA scripts flow back and forth between a kind of Tea Party-lite condemnation about the problems we face -- government spying, unlawfulness in high places, fear of crime -- and an immediate sense of setting things right with the help of the "good guys," the real Americans who can be counted on every time to keep us safe, honest, decent and sound. And who are these good guys? They are your neighbor with a decal on the back of his truck which reads: N-R-A.

I can't imagine anyone actually watching one of these messages and coming away having learned anything at all. But I don't think that's the point. What the NRA is trying to do is cast itself in a softer, more reasonable and, if you'll pardon the expression, less combative way, because for the first time they are up against an opponent whose money, smarts and media access can sway lots of people to go the opposite way. And not only does Bloomberg have that kind of dough, for the first time he might be able to energize non-gun owners to stay active and committed to the gun control fray.

This week we have another retail chain, Panera, which is walking down the path blazed by Starbucks and Target and asking gun owners to leave their weapons at home. Like the other chains, Panera isn't posting a gun-free sign on their front doors, but if any of the 2nd-Amendment vigilantes believes that this isn't a victory for the folks who want more gun control, they better think again. The fact that Panera's announcement coupled their concern about guns with their desire to build social "communities" in their stores should tell you why, all of a sudden, the NRA has stopped talking about guns.

By ALICIA A. CALDWELL   |   September 9, 2014    3:18 PM ET

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. government programs to help local police agencies obtain military-grade equipment evolved in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, but more than a decade later lawmakers are questioning why smalltown police departments need armored vehicles, automatic weapons and camouflage uniforms.

"How do they decide an MRAP is appropriate?" Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., asked officials from the Homeland Security, Defense and Justice departments of the 617 Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles given to local authorities in recent years.

"It's not a truck. It is a ... offensive weapon," he said Tuesday at a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.

About $5.1 billion in military equipment has been given to local authorities since a Defense Department transfer program was created in 1990.

The new scrutiny on Capitol Hill was prompted by weeks of violent conflicts between police in Ferguson, Missouri, and protesters upset about the fatal police shooting of an unarmed 18-year-old. Most military equipment is provided to local police under a program administered by Homeland Security and the Pentagon.

"These programs were established with a very good intention: to provide equipment that would help law enforcement perform their duties," said Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., chairman of that Senate committee. "The question is whether what our police receive matches what they truly need to uphold the law."

Emerging from a lengthy back-and-forth with the officials who oversee equipment transfer and grant programs was a clear trading of blame for what lawmakers described as a lack of oversight.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat who also serves on the Armed Services Committee, questioned why more heavy-duty armored vehicles have been given to local police agencies than state National Guard units.

"Could it be the Guard doesn't want them because they know they tear up roads, flip easily and have limited applicability?" McCaskill asked the witnesses.

Defense Undersecretary Alan Estevez told lawmakers state coordinators are ultimately responsible for vetting requests for guns, the multi-ton vehicles originally designed to keep troops in Afghanistan and Iraq safe from roadside bombs, and other equipment the military no longer needs.

The hearing also revealed bipartisan skepticism about why local police agencies need automatic weapons, sniper rifles and armored personnel carriers among other equipment.

"When was the last time we have seen what you have given been used ... other than the response to (Boston), against counterterrorism? When was another time?" asked Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.

FEMA Assistant Administrator Brian Kamoie said military-style equipment bought by local and state police agencies helped deal with two terrorist-related incidents, including the Boston Marathon bombing and the attempted Times Square bombing.

He told Coburn that he was unaware that bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was found hiding in a boat by a Boston-area homeowner, not a helicopter with infrared equipment.

FEMA grant purchase are intended to be used strictly for anti-drug or terrorism-related incidents, but Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said he worried that police departments are increasingly relying on such equipment to tamp down riots, like in Ferguson.

"They think these are for riot suppression," Paul said. "There have been maybe two instances of terrorism and we've spent billions and billions of dollars. Really (this gear) shouldn't be on anyone's list of authorized equipment."

McCaskill questioned why 36 percent of the equipment passed from the Pentagon to local authorities was new.

"What in the world are we doing buying things we don't use?" McCaskill asked. "I guarantee, the stuff you are giving away, you are continuing to buy."

Lawmakers also pressed the officials on training and oversight of how equipment is used by local authorities.

Estevez and Kamoie said there is no federal oversight of training to use the MRAPs, automatic weapons and other tactical gear.

The Justice Department's Office of Justice Programs offers and encourages training, but doesn't require it, Assistant Attorney General Karol Mason told lawmakers.

Training and how the gear is ultimately deployed is left to the states, Estevez added.


