CeaseFirePA Flash Vigil Marks 5th Anniversary of Aurora Shooting

To mark the fifth anniversary of the tragic Aurora shooting, CeaseFirePA held a flash vigil at the Regal Warrington Theater in Bucks County, PA on Thursday, July 20. Gathering to honor the twelve who lost their lives and the seventy shot that night, the crowd also affirmed that we have the right to be safe in places like movie theaters, churches, schools and places of business.  Shira Goodman, Executive Director of CeaseFirePA, explained, “We are here to send the message that we deserve to be able to come together to learn, work, pray and play in safety.  Going to your neighborhood theater is a quintessential American pastime — and we want to be clear that we want to be safe here and everywhere.”

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Gun Control Today, Not Tomorrow

Cartoons courtesy of Mike Stanfill.

Cartoons courtesy of Mike Stanfill.

— by

In Orlando, a gunman carried out the largest mass shooting in U.S. history, killing 49 and wounding an additional 53 at the gay nightclub Pulse. With such an atrocity comes the normal tragic dialogue regarding how this has once again occurred, and the motivations of the perpetrator have already come into question. While the act was undoubtedly an act of hate during the height of Pride month, the deaths of these innocent club-goers have already been politicized to suggest that ISIS ties were the catalyst. Instead of acknowledging prejudice and discrimination against the LGBT community and the issues of gun control, national dialogue has focused elsewhere.

Many people have questioned why guns were sold to an unstable man such as Omar Mateen. Politicians and community leaders see this tragedy as a call to action. From Columbine to Virginia Tech, from Sandy Hook to Orlando, innocent citizens have become victims of gun violence with little to no policy changes made to prevent such violence in the future. The time to take a stance is not tomorrow, but today. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C. took a stance on Monday, asking Paul Ryan when debate about new gun policy would occur. As the congressman drew attention to the one year anniversary of the Charleston shooting approaching this Friday, House Speaker Ryan promptly dismissed the call for gun reform and moved on.

6-17-16-slave-patrolsShortly after the San Bernadino shooting, when Senator  Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) proposed another bill requiring background checks and a mandatory waiting period, it was shot down 50 to 48. As Democrats continued to push for the immediate passage of a bill preventing people on terror watch lists from buying firearms or explosives, Republicans argued that the government could mistakenly place innocent people on the watch list and thus mistakenly deprive them of their Second Amendment rights.

Dismissing problems and moving on without resolution is far too common in today?’s political climate, especially in regards to violent gun crimes. The leniency of the U.S gun control system has allowed for massacres such as these to occur unchecked.

Comprehensive background checks are a necessity.  Far too many individuals bypass background checks and rarely renew gun licenses, as Mateen purchased his weapons with an expired gun registration and was on the FBI list of suspected terrorists. Florida is specifically known to have very relaxed gun control policies. The Brady Campaign, a prominent gun control group, gave 26 states including Florida an F rating in 2013. Assault weapons, such as the one used by Mateen to carry out the Orlando attacks, are legal for any citizen to purchase who can pass the background check.

Guns can change lives in a matter of seconds. These items should be treated as weapons and not toys. Roughly 16,272 murders were committed in the United States as of 2008. Of these murders, about 10,886 or 67% were committed using firearms. While guns won?t stop murderers, or prevent disturbed individuals from executing acts of terror, we have the power to slow their course and reach.

No person thinks they will fall victim to an act of gun violence. While walking across campus at Virginia Tech, no student expected to be gunned down and murdered. No Sandy Hook Elementary School parent expected to drop their child off for class only to never see them again. No one expects the terror and effects of gun violence will touch them. Yet attacks could happen anywhere, any place, anytime and we allow for it.

Close to 33,000 Americans were victims of gun-related deaths in 2011 and an average of 268 citizens are shot every day. By focusing efforts to reform and combat the current system, we can prevent future attacks and save lives. While we may never be able to bring back those lost in brutal attacks, we can rise to the occasion, bettering society in their memory so no child, parent, or friend has to go through the pain and grief of losing a loved one through gun violence.

As our government once again failed to act for the safety of its people by passing significant gun reform legislation, innocent lives once again paid for their negligence. This time it was the 49 dead and 53 wounded who were celebrating Pride at a nightclub in Orlando. Unless our government acts now the question is, who will be next?

Reprinted with the permission of the National Jewish Democratic Counsel

Hate has Absolutely no Place in America

Hillary Clinton. Photo Credit: Ida Mae Astute

Hillary Clinton. Photo Credit: Ida Mae Astute


— Hillary Rodham Clinton

I join Americans in praying for the victims of the attack in Orlando, their families and the first responders who did everything they could to save lives.

