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I Want a New Normal

Bridget Anshus   |   June 15, 2016    4:30 PM ET

I am in desperate need of a new normal. It has only been four years since I first became acutely aware of the our nation's gun issues.

First, it was the shooting in Colorado, twelve innocent individuals dead at a movie screening. Then it hit closer to home in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, leaving six dead not including the perpetrator. And then it was Sandy Hook, the tragedy where I realized my stance on this issue.

It was in the middle of the afternoon when I was a sophomore in high school. Over the loudspeaker, they announced that there was a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. My stomach sank hearing about the 27 victims, many of which were children.

Ever since Sandy Hook, I found myself becoming desensitized to gun violence. I am no longer surprised that a toddler, middle schooler, high schooler, or grown adult somehow got their hands on a gun. Every day, I read about at least one story that has to do with someone killing someone else and I am so sick and tired of it.

The feeling in my stomach sank again when I heard about the Orlando shooting Saturday morning. Reading about the deaths of 49 people and 53 injured made me angry and fearful of the future of our country.

Gun violence is a serious problem and it's time for us to talk about it for what it is. This conversation isn't nor should be about taking guns away. That is not what I want. To me, gun control means putting on the responsible and proper restrictions on gun certain models, limiting their accessibility, and doing thorough background checks on those purchasing the guns. Most importantly, it's about the safety of our nation's people.

Protecting the people of our nation shouldn't be a political issue. As humans, we all deserve to feel safe wherever we occupy space. We shouldn't feel frightened to go to a movie theater, to school, to work, to a night club. I should not have to research or read an article about how to survive a mass shooting. Fear is not what our nation was built upon.

Gun violence has claimed far too many victims and I'm scared I might be next. I don't want to hear about another shooting. I don't want to be a victim of a shooting. I refuse to believe that our nation, our government, our people, can't do better than this. I refuse to stand still and let these violent acts continue. I want a new normal.

I Will Not Pray For Orlando

Jonathan Williams   |   June 15, 2016    4:19 PM ET

There is a joke.

A man stands on his rooftop as floodwaters surround him. He prays, "God help me!" Soon after his prayer a boat comes by but the man refuses to get in. "God will help me!" He says. A helicopter comes by and someone throws down a rope. The man refuses to grab the rope. "God will help me!" He says.

The man eventually succumbs to the floodwaters. He perishes and is taken to heaven. Once in heaven, the man confronts God. "I prayed for help during the flood waters! Why didn't you come to my rescue!" God replies, "I sent a boat and I sent a helicopter, you idiot!"

After yet another tragedy I'm angry, confused, and hurt.

I see the posts. "Pray for Orlando." It's the same sentiment we posted for Paris, San Bernardino, Oregon, Newtown, Charleston, Aurora, and Blacksburg. Only the place has changed.

I will not pray for Orlando because the truth is that God has already answered our prayers. We're not paying attention.

We have the God-given capability to stop dangerous people from buying assault rifles. The AR-15 has been used to kill 49 people in Orlando. The same weapon was used to kill 20 children in Newtown. It's the same weapon that killed 12 people in a Colorado movie theater. This is the weapon that congress has continually proposed to ban. It is the weapon that was designed by the military to kill with accuracy. And yet the AR-15 is the weapon that congress continually refuses to ban due to some passionate lobbying from the NRA.

I will not pray for Orlando.

We have the God-given power to create common sense laws when it comes to driving. We take tests, practice driving, and take driver education courses. Once we've gone through the process of permits, classes, tests, and insurance we can finally get behind the wheel of the car.

We have no-fly lists and exhaustive security measures that have us at the airport two hours before our flights leave. We even take off our shoes at the airport because one time someone tried to hurt us with a shoe on a plane.

And yet a man who was interviewed three different times by the F.B.I., was proven guilty of physical abuse against his wife, and was flagged for concerns over erratic behavior is allowed to legally purchase an assault rifle. There are no tests, classes, insurance, or exhaustive security measures.

I will not pray for Orlando.

God gave us an inspired text, full of letters, stories, poems, songs, and accounts. In this beautiful text there is one verb that appears more than any other, love.

When asked, Jesus tells us quite literally that the entirety of the scriptures is based on one law,

"Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, strength, and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself." - Luke 10:27

It's quite clear that our God values love more than anything else. And yet religion has largely focused on six verses that have led many to forsake the commandment of love for division and law. In some part, the religious narrative that makes our LGBTQ brothers and sisters "less than" contributes to this senseless violence.

I will not pray for Orlando.

We spend our time talking creating rhetoric, declaring war, and conveniently identifying an entire religious group as radical terrorists. We follow leaders who want to create a ban on all Muslims and build walls against perceived threats.

Yes, we must address the extreme minority who wish to do evil. Yes, those who promote evil must be held accountable. And yet we promote fear at the expense of an entire people group.

There is Christ who tell us that "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear." And yet our common narrative is to fear the other.

No, I will not pray for Orlando,

Here's what I'll do.

I'm going to be a part of 225,000 people who want to see a ban on assault rifles. You can do the same here.

I'm going to lobby for thorough gun laws that are proven to limit gun violence.

I will stand with my LGBT brothers and sisters who have long been told they're not worthy of perfect love. I will stand with my LGBT brothers and sisters who have been told that they're broken. I will stand with my LGBT brothers and sisters who walk down the streets in fear of hate and bigotry. It is unacceptable that almost 1 in 5 hate crimes in America involve our brothers and sisters who identify as LGBT. We will stand together to affirm each and every child of God.

I will not be afraid. I will not build walls. I will walk by my neighbors, strangers, the ones we call "dangerous" and I will smile, talk, and treat each person as someone to be loved, not feared. I'll teach my children to do the same.

