God Is Not A Surrogate For Sane Gun Measures

The Florida legislature did a fine job distinguishing itself as a dispassionate group of cretins this week by refusing to debate a ban on the kind of weapon used in the Valentine’s Day Massacre about a week ago. Florida Republicans failed to give the state’s students a modicum of consideration concerning their safety, but they succeeded in declaring that pornography is a public health risk to Floridians. That action alone should inform exactly what the Florida legislature’s priorities are regarding public safety. To further distinguish itself as out of touch with reality, the legislature’s lower chamber came through for the terrified massacre survivors with an action that will have no effect on public safety or school gun violence – invoking god.

In an overwhelming majority vote, the Florida house passed legislation putting god in all Florida schools because of the recent gun massacre and legislative inaction on school safety.  The final vote count was 97-10 and the numbers elicited a standing ovation from proud members of the Florida House.

The bill, H.B. 839, requires all public schools in the state to post a sign, “In God We Trust, in a conspicuous place” to bring a little light into the Sunshine state’s public schools and administration buildings. The bill’s sponsor, Representative Kimberly Daniels, is a Jacksonville Democrat who operates her own global Christian ministry and said the state’s public schools needed some god signs in light of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High gun massacre last week, and the legislature’s inaction on gun safety.

No doubt the massacre survivors will feel comforted that their representatives couldn’t be bothered to give them some consideration in restricting assault weapons, but they could damn sure declare that porn is dangerous and then vote to force a stupid god sign on the schools. Ms. Daniels explained why Florida desperately needed god signs in every school after a mass shooting. She said:

He [apparently god] is not a Republican or a Democrat. He is not black or white. He is the light, and our schools need light in them like never before.”

Daniels spoke directly to the school shooting and admitted that it’s no secret that the state has gun issues that must be addressed. She voted to move the assault weapon ban to the House floor for debate, but she was on the losing side – so she naturally thought the alternative is a god sign. The idea of substituting a “god sign” for action on assault weapons cannot be encouraging for Florida students reaching out to their representatives for help in making schools safe; particularly when those politicians are feigning regard for the students’ “hearts” and the public’s health threat from pornography. Daniels explained what is really important to aid the students.

The real thing that needs to be addressed are issues of the heart. We cannot put god in a closet when the issues we face are bigger than us.”

Ms. Daniels also talked about video games that train children to become virtual assassins, and that things are getting so bad that maybe people will finally “come to realize that problems are much bigger than politics.”

So apparently when the only Americans capable of putting the brakes on the NRA gun proliferation crusade fail to protect the population, because that problem is “bigger than politics,” they appeal to god. It sounds suspiciously like every insipid Republican calling for “thoughts and prayers” after every mass shooting, and it is exactly like every stinking religious right sycophant blaming school violence on the lack of god, bible and prayer in public schools.

This god business as a prophylactic against gun violence is just a monumental abomination, particularly so coming from a Democrat. For dog’s sake, putting up god signs is not going to stop angry white people from using firearms to kill innocents anyplace, much less in public schools. Perhaps Ms. Daniels, like no small number of evangelical fanatics, fails to recall that there were god signs, god books (bibles), god images (crosses), and all manner of “heavenly” icons in plain sight in the two Christian churches ravaged by gun violence. And it is beyond refute that those gun victims put all their trust in their god while they were in their god’s alleged houses; and yet they were still viciously massacred.

One of the 10 representatives to vote against an unconstitutional measure actually condemned the bill for exactly the right legal reason; it violates the 1st Amendment’s Establishment and Separation Clauses.  Representative Carlos G. Smith said on Twitter what should have informed every member of the Florida House’s vote on the god sign bill.

Let’s keep a clear separation between church + state. Forcing our public schools to post “In God We Trust” in a conspicuous place is inappropriate. I don’t care if it was a Democrat who sponsored the bill. I vote based on core values, not party lines.”

