Saturday, August 31, 2013

Police Chief Mark Kessler Doubles Down With Video Threats And Pays The Price

(UPDATED -- Kessler has been officially terminated as police chief.  See below, at bottom)

I've blogged before about Mark Kessler, one-man police force of Gilberton, PA, who posted a series of YouTube foul-mouthed rants wherein he used full-auto assault rifles to shoot up targets that symbolized Nancy Pelosi and John Kerry.  "Shoot her in the face.  She will get the message!" he said.

What followed was a spectacle, wherein Kessler made an ass of himself with a large group of heavily-armed cronies standing around, brandishing their weapons as the Gilberton borough council debated what to do, then decided to suspend him for using his police-weapons for his threatening videos.  Gilberton is a laughing-stock of the nation and new symbol of violent, pro-gun, insurrectionist rhetoric, thanks to Kessler.

And it's not the first time he's made an ass of himself and even broken the law.  As I listed previously, Kessler has falsely-arrested a borough councilman before, and even had him strip-searched, because of noise complaints; Kessler was involved in a bar fight wherein he unintentionally shot himself in the hand, then conveniently lost his handgun; he threatened to abandon his oath of office if any gun legislation were passed; he has repeatedly promulgated ridiculous pro-gun conspiracy theories as a guest at, and he is an organizer for a militia group, which he recruits for on his website, which is illegal in the state of Pennsylvania.  And all of this without even being accredited as a police officer!

He's so sorry of a loser, in fact, that even the extreme of the extreme, the Oathkeepers militia group, have distanced themselves from him.

Numerous petitions have been created calling for the firing of Chief Kessler, such as this one.

Since my last post, the Gilberton borough council has started to investigate and take inventory of the weapons that Kessler has purchased for himself through his role as police chief, and where they are stored.  And the borough's insurer has threatened to drop coverage of the borough if they don't discipline or terminate Kessler.  

Naturally, Kessler feels not one inkling of regret for his threats.  In fact, he's doubled down on them.  In a new online video, Kessler fires off another full-automatic machine gun at targets that symbolize the Gilberton council president and the council vice-president, calling them "libtard" and "tyrant."  He suggests that they are going to "molest" him and, after Kessler shoots them, they get their "mangina" hurt.

Screencap from Kessler's Facebook page
On his webpage, where Kessler begs for donations for his defense, he calls the county sheriff a "thug" and the district attorney a "tyrant," declares both of them an "enemy of the state," and calls the rest of the council "political hacks" and "scum polaticians" [sic].

Like pro-gun extremists everywhere, he sees himself as some sort of Second Amendment hero with his insurrectionist talk, and a figure of some growing revolution to overthrow the government.  On his Facebook page, Kessler is even vainly posting a graphic that suggests such a revolution that starts, naturally, in his home town (see screencapture image from his Facebook page to the left).  Says one of his supporters, in response:

 "let it begin with the citizens of Gilberton storming the town offices & dragging the idiots trying to fire Chief Kessler out in the streets & telling them that Gilberton no longer wants or needs their services."

and other such extreme language, none of which Kessler responds to or tries to calm.

Elsewhere on his Facebook page, Kessler poses in pictures with his armed buddies, assault rifles
Screencap from Kessler's Facebook page
and .50-caliber sniper rifles in hand, in front of a billboard that calls for him to be fired (see picture to right).  The implied threat is clear: if the borough finally acts with rationality and removes Kessler from his job, Kessler and his pals will respond with violence.

And in another Facebook post, Kessler states, 

MY father whom I see as a true american hero always told me , "you can only kick a dog so much before he bites" , I'm here to state this dog has been getting kicked, abused threatened long enough, May GOD be my witness, I shall fight till my last breath! for only God himself will judge me !

No, Mr. Kessler, the rest of America is judging you too, and deciding that you are insane.

Like all pro-gun extremists who are called out for their behavior, Kessler peppers his Facebook pages and website with statements that suggest that it is he, and not those he threatens, who is the victim in this whole affair.  Umm hmm.  Delusions won't save you, Kessler.

I'm not surprised, after all of Kessler's open threats, name-calling, and posturings, that the borough council is considering termination of Kessler.  It's about time.  Long overdue.  If they had done so before, after his past illegal and threatening behaviors, they wouldn't be in the national spotlight for this now.

Kessler and his attorney have drawn out the inevitable end to this sordid tale by refusing to meet with the council, delaying until at least next week, leading the council to extend the no-pay suspension.

Like watching an Indy 500 crash, it's fascinating and shocking at the same time to watch as Kessler's job and reputation implode.  We'll see what next week brings.