I will not pray for Orlando. God has answered our prayers. It's time to grab the rope, jump on the boat, and wake up to the just and generous peacemaking that God asks of each and every one of us!

I'll pray for those of us who do otherwise.

He Walked Into a Gun Shop and Bought Some Guns

Mike Weisser   |   June 15, 2016    4:14 PM ET

Here we go again. Another act of 'domestic terrorism,' and this one left over 100 people injured or dead. The shooter, 29-year old Omar Mateen, broke the old record set by James Holmes, who shot 72 people in a Colorado movie theater in 2012, of whom 60 survived. And Holmes broke Seung-Hui Cho's 2007 record of 49 victims at Virginia Tech, and on it goes back to Charlie Whitman, who gunned down 49 people from his perch in the Texas University Tower in 1966, although only 16 lost their lives.

There's an unemployed academic out there pretending to be a researcher named John Lott, who actually tried to 'prove' that at least ten other countries have higher death rates from mass public shootings than what we experience here in the U.S.A. Which is not hard to do if a country has a fraction of our population and one mass shooting takes place. But any rational, normal and semi-intelligent person who actually believes that mass shootings are an everyday fact of life anywhere but in the United States is either hopelessly delusional or is simply trying to burnish his shopworn credentials as a flack for the NRA.

The bottom line is that there have been three horrendous shootings in the last seven months (Umpqua, San Bernardino, Orlando) which together have resulted in the loss of 74 lives, and I'm not even bothering to count the little mass shootings - a few bodies here, a few bodies there - which take place all the time. Our friends at the Gun Violence Archive count 25 shootings with at least 4 victims each time over the last -- ready? -- three weeks!

Maybe we haven't figured out what to do about this seemingly unstoppable carnage, but what does seem to be emerging from the unending slaughters is a convenient way of ignoring the use of guns. Because the problem isn't the gun, after all, it's the person who uses the gun, and that person is now invariably described as a 'domestic terrorist,' which I guess means someone who is somehow tied to some kind of terrorist organization but happens to permanently live and was maybe even born in the United States. Back in the old days, meaning before the 2016 presidential election cycle, the term 'domestic terrorist' was usually applied to an American who had actually been in contact with a terrorist organization, or had received or planned to receive training in terrorist activities, or in some other way was directly involved in terrorist behavior of some sort. In 2014, two young Americans from Minnesota were killed fighting with ISIS in Somalia and Iraq; home-grown terrorist bomb plots have recently been thwarted in Wichita, Boston and New York.

Of course depending on what political gains can be made from the anguish and fear that any mass shooting evokes in the general population, the presumptive Republican candidate, Street Thug Trump, wanders back and forth between condemning 'domestic terrorism' and 'radical Islamic terrorism,' but let's leave Street Thug alone, because he's incapable of understanding what the real issue is all about.

And the real issue runs like this. Omar Mateen was young, he was stable enough to hold down a job, he was socially isolated and alienated but he was, and this is very important, he was able to get his hands on a gun. And the gun he chose to carry into Pulse was what has become the weapon of choice for young men who want to kill lots of people in one place - an AR-15.

So it doesn't matter whether this shooter was a 'domestic terrorist,' or a 'radical Islamic terrorist,' or a homophobic maniac or whatever else he was or claimed to be. He walked into a gun shop and bought some guns. And that's the real reason that 49 patrons at the Pulse are now dead. It's the gun stupid, it's the gun.

Don't' forget to donate to the Orlando Pulse fund. I just did.

An Open Letter to Americans Who Are More Reasonable Than I Am

Sean Whitson   |   June 15, 2016    4:10 PM ET

The NRA would call me an "extremist," and maybe I am. I would have thought I had a ways to go to get to that point, but nobody feels like an extremist themselves, I imagine.

I would have thought an anti-gun extremist would support repealing the Second Amendment, which I never have. I would have thought an extremist would want all firearms banned, which I do not. Still, I concede I'm no middle-of-the-roader when it comes to gun safety, and that restrictions I may be fine with might be pushing it a little too far for others.

I stipulate as well that I just don't like guns -- I've never owned one, have fired one only a handful of times in my life -- and that may make my views too easy to dismiss for people who do like them, but I also understand that if everything I didn't personally like were illegal then line dancing, Bikram Yoga and flavored whiskey would all be punishable offenses.

There is a Second Amendment, and while we can argue about its breadth and language we must begin my acknowledging that it is there and that it does explicitly guarantee specific freedoms.

What we must also acknowledge, however, is that the scope of freedoms the NRA wants us to believe it guarantees has changed and grown dramatically, not only through our nation's history but over the course of the last few decades as well. I'm sure you're sick of hearing that the Bill of Rights was written when firearms meant muskets (me, too) but that doesn't mean there isn't some truth to it, and while I certainly don't suggest the Second Amendment should be restricted to 18th Century technology, I also think it's just common sense that we have to draw the line somewhere. Nuclear bombs are "arms" too, after all, and none of us want people in our neighborhoods permitted to bear and stockpile those.

Assault rifles are not used for hunting or sport. They are not used for home protection. They are offensive (meaning made for offense rather than defense, as made clear by the name "assault rifle") by their nature. Service members are trained on them and use them on our behalf to attack threats to our national security, and we rightfully honor them for it. Stateside, the best we can ever hope for is that they are never used, because when they are it's always tragic.

