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Gun Control -- Symbolic Gestures Won't Save Us

Steve Nelson   |   June 26, 2016   10:09 AM ET

Gun control is out of control. Filibusters and sit-ins have roiled the Congress for the last few weeks. Orlando, San Bernardino, Sandy Hook ... bullets fly, people die, Congress boils and nothing happens. The statistics astound: There are nearly 15,000 deaths and 28,000 injuries every year from guns -- an Orlando every day. There are more guns in America than people, a fact that will continue in perpetuity, since people will die and the guns that kill them will live on. Gun deaths are on track to exceed automobile fatalities. What an exceptional nation we are!

The gun lobby, most notably the NRA and its fans, resists any and every proposed measure. Republican legislators will not pass a measure to keep those on the terrorist watch list from buying guns. They refuse to expand background checks. They won't restrict a possible terrorist who can't board an airplane from buying a semi-automatic weapon designed to kill dozens, scores, or hundreds of humans.

The NRA and its conservative lapdogs in Congress cite the same arguments every time mass slaughter temporarily diverts Americans' attention from Donald Trump and Facebook to bloody corpses: The Second Amendment means what it says. Every American has a right to bear arms. The answer to a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. The Kenyan Muslim Barack Obama and his lily-livered lefty allies want to confiscate all the guns.

On the other side, gun control advocates fall all over themselves to assure the electorate that they too love the Second Amendment, that they love to hunt, that they too have guns at home to protect their families from whatever imagined threats lurk in the American psyche. From this crouching posture they beg for minimalist, largely symbolic legislation. Can't we at least stop a known terrorism suspect from getting his hands on an automatic weapon? Can't we close the loopholes that make current laws a Swiss cheese joke? Nope, say the zealots -- those things are a slippery slope to confiscation and fascist tyranny. And so it goes, over and over again.

Infuriating, but utterly beside the point. What our leaders and we are afraid to acknowledge is that the NRA, the GOP and zealous gun advocates around America are absolutely right. The proposed laws will not stop slaughters like Orlando or San Bernardino. According to a 2014 Slate article, there are about 3,750,000 military style assault weapons in the United States. An angry, delusional, madman like Omar Mateen doesn't have to queue up at a gun store and pass a background check to get his twitching fingers on an assault weapon. We're so awash in guns that locking the barn door is an absurd, albeit well meaning, gesture.

These sensational and tragic incidents are not the primary problem and should not be the central focus of the debate. Gun violence is a public health problem and a national psychological disorder. The vast majority of deaths are the result of gun violence in the streets, domestic disputes, the daily tragedies of suicide and the accidental deaths of thousands of children. Keeping assault weapons out of the hands of crazy people may be necessary, but is grossly insufficient. It is a bloody red herring.

If there is ever to be meaningful change in our violent nation, the debate has to start from a different position. Gun control advocates have conceded so much before the debate starts that nothing of real meaning will happen, even if the GOP is shamed into taking some small step. It's like a divorce where one partner takes the house, the car, the retirement account, custody of the children and then agrees to enter mediation to decide who gets the silverware.

Here are a few real suggestions. Call it Uncommon Sense Gun Control.

1. Repeal the Second Amendment. It is anachronistic, dangerous and unnecessary. There is no threat to domestic tranquility that should justify anyone's unfettered right to possess a deadly weapon.

2. Require thorough background checks, registration, training and licensing for the ownership of any gun.

3. Have an absolute ban on possession of any automatic or semi-automatic weapon by any citizen. Impose heavy criminal penalties on anyone who defies the law.

4. Require that every gun purchased in America employ the emerging smart gun technology that prevents anyone but the licensed, registered owner from discharging the weapon.

5. Confiscate any and all weapons that don't meet the above criteria.

6. Hold criminally liable for negligence, any person whose weapon is used in a crime or a suicide.

7. Institute a buy back program, like that successfully employed in Australia, to immediately reduce the American arsenal.

8. Make it illegal to publicly carry, concealed or open, any loaded weapon.

Not a single one of these things would inhibit the use of appropriate arms for hunting or to protect one's home from intruders.

So, let's start the negotiations from there - and then we can argue over the silverware.

Friday Talking Points -- Taking The Trump Exit

Chris Weigant   |   June 24, 2016    8:41 PM ET

Donald Trump's name lends itself to all sorts of mashed-up words, but we find it doesn't really work with the big story of the week. British voters decided to take the so-called "Brexit" (or "British exit") from the European Union. But what should we call the increasing stream of Republicans flowing away from Trump's campaign? Truxit? Trexit? See, it just doesn't work all that well.

But whatever you call it, the number of GOP stalwarts now taking the Trump exit continues to increase. It's kind of astounding that so many in the party are fleeing their own presidential nominee, since this (to put it mildly) isn't normal. Normally, the party rallies around their candidate right about now, but these are not (again, to put it mildly) normal times.

Just in the past week alone, we had well-respected Republican foreign policy wonk Brent Scowcroft actually endorse Hillary Clinton for president. That's pretty stunning. Then there were a list of 50 Republican business leaders who also publicly announced they were supporting the other party's candidate. George Will is now pleading with Republican donors to not give Trump a thin dime. Senator Mark Kirk, who is in fear of losing his seat in Illinois, is proudly running away from both Trump and his own party (his recent ad boasts Kirk "bucked his party to say Donald Trump is not fit to be commander-in-chief"). Go on, tell us how you really feel, Senator Kirk!

One Republican was a bit more eloquent about his disgust towards Trump. Lionel Sosa, described as: "One of the few Hispanic political operatives able to help Republican candidates win large percentages of Latino voters," will be leaving the Republican Party if it nominates Trump. He explains why he's made this decision:

I'll have to bid [the Republican Party] farewell, hoping that one day soon, it comes to its senses. Here's my thinking. This madness could be temporary because our nominee is not really a Republican. Not a real conservative. He's just a shark, a self-promoter out to see how far his out-of-control ego can take him.

Instead of "Tear down this wall," the party promotes a new and bigger wall. A thousand points of light has been replaced by a thousand points of anger. In place of compassionate conservatism, our nominee promotes callousness, extremism and racism. And instead of a unifier, the party now cheers the ultimate "us against them" proponent. Divisiveness incarnate.

Wow. And that's all coming from Republicans, mind you. The Trump campaign had another bad week all around, beginning with Trump firing his campaign manager. The news that the campaign is essentially broke also hit hard. Trump ended the last filing period with less money in the bank than many House candidates. Hillary is outspending him in battleground states by over a $20-million-to-zero margin.

From all reports, Trump just doesn't like to do fundraising. Fundraising is a part of politics that most politicians hate, because it involves picking up the phone and calling wealthy people to ask them to send you a bunch of money. It's tawdry -- there's no getting around it. Trump, so far, seems not to have called anybody on the GOP's "big donors" list. This, in addition to the "we're flat broke" campaign finance report, means GOP donors are now less inclined to make donations, even if Trump calls them up and personally asks. "Why throw away money on a losing cause?" the fatcats wonder. Making it even harder in the future for Trump to raise funds. It's a vicious cycle, and it couldn't be happening to a more deserving guy, really.

Trump tried to get back on offense this week, by giving a speech outlining all the ways he's going to be attacking Hillary Clinton over the course of the campaign. Unfortunately for Trump, most of it was laughably inaccurate and some of it descended to the level of flat-out conspiracy theory. Especially amusing was his claim that Clinton "was asleep" when the tragedy in Benghazi happened (she wasn't -- it was three o'clock in the afternoon when the call came in, not three in the morning).

Clinton also gave a speech which attacked Trump right back. She got off one amusing line during it (about how all Trump's books "seem to end at Chapter 11"), but she still needs some work on her delivery. But beyond oratory style, Clinton's biggest danger this year is going to be running a too-conventional campaign strategy against Trump, who is making up his own rules as he goes along. One thing Clinton should do to practice facing hostility would be to give a press conference (since it's now been over 200 days since she last did so). If you can't even face reporters' questions, after all, how are you going to ever face Trump on a stage?