UPDATE (9/5/13):  Chief Kessler has been suspended indefinitely.  Since he is under contract, an outright firing isn't possible, apparently.  From the article:
But the council’s official decision on Kessler's fate is pending. Because of scheduling difficulties, a hearing could not be held and Kessler’s unpaid 30-day suspension was extended Friday, his attorney, Joseph Nahas, told the Associated Press. Nahas said the disciplinary hearing would probably be held next week. ... 
“He seems to want to take things into his own hands,” said Michael Morrill, executive director of Keystone Progress, adding that a termination could prove dangerous because some of Kessler’s supporters have called for violence as a retaliatory measure. ... 
You can’t have a police chief that intimidates at least half of the population,” Morrill said.
According to Kessler, on his Facebook page, the council will meet to decide on termination on September 19.  Kessler then comments, "Kangaroo court here we come". See screenshot, at right.

UPDATE (9/20/13):  Kessler has officially been terminated as Chief of police.  From the CNN article:

The borough council of Gilberton, population 750, voted 6-1 to fire him at a meeting Thursday night, said council chairman Daniel J. Malloy. 
Kessler was suspended July 31 at a council meeting that drew thousands of his supporters, including some openly armed, to the small town in Schuylkill County in eastern Pennsylvania
He will remain on suspension for 10 days to give him time to appeal, Malloy said. He would not comment further. 
"We knew it was coming," Kessler said after the vote, CNN affiliate WFMZ-TV reported.

UPDATE (10/9/13):  Kessler continues to call himself "Chief", and continues to be a magnet for insurrectionist extremist types.  Recently, these leadheads are using Kessler as a catalyst for a "truck-in" protest against the government.  See here:

Kessler also continues to encourage such insurrectionist behavior, with anti-government and pro-militia nonsense posted on his Facebook page.

UPDATE (2/24/13):  This extremist has finally been terminated as police chief.  What took so long?  So what's next for this gun loon loser?  A reality show, of course, so that the world can continue to marvel at this magnet of our violent gun culture.  Making stars of ignorant, violent extremists is becoming a national past time.

Monday, August 26, 2013

"All Aboard!" the Peace Train, 2013

I love engaging the public on the issue of gun violence and peace.  This is because the vast majority of citizens, including gun owners, support the main arguments of the gun violence prevention movement (hundreds of national polls show it, HERE).

One of my great joys each year is the annual Eugene Celebration parade, which makes its way through the heart of downtown Eugene, Oregon, and features nearly every aspect of our community and diversity.

One of the yearly entrants to the parade is the Peace Train: a brightly-colored, human-powered train engine followed by train cars, each of which bears the name of a local organization dedicated to peace and nonviolence.  This is the third year that I and Ceasefire Oregon have had a train car in the Peace Train (here is a link to information on last year).  Other organizations included in the Peace Train this year were Million Mom March, the Democratic Party of Lane County Peace Caucus, The Peace Center of Eugene, CALC, Veterans for Peace, and Beyond War.

The route, as always, was lined the entire way by throngs of area people.  This year the applause and cheering was deafening for the Peace Train, including shouts of encouragement for Ceasefire Oregon.  

See below for videos, posted on YouTube, taken by people along the route...

Here (at timestamp 19:08):

and here (at timestamp 3:09):

It warmed my heart to see and hear the response, but we need more than cheering.  Pro-gun activists work nonstop to make our communities less safe and undermine our attempts to reduce gun violence, in pursuit of their love of guns.  We have to work together to create a new trajectory for our nation away from gun violence.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

If Gun Owners Fear A National Registration List, They Need Only Look As Far As The NRA

Earlier this year, President Obama attempted to pass, at the Federal level as part of a package of sensible gun regulations, a universal background check bill, which would have required a 5-minute background check on all gun sales, including those from private sellers and at gun shows, to help keep guns out of the hands of prohibited people, without infringing on the right of law-abiding adults to purchase their guns.  Background checks work.  From 1994 through 2008, background checks on guns purchased from licensed firearms dealers prevented 1.8 million prohibited people in the United States, including felons and the mentally ill, from buying guns (according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics).

A much more scaled-down bill, the  Manchin-Toomey background check bill, would have at least required background checks at all gun shows, but not for most private transfers.  The bill failed when a minority of pro-gun, NRA-sponsored senators threatened to filibuster.

Despite the fact that an amazing and nearly unprecedented (for any political topic) 90% of civilians, including 75% of NRA members, support universal background checks, the NRA nonetheless opposed them.  As usual, the NRA pushed its own extreme agenda instead of representing their own members.  After all, the gun manufacturers who fund the NRA make money from all gun sales, legal or not.

The really ridiculous part is that the NRA claimed, as justification for its opposition, that background checks would create a (evil!) registration list of gun owners (notice that the word "confiscation" usually fell soon after the word "registration").  LaPierre is quoted as saying:

[Y]ou're creating a registry of all the law-abiding people in the country that own firearms. I know the politicians say, "Hey, we'll never use that list to confiscate." That's a pretty darn tall order to believe a promise from people in this town right now.