From 1994 to 2004 the sale of assault rifles was illegal, and neither tyranny nor the repeal of the 2nd Amendment followed. No one's guns were taken from them, as assault weapons purchased before the ban went into effect were grandfathered in. Since 2004, however, when (mostly Republican) legislators (under pressure from the NRA) let the assault weapons ban expire, we've seen them used to threaten and intimidate government officials, slaughter innocent people at night clubs and movie theaters, and murder 26 children and educators in a single school on a single day. Their only purpose is to kill as many people as possible as quickly as possible, and so resurrecting the assault weapons ban which we employed for a decade with some success and no infringement on the legitimate rights of Americans does not seem like an extreme position to me. Rather, arguing against it does.

But the NRA doesn't stop there. It also put political and financial pressure on legislators to block attempts to keep people on the terrorism watch list from buying guns -- a common-sense precaution which would have prevented the Orlando nightclub shooter from acquiring his weapons so easily less than a week before he used them. The NRA wants us selling guns to people we won't let on our airplanes.

But the NRA doesn't stop there, either.

It uses its power to ban our public health institutions from studying gun violence to see if there are any other solutions beyond restricting weapons that we might be able to discover.

It blocks research and development into smart gun technology, which would prevent toddlers from picking up and accidentally firing weapons -- a tragic occurrence we are now seeing almost every other day in America.

It pushed through legislation in Florida (and is trying to push similar laws in other states) that makes it illegal for a pediatrician to ask families if there are guns in their homes so that they might try to educate parents who want to keep weapons about the importance of proper storage and safety.

And so I have to ask: who really is the extremist here?

Maybe I'm still an extremist, but it's painfully, tragically clear that the NRA is, too. That they are funded by the gun manufacturers is well known, but what that means in practice is that they are not fighting for constitutional rights but simply for a bigger market. They aren't trying to defend the Second Amendment but rather encourage existing gun owners to buy more (and more expensive) guns and frighten more Americans into feeling that arming themselves in their only option.

They want proliferation, and proliferation is something that gun rights and gun safety advocates should be able to agree poses a clear and present threat to our national security.

This is why I'm writing to reasonable gun-owning Americans. Stopping the national slide that threatens to turn all of our communities into self-inflicted war zones is, I'm sorry to say, up to you.

The good news is that none of us extremists can make you do anything. Leftists like me can't take away your guns or force policies on you that will erode the fundamental rights the Second Amendment guarantees if you don't want us to, and the NRA can't use the Second Amendment as an excuse to erode our fundamental rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness just to make a bit more money if you stand up and refuse to let them.

Please don't let them.

Joining the NRA may have seemed like a good idea if you thought crazy liberals like me really were plotting ways to confiscate your pistols, rifles and shotguns--and they certainly pitched that idea hard--but the reality is that they are using your money and support to push the extreme, profit-driven motives listed above. At every turn they are using their members' money and political capital to fight the background checks that three quarters of their members support.

And don't take my word that we crazy liberals won't come after your guns, either. I have no interest in it but that is not to say others don't. The truth is there are a lot of organizations dedicated to defending the Second Amendment but also committed to common sense and public safety, perhaps because they understand that, while proliferation might benefit some people financially in the short term, it ultimately threatens the Second Amendment by making it unsustainable. The American Hunters and Shooters Association folded, but you can still join Americans for Responsible Solutions, which is spearheaded by proud gun owners who have also faced the tragedy of senseless gun violence. ARS also recently launched the Veterans Coalition for Common Sense.

There are other steps we, as a country, need to take, of course. We need better mental health care. We need to fight ISIS and stand up to hate-based perversions of religion at home and abroad. We need to stem the fracturing of our society which results in a pervasive lack of empathy. No combination of these will do much without a return to common sense in our gun laws, however, and the most important thing you can do to that end is to stand up and make it clear that the NRA does not speak for you.

And that ball is in your court. Everyone knows the NRA doesn't speak for an "extremist" like me, but if gun owners, if NRA members stand up and leave--like President George H. W. Bush and so many principled conservatives already have--they could change the whole country for the better.

The rest of us can only ask. And we're begging.

Orlando's Game-Changing Lesson: See A Gun, Think Terrorism

Ariel Moutsatsos   |   June 15, 2016   11:14 AM ET

The attack in Orlando is a game changer for how to address the guns issue. The massacre exposed a vulnerable U. S. national security flank which the FBI and other agencies can do little to secure within the current legal framework. The fact is that last Sunday a man killed 49 people and injured 53 others using an assault rifle he bought locally; and that entails an essential lesson: A gun can be equally or even more effective as a terrorist weapon than a bomb, and terrorists can legally buy such a weapon in the U.S. without even being traced.

After the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. and the majority of the world improved and strengthened security controls in airports and public venues. The Department of Homeland Security was created along with a new intelligence coordination entity. The Patriot Act was signed and the security, intelligence, defense and justice institutions of the U.S. were given greater capabilities and authority to face the "new" terrorist threat. Citizens gave away some of their rights in exchange for security. The attacks of March 11th, 2004 in Madrid and the 7/7 attacks in London were also a game changer for Europe and the world. More recently, the terrorist acts in Paris triggered a re-assessment of security and intelligence practices and lifted international alerts and cooperation to new levels. In all those cases measures were taken with one central goal: to prevent or at least dramatically reduce the possibility of a similar attack.

So what to do after Orlando?

So far, the guns debate in the United States has been about the spirit and purpose of the Second Amendment -- the right of every citizen to bear arms and the limits and interpretation of such right. Different views on this issue have been turned into political flags and the hundreds of shootings that take place in the U. S. and cost the lives of over 30 thousand people every year have been more or less central to the way each side supports its arguments. But the issue has taken on a new dimension now and the debate on how to address it should change.