Three names have popped up on the shortlist for Hillary's veep choice: Senator Tim Kaine, HUD Secretary Julián Castro, and Senator Elizabeth Warren. Warren will actually be appearing on the stump with Hillary in Ohio on Monday, which could serve as an audition of sorts. Reports are that Clinton and Warren don't exactly have a close relationship, though, and there was a very disturbing story in Politico recently -- which was disturbing on a number of levels:

Big Wall Street donors have a message for Hillary Clinton: Keep Elizabeth Warren off the ticket or risk losing millions of dollars in contributions.

In a dozen interviews, major Democratic donors in the financial services industry said they saw little chance that Clinton would pick the liberal firebrand as her vice presidential nominee. These donors despise Warren's attacks on the financial industry. But they also think her selection would be damaging to the economy. And they warned that if Clinton surprises them and taps Warren, big donations from the industry could vanish.

"If Clinton picked Warren, her whole base on Wall Street would leave her," said one top Democratic donor who has helped raise millions for Clinton. "They would literally just say, 'We have no qualms with you moving left, we understand all the things you've had to do because of Bernie Sanders, but if you are going there with Warren, we just can't trust you, you've killed it.'"

Personally, we think that is a dandy reason to pick Warren. Pissing off Wall Street would be a good thing, in our book at least. Forgive my language, but it actually comes from one of these donors, explaining why they wouldn't speak on the record: "There is no upside to my talking to you on the record. Either I piss off the Clinton campaign or I piss off Warren, or both."

Like we said, the whole article was a pretty cynical look at how politics works these days. Speaking of denouncing such a rigged system, Bernie Sanders made crystal clear what he wants now, in an op-ed he wrote for the Washington Post. Here are his opening and closing paragraphs:

As we head toward the Democratic National Convention, I often hear the question, "What does Bernie want?" Wrong question. The right question is what the 12 million Americans who voted for a political revolution want.

And the answer is: They want real change in this country, they want it now and they are prepared to take on the political cowardice and powerful special interests which have prevented that change from happening.

. . .

What do we want? We want to end the rapid movement that we are currently experiencing toward oligarchic control of our economic and political life. As Lincoln put it at Gettysburg, we want a government of the people, by the people and for the people. That is what we want, and that is what we will continue fighting for.

Bernie now says he'll vote for Hillary Clinton, so he's edging closer to trying to unify the Democrats for the general election campaign.

In other news, Marco Rubio has decided that he will, after all, run for re-election. The Washington Post summed this up in a single headline: "Marco Rubio Is Running For Senate Again. So That He Can Run For President Again." Florida voters, beware!

It was a busy week for the Supreme Court, with rulings that watered down the Fourth Amendment, reaffirmed affirmative action in college admissions, and punted (with a 4-4 tie) on Obama's immigration plans. This last one was a political loss for Obama, as he likely won't be in office when the issue is fully resolved.

In marijuana news, there is a bipartisan bill moving in Congress to essentially remove all the restrictions on medical marijuana research. The astonishing part is that it was written by both strong supporters of ending the War On Weed as well as the staunchest drug warriors in the House. Maybe with those co-sponsors it has a chance of passing, who knows?

Data is now in from Colorado, showing that legalizing recreational marijuana use among adults had almost no impact on underage marijuana use. None! If anything, teen use went down because of legalization. Add that to the enormous heap of wrong predictions (and outright lies) the public has been told about marijuana, for approximately the last century.

In related news (heh), Led Zeppelin won a court challenge to the originality of "Stairway To Heaven."

All kidding aside, we'll end where we began, with Donald Trump. There's one Republican candidate for office (for a House seat from Tennessee) who obviously isn't taking the Trump exit. In fact, he's actually gone beyond Trump in racism (something that's not all that easy to do). He put up a proud sign with his own charming take on Trump's signature slogan: "Make America White Again." Hey, since it seems to be the year to discard all the dog whistles in favor of just saying what you feel, why not? The sign later came down, but it's obvious we're in for a whole different style of politics on the Republican side, possibly for a long time to come.


Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week

This one is obvious. The Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week was Representative John Lewis, veteran of the Civil Rights battles, who staged a sit-in on the floor of the House of Representatives which lasted over 25 hours, in an effort to force a vote on gun control legislation that 85-to-90 percent of Americans want to see happen.

We already wrote this past week about what a brilliant piece of political theater this was. In fact, in the very first blog post I ever wrote, I called on Democrats (who, in 2006, were also in the minority in Congress) to start playing some offense instead of just moping about not being in charge:

Realistically, since Democrats don't control either house of Congress, they can't schedule floor votes on their issues (or even get them out of committee). But that doesn't mean they can't use the media to effectively start a national debate on their own "hot button" issues.

. . .

There's no shortage of good hot button issues to pick from that poll at 60%, 70% or even higher with the general public -- in both blue states and red.

. . .

Democrats need to take back Congress, but the only way they'll do it is to give people a good solid reason to vote for them, not just against the other guys. Something Americans would be for without caring which party thought it up. Something a devout churchgoer in the Deep South could support as enthusiastically as a tree-hugger in San Francisco. Republicans can scream and rant about being anti-this or anti-that until they're blue in the face, but the average swing voter is going to think: "Wow, that's a good idea. That would make my life easier. I'm voting for that."

This is precisely what the House Democrats just did. Following the Senate's lead (after Chris Murphy's filibuster), they focused on only two gun control bills: universal background checks, and banning suspected terrorists from buying guns. Both poll astronomically high with the public at large.

Democrats are now vowing to vigorously make their case out on the campaign trail. This is a great idea. Put as much pressure on Republicans as humanly possible on both issues. The campaign ads would almost write themselves ("Congressman Smith wants terrorists to be able to buy guns!").

For leading this effort in the House, and for showing the country what Democrats look like when they're on offense, John Lewis is easily our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week. He took an old civil disobedience idea and masterfully used it to radically change the debate on a very important issue. A hearty "Well done!" to Congressman Lewis and all the other Democrats who stood (or "sat") by him.

[Congratulate Representative John Lewis on his House contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]


Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week

Sadly, this one is also pretty easy this week. Representative Chaka Fattah was convicted of financial racketeering charges this week. You can read the whole sordid story for the details, if you'd like.

The icing on the cake, though, was Fattah's announcement (after he had been found guilty as sin) that he would be stepping down from his seat... in October -- the day before he will be sentenced. Because, you know, another three months of salary isn't too much to ask, right?

Republicans began moving quickly to force Fattah out, so he quickly decided that it'd be better for everyone if he just stepped down immediately. But even attempting to cash a few more paychecks after a racketeering conviction was a pretty nakedly greedy move, so both for his many crimes and his attempt to cash in until the last possible day, Chaka Fattah is unquestionably our Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week.

[Since he is no longer a member of the House, his contact page will no longer be available. Maybe you could write to him when he starts his prison term, if you'd like to let him know what you think of his actions.]


Friday Talking Points

Volume 397 (6/24/16)

Before we begin this week's talking points, we have some old business to take care of. A few weeks back, in FTP [374], we ran the final round of our "best playground taunt to call Donald Trump" contest. We had four finalists, but in the end we're going with the simplest and most elegant of the choices. We felt it was the most versatile, the most cutting, and the most dismissive label of all the suggestions we received.

The runner-up slogan is funnier, we do admit: "Crazy Uncle Donald." It universally brings to mind that relative you only see at Thanksgiving and Christmas who revels in being politically incorrect. However, we see this one as better for surrogates and attack dogs to use against Trump, because it is a little too blunt for a presidential candidate (one not named Trump, at any rate) to use. The word "crazy" is just a wee bit too much, at least to us.

Which is why we decided on "Poor Donald" instead. This is even more appropriate now that the Trump campaign appears to be in financial trouble. It fits in with Trump's refusal to release his tax returns -- probably because he wants to hide how little he's actually worth. Literal meaning works just fine in saying "Poor Donald," but it also brings to mind nothing short of pity. It evokes the flavor of "Richie Rich, the poor little rich boy." Poor Donald -- we should all hold a pity party for him.

