Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Music Video: "Shoot You Down" by the Revivalists

HERE is a link to the video, also posted below.

In a Huffington Post article, two of the Revivalists band members discuss the song and how shootings like the ones at Sandy Hook and Parkland inspired them to try to share this beautiful message.


I’ll always be the stone, not the one who throws it
I’ll always be the road, that’s the path I’ve chosen
Know you’re not alone when your heart is broken
Say, I just wanna know
Yeah, I just wanna know
Can we for once just live with no guns?
And I tell, tell no lies
We’re not born to just die
People say, people say, what goes around comes around
But I won’t, no, I won’t shoot you down
I’ll always be the bridge, not the one who burns it
I’ll always be the kid with open arms deserving
Of all the love you give in a world that’s hurting
Say, we just want to live
Yeah, we just want to live
So can we for once just live with no guns?
And I tell, tell no lie
We’re not born to just die
People say, people say what goes around comes around
But I won’t, no, I won’t shoot you down
Said I won’t, no, I won’t shoot you down
I won’t shoot you down
I won’t shoot you down
So can we for once just live with no guns?
People say, people say what goes around comes around
But I won’t, no I won’t shoot you down
People say, people say what goes around comes around
But I won’t, no I won’t shoot you down
I won’t shoot you down
I won’t shoot you down
I won’t shoot you down
No I won’t
No I won’t
Shoot you down
Songwriters: David Shaw / Dave Richard Bassett
Shoot You Down lyrics © Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Reporting On So-Called Second Amendment Preservation Ordinances Is Wrong; Threats of Violence From Militias

Here in Oregon, pro-gun extremist militias are pushing some local ballot measures they call "Second Amendment Preservation Ordinances" which would give county sheriffs unprecedented power which are constitutionally reserved for judges, to interpret gun laws themselves and choose whether or not to enforce them based on their own opinions about what the Second Amendment protects.

From Ceasefire Oregon's Executive Director, Penny Okamoto, as cross-posted from the Ceasefire Oregon blog:

On November 2, 2018, Oregon Public Broadcasting published an inaccurate and inflammatory article about militia-backed ballot measures called “Second Amendment Protection” ordinances, or SAPs. These measures are appearing on some county ballots in Oregon. The article was repeated on the November 6, 2018 OPB morning radio broadcast.
Ceasefire Oregon reached out to the article’s author, Jonathan Levinson, and to OPB with the following email. If you wish to express concern or to ask that a correction be published today, please call OPB at 800-241-8123.

No voter should ever be subjected to threats of violence. Publishing these threats could intimidate voters or suppress voter turn out. OPB should have reported this to law enforcement, not given violence a public platform.

Dear Mr. Levinson,

Ceasefire Oregon is deeply concerned about several aspects of your November 2, 2018 article, “Sanctuary Cities For Gun Rights? Oregon Militias Try New Political Tactics.” First is the implied violence from Tom McKirgan, who claims membership in Oregon militias. Mr. McKirgan, a supporter of ballot measures for Sanctuary Cities for Gun Rights, admitted the militias are willing to engage in physical conflict if they do not achieve their goals on November 6. (“And if we have to fight physically to do it we will,” McKirgan said. “It’s just that simple.”)

We believe no voter should ever be subjected to a threat of violence. We question the wisdom of Oregon Public Broadcasting allowing a member of the Oregon militia (or anyone) to be quoted as saying that groups will “fight physically” if a voter does not agree with a supporter of a ballot measure. This statement is particularly concerning because the ballot measures could effectively place militia members or supporters of the militias in control of county law enforcement. As you know from your own October 30 article which featured Mr. McKirgan, he spent seventeen years in law enforcement and is a member of Oregon militias. Yet you chose to include his implied threat conspicuously as the last statement–without any comment or pushback–so readers are left with this thought in their memories.

