Sunday, July 28, 2013

Police Chief Mark Kessler -- A Dangerous Embarrassment To The State Of Pennsylvania

(warning: this post contains explicit language)
Mark Kessler, flipping off "libtards"

(UPDATED -- see below)

ALSO: A more updated post can be found HERE.

Earlier this week, pro-gun extremist Mark Kessler, the only police officer (i.e. "police chief") of Gilberton, Pennsylvania, embarrassed his town and state by posting a YouTube video wherein he hung a picture of an evil, bloody clown with an axe and stated,

Here we have Nancy Pelosi with her gavel, when she was speaker of the House, okay?  And this is what most of our congressmen and -women and senators look like without their plastic surgery and makeup.  I just wanted to point that out to you. 
Then, after saying that "crazy Nancy" has "forgot to take her meds today" and is "going bonkers, coming at you with her gavel," he proceeds to shoot "Nancy's" torso and face many, many times, because she is "wacked out" and "libtard crazy." 
"Shoot her in the face.  She will get the message!"
In another YouTube video, Kessler calls Secretary of State John Kerry a "piece of shit traitor" and calls the U.N. delegates "cocksuckers."  Then, repeating the wacko pro-gun conspiracy theory that the U.N. Small Arms Treaty is intended to disarm all Americans, he shouts "Come and take it, motherfuckers!" and fires a full-auto assault rifle.

In a third video, he says "fuck you libtards out there" while flipping off the audience, and makes a point of showing the back of his shirt, which reads "Liberals take it in the ass!"

Wow.  Advocating violence against our politicians?  Naturally, this is conduct unbecoming of a police chief, and many people complained.  So many, in fact, that a borough hall meeting was cancelled, after 3000 people complaining in just the space of two hours!  One of those who expressed outrage was former Scranton police chief and current director of the police academy, Dan Duffy, who said
(correction..  see update 7/28, below)
"This is exactly what a law enforcement officer should not be doing out there publicly, especially identifying himself as a law enforcement officer. It`s an embarrassment to us."  
He goes on to say that Kessler's behavior is "out of line" and will undoubtedly injure his ability to testify in court.

Yet, despite all this, the mayor of Gilberton said she wouldn't fire Kessler, saying that he wasn't in uniform during the videos and that he had a right to express free speech.

Emboldened, Kessler made another video, wherein he starts by making a mock apology, then yells,

Yeah, I don't think so!  This boy don't roll that way.  For all you people out there that cried and cried about how I used profanity, Fuuuuck you!  Here's what I've got to say.  If you didn't get enough the first time around, go fuck yourself and get some more!

He then fires off three different fully-automatic assault weapons with high-capacity ammo drums, stating between each series of shots, "You bunch of fucking cocksuckers!" and "You fucking libtards out there -- you fucking crybabies -- grow some fucking balls and man the fuck up!  Alright?  You're a fucking bunch of pussies!"

Yikes!  I feel sorry for anyone in Gilberton who doesn't share this "police chief's" extremist views.  He clearly isn't interested in protecting you, and might very well attack you.  And yet, he is still allowed to keep his job.

But here's the real clencher!  This isn't the first time that Mark Kessler has made an ass of himself and his town and created a scandal.  He's done so many times:

--> Illegal militia activity: For many years, Kessler has been active and recruiting for a paramilitary militia, which he calls the Constitution Security Force.  In fact, he runs a website which has this recruitment as its main goal, full of CAPITAL LETTERS and exclamation marks.  At one point he writes there,
"I will stand with freedom before I side with tyrannical thugs!   Now to every law enforcement personnel standing on BOZOS STAGE  siding with TYRANNY condemning firearm owners I have a message just for you! (YOU DISGUST ME!) To all true OATH KEEPERS, I commend you for your courage by standing with freedom and the oath you taken."
Yet, it is illegal to form paramilitary militias in Pennsylvania!  Despite this illegal activity, not to mention the illegal behavior of militia groups around the country, Kessler is allowed to keep his job.

--> Profanity and open disrespect for authority:  On July 18, on another YouTube video interview, wherein the host says the current U.S. administration is "satanic", Kessler calls President Obama a "sack of garbage," a "sonabitch," a "cockroach", and a "piece of shit."  He repeats the wacko pro-gun conspiracy that the U.S. is buying up ammo to use against civilians, calling Secretary of Home Security Janet Napolitano a "lesbian piece of garbage."  Despite disrespecting our President and Secretary of Home Security, Kessler was allowed to keep his job.

--> Stated refusal to carry out oath of office:  Back in January, he said on a YouTube show that he wouldn't be enforcing any gun-related laws that he considered "unconstitutional."  He states, "I will stand with freedom before I stand with the tyrannical fucks."  He then calls federal agents and marshals "thugs" and says "They fucking disgust me!"  Despite publicly stating that he would go against his oath of office to enforce the law of the land, and disrespecting federal agents, he nonetheless was allowed to keep his job.

--> False arrest and strip-search of a borough councilman:  In October, 2011, a borough councilman Robert Wagner reported a complaint about people loudly driving motorcycles in his neighborhood.  After repeated complaints by telephone (in which he used foul language, but no threats), to both the police department and the mayor, Kessler finally responded.  But instead of investigating and stopping the noisemakers, he instead arrested the councilman, transported him to the county prison, processed him, and strip-searched him!  The councilman had committed no crime; Kessler's actions were merely to get back at Wagner for bothering him.  Yet, the mayor defended Kessler's action.  Naturally, the councilman filed suit and won.  Kessler has repeatedly defended his right to free speech in response to the outrage at his statements, yet in this case acted against Wagner's first amendment right.  Despite this public embarrassment of the city and Kessler, Kessler was allowed to keep his job.