We feel that this is calculated to get under Trump's orange skin in multiple ways, which was the whole point of the contest in the first place. So we congratulate Balthasar, a commenter at my blogsite, who came up with the winning entry. Woo hoo! You have earned respect (but, unfortunately, no actual prize), and we will begin using "Poor Donald" as many times as we can in the coming months.

OK, that's enough old business, let's get on with this week's talking points. As always, use responsibly.


   92 percent

These first two come from a CNN poll with some eyebrow-raising statistics.

"Democrats in Congress held a sit-in this week to draw the public's attention to how bought-and-paid-for all the Republicans are on commonsense gun control laws. The N.R.A. calls the tune, and the Republicans dance. They refuse to even bring up a bill expanding background checks, even though an astounding ninety-two percent of the public agrees with the idea. Over nine out of ten Americans want Congress to act -- and we bet that includes a whole bunch of constituents who are paying attention now and who will be paying attention this November in the voting booth."


   85 percent

These first two are (if you'll forgive the analogy) a double-barrelled shot Democrats should be verbally firing.

"In the same poll, almost as many Americans support banning people on federal watchlists from buying guns -- an astounding 85 percent of the public agrees with the idea. What's even more startling is that the support among Republican voters is actually higher than the average. A whopping ninety percent of Republicans want to see people on the No-Fly List or other terrorist watchlists banned from buying guns. Once again, in case you missed it, ninety percent of Republicans want to see Congress act. The N.R.A. doesn't want Congress to act. It's pretty easy to see that Republicans are completely ignoring the will of the people -- their own partisan voters, even -- in favor of kowtowing to a big campaign donor."


   Getting out in front, for once

As mentioned earlier, it certainly is nice to see Democrats playing offense, for once.

"Count me among those who are pleased that Democratic politicians are making a stand (by sitting down) and for once going on offense on a political issue with sky-high public support. They should continue protesting Republican inaction right up to the election, in fact. Republicans have always been eager to explain why certain laws needed to pass for national security, always helpfully pointing out: 'If you're not a terrorist, this won't apply to you, so don't worry!' But when the subject of allowing suspected terrorists to legally buy high-powered military weapons, then Republicans balk. The public is not on their side, and Democrats are the ones showing leadership this time around. We can't force Paul Ryan to hold a vote in the House, but maybe if we make this a centerpiece of the election, we'll be able to get a vote under Speaker Pelosi next year. The time for moments of silence is over. The time for action is here. And you can bet your bottom dollar Democrats will be pointing this out from now to Election Day."


   Ryan's other failure this week

Paul Ryan has had a pretty miserable week. So point it out!

"Paul Ryan rolled out the long-awaited official Republican replacement of the dreaded Obamacare this week. Initially, Ryan promised he'd roll out actual legislation to accomplish this, but then he found out this was too hard to do, for a simple reason: the numbers just don't add up. When you propose a bill, it has to be 'scored' to see what the outcome will be in dollars and other statistics (like number of people insured). But all the Republican ideas -- each and every one of them -- will actually cost more money than Obamacare, and have a worse outcome. So Ryan instead decided to just put out a 'white paper,' which is Washington-speak for 'some vague ideas with no actual details or numbers.' Republicans have had six years to offer up their magical replacement plan for Obamacare, and they still cannot do it because the numbers just don't add up."


   Speaking of political stunts...

But there's an even better way to drive this point home.

"Paul Ryan complained that the Democrats were doing nothing more than (as he put it) putting on a 'political stunt' with their sit-in. If you're wondering why he's so cranky on the subject, it's because the Democratic effort completely buried his own political stunt this week. Ryan rolled out his replacement for Obamacare, straight from the Land of Make-Believe, which has no details and no numbers. When he took over leadership of the House, he promised he'd pass actual legislation -- an actual bill to replace Obamacare. He could not do so because, as always, the Republican numbers just don't add up. So rather than provide real numbers, Ryan decided a political stunt would do the job just fine. Too bad for him that he chose a week to pull this stunt when Democrats showed how much better they are at political theater. Ryan was upset because their stunt blew his away in the media world, plain and simple."


   Taking the Trump exit

Although admittedly not as catchy as "Brexit," we think this phrase nicely balances "jumping on the Trump train." When you want to get off it, it's not a train, it's a highway -- and many are already heading for the exit lane.

"At this point, you have to wonder how many Republicans are going to eventually decide to take the Trump exit. Brent Scowcroft and 50 Republican business leaders did so this week, declaring their support for Hillary Clinton rather than supporting their own party's nominee. Latino Republicans are heading for the exit, too. Conservative columnist George Will is begging Republican donors not to donate to his party's presidential nominee. Has America ever had a presidential election where so many respected voices from one party have denounced their own nominee? At this rate, I'd have to warn Republicans to head for the Trump exit ramp as soon as possible, because as time goes by a real traffic jam may develop."


   Only one year?

And finally, we had to end on a happy note.

"Can you believe it's only been a single year since the Supreme Court upheld marriage equality all across America? Thinking back to the time before the court ruled on the matter once and for all is like remembering some much more distant era in history. In only a year, gay marriage has been almost completely normalized. The political fight is over. Opponents have moved on to other (and smaller) political battlefields, and even Republican candidates for office now regularly refuse to even talk about gay marriage. That's a big change from when they confidently used it as a wedge issue in every election they could. Such a big change has happened so swiftly that it now feels like gay marriage was legalized a lot longer ago than a single year, in fact. This is the ultimate victory, folks -- the other side has completely given up the fight. Soon it will become hard to remember a time when marriage equality wasn't the law of the land for all."


Chris Weigant blogs at:

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Marian Wright Edelman   |   June 24, 2016    6:50 PM ET

...When senseless acts of tragedy remind us

That nothing here is promised, not one day

This show is proof that history remembers

We lived through times when hate and fear seemed stronger

We rise and fall and light from dying embers

Remembrances that hope and love last longer

And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love

Cannot be killed or swept aside...

- From a sonnet by Lin-Manuel Miranda, writer of the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Hamilton, June 2016

Sunday, June 12, America woke up to news of the worst mass shooting in our gun-soaked history. A celebration of Latin Night at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando turned into a killing field fueled by intolerance, hate and weapons of war. Now is the time to remember those who stand up and stand together in love.

I am writing to you concerning a problem we have.

5 yrs. ago my husband and I were married here in the District. We then returned to Va. to live.

My husband is White, I am part negro, and part Indian.

At the time we did not know there was a law in Va. against mixed marriages.

Therefore we were jailed and tried in a little town of Bowling Green.

We were to leave the state to make our home.

The problem is we are not allowed to visit our families. The judge said that if we enter the state in the next [25] yrs., that we will have to spend 1 yr. in jail.

We know we can't live there, but we would like to go back once and awhile to visit our families and friends.

We have 3 children and cannot afford an attorney.

We wrote to the Attorney General, he suggested that we get in touch with you for advice.

Please help us if you can. Hope to hear from you real soon.

Yours truly,

Mr. and Mrs. Richard Loving

-Letter by Mrs. Mildred Loving, June 1963

In 1963, young wife and mother Mrs. Mildred Loving decided to write a letter to U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy about a "problem" her family was facing. Four years later Mrs. Loving, who was Black, and her husband Richard, who was White, made history when their struggle to have their marriage recognized in their native Virginia led to the landmark 1967 Supreme Court ruling in Loving v. Virginiaoverturning the remaining laws in Virginia and other states that banned interracial marriage. The couple, who shunned the spotlight, made it clear they never set out to be social revolutionaries. It was simple: they loved each other, wanted to marry, and beyond that, as Mrs. Loving said, "It was God's work."

