Our inaction is killing us!

Eddie Bernice JohnsonOur inaction is killing us! Our inaction has allowed mass shootings to become unacceptably commonplace in our country. We have a responsibility to do more to keep guns out of the wrong hands.

Our inaction in our communities, our in action in Congress, and our inaction as consumers has contributed to a gun culture that has claimed too many American lives. The unwillingness of the Republican majority to pass sensible gun legislation to protect the American people is literally killing us.

One of the largest mass shootings in American history recently took place in Orlando. This horrific incident brought an even bigger spotlight to the various shortfalls in our gun laws.  It is only prudent for Congress to pass the bipartisan “No Fly, No Buy” legislation.

The FBI and the Attorney General are not currently allowed to prevent suspected terrorists from buying lethal firearms and explosives. The “No Fly, No Buy” bill ends this loophole, giving the Department of Justice the ability to keep deadly weapons out of the hands of would-be terrorists.

This is a common sense first legislative step to plugging the different loopholes in our gun laws.

The legislation is based on proposals also supported by the Bush administration.  It gives the FBI the ability to prevent those suspected of having connections to terrorism from purchasing weapons. It has been proposed numerous times over the last few years, and each time Republicans, allied with such groups as the National Rifle Association, have fiercely fought against it.

We cannot let such loopholes remain in place as we turn a blind eye to the mass shootings of children, Bible study participants, moviegoers or college students.

Like President Obama, and most sensible Americans, I believe that “No Fly, No Buy” laws must pass, and background check loopholes must be closed. Yet these are only the first steps, the low-hanging fruit that we, here in Congress, can quickly fix.

These steps will go a long way, but these measures alone will not eliminate all possibilities of mass shootings. We must continue to implement common sense rules and checks to make sure that those people that purchase firearms are qualified to do so.

This means that people with histories of certain mental illness should be receiving treatment, not guns. Bans on assault weapons and military-style firearms should be re-instated. Laws governing ammunition purchases, extended magazines and gun show purchasing should all be explored.

Too many innocent American citizens are dying for us to not explore every option that would lead to a more peaceful future.

U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, a Democrat, was first elected to represent Texas’ 30th Congressional District in 1992, and has held that office ever since. Prior to serving in Congress, she served four years in the Texas House of Representatives and six years in the Texas Senate. She is a long-time ally of the LGBT community.

—  Tammye Nash

BREAKING NEWS: Armed man ‘in town for Pride’ arrested in Santa Monica

Screen Shot 2016-06-12 at 1.09.16 PM

Screen cap of a photo in the Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles Times is reporting that Santa Monica police there have arrested a man after finding assault rifles, ammunition and possible explosives in his car.

Police responding to calls about a possible prowler near Olympic Boulevard and 11th Street found the man, who told them he was waiting for a friend, and that he was in town for the L.A. Pride celebration in West Hollywood. When officers inspected his car, which has Indiana license plates, they found several weapons and a lot of ammunition as well as tannerite, an ingredient that could be used to create a pipe bomb, the LA Times notes.

A city official in West Hollywood also confirmed the arrest and stressed that officials were beefing up security at the gay Pride event, the Times reports, noting, “One source in West Hollywood said there was discussion of calling off the parade but that officials decided to go forward, with heavy security including undercover officers in the crowd.”

Authorities have said they know of no links between Omar Mateen, the man who killed 50 people and wounded at least 53 more in a shooting early this morning at Pulse, an Orlando, Fla., gay bar.

—  Tammye Nash

Onward Christian soldiers: Mississippi to let churches arm ‘security’

Mississippi legislature

Mississippi capitol

Mississippi’s legislature has already addressed its education, healthcare, crime and poverty issues by passing a law to encourage LGBT discrimination.

Now, discrimination against church-going Christians, a perennial problem throughout Mississippi, is being tackled by the legislature, according to the Jackson Clarion-Ledger.

The Mississippi Church Protection Act will allow armed security in churches, nullify any federal restrictions and protect from prosecution those acting as church security. If passed, it will allow churches to designate and train members to carry concealed weapons and will then shield them from prosecution if they happen to shoot the wrong folks.

Supporters of the bill fended off amendments that would have forced churches to post that they were protected by armed members.

One Democratic senator asked during the debate, “Where did you go to law school?” challenging the bill’s attempt to put the Mississippi constitution ahead of federal law.

The Senate passed the bill 36-14. It now goes to the House, where a different version of the bill has already been approved.

—  David Taffet

Secret Service will not allow firearms at GOP convention

GunsThe Secret Service announced today (Monday, March 28) the open carry of firearms will not be permitted at this summer’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland, according to the Washington Post.

“Title 18 United States Code Sections 3056 and 1752 provides the Secret Service authority to preclude firearms from entering sites visited by our protectees, including those located in open-carry states,” Secret Service spokesman Robert K. Hoback said in a statement. “Only authorized law enforcement personnel working in conjunction with the Secret Service for a particular event may carry a firearm inside of the protected site.”