--> Involvement in questionable shooting, self injury with own gun, and "loss" of gun:  In September of 2011, Kessler, who was off-duty at the time, got involved in a bar fight.  He pulled his gun.  But instead of shooting a "bad guy with a gun", this extremist instead shot his own hand!  There was no evidence that anyone else involved in the incident had a gun.  And, interestingly, the gun that Kessler used mysteriously disappeared.  How very convenient!  Despite this questionable incident, lack of personal safety with a firearm, and the mysterious disappearance of the firearm in question, which may have even been his issued firearm, Kessler was allowed to keep his job.

The funny thing is, Kessler may not even be accredited as a policeman!  In an email from Lt.
Leon C. Crone, President of the Pennsylvania Police Accreditation Coalition (see email screenpic), Lt. Crone states, "I can say as president of the PA Police Accreditation Coalition, that he and his agency are not members of our body."  Why not?  Could it be because Kessler doesn't meet one of the requirements?  You can see HERE that Gilberton is not included in their list of member agencies.  Shouldn't the city of Gilberton want a police chief who is accredited?  Kessler is a former coal miner.  Could it be true that he isn't even an accredited police officer?? 

Let's summarize, shall we?  Mark Kessler, who apparently isn't accredited as a police officer, has endorsed violence and insurrection against our government and its leaders, used vociferous profanity and violence publicly, has engaged in and recruited for an illegal paramilitary militia, been involved in a scandal wherein he falsely arrested a councilman and had him strip-searched, and was even involved in a bar shooting wherein he shot himself and "lost" his gun, yet is still allowed to keep his job!

The mayor and city of Gilberton, Pennsylvania, should really reconsider who it is that is protecting their hamlet.  If they're concerned about their town's image, or worried about crazy people harming their citizens, they need to look no further than their own police chief to get alarmed and feel threatened.

UPDATE (7/28/13):  The Oath Keepers, the extremist militia group known for insurrectionism, has disavowed any relationship with Kessler.  You know Kessler's extreme when even the Oath Keepers want nothing to do with him!  From an article:
Meanwhile, a group of pro-gun law enforcement and military officials with whom Kessler has aligned himself say they want nothing to do with the chief. “Chief Kessler is not working with Oath Keepers, nor is Oath Keepers working with him,” Elias Alias, who sits on the Oath Keeper’s board of directors, said in an email to Salon. 
Kessler sometimes sports a black Oath Keepers t-shirt and has earned praise from the group’s leaders in the past. His militia-style organization and the Oath Keepers share a similar ideological agenda and have at least some overlapping membership, but Alias made clear that Kessler is not a member of his group.
UPDATE (7/28/13):  DON'T CONTACT THE PA AG's office as they do NOT have jurisdiction over this matter.

You will get this response:
Thank you for contacting the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General. We are aware of the YouTube postings of Police Chief Kessler. Unfortunately the Office of Attorney General does not have primary jurisdiction over this matter. We would strongly suggest that you contact your local District Attorney’s Office - Schuylkill County District Attorney (570) 628-1350. If you are not comfortable with making that call, you can report this matter to the local state police barracks - Troop L – Reading Barracks (610) 378-4011. 
On behalf of Attorney General Kathleen Kane we appreciate concerned citizens such as yourself reporting this type of information. 
Constituent Services
ADDENDUM:  There is now a petition, by the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, urging the Gilberton Borough Council to fire Mark Kessler.  Please sign.

ADDENDUM (7/29/13):  An additional incident involving Mark Kessler was when he shot a dog to death last December.  Upon knocking on a door of a home, and the owner opening the door, a dog in the home allegedly ran out and attacked Kessler, who then shot it to death.  The article states that the shooting seemed to be "on the up and up," but who ever heard of a black Labrador doing such a thing?

UPDATE (7/31/13):  Kessler is facing possible termination, and his city is facing having their insurance dropped by their provider, because of his recent behavior, according to his Facebook page.  See HERE for a write-up of it and Kessler's tantrum and attempts to raise money for himself.

UPDATES (8/1/13):  The borough council met and decided to suspend Kessler for 30 days for using his machine guns in an unauthorized manner for one of his disgusting videos.  A small posse of heavily-armed gun rights extremists showed up outside to rally for him during the hearing.  This isn't the last we'll hear of him, and I'm certain the council will regret not terminating him entirely.

Watch HERE how the gun extremists rudely shout down authorities and spout their paranoia as they rally for Kessler.  Like impertinent children, it's the only way they know how to communicate their views in public.

From another article:
Domalakes asked for public comments, limiting the time to one minute. The first speaker was Peter Kostingo, a borough native who lives in Frackville. 
"I do support the Constitution, the First and Second Amendments, but the only problem with what Chief Kessler did and what his attorney fluffed it up and said it was only about profanity, but if you look at those videos, he (Kessler) threatens Nancy Pelosi, he's wearing a Gilberton chief of police badge, and he should be fired, not a 30-day suspension," Kostingo said. "The attorney put a good spin on it, but he used and abused his position, saying he's the chief." 
Borough resident Mark Keirsey told council that there could be liability issues involving Kessler. 
"I ask the mayor and this council to consider calling on an outside agency, such as Schuylkill County's district attorney's office or the state police, to investigate Mr. Kessler's actions," Keirsey said. "There is his conduct as a police officer and his ability to perform his duties as a law enforcement official with regards to his contractual obligations, not to mention the fact that he poses a major liability to this borough and its residents. God forbid that an unfortunate incident should occur, the borough could be sued and it would be a major liability issue."
A related page, by CeasefirePA:

