All Articles Tagged "gun control"

Gun Violence: The Neverending Saga Holding America Hostage

October 14th, 2013 - By Ezinne Ukoha
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Source: AP

When was the exact moment that the nation came to grips with the fact that gun violence is an indisputable erosion corroding our daily lives?

For some it was the senseless killing of Trayvon Martin and the reactors surrounding the verdict this past summer. Or perhaps the Sandy Hook massacre touched a nerve and woke up your slumbering consciousness.

Now we have a more recent revival in the form of the Navy Yard shooting in DC which again gripped the airwaves and our interests, leaving us wondering – Why?

There are so many questions that leave us desperate for answers but unfortunately there is no easy way out of this particular dilemma.

The right for all Americans to possess firearms has consistently given uncompromising power to citizens of all walks of life and helped detonate emotional bombs that have left thousands of scarred victims branded for a lifetime.

When and how do we fire back in retaliation with words and sensitive pleas to the organizations responsible for feeding the now global monstrosity?

The truth is that Americans have been paying the ultimate price for decades, but because those tragedies were regulated to a particular populace, we became desensitized and unyielding to the waging war happening so close but yet so conveniently far.

Now, we are confronted with the indelible truth that the roster of catastrophes plaguing mankind both at home and beyond is an issue we can no longer avoid or hide from because this time it’s personal. The bullets are now being deposited without any restraint or regard for each of our individual racial, geographical or economic stations. The fight has become bloated with vague references, that despite the best of intentions, seem to deviate from the forces that threaten to handicap our immaculately arranged disposition.

There is no easy way to steady the waves that bang against our erected existence but we’ve got to try to find a way to understand the champions of meditated tragedies and get the powers that be to slip out of their mental coma and revive their sense of duty and justice for all.

We have to come together and remove ourselves from the media onslaught and the press conferences that aim to give us a temporary reprieve but still leave us with gaping wounds and restless spirits.

We have to use the sophisticated tools at our disposal to enforce our stipulations when it comes to the fragility of human life and how we can’t allow regulated carelessness to predict the growing casualties that are symbolically littering our sidewalks every other day.

The United States of America has provided an opaque platform that a lot of countries marvel and envy but we are still unable to tackle the most formidable equation that could literally make the difference between life and death.

Inner city kids have adjusted to their familiar turmoil and their privileged counterparts are being forced to accommodate their new reality.

The unrelenting nightmare is seeping through like the plague and now that all bets are off, lets utilize the bullet points that come with our citizenship and stand up for justice, freedom, and the American way.

We have already established that we need to say no to drugs. So let’s say no to guns, or at least say yes, to finding a way to deactivate the formula presently initiated that is making it so tragically easy for the destruction of innocent lives.

It’s time for a change…and it’s going to ordinary folks like us to initiate it.

Are you ready?

For more information on gun violence, check out the new Moguldom Films documentary, Gunland. You can watch the trailer for the upcoming film below.

If you’d like to see this film, you can donate to the Kickstarter campaign here. 

Black America And Gun Violence: Does Society Not Know Or Not Care?

August 23rd, 2013 - By Tanvier Peart
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Source: Shutterstock

Watching the news nowadays can be so depressing that I might as well pick up a copy of the obituaries. No matter where we turn, there always seems to be death around us – particularly incidents that involve gun violence. According to statistics, homicide rates by firearm in the United States are 19.5 times higher than rates in other high-income countries around the world. That, my friends, is a pretty scary thought.

It’s quite sad and very disturbing to hear news of senseless crimes that claim the lives of innocent people. How many mass shootings can you remember occurring over the past decades, or years for that matter? Just in the last three years alone, there have been a reported 12 that include the December 2012 incident at Sandy Hook Elementary that claimed the lives of 28 people – 20 of which were children. Such craziness has had the public in an uproar calling for stronger restrictions on guns and while I am apart of this number, I can’t help but think about the thousands of other stories happening across the country that make up part of the statistic, but are not getting the same type of attention.