The two first met in the early 1950s when she was 11 and he was 17 in Central Point, Virginia, the small community where they both grew up. They became young sweethearts, and in 1958, when Mildred became pregnant, they decided to get married. They drove to Washington, D.C., for their marriage license, and Mrs. Loving later said she initially thought they were doing that because less paperwork was required there. But Richard already understood something she didn't: Getting a marriage license as a mixed-race couple would have been illegal and impossible in Virginia.

Mr. Loving may not have known how the state would treat legal interracial marriages that had been performed elsewhere, but five weeks after their wedding the newlyweds received a very literal rude awakening: Acting on a "tip," sheriff's deputies surrounded their bed with flashlights at two in the morning demanding to know why they were there together. Their reply that they were husband and wife made no difference. The Lovings were arrested, and Mr. Loving was held in jail overnight while the pregnant Mrs. Loving was forced to stay for several days. Both were charged with cohabitation and violating Virginia's Racial Integrity Act. Under a plea bargain, in order to avoid a year-long jail sentence they were forced to leave the state and were prohibited from returning together for 25 years.

The Lovings settled in Washington, D.C., and began raising a family there but quickly missed the small town where they had spent their entire lives. Five years later, inspired by the March on Washington and the wave of new civil rights laws, Mrs. Loving decided to write to U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy to ask if any of the new legislation would allow them to return to Virginia, even just to visit. He responded and suggested the Lovings contact the ACLU, where over the next few years dedicated lawyers helped take it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. On June 12, 1967, the Supreme Court justices ruled 9-0 that Virginia's law and all others like it were unconstitutional, and that the freedom to marry was "a basic civil right."

Mr. and Mrs. Loving soon returned to their hometown with their three children. Sadly their own happiness ended in tragedy in 1975 when Mr. Loving was killed and Mrs. Loving lost the sight in one eye in a car accident caused by a drunk driver. But the Lovings had paved the way for thousands of other couples like themselves who were marrying the people they loved. Thanks to God's work and the Lovings' love, my husband Peter and I were the very first interracial couple to be married in Virginia after the U.S. Supreme Court decision.

Mrs. Loving never remarried and lived quietly at her home in rural Caroline County, Virginia until she passed away in 2008. But a year before her death, the widow, grandmother, and great-grandmother sent another groundbreaking letter. This time, it was a public statement submitted just before the Massachusetts Legislature's historic vote reaffirming marriage equality, and read aloud at a 40th anniversary celebration of the Loving v. Virginia decision:

When my late husband, Richard, and I got married in Washington, DC in 1958, it wasn't to make a political statement or start a fight. We were in love, and we wanted to be married . . . My generation was bitterly divided over something that should have been so clear and right. The majority believed that what the judge said, that it was God's plan to keep people apart, and that government should discriminate against people in love. But I have lived long enough now to see big changes. The older generation's fears and prejudices have given way, and today's young people realize that if someone loves someone they have a right to marry.

Surrounded as I am now by wonderful children and grandchildren, not a day goes by that I don't think of Richard and our love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the 'wrong kind of person' for me to marry. I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people's religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people's civil rights.

I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard's and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That's what Loving, and loving, are all about.

In a heartbreaking moment of terroristic hatred fueled by a larger sea of vitriolic and divisive rhetoric, racial and ethnic intolerance, pervasive hate crimes, prejudice, and discrimination against gay people, and guns, guns, guns we let remain the only unregulated consumer product despite their massive lethality, it is critical to listen again to Mrs. Loving's words. We cannot be consumed by bigotry and violence. It's way past time to disarm hate.

Justin Block   |   June 24, 2016    2:44 PM ET

In the wake of the Orlando shooting massacre -- the deadliest shooting in the U.S. that targeted members of the LGBTQ community -- one collegiate summer baseball league team is trying to endear themselves to both LGBTQ supporters and firearms lovers this June. 

Michigan's Battle Creek Bombers' promotional nights supported LGBTQ causes and, more controversially, gun ownership in the same week. As general manager Tony Iovieno of the Bombers, the team hosting the event, told TMZ on Friday, "You can't please everyone."

Two days after hosting Pride Night, the Bombers' Gun Night on Friday has been billed as both "Gun Safety & Education Night" and "2nd Amendment Education Night." Essentially, the Bombers' promotion invites fans to openly bring their guns to the game, inviting scrutiny from gun violence prevention advocates for inappropriately "glorifying guns" so recently after a mass shooting.

"There are always going to be folks who don’t agree with what we do," he said. "We just had LGBT Pride Night the other night, and some people didn’t like that either. You can’t please everyone."

Boy Scouts and fans with firearms will mingle at Friday night's Bombers game. 

Iovieno told the Battle Creek Enquirer on Friday that the team doesn't have a political stance on firearms, and called recent mass shootings "horrific," but added that he wants the night to spark conversation about gun violence.

"Who am I to take an odd political stance and say we can’t do that?" he said to the Enquirer. "I don’t think that’s the role I have or what I should be doing. But I like that this is sparking a conversation because it’s a conversation that should be had."

The gun control conversation is happening in Washington, on television and at the dinner table. But by inviting thousands of guns into a stadium, the Bombers are absolutely taking a political stance. Just as a team wouldn't host a Pride Night during June's Pride Month if they didn't support LGBTQ rights, throwing a "2nd Amendment Education Night" in partnership with gun shop Freedom Firearms during Gun Violence Awareness Month is telling.

Peeling back the team's specious claims, teaching young people about gun safety for one night at a baseball game is a poorly veiled educational attempt. In reality, they're hosting a politicized gun rally. If they truly wanted to show a genuine attempt at gun education, the Bombers should've held "Gun Night" on June 2, which is National Gun Violence Awareness Day. The team's home game on June 2 was $2 beer night.

"It's as American as baseball and apple pie," Joel Fulton, co-owner of Freedom Firearms, said of the promotion to on Thursday. "And firearms are part of the fabric of our society."

Defending the tonight's promotion, Iovieno addressed "misconceptions" about the event to TMZ. Noting that Michigan is an open carry state with a "different culture" to big U.S. cities, he said that he hopes the event will promote firearm safety. Displays from Freedom Firearms and the NRA's kid-targeted Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program will be placed throughout the stadium. In a state with a gun culture, as Iovieno stated, however, outright gun pride may overtake gun safety education at the game. 

Claiming that the night had been planned months ago, Iovieno said that ticketed fans who don't wish to attend can exchange them. Extra police will be on hand for security as an obvious precaution. As for the sellout crowd, fans bringing guns will receive a wristband preventing them from buying alcohol and trigger locks for safety. 

With so many armed civilians, or "good guys with guns," the Bombers' stadium will undoubtedly be the safest place in the United States on Friday night. 

Safer Classrooms In A Safer World

Tim'm West   |   June 24, 2016   10:28 AM ET

This month, I had the privilege to help organize and attend The White House Summit to Support African American LGBTQ Youth. The summit was the first of its kind to bring visibility to students at the intersection of black, queer and transgender identities. Having the federal administration affirm this youth demographic holds the promise that our nation might be better poised to ensure educational equity for all students. It was a highlight of my career as an educator to help organize a summit that would have been unthinkable to my 16-year-old self; terrified of anyone knowing I was queer to the point of an attempt to end my own life rather than live with my truth.

The relative invisibility and marginalization of issues impacting LGBTQ youth of color is shameful when you consider negative educational indicators such as truancy, dropout rates and the disproportionate representation of LGBTQ youth of color in the school-to-prison pipeline. It was exciting to attend an education conference that provided an LGBTQ youth development space for queer youth of color, where outcomes for LGBTQ students were discussed and topics and issues of marginalization were at the forefront of our sessions.

And true to one of the ways this community of people celebrate, there was dancing at The White House. There were Beyoncé songs, twirls and "yaasssss" by some amazing student leaders who embraced the moment of belonging -- all while just feet from the Oval Office. For me, it was an emotional high to bear witness to the reality that black LGBTQ lives mattered. So when I awakened some hours after this summit to the news of one of the deadliest shootings in modern U.S. history -- a pointed attack on the LGBTQ community, particularly Latinx and black people, that claimed 49 lives -- my spirit was shaken to its core. Safe classrooms mean very little in an unsafe world.

