Gun Control

The Terrorist You Won’t Hear About

A terrorist armed with guns and a thousand round of ammunition failed in his attempt to go on a shooting spree in America, killing and wounding unknown numbers.

You don’t about this story, because he failed in his attempt.

And also, because the terrorist is a right wing white guy:

The FBI arrested an alleged right-wing extremist who had amassed 1,000 rounds of ammunition and was said to be plotting a mass shooting.

A complaint filed in federal court and obtained by the Statesman on Monday stated that a search warrant was executed on the home of 50-year-old Steven Thomas Boehle after a confidential informant said that he was planning a shooting spree.

According to the complaint, Boehle “exhibits sovereign citizen extremism ideology.”

Although Boehle is prohibited from owning firearms due to a 1993 assault on a intimate partner, three guns were found in his home.

He was charged with making false statements about his criminal history while trying to buy additional firearms from gun dealers in the Austin area.

When people factor their sense of national security and views on firearms, they don’t factor in stories like this because these stories don’t get widespread coverage. The FBI doesn’t take a bow. Maybe they should.

Is The “Second Amendment People” Comment Trump’s Worst Gaffe?

As we all know by now, Trump yesterday hinted that gun lovers could (or should? or would?) shoot Hillary Clinton and/or a Supreme Court nominee as a response to Hillary Clinton selecting judges for the Supreme Court.  Here’s the comment and campaign responses in a nutshell:

The spin from the Trump campaign is laughable.  Today, his campaign surrogates received the following talking points at 9:24 a.m. today:CpgN1kgUsAEicIv

The first point is simply “blaming the media”.

The second point spits right in the face of what everyone can see for themselves.  And as for the people in attendance?  Look at the reaction of the bearded old man sitting behind Trump (to the right of him from our standpoint).  He says, “wow”.  He knew what Trump was saying.

The third point is simply pivoting away from the subject.

As Trump’s words spread, Senator Chris Murphy, of Connecticut, where a troubled young man massacred twenty-six people at Sandy Hook Elementary School, took to Twitter. “This isn’t play,” he wrote. “Unstable people with powerful guns and an unhinged hatred for Hillary are listening to you, @realDonaldTrump.”

Gabby Giffords, an actual target of political assassination, issued the following statement via the New York Daily News:

“Donald Trump might astound Americans on a routine basis, but we must draw a bright red line between political speech and suggestions of violence. Responsible, stable individuals won’t take Trump’s rhetoric to its literal end, but his words may provide a magnet for those seeking infamy. They may provide inspiration or permission for those bent on bloodshed. What political leaders say matters to their followers. When candidates descend into coarseness and insult, our politics follow suit. When they affirm violence, we should fear that violence will follow. It must be the responsibility of all Americans – from Donald Trump himself, to his supporters, to those who remain silent or oppose him – to unambiguously condemn these remarks and the violence they insinuate. The integrity of our democracy and the decency of our nation is at stake.”

Joe Scarborough wrote that a line has been crossed and the GOP must now dump Trump.

Tom Friedman reminds us:

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin got assassinated.

His right-wing opponents just kept delegitimizing him as a “traitor” and “a Nazi” for wanting to make peace with the Palestinians and give back part of the Land of Israel. Of course, all is fair in politics, right? And they had God on their side, right? They weren’t actually telling anyone to assassinate Rabin. That would be horrible.

But there are always people down the line who don’t hear the caveats. They just hear the big message: The man is illegitimate, the man is a threat to the nation, the man is the equivalent of a Nazi war criminal. Well, you know what we do with people like that, don’t you? We kill them.

Elizabeth Warren went for, and received, the Internet Win:

Over at Breitbart News, which I won’t link to, they were a little more honest about what Trump was saying, and agreed with it:

Trump did not suggest violence. Rather, he spoke in a way that reveals he recognizes the role an armed citizenry plays as a check on tyranny. This is James Madison 101. In Federalist 46, Madison observed that Americans are exceptional because armed and the benefit of being armed is the ability to repel tyranny. Repelling a tyranny is a defensive action, not an offensive one.

So, in Breitbart’s view, a president appointing judges you don’t like is “tyranny” which American are compelled to repel using guns.  Uh, as a defense. (Not for nothing, but Federalist 46 relates to well-regulated state militias, commanded by officers, tossing off a tyrannical federal government, not armed citizen guerillas

But I digress.

IS this the worst thing Trump has ever said?  Probably not.  We probably don’t know the worst thing he has ever said.  But during the campaign?  It’s gotta be pretty high up there.  Fortunately, Bloomberg came out with results of a poll which asked people how put off they were by the various Trump statements of this campaign.  The results:

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The mocking of the disabled reporter offended the most people.  Followed by the Khan statements, followed by “I alone can fix it.”

I don’t think Trump’s “Second Amendment” solution is as offensive as the disability comment, although it is clearly more dangerous and disconcerting.  I also don’t think it will move many minds.  At this point, if you can swallow everything that Trump has said so far, you can swallow anything.  Some people are just never going to come off that mark.

UPDATE:  Trump implies that he meant to do that — the controversy helps him.  Really.  He subscribes to the theory that there is no such thing as bad press.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said Tuesday night he’s benefitting from the controversy he created earlier in the day by suggesting “the Second Amendment people” might forcefully stop Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton from appointing Supreme Court justices. […]”I have to say, in terms of politics, there is few things, and I happen to think that if [the media] did even bring this up, I think it’s a good thing for me,” Trump told Sean Hannity.

“Because it’s going to tell people more about me with respect to the Second Amendment … because Hillary Clinton wants to essentially abolish the Second Amendment.”

Which is another one of Trump’s outlandish conspiracy theories that has been debunked multiple times over.

Aaaand Trump Steps In It

He was doing so well, until he started riffing.  He went a little too far from the script.

Hillary wants to abolish, essentially abolish the Second Amendment. By the way, if she gets to pick, if she gets to pick her judges — nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I dunno.

[Applause and whistles from audience.]

I think I know what the news will be for the next cycle or two.

Now, Trump will likely say he was “joking”.  But how is that funny?  Especially in a country that suffers from mass shootings?

Does joking about that make it better?

UPDATE:  Campaign responses:

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50 Years Ago Today

Fifty years ago today, Charles Whitman, a 25-year-old engineering student and former Marine armed with a small arsenal of weapons, killed 13 people and wounded over 30 more during a shooting rampage atop the University of Texas Tower in Austin. The episode casts a long and complicated shadow. It is considered by some to have marked the beginning of the era of mass shootings; for others, the armed civilians who engaged Whitman that day suggest one way to limit the scope of such attacks.

As survivors and mourners gather to mark the anniversary on Monday, a campus-carry law that allows firearms in university buildings in Texas will also go into effect.

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How’s That Open Carry Working Out For You?

Although it was a tragedy, the Dallas sniper shooting of 5 police officers was a reality-based experiment on the theory that a good guy with a gun beats a bad guy with a gun.  Not only did the bad guy with a gun kill five armed good guys, but the bad guy was killed with a robot using explosives (one of the first times that law enforcement used a drone/robot for purposes of catching someone in a domestic crime).

What’s more, the prevalence of guns, rather than making people safer, actually made things HARDER:

It is legal in Texas to openly carry rifles and has been for decades. People with rifles have been spotted at recent public protests across the state.

[Dallas Mayor] Rawlings said Dallas police Chief David Brown told him that people running through the shooting scene with rifles and body armor required officers to track them down and bring them to the police department. Whether that was time that could have been spent trying to find and stop the shooter is something police will have to comment on, Rawlings said.

He said Friday that about 20 people in “ammo gear and protective equipment and rifles slung over their shoulder” participated in the Black Lives Matter rally downtown on Thursday night.

“When the shooting started, at different angles, they started running,” he said. “We started catching.”

Then police interviewed them.

Rawlings said open carry brings confusion to a shooting scene.

“What I would do is look for the people with guns,” he said.

Max Geron, a Dallas police major, talked about the confusion during the shooting in a post on a law enforcement website.

“There was also the challenge of sorting out witnesses from potential suspects,” Geron said. “Texas is an open carry state, and there were a number of armed demonstrators taking part. There was confusion on the radio about the description of the suspects and whether or not one or more was in custody.”

Now listen to the stupidity of the counter argument:

But C.J. Grisham, president of Open Carry Texas, said police should be able to separate the good guys from the bad guys in such a scenario because “the bad guys are the ones shooting.”

“If you can’t identify a threat, you shouldn’t be wearing a uniform,” he said.

Grisham said some in law enforcement look at law-abiding gun owners as a threat.

“It’s not that difficult to tell the difference between a bad actor and a good actor,” he said. “The good guys are going to obey commands, the bad guys are not.”

Wait, wait.  Shots rings out.  And as you turn, you see a guy across the street RUNNING with a RIFLE.  He can’t hear your commands to stop.  And you didn’t actually see whether he fired those shots.

Apparently, CJ Grisham thinks that real life is like a movie, where the camera is on the shooter as he shoots.

It’s scary that these people are allowed to have opinions.

More and More, It Looks Like The Dallas Cop Killer Was A Nut

Dallas police now believe that Micah Johnson, who shot and killed 5 Dallas police following a Black Lives Matter march, was actually planning some sort of mass attack, but advanced his plans to take advantage of the BLM march. His house was full of bomb making equipment, far too much to have put together in recent days.  He had received “defensive” combat training in Dallas two years earlier.

And most troubling, writing on his wall in blood.

This man was a time bomb. It’s almost like he didn’t need a reason to go off.

Two Deadly Police Shootings In Two Days

Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old black man, was standing in the parking lot selling CDs as he had for years when two white cops arrived on Tuesday night. By Wednesday morning he was dead and protesters were in the city’s streets. Calls erupted from Congress and the NAACP for an independent investigation into the shooting, which the Justice Department announced within hours.

Abdullah Muflahi owned the Triple S Food Mart in Baton Rouge where all this happened.  He was a friend of Sterling and allowed him to sell CDs in front of the story.  Muflahi walked out the front door when he saw the officers talking to Sterling and said there was no “altercation,” as police claimed, until the cops tasered and tackled Sterling. That’s when Muflahi took out his phone and started recording. (Warning: Graphic video)

I was on Twitter last night reading about this, and the protests, when something came across the transom.

Another shooting of a black man by cops.  A traffic stop in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, near Minneapolis.  The victim’s name is Philando Castile.

The video begins after the shooting occurred and shows the man, slumped and bloodied, against the woman who was recording. Her young daughter sat in the back seat.  The video streamed live on a private Facebook account belonging to Lavish Reynolds, and the clip was passed rapidly among Twitter, Facebook and YouTube users, becoming significant news online before traditional outlets — even those in the Minneapolis area — caught up.

The woman, presumably Lavisjh Reynolds, began by calmly narrating what was happening as she trained the camera on Mr. Castile, whom she described as her boyfriend, and on at least one officer who was pointing a gun through the driver’s side window.

“Please, officer, don’t tell me that you just did this to him,” she said. “You shot four bullets into him, sir. He was just getting his license and registration, sir.”

Reynold’s daughter, who was in the back seat, appears several times in the video. Near the end of the 10-minute clip, as the two are sitting in the back of a police car, she comforts her mother, saying, “It’s O.K., Mommy. It’s O.K. I’m right here with you.”

The terror in the voice of the cop is palpable, while Lavish Reynolds (at least in the beginning) is calm and reasoned.  Castile dies in the video.

Reynolds can be heard throughout the video repeating that they were stopped for a broken tail light, that the officer requested Castile’s driver license, and that Castile was shot when he went to retrieve his license for the officer. She also states on the video that he worked for St. Paul public schools and did not have a criminal record. According to Castile’s mother, he was the cafeteria supervisor at a St. Paul Montessori school.

The Minnesota governor has asked for a federal investigation into the fatal shooting of Castile.

The Washington Post is tracking the number of people killed by police in the America. There were 990 in 2015. There were 506 showing for 2016 now.  There is something terribly wrong.

And because it is a presidential campaign year, expect this: Hillary will talk about it, and Trump will use it as an excuse to pat policemen on the back.

But I suspect nothing much will happen.

Democratic House Sit-In Enters Day Two

Late last night, Ryan managed to adjourn the House until after the July 4th break:

After a chaotic, daylong occupation of the House floor, Republican leaders moved in the middle of the night to cut off House Democrats’ gun control “sit-in” by adjourning the House through the July 4 — without a vote on gun control.

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) sought to to quell the Democratic demonstration by having lawmakers vote at 2:30 a.m. on several bills they had to pass this week, including one to combat the Zika virus. After that, Republican leaders sent lawmakers home until July 5, starting their already-scheduled recess a few days earlier than planned.

All of this is ostensibly to pass a “no fly, no buy” bill — i.e., if you are on the “no fly” or any other government terrorist watch list, you shouldn’t be able to buy a gun.  This is the legislation offered by Senator Feinstein and now Representative Lowey.

And to be honest, there’s legitimate worry that these lists are not very good, that they deny people due process, and that they have a disparate impact when it is used to deny people rights, like the right to board an airplane or (as now proposed) to purchase a firearm. These are some of the reasons why the ACLU opposes the Feinstein/Lowey legislation. Republican opponents raise some of the same issues.

The question, then, is whether the sit-in the Democrats waged yesterday and the fuss they made in the Senate before that are in the service of bad legislation that would ratify a badly flawed system that is already being misused for the no-fly system. Would it grant even more power to the FBI which they could then expand or misuse?

If you restrict yourself to seeing this kerfuffle as about the merits of this proposed legislation, then the answer to those questions is surely ‘yes.’

But this is not a fully developed appreciation of what is going on.

To start with, the Democrats are responding to yet another massacre in which dozens of people were killed or injured in mere minutes by the use of a power semi-automatic rifle. In the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre, 26 people were gunned down in approximately five minutes. In the 2012 Aurora massacre, seventy people were shot. In Aurora, the police arrived within 90 seconds of receiving a call. In Sandy Hook, the first police car was there four minutes after they were notified of a shooting situation. Congress has had no answer for how we might prevent or reduce the frequency and lethality of these types of attacks.

What the Democrats are trying to do is break grip the National Rifle Association has on Congress. The heart of that effort has been to leverage overwhelming public support for expanded background checks, but that legislation has gone nowhere. The effort to impose a “no-fly, no-buy” provision will likewise go nowhere in this Republican-controlled Congress, but it also enjoys overwhelming public support. By trying to force votes on these two issues, the Democrats are highlighting the Republicans refusal to address the problem of the ready availability of extraordinarily lethal firearms. Whether the Republicans cast votes or refuse to allow them (as they have done by recessing until after July 4th), this puts them badly on the wrong side of public opinion and heightens their vulnerability to electoral defeat.

It’s not a cynical ploy to gain power. It’s a recognition that all avenues are blocked except getting more power. So, the way this gambit should be judged is on whether it works politically, and not so much on whether the watch list is a flawed mechanism for restricting the rights of anyone for any purpose.