Violent rhetoric never deserves a platform, especially not in the aftermath of bombing attempts and the brutal shooting massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.
In addition, we would like to address the inaccuracies and implied bias in your article. We urge you to address these publicly. We have provided corrections with explanations and citations.
  • Second Amendment Protection (SAP) measures (referred to in your headline as “Sanctuary Cities for Gun Rights”) are not lawful.
    • SAPs clearly attempt to give county sheriffs the ability to amend firearm-related laws. According to Oregon law, ORS 166.170, that power rests with the Oregon legislature.1
    • In July 2018, Grant County Judge W. D. Cramer ruled2 that a Grant County SAP petition violated Oregon’s firearm preemption law (ORS 166.170).
    • SAPs attempt to require county sheriffs to “determine whether any law or regulation pertaining to the right to bear arms or related rights violates the U.S. or Oregon Constitution.” Local officials are not Supreme Court justices and do not have the authority to interpret any part of the US or Oregon Constitutions.
    • Constitutional law expert, Charles Hinkle, was quoted in a 2015 interview3 with “The Huffington Post” about the Coos County SAP.  Mr. Hinkle stated that, under the Coos County SAP, Coos County Sheriff Zanni “would be violating his oath of office by enforcing a county ordinance that is contrary to state or federal law. ‘Of course local officials can’t decide what laws are constitutional. That’s why Kim Davis went to jail,’ Hinkle told the Huffington Post.” Mr. Hinkle’s remarks refer to the inability of sheriffs to act as US Supreme Court Justices.
    • In fact, in your prior article, your cite Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin’s admission that “interpreting the Constitution is not part of his job or something that he’s qualified to do.”
  • The Second Amendment is not an unlimited right.
    • Tom McKirgan stated (and you failed to correct his comment), “If you look at the Second Amendment where it says that it ‘shall not be infringed,’ that’s exactly what it means — our founders meant that.”
    • The late Justice Antonin Scalia’s ruling on the Heller decision clearly stated4,  “Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”
    • In the same opinion, Justice Scalia continued, “…nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”
    • Justice Scalia clearly stated that the Second Amendment is not an unlimited right and that laws can be enacted that will prevent firearms from being accessed by people who would be harmful to self or others.
  • SAPs are not protected by the Tenth Amendment.
    • The Supreme Court ruled in Printz v. United States (1997) and New York v. United States (1992) that the Tenth Amendment prohibits the federal government from commandeering state governments to assist in enforcing federal law.5
    • Enforcement of federal law is the responsibility of federal law enforcement officials. Therefore, state and local police cannot be forced to detain a person merely to question that person’s U.S. citizenship status.
    • The Tenth Amendment does not give Oregon county sheriffs authority to ignore state laws or the laws of the Oregon Constitution.
    • The Oregon Firearm Safety Act (background checks for gun sales), laws prohibiting guns for stalkers, and the law providing for Extreme Risk Protection Orders are Oregon state laws, not federal laws. There is no Constitutional protection (federal or state) extended to county sheriffs to relieve them from their duty to enforce Oregon laws or allowing them to enact an initiative supporting such actions.
  • SAPs have been ruled to be administrative in nature and, therefore, not the proper subjects for the initiative process.
    • SAPs attempt to change who interprets laws; they do not make new laws. Therefore, SAPs are administrative and not the proper subjects of the initiative petition process.
    • Judge W.D. Cramer ruled6 that the Grant County SAP, measure 12-72,  ran afoul of the initiative petition process under the Oregon Constitution, Article IV, Section 7 which states that petitions can only make new law.
Ceasefire Oregon was disappointed by the bias shown in your statement: “In a state where Democrats in Portland and Salem have used their control over all the major branches of government to push stricter gun laws, giving local officials control over enforcing the laws could gain traction.”
  • People throughout the state voted for Democrats, not just in Portland and Salem.
  • Your statement shows bias against Portland and Salem, and implies that voters in those cities do not deserve the same voice as voters in other parts of Oregon.
  • Democrats have been elected by a majority of the citizens of Oregon. The will of the voters should not be dismissed because the Oregon militias disagree with the outcome of the vote.
  • Your statement is biased against those who support effective gun laws. A vast majority of Oregonians, gun owners and non-gun owners alike, support stronger gun laws. In fact, according to a Benenson Strategy Group poll taken in 2015 during consideration of the Oregon Firearm Safety Act (SB 941), 87% of voters including 83% of gun owners supported background checks for firearm sales. The percentage of gun owners who support background checks has only increased throughout the country since 2015. Background checks for gun sales are now supported by 95% or more of gun owners queried in the 2018 Quinnipiac Poll and the November 2017 Gallup Poll.
  • The gun violence prevention laws passed since 2015 are also popular. According to a March 2018 Quinnipiac poll, 89% of voters support Extreme Risk Protection Order laws (SB 719)  and 91% support prohibiting convicted stalkers from purchasing or possessing firearms (HB 4145).
  • Clearly, voters support strong, effective gun laws and Democratic legislators have been working for years to pass laws that reduce gun violence.
Oregonians need clear and unbiased reporting on this issue. If passed, SAPs will usurp power from the legislative and judicial branches of counties, and leave citizens unsure of the processes of their own government. If a sheriff interprets a law, to whom does a citizen go to enforce a direct violation of that law? Who will have checks on the county sheriff? Will the county sheriff decide to determine the constitutionality of all the cases of the US Supreme Court? Will the sheriff decide to disallow immigration? Abortion? Voting?
The Second Amendment is already well protected by the gun lobbies and the US Supreme Court decisions Heller and McDonald. SAPs are an attempt by militias and the gun lobby to exert power over the executive branch of county and state government. Issues as grave as these deserve accuracy and fairness.

  1. The law is well known to at least one of the backers of SAPs, the Oregon Firearms Federation, who used the firearm preemption law (ORS 166.170) in 2011 in a lawsuit that forced Oregon colleges to allow people with concealed carry handgun licenses to carry loaded, hidden guns onto Oregon University System campuses. Now, that group is deliberately flouting the firearm preemption law.
  2. “The plain reading of measure 12-72 violates this statute [ORS 166.170] and by definition enters into an area that by law is not of county concern.” Grant County Circuit Case No.18CV19251, Judge W.D. Cramer, Jr., letter ruling, July 29, 2018.
  3. “Further [the measure] contains provisions that are not legislative in nature and; therefore, not proper for an initiative by definition.” Grant County Circuit Case No.18CV19251, Judge W.D. Cramer, Jr., letter ruling, July 29, 2018.