That night at Pulse, LGBTQ people of color were dancing and celebrating PRIDE month in one of the few spaces assumed to be safe in a world where same sex affection, or presenting contrary to gender at birth, can incite violence or death. Gay night clubs for so many of us represent first dances, first loves, first friendship circles and people who knew exactly who you were and celebrated and held a mirror to that self-acceptance.

Though many schools in 2016 have gay straight alliances, few predominantly black and Latinx schools do, and few are truly safe for LGBTQ people of color. As a result, once of age, clubs like Pulse in Orlando become our safe spaces. The chilling reality was, the faces of the victims of the Orlando shooting looked much like the faces of the LGBTQ youth dancing at the White House during the summit.

I've long advocated for this notion of #BraveEducation as a push, beyond just safety, to encourage learning environments where notions of diversity and inclusiveness for ALL students is viewed as central to achievement outcomes. Just days after being in the White House, I drove to Orlando, encouraged by the determination and commitment of Lauren Chianese, Executive Director of Teach For America-Orlando, to be a resource to teachers as they work to cultivate safe and brave classrooms in Orlando. On the six-hour drive, I finally had time to sit with the sadness and anger the Orlando shooting brought up for me. Yet, upon arrival to Orlando's city's limits, I was immediately inspired as I saw firsthand Orlando's response and commitment to cultivating a safe and affirming city for all. Rainbow colored #OrlandoStrong billboards colored the city, and there seemed to be a feeling in the air of a city re-defined by its compassion and solidarity.

I spoke with teachers passionately about the dangers of tokenizing the tragedy -- of not seeing a connection between this brutal and senseless killing of LGBTQ people in mass and the disproportionate violence and death LGBTQ people of color face daily. I spoke about the relationship between "casual homophobia" that we hear in our schools that goes unchallenged and unchecked, and the shooting. Our advocacy for educational equity must ensure all students feel safe to learn in their classrooms, whatever their race, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion or ability.

We have an opportunity to create the kinds of environments where the call for safe classrooms goes beyond progressive rhetoric and is measured by social-emotional outcomes and academic achievement. Educators play a huge role in creating and fostering these safe and inclusive environments for all students. In the wake of the Orlando tragedy, many organizations shared helpful resources for educators navigating the tragedy, including these from GLSEN and the NYC Department of Education.

Despite the work that still must be done, I was encouraged in the short time I had with Teach For America-Orlando and the local community. I feel confident that there are individuals, both LGBTQ and allies, who are committed to ensuring that one day ALL children will have an opportunity to attain an excellent education. As we work together to create a safer world for our children, we must understand that we plant the seeds for this by creating safe classrooms and schools. I hope for a world where students value and honor human life, regardless of differences. What better a place to advance a safer world than starting with the children and youth we teach?

Matt Fuller   |   June 23, 2016   12:03 PM ET

WASHINGTON -- House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) laid into Democrats on Thursday for causing "chaos" in the House, dismissing their sit-in over gun legislation as nothing more than a publicity stunt and fundraising effort.

"Why do I call this a stunt?" Ryan asked. "Well, because it is one."

Democrats know that the legislation to prevent people on a terrorist watch list from buying a gun isn't going anywhere, the Wisconsin Republican said, particularly after it failed in the Senate. He also noted that the proposal failed yesterday in a House Appropriations Committee markup.

“If this is not a political stunt, then why are they trying to raise money off of this, off of a tragedy?" Ryan said, holding up printed-out emails from Democrats soliciting donations.

A testy Ryan went after Democrats for hijacking the floor and seeming to find an incredibly effective minority strategy.

"We watched a publicity stunt, a fundraising stunt, descend on an institution that many of us care a great deal about," he said. "So yeah, I think it sets a very dangerous precedent."

Ryan insisted that members have a process for getting votes on legislation that leaders don't want to bring to the floor, making a case for the rarely effective discharge petition, and he chastised Democrats for their lack of decorum.

"This is Congress," Ryan said. "The House of Representatives! Oldest democracy in the world, and they're descending it into chaos. I don't think this should be a very proud moment for democracy or for the people who staged these stunts."

But if this is just a stunt, it's one Ryan and other Republicans don't seem to have an answer to.

Democrats have seemingly cornered the speaker on the gun issue. While they ended their sit-in Thursday, they vowed to be back on July 5 when the House reconvenes to continue their push for a vote on the so-called "no fly, no buy" bill.

And while Ryan can dismiss the effort as a stunt, there's clearly political traction here. Democrats routinely cite polls suggesting more than 85 percent of voters support banning people on the terrorist watch list from getting a gun.

Anytime Ryan wishes to shut out Democrats from a vote, he opens himself up to the critique he'd desperately hoped to avoid when he came into the speakership -- that the legislative process is too restrictive.

While Democrats look like they're fighting for action on guns, Republicans appear as if they want to do nothing. And Ryan comes off as the establishment figure of Congress that members on both sides of the aisle have decried, to great effect, for years. 

Broadcasts of the Democratic sit-in reinforced that image. Instead of the normal House footage going out over C-SPAN, Republicans turned off the cameras -- which is normal procedure when the House goes into recess, but is still done at the speaker's discretion. That led Democratic members to use their mobile phones to shoot the floor proceedings and send them out through Periscope and Facebook Live, with C-SPAN eventually picking up the feeds and broadcasting them far and wide.

With Republicans recessing, Democrats had greater control over the demonstration. Members huddled on the floor to create a unified backdrop and offered their arguments with no Republican rebuttal. 

That members were sitting on the actual House floor and sending out regular social media updates just amplified the spectacle, and turning off the House cameras didn't prevent the public from seeing it.

When lawmakers return on July 5, Ryan will confront the same issue that drove him to pass a Zika bill in haste and adjourn the House. By drawing a line in the sand that Republicans won't give in to the minority and allow a vote, there doesn't appear to be an obvious solution to the standoff.

Ryan's clampdown on the appropriations process is partly responsible for this situation. While former House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) brought appropriations bills to the floor under an open rule, meaning anyone could get a vote, Ryan has shifted to a structured rule, meaning that he and other GOP leaders decide which amendments to allow.

Had Democrats been able to get a vote on a gun proposal on an upcoming appropriations bill, it's possible this entire state of affairs could have been avoided -- though it's unlikely Ryan sees it that way.

To the speaker, this is simply a political gimmick, a publicity stunt, and there are plenty of Republicans who probably agree with him.

But Democrats have an easy argument to combat that line of attack, thanks to civil rights icon and Rep. John Lewis (R-Ga.).

"For anyone to say this is a publicity stunt, they don't know John Lewis," said Assistant Minority Leader Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), an active member of the civil rights movement himself.

Criticizing Ryan, Lewis noted that Lester Maddox and George Wallace, two governors who fiercely opposed the civil rights movement, had called that movement a "publicity stunt," too.

Michael McAuliff   |   June 23, 2016   11:33 AM ET

WASHINGTON -- The Senate did not kill the last standing gun reform bill still under serious discussion on Capitol Hill Thursday, but at best left it on life support.

A bipartisan group of senators worked for a week to come up with an extremely modest gun reform bill that was intended to block gun purchases for anyone on the country's no-fly list or the list of individuals who require special scrutiny to board a plane.

It would have covered just 2,700 Americans and legal residents, and was seen as a compromise to a measure that failed on Monday that would have used the much-larger terrorism watch list to block gun purchases.

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) decided that rather than have a normal vote on the measure, he would hold a vote to table it, which would have effectively ended consideration of the bill, authored by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine).

The measure survived, barely, with 52 senators, including eight Republicans, voting to keep it under consideration, and 46 Republicans voting for tabling it.
Just before the vote, Collins made one last appeal for her bill.

“Surely on an issue of this importance, we should be able to come together and work for common-sense solutions,” Collins said.

