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Katherine Ripley   |   June 12, 2016   10:07 PM ET

Read More: gun violence, guns, politics


In the time that has passed since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, I have wondered whether it will become one of those events, like 9-11 or the assassination of JFK, for which everyone remembers where they were when they heard about it. I actually don’t remember where I was when I heard about what happened in Newtown. But what I do remember vividly from that day is one of my roommates coming home, talking to someone on the phone about the shooting, her voice distraught, trying to make sense of what had happened.


I remember that moment because my roommate’s distress illuminated my lack of distress. I began to wonder why I had not wept for those children as soon as I heard the news of their deaths. I do not remember where I was when the Sandy Hook massacre happened because my first reaction was to go numb. And my subconscious probably chose to go numb because it feared what was coming.


That is -- the NRA’s pathetic excuses and Congress’s disgusting refusal to do anything about what happened. Our government’s inaction only validated my decision to go numb. What would happen to me if I cried for every victim of gun violence, and nothing changed? I’d be so full of grief that I would have no room left for hope. 


And so, every shooting since Newtown has left me with a profound feeling of emptiness.


That’s what I felt Sunday morning when I woke up to two New York Times notifications about Orlando. “Oh, another shooting. Can’t wait to see what Congress doesn’t do about it.” I didn’t mention the story to my mom when she called me a few minutes later. I didn’t mention it to my boyfriend as I was getting dressed and saying goodbye to him. By the time I walked out the door of his apartment, I had all but forgotten about it. 



We cannot allow ourselves to fall into a cycle of apathy.

But thanks to my addiction to social media, I couldn’t forget about it. Almost every post on my Twitter and Facebook feeds was about Orlando, and they weren’t just news articles -- there were emotional, vulnerable expressions of grief, fear, anger, and, perhaps surprisingly, hope.

I wrote to my representatives on Sunday. It’s the first time I’ve done that since I was in high school, when I and my fellow members of the Gay Straight Alliance called our New Jersey state representative to encourage him to vote for a bill legalizing gay marriage before Chris Christie became governor.

The bill didn’t pass, but I shouldn’t have let that discourage me from taking part in that kind of activism for all these years.

We Americans are distant from our legislators, and understandably so. Our system of government was designed to prevent “the people” from having too much say in it. The people could not vote for their senators until 1914. The Founding Fathers created the Electoral College because they didn’t think the people could be trusted to choose their president. Political parties put the election of the president back in the hands of the people, but presidential primary elections didn’t begin until 1901.

Throughout the history of this country, the people have acquired progressively more power in choosing their governors, but we still feel an understandable lack of efficacy. When polls say that 92 percent of Americans support universal background checks, and Congress doesn’t pass universal background checks, we feel as though our opinions have no influence on our representatives’ actions.

But we cannot allow ourselves to fall into a cycle of apathy. When the masses begin to say, “My voice doesn’t matter,” the number of people taking action shrinks. I don’t know whether it would have made a difference if I, and every other person like me who went numb after hearing the news about Sandy Hook, had written to our legislators telling them to take action. But we will not know the answer to that question until we try.

Let the grief settle so deep inside your heart that it compels you to reach out your hand and take action.

Human beings have a tendency to blame other people for their problems. It’s easy to criticize someone else’s behavior. It’s difficult to criticize your own. But we will not change the world until each of us vows to do better, because we are the world -- each of us is a stitch in the fabric which makes up this society we live in. Today is the day that you should allow yourself to grieve. Let the grief settle so deep inside your heart that it compels you to reach out your hand and take action.

Write to your representatives today. Then think about all the other things that you can do to enact change. Boycott businesses that allow firearms. Stop buying products (music, movies, video games) that glorify gun violence. Teach your children not to trivialize gun violence. Support or volunteer for a group like Everytown for Gun Safety or Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

And, at the most personal level of social change, treat others with kindness. Do what you can to foster a sense of love among people, rather than a sense of hatred. Revere the power to create rather than the power to destroy.

Make it a goal to say to yourself every night when you lie down in bed, “Today, I did something to change the world.”

 

______________________

 

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Omar Alnatour   |   June 12, 2016    3:38 PM ET


When I was younger, I had a terrible run in with poison ivy. I still remember to this day the pain I felt from the blistering, scabbing, and burning rash that it caused. Not wanting this encounter to ever happen again, I read as much as I could about this plant. I learned that it could grow in the form of leaves, buds, berries, and flowers. I learned that its leaves appear red in the spring, green in the summer, and yellow-orange in the fall. I learned that although this plant has many different names and appearances, none of the superficial differences mattered because all of its forms shared one overpowering similarity: they were all inherently poisonous.


Sadly, hatred has become today’s poison ivy. It has different names, from homophobes to Islamohphobes. It has different titles, from school bullies to presidential candidates. It has different appearances, from white to colored. Hatred, on the surface, has many different forms.


And until we address hatred for what it is, and work to equally combat it no matter what form it takes, we will continue to fall victim to its detrimental poison.


