Posted by The NON-Conformist
Posted by The NON-Conformist
Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel told The Washington Examiner that the committee was weighing whether to support President Donald Trump’s proposal of increasing the age for rifle purchases from 18 to 21-years-old.
“I don’t know. We’ll see where that goes. I think it’s on the table,” she told the Washington Examiner in an article published Monday. “We have to look at the whole picture.”
She said Trump has been “thoughtful” in his propositions following the latest school shooting in Parkland, Florida that left 17 people dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after a 19-year-old former student attacked the school.
“I think the President’s been very thoughtful in what he’s proposing,” she said. “He’s listening to these parents. I think universally, we want to make sure our schools are safe. Period.”
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Posted by Libergirl
Video PBS News Hour via YouTube
Posted by Libergirl
After every mass shooting, a portion of this country insists the real problem is that there aren’t enough guns. The group that pushes this absurd lie includes Republican politicians, many of whom fear that admitting otherwise would drive away NRA donor funds. There’s been a lot of recent discussion about how GOP legislators do nothing in response to gun massacres, but a 2016 Harvard Business School study proves that’s not quite true. In states with overwhelmingly Republican legislative bodies, after mass shootings, “the number of laws passed to loosen gun restrictions [increases] by 75 percent.” Despite being counterintuitive and demonstrably dangerous, more firepower is the GOP’s go-to solution because “something something don’t tread on me.”
It’s a bad-faith proposition. A party that truly believes guns are the way out of this thing, and that an even more heavily armed populace will ensure American safety, would make different personal choices. In fact, we can gauge GOP disingenuousness on the gun issue just by noting all the places Republican politicians frequent where weapons are banned. Pointing out their hypocrisy has never helped to shame the GOP into decency, but it’s worth a review nonetheless.
Here are five places hypocritical Republicans ban guns in order to ensure their own personal safety.
1. The White House
Along with making Mexico pay billions for a wall it opposed and never taking a golfing vacation, Trump promised on the campaign trail to legislate a future in which guns could legally be brought into every kindergarten classroom and nursery. “My first day, it gets signed, okay? My first day,” Trump told supporters in Vermont in 2016. “There’s no more gun-free zones.”
While it’s true no president could unilaterally scrap federal law, it’s also true that Trump’s complicit Republican Congress would probably greenlight any pro-gun horrorshow he could dream up. Yet, in the year since he took office, Trump has not spoken out once—even via his digital bullhorn at Twitter—against the anti-freedom gun ban at the White House. What better way for this president to signify his wholehearted support for gun-based lifestyles than by letting White House visitors from around the world—especially those who live under the tyranny of gun control abroad—bring all the guns they want into the People’s House?
Or maybe Trump hasn’t brought up the matter because he doesn’t actually want strangers bringing guns into the White House, seeing as they can and do kill people at the squeeze of a trigger.
2. The Republican National Convention
The quadrennial gathering of this country’s most dedicated Republicans should be a place where GOPers can briefly escape oppressive gun-free “safe spaces” and live on their own gun-riddled terms. Attendees should be permitted—nay, required—to come armed to the teeth. Downtime convention activities should be strictly gun-focused. (Think ball pits, only filled with guns. Cocktail hours, only the drinks are all guns.) At the very end, instead of confetti, the audience should be showered in loose ammo.
But instead of a three-day orgy of gun lust and ammosexuality, the Republican National Convention is a gun-free zone. Guns were banned at the RNC in 2008, 2012 and 2016, and that’s not for lack of trying by those who bothered to petition for bringing guns to the party. For some strange reason, the RNC keeps choosing venues that explicitly ban guns, almost as if it was looking for a convenient excuse. The Secret Service keeps banning guns from the events, almost as if it knows the whole “good guy with a gun” claim is a just a myth. And not a single Republican politician has raised their voice to demand guns be allowed on the convention floor, almost like they’re tacitly admitting to being iffy on the whole “responsible gun owners” thing.
