Monday, June 29, 2015

The Charleston Church Shooting One Week Later -- Part III: Right-Wing Spin And The Confederate Flag

(UPDATED -- see below)

In Part I of this series, I noted the facts, about the shooter, that came out in the past week from the shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.  In Part II, I showed how the church may not have been Roof's initial target and that his overt racism was only part of the thought process in choosing a target.

Yes, as I outlined in Part I, there were many, many ways that Roof exhibited his racist beliefs: besides choosing an historical Black church and Black victims, he also had a manifesto with racist, anti-Jew and anti-Black rhetoric, photos of him with his guns and Confederate propaganda, and a history of discriminatory thought and talk, dating back at least to the Trayvon Martin killing, according to those close to him.  I would say there can be no clearer example of racist thought than what this shooter had expressed.

It is also very clear that the shooter is a poster-boy for the failure of our gun laws to keep guns out of the hands of clearly unstable people.  Here, once again, was another "lone wolf" killer who had a history of trouble, including misdemeanor convictions and a pending felony, yet was able to buy a gun without a problem.

As one writer, Gary Younge, wrote:

But the shooting of nine black church-goers in Charleston .... by a white gunman in what police are treating as a “hate crime” marks a doubling down on the nation’s twin pathologies of racism and guns. Both are deeply rooted in the nation’s history since its founding: neither are going anywhere soon.

And yet, the right-wing spin machine was in full action, even before the scene had been cleared, trying to move public thought away from guns and racism and to marginalize these as the true problems exposed by this nightmare.

Rick Perry, pro-gun darling of the NRA, (who himself can no longer legally carry a concealed weapon due to a felony indictment) was the first to get my attention.  Speaking on a news show only the day after the shooting, Perry called the shooting an "accident" and blamed the shooter's actions on drug abuse, though there was no reason to believe, then or now, that the shooter was under the influence at the time of the shooting.  He also claimed that the Obama administration was "over-reacting" to the shooting.

Two days after the shooting, presidential hopeful Bobby Jindal mocked Obama and blamed the shooting on a lack of mental health records (of which none have been noted for Roof) and on a lack of religion.  Really, Bobby?  I don't know what religion Roof is, if any, but I'm pretty sure the shooting occurred in a church...

Presidential hopeful Ted Cruz, just a couple days after the shooting, couldn't help cracking jokes. While in Iowa, he quipped, "You know the great thing about the state of Iowa is, I'm pretty sure you all define gun control the same way we do in Texas -- hitting what you aim at."  Well, Mr. Cruz, Roof's "gun control," as you define it, led to nine people dead in Charleston.  Then later, between firing off rounds with an assault rifle at a shooting range, he said, "There's a famous saying, praise the Lord and pass the ammunition. There is a reason why the Second Amendment is right after the First."  Very sensitive, as always, from the guy who advocates guns for armed insurrection.

Alan Keyes suggested that the shooter did what he did for "gay rights" and to "intimidate" those who oppose gay marriage.  Of course, there is no evidence at all for this assertion. I don't know if Roof is gay, but somehow I doubt this was ever an issue for him.

Rick Santorum and presidential hopeful Lindsey Graham suggested the shooter committed this crime for religious reasons as an "assault on religious liberty" and "looking to kill Christians," despite no statement about religion at all from the shooter.

Conservative radio host and FOX News commentator Kevin Jackson blamed a Liberal agenda, stating "Liberals created this kid that shot up this church," as did another FOX News commentator, E.W. Jackson, who not only blamed the shooting on a "growing hostility and antipathy to Christianity" but also on gay people, President Obama, and Liberals in academia. 

Another FOX News contributor incredibly blamed the shooting on abortion rights.  Facepalm.

And then, to top it all off, NRA board member Charles Cotton (no stranger to extreme statements) went so far as to blame the shooting on the victims themselves!  Because Rev. Pinckney had been a senator who endorsed stronger gun laws and had once opposed a bill allowing conceal carry in churches, NRA board member Cotton therefore blamed Pinckney for the crime, suggesting that the victims should have armed themselves in the Bible study group and shot Roof dead with their own guns before he could shoot them.  Yep, that's the NRA for ya, trying to push more guns in more places as a (profitable) solution.  Despicable!  Mike Huckabee, always an NRA minion (as well as a supporter of white separatists), parroted that talking point, too, as did pundit Bryan Fischer.