On Sunday, a man driven by nothing but hatred killed 50 innocent people. On Sunday, my heart forgot how to beat as I read headlines of one of the worst shootings to occur in American history. On, Sunday we witnessed the 998th mass shooting to occur in the United States since Sandy Hook. On Sunday, we witnessed the 133rd mass shooting to occur this year. On Sunday, President Obama addressed mass shootings on U.S. soil for the 15th time. On Sunday, we were reminded that our government has done nothing to prevent mass shootings.


On Sunday, I watched my Muslim mother publicly get called a terrorist although I have proved time and time again that this hatred has no relation to my religion. On Sunday, efforts were made to turn gays against Muslims by the same people whose hatred has hurt us both. On Sunday, the same politicians who fought strongly against gay marriage and LGBT civil rights used this shooting, at the expense of Muslims, to hypocritically condemn bigotry against gays. On Sunday, the same people whose hatred destroys the lives of gays exploited this shooting to do the same to Muslims. On Sunday, scripted “thoughts and prayers” were offered by the very same politicians who have offered absolutely nothing to prevent mass shootings from continually occurring. On Sunday, we were told to hate Muslims by the same people who fight hard to give easy access of guns to violent people who unjustifiably kill in the name of Islam.


On Sunday, homophobes and Islamophobes celebrated in unison. On Sunday, Donald Trump was smiling. On Sunday, our nation bled and wept enough to flood oceans because we have failed to unite together against hatred. On Sunday, our nation lost to hatred because we have failed to directly address it.


It’s time we directly address the issues destroying our nation. Never forget that this shooter was an American, whether you like it or not. He was born in America, raised in America, educated in America, grew a hatred of gays in America, and bought all of his weapons legally in America as an American. Understand that this attack was driven by the same ignorant hatred that has been plaguing this nation in its many different forms.


Want mass shootings in the United States to end? Ask yourself: Why is it easier to get a gun than a driver’s license? Why have there been more shootings in America in the past 20 days than in Canada in the past 20 years? Why is it still legal for Americans to own assault riffles that can kill hundreds of people in seconds? Have we not realized after all these shootings that it’s time to ban weapons meant for war? Why does our government allow hateful people to purchase war-like weapons with stockpiles of ammunition in quantities only fit for massacres? And to the bigoted Donald Trump supporters, why not temporarily ban all guns until we figure out this gun problem just like Trump wants to ban all Muslims?


Want to defeat Islamophobia? Ask yourself: Why is nobody talking about the homophobic non-Muslim Caucasian man, who had explosives and assault rifles, that was headed to a gay pride parade yesterday with the intent to commit terror? Why is he seen any differently than yesterday’s shooter when both were driven solely by hatred? Why are Muslims constantly called terrorists when we are evidently the largest victims of it? Why does terrorism suddenly become belittled to a “mental illness” if the suspect is Caucasian? How can you call Muslims terrorists when less than 0.001% of Americans killed since 9/11 were killed by Muslims? How can you call Muslims terrorists when more Americans were killed by toddlers than by Muslims in the past several years (in part to our seemingly non-existent gun laws)?


Want to defeat homophobia? Look to the politicians and groups trying to pass hateful legislature against gays. You’ll find that they’re the very same ones targeting Muslims. You’ll see that they are the very same ones who made it possible for Sunday’s homophobic shooter to obtain weapons only fit for war. You must understand that Muslims don’t hate gays. You must understand that gay rights and Muslim rights have always been fought for hand-in-hand. You must understand that homophobia and Islamophobia grows within the same hateful people.


No, I won’t say the shooter's name. I won’t mention his religion. I won’t describe his appearance. None of this matters because all that we need to see is that a hateful person who was raised in a nation that has a serious issue with homophobia was able to easily obtain weapons of war that enabled him to commit this massacre.


You don’t need to be an expert on Islam to understand that Muslims deserve to be treated like human beings and not constantly labeled as terrorists despite all the facts pleading you to see us otherwise. You don’t need to be a gun expert to know that guns kill innocent people if laws aren’t put in place prevent them from ending up in the wrong hands. You don’t need to be homosexual to see that gays are human beings too and that their lives, just like all human beings on this planet, are precious.


No longer can we allow hatred to divide and defeat us. Understand that we can have different beliefs without attacking each other. Our beliefs can conflict without us being in conflict. Our similarities, as human beings, will always overpower our differences. Love is more powerful than hate. Everything doesn’t have to be war.


I was terrified of poison ivy until I learned to see all its different forms as the same. Now I am forever able to prevent it from causing me harm. Let us do the same with hatred.

Florida, Guns, and a Failure of Imagination

Matthew Chapman   |   June 12, 2016    3:19 PM ET

What will it take? Not this. This won't change anything. An apparent terrorist? Fifty or more gay men? What about 20 cute little children between the ages of 6 and 7 at Sandy Hook? Nope. Dozens of other mass shootings this year? Nope. Thousands of gun murders every year? Nope.

What will be enough for the NRA and those who share its views? I have asked this before and will ask it again: Could we have a number, please? How many deaths do you want before you allow our laws to change? Fifty is a horrible number, but as a person who uses his imagination to make a living, it's not at all hard to imagine a mass shooting leading to 1000 deaths all in one go. It would not be so hard. Maybe it would take two people, or three.

And it will happen. If that's what the NRA insists on... it will happen.