Obviously when an occurrence like Sandy Hook or the Aurora movie theater shootings occurs, they catch us off guard. Your heart weeps for the parents who lost their children and others who won’t get the chance to say goodbye to loved ones. In times of tragedy, I can recall how quickly social media feeds like Facebook and Twitter filled with images of  prayers and virtual ribbons to honor the deceased. Simple things like this can give us hope in a time when there is so much uncertainty and anger regarding the situation. But what about a word of encouragement for Shyla Rivera?

Four-year old Shyla was just one of four victims who lost their lives two weeks ago in Chicago due to senseless violence – and those were only random events that occurred within 24 hours. An astounding 33 more people ended up being shot that weekend bringing the total to 37 persons affected by gun violence. Does anyone else think this is crazy? And Chicago is not even considered the most dangerous city in America.

While I believe the discussion for gun control is much needed (especially in today’s society), I get so frustrated when its focus becomes solely centered around victims of mass shootings. Please don’t get me wrong, I have a heart and it aches thinking about the loss of life. But I also think about areas like Detroit, Chicago, Camden and my hometown of Baltimore, to name a few, that deal with the reality of gun violence on a daily basis. Each year, our communities lose thousands upon thousands of lives – with many victims literally caught in the crossfire. Do our innocent not count as well?

“Well it’s different” is what I tend to hear from some people when this topic comes up. Does society really overlook our death count to gun violence if it occurs in an area where it’s “expected?” Does that make it justified to skip over?

I honestly don’t expect for every incident of gun violence to get reported on mainstream news because it, unfortunately, happens way too often. And let’s face it, minorities being gunned down doesn’t sound like an eye-catching news hook compared to the random incidents of these mass shootings, as it would appear a good portion of society almost expects us to kill each other. But the harsh reality is this: the frequent incidents of gun violence in minority communities add up – whether reported or unknown. Even if victims don’t get the same attention as others, they still should be remembered or at least considered when the topic of gun control comes up.Even if our victims are not as news worthy or shocking to the system as others, they definitely still count in stats – and the numbers don’t lie.

Mom Of The Late Hadiya Pendleton Says She Fears For 11-Year-Old Son’s Life Post-Zimmerman Verdict

July 31st, 2013 - By Clarke Gail Baines
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It was just this past January that 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton, a high school sophomore who performed at President Obama’s inaugural parade this year as part of her school’s drill team, was gunned down at a park. After school was let out early at King College Prep for finals, Pendleton and a few of her friends went to a nearby park to hang out, and since it was raining, they all sought shelter under a canopy/gazebo. Soon after, a young man ran toward the group and fired a gun at them (a few of the young men at the park were gang members), accidentally shooting Pendleton and injuring a few other students in the process. Since such a tragedy, Pendleton’s story made national news, with Michelle Obama attending her funeral in Chicago, and her story being used in the fight to have stricter gun legislation. On top of that, Pendleton’s mother, Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton has fought tirelessly to see gun laws changed so that other families won’t have to go through what she has had to. She spoke recently to MSNBC during an anti-gun violence summit in Chicago last Friday about another family who has dealt with a major tragedy due to gun violence, Trayvon Martin’s family, and why their loss (and the lack of justice from it) has made her worry about her own son, her last remaining child, especially in Chicago:

“I have a son that I am raising in this environment, under these circumstances. So now I have a youth that is not at risk because I’m raising him with certain value systems, but he is at risk of being viewed a certain kind of way.

I have to do things and be boisterous to protect him before he gets to where he’s going to go independently, walking down a street on his own with certain privileges and being misidentified as someone else. Right now he’s 11. The Martins have already suffered and that’s an awareness for the rest of us.”

She also talked about all the work she’s doing to stop illegal guns from hitting the streets and to reduce gun violence, saying “This is my life right now. I’m tired. But I’m stepping up to the cause and I won’t stop until these gun laws are changed.”