UPDATE (11/7/18): Unfortunately, 8 out of the 10 SAP measures passed. They will almost certainly be challenged in court.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Sculpture: The Last Lockdown.

Sculpting by Manuel Oliver whose son Joaquin, 17, was killed in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

The sculpture is called "The Last Lockdown" and is made by 3D printing. More information HERE.

The figures were created using 3D printers, an intentional reference to the debate over guns potentially being
3D printed. The desks are real school desks.
“We want you to feel unsettled,” the project’s co-creator Sean Leonard said

Image may contain: shoes and indoor

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

A comparison of firearm-related death rates in selected Oregon counties

(This is a cross-post from the Ceasefire Oregon blog, here)

By Penny Okamoto, Executive Director of Ceasefire Oregon

Numbers from 2005 – 2014 about firearm-related deaths in Deschutes, Multnomah, Klamath, and Linn Counties. For comparisons, I highlighted Multnomah County because it has the highest population and is the most urban. I highlighted Klamath because it ranks third (behind Curry and Baker) in firearm-related death rates but Klamath has a larger population for better comparison. (Klamath has 66,000; Baker, 16,000; and Curry 22,000 rounded.) I highlighted Linn because it was comparable in population size to Deschutes.

All rates are per 100,000 people.

Deschutes County:
  • Average yearly death rate from firearms: 12.16 per 100,000
  • Average firearm-suicide rate: 11.20
  • Average firearm-homicide rate: 0.64
  • Population: 163,000 (rounded)

Multnomah County:
  • Average yearly death rate from firearms: 8.88 per 100,000
  • Average firearm-suicide rate: 6.41
  • Average firearm-homicide rate: 2.07
  • Population: 757,000 (rounded)

Klamath County:
  • Average yearly death rate from firearms: 21.60 per 100,000
  • Average firearm-suicide rate: 16.47
  • Average firearm-homicide rate: 4.08 (No, that is not a typo.)
  • Population: 66,000 (rounded)

Linn County:
  • Average yearly death rate from firearms: 10.57 per 100,000
  • Average firearm-suicide rate: 9.01
  • Average firearm-homicide rate: 0.95
  • Population: 118,000 (rounded)

Data from https://www.oregonlive.com/trending/2017/12/where_do_oregonians_die_by_gun.html
An additional comparison: Chicago’s firearm-homicide rate is 16.4 per 100,000 (2010-2015). Even Chicago, however, is much lower than that of New Orleans (46.9), Detroit (45.0), or St. Louis (43.8) for the same time period. [Sixty percent of guns recovered in crimes in Chicago were first sold in other states, many with weaker gun laws. A small handful of gun stores, three from Cook Country and one from Gary, Indiana, continue to be responsible for a disproportionate number of crime guns recovered on Chicago’s streets.]  (Source: “Is Chicago Really America’s Most Dangerous City?”)

Further studies are needed to determine if firearm-homicide rates in Jefferson (4.62), Klamath (4.08), Malheur (2.26), Coos (2.22), and Josephine (2.06) Counties could be reduced with immediate access to Level 1 trauma centers. The same question should be asked of firearm-suicide rates. (Approximately 85-90% of firearm-suicide attempts are immediately lethal.)

One must question if providing effective suicide prevention support–including educating people about Extreme Risk Protection Order–and investigating firearm sellers who violate SB 941 by not performing background checks for gun sales, would reduce firearm-related deaths. SB 941 took effect in 2015 and ERPO took effect in 2018. Data could be available next year to determine if SB 941 is effective in reducing firearm-related deaths in counties which enforced the law.

Note: The counties with the highest rates of firearm-related deaths all have or have had* a sheriff who publicly refused to support SB 941 (background checks for almost all firearm sales). (CurryKlamathCoosJosephineDouglas Counties).

*Mr. Skrah (Klamath County) is no longer sheriff after he was found guilty on five counts relating choking and harassment. Skrah was cleared of a charge of strangulation. Skrah stated (without irony), “And if you send me to jail, I don’t know if I can defend myself,” even though he faced jail time for fourth-degree assault. Mr. Gilbertson is no longer sheriff of Josephine County after he was defeated in the last election. Gilbertson, who faced charges of stolen valor, was replaced by Dave Danielwho also states he will ignore Oregon law.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

If Only He'd Had A Gun To Defend Himself. Oh, Wait.... (Open Carry Samaritan)

Jason Erik Washington was on the campus of Portland State University when he witnessed an argument between two men, one of whom used a racial slur. The men began to fight each other.

That's when, armed with his openly-carried handgun and a valid conceal carry permit, he leaped into the fight to try to break it up.

Meanwhile, two armed university police officers were already arriving to do the same thing. Washington continued to try to break up the fighters even as the police were attempting to do so.