Imagine if the biggest step in their confiscation scheme—“universal gun owner licensing and registration”—were a reality. Acquisition, transfer or continued ownership of firearms could depend on the whim of federal bureaucrats—just like the IRS operation—in analyzing questionnaires that gun owners would be required by law to answer.

“As if that would somehow make us safer from violent criminals and homicidal maniacs? Are they insane?” he said, referring to the idea of a federal registry of gun owners. 
Mr. LaPierre, who received a series of standing ovations, speculated that any federal database could be hacked by the Chinese or given to other foreign entities. He said the Mexican government had already requested such a list, and warned newspapers would print the names and addresses of gun owners “for gangs and criminals to access,” adding that’s already occurred. 
“In the end there are only two reasons for the government to create that federal registry of gun owners,” he said. “To tax them or to take them.”

Of course, it's all fearmongering.  No one in the government has actually suggested the creation of a gun registry.  In fact, as pointed out in a recent Media Matters posting, the Firearm Owners' Protection Act of 1986 makes it illegal for the government to do so, and all records in the background check system are destroyed within 24 hours.  He knows this, but prefers to lie about it in order to continue stoking the paranoid fears of his loyal followers in his little "circus of fears."  The NRA is no stranger to making up wild conspiracy theories.

And that false talking point about registration of guns has been used over and over again as justification for fighting any number of gun regulations, at all levels of government.

BUT HERE'S THE FABULOUSLY HYPOCRITICAL PART OF IT: It's not the government that has a secret list of millions of gun owners, but the NRA itself!

That's right: it was revealed this week by Buzzfeed that the NRA keeps a secret database of tens of millions of gun owners, without the gun owners' consent.

And how did they create such a list?  By mining data from government hunter records, pulling information from attendees of gun safety classes, gun shows, magazine subscriptions, and other sources, as well as counting its regular members who pay dues.  They feel no shame in paying to get names and personal information of gun permit holders from state departments of public safety.

That database has been built through years of acquiring gun permit registration lists from state and county offices, gathering names of new owners from the thousands of gun safety classes taught by NRA-certified instructors and by buying lists of attendees of gun shows, subscribers to gun magazines, and more, BuzzFeed has learned 
NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam declined to discuss the group’s name-gathering methods or what it does with its vast pool of data about millions of non-member gun owners. Asked what becomes of the class rosters for safety classes when instructors turn them in, he replied, “That’s not any of your business.” 
The NRA won’t say how many names and what other personal information is in its database, but former NRA lobbyist Richard Feldman estimates they keep tabs on “tens of millions of people.” 
“We’ve been doing this since the old days,” Feldman said. “You could obtain from most states the listings of hunter licenses from the Department of Wildlife and Conservations. It was sort of amazing what we knew about people from that. There were early doe permit holders, black powder holders, so many different seasons. It was a lot of data.” 
Complementing this practice is the mining of data on the thousands who take gun safety classes from NRA-certified instructors. Arulanandam said there are 97,000 of them, a figure that impressed Quinn as a larger “army of organizers” than Obama had. 
In some states, those ranks are propelled by laws that specify that taking classes from NRA-certified instructors in order to obtain permits or licenses.

Naturally, the NRA isn't collecting this information on people for "safe keeping" or anything.  Follow the money.  They use this information to target gun owners for lobbying efforts and to push their own extremist lies and conspiracy theories -- such as government registration of gun owners.

And, I might add, there is nothing to keep the NRA from sharing or selling its secret database with whomever they choose, without consent from the people listed there.

Once again, it's not the government that gun owners need to fear, but rather the very lobby that purports to represent them.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Meet Rockne Newell: Another "Law Abiding" Gun Advocate Turned Mass Murderer

(UPDATED -- See below)

Monday night was the monthly meeting of the Ross Township council, in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania.  But what would otherwise have been another quiet meeting turned into chaos and death.

In a scene repeated far, far too often in America, a deranged lunatic gun nut, armed with an assault rifle, burst in and opened fire.

Rockne Newell was about to have his land condemned because of the trash on his property (pics
Rockne Newell, gun rights proponent turned mass murderer
(Pocono Record/AP)
HERE), losing a longstanding feud with the Township.  Armed with a Ruger Mini-14 .223 assault rifle with scope (the same used in other mass shootings, including the one in Norway by Anders Behring Breivik), Newell stormed in and fired into the assembly, hitting four people, including at least one town official.  From an article:

“I heard more than 10 shots,” Pocono Record reporter Chris Reber said in a first-person account. “It was automatic, like a string of firecrackers.” ... 
Two people died at the scene, and a third person died after being flown to a hospital. Police confirmed that at least one of the dead was a township official but gave no details. A fourth person was undergoing surgery late Monday for undisclosed injuries. ... 
 “The thing that got my attention: plaster flying out, blowing out through the walls. Witnesses would later tell me they saw pictures exploding away from the walls,” [witness] Reber said in his account told to his editors, Marta Gouger and Chris Mele.

