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"Mom, What's a Lockdown Drill?"

Tristan Higgins   |   October 10, 2014    1:35 PM ET

Something very disturbing happened today. My daughter, who is 11 and in 6th grade, participated in a lockdown drill at her school. I got an automated call from the school this morning to let me know that the drill would take place. I appreciated that call because it is the kind of thing that I would like to know. Kids sometimes worry about things. Especially things that they don't understand - or maybe they do understand, but cannot accept.

I remember distinctly being horrified and disgusted as a child by the awful murder of a woman in the middle of the street while a variety of people looked on yet did nothing. This was the first time in my life that I was confronted with the facts that there was evil in the world; the world is not in fact fair; and sometimes people can be disgusting and repulsive (and I don't mean the killer). I had nightmares for days. I am sure that my mother could add a lot more detail here, but the bottom line is some of my innocence was destroyed by the crime. I was simply not able to reconcile my understanding of the world so beautiful, filled with Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, Strawberry Shortcake dolls, people who loved and cared for me, and this true horror.

Worrying how she would internalize the drill, I made a note to discuss it with my daughter tonight. And, I did just that. The perfect opportunity presented itself: my son was at baseball practice, and I had time with my daughter after karate.

"Tell me about your day, honey," I prompted. We played our usual high-medium-low game (which allows me to learn at least 3 things that happened in my children's days) and she added, "We had a lockdown drill today."

"Yes, I know. How did it go?" She explained that the alarm went off, the teacher locked the door, turned out the lights, and all of the children got down on the floor. They were to be quiet. My daughter commented that if it was real, they would have all been in trouble because no one was quiet.

I asked her if they explained the reason for the drill. She said it would happen when someone they don't know walks onto campus. As we began the discussion of what would cause someone to come onto a campus full of children to hurt them, I started to feel sick to my stomach. And ill-prepared.

My son came home during the conversation, and though he is much younger, I couldn't exclude him. We broadened the discussion to include him. "What is a lockdown, Mom?"

"Why would anyone want to hurt a bunch of kids?"

"What would make someone do that?"

I said something about how I had no idea. About how the people who do such things are hurting terribly and they want the world to hurt with them. About how people who are unstable can be thrown over the edge by the death of someone they love, the loss of their own children, etc. I struggled for explanations.

We talked about why they aren't supposed to just run. We talked about the fact that the law enforcement experts have decided our best chance is to lock ourselves in and wait - and pray if that's your thing. We talked about the guidance my daughter got today that if you can't get inside and you see the killer, you should run as fast as you can. That the killer is trying to hurt as many people as quickly as possible and might not care to chase you.

What? Why is this a conversation that I must have with my kids? How do I balance this with the philosophy that I have that the world is a beautiful place? That people are inherently good? That you will receive from the world what you put into it, but that you must keep giving even on bad and unfair days? That though the world might not operate fairly, you still should?

We talked about the fact that this happens sometimes in schools, post offices, work places. Evil walks among us - though I didn't say that.

"It won't happen to us, right Mom?"

Right, baby. It won't. I think we'd have a better chance of winning the lottery, or dying by shark attack. But, we practice a little just so that you are ready. Like we are ready for earthquakes and how we have a disaster plan, and a backpack.

I explained that we can put as much love into the world as possible. People who do these kinds of things seem to be loners, people who are made fun of. We talked about how many criminals were miserable kids, teased by kids or beaten by parents. I reiterated that the two of them should never be kids who tease others. They are the kids who are kind to all - especially the kids sitting alone. You never know when your kindness to someone might help.

The conversation morphed into a discussion of being teased - which I will talk about later. I moved us on to funny things, and positive life stuff. Like Santa and the Tooth Fairy. I hugged my daughter very tightly, and tickled my son so hard that he farted. Massive giggling ensued. Peace was restored. At least, I hope so. For their sakes.

After they were sound asleep, I slumped into my chair. What the hell? Why is this our conversation? How is it fair that a 7 and 11 year old have to practice what to do if a gunman comes onto their campus to shoot as many children as possible? Why are we having these conversations? Why, in America, are we standing for one second longer the free-for-all access to guns designed for massive-instantaneous killing?

I've not been very political as far as guns - besides a few tweets about how people keep misreading the Second Amendment - but tonight's dialogue about massacres of children has left me sick and repulsed. After Sandy Hook there was a public outcry - a hope that we might capitalize on the public outrage and do something to curb the reprehensible availability of automatic weapons. But, nothing has happened.