A witness took a video of the incident. Here's a screenshot from that video where I highlighted the gun hanging off his hip, at 18 seconds into it:

From an article: 

Video footage shows what appears to be a black object attached to Washington’s right side as he’s seen pulling one man off another. Two PSU police officers can also be seen. 
“The gun slipped out of the holster when he had fallen, and I think he may have tried to retrieve it,” Smith said. “Then they said ‘gun.’” 
That’s when police fired, she said.
Watch the video and judge for yourself. You can hear the police telling him to drop his gun. And, one witness....
....recalled the man reaching for his gun after police told him three or four times not to. 
"They warned him multiple times not to reach for it, but he did," Dietz said. "I don't want the message out there that the cops were trigger-happy." Dietz said employees at the Cheerful Tortoise did everything they could to stop the situation from escalating like it did.  "It's just that people got drunk and stubborn," he added.  "They had to do it," he said of the officers involved. "People think they were overzealous, but they had to do it."
One friend of his, named Joseph, had this to say:
"I saw the video, and there is no way he should have been shot," Joseph said. "I wish he didn't have a gun on him, because this probably wouldn't have happened if he didn't."
According to an article:
Washington was a Navy veteran and an employee with the United States Postal Service since 1998. He worked with the collections unit as a letter carrier at the main office in downtown Portland, where he also served as the union shop steward. 
Washington was married with three kids and one grandchild.
And now those kids, wife, and grandchild have lost him in their lives, because he chose to arm himself, and because those police reacted the way they did.  This is also an example of how being a military veteran doesn't automatically make you more responsible with your guns.

PSU voted to arm its police force in 2015, despite opposition from students.

[this post is part of an ongoing series of people being shot to death despite being armed (and sometimes because they are armed)]

Monday, April 30, 2018

Music Video: "Sound of Surviving" by Nichole Nordeman

HERE is a link to the YouTube video, where you can also find links to purchase the song and contact information for the singer, Nichole Nordeman.


They told me I’d never get to tell my story Too many bullet holes It would take a miracle These voices Inside my head like poison Trying to steal my hope Silencing my soul But my story is only now beginning Don’t try to write my ending Nobody gets to sing my song This is the sound of surviving This is my farewell to fear This is my whole heart deciding I’m still here, I’m still here And I’m not done fighting This is the sound of surviving These pieces The ones that left me bleeding Intended for my pain Became the gift you gave me I gathered those pieces into a mountain My freedom is in view I’m stronger than I knew And this hill is not the one I die on I’m going to lift my eyes and I’m going to keep on climbing I’m still here Say it to the ache, lying there awake Say it to your tears I'm still here Say it to the pain, say it to the rain Say it to your fear This is the sound of surviving This is my farewell to fear This is my whole heart deciding I’m still here, I’m still here And I’m not done fighting No, I'm not done fighting And I am still rising Rising, I'm still rising And I'm not done fighting This is the sound of surviving Music video by Nichole Nordeman performing Sound Of Surviving. (C) 2017 Capitol Christian Music Group, Inc.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Arm Teachers In Florida? Parkland School Board Says No. One Teacher Disagreed - And Had A Gun Accident

After the Parkland shooting, there was tremendous pressure on the Florida Governor Rick Scott to take action.  He signed into law a bill called the "Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act" which raised the age to buy all firearms to 21, imposed a three-day waiting period for most gun purchases, provides new mental health programs for schools, and restricted access to guns from people who show signs of mental illness or violence.

But, in a nod to the NRA and President Trump's call to arm teachers, the act also now allows Florida schools to choose to arm their teachers and staff.  It's a provision that is vocally opposed by teaching organizations, child advocacy groups, Florida school students, and even the families of school shooting victims. 

Nevermind that no school shooting was ever stopped by an armed civilian who wasn't law enforcement. And, as I've pointed out in a prior post, at least 23 incidents have been CAUSED on school grounds by armed individuals, including guards, who were supposed to be the sort the NRA claims will protect our children.

The Parkland school district isn't playing along -- the very school district where the shooting occurred -- and is refusing to arm their staff:
“I have not met one teacher or one student who is in favor of arming teachers in Broward County,” board member Laurie Levinson said. 
The school board instead wants the allotted money from the bill to go toward armed school resource officers, CBS Miami reported. 
“We should definitely launch a campaign to persuade the governor, for those districts who do not want to arm their employees, that they give us the money to keep kids safe in other ways,” board member Robin Bartleman said.
(And they aren't the only Florida school board to reject the notion).

Well, actually, there was one teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who was open to the idea of packing heat on campus.  Science teacher Sean Simpson supported his students in their calls to bring tighter gun regulations, but he also stated about arming teachers: 
"I know there are some of us that are willing to take the training if it was offered and probably be another line of defense."
He was on campus when the shots rang out and the shooter killed 17 and injured 15. So why aren't the gun nuts trumpeting his assertion to arm himself on campus?  Probably because he promptly had an accident with his loaded gun:
[Simpson] told deputies he accidentally left the gun in a stall at the bathroom at the Deerfield Beach Pier during a visit to the beach Sunday. While going back to retrieve it, he heard a gunshot and once back inside the bathroom, saw 69-year-old Joseph Spataro holding the gun.  
He left his loaded gun unattended in a public bathroom and a homeless man found it and fired it "to see if it was loaded." Luckily no one was injured. Oopsie! So much for that NRA poster child!  According to responding deputies:
"There was a reasonable likelihood that the firearm could have ended up in the hands of a child or the discharge of the firearm could have wounded another person or child."
Imagine if he had left that gun in the school bathroom instead!  It's happened before, again, and again, and again.