There ought to be a crime "Resisting the Historically Obvious," and the punishment should be the firing squad. There will be changes to the gun laws, obviously, sooner or later. Just look at other countries with strict gun laws and what their homicide numbers are like compared to ours.

Apart from science and a couple of local issues, I've written more about guns and LGBT rights than any other subjects. That these two issues come together here is terrible - but infuriatingly relevant to the point I want to make. Look at gay marriage in America. Despite the fact that gay marriage was resisted with fervor by preachers and their flocks, by homophobes, by conservative politicians and other cowards - these dogs biting at the pant legs of progress - gay marriage (and other gay rights) came to be. Having stopped progress for decades and made people's lives miserable for decades, these people essentially said, "Oh, well, guess I was wrong." Yes, and for the LGBT community, and for the rest of us who care about life and other lives, us humanists, us generous people, us open people, us people with imaginations - we've been seething for decades, apoplectic, our hearts blowing up with frustration waiting for you cruel laggards to catch up.

No, actually it probably won't be a large number of deaths that turns things around. It will be one pretty white child, the offspring of a powerful Republican, perhaps. What's that phrase, "A million deaths is a statistic, a single death is a tragedy"?

Of course, a single death is not a tragedy if it's someone else's kid and you have no imagination. And in the end, this is what it all comes down to. A lack of imagination. I am not a believer, but in honor of the gay people who died, and as a message to those who are still blind to the obvious, many of them fundamentalist Christians, I'd like to leave this piece with two quotes from Oscar Wilde, a believer but one who most admired Christ for something most people overlook.

"Christ's place is indeed with the poets. His whole conception of Humanity sprang right out of the imagination and can only be realized by it..." "The imagination itself is the world of light. The world is made by it, and yet the world cannot understand it: that is because the imagination is simply a manifestation of love, and it is love and the capacity for it that distinguishes one human being from another."

Along with everyone else who is capable of love, I send condolences to the friends and relatives of all the victims of this latest tragic failure of the imagination.

Igor Bobic   |   June 12, 2016   12:11 PM ET

President Barack Obama called Sunday’s mass shooting at a gay club in Orlando, Florida, an “act of terror and an act of hate.” He added that while authorities have not reached a definitive judgement as to the shooter’s motivation, the FBI would be investigating the matter as an act of terrorism.

“What is clear, he was a person filled with hatred," Obama said of the shooter, who was an American citizen. "Over the coming days we will uncover how and why this happened."

“This could have been any one of our communities," he said. "As a country, we will be there for the people of Orlando, today, tomorrow and for all the days to come.”

The president noted the shooting took place at an "especially heartbreaking" time during LGBT pride month. He said the place where it happened was more than a nightclub, but a "place of solidarity and empowerment" where people went to "raise awareness, to speak their minds and to advocate for their civil rights."

"This is a sobering reminder that attacks on any American, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation, is an attack on all of us, and the fundamental values of equality and dignity that define us as a country," he said.  "No act of terror will change who we are or the values that make us Americans."

Obama also called on Americans to consider how much human life they are willing to part with before taking legislative action to curb gun violence. Noting that the shooter was apparently armed with a handgun and an assault rifle, he called the massacre "a further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon that lets them shoot people in a school, or in a house of worship, or a movie theater, or in a nightclub."

"We have to decide if this is the kind of country we want to be. To actively do nothing is a decision as well," he said.

The president closed his remarks by urging Americans not to give in to terror.

"In the face of hate and violence, we will love one another. We will not give into fear," he said.

In what police are calling the worst shooting in American history, a gunman killed 50 people and injured at least 53 at Pulse, a gay nightclub in downtown Orlando. Authorities say Omar Mateen stormed the club around 2 a.m. Sunday and opened fire. He was later killed by police.

According to NBC News, Mateen had called 911 moments before the shooting to pledge allegiance to the leader of the so-called Islamic State. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, also said he was told in a briefing that the gunman had “declared his allegiance to ISIS.”

The White House said earlier that Obama had been briefed on the situation by Lisa Monaco, the assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism.

According to CBS' Mark Knoller, the president's statement on Orlando is his 20th following a mass shooting. Watch a HuffPost video compilation of his previous addresses here.

UPDATE: Vice President Joe Biden released the following statement on the Orlando shooting:

Last night, at least fifty innocent people gathering to celebrate love and life were brutally killed in an act of pure hate and unspeakable terror. Scores of others were injured in the attack. They were our brothers and our sisters; our friends, neighbors, and loved ones. In the coming days, we will learn more about these fifty souls and the lives they lived and the world they made better.

As the President made clear, we are closely monitoring and fully involved in the investigation of the country’s worst mass shooting. We are grateful for the heroic actions of the Orlando Police, first responders—and many bystanders—who charged into danger and saved lives; who rushed the wounded to hospitals in ambulances, in police cars, in the backs of pickup trucks, and carried others to safety. As in the midst of so much evil, their acts are a reminder of the best in our common humanity. 

Jill and I offer our prayers and deepest condolences for all those affected by today’s horrific events. But our prayers are not enough to end these kinds of senseless mass shootings. The violence is not normal, and the targeting of our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans is evil and abhorrent.

