Legally Speaking With Pamela Price

Pamela Y. Price, Attorney at Law

Tag: National Rifle Association

Who’s Killing Us?

Who's Killing Us? Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Protest, Parkland, Florida 2018
Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Who’s Killing Us? No this is not a song. It’s a serious question that we need to answer in America. More importantly, we need to admit that too many people are being killed in America by guns.

The news this week is the same news we heard last week. The same insane incessant scourge of gun violence overwhelms us. The same “thoughts and prayers” that were issued by legislators around the country last week are re-issued this week. To a different family. To a different grieving community. To the same shocked nation.

Too Many Guns

Across this country, legal and illegal guns are everywhere. Despite efforts to regulate access to guns, the situation has gotten completely out of hand. Increased criminal penalties and harsh sentences have had no impact whatsoever on the access to guns or the number of people killed by guns.

According to one 2012 study, Americans own at least 270 million guns. The second gun-ranking country, India, a country over three times our population, only has 46 million guns. And, the vast majority of the world’s countries have fewer than 10 million privately-owned guns. This disparity is based on the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The devastation to our country because of this law should compel us to take bold action to address our national crisis.

Too many lives are lost, in schools, in our homes and on the street. There are so many preventable deaths that only happen because there is a gun available. In fact, there are always way more gun suicides than gun homicides in America. In 2012, 64% of all gun-related deaths in the U.S. were suicides. 22,938 people committed suicide with a gun in 2016, while 14,415 people died in gun homicides. We broke a record in the number of deaths by gun in 2017, and two-thirds of those who died were by suicide.

A March 2016 study in the American Journal of Medicine found that 90% of all women, 91% of children under 14, 92% of young people from 15 to 24 years, and 82% of all people killed by firearms in the world were in the United States.

Who’s Killing Us?

We wake up every day to another mass shooting. The face of death by gun knows no boundaries of age, race, sex or religion. Our senses have been shocked over and over again since the Columbine High School shootings in April 1999. Over the last 20 years, we have watched this type of random mass shooting increase in frequency. The number of lives lost in each incident is completely unpredictable.

In December 2012, a gunman murders 27 people – including 20 six and seven year olds – at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. A gunman kills 49 people at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando in June 2016. Another gunman kills 58 people at a concert on the Las Vegas strip in October 2017.

Who's Killing Us? Nine victims killed at Emanuel AME Church
Nine victims shot & killed inside Emanuel AME Church, June 2015

Racially motivated attacks have become commonplace as well. In June 2015, a white man wanting to start “a race war” kills 9 Black people at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. In October 2018, a man expressing hatred for Jews kills 11 people at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The shocking attack in El Paso, Texas this month was the latest one.

#EnoughIsEnough

Who's Killing Us? Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School parents
Parents wait for news after shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Joel Auerbach)

On Valentine’s Day 2018, a gunman kills 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. This one woke up young people across the country. #EnoughIsEnough. They took on the National Rifle Association (NRA) with fierce energy. Their attack on the influence of the NRA in the political and media world left that organization reeling.

Watching the young activists who survived the Parkland massacre step up and demand an end to gun violence in America was inspiring. They courageously rejected the stupidest idea that we should arm teachers as a solution to the problem. They have been uncompromising in their insistence that we stop the violence now.

For more than 20 years, Congress prohibited the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) from conducting any research on gun violence in America. It was NRA pressure that led to the restriction on research. The CDC interpreted the ban to include all research on gun violence prevention, and so has not funded any research on this subject since 1996. In April, however, a Congressional committee allocated $50 million dollars to study ways to prevent gun violence, giving $25 million to the CDC.

Every 16 Hours

A recent study found that “intimate partner homicides ― when a person murders their spouse or romantic partner ― increased each year between 2014 and 2017.” The reason: guns. The study found that since 2010, intimate partner homicides by gun increased 26% while the murder of women by other means has decreased. According to one estimate, a woman is fatally shot by her boyfriend, husband or ex every 16 hours.

Who's Killing Us? 6-year-old Millie Drew Kelly killed by her 4-year old brother
6-year-old Millie Drew Kelly killed by her 4-year old brother

Our children are also suffering from both legal and illegal guns. On April 11, 2019, 6-year old Millie Drew Kelly died after her 4-year-old brother accidentally shot her in the head. This kind of tragedy is a regularly re-ocurring event in America. In December 2018, a 6-year-old girl in Missouri dies after her 12-year-old brother accidentally shot her in the head. October 2018, in Virginia, a 7-year-old boy finds his grandfather’s gun and accidentally shoots his 5-year-old sister. March 2018 – an 8-year-old in Ohio loads a .22-caliber rifle and opens fire on his 4-year old sister. She miraculously survives.

Who's Killing Us? 4-year old Na'Vaun Jackson accidentally shot in head
4-year old Na’Vaun Jackson. Credit: Ramon Price

In Oakland, 4-year-old Na’Vaun Jackson accidentally shoots himself in the head when he finds a gun in the house. Although Na’Vaun survived, his family and the entire neighborhood are traumatized.

Repeal the Second Amendment

In this moment, we are having a national conversation about gun violence and gun control. Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens called for “the simple but dramatic action” of repealing the Second Amendment. He argues that will move us closer to stopping gun violence than any other possible reform.

It is long past time to repeal the Second Amendment. Repeal will remove the legal justifications that have thwarted every gun control measure ever proposed.

The Second Amendment is part of the Constitution as a compromise to protect the slave patrols in the South. The Founders knew the militias were necessary to keep slaves under control. Just like we abolished slavery, we need to abolish the Second Amendment. It is a vestige of our history, just like Jim Crow and mass incarceration, that is still killing us.

So, who’s killing us? It seems that we are all playing “russian roulette” with guns in America. Today, it’s Walmart. Tomorrow, it could be Safeway. Until we collectively decide that #EnoughIsEnough, our racist past will undermine our future. Once again, I say it is past time to Repeal No. 2.

Losing the Federal Government

I feel like we’re tettering on the edge of a cliff.  The next deep breath, we fall into the abyss.

What Just Happened?

Today, April 6, 2017, is truly one of the last days of American democracy.  Why? Because today, the Republican Senators voted to change the rules of the U.S. Senate. They made the change to ensure that Democratic Senators will no longer have a voice in voting on federal judges at any level. It also means that, tomorrow, the right wing of the American judiciary will take over the U.S. Supreme Court for possibly at least the next 50 years. So, the transformation of America is complete.  Elections do matter. The bloodless coup which became apparent in November 2016 is complete.

Who Is Neil Gorsuch?

This dramatic rule change was necessary to get Judge Neil Gorsuch of Colorado appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Judge Gorsuch is the son of Anne Gorsuch. Anne was a Ronald Reagan appointee who at one point was the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). She cut the EPA’s budget by 22% and reduced the number of cases filed against polluters. Ann also relaxed Clean Air Act regulations and facilitated the spraying of restricted-use pesticides. She hired EPA staff from the industries they were supposed to be regulating.  According to her Wikipedia page, Anne is the first agency director in U.S. history to be cited for contempt of Congress after she refused to comply with a subpoena.

Judge Gorsuch’s background as a litigator is one of privilege. He graduated from Harvard Law School in 1991.  He clerked in the D.C. Circuit federal court and the U.S. Supreme Court after law school. He then joined an elite D.C. law firm and stayed there for 10 years, representing corporate clients and billionaires.  In 2015, his former firm paid new associates “a starting bonus “of $175,000 or a $330,000 signing bonus to those who clerked for Supreme Court Justices. Gorsuch left the firm in 2006 when George Bush appointed him to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

What is His Record?

Judge Gorsuch is the heir to Antonin Scalia. Like Scalia, Judge Gorsuch says he will “look backward.” He believes the Constitution should be interpreted the way it was interpreted when it was written. No matter that in the original Constitution, Black folks are only 3/5 of a person and women do not have the right to vote. In Gorsuch’s view, the infamous Dred Scott decision would be “good law” because it is based on what the judges then understood the law to be. He would also support the decision in Plessy v. Ferguson which ruled that Jim Crow laws were constitutional. The Court’s understanding of the law at that time legalized discrimination that endured for nearly sixty years.

His record on women’s rights and civil rights as a federal judge is troubling.  In February 2017, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and 107 civil rights organizations signed a letter opposing his nomination. What is really scary, however, is that the National Rifle Association (the NRA) just dropped a million dollars to support his nomination. Gorsuch’s apparent views on guns led Americans for Responsible Solutions, the gun violence prevention organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and Navy combat veteran and NASA astronaut Captain Mark Kelly, and its sister organization, the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, to oppose his nomination. Under Gorsuch, America’s status as the most violent country in the world will be preserved.

“Defective from The Start”

Gorsuch says using the courtroom to “debate social policy is bad for the country and bad for the judiciary.”  If Gorsuch opposes using courts to debate social policy, he likely will oppose efforts to change any policies in the Courts.  His views are exactly opposite from the greatest lawyer and judge America has ever known, Justice Thurgood Marshall.  In 1987, Justice Marshall pointed out that “we the people no longer enslave, but the credit does not belong to the framers. It belongs to those who refuse to acquiesce to outdated notions of liberty, justice, and equality and who strived to better them.” He said “the government they devised was defective from the start, requiring several amendments, a civil war, and major social transformations to attain the system of constitutional government and its respect for the freedoms and individual rights, we hold as fundamental today.”

Donald Trump promised to appoint a “Scalia-like” justice to the Supreme Court. He is keeping his promise. Justice Scalia was a rabid opponent of affirmative action and voting rights. He wrote the Walnart v. Dukes decision that ended one of the largest class-action suits in history and set civil rights progress backward for years. Scalia opposed gay rights and a woman’s right to choose what to do with her own body. Scalia denied protection to victims of domestic violence and he wanted to abolish the Miranda rule protecting a defendant’s right to remain silent. The truth is, if Judge Gorsuch starts where Scalia left off, he too will be “defective from the start.”

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