So, if nothing happens, the watch list will continue to have flaws and it will continue to expand. But, if the watch list were to actually be used to restrict gun ownership, the Republicans would suddenly care about those flaws and want to do something to make sure that folks have due process, the right to appeal, and that conservatives aren’t disproportionately impacted. Conservatives tend not to have empathy until they’re personally impacted. When Arlen Specter got sick, he became a champion of the National Institute of Health, and when Rob Portman discovered he had a gay son, he suddenly saw the light on gay marriage. If Republicans think the watch list only inconveniences Muslims from Dearborn, Michigan, they’ll never have any interest in fixing its flaws. But if it impacts one of their assault-rifle loving constituents who can’t figure out how to get taken off this list? That will interest them.

UPDATE (1:09 pm) — Aaaaand it’s over.

House Democrats are now hugging, shaking hands, and taking photos on the floor. The sit-in is now over, and they plan to address supporters outside the Capitol in the next few minutes.

Whether it was a “win” or not, everyone will have a different take.  No vote, of course, but that was pie-in-the-sky.  It raised the profile of the gun control issue, it heightened notice that the Republicans and the GOP leadership are controlled by the NRA.  That’s all good.

Realistically, Here Is What Would Happen

Terrorist — we’ll call him Shooter A — walks into a crowded room (say, a nightclub) and starts opening fire.  Immediately, some people fall, stricken by Shooter A.  Others instinctively dive under the tables or behind the bar or run out of the room to the bathrooms.

Brave Shooter B, a patron, reacts quickly.  In half a second, he draws his loaded and concealed pistol, and fires at Shooter A.  He misses but one bullet ricochets and hits a bystander.

As that is going on, brave Shooter C, another patron, is just coming out of the bathroom and hears Shooter A’s gunfire.  She takes her loaded and concealed pistol and runs to the main room, where she sees Shooter B fire with his weapon drawn and people are falling down and/or diving under tables.  She shoots at Shooter B.

Brave Shooter D has dived under the table at the first sound of bullets so it takes him two or three seconds to get his loaded and concealed pistol out from his leg strap, but when he does he see Shooter C and Shooter A and he figures it is more than one person so he starts firing on them both.

Brave Shooter E, the bartender, comes up from behind the bar and see the shooter closest to him shooting at people at so he starts shooting at that shooter but then some other shooter starts shooting at HIM.

Everything I have described happens in a span of 3-4 seconds from the moment of the first shot.  As more “good guys with guns” join in, it becomes unclear who the “good guys” and “bad guys” are.

Oh, did I mention that it is a nightclub where the lights are low and the music is thumping and all the shooters have had a little to drink?

The point: The notion that more guns will prevent mass shootings is just plain dumb, and suggested by people who watch too many movies.  Yes, it might work in certain situations (especially if everybody had advance notice that there was a shooter and a description of what he/she looked like), but in the real world, things are often not that convenient.

Oh, and this…

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Breaking: Literally “On The House Floor”

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Dozens of House Democrats are staging a “sit-in” on the House floor until they are allowed a vote on a so-called “no fly, no buy” gun control bill. It is the most dramatic action by House Democrats on gun control since the Orlando shooting on June 12 that left 49 dead and 53 wounded.

Two weeks ago, in the Senate, there was a talking filibuster by Senator Murphy of Connecticut.  That ended when Senate Republicans agreed to allow a vote on various gun control proposals.  None of those proposals passed.

UPDATE:  You won’t see this on TV…

UPDATE #2:  This is simply amazing

And Elizabeth Warren is joining them

Meanwhile, the rep from NC white-splains to John Lewis what is a “sit-in”:

The Four Bills Up For Debate And Vote In The Senate

Thanks to Senator Murphy’s 15-hour talk-a-thon on the Senate floor last week, Senate Republicans are willing to allow votes on certain gun control proposals. But don’t expect success — in part because 60 votes are needed to break a threatened Republican filibuster.

Nevertheless, here are the four proposals – all submitted as amendments to a Justice Department spending bill……..

The Democratic proposals:

  • Brought by Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., it would give the Justice Department the power to stop anyone from purchasing a gun if that person has been on the federal terrorist watch lists sometime in the past five years. This measure would also make it easier for the government to halt a gun purchase, based on “reasonable belief” as opposed to “probable cause” that the individual will use the firearm to commit terrorism. The White House and DOJ backs this measure.
  • An amendment by Chris Murphy, D-Conn., would close the “gun show loophole” by requiring every gun purchaser to undergo a background check and to expand the background check database. It would also extend background checks to Internet sales.

The GOP proposals:

  • This one from John Cornyn, R-Texas, would require that law enforcement be alerted when anyone on the terrorist watch list attempts to buy a weapon from a licensed dealer. If the buyer has been investigated for terrorism within the past five years, the attorney general could block a sale for up to three days while a court reviews the sale. The government would have to show probable cause that the person is a known or suspected terrorist.
  • An amendment by Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, would clarify what it means to be found mentally deficient, and giving people suspected of serious mental illness a process to challenge that determination.  (Democrats argue that the “clarification” would actually permit more mentally deficient people to buy guns)

Again, none are expected to pass.

Supreme Court Cases We’re Watching

It’s getting close to the end of the Supreme Court term, and this is when controversial cases start coming out.

Although a few cases were handed down today, they weren’t the ones on my particular radar.  The ones of national import, I believe, are:

Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin (argued December 9, 2015).  This case, a challenge to the university’s consideration of race in its undergraduate admissions process, is on its second trip to the Court.  In 2013, the Court sent the case back to the lower courts for a more critical look at whether the university really needed to consider race to achieve a diverse student body.  After the Fifth Circuit once again upheld the policy, the Court agreed to weigh in.  Unlike some of the Court’s other high-profile cases this Term, no one expects the Court to deadlock:  Justice Elena Kagan is not participating, which in the wake of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death leaves the Court with just seven Justices to decide the case.

Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt (argued March 2, 2016).  This is a challenge to the constitutionality of two provisions of a Texas law regulating abortion in that state.  One provision requires doctors who perform abortions to have privileges to admit patients to a local hospital; the other requires abortion clinics to have facilities that are comparable to outpatient surgical centers.  Texas contends that these new laws are constitutional because they were intended to protect women’s health, while the challengers argue that the law was actually intended to close most clinics and therefore limit women’s access to abortions.

United States v. Texas (argued April 18, 2016).  This case is a challenge to an Obama administration policy, announced in November 2014, that would allow some undocumented immigrants to apply to stay in the country and work legally for three years.  Before the policy could go into effect, Texas and a large group of other states went to court to block its implementation, arguing that the administration lacks the authority to issue a policy like this.  But before the Supreme Court can weigh in on that question, it will also have to agree that the states have the legal right, known as “standing,” to challenge the policy at all; the lower courts ruled that they did, because at least Texas would incur additional costs from the undocumented immigrants who would become eligible for driver’s licenses if the policy goes into effect.

So…. basically, affirmative action, abortion, and immigration.  Hot topics in an election year.

None of that came down today.  In fact, the biggest news out of the Supreme Court this morning may be a case that they refused to take up:

The Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear a Second Amendment challenge to a Connecticut law banning many semiautomatic rifles. The law, enacted in 2013 in the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., made it a crime to sell or possess the firearms, which critics call assault weapons.

The decision not to hear the case, not long after the mass shooting in Orlando, Fla., does not set a Supreme Court precedent. But it is part of a trend in which the justices have given at least tacit approval to broad gun-control laws in states and localities that choose to enact them.

The case, Shew v. Malloy, No. 15-1030, was brought by four individuals, a business and two advocacy groups. They said the ban was irrational, ineffective and unconstitutional.

“Connecticut dubs a semiautomatic firearm” with one of several common features “an ‘assault weapon,’ but that is nothing more than an argument advanced by a political slogan in the guise of a definition,” they told the Supreme Court in their petition seeking review.

Last October, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in New York, upheld the ban almost entirely. It acknowledged that the affected weapons were in common use and assumed their possession was protected by the Second Amendment. But the appeals court ruled that the Connecticut law passed constitutional muster.

The law was “specifically targeted to prevent mass shootings like that in Newtown, in which the shooter used a semiautomatic assault weapon,” Judge José A. Cabranes wrote for the court.

“Plaintiffs complain that mass shootings are ‘particularly rare events’ and thus, even if successful, the legislation will have a ‘minimal impact’ on most violent crime.

“That may be so,” Judge Cabranes continued. “But gun‐control legislation ‘need not strike at all evils at the same time’ to be constitutional.”

It has been eight years since the Supreme Court recognized an individual right to keep guns at home for self-defense in District of Columbia v. Heller, which struck down parts of an exceptionally strict local law. Since then, the justices have said almost nothing about the scope of that right.

So….a victory for gun control.

 

Democrats Filibuster For Gun Control

Props to Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut for starting and leading a filibuster to enact some sort of gun control measure, something the Republican Congress won’t even consider, even in the light of such massacres as Newtown and the Orlando Pulse Club shootings.

Senate Democrats ended a nearly 15-hour filibuster early this morning after Republican Party leaders reportedly agreed to allow votes on two proposed gun control measures.

Filibusters aren’t easy.  By Senate rules, Murphy had to stand at his desk to maintain control of the floor. When asked by another senator how he was feeling just before 7:30 p.m., Murphy said rehabilitation from a back injury in his 20s had helped him build up endurance.

It’s been nearly a decade since Congress made any significant changes to federal gun laws. In April 2007, Congress passed a law to strengthen the instant background check system after a gunman at Virginia Tech was able to purchase his weapons because his mental health history was not in the instant background check database. Thirty-two people died in the shooting.

After what happened in Orlando, there may be some movement.  Some Fox News people are even saying enough is enough.  Trump is meeting with the NRA, thinking he can move them.

Meeting with Trump is fine, but the NRA is already in favor of what Trump seems to be proposing.  In fact, the NRA formally backed an approach favored by Senate Republicans that would allow a judge to arbitrate people who mistakenly end up on the terrorism watch list and want to buy guns, while Democrats prefer giving the Justice Department such authority. Both bills were voted down by the Senate in December.

Meanwhile, back in the Senate, the chamber is likely to vote on two Democratic-backed gun measures: a proposal from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) meant to bar those on federal terror watch lists from obtaining firearms, and a plan from Murphy and Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) mandating background checks for sales at gun shows and over the internet. Republicans are expected to put forward two of their own proposals for votes.\

I don’t expect anything significant to pass.  But I do think we can get people on the record, and hopefully get them out of office.

Breaking: Senate Democrats Engaging In Filibuster Re: Gun Control

About an hour and a half ago (around 11:30 am), Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) started embarking on a talking filibuster in order to push the Senate to address gun control in the wake of the deadly mass shooting in Orlando, Florida. Murphy and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) alternated speaking about gun control on the Senate floor, according to Fox 61 in Connecticut.

Democrats are signing up to speak — some as late as 10:30 pm.

Douche Of The Day

Seriously?

NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) –

A fundraising event in the works for Tennessee state Rep. Andy Holt was offering an AR-15 as the door prize.

Holt, R-Dresden, is known for speaking his mind, and the day after the deadliest shooting in American history is no exception.

For an upcoming fundraiser, the West Tennessee lawmaker is planning to give away two AR-15 rifles, the same kind of weapon used in Sunday’s shooting.

“We should not focus on the gun itself,” said Holt in a phone conversation. “We should focus on the depravity of the heart of the person who’s pulling the trigger.”

Omar Mateen, who allegedly pledged his allegiance to the Islamic State, carried out an attack at a gay night club in Orlando early Sunday morning.

Investigators said he used a pistol as well as an assault-style rifle to kill 49 people and wound 53 others.

Holt said his door prize will encourage people to protect themselves.

When asked if he thought giving away an assault-style rifle might be offensive, Holt said, “It’s not intended to come across as offensive, it’s intended to help people.”

The AR-15 has emerged as the weapon of choice in recent mass shootings such as San Bernandino, CA, Aurora, CO, and Newtown, CT. It has the ability to fire several rounds in a short time frame.

Holt said any weapon is dangerous in the hands of a deranged criminal.

“You can inflict a lot of damage,” said Holt when asked if a person with a handgun would be able to kill so many. “A Molotov cocktail would have done the same thing.”

Other lawmakers clearly disagree.

On Twitter, Congressman Steve Cohen, D-TN, called on House Speaker Paul Ryan on Sunday to introduce legislation that would ban all assault weapons and high capacity magazines.

“Outside of our military, no one in this county needs an assault rifle to defend themselves or their homes.They are often used in these mass shootings. Also as Congress continues the appropriations process, we must allocate more federal funding for mental health treatments and centers,” said Cohen in a statement.

Dems In The House: “Screw Moment Of Silence, Where Is The Bill?”

After pausing to observe a moment of silence to honor the victims in the Orlando mass shooting, Democrats in the House on Monday erupted in protest repeating the question “Where’s the bill?” Their emotional demand was directed at Speaker Paul Ryan and House Republicans to bring forth gun control legislation in the wake of the deadliest mass shooting in American history in which 49 people were killed and 53 wounded.

As more Democrats joined in on the chanting, Ryan refused acknowledge the calls and instead attempted to bring order to the floor.

Watch:

The thing about the Orlando shooting is that it has so many elements – terrorism, homophobia, and even mental illness — that it allows the discussion to become diluted, and once again, our political leaders (well, the Republicans) can get away from having to do anything about the obvious problem…. guns.

Gun problem in US

It is a rather undeniable problem.

And Obama recently pointed out the insanity:

I just came from a meeting today in the Situation Room  in which I have people who know we have been on ISIL websites, living here in the United States, US citizens, and we’re allowed to put them on the no fly list when it comes to airlines, but because of the National Rifle Association I cannot prohibit these people from buying a gun. This is somebody who is a known ISIL sympathizer and if he wants to walk into a gun store or a gun show and buy as much, as many weapons and ammo as he can, nothing is prohibiting him from doing that even though the FBI knows who that person is. So sir, I just have to say respectfully that there is a way to have common sense gun laws, there is a way to make sure that lawful, responsible gun owners, like yourself, are able to use it for sporting, hunting, protecting yourself. But the only way we’re going to be able to do that is if we don’t have a situation where anything that is proposed is viewed as some tyrannical destruction of the second amendment. And that is how the issue too often gets framed

— President Obama, June 2, 2016

Trump’s National Security Speech: Based on Lies

In the wake of the Orlando gay nightclub massacre, Trump seized the opportunity to Muslim-bash in a national security speech, even though (as I will write soon) it looks less and less like the shooting was a bonafide Islamic terrorist attack.

Vox summarizes the lies:

1) Trump: There’s no screening for refugees coming to the US

We’re not screening people. So why don’t we have an effective screening system? We don’t. We’re being laughed at all over the world. The burden is on Hillary Clinton to tell us why we should admit anyone into our country who supports violence of any kind against gay and lesbian Americans.

The truth: Trump is wrong: There is an extensive, onerous screening process for refugees who come to America. You can see so yourself here.

