All Articles Tagged "gun control"

Serious Question: Isn’t It Time We Start Thinking About Disarming The Police?

April 9th, 2015 - By Charing Ball
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Another American cop has was caught on video murdering an unarmed Black man, and the only surprise here is that he was officially charged for it.

This piece was going to be about how Black people should start carrying guns to protect themselves from the police. However, after thinking about it for a short time, I realize now that such an idea will not work.

The laws will not allow it (because the state would just ignore it). The judges will not allow it. Morev, many in our community would not allow it. The likely outcome in such a scenario is that more Black people would be killed unjustifiably, but with the excuse that they died because they had a gun.

So I have another idea: Let’s disarm the police. No seriously, think about it…

Last August, Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed 18-year-old Mike Brown. His alleged crime was shoplifting a box of blunts from a local grocery store and then proceeding to walk in the middle of the road. He was unarmed, and witnesses present at the time of his death claimed that he was running away from Wilson when he was first shot. However, the unjust yet legally justified killing of Brown is only half of the story here:

As local citizens of the small Missouri town, with a population of 21,000, made their way out into the streets to protest the suspicious shooting and demand answers, we watched as the local police department deployed armed military style tactics on unarmed citizens. As Glenn Greenwald noted in his piece for The Intercept:

Their uniform would be mistaken for a soldier’s if it were not for their “Police” patches. They wear green tops, and pants fashioned after the U.S. Marine Corps MARPAT camouflage pattern. And they stand in front of a massive uparmored truck called a Bearcat, similar in look to a mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle, or as the troops who rode in them call it, the MRAP. They have short-barreled 5.56-mm rifles based on the military M4 carbine, with scopes that can accurately hit a target out to 500 meters. On their side they carry pistols. On their front, over their body armor, they carry at least four to six extra magazines, loaded with 30 rounds each.

While there was looting and rioting sparked by the killing, the looting and rioting was no worse than what happens after a college football team wins–or loses–a championship. And yet these military-grade local police rolled their tanks into a town and threw tear gas and smoke bombs at protesters. They also shot rubber bullets and deployed LRAD sonic cannons. They beat and roughed up not only average citizens, but the journalists covering the protests as well. For the next several months, Ferguson, which, again has a population of only 21,000, became an occupied small country.

In spite of the unbelievable nature of what happened there, Ferguson is pretty much reflective of the kind of militarization that has been happening to our local police departments across the country for years. It is only getting worse. According to the New York Times, over the last eight years, local law enforcement agencies have added “tens of thousands of machine guns; nearly 200,000 ammunition magazines; thousands of pieces of camouflage and night-vision equipment; and hundreds of silencers, armored cars and aircraft” to their arsenal.

And according to a report released last year by the ACLU titled War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing, this militarization of local law enforcement has been paid for mostly through grants given by the Department of Defense’s 1033 Program, the Department of Homeland Security’s grants to local law enforcement agencies, and the Department of Justice’s Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program. The 1033 program has made it possible for an estimated 500 local law enforcement agencies across the country to receive Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles. These vehicles were built to withstand armor-piercing bombs found on the road.

The report also finds that more times than not, these paramilitary weapons, as well as tactics, are deployed mostly in communities of color. They are used to do everything from drug raids to executing a search warrant. Only a small handful of deployments (seven percent) were for hostage, barricade, or active shooter scenarios, and in the majority of those cases, the targets were white people.

And if you think these well-armed departments are to ensure the safety of these brave officers who put themselves on the frontlines in the war against crime, the report also notes the following:

SWAT deployments often and unnecessarily entailed the use of violent tactics and equipment, including armored personnel carriers; use of violent tactics and equipment was shown to increase the risk of bodily harm and property damage. Of the incidents studied in which SWAT was deployed to search for drugs in a person’s home, the SWAT teams either forced or probably forced entry into a person’s home using a battering ram or other breaching device 65 percent of the time. For drug investigations, the SWAT teams studied were almost twice as likely to force entry into a person’s home than not, and they were more than twice as likely to use forced entry in drug investigations than in other cases. In some instances, the use of violent tactics and equipment caused property damage, injury, and/or death.