Mr. Smith is right, of course, about the unconstitutionality of legislating god in public places, especially in schools. But he would have been “more right” if he had also condemned the god signage as surrogate for action on assault weapons, which is what this ‘in god we trust’ business is really all about. It is also another dangerous step in forcing religion on the public by legislative fiat, and it is despicable for using the gun massacre as cover for an unconstitutional action advancing theocracy.

The survivors of the school massacre have an abundance of reasons to be incensed at their Florida representatives. It was insulting enough that the legislature refused to consider debating a ban on the kind of weapon used in the shooting to stop a clear and present public health risk, while officially declaring that pornography is a real serious health threat to Florida residents. But overwhelmingly voting to force schools to post god signs “to address issues that are bigger than politics” is beyond insulting. It is a personal affront to the survivors and the victims’ families; many who already trusted in a god while an angry man with an assault weapon slaughtered their friends and teachers.

Image: Patheos

There Is Only One Solution To America’s Mass Shooting Epidemic

By all accounts, the past week in 21st Century America was as normal as the Sun appearing to rise in the East and set in the West. Seriously, there was the run-of-the-mill news that Russians interfered in the 2016 election on behalf of Trump, Trump told a rash of lies, and then some high school students and their teachers were massacred in their school by a Trump supporter with easy access to several battlefield weapons.

As if to punctuate just how normal the week with another mass shooting really was, no small number of Republicans predictably responding with calls for thoughts and supplication to their god (prayers) to comfort the shooting victims and their families, and to blame people with mental health issues for another mass shooting and gun massacre; even though mental health is not the culprit.

The prayers and calls to address mental health will barely lasted another week, if that, and then it is back to awaiting the next mass shooting, the next batch of Republican calls to prayer, and of course the next round of calls to address mental illness. Oh, and to make the week of a mass shooting particularly normal, Republicans were perfectly normal in never addressing guns and it brings up a couple of issues Americans who are sick and tired of the “normal” never address.

First, it is high time for sane human beings to stop blaming and attacking the National Rifle Association for a very fundamental reason; the national gun lobby does not have the ability to pass or obstruct any kind of gun safety legislation. Everyone is aware that the NRA campaigns for Republicans, and they give those Republicans campaign donations, and they keep a gun-zealot “report card” to use against Republicans who would dare to oppose the NRA agenda.

But the truth is that the National Rifle Association is not an elected representative and does not get to cast one vote in the House or Senate for or against gun safety legislation any more than the Koch brothers get to cast even one vote for tax cuts or legislation ending environmental regulations. Those votes are the sole responsibility of Republicans.

At this point, it is important to remind gun safety advocates that the only Americans with the ability to address gun violence and pass sane gun safety regulations at the national level are Republicans in Congress; Democrats have mostly supported basic gun safety regulations. To be fair, Republicans are only able to protect the NRA and gun fanatics because they continue winning elections and it raises another issue that defies logic. If there is such overwhelming support for the most basic gun safety regulations, then why in dog’s name do those same Americans continue voting for Republicans who are religiously opposed to regulating guns?

Studies show that over 90 percent of the population supports a universal background check to purchase firearms, and nearly 70 percent support a ban on battlefield assault weapons like those used in the past three mass shootings. And yet a fair majority of those same people vote for Republicans even as they pander to the gun lobby at the same level they pander to evangelical fanatics.

It is true that the only means of addressing gun violence in America is evicting Republicans from Congress and state legislatures because they always vehemently oppose and block gun laws and regulations. However, they would not be blocking what most Americans apparently want, sane gun safety measures, if those same Americans were not voting to keep them in power. Any effort to address the gun violence in this country begins and ends with getting religious fanatics and bigots to stop sending Republicans to Washington to continue the gun proliferation crusade only they can stop.

The latest massacre has also brought out the typical response from gun safety advocates that will eventually fade from the population’s memory. A rash of petitions, a campaign to “call your congressional representatives” and demand action, and appeals for money to fight the National Rifle Association are the big thing immediately after every typical gun massacre and the Florida massacre is no different. Those responses, although well-meaning, have proven to be every stinking bit as ineffective as the Republican calls for “thoughts and prayers” for the victims and their families.