But then, just as all of these ridiculous attempts at red herrings were falling flat, and America was waking up to the fact that this may have been one mass shooting too many, something happened that, I think, even the NRA had not foreseen:  the racial aspects of the Charleston shooting morphed into a discussion about removing Confederate flags, and suddenly this was all that the media wanted to report about.

Suddenly the South Carolina governor was calling for the removal of the Confederate flag at the Statehouse grounds, a move that was approved by the House.  The Tennessee governor called for removing the Confederate flag from state license plates, as did the North Carolina governor from his state's specialty license plates.  The Alabama governor had the Confederate flag removed from the state Capitol.  Other governors and legislators echoed the sentiments.  (So far, no word from Mississippi, though)

And then companies stopped selling Confederate flag merchandise, including Walmart, Amazon, Sears, and eBay.  

Activists were climbing flagpoles to remove the flag themselves.

(Not surprisingly, many GOP pundits, like Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter, tried to defend the Confederate flag)

Don't get me wrong; it's high time this flag came down and got put in its place -- in a museum.  The Civil War ended 150 years ago, and yet this flag, which was born on the battlefield to symbolize the retention of slavery for an agrarian economic system borne on the backs of Blacks during armed insurrection, then used to justify segregation and discrimination, and then somehow morphed into a symbol of "all things Southern", Dukes of Hazard-style, is still being used as a government symbol.  (HERE is a good write-up of the flag's history and usage).  There's a very good reason why you will never see a Black person wearing a Confederate flag hat or shirt, putting a sticker of it on their car, or waving the damned thing around!

But amongst all the to-do about removing the flag, a very basic irony is being lost:  The same states that are jumping all over themselves to remove the flag are among the worst in the nation for shootings and lax gun laws, and the highest for gun ownership.  Removing the flag makes them seem as if they are "doing something" in response to the Charleston shooting, but in reality they have done nothing at all to stop the next "lone wolf" madman from arming himself and repeating the tragedy.  Walmart, too, is patting itself on the back for stopping sales of the flag, but they continue to sell handguns and assault rifles, including the handgun used by Roof, and allowing guns to be carried in their stores, no questions asked.  Perhaps because of their policies, Walmart is definitely no stranger to gun crimes and shootings.

The NRA must feel greatly relieved that the public's eyes have been turned.  I think they feared that they were facing another "Sandy Hook" response for tougher laws.  Now they need only sit back and let the flag brouhaha take over.

But I'm not the only one who has noticed.  A cartoonist at the Washington post has noticed and made a little video.  As has political cartoonist Mark Fiore, who made a musical cartoon parody, called "Blame the Flag," on the issue.  One satirist even penned a "thank you letter" from the NRA, thanking America for putting the blame on the flag. The letter begins:
Dear America,
Since the awful mass killing of nine people in a Charleston, South Carolina church last week, America has been overwhelmingly focused on removing the Confederate flag from its government buildings. The National Rifle Association would like to say: THANK YOU, AMERICA! Thanks for focusing all your attention during this heartbreaking time on the true killer of people in America: the Confederate flag.....
And other gun lobbies have noticed, too.  On the Facebook page for the extremist group, Oregon Firearms Federation, the group has posted one of the photos of Roof with a Confederate flag.  In the photo, Roof is wearing a Gold's Gym shirt, so OFF stated in its usual acidic tone, "OFF Calls for the immediate ban on Gold's Gym tee shirts."  Some of their followers chimed in, as well, in the comments section, to mock it further.

Don't allow the spin!  Yes, the Confederate flags must come down, but do not lose sight of the original issue:  another demented and criminal-minded young man got hold of a gun and killed people with it.  Taking down the Confederate flags do nothing to stop the next attack!  It is time to pass reasonable gun laws to keep guns out of their hands and create a new trajectory for our nation away from gun violence.