This was an act of terror.  Law enforcement and intelligence agencies are hard at work, and we will learn more in the hours and days ahead.  For now, we can say for certain that we need to redouble our efforts to defend our country from threats at home and abroad.  That means defeating international terror groups, working with allies and partners to go after them wherever they are, countering their attempts to recruit people here and everywhere, and hardening our defenses at home. It also means refusing to be intimidated and staying true to our values.

This was also an act of hate.  The gunman attacked an LGBT nightclub during Pride Month.  To the LGBT community: please know that you have millions of allies across our country.  I am one of them.  We will keep fighting for your right to live freely, openly and without fear.  Hate has absolutely no place in America.

Finally, we need to keep guns like the ones used last night out of the hands of terrorists or other violent criminals.  This is the deadliest mass shooting in the history of the United States and it reminds us once more that weapons of war have no place on our streets.

This is a time to stand together and resolve to do everything we can to defend our communities and country.

Democrats Seek to Take Back PA 6 With Mike Parrish

Mike ParrishWe spend a lot of time thinking about the presidential race, but we should remember that the House and its 435 seats are also on this November’s ballot. Here in Pennsylvania’s 6th Congressional District, the Democratics have an opportunity to capture the seat because their running a strong candidate with a great biography against first term Republican Ryan Costello who’s been committed to voting the GOP line since he got to DC. I had the opportunity to spend a few hours with Mike Parrish, Democrat for Congress and you can read all about his background and his stand on the issues.  [Read more…]

Obama Takes Action On Gun Violence

Obama announced a package of Executive Actions aimed at fighting gun violence by strengthening and expanding the background check system to cover more sales, ensuring the the system has good records, and implementing new regulations and procedures to curtail trafficking and the illegal gun trade.

Complete transcript follows the video below.
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Tikkun Olam or The Stuff That Should Not Happen

I was profoundly distressed to hear how flippantly Gov. Jed Bush’s dismissed concerns about the tragic shooting of nine people Thursday at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon:

I resist the notion, and I did — I had this challenge as governor. Because, we have — look. Stuff happens. There’s always a crisis. And the impulse is always to do something and it’s not always the right thing to do.

A child drowned in a pool and the impulse is to pass a law that puts fencing around pools. Well it may not change it. Or you have a car accident and the impulse is to pass a law that deals with that unique event. And the cumulative effect of this is, in some cases, you don’t solve the problem by passing the law, and you’re imposing on large numbers of people burdens that make it harder for our economy to grow, make it harder to protect liberty.

Asked for a clarification, the Presidential candidate doubled-down.

No. It wasn’t a mistake. I said exactly what I said…. Explain to me what I said wrong…. Things happen all the time. “Things” is that better.

Having worked for the past three years in traffic safety, I refuse to settle for the laissez-faire philosophy of “Stuff happens”. This attitude is not appropriate for anyone, let alone a candidate to the highest office.

If an aircraft crashes, would we tolerate a “Stuff happens’ from the FAA officials?

Typically an investigation takes place and remedial steps are put in place to prevent the same type of accident from happening again. Airplanes crashes are now extremely rare.

In the words of Stephen Colbert.

One of the definitions of insanity is changing nothing and pretending something will change.

110404-fatality-rate-per-100-million-vehicle-miles-traveledLet us take traffic fatalities as an example, my current area of research. Improvement in safety is usually measured by the number of deaths per 100 million vehicle miles. This rate was dramatically cut through the years from 24.1 to 1.1 between 1921 and 2010. These results were the direct outcome of improved technology (seat belt, airbag, active safety), improved education, and changed behaviors. When child injury researchers observed children deaths that were caused by the airbag deployment, she took on the airbag manufacturers to improve both technology and legislation. Airbags are now safer for everyone. Of course, crashes still happen, we lose over 30,000 people every year but my colleagues and I work hard towards safer roads. Emergency Braking and driverless cars will hopefully bring us closer to the “Vision Zero” when no one dies on the road.

Coincidentally, deaths by guns will surpass car fatalities this year, and we are due for change.

So I believe it is important for everyone to live with the Jewish idea of tikkun olam in mind (repairing the world). Parents should be responsible for the emotional well-being of their children. Teachers, classmates and co-workers can sometimes observe distress and help. Legislators are in the front line as well and we need to hold them responsible if they do nothing to help us prevent the next massacre. Simple steps like background checks or anti-straw purchase legislation would do much to stanch the needless loss of life and limb.

As hard as it is to set change in motion, we cannot and should not become insensitive to “stuff”.

We cannot and should not feel powerless.

Eliminating Background Checks Puts Guns in Wrong Hands

handgun_sales[1](CeasefirePA) Last April, State Senator Camera Bartolotta (R-46) introduced legislation that would eliminate the state background check system.

Do you know what happened with the Charleston shooter’s background check? Did he pass it? Did he fail?

This is what happened: The background check was never completed. Most background checks take just minutes for an approval or denial to register. But some take a bit longer, and under federal law, if a clear answer does not come back in three days, the seller can sell the gun.

Fortunately, the Pennsylvania Instant Check System (PICS) allows extra time for a background check to be completed. The default is to protect safety, not to let a sale go through in the absence of a completed check.

PICS and the federal system work in tandem to keep Pennsylvania safe. We are fortunate to have this system in Pennsylvania. But the gun lobby does not like it, and is pushing a bill that would eliminate it.

Moving forward with this means putting guns in the hands of people who are dangerous. As we saw with the tragedy in Charleston, allowing sales to go forward without a completed check can be a death sentence for mothers, fathers and children.

Jewish Democratic Women Urge Grassroots Action On Gun Control

— by David Streeter

The Women’s Leadership Network of the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) urged NJDC’s members to call their members of Congress and urge “bold” and “courageous” actions to pass gun control legislation and end the epidemic of gun violence. The Network’s co-founder Barbara Goldberg Goldman said:

Last week, NJDC’s good friend former Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) urged the Senate Judiciary Committee to be ‘bold’ and ‘courageous’ to stop the epidemic of gun violence in America. Today, we urge American Jews to echo Gabby’s powerful call to action and urge their Senators and Representatives to support efforts to reduce gun violence. Jewish tradition teaches that we must pass along a better world to our children and grandchildren, and one way to do that is by taking steps to prevent the next Sandy Hook, Aurora, Tucson, or Columbine tragedy.

NJDC action alert and a video from the Daily Show follow the jump.

Co-founder Ann F. Lewis added:

President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) need our voices on this critical issue in order to rally Congress behind their policies. We must add our voices to the growing chorus calling for action. Now is the time to act, before more innocent children are slain.

Below is the text of the action alert that NJDC sent to its membership:

Subject: Join with Gabby
From: Ann F. Lewis and Barbara Goldberg Goldman

Dear NJDC Supporter,

In January, President Barack Obama took a number of actions to combat “the epidemic of gun violence in this country” that has claimed far too many innocent and precious lives. When the President addressed the nation, he made clear that “if there is even one life that can be saved, then we’ve got an obligation to try.” The Senate Judiciary Committee picked up on his call and convened its own hearing to address gun violence, and our dear friend former Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) — who was tragically wounded in a mass shooting — delivered this powerful message to the committee:

This is an important conversation for our children, for our communities, for Democrats, and Republicans. Speaking is difficult, but I need to say something important.

Violence is a big problem. Too many children are dying. Too many children. We must do something.

It will be hard. But the time is now. You must act. Be bold. Be courageous. Americans are counting on you.

As the co-founders of NJDC’s Women’s Leadership Network, we urge you to echo Gabby’s words by telling your Senators to be courageous by supporting measures to reduce gun violence and protect our children. Call you Senators and Representative today and urge them to:

  • Support universal background checks for gun purchases;
  • Improve access to mental health services for all Americans;*
  • Support the assault weapons ban introduced by Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA); and
  • Use their voice and their vote to protect America’s children.

Jewish tradition teaches that we must pass along a better world to our children and grandchildren, and one way to do that is by taking steps to prevent the next Sandy Hook, Aurora, Tucson, or Columbine tragedy. With your help, our Senators will know that American Jews are firmly supportive of efforts to end the epidemic of gun violence and make America’s cities, towns, and neighborhoods safer for everyone.

Sincerely,

Ann F. Lewis and Barbara Goldberg Goldman

Hadiya Pendleton’s Tragedy: The NRA Used To Be Different

The National Rifle Association’s current President Wayne LaPierre once supported universal background checks. This stands to reason: Stopping criminals from buying guns in stores but allowing them to do so at shows is like locking your front door but leaving your sidedoor wide open. Wayne LaPierre no longer reflects the will of the majority of the NRA’s membership — law-abiding gun-owners interested in self-protection of hunting. He now represents the interests of Gun manufacturers who would suffer if they were not able to sell this guns to criminals.

If the killing of 20 innocent children were not enough, today the gun lobby has another victim on their hands Hadiya Pendleton. Hadiya was a talented teen who performed days ago as a majorette at the events around the Presidential inauguration has been shot dead less than a mile from Obama’s home in Chicago. She had just taken a final exam at her high school and was taking shelter from the rain in a playground when a gunman starting shooting. See coverage by CNN on the right.