After the 9/11, March 11, 7/7 and the Paris attacks, governments did not propose arming their citizens as a way to face the new terrorist threat. They modified their laws, changed their approach and took security and intelligence measures to protect their people. That is exactly what must be done after Orlando. This is not only about the Second Amendment anymore; it is about terrorism. Guns are now the terrorist's weapons of choice and it turns out that unlike any other country in the civilized world, in the U.S. it is legal and possible for a person with terrorist intentions to acquire the weapon to execute an attack without being traced, and the FBI can't do anything about it even if they have knowledge of his or her process of radicalization. How about that for a vulnerability? Would people be willing to compromise their right to own high-caliber weapons in exchange for protection against terrorism?

It is urgent that we learn this painful lesson from Orlando and act quickly to prevent another attack. From now on, we must see guns as potential terrorist weapons and we must do something about it.

Erin Schumaker   |   June 15, 2016   11:01 AM ET

Just days after the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, a new study from Denver finds that deaths from gunshot wounds at a trauma center there have increased over the past decade and that gunshot injuries have become more severe.

Although the findings are from only a single hospital, they represent a trend that doctors elsewhere have reported anecdotally, the researchers said. "Our study provides an objective measure of something trauma surgeons across the country already know: The firearms used in our communities are becoming more harmful and more lethal," said study co-author Dr. Angela Sauaia, a professor of public health, medicine and surgery at the University of Colorado Denver.

In the study, the researchers analyzed information on gunshot injuries treated at the Denver Health Medical Center from 2000 to 2013.

During that time, a total of about 1,680 people were treated for gunshot wounds at the hospital, and the number of people hospitalized yearly for gunshot injuries was about the same from year to year, according to the findings.

However, death rates for gunshot wounds increased during the study period, by about 6 percent on average, every two-year period, the researchers found.

In addition, the risk of having a severe gunshot injury increased by 6.5 percent for every two-year period, and the risk of a single patient having more than two severe gunshot wounds increased by about 5 percent for every two-year period, the study found. Injuries were considered severe if they had a high score on a scale used to measure injury severity. [5 Milestones in Gun Control History]

"Patients who arrive to our ER now have more wounds and more severe wounds than 10 years ago," Sauaia told Live Science. The increased number and severity of gunshot wounds likely explains the rise in death rates from these injuries, the researchers said.

The findings follow the news of a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, on Sunday (June 12). Forty-nine people (plus the shooter) died, making it the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

The researchers noted in the new study that they also analyzed information on other injuries at their hospital, including stabbings, assaults, falls, car crashes and accidents involving pedestrians. None of these other injuries showed increases in death rates over the study period, and in fact, some showed declines in death rates.

Some might argue that advances in medical care have made it more likely that people injured by gunshots will survive at the scene of the shooting and make it to the hospital, and that this could lead to an increase in hospital death rates. However, this idea is unlikely to explain the results of the current study, because the researchers found that there were no changes in deaths on the scene from gunshot wounds during the study period.

More research is needed to determine the exact reasons for the increase in gunshot death rates, such as whether the types of guns or the number of guns used by the people in the area played a role, the researchers said.

But this type of research can be difficult. Sauaia said that if researchers wanted to find out whether certain types of cars were involved in an increase in car crashes, they would have little difficulty getting this information. In contrast, "Finding data and research funding to study firearm injuries is much more difficult, despite evidence showing that they affect us in much higher numbers than other diseases," Sauaia said. "That said, it does not take much science to see that high-firepower, high-magazine-capacity [firearms] in the hands of one or few individuals can result in more damage than low-firepower and small-magazine capacity," Sauaia said.

More studies are also needed to confirm whether hospitals in other parts of the country are seeing a similar trend.

The study is published today (June 14) in the journal JAMA.

Original article on Live Science.

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It Starts With You - Stand Up Against LGBTQ+ Violence

Zac Thompson   |   June 14, 2016    7:11 PM ET

Tragedies occur daily. That's a fact. Orlando isn't an isolated incident. If you really think what happened in Orlando is gut-wrenching, take in a single episode of VICELAND's Gaycation. The large majority of the world is still rejecting LGBTQ+ rights for religious or political reasons.

It has now been revealed that the Orlando gunman, Omar Mateen may have been gay himself. It seems he was motivated by a combination of religiously fueled homophobia and a last minute devotion to the Islamic state. Mateen's despicable actions are now riddled with troubling contradictions. Mateen frequented Pulse, but never felt comfortable with his identity. He used gay dating apps but he never felt empowered to stand up as who he truly was.

We all have strong opinions on gun control, pride, gay rights, or religion. Today is to think about the people who lost their lives for living openly and standing proud with their sexual identity. Mateen was someone who couldn't cope with proud sexual identities of LGBTQ+ people and it's also possible he couldn't face his own identity. The good news is we can. We can face the reality of the LGBTQ+ community and do something to prevent further attacks like this.

Let's not let this mess of confusion and contradiction slow us down. We can face reality together. We should all be proud of our LGBTQ+ community. This an opportunity to start a conversation with the community in your area. Create a culture of acceptance and education. Make an enduring commitment to love.

The sad truth is violence against LGBTQ+ people in America is incredibly common. In fact, they are more than twice as likely to be the target of a violent hate-crime than Jews or black people. That's astounding.

We owe it to each other to create a culture of acceptance and empowerment. We need to help each other stand up against discrimination and violence. North America cannot keep perpetuating this kind of hatred. We have to be an example for the rest of the world.

Travis Bryant identifies as a LGBTQ+ person, recounting in the video what it's like to stand up and look aggression in the eyes. His anecdote is now more relevant than ever. Watch the video and stand with Travis, stand with your community, and reach out someone who may need your support today.

For more of Travis Bryant, find his videos on YouTube and follow him on Twitter.

Trigger Happy

Brian Caldirola   |   June 14, 2016    5:08 PM ET


Should Terror Suspects Still Have Access To Guns, After The Orlando Tragedy?