Our law enforcement and intelligence professionals are still gathering the facts, and we do not yet know what, if any, connection or inspiration there may be with terrorist organizations. But we do know this—we will never rest in our relentless campaign to bring to justice all who would do America harm. And even as we grieve and pursue justice, no act of terror—no despicable act of hate—can tear us asunder. Times of unspeakable tragedy and evil like this are the moments to remind the killers, and the world, of what is best in us, and what unites us.

May God give strength to the families, friends, and all those who grieve today, with broken hearts, but unbound resolve. And may God continue to watch over our great nation.

Orlando Is My City. And I'm Sick Of This Sh*t

Anjali Sareen   |   June 12, 2016   11:09 AM ET

This weekend, two senseless tragedies occurred within the bounds of the city I call home. On Saturday, The Voice singer Christina Grimmie was fatally shot by a man armed with two guns and then on Sunday morning, authorities announced a mass shooting at a downtown Orlando gay nightclub.

I woke up to a Facebook feed and Twitter timeline riddled with posts about the shooting on Sunday and several text messages from out-of-town relatives and friends asking me if I was okay. I was lucky enough to write back and tell my family and friends I was unharmed -- but the same can't be said for the (so far) approximately 50 people pronounced dead in Orlando.

In the days following this tragedy, we're going to see outpourings of love and support from cities outside Orlando. We're going to see more Facebook posts from people expressing their anger, or sadness, or prayers. We're going to see Twitter hashtags supporting the people of Orlando. We're going to see memes being made of pride flags. We're going to talk about how we can change the all the hate. We're going to see a speech from the president, and likely the presidential nominees, and we are going to share those speeches across our social media. We're going to get in heated debates in the comment sections of articles like this one where some of us believe guns are the problem and some of us believe a good guy with a gun could solve the problem. We're going to argue with our co-workers over lunch about the mental health crisis in America and what "terrorism" really means. We're going to talk about religion and extremism and violence.

Then, we're going to forget.

All of our social media "activism" makes us feel like we're doing something, like we're making clear that we won't stand for this violence anymore.

But we're not doing anything. We are standing for this violence time and time again.

Enough is enough.

Less than two weeks ago, I shared a video on my personal Facebook feed from President Obama's town hall. In it, he addressed a question from an audience member about why the government wanted to take away people's guns. President Obama's response, thoughtful and well-reasoned, made clear that he did not want to take away anyone's guns, he just wanted a better regulatory system for guns -- just like there is for anything else related to our safety.

I praised the president for this logical speech. And now, I'm ashamed I did.

"A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed." Why do we keep forgetting the first part of the Second Amendment in order to get straight to the last part?

Enough is enough.

We're all too scared to publicly put forth the idea that the answer to our gun problem in the States might not be to "regulate" -- it might be to ban every single gun within U.S. borders until we get our fucking problems figured out.

Enough is enough kowtowing to the Americans who cling to their weapons for dear life. Enough is enough social media activism without any real calls to action. Enough is enough pretending like we can solve this problem through regulation.

Enough is enough.

My congresspeople are Representative John Mica (R) and Senators Bill Nelson (D) and Marco Rubio (R). Out of those three, two -- John Mica and Marco Rubio -- have strong positive ratings by the NRA and have held a consistent record of not being tougher on gun control. Marco Rubio, in fact, has already tweeted this morning that his "prayers" are with those harmed in Orlando. And that is, likely, all he will do.

Enough is fucking enough.

It's no longer a radical idea to propose the ban of weapons when the news plays a continuous loop of mass killing after mass killing.

Enough is enough.

So today, while you change your Facebook profile pictures and tweet about your heartbreak, please also realize we need to stop walking the line of gun regulation. We need to stop being scared to propose the idea that all guns need to go. We need to stand up to violence and bigotry when we see it in action. We need to practice what we preach and we need to do it now.

This post is part of my activism and even this isn't good enough.

Today, as you pray and send positive thoughts to the victims and their familes, please also use this tool to find out who your representatives are and use this tool to find out where they stand on the gun issue. Then write to them, call them, tweet at them, Facebook message them, to let them know that as a resident of the United States of America, you will no longer stand for this shit and you believe that it's time we all say is enough is enough.

Follow Anjali Sareen on her blog The LITMO Life and her YouTube Channel.

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If You Don't Vote Democrat This November, Then Fuck You

Christian Gabriel   |   June 12, 2016    8:46 AM ET

I'm not a "supporter." I actually think everything about this election cycle is disgusting. Sad. Uninspiring. I've been mostly apathetic. From white feminism to #bernieorbust to the HRC to Bernie Bros I'm actually so fed up that I don't read or watch any news related to our candidates any more. I left Trump out above because that white devil man doesn't need any more acknowledgment from me. But curiously y'all are about to hand him the election? And for what? Because you're salty that your candidate isn't going to compete for the presidency? Bernie put up a good fight, a really, really good fight. And god damn he has some amazing ideas that would totally revolutionize American culture, economics and our society in general, but he's not going to be the president of the United States. Deal with it. Right now, the only two people that have any chance at that are Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. DONALD FUCKING TRUMP. This isn't a fucking joke. This is REAL. And y'all have the audacity to sit back and say "I won't vote" or "I'll vote for Trump" or "I'll vote for ___________ so & so who isn't going to become president but it's cute you voted for them one time because of your principles." It's bullshit. And to be frank, how fucking dare you.