Check out her interview where she talks about her worries below:

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Americans Are Fed-Up With Congress, Approval Ratings Reach Historic Low

July 3rd, 2013 - By Kimberly Gedeon
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A new poll shows that Americans have grown sick and tired of Congress’ antics. As MN reported on Monday, student loan interest rates have nearly doubled from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent after Congress failed to reach a decision to keep the current rates. In pulling such an irresponsible move, it’s no wonder that Congress’ popularity as reached a historic low of 10 percent, reports MSNBC.

A recent poll was conducted by Gallup to discover, out of 16 institutions, which one Americans approved the most. Congress fell flat with only a 10 percent approval rating; this is down three percentage points from last year. The military, small businesses and the police garnered the highest ratings of confidence from the public.

With unpopular decisions on gun control, background checks, and raising the minimum wage, Congress is completely out of sync with American opinion. Fifty-seven percent of Americans want a ban on assault weapons, but Congress is not on the same page. A whopping 91 percent of Americans favored a universal background check, but the House and Senate could not come to an agreement. About 71 percent of the public wants the minimum wage raised to $9 an hour, but Congress and the American public could not see eye-to-eye.

Previously, when either Republicans or Democrats had a greater grip in the legislative branch, members of that party would “express greater confidence” in Congress, says US News. For instance, in the early 2000s, Republicans controlled the House and the Senate, so, of course, Republican voters approved of Congress more than Democrats  In 2007, Democrats favored Congress when they regained control. Now, the survey shows a rare time in which all parties, Democrats, Republicans, and Independents, are united in their disapproval in Congress’ performance this year.

The Washington Post adds that “just 12 percent of Democrats, 11 percent of Republicans and 10 percent of political independents hold confidence in Congress—a near tie.”

Since 1973, Gallup has been recording Congressional approval ratings. It was only in 1986 that Congress reached its highest approval rating at 41 percent when Ronald Reagan was president, the Post adds.

In a comical national poll released earlier this year, Americans preferred lice (67 percent) over Congress (19 percent) and root canals (56 percent) over than Washington (32 percent).

Obama Budget Proposal Seeks Compromise With Spending Cuts In Some Areas, Increases In Others

April 10th, 2013 - By Tonya Garcia
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President Obama speaking at a White House performance last night focused on Memphis Soul Music. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

President Obama speaking at a White House performance last night focused on Memphis Soul Music. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

The big political news today is President Obama’s latest budget proposal, a $3.77 billion plan that would be put into effect for fiscal year 2014, which starts October 1. Given the continuous battle back and forth between the Democrats and Republicans in Congress, The Wall Street Journal sums up the goal of the proposal as such: “Obama Reaches For Middle Ground With New Budget Plan.”

“The White House will seek to persuade Republicans to warm to its proposal to embrace more short-term spending, which administration officials say will boost jobs, while also locking in medium-term tax and spending changes to reduce the deficit,” the article says. “So far, the White House has found such an approach a tough sell, with Republicans opposing tax increases and saying much of the spending is wasteful.” Overall, the article says, the spending budget is up six percent to counteract the sequestration spending cuts (remember those?) that went into effect March 1.

At the start of the fiscal year, The New York Times explains, “the federal deficit would be $744 billion, according to administration officials. That would be equal to about 4.4 percent of the gross domestic product, down from a high of about 10 percent at the height of the recession. By decade’s end, the annual deficit would be 1.7 percent, officials said, though deficits would increase thereafter as aging baby boomers drive up costs for federal benefit programs.” The 10-year plan would cut spending by $1.2 billion and would raise $580 million by pulling more taxes from the wealthy, including the imposition of the Buffet Rule, which would  take 30 percent from anyone making a taxable income over $1 million.

The spending and taxes included in the proposal aren’t to the Republicans’ liking, who still want to see the federal budget decrease. What has riled Democrats are the proposed cuts to future Social Security benefits.