UPDATE (6/29/15):  Twitter data reflects the sudden shift in conversation after the Charleston shooting away from gun violence prevention to the issue of removing the Confederate flag.

Also, a new cartoon was released by Jack Ohman.  See at right...

UPDATE (7/8/15):  A new cartoon, below..

UPDATE (7/9/15):  The South Carolina House has approved taking down the Confederate flag.  From an article:
More than 50 years after South Carolina raised a Confederate flag at its Statehouse to protest the civil rights movement, the state is getting ready to remove the rebel banner. 
A bill pulling down the flag from the Capitol's front lawn and the flagpole it flies on passed the South Carolina House early Thursday morning. It should get to Gov. Nikki Haley's desk before the end of the day. 
The governor promised to sign it quickly, but didn't say exactly when. That's important, because the bill requires the flag be taken down within 24 hours of her pen hitting the paper and shipped to the Confederate Relic Room.


Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Charleston Church Shooting One Week Later -- Part II: The Church Wasn't Roof's First Target

In Part I of this blog posting, I outlined what was known about the Charleston shooter.

Here, though, I want to bring together some of my ideas around this.  I think this horrifying mass shooting has a lot to tell us about similar mass shootings, of which, according to the Gun Violence Archive, there have already been 140 so far this year.  Few get this level of attention.

The first thought that crosses my mind is that a huge amount of attention has focused on the racial aspects of this shooting, and for good reason.  As I listed out in Part I, the shooter's overt racism was unquestionable -- everything from Roof's overarching love of the Confederacy to his manifesto that spouted clear racist statements.  My own family is multi-racial, including some with African American, Latino, and Native American, as well as Caucasian, so racism, particularly violent incidents, concern me from a personal perspective.  And, of course, the location he chose for his heinous crime, and the race of those he killed, were as African American as could be chosen.

But I suspect that racism was not the initiating factor in the shooting.  Let me explain....

First off, anyone who would commit such a crime has a serious mental problem to begin with.  In nearly every one of these "lone wolf" mass shootings, the shooter has had a history of mental problems combined with a love of guns or violence.  Lots of red flags were there, but no one acted on them or did what was necessary to keep the shooter from getting his hands on weapons.  We saw it with Sandy Hook.  We saw it with Virginia Tech.  We see it again here.  Roof's roommate, his current friend, his childhood friend, and his uncle all had statements about the young man's instability.  And that's just what has come out in the first week after the shooting.  I suspect there will be more to learn.

But more than this, I don't think the church was actually the first target that Roof considered.  I think he was dead-set on committing a mass shooting anywhere.  According to his roommate, he had been considering shooting up some place for as much as six months.  But in that time, he first seemed to be scoping out the local mall, in February, where he was questioned by police for asking suspicious questions and dressing in all black.  He was arrested and briefly jailed for having narcotics during that incident, and was banned from the mall, but yet returned there again and was charged with trespassing.  Did he target the mall at first, but chose not to attack it because of the security and police response?

He then seemed to target a local park, where, again, he was found acting suspiciously and dressed in all black.  He also had a number of assault rifle gun magazines and accessories in his car.  Did police scare him away from that site, too?

He then revealed to a friend that he had wanted to "shoot up" the College of Charleston, but decided not to due to the security there.  He came right out and said it!  The college isn't known for racial diversity, being mostly Caucasian, so race wasn't likely the reason he would target it. According to his friend, whose last name is Scriven:
“I don't think the church was his primary target because he told us he was going for the school,” Mr Scriven said.
“But I think he couldn't get into the school because of the security ... so I think he just settled for the church.”
I'm inclined to agree with him, from what I read in those other articles.  It is notable that none of those other targets were particularly "black," either.

In the end, Roof's final choice of target may have been driven in part by his racism, since any church could have worked for his target and he, instead, chose an historically black church and victims.  But I suspect that convenience and lack of security were also deciding factors.  I shudder to think what other sites he may have scoped out, dressed in black, without the police stopping him.  Did he case out a grade school, for instance?  Did he case out Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church before the attack?