UPDATE (8/2/13):  And what to the local populace of Gilberton think about Kessler?  Do they feel he's a "Second Amendment hero?" Or do they fear him as an extremist?  Some showed up at the Borough Council meeting and pushed their way through the heavily-armed and angry gun extremists to state their views.  From an article:
"He was way across the line," said Wade Greg Necker, who lives just outside the 700-resident borough. "He's a nut. I do not feel safe with him around at all." 
"He should have been fired," added life-long Gilberton resident Pete Kostingo, addressing the borough council. "He used the position, and he abused the position. 
Another citizen, speaking at the meeting, called for the county district attorney to investigate Kessler and his actions. 
Another, Gregory Grove, said his wife lives in fear of the chief. "She's afraid of him," he told council. "Kessler is a detriment to this borough."
From another article:
One man asked council to have an outside agency investigate Kessler before his behavior leads to a lawsuit against the borough, while another said his wife is afraid of the chief, "and if my wife is afraid, so am I. ... If I'm coming through the borough, I won't stop until I get to Frackville." 
Another man told council he was "embarrassed as a gun owner" by the chief's actions and that Kessler should be fired.
And another:
"You know why there's not more residents here? The threats. That's why. Because they're afraid. They're afraid they're going to have their windows shot out." - Lifelong Gilberton resident Rose McCarthy speaking about Police Chief Mark Kessler and his supporters on July 31, 2013.
UPDATE (8/7/13):  The Gilberton council is putting more heat on Kessler.  According to an article:
Gilberton officials want an inventory of embattled police Chief Mark Kessler's firearms registered in the borough's name. 
And they want Kessler, who was suspended last week over his profane, pro-gun YouTube videos, to scrub the Internet of any reference to his employment as Gilberton's police chief. 
In a letter to Kessler through his lawyer last week, Gilberton Solicitor Karen L. Domalakes said officials have been made aware that Kessler purchased many guns in the name of the borough police department. .... 
"At this time we are requesting an inventory of the weapons currently registered in the name of the Borough of Gilberton Police Department. We also need to know the location of these guns," Domalakes said in the letter dated Thursday. 
The letter notes that at the meeting Wednesday where Gilberton council suspended Kessler without pay for 30 days, it also passed a policy barring borough employees from using their affiliation in any public statement, video or document without council's permission. 
"We are advising that Chief Kessler should remove any reference to his employment with the Borough of Gilberton from his 'YouTube' posts, 'Facebook' posts and other Internet statements," Domalakes said.
UPDATE (8/13/13):  The town of Gilberton continues to be pressured by their insurance company to fire Kessler.  Kessler says he doesn't regret making the videos, despite being suspended or the insurance fiasco, because he feels famous now.  See an article and news interview:
"I don't regret it because I believe I had an impact on a lot of people across the country," Gilberton, Pa. police Chief Mark Kessler told WTXF in an interview that aired Monday. "You wouldn't believe the tens of thousands of emails, and my phone doesn't stop. [The support], it's constant." 
Kessler said he thinks he's likely to lose his job after a 16-year career over pressure from Gilberton's insurers.  
"My mayor had called me and told me that the borough is being pressured from our insurance carrier," he told WTXF. "If I'm not disciplined or terminated, they're going to drop the insurance for the entire borough." 
The suspended police chief was adamant that he is not a "villain," as he said media outlets portray him, but a citizen standing up for gun rights. When pressed by WTXF, Kessler wouldn't rule out allowing mentally ill people or children to possess firearms under the Second Amendment.
UPDATE (10/10/13):  The Gilberton borough council met for termination hearings today.  The little concrete room was filled with Chief Kessler's minions.  Stupidly, one of them dropped a loaded gun!  Luckily it didn't go off, but it certainly underscored the idiocy that typifies his followers.  The termination hearing has now been moved to a location where guns are not allowed.  Maybe they will finally be safer in that gun-free zone!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Shootings Over Trivial Reasons - Happens Every Day

The NRA and other gun lobbies have stated implicitly that gun owners are upstanding and respectable people, and greatly downplay any shootings other than those committed by violent criminals or gang members.  As Wayne LaPierre famously said, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

Unfortunately, those “good guys with a gun” are responsible for a great many shootings, either out of anger, or due to accidents (like this guy who killed a child because he used his assault rifle as a “crutch”), or because they left their guns where others, like children, could get to them.  We post on these incidents with children every day over at the Kid Shootings blog.  Even people with conceal carry permits, who are raised on a pedestal by the gun lobby as supposedly well-trained and safe enough to be vigilante guards of our children in schools, are responsible for many murders.

But almost as stupid as leaving guns where kids can access them is when supposedly law-abiding gun owners get angry and shoot over trivial things. 

Consider these recent cases:

  • Shot to death over urination 48-year old Paul Dart, Jr., and his family were rafting along the Meramec River in Crawford County, Missouri, when they needed to pull over to  gravel bar to urinate and rest.  That’s when the man who owned the shoreline, 59-year old James Crocker, came running up, angry about them urinating on his property (even though he doesn’t actually own the gravel bar or water way) and yelling at them to leave.  An argument ensued.  Crocker fired a shot in the ground and another in the air, and when Dart tried to calm the situation, Crocker shot him in the face, right in front of Dart’s wife and relatives.  Dart quickly died from the wound.  "It's my property, and I was going to protect it," Crocker told the cops. 
  • Shot at for turning around in a driveway:  A couple and their five children were taking a scenic drive in rural, Hawkins County, Virginia.  They got a little bit lost, hoping to find a backroads cutoff to their destination, and wound up on a narrow dirt road.  When the road ran out, they realized they had to turn around, but the road was so narrow that they had to back up into a driveway.  That’s when an elderly woman on the porch of a home there, Margie Rhea Ramey, opened fire with her .22 rifle, hitting the vehicle.  “I hadn’t even begun to turn my wheels to pull in her driveway,” the father said. “I just put my vehicle in reverse, and just as quickly as I put it in reverse I heard her hollering and my little boy said, ‘does she got a gun’. About that time she started shooting.”  Luckily, no one was injured.
  • Shot to death over a cell phone:  19-year old Geovany Ponce-Reyes was waiting to play basketball at a park in Conroe, Texas, when another 19-year old, Jerome Faggin, tried to steal Geovany’s cell phone.  Geovany put up a fight, so Faggin pulled out a gun and shot him dead, then fled the scene.
  • Attempted murder/ suicide of children due to denial of food stamps:  38-year old Rachelle Grimmer had recently moved to San Antonio, Texas, but had been denied food stamps. So she went to the local welfare office with her two children, a boy and a girl, 10-year old Timothy and 12-year old Ramie. She started arguing with the welfare worker, then pulled out a gun.  A standoff ensued, but then Grimmer shot her two children and then herself.  She died at the scene.  The two children are in “very critical” condition and unconscious.
  • Shot to death about a fence71-year old Roy Sewell was mowing his lawn in Northport, Alabama, when he got into an argument with his 33-year old neighbor, about the chain-link fence that separates their properties.  Both men were armed.  The argument escalated, and the 33-year old neighbor shot Sewell to death.  Both men had fired their weapons.
  • Shot to death over a fenderbender:  One hour before his 23rd birthday, recent college graduate Aya Nakano was driving in Oakland, California, on his way home after playing basketball, when he was hit from behind.  He pulled over to the side of the road to exchange insurance information, but the driver of the other car pulled out a gun and shot Aya to death, then fled.
  • Shot over a television:  17-year old Stephen Brian Raybon II and 21-year old William Christopher Dowling were at a home in Grand Cane, Louisiana, when they got into an argument over a TV.  Dowling then removed himself from the argument and went to sit on the back porch, but Raybon grabbed a .40-caliber gun from a gun cabinet in the home and shot Dowling in the chest.  Dowling is now in critical condition.

Notice that not one of these cases involved drugs, drug dealers, or, apparently, hardened criminals.  Gee, none of these were “good guys” shooting “bad guys,” either.

These are just a handful of stories I’ve heard in just the last day, without even trying to search.  There’s no shortage of such stories, of people shooting and killing each other over the stupidest of reasons.

Certainly, most gun owners are responsible people.  And yet, in nearly every gun purchase, you don’t need a shred of safety or proficiency training to purchase a gun for home use, and little if any for conceal carry, either, in most states.  And if a person is known to be mentally unstable or violent, yet hasn’t yet been adjudicated as mentally ill or arrested for a felony, then in most cases they can own as many guns as they want, no matter how much their neighbors and family fear them.

Until we change this, we can expect more and more of these murders over stupid things to continue.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Pro-Gun Extremists Crash A Remembrance Ceremony For The Aurora Shooting

(UPDATED -- see below)

Today, July 20, is the one-year anniversary of the Aurora, Colorado, mass shooting. 17 people were shot dead, and another 70 were injured, including children.  20 minutes into the movie, a mentally ill man, James Eagan Holmes, burst in and opened fire.  As with so many other mass shootings, Holmes was heavily armed with a semi-assault rifle with an extended ammo clip (holding 100 rounds!), a shotgun, and handgun, and armored with a ballistics vest and helmet.  It was the single largest shooting by a lone gunman in American history, when you include both dead and injured.

What followed were statements from those of us calling, once again, for common sense gun laws to curtail such shootings, a statement from the President, and the burials and memorial services across the nation.  Since then, the state of Colorado has enacted sensible reforms

And what did the pro-gun side try do after the slaughter?  Did they propose anything to reduce availability of guns to lunatics?  Of course not.  Instead, they pounded their chests about how, if only they could have been there with concealed handguns, they would have saved the day.  They tried to ignore the shooting.  They opposed any reforms (even to the point of attempting a recall on politicians that supported reforms there).  And, of course, there were the inevitable wacko pro-gun conspiracy theories that there was an unseen accomplice helping Holmes, that the “Illuminati” were behind it, or even that the government had staged the whole thing to promote “gun control,” all of which were really attempts to sidetrack the debate about what should really be done. 

Given the trauma suffered by Aurora, and the sheer number of dead and injured, it is only fitting and proper to have a remembrance ceremony to remember the event one year later and those who, living and dead, experienced the horror of it.  Naturally there will be a reading of names of victims, words about them, and statements about what people feel should be done to prevent another madman from carrying out such a deed again.

One remembrance ceremony will be held at the Cherry Creek State Park in Aurora, sponsored by Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG), and will include the reading of names, not just of Aurora victims, but all victims who have died to gun violence since the Sandy Hook shooting, too.  It’s a chance for the community to come together in remembrance and to discuss what can be done to stop it from happening again.  It is one stop on a trip with multiple stops for a MAIG bus.

And what is the gun lobby doing?  Are they joining in the remembrance?  Holding one of their own?  Of course not.  Acknowledging the deaths of innocents is too inconvenient for their “more guns in more places” argument.  Instead, they’re staging a protest within sight of the remembrance ceremony.  Rude and offensive!  And it’s complements of a pro-gun extremist group, Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (which bills itself as "Colorado's only no-compromise gun rights organization"), and advertised by

From an article:

Dudley Brown, executive director of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, denied his group was being insensitive and said his members would be respectful. 
He accused Mayors Against Illegal Guns and its founder, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, of politicizing the Aurora massacre to promote gun control. 
"Mayor Bloomberg is using this tragedy and walking all over graves to get to the microphone," Brown said.