2) Trump criticizes Libya intervention, supported it himself

For instance, the last major NATO mission was Hillary Clinton’s war in Libya. That mission helped unleash ISIS on a new continent.

The truth: Trump has repeatedly characterized Libya as a unique failure of President Obama and Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy. But he actively supported that intervention, even though he’s spent much of his candidacy pretending he didn’t.

3) Trump: Clinton wants to admit “hundreds of thousands” of refugees to the US

Altogether under the Clinton plan, you’d be admitting hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Middle East with no system to prevent radicalization of the children and their children.

The truth: Trump is wrong here as well: Clinton has only called for increasing the number of Syrian refugees by 65,000, according to CNN.

4) Trump: The Orlando shooter was “born this Afghan”

The killer, whose name I will not use or ever say was born this Afghan, of Afghan parents, who emigrated to the United States.

The truth: Trump is wrong: Omar Saddiqui Mateen, the killer, was born in New York and raised in Florida.

5) Trump: “Large numbers” of Somali refugees joining ISIS

Large numbers of Somali refugees have tried to join ISIS. The male shooter in San Bernardino, again whose name I will not mention, was the child of immigrants from Pakistan and he brought his wife.

The truth: This dramatically misrepresents the number of Somali refugees from the US who have joined ISIS, which a New York Times story pegs at no more than 15. Perhaps Trump is speaking about Somali refugees globally, but given when he made this point — during a part of his speech about domestic terrorism — that’s almost certainly giving him too much credit.

6) Trump: Obama’s “famous apology tour” created ISIS

We’ve tried it President Obama’s way. Doesn’t work. He gave the world his apology tour. We got ISIS. And many other problems in return. That’s what we got. Remember the famous apology tour

The truth: There is a coherent conservative critique of President Obama’s speeches abroad, in which he has at times acknowledged America’s faults in foreign wars. And there is a coherent conservative critique of President Obama’s approach to defeating ISIS.

But Trump isn’t engaging with either narrative. He’s instead just drawing a direct link from Obama “apology tour” to the birth of ISIS, and I’m not aware of any serious attempt to connect the two. Trump certainly doesn’t give any reason to believe they’re related.

Even if you look at the supposed apologies that have to do with Islamic terrorism or the Muslim world, it’s not clear how they could have possibly created ISIS.

7) Trump: Hillary Clinton wants to ban guns

[Hillary Clinton] says the solution is to ban guns. … She wants to take away Americans’ guns and then admit the very people who want to slaughter us. Let them come into the country. We don’t have guns. …

She wants to take away Americans’ guns and then admit the very people who want to slaughter us. Let them come into the country. We don’t have guns. Let them come in, let them have all the fun they want.

The truth: Clinton has not called for anything remotely resembling a ban on guns — she wants to ban assault weapons but has otherwise not called for a gun ban. Someone listening to Trump’s speech would have come away with an entirely wrong idea of her policy.

8) Trump’s criticism on pushing for regime change in Syria

The decision to overthrow the regime in Libya, then pushing for the overthrow of the regime in Syria, among other things, without plans for the day after, have created space for ISIS to expand and grow.

The truth: As with his initial approval of the Libya invasion, Trump has grossly distorted his record on Syria. (As Vox’s Matt Yglesias points out, he once called for a “big, beautiful safe zone” in the country.)

The weirder, specific problem here is the knock on Clinton and Obama for creating ISIS by “pushing for the overthrow of the regime in Syria” — when Trump has himself calledfor ground troops in Syria.

9) Trump suggests Muslims need to do more to help fight terrorism

They have to work with us. They know what is going on. They know that he was bad. They knew the people in San Bernardino were bad. But you know, what they didn’t turn them in and we had death.

The truth: This line revives a long-running Trump suggestion that Muslims are largely to blame for not really joining us in the fight against terrorism.

AND…

Trump’s “solutions” were simply ludicrous. For example, he called for military action in Muslim nations. Citing unnamed military leaders, Trump gave his strategy to kill them there before they kill us here.

“We have generals who think we can win this thing so fast and so strong but we have to be furious for a short period of time and we’re not doing it,” he said.

Why did Trump not mention the names of the generals who think this?  Because they don’t exist, I expect.  However, real, live military experts don’t feel that lobbing bombsin  Syria would stop incidents like the one in Orlando.

“I fundamentally disagree,” said retired Army Lt. Gen. Mick Bednarek, who served as the chief U.S. military adviser in Iraq from 2013 to 2015. “The bottom line is [more bombing] has absolutely no bearing on individuals like Omar Mateen in Orlando, who obviously had some mental issues — like his absolute hatred of gays, lesbians and transgender community. Just wantonly increasing bombing against extremist radical groups in Iraq, Syria, etc. is not going to have a bearing on individuals in the United States and change their behavior.”

Trump DoubleSpeak

A classic example of Donald Trump’s relentless double-speak.

First he denies he ever advocated having guns in classrooms, then, within seconds, says “teachers should have guns.”

Then, incredibly, he backs up, does another denial about advocating guns in the classroom, and then adds that some teachers should have guns.

I don’t care what your politics are on guns… can’t we all agree this guy is talking out of both sides of his mouth?

Breaking: Today’s Mass Murder

Peeples OH:

Several fatalities have been reported in shootings at multiple locations on Union Hill Road in Pike County just northeast of Peebles, according to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

Two adults and five children have been shot to death, according to Pastor Phil Fulton of the nearby Union Hill Church.

The number of fatalities is unconfirmed.  Also unconfirmed is whether there is someone in custody.

pikecounty

UPDATE:  Seven confirmed dead.  Apparently all in a family.  Bodies found in multiple locations throughout county.

Not two adults and five children, but five adults and two children.  Found shot “execution-style”.  No news on the suspect, but he must be either caught or dead since there is no news of a manhunt or lockdowns.

UPDATE #2:  Make that right dead.  Another adult found at a fourth location.

The Yahoos Get Their Day In Court

Remember that 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge that finally ended with one dude getting killed?

Yeah, it’s still a rallying cry for the lunatic right, who love to carry around the Constitution but haven’t bothered to have it read and explained to them (except by other lunatics).

Seven men are facing federal charges of conspiracy, weapon, theft and damaging government property charges in Portland, Oregon.  Five of them appeared in court Friday and not surprisingly, it was a circus.  I guess they don’t recognize the authority of the court over them.

Two sons of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and three other men refused to enter pleas in federal court in Las Vegas to charges in an armed confrontation with government agents two years ago.

Magistrate Judge George Foley Jr. entered not guilty pleas on behalf of each man during a sometimes contentious arraignment that featured cat-calls and cheers from about 30 Bundy backers and defendants’ family members, under watchful eyes of about a dozen U.S. marshals.

“We don’t need any outbursts,” Foley warned from the U.S. District Court bench Friday. Twice he told the restive audience, “This is not a show.”

Oh, it will be.  Here’s how I know (emphasis mine)

His brother and co-defendant, Ryan Bundy, professed to understand his rights but not the charges against him. He also said he wants to serve as his own lawyer.

Yup.  Bundy is going to put The United States Government (a federal corporation) on trial!!

“You’re out of order!  You’re out of order!  This whole country’s out of order!”

Payne told the judge it was “preposterous, sir,” to have to defend himself against federal charges in two jurisdictions at the same time.

“I don’t understand the pretense of this level of government to bring forth such charges,” he added.

Brian Cavalier finished his arraignment — “I will not be entering a plea today,” he said — by offering federal prosecutors a pocket copy of the U.S. Constitution.

Jesus wept.  Madison too.

 

Good News From Newtown

conn_school_shooting

The lawsuit survives:

BRIDGEPORT – In a shot heard around the nation’s gun makers and dealers, a Superior Court judge Thursday refused to toss out the lawsuit by the families of the Sandy Hook victims against the manufacturer of the gun used by Adam Lanza to kill the 26 school children and teachers in December 2012.

Judge Barbara Bellis ruled that the federal law protecting gun makers from lawsuits does not override the “legal sufficiency” of the claims by the Sandy Hook families that the gun used by Lanza should never have been made available for sale to civilians.

The judge ruled the lawsuit will go on and all sides are to report to her courtroom on April 19 for a status conference.

In January 2015, the families of 10 victims of the Sandy Hook tragedy filed suit against the Remington Arms Company, the maker of the Bushmaster AR-15, used by Lanza, Camfour Holding LLC, the gun’s distributor and Riverview Sales, the store where Lanza’s mother bought the gun. They claimed the gun maker and sellers knew that civilians are unfit to operate the assault rifle and yet continue selling it to civilians disregarding the threat the gun poses.

The lawsuit also alleges that Remington and the other defendants “Unethically, oppressively, immorally and unscrupulously marketed and promoted the assaultive qualities and military uses of AR-15s to civilian purchasers.”

On Dec. 11, 2015, Remington, Camfour and the gun store asked Judge Bellis to throw out the lawsuit, claiming they are immune from the families’ claims under the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. A hearing on the defendants’ motion was held on Feb. 22.

PLCAA bars lawsuits against manufacturers and sellers of a product that is used in a criminal action.

However, in analyzing the federal law, Bellis points out that a federal court previously ruled that PLCAA states a lawsuit against a manufacturer may not be brought and the statement, “May not,” is not a clear statement from congress limiting the power of courts in the cases.

“The court concludes that any immunity that PLCAA may provide does not implicate this court’s subject matter jurisdiction,” Bellis ruled in her 18-page decision. “Accordingly, the defendants’ motions to dismiss, in which they claim that the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, cannot be granted on the basis of PLCAA.”

It’s important to understand that this is a ruling on subject matter jurisdiction, i.e., whether the court has the power to decide the case at all.  It has nothing to do with the merits of the case.  Still, the PLCAA was, and still is, a huge obstacle in this lawsuit.  Nice to have it beat out once.

Not Mentioned In The Debate — Another Mass Shooting

Guess it isn’t newsworthy to the right:

A gunman killed three people in shootings that ended at a lawn care company in Kansas on Thursday, authorities said.

An additional 14 people were injured — 10 of whom are in critical condition at local hospitals.

The shooter was also killed by police, bringing the total number of fatalities to four.

Authorities first got calls about a man shooting from a vehicle in Newton about 5 p.m., the Harvey County Sheriff’s Office said.

Minutes later, there were reports of a shooting at Excel Industries, which makes lawn care equipment in Hesston, Kansas.

“Everybody says it can’t happen here,” Walton said. “And here we are. It happened here.”

The shooter, Cedric Ford, was served with a protection order 90 minutes before his shooting spree, and we can presume that was the “trigger” (no pun intended).  He drove through two towns randomly shooting people before returning to his workplace.

“Good Guys With Guns” Will Be The Death Of Us

More so now that are allowed to carry guns anywhere and are easily spooked:

Police say the man suspected of accidentally shooting a stranger at a Renton movie theater told them he carried a firearm because he feared mass shootings.

Dane Gallion, 29, told officers he took the gun to Regal Cinemas 14 at the Landing on Thursday night because he was “concerned about recent mass shootings in public places,” according to a police account in a probable-cause statement released Saturday.

That same anxiety prompted him to keep the gun unholstered in his waistband, the statement says.

The shooting victim, a woman who was wounded in the shoulder, was in stable condition Saturday, according to a nursing supervisor at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

Original Intent

From The New Yorker:

December 5, 1791
James Madison
House of Representatives

Dear James,

How is it almost 1792?! Quick question on the right to bear arms thing in your “Bill of Rights”—the wording and punctuation are slightly confusing. Did you mean that the right of the people serving in the militia to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, or people in general? I’m assuming the former, but don’t want to make an ass of you and me! (Franklin made that up, but I’m using it everywhere!) Could you please send me a quick note whenever to clarify?

TJ

P.S. To be honest, I’m still meh about “Bill of Rights” as a name.

* * *

December 7, 1791
Thomas Jefferson
Office of the Secretary of State

Dear Tom,

I know, it’s so crazy how fast this year has gone—I just got used to writing 1791 on my deeds of purchase (of slaves)!

As far as the amendment, of course it’s the former. If every private citizen had the right to carry a musket, a thousand people would’ve shot Patrick Henry by now, am I right? Don’t worry about it. Everyone will know what it means.

JM

P.S. You’re not back on “The Ten Amendments” are you? It’s trying way too hard to sound Biblical.

* * *

December 9, 1791
James Madison
House of Representatives

Dear James,

Hahaha re: Patrick Henry. And I agree it should be obvious. It’s just, why not make it so clear that even the biggest Anti-Federalist looney tune can’t misinterpret the meaning? I’d add “while serving in the militia” to line three. Also, not to be a grammar redcoat here, but the use and placement of the comma isn’t helping. Can we change it? It will take two seconds.

I know I’m being annoying!

TJ

P.S. How about “Constitution, Part Two?” (Not a serious pitch, unless you like it!)

* * *

December 11, 1791
Thomas Jefferson
Office of the Secretary of State

Dear Tom,

There is literally zero chance that anyone will misconstrue this, and the great news is that if someone actually does, the Supreme Court will set them straight. I don’t want to change it. It won’t take two seconds, because the addition would push a page and I’d have to do the whole rest of it over again and W. is breathing down my neck about it. Plus, I like the way my signature looks on the version I sent you, and you know I always hate the way it looks on important stuff.

Not trying to be snippy, but you’re worrying about nothing.

JM

* * *

December 13, 1791
James Madison
House of Representatives

Dear James,

I know, I know—I’m the worst. Just hear me out. Imagine it’s some two hundred years from now. Musket makers have made new and more powerful muskets—ones that are capable of firing two or even three shots per minute—and, in an effort to sell more, they claim that every homeowner should have the right to own one, or two, or twenty. They bribe politicians to advance their cause, they stoke public fears of crime and federal tyranny, and they manage to exploit this slightly confusing language and comma placement to claim that we originally intended to give every private citizen the right to own as many muskets (and for that manner, cannons!) as they can get their hands on. And because in this version of the future (just bear with me here) we’ve had such a run of Anti-Federalist Presidents, the Court is packed with men who might agree. Isn’t there the slightest chance that this could happen?

TJ

* * *

December 15, 1791
Thomas Jefferson
Office of the Secretary of State

Dear Tom,

You know I love you, but we seriously need to get this ratified, like, today, or W. will have my ass. There is no way that what you’re talking about could come to pass. It’s too ridiculous. The amendment goes before Congress as written.

Besides, if anyone ever needs to confirm our intention two hundred years from now, they need only consult any decent spiritualist to communicate with our ghosts. If muskets can fire three shots per minute in your future, I’m sure mediums will have become even better at their jobs, too.

JM

Emotional President Moves On Gun Control

White House insiders have long said that the worst day of Obama’s presidency was the day of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

What should have been a 9/11 moment for the whole nation turned out to be nothing — as in nothing changed.  Congress voted against reasonable laws like universal background checks.

It is clear that Obama, facing his last year as president, is not going to rest on his laurels.  Gun violence has killed 146 people in the United States this year.  And it is only January 5.  The Republican controlled Congress has passed nothing relating to gun control. Today he made a moving, and largely extemporaneous (in parts), speech announcing his intentions.