John A. Tures   |   June 14, 2016    4:20 PM ET

For years, Senators have introduced bills trying to keep terror suspects from buying guns. Even though more than 80 percent of Americans support this legislation, opponents have blocked these amendments. Their own plan on terror suspects and guns would have made it harder to stop the Orlando shooter.

For years, Senators have tried to pass laws restricting terror suspects in America from buying a gun. U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey brought up the bill several times before his death, and U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced similar legislation after the Paris attacks, according to the Washington Post, all to no avail. Even after the San Bernadino Christmas Party shooting, Feinstein's bill was blocked yet again, according to UPI.

"They don't have to bring it with them, they can buy it once they get here," Feinstein declared, according to the Washington Post. "If you're too dangerous to board a plane, you're too dangerous to buy a gun."

Public opinion is on the side of Feinstein's bill. A Quinnipiac poll of Americans on the subject showed that 83 percent of Americans support keeping terror suspects from getting a gun. Only 13 percent of Americans think terror suspects should be allowed to purchase a gun.

The Bush Administration proposed such a bill in 2007 and GOP Congressman and Presidential Candidate Peter King of New York introduced similar legislation blocking terror suspects from buying a gun, but was dismayed to find that his nine-year effort to pass such a bill has been in vain, according to the NY Daily News.

Law enforcement also sees such a bill as necessary to their attempts to stop terrorism. According to CNBC, former ATF Agent Jim Cavanaugh said this after the Orlando terror attack.

Here's a glaring example, let's make sure anybody who came to the interest of the Joint Terrorism Task Force for whatever reason, even if the file was closed, if they're going to be buying a firearm and lots of ammunition ... [we should] know that... We're not going to arrest the guy. We're not going to kick his door in. Just want to know, tell us he's buying a gun today... It took a week for him to then kill. ... We can tighten that up through process. But it doesn't mean we can arrest him.

Stung by criticism that they've been allowing terror suspects to legally buy guns, opponents of the bill introduced their own legislation in December of last year. Texas Senator John Cornyn's bill allows the national government to have a 72-hour delay for a gun purchase for someone on the watch list. But in writing of his support for the Cornyn bill, conservative John McCormack from the Weekly Standard shows why such a law wouldn't have stopped the Orlando shooter.

"The GOP bill puts the burden on the government to get judicial clearance, while the Democratic bill puts the burden on the individual to prove his innocence," McCormack writes. "The GOP bill requires the government to show 'probable cause' to a judge, while the Democratic bill relies on a lower legal standard that a "preponderance of evidence" shows the attorney general has a 'reasonable belief' that the prospective gun buyer may be a terrorist." In addition, McCormack points out that former Senator Ted Kennedy and a fellow Weekly Standard writer (Stephen Hayes) were accidentally put on a no-fly list.

With the tougher legal hurdle, the government would have had a difficult time showing "probable cause" for the Orlando shooter, or many other domestic terrorists who have become adept at keeping a relatively low profile before they start the killing. On the other hand, a "reasonable belief" standard at least gives law enforcement a chance to keep a weapon out of the hands of a would-be terrorist for more than 72 hours, and for cases of mistakes like Kennedy and Hayes to still effectively challenge being on the list in court.

There's public support, law enforcement support, and bipartisan support for this bill. Hopefully, the accumulation of so many preventable tragedies will now get the remaining opponents of the bill to join the fight against arming domestic terror suspects.

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

Guns, Law And The Public's Confusion

John Roman, Ph.D.   |   June 14, 2016    2:19 PM ET

On April 6, 2013, the New York Times published an op-ed from two Democratic pollsters that reveals some startling facts about the gulf between what we think our gun laws say and reality. The authors summarize their take quite succinctly: "Americans don't really know what gun laws are on the books and [we] falsely construe that to mean they don't want common-sense gun laws passed -- when they [Americans] clearly do."

What does that mean? It means we, as a nation, think all kind of common-sense laws governing gun ownership are already law. We resist new gun laws because we collectively believe existing gun laws already lean hard on the 2nd Amendment and we are wary of trampling our constitutional rights.

Only, most of those laws don't exist.

I first wrote this article three years ago, but decided not to publish it, on the grounds that the pollsters who conducted this investigation were explicitly partisan and I could not find a neutral or opposing voice that supported the polls claims. I still can't.

But in the wake of the Orlando attacks, the issues surfaced in the poll are so critical that they are worthy of engagement, even if they can't be verified. So, with that caveat, here's what they found.

  • By a slight majority, Americans favor better enforcement of existing laws over new gun control laws. But they don't understand what laws are already on the books.
  • Ninety percent of gun owners believe that background checks should be required before a weapons purchase.
  • Among those who favor better enforcement over new law, about half believe background checks are currently required to buy a gun at a gun show or in a private transaction. However, this is only true in a handful of states.
  • A majority of Americans believe a gun cannot be sold to someone on a terrorist watch list (they can).
  • One-third of American believes law enforcement is notified when large numbers of guns are purchased in a short time (law enforcement, whether it is municipal, county, state or federal are in fact not notified).
  • Almost half of Americans believe ammunition cannot be legally bought over the internet (it can).
  • About half of Americans believe that military style assault weapons are illegal (and as we just saw in Orlando, they obviously are not illegal).

That presents a rather stark view of the policy problem. We, our American society, as a majority not just a plurality, gun owners as well as non-gun owners, believe that we should be careful in restricting gun ownership. We also care about defending the Constitution. And we believe we should limit those restrictions to those at greatest risk of committing gun violence: those with histories of gun violence, those with links to terrorist organizations and those with histories of domestic violence.

And we believe we already do.