But there will be additional spending. Infrastructure is a priority in the budget, as is expanding prekindergarten education. And in response to calls from people across the political spectrum following the massacre in Newtown, CT, $235 million has been allotted for mental health programs. The money would pay to train teachers and other professionals to better detect the warning signs of mental illness in students, to provide in-school professional mental health services, and to help schools that have a high level of violence, according to The Washington Post. The paper says that mental health advocates are pleased with the attention, but note the billions of dollars in cuts that have been made across states over the past few years.

President Obama will be having dinner with prominent Congressional Republicans this evening in the hopes of talking through a compromise. Meanwhile, Congress could vote this week on gun control measures. The two sides seem to be ready to compromise on issues like universal background checks, says CNN.

Gun Violence in Black And White: How Race Plays Into Gun Deaths

March 26th, 2013 - By Ann Brown
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Women who've lost family members to gun violence stand behind Robin Kelly, an Illinois congressional candidate. AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

Women who’ve lost family members to gun violence stand behind Robin Kelly, an Illinois congressional candidate. AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

“Whites are far more likely to shoot themselves, and African Americans are far more likely to be shot by someone else” says The Washington Post, reporting on new data that shows gun deaths are often shaped by race.  The Washington Post analyzed data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and found that a white person is five times as likely to commit suicide with a gun as to be shot with a gun. And for each African American who uses a gun to commit suicide, five are killed by other people with guns.

Race is not the only factor in gun deaths. Location also plays into the results. According to the study, gun deaths in urban areas are much more likely to be homicides. Suicide occurs more often in rural areas. And here is another twist; the states with the most guns per capita, such as Montana and Wyoming, have the highest suicide rates. However, the states with low gun ownership rates, such as Massachusetts and New York, have fewer suicides per capita.

When it comes to gun control, the races also differ on the issue. African Americans are more likely to be backers of  tough gun controls, as opposed to whites. About three-quarters of blacks support stronger controls, compared with about half of whites, according to a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll. Two-thirds of city dwellers support stronger gun controls; only about a third of rural residents back them.

The gun control debate is heating up. New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his coalition Mayors Against Illegal Guns are spending $12 million to place ads across 13 states, pushing for stiffer gun control laws. Organizing for Action, a nonprofit that supports President Obama’s issues of interest, is also looking for names on a petition pushing for greater gun control. The Senate Judiciary Committee held a meeting recently to review four firearm-related bills, bringing debate on Second Amendment rights and public safety to the forefront, according to a press release. These bills include: The Assault Weapons Ban of 2013; Stop Illegal Trafficking in Firearms Act of 2013; Protecting Responsible Gun Sellers Act of 2013; and School Safety Enhancements Act of 2013.

With the debate has come money to promote each side. Maplight, a nonprofit that tracks money and politics, finds that the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence has contributed $5,868 to members of the 113th Congress since January 1, 2009. The NRA, meanwhile, has contributed $1,453,637 to members of the 113th Congress since that date.  Texas is the top contributing state to the NRA.

Oddly, hardcore gun rights advocacy group the National Rifle Association suggests that they link between guns and suicide could be considered a virtue. “Gun owners are notably self-reliant and exhibit a willingness to take definitive action when they believe it to be in their own self-interest,” the NRA wrote in a fact sheet, called “Suicide and Firearms,” on the Website for the group’s lobbying arm. “Such action may include ending their own life when the time is deemed appropriate.”

According to WashPo, “Some experts say mass shootings such as the one in which 20 first-graders and six adults were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in December can often be seen as extravagant suicides rather than homicidal rampages.” Experts indicate that preventing these killings requires better treatment of mental health problems and limiting access to weapons.

NRA Tells African Americans They Need Guns To Protect Themselves From “Sociopaths,” “Culture,” Others

March 4th, 2013 - By Tonya Garcia
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A still from Colin Noir's ad for the NRA.