And for all those pro-gun folks who think that the congregants should have carried guns, let me also make something clear:  Roof wanted to commit the crime then kill himself.  Fear of death from the hands of citizens likely wasn't a factor for him.  But good security, in the form of police or security guards, would have kept him from getting to the victims in the first place, and may have been factors in preventing him from shooting up the other places he considered first.

There are a lot of countries around the world where racism exists and the rates of mental illness are as high as in the U.S., but the number of shootings are a fraction of our own.  What sets us apart from them is the huge number of guns we have in private hands, the lack of a lot of commonsense gun laws, and the ridiculously-easy access these unstable people have to guns.  Roof's suspicious behavior, prior misdemeanors, overt racism, and general instability were all huge red flags that would have prevented him from legally purchasing a gun in most advanced nations, such as our neighbor, Canada, or in Japan or England.  But here, he was clear to buy as many as he wished, even assault rifles (which he badly wanted but couldn't afford, luckily).  But buy a gun he did, and now nine excellent people are being buried because of it.

In Part III of this series, I want to look at the response from the pro-gun and Conservative forces, as well as how the race aspects of the shooting turned the attention away from the core problem of arming yet another unstable lone wolf and toward the red herring of the Confederate flag.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Charleston Church Shooting One Week Later -- Part I: What We Know

The victims killed in the shooting.
(UPDATED -- See below)

It has been just over a week since, yet again, another lone-wolf, disturbed young man armed himself with a gun and committed mass murder. 

This week, the bodies of the nine innocent victims, six males and three females, are being buried in the soil of South Carolina.  Two survivors are dealing with the trauma of the event.  And the families, friends, and fellow citizens of Charleston are having to come to grips with the tragedy.

Friday, President Obama himself led the eulogy for the Pastor of the church and ex-state senator, Rev. Clementa Pinckney, and even led the congregation in "Amazing Grace."

According to the Gun Violence Archive, which carefully tracks media reports of shootings in our country, there have been at least 140 mass shootings so far this year.  It has become so commonplace in America to have three or more people shot to death in a single incident that most of these hardly even make national headlines!

But this shooting was different than many of them -- not just in the number of victims, but also due to the obvious racism expressed by the shooter, the race of the victims, and the widespread media coverage. 

Here is what we know of the shooter: 

Dylann Roof's roommate stated that Roof had been planning a shooting of this sort for as much as six months, yet he did not alert authorities.  

In late February, Roof had been arrested at a mall, dressed in all black, asking suspicious questions and carrying illegal narcotics, for which he was arrested and jailed and charged with misdemeanor possession of controlled substances. 

A week or so later, Roof was found acting suspiciously at a park, again dressed in all black.  When his car was searched, the officer found a number of assault rifle magazines and an accessory used to hold a gun by the hot barrel.  

Roof very much wanted an AR-15 assault rifle, but could not afford one.

Later in March, despite having been banned from that mall, he was found there and charged with trespassing -- another misdemeanor crime.

In April, Roof turned 21.  Despite his recent run-ins with the law, unstable behavior, how he "seemed adrift" and cooped up in his room too much, and his on-and-off relationship with his parents, Roof's father nonetheless gave him a .45-caliber handgun for his birthday, according to an uncle.  Roof also received cash, which he immediately spent to purchase another .45-caliber handgun -- the one used in the shooting.  Because he had just turned 21, and because his misdemeanor charges did not prohibit him buying a gun, the purchase was legal.  He then enjoyed going target shooting with these guns.

Concerned about Roof's state of mind, and because Roof had said that he "wanted to hurt a whole lot of people," a friend of Roof's hid the gun, but then returned it (since the friend had a felony conviction).  But the friend did not alert authorities.

Roof expressed to a friend an interest in "shooting up" a local college, the College of Charleston, but thought he couldn't get past security. The friend dismissed the statement as drunken rambling, and did not alert authorities.

Just two months after buying his gun, Roof entered the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church with the gun and extra ammo magazines, sat with a Bible study group for about an hour, then as the meeting ended, despite having fleeting thoughts of not going through with it, Roof pulled his gun and started shooting, reloading five different times. It seemed that his main target was Rev. Simmons. He then tried to kill himself, but the gun was empty.  