A staffer told ABC News back in 2016 that guns were banned from Trump’s Palm Beach golf property, where the president spends so much time it’s hard to know when he’s doing the actual job of presidenting. That policy appears to still be in place, according to a Politico report from late last year. “Pocket knives, laser pointers, pepper spray, and any other items deemed to be a safety hazard are not permitted on property,” a letter the club sent to members cautioned. “Any items surrendered will not be returned.”
4. The U.S. Capitol Building
Surely, a Congress that has steadfastly refused to pass gun legislation is cool with guns in the Capitol building, if only to make a patriotic point. Why not let the Senate and House galleries double as shooting galleries, since guns are such a national point of pride? When are the gun-loving legislators of Congress, who believe that murdered 6-year-olds are just the price of freedom, going to change the rules so the U.S. Capitol building can become the guntopia it’s meant to be?
The short answer is never. Guns are banned on the Capitol grounds and inside the building itself, which includes the House and Senate galleries. Visitors are also warned against bringing “black jacks, slingshots, sand clubs, sandbags, knuckles, electric stun guns, knives (longer than 3”), martial arts weapons or devices…razors, box cutters, knives, knitting needles, letter openers…mace and pepper spray.”
Which all raises the question: what kind of heartless, cruel and immoral people consistently vote against gun control for most Americans’ work lives, but cynically keep guns far away from their own place of business?
5. Republican Town Halls
In early 2017, when Republican legislators realized that angry crowds were showing up in town halls to speak against repeals of the Affordable Care Act, they found two ways to avoid those meetings. The first was to label their own constituents “paid protesters.” The second was to demonize civically engaged voters as violent mobs. It was all for show, of course. In fact, as Talking Points Memo notes, “guns are frequently prohibited at GOP congressional town hall meetings, especially after the shooting of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in 2011. Even stalwart conservatives like Rep. Paul Ryan and former Rep. Allen West opted to ban firearms at their town halls.”
Texas Republican Louie Gohmert even went so far as to invoke Giffords as a political prop to get out of being berated by the people he supposedly serves.
“At this time there are groups from the more violent strains of the leftist ideology, some even being paid, who are preying on public town halls to wreak havoc and threaten public safety,” Gohmert claimed in a statement. “The House Sergeant at Arms advised us after former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot at a public appearance, that civilian attendees at Congressional public events stand the most chance of being harmed or killed—just as happened there.”
Giffords, incredibly, had to release a statement encouraging Republicans to do their damn jobs.
“To the politicians who have abandoned their civic obligations, I say this: Have some courage,” Giffords’ message said. “Many of the members of Congress who are refusing to hold town halls and listen to their constituents’ concerns are the very same politicians that have opposed common-sense gun violence prevention policies and have allowed the Washington gun lobby to threaten the safety of law enforcement and everyday citizens in our schools, businesses, places of worship, airports, and movie theaters.”
In an interview later, Giffords stated, “If you don’t have the guts to face your constituents, then you shouldn’t be in the United States Congress.”
And maybe, if you don’t have the guts to deal with the laws you force the rest of us to live under, you for sure shouldn’t be involved in making them.
By Kali Holloway / AlterNet
Posted by The NON-Conformist
President Donald Trump’s meetings with victims of last week’s Florida school shooting appear to have made an impact on him, as he reportedly has told people close to him that high-school kids shouldn’t be able to buy guns.
Jonathan Swan of the news website Axios reports that Trump privately said he was open to a law barring those under 21 from buying rifles like the AR-15, which has been used in the deadliest shootings in US history.
Today, federal law has a minimum age of 18 for purchases of rifles or shotguns from licensed dealers and of 21 for handguns. Federal law also says, however, that unlicensed people, such as a friend who is making a one-off sale, can sell rifles or shotguns to those of any age and can sell handguns to those over age 18. States are allowed to make further restrictions.
Handguns are thought to be a higher security risk because they are easily concealed, even though rifles like the AR-15 are more capable in terms of range and ammunition capacity.
Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old suspect in last week’s Parkland, Florida, attack, the deadliest high-school shooting in recent US history, legally bought the AR-15 authorities say was used in the attack.
Swan cited an anonymous source as saying Trump was holding “loose and open-ended” talks about gun legislation, though the source cautioned that any proposal regarding ages of gun buyers was not close to being decided. Trump is hosting a listening session with high-school students and teachers from Parkland at the White House on Wednesday.
Throughout his presidency, Trump has proved responsive to media coverage, and the survivors of the Florida school shooting have become a sustained and vocal presence calling for gun control in the wake of the tragedy.
Trump has already proved flexible on the issue of gun control, on Tuesday ordering the Justice Department to hasten its proposed regulations on the sale of bump stocks, the devices that attach to the back of a semiautomatic rifle and allow it to function as an automatic weapon.
By Alex Lockie/BusinessInsider
Posted by The NON-Conformist
During a tense interview aired Sunday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) again rejected many Floridians’ criticism that certain gun control laws would have prevented Wednesday’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
He also defended his ties to the National Rifle Association, and blamed congressional inaction regarding such mass shootings on “people just mov[ing] on.”
Rubio hasn’t personally attempted to address mass shootings through legislation, he said, because “we don’t fully understand everything that could’ve been done to prevent this.”
Much of the mourning following the shooting at Stoneman Douglas, which left 17 dead and more injured, transformed with surprising speed into passionate political advocacy. And, perhaps aside from President Donald Trump, more of that passion has been directed at Rubio, a large beneficiary of the gun lobby’s support, than anyone else.
“I see this reported, it’s unfair, I’ve never said we can’t do anything,” Rubio said, repeating a point he made on the Senate floor Thursday. He added: “What I have said is that the proposals out there would not have prevented it, and that’s a fact.”
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None of the reforms, increased training, diversity programs, community outreach and gimmicks such as body cameras have blunted America’s deadly police assault, especially against poor people of color. Police forces in the United States—which, according to The Washington Post, have fatally shot 782 people this year—are unaccountable, militarized monstrosities that spread fear and terror in poor communities. By comparison, police in England and Wales killed 62 people in the 27 years between the start of 1990 and the end of 2016.
Police officers have become rogue predators in impoverished communities. Under U.S. forfeiture laws, police indiscriminately seize money, real estate, automobiles and other assets. In many cities, traffic, parking and other fines are little more than legalized extortion that funds local government and turns jails into debtor prisons.
Because of a failed court system, millions of young men and women are railroaded into prison, many for nonviolent offenses. SWAT teams with military weapons burst into homes often under warrants for nonviolent offenses, sometimes shooting those inside. Trigger-happy cops pump multiple rounds into the backs of unarmed men and women and are rarely charged with murder. And for poor Americans, basic constitutional rights, including due process, were effectively abolished decades ago.
Jonathan Simon’s “Governing Through Crime” and Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow” point out that what is defined and targeted as criminal activity by the police and the courts is largely determined by racial inequality and class, and most importantly by the potential of targeted groups to cause social and political unrest. Criminal policy, as sociologist Alex S. Vitale writes in his new book, “The End of Policing,” “is structured around the use of punishment to manage the ‘dangerous classes,’ masquerading as a system of justice.”
The criminal justice system, at the same time, refuses to hold Wall Street banks, corporations and oligarchs accountable for crimes that have caused incalculable damage to the global economy and the ecosystem. None of the bankers who committed massive acts of fraud and were responsible for the financial collapse in 2008 have gone to prison even though their crimes resulted in widespread unemployment, millions of evictions and foreclosures, homelessness, bankruptcies and the looting of the U.S. Treasury to bail out financial speculators at taxpayer expense. We live in a two-tiered legal system, one in which poor people are harassed, arrested and jailed for absurd infractions, such as selling loose cigarettes—which led to Eric Garner being choked to death by a New York City policeman in 2014—while crimes of appalling magnitude that wiped out 40 percent of the world’s wealth are dealt with through tepid administrative controls, symbolic fines and civil enforcement.