This latest massacre has brought something new in that the student survivors are calling for mass protests, marches, sit-ins and student walkouts that may make the people feel like they are doing something constructive. But like thoughts and prayers, petitions, and donation requests, they will not influence even one Republican to support sane gun safety legislation. At best, the only real hope going forward is that voters, particularly half-sane Republican voters, will get the message that their political party is solely responsible for the NRA’s success at putting more guns, especially assault weapons, on American streets and in American schools. The only way to shut down the NRA, and begin bringing some sanity to the gun debate, is getting Republicans out of Congress and state legislatures.

Republicans are as terrified of inflaming their gun zealot base as they are the NRA or there would have been action on reducing gun violence immediately after any one of the “normal” mass shootings plaguing America. The only possibility of actually addressing gun violence and the gun proliferation crusade is evicting Republicans from power because every other approach has proven futile. That was made perfectly clear this week in Florida.

Despite their state making national headlines for another mass shooting with an assault weapon, Florida’s Republican controlled legislature rejected an attempt at banning assault rifles like the one used in the most recent massacre. With the massacre less than a week old and with survivors of the massacre present in the legislative chamber, Republicans put a quick end to any effort to ban assault weapons in Florida. Notice it was Republicans, not the NRA and not Trump, who voted against the assault weapon ban in the same manner it was Republicans and nasty right-wing maniacs who launched a smear campaign against the mass shooting survivors. However, Trump’s son did, in fact, join in the smear campaign even while it is reported he is advising dirty Don Sr. on gun policy.

Look, there should not be a need for a giant concerted effort to address the gun violence plaguing America, but since there is a pressing need it is imperative to make that effort effective; and it begins and ends with getting Republicans out of power. Even criticizing Trump, although satisfying, will not impress on Republicans in Congress and state legislatures that Americans want sane gun safety laws to protect American citizens. If the head of the Executive Branch could wave a magic wand and ban assault weapons or enact universal background checks for gun purchases, President Barack Obama would have taken action and solved the issue years ago. It is only Republicans in Congress and state legislatures who are blocking an effort to address gun violence and since they have demonstrated that they will never take action then they have to be sent packing.

If the current movement continues gaining momentum, then it is crucial that the effort targets the only people who can actually address this pressing issue – Republicans. Of course the NRA is a vile organization, but it is not capable of casting one vote against sane gun safety laws in the House or Senate, only Republicans are. Americans are not really serious about addressing the epidemic of gun massacres unless they make Republicans the focus of any concerted effort and evict them from power with extreme prejudice; if that effort fails there will be no change whatsoever.

SCOTUS Rejects NRA and Gun Fanatics’ Appeal

It is probably true that gun fanatics and the National Rifle Association were as pleased at Trump’s ascendancy to the White House as evangelical fanatics, racists, and the billionaire class. With a rubber stamp in the White House, Republican majorities in both houses of Congress, and another NRA advocate on the Supreme Court, the gun nuts and the NRA never expected to suffer another defeat late last week at the hands of the High Court.

There is such a dearth of anything remotely resembling good news in Trump’s America that it was refreshing to learn from the good folks at SCOTUSblog that the Supreme Court rejected hearing two separate appeals from gun advocates. It is likely that the High Court is cognizant of the two most recent mass shootings in Las Vegas and Texas, and instead of being accused of having more blood on their ‘supreme’  hands, the Court steered clear of the gun debate for now and put off allowing more “weapons of war” on the streets.

One of the appeals sought to overturn a Maryland state ban on assault weapons, and the other attempted to overturn Florida’s ban on open carry firearms. What was noteworthy in both denials was that unlike a decision last June in a case denying an appeal to overturn a California ban on open carry “outside the home for self-defense,” the High Court’s denials “were not accompanied by any public comments from the Justices.” In that June denial, Justices Clarence Thomas and NRA champion Neil Gorsuch lashed out at California’s open carry ban as a flagrant attack on the Second Amendment.