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I-Z, We-Z, Uzi

Renee Fisher   |   September 2, 2014    2:11 PM ET

The tragic death of a gun instructor by a cute pink pants-wearing nine-year-old Uzi user-in-training has set off a wave of questions, starting with "Why is it necessary for a 9-year-old to learn how to operate an automatic weapon?" A spokesperson for the Uzis for Youth Movement had this to say*:

"Children are being raised in a dangerous world, but are being fed nonsense by the liberal media. If you watch kiddie TV, you'd think that the world is one big love in, populated by fluffy talking animals and people who smile a lot. We would rather our children know the truth. The world is filled with people who can't even speak English and dangerous animals with really sharp teeth. Children have to be trained to survive.

In addition to training children to use automatic weapons, the movement has reissued popular children's classics. In the new editions, Little Red Riding Hood has an Uzi and blows the head off the wolf. Snow White aims her Uzi at the dwarves and gives them 30 minutes to vacate the premises. Goldilocks offs the three bears and then goes back to sleep."

"Let's get real, here," continued the spokesperson, "if children could bring their Uzis to school, no one would mess with them. Schools would become what they were supposed to be, places where everyone learns to read and experiences the joy of friendship, without the bullying."

When asked to consider the idea of establishing an age threshold for instruction of automatic weapons, he had this to say:

"Like what, 10? 12? 18? 21? You see how inane this is. Is a 9-year-old's life of less value than that of, say, an 18-year-old? The reality is that all children of all ages should be learning to fire automatic weapons. We have plans for smaller versions of Uzis that will be available to toddlers, perhaps with cartoon decals to make them more appealing. I can see it now: Spiderman, Batman and Superman on the boys' guns. The girls could have Barbie, and instead of a 'Hello Kitty' version, there would be a 'Bye-Bye Kitty' one. For the youngest children, whose little fingers are too small to know the joy of pulling the trigger, we would offer Uzi-themed disposable diapers and soft, but lifelike, Uzi crib toys. Our motto is 'You're Never Too Young to Protect Your Crib.'"

*The above is satire.

How Does Wilson Fire Six Shots, While Getting Beaten, Without Gunshot Residue On Michael Brown?

H. A. Goodman   |   September 1, 2014    9:50 AM ET


Darren Wilson might eventually be exonerated for the death of Michael Brown and there's a chance he indeed acted appropriately, at least in terms of self-defense, that fateful day. The law protects him, but it also allows the family of Michael Brown to inquire as to how their unarmed son was killed while walking in the street. Shoplifting cigars from a convenience store does not deserve the electric chair and Wilson never knew of the alleged theft. According to The Wall Street Journal, Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson "said the officer stopped Mr. Brown because he was walking in the road and disrupting traffic." Time magazine has quoted Police Chief Thomas Jackson as stating, "This robbery does not relate to the initial contact between the officer and Michael Brown." So, don't connect the two incidents when trying to justify Brown's death. There might indeed have been a scuffle at one point after Brown was told to get on the sidewalk, but Wilson did not have a fractured eye socket, a CNN source dispelled that myth. One can't say Brown was a human deadly weapon if Wilson simply had bruising and not a fracture, or something of that nature. In court, Wilson will have to prove that an unarmed man (not committing a crime that moment and undeserving of death for any alleged prior crime) not only went after his gun, but was also either beating him as he shot six times, or rushing towards him with deadly intent before the shooting. Either way, it's hard to go from "get off the street" to scuffle within a car or suicidal charge at a Glock staring at you, without question Wilson's mindset, or behavior during the interactions of that fateful day.

First, there's the official police narrative cited in Newsweek that a close range altercation ensued, with Brown wrestling for Wilson's gun:

According to the account of the St. Louis County police, Wilson attempted to get out of his car and Brown pushed him back inside. A struggle ensued inside the car, in which Brown tried to take the officer's gun. A shot was fired from inside the car. The officer then stepped out of the car and shot Brown, who died of his injuries.

One of those six bullets that struck Brown was on the top part of Brown's head, so that alone raises another question regarding how one can be simultaneously beaten and aim at the top of his assailant's head. You can't at the same time say Wilson was getting beaten by a maniacal behemoth in the police car, at close range, yet got off six shots with no residue on Brown's clothing. Add to this no broken eye socket.

If Brown was such an imposing threat, then one can't shoot that many times, hitting a target that many times, while getting pummeled by a giant. Also, according to eyewitness "Josie" in an article by The Blaze, Wilson was being charged at by Brown from a distance after running away from the car ("he fell about two or three feet in front of the officer"), so which story is it, the close encounter or the far away death charge? These two different narratives utilized by the millions of Wilson supporters might lead to a claim of self-defense, but they can't both be the correct narrative.

Therefore, let's say "Josie" is right.