Forty-nine people were killed at a gay club called Pulse in Orlando, Florida this weekend. FORTY-NINE. A singer who was on "The Voice" was killed less than 24 hours before that by a crazed white man with a gun. Black and brown people are executed by police with guns on a regular basis, so much so that it's barely news anymore. But you're willing to let a white supremacist, misogynist scam artist who supports the idea of bringing MORE guns into elementary schools (among other places) to become the president of the United States because your candidate didn't make it to the finals? HOW FUCKING DARE YOU.

WE ARE DYING. I'm sorry that an aging crotchety white man didn't fulfill all of your hopeful revolutionary Obama-redux fantasies. I truly am. I actually want someone like Bernie Sanders to be the president. I want our entire social, governmental and economic structures to change drastically. I'm just as disgusted as you by Hillary Clinton's ties to big business and corporate greed. But I'm also living in reality. I can have hopeful visions for the future and accept the present. Maybe that's because I'm a person of color who watches in horror almost every day of the week when I see new videos of other people of color harassed, mistreated, degraded, brutalized and murdered by the authoritative systems of our white supremacist nation. Have you ever experienced this reality?

THIS IS IT. It's either going to be Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump who's sworn into office this November. How many people will suffer a multitude of hardships under a Trump presidency? How many people will continue to live in danger? How much worse will it get under a president who advocates violence against those who don't agree with you or are different than you? You'll be fine because you have enough money to keep you safe? What about me? I don't have all that money. You didn't know anyone who got shot last night? That sort of thing would never happen to you? I'm scrolling through my Facebook wall seeing desperate plea after plea and prayer after prayer hoping that friends and loved ones are still alive. But you can't vote democrat if it's not your candidate because of your "morals." HOW FUCKING DARE YOU.

Honestly I don't give a fuck how you feel about any candidate. It's absolutely irrelevant to me. If you are a person with a soul, who wants to see any further good develop from mankind in the next four years, you will do whatever you can to stop Donald Trump from becoming the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. Even if that means voting for a white female career politician who's played the game just as dirty as every man who's come before her, including our current president. Don't y'all wish we could just vote him in another four years? Maybe you wouldn't if you took a look at his donor list. But would you risk letting Trump win if Obama was the democratic nominee? Would his shadiness matter then like Hillary's does so deeply to you? This country absolutely needs a revolution. But at this moment in time, you're literally choosing between the somewhat unlikely possibility of progressive change or an orange reality tv star who won't renounce support from white supremacists. And somehow you expect me to accept that your conscience or morals matter at all? FUCK YOU.

WE ARE DYING. Please don't hand our lives over to this white devil madman. You might survive this. We might not. Do whatever you can to help us. Help me. Please don't let Donald Trump become the president of the United States. I don't want our blood to be on your hands.

National Reptile Association Advocates for Snakes in Schools

John Pickhaver   |   June 9, 2016    1:31 PM ET

Despite the number of mass shootings dominating headlines on a near-weekly basis, the debate over just what to do about it has gone seemingly nowhere. Instead we've been subject to the same finger-pointing, the same excuse making and the same well-worn talking points.

Specifically, we've been subject to the same kind of mind-boggling rhetoric that suggests the smartest solution to our country's rampant gun violence is....well, having more guns.

Now haven't you always wished there was a video that replaced gun attacks with snake attacks while applying the same rhetoric from the gun debate to illustrate the absurdity of this argument?

No? Okay... but aren't you excited about the idea of such a video? Well, I hope so.

SNAKES: A NATIONAL CONVERSATION takes aim at this utterly absurd slice of anti-gun control logic by applying it to a somewhat (but not all that) different context: snakes.

What happens when we follow this insane line of reasoning to its logical conclusion: when we have snakes in schools, snakes in malls and movie theaters, snakes purchasable at snake shows via snake-law loopholes?

Our investigative reporter takes us deep inside an America in which political discourse isn't the only venomous thing to watch out for.

Check out the video below produced by myself, Nicholas Adams, and Mike Salomon.

#MakeAmericaSafeAgain

Mike Weisser   |   June 7, 2016    9:01 AM ET

Last week I sent out a message to the GVP community basically saying that: a) Trump was a menace to Gun Violence Prevention (GVP); and b) that I felt that the entire GVP community needed to sit down and come up with an organized plan to defeat him that would involve everyone who wants to see an end to violence caused by guns. I also said I would donate $1,000 to the favorite charity of the person who came up with the best campaign slogan that GVP could use to dump the Trump on November 8th.

I just sent the donation to Everytown, and I did so because I believe that the hashtag campaign Everytown started when Trump was speaking at the NRA -- #makeamericasafeagain -- really does hit the veritable nail right on the veritable head, at least when it comes to making it perfectly clear what this election is all about from a GVP point of view.