Here’s what the Obama administration plans to do:

  • The federal government will issue guidance that will narrow who can sell guns without a federal license, based on an evaluation of the circumstances surrounding individual gun sales. The idea is to reduce the number of for-profit dealers — as opposed to collectors or people who only give or sell guns to family members or friends — who avoid background checks, whether they’re at a store, at a gun show, on the internet, or anywhere else.
  • The FBI will hire more than 230 more people to help run background checks — an increase of more than 50 percent to the current staff. Lynch said this was in part needed to keep up with rising demand. “We’re looking to improve the efficiency and response time of the system,” she said.
  • The government will also require background checks for people who try to buy restricted firearms through a legal entity, such as a corporation or trust. People were able to avoid background checks in the past through these entities.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services will finalize a rule regarding health record privacy laws to remove barriers to states providing mental health records to the background check system.
  • The administration will enforce tighter rules for reporting guns that are lost or stolen on their way to the buyer to make it easier for law enforcement to track down missing firearms.
  • Federal agencies will encourage and fund more research into technologies that can make guns safer, largely to reduce the risk of accidents.

In addition to these measures, the administration will continue pushing Congress to pass tighter gun control laws, and to direct more funds to enforcing existing gun laws and to mental health treatment.

This last part is particularly good, because it addresses one aspect of gun control that is rarely discussed — suicides:

The reaction from the right and the NRA is predictable.  What Digby said:

As of this writing the proposal has not been formally announced but it’s reported that he will issue executive orders to close the “private seller” loophole, which would require everyone who sells a gun as a business transaction to submit a background check. (As it is now, only licensed dealers have to do this.) It’s also expected that he’ll issue an order requiring that licensed dealers report lost or stolen guns to the authorities. It’s hard for me to believe that these slight reinterpretations of the law are even controversial but apparently making gun ownership subject to any sort of oversight is tantamount to a coup.

There is little doubt the administration anticipated the furious reaction, so one assumes they are happy to draw attention to the issue. After all, polling shows that the vast majority of Americans — and gun owners — are in favor of such commonsense gun safety regulations. Nonetheless, this will likely end up in court with a number of legal issues at stake and the gun lobby dedicated to filling its coffers on the backs of gun owners who don’t actually need to worry about any of these very mild restrictions.

In today’s White House press conference, President Obama teared up as he spoke about the victims of gun violence, especially the children massacred at Newtown.

Many conservatives took this opportunity to show themselves once again as utterly heartless sociopaths.  Some are suggesting that Obama’s tears are fake.

Not just tears, but FASCIST tears.

The full Obama speech in below the fold.

Armed Terrorists Seize Federal Property

You would think this would be 24/7 headline news, but it isn’t.  The terrorist takeover began Sunday morning, but the regular news outlets barely covered it.  Only on Twitter was it discussed at any length, thanks to the hashtag #OregonUnderAttack.

Now that it is a regular non-holiday workday, the media is starting to report it.  Before then, the only real outlet covering the story was The Oregonian.

What’s at the center of this issue is the federal land management, and two people: Dwight Hammond, age 73, and his son Steve Hammond, age 46.  These men are ranchers in Oregon.  Strap yourselves in.

Hammond Ranches owns about 12,000 acres in the Diamond-Frenchglen area. They use this ground to run cattle during the winter. Until two years ago the Hammonds used 26,420 acres of land belonging to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management for summer grazing (the U.S. government gives out grazing permits).

Now, when it comes to ranching, fire is an important tool. It is used to burn invasive species that crowd out native grass and other plants.  Fire can kill those pests, leaving plenty of grazing (on the non-burned grass/plants) for the cattle.

The problem is, fire is also a threat. Recent wildfires have scorched hundreds of thousands of acres in this territory, putting the ground off limits for grazing. Cattle have been killed in the runaway blazes, and lives endangered.

In 1999, Dwight Hammond got a stern letter from the local manager for the federal land bureau saying that Steve Hammond had set a fire that spread to federal ground. The letter said Steve told officials in a subsequent meeting that he “did not believe there was any way to control fire behavior or where it would burn, and that he did not take any action to prevent the fire from burning.”  Nevertheless, the Hammonds got off with a warning.

The problem started with two more fires set by the Hammonds — one in 2001 and one in 2006.

The fire in 2001 was a simple prescribed burn.  According to Steve and Dwight Hammond, it was intended to take out invasive juniper.  But federal prosecutors said the men’s real motive for starting the blaze, which consumed 139 acres and forestalled grazing for two seasons, was to cover up evidence of an illegal slaughter of deer. The government presented evidence that Steven Hammond called an emergency dispatcher to ask if it was OK to burn — roughly two hours after they already lit the fire. His attorney said in court that Hammond called the land bureau beforehand.

The government acknowledged that the next fire, in 2006, was intended as a defensive move. Steve Hammond set backfires to keep a lightning-caused fire from burning onto the Hammonds’ ranch and hitting their winter feed.  But the government said Steve Hammond lit up on the flanks of a butte, despite a countywide burn ban and the knowledge that young part-time firefighters were camped up higher. Their crew boss spotted the fires, which were set at night, and moved the crew, but campers and others were in danger.

The two men were indicted and convicted in 2010 on federal arson charges. On top of sentencing for arson, they also faced sentencing under the federal Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, which reads in pertinent part:

SEC. 708. ENHANCED PENALTIES FOR USE OF EXPLOSIVES OR ARSON CRIMES.

    (a) In General.--Section 844 of title 18, United States Code, is 
amended--
            (1) in subsection (e), by striking ``five'' and inserting 
        ``10'';
            (2) by amending subsection (f) to read as follows:

    ``(f)(1) Whoever maliciously damages or destroys, or attempts to 
damage or destroy, by means of fire or an explosive, any building, 
vehicle, or other personal or real property in whole or in part owned or 
possessed by, or leased to, the United States, or any department or 
agency thereof, shall be imprisoned for not less than 5 years and not 
more than 20 years, fined under this title, or both.

Hammonds’ lawyers argued that the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 did not apply to the Hammonds — after all, they weren’t terrorists.

But the government argued that it didn’t matter.  The portion that dealt with enhanced penalties for explosion and arson crimes did not say the defendant HAD to be a “terrorist”.

You can understand why this was part of the law.  Timothy McVeigh blew up the Murrow Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995, killing 168 people, including children.  The assumption behind Section 708 of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (quoted above) was… well, if you are blowing up or setting fire to federal property, you must be a terrorist.

To his credit (in my opinion), U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan opined that although Section 708 applied to the crime committed by the Hammonds, Congress did not intend it to apply to people like the Hammonds.  A five year prison term would be unconstitutional as cruel and unusual punishment, the judge said.  “It would be a sentence which would shock the conscience,” Hogan added before sentencing Dwight to three months and Steve to one year.

The two men served their time, but the District Attorney appealed the case to the Ninth Circuit.  The Ninth Circuit reasonably ruled (in my opinion) that Section 708 set out a mandatory sentence of “not less than five years”.  The words “shall be” (which I emboldened above) are not “may be”.

So, the Hammonds were ordered back to prison to serve a five year sentence each.  They are supposed to start serving today.

But believe it or not, this has little to do with the Hammonds’ sentence.

Federal agencies own and regulate huge chunks of land in western states like Oregon and Nevada.  The United States of America holds deed to three-fourths of Harney County. Ranching done for a century and more is under pressure from environmentalists, recreationalists, and hunters.

fed_landuse

As such, those with anti-government views, particularly in western states, often focus on the federal government ‘s land-use policies.  The plight of the Hammonds has become a rallying call for one militia and patriot group after another. Men who see tyranny in federal acts are standing for the two men.  The Hammonds’ case — and the change to their sentencing, just further fed into views of a tyrannical federal government out of control.

For example, the federal government sued the Hammonds for $1 million the costs of fighting the fires that they set.  In late 2014, the Hammonds settled the lawsuit, agreeing the federal government $400,000. That has been paid.

But the settlement also required the Hammonds to give the land bureau first chance at buying a particular ranch parcel adjacent to public land if they intended to sell. For some, this is evidence that the government was going after the Hammonds in order to increase its property holdings — a “land grab” the “militia” members would say.  There is little evidence to support that.

So how did the yahoos get involved?  Well, on Saturday, members of the militia attended a demonstration in Burns, Oregon.  The purpose was to protest the Hammonds’ case. After the protest, the militiamen drove to the wildlife refuge and took it over.

It seems that the militiamen may have initially planned to seize the wildlife refuge headquarters in order to establish a “sanctuary” where the Hammonds could go to evade prison.

One of the most outspoken of the militia-terrorists is Ammon Bundy, whose father Cliven Bundy became a Fox News star in 2014 for his armed standoff in Nevada with the federal government over cattle-grazing rights. (see earlier postings about that controversy).  His brother Ryan is another occupier.

What do they want?  Ammon talked to some press people:

The group is demanding that the Hammonds be released and that the federal government give up control of the Malheur National Forest.

As Ammon Bundy sees it, the locals are “not strong enough” to stand up for themselves, so the militia must act as the “tip of the spear” and lead the fight on behalf of the locals.

Thus, Bundy and his fellow militiamen have seized the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge — located in a remote area some 50 miles southeast of the city of Burns — in hopes of creating a “base” where “patriots” like themselves can come, with their guns, to live and make their stand against the “tyrannical” federal government.  Several pickup trucks blocked the entrance to the refuge Sunday, with armed men wearing camouflage and winter gear stationed outside.  The exact number of armed men is unknown. It’s worth nothing that the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge visitors’ center is probably one of the least critical spots to occupy in all of the United States.

So far, it’s not going well for these “patriots”.  It turns out that the Hammonds don’t actually want the militia’s help — or at least, not anymore.

At first, according to the Oregonian, the Hammonds “accepted the militia’s offer of help to avoid prison.” But they “changed their minds after being warned by federal prosecutors to stop communicating with the militia” and have now “professed through their attorneys that they had no interest in ignoring the order to report for prison.”

Ammon also tried to recruit residents from the surrounding area, reportedly meeting with 10 or so locals, but they all turned him down.

The Oregonian interviewed some locals who expressed sympathy for the Hammonds and for the militia’s “constitutional arguments” but ultimately rejected the militia for its extremism.

The militia, the local fire chief told the newspaper, “seems like a bunch of people ready to shoot. I don’t want that in my county.”

Chatter on right wing blogs about the story is muted.  Breitbart News hasn’t touched it, except for one transitional paragraph at the start of a story recapping the Cliven BBundy matter in Nevada.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said he hoped that the protesters would step aside, adding that “our prayers right now are with everyone involved in what’s happening with Oregon, and especially those in law enforcement that are risking their lives.”

“Every one of us has a constitutional right to protest, to speak our minds. But we don’t have a constitutional right to use force and violence and to threaten force and violence on others,” he said. “And so it is our hope that the protesters there will stand down peaceably, that there will not be a violent confrontation.”

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio decried the occupation as “lawless” and urged those involved in the standoff to pursue what they wanted through more lawful, constructive means.

But that’s not what they intend to do.  According to an Oregonian reporter…

Is the situation dangerous?  Not last night.  There was virtually no law enforcement presence of any sort.

But now, as the sun comes up, the FBI has arrived and set up a briefing center.  The Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and local schools in the area are closed today.  I feel bad for The City of Burns Police Department which has three officers – the Chief and two officers – and an administrative assistant.

All told, this appears to be an act of terrorism.  When it comes to the Hammond arsons — yes, I can easily see why that was NOT terrorism.  But armed men taking over a federal building and demanding land — that’s insurrection, if not domestic terrorism.

And needless to say, the disparity in news coverage as well as law enforcement response, which compared to — say — Ferguson (where protesters had no guns and took no federal property) is astounding.  Also, they are being called “protesters”, rather than terrorists.

It is unclear how this will play out.  But soime people are serious.  Here’s one guy saying the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is a tyrannical agency so he has made a suicide video and has promised to die for “the constitution.”

P.S.  Most of Oregon used to be Indian land.  Now we see a bunch of white guys complaining about a tyrannical oppressive government.  Irony.

To be continued….

UPDATE:  The terrorists want you to join them “to prevent bloodshed”…

UPDATE:  This is a slow-moving story.  I guess the government tactic is to wait them out until they get bored.  Which means no developments for days, weeks, or maybe even months.  But….

I guess “Patriots For God and Freedom’s Constitution of Citizens Together United for American’s Constitutional Second Amendment Crusaders and OathKeepers” was taken.

Anyway, the posted some signs and it looks like they are running low on the letter n.

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ANOTHER UPDATE: HuffPo says the “militia” wants a standoff with the FBI, but the FBI isn’t taking the bait:

The FBI is working closely with state police, and FBI officials are busy establishing a public information office in Burns. But due to a number of factors — the crisis is unfolding in a remote part of Oregon; it doesn’t appear to be a life-or-death situation; and there are no hostages involved — law enforcement officials want to avoid unnecessarily escalating the standoff, the source said. The FBI instead hopes to get a better handle on the situation over the next few days.

The FBI will not be releasing specific information about law enforcement movements, but it is working with local law enforcement agencies to “bring a peaceful resolution to the situation at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge,” officials from the bureau said in a statement.

***

For now, there are no sirens, no police cars zooming to the seized building and no SWAT teams arriving in armored vehicles. In the parking lot of the refuge’s headquarters building, journalists mingle freely with activists. The 30-mile stretch of road between Burns and the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, where the militants are holed up, is snowy and barren.

Below the fold…. The Onion summarizes everything

What The Tamir Rice Incident Reveals About Open Carry Gun Laws

So much yes from Charles Pierce in Esquire:

There certainly is no point in emphasizing the damn irony that Ohio is an “open carry” state so, even if the cops assumed Rice was 18, and they also assumed his gun was real, they had no cause even to stop him, let alone open fire. Listen to the spiel that Wayne LaPierre unspools every time he’s in a room with more than four people listening: arm yourselves, because the world is a hellscape of violent Others who are coming for you and your children. At its heart, open carry is about open season on the people who scare you. It’s certainly not about an absolute Second Amendment right that applies to black people as well as white. Open carry is about You and the Others, and so is the training of our modern, militarized police forces. If only Tamir Rice had not been born with that congenital ability to become huge and threatening the way he did in the mind of Timothy Loehmann. If only…

The prosecutor — who (half-heartedly, I’m sure) presented the case to the Grand Jury (which failed to hand down any indictments) — said that the officers followed policy.

What scares me is that might just be true.

In which case, we need to change the policy.

All We Are Saaaaaaying… Is Give Mass Shootings A Chance.

LOLwut?