That’s right: Instead of maintaining public safety, these well-armed departments often make matters worse.

But an unarmed police officer is less of a threat to the public than an armed officer because it forces officers to use better discretion when entering potentially dangerous situations. Imagine that…

And for those wondering how an unarmed police officer would protect his or her self, as pointed out by the website Disarm The Police, FBI data has shown that in 50 percent of the murders of American cops, suspects attacked the officers before the officers had the opportunity to remove their weapons from their holsters. In other words, an armed cop isn’t guaranteed to be safe.

Last year, a D.C. councilman became a national laughing stock for suggesting that a disarmed police force was the best way to encourage better relations between police and the community.

According to the Washington Times:

“My staff won’t let me tell you that I think we ought to get rid of guns in this city, and that police shouldn’t have guns, so I’m not going to tell you that,” said council member David Grosso, at-large independent, at a Wednesday night council committee hearing. “But I think we have to re-imagine the way that we relate to one another across the board and then change MPD.”

As naïve as it sounds, I honestly feel like Grosso had a valid point. Deadly force should only be used as the last resort when all other peaceful means have been exhausted. But more and more, these well-armed cops reach for their guns first and think about peace later. Point blank, if they have guns, and the support of the state, they will use them. This is no way for a civilized country to behave.

School Allows HS Seniors to Pose With Guns In the Yearbook, Because America

October 27th, 2014 - By Rich
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A Nebraska high school recently updated its yearbook guidelines for graduates giving them even more options for their senior portraits.  In addition to being able to use things like musical instruments or sports equipment as props, students at Broken Bow High School can now pose with guns.

While many would object to teens being allowed to brandish firearms in a yearbook photo, folks in the rural community of Broken Bow think it’s perfectly acceptable as long as the portraits are “done tastefully” and are taken off campus.

The rule change came after parents pressed the school board to allow teens to show off their weapons because many engage in hunting, skeet shooting, and other hobbies involving firearms. The school board approved the measure on Monday in a unanimous 6-0 vote.

“The board I believe felt they wanted to give students who are involved in those kinds of things the opportunity to take a senior picture with their hobby, with their sport, just like anybody with any other hobby or sport,” Superintendent Mark Sievering said.

The new guidelines will not give seniors carte blanche to take just any kind of photo. Pictures with drugs, alcohol, or tobacco will not be allowed, and images with firearms will be examined on a “case by case basis,” said Matthew Haumont, a school board member.

Despite the overwhelming support for the change, some are questioning if allowing weapons in school photos sends the right message, but school officials aren’t concerned.

“I understand that in different cultures this would be viewed differently, but in the rural, hunting culture here, it is something that is viewed in a positive way,” Sievering said.

While hunting and sport shooting are a way of life in Broken Bow, I doubt we’ll see school districts across the country copying their lead, especially in urban areas where gun violence is rampant, or in smaller communities where fears of mass shootings have lead many schools to adopt strict zero tolerance policies.

Still, the folks in Broken Bow believe the updated guidelines are a good thing for students.

“For me as a sportsman, I think the policy’s important because it allows those kids who are doing those things a chance to demonstrate what they’re doing and to celebrate that. I think that’s important and fair in our country.”

 

What do you think of the school’s policy? Would you let your teen pose with a gun in their yearbook picture? Weigh-in! 

Moms Group Starts Ad Campaign Against Kroger’s Open Gun Policy

September 9th, 2014 - By Ann Brown
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kroger adNo more shopping with guns!” says a mothers group to Kroger.

Kroger allows customers to carry firearms in its stores, and the group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a gun control group supported by mega wealthy New York City former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, wants them to stop.

The organization is taking out half a dozen newspapers with ads meant to get the grocery giant to stop permitting customers to openly carry firearms in its stores. The ads will be featured on the websites of USA Today, The Cincinnati Enquirer, The Columbus Dispatch, the Houston Chronicle, The Detroit News, and the Detroit Free Press, and on a billboard in Cincinnati, where Kroger’s corporate headquarters is located. The ads will appear in some of the print editions as well. Ads will also be taken out in the print edition of The Tennessean.

In the  ads there will be images of shoppers doing seemingly harmless things that are currently banned in the nation’s largest grocery chain — such as eating ice cream or shopping without a shirt on — beside images of people carrying rifles. Unbelievably, it’s not the person with the gun that Kroger has a problem with.

According to a spokeswoman for Everytown for Gun Safety, the umbrella group that includes Moms Demand Action, the ad costs ran in the “six figures.”

Moms Demand Action decided to take this approach after several shootings happened in or near Kroger stores. Kroger, which has about 2,500 locations in the U.S.,  said that it would continue to follow local gun laws.

Moms Demand Action has gotten  Chipotle, Sonic, Target and Starbucks to all change their gun policies.

“Moms Demand Action’s most effective technique has been to circulate photos taken by people who support the right to openly carry weapons in public. Some of the photos depict people holding large rifles as they wait in line to buy a burrito or order a hamburger,” reports The Huffington Post

The earlier campaigns by Moms Demand Action were mainly played out on Twitter and Facebook.

“These images bring into stark contrast Kroger policies that prohibit skateboards, food and a lack of appropriate attire in stores, but allow the open carry of loaded guns,” said Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action, in a statement. “Businesses have an obligation to protect their employees and patrons.”

How Young Is Too Young to Handle a Gun?

August 29th, 2014 - By Rich
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On Monday, a 9-year-old New Jersey girl accidently shot and killed a firearms instructor as he was trying to show her how to shoot an automatic weapon. The girl was reportedly firing an Uzi at an Arizona gun range when she lost control of the weapon and fatally shot the instructor in the head. The story has, predictably, made national news, igniting a debate about whether or not young children should be allowed to handle guns.

While many young people safely shoot rifles and other hunting weapons, it’s hard to imagine why a 9-year-old girl would be allowed to shoot a military-grade firearm like an Uzi. Popularized in films and music, an Uzi is a compact submachine gun first created for use by the Israeli military. The powerful gun can easily shoot 10 bullets per second and pumps out around 600 rounds in a minute. Though semi-automatic Uzis are legal in some states, letting a 9-year-old child handle such a weapon—whether it’s legal or not—seems absurd.

Gun enthusiast Mel Robbins explains why letting a child shoot a machine gun is a horrible idea:

“This is not a shotgun,” Robbins writes on CNN.com. “As this Uzi pumps out 10 bullets a second, the kickback is substantial. It is designed to be fired by a soldier during war, not a fourth-grader on vacation. It’s too powerful, it’s too big and it’s too deadly. Many adult novices can’t control that weapon.”

Many gun activists agree with Robbins, but won’t go as far as suggesting lawmakers pass legislation that will keep kids away from guns. One attorney speaking to the Los Angeles Time said this tragedy shouldn’t prevent parents from allowing their children to shoot guns.

“Anti-gun people will exploit it into mass hysteria about kids and guns,” he said. “I don’t think you should keep kids away from firearms. This shouldn’t keep people from taking their kids to the range.”

Though many have questioned the need to allow a child to handle such a powerful weapon, outspoken gun rights group, the National Riffle Association (NRA), has been uncharacteristically mum on the issue. After the horrific shootings in Newtown, Conn. and Isla Vista, Calf., the NRA came out strong vowing to fight any attempt to pass common sense legislation that would restrict the rights of gun owners. And so far, they seem to be succeeding.

Unlike other industrialized nations that do not have the amount of guns in circulation, or shooting deaths, America’s love affair with guns in longstanding. However, as fatal shootings continue to plague urban centers across the country, and as mass killings continue to claim the lives of many Americans, putting machine guns in the hands of kids seems like a wholly irresponsible way to teach children how to use weapons.

 

Photo: Mohave County Sheriff’s Office

 

What do you think? How young is too young to handle a gun?

Compton Gets Rifles: Do School Police Officers Really Need Military-grade Weapons?

August 20th, 2014 - By Rich
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It’s been 11 days since 18-year-old Michael Brown was fatally shot by a Ferguson police officer, and people are still demanding answers. While President Obama acknowledged, “In too many communities, too many young men of color are left behind and seen only as objects of fear,” Ferguson residents have continued to take to the streets to protest the lack of progress, information, and continued disrespect by local law enforcement, and the world has been surprised by the militarized response from the police.

Night after night, peaceful protestors (and the media) in Ferguson have been met with teargas, rubber bullets, flash bang grenades, and ear-piercing sirens by law enforcement officers dressed like they’re going to war, instead of protecting American citizens. The heavy-handed approach by police in Ferguson has led many to question federal programs that pass military-grade weapons from the Defense Department down to local governments, and others have asked why local police forces are becoming more and more militarized at all.

On the heels of this debate, The Atlantic reported that the school board in Compton, California recently approved a measure that would allow school police to carry AR-15 assault riffles on campuses.  Compton Unified Police Chief William Wu told the school board his department will use the assault weapons to “save lives” if schools are hit by an terrorist attack or experience a mass shooting. Despite the Wu’s statements, many parents and community leaders are uneasy about having such high-powered weapons in the hands of school police.

Francisco Orozco, a recent high school grad and founder of the Compton Democratic Club said the riffles are unnecessary. “The school police has been very notorious in the community and in reality has never had to shoot anyone before,” he said. “So this escalation of weapons we feel is very unnecessary.”

Compton isn’t the only Southern California school district that has military-grade weapons. Los Angeles School PD, Baldwin Park School PD, Santa Ana School PD, Fontana School PD, and San Bernandino School PD all have AR-15 riffles in their arsenal.

As we continue to watch in horror as unarmed men and women of color like Mike Brown, Eric Garner, John Crawford, Rekia Boyd, Ezell Ford, and Omar Abrego are killed by police across the country, we have to ask ourselves if we should also expect to see the same levels of violence at our schools.

 

What do you think? Should school police carry military-grade weapons? 

Up In Arms Over Gun Control! 10 Black Female Politicians Who Support Stricter Gun Laws

May 6th, 2014 - By Kimberly Gedeon
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A still from the Moguldom Studios film "Gunland."

A still from the Moguldom Studios film “Gunland.”

The nation has endured tragedy after tragedy due to gun violence. But the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012 seemed to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. Today, more than half of Americans are in favor of stricter gun laws. Still, it’s difficult to get a gun control discussion going in this country.

Hearing the cries of their constituents loud and clear, black female politicians near and far are lobbying to strengthen lax gun laws, advocating for policies that support background checks,  the ban of assault weapons, the requirement of child-safety locks on guns and more. Let’s take a look at our African-American female lawmakers who are working for change in firearm regulations.

The latest documentary from Moguldom Studios, Gunland, about the epidemic of gun violence in Chicago, is available for purchase on iTunes, Google Play and VHX now! Learn more here and purchase here. Buy it now!

Two Nationwide Campaigns Seek To Curb Gun Violence Through New Measures

April 29th, 2014 - By Tonya Garcia
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A December rally in Chicago for gun control. via Getty Images

A December rally in Chicago for gun control. via Getty Images

In the face of persistent gun violence and continued lobbying by the National Rifle Association (NRA) and other pro-gun groups, new anti-gun violence campaigns have sprung up that seek to tackle the issue from new angles.

The Campaign to Unload has gathered those affected by gun violence as well as more than 30 organizations to defund the gun companies that receive investment from 401K plans.

“A vast majority of Americans support common-sense changes in public policy while respecting the rights of lawful gun owners, but a small number of well-financed extremists have blocked the political process,” the campaign writes on its website. “Since funding is now driving the process, de-funding the industry has become an appropriate and important priority for those committed to sensible reform.”

Video from the campaign is available below.

Unload Your 401k from Unload Your 401k on Vimeo.

A new group, composed of Moms Demand Action, Michael Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns and, once again, those who have been impacted by gun violence have also created a group called Everytown for Gun Safety, which is fighting for gun law reform. They’ve created a 21-page report about the NRA and how it has shifted focus over the past decades and released a PSA in time for the NRA annual convention, which took place over the weekend. Former mayor Bloomberg has pledged to back the effort with $50 million.

We’ve got their first PSA after the jump.

Nevada Middle School Shooting Victim Speaks

October 26th, 2013 - By Rich
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Twelve-year-old Mason Davis was one of those injured in Monday’s shooting at Sparks Middle School in Reno, Nevada. Mason said he considered the shooter, who police have identified as student Jose Reyes, a friend.

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Did the Shooter in Monday’s School Shooting Get the Idea from an Anti Bullying Video?

October 24th, 2013 - By Rich
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Reno, Nevada is still reeling from the school shooting at Sparks Middle School, which left two dead and two injured. New information from a classmate of the unnamed 12-year-old shooter says may have gotten the idea to bring a gun to school from an anti-bullying video recently shown at school.

Eighth grader Amaya Newton told her local NBC station that the shooter was often bullied, with people asking for his money and tripping him when he walked down the hallway. She also said that on October 11, just before the school’s fall break, the students were shown an anti-bullying video in which a bullied girl brought a gun on the school bus to scare the bullies.

“It was an anti-bullying movie, but it could have gotten into his head about the girl scaring the bullies with the gun,” Newton said. The video might’ve made it seem to the shoot “that maybe it’s easier to scare your bullies than just to tell a teacher.”

Just before students entered Sparks Middle School on Monday, the shooter shot and killed a teacher and injured two students before shooting and killing himself. Investigators believe the boy got the 9mm Ruger handgun from his parents. His parents may face charges.

Police Shoot and Kill 13-Year-Old Carrying Toy Gun

October 24th, 2013 - By Rich
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A community in Santa Rosa, California is shaken after the death of 13-year-old Andy Lopez. Yesterday, police shot Andy, who was carrying a toy assault rifle at 3:14 PM yesterday, saying he wouldn’t put it down.

Andy’s father, Rodrigo Lopez, isn’t buying the police department’s story that his son was told to drop the gun and didn’t. He told NBC, “I sense that he did obey orders.” The officers on the scene said they saw Andy with the gun, which didn’t have the orange tip replicas generally have, and “repeatedly ordered the subject to drop the rifle”. In a statement the police department explained,

“One of the deputies described that as the subject was turning toward him the barrel of the assault rifle was rising up and turning in his direction. The deputy feared for his safety, the safety of his partner, and the safety of the community members in the area. He believed the subject was going to shoot at him or his partner. The deputy described that he is aware an assault weapon of this type is capable of firing a bullet that can penetrate his body armor, the metal exterior of his car, and the walls of the residential houses behind him. The deputy then fired several rounds from his service weapon at the subject, striking him at least one time.”

They handcuffed the boy and tried to administer first aid, but EMTs pronounced him dead at the scene. The Santa Rosa and Petaluma Police Departments are investigating the shooting and, as is standard, both deputies have been placed on administrative leave while the investigation is in progress.

It’s understandable that officers on patrol are wary of people holding something that looks like a gun; it seems there’s been a rash of gun violence across the country. But the fact of the matter is, this was a young boy, who everyone says was a good kid, and if the police told him to do something, he would’ve done it. Maybe Andy was terrified to have two officers screaming at him with their guns out and he froze. Either way, a lost has been lost and there was in all likelihood a better way to handle the situation. Our hearts go out to Andy’s family and his community.