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“Not Just An Abstract Idea”: Want To Make Buying Guns Hard? Make It As Tough As Getting An Abortion

It’s not just an abstract idea. It’s a bill going through the state house in Missouri. Mandatory evaluations. Mandatory talks with local leaders. Mandatory accountability. One state rep wants it to happen—and soon.

Hours before shots rang out in San Bernardino, California, leaving 14 dead and 21 injured, Missouri State Rep. Stacey Newman introduced a bill with a simple premise:

What if the process to buy guns in America was as difficult as the one to get an abortion?

A flight crew member turned political consultant, Newman was inspired to run for office after watching her daughter Sophie, then 6, talk about guns and kids on The Rosie O’Donnell Show. After founding a statewide political action committee called Harriet’s List, she was elected to office in 2009, where she’s built a reputation of being tough on firearms.

Her Twitter bio, beneath a pink StandWithPP picture, describes her as: “wife, Mom, Nana, obsessive about reproductive justice, voters rights, women’s rights, equality & of course—gun violence prevention.”

Her bill, first reported on by St. Louis Magazine, isn’t modeled after the general restrictions to getting an abortion in America, but her state’s specifically. Missouri has some of the toughest in the nation. Missouri is one of just a few states operating with fewer than five abortion clinics, and one of four that enforces a 72-hour waiting period.

Beyond the difficulty of getting an abortion in Missouri, Newman’s bill was likely inspired by the level of firearm violence in her state. In 2010 Missouri’s rate of homicide, 5.6 per 100,000 people, was 56 percent higher than the national average—making it the fourth-highest in the nation. Gun deaths in the state have surpassed motor vehicle fatalities since 2013.

When The Daily Beast asked Newman for the impetus behind the bill, she replied, “utter frustration.”

“We were at our wit’s end,” she said. After spending 15 years arguing against guns the traditional way, she decided to get creative.

This bill, she knows, will never get a hearing, much less approved. That’s not the point.

“I’m on the defense team, I understand that,” she said. “A lot of my job is getting the word out there.”

Using an unconventional bill to raise awareness for an issue is a move she’s tried before. In 2012, she introduced a bill that would prohibit men from getting vasectomies unless the procedure was meant to prevent serious injury or death.

After the story gained traction this year, Newman decided to try the radical method again—this time using an issue for which conservatives have an “endless appetite”: abortion access.

There is only one abortion clinic in the entire state. There are at least 3,000 places to buy guns. But what if those numbers were reversed? From attending the funeral of a gun victim under 18, to watching videos of fatal firearm injuries, here is what it would look like if buying a gun in Missouri was as difficult as getting an abortion.

Prior to any firearm purchase in this state, a prospective firearm shall:

— Confer and discuss with a licensed physician the indicators and contraindicators and risk factors, including any physical, psychological, or situational factors, that may arise with the proposed firearm purchase at a firearm dealer located at least 120 miles from the purchaser’s legal residence.

— Submit to an evaluation for the physician to search the individual for indicators and contraindicators and risk factors and determine if such firearm purchase would increase the purchaser’s risk of experiencing an adverse physical, emotional, or other health reaction.

— Listen to oral statement regarding the risks associated with the purchase as well as read and sign a written statement that includes the following:

1. The name and license number of the licensed firearm dealer.

2.  The immediate and long-term medical risks associated with firearms, along with medical descriptions and photographs of fatal firearm injuries, as collected by emergency pediatric medical professionals, law enforcement, and prosecutors’ offices.

3.   Alternatives to purchasing a firearm, which shall include materials about peaceful and nonviolent conflict resolution.

4.    A statement that the dealer is available to answer any questions concerning the purchase of a firearm, together with the telephone number of the dealer that the dealer may be reached to answer any questions the purchaser may have.

5.    The prospective firearm purchaser shall obtain written consent of his or her parents in order to qualify for the purchase of any firearm.

— Watch a 30-minute video on fatal firearm injuries, as collected by urban medical professionals, law enforcement, and local prosecutors, and verify in writing he or she viewed the entire video in the presence of a licensed firearm dealer.

— Verify in writing by a licensed physician that the purchaser has toured an emergency trauma center in the nearest qualified urban hospital on a weekend between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. when gun violence victims are present.

— Within 72 hours of a firearm purchase, the prospective firearm purchaser meet with at least two families who have been victims of violence involving a firearm and two local faith leaders who have officiated, within the past year, a funeral of a victim of violence involving a firearm who was under the age of eighteen.

Perhaps if these measures were in place, Newman suggests, some of the more than 32,000 people who die from gun violence in the U.S. each year would be saved. It’s a sentiment echoed eloquently in a now-viral Facebook post by Brian Murtagh, who suggested (like Newman) that we treat young men who want to buy guns the same as we treat women who want an abortion.