In the Maryland case, Kolbe v. Hogan, several Second Amendment groups, including the National Rifle Association (NRA), challenged the right of the Maryland state legislature to ban “semi-automatic rifles and large capacity magazines.” The bans were enacted in the wake of the 2012 massacre of 20 little children and six of their teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut. It is noteworthy the 5 and 6 year old children and their adult teachers were slaughtered with “the most popular semi-automatic rifle” among Maryland gun extremists.

Maryland gun lovers, gun sellers and organizations supported by the NRA challenged the ban on the grounds that assault weapons like those used in the Sandy Hook, Las Vegas, and Texas massacres “are the most popular semi-automatic rifles for self-defense.” It is noteworthy that the ban also included “detachable magazines” that have a capacity of more than 10 rounds; what the entire Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals accurately labeled are indisputably “weapons of war.”

In that ruling, Appellate Judge Robert King wrote for the majority:

We have no power to extend Second Amendment protection to the weapons of war that the Heller decision explicitly excluded from such coverage. Both before and after Newtown, similar military-style rifles and detachable magazines have been used to perpetrate mass shootings in places whose names have become synonymous with the slaughters that occurred there.

We are convinced that the banned assault weapons and large-capacity magazines are among those arms that are ‘like’ ‘M-16 rifles’ — ‘weapons that are most useful in military service’ — which the Heller Court singled out as being beyond the Second Amendment’s reach.”

The Fourth Circuit ruling also noted that four other federal courts have upheld similar bans in four other states based on the Supreme Court’s ruling in “Heller.” They certainly didn’t dare say that allowing more battlefield weapons on the streets was an idiotic idea; even federal appellate judges comprehend there is only so far they are permitted to challenge the NRA’s authority and agenda without harsh repercussions.

In the  2008 Supreme Court ruling in “Heller” the justices ruled specifically that states and cities were legally able to “ban the M-16 rifle, a military version of the AR-15;” the battlefield gun NRA-supporters claim is a life-and-death necessity in the home if they are equipped with detachable high-capacity magazines like those used in the theatre of war. Maybe conditions and interpersonal relationships in gun fanatics’ homes are so contentious that it feels like a battlefield, but a 12-gauge or Glock should be more than sufficient for self-defense in the home.

The gun advocates were certain the NRA-friendly conservatives on the High Court would rule in their favor, so they argued that the Maryland legislature acted unfairly. Their argument also suggested the Maryland legislature and Fourth Circuit Appeals Court had disregarded the safety and lives of “law-abiding citizens” in their homes. They stated:

Maryland has banned the most popular semiautomatic rifles and magazines — arms that are indisputably in common use for self-defense — from the homes of law-abiding citizens.”

It is noteworthy that those semi-automatic rifles and high-capacity magazines are also indisputably the most popular and commonly used weapons to commit mass murders. A weapon’s popularity among gun fanatics and mass murderers is no reason to allow even one more in the population.

In the second case, Norman v. Florida, a man challenged the state’s ban on open carry in public. Florida allows “concealed carry” in public, but that doesn’t allow gun advocates to show off their personal  “firepower” to impress fellow Floridians in public places.

The Florida case stemmed from the 2012  arrest of a man, Dale Lee Norman, for walking around in public with a sidearm on his hip like a Wild West gunslinger. As Bloomberg News noted, the state of Florida permits any resident to carry around “a licensed handgun outside the home,” but those guns have to be concealed. Florida state officials told the High Court that Florida, South Carolina and Illinois are the only states in the nation that “allow carrying concealed weapons in public,” but bans gun fanatics from showing off those weapons. If there is one thing gun fanatics seem to enjoy more than owning “weapons,” it is carrying them openly to show they are “real Americans.”