Thoughts and Prayers

There seems to be a backlash to this almost reflexive (and increasingly meaningless) response to mass shootings, best exemplified by the cover of today’s New York Daily News:

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There has also been a backlash to the backlash.  Christians got offended at what is being called “thoughts and prayers shaming”.  The Weekly Standard offered a headline that blared,“Liberal Outrage Over Prayers for Shooting Victims.” And the American Conservative predictably complained that “We have reached the point in our culture in which leading voices on the Left feel compelled to shout from the rooftops condemnation on Christians for offering something as ordinary and decent as prayers for atrocity victims as a first response to news of the killings. Think about that for a moment. When the simple offering of prayers for the dead and wounded are grounds for spiteful attack, it is hard to avoid wondering just what commonalities bind us as Americans anymore.” And Fox & Friends First tweeted out “Prayer Shaming After Mass Shooting: While GOP Calls For Prayers, Mainstream Media Mocks Them.”  Here’s Rand Paul:

Uh no.  What is being attacked is offering “thoughts and prayers” in the absence of action.  Nothing wrong with “thoughts and prayers” itself, especially if….

That’s a good point.  I suspect that most of these politicians don’t actually pray at all.  I wish they could be asked, what do you think about?  What to you pray for?  Peace for the family’s of the victims, certainly — but is that IT?  What are you doing to make sure you aren’t thinking about and praying for FUTURE victims’ families? Today’s Internet belongs to Mary Beth Williams at Slate, if only for writing this:

It’s not prayer shaming to say that a lot of us — a lot of us who find comfort in prayer — are sick of the very people whose rhetoric and policies are helping perpetuate a culture of death hiding helplessly behind God whenever blood is shed. Which happens to occur quite often.

Related:

Also related: Look how the other New York tabloid changed its cover:

Before —  

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Later on —

CVTm1l8VAAAoXl- Blatant bigotry aside, it’s also important to call out the Post’s inconsistent focus on religion in the aftermath of mass shootings in America. After last Friday’s Planned Parenthood shooting in Colorado, the paper not only failed to feature the story on its front page, its editors opted not to label the shooter a “Christian Killer” in any accompanying stories.

And THIS:

The San Bernadino Shootings: Terrorism Or Not?

Here’s what we know about the shooters:

  • They have been identified as Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 27.
  • Farook was an environmental specialist who had worked for the county health department for five years.
  • Farook attended a holiday party for county employees earlier that day.
  • Farook left the party under circumstances that were decribed by witnesses as “angry”
  • Farook returned maybe half an hour later with Malik. Farook and Malik both were armed with .223-caliber assault-style rifles and semi-automatic pistols.
  • They also were wearing attack gear and brought some explosive devices
  • 14 people were killed at the holiday party.
  • The couple fled in a black SUV before law enforcement intercepted them hours later.
  • Both were killed in a shootout with police, who tracked them to a home in nearby Redlands.
  • A third person was detained, but police said they hadn’t determined whether that person was involved
  • The Los Angeles Times has reported that Malik had recently married Farook after meeting him online.
  • Farook was born in the U.S.
  • Co-workers described him as a devout Muslim to the Los Angeles Times, but said he rarely discussed religion.
  • Farook had traveled to Saudi Arabia to apparently attend Hajj pilgrimage
  • Farook and Malin had a six month old daughter, who they left with Farook’s mother that morning, saying they had a doctor’s appointment.
  • Neither one was on the FBI terrorist watch list.

The question on everyone’s lips: was it terrorism or not?

On the one hand, it appears to be a workplace revenge situation.  He got into a fight at a holiday party, left angry, came back, and started shooting up the place.

But what is undeniable is that there was planning involved.  They had improvised explosive devices, which had to be made well in advance.  They had the gear and extra ammo.

So here are the theories:

(1)  This was workplace revenge (non a terrorist attack)

(2)  The fight/party was a ruse (or coincidental) and this was a terrorist attack all along (perhaps they intended to go on and hit other soft targets).

(3)  They were planning a terrorist attack somewhere, which is why they had the equipment, but something work-related triggered Farook, and at the last minute, he decided (with his wife) to shoot up the workplace.

In other words, it was a workplace revenge attack (not terrorism) or an Islamic-based attack (terrorism) or some combination of the two.

#1 seems unlikely simply because of the preparedness — the IEDs etc.  That leaves #2 or #3, and I lean toward #3 because the left the baby with the mother that morning and lied about having a doctor appointment.  I think they knew that day what was going to happen.

Now, it still is an odd choice for a target, unless you take into account that he knew the building.  And the lack of “Allah Akbar” is unusual.  And it is unusual that they radical background could be so hidden.

We don’t know the motives for sure, and the FBI is still not saying whether this is terrorism or not.  Time will tell.

Matt Pearce has a wonderful tweet about how Ted Cruz interprets these events when it is a Christian shooter versus a Muslim shooter:

Not surprisingly, Cruz won’t acknowledge Christian terrorism even when the motive is known, but will call out Islamic terrorism when the motive is still murky.

UPDATE: CNN is saying that Farook was in touch with more than one international terrorism subjects.  That seems to end the debate.

UPDATE #2:  It seems that the couple were re-armed for a second attack, after stopping at home (presumably to get more supplies).  But police fortunately intervened.  Also, twelve pipe bombs were found in home of the suspect.

We also know that the shooters fired 65 to 75 rounds at the holiday party and 76 more during police pursuit, according to the SB police chief.

Also, number of injured raise to 21.

UPDATE #3:  

The brother of the San Bernardino shooter is a decorated veteran of the U.S. Navy, a spokesperson told BuzzFeed News.

Syed Raheel Farook enlisted in August 2003 and left the service in August 2007.

He was awarded the National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, Navy records show.

Syed Raheel Farook was an Information System Technician, Third Class. He was on duty on the USS Enterprise; in the Surface Warfare Officer School Unit, in Great Lakes, IL; and at the Recruit Training Command, in Great Lakes, IL.

He was an Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist and won the Good Conduct Medal, records show.

His brother, Syed Rizwan Farook and sister-in-law are suspected of a mass shooting that killed 14 on Wednesday. They both died in a shootout with police.

Today’s Mass Shooting: San Bernadino, California

Breaking news 2:46 pm EST:  12 reported dead, many injured.

Some reports include a second and even third shooter.

Related:

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2:55 pm: The building where the shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., was reported provides services for developmentally disabled people, according to its website

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LA Times is reporting active shooters (plural) may be heavily armed and wearing body armor.

3:05 pm EST:  Networks now covering this. FBI and ATF on their way From Inland Regional Center website: – 600 staff members – provide services to 30,000 – Serves San Bernardino and Riverside counties

This is the 352nd mass shooting in the United States this year (“Mass shooting” defined as a shooting where 4 or more are killed or injured).

3:40 pm:  It’s hard to see a political motive here, at least a right wing one.  It’s possible they thought it was an abortion clinic (Planned Parenthood is nearby).  I guess time will tell.

San Benadino PD confirm to MSNBC that “shooting suspect had tactical gear”.
The Los Angeles Times is reporting that police are searching for an SUV that fled the scene of the San Bernardino, Calif., shooting, according to sources. The organization also reports that police detonated a suspicious device found on the premises. This information has not been confirmed by authorities. It is still unclear exactly how many shooters were involved

4:30 pm: Witness tells ABC affiliate reporter that an event honoring County personnel was going on in the conference center at IRC. Shooters entered there.

Apparently, no shooters caught, but fatalities have been confirmed.

6:15pm 14 dead, 17 injured.

One suspect down and apparently dead. A second suspect and possibly a third in a black SUV next to the dead suspect and surrounded by police who are negotiating a non-violent surrender.

Motives and background of suspects unknown, but this thing is close to over.

Breaking: Armed Gunman AT UNC – Chapel Hill [UPDATE: All Clear]

Multiple reports but still unconfirmed:

ALERT CAROLINA TIMELY WARNING: Unconfirmed report of armed person near ROTC Building / Venable Hall

12/02/2015, 8:57 a.m.

Unconfirmed report of armed person near ROTC Building / Venable Hall

ALERT CAROLINA TIMELY WARNING: Unconfirmed report of armed person near ROTC Building / Venable Hall

UNC Chapel Hill Police are investigating the report of an armed individual near the campus NROTC Building and Venable Hall.  The report is unconfirmed at this time, but the campus is asked to shelter in place.

Continue to monitor Alert Carolina website (alertcarolina.unc.edu) for any updates into this incident.  UNC Police are asking anyone with information to call the UNC Police Department at 9-1-1 or contact the Chapel Hill-Carrboro-UNC Crime Stoppers at (919) 942-7515.

For a list of safety tips, see the following link through the Alert Carolina page:

http://www.alertcarolina.unc.edu/go/doc/1395/1762999/


12/02/2015, 8:53 a.m.

Emergency: The University has activated the sirens. Police report an ARMED AND DANGEROUS PERSON ON OR NEAR CAMPUS.

  • Go inside immediately.
  • Close windows and doors.
  • Stay until further notice.
  • Follow directions from emergency responders or University officials.

The sirens are activated when there is a significant emergency or immediate health or safety threat to the campus community. When the sirens sound, stop classroom and campus activities; all UNC operations are temporarily suspended. Remain inside your classroom or a safe place in your building unless police or University personnel instruct you to take a specific action, such as to evacuate a building, stay out of a certain part of campus, or go to your residence hall and stay there.

The Alert Carolina website, alertcarolina.unc.edu, will be updated as soon as more information is available. It can take hours to resolve an emergency situation; updates may not be immediate.

You can let your family know you are okay in the event of an emergency affecting the Carolina campus while keeping cell phone lines open for emergency calls by using the American Red Cross Safe and Well list. The Safe and Well list is especially helpful in communicating with family members who are outside the emergency area. Go to www.redcross.org/safeandwell and follow the registration instructions.

If you see suspicious activity, call 911. But do not call 911 or the Department of Public Safety just to ask for information about the current incident. Police phone lines need to remain open for emergency communications.

When the threat is over, the sirens will sound again with a different tone to announce along with the voice message: “All clear. Resume normal activities.” Click here for an audio sample of the siren emergency tone. Click here to hear “all clear.”

When the sirens are activated – and when there is an “all clear” — the University also sends a text message to the cell phone numbers registered by students, faculty and staff in the online campus directory. The University also communicates about an emergency using sources including:  campus-wide email and voice mail (for campus land lines), the Adverse Weather and Emergency Phone Line, 843-1234, for recorded information, and the University Access Channel (Chapel Hill Time Warner Cable Channel 4) along with other campus television channels.

Pic from WRAL:

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UPDATE:  Never mind?

Planned Parenthood Shooting Is Domestic Terrorism

I’ve been vacationing and the holidays and yada yada, so there’s been light blogging lately.

Colorado Springs shooting suspect Robert Lewis Dear of North Carolina is seen in undated photos provided by the El Paso County Sheriff's Office. A gunman burst into a Planned Parenthood clinic Friday, Nov. 27, 2015 and opened fire, launching several gunbattles and an hourslong standoff with police as patients and staff took cover. By the time the shooter surrendered, at least three people were killed, including a police officer and at least nine others were wounded, authorities said. (El Paso County Sheriff's Office via AP)

The big news that I missed was a terrorist attack here on the United States, although whether to call it a “terrorist attack” seems to be arguable.  I’m talking of course about the shooter at Planned Parenthood.  On Saturday, November 27, a shooting and five-hour standoff with police occurred at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado. A police officer and two civilians were killed; five police officers and four civilians were injured. Police convinced the suspected shooter, identified as Robert Lewis Dear, to surrender. He was taken into custody after a standoff that lasted five hours. Yesterday, Dear was charged with murder in the first-degree, and was ordered to be held without bond.

It wasn’t hard to surmise his motive or political leanings, especially when he told the police “no more baby parts” and was known to have passed out anti-Obama literature.  Obviously, when you are trying to affect political or social change through the use of violence, that is the definition of terrorism — yet Republican candidates seem to have a hard time calling it this.  When a reporter told Ted Cruz that the suspect in the Colorado Springs killings is alleged to have mentioned “baby parts” after his arrest, the Texas senator responded, “Well, it’s also been reported that he was registered as an independent and a woman and transgendered leftist activist, if that’s what he is.”  Cruz was likely citing a report from The Gateway Pundit, a right-wing blog, that uncovered a Colorado state voter registration form which lists Dear’s gender as female.  (Occam’s Razor suggests it was likely a clerical error — and it was).

On Fox News Sunday, Carly Fiorina called alleged killer Robert Lewis Dear “deranged’ and lamented that the shooting took place on a “holiday weekend,” before zeroing in on the real tragedy: the unfair treatment of Carly Fiorina by pro-choice activists and the left. Host Chris Wallace asked Fiorina if she saw a link between overheated anti-choice rhetoric and violence by abortion opponents. Fiorina, who at the second GOP debate regaled viewers with a grisly and entirely false story about Planned Parenthood workers yanking the brain out of a “living, kicking” fetus, failed to see how her words might inspire someone to take drastic action, adding:

“This is so typical of the left to immediately begin demonizing the messenger because they don’t agree with the message…. Anyone who tries to link this terrible tragedy to anyone who opposes abortion or opposes the sale of body parts is … this is typical left-wing tactics.”

The link was made, however, not by the leftwing, but by the gunman himself. Fiorina advanced the inflammatory lie that Planned Parenthood makes a profit from trafficking in fetal body parts. In fact, the fetal tissue is turned over for medical research, with the attendant fees used to cover expenses.

Ben Carson responded to the attack by wishing everyone would be a little more polite. He then politely blamed Planned Parenthood for the shooting.  Asked if extremist rhetoric emboldens domestic terrorists, Carson argued that “both sides” are to blame for vilifying each other. A fair point, perhaps, although nobody is shooting up Focus On The Family.  Personally, I think it is okay to villify terrorists.

Donald Trump briefly approximated humanness on Chuck Todd’s Meet the Press Sunday, calling the shooting “a terrible thing.” Seconds later the GOP candidate returned to form, denouncing Planned Parenthood and essentially blaming the organization for making Trump supporters angry.

Mike Huckabee had the guts to call the shooting an act of domestic terrorism and mass murder. “There’s no legitimizing, there’s no rationalizing. It was mass murder. It was absolutely unfathomable,” he said. But then he went on to equate what happened with abortion, which is legal.  He accused Planned Parenthood, which provides health services to low-income women, of mass murder, engaging in exactly the kind of extreme rhetoric that might convince an unhinged person the group is deserving of violent attack. “And there’s no excuse for killing other people, whether it’s happening inside the Planned Parenthood headquarters, inside their clinics where many millions of babies die, or whether it’s people attacking Planned Parenthood,” he said.

The point is that what happened in Colorado Springs is just an extreme example of a long line of terrorist actions against Planned Parenthood, which include threats, murders, and bombings.  Back in September, CBS reported that the FBI had noticed an uptick in attacks on reproductive health care facilities since the first video was released by the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress (CMP). There were nine criminal or suspicious incidents (including cyber attacks, threats, and arsons) from July, when the videos first came out, through mid-September.

An FBI Intelligence Assessment at the time found these attacks were “consistent with the actions of lone offenders using tactics of arsons and threats all of which are typical of the pro-life extremist movement.” Moreover, the report said it was “likely criminal or suspicious incidents will continue to be directed against reproductive health care providers, their staff and facilities.”