Nine people lay dead or dying.  Two survived.  Roof then fled, but was later captured in North Carolina and arrested without incident.  He confessed to the crime.

The victims:
  • Rev. Clementa Pinckney, ex- state senator and pastor of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church
  • Tywanza Sanders, 26, a 2014 graduate of Allen University in Columbia, which Pinckney also attended.
  • Cynthia Hurd, 54, manager of St. Andrews Regional Library.
  • The Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45, an assistant pastor at the church and girls track coach at Goose Creek High School.
  • Susie Jackson, 87, a longtime church member.
  • Ethel Lance, 70, a sexton at the church.
  • The Rev. Depayne Middleton Doctor, 49, a church singer and former Charleston County community development employee.
  • The Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., 74, a member of the church's ministerial staff, who died in the operating room at the hospital.
  • Myra Thompson, 59, wife of the vicar of Holy Trinity Reformed Episcopal Church.

Obvious racism:

Roof's racism is obvious.  A childhood friend said:

"He said blacks were taking over the world. Someone needed to do something about it for the white race," .... "He said he wanted segregation between whites and blacks. I said, 'That's not the way it should be.' But he kept talking about it."

One of Roof's friends stated:

“He was big into segregation and other stuff,” ... “He said he wanted to start a civil war. He said he was going to do something like that and then kill himself.” 
But the friend did not report this to authorities.
Roof's roommate, who had briefly hid the gun, stated:
“He was saying all this stuff about how the races should be segregated, that whites should be with whites,” he said. “I could tell there was something inside him, there was something he wouldn’t let go.”
At some point before the shooting, Roof wrote a 2,444-word manifesto website [which you can find HERE] wherein he expressed his views that he thought the U.S. was being taken over by minorities, that there would be a coming race war, that he wanted to eradicate Jewish culture, and that he was "awakened" by the Trayvon Martin killing by George Zimmerman.  He also wrote about African-Americans:

In the text, which he implies was written not long before the killings, he declares: 'N****rs are stupid and violent.... Black people view everything through a racial lense [sic].'
He later continues: 'Anyone who thinks that White and black people look as different as we do on the outside, but are somehow magically the same on the inside, is delusional.
'How could our faces, skin, hair, and body structure all be different, but our brains be exactly the same? This is the nonsense we are led to believe.
'Negroes have lower Iqs [sic], lower impulse control, and higher testosterone levels in generals. These three things alone are a recipe for violent behavior.'
At the end of the text, he wrote: 'I have no choice. I am not in the position to, alone, go into the ghetto and fight.
He bemoaned the lack of skinheads or "real KKK" in his area, and seemed stimulated by a white supremacist group, the Council of Conservative Citizens.

Roof posed for numerous photos with his guns, confederate flags, with Confederate and slave props, and with jacket patches showing the flags of white-minority-ruled African nations.

Then, during the actual shooting, where he targeted a traditional Black church and its congregation, Roof is quoted by survivors as saying, "I have to do it. You rape our women and you're taking over our country."

It's only been a week, so doubtless many other facts will come out soon about this deranged young man and his motives.  But, like just about every other mass shooting "lone wolf," it's clear that Roof had many warning signs.

Further thoughts:  In Part II, I will give my thoughts about how the church may not have been his original target, and how his racism may not have been his initial driving purpose.  In Part III, I will take a look at the response by the pro-gun and Conservative forces and how they have dodged or even made light of the tragedy, and how the case morphed into a discussion about removing Confederate flags.

UPDATE (7/10/15):  Roof was initially turned down for buying a gun when a background check was initiated, due to the FBI investigating his drug arrest.  But because there is only a 3-day window before the sale has to be approved (thanks to the NRA), and the FBI wasn't able to make that window, Roof returned and was allowed to buy the gun used in the crime. From an article:
Mr. Roof first tried to buy the gun on April 11, from a dealer in South Carolina. The F.B.I., which conducts background checks for gun sales, did not give the dealer approval to proceed with the purchase because the bureau needed to do more investigating about Mr. Roof’s s criminal history. 
Under federal law, the F.B.I. has three days to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to deny the purchase. If the bureau cannot come up with an answer, the purchaser can return to the dealer and buy the gun. 
In the case of Mr. Roof, the F.B.I. failed to gain access to a police report in which he admitted to having been in possession of a controlled substance, which would have disqualified him from purchasing the weapon. The F.B.I. said that confusion about where the arrest had occurred had prevented it from acquiring the arrest record in a timely fashion. 
Mr. Roof’s application was not resolved within the three-day limit because the F.B.I. was still trying to get the arrest record, and he returned to store and was sold the gun.