Let's say the teenager charged, but was far enough away that Wilson could wait before shooting? What if Brown was pretending to charge after taunting verbally, in an arrogant act of defiance, with the intent of pulling back? What if Brown was running, but quickly turned back to surrender, and Wilson mistook that for charging, what then? Too bad, you might say, but if he was far enough away from Wilson, a case can easily be made that the officer shot first and asked questions later.


The answer lies in the issue of "excessive force" on the part of the officer. Even Fox News states that Dr. Michael Baden, the man who conducted the autopsy, said the presence of six gunshot wounds points to "excessive" force by Wilson... "There is legitimate concern as to whether the shooting was overreacting. That has to be answered and we don't have all the answers." Baden also explained there was no gunshot residue on the body. A St. Louis news station states, "Dr. Michael Baden, the forensic pathologist hired by the Brown family, said there was no gunshot residue on Brown's skin surface, so at the time the gun went off it was at least a foot or two away." Baden also stated that it could be a foot or two, or a great number of feet away, one can't tell yet definitively: "The muzzle of the gun was at least one to two feet away," Baden said, adding that it "could have been thirty feet away." So, while the narrative that Wilson was getting pummeled by Brown in a mad attempt at his weapon is provocative, it doesn't correlate to the autopsy, or to The Blaze story. Brown was not struggling for the weapon when shot and he easily could have been far enough away for Wilson to wait before shooting a barrage of bullets, based on the autopsy report.

Did Darren Wilson expect to kill an unarmed black teenager that fateful day? No, he didn't, and neither did the officers who killed Eric Garner, nor did George Zimmerman. Certain aspects of their overzealous, perhaps paranoid negligence led to the death of unarmed citizens. This misconduct is also exemplified in the case of Dillon Taylor, a young white man shot by a black officer in Utah, who perhaps also shot first and asked questions later. Taylor should be alive, just like Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, and to explain the added circumstances of race in Ferguson doesn't mitigate anyone's death, nor does it absolve the black cop of killing the unarmed white male. However, one doesn't cancel out the other and each is its own unique story. Part of this issue is police brutality and part of it, pertaining to the over five unarmed black men dead this month alone, is an issue of race and poverty. The issue of race plays a role in these encounters, and Harvard research links directly to this claim, as well as the 20% longer sentences blacks face than whites for the same crimes, as does the racial profiling in St. Louis.

However, at best, Wilson's actions ran contrary to the hundreds of thousands of police officers who tell citizens to "do this" or "do that" without killing them. If eyewitness to the shooting Dorian Johnson is correct, and there was a "tug-of-war" by Wilson to get Brown into his vehicle, and then the two young men ran away with Brown stating, "I don't have a gun, stop shooting!" then Wilson committed a crime. Or, if eye witness Piaget Crenshaw is correct and Wilson chased after Brown and Johnson, shooting Brown when he simply turned around, then Wilson also committed a crime.

Then there are the arguments of Michael Brown's attorney who state that Brown was trying to surrender, as evident by the bullet hole on the top of his head that "appeared to enter Brown's forehead and exit near his eye, which suggests that Brown's head was in a downward position." How do you shoot a bullet into the top of a 6'4" person's head? Was Brown cowering, trying to plead for the officer not to shoot, or was he flying towards the officer like Superman?

Finally, Wilson doesn't represent the tens of thousands of officers in this country who ensure that mundane interactions with unarmed citizens don't end in their deaths. If Michael Brown had been polite that day with Wilson (assuming he wasn't) and simply quickly abided by the allegedly profanity laced request to "get the 'f' off the street," then the young man might very well be alive today. I believe this, however that's not what America is about; fearing those who protect us might kill us if we don't comply immediately and in an utterly passive manner. I also believe that something murky, and morally ambiguous took place that day, given the autopsy, the number of bullets, and the eyewitnesses.

Guns, Guns, Guns

Murray Fromson   |   August 29, 2014    5:51 PM ET

Read More: gun control, shooting, guns

Having been an outspoken critic of uncontrolled handgun distribution over the past 40 years and the way the Constitution has been twisted to justify reckless sales of deadly weapons, I am pleased to say that the arms industry and the distributors of deadly handguns have taken positive steps to ensure the safety of most American citizens.

However the horrible account this week of how a 9-year-old child handled a deadly Uzi at an Arizona gun range and accidentally killed a weapons instructor is a tragic reminder that ALL AMERICANS have to be careful beyond our imagination to avoid such tragedies again.

Imagine what that child has to live with the rest of her life, having killed a man she didn't know, whom out of normal kindness was trying to help her. But what about the parents who recklessly took their young daughter to a gun range and allowed her to handle a weapon that was no toy and is used to murder or halt people in committing crimes everywhere? And what of the owners of gun ranges who allow children into the dangerously unsafe atmosphere of a shooting range?