Last week the Voice and other outlets reported that an anonymous petition allowing open carry of firearms at the Republican National Convention was gaining steam.

The Republican Convention will be held in Columbus, Ohio on July 18-21. Ohio is an open carry state, but the host venue, Quicken Loans Arena, doesn’t allow guns.

The petition has received nearly 46,000 signatures.

—  James Russell

Petition to allow guns at the Republican National Convention picks up steam

GunsA petition to allow open carry of firearms at the Republican National Convention is gaining steam on change.org.

The petition is entitled “Recognize our constitutional right to open carry firearms at The Republican National Convention at The Quicken Loans Arena in July 2016.”

The Republican Convention will be held in Columbus, Ohio on July 18-21. Ohio is an open carry state, but Quicken Loans Arena, whatever the hell that means, doesn’t allow guns. What a terrible affront to our Second Amendment rights. I’m sure plenty of NRA members will be there.

According to the petition, the NRA pointed out in March 2016, ”gun free zones… tell every insane killer in America… (that the) safest place to inflict maximum mayhem with minimum risk,” and Cleveland is ranked as one of the top 10 most dangerous cities in the country.

Here’s what the petition demands:

1. From the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland: A suspension of their policy preventing the open carry of firearms on the premises of the arena from July 18-21, 2016 to coincide with the Republican National Convention.

2. From the National Rifle Association: An immediate condemnation of the egregious affront to the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution constituted by the “gun-free zone” loophole to the state law.

3. From Ohio Gov. John Kasich: A concerted effort to use his executive authority to override the “gun-free zone” loophole being exploited by the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.

4. From Reince Priebus and the Republican National Committee: An explanation of how a venue so unfriendly to Second Amendment rights was chosen for the Republican Convention. Further, we demand a contingency plan to relocate the convention to another location should the Quicken Loans Arena refuse to honor the constitutional rights of the RNC guests to open carry firearms during the convention.

5. From all Republican candidates for president: You have been brave in raising awareness about the immense dangers posed by “gun-free zones.” In order to ensure the safety of your supporters, delegates and all attendees at the convention in July, you must call upon the RNC to rectify this affront to our Second Amendment freedoms and insist upon a suspension of the Quicken Loans Arena’s unconstitutional “gun-free zone” loophole. Every American is endowed with a God-given Constitutional right to carry a gun wherever and whenever they please.

Because what could go wrong? Especially at a convention where establishment Republicans will be trying to deny giving the nomination to the guy who got the most votes. So sign and demand our constitutional rights.

 

—  David Taffet

Two new supermarkets going in near downtown

kroger-logoTom Thumb and Kroger are building stores near downtown Dallas. Construction hasn’t begun on either project, but Kroger will be free-standing so it should open sooner than the new Tom Thumb, which will anchor a high-rise project.

Kroger purchased a block along the east side of Central Expressway near the Woodall Rodgers interchange. The store will be on Hall Street, diagonally across the highway from the Walmart supermarket. The company plans to build a 78,000-square-foot store. That’s larger than the store on Cedar Springs Road, closer in size to the store on Maple Avenue.

Kroger already has a store within a mile of that location at CityPlace.

And, of course, as in all Kroger stores, your guns are welcome.

TomThumb-logoTom Thumb is opening a store in the area as well. The supermarket will anchor a new high-rise development at Cedar Springs Road and Akard Street. That’s a block from the Perot Museum and north of Woodall Rodgers, two blocks outside the Central Business District in — Uptown, Victory, or whatever they want to call it — on the city plat, that’s the edge of Oak Lawn.

This will be a gun-free store.

—  David Taffet

Oklahoma Run ‘n Gun organizers catch heat for controversial photo

Screen shot 2015-07-10 at 2.26.56 PMOrganizers of the Oklahoma Run ‘n Gun, a biathlon and shooting competition in Pawnee, Okla., ran into some trouble after posting a photo on social media showing two participants holding a rainbow flag as a target.

Event organizers posted the image to promote their July 18 competition. The photo showed two men holding rifles and a caption that reads “new high visibility targets on the 500 yard range.”

Freedom Oklahoma Executive Director Troy Stevenson said many activists felt threatened by the post.

“People got really offended and really upset and people were really feeling threatened,” he told KFOR.

Stevenson says he reached out to event organizers after seeing the picture, who assured him it was a joke.

“He assures us that it wasn’t meant as a threat. It was a situation where I don’t think the people doing it understood social media or how bad their joke was,” Stevenson said.

The organizer said participants had trouble seeing the targets, so they simply chose the brightest target available. Unfortunately they chose a rainbow flag.

“You could definitely tell by reading the comments that they were trying to make a joke out of this. But once again, it was going way too far and offending a lot of people and it was very threatening language,” Stevenson said.

The post and their Facebook page have since been removed. A page criticizing the group, however, has appeared.

—  James Russell

New bill in TX legislature would allow teachers to shoot students

gun-crazy-movie-poster-1949-1020142772A bill introduced in the new Texas legislature would protect teachers who shoot and kill their students.