Both Simpson and the homeless person are facing charges, but so far Simpson hasn't lost his job as a teacher.  I can only wonder what his students are thinking of him as they deal with their shooting-induced PTSD.  At least they can rest assured that neither he nor any of the other teachers will be allowed to carry on campus!


Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Assault Weapons For Hunting? "A Good Clean Kill"

Pro-gun extremists like to argue that assault rifles, like the AR-15, are "modern sport rifles" that are perfect for hunting (like THIS SITE, which adds "It's even fun for kids"). Well, anything that throws a projectile can be used to hunt, technically.

I don't hunt, but all the serious hunters I know scoff at the stupid and transparent attempt to rebrand these weapons, and many hate them with a passion. I've posted before on the growing movement of hunters against the NRA. But with the number of hunters decreasing every year, and the rising cost of hunting as a hobby, the gun lobby wants to try to tap a new generation in any way it can. Why not increase your firepower?  Why kill one deer when you can take out the whole herd with one ammo magazine?  How much firepower is too much?

Well, leave it to Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr to point out the ridiculous nature of this position, in this excerpt from the movie "The Magic Christian" from 1969....

Just a "good clean kill." ....

Friday, April 6, 2018

The Far-Right Continues To Attack The Parkland Teen Survivors

Today it was reported that an entire website has been started with the express purpose of trolling and hating a teenage shooting survivor who has dared to call for more gun regulation. It is only the latest of a long list of such attacks by Conservatives and pro-gun forces against him and the other teens who survived the Parkland shooting....

If a person survives a plane crash, then publicly calls for better air safety, do people attack their character? What about if their child dies in a building fire and they advocate for better building codes? Or their friend dies in a multi-car crash so they call for better speed enforcement?  What is the response from lawmakers and pundits?  Usually it is very understanding.

Are any of these survivors lambasted as "soulless liars"? Or compared to Hitler? Or told that they should be learning first aid instead of talking out? Or pronounced that they should have been smacked more as children? What sort of person says such awful things to victims, survivors, or their families?

And what if they are saying these things about child survivors who saw dozens of their friends killed and injured, and had to run past their bodies to escape? 

Yet I see this all the time when the issue is gun violence-related. Survivors and victims are ignored by the Conservative gun-loving crowd ... until they call for sensible regulation to keep the shootings from happening again.  And then the gun crowd comes out shooting, so to speak, attacking the character of those survivors who dare to speak out.  The right-wing hate machine starts up.  It happened to my friend Colin Goddard after he survived the Virginia Tech shooting and advocated for stronger laws.  It happened to Lucy McBath after her 17 year old son, Jordan Davis, was shot to death and she called for justice and change. It happened to David Wheeler, who lost his 6 year old son in the Sandy Hook shooting and testified for change. And so on....  Anyone who speaks out about gun violence and calls for change is immediately trolled, smeared, and threatened. It's even happened to me.

Sadly, we are seeing it again.  This time, they have come out to troll and hate on the survivors of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.  The fact that these are children makes the attacks even more pitiful.

These teen survivors are brave, well-spoken, and passionate, and we need to respect them, not tear them down.

There have been so many attacks on these teens by the far right that I've started to lose track. So I decided to make a sort of laundry list of them, here, though it is by no means complete (for instance, I didn't bother going to all the pro-gun blogs to see their reactions) and is just a sampling.  Read them and tell me if this is a sign of an intelligent reaction. When the facts don't support the extremists, they resort to name-calling, conspiracy theory, and outright hate speech.

How have the teens handled it?  Far better than many adults would. In fact, I'm impressed how they cope with the constant attacks and remain focused on the need for change.  In the words of teen survivor David Hogg, when asked what he thought of the attacks on his character and the conspiracy theories:

“I don’t care,” Hogg said. “I don’t. I have bigger, more important things to focus on than these stupid conspiracies that aren’t true in any way, shape or form, have no validity, and don’t hold their weight. At all … these people are going to keep trying to take us down but that’s how we know what we’re doing matters … whenever someone tries making a change that matters, and a change for the better, there’s always someone that tried stopping them.” 

And the teens have been wildly successful in their effort: The nation's largest-ever one-day march and rally; State legislation pushed forward; Conversations on gun violence in nearly every living room. Their passion, honesty, and progressive attitude is very much at the heart of it all.

Here's the list I have so far (which I will update when I find more), more or less in chronological order, of some of the major attacks on the Parkland teens. As you can see, a great many of them target Emma Gonzales and David Hogg, the two most outspoken teens:

This sort of hatred, trolling, and conspiracy theorizing isn't just rude and disgusting, it's dangerous. Weak-minded (and armed) people who listen to this may believe it and act out violently as a result. It's happened plenty of times before (remember the "Pizzagate" shooting?).