Less than two weeks after CBS reported that, another abortion clinic was firebombed in California. It was the fourth arson at a Planned Parenthood location in as many months.

Since 1977, there have been eight murders, 17 attempted murders, 42 bombings, and 186 arsons against abortion clinics and providers.  Even today, a hospital in Colorado Springs was put on lockdown because of a “suspicious person” making threats to shoot one of the victims from Friday’s deadly Planned Parenthood attack.

So the Richard Dear shootings are not an isolated incident, just an extreme one.  Stay tuned.

Thank You, Gun Nuts

Did you hear the one about the guy in Colorado walking around a quiet neighborhood with a rifle in plain sight, and an observant woman called 911 and was told by the 911 dispatcher that Colorado had an open carry law so they couldn’t stop him?  And then he shot and killed three people, all of which might have been prevented if the police were allowed to stop people walking around with loaded rifles?

Yeah, it happened.

Denver-area law enforcement agencies say their response to armed people in public varies on the circumstances.

“Is this person exercising their rights or about to start a very serious situation in which someone is going to be killed?” said Jacki Kelley, spokeswoman for the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. “We just don’t know the difference.”

Hmmmm.  Maybe you could pass a law or something.

Kids And Guns

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This is Sean Smith when he was 10.  Hes with his little sister Erin, age eight.  This photo was taken the day before he unintentionally shot and killed her.

There are around 110 fatal shootings involving children under 14 each year, according to a new study. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that at least another 1,000 are shot but survive.

But those are numbers.  Read a story about what happens after the fatal shootings.

A Tweet From 2009 Could Haunt Rubio

I’ve always seen Marco Rubio as one of the few “serious” GOP candidates and one who could pose an actual challenge to HRC.  But this tweet of his from 2009 is very… uh… Carsonesque.

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What a dumb thing to tweet.  It originally was published in the midst of the June 2009 protests stemming from allegations of elections fraud and the violent Iranian government crackdown that followed.

 

Fox News Moron Doubles Down With Dr. Carson: Stupid Jews Could Have Taken The Nazis

Yes, the European Jews were just a bunch of pants-wetting pansies back in the thirties:

Dr. Ben Carson recently asserted that if guns had not been confiscated from Jews then Hitler would have had more trouble orchestrating the Holocaust.

Jonathan Greenblatt, National Director of the Anti-Defamation Leauge, quickly objected, stating that there were few firearms available to Jews in Germany in 1938 and that surrendering them did not measurably contribute to the totalitarian power of the Nazi German state.

Ben Carson is right, and Jonathan Greenblatt is wrong.

For the record, I have hosted a fundraiser for Dr. Carson, but I was also born a Jew and have studied the Holocaust. And I have spoken before the Anti-Defamation League in the past.

The wisest answer to a government that insists its citizens disarm is, “Over my dead body.”

What Greenblatt fails to account for is that the surrendering of firearms by Jews when required to by Nazi authorities was not merely the surrender of guns and ammunition. Those material items would not have been sufficient to defend against the Third Reich’s military.

The mindset that Jews surrendered with their guns is far more important than the hardware they turned over: They surrendered the demonstrated intention, at all costs, to resist being deprived of liberty. If Jews in Germany had more actively resisted the Nazi party or the Nazi regime and had diagnosed it as a malignant and deadly cancer from the start, there would, indeed, have been a chance for the people of that country and the world to be moved to action by their bold refusal to be enslaved.

Yes, that would have required immeasurable courage. Yes, that would have required unspeakable losses. But is that not the lesson of the Old Testament? Does not Abraham bind his son Issac to an altar, willing to sacrifice his son’s life to God’s Word—to the truth? Must not we all be ready to sacrifice ourselves to stand in the way of evil?

Granted, I was not there. Granted, hindsight is 20/20. But it turns out it was a bad idea for any Jew to have turned over a gun. It was a bad idea for any Jew to have boarded a train. It was a bad idea for any Jew to have passed through a gate into a camp. It was a bad idea for any Jew to do any work at any such camp. It was a bad idea for any Jew to not attempt to crush the skull or scratch out the eyes of any Nazi who turned his back for one moment. And every bullet that would have been fired into a Nazi coming to a doorway to confiscate a gun from a Jew would have been a sacred bullet.

To me, Jonathan Greenblatt seems to have forgotten those iconic words, “Never Again.” Thank God that men like Ben Carson remind us of them.

The wisest answer to a government that insists its citizens disarm is, “Over my dead body.” It would seem to be the end of any discussion and the beginning of active, heroic resistance. Because it is very hard to imagine that disempowering citizens by having them render themselves defenseless can lead to anything good. It is very likely a sign that the culture has fallen ill and that an epidemic of enslavement of one kind or another is on the horizon.

No, Dr. Ablow, you weren’t there, and yes, Dr. Ablow, hindsight is 20/20.  And let’s remember that thousands of Jews resisted in Germany, in the Warsaw ghetto, in France, and everywhere else.  And while brave and heroic, it simply resulted in expediting their deaths, and the death of others.  Hell, Kristellnacht happened ostensibly because an armed Jew shot and killed a German officer.  As a result, 30,000 were arrested and incarcerated in Nazi concentration camps.  Jewish homes, hospitals, and schools were ransacked, as the attackers demolished buildings with sledgehammers, Over 1,000 synagogues were burned (95 in Vienna alone) and over 7,000 Jewish businesses destroyed or damaged.  Over 100 Jews were killed.  From one Jew with one gun.  I don’t care how many handguns you and your friends have — you simply cannot rise against a superpower that has machine guns, aircraft, and — you know — tanks.

Truthfully, we do not have to wonder what would happen if Germany’s Jews had guns and numbers and a tradition of organized violence. Nazis hardly started with the Jews. First they had to deal with the German Communist Party.

Where Jews were for the most part a random selection of middle class Germany, the Communists were a different story. German Communists had an organization and violent ruthlessness that rivaled Hitler’s gang during the Weimar era. In fact the entirely legitimate threat of a revolution in Germany (they tried a few times and nearly pulled it off once) goes a long way to explaining why German nationalists and business leaders would play ball with an obvious nut like Hitler in the first place.

So yes, the Communists were spoiling for a chance to make the brownshirts come take their guns from their cold, dead hands. When the brownshirts got ahold of state power, first in Bavaria and then everywhere, they did exactly that. And then there were no more Communists in Germany.

So much for arming yourselves against the Nazis.

But this is the conservative myth, and wet dream.  They want to rise against their own government some day — at least, that is the fantasy.  So if you have that mindset, you have to blame the Jews for their own demise.

Today In Campus Mass Shootings

(1)  One dead, three wounded at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, AZ.

(2) Two people shot (UPDATE: one killed, one wounded) at Texas Southern University – happening now — school on lockdown; shooter on the loose.  (UPDATE: 2 now in custody; 1 still being sought)

Arizona and Texas have very lax gun laws.  Just sayin’

Megan McArdle Should Stop Thinking… And Writing

Daily Beast columnist Megan McArdle has figured it out.  The mass shooting problem.  We don’t have to debate it anymore.

In a long screed at the Daily Beast entitled “There’s Little We Can Do to Prevent Another Massacre”, McArdle goes through all the proposals out there — banning certain guns, taxing or banning ammunition, greater checks on the mentally ill, etc. — and basically rejects them all out of hand.  Why?  Because the Newtown shooter would have been successful anyway even if those laws and policies had been enacted.

This is crazy logic, and I’ve been reading it a lot lately.  Basically, what McArdle and others are saying is this: if a law or policy can’t stop all mass shootings, then there is no point in enacting it.  Case in point:

Reducing the body counts a bit is obviously a very worthy project; I am okay with outlawing magazines that contain more than ten bullets.  But this will in no way prevent people from going on murderous rampages.  We are not talking about an end to spree killing, only about a (perhaps) very slight reduction in its deadliness.

Can you imagine if that logic was applied to, say, automobile safety?  “Well, setting speed limits aren’t going to prevent ALL car accidents, so what’s the point of having speed limits at all?”.  Insanity, right?

McArdle is, of course, being the good libertarian (“government is not the answer”), but she takes this to a new level, virtually sneering at these ideas and saying it is “easy and satisfying to be for ‘gun control’ in the abstract, but we cannot pass gun control, in the abstract.”

After rejecting all the various proposals out there as insufficient, McArdle takes on the tired strawman… banning ALL guns, which nobody is seriously suggesting.

Self-conscious that she is doing the easy essay of poking holes in others’ solutions, McArdle forces herself to come with a solution of her own,  And here is where she gets crazy:

I’d also like us to encourage people to gang rush shooters, rather than following their instincts to hide; if we drilled it into young people that the correct thing to do is for everyone to instantly run at the guy with the gun, these sorts of mass shootings would be less deadly, because even a guy with a very powerful weapon can be brought down by 8-12 unarmed bodies piling on him at once.  Would it work?  Would people do it?  I have no idea; all I can say is that both these things would be more effective than banning rifles with pistol grips.

So, in sum: the chances of achieving anything with any gun legislation are so low that in these circumstances, people should resign themselves to probable death by running at the person firing a gun in the hope that enough people will follow that their likely death will not be in vain.

“Would it work?” is sort of an odd question for McArdle to ask. (especially since her answer is “I have no idea”), but it makes me wonder exactly what her metric of success is.

I would say more, but what Jonathan Chait points out at NY Magazine is more than adequate:

Are you kidding me? You think gun control is impractical, so your plan is to turn the entire national population, including young children, into a standby suicide squad? Through private initiative, of course. It’s way more feasible than gun control!

***

Unless I am missing a very subtle parody of libertarianism, McArdle’s plan to teach children to launch banzai charges against mass murderers is the single worst solution to any problem I have ever seen offered in a major publication… I award this essay no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

Moreover, the Department of Homeland Security has specific guidelines on how to act when one’s life is threatened in a shooting situation. Objective 1 is to evacuate, and if you cannot evacuate, objective 2 is find a hiding place: “If evacuation is not possible, find a place to hide where the active shooter is less likely to find you.” DHS recommends that people take action against an active shooter only as a last resort and when your life is in imminent danger.

From the DHS manual:

DHS page 1

DHS page 2

That seems not only logical, but in line with human instinct.

The Ones You Don’t Hear About

It’s only dumb luck, rather than laws, that prevents more mass shootings:

A day before a gunman in Oregon killed eight classmates and his college writing teacher, Tuolumne County sheriff’s detectives foiled a plot by students to go on a shooting rampage at their high school near Yosemite National Park, authorities said.

The Summerville Union High School students, all male, had detailed plans that “included names of would-be victims, locations, methods in which the plan was to be carried out,” Sheriff Jim Mele told reporters at a news conference Saturday. The targets included other students and faculty members.

The boys confessed, Mele said, according to the Modesto Bee and KCRA-TV Channel 3. Three were arrested Wednesday and a fourth detained Friday on suspicion of conspiracy to commit assault with deadly weapons, a statement provided by the sheriff’s office said.

“They were going to come on campus and shoot and kill as many people as possible at the campus,” Mele told the Bee.

The suspects were overheard by other students talking about their plans. Detectives later found evidence that the suspects planned to act during an upcoming campus event, the news organizations reported.

“Students noticed suspicious activity, and … they felt uneasy enough to go to staff,” the sheriff said in televised remarks.

The names of the suspects were not released because they are juveniles.

No weapons were found by detectives, but the students were planning to obtain them, the news organizations reported. No specific motive was disclosed.

The high school serves students in Tuolumne, about three hours east of San Francisco.

The Clinton Gun Plan And The Mental Health Factor Of Gun Control

I was going to write a post about mental health and gun control, but I see that Hillary Clinton just came out with a plan, so I’m going to talk about that as well.  First, the Clinton plan:

Fight for comprehensive background checks.

  • Advocate for comprehensive federal background check legislation.
  • Close the “Charleston Loophole.”
  • Tighten the gun show and Internet sales loophole if Congress won’t.

The first bullet point is meaningless.

The second is concrete and is common-sensical.  The “Charleston loophole” is what made the Charleston shooter able to obtain a gun legally.  He had a federal criminal record, but the background check was not completed in three days.  If that happens, you get the keep the gun.  Which is stupid.  Close the loophole and make it a law that you can’t get the gun until the background check is complete.  (It seems to me this is smart from a homeland security standpoint as well).

The third also is sensical.  Require background checks when the gun is bought on the internet or at gun shows.  Clinton’s wording seems to suggest that this can be done without Congressional approval.  If that is so, I think it would have been done by now.

Hold dealers and manufacturers fully accountable if they endanger Americans.

  • Repeal the gun industry’s unique immunity protection.
  • Revoke the licenses of bad-actor dealers.

The NRA lobbied Congress to pass the so-called “Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act,” a law which prevents victims of gun violence from holding negligent manufacturers and dealers accountable for violence perpetrated with their guns.  It is very odd.  If we can hold cigarette manufacturers responsible, why not gun manufacturers?  This isn’t a second amendment issue either.  It is not a ban.  Having the right to make guns does not mean you are immune from the legal consequences.

Presumably, we all already revoking the licenses of bad-actor dealers.  Clinton says we need to be more vigilant.  Fine.

Keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, other violent criminals, and the severely mentally ill.

  • Support legislation to prohibit all domestic abusers from buying and possessing guns.
  • Make straw purchasing a federal crime.
  • Improve existing law prohibiting persons suffering from severe mental illness from purchasing or possessing a gun.
  • Keep military-style weapons off our streets.

More obvious solutions, although somewhat vague in the third bullet point, which is what I wanted to address.

I think we’re talking about a reductionist link between mental health and mass shootings that is too simplistic. Most mentally ill persons are more likely to be victims of crime, not perpetrators. The common post-shooting cry that more resources should go toward dealing with mental illness misses the point. So many factors seem to go into mass shootings—age, alcohol and drug use, social isolation, the availability of guns, whether the shooter knows the victims (usually they do) and mental illness—that the problem needs to be addressed in its totality.

In fact, if I were to guess, I think social isolation and age (and certainly gender) are more relevant factors than mental illness. And I’m not sure what mental illness MEANS in this context.

Mental retardation, sure.  Mental illness which manifests itself with violent tendencies and a history of assaultive behavior, sure.  Those are obvious.  But I don’t think that net is big enough to have captured the Oregon shooter, the Charleston shooter, or the Columbine shooters, to name a few.

So do you cast a wider net?  Do you include people with schizophrenia?  Bipolar disorder?  Other major mental and emotional illnesses, even if they don’t include violence?

Maybe, but sometimes people with those kinds of mental illness can control them with drugs and behavioral therapy.  What do you do, for example, with someone who was diagnosed as schizophrenic in his teens, but is now in his 60s and has gone 5 decades without any incident?

What about depression?  Social anxiety?  These are mental illnesses found in the DSM-V, that are often temporal in nature.  Are you going to deny guns to ANYONE who has EVER been depressed?  What about PTSD which happens to crime victims and one-third of all soldiers who served in combat (try taking guns away from THAT group)?