Nevermind that Mayor Bloomberg won’t be there.

And how, exactly, is this “walking all over graves” when victims and their families are taking part in the ceremony?

Stephen Barton is one of those survivors from the Aurora shooting who will be attending.  He is now part of MAIG.  In an email to supporters, he wrote about the Aurora remembrance ceremony:

One year ago today, I stopped in Aurora, Colorado on a cross-country bike trip with my best friend. We decided to go to a midnight showing of the new Batman movie, and that's how I became a survivor of gun violence. 
I was shot with more than two dozen shotgun pellets in the face, neck, hands, chest, shoulder, and forearm. But I was lucky. I survived, and I've spent the past year working to keep what happened to me from happening to other Americans. 
In that year, Colorado has led the way by passing common-sense public safety laws. Sadly, our leaders in Washington have done nothing to follow that lead and keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. Today, I'm asking you to remember those who died in Aurora and demand action from our members of Congress.

The pro-gunners responded to Barton with rude and offensive statements.  Here is what one had to say to Barton on a pro-gun online forum:
Your first mistake was going to a theater in a “Gun Free Zone” where only criminals will be carrying. Plus, what does getting shot with a shotgun have to do with semi-auto rifles? Your problem is you don’t have a man card.

Said another there:
Sweet. If someone takes a shot at me, Stephen Barton will be there to jump in front of the bullet. 
Sounds like a win for everybody.

Comments on the bus tour at another pro-gun online forum were equally as rude and offensive.  Said one:
Ya know....roofing nails have this uncanny habit of landing "point-up" when they fall off your back tail gate.....just saying

Said another:
People outta egg the SOBs bus as it drives by, followed by a Brooklyn salute. 
Sadly, the gun lobby has suggested throwing eggs at the MAIG bus as it arrives.  Just check out the banner
they are passing around online from Ammoland (see picture, at right).  Just another example of their rudeness and confrontational behavior.

It’s increasingly common for the pro-gun lobby and their extremist supporters to engage in such thoughtless behavior.  The public is turning against their failed and dangerous philosophy.  Naturally that makes them feel threatened, leading to increasingly confrontational behavior.  Showing up with openly-carried guns at state capitals and gun violence prevention rallies.  So their attempt the throw the remembrance ceremony in Aurora comes as no surprise.  After all, it is hardly surprising that people who carry guns around and prepare themselves to kill people with them would be willing to rudely confront those who think it’s a bad idea.

I think a Colorado state representative from Aurora, and mother of a shooting victim, sums it up best when she talked about the pro-gun plan to crash the remembrance ceremony:
"I think it's a slap in the face of the people who are suffering the loss of a loved one," said state Rep. Rhonda Fields, a Democrat from Aurora. Fields' district includes the theater where 12 people were killed and 70 injured one year ago Saturday, and she plans to participate in the remembrance ceremony. 
Fields' son was shot and killed in 2005 to keep him from testifying in a murder trial.
The gun guys only hurt their own cause.  Personally, I hope they continue to do so.  It puts on exhibit to the public the reprehensible behavior I see from them online every day.

UPDATE (7/20/13):  Both the remembrance ceremony and the pro-gun protest occurred as planned.  At one point, one of the pro-gun protesters stood behind the ceremony podium with a protest sign until rangers made him move.  Naturally, some of the pro-gun guys had their guns with them, including the protest organizer, and wore shirts that read "We will not comply" (implying that they would be willing to break any gun-related law if they don't agree with it, since they are pro-criminal).  

Many survivors and victims' family members spoke.  Their statements, from the article:

"I think that Coloradans get it, that something must change," said Tom Sullivan, whose son Alex was killed in the theater. ...  

For his part, Stephen Barton, who was wounded in Aurora, said, "You shouldn't wait until it affects you to start caring about it." 
"I never thought I would ever be affected by gun violence personally," Barton added.  ... 

"Why wait any longer?" asked Carlee Soto, whose sister was killed at the Sandy Hook Elementary School rampage in Newtown, Conn. "The time for change is now."  ...
More statements, from another article and video of the event, which has further comments from survivors and families of victims:
Barton was joined at the remembrance event by Coni Sanders, a daughter of teacher Dave Sanders, who was one of 13 people who died when two teenaged gunmen opened fire at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999.
"Today, my father stands with me," she said. "He died saving hundreds of students and saving other families from the horror we experience every day."  ... 

Tom Sullivan, whose son, Alex, was killed last year in Aurora, wondered aloud how long the debate about unrestricted access to guns must continue. "There must be common-sense solutions to these issues."
HERE is video of Aurora survivor Stephen Barton telling his story:

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Reactions To Zimmerman's Not Guilty Verdict

(UPDATED -- see below)

Reactions to the Zimmerman verdict run the gamut from sad acceptance and calls for calm to angry outrage.  But, with the exception of some minor vandalism during a protest in Oakland (no injuries or arrests), there has been no violence.  Many peaceful demonstrations are occurring. HERE is a good news video on those.

See excerpts, below, of some statements from others:

Tweeted by Trayvon's father, Tracy Martin (via CNN):
Even though I am broken hearted my faith is unshattered I WILL ALWAYS LOVE MY BABY TRAY.

Tweeted by Trayvon's mother, Sybrina Fulton:
Lord during my darkest hour I lean on you. You are all that I have. At the end of the day, GOD is still in control. Thank you all for your prayers and support. I will love you forever Trayvon!!! In the name of Jesus!!!