I think you can see how toxic these extremist Conservatives are to their own cause.  I applaud the Parkland teens for their courage, and thank them for trying to make a new trajectory for our communities and nation away from gun violence.


Saturday, March 31, 2018

Music Video: Hallelujah Parody - Letter to Wayne LaPierre, NRA

Parody of "Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen - Based on the arrangement by Pentatonix.

LYRICS TO THE HALLELUJAH PARODY Open Letter to Wayne LaPierre You see yourself the defender of the amendment passed to you from above, and any change that happens must go through ya. While other freedoms slipped away with nothing standing in their way, you waved your gun and claimed your hallelujah. Hallelujah, Hallelujah Hallelujah, Hallelujah We’ve heard you say these words before, about the guns that you adore. There really is no point in talkin’ to ya. You pride yourself the ears and eyes of five or so million other guys, and think your words will draw their hallelujah. Hallelujah, Hallelujah Hallelujah, Hallelujah Your mind is stuck in sixty-five when cold-war commies were alive. And those who wanted change were out to screw ya. And gun controls of any kind mean liberal commies in your mind who'll steal your rights then raise their hallelujah. Hallelujah, Hallelujah Hallelujah, Hallelujah Your logic is profoundly flawed, with teachers for your new vice-squad. You’d arm them to the teeth but they see through ya. Your rigid stance results in death. You claim that right with every breath, howling through your broken hallelujah. Hallelujah, Hallelujah Hallelujah, Hallelujah We think it’s time that you step down. Just walk away and pass the crown, before someone decides they need to sue ya. The arms race lost, it would appear and you’ve become the thing you fear an echo of your bloody hallelujah. Hallelujah, Hallelujah Hallelujah, Hallelujah

To support Pentatonix's work please visit https://parodyproject.com/supportus

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Music Video: The President Sang Amazing Grace

“I was driving when I heard ‘The President Sang Amazing Grace,’” Joan Baez told The Atlantic, “and I had to pull over to make sure I heard whose song it was because I knew I had to sing it.” The 77-year-old folk legend included the song in her final album, Whistle Down The Wind, released in early March. Originally written and performed by Zoe Mulford following the 2015 mass shooting in a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, Baez’s rendition of “The President Sang Amazing Grace” has been animated in a powerful new video.

Read more about the song and video at The Atlantic, HERE.

Nine men and women were killed by a lone gunman in a church in Charleston. Less than a week later, President Obama visited the church to lead the eulogy and led the congregation in singing "Amazing Grace," which is the subject of the song and video. Read more about that mass shooting, HERE.


Monday, March 26, 2018

On Guns In America -- Tom Mooney

This is a guest post by a lifetime gun owner and hunter, Tom Mooney. Tom is very much in line with the majority of gun owners (and myself) in calling for reasonable gun regulation to keep guns out of the hands of those who shouldn't have them and prohibit the sale of assault rifles.

Thank you, Tom, for sharing your post....