The grotesque distortions of the judicial system and the aggressive war on the poor by the police will get worse under President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. There has been a rollback of President Barack Obama’s 2015 restrictions on the 1033 Program, a 1989 congressional action that allows the transfer of military weaponry, including grenade launchers, armored personnel carriers and .50-caliber machine guns, from the federal government to local police forces. Since 1997, the Department of Defense has turned over a staggering $5.1 billion in military hardware to police departments.
The Trump administration also is resurrecting private prisons in the federal prison system, accelerating the so-called war on drugs, stacking the courts with right-wing “law and order” judges and preaching the divisive politics of punishment and retribution. Police unions enthusiastically embrace these actions, seeing in them a return to the Wild West mentality that characterized the brutality of police departments in the 1960s and 1970s, when radicals, especially black radicals, were murdered with impunity at the hands of law enforcement. The Praetorian Guard of the elites, as in all totalitarian systems, will soon be beyond the reach of the law. As Vitale writes in his book, “Our entire criminal justice system has become a gigantic revenge factory.”
The arguments—including the racist one about “superpredators“—used to justify the expansion of police power have no credibility, as the gun violence in south Chicago, abject failure of the war on drugs and vast expansion of the prison system over the last 40 years illustrate. The problem is not ultimately in policing techniques and procedures; it is in the increasing reliance on the police as a form of social control to buttress a system of corporate capitalism that has turned the working poor into modern-day serfs and abandoned whole segments of the society. Government no longer makes any attempt to ameliorate racial and economic inequality. Instead, it criminalizes poverty. It has turned the poor into one more cash crop for the rich.
“By conceptualizing the problem of policing as one of inadequate training and professionalization, reformers fail to directly address how the very nature of policing and the legal system served to maintain and exacerbate racial inequality,” Vitale writes. “By calling for colorblind ‘law and order’ they strengthen a system that puts people of color at a structural disadvantage. At the root, they fail to appreciate that the basic nature of the police, since its earliest origins, is to be a tool for managing inequality and maintaining the status quo. Police reforms that fail to directly address this reality are doomed to reproduce it. …Well-trained police following proper procedures are still going to be arresting people for mostly low-level offenses, and the burden of that will continue to fall primarily on communities of color because that is how the system is designed to operate—not because of the biases or misunderstandings of officers.”
In a recent interview, Vitale told me, “We’ve been waging a war on drugs for 40 years by putting people in prison for ever longer sentences. Yet drugs are cheaper, easier to get, and at a higher quality than they’ve ever been. Any high school student in America can get any kind of drugs they want. Yet we persist in this idea that the way to respond to the problem of drugs, and many other social problems, is through arrest, courts, punishments, prisons. This is what Trump is playing to. This idea that the only appropriate role for the state is one of coercion and threats—whether it’s in the foreign policy sphere or in the domestic sphere.”
Police forces, as Vitale writes in his book, were not formed to ensure public safety or prevent crime. They were created by the property classes to maintain economic and political dominance and exert control over slaves, the poor, dissidents and labor unions that challenged the wealthy’s hold on power and ability to amass personal fortunes. Many of America’s policing techniques, including widespread surveillance, were pioneered and perfected in colonies of the U.S. and then brought back to police departments in the homeland. Blacks in the South had to be controlled, and labor unions and radical socialists in the industrial Northeast and Midwest had to be broken.
The fundamental role of the police has never changed. Paul Butler in his book “Chokehold: Policing Black Men” and James Forman Jr. in his book “Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America” echo Vitale’s point that the war on drugs “has never been about public health or public safety. It’s been about providing a cover for aggressive and invasive policing that targets almost exclusively people of color.”