Although the High Court denying appeals that challenged sane gun safety laws is good news, it may be short-lived depending on how soon the next mass shooting occurs. Gun proliferation advocates are not going to give up so easily and Republicans in the House are currently pushing more gun legislation written by the NRA.

The current Second Amendment legislation makes it legal for gun enthusiasts to carry their concealed weapons across state lines without restrictions from states banning concealed or open carry. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) lambasted Republicans for “doing the bidding” of the NRA that designated making universal concealed carry its highest legislative priority in Trump’s America. Ms. Pelosi said:

Two months after two of the most deadly shootings in modern American history, Republicans are brazenly moving to hand the NRA the biggest item on its Christmas wish list.”

Ms. Pelosi is right, of course, but she is no more surprised at Republican pandering to the NRA than any other semi-conscious American. In the same way Republicans exist to serve the financial, religious, and fossil fuel sectors at the expense of the people’s welfare, they will move the proverbial “heaven and Earth” to aid the NRA put more guns on the streets. There is no doubt whatsoever the Republican “gun proliferation” legislation will pass with votes to spare and set the stage for the National Rifle Association’s likely next “top legislative priority;” a federal law making weapons of war and high-capacity magazines legal in all public places to supersede sane city and state laws banning assault weapons.

Americans shouldn’t celebrate this minor setback to the NRA or gun proliferation advocates for very long, if at all. Remember, Republicans own the government lock, stock, and barrel and barring an increase in the frequency of mass shootings in America, they will unleash more weapons of war on America. And the conservative Supreme Court will duly serve their NRA masters and rule that the gun lobby is a person with rights protected under the First and Second Amendments. If anyone doesn’t believe it, consider the conservative court has already ruled in Hobby Lobby that birth control pills are abortions, and in Citizens United that multi-national corporations are people with constitutional rights. This is a new America and nothing is out of bounds if it serves the interests of the people buying Republican votes.

Republican Mayor Condemns Trump For Not Addressing Climate Change


It isn’t often that any American hears a Republican call for action to address climate change, but stunningly that is precisely what occurred this past weekend. There is an old proverb, attributed to both England and Ancient Rome that likely informs why a Florida Republican mayor called on Trump to get real about climate change. The proverb, “it’s all fun and games until somebody loses an eye” could just as well be “it’s all a Chinese or liberal hoax until millions of people in a hurricane’s path lose everything.”

Just as Hurricane Irma was beginning to wreak havoc on Florida, Miami’s Republican Mayor Tomás Regalado criticized President Donald Trump and his administration for refusing to acknowledge the connection between climate change and more intense and destructive storms. Mr. Regalado told the Miami Herald:

This is the time to talk about climate change. This is the time that the president Trump and the EPA and whoever makes decisions needs to talk about climate change. If this isn’t climate change, I don’t know what is. This is a truly, truly poster child for what is to come.”

Regalado is right, of course. Just as climatologists and climate scientists have predicted for decades, the intensity and ferocity of weather events going forward will be monstrous and wreak damage never before seen. It is a sad fact of science that no matter what the industrialized nations of the Earth do to stop emitting carbon-related emissions into the atmosphere, the horrific effects of climate change will get increasingly worse, likely for decades, before there is any improvement or normalization of Earth’s climate. However, that long-term forecast of increased devastation is no reason not to take immediate steps for the future of mankind, and America’s security and safety.

Going back decades, scientists have warned incessantly that one of the effects of anthropogenic global climate change is a monumental increase in the intensity of hurricanes. Joe Romm detailed a few of the ways climate change “intensifies hurricanes” regarding the devastation in Texas as the result of Hurricane Harvey.  However, despite personally seeing what climate scientists have predicted come to pass exactly as described, a fair number of Republicans still claim “it’s a hoax,” or that the science is inconclusive; even as mainly Republican states have been decimated by historically-severe natural disasters caused by climate change.