From the Martin Family attorney, Ben Crump:
"We are very saddened by the jury's verdict. The family is heartbroken. Sabrina Fulton and Tracy Martin would like to thank people around the world for their support. To everybody that put their hoodies up. To everybody that said, "I am Trayvon. 
To Tracy and Sabrina, your tireless work. We know Trayvon is up there, proud. This morning, Martin Luther King's daughter Tweeted me that this was a defining moment for the progress of her father's dream. He would want us to conduct ourselves on the higher plane of dignity and discipline. 
For Trayvon to rest in peace, we must all be peaceful."

From the ProsecutorBernie de la Rionda:
I am disappointed, as we are, with the verdict, but we accept it.  We respect the jury's verdict.

From President Barack Obama (via CNN):
The president, in a written statement, acknowledged an emotionally charged climate but concluded that "we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken." 
Obama called Martin's death a tragedy for America. 
"I know this case has elicited strong passions. And in the wake of the verdict, I know those passions may be running even higher," he said. 
"I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son. And as we do, we should ask ourselves if we're doing all we can to widen the circle of compassion and understanding in our own communities. 
"We should ask ourselves if we're doing all we can to stem the tide of gun violence that claims too many lives across this country on a daily basis," Obama said.
From The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence:
The Brady Campaign has been one of the leaders in fighting against “Stand Your Ground” or so called, “shoot first” laws like the one in Florida.  As evidenced by the tragic shooting of Trayvon Martin, these laws have deadly consequences.  They promote a dangerous mentality and misperception about weapons, by overemphasizing their value in self-defense relative to the other dangers that they pose.  
In the end, George Zimmerman's mentality, and what emboldened him to approach Trayvon, may be debatable.  What is not debatable, though, is the fact that Trayvon Martin is dead because Zimmerman had a gun.  Zimmerman was given a concealed carry permit by the state of Florida despite an arrest record and a history of violence, as a direct result of the influence of the gun lobby, and if it weren’t for that, this tragedy never would have happened.  
From the NAACP (via CNN):
"When you look at (Zimmerman's) comments, when you look at his comments about young black men in that neighborhood, about how they felt specially targeted by him, there is reason to be concerned that race was a factor in why he targeted young Trayvon," NAACP president and CEO Benjamin Jealous said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union."
From the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence:
Turning the other cheek is supposed to be a sacred virtue. But by removing the duty to retreat from a confrontation in public when one can safely do so, the “Stand Your Ground” law allowed George Zimmerman to stalk and kill an unarmed teenager and walk away a free man. That’s a tragedy, because there can be no doubt that Zimmerman could have avoided a confrontation with Trayvon Martin on the evening of February 26, 2012. 
The NRA’s law represents a dangerous and unprecedented escalation in the use of force in the public space, allowing individuals to kill when they merely fear “great bodily harm” (i.e., a fistfight, shoving match, etc.). The concept of responding with proportional force has been obliterated. In this case, the “harm” done to Zimmerman, by whatever source, was so minor that EMTs didn’t even offer him treatment minutes after the shooting. 
Americans should also question why Zimmerman was allowed to carry a loaded gun in public in the first place. He had been previously arrested for assaulting a police officer and placed under a restraining order for a domestic battery involving a former fiancee. Again, Zimmerman has the NRA to thank. Their “Shall Issue” law in Florida awards concealed carry permits to individuals with minimal screening/training and removes any discretion law enforcement might have in approving applicants. 
The message to would-be killers is now clear. You need not fear carrying your gun in public, or using it. If you do, just make sure you are the only one remaining to testify about the nature of the confrontation in question.
From Moms Demand Action:
The shooting death of Trayvon underscores the growing danger of increasingly lenient gun policies across the United States. Stand Your Ground laws, which give everyday citizens more leeway to shoot than the U.S. military gives to our soldiers in war zones, endanger our children, families and communities. These laws grow even more dangerous when coupled with some states’ permissive concealed carry policies that empower untrained, average citizens to carry a gun, and turn everyday conflicts into deadly tragedies.
ADDENDUM (7/15/13):

From The Southern Poverty Law Center:
"They always get away." These were the words George Zimmerman uttered as he followed and later shot Trayvon Martin -- words that reflected his belief that Trayvon was one of "them," the kind of person about to get away with something.  How ironic these words sound now in light of the jury verdict acquitting Zimmerman.  
Trayvon is dead, and Zimmerman is free.  Who was the one who got away?
From Trayvon's pastor, Antioch Missionary Baptist Church Pastor Arthur Jackson III :
“I believe that this situation has not paralyzed us, has not traumatized us, but is mobilizing us,” Jackson said. “It’s going to be a call to rally at the polls to vote. If we’ve never voted before, we’re definitely going to rally to change these unjust laws.” 
“For us in this generation, this is our Medgar Evers moment,” he went on, comparing Trayvon’s killing to the assassination of Evers, the World War II hero and civil rights leader
“This is the moment that we’re not going to forget. We’re going to keep this in the forefront of our minds. This is going to continue to live. It will be something that we talk to our children about, now and forever.”
UPDATE (7/18/13):  

Trayvon's parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, gave an interview for the first time since the verdict, on CBS This Morning.  See HERE for video and article from HuffPost:
"I was in a bit of shock," [Fulton] said. "I thought surely that he would be found guilty of second-degree murder, manslaughter at the least. But I just knew that they would see that this was a teenager just trying to get home. This was no burglar. This was somebody's son that was trying to get home." 
When asked about the prospect of racial profiling, Fulton revealed that neither of them knew the details of the case, including George Zimmerman's previous 911 calls and the fact that authorities were looking for a young black male. 
"Trayvon was simply not that person," she said. "Trayvon was not a burglar, he was not doing anything wrong. He simply went to the store and was headed back home. And for somebody to look at him and perceive that he was a burglar, that was the problem that initiated everything."
UPDATE (7/19/13):