And how do you find out about peoples’ mental and emotional illnesses anyway?  Will private medical and psychiatric records be made available to the government?

In other words, other than the most obvious examples (people committed to long-term mental hospitals), a “mental illness” approach to reducing gun deaths and suicides is not only impractical, but ineffective.  Violent tendencies (as shown by domestic abuse complaints, and violent crimes) are a better predictor, and our focus should be on that.

In the end, however, Nick Kristof isn’t saying anything new, but he’s saying it correctly:

First, we need to comprehend the scale of the problem: It’s not just occasional mass shootings like the one at an Oregon college on Thursday, but a continuous deluge of gun deaths, an average of 92 every day in America. Since 1970, more Americans have died from guns than died in all U.S. wars going back to the American Revolution.

When I reported a similar figure in the past, gun lobbyists insisted that it couldn’t possibly be true. But the numbers are unarguable: fewer than 1.4 million war deaths since 1775, more than half in the Civil War, versus about 1.45 million gun deathssince 1970 (including suicides, murders and accidents).

If that doesn’t make you flinch, consider this: In America, more preschoolers are shot dead each year (82 in 2013) than police officers are in the line of duty (27 in 2013), according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FBI.

More than 60 percent of gun deaths are suicides, and most of the rest are homicides. Gun enthusiasts scoff at including suicides, saying that without guns people would kill themselves by other means. In many cases, though, that’s not true.

In Great Britain, people used to kill themselves by putting their heads in the oven and asphyxiating themselves with coal gas. This accounted for almost half of British suicides in the late 1950s, but Britain then began switching from coal gas to natural gas, which is much less lethal. Sticking one’s head in the oven was no longer a reliable way to kill oneself — and there was surprisingly little substitution of other methods. Suicide rates dropped, and they stayed at a lower level.

The British didn’t ban ovens, but they made them safer. We need to do the same with guns.

When I tweeted about the need to address gun violence after college shooting in the Roseburg, Ore., a man named Bob pushed back. “Check out car accident deaths,” he tweeted sarcastically. “Guess we should ban cars.”

Actually, cars exemplify the public health approach we need to apply to guns. We don’t ban cars, but we do require driver’s licenses, seatbelts, airbags, padded dashboards, safety glass and collapsible steering columns. And we’ve reduced the auto fatality rate by 95 percent.

One problem is that the gun lobby has largely blocked research on making guns safer. Between 1973 and 2012, the National Institutes of Health awarded 89 grants for the study of rabies and 212 for cholera — and only three for firearms injuries.

Daniel Webster, a public health expert at Johns Hopkins University, notes that in 1999, the government listed the gun stores that had sold the most weapons later linked to crimes. The gun store at the top of the list was so embarrassed that it voluntarily took measures to reduce its use by criminals — and the rate at which new guns from the store were diverted to crime dropped 77 percent.

But in 2003, Congress barred the government from publishing such information.

Why is Congress enabling pipelines of guns to criminals?

Public health experts cite many ways we could live more safely with guns, and many of them have broad popular support.

A poll this year found that majorities even of gun-owners favor universal background checks; tighter regulation of gun dealers; safe storage requirements in homes; and a 10-year prohibition on possessing guns for anyone convicted of domestic violence, assault or similar offenses.

We should also be investing in “smart gun” technology, such as weapons that fire only with a PIN or fingerprint. We should adopt microstamping that allows a bullet casing to be traced back to a particular gun. We can require liability insurance for guns, as we do for cars.

It’s not clear that these steps would have prevented the Oregon shooting. But Professor Webster argues that smarter gun policies could reduce murder rates by up to 50 percent — and that’s thousands of lives a year. Right now, the passivity of politicians is simply enabling shooters.

The gun lobby argues that the problem isn’t firearms; it’s crazy people. Yes, America’s mental health system is a disgrace. But to me, it seems that we’re all crazy if we as a country can’t take modest steps to reduce the carnage that leaves America resembling a battlefield.

Eh, What Are You Gonna Do?

The callousness of Jeb Bush is appalling.  Here’s that American can-do spirit:

It’s interesting.  Maybe we should have students attend school in wombs — then the GOP might care if they die.  Because only deaths inside women matter to these people.

Mass Shooting Obama Response Montage

AFTERTHOUGHT:  What I liked about Obama’s response speech this time was this:

And I would particularly ask America’s gun owners — who are using those guns properly, safely, to hunt, for sport, for protecting their families — to think about whether your views are properly being represented by the organization that suggests it’s speaking for you.

What Obama seems to want to do is drive a wedge between America’s gun owners and the NRA. Is that possible? I think so.  I think there are a lot of responsible gun owners who don’t like being lumped up with that group, but don’t feel welcome with the gun control crowd (who are often painted as “trying to ban all guns”).

It’s worth a shot.

Four Bullshit Pro-Gun Arguments

1. “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.”

Catchy. But bullshit. A murderer without a gun has a pretty hard time committing mass murder, unless he uses a grenade or bomb or something.  And most people don’t have access and/or the technical know-how to use those.  To really rack up those mind-blowing death counts – to make sure that many lives are destroyed and families ruined in the space of five or 10 minutes – people need a gun. If all you care about is apportioning blame and declaring that someone does or does not have murderous intent, then by all means, claim a knife and a gun are equivalent weapons. For those of us who are more worried about preventing unnecessary deaths than merely acknowledging the hate that resides in some people’s hearts, however, the sheer amount of damage a gun can do is reason to limit who can get their hands on one.

2. “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

Also catchy.  Also bullshit., If you look at the real world, you’ll find that far from being our only hope, good guys with guns are barely any help at all.  No mass shootings in the past 30 years have been stopped by an armed civilian; In 1982, an armed civilian successfully killed a shooter, but it was only after he committed his crime.

It’s not that there aren’t enough guns, either. There are as many guns as people in this country, and fully a third of people are armed. Even when shootings happen in gun-happy places, where armed people are sure to be nearby, this vigilante scenario simply doesn’t work. That’s because pulling a gun out and shooting back in the chaos of a mass shooting just makes things worse, as was discovered when a would-be hero at the 2011 shooting of Gabby Giffords very nearly shot the wrong man. (The actual shooter was tackled by an elderly man.)

3. “It’s mental health!”

Opponents of gun control love bringing up the problem of inadequate mental health care after a shooting. This is strictly for deflection purposes, as there is no indication that Republicans will ever work on meaningful reform for our mental health systems – which, its true are woefully inadequate. It’s an issue that only matters to them in the immediate aftermath of a shooting – then it’s forgotten, until there’s another shooting. Rinse, repeat.

Also, the “mental health” gambit, in this context, is always vague. What exactly is the plan? Round up everyone with a mental health issue and put them under lock and key? That amounts to 1 in 5 Americans, the vast majority of whom have no violent tendencies. Will we have some kind of extensive mental health registry? A lot of Americans who struggle with mental health are undiagnosed, though, and putting them on a government list that restricts their rights is not a great inducement to get a diagnosis. There are a lot of shooters in this country, so we have some pretty good data on mass shooters. And that data shows there’s no reliable way to tell who is going to go off like this, and only 23 percent of shooters have a diagnosis. Even if all of those individuals got gold-star treatment, the system would only stop a few shooters.

4. “Second Amendment, baby.”

Yeah.  Let’s not kid ourselves.  The framers had peashooters compared to the guns now.  They didn’t intend this massive self-infliction of American-on-American crime.  And also, there was no standing army back then, just a militia (I’m pretty sure that word is in the Second Amendment, too). THAT’S what the Second Amendment was for. But yeah, the Supreme Court (which suddenly, the conservatives LOVE when the subject becomes the Second Amendment) got it wrong.  The good thing about amendments?  They can be repealed.  And if this shit keeps up… conservatives are going to WISH they had allowed some reasonable gun restrictions when they had the chance.

Oregon Mass Shooting

As my tweets suggested yesterday, there was yet another mass shooting yesterday — this one at Umpqua Community College (“UCC”) in Oregon.  Nine killed, not including the shooter, and seven injured.

I will not name the killer.  In these circumstances, I often do name the killer, but one of the things that has come out is he wrote on his blog, a few days ago, that mass-killers go from unknown to famous in one day (his name is easily found on the Internets).  That suggests he was seeking notoriety, and I don’t want to contribute to that.

He walked into a classroom at UCC with four guns [UPDATE: six guns on campus, plus another seven at his home], and shot and killed the teacher point blank. As he was reloading his handgun, he ordered the students to stand up if they were Christians.  And they stood up and he said, ‘Good, because you’re a Christian, you’re going to see God in just about one second”.  And then he shot and killed them.  Students who didn’t stand were shot in the leg.

Police on the scene eventually shot and killed the assailant.

These are the reports right now, but they are still not confirmed.  Some reports say he asked each student individually if they were Christian.  As usual, early reports are often not accurate.

But we know more about the shooter.  He was mixed race (white/black), age 26, and, according to an online dating profile, a “conservative Republican”.  The same profile said he did not believe in organized religion.

His motive is not known.  Although he was opposed to organized religion, and he reportedly made the “see God” comment, nothing else about him made it seem like he was radical in his anti-religion views [UPDATE:  And possibly a white supremacist, despite being half-black].  Nothing in his background made it seem like it was politically motivated.

He was reportedly shy and a loner.  Never had a girlfriend.

The email address used on the dating site was also associated with the profile of user Lithium-Love on torrent sharing website KickAssTorrents.  Lithium is the drug used by those with bipolar disorder, suggesting he had emotional problems.

The user wrote a blog post on the KickAssTorrents site about Vester Flanagan, the man who shot dead two reporters during a live broadcast in August before killing himself, calling the footage of the shooting “good”.  The post went on to say:

On an interesting note, I have noticed that so many people like him are all alone and unknown, yet when they spill a little blood, the whole world knows who they are. A man who was known by no one, is now known by everyone. His face splashed across every screen, his name across the lips of every person on the planet, all in the course of one day. Seems the more people you kill, the more you’re in the limelight.

The user’s last torrent upload was on Tuesday and was entitled “This World Surviving Sandy Hook BBC Documentary 2015,” according to the website.

UPDATE:  He left a note…

The heavily armed gunman who slaughtered nine people at an Oregon college left a hate-filled note at the scene of his rampage and “felt the world was against him,” law enforcement officials confirmed Friday.

Two officials familiar with the contents of the note say 26-year-old Christopher Harper Mercer, who was killed in a firefight Thursday with police at Umpqua Community College, wrote that he would be “welcomed in Hell and embraced by the devil.”

He wrote that he was “in a bad way,” one official said. “He was depressed, sullen.”

The officials said Mercer lamented the fact that he did not have a girlfriend. “He said he had no life,” another official said.

Why Ben Shapiro Is An Ass (And Peggy Noonan Is A Liar)

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This is so unbelievably bizarre.  Esquire even calls it “the dumbest response to the Virginia TV shooting”.  Shaprio (and Breitbart.com, which posted this — Shapiro is the Editor) argues this:  After the Charleston shootings, he says, the “entire political and media establishment” blamed the Confederate flag.  So if they were consistent, he goes on, then we should blame Black Lives Matter and gay pride.

How do you break down lies so compactly mashed together?  No, nobody blamed the Confederate flag in the Charleston shootings.  In fact, there was no mention of the Confederate flag in the mainstream media for about a week afterwards (Shapiro seems to forget that we were all alive when the Charleston shootings happened a few months ago so his attempts to spin it are embarrassing).  However, to the extent that everyone attributed to the Charleston shooting to racism — well, the shooter himself said that was the reason (and the only reason)

And finally, we don’t blame the gun.  This is perhaps the most disingenuous argument coming from the right.  It is this stupid notion that the left blames the thing.  We don’t blame heroin when someone uses heroin, but we still ban it.  Because it is dangerous and some people will use it.  We control it because it is inherently dangerous in the wrong hands.  Is that so complicated?

They are sniffing glue or something at Breitbart.

RELATED ASS-DOM:  Peggy Noonan writes this in the Wall Street Journal — for real:

Something is going on, some tectonic plates are moving in interesting ways. My friend Cesar works the deli counter at my neighborhood grocery store. He is Dominican, an immigrant, early 50s, and listens most mornings to a local Hispanic radio station, La Mega, on 97.9 FM. Their morning show is the popular “El Vacilón de la Mañana,” and after the first GOP debate, Cesar told me, they opened the lines to call-ins, asking listeners (mostly Puerto Rican, Dominican, Mexican) for their impressions. More than half called in to say they were for Mr. Trump. Their praise, Cesar told me a few weeks ago, dumbfounded the hosts. I later spoke to one of them, who identified himself as D.J. New Era. He backed Cesar’s story. “We were very surprised,” at the Trump support, he said. Why? “It’s a Latin-based market!”

Stop the presses.  Peggy Noonan knows a guy who works at a deli who heard a radio show where some Latin people said they liked Trump.  MUST be a tectonic plate shift, right?

On Earth, however….

A new Gallup poll released Monday evening found that 65 percent of Hispanic voters say they have an unfavorable view of Trump, compared with 14 percent who view him favorably— yielding him a net favorable score of -51, well below any other presidential candidate.

UPDATE #2:  From the same Peggy Noonan article, there’s more evidence other than the Dominican Deli focus group…..

I’ve written before about an acquaintance—late 60s, northern Georgia, lives on Social Security, voted Obama in ’08, not partisan, watches Fox News, hates Wall Street and “the GOP establishment.” She continues to be so ardent for Mr. Trump that she not only watched his speech in Mobile, Ala., on live TV, she watched while excitedly texting with family members—middle-class, white, independent-minded—who were in the audience cheering. Is that “the Republican base”? I guess maybe it is, because she texted me Wednesday to say she’d just registered Republican. I asked if she’d ever been one before. Reply: “No, never!!!”

That’s interesting, Peggy.  One problem: there is no party registration in Georgia.  Make stuff up much?

Steve Benen weighs in:

And 43 years ago, everyone Pauline Kael knew just couldn’t wait to vote for McGovern.
Look, I’m willing to take Noonan at her word. Let’s say she really does have occasional chats with the guy behind her local deli counter. Let’s also say her – and Cesar’s – characterization of the callers to the local radio station are accurate. While we’re at it, let’s go ahead and assume that the conservative pundit just happens to keep meeting immigrants out in the world who share her ideology.
Even if we concede all of this, the mistake is assuming it matters. Noonan is extrapolating from her personal experiences, which may feel persuasive on an individual level, but which is a poor way of understanding Americans’ attitudes in general.
A more sensible approach requires more reliable research methods. As luck would have it, we have these things called “polls,” and the independent polling of late suggests Noonan’s personal experiences are inconsistent with broad national trends.
Trump is many things, but increasingly popular with Latino voters and immigrant communities isn’t one of them.

Gun Problem? Us?

“We don’t have a gun problem. We have a criminal problem. We have a society that thinks it’s completely permissible to shirk responsibility. We have people who have no problem with what Planned Parenthood does in terms of fetal parts harvesting. We don’t teach a respect for life. We glorify violence in movie, music, film and books. This is what our society is. This is Frankenstein’s monster. This is what society has created. It is a reflection of us.”