Because here's the bottom line: either you believe that a gun in your pocket or on your night table makes you safer or you don't. And if you believe you are safer, you are buying an argument the gun industry has been making for the last 30 years without a shred of evidence to back it up. Yea, there's an anecdote here and there about how this person or that person defended themselves with a gun; I'm not saying it can't be done. But what about the anecdotes about the 300 people who get shot every day -- intentionally and unintentionally -- with guns? And these aren't just anecdotes, this is a fact.

This is the problem with how Gun Nation and its putative presidential candidate deal with the issue of gun violence -- long on stories, short on facts. And his stories have become nastier and increasingly rely on calls for violence from what is often a very receptive crowd. People don't come to Trump rallies because they agree with his stand on the issues -- he hasn't made even the slightest attempt to define his position on the issues except to lead his audience in a chant: Build The Wall. And now that the PGA has announced they are moving Trump's Doral tournament to Mexico, let's see if he will make good on his blustering, stupid demand that would force every PGA golf pro pay a 20% tax on what they win in that tournament when they go to re-enter the United States.

On the other hand, to Hillary's credit, she has not only made GVP a centerpiece of her campaign, she's willing to stake her success on an issue that has been, more than any, symbolic of Washington's inability to get things done. And let's not forget what the other side is saying, namely, that the country is in such bad shape because government doesn't work.

I don't really care whether Hillary has grabbed the GVP issue because it's smart politics or not; how it positions her against Bernie is of no concern of mine. Let's get selfish for a minute and ask what her stance on gun violence does for GVP, namely, it gives the GVP community a presence and a platform that it otherwise wouldn't have. Was Hillary wearing orange last week?

But in challenging Trump over the gun issue Hillary is also challenging the GVP community. Because guess what folks? There are exactly 148 days until November 8th. And either the entire GVP community is going to come together, get it together, work together, vote together, or it's not. And this isn't something, I hate to admit it, that the GVP community hasn't done so well in the past. We tend to move in our own little circles, we usually talk only to our own little group of friends.

So let's just put all that aside and agree that from now until November 8th there's one thing that needs to be done. And we all know what that is -- defeat Donald Trump.

Gun Control and the Second Amendment's Ugly Origins

Outspeak   |   June 6, 2016    6:15 PM ET





Gun control has been one of the hottest topics of debate in recent years, with special attention drawn to the issue after the deplorable amount of mass shootings in America last year. The ethical debate will continue to rage for a while it seems, as neither the conservatives nor the liberals can convince the other side.

It certainly doesn't help the matter when people of influence like Jesse Hughes of The Eagles of Death Metal, who was present at the Bataclan attack in France and suffers from PTSD, makes comments on things like "Everybody has to have guns." Ignorant comments like these often lead pro-gun activists pointing to the Second Amendment, and their god-given-American "right to bear arms".

While it may be their "right", the Second Amendment has its foundations in protecting white slave owners from slave revolt, and as such it's probably worth reconsidering. Check the full history above from Matt Rubel of Question Time.

Check out more of Matt's work on YouTube and Twitter.

Guns Make Killing Easy

Dennis A. Henigan   |   June 2, 2016    6:28 PM ET

I am sitting here, in my only orange shirt, in observation of National Gun Violence Awareness Day, and my thoughts turn to the New York Times' remarkable recent study of 358 shootings last year in which four or more people were killed or wounded. As the Times noted, these were not the high-profile mass shootings in unlikely places like schools, churches and movie theatres that capture national attention, but rather "a pencil sketch of everyday America at its most violent." The Times' reporters penetrated beyond the body count to describe the circumstances of these shootings, in which 462 died and over 1300 were injured. The scenarios were varied, but the terrifying descriptions point to a conclusion common to all: if no guns were available, violence may have ensued, but countless lives would have been saved and serious injuries avoided.

Typically, the violence was sparked by the most banal of offenses, like one person shoving another in a bar, or a Facebook taunt, or a disagreement over the music at a house party. They occurred mostly outdoors, at virtually any place groups of people gather; at neighborhood barbecues, family reunions, music festivals, basketball tournaments, Sweet 16 parties, public parks. Only about one-third were gang-related or were drive-by shootings typical of gang violence. Even those that were gang-related were prompted, not by criminal activity like drug dealing, but by eruptions begun by a boast, an insult or some other sign of disrespect. Take the guns out of the picture, even if the combatants had been armed with other weapons, like knives or baseball bats, there is no doubt countless lives would have been spared.

The gun lobby gets much mileage from the slogan, "Guns don't kill people, people kill people." The Times' study shows how far this idea is divorced from the brutal reality of everyday gun violence, particularly in our inner cities. The truth is that "Guns don't kill people, they enable people to kill people," more effectively and efficiently than any other widely available weapon. Even grossly incompetent shooters can be multiple killers. In one shooting at a Cincinnati Elks Lodge, according to police officials, as many as half of the 24 victims were not the intended targets. The perpetrators of such shootings are often high on drugs or alcohol. Some barely know how to hold a gun, yet it gives them lethal power over whoever crosses their field of fire. In the shootings surveyed, more than 100 bystanders were killed or wounded, including a 10-year-old boy who was struck in the eye as he peered out his window at a fracas in an Orlando, Florida housing project, a soldier struck by a stray bullet during a shootout in a public square in Savannah, Georgia and a 19-year-old college sophomore killed when a gunman sprayed a crowd outside an Ocala, Florida club. It is the gun that affords this kind of indiscriminate killing power; few are killed by stray knives or baseball bats. Put simply, guns make killing easy.