A still from Colion Noir’s ad for the NRA.

The National Rifle Association has been on a tear these past few months, trying to convince the public and gun owners that the government is overstepping its boundaries with any sort of gun control reforms, including universal background checks. The organization has been running numerous ads across various states labeling efforts by President Obama, the Democrats, and other gun control advocates as “the single most devastating attack on the Second Amendment that this country has ever seen,” to use the words of the organization’s CEO, Wayne LaPierre.

Now the organization is beefing up its efforts to reach the African-American community specifically. The NRA has a new ad campaign that says the black community needs guns to protect itself from the government, using the Civil Rights movement as a jumping off point for its argument.

“The video is part of an effort by the gun lobby to grow the organization’s appeal beyond a mostly white, middle-class membership and attribute high rates of gun violence in some African American communities to “culture” rather than the prevalence of guns,” ThinkProgress writes.

The ad (available below) stars YouTube celeb and gun advocate Colion Noir, who rants for 1 1/2 minutes about the hypocrisy of the anti-gun violence movement and the need for firearms. This is “[t]he same government who at one point hosed us down with water, attacked us with dogs, wouldn’t allow us to eat at their restaurants and told us we couldn’t own guns,” he says at one point.

At the end of the video, he says,”Guy telling me to get rid of my guns when I need them the most, isn’t my friend, isn’t looking out for my best interests and doesn’t speak for me or the community that I’m part of.” But is the NRA a part of the black community? Or is this an opportunitistic appeal to the black community at a time when the NRA needs all the help it can get to advance its agenda? News site Salon turns the hypocrisy accusations back on the NRA, citing a 2011 article in The Atlantic that highlights the historical efforts by the NRA and others to enact gun restrictions. “The one time NRA wanted gun control was when Black Panthers took up arms. Now it wants black support,” reads the Salon sub-headline.

ThinkProgress points out some disturbing statistics. For instance, blacks made up about 13 percent of the population in 2010, but 56 percent of the people killed by guns. And highlights a Minneapolis program that focused on city programs that would divert young people in vulnerable communities from gangs and other activities that typically lead to gun violence.

What do you think of the NRA’s appeal to African Americans?


Former State Rep Robin Kelly Easily Wins Chicago Democratic Primary In Bid For Jackson’s Congressional Seat

February 28th, 2013 - By Ann Brown
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Robin Kelly celebrating after her primary election win. AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

Robin Kelly celebrating after her primary election win. AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

Jessie Jackson Jr.’s time in Congress has been filled with highs, lows, and shocking revelations. So now all eyes are on Robin Kelly, who easily won the Democratic primary to replace  in Illinois’s 2nd Congressional District.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the former state representative easily won the special Democratic primary Tuesday night. Her race was helped by millions of dollars in pro-gun control ads from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s political fund. Kelly has been very outspoken for the need for gun control.

“You sent a message that was heard around our state and across the nation. A message that tells the NRA that their days of holding our country hostage are coming to an end,” Kelly told supporters in a Matteson hotel ballroom. “To every leader in the fight for gun control ready to work with President (Barack) Obama and [Chicago] Mayor (Rahm) Emanuel to stop this senseless violence, thank you for your leadership and thank you for your courage.”

According to the newspaper, Bloomberg’s Independence USA PAC was the largest campaign interest in the race. It dominated the Chicago broadcast TV airwaves.

And even though turnout was low due to a  snowstorm and lack of voter interest, Kelly easily won with 52 percent to 25 percent for former U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson and 11 percent for Chicago 9th Ward Ald. Anthony Beale with 99 percent of precincts counted.

Next, Kelly will go  head to head with the winner of the Republican primary in an April 9 special general election in the heavily Democratic district. On the GOP side, fewer than 25 votes separated Paul McKinley, who has a criminal past, and businessman Eric Wallace. The unofficial vote leader was McKinley, 54, who was arrested 11 times between 2003 and 2007, mostly for protesting. Almost all of the charges dropped. “In the 1970s and ’80s, McKinley was convicted of six felony counts, serving nearly 20 years in prison for burglaries, armed robberies and aggravated battery,” writes The Tribune.