UPDATE (12/15/16): Roof has been found guilty.  From an article:

Mr. Roof, 22, stood, his hands at his side and his face emotionless, as a clerk read the verdict aloud in Federal District Court, where he had been charged with 33 counts, including hate crimes resulting in death.
Mr. Roof, whose lawyers conceded his guilt, will face the same jurors when they gather on Jan. 3 to begin a more suspenseful phase of his trial to decide whether he will be sentenced to death or life in prison without parole.

The jury deliberated for only about two hours...
UPDATE (1/10/17):  Roof represented himself during sentencing, and has been sentenced to death.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Lyrics: Red Crayons, by Bill McIver

Below are the lyrics to the song "Red Crayons" by Bill McIver, guitarist and songwriter.

You can go HERE to hear the song and purchase it.  I hope you will.  As stated on his page:

All proceeds from online sales of "Red Crayons" will be donated to the non-profit group "Sandy Hook Promise," which is trying to bring about sensible gun legislation in the United States.

Thank you, Bill, for supporting common sense gun legislation.

Red Crayons 
written by Bill McIver © 2012, All rights reserved 

Armed with innocence, armed with crayons 
Blunt-tip scissors in small hands 
Cut construction paper and paste 
Will something be constructed or will it be waste? 

Little jackets on hooks, drawings on walls 
Empty metal jackets lay heavy in the halls 
Books are unread behind closed doors 
Empty magazines are spread on the floors 

Fight baby tooth and nail to hold that glock 
Shout “arm the teachers” nevermind the chalk 
Let no gun or slug be thought restricted 
If I loved a drug as much you'd call me addicted 

Fill malls and cinemas and schools with police 
Slow creep of the State’s ok so you can keep a piece 
Fill the holsters, sword the sheaths 
True freedom and safety means we’re armed to the teeth 

Can’t yell fire in a theater but I can say what’s strange 
I can drink a beer these days without a password exchange 
My wife she can vote now and there are no slaves 
Have you seen the flag? Hell, even it has changed 

“War is hell” is what was heard in my father’s day 
Don’t even have to look outside the USA 
Where a score and ten die from guns each day 
From Anchorage to Aberdeen from Maine to LA 

We'll never know what Dolly heard from James 
But don’t you find it odd and ain’t it strange? 
That bullets find the children but the 2nd finds no change 
So Johnny gets his rocks off at the range 

There are far more bullets than crayons in the stores 
Bullets and crayons strew the floor 
The only action’s with a gun, there’s inaction in the Halls 
Crayons and bullet holes mark the walls 

All these fuckers dress in black and attack kids in schools 
An unregulated militia who are we kidding with no rules 
You say every arm and sleeve despite all this wrong 
I came in here with my sleeves rolled up to sing this song 

Sales of bullets shoot through the roof 
People draw conclusions and offer proofs 
Children, well children will draw what they see 
They’ve sold out of red at the crayon factory 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Oregon Is Taking A Decisive Step In Protecting Women Against Domestic Violence Shootings

(UPDATED -- See below)

Guns and domestic violence go hand-in-hand.  Here in Oregon, 55-71% of domestic violence murder victims are shot, and 44% of women murdered with guns in the United States were killed by a current or former intimate partner.

And yet, Oregon is one of the states with most lax gun laws regarding protecting women from domestic violence shootings.  Here in Oregon, convicted stalkers can still keep their guns, as can those who have a restraining order.  And though a felony domestic assault can stop a husband from owning a gun if he abuses his spouse, boyfriends and domestic partners with misdemeanor domestic assault convictions don't count; they can still own a gun.