The National Rifle Association and its allies will insist that no laws will prevent dangerous people from getting guns, invoking the bumper sticker slogan that "When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns." Yet we know that every gun used in those multiple shootings started out in the legal gun market and that even modest regulation of the legal market can help to deny violent individuals access to guns. As I argue in my forthcoming book, Guns Don't Kill People, People Kill People and Other Myths About Guns and Gun Control (Beacon Press, publication date August, 2016), when the Brady Law background checks began in 1994, there was an immediate and substantial drop in the percentage of violent crimes that involved guns, inaugurating a long-term decline in gun crimes and homicides. Moreover, we know that other high-income nations have violent crime rates similar to ours, but their homicide rates are a fraction of the U.S. rate because their strong gun laws deny violent individuals in those countries easy access to guns. To the extent that lethal gun crime continues to plague our communities, it is due, not to the futility of all gun laws, but rather to the weaknesses of U.S. gun laws. For example, Brady background checks, now required only for sales by licensed gun dealers, should be extended to all gun sales.

Before the end of National Gun Violence Awareness Day, there likely will be at least one shooting involving four victims or more; in all, today between 250 and 300 Americans will be killed or injured with firearms. We simply cannot afford to continue to allow the simple-minded slogans of the gun lobby to dictate national gun policy.

Marina Fang   |   May 31, 2016    3:39 PM ET

Read More: nra, guns

LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY — During a seminar on “home defense concepts” at the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting in Louisville, an instructor encouraged gun owners to store firearms in their children’s bedrooms.

Rob Pincus, who owns the popular firearm instruction company I.C.E. Training, paced across a conference room stage as he repeatedly warned against the threat of violent home invasions. After establishing that filling one’s home with weapons is the only solution, he then recommended that gun owners store firearms in their kids’ rooms for easy access.

Gun Violence Prevention Advocates Need to Unite and Organize for November

Mike Weisser   |   May 31, 2016    1:26 PM ET

Every morning I receive an email from Chris Cox, warning me about the Armageddon facing gun owners if Hillary is elected. He also asks for dough. When I say 'every morning' I mean every morning, okay? Of course the truth is that Hillary has absolutely no intention of taking away all the guns because even if she wanted to, she can't. There's something out there called the 2nd Amendment and running a few diplomatic emails through a private server is one thing, violating the Constitution is something else.

Does it bother me that the increasingly shrill appeals for money by the NRA contain statements that simply aren't true? Not really. After all, when you're selling something that people don't need, you do what you gotta do. What does bother me is the degree to which NRA emails and messaging aren't matched by the other side. And you would think that since the Gun Violence Prevention movement (or what we call 'GVP') finally has someone running for president who is talking loudly and continuously about the need to end gun violence, this would be enough of a reason to ramp things up and start responding to the NRA in kind. But I received no less than four emails today from national and state-level GVP groups and none of them mentioned the election at all.

I'm going to take a page from the NRA communications playbook and tell you what will happen if the Hill stays Republican and a certain New York City landlord is sitting in the Oval Office in 2017. And this list isn't based on some delusional fantasy that the NRA creates again and again to keep its members all riled up. These things will happen and the only reason they haven't happened yet is because there's a guy named Obama still hanging around. Ready?

  • A national, 50-state concealed-carry license will be law of the land;
  • The ATF will no longer be able to prevent surplus military weapons from being imported from overseas;
  • The ban on CDC-funded gun research will be made permanent rather than having to be voted as a budget amendment every year;
  • Obama's attempt to kick-start "smart gun" research will be dead before it arrives.

Leaving aside these specific issues for a moment, a Trump win in November foreshadows a much deeper and more profound problem for Team GVP, namely, the fact that he has openly embraced a culture of violence which will only strengthen the notion that we should all be walking around with guns. When Trump tells a rally that he'd like to punch a protestor in the face, when he says that his supporters would follow him even if he shot someone dead in the street, he's not just pandering to the basest and most fearsome emotions we all sometimes feel; he's telling America that violence is an approved way for individuals to interact. And what's the most efficient way to express violence? A gun.

Talking about using a gun, we now have a presidential candidate who is willing to make gun violence a focal point of her campaign. And yet for reasons that I don't understand, my friends in GVP-land seem unwilling or unable to sit down and come up with an organized plan that will begin to focus everyone's attention and energies on the task that lies ahead. And the task is very simply -- Trump has to be stopped. And I don't think that such a discussion and such planning involving all the GVP constituencies has to wait until the Democratic primary campaign comes to an end.

Because the truth is that whether it's Hillary or Bernie, the opposition and the threat isn't going to change. So getting everyone together, sharing resources, reaching out to every last person who has ever expressed the slightest interest in any kind of GVP activity is something that should start today. Not tomorrow -- today. And don't think that you won't hear this from me again.

Which Pistol Goes Best with This Sweatshirt?