But, we don't.

Let Your Kids Play With [Toy] Guns

Kate Bryant   |   June 14, 2016    1:26 PM ET

Read More: kids, guns, gun control


My heart froze when I saw those two little fingers pointed out in the open with the fierce expression and heard the words "bang bang." My then-three-year-old aimed his little finger-gun and fired into the air. Immediate fear and panic struck me. Where did he learn that?

I can safely say I am no gun expert nor is my husband. We do not own guns. It's not for any reason other than we have no interest in doing so. We aren't strong on guns or gun control one way or another. We can agree they don't belong in the hands of children.

Ever since my son was three years old he has been interested in guns. As parents, it is scary for us and we aren't prepared to handle the reaction. Our reaction is to stop our child - IMMEDIATELY. We are horrified young children would make a gun out of their fingers, aim it at anything and make a shooting sound. Some children haven't even seen a TV show with violence when they begin this behavior. Our son didn't watch TV until he was two years old. At that age he watched was only a few shows and they were violence-free. As your child ages, their experience outside the home will grow and they will likely view violence in reality or television.

So why do they make guns out of everything in site including their bodies?
Parents say this is not an uncommon behavior for small children. Most mothers I have talked to with (especially) boys have expressed shock at their child's ability to create guns out of anything. This is certainly not limited to boys as my three-year-old niece is just as interested in toy guns and gun play as my son.

Studies have shown there is no real link to toys guns and future real-life violence. I know it's hard to believe right? Our culture is not supportive of aggressive play or guns. We assume it creates violence and thus try to prevent it before it begins.

Our home resisted all types of toy gun use for quite a long time. We still resist in many ways but allow some play and toy guns. Here is what we have done about it and what we have learned:

1- Help your child learn the difference between play guns and real guns.
Some of our family members have toy guns from the 50s and 60s that look real. We have discouraged play with these types of guns. It's been challenging since they exist in other homes. But we have used those guns as an example of what not to play with. We stress the difference in the appearance of toy guns and real guns. The bright colors of Nerf guns and their lesser appearance to a real weapon. The plastic nature of toy guns is important to point out.

The appearance difference is important. You will not always be with your children at their friends' or relatives' homes. You want your child to be able to see a real gun, leave it alone and get an adult. You want them to resist the urge to touch a real gun if one is left out in a home. They need to know what is and is not a play gun. You cannot always trust friends' homes to be safe. Of course, we expect proper gun storage to be a top priority for all. But you can't guarantee it is so your child needs to be prepared to witness a real gun.

2- Let your child play in an organized fashion with rules with toy guns.
If you can't shake your child of their interest in guns teach them rules for safe play. We allow Nerf gun games in the yard. I will admittedly tell you I struggle with the concept. I can see how it clearly helps him have fun with something he wants to play with. He learns to listen, read and understand his friends verbal and body language cues. When his friends have had enough he can see that. When someone doesn't want to play anymore they are done. They are laughing and having fun. They run, they exercise and use skill to outthink their friends during their game. All the guns are Nerf and use foam bullets.

3- Provide rules of gun play and use.
Not allowing your child to play with their toy guns in the house is one rule you could choose. We don't allow inside toy gun play unless he has set up a target in his play area or the basement. Our son is not allowed to run around the house using the toy guns.

We don't allow direct shooting at other people or objects unless it's in the game fashion or at the target. He is never allowed to shoot at us. If he chooses this in a moment of fun or passion we take the toy gun away for a certain amount of time. We distinguish between his play and downtime. He is not allowed to walk around our house shooting a toy gun off.

Does letting your kid play with guns decrease their interest in the weapons? It's questionable. Kids still love their toy guns. They love gun play.

Perhaps you might see a decrease in their choice to gun play, but you might not. You might see improvement in their ability to follow directions, play appropriately with friends, and put the guns away at the end of the day. Their interest might be passing or it might lead them to a protective career like being a police officer. Guns are not always used irresponsibly by everyone.

Matt Fuller   |   June 14, 2016    1:01 PM ET

WASHINGTON -- With the nation reeling from the Orlando, Florida, shooting, Democrats are giving Republicans a preview of one issue they intend to bring up in November: guns. 

House Democrats used a routine procedural motion on Tuesday to send a message on the issue, calling for a vote on a bill written by Republican Rep. Peter King of New York that would prohibit people on the terrorist watch lists from buying firearms. And while Republicans had no problem voting against the party-line motion, there are clear signs that Democrats see an opportunity on gun legislation -- and Republicans see a thorny election-year issue.

The "No Fly, No Buy" legislation, as Democrats have dubbed it, is itself a controversial bill. Critics say it would deny due process rights to people placed on terrorist watch lists, which are famously loose as far as who is included. One terrorist watch list in 2013 included 1.1 million people (though many of those names were spelling variations, and the government has said that only about 25,000 people on that list are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents). 

Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), for one, noted that local law enforcement officials in his district have ended up on the list, as has his chief of staff's mom. In her case, her name was similar to Cat Stevens, the British folk singer who converted to Islam and changed his name to Yusuf Islam. The musician erroneously ended up on a no-fly list, too, and was taken off a plane because his name was similar to someone else being monitored.

Regardless, Democrats were quick to issue a round of press releases and tweets Tuesday --marked with #NoFlyNoBuy -- over a pretty standard procedural vote. 

“It is appalling that days after our nation has suffered such a terrible attack, Republicans would vote to protect suspected terrorists’ ability to arm themselves to the teeth at American gun stores," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in her release.

“Republicans’ decision to block the bipartisan ‘No Fly, No Buy’ bill is dangerous and indefensible," she said. "If you’re too dangerous to fly, you’re too dangerous to buy a gun." 