“People often point to the London Metropolitan Police, who were formed in the 1820s by Sir Robert Peel,” Vitale said. “They are held up as this liberal ideal of a dispassionate, politically neutral police with the support of the citizenry. But this really misreads the history. Peel is sent to manage the British occupation of Ireland. He’s confronted with a dilemma. Historically, peasant uprisings, rural outrages were dealt with by either the local militia or the British military. In the wake of the Napoleonic Wars, in the need for soldiers in other parts of the British Empire, he is having more and more difficulty managing these disorders. In addition, when he does call out the militia, they often open fire on the crowd and kill lots of people, creating martyrs and inflaming further unrest. He said, ‘I need a force that can manage these outrages without inflaming passions further.’ He developed the Peace Preservation Force, which was the first attempt to create a hybrid military-civilian force that can try to win over the population by embedding itself in the local communities, taking on some crime control functions, but its primary purpose was always to manage the occupation. He then exports that model to London as the industrial working classes are flooding the city, dealing with poverty, cycles of boom and bust in the economy, and that becomes their primary mission.”
“The creation of the very first state police force in the United States was the Pennsylvania State Police in 1905,” Vitale said. “For the same reasons. It was modeled similarly on U.S. occupation forces in the Philippines. There was a back and forth with personnel and ideas. What happened was local police were unable to manage the coal strikes and iron strikes. … They needed a force that was more adherent to the interest of capital. … Interestingly, for these small-town police forces in a coal mining town there was sometimes sympathy. They wouldn’t open fire on the strikers. So, the state police force was created to be that strong arm for the law. Again, the direct connection between colonialism and the domestic management of workers. … It’s a two-way exchange. As we’re developing ideas throughout our own colonial undertakings, bringing those ideas home, and then refining them and shipping them back to our partners around the world who are often despotic regimes with close economic relationships to the United States. There’s a very sad history here of the U.S. exporting basically models of policing that morphs into death squads and horrible human rights abuses.”
The almost exclusive alliance on militarized police to deal with profound inequality and social problems is turning poor neighborhoods in cities such as Chicago into miniature failed states, ones where destitute young men and women join a gang for security and income and engage in battles with other gangs and the police. The “broken windows” policy shifts the burden for poverty onto the poor. It criminalizes minor infractions, arguing that disorder produces crime and upending decades of research about the causes of crime.
“As poverty deepens and housing prices rise, government support for affordable housing has evaporated, leaving in its wake a combination of homeless shelters and aggressive broken-windows-oriented policing,” Vitale writes. “As mental health facilities close, police become the first responders to calls for assistance with mental health crises. As youth are left without adequate schools, jobs, or recreational facilities, they form gangs for mutual protection or participate in the black markets of stolen goods, drugs, and sex to survive and are ruthlessly criminalized. Modern policing is largely a war on the poor that does little to make people safer or communities stronger, and even when it does, this is accomplished through the most coercive forms of state power that destroy the lives of millions.”
The accelerated assault on the poor and the growing omnipotence of the police signal our transformation into an authoritarian state in which the rich and the powerful are not subject to the rule of law. The Trump administration will promote none of the conditions that could ameliorate this crisis—affordable housing; well-paying jobs; safe and nurturing schools that do not charge tuition; better mental health facilities; efficient public transportation; the rebuilding of the nation’s infrastructure; demilitarized police forces in which most officers do not carry weapons; universal, government-funded health care; an end to the predatory loans and unethical practices of big banks; and reparations to African-Americans and an end to racial segregation. Trump and most of those he has appointed to positions of power disdain the poor as a dead weight on society. They blame stricken populations for their own misery. They seek to subjugate the poor, especially those of color, through police violence, ever harsher forms of punishment and an expansion of the prison system.
“We need an effective system of crime prevention and control in our communities, but that is not what the current system is,” Alexander writes in “The New Jim Crow.” “The system is better designed to create crime, and a perpetual class of people labeled criminal. … Saying mass incarceration is an abysmal failure makes sense, though only if one assumes that the criminal justice system is designed to prevent and control crime. But if mass incarceration is understood as a system of social control—specifically, racial control—then the system is a fantastic success.”
By Chris Hedges/truthdig
Posted by The NON-Conformist