This issue touches me personally.  I have one friend whose abusive husband held a gun to her head, execution-style, and threatened to kill her.  Another friend lost her sister in a shooting by an abusive husbandAnd there are other cases that I don't mention due to privacy of the victims.

Here are just a few recent cases of domestic violence shootings in Oregon so far this year.:

  • January 25, Oregon City, Oregon -- 55-year old Timothy Oliver Moffatt's wife had a restraining order again him after harassment and assault. But he followed her in his car, then shot her multiple times before shooting himself.  Both were in critical condition.
  •  April 23, Portland, Oregon -- Police responded to find that 57-year old John Grant Coffey shot his wife to death during a domestic disturbance.
  • May 20, Medford, Oregon -- 28-year-old Charles Perowski shot and killed his 30-year-old wife, Jessica Thompson, before he turning the gun on himself in a suicide.  Their 12 year old daughter and 9 year old son were in the home.
  • June 6, Gresham, Oregon -- 44-year old Gerardo Gomez Ventura shot and killed his wife.
  • June 9, Sandy, Oregon -- 29-year-old Stephen Burlison threatened his girlfriend with a gun.  The woman's father pulled out a gun of his own.  Burlison fled, fired a bb gun at the pair, then was in a chase with police, firing at them, before being captured.
And many more make headlines every week around the nation.  How many of these cases could have been prevented if the state had done a better job of keeping guns out of the hands of violent spouses and partners?

Now Oregon has taken a step in preventing domestic violence shootings.

Things are about to change, thanks to Oregon Senate Bill 525.  This bill has been passed in both the Senate and the House, with bi-partisan support passing the House 51-8, and now goes to the Governor, who is expected to sign it.  It is modeled after the recently-passed California "Gun Violence Restraining Order" law.

What does the bill do? This bill will prohibit possession of a firearm or ammunition by a person with a restraining order protecting intimate partners or children of intimate partners, or people convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence crimes against family members.  

And since restraining orders are temporary, so too is the prohibition of gun ownership in those cases.  If they clear their name, their rights are restored.

The NRA, and the GOP leadership they pay, oppose these measures.  They prefer to keep arming the abusers.  Any gun sale is a good one to them.  Follow the money.  This, despite the fact that 68% of GOP voters support these laws, as well as 71% of women.

But I guess it's not surprising that the gun lobby would be out of touch.  They've been supportive of the abusers for years.  

The NRA and the Gun Owners of America have said such laws "stigmatize" those poor, violent, gun-owning wife-beaters. We wouldn't want that, would we?  I mean, the right of a wife-beater to own a gun must surely trump the lives and welfare of their wives, right?

Consider also the Oregon Firearms Federation (OFF), the "no compromise" gun lobby in Oregon, which opposes the bill because people with restraining orders haven't yet been convicted of a crime and have only been charged through "assumptions."  Nevermind that a judge weighed the evidence and deemed that person dangerous enough to tell them to keep their distance.

But then, OFF has never been one to respect women.  Consider, for instance, a recent post to the OFF Facebook page, describing the female representatives of Moms Demand Action Against Gun Violence as "prostitutes of the anti-gun movement" as well as "Stepford Wives," "zombies," and "robots."  (see screencapture above, left).

And in another OFF Facebook posting, they described female members of Ceasefire Oregon as "Bloomberg whores" as well as "liars" belonging to a "coven."  (see screencapture at right)

These sexist, arrogant, and crude attempts to belittle women are part and parcel of the gun rights movement.  

I'm happy, at least, that Oregon legislators have seen past it and done what is right to create a safer environment for Oregon women.  Now, we need to extend that to the rest of the nation!

Ceasefire Oregon would like to thank the thoughtful legislators who voted for this bill.  Now, on to the Governor!

UPDATE (6/18/15):  Governor Brown has now signed the bill in to law!  Our thanks go out to the Governor and all the legislators and volunteers who made it happen.  Domestic violence victims throughout Oregon will be safer now.  The bill goes into effect January 1, 2016.

Addendum (6/19/15):  Get the statistics and facts on domestic violence, here: