Tag Archives: gun violence

Milwaukee police: August homicides highest in 25 years

More homicides were recorded in Milwaukee in August than in any other month over the past 25 years, police said.

Milwaukee’s total of 24 homicides in August was the highest since July 1991, when the victims of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer were discovered, according to police. The department said the city’s per capita rate was even higher than that of Chicago, which recorded 90 homicides in August.

Chief Edward Flynn discussed the violence at an afternoon news conference on Sept. 1, saying police have recorded a slight increase in domestic violence homicides this year, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

“But the biggest driver of our homicides is arguments and fights and retaliation among people with criminal records,” Flynn said.

A statement from the department said it is being stressed by recent unrest in the Sherman Park neighborhood, where a black man died after being shot by a police officer earlier this summer.

The fatal shooting of Sylville Smith on Aug. 13 sparked two nights of violence, including gunfire and fires that destroyed businesses. Police have said Smith was holding a gun when he turned toward the officer who shot him.

The department’s statement also cited the use of two-officer squads as a strain on its resources. Milwaukee police have patrolled in two-person teams since July, after an officer was shot and wounded by a suspect, according to the newspaper.

After unrest, we need to get serious about equal economic opportunity

Milwaukee: Citizen Action of Wisconsin executive director Robert Kraig made the following statement on the civil unrest that exploded over the weekend after another young black man lost his life:

Our hearts go out to all the residents of Milwaukee’s Sherman Park neighborhood who have experienced this weekend’s civil unrest, to the family of the young man who lost his life, and to the peace officers who have put their lives on the line to protect public safety.

As public order is restored, it is important we take stock of what happened, and what we have to do together to create a Wisconsin where everyone has an equal chance to live a fulfilling life.

Although the violence and property destruction seemed spontaneous to outsiders, for many African American residents it was a predictable outpouring of frustration flowing from unbearable racial inequality and exclusion. Shocking statistics support this, as the Milwaukee metro area has for many years consistently ranked among the worst in the country for African Americans across a variety of indicators including, segregation, incarceration rates, black male nonemployment, child poverty and many others.

African Americans in Milwaukee, who came during the Great Migration to work and work hard and claim their piece of the American Dream, where drawn by the plentiful opportunities to work in union manufacturing jobs. They have borne the brunt of deindustrialization since the late 1970s. According to the UWM Center for Economic Development, the percentage of African Americans working in manufacturing declined from 54.3 percent in 1970 to 14.7 percent in 2009.

Many leaders in the Milwaukee area seem to see this as a natural phenomenon beyond our control. But the economy is not a natural disaster or an extreme weather event beyond our agency to influence, it is human made. What has been lacking in Milwaukee is the courage and vision to fight for solutions up to the scale of the problem.

Once the dust is settled in Sherman Park, the question will be which public officials, which community leaders, which corporate leaders are willing to stand up and fight for public interventions at the scale necessary to end Wisconsin’s system of economic apartheid and truly guarantee full opportunity for everyone in our great state. This means striving to create an economy where everyone who wants a good jobs can find one near their local community.

Citizen Action of Wisconsin and our over 12,000 members in the Milwaukee area look forward to continuing to work with everyone in the community who wants to work toward economic and social transformation.

Citizen Action of Wisconsin is an issue focused coalition of individuals and organizations committed to achieving social, economic, and environmental justice.

On the Web

Citizen Action of Wisconsin.

Autopsies suggest killer targeted victims at Pulse nightclub

More than a third of the 49 patrons killed during the Pulse nightclub massacre were shot in the head, and most of the victims had multiple bullet wounds, according to autopsy reports released this week.

Only two victims at the LGBT club had traces of soot, gunpowder or stippling, meaning most of the victims were likely more than 3 feet away when they were shot in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

The autopsies show that about half of the victims had five wounds or more, and one victim had 13 wounds.

Gunman Omar Mateen was killed during a shootout with law enforcement officers following a three-hour standoff June 12.

“It shows he shot a lot and had a lot of ammo,” said Dr. Stephen Cina, a Colorado-based forensic pathologist, who has no connection to the case.

The large number of head injuries and multiple wounds on victims suggests Mateen was targeting his victims rather than shooting randomly, said Josh Wright, a former Florida Department of Law Enforcement firearms analyst who now has a forensics consulting firm in Tallahassee.

“I wouldn’t expect to have those many hits on those many people if you weren’t actually trying to take aim and make sure you hit your target rather than running around, spraying bullets,” said Wright, who also has no connection to the case.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating whether anyone died from friendly fire during the shootout at the gay nightclub.

Officers knocked down a wall and stormed the club, killing Mateen in hail of gunfire. Mateen, who had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, was shot eight times by police.

Cina said without evidence of stippling — particles of gunpowder in the skin — it’s difficult to know if the victims were shot in the head point-blank.

Michael Knox, a Jacksonville-based firearms expert, said the large number of victims with multiple wounds could also suggest Mateen was firing rapidly at groups of people in the crowded nightclub.

The unusual paths of some gunshots support eyewitnesses who said people were crouching under tables and hiding in toilet stalls.

“Some tried to run or hide under tables so you’re going to have these weird bullet paths,” he said.

50 years after the Texas sniper, a look at gun violence and mental health laws

For some people, the attack on police officers by a gunman in Dallas this summer brought to mind another attack by a sniper in Austin 50 years ago — on Aug. 1, 1966.

That’s when student Charles Whitman stuck his rifle over the edge of the clock tower at the University of Texas at Austin and started shooting. Ultimately, he killed 16 people — and wounded more than 30 others.

For decades, people have struggled to figure out why. There have been theories about abuse, a brain tumor and, of course, mental illness.

Six months before Charles Whitman took aim from that tower he visited a school psychiatrist, and admitted while there that he had a violent fantasy of going to the top of the tower with a deer rifle and shooting people.

Gary Lavergne, who wrote A Sniper in the Tower, said the school psychiatrist, Dr. Maurice D. Heatly, claimed he’d had many students who recounted violent fantasies during therapy sessions.

“Today we take it a whole lot more seriously because of our history,” Lavergne said. “But back then, that kind of thing didn’t happen.”

Soon after the 1966 shooting, Heatly spoke in a news conference.

“It’s a common experience for students who come to the mental hygiene clinic to refer to the tower as the site of some desperate action,” Heatly told reporters. “They say ‘I feel like jumping off of the old tower.’ (Charles Whitman had) no psychosis symptoms at all!”

Whitman never went back to the clinic, but he did return to his violent fantasy. Lavergne said the 25-year-old former Marine and Eagle Scout was incredibly methodical as he went about killing his mother the night before the tower shootings, placing her body in bed as if she were sleeping. Then he went back home and stabbed his wife.

“By 3 o’clock in the morning, his wife and his mother are both murdered,” said Lavergne. “After that, until he goes to the campus, he spent the rest of his time polishing, getting weapons ready, buying more ammunition. All for the specific goal of going to the top of the UT tower and shooting people.”

Nearly two hours later, 16 people were dead and 32 more were wounded. Police finally killed Whitman.

Speaking to the media, John Connally, who was then governor of Texas, could barely find words.

“Of course I am concerned, disturbed, and yet somewhat at a loss to know how you prevent a maniacal act of a man who obviously goes berserk,” Connally said.

Fifty years later, when news about shootings in Dallas, in Orlando or San Bernardino hits, our reactions are much the same. We avoid those charged words, but we often assume the shooter is mentally ill, and that crimes like this could be avoided if those with serious mental illness didn’t have guns.

Which raises two questions: First, was Charles Whitman mentally ill? And second, could policies focusing on mental health prevent mass shootings?

As to the first question, Lavergne said he doesn’t think Whitman had serious mental illness. Whitman, he said, did have mental health challenges that are common — depression and anxiety. But more than anything, he was manipulative.

“He was always who he was expected to be,” Lavergne said. “In front of his father-in-law, he at times appeared to be a dutiful husband, when — in fact — he assaulted his wife, just like his daddy assaulted his mother. And he gave people the impression he was an honor student, when — in fact — when he died he had a 1.9 grade point average.”

Charles Whitman did seem to think something was wrong with him. This is an excerpt from a note he left on his wife’s body:

“I don’t really understand myself these days,” he wrote. “I’m supposed to be an average, reasonable and intelligent young man. However, lately, I can’t recall when it started, I have been a victim of many unusual and irrational thoughts. These thoughts constantly recur.”

Whitman didn’t mention he’d also been abusing amphetamines. The potential impact of those chemicals fizzled out of the public conversation as soon as a pathologist made a striking discovery in his autopsy: a brain tumor.

One doctor said the “grayish yellow mass” wasn’t a factor in explaining what Whitman had done. But a medical panel later diagnosed the mass as a glioblastoma and said it could have contributed to Whitman’s inability to control his emotions and his actions. Dr. Elizabeth Burton, a Dallas pathologist, agrees it’s possible.

“You can have headaches, you can have seizures, and you can have changes in cognition, and you can actually have personality changes,” she said.

But plenty of people have tumors and are not violent. And plenty of people have depression, anxiety and paranoia and aren’t violent.

Dr. Paul Appelbaum, a psychiatrist and director of the division of law, ethics, and psychiatry at Columbia University, pointed out that only a tiny percent of violence — about 4 percent in the U.S. — is attributable to mental illness.

“We know that people with serious mental disorders are at somewhat elevated risk of committing violence,” Appelbaum said. “Even so, the vast majority of them never commit a violent act. And we know that people with serious mental illnesses are much more likely to end up as victims of violence rather than as perpetrators.”

But Democrats and Republicans have both touted mental health care legislation as a way of preventing mass shootings.

After a shooter killed 20 children in Newtown, President Obama called for a gun crackdown. That didn’t happen. But, Obama’s 2017 budget does include a request for $500 million for mental health services.

Appelbaum said this is a misguided approach.

“We need more funding for treatment of people with mental illness in this country,” Appelbaum said. “But to argue for that funding on false grounds — namely to try and persuade the public that it will protect them [to] have more mental health clinics — in the long run can only backfire.”

Applebaum said he believes there are alternatives. At least temporarily limiting access to guns for some people make sense, he said. In general, people who have been convicted of violent misdemeanors, or who are a under temporary restraining order, or who have multiple DUI convictions over a 5-year period are more likely to commit acts of violence than people with mental illness are.

This story is part of a partnership with NPR, local member stations and Kaiser Health News

Dems bring gun control to center stage

With moments of silence, shared embraces, many tears and heartfelt speeches, Democrats brought gun control into the spotlight at their convention in Philadelphia.

The Democratic National Convention is taking place at the Wells Fargo Center through July 28. Delegates assembled in the arena the first three nights heard from advocates of gun control.

They also heard from survivors of gun violence and relatives who lost sons, daughters, mothers, fathers and friends to gun violence in America.

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who staged a filibuster earlier this summer to demand action on gun control, remembered the day he went to Sandy Hook Elementary School in his home state.

President Barack Obama also remembered that day.

As did Erica Smegielski. Her mother Dawn, a teacher and principal, was murdered in the massacre at the school.

“I’m here for those lives cut short, in a school, or a movie theater, in a church, at work, in their neighborhoods or homes — because those voices should never be silenced,” she said. “I am here alone — without my mother — while too many politicians cower behind the gun lobby instead of standing with American families.”

 

Former Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey talked about gun violence and what the proliferation of assault weapons means for citizens and the law enforcement officers who pledge to protect them.

“I’m here to say we need more than grieving,” Ramsey said. “To protect our law enforcement and to serve those heroes who have fallen, we need commonsense measures to reduce gun violence. Police need these commonsense measures. And a leader who will fight for them.”

Actress Angela Bassett spoke about the violence.

Director Lee Daniels spoke about the violence.

Felicia Sanders and Polly Sheppard, two of the three survivors of the mass shooting at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina, spoke about gun violence and hate.

Sanders said, “My son’s last words were, ‘We mean you no harm.’ Tywanza. My hero. Two days later, I forgave the shooter who murdered him. Hate destroys those who harbor it, and I refused to let hate destroy me.

“Still, I have to ask: How was he able to purchase the gun he used to kill so many? After that fateful day, Hillary Clinton called on lawmakers to close the Charleston loophole. Because of that loophole, even though the shooter had an arrest record, when it didn’t surface and three days had passed, he could still buy that gun.”

Astronaut Mark Kelly spoke about his support for gun control reform, as did his wife, former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, a survivor of a mass shooting.

Jesse Jackson addressed the issue.

And so did Christine Leinonen, the mother of Christopher “Drew” Leinonen, who was killed in the massacre at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in June.

She stood at the podium with Brandon Wolf and Jose Arraigada, survivors of the shooting that took 49 lives and left 53 wounded.

At times during the emotional address, they helped keep her standing.

From the stage, Leinonen could look out at delegates, some of them draped waving U.S. flags, some draped in rainbow flags and many waving signs reading, “Love trumps hate.”

Leinonen said her son supported Hillary Clinton and that’s why she decided to speak at the convention.

She told delegates that at the time of her son’s birth, she was employed as a state trooper and she remembered that hospital staff stowed her off-duty gun in a safe as a precaution.

“I didn’t argue,” Leinonen said. “I know common sense gun policies save lives.”

“Where was that common sense the day he died?” the mother said, referring to the killing of her son by a gunman armed with an assault rifle.

All this was on July 27, the third night of the convention. Others spoke about gun violence and gun control on July 26 and July 25.

Delegates and Philadelphians, who sometimes waited in long lines for seats in the upper deck of the arena, responded with standing ovations and moments of silence.

“I think there’s a stark difference on this issue between Republicans and Democrats,” said Philadelphia convention-goer Jerome Rivera. “You saw last week Republicans encouraging people to go to their convention concealing and carrying. What did they have to be afraid of at their convention? Other gun-toting Republicans.”

 

At the podium

Remarks by Gabby Giffords to the Democratic National Convention on July 27:

Hello, fellow Democrats! What a crowd! It’s great to be here today. We have important work ahead of us. Work that will determine the future of our country. Are you ready? I’m ready.

I have a passion for helping people. I always have. So does Hillary Clinton. Hillary is tough. Hillary is courageous.She will fight to make our families safer. In the White House, she will stand up to the gun lobby. That’s why I’m voting for Hillary!

I know what hate and division can do to our communities. Let’s stand up for responsibility. Together we can make sure that respect, hard work, and progress win in November.

In Congress, I learned an important lesson: Strong women get things done!  Let’s work together to make Hillary our president. I’m with Her! And I know you are too.

Speaking is difficult for me. But come January, I want to say these two words: “Madam President.”

 

At the podium

Remarks by Erica Smegielski to the DNC on July 27:

I shouldn’t be here tonight. I don’t want to be here tonight.

I should be home, like so many Americans watching on TV with my mother, as we nominate the first woman to be President of the United States.

But, my mom was murdered. So I’m here.

I’m here for the mothers and daughters who are planning weddings, so that you get to watch your daughter walk down the aisle.

I’m here for those lives cut short, in a school, or a movie theater, in a church, at work, in their neighborhoods or homes — because those voices should never be silenced.

I am here alone — without my mother — while too many politicians cower behind the gun lobby instead of standing with American families.

We don’t need another Charleston, or San Bernardino, or Dallas, or countless other acts of everyday gun violence that don’t make the headlines.

We don’t need our teachers or principals going to work in fear.

What we need is another mother who is willing to do what is right — whose bravery can live up in equal measure to my mom’s.

We need to elect Hillary Clinton as the 45th President of the United States of America so that no other daughter ever has to say: I would give every day I have left for just one more day with my mom.

 

 

Republicans declare porn, but not guns, to be ‘public health crisis’

The Republican Party yesterday adopted an amendment to its draft party platform declaring internet porn a “public health crisis.”

The move has unleashed a new volley of criticism against the GOP for banning the classification of gun violence as a public health issue.

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has signaled that he’ll accept the party platform, which delegates continue to amend today in Cleveland ahead of next week’s convention.

Porn is just one of the issues on which the party’s religious right has exerted its influence on the draft platform. The platform also opposes President Obama’s executive order allowing transgender people to use restrooms corresponding to their gender identity. In addition, it calls on the Supreme Court to overturn its decision last year legalizing marriage equality and calls for support of so-called “pray-away-the-gay” therapy.

The porn provision, introduced by a member of the fundamentalist Christian group Concerned Women for America, states: “The internet must not become a safe haven for predators. Pornography, with its harmful effects, especially on children, has become a public health crisis that is destroying the life of millions. We encourage states to continue to fight this public menace and pledge our commitment to children’s safety and well-being. We applaud the social networking sites that bar sex offenders from participation. We urge energetic prosecution of child pornography, which closely linked to human trafficking.”

The amendment passed with little debate.

Some critics of the porn amendment cited evidence that few users of porn experience ill effects. Other critics ridiculed the hypocrisy of the porn amendment, given Trump’s well-documented lascivious lifestyle.

The Daily Beast opined, “In the 2016 Twilight Zone, it’s no surprise that the Republican Party is attempting to label a largely victimless non-crime as a public health crisis, while simultaneously facilitating the epidemic of gun violence in America.”

“While there have been exactly zero porn-related deaths reported in the United States this year, there have been more than 28,000 shootings, including 7,239 gun murders so far in 2016, according to the Gun Violence Archive,” reported the Daily Kos. “Those staggering figures include 181 mass shootings and nearly a thousand people shot by police.”

The Guardian reported that at least one delegate blamed the nation’s epidemic of gun violence on marijuana. The British newspaper quoted delegate Noel Irwin Hentschel, who said, “All the mass killings that are taking place — they are young boys from divorced families and they are smoking marijuana.”

Not surprisingly, delegates rejected a proposed amendment to encourage states to legalize cannabis oil for medical reasons. Some of them linked marijuana use to the nation’s heroin epidemic.

The American Medical Association has labeled gun violence a public health crisis and vowed to put its considerable lobbying muscle to work in Congress against the NRA, which has prevented the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from researching gun-violence.

“Even as America faces a crisis unrivaled in any other developed country, the Congress prohibits the CDC from conducting the very research that would help us … determine how to reduce the high rate of firearm-related deaths and injuries. An epidemiological analysis of gun violence is vital,” said AMA president Dr. Steven J. Stack in a press statement issued last month.

 

5 Dallas police officers killed, 6 wounded

Snipers operating from rooftops in Dallas killed five police officers and wounded six more in a coordinated attack during one of several protests across the United States against the killing of two black men by police this week.

Police described the July 7 ambush as carefully planned and executed and said they had taken three people into custody before a fourth died. Dallas-based media said the suspect died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound after a standoff that extended into July 8.

The fourth suspect exchanged gunfire with police during the standoff at a downtown garage and warned of placing bombs throughout the city. Police have not yet confirmed his death but said no explosives have been found.

The attack came in a week that two black men were fatally shot by police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and outside Minneapolis. The killings, both now the subject of official investigations, inflamed tensions about race and justice in the United States.

The shots rang out as a protest in Dallas was winding down, sending marchers screaming and running in panic through the city’s streets.

It was the deadliest day for police in the United States since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington.

A total of 12 police officers and two civilians were shot during the attack, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings told CBS News. Three of the officers who were shot were women, he said.

Rawlings said the people in custody, including one woman, were “not being cooperative” with police investigators. He said the assailant who was dead was being fingerprinted and his identity checked with federal authorities.

