Monthly Archives: April 2016

Gun deaths and public life

by Nathaniel Smith, Politics: A View from West Chester, 4/23/16

In the midst of election turmoil and craziness, it can be discouraging to pay close attention to what goes on in public life. There is so much self-interest, hypocrisy, and meanness. But then, we need to remember that real issues underlie elections and we can take our lead from those candidates and activists who promote a genuine vision of the public interest.

Among the most noteworthy of these, to me, are individuals fighting to prevent gun violence in this country. After years of carnage, our senses are dulled by so much shooting. Where was that shooting? How many dead in that one? What kind of gun? A relative accidentally shot a 4-year-old girl in Philadelphia and someone killed 8 sleeping members of a family in Ohio (Daily Local, April 16 and 23). In a few days, we won’t even remember.

But we all surely remember in 2012 when a deranged 20-year-old killed 20 elementary school students and 6 school staff, after killing his mother (who had enabled his gun habit) and before killing himself. The even worse news is that that one morning of terror accounted for only about one-third of this country’s average of 90 gun deaths a day. (More than half of those are suicides carried out by people who should have treatment, not access to guns.)

Many people in the Sandy Hook community, including parents who had lost children in the massacre, banded together to try to save others from having the same tragic experience. They could have retreated into despair, but some of them formed “Team 26,” the Sandy Hook Bicycle Riders, who every year have bicycled from Connecticut to Washington DC in order to plead for gun violence prevention. Why “Team 26”? To honor the 26 victims in the school.

You can see details and photos in “Team 26 makes stop in West Chester area” in the Daily Local News, 4/12/16. …

continue reading at Politics: A View from West Chester


Gabby Giffords on being a Gun Sense Voter

The following is a statement Gabby Giffords made after the Sandy Hook massacre and the failure of the Manchin-Toomey bill to get passed in the Senate.  It is raw, powerful and hits home…….well worth rereading this election season.

“Three years ago today, obstructionists in the United States Senate blocked bipartisan legislation, introduced by two senators with A-ratings from the NRA, that would have closed loopholes in our laws that make it easier for criminals and the dangerously mentally ill to buy guns. I wanted to share with you the op-ed I wrote that night for The New York Times because I think it is as relevant now as it was on that day. – Gabby

A Senate in the Gun Lobby’s Grip
by Gabrielle Giffords – April 17, 2013

SENATORS say they fear the N.R.A. and the gun lobby. But I think that fear must be nothing compared to the fear the first graders in Sandy Hook Elementary School felt as their lives ended in a hail of bullets. The fear that those children who survived the massacre must feel every time they remember their teachers stacking them into closets and bathrooms, whispering that they loved them, so that love would be the last thing the students heard if the gunman found them.

On Wednesday, a minority of senators gave into fear and blocked common-sense legislation that would have made it harder for criminals and people with dangerous mental illnesses to get hold of deadly firearms — a bill that could prevent future tragedies like those in Newtown, Conn., Aurora, Colo., Blacksburg, Va., and too many communities to count.

Some of the senators who voted against the background-check amendments have met with grieving parents whose children were murdered at Sandy Hook, in Newtown. Some of the senators who voted no have also looked into my eyes as I talked about my experience being shot in the head at point-blank range in suburban Tucson two years ago, and expressed sympathy for the 18 other people shot besides me, 6 of whom died. These senators have heard from their constituents — who polls show overwhelmingly favored expanding background checks. And still these senators decided to do nothing. Shame on them.

I watch TV and read the papers like everyone else. We know what we’re going to hear: vague platitudes like “tough vote” and “complicated issue.” I was elected six times to represent southern Arizona, in the State Legislature and then in Congress. I know what a complicated issue is; I know what it feels like to take a tough vote. This was neither. These senators made their decision based on political fear and on cold calculations about the money of special interests like the National Rifle Association, which in the last election cycle spent around $25 million on contributions, lobbying and outside spending.

Speaking is physically difficult for me. But my feelings are clear: I’m furious. I will not rest until we have righted the wrong these senators have done, and until we have changed our laws so we can look parents in the face and say: We are trying to keep your children safe. We cannot allow the status quo — desperately protected by the gun lobby so that they can make more money by spreading fear and misinformation — to go on.

I am asking every reasonable American to help me tell the truth about the cowardice these senators demonstrated. I am asking for mothers to stop these lawmakers at the grocery store and tell them: You’ve lost my vote. I am asking activists to unsubscribe from these senators’ e-mail lists and to stop giving them money. I’m asking citizens to go to their offices and say: You’ve disappointed me, and there will be consequences.

People have told me that I’m courageous, but I have seen greater courage. Gabe Zimmerman, my friend and staff member in whose honor we dedicated a room in the United States Capitol this week, saw me shot in the head and saw the shooter turn his gunfire on others. Gabe ran toward me as I lay bleeding. Toward gunfire. And then the gunman shot him, and then Gabe died. His body lay on the pavement in front of the Safeway for hours.