There have been more killings. According to ABC recently, more than 50 attacks or plots since Columbine. And still, nothing has happened. It's time. No more parents should have these conversations. No more children should have to introduce mass shootings into their Santa-Barbie-Minecraft-Lego filled worlds.

It's Butch to stand up for what's right, even when it is controversial. Be Butch.

RACHEL LA CORTE   |   October 10, 2014   10:16 AM ET

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Two competing measures on the Washington state ballot this fall ask voters to take a stance on expanded background checks for gun sales. One is seeking universal checks for all sales and transfers, including private transactions. The other would prevent any such expansion.

Supporters of the initiative to expand background checks have received large donations from wealthy figures, including Microsoft co-founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen, and have spent millions, far outpacing the anti-expansion effort.

How We Enabled ISIS By Disarming Iraqi Militias

John A. Tures   |   October 7, 2014    7:11 PM ET

As ISIS raced through Western Iraq, cutting through Kurdish villages and Sunni enclaves with rapid speed, the United States reacted with shock. How could the Iraqi Army "go ARVN," the term used in South Vietnam for an army that gave up resistance rapidly? Why weren't locals fighting back? Why did the United States have to drop in military supplies?

The problem wasn't a recent one. It was an older one, which went back to Iraqi politicians who wanted their rivals to be disarmed, and a U.S. government who went along with this disarmament policy. As a result, the locals were unable to defend themselves against ISIS fighters.

As far back as 2006, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered all rivals to be disarmed, including those belonging to the Kurds, Sunnis, and Shiites who didn't support his regime, according to CNN.

"Al-Maliki said Iraqi society must be cleansed of terrorism, the government must be rid of "administrative corruption" and factional militias must be disarmed. "We must also address the issue of government centrality and the centrality of the armed forces and that weapons must only be in the hands of the government and the people must be disarmed," he said. He said that "no militia in Iraq can share authority with the government's armed forces" and cited the constitution, "which states the dissolving of these militias into the security forces and to end their affiliation with the political parties they belong to."

Al-Maliki pointed to job creation strategies that would help steer manpower away from those groups.
"We would like to argue against all the arguments that will be put forth that militias are necessary to protect themselves and so on," said al-Maliki, who emphasized that "the presence of these militias will add to the tension and the danger of a civil war."

The policy continued through 2008, as CBS News reported. Additionally, Middle East scholar Juan Cole reported on news from Al-Hayat.


"Aljazeera showed al-Maliki and president Jalal Talabani urging all the major parties to pledge to disarm their militias. This plea will fall on deaf ears, in part because it is so hypocritical. Al-Maliki increasingly depends on the Badr Corps militia of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, and Talabani's power comes in large part from the Kurdish Peshmerga militia, which he got recognized in the constitution as Kurdistan's national guard. So some militias are more equal than other militias.
The official spokesman of the Sadr bloc, Salih al-`Ukaili, told al-Hayat that al-Maliki's statement was an attempt to throw dust in people's eyes, since he had pledged to stop arresting militia commanders, but he had not in fact stopped. He complained that "American troops are still spreading fear among the people of Sadr City, where they have positioned large forces at the entrances to the district's quarters, engaging in nighttime incursions and arresting hundreds of youth without warrants."

After al-Maliki was forced to finally resign a month or so ago, Cole provided more details about how the Iraqi Prime Minister disarmed everyone who wasn't a supporter and the United States politicians went along with the idea despite protests from U.S. military officials from 2006 through 2008.

"Al-Maliki was so partisan in 2006 when he first came to power that he denied that Shiite militias were a security problem. When Gen. David Petraeus came to him in late 2006 with a plan to disarm the Sunni and Shiite militias in Baghdad, al-Maliki insisted that he begin with the Sunni armed groups. The US acquiesced, but as a result, the Shiite militias came into disarmed Sunni neighborhoods at night when the Americans weren't looking, and ethnically cleansed them. Baghdad went from some 45% Sunni in 2003 to only 25% Sunni by the end of 2007. Al-Maliki's sectarianism led to the transformation of Baghdad into a largely Shiite city.

Gen. Petraeus and others cultivated Sunnis who were alarmed at the rise of al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia (the predecessor of today's so-called "Islamic State"), and created "Awakening Councils" of armed Sunnis willing to fight the extremists. Al-Maliki opposed this program and had shouting matches with Petraeus over it, fearing that the armed Sunnis would become a problem for his Shiite government after the defeat of al-Qaeda. (In fact, if only al-Maliki could get the Awakening Councils back now, he'd be very lucky). As the American forces withdrew from a combat role in 2009, US generals asked al-Maliki to hire the some 100,000 Sunni Awakening Council fighters. They could have been integrated into the police in cities like Mosul or Fallujah. Al-Maliki took about 17,000 of them, but left the other 83,000 twisting in the wind, without any stipends or pensions. Because they had fought al-Qaeda, they were targeted by the terrorists for reprisals and some were killed. In some instances al-Maliki actually prosecuted some Awakening Council fighters for anti-government activities they had engaged in before they joined the Council. Figure each of the 83,000 had a circle of 20 close relatives and friends. That was 1.6 million Sunni Arabs (out of some 5 million at the time) that al-Maliki alienated."

Of course, al-Maliki was the biggest problem. And President Obama deserves some blame as well for not protesting the Iraqi Prime Minister's actions when he came into office. But it is shocking that this policy began under the Bush Administration, and the pro-gun conservatives in America accepted this, even though they tout the need for Americans to be able to defend themselves. Why didn't they allow Kurds and Sunni Awakening Councils, who were allies in Iraqi, to protect themselves against threats? Of course, Bush was looking to strengthen the Iraqi government as a success story, and if they didn't want groups able to protect themselves, that was too bad. But now as we drop military supplies to enable our former allies to defend themselves, we may have to rethink the wisdom of empowering the state at the expense of the individual. It's what Republicans preach back home, right?

John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga. He can be reached at jtures@lagrange.edu.

Entertaining Violence: A Day of Blood, Guts, and Guns, All for Fun!

David Toussaint   |   October 6, 2014    4:24 PM ET

2014-10-03-childtelevision_2322538b.jpg

Are you part of the problem?

8 a.m. Wake up, pour coffee, get paper. After reading about bloodshed and war, move on to the Entertainment Section for much-needed relief. Tonight is the debut for Stalker and I can't wait. Love the image of Dylan McDermott holding a gun, cause he was so sexy holding a gun in Hostages and holding a gun in American Horror Story. And someone gets murdered in the first five minutes! I can't get enough. It's by the guy who created The Followers, in which crazy people run around stabbing innocent folk. Miss that show.

9 a.m. Make note to add November Man to my Netflix account. The advertisement shows sexy older man Pierce Brosnan holding a gun. He looks so cool and masculine with a piece. Just like he did back when he was licensed to kill as James Bond. Sexy men holding firearms are a turn-on.

10 a.m. Walk dog. See huge billboard for new show, How to Get Away with Murder, starring that adorable Viola Davis. Can't wait to see it again, as the first episode had a great, gory ending, and it's created by Shonda Rhimes, who's made some of the cleverest, goriest plotlines ever on Scandal. Remember those torture scenes with the cute love interests? Howl-Ing! And the assassination attempt on the President? Homeland had an assassination plot too. Love that kind of intrigue.

11 a.m. Make note to DVR Intruders, that show in which a family is massacred on the first episode, and a weird man wanders around killing folks. I love how the camera angles always show the gun as if it's in our face! It's scary, creepy fun. Hope they murder the little girl.

12 noon. Head downtown to meet friend for lunch. Notice ad for The Equalizer at the movie theater, with Denzel Washington holding a gun. He's so cool, and the movie made a killing at the box office last weekend. Must see before it's gone.

12:30 p.m. Arrive at subway platform: Notice ad for new Debra Messing show (the kooky Jewish girl from Will & Grace), carrying a gun in her pants while cute kids grin. Looks like fun, and we need a sitcom to make us laugh.

12:35 p.m. See ad next to that one, this one for that Liam Neesam movie that looks scary. He's holding a gun, and there is nothing sexier than Liam with a gun. Except...

12:37 p.m. ... Right next to that ad is one for the final season of Sons of Anarchy, with a sexy biker guy from the back, with a gun sticking out of his pants. Kind of like Messing, but more menacing and really hot. Must watch! Subway ads are the coolest.

1 p.m. Get off subway and see giant bus ad for Stalker, billed as the "scariest show of the season." The poster shows a guy in a hoodie with a blank face. That is scary, cause it reminds me of that black Florida kid who got shot. Cannot wait for tonight.

1:30 p.m. Meet friend for lunch. Discuss The Leftovers, especially the episode when Gladys was stoned to death, and we saw every gory detail of her torture, and the last episode of True Blood, in which Sookie put a stake through Bill's heart and Eric and Pam decided to torture Sarah Newlin. That show was so funny! The escapism of its premise will be missed, especially in these challenging times.

2 p.m. Continue lunch while lamenting how much we miss summer. My friend's favorite movie was Lucy, where adorable Scarlet Johansson shot up all the bad guys, over and over again. What do they use for all that blood? I liked Snowpiercer, where most of the bad guys and good guys were axed to death. Some called it the "thrill ride of the summer." We both avoided Woody Allen's rom-com, however, as he's creepy.

2:30 p.m. Switch to binge-watching discussion. I loved Breaking Bad, the classic tale of the high school teacher who turns into drug kingpin, then shoots his brother-in-law and about half the drug lords in New Mexico, and recruits that poor addict kid whose girlfriend overdoses and who has to start shooting people too. Love it! Especially that remote-control machine-gun bloodbath ending!

My friend got hooked on Fargo. I, too, was barreled over with laughter when the lead murdered his wife with a hammer on the first episode, right before Billy Bob Thornton shot everyone else in Minnesota. Love that kind off off-beat humor. Don't care for Game of Thrones, though. Too violent for my tastes.

3 p.m. Head back to the subway and--wow, another one!--see ad for that movie The Drop, starring the late James Gandolfini. Damn he was good on The Sopranos, playing that hopelessly loveable Tony Soprano, a guy who sees a therapist in between ordering mob hits. Classic TV. The poster shows a gun holding up a bridge. That is way cool artwork.

4 p.m. Catch up on my leisure reading. I see that Paul McCartney is doing the music for a new video game called "Dynasty." He's still working after all these years. And the photo shows some cool robot-like creature holding a huge gun. It must be good.

5 p.m. After a quick bite, it's time to catch up on my shows. I've DVR'd so many I don't know where to begin. That new movie The Rover is On Demand. It stars that adorably cute Robert Pattinson from those vampire movies, and in it he and Guy Pearce travel around Australia and shoot pretty much everyone they run into. There's a gun in every scene! Seriously, what do they make this blood from?

6 p.m. Look at news. Whoa, a man with a knife made it into the White House and an armed felon rode an elevator with Obama. You can't make this s*** up!

7 p.m. The Walking Dead doesn't start for another week, and I'm so bummed. I love it when Michonne axes all the zombies in the head (Oh, come on, people, they're not alive!), or when the governor decapitated the old man or when the lead murdered his best friend. Who's gonna get eaten or shot on the premiere episode? Guess I'll have to wait.

7:30 p.m. I'll catch up on last year's The Americans, in which that cute girl who played Felicity now plays a Soviet spy who kills enemies with her husband, the sweet gay guy from Brothers & Sisters. So glad they both found a great new show.

8:30 p.m. The Strain? Seriously? It's a ludicrous sci-fi show in which a bunch of vampire-type creatures run around New York eating people with their tongues. You have to shoot them in the head or cut off their heads to kill them. Not scary at all and we've seen it all before. Snooze...

9:30 p.m. About to watch Stalker, but must double check TV to make sure everything's recording. I added Gracepoint, a ten-episode murder show that I hear is good, the final season of The Killing, which I can now stream on Netflix!, and, oh look, there's a new show called Peaky Blinders, about mob hits in early 20th century England. Sounds like Boardwalk Empire, about mob hits in early 20th Century Atlantic City. How will I find time to watch both?

10 p.m. Time for Stalker!

11 p.m. Wow, what a disappointment. Yes, a girl gets burned to death in the opener, and Dylan McDermott shoots a guy at the end, but it was dull and unimaginative, with some silly sexual overtones in between the main girls being traumatized. What a waste of time.

I wish 24 was still on. Kiefer Sutherland's bloody show takes place in one day, in real time, with shoot-the-bad-guys fun in every hour. Almost like CNN. Now that's entertainment!

I love all those shoes. Am I part of the problem?

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.

2014-09-15-TomSullivan1.jpg

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.