Ashton Chan   |   May 20, 2016    2:10 PM ET

Even as the current semester comes to a close, I find my thoughts drifting forward to next fall and the advent of the 2016-2017 academic year. Next year, you see, will by my first in college, and as any soon-to-be freshman, I cannot seem to stop myself from fantasizing about what my college matriculation holds in store and planning for my arrival on campus. I picture myself as the quintessential college student, and so I want to make sure to bring all the quintessential college gear: The microwave and mini-fridge, the vintage sci-fi movie posters and ubiquitous Tibetan prayer flags, my iPod and iPad and iPhone and iWatch, my hoody sweatshirts and Chuck Taylor sneakers, and, of course, my Bersa Thunder Plus 15-round 380 pistol.*

I like to imagine my future as one lovely, extended scene from a college promotional pamphlet: There I am, cramming for a midterm with a double mocha in the student union or playing Frisbee on the quad, sitting in clusters of thoughtful conversation under an autumnal confetti of falling leaves, all the while packing heat and fully prepared to unleash a few dozen rounds of lead in defense of myself and my fellow classmates in the event of, say, a zombie apocalypse or Red Dawn situation, one in which the Russians (or whoever it is we're most paranoid about these days) suddenly drop from the sky in droves and try to take us all down on account of how they hate our freedom.

Just in case you're starting to think this must be a piece from The Onion, I'm sorry to burden you with some facts from reality: There are currently eight states within the USA which, under either a law or court decision, require any publically funded institution to allow firearms on campus; twenty-three additional states allow these institutions to decide for themselves whether students can carry firearms on campus; and among those states which do not allow students to carry firearms on campus, nearly half allow students to keep guns in their cars.

There are, presumably, arguments in support of Campus Carry. The Second Amendment of the US Constitution guarantees the right of its people to keep and bear arms, and with the never-ending string of school shootings and public massacres, it's no wonder that people feel an increasing need to defend themselves. But the truth of the matter is that there's very little evidence that armed citizens can prevent or even impede such tragedies. According to members of law enforcement, armed civilians are more likely to hit innocent bystanders than they are the actual assailants, and they also get in the way of police who are trying to stop the attacks.

This all makes a kind of obvious sense, if you think about it. Officers of law enforcement get training in various areas that go beyond simply hitting a target in a controlled and safe environment. Having a considerable amount of target practice under one's belt does not, after all, offer any assurance whatsoever of an ability to stay calm and maintain a steady head (not to mention hand) in a moment of extreme crisis. Officers of law enforcement are trained not to just hit their targets, but to do so under chaotic and highly stressful circumstances. If they did not receive this sort of training, they would run great risk of being impeded by the physical reactions of stress, which can include dizziness, sweaty palms, twitching muscles, confusion, mental slowness, and blurred vision. With this in mind, I, for one, am not especially reassured by the notion of countless panicked college kids brandishing their weapons at the first sign of potential trouble.

Also, here's something colleges and universities don't put in their glossy promotional pamphlets: Despite all those pictures of serene and smiling students walking blissfully across their meticulously manicured campuses or decked out in school colors and cheering on their team in football stadiums, the college years are not, typically speaking, the easiest time of life for most people. Sure, relationships bloom and opportunities abound. But so do stress, anxiety, depression, and substance abuse.

Research conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness has shown that one in four college students suffers from a diagnosable mental illness, and that 40% of them do not seek help. Add to these statistics the fact that many college students feel overwhelmed by their responsibilities, don't get enough sleep, and are likely to overindulge in drugs and alcohol, and the argument could conceivably be made for prohibiting college students from driving cars, owning large dogs, or operating gas stoves. So I really would have loved to be in the room the first time these words were said out loud: "We should let them have guns!"

Call me a dreamer, but when I envision the stresses and concerns that lie waiting for me over the next four years, I imagine panicky all-nighters finishing big papers or angsting over a sweet but ultimately ill-fated relationship, bickering with my roommate about acceptable states of cleanliness and debating over whether popcorn counts as a vegetable. I want my college-age apprehension to spring from the simple things, like if I'll someday be able to support myself in this uncertain economy or whether the planet will still be inhabitable by humans at the point I graduate. Fear of being fatally shot by a gun-toting friend or acquaintance? I've got the rest of my life for that.

*Please note: I do not own a Bersa Thunder Plus 15-round 380 pistol, would not, in fact, be able to pick a Bersa Thunder Plus 15-round 380 pistol out of a lineup of similar (or, let's be honest, not-at-all-similar) pistols; I only learned about the Bersa Thunder Plus from a YouTube video entitled, "Top 5 Guns for the College Bound," which is, I am sorry to say, a Real Thing That Actually Exists.

Ron Dicker   |   May 20, 2016    7:03 AM ET

Junk food has been waging war on our diets, so why not turn it into ammo?

YouTube user NightHawkInLight has created a cheese ball machine gun. Let's let that sink in for a moment.

In the video above, he shows how he fashioned the gizmo out of a leaf blower, pipe and the original snack container.

But if the DIY aspect isn't so appetizing, don't worry: There's plenty of rootin' tootin' cheese ball machine gun fire.

Oh yeah, it's crunch time. 

H/T Viral Viral Videos