Police were still not certain they knew all of the individuals involved in the attack, Rawlings said.

No motive has been given for the shootings at the downtown protest, one of many held in major cities across the United States on July 7. New York police made more than a dozen arrests on July 7, while protesters briefly shut down one of Chicago’s main arteries.

One of the dead officers was identified as Brent Thompson, 43. He was the first officer killed in the line of duty since Dallas Area Rapid Transit formed a police department in 1989, DART said on its website. Thompson joined DART in 2009.

Dallas Police Chief David Brown said the shooters, some in elevated positions, used rifles to fire at the officers in what appeared to be a coordinated attack.

“(They were) working together with rifles, triangulating at elevated positions in different points in the downtown area where the march ended up going,” Brown told a news conference, adding a civilian was also wounded.

“It has been a devastating night. We are sad to report a fifth officer has died,” Dallas police said on Twitter.

A video taken by a witness shows a man with a rifle crouching at ground level and shooting a person who appeared to be wearing a uniform at close range. That person then collapsed to the ground.

Reuters could not immediately confirm the authenticity of the video.

‘DESPICABLE ATTACK’

President Barack Obama, who was traveling in Poland, expressed his “deepest condolences” to Rawlings on behalf of the American people.

“I believe I speak for every single American when I say that we are horrified over these events and we are united with the people and police department in Dallas,” he said.

Obama said the FBI was in contact with Dallas police and that the federal government would provide assistance.

“We still don’t know all of the facts. What we do know is that there has been a vicious, calculated and despicable attack on law enforcement,” he said.

The shooting, which erupted shortly before 9 p.m. CDT, occurred near a busy area of downtown Dallas filled with restaurants, hotels and government buildings.

Mayor Rawlings advised people to stay away on July 8 as police combed the area. Transportation was halted and federal authorities stopped commercial air traffic over the area as police helicopters hovered.

Large sections of downtown remained closed to the public on July 8.

The Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area is one of the nation’s most populous and is home to more than 7 million people.

The Dallas shooting happened as otherwise largely peaceful protests unfolded around the United States after the shooting of Philando Castile, 32, by police near St. Paul, Minnesota, late Wednesday. His girlfriend posted live video on the internet of the bloody scene minutes afterward, which was widely viewed.

Over the last two years, there have been periodic and sometimes violent protests over the use of police force against African-Americans in cities from Ferguson, Missouri, to Baltimore and New York. Anger has intensified when the officers were acquitted in trials or not charged at all.

‘THE END IS COMING’

The suspect in the Dallas standoff had told police “the end is coming” and that more police were going to be hurt and killed. Police chief Brown said the suspect also told police “there are bombs all over the place in this garage and downtown”.

Police said they were questioning two occupants of a Mercedes they had pulled over after the vehicle sped off on a downtown street with a man who threw a camouflaged bag inside the back of the car. A woman was also taken into custody near the garage where the standoff was taking place.

“We are leaving every motive on the table on why this happened and how this happened,” Brown said.

Mayor Rawlings visited the wounded at Parkland hospital, the same hospital where President John F. Kennedy was taken after he was shot in Dallas in November 1963.

“(The attack) does have a very strange feel to it,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton told CNN. “There is something missing here. Obviously there is a lot of information we don’t have.”

Outside the hospital, officers stood in formation and saluted as bodies of the officers were about to be transported.

The federal ban on gun-violence research must end

In the immediate wake of our nation’s mass shootings, many people ask the question, “Why do these things happen?”

But an answer to this question remains hard to come by, because so little is known about gun violence. The nation’s largest medical association wants to change that, and we heartily agree.

The knowledge deficit is entirely the fault of past and current Congresses beholden to the National Rifle Association and the gun industry. It can be traced back to 1996, when Congress first passed a measure banning the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from conducting research on gun violence (the author of the amendment now regrets it). The ban had a chilling effect across the board on researchers, who feared retribution from the powerful NRA and its cultlike acolytes.