Teachers in Texas are already allowed to carry guns in classrooms. The intent of that law was to stop a deadly massacre like the one in Newtown, Conn.

Now, Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Van, filed H.B. 868 —dubbed the Teacher’s Protection Act — that would allow teachers to turn their guns on their students and not face prosecution. Not only would teachers be able to shoot a student to protect themselves or others, but also to protect school property.

The Association of Texas Professional Educators said it believes this should be determined at a local level. In other words, it’s OK to kill students, but local school boards should give the green light, not the Legislature.

Current Texas law allows teachers to use reasonable force against a student and avoid prosecution.

A bill Flynn previously wrote reduced the number of training hours required to obtain a concealed handgun license.

Our recommendation would be for teachers to engage their students like Scot Pankey rather than shoot them.

—  David Taffet

Open carry group will be on Cedar Springs looking for allies

Martin.Laura

LGBT liaison police Laura Martin

LGBT police liaison Laura Martin called to give the community a heads up about a group planning to be out on Cedar Springs Road on Sunday afternoon looking for allies.

The folks supporting the right to carry guns in public openly plan to gather at Walgreens at about 2 p.m. and walk the streets in the neighborhood for an hour or two. Martin assures they will be there only to hand out literature, talk to people and educate.

She said 15 to 30 people usually participate in these events, but there may be fewer because they have several planned rallies this weekend. Many carry long guns openly, which is already legal.

She also wanted everyone to understand the group is there to enlist support for their cause. They are looking for allies in the community and assured us there’s nothing hostile intended. Two plain clothes officers will be with them.

They’ve been doing this in other areas of the city including Downtown and Bishop Arts.

—  David Taffet

Trying to understand the inconceivable

A friend’s suicide leaves a reporter with questions that can’t be answered and a pain that won’t diminish

If there is any criminal act that leaves the victim’s survivors more bewildered, frustrated and tormented than suicide, I can’t imagine what it could possibly be.

David-Webb
David Webb The Rare Reporter

Four months ago, I discovered one of my former college classmates and best friends of more than 40 years dead in his home, apparently by his own hand. The official ruling was suicide by a shot to the head with a handgun that I didn’t even know he owned.

I now understand that he bought the gun for protection several decades ago. The idea that my friend would even own a gun for protection seemed ludicrous to me because I couldn’t imagine anyone who was so loving, peaceful and gentle being capable of shooting anyone, let alone himself.

I’ve been told that some people buy guns for protection because they believe that the exhibition of one will scare an intruder away. That must have been what he was thinking.

I’ve finally decided to write about this because The Dallas Morning News columnist Steve Blow recently wrote a column noting that older white men are more likely to commit suicide than other groups of people. My friend fit in that category.

It is inconceivable to me that my friend — who as a young man had been beautiful, talented, athletic, affluent and charismatic — could ever succumb to such a fate. But if it could happen to him, I guess it could happen to anyone when they grow older.

My friend was a 61-year-old straight guy who had never been married, and his best friend was his elderly Jack Russell Terrier who was dying of old age. He became so depressed one time that he went to bed and was found later, nearly dead of starvation and dehydration.

As a young man, my friend was adored by both women and men. But when he grew older, the attention from everyone died away. He had trouble making dates and trying to form a relationship in his older years.

He also was experiencing devastating financial problems of which few people were aware.

My friend had suffered a similar depressive experience five years ago when his mother died of natural causes. But he seemingly had recovered enough to function for a few years before his death. But he apparently quit taking the medication that had brought him back to sanity in years past. He suffered a terrible relapse as a result.

My friend was admitted to a hospital’s intensive care unit and later transferred to a mental hospital. Although his family and many friends rallied around him with loving care, he just never made it back to where he had been. His beloved dog was put to sleep while he was hospitalized.

He was released from the hospital, but it was clear he was not well. He was registered for outpatient care but apparently could not face it.

Within two days, he was dead.

Many things come to my mind about this on a near-daily basis now. It is so unbelievable to me that he could shoot himself or anyone else that I sometimes have trouble believing it was really a suicide.

I think that’s what they call denial.

Logically, I know it was suicide, and I’m glad that he is free of the severe mental illness that he had apparently endured for a number of years.

Emotionally, I search for answers and often think, “What if?” I would never have left him alone for those two days had I known he was in such danger from himself.

The two lessons I believe that can be learned from this are that if someone has suffered a mental illness, they should never be left alone until it is ascertained they are again stable.

The other message is for the mentally ill who are considering suicide if they are able at that point of making logical decisions: The pain and suffering that will be wrought upon the surviving friends and family will result in a lifetime of utter agony for them.

A friend of mine whose mother went into her garage many years ago, started her car and died, said to me, “Your mind is going to be raw for a very long time.” And it is.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative press for more than two decades. He is a former Dallas Voice staff writer and editor. E-mail him at davidwaynewebb@yahoo.com.

—  Kevin Thomas