Trayvon's parents, in an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper:
"It came as a complete shock for me," Fulton said about the verdict. 
"And the reason I say that is because I just look at people as people, and I thought for sure that the jury looked at Trayvon as an average teenager that was minding his own business, that wasn't committing any crime."   .... 
"They knew he was a teenager. They knew he was on his way home. They knew he ran," she said. "... How much do you need to know?" .... 
n spite of his son's death, Tracy Martin said he has faith in the legal system. 
"The state did all they could with what they had" given the poor quality of the investigation, he said. 
"Does the system work? It didn't work for us. We remain prayerful that through this injustice, we can close that gap and hopefully the system can start working for everyone equally." .... 
Martin's mother said that she hoped that a foundation started in her son's name would allow for something good to come out of his death. 
"The change that we hope to affect is with the law," Fulton said. "We want to make sure any teenager who is walking down the street wont' be killed, that they will make it home safe." 
"Hopefully, we can find some positive, some bright side out of all of this," she said.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Trayvon Doesn't Get Justice

George Zimmerman was found not guilty today of any wrongdoing, proving, beyond a shadow of doubt, that it is perfectly legal in Florida for someone to stalk an unarmed, black boy through a neighborhood at night, confront him, and shoot him dead, and be able to claim self-defense.

The fact that he stalked the boy through his neighborhood, against 911 advice, without so much as identifying himself, was never in question.  The fact that Zimmerman confronted the boy and fought with him was never in question.  The fact that he shot and killed that unarmed boy was never in question.  The only real question was how lenient Florida law was for this to happen and get away with it.  Once again, the "Gunshine State" came through for the shooter.

Zimmerman is free, once more, to carry as many loaded guns as he wishes, anywhere it's legal to do so, and jump to whatever conclusions he wishes about the people he considers suspicious.  And so is anyone else, for that matter, who can then use this case as a precedent.  Mothers, don't let your kids walk alone at night in Florida.

Zimmerman will now have to live with what he's done.  Just like O.J. Simpson, he'll forever be considered guilty by the public.  He will forevermore be known as a killer of an unarmed child.  He'll forever be looking over his shoulder, wondering just how angry those people are.  I wouldn't be surprised if he leaves the country to find relief.  But, as Confucius said, "No matter where you go, there you are."  He'll never escape himself.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

50 Damning Questions That George Zimmerman Never Answered

One drizzly night in March, 2012, George Zimmerman, the self-appointed "neighborhood watch"
guy, stalked an unarmed 17-year old Trayvon Martin through an apartment complex against the advice of a 911 operator, confronted the boy, and shot him to death after a tussle.  

If the gun guys who so ardently support Zimmerman were to have been in Trayvon's shoes that night, I wonder how they would have reacted to being chased through the apartments?  I can imagine it would be a lot like this.

The court case finally came, and today the case will go to jury.

We'll see how it ends.  If justice is served, Zimmerman will go to prison for life for his murderous deed.  I have changed my Facebook profile in memory of Trayvon, for this occasion (click image to the left to save it to your profile image, too).

Suggested FB profile pic
If Zimmerman truly considered himself a "neighborhood watch captain", then why did he break most of the instructions given by the Office of the Sheriff of Charlotte County to every Neighborhood Watch Captain (see image, below).  Instructions broken by Zimmerman: "patrol unarmed", "patrol with a partner", "affix magnetic car sign to vehicle", "if walking wear a reflective vest to identify yourself", "avoid verbal or physical encounters", "unnecessary heroics are out of place".

Zimmerman chose not to go on the witness stand.  I don't blame him.  There are some very important questions that he would like to avoid answering.  In fact, John M. Philips had 50 such questions that he would ask of Zimmerman.  Phillips is the family attorney for Jordan Davis' family (the unarmed teen who was murdered just nine months after Trayvon Martin).

I urge you to read all 50 of the questions.  But THIS article summarized ten of the most important:

1. Why get out of the vehicle? 
Instructions for Charlotte County Neighborhood Watch
2. Why not roll down the window and actually talk to Trayvon, say, “hey man, what’s up? You okay? I am neighborhood watch?" 
3. Why didn’t George follow the police operator’s instructions to not follow Trayvon? 
4. How did George, as the neighborhood watch captain, who had made 40-plus prior reports, who was right near his best friend’s house who had gone door-to-door and knew that area, claim to not know that area that night? 
5. How did Trayvon jump him at the T but every piece of evidence and witness testimony is dozens of yards from there, including the phone that fell to the ground when the initial confrontation happened. 
6. How did Trayvon come out of bushes when there were no bushes? 
7. How did George lose a fight to a kid he outweighed, when George paid over $100 per month for MMA classes for a year before this fight (which was subsequently named as the “George Zimmerman Training Program”) and he was the aggressor coming towards Trayvon? 
8. Why did you tell the detective you spread out Trayvon’s hands, yet his body was found with them on the interior of his body? 
9. You have been portrayed as a docile guy who couldn’t fight, but didn’t you attack a cop? Weren’t you arrested for fighting? Didn’t your ex get a restraining order for stalking and allege verbal and physical abuse?  
10. Why did he need to load an extra bullet in the chamber to go to Target?

I'll be watching, Florida.  Will the "Gunshine State" live up to its name as a home for pro-gun "stand your ground" extremism?  Or will Zimmerman be held accountable for the murder of Trayvon?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The 2013 Oregon Legislature Did Nothing To Reduce Gun Violence

A statement from Ceasefire Oregon:

The 2013 Oregon Legislature did nothing to prevent gun violence.

We are deeply disappointed that even after the recent horrific shooting tragedies here in Oregon and across the country, the 2013 Oregon Legislature chose to do nothing to reduce gun violence. Oregonians overwhelmingly support common-sense steps like requiring universal background checks to ensure that guns do not end up in the hands of criminals. It is our hope that our elected leaders will soon catch up with the views of their constituents.

The movement to strengthen our gun laws is stronger today than at any time in the last decade. With our partners in the Oregon Alliance to Prevent Gun Violence, Moms Demand Action and the Brady Campaign, we will continue gearing up for new educational campaigns and the next legislative session. We appreciate the hard work by Senators Floyd Prozanski and Ginny Burdick this session and look forward to successfully passing legislation to make our communities safer. 


Monday, July 8, 2013

Surprise, Schools Can't Afford To Arm Their Staff Due To Insurance Premiums

Following the Sandy Hook school massacre, the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre and pro-gun lapdog Asa Hutchinson went to the podium to give the NRA’s solution to our gun violence problem.  But instead of embracing any commonsense reform to keep guns out of the hands of madmen to begin with (such as universal background checks, better mental health screening, or limits on assault weapons or high-capacity ammo magazines), the NRA’s solution was instead to arm all schools by insisting that all schools have armed guards.  They suggested not only having policemen on school grounds, but even arming school teachers, staff, and volunteers with conceal carry permits.

Of course, in their rush to sell more guns arm all schools, they had absolutely nothing to say regarding where the funding for all these guns and guards would come from.  Hutchinson suggested that the guards be 100% volunteer.  I've been involved with various volunteer organizations for decades, including Ceasefire Oregon (which is also 100% volunteer), and I can say with a great deal of certainty that this isn't a solution.  Volunteers come and go, have all sorts of different motivations, and usually have higher priorities in their lives than the volunteer activity in question.  These problems are a nightmare in the making, when it comes to our children’s safety.  And if we talk about paying people to guard schools, where is the money coming from?  Schools everywhere are already pushed to the financial breaking point.

As I’ve pointed out, there are no incidents where a school guard has actually stopped a mass shooting at a school by pulling their weapon, or any other mass shooting, for that matter, but I know of at least 6 accidents CAUSED by armed guards and conceal carriers on school grounds, including one where a student was hit in the leg.

Nonetheless, some states and municipalities are following the NRA call for creating armed camps of our kids’ schools.  Here in Oregon, for instance, schools in Eagle Point and Harrisburg have been discussing it.  It’s currently legal for schools to set a pro-gun policy for staff in Oregon, and conceal carriers can freely carry guns in schools if they aren't staff. 

During legislative sessions this year, seven states enacted laws permitting teachers or administrators to carry guns in schools. Three of the measures — in Kansas, South Dakota and Tennessee — took effect last week. 
But, oopsie, the NRA forgot to think of one, tiny, little detail:  Insurance companies, whose job it is to rationally consider statistical risk, aren't interested in insuring armed schools.  It's simply too risky, particularly around children.  From that same article:

But already, EMC Insurance Companies, the liability insurance provider for about 90 percent of Kansas school districts, has sent a letter to its agents saying that schools permitting employees to carry concealed handguns would be declined coverage. 
“We are making this underwriting decision simply to protect the financial security of our company,” the letter said. 
In northeast Indiana, Douglas A. Harp, the sheriff of Noble County, offered to deputize teachers to carry handguns in their classrooms less than a week after 26 children and educators were killed in a school shooting in Newtown, Conn. A community member donated $27,000 in firearms to the effort. School officials from three districts seemed ready to sign off. But the plan fell apart after an insurer refused to provide workers’ compensation to schools with gun-carrying staff members. 
The Oregon School Boards Association, which manages liability coverage for all but a handful of the state’s school districts, recently announced a new pricing structure that would make districts pay an extra $2,500 annual premium for every staff member carrying a weapon on the job. 
Scott Whitman, an administrator at the Jackson County school district in southern Oregon, where a committee is looking at arming school staff members next year, said costs would be a factor in the decision. With 10 buildings, the expense of arming and training more than one staff member at each school would easily exceed $50,000 a year. 
“Pretty much every last bit of our money is budgeted,” he said, adding, “To me, that could be quite an impediment to putting this forward.”

As of Saturday, no Kansas school districts had adopted a policy of allowing people with concealed carry permits on their campuses as permitted under the new law, said David Shriver, director of the Kansas school board association's insurance program.
Bob Skow, chief executive officer of the Independent Insurance Agents of Iowa, said he's not surprised by the companies' decisions. Insurance is all about risk and about pricing the cost of coverage in a way that correctly reflects it. That's one of the reasons many schools have gotten rid of their trampolines, he said.
"It's one thing to have a trained peace officer with a gun in school; it's a completely different situation when you have a custodian or a teacher with a gun," Skow said. "That changes the risk of insuring a school and magnifies it considerably."

Naturally, the pro-gun folks are scratching their heads.  Nothing says “safety” more to them than having a plethora of lethal weapons available.  But, of course, the rest of us agree with insurers, whose job it is to determine risk in a statistical manner. 

Arming schools is an idea that is very unpopular with nearly every national organization representing parents, teachers, and law enforcement, as well as the citizens of Newtown, and has no merit with any historical context.  It’s time to listen to them and put this whole, dangerous nonsensical suggestion by the NRA to rest.  Support commonsense gun regulation to keep guns out of the hands of children and bad guys to begin with.