Following the mass shooting two years ago at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, President Barack Obama issued an executive order calling on the CDC to get back to studying “the causes of gun violence.”

The order got no traction. Researchers, both within and outside the government, were loath to become enmeshed in such a hot-button issue, especially with the 1996 law still on the books.

After a church shooting last year in Charleston, South Carolina, left nine people dead, there was a renewed attempt on Capitol Hill to study the relationship between gun ownership and gun violence.

Instead, Congress quietly renewed the ban on federal research of the issue.

The gun culture within the Republican Party is so deeply rooted that delegates recently adopted an amendment to its national platform declaring pornography a “public health crisis,” while arguing that guns are not a health issue and therefore the CDC cannot receive federal funding to study them. The platform was being written as President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush were in Dallas addressing a memorial service for the police officers gunned down there by a sniper.

Physicians and virtually all other health care professionals disagree strongly with the assertion that gun violence is not a public health issue.

In Chicago earlier this summer, the American Medical Association adopted the position that gun violence in the United States is not only “a public health crisis,” but one that requires a comprehensive public health response and solution. The AMA vowed to put its considerable lobbying muscle to work in Congress to end the research ban.

“With approximately 30,000 men, women and children dying each year at the barrel of a gun in elementary schools, movie theaters, workplaces, houses of worship and on live television, the United States faces a public health crisis of gun violence,” said AMA president Dr. Steven J. Stack in a press statement.

He continued: “Even as America faces a crisis unrivaled in any other developed country, the Congress prohibits the CDC from conducting the very research that would help us … determine how to reduce the high rate of firearm-related deaths and injuries. An epidemiological analysis of gun violence is vital.”

We’d like to see the AMA, the American Psychological Association, law-enforcement agencies and other groups committed to public health and safety work together to break the gun industry’s lock on Congress.

This will take fortitude. Leaders of such an effort will face intimidation from the same people who once warned that Obama was going to take away their guns. Pro-gun zealots will attempt to destroy their reputations. Opponents of the research ban can also expect intimidation — and even death threats — for daring to “attack” the Second Amendment.

Let’s be clear: Scientific studies of gun violence do not constitute an attack on the Second Amendment any more than studying the limits of free speech violates the First Amendment.

But continuing to ban the study of gun violence violates both reason and humanity.

Stark contrasts as Clinton, Trump respond to shooting

The responses of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to the mass shooting in Orlando were a study in contrasts for the two presumptive presidential nominees — one of whom will likely be leading a country fearful of terrorism, gun violence and the often merciless intersection of the two.

 

The motive behind the rampage at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, was unknown when Trump and Clinton began weighing in — although a law enforcement source later said the gunman, identified by authorities as Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old American citizen, made a 911 call from the nightclub professing allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State.

As information began trickling out, Trump took to Twitter to say he was “praying” for the victims and their families. “When will we get tough, smart & vigilant?” he wrote.

Within a few hours, the presumptive Republican nominee was back on social media saying that he’d appreciated “the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism.”

After President Barack Obama did not use that same phrase to describe Mateen in his remarks from the White House, Trump released a statement saying the president “should step down.”

Trump kept up his criticism of the president on June 13. He told NBC’s “Today Show” that “there are a lot of people that think that maybe (Obama) doesn’t want to get” the terror threat facing the country.

Trump is hardly the first politician to try to capitalize on a tragedy, though he’s more blatant than most in connecting his electoral prospects to incidents of unimaginable suffering. Shortly after last year’s deadly attacks in Paris, Trump said, “Whenever there’s a tragedy, everything goes up, my numbers go way up because we have no strength in this country. We have weak, sad politicians.”

After a deadly December shooting rampage in San Bernardino, California, Trump stunned many in his own party by calling for a temporary ban on Muslims coming to the U.S. Rather than sink his political prospects, it helped propel the businessman to his first victories in the GOP primary.