I have thought a lot about why Gabe ran toward me when he could have run away. Service was part of his life, but it was also his job. The senators who voted against background checks for online and gun-show sales, and those who voted against checks to screen out would-be gun buyers with mental illness, failed to do their job.

They looked at these most benign and practical of solutions, offered by moderates from each party, and then they looked over their shoulder at the powerful, shadowy gun lobby — and brought shame on themselves and our government itself by choosing to do nothing.

They will try to hide their decision behind grand talk, behind willfully false accounts of what the bill might have done — trust me, I know how politicians talk when they want to distract you — but their decision was based on a misplaced sense of self-interest. I say misplaced, because to preserve their dignity and their legacy, they should have heeded the voices of their constituents. They should have honored the legacy of the thousands of victims of gun violence and their families, who have begged for action, not because it would bring their loved ones back, but so that others might be spared their agony.

This defeat is only the latest chapter of what I’ve always known would be a long, hard haul. Our democracy’s history is littered with names we neither remember nor celebrate — people who stood in the way of progress while protecting the powerful. On Wednesday, a number of senators voted to join that list.

Mark my words: if we cannot make our communities safer with the Congress we have now, we will use every means available to make sure we have a different Congress, one that puts communities’ interests ahead of the gun lobby’s. To do nothing while others are in danger is not the American way. -Gabby


Team 26 makes stop in West Chester area

Daily Local News, April 12, 2015

AR-160419925WESTTOWN >> A crowd of over 30 people cheered on the Team 26, the Sandy Hook bicycle riders, as they rode into the parking lot of the Holiday Inn Express on Route 202, south of West Chester, on Sunday.

Team 26 is a group of serious amateur and professional bikers who have taken the ride from Newtown, Conn., to Washington, D.C., for the last four springs to remind the nation that serious gun violence prevention action is needed.

There are 26 riders for a reason: it represents the 20 children and six educators who lost their lives in the Sandy Hook shooting massacre in Connecticut in December 2012.

Among the people who greeted them was state Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-153, of Montgomery County, who has written two gun bills in Harrisburg, and Francine Wheeler, one of the Sandy Hook mothers who used to live in Pennsylvania. She lost her 6-year-old son Ben during the shooting massacre.

The Chester County Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence sponsored the event and was boosted by its brother grassroots organization in Delaware County known as Delco United to Stop Gun Violence.

In the audience was a couple from Chester County who lost a son, as well as a survivor….

read more at Daily Local News

We Lost Our Daughter to a Mass Shooter and Now Owe $203,000 to His Ammo Dealer

by Lonnie and Sandy Phillips, parents of Aurora victim Jessica Ghawi, Huffington Post, 9/25/2015


We have been getting a lot of questions about our lawsuit against Lucky Gunner, the online company that sold ammunition to the man who murdered our daughter Jessica along with 11 others in an Aurora, Colorado, theater. Especially after the Rachel Maddow Show covered us twice, people ask us about the judge’s order that we pay Lucky Gunner’s attorneys’ fees, since our lawsuit was unsuccessful.

We brought our lawsuit because we thought it was outrageous that companies could sell a dangerous man an arsenal without getting any information about him, and without making any effort to see if he was a dangerous killer — which he was. When the killer had left a voicemail with a shooting range, the range operator knew that he was bad news and shouldn’t be given access to guns. But these companies set up their business so people just like this killer can arm themselves at the click of a mouse. We wanted to change that. And we still do….

read more at Huffington Post

26 cyclists will ride again to support common sense legislation to prevent gun violence

from Team 26

We leave from Sandy Hook, CT on April 9, 2016, arriving at the Capitol in Washington, DC on April 12.

We support measures to help curb gun violence:

• “Finish the job” and require a background check on all gun sales;
• Limit magazines to 10 rounds;
• Make gun trafficking a federal crime; including real penalties for “straw buyers”; and
• Provide protection when temporary restraining orders are issued in domestic violence cases.

In addition, we believe guns can be made safer by research and development of smart gun technology.

We understand this issue is complex; but together we can ensure that specific actions are taken to prevent tragedies like those in Sandy Hook, Connecticut. Keeping children safe is an obligation we all share….

read more and see video and map at Team 26

Cyclists traveling in remembrance of Sandy Hook victims will be in West Chester on Sunday

By Candice Monhollan, Daily Local News, 4/07/16

In an effort to raise awareness about gun violence in the United States and in remembrance of the Sandy Hook massacre, bicyclists will be stopping in West Chester on their way to the nation’s capital on Sunday.

The Team 26, a group of 26 cyclists, will ride from Newtown, Conn., and spend three days traveling south through six states before finishing in Washington, D.C.

After a rally in Philadelphia in the afternoon, the riders will make a short stop at the Holiday Inn Express in West Chester on Sunday around 5 p.m.

“They’re going to Washington to lobby legislators and along the way, they’re stopping in various places to raise awareness and attract attention,” said Tom Buglio, director of the Chester County Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence.

The 26-member team represents the 26 innocent lives lost in a school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012….

Read more at Daily Local News