I have a confession to make. I am a gun owner. To most people who know me that probably doesn’t come as a surprise. After all, I’m the guy who brings venison stew to the potluck and shares my homemade wild game jerky. That meat comes from somewhere, and my guns are one of the tools that allow me to bring that lean, organic, healthy meat home to my friends and family. In light of our ongoing epidemic of gun violence in this country and the latest horrific example of it in Florida, I think it’s important for people like me to speak up. I believe my views represent the majority of gun owners and that fringe groups like the NRA do not represent us. Gun ownership is actually at the lowest level it has been since the late 70s, down from around 50% of households in 1977-1980 to around 30% of households now. Gun owners are definitely in the minority overall and a radical minority of those, combined with gun manufacturers represented by the likes of the NRA, have managed to completely dominate the conversation around guns in this country for decades. It’s time we change that, and my aim is to counter the narrative put forward by the NRA about gun owners and give my non-gun owning friends and fellow citizens a view into how I think and how I believe most gun owners think, about the issues of gun violence and gun control in this country.
I grew up in Montana, which has a robust gun culture, for lack of a better term. I received my first hunting rifle as a gift from my Grandfather when I was 13. It was a .300 Savage model 45 Super Sporter manufactured some time between 1928 and 1936 from what I’ve been able to find out. It lived a hard life behind the seat of his pickup for many years and was in pretty bad shape when I got it. I restored it to good shooting condition and took pride in the work and time it took to get it there. I still have that rifle, but it’s been retired from service now and stays safely locked away and out of the elements. it’s the only physical object I still have left from my Grandfather and the sentimental value of it is priceless. After I had put in the work to get the rifle in good shape, I took the Montana hunter’s safety course and went on my first hunt that Fall. This was a rite of passage that had a profound impact on the rest of my life. It was when I gained my love of the outdoors, an appreciation for time spent with family and friends in nature, and an understanding and respect for the circle of life. The thing about it is that it was never really about the guns per se. The gun had value because it was a gift from my Grandfather who I respected immensely and it was a tool that opened up opportunities to have adventures in the mountains with friends and family and bring home meat for the freezer. I won’t deny that there wasn’t some fascination in my teenage mind with the power I perceived that the gun gave me. However, the culture I grew up in, with a family that emphasized the utilitarian nature of the gun, and the formal safety training I recieved tempered that effectively. I was lucky to grow up in what I would term a “healthy” gun culture, that emphasized safety and looked at the gun as a tool not as an integral part of identity or as a means of exerting power.
Today I own a total of 3 hunting rifles including the one my Grandfather gave me 25 years ago, a .22 caliber rifle for cheap target practice, and a shotgun. No hand guns or assault rifles here. I admit I’ve struggled over the years with how to safely store them and to do my best to be a responsible gun owner. For a long time they just sat in my closet completely unlocked with ammo on the closet shelf right above. I figured it wasn’t a big deal since I didn’t have kids and I trusted the people I lived with. That was a bad choice in hindsight, however. All it would have taken is a single break-in, or a friend of a friend who I didn’t know and trust to get a hold of one of them for a tragedy to ensue. Today, I don’t have a proper gun safe since they are expensive, heavy, and hard to handle, but the guns do stay hidden and pad locked in hard plastic cases with trigger and bolt locks in place and bolts removed on the hunting rifles. Even if someone did manage to take one, cut the locks on the case and gain access, they would find an inoperable weapon. The ammunition and bolts stay locked in a small safe in a seperate location. I do not find the need to keep one easily accessible for “home defense”, and I certainly don’t have the need to carry one with me all the time. All the statistics show that a gun in a home is more likely to hurt the owner or a loved one than it ever is to be used against a hypothetical intruder. As much as the NRA would like people to be scared of things like home invasions so they keep buying guns, the truth is such crimes are exceedingly rare. The chances of being struck by lightning, eaten by a shark, or hit by a car walking down the sidewalk are probably greater than the chances of being a victim of a home invasion. As a result of this plain logic and risk assessment, I keep the guns as inaccessible as possible.
Now with that background on my personal history and relationship with guns out of the way, on to the nitty gritty of what we do about the gun violence epidemic in this country. As with so many of these big issues, there are multiple, intersecting issues at work. Among them is the culture of toxic masculinity that has given rise to the #MeToo movement and the growing awareness of the pervasiveness of rape culture and mysoginy in our society. Gun violence at it’s core is really a problem of male violence. It is the horrific end game of the endemic issues the #MeToo movement has brought to light around sexual assault and domestic violence that pervade every corner of our society. Sexual assault is not about sex, it is about power. Gun violence is much the same. We have an entire generation of men, white men in particular, who feel their power in society diminishing as the country becomes more mulicultural; Who have seen the middle class hollowed out, and good-paying, traditionally male jobs in manufacturing dissappear. This loss of societal and economic power among white men is one piece of the puzzle in explaining the rise of this toxic gun culture. Feeling powerless over their own lives, I believe many men turn to guns to give them a sense of that power back. As someone who has seen the devastating power of guns first hand, with the ability to bring down a 600 pound animal at 200 yards with a single well placed shot, I can understand the allure. It certainly does give one a sense of power, an almost god-like feeling of holding the key to life and death in your hands. The problem with this, and where it becomes toxic is that it gets wrapped up in people’s core identity. Instead of looking at guns as a tool, the gun and the power it brings, become a core part of who they are as a person. I believe this is part of the reason it has become so hard to talk about gun control in this country. Because for many people, it’s not just about guns, it’s about a core part of who they are and how they relate to the world. When you talk about limiting access to guns, they hear limiting access to one of the only things they feel they have left to give them a sense of power in the world. Obviously this is a huge issue, with many economic and cultural facets that won’t be solved any time soon. In the meantime, our children are dying and we absolutely must do something about it NOW!