Likely, many Americans errantly believed at some point even Republicans would comprehend that everything climate scientists predicted is coming true after witnessing it for themselves, but of course they were mistaken.

Trump and most of his administration reject, out of hand, the scientific unanimity on climate change, or that it has an “empowering” effect on the intensity of severe weather like the hurricanes ravaging the Eastern seaboard and the Gulf of Mexico. Trump and his underlings proved their concerted rejection of science immediately on taking office and launched a crusade to roll back and eliminate domestic and international climate policies.

Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) run by fossil fuel puppet Scott Pruitt  has repeatedly dismissed or distorted widely accepted climate science, as well as rejecting climate scientists’ efforts to connect Hurricane Harvey’s extreme impact to global warming. The Pruitt-led EPA’s spokeswoman, Liz Bowman, said that now is not the time to talk about climate change or attempt to connect the severity of the hurricanes to it. Bowman said:

EPA is focused on the safety of those affected by Hurricane Harvey and providing emergency response support — not engaging in attempts to politicize an ongoing tragedy.

Trump’s anti-environment EPA chief went farther and actually condemned anyone who dared discuss the cause of the horrific life-ending storms. He said that it is being insensitive to Floridians, but not Texans, to even consider discussing “the cause and effect of these storms … or to use time and effort to address it at this point is very, very insensitive to the people in Florida.”

As Miami’s Republican mayor rightly asserted, “failing to address the underlying cause will doom major U.S. cities like Miami to keep repeating the same mistakes,” and leave Americans unprepared to cope with ever-worsening natural disasters.

Mr. Regalado knows what he’s talking about regarding “repeating the same mistakes.” South Florida is generally regarded as “ground zero” for the severest impacts of anthropogenic (man-made) climate change. Regalado is particularly concerned about the increasing sea level rise and coastal flooding; especially after “decades of unchecked development.” As Bloomberg News’ Christopher Flavelle reported back in April, “Tidal flooding now predictably drenches inland streets, even when the sun (sic) is out, thanks to the region’s porous limestone bedrock. Saltwater is creeping into the drinking water supply.

That “lesser” effect of climate change, “rising sea levels and higher levels of tidal flooding” has nothing whatsoever to do with the hurricane damages, but it is causing the city of Miami to seek a $400 million “obligation bond.” That bond is crucial to aid the city in repairing and improving the storm drains and pumping system necessary to preserve the city’s water supply and keep seawater at bay. And it is noteworthy that “keeping it at bay” is only temporary until the sea level rises, as predicted, to the point when no amount of money, bonds, or pumps will keep the ocean from inundating the entire region.

There is no better time to talk about the cause of this most recent spate of historically-powerful hurricanes because right now there is a fair amount of focus on their damage in lives and property. One would think that Republicans would see the wisdom in addressing climate change if for no other reason than the outrageous amount of funding necessary in disaster relief. It is also curious why the insurance industry, certainly paying out billions and billions for damaged property, hasn’t yet planted their substantial boots on the Republicans’ throats for pretending nothing untoward is happening.

And it is worth noting to Trump’s anti-environment EPA people that discussing the causes of the monumental damage raging in the hurricanes’ wake is not “politicizing an ongoing tragedy,” or being “very insensitive to the victims.” It is an attempt to avert further tragedies. Until more Republicans follow the lead of Miami’s Republican mayor and berate Trump mercilessly, there are going to be further tragedies of epic proportions and inaction from Washington. And along with historically-severe hurricanes there will be more historical droughts, massive wildfires, melting glaciers, and in the near future the most fertile regions of the continent will face desertification.

Those effects, being witnessed now, are not a Chinese hoax or a liberal plot; they are real and as climate scientists at NASA, NOAA, and research universities around the world have predicted quite explicitly, those effects are only going to get worse. It is just tragic, and unfair, that Trump, Pruitt, the Koch brothers, and the rest of the “fact averse” ideologues will be dead and gone when climate change finally accomplishes what Republicans are busy attempting to do today; decimate America.