“Make him walk through a gauntlet of people holding photos of loved ones who were shot to death, people who call him a murderer and beg him not to buy a gun,” he writes. “It makes more sense to do this with young men and guns than with women and health care, right? I mean, no woman getting an abortion has killed a room full of people in seconds, right?”

With 20 to 30 abortion bills filed each year, Newman wants to capitalize on the momentum. Mirroring the restrictions for abortion access, she says, allowed her to show the “ridiculousness” of both the pro-gun lobby and the pro-life one.

“If this is one way that I can influence a voter to keep this their number one issue, then it’s something,” she said. “It’s something.”

Correction 12/4/15 3:45 p.m.: A previous version of this article stated that Missouri had two abortion clinics. It has one.


By: Abby Haglage, The Daily Beast, December 4, 2015

December 6, 2015 Posted by | Access for Abortions, Gun Deaths, Gun Violence, Women's Health | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Hysteria About Refugees, But Blindness On Guns”: There’s An Unrelenting Average Of 92 Gun Deaths Every Day In America

For three weeks American politicians have been fulminating about the peril posed by Syrian refugees, even though in the last dozen years no refugee in America has killed a single person in a terror attack.

In the same three weeks as this hysteria about refugees, guns have claimed 2,000 lives in America. The terror attacks in San Bernardino, Calif., and at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs were the most dramatic, but there’s an unrelenting average of 92 gun deaths every day in America, including suicides, murders and accidents.

So if politicians want to tackle a threat, how about developing a serious policy to reduce gun deaths — yes, including counterterrorism measures, but not simply making scapegoats of the world’s most vulnerable people.

The caricatures of Syrian refugees as jihadis who “want to kill us,” as one reader named Josh tweeted me, are unrecognizable to anyone who spends time with these refugees. I think some of the harshness might melt if readers could stand with me on a beach here in Lesbos and meet the refugees as they arrive on overloaded rubber rafts after a perilous journey. The critics would see that Syrian refugees are people like us, only wet, cold, hungry and exhausted.

If you think me naïve, meet a 16-year-old Syrian boy here whom I’ll call Ahmed. He lived in a part of Syria controlled by the Islamic State and decided to flee to the West after, he says, he was flogged by ISIS bullies.

Ahmed had to leave his family behind, and he can’t contact them directly for fear of getting them in trouble. I’m not sharing his real name or hometown, to avoid harming his family, but his relatives who have also fled confirmed his account.

Schools have been suspended since ISIS moved into the area, so Ahmed found a job in a pharmacy. When he ran out of a medicine one day, he went to borrow some from another pharmacy — but that was run by a woman, allowed to serve female customers only. Ahmed was arrested.

“They wanted to chop my head off because I spoke to a woman,” Ahmed explained.

Eventually, he was released, but Ahmed has seen more beheadings then he can count. The executions take place every Friday in the town square, and all the people are summoned to watch the swordsman do his work. The bodies are left on public display, sometime in a crucifixion position.

“If someone didn’t fast during Ramadan, they put him in a cage in public to starve for up to three days,” Ahmed added. Ahmed himself was accused of skipping prayers and sentenced to 20 lashes. A Saudi man administered the flogging with a horsewhip.

After that, Ahmed’s family members gave their blessing to his flight because they feared that he might be forced into the ISIS army.

So what should I tell this 16-year-old boy who risked his life to flee extremism? That many Americans are now afraid of him? That the San Bernardino murders may only add to the suspicion of Syrian refugees? That in an election year, politicians pander and magnify voter fears?

Here in Lesbos, the fears seem way overdrawn. Some of the first aid workers Syrian refugees meet when they land on the beach are Israeli doctors, working for an Israeli medical organization called IsraAID. The refugees say they are surprised, but also kind of delighted.

“We were happy to see them,” said Tamara, a 20-year-old Syrian woman in jeans with makeup and uncovered hair. The presence of Jews, Muslims and Christians side by side fit with the tolerance and moderation that she craved.

The Republicans are throwing mud against the wall, hoping that enough of it will stick to take the focus off of the common denominator in…

Iris Adler, an Israeli doctor volunteering with IsraAID, said the refugees were often excited to receive assistance from Israelis. “We are still in close touch with many of them,” she said, including a mother whose baby she delivered on the beach after landing. Hostility to Israeli aid workers, she said, came not from refugees but, rather, from some European volunteers.

Historically, we Americans have repeatedly misperceived outsiders as threats. In 1938 and again in 1941, one desperate Jewish family in Europe tried to gain refugee status in the United States but failed, along with countless thousands of others. That was Anne Frank’s family.