For Trump’s detractors, his comments can appear jarring and crass. But he’s also tapped into a deep frustration among some voters who believe Obama has been handcuffed in his response to terror threats because he’s worried about offending Muslims in the U.S. and around the world.

“We can’t afford to be politically correct anymore,” Trump declared June 12.

Clinton, who is more schooled in the political customs of responding to tragedies from her years as a senator and secretary of state, was careful in her initial comments. The presumptive Democratic nominee also made her first remarks on Twitter early June 12, writing: “As we wait for more information, my thoughts are with those affected by this horrific act.”

Like Obama, Clinton prefers to avoid early missteps even if that leaves her looking overly cautious. On June 12, she waited for the president to declare the shooting an “act of terror” before doing the same.

Clinton didn’t avoid the prospect of a link to international terrorism in her statement, though she was vague in her language. In several televised phone interviews Monday morning, she warned against feeding propaganda by the Islamic State group that convinces new recruits the U.S. hates Islam.

“Turning against the Muslim American community is not only wrong, it’s counterproductive and dangerous,” she told MSNBC.

Clinton did use the shooting to raise the nation’s failure to keep guns “out of the hands of terrorists or other violent criminals.” Federal authorities said later Sunday that Mateen purchased at least two firearms legally within the last week or so.

Clinton and Obama postponed plans to campaign together on June 15 in Wisconsin, a decision driven both by political appearances and an expectation the president would need to spend his week overseeing the government’s response to the shooting.

Whether the tragedy in Orlando ultimately sways the trajectory of the general election campaign is unknown. If current trends hold, there will be more deadly mass shootings in the U.S. before voters head to the polls in November.

Other unforeseen events will likely also shape the race over the next five months, as the 2008 economic collapse did in the closing weeks of that year’s presidential campaign.

But as voters begin seriously weighing Clinton and Trump as their next commander in chief, the shooting left little doubt that the choice between the two candidates is stark.

Blood donors needed, limits remain for gay men

Hundreds lined up to give blood on June 12 in Orlando to help the victims of the massacre at a gay nightclub, but major restrictions remain for gay men wanting to give blood.

The response overwhelmed OneBlood donation centers, where officials asked donors to make appointments and continue donating over the next several days.

Over 50 people were injured and 50 were killed when a gunman opened fire early June 12 inside the downtown Orlando club Pulse.

While many Facebook and Twitter posts from individuals and at least one gay advocacy group in Florida said no one would be turned away and all blood would be screened, OneBlood denied any change in policy.

“All FDA guidelines remain in effect for blood donation. There are false reports circulating that FDA rules were being lifted. Not true,” OneBlood tweeted.

In December, the Food and Drug Administration lifted a three-decade-old ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men. But the lifetime ban was replaced with a new policy barring donations from men who have had sex with a man in the previous year.

The new policy brought the U.S. in line with Australia, Japan, the U.K. and other countries, and researchers said it could slightly increase the U.S. blood supply. Gay rights activists said it still perpetuated negative stereotypes dating to the beginning of the AIDS crisis.

Messages left June 12 for OneBlood and FDA officials were not immediately returned.

In a tweet, Pulse staff encouraged donations of water, juice and snacks for people waiting in long lines to donate blood in Orlando.

According to the American Red Cross, roughly 38 percent of the U.S. population is eligible to donate blood at any given time, but less than 10 percent of those people actually do so each year.

All U.S. blood donations are screened for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The Zika virus has been a more immediate concern, and the FDA asks people to put off donating blood if they have been to outbreak areas, show symptoms of a Zika infection or have had sexual contact with someone exposed to that virus.

In Florida, the risk of a potential Zika virus outbreak has prompted some blood banks to seek more donations to stock up on blood supplies before anyone in the state contracts the Zika virus from local mosquitoes.

OneBlood joined other blood banks in shipping blood products from the continental U.S. to Puerto Rico because of a Zika virus outbreak on the Caribbean island that disrupted blood collections there.

On the Web

Check our website today for reports from Orlando, as well as updates about vigils.