What we can do now, while we continue to work on the cultural and economic issues that are at the root of the problem, is to join the rest of the industrialized world and pass common sense gun control legislation that keeps lethal weapons out of the hands of mass murderers and reduces the damage they can do in any single incident. The fact is that higher rates of gun ownership in a country are directly correlated to higher rates of gun violence. While it’s important to not conflate correlation with causality, it’s also just sort of common sense. The more guns there are and the more easily they are accessed, the more likely it is that they will be used to commit crimes. Again, the rest of the world has figured this out, it’s not rocket science. Now, the gun lobby would have us believe just the opposite. That they way to curb gun violence is for everyone to carry a gun. Arm teachers, arm doctors, arm Grandma in her wheelchair. Well, following that logic the United States should be one of the safest countries in the world since we have the most guns of just about any country in the world. As we are all painfully aware at this point, that is just not the case. No other comparable country has the level of mass shootings or gun violence in general that we do. Not to mention, I don’t think that is a society that most of us want to live in. A place where everyone is walking around armed to the teeth isn’t a civilized country, its a war zone, and that’s not where I want to live. Therefore, I believe our immediate goals need to be to limit access to the deadliest weapons and take steps to start to reduce the overall number of guns in this country. To be clear, I’m not advocating banning all guns, and I’m not advocating confiscation by force. As you know by now, I own guns, and I’d like to keep them and continue to hunt thank you very much. The fact is though that I don’t need assault rifles to do that and I don’t need an arsenal of 50 guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition to do that and neither does anyone else. So, here are some the steps I belive we can take, and that as a gun owner I would fully support:
1.) Ban the sale, manufacture, and import of semi-automatic military style rifles, assault rifles, whatever you want to call them. Just as a side note, one of the favorite diversion tactics of the radical gun lobby apologists is to turn the argument to what is and what isn’t an assault rifle. I’m not going to play that game. We all know what they are. It’s like porn, you know it when you see it. I would define them as lightweight weapons that fire small caliber, high-velocity rounds at a high rate of fire that are designed to do maximum damage to as many human bodies as possible in as short a time as possible. The AR-15 is the most notorious example since it is the weapon of choice for mass shooters lately, but there are many others. Obviously part of this would be coming up with objective criteria that define what these are. We put a man on the moon, I don’t think coming up with criteria for this should be beyond our ability. These weapons are meant for one thing, to kill enemy combatants on a battlefield. No self-respecting hunter would use one and there’s no reason for any civilian to have them. If you think you’re going to fight the government with your AR-15, you’re delusional. If that’s your concern and your interpretation of the second amendment, then we better all have tanks, Apache helicopters and nuclear missiles because if the government did decide to turn against the people you’re AR-15 isn’t going to help a bit. In reality, they are used to mow down school children and concert goers. Be real and stop living in some kind of right-wing militia fantasy land where you and your AR-15 will be heros in some hypothetical revolution. Kids are dying now, and these weapons being so freely available are a huge part of the problem. if you want to play with battlefield weapons, go join the army, I’m sure they’d be happy to have you.
2.) Ban the sale, manufacture, and import of things like bump stocks and other parts that make it easy to convert a semi-automatic weapon to a fully automatic weapon.
3.) Ban the sale, manufacture, and import of high capacity magazines. If you can’t hit your target with 4 or 5 rounds, then you need a lot more practice and have no business with a weapon in the woods or anywhere else.
4.) Limit the amount of ammunition that can be purchased at one time. We do this with Sudafed for God’s sake, and it has been very effective in combating the methamphetamine epidemic. We should do the same with ammunition. You don’t need thousands of rounds of ammunition for hunting or even target practice.
3.) Raise the age limit for purchasing any kind of gun to 21.
4.) Institute mandatory universal background checks at the Federal level.
5.) Institute a mandatory waiting period of at least 10 days for any weapon.
6.) Require safety training and licensing for gun owners, just like we do for cars.
7.) Require that liability insurance be carried on all guns, just like we do for cars. I believe this would discourage the small percentage of gun owners who have massive arsenals because it would be prohibitively expensive to insure at some point. In my opinion this would be one of the best ways we could start to reduce the overall number of guns that are out there, without confiscation, just by letting the market do it’s thing.
8.) Require by law that guns be stored safely.
9.) Institute a nationwide voluntary buyback program. This worked very well in Australia. They had a school shooting in the 90s and part of their response to it was to start a nationwide buyback program that drastically reduced the number of guns at large in the country. Guess what, they haven’t had a school shooting since.
That’s my list of common sense gun control legislation that I would be fully behind and that most gun owners I have talked to would be fully behind as well. Would it make my life a bit more complicated? It sure would, but if a bit of inconvenience for me will save the life of even one child then it’s worth every bit. Purchasing a gun is a rare thing for most gun owners. Maybe a few times in a lifetime. Having to go through a few more steps, waiting periods, etc. would not be that big of a deal for most of us. It would have a bigger impact on collectors and the “prepper” set who feel the need to have a massive arsenal. But you know what, I don’t care. Their hobby or paranoia isn’t worth the lives of children.
One last point that I’d like to make about gun control is that as with everything in America we have to think about the racial aspect of it. The fact is, some of the first gun control laws were put into place in California with the full backing of the NRA, as a reaction to the Black Panther movement and black folks openly carrying guns. if we are not careful about how we institute and execute gun control legislation it will become just another tool like the “war on drugs” for targeting communities of color and perpetuating the national shame of mass incarceration of black and brown people.
Also, here are some organizations that I’ve contributed to that are doing good work around this and countering the likes of the NRA. I urge you to do the same.
  • Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America
  • Everytown for Gun Safety
  • Backcountry Hunters and Anglers (I included BHA not because they are promoting gun control obviously, but because I believe they promote a more “healthy” gun culture; one focused on the gun as a tool and as a means to enjoy the outdoors, kind of what the NRA used to be before they were infiltrated by gun manufacturers and zeaolts. Their conservation work is also tremendous.)

Addendum by Baldr: There is a growing movement of gun owners against the NRA, as well as a number of organizations (such as Gun Owners for Responsible Gun Ownership) and Facebook groups (such as Gun Owners Against the NRA) of responsible gun owners who support commonsense gun regulation.  See my prior blog post on this, HERE.