Democratic candidates also got in on the act Tuesday, calling on their incumbent Republican opponents to allow a vote on the bill. But what may be more surprising than the outrage Democrats are exhibiting is the openness some Republicans are showing to the legislation.

"That sounds like a reasonable proposition," conservative Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) told reporters on Tuesday, when asked about the King bill. "I'm not going to commit yes or no on it, but that sounds like a reasonable proposition."

Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway (R-Texas) also told reporters on Tuesday that it sounded like something he could support, and Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) was spirited Monday night about his desire to see new restrictions on suspected terrorists.

On the Senate side, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday that he suspected the Democratic push for the bill was politically motivated. 

"But we're open," McConnell said. "Nobody wants terrorists to have firearms. And we're open to serious suggestions from the experts as to what we might be able to do to be helpful."

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) accused Democrats of political posturing too, though he also suggested there was a legitimate problem with certain dangerous people getting their hands on guns.

"We have to decide whether we actually want to solve a problem or not, or whether people just want their political talking points," Cornyn said Tuesday. "Right now our Democratic friends seem to be more interested in opportunistically using this tragedy to advance their agenda, rather than working with us to solve problems."

Democrats clearly do see a political angle on the gun issue. But for many, it's also a deeply personal concern.

On Tuesday, New York Democrat Nydia Velázquez took to the House floor and, with tears welling in her eyes, read the names of the Orlando shooting victims.

Some Democrats have also indicated that they are serious about working through the judicial concerns members have regarding a bill to prevent suspected terrorists from buying guns. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), one of Congress' most outspoken gun control proponents, is offering an amendment to an upcoming appropriations bill that would prevent people on watch lists from buying guns. And Feinstein said Tuesday that the next step for her would be to talk to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), and then to McConnell.

"Which I will do on this," Feinstein said, "because I care a great deal about it.”

Laura Barron-Lopez and Jennifer Bendery contributed to this report.

#1 Dumbest Idea The NRA Has Had This Year

Lester & Charlie   |   June 14, 2016   12:52 PM ET


What Big Bullets You Have, Grandmother!

One section of the National Rifle Association's website is endearingly named "NRAFamily." It includes a series called "Fun Friday," covering news like "6 Invasive Species That Are Damaging The U.S." and a clever "How To" section that, somehow, includes an article named "The 7 Disease Bearing Ticks In America." Now, NRAFamily has posted its second installment in its new series about fairy-tales-with guns. As the editor states about the new children's series:

[...] how many times have you thought back and realized just how, well, grim some of them are? Did any of them ever make your rest a little bit uneasy? Have you ever wondered what those same fairy tales might sound like if the hapless Red Riding Hoods, Hansels and Gretels had been taught about gun safety and how to use firearms?

Well, no, family section editor. Hadn't thought about that. Just how would that play out? Well, in the first NRA retelling, we meet Little Red Riding Hood meandering toward her unlocked and loaded grandmother's house, where granny's got a gun pointed in the face of the Big Bad Wolf.

"I don't think I'll be eaten today," said Grandma, "and you won't be eating anyone again."

In the retelling of Hansel and Gretel, Gretel, the "better shot," keeps her rifle's crosshairs on the witch while Hansel springs some mystery boys from a cage, runs back home with them and then brings the whole pistol-packing village back to the gingerbread house to freak the crap out of the witch and then eat her home for dessert.

This is yet another example of how the NRA and their followers are investing not just money but also influence over kids to ensure that the next generation will keep Charlton Heston's cold dead hands gripping that flintlock longrifle. And this time they've enlisted Little Red Riding Hood for help.

Influence over kids is not new in the NRA community. Examples include this pro-gun, pro-NRA lawmaker's family holiday card, featuring pistols, rifles and a Christmas tree. Annual NRA conventions get hundreds of kids to attend. At their 2014 convention, a man dressed as a bird that goes by the name "Pig Man" told The SportsChannel, "What's great about the meetings is the number of children and how the manufacturers in this community are supporting these kids." One such kid-supporting manufacturer designs the "My First Rifle" line of firearms just for children and sells about 60,000 every year to kids between the ages of 4 and 10. And, yes, there are pink guns for little girls.

But changing fairy tales? Well, as it turns out, nothing is really new about retelling fairy tales, something that can happen in the progression of oral and written storytelling traditions. Moral values of the times probably come through in each author's retelling, whether overtly or subliminally.

Some of the oldest fairy tales were really short and their context today is nearly incomprehensible - sometimes demanding an update:

Once upon a time there was a stubborn child who never did what his mother told him to do. The dear Lord, therefore, did not look kindly upon him, and let him become sick. No doctor could cure him and in a short time he lay on his deathbed. After he was lowered into his grave and covered over with earth, one of his little arms suddenly emerged and reached up into the air. They pushed it back down and covered the earth with fresh earth, but that did not help. The little arm kept popping out. So the child's mother had to go to the grave herself and smack the little arm with a switch. After she had done that, the arm withdrew, and then, for the first time, the child had peace beneath the earth.

Read that a few times. Each time, it might feel like you get the point. But not without something else confusing popping up. We found eight potential points of confusion. The only current-day context we can align to that fable is our favorite joke: A kid asks, "Mamma, why is daddy so pale?" Mamma responds, "Shut up and keep diggin'."

Lack of definitive context might be why so many of the researchers and transcribers of oral folklore took a few liberties with the text. That includes fairy tale icons like the brothers Grimm. Often, they made the tales a little longer, maybe to shoehorn it into the context of their time. Some of the really grotesque (but fun) elements were tamed down over time. For example, between its first incarnation and the Disney cartoon in 1950, somebody decided to get rid of the toe amputation scene in Cinderella.