Collins got last-minute support from a group of former generals from Republican and Democratic administrations who wrote a letter asking senators to back Collins' bill.

"We are not doing everything we can to prevent future incidences of active shooter terrorism in America," said the generals, including David Petraeus and Michael Hayden.

They argued that the loophole that lets people on the two lists -- who are by definition potential terrorists -- buy weapons poses a grave risk.

"The implications of the 'terror gap' are clear: it allows dangerous people to get their hands on guns," they wrote.

Most of Collins' Republican colleagues disagreed with her and the generals, however, and the situation suggested that if McConnell agrees to bring the measure back up in a more regular fashion, Collins would need to convince at least six more members of her party to back it in order for it to pass.

That prompted Democrats to call the vote a “fake” one.

“We have a bill that would keep guns out of the hands of some suspected terrorists, and Republican leaders cynically choose to give it a path to nowhere,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said. “Even the most modest of gun proposals can’t get a real up-or-down vote.”

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) saw a silver lining, saying it was the first time in decades that the Senate voted against the wishes of the National Rifle Association.

"Even though it wasn't a big victory, it was a victory," Reid said, adding that McConnell should just bring the bill back. McConnell did not make that commitment.

"It's really too bad the Republican leader worked so hard to defeat the compromise," Reid said.

This story was updated and rewritten to reflect the vote and debate on the bill.

House Republicans Fail To Keep Us Safe

Joel Rubin   |   June 23, 2016    9:47 AM ET

Democratic frustration with the Republican's inability to keep our country safe is not a political talking point -- it is about real policy that affects real people. The number one job of our country's most representative elected body is to legislate in order to keep the American people safe. And in this regard, on both domestic and foreign policy, House Republicans have failed miserably.

When I ran for Congress after resigning from the State Department as the senior official in charge of State's relations with the House of Representatives, I knew that I was seeking to serve in a body full of words, not deeds. But change needed to come to that body, because when the House doesn't function, America's government doesn't function.

We have seen this time and again, from the failed government shutdown in 2013 that cost our country billions to the Houses' inability to grapple with climate change that is destroying our planet. But most frighteningly, the Houses' inability to deal with terrorism is putting our security at risk, and doing so like never before. Orlando has sadly once again shown us that. Enough is enough.

Nearly 30,000 Americans die from gun violence every year. No other country at peace with itself has this level of internal violence. Of course, countries in the throes of war and chaos like Syria, El Salvador, and Iraq share these levels of killings, but such company should not give us comfort.

At the same time, we're fighting terrorist organizations overseas in order to destroy them in their home bases, so that they can't harm us here. But you wouldn't know if from the Houses' behavior. It's been nearly a year and a half since President Obama asked Congress to authorize military action against the Islamic State in an Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) request. The Houses' failure to even bring this up for a vote shows how unserious Republicans are about defeating the Islamic State and protecting us from terrorists.

The failure of the House to act on guns and terrorism is putting our lives in danger.

As a candidate, I often spoke on the campaign trail about gun violence and terrorism. I spoke about how as a father of three young girls, every night I went to bed worried about whether my children would be safe from violence at their school, when visiting a public shopping mall, or just plain living their lives. I was not alone in that fear. But as a Democrat, I knew that we had little power to stand up to the NRA legislatively in the House.

And as a State Department official, I spent many days preparing for briefings, meetings, and hearings on the question of how to defeat the Islamic State. Yet when we made the official AUMF request to both create parameters for our military operations and to demonstrate that Americans stood united against the Islamic State, the House took no action once again.

It's crucial to point out that Speaker Paul Ryan has total control over which legislation comes up for a vote. And it's abundantly clear that Ryan is failing to allow for a vote to tighten up our nation's gun laws so that suspected terrorists can't buy guns and that background checks are more effective -- positions supported by 90% of Americans. It's also clear that he's also failing to do anything about the fight against terrorists overseas.

House Republicans -- just like Donald Trump -- are obsessed with labelling Democrats as soft on terrorism because President Obama doesn't say the magic words "Islamic Terrorism." But their behavior in actually doing anything about the fight against the Islamic State both at home and abroad is nonexistent.

So when it comes to voting to protect Americans from gun violence, to keep us safe from terrorists, and to stand united in the fight against the Islamic State, House Republicans -- the party of know-nothing Donald Trump, who promises to do more of the same -- are an abysmal failure.

Our country can't afford any more do-nothing Congresses and know-nothing Presidents on the question of terrorism. Too much is at stake.

What saddens me most about this episode, where House Democrats had to result in physical protest on the House floor to have their voices heard, is that Paul Ryan has young children just like me. He and I are close in age. I wonder if he worries about their safety at night too, just like I do. And I wonder if he understands how little both he and his House Republican colleagues are doing to protect them.

Joel Rubin is a former Congressional Candidate in Maryland's 8th Congressional District, as well as the former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for House of Representatives Affairs.

Matt Fuller   |   June 22, 2016    9:44 PM ET

Read More: paul ryan, guns, democrats, house

WASHINGTON -- Democrats took over the House floor Wednesday in a "sit-in" demonstration over Republican leaders' refusal to hold a vote on gun legislation.

Their efforts to achieve this goal continued throughout the night, even after the Republican lawmakers snuck into the chamber at 2:30 a.m. and voted to adjourn the session until July 5.

It was an incredible scene. Throughout the day, Democrats clogged the House floor, holding the printed names of gun victims over their heads and loudly chanting "No Bill, No Break." Democrats were protesting the Republicans' refusal to take up the so-called No Fly, No Buy legislation, which would bar people on the terrorist watch list from purchasing guns.

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) gaveled the House back into session, nearly 11 hours after the Democratic sit-in began. He read a prepared script to set up a procedural vote, as if the House was in order and that Democrats weren't breaking rules.

When Ryan stepped down from the podium, Democrats chanted "Shame!"

As the vote progressed, Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) tried to address the House.

"To my Republican friends," Deutch began. But Republicans shouted Deutch down and didn't let him speak.

Eventually, Democrats sang in response, "We Shall Overcome."

The singing was interrupted when presiding officer Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) called the vote. That prompted Democrats to chant: "Give us a vote!"

The scene capped a day of tumult.

At the end of the vote series, Democrats and Republicans lingered on the House floor, unsure what would happen next.

Democrats broke into sporadic chants of "Shame!" and "No Bill, No Break." Eventually, they returned to making speeches at the podium, giving no signal they would stop their occupation of the House floor.

Some Republicans hung around, occasionally shouting at them. Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) antagonized Democrats for not having a plan to fight terrorism, and Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) started yelling.

"Radical Islam killed these people!" Gohmert shouted, pointing to a poster of gun violence victims from Orlando.

Gohmert even got into a shouting match with Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.), which other Democrats and Republicans had to break up. 

The protests continued overnight, with Democrats sharing stories of gun violence victims and railing against their counterparts' "cowardice." Even after the Republicans voted in the middle of the night to adjourn until after the July 4 holiday, Democrats remained on the floor, fighting for a vote on gun control measures.

Read more:

Democrats Stage Sit-In On House Floor Over Gun Bills

Protesters Gather Outside U.S. Capitol To Push For Vote On Guns

Senate Democrats Bring Food To Support House Colleagues Conducting Sit-In On Gun Laws

Democrats Finally Tried To Do Something About The Gun Bloodshed

Democrats Cause Chaos On House Floor As Republicans Pretend Everything Is Fine

You Will Never Be As Ecstatic As This Woman Delivering Pizzas To Rep. John Lewis

Gun Violence Prevention: Ten Critical Facts Regarding Guns, Gun Laws, and the United States Supreme Court

Brenda M. Cotter   |   June 22, 2016    6:15 PM ET

There has been a resurgence of discussion about gun violence prevention in the wake of the mass shooting in Orlando. For those who may be less familiar with some of the gun terms used, and the legal principles at the heart of the discussion, here is a summary of ten basic and important facts:

1. An "automatic" weapon is one in which a single trigger pull can release more than one shot (think "machine gun"). Contrary to popular belief, automatic weapons are not illegal in the United States but they are heavily regulated and, accordingly, their use is generally confined to police and military.