So while it was the Nazis who murdered Anne, we Americans were in some sense complicit.

“We’re facing a great threat from Islamic extremists like ISIS, and we need to be smart about how we confront it,” said Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch, who has focused on refugees. “By humiliating and rejecting those who are fleeing from ISIS, we create a sense of anger in much of the Middle East. The ultimate outcome of rejecting Syrian refugees is a propaganda victory for ISIS.”

If politicians want to tackle a threat to our safety, they might cast an eye not far off on desperate refugees but closer to home — on potential terrorists and also on guns. It’s absurd that the Senate refused to block people on the terror watch list from buying guns; suspected terrorists can’t easily board planes but can buy assault rifles? Presidential candidates and governors should stop fear-mongering about refugees: After all, 785,000 refugees have been admitted to the United States since 9/11 and not one has been convicted of killing a person in a terrorist act in America.

“We, too, are human, and we have a right to live,” an 18-year-old woman named Rahaf, who wants to be a lawyer, told me on a drizzly day in a camp here. “We’re not terrorists. We’re running away from war. I just want to have children who can grow up in peace.”


By: Nicholas Kristof, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, December 5, 2015

December 6, 2015 Posted by | Gun Deaths, Syrian Refugees, Terrorism | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“No Clear Edge For GOP”: GOP Fearmongers Might Be Surprised To Learn That Americans Trust Hillary More On Terror

With a thousand points of darkness pointing toward a fear-of-terrorism-based Republican presidential election, it’s important to remember that the likely Democratic nominee has some national-security credentials of her own. An ABC/Washington Post poll released last week shows that when Americans are asked “Who would you trust more to handle the threat of terrorism?” Hillary Clinton leads every named Republican rival.

The Post‘s Greg Sargent laid it out:

On the question of who is more trusted to handle terrorism, Clinton leads Trump among Americans by 50-42; she leads Ben Carson by 49-40; she leads Ted Cruz by 48-40; she leads Marco Rubio by 47-43; and she leads Jeb Bush by 46-43. In fairness, the last two of those are not statistically significant leads, and among registered voters, her lead “slims or disappears.” But this poll does suggest at a minimum that there is no clear edge for the GOP candidates over Clinton on the issue.

What’s striking here is that it comes even as Obama’s approval on terrorism is down to 40 percent. As Post polling guru Scott Clement notes, the poll shows a sizable bloc of voters who disapprove of Obama on terrorism but nonetheless say they trust Clinton over her GOP rivals on the issue.

This last finding, if it is accurate, complicates the Republicans’ challenge. They must focus specifically on HRC’s national-security record and agenda even as the party base insatiably craves a steady diet of Obama-bashing.


By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, December 4, 2015

December 6, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Hillary Clinton, National Security, Terrorism | , , , , | 2 Comments

“Making Themselves Irrelevant”: Conservatives Are Out Of Touch With The World

The climate change conference in Paris is the closest the world has ever come to reaching an agreement that covers 90 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, but conservatives in the United States are focused on other matters. For example, President Barack Obama’s indifference to time limits. Addressing the world leaders assembled in Paris on Monday, he went over his allotted time by 11 minutes, ignoring multiple buzzers along the way. It caught the attention of the Washington Free Beacon, The Blaze, and the Drudge Report.

Why the focus on relatively minor developments? Conservatives are hitting on the point that they think this conference is a waste of America’s time.

You can get a taste of what else conservatives have been paying attention to at the conference from Drudge’s feed:

According to conservative columnist Charles Hurt, another of Obama’s infractions came at his press conference on the conference’s second day, held just before he returned home to Washington, where he looked “so old and gaunt, he makes Keith Richards look like Justin Bieber.” Hurt continued: “Part of the looniness of it all stemmed from the giant scam he and other world leaders are trying to put over on advanced countries, punishing them for their industriousness by redistributing billions and billions of dollars from hardworking American taxpayers and handing it over to tin-pot dictators in disheveled Third World countries.”

Some conservatives, though, insist there is a bigger conspiracy going on. They claim Obama has hatched a plot to make the U.S. inferior to the rest of the world. “President Obama’s opening remarks at the Paris climate agreement were effectively an apology for industrial progress,” was Heritage Action Nicolas Lori’s interpretation of Obama’s line that he recognizes America’s role in creating the climate change conundrum and the country’s responsibility to address it.

The other strain of conservative thinking is that this deal is undemocratic. Fox Business host Stuart Varney made the argument that reaching a climate change agreement somehow goes “around the will of the people.” “Not since Woodrow Wilson’s failed campaign to impose the League of Nations on America has a president been so contemptuous of the will of the people,” wrote Jeffrey Folks at American Thinker. They ignore the fine print of the Paris agreement: It rests primarily on countries setting their own targets and establishing their own plans for how to meet those goals.