Fox news pundit Dana Lausch

“This isn’t a gun problem, this is a mental problem… It’s not a question of the laws, it’s really the people.”

GOP Presidential candidate Donald Trump

I’m not quite sure why these arguments are still in the air.  Other countries have everything that we have — mental illness, “violent” video games and movies, etc.  Yet they don’t have all these murders and suicides due to handguns.  What do they have that we don’t have?  Gun control.

This isn’t rocket science.

The Onion, from 2014. You can guess the reference.

‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens

Terrible Live Shooting On TV This Morning

Troubling video (not bloody, but shocking)

Both the reporter and the cameraman are dead.

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During an interview on CNN, General Manager Jeffrey Marks confirmed that today was Parker’s last day with the station. Marks also said that Ward’s fiancee Melissa Ott was in the control room during the broadcast, and saw the shooting happen live. From the video shot by the cameraman (as he died), a frame may have caught the shooter. 11935115_10156061166125093_4992410002731105501_n 

This all happened at 7:45 a.m. today during a live interview in the town of Moneta, Virginia. A manhunt for the shooter is on. Let me state the obvious before everyone else does:

(1)  Yes, the only reason this is “news” is because it happened on TV.  But double murders happen all the time.
(2)  Yes, the victims are white, although honestly, when black people are shot and it is recorded, we pay attention then as well.
(3)  This would be a good time for the candidates to speak up about gun control.  Watch the GOP candidates say instead that this is a time for “prayers” so that they never have to address gun control.

UPDATE 10:25 a.m. — Shooter is apparently a disgruntled employee of the TV station.

UPDATE 10:40 a.m. — Suspect identified as Vester Lee Flanigan (or Lester Lee Flanigan?), a light-skinned black man, who is about 6’3″, 250lbs and driving a gray 2009 Ford Mustang with Virginia license plates WZE-8846.  Police are in pursuit on Interstate 81 In a related story, of local interest, the second guy in the local (Rockingham County NC) manhunt was caught last night.  So that happened.

UPDATE 11:25 a.m.  Ugh. This story gets worse and worse. The shooter (Flanigan) goes by the name of Bryce Williams. He was a reporter at the station. And he started sharing video of the shooting (from his vantage point) on his Twitter account (which has been shut down) and Facebook page (also shut down). The video is very graphic and people are very good about not posting (or viewing it).  I’ve seen it, but I won’t post or link to it.  You can see him walk up to her and draw his gun and aim it at her (image below).  Nobody notices.  He puts the gun down and steps back a step or two.  Another 3 or 4 seconds pass.  Suddenly he lifts the gun and fires.  Alison Parker is seen running off.  The screen goes black and you hear more shots.   You don’t actually see anyone get hit, but it is startling.

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And more about the shooter now….  

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UPDATE 11:55 a.m. – Not dead, but in critical condition.

UPDATE 2:00 p.m. – Okay.  Now confirmed dead.

And now a motive — or rather several of them — emerge:

In the 23-page document faxed to ABC News, the writer says “MY NAME IS BRYCE WILLIAMS” and his legal name is Vester Lee Flanagan II.” He writes what triggered today’s carnage was his reaction to the racism of the Charleston church shooting:

“Why did I do it? I put down a deposit for a gun on 6/19/15. The Church shooting in Charleston happened on 6/17/15…”

“What sent me over the top was the church shooting. And my hollow point bullets have the victims’ initials on them.”

It is unclear whose initials he is referring to. He continues, “As for Dylann Roof? You (deleted)! You want a race war (deleted)? BRING IT THEN YOU WHITE …(deleted)!!!” He said Jehovah spoke to him, telling him to act.

Later in the manifesto, the writer quotes the Virginia Tech mass killer, Seung Hui Cho, calls him “his boy,” and expresses admiration for the Columbine High School killers. “Also, I was influenced by Seung–Hui Cho. That’s my boy right there. He got NEARLY double the amount that Eric Harrisand Dylann Klebold got…just sayin.'”

In an often rambling letter to the authorities, and family and friends, he writes of a long list of grievances. In one part of the document, Williams calls it a “Suicide Note for Friends and Family.”

–He says has suffered racial discrimination, sexual harassment and bullying at work

–He says he has been attacked by black men and white females

–He talks about how he was attacked for being a gay, black man

“Yes, it will sound like I am angry…I am. And I have every right to be. But when I leave this Earth, the only emotion I want to feel is peace….”

“The church shooting was the tipping point…but my anger has been building steadily…I’ve been a human powder keg for a while…just waiting to go BOOM!!!!”

Even The Gun Nuts Don’t Want A Piece Of This

A few days ago, I mentioned the presence of armed white people — the Oath Keepers — present on the streets of Ferguson during the racial tensions.  They were there, they said, the protect a reporter from the ultra-right wing website, InfoWars.

Except now we learn that Infowars denies knowing these guys or what they’re doing.

Maybe that’s true, maybe not.  But many gun nuts are thinking this is a bad idea.  A typical example… from the blog “BEARING ARMS, Guns & Patriots Saving Liberty and Lives“:

It seems quite clear that the four white Oath Keepers self-deployed to a black neighborhood in which there is considerable racial tension, in what many regard as nothing more or less than a show of force. They interjected themselves into a community where they were neither wanted nor requested, and raised tensions instead of assuaging them as the prior group of Oath Keepers did in December of 2014.

Our continuing fight to not only retain but reassert our Second Amendment rights after years of abuse at the hands of an increasingly statist government is one that requires a deft touch, and I’m proud to say that the vast majority of gun owners clearly understand this. As a result, we’re attracting more shooters, across wider cultural lines.

***

And we’ll continue to create a more inclusive “gun culture 2.0″ as long as we act intelligently.

I don’t know anything about the individual Oath Keepers involved in this most recent appearance of the Oath Keepers in Ferguson, but then again, their intentions and pedigrees are all but irrelevant. The public perception of what they were doing, and why they were there, is what matters.

They did us no favors.

Of course, that blogger (if you read further) is only concerned about the reputation of the pro-gun crowd and not the fact that people might get, you know, killed.

But…. it’s progress.  Right?

Today’s Movie Theater Shooting

And the winner is…. Anitoch, Tennessee’s Carmike Hickory 8 Theaters

The movie was:  Mad Max
The shooter is: Dead (shot by police)
Shooter characteristics:  White male, age 51
Shooter weapons: pepper spray, gun, hatchet, surgical mask and 2 backpacks (possible bombs?)
# of victims:  0 dead, 3 treated for pepper spray, 1 with bruises from hatchet
Motive: TBD
Is he crazy?:  TBD
Expected right-wing reaction: “If only more people in the theater had guns….”

Set the clock back to zero.  Start another count to the next shooting….

Good Ol’ Boys Shooting At The U.S. Military

For the second day in a row, shots were reportedly fired Wednesday near a Mississippi military facility where part of the “Jade Helm 15” training exercise was expected to take place.

Soldiers training at Camp Shelby in Hattiesburg reported shots fired into the air around 8 a.m. local time, according to a news release obtained by local TV station WJTV. The release noted that the shots were reportedly fired in the same location where two soldiers reported being fired upon on Tuesday.

Authorities said the suspect in Wednesday’s incident was a white male driving a maroon pick-up truck, according to WJTV. The news release noted that is the same suspect description given in Tuesday’s shooting. The news release described Camp Shelby as being in a “heightened state of alert.” Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) said in a statement that he’s in communication with the head of the state’s Department of Public Safety to locate and arrest the suspect, according to WJTV. “The soldiers at Camp Shelby and across the state can and should take appropriate steps to defend themselves as necessary,” Bryant said in the statement. “This is one of the reasons I signed an executive order directing certain National Guard personnel to be armed.”

UPDATE:  They got him maybe. He fits the description.

The Hubbub About Cecil

Seems like the Internet went absolutely bonkers yesterday about how a policeman killed a completely innocent black man dentist killed a completely innocent lion.  It’s important to understand exactly what he did.  He didn’t merely shoot and kill a lion who was iconic to the region and the center of a research study; he poached it:

ciceldentistWalter Palmer, the Minnesota dentist who killed Cecil the Lion, closed his practice and went into hiding after a worldwide firestorm erupted over him killing Cecil. Palmer claims he misunderstood the rules. The circumstances around Cecil’s death, Palmer’s barbaric past, and the fact that he has gone into hiding tells the story.

Palmer’s hunting guides, Theo Bronkhorst and Honest Ndlovu, appeared before a court in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe and were charged with receiving a $50,000 bribe to help Palmer stalk and kill the animal. The operative word is “bribe.” Just the basic definition of the word alludes that Palmer had prior knowledge that he was committing an illegal act. Although Bronkhorst and Ndlovu have been charged, Palmer hasn’t even received a court summons for this atrocity.

Palmer used illegal hunting tactics to track and kill Cecil. During night hours, Palmer and his guides used a dead animal tethered to their vehicle to lure Cecil out of the park because they thought doing that would make the kill legal. Not so much. Baiting animals while hunting in the region is illegal, as is night hunting. Nothing about this “hunt” was legal. Hell, it’s unethical even from a sporting perspective.

Once they lured Cecil out of the park, they flashed a spotlight so Palmer could shoot the lion full of arrows. Palmer tracked Cecil for 40 hours, and then found the lion weakened from his injuries. Palmer finished off this slaughter with a gunshot.

“This is much closer to assassination than hunting,” said hunter and journalist Jonny Miles. “The trophy aspect is subordinate to the experience, to the knowledge required and the knowledge gained, to the very ancient relationship that you are experiencing with an animal that you are hunting for food.”

Miles added that, even by hunting standards, Palmer falls short of being ethical. Palmer has a past of unethical and illegal hunting practices. In 2008, he pleaded guilty to a license violation regarding the illegal killing of a black bear in Wisconsin. He killed the bear in an illegal location, similar to Cecil’s killing. He was charged with a felony but was only given a $3,000 fine and one year of probation.

Since being identified, Palmer has gone into deep hiding. He closed his dental practice, deleted any social media account associated with him, and is avoiding the press. He may be hiding from the public, but his silence is as telling as an admission of guilt.

His dental office:

The dentist is being condemned and rightly so, although perhaps the more healthy response is to donate to the researchers that had been tracking Cecil. These guys.

Louisiana Movie Theater Shooting Update

Again.

The gunman who opened fire inside a packed movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana, Thursday night, was John Russel Houser, police said at a news conference this morning.

Houser, 59, who killed himself, is among three people who died, police said. The other two were Mayci Breaux, 21, of Franklin, Louisiana, who died at the theater, and Jillian Johnson, 33, of Lafayette, who died at the hospital.

Nine others were injured, including one who was in critical condition, police said.

Gov. Bobby Jindal praised two New Iberia teachers as heroes. One leaped over the other to shield her and pull a fire alarm:

“Her friend literally jumped over her, and in her account actually saved her life,” Jindal said during a press conference. “If she hadn’t done that … that bullet, she believed it would have hit her in the head.

“Even though she was shot in the leg, she had the presence of mind to pull the fire alarm to help save other lives.”

The gunman had a history of criminal/mental problems.  How he managed to get a semi-automatic handgun is not known yet.

Nothing will happen to change gun laws.

UPDATE:  Raw Story did some Internet digging on the shooter.  Confederate flag-waving right-wing nut?  You bet kids:

John Russell Houser, of Phenix City, Alabama, posted frequently across a variety of online forums — from political discussions to message boards for Oldsmobile enthusiasts — where he complained about “moral decay” and media brainwashing.

“America is so sick that I now believe it to be the enemy of the world,” he wrote under the name Rusty Houser in a December 2013 comment on Fellowship of the Minds. “I know next to nothing about Iran, but the little I do know tells me they are far higher morally than this financially failing filth farm.”

The 59-year-old Houser was less active on Facebook and Twitter, although he left behind some clues about his beliefs on those social media networks.

“If you don’t think the internet is censored, try reading a newspaper from a country that hates liberals the way I do,” reads his second — and last — Twitter post, from June 2013. The first argues that “Westboro Baptist Church may be the last real church in America [members not brainwashed].”

His Facebook account shows just two likes — the “I hate liberals!” political organization, which uses an avatar that reads “Stand with Rand,” and the Crossroads Irish-American Festival.

Posts on his Facebook page reveals an interest in limiting women’s influence over the church, a hatred for American culture, and complaints about liberals “brainwashing” Americans into hating their own country.

“The bible doesn’t ask me to like what it says, only to obey it,” Houser wrote. “Death comes soon to the financially failing filth farm called the US.”

Houser signed up for an account with Tea Party Nation in June 2013, but he was not an active commenter.

Posts on other forums reveal Houser’s belief that the U.S. was racist against white people, sterilization should be mandatory for welfare recipients and former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke was a more historically significant figure than the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

“Hitler accomplished far more than any other through ‘pragmatically forming,’” Houser posted in January 2015.

He wrote something of a manifesto in March 2013, when he asked for help channeling his anger and frustration as a white Christian man living under President Barack Obama.

1 Recognize a lost cause.It is too late.The US is oozing the puss of foolishness and perversion.

2 Find a positive way to exert your energies.I recommend laughing as often as possible.Here is something that is truly funny: since I accepted this it came to me that the president is doing exactly what Tim McVeigh did,only the president is much more effective.The way I see it,the faster he wrecks this nation, which in no way resembles what it’s founders envisioned,the faster working people with morals may re-assume command.ie I was for his re-election. I like his spending habits.etc……Truth and death always go hand in hand, and in our brave moments we can laugh. Whatever truth requires, I will accept.

3 Encourage whatever takes us forward. Right now, down is forward.

4 For the few who will understand this, it is my hope that you will see to one preparation for the coming downfall, which will be worse than a Mad Max scenario. That preparation is not storing up canned goods, munitions,etc, but to gather what will be necessary to put in your families food to insure a painless and certain death should the need arise.,if there are no cell phones,no TV,no power,gas,no stores,no police,etc.

5 If you are male, fight until the end, and enjoy it.People are good at what they enjoy, and your Maker would want it that way.

Houser argued in a January 2014 forum post that the United States needed a right-wing party like Greece’s neo-Nazi “Golden Dawn” faction to restore its greatness.

Jesus. ANOTHER Mass Shooting

Happened within the past few hours. A shooting at a movie theater in Lafayette Louisiana. 2 are confirmed dead. The shooter is dead. 8 appear to be wounded. It happened 20 minutes into the movie “Trainwreck”.

Ironically, President Obama had taped an interview for the BBC which was going to air in a few hours. In the interview, President Obama stated that his biggest frustration during his presidency was being unable to get any effective gun laws passed. Yep.

UPDATE: Eyewitness says the shooter was a middle age white man, and he was chasing a barefoot woman. Others say shooter stood up as movie was starting and began shooting indiscriminately.

UPDATE:3 confirmed dead, which includes the shooter, a 58 year old man.