2. A "semi-automatic" weapon is one in which a single trigger pull releases a single shot; however, the weapon then automatically ejects the cartridge and reloads a new one.

3. Semi-automatic weapons utilize a "magazine," which is an ammunition storage and feeding device. The capacity of a gun "magazine" is the amount of ammunition or rounds that can be fired before stopping and reloading the gun. Some magazines hold just a few rounds while some can hold up to 100 rounds. There is no single definition of a "high-capacity magazine" but some legislation has defined it as a magazine that holds more than 10 rounds. Both handguns and rifles can have high-capacity magazines.

4. The term "assault weapon" does not have a standard meaning. However, it generally refers to an automatic weapon or a semi-automatic weapon with a large capacity magazine. Note that an assault weapon can be a pistol or handgun, as well as a rifle.

5. On September 13, 1994, Congress passed, and President Clinton signed, an "assault weapons ban," which applied to certain semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity magazines. However, the ban only applied to weapons manufactured after the date of the law's enactment, and it expired on September 13, 2004, in accordance with its sunset provision. Multiple efforts to renew the ban have failed.

6. Gun safety laws vary substantially state by state. For example, New York, Massachusetts, California, and New Jersey have among the strictest gun laws. In contrast, certain states, including Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Puerto Rico, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming, do not even require a permit for adults (generally 21 and older) to carry a concealed firearm or openly carry (provided the person is not otherwise prohibited from owning a firearm). Sometimes those latter jurisdictions are referred to as "Constitutional Carry" jurisdictions in that they take the view that the right to carry weapons is inherent in the Constitution and, accordingly, should not be conferred by government via a permit.

7. During the 2011 shooting in Tucson, Arizona, involving Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the gunman was overpowered and stopped when he had to pause firing in order to change the 31 round, high-capacity magazine on his Glock pistol. In 2012, the Aurora, Colorado shooter used a 100-round magazine, but it jammed before all of those rounds could be discharged. High-capacity magazines were also used in the Sandy Hook and Orlando attacks.

8. The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution reads: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." The Second Amendment was adopted in 1791. At the time of the adoption of the Second Amendment, there were no automatic or semi-automatic weapons, or high-capacity magazines.

9. District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) is a landmark United States Supreme Court case that concerned regulation of handguns (the Heller opinion did not address the issue of high-capacity magazines). In a 5-4 decision, with the majority opinion written by Justice Antonin Scalia, the Court held that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess and carry firearms. The Heller majority found that the language of the first clause of the Second Amendment, "[a] well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State," merely sets forth a purpose and does not limit the later or "operative" language of the amendment, "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

10. However, the Heller opinion expressly states that the right to keep and bear arms, like most constitutional rights, is not unlimited. The Second Amendment, said the Heller majority, is "not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose." The Court noted, in particular, that "dangerous and unusual" weapons would properly be subject to regulation but it did not define, and has not defined, which weapons might be included in that category. Specifically, the Court has not yet commented on the regulation of semi-automatic weapons or high-capacity magazines. At some point, in the near future, the Supreme Court will likely consider how ownership, use, and regulation of semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity magazines square with the Second Amendment.

Why Every Member Of Congress Should Take An Acting Class

Anthony Meindl   |   June 22, 2016    5:31 PM ET

As we continue to process the shootings in Orlando, and now as 60 members of the House of Representatives stage a sit-in to push for gun legislation, I want to share a few points about how we collectively allow ourselves to feel - and heal - through such a national tragedy. 2016-06-22-1466630889-260713-sCONGRESSsmall.jpg

I simply cannot iterate how extremely difficult, scary, vulnerable, empowering and healing that is.

A thorough examination of self in front of other human beings allows oneself to drop the "act" or persona we've been playing for years. (Or maybe it's playing us without us even realizing it as we're mostly on unconscious autopilot).

Where do we feel? How do we heal? Why do we segregate? Us vs. Them. To make ourselves feel better about our fears of someone who seems different and yet science says (through the Human Genome Project) that (on average) we share 99.5% of the same DNA sequence of all other human beings.

How do we make conscious choices about actively sharing love in the world? That's not Pollyanna. That's empowerment. That's not New Age "woo-woo," that's philosophy.

How do we decrease our footprint of prejudicial exclusion and expand our circle of inclusion?

I'm not different than you because of whom I love. I'm not different from you because I meditate, but you pray. I'm not exotic because I come from a country you've never heard of.

'Merika isn't the Universe. It's a tiny label we've given our home that exists in a solar system with billions of other such homes we've never even heard of. That's ultimately how small and insignificant we are.

We're human. We get scared. We feel separate. Our reinforcing any belief system that pits us against anyone else only reinforces the illusion of separatism and allows us to marginalize others.

The narratives have to change.

Here's what our policy makers will learn in an acting class:

We always have a choice. When dealing with tragedy, challenges, personal setbacks, and the unexplainable - we always have a choice in how to respond. Perhaps before reacting (from a memorized script we've heard thousands of times before), we each take a breath and ask ourselves, "Is what I'm about to say going to leave the person I am speaking to more uplifted, inspired or hopeful? If not, maybe I could choose not to say it." What if we sat instead with our feelings rather than reacted? But we have very few spaces to do that nowadays. We live in a culture that demands answers to things immediately. And yet, the natural process of life ultimately takes much longer than the 3-second sound bites we've become accustomed to ingesting for things to often reveal themselves.

If you're an empath - and I hope you are - the things that happen to other people out there also collectively happen to you. There is no me or them. It's us. It's consciousness. It's connection. If you can't sit with that, at the very least, it's called compassion. Anyone I can marginalize so that I feel like I'm in control is not empathy. Taking an acting class will wrestle control from your ideas, plans and hands and prostrate you at the feet of humbleness realizing we have no control. So trying to create false versions of it are futile.

Feeling is the only way we get liberated from the imprisonment not feeling brings. Interesting paradox; feeling is the expression of our life force, but burying feeling destroys lives. Everyone's addicted to something. Yes, you are! Cigarettes. Drinking. Shopping. Gossip. Our phones. Porn. Negativity. Facebook. Scrolling Instagram pics. TV. Drugs. Unhappiness. Complaining. If you can admit you are, you're halfway home. If you can see what the addiction is, you then can probably identify what you feel that drives the addiction into place. Loneliness. Shame. Anxiety. Separation. Depression. Futility. Existential Angst. Fear. In extreme cases, our aversion to going deep into our feeling is what leads to violent explosions of all kinds. If you want to heal, you have to feel.

James Baldwin said, "All artists, if they are to survive, are forced, at last, to tell the whole story; to vomit the anguish up." Catharsis (from the Greek) is the process of purifying or healing through feeling. The expression of it, the release into it, the sharing of it creates renewal, redemption, restoration and ultimately, a life of meaning.

So Congress how about it? Instead of talking, talking, talking about things . . . why don't you feel them instead?

I'm Tired Of Feeling Sad About Gun Violence

Jennifer Wolfe   |   June 22, 2016    3:58 PM ET

I couldn't get out of bed this morning.

It wasn't because it's my first official day of vacation, or because I stayed up too late last night -- my days of all nighters are long gone, to be sure. The air was cool, the mockingbirds were announcing the dawn, and I knew my children were safely asleep.

After laying there for awhile sipping my coffee in bed, I realized that I'm just feeling sad today.

Before I went to bed last night I couldn't pull myself away from Twitter and Facebook. Post after post captured my attention, even though I struggled to read the stories about Orlando.

It was a particularly unhealthy thing to do right before bed-I know that. But all day I'd been thinking about what happened, and trying to process what seemed impossible to fathom. I'd been reading blog posts about how to talk to your children about mass shootings, and hearing the angst from the LGBTQ community and their allies.

But what really sent shivers down my spine was the story from Eddie Justice's mom. Did you see it?