If all else fails, conservatives have also reminded us that this whole climate issue is probably some hoax. Breitbart listed 12 reasons why the conference is a waste of time—arguing both that there is no global warming to worry about and that, if there is, the agreement wouldn’t make a difference anyway. Another reason to ignore Paris, according to Breitbart: Climate scientists are “talentless low-lives.”

If a Republican wins the presidency in 2016, then there’s nothing to worry about if you’re someone who doesn’t think climate change is real. Several GOP candidates have pledged that they wouldn’t go to a meeting like Paris, despite all of America’s major allies sending their top leaders.

Jeb Bush wouldn’t waste his time, and Donald Trump thinks even sending a vice president “might be too high a position.” Chris Christie said Obama is “focused on the wrong climate change.” “The climate change that we need is the climate change in this country,” he said, suggesting that issues such as race and religion should take priority. Marco Rubio insisted the climate “has always been changing” and there is no consensus on “what percentage of that is due to man’s activity.” Not to be outdone, Ted Cruz is hosting a hearing next week disputing climate change science.

“I watched much of his press conference, and his passion comes when he’s talking about climate change,” Carly Fiorina said of Obama on a conservative radio show. “He has no passion when he’s talking about defeating our real enemy, which is ISIS.”

Moreover, both the House and Senate voted to overturn the Environmental Protection Agency’s power plant regulations. The House vote fell in the middle of the Paris talks this week, in an attempt to cast doubt on the U.S.’s commitment to its own domestic proposals that are so key to the agreement. Obama, of course, will veto it.

Conservatives in the U.S. may be turning their backs on the Paris talks. That doesn’t make the conference irrelevant, however. On the contrary, as the rest of the world moves toward a deal—one that is critical to the future of civilization—it’s Republicans who are making themselves irrelevant.


By: Rebecca Leber, The New Republic, December 4, 2015

December 6, 2015 Posted by | Climate Science, Congress, Conservatives, Conspiracy Theories | , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

“Prayers Are Not Enough”: Your ‘Prayers’ Should Be For Forgiveness If You Do Nothing – Again

In October, following a deadly mass shooting in Oregon, a visibly angry President Obama delivered a message from the White House: “[T]houghts and prayers are not enough. It’s not enough. It does not capture the heartache and grief and anger that we should feel. And it does nothing to prevent this carnage from being inflicted someplace else in America, next week or a couple of months from now.”

Two months and one day later, an even deadlier mass shooting unfolded in Southern California, prompting Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) to take the president’s sentiment about “thoughts and prayers” a little further. “Your ‘thoughts’ should be about steps to take to stop this carnage,” the senator said on Twitter. “Your ‘prayers’ should be for forgiveness if you do nothing – again.”

Whether Murphy intended to cause a stir or not, his message sparked some criticism. The Hill published a piece under the headline, “Dem senator criticizes post-shooting ‘prayers.’”

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) says people who pray for the victims of shootings should be asking for forgiveness for their inaction. […]

Murphy drew criticism from users on Twitter who said his remarks were “offensive” and demeaning toward religious people.

I think this badly misses the point of an important sentiment. Murphy can certainly speak for himself, but the “prayers are not enough” argument generally has nothing to do with criticizing prayer or those who worship. It has everything to do with the idea that extending thoughts and prayers should be the start, not the end, of a constructive conversation about reducing gun violence.

In other words, when politicians – officials who can take steps to save lives through effective policymaking – offer thoughts and prayers after mass shootings, it’s fine, but it’s also inadequate. The sentiment warrants a follow-up question: “The thoughts and prayers are appreciated, but what’s next?”

If the answer is, “We’ll offer more thoughts and prayers after the next mass shooting,” the response isn’t enough.

The New Republic’s Elizabeth Bruenig made an interesting observation yesterday when highlighting Twitter responses to the San Bernardino shooting from the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates.

If you’re keeping score, that’s prayers, luck, and blessings from Republicans, and gun policy prescriptions from Democrats. One hundred and forty characters isn’t much, to be fair, but I can think of at least one way to split the difference: praying for the strength and wisdom to fix our heinously broken gun policy, for starters.

And that’s ultimately what this is about. I haven’t seen any politicians or public officials suggest people shouldn’t extend thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families, but there seems to be some disagreement over what should follow the well-wishes.

For their part, congressional Democrats have vowed to continue pushing policy measures intended to curtail gun violence and congressional Republicans will very likely continue to reject those proposals reflexively, just as they did this week.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, December 5, 2015

December 6, 2015 Posted by | Congress, Gun Violence, Mass Shootings | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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