The Grimm Brothers also put stories into the context of their day by injecting Christian values, which sometimes changed the stories quite a lot. In really early versions, Rapunzel got laid every time she let down her hair and a guy used the strands to climb up into her sex lair. So she soon got pregnant. In the Grimm's final version, Rapunzel's guardian nipped that in the bud by snipping off her hair (but did so a little too late).

So, what's wrong with the NRA messing around with stories that were already messed with? A lot.

Psychologists, psychoanalysts, scholars and philosophers tend to agree that fairy tales serve as a mirror into the human psyche and a child's journey: First, bad shit goes down, just like it does in childhood. A wicked character shows up and that encourages the child to sort out and focus their internal angers externally and more appropriately than he or she might otherwise. Then through a little ingenuity - or luck - the root of the fairy tale's problem is solved - solved in a way that a young kid probably couldn't see coming. Hope is surprisingly restored.

Back in real life, the kid who heard the story feels reassured and then has nightmares about it. All and all, it's a pretty accurate parallel to growing up.

In the NRA's versions, this valuable mirror into the psyche and human development is robbed at gunpoint. The resolution - guns - is introduced right at the beginning of each story. So you know where it's going. It's like Jack and Mrs. Sprat starting their little fable by walking into a grocery store with coupons for Lean Cuisine and lard sticks. There would be no conflict for the Sprats to overcome or to share with kids or for kids to learn from.

The problem isn't that the NRA is rewriting traditional stories that have already been rewritten over generations; it's how the NRA is doing it. They're missing a major point: Fables help kids develop into adults. Guns kill them.


Bonus Track:



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A Christian's Responsibility for Orlando

Robert Crawford   |   June 13, 2016    9:52 PM ET

With the great many voices out there about the tragic murders at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, I was reluctant to add to the fray. On top of that, it seemed that the things I wanted to say had already been said, and even refuted. But as time went on, my desire to speak out stayed the same, so here I am.

Everyone seems quick to place blame, that's the first thing I notice. Which is understandable; finding people and things to blame in times like these helps us cope. It helps us to say "well at least it's not my fault". I've seen the Orlando Nightclub Shooting blamed on guns, Christianity, Islam, Obama, Trump, The Islamic State, and even on gays themselves. And I've seen people equally coming to the defense of all of them, explaining why their particular group or person is not to blame.

Well I have no doubt where the blame lies. The blame lies solely with the man who murdered 49 people a couple of nights ago. He chose to do what he did; it is absolutely his fault. (I avoid using his name, because even if not true in this case, often these acts are carried out with a desire for fame, and I will not give him that. I would rather remember the names Oscar Aracena, Juan Ramon Guerrero, Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, Tevin Eugene Crosby, Amanda Alvear, and the others who were killed.) So to me, blame isn't a question here; I know who is to blame.

But let's talk about responsibility. Maybe it's only an argument of semantics, but I think it's fair to say that there's a distinction. To me, responsibility, unlike blame, can refer to much more indirect actions that affect other things as a whole, often without our knowledge. Well I'm not a Muslim, or an Obama supporter, or a Trump supporter, or a homosexual; so I don't really feel equipped to discuss what responsibility may or may not lie with any of the above.

I am, however, a Christian. An evangelical, Bible-believing Christian at that. And as such, I do believe that it is my place to speak to what I see as the responsibility that Christians hold. I fully admit that I don't know the full motivations behind these murders. Maybe it was done purely as an Islamic Terrorist attack like the Boston Marathon Bombings. Or maybe it was done just because this man hated gay people, such as the murder of Matthew Shepard. Maybe it was a random act of pure evil. Likely, there's no easy answer or one simple cause. However, I am not willing to dismiss the fact that those murdered were part of the gay community, a community that has a history of being trampled upon by our society and by my religion.

I do not believe that we can use terms like "The Rainbow Jihad" and "The LGBT Agenda", and then be completely surprised when a person comes to hate gays to such a degree as to do this. I don't think it is reasonable to deny a gay person the right to marry the person they love or to adopt children, and then expect people to still view them with all the humanity that people in general have. When we say that the correct stance for a Christian to take is to stand on and trample on a rainbow flag like pastor Douglas Wilson did, we shouldn't be surprised when someone out there comes to think that gays are not worthy to live. We use terms like "gross" and "disgusting" and "makes me want to throw up" to refer to homosexuality. And then we claim that we are only saying it because it is a sin. And yet I can't remember the last time a Christian used those words to refer to a man cheating on his wife with another woman, or to refer to a person who simply doesn't accept Christ as Lord and Savior (which, according to The Bible and evangelical teachings, is much worse than any other sin, it's the only sin that cannot be forgiven by the saving power of Christ).

Homosexuality has a stigma in our society. In many, if not all societies really, but I'm sticking with America here. It's getting better, sure, but not without a fight. As Christians, we have contributed to this stigma. We have done so in the name of Christ, and in the name of Love. We have said (truthfully) that pointing out sin in someone is loving. But we have done so in a way that has contributed to a group of people being marginalized and hated. We have done so in a way that has dehumanized them; has robbed them of their rights as both citizens of this country and as members of the human race. We have made them hide who they are, in fear of reprisal even from their families.

So I'm not saying to stop preaching the gospel. We should do so, and do so boldly. I'm not saying to change your beliefs or suddenly think that sin is ok. But I am saying to treat all sinners equally. To not take one group of sinners and say that they are less than human. To stop helping to create a world where a group of people are referred to as "disgusting", while so many other sins are given a pass. As evangelical Christians, let's take responsibility. Not because we are to blame. Not because it is our fault. But because maybe, just maybe, our words and actions have helped to create the mindset that caused the deaths of 49 people.