Yesterday, while Eddie's mother waited to learn if her son was one of the victims in the shooting, she released the images of the last conversation she had with him - via text.

As Eddie hid in a bathroom of the nightclub, knowing the shooter was coming closer and closer, and finally in the bathroom with him, he texted his mom.

"Mommy I love you".
And later, "I'm gonna die".

These words haunted me. The vision of this 30 year-old man, cowering in a restroom hoping against hope that he would make it out alive washed over me with a wave of sadness. Thinking of his mother, awakening from sleep to receive this text, I wept.

And when I woke up this morning, I found out that he was right. He did die, along with 48 other young men and women. And I'm just feeling sad today because of it all.

My friend Alexandra Rosas posted on Facebook today that "How can any of us not feel the good fortune of returning from a weekend to a Monday morning's normal life...The return to normalcy, what so many in Orlando do not have today, and my heart breaks for the weight of the loss they wake up to." Her words shook me; here I am, in my normal life, knowing my children are safe - and there is Eddie's mom, knowing he is not.

I'm just feeling sad today. I'm tired of writing my reactions to mass shootings in schools and movie theaters and churches and nightclubs. I'm exasperated by politicians who won't look at common sense ways to reduce gun violence in our country, and instead take to the airwaves to say how sorry they are children have died. I'm weary from imagining all the 'what if' scenarios involving my children and loved ones. I'm drained from having to drag myself to my computer one more time to speak out for ending gun violence because I don't know what else to do. And I'm sick of prayers, especially from those who prevent policy that could prevent sons from dying in a restroom, texting their mothers.

I'm just feeling sad today

Eventually I pulled myself out of bed today. I did all sorts of normal things: fixed my son a smoothie, watered the garden, and texted my daughter. I cleaned out the laundry room, thinking of things she would need to set up her new apartment. Later, as my son and I walked the dog, I asked him if he'd heard the news about Orlando. He's sixteen now, and while part of me was wishing he was younger and we could avoid this conversation, I knew it was important we talked. Because even though I'm feeling sad today, I know it's nothing compared to the sadness of 49 other mothers who would give anything to walk alongside their son, having the hard conversations, and hearing their voice just one more time.

To read more of Jennifer's stories about loving fiercely, thinking deeply and teaching audaciously, visit her blog, mamawolfe, at

Hell and Hedge Funds

Robert Greenwald   |   June 22, 2016    3:39 PM ET

While the Republican National Committee is attempting to keep the address of tonight's Trump fundraiser in New York top secret, reliable sources suggest it will take place somewhere in Dante's Fourth Circle of Hell.

Here in this fiery inferno, presided over by greed, is where the man who has built a fortune on shady deals and a presidential campaign based in bigotry will meet and hobnob with the billionaire who named his company after the guard dog to Hades and rakes in millions selling misery and death.

I'm talking, of course, about Stephen A. Feinberg, the secretive financier and founder of Cerberus Capital Management. Feinberg has not publicly endorsed Trump. Feinberg rarely publicly does anything. The exception is when he very publicly announced that Cerberus would sell Freedom Group, his massive portfolio of gun companies.

That move came with much uncharacteristic fanfare just a few weeks after 20 children and six adults were gunned down in Newtown, Conn. by a killer armed with one of Freedom Group's products -- a Bushmaster XM15-E2S rifle.

More than three years later, Freedom Group -- now renamed Remington Outdoors, remains a major part of Cerberus' portfolio. After the announcement that he would sell, Feinberg apparently changed his mind. It seems that guns were too lucrative to let a mere accessory to mass murder problem get in the way. That's pretty much business as usual for the gun makers, as we show in our latest documentary from Brave New Films, Making a Killing: Guns, Greed, and the NRA. The gun industry pays its sales and marketing team, the NRA, to work hard keeping Americans terrified, angry and buying guns.

Now Feinberg is going to give some of that money to help elect Donald Trump president.

Feinberg is listed as a host on the invitation, thereby putting him publicly on the hook for $250,000 to the Trump for President campaign. As far as he is concerned, it's a sound investment. He gives money to a man who is going to allow him to sell more guns, and make more money. Politics as usual.

Although with Trump, the investment might be even better than usual. After all, with Trump at the helm of the country, spewing hate on an international stage, who knows how high the death toll could go. He could inspire more bigotry -- which leads to more killing, which leads to more gun sales. No wonder Feinberg is so rich. For those who profit from death, a Trump presidency is a great investment.

Orlando Diaries

Talal Almas   |   June 22, 2016    1:45 PM ET

A depraved attack--aptly described as the United States' worst mass-shooting incident--befell the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando recently, leaving 49 dead, 53 injured, and a million others truly heartbroken. Hours of scrutiny, inspection, and analyses later, the FBI recently came to the glaring conclusion that this incident furthers the list of recently executed "home-grown" attacks of terrorism, pointing duly to its similarity to the San Bernardino incident.

Firstly, I feel extremely sorry and heartbroken in the aftermath of such a brutal, debauched attack that can never, ever be justified, regardless of whatever reasons the attacker may have advocated. My heart goes out to all of the victims and equally so, to their loved ones and family. The attack was not only a mere shooting incident, however; it was a reminder of the improvements that must be made in terms of gun laws, organization and the management of mentally-afflicted people. As a nation that always stands for personal choices, liberty, and freedom to volition within the confines of law, the U.S. has always espoused the need for individualistic decision-making. Given this, it is not odd or even minutely surprising that sexuality and gender too, like other facets of a human, are subjective topics that everyone can have different opinions on. But who was Omar Mateen, the Orlando shooter, to judge people at the club for being gay?

The answer is simple: he was no one other than a bigoted, seemingly psychotic, and perhaps a severely mentally disturbed person who, when he discovered no other outlet, channeled his internal frustrations through the means of violence.

However, Mateen's extremely egregious actions and thought processes in view, we need to work towards fomenting significant reforms. And to note one thing, as a friend of mine recently stated, blaming Islam for these attacks, or pointing fingers at the much-venerated president Obama for not using the word "radical Islamism" will not be, by any means, a stepping stone for such a reform. I do agree that Mateen was a Muslim whose morals and ethical standards were extremely skewed. But can we attribute his personal problems to how Islam is, as a whole? Certainly not. 1.6 billion muslims are not all a part of a huge Facebook group chat where every person informs the others about his/her spurious plans. Instead, these 1.6 billion Muslims also stand in unwavering solidarity with the Orlando victims.

Recently, a group of Muslims gathered in Orlando, in a huge congregation, to offer a truly heartfelt prayer for the Orlando victims and their families. In other Muslim communities I have the privilege of being a part, Muslims are making amends by reinforcing the original teachings of Islam, which are all centered on peace and tolerance. Islam does not teach a follower to hurt others based on their gender, race, ethnicity or sexuality. In this context, it is not surprising that increasing the already high level of surveillance on Muslims will not be the key to a reform. Instead, a standardized process of a much tighter gun control, a ban on machine guns (both Orlando and Sandy Hook were carried out with AR-15 assault rifles), and a better professional system of identifying and dealing with mental health issues--a topic that is often deemed too trivial in many countries still--will be of immense utility. Furthermore, educating individuals regarding oppressing homophobia in both Muslim and non-Muslim communities will also be a potentially helpful step.

Therefore, as a nation, we need to reflect on how allowing easy access to deadly weapons such as guns is sowing seeds for more home-grown acts of terrorism. Granted that dissidents might argue that guns are needed as a means of personal protection, but that is truly analogous to fighting fire with fire. Why should not we, in the first place, aim to take the fire down? It is starkly obvious that we cannot immediately deal with each and every psychotic and mentally ill person in the U.S. Does this mean we should still allow these people to have access to deadly firearms too? Or should we make access to guns very restricted, and instead vie to fight violence, amongst other things, with a better process of dealing with parochial and intolerant societies that advocate concepts like homophobia?

The latter truly does stand out as the better answer to me.