When the gun ran out of ammo or jammed, Newell then went to go back to his car to get a .44 Magnum Revolver and returned.  Luckily, another couple witnesses tackled him, then one of them got the gun from Newell and shot him twice in the leg:
Gunshots went off as Kozen struggled to restrain the shooter with the help of a second man, identified by police as local resident Mark Kresh. 
The victims were identified as David Fleetwood, Gerard Kozic and James LaGuardia, according to a criminal complaint, NBC Philadelphia reported. 
Eyewitnesses described the struggle between Kozen and the gunman to local newspaperThe Pocono Record 
"I saw Bernie struggling with him. Bernie got the gun and shot him in the leg twice," Ross Township Supervisor Tina Drake told the paper. 
Kozen told the Record that he was assisting another man who had been shot when the shooter "walked by me into the meeting room, I guess to shoot more people."
Three victims have died so far. A fourth is in the hospital. And Newell was injured as well.

The really eerie thing about this shooting is its proximity to another, recent town meeting in Pennsylvania that involved another gun nut, only a little more than an hour's drive west of the Ross Township hall.  Less than a week ago, in Gilberton, PA, a borough meeting suspended the employment of Police Chief Mark Kessler, after he used police full-auto assault rifles in his inflammatory, insurrectionist, and threatening videos.

And outside the council meeting that day was a small horde of extremist militia members, assault rifles in hand, standing around, blocking entry into the building, and rudely shouting down anyone who dared to talk.  It was like some third world country there, and local residents testified how fearful they were of him.

Though that episode ended without shots fired, one can easily imagine it turning uglier.  What if the Borough council had chosen to terminate Kessler instead of just suspend him? 

But the message was the same:  Keep government out of my gun "rights" and my personal life or, if I disagree with you, I will shoot you to death.  That's what Kessler insinuated when he called a picture of a deranged murderous clown "Nancy Pelosi" and shot her multiple times.  Is it really a big jump to go from saying it to doing it?  Probably not in the minds of weak-minded individuals like Rockne Newell.

I wonder what Mr. Newell thought about Mark Kessler and the display of extremists just to the west of him there in PA?  

Like so many other gun nuts, he echoed the gun lobby's paranoia and "gun rights" talking points.  

screencap of a pro-gun post from Newell's Facebook page
On his Facebook page, Newell also posted a picture that suggested why people need guns, including an assault rifle for when "people try to take them away" (see screencapture pic).  "I love this!" he wrote about it.

Later, on March 5, he posted a link to a White House petition calling for elimination of armed guards around politicians.

On February 26, Newell posts a link to a news article about a 4-year old boy who shot and killed himself with his father's gun.  Did Newell show sadness or call for people to secure their guns?  No.  Instead, he states:
Think on this had his father stole an assault rifle this boy would still be alive because an assault rifle is too long for a 4 year old to shoot himself!

Also on his Facebook page he has a long diatribe, where he goes on about "gun control." In part of that, he states,
1. Don't pick a fight with an old man. If he is too old to fight, he'll just kill you. 2. If you find yourself in a fair fight, your tactics suck. 

He also wrote,
Guns in the hands of honest citizens save lives and property and, yes, gun-control laws adversely affect only the law-abiding citizens. Take note my fellow Americans, before it's too late! The next time someone talks in favor of gun control, please remind them of this history lesson. With guns, we are 'citizens'. Without them, we are 'subjects'.
That's right.  As I always say, lunatic gun nuts who go on killing sprees always think they are the sane ones who are defending gun rights as law-abiding citizens.

Yep.  Meet Rockne Newell, another "law-abiding citizen" gun owner... until he wasn't.

UPDATE (1/25/15):  In December, the main man who tackled and subdued Newell, township parks director Bernard Kozen, was one of 18 people from around the country who were honored for their heroism by the Carnegie Heroes Fund Commission.  **Please note that Kozen did not need a gun to subdue the shooter.**  From an article:
The parks director of a Pennsylvania township who helped subdue a gunman charged with killing three people at a municipal meeting last year is among 19 people being honored with medals and cash from the Pittsburgh-based Carnegie Heroes Fund Commission.
Bernard Kozen was the 56-year-old parks director of Ross Township when he tackled, disarmed and subdued 60-year-old Rockne Newell on Aug. 5, 2013. Newell is awaiting trial and faces the possible death penalty for allegedly killing three people in a dispute over his property. ....

Kozen, who had taken refuge in an office, could have run to safety behind Newell but instead tackled him and, with the help of another man, overpowered Newell, the awards commission said.
The hero awards honor those who risk their lives for others.