Demand A Plan: Hadiya Pendleton’s Mother Urges Congress To Take Gun Control Seriously In Heartfelt Commercial

February 19th, 2013 - By Jazmine Denise Rogers
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Source: WENN

Source: WENN

Just one week following the arrest of her daughter’s alleged killers, Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton is speaking out, in hopes of sparing other mothers from the heartache that she was forced to endure as a result of the senseless murder of her daughter. In an ad paid for by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, Cleopatra tells the story of her daughter Hadiya, who had her entire life to look forward to, unfortunately, that life was cut short as a result of senseless gun violence.

The ad displays footage of Hadiya at President Obama’s inaugural parade, just one week prior to her untimely death. Cleopatra expresses how happy partaking in the inaugurual festivities made Hadiya, describing it as “the happiest day of her life.” In the thirty-second ad, Pendleton goes on to urge congress to implement laws that would assist in keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, such as background checks on gun sales. The ad also provides a phone number in which people can call and request that congress support these reforms.

Hadiya’s mother is undeniably strong. It hasn’t even been a full month since her daughter’s death and she’s already putting forth efforts that could possibly prevent other moms from experiencing similar tragedies. Hopefully this situation will help raise awareness that if something is not done soon, the senseless killing of innocent children will only continue.

Watch the “Demand A Plan” ad on the next page. Do you think Cleopatra speaking out will have an impact? 

President Obama’s Gun Proposal Includes Background Checks On All Sales; Gun Stocks Leap After Announcement

January 16th, 2013 - By Tonya Garcia
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A Georgia gun show, last month. AP Photo/Mike Stewart

A Georgia gun show, last month. AP Photo/Mike Stewart

President Obama, introduced to the podium by an eloquent speech from Vice President Joe Biden, gave the details of a proposal to curb gun violence that includes universal background checks. In front of an audience that included the parents of children killed in the Newtown shooting, and children who wrote letters asking the President to take action on gun violence, Obama signed 23 executive actions that strengthen gun control. These actions don’t require Congressional approval. They also include nominating an Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) director and clarification to the Affordable Care Act that tells doctors they’re not prohibited from asking patients about guns in the home.

The proposal also included items that require Congress’ approval. Among them is a reinstatement of the assault weapons ban and placing a limit on ammunition magazines to 10 rounds. The New York Times has a complete list of items in the complete proposal. According to CNN, “A main focus of Obama’s steps was closing loopholes in background checks. While requiring universal background checks would require congressional approval, some of the executive actions signed by Obama were intended to bolster the existing system.”

Already, and as expected, the GOP has an issue with the proposal. “Nothing the president is proposing would have stopped the massacre at Sandy Hook,” said Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in a statement.

Others who are opposed to more strict gun laws say the President’s proposal doesn’t address the criminal element forcefully enough.

Of course, among those opposed to the President’s suggestions (opposed even before they were made) is the NRA. Prior to today’s press conference, the NRA released an ad that called the President an “elitist hypocrite” and asked “Are the president’s kids more important than yours?” because they get Secret Service protection. Slate, which has the ad, quotes White House spokesperson Jay Carney, who said:

Most Americans agree that a president’s children should not be used as pawns in a political fight. But to go so far as to make the safety of the president’s children the subject of an attack ad is repugnant and cowardly.

We couldn’t agree more. Carney and the White House weren’t the only ones with a strong negative reaction.  If you care to see it, it’s after the jump. The NRA also recently released a target practice game that came under fire. Unbelievable.

Following today’s press conference, stocks for “gun-related companies” as USA Today calls them, jumped more than five percent across the board.

To watch the entire press conference